Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Greetings

I am feeling a bit of holiday spirit today, having finished all grades for this term, and thus turning my mind for the first time to thoughts of Christmas. I would like to add that the sentiment expressed certainly refers to inner peace and peace with our family and friends; but especially I mean it regarding this terrible war and the threats that make me fear for another unnecessary and disastrous altercation.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Reading Year!

Last week I posted in on LM_NET and offered to compile and share the list of books that were mentioned in the recent popular thread "What I am reading now." People posted in and told what books they were currently enjoying. The resulting list is quite a mix, since some people mentioned adult titles, many shared YA books, and some may be easier than that. Topics range from parenting to philosophy with lots of good fiction in the mix. I am pasting in the list below. I hope I got everything, but if I missed your offering or if anyone wants to make additions, this would be great! You could certainly do this as comments below. And once again...Happy Holidays!

Alexis, Sherman Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Anderson, Jodi May Bird Warrior Princess
Anderson, Laurie Halse Twisted
Buckhanon, Kalisha Upstate
Buckley-Archer, Linda Cutpurse
Chopra, Deepak Buddha, a Story of Enlightenment
Clare, Cassandra City of Bones Bk 1: The Mortal Instruments
Colbert, Stephen I am American and So Can You!
Cooper, Susan Dark is Rising
Coville, Bruce All books by him!
Coyne, Kevin Marching Home
Cross, Shauna Derby Girl
Ferris Underground
Gaiman, Neil/Charles Vess Stardust
Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love
Giles, Gail Right Behind You
Green, Tim Football Genius
Grisham, John Playing for Pizza
Gruen, Susan Water for Elephants
Hale, Shannon Book of a Thousand Days
Hosseini, Khaled Thousand Splendid Suns
Jinks, Catherine Evil Genius
King, Laurie The Moor
Kingsolver, Barbara Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Levitin, Daniel This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of Human Obsession
Marr, Melissa Wicked Lovely
Maurer Beyond the Wall of Resistance
McCarthy, Cormac The Road
Patteau, Edith East
Paver, Michell Chronicles of Darkness
Perotta, Tom The Abstinence Teacher
Piccoult, Jodi Plain Truth
Pullman The Goldan Compass
Radish, Kris Elegant Gathering of White Snows
Senge The Fifth Discipline
Smith, Roland Peak
Stephenson, Neil Quicksilver
Thompson, Victoria Gaslight Mysteries
Vrettos, Adrienne Marie Skin
Westerfield Uglies series
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz Shadow of the Wind

Twilight Series: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse

Penny from Heaven

Black Book of Secrets

The Alchemist: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

My Swordhand is Singing

Third and Long

Terror on the Tide

Peter and the Starcatchers/Peter and the Secret of Rundoon

Spiderwick Chronicles


The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy 1943-1944

Ina May's Guide ot Childbirth

Birthing from Within

The Birth Partner

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wow the things you can find...

I have an assignment in my Internet for Librarians class that is designed to promote evaluation of websites. Students look for several sites on a given topic, both good, authoritative material and also BAD examples. One type they must supply is a site with bias. One student's topic was recycling. I wondered as I began to read...will she really find a site against recycling? Not a problem I realized! There are lots of sites out there trashing environmentalists (sorry about the bad pun). Anyway, this site is a great one:

My favorite quotation is this:
" The Bible clearly states that God has made the heavens, with all their host, and the earth, and all things that are in it, and the seas, and all that is in them, and He preserves them all. (Nehemiah 9:6) God himself preserves the earth (and the oceans and the atmosphere), not governments, not environmentalists, not anybody else."

Soooo we can do as we please! GOD IS GOING TO PRESERVE THE EARTH even if we continue along with our wasteful and damaging ways! Why don't I feel relieved after reading this news...

On another topic, here is an interesting article about Yahoo!Answers, which I suspect may be trusted by both students and teachers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More New-to-me Links and Facts!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love teaching and I ENJOY GRADING STUDENTS' WORK! This was even true back in the old days when I taught junior high kids, mostly reading and English. The key is to craft assignments that I know ahead of time I will enjoy grading. I can remember actually being very eager to read what students would write in response to certain assignments back then. It was fun to see their creativity emerge. So here I am at the end of a semester and finishing up grading for the term. I just got started today, and already am stopping to record something new to me, a blog I had not visited before, and really really like! So here goes with my list of new info as of today:
  • Blog with emphasis on librarianship and web 2.0...what's not to like about that? This blog is called LibraryCrunch ad is the work of Michael Casey, public librarian and web aficionado. If you look soon, there is a cool picture of Santa getting his caffeine fix at Starbucks. He sprinkles cool pics throughout his blog, another thing to like. And there are sound files too! Here is the address:

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Potpourri of Links--Again Learning from Students

Again I am grading...grading...and will be for the coming two weeks as the fall term (already???) comes to an end. Yesterday I started a posting with a GREAT link that I found while going over student work. I could have sworn I saved the entry but now cannot find it. Wonder where it went? I now cannot remember a thing about the link except that I wanted to be sure and share it. Anyway, I will STILL share things I glean from students' work starting with one so far today and then building from there.
  • Alan Lew--I somehow missed this leader in Web 2.0 instruction, but just added him to my Twitter list. His page for that venue is: and from there you can find his other pages.

  • TwitterLit! Wow I love this site and, while I had heard of it, had not visited until it was mentioned today by a student. Twice a day you get literary teasers, first lines from books plus links to Amazon if you are intrigued by the lines. There is also a site for kids! You can subscribe via RSS or have the teasers sent to your twitter. Fun site!

  • And guess what? While I was typing, I remembered the site I wanted to share from yesterday. It is a site for teaching kids about phishing, and I think will be helpful for users of any age who need to learn about this somewhat confusing term. The site is Anti-Phishing Phil, where Phil the fish teaches the term in a game format:

  • Excellent educational use of a wiki is demonstrated at this site, which has received a good deal of attention for its presence. It is maintained by a computer science teacher at Westwood Schools, GA:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Congratulations to DR. HOLLY WEIMAR!

I am happy to share the good news that friend and colleague, Holly Weimar, is officially past the dreaded dissertation ordeal, having successfully defended today. I am not sure whether she still has formatting to be done, and that can be onerous, but the uncertainty and pressure are gone. I am especially happy since she is the newest tenure track member of our Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. Not only that, she was a student in the very first class I taught at SHSU, an introductory technology class, back in fall 2000. It was evident from the first day of that first class that she would be an outstanding student. She finished her studies, always excelling in her classes, and after a short break continued with her doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Houston. Of course I knew she would be fine today, but I remember all too well the anxiety that goes along with getting ready for the defense and then having the day finally come. To make her news even better, her committee at University of Houston likes her work so much that they want to submit it to IRA (International Reading Association). I am not sure if this is for a compilation or competition, but in any case it is clearly a wonderful honor. Her topic is professional reading, and what a great subject. She did qualitative research, interviewing teachers, librarians and administrators about their professional reading habits. I really do not know much more, but she will be sharing her findings via presentations and publications, so stay tuned! We will be presenting on this topic in April at TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference in Dallas. She and I have been presenting in the last year or so, addressing a number of topics related to technology, Internet use, Web 2.0, and ethics. I am looking forward to many more great shared presentations with her. If you would like to contact us about her topic or any others that we offer do let me know! The place to find all my Internet presences is at my wiki where I have a page of links just for that. The address is:

But this day is really all about Holly. She will continue to distinguish herself as a writer, presenter and scholar, and most of all as an inspiring professor. I am proud and lucky to with with her! KUDOS AND CONGRATULATIONS HOLLY!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Learning from my students again!

One of the best things about my job is grading papers. Yep, that's right, I enjoy it! Many times I get to know students better through their work, and I don't think I ever spend some time grading without learning something new. Today, with the weather gray and drippy outside, and sitting in the den with my dozing Dad and drowsy dog, I am happy to be occupied with grading. One of the best things I have read is that on student, after spending time exploring the ALA website, came to a better understanding of her role in matching readers with books. A first-year librarian, she is just beginning to enjoy this special part of her job, and she related a relationship she has formed with one particular student who started out by asking her the question we all get, "Where are the GOOD books." She was able to interest the girl in a book she had just finished, and now they are reading buddies. This is, of course, one of the greatest rewards of being a librarian.

Also, I picked up some new websites:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for librarians like Richie Partington

On this Thanksgiving morning I did not plan to do more than quickly glance at email. But the postings on LM_NET about the firing of Richie Partington of Richie's Picks ( call for immediate reaction. This outstanding librarian and advocate for right to read was fired, and of course it was over a book. If this had happened in my neck of the woods, where a guy showed up at the local public library with a woodchipper on a flatbed truck to destroy "bad" books, and where a replica of Michelangelo's David was given a fig leaf and moved to a rooftop, I would not have been surprised. But I guess I thought those folks out in California were freer thinkers. And I guess I was wrong. My faith will be restored if there is a public outcry. Then I will know it was just a wacko administrator. On this day I am thankful for people who raise their voices against oppression of our rights.

Go to Richie's page for a copy of the news article. I hope this article and others will raise such a hooraw that those who fired Richie will have heartburn resulting from that as well as today's turkey dinner. Here is a link to his page and article
And omigosh, he has a MySpace page! Of COURSE he got fired...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bragging! Yay ME!!!

I am working on the latest iteration of my column, "Belltones," for Multimedia&Internet@School. This one is about blogging, and one thing I am doing is highlighting great blogs, including of course Kathy Schrock's Kaffeklatsch. This got me to wondering just how long she has been online sharing her wisdom with teachers, students, librarians, and all interested in education. I emailed her and asked if she had somewhere a history of her work. She just emailed me back and said no, that she had not done this, but that she liked the idea. So she is going to work it up and send me the URL! I love the fact that online communication can make leaders like her so accessible! Needless to say, I will be sharing the address as soon as she provides it. The fact that I have HER an idea is a kick!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ahhh Chocolate...

OK this is off topic and clearly I am scattered today, but what will they think of next in the world of chocolate? How much technology went into this invention...and can you resist trying it??

Office 07...Good? Bad? Ugly? All of these???

Today I am working on an article that I need to submit for my next column, “Belltones,” which appears in Information Today’s journal, Multimedia&Internet@School. By the way, I am not just self promoting when I recommend this journal. The articles and columns in it never fail to disappoint me. They are always useful and enlightening and I feel honored to be included as a columnist. Anyway, I am using the increasingly ubiquitous Microsoft Office/Word, 2007. I am still getting to know Office 2007, and have to say that the adjustment is taking longer for me than did previous Office updates. Right now I want to do a word count. In the good old days I just clicked on Tools and found my option. NOW I have to click through the various options in the “ribbon” menu, and then find the tool. I am mildly irritated to have this additional step forced upon me. But here is what is worse. I don’t use word count all the time, and thus I am not sure where to find it. I am going to set my timer on my beloved new iPhone and see how long it takes me to find word count. Here goes….Oops first I have to find the phone…off for that! OK after I found my phone I started up my timer, one of the features I really like on my iPhone. Then I started looking across the top of the page at tool bars, seeking Word Count, my old friend. I tried Home…not there. Next I tried View…nope. Finally I went to Help, which by the way is a little bitty question mark in a circle up top and to the right. When I searched Help for Word Count, I learned something that did, I admit, make me feel a little stupid. WORD COUNT IS THERE ALL THE TIME!!! If you just look down to the bottom, left hand corner, you see word count busily keeping up with you as you type. But I did not know to look down there…I was used to looking up top, and old habits die hard. How much time did it take to “discover” what was hidden in plain view? The process cost me 3 minutes and 43 seconds of my life. What’s more, I NOW remember that I went through this same process a couple of months ago, and then forgot. As I said, old habits…and on top of everything else, the experience left me feeling like a doof, not something I need from my software.

But this is the thing about Office 07. The changes are many, and not always intuitive, in my opinion. I realize that the other side of the coin is many added features. But at what cost? Lots of people will never use these nifty bells and whistles! But they are going to have to acclimate to the new office suite, because it is likely to be foisted upon them at work or with newly purchased computers. So I ask…is Office 07 a good or bad thing? Wonder what other people think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cannot Resist Mentioning...

I got a letter to the editor in yesterday's Houston Chronicle. Every now and then I just feel moved to post in with them. I have about a 50% success rate for acceptance. Here is a link to the page, and mine is 3rd from the bottom. Incidentally this blog is not political, but on a patriotic day I think it feels OK to mention that we should all speak our minds about our beliefs and concerns. I don't know what the answer is to our immigration woes, but I do feel strongly that a wall is not the answer.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Top 'O My Head--Things Recalled from Internet Librarian/Internet@School

Here I am on the plane headed home after what has been an incredibly informative and stimulating Internet Librarian/Internet@School West Conference. Not only is this the ONE conference where I learn more than at all others combined, it also takes place in beautiful Monterey. I know, tough gig, but someone has to go. This year, not surprisingly, the buzz was all about Web 2.0. Another big theme was gaming, and this area has taken on new potential in my thinking. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to just put down some thoughts about the conference and what I learned, without looking back at any of my notes, the conference schedule, the book of presentations, or anything. The idea is to see what was compelling enough to rise to the top of the rich broth of ideas, impressions, tips, and other information that is bubbling in my creative cauldron after this intense week of learning and sharing with colleagues. So here are some things right off the top of my head. When I get home and have all my resources handy and time to go through them, I will post again and follow up on these and other things that I want to share that I learned this past week.

· You can podcast from your phone! There is a number you can call up and then when you talk into your phone, your comments will be recorded. Then you can send them as a .wav file to the location of your choice. I have not tried this and do not remember the URL or name of the service, but I am dying to try it out!

· This is another fun phone trick: You can use this Internet service to set up for yourself a free phone number in any area code in the US. So if you want to sound high-falutin and give yourself a ritzy code, you can. If you have clients/friends in that AC, they can thereby leave you messages without having to call long distance. Then you can call that phone from your other number(s) and check your voicemail. Another thing you can do is have THAT number call your “REAL” number at a certain time. That would be handy if you were headed for an event and wanted an excuse to leave. You could just answer the call from yourself and say with regret that you have been called away.

·’s new layout is cool. They call it the 3D display. There are three columns presented when you get search results, each offering a specialized type. I will talk about this more, but it does make a lot of sense as far as offering choices to the searcher.

· Layout in general is a theme I noticed with sites. The goal of many home page services, blog aggregators, and searching tools is to come up with cool and innovative ways to present information via layout. Google continues with its traditional list by and large, but is ranking results a bit differently in recognition of the fact that people are more and more interested in video as opposed to just text.

· Some searching trends include

o personalized searching

o blended searching

o social searching…more about these when I can refer to my notes and get online.

· again…this time maps. They have some very cool features

o Ask gives not only driving directions, but also WALKING DIRECTIONS. They are the only search engine to do this.

o In Ask, you have drawing tools at the bottom of a map. One thing you can do is use the circle tool to select a small specific area on a city map, maybe several square miles or less. You can then search within that area for locations such as restaurants, theaters, businesses, etc. So if you are in San Francisco and hungry for sushi, you can do a search of your immediate surroundings and find what is nearby.

· Wikipedia is here to stay. As librarians, we should join in, tending it like a garden. School librarians and administrators should keep an eye on entries for their schools. What, your school does not have an entry? Are you sure? Have you checked? Your little darlings may have put one up with all kinds of creative information. If you have one, and many schools and school libraries do, you need to check it frequently to see how your scholars have been tinkering with it.

· Gaming belongs in libraries. I am so out of the loop on this that I really did not know how may purely educational games there are out there that are beyond reproach. Furthermore, the creative teacher/librarian can use the more popular games as hooks to get students interested in their subjects or in the library and its services.

· RSS—you need to be informed about its value and use it to share your web presences and to gather what you want from the net.

· Right before I came out to this conference, I was a little worried because I feel that I am spread out all over the place on the Internet. I have information at Blogger, PBWiki, Flikr, Picasa, my university web pages, a domain that we bought for our department, several email addresses, Nancy Pearl’s BookLust wiki, the Librarians’ Ning, Twitter, and I am probably leaving something out. But this week it occurred to me that this is not necessarily a BAD thing. Being out there a lot is a way to communicate with lots of people. What I need to do is something I am proud to say I have already done. Just before I left for the conference, I made a page at my PBWiki site where I provided links to all the other places I am on the net. Regardless of whether other people use this, it will help me to keep up with everything and simply my life. Good for me!

· There are many more things, and likely more important things, that I need to call up and share. But my computer battery is on the way down, so I will save them for later.

Fun Things from Internet Librarian/Internet@School

In addition to this conference being wonderfully informative, it is always lots of fun. Here are some fun-stuff memories:

· The other night I was being shown to a table at a restaurant on Old Fisherman’s Wharf where I was going to dine alone. Someone called out “Mary Ann! Come sit with us!” To my amazement someone in a group of what I would call “younguns” recognized me from my presentation and they made me welcome at their table. It was great to visit with all these enthusiastic and savvy young librarians! On the way out, on of my new friends noticed my name tag and said “OH! I know YOU!” I had just signed on to follow her on Twitter a day or two earlier and she recognized my name! She was…Desert Librarian! Very fun and cool person and my new ftf Twitter buddy!

· Another night I enjoyed dining with a librarian I have known virtually for a long time, but had not met ftf. And of all things, she is a Texan. Carolyn Foote, Westlake High School Librarian, gave a great presentation about working with administrators to get them involved in Web 2.0 learning, both as a service to them and as a way to gain access for teachers and students. Her positive and constructive ideas are worth locating via her presentation online. I will look for that URL to share. We had a great time talking about our common interests and concerns regarding web access and the need to make it more reasonable for kids and teachers. It seems a little ironic that we had to travel to California to meet, when we have been in the same place many times at Texas for other conferences.

· Walking down to the harbor and watching the harbor seals is not to be missed. They look like big birds balancing on the rocks in the bay.

· The events that are part of the conference are wonderful. One night there was an exhibit to highlight the opening of exhibits, with delectable refreshments. Another night there was an evening presentation on gadgets and also featuring a really cool project that involves videotaping libraries and librarians across America. There was a 3rd evening event that I missed, but wish I had been around for. It was held at the local library and highlighted various libraries and what they are doing with Web 2.0.

· I did give myself a treat the last half of the last day. I drove back up the coast toward San Jose, where I met my flight today. I spent last night in the nearby town of Half Moon Bay, a little coastal village with wonderful shops and restaurants.

· Best of all, I am heading home feeling fine! Last year on the last day of the conference, I fell on a hiking path and broke my wrist. I flew home so high on painkillers that the plane may have been optional. By the time I got through the subsequent surgery, it was hard to remember the many things I had learned. THIS time I want to do justice to my experience by sharing my new found knowledge. I hope to do that soon, within the next three days, while my notes will make sense and my recollections will be accurate.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Crowded Cranium...Full of Stories!

I am jazzed after a full week of conferencing! I just got back from my all-time favorite conference, Internet Librarian/Internet@School West, held in Monterey, CA. I have tons to say about that but FIRST I need to talk about today's conference at my own university, the 2007 SHSU Annual Book Conference. This wonderful gathering never fails to offer first-rate author guests who entertain, enthrall, and most of all inspire us to do what librarians have always done best and always will do best, share our love of books with readers of all ages. I just want to say a few words about each session that I was lucky enough to attend:
    • We started off the day with two very sharp, classy ladies (I am using adjectives my mom always used as the highest possible accolades she could give). First Cynthia Leitich-Smith talked about her life and books. I have already been plugging her blog, Cynsations, at my wiki site, but learned she also has a 2nd blog which is more about the craft of writing and also about spooky stuff which of course ties in nicely with her latest book, Tantalize, which is of all things a vampire story set in AUSTIN, TEXAS! What's not to like about that? I cannot wait to start in on my copy. If you have not been to her sites, stop reading, go now, and then come back! I will give one URL: Once you go there, you can get to her other sites by the links provided. You will find all kinds of great information and fun for you as well as for your students!
    • Next we got to hear from Joan Bauer. I have been a Joan Bauer fan for as long as I can remember. Rules of the Road is one of those books you just cannot forget. And now there is a sequel! You probably know this but I did not, due to the extreme geekiness of my present life and job which focuses so much on tech and not so much on books. Anyway, she was such a memorable speaker. What presence! What a sense of humor! Hearing her was a huge treat for me! You can find her online at:
      • Next we went to breakout sessions and I was lucky enough to attend one on podcasting from a dear friend, Dr. Bobby Ezell, also of Sam Houston State University. He did not just talk about podcasting, he had us make one, in less than one hour! I sat with a former student and super librarian, Dean Boyd of Livingston, TX. We made an interview podcast about an upcoming silent auction to raise money for the senior class at his school, and HE IS GOING TO USE IT!!! How cool is that? If you would like Bobby's super easy handouts about how to use Audacity (freeware) to make a podcast and then how to easily save it as a web page just using MS Word, leave a comment or email me and I will send them. Bobby has a great knack for making things easy and his step by step comments will get you up and going in no time, as evidenced by the fact that everyone in the session left with a working podcast to upload. When I get the link for ours, I will share it!
      • After lunch I wandered around, thinking I might stop by my office and do a little catching up before the last author talk. But I ran into a great old friend, one of those people with whom you can get right back into a conversation as if you had seen each other yesterday when in actuality it has been several years. She is Lynn Morris, librarian extraordinaire of Frank Elementary in Klein, TX. She was going in to hear De Cee Cowin, storyteller, and I fell in behind her. WAS I GLAD I DID THAT! This man is a fantastic storyteller! He has the timeless ability of storytellers to cast a spell over his audience and take you away to another place, this time Osaka, Japan. Not only does he tell a great story, he then talks about the connections these stories have to all cultures and to the human condition. If I were still a school librarian, I would be contacting him ASAP to ask him to come to my school. We all left his presence a little bit wiser. Here is his website:
      • Finally the last session of the day came around. The morning session was for the ladies, with Cynthia Leitich-Smith and Joan Bauer speaking. In the afternoon session, the guys were front and center. First we heard from Cynthia's husband, Greg Leitich-Smith. He, too, is a writer, with several fiction books out for "tweens." He gave a delightful review of his past, and a cute little tyke he was, and also shared a great story of the evolution of the cover for his book, Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo. The final cover looks great, and thank goodness they did not stop with one of the earlier iterations. His site is:
      • Last but not least was Mo Willems, who did not disappoint! He was clever and soooo funny and even got some great audience involvement going where at one point attendees acted out an early reader book, and everyone learned how to draw a pigeon. Yes, even I can draw a pigeon now! He really made me see how the different elements of a picture book such as size, shape, page color, size of illustration, number of words on pages, and other details, are carefuly thought out to achive the desired creative expression. I am sure you know Knuffle Bunny and his other books, and here is his website (I love all the cartoon characters in the bar at the top of the page):
It is getting dark on this last day of daylight saving time, and I have not allowed myself supper or any other diversion before sitting down to blog about today. I will be coming in soon with some pictures to accompany the text, but hope I have captured a little of the magic of this special day. Any time you can hear an author or storyteller is a special day, so this one was a banner day for me!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Presentation Tomorrow! ABOUT BLOGS!

I do tend to do this as a matter of course, but this time in particular I find myself wanting to tweak my presentation the night before. Part of this is because I learned so very much today at my pre-conference workshop: Searchers Academy (AKA Finder Academy!) The speakers were folks I have heard in the past and my expectations were quite high for the day. I was not disappointed. The most of the day was shared between Mary Ellen Bates, of Bates Information Services, and Marcy Phelps, Phelps Research. The last hour was presented by the inimitable Gary Price of Resource Shelf and (and no he was NOT on the Google Executive Board at one time...) Anyway, one thing that was covered was the searchability of blogs. This is a rapidly improving ability that is moving towards negating one criticism sometimes leveled at blogs: that they are hard to search. So I am revising to include that information. Also, it occurred to me that I could use some great tips for what makes a good, viable, healthy blog. So I posted that question to my friends at LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH. I asked them to add comments to my wiki for the presentation but now am thinking...maybe they should have posted them HERE SINCE THIS IS A BLOG. Ah well, if anyone wants to share a tip, that would be great! I wish I had more time to write about the things I learned today, since they will get buried under the things I learn tomorrow, but I am going back to tweaking...after today/night maybe I will find time to be more current with specific things that stand out from the sessions.

Friday, October 26, 2007

WOW! Voice Thread!

I have been practicing my avoidance skills, looking around the Net for new and different things rather than going over my presentation for next Monday, which I SHOULD be doing. Anyway, I came across a great Web 2.0 tool just now, that I have not seen or heard about before. It is Voice Thread! The idea is that you build a presentation/conversation around an image or group of images. Your audience can chime in either with voice comments or with text messages. The picture, which is the centerpiece, will be in the middle, with everyone's avatars and comments clustered around it. There is a great demo if you go to the site. Take a look! It is really cool! And who knows? Maybe it will be new to your filter and thus fly under the radar at school! I keep hoping...anyway here is the URL:
I am off to sign up and then report to my wiki and practice my presentation. Otherwise, I will have to go to 43 Things or TadaList and nag myself online!

Feeling like a phony

I am headed to Monterey, CA tomorrow for the Internet Librarian/Internet@School Conference. I will be presenting a session called "Here Today Here to Stay? The Future of Blogs." And yet I have not updated my blog in a week. What's up with that? Well, the flu is what has been up, plus reaction to an antibiotic that I think was worse than the malady. The combination has had me so out of it that I have only been able to concentrate on the bare essentials, preparing the presentation and keeping up with my REAL job. I hope to redeem myself by blogging faithfully during the conference, which is my #1 favorite place to learn new things that I can use all the rest of the year. This will be my fourth conference and I know I will be learning tons of great new information. My wiki, where the conference presentation plus a couple of others that I will be doing in November, is located here:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

MA Bell's Blog about Librarianship and Technology

I must say this is handy. I just uploaded a powerpoint presentation that I plan to use soon, using SlideShare. After uploading, I had the option to share it here. it is! The raison d'etre for this powerpoint is to help people come up with creative ideas for teaching with technology, even if they have little or no Internet access. I share David Jonassen's philosophy about mindtools and then give some activities that go along with it. They all involve the use of readily available, low-cost or free applications. This is intended to be useful even in the most heavily filtered schools where Web 2.0 options are blocked.


From: drmaryannbell, 2 minutes ago

This slide show is about how to use technology readily at hand in teaching K-12.

SlideShare Link

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Contemplating Contemplation

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time just thinking. Of course much of my time was spent in angst ridden daydreams about some boy. But all the same, I was just sitting alone in the quiet of my favorite spot in our big yard, unplugged from even my transistor radio. This was what I liked to do in the early evening after the supper dishes were washed and put away and yes, I was involved in completing this task and not with the aid of a dishwasher. I would then wander away to my place, look up into the darkening sky, and simply think. Not all my reveries were lovelorn musings. I also thought about my future, what career I might have, where I might live, what college might be like, etc. Some of my thought were prayers as well. No one suggested this was a waste or time or an unusual activity. My folks left me alone. When it got dark or I got cold, I would wander back inside where there were all the usual distractions of TV, phones, and radio. I was not a hermit, but I did need and want time alone.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I relaxed during a heat treatment at the physical therapy clinic where I am receiving treatment for something aptly called frozen shoulder. Heretofore when I was lying on the nice padded table with pillows placed around my arm and shoulder, enjoying the lovely mild electric/heat treatment, I would let my mind drift, maybe thinking about a work project and how I would approach it. Another thing I might do was simply meditate, going through some of my repertoire of memorized Biblical passages and other inspirational ones, such as the Prayer of St. Francis and the Serenity Prayer. But yesterday I brought a new friend with me...a brand new iPod. I really enjoyed listening to my favorite lowbrow music, a mix of traditional country and Americana, with a heavy dose of Texas musicians including my own daughter, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams, Alice Stuart, Gillian Welch, and lots of others. Even better was listening while doing my pulley exercises and using the hand bicycle. The music made these monotonous tasks much less boring and tiresome. But as I listened I did think about this new experience. Now I was NOT giving my undivided attention to the art of thought. And next time I have therapy, I know I will want to use the iPod again. It makes me wonder about people of all ages, but especially youngsters, who are never unplugged. I see then on the walking paths, on campus, in cars, and really everywhere. Do they ever just stop, be still, and think? Do we ever encourage kids to do this during school hours or at home? Don't we always scramble to keep them busily occupied, and even fill previously quiet areas with music or other sound to keep them occupied? Is this all to the good? In my graduate days I wrote a paper comparing American and Japanese educational environments. One big difference between the two, I learned, was importance given to silent time for thinking. Americans really seem to discount and also shy away from this. Now with all the wearable and easily carried technology to engage us, I wonder of anybody does ever stop and just think. And further, I wonder what it means to our society that we do not?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Trip Down Library Memory Lane

I took a trip down memory lane yesterday. I visited the periodical stacks at my university library. To tell the truth, it has been years since I have gone to the shelf and pulled down a tome, and riffled through the pages of a bound volume, hoping the article had not been cut or torn out by some other long-ago reader. It felt a little funny to be back there, even though I am on the same campus all the time since I teach at the same university where I got my MLS. Back in the old days at SHSU, library classes were held in this building, and on the same floor where I found myself yesterday. I could remember being there every week-end in the early 80’s when I was working on my degree. I could look in the little conference room where I had catalog classes with my hero, Dr. Bonnie Thorne. It is a storage room now. For those of you who remember her, Bonnie is doing great, retired, and looking amazingly unchanged from when you had her for a class. I found the volume and article, which was from 1995 and no longer available online, and made a few notes.

Looking at the article was another memory-lane experience for me. It was by Dr. Doug Rogers, director of the doctoral cohort to which I belonged in the late 1990’s, and still inspiring students at Baylor University. This article was the linchpin of his views on technology and I wanted to refer to it in an upcoming presentation. I want to talk about the article in a future posting but wanted to commemorate my library visit and search in this one. The questions I could not escape were…

1. I wonder how much longer all these resources will be here? The musty smell of all those aging pages was, if anything, more intense than I remembered.

2. I wonder when I may be back over her to do a search for a print article? I still use the library for books, of course, but for journal articles, no—online databases generally suffice. Of course my fields are educational technology and librarianship, and 99% of the time I want the most recent information possible.

Am I saying print files like these are passé? Do I advocate disposing of them? Emphatically not! Even in my field, I just proved the ongoing value of those bound volumes. My BA is in English and history, and I certainly know that scholarly thought regarding these realms does not get dated in the same way as information may in other fields. Indeed, my reason for seeking the outdated article, which is about educational technology, is to point how timely the premise is some twelve years later. Long live libraries and the treasures they hold until the time comes when I need that one remembered gem and find it waiting for me on the shelf!

Motion Computer Emotions

I mentioned in my previous post that I opened two cool appurtenances today, an iPod and a Motion Computer. I raved about the iPod in that posting, and now I want to describe my reactions to opening this tablet computer.
  • Packaging was a bunch of sturdy brown cardboard boxes. They did not reveal contents which is frustrating because, with several, you have to examine the thing inside to figure out what it is. What I mean is, there was one box that contained an external CD drive. It was in a larger shipping box that held other stuff as well. It took me a minute to figure out what the thing was because the box really did not say.
  • Frankly, documentation is lousy. Packaging is mundane. After all these years, one might think that competitors would learn from Apple about the little things like these...
  • The stylus was missing. OK that is not Motion's fault. Computer services handled the computer first and installed software, etc. They carefully packaged everything back up, but the sleeve for the stylus was, alas, empty. Since I already have an HP tablet, I tried that stylus, and was happy to find that it does work. BUT I think every tablet computer should come with at least two styluses (stylii???) Come on, people lose those things. Next on my list is to try to find the missing one and request that more are ordered.
  • I was not the one who originated the order for this computer, so was not that familiar with it. I kept looking for the keyboard. THERE IS NONE. Unlike my HP, this computer comes with the assumption that you will use it just with screen/stylus, choosing between the three modes for text input: handwriting, single letter entry, and on-screen keyboard. At first this dismayed me, but the idea is growing on me. After all we really want this thing for conferences, etc. where the keyboard is less important. Handwriting recognition works great for me. My handwriting is OK, not pristine but not physician's scrawl either. So I am fine for entry.
  • Another box held a large supplemental battery that is the same size as the computer and attaches to the bottom. Good for extended use, I am sure.
  • The best thing about this gizmo is its weight. My HP feels like a ton of bricks in comparison. I can and will look up the weight, but right off am saying that it is very light.
  • It is also very sleek and slim. I think my Motion and my iPod like each other...
  • Conclusion? This is not someone's workhorse computer, at least not mine. But for conferences, meetings, etc, it is very, very cool.
  • Take a look! Here is their website:

Gadget Heaven

I am in it! Today I unboxed two really cool tools. I am the lucky person who tries out new hardware for our university department. Today I opened two new sleek, slender, may I say sexy, digital wonders. One was the newest iteration of the iPod. I already have an iPod that I will share with someone else in the department and migrate to this new one. The other is a Motion Computer. Oh wow! How lucky am I??? Here are reactions to each:

  • Oh my, Apple does know how to package things! I was presented with a small black box, about the size of an index card, gently encased in shrink wrap. Getting into the box did NOT require a screwdriver, blowtorch, or even a Leatherman. Indeed I just used my thumbnail to barely break the wrap and peel off. Opening the box was like opening a jewelry box. The top lifted off instead of having an end flap. It is a nice sturdy box, the kind you actually WANT to keep with the loose ends that go along with the device.
  • Inside was nestled a sleek little black wonder. It makes my previously beloved iPod look white and clunky. Yep, I am fickle. Out with the old! In with the new!
  • With the old iPod, there was a disk to install. That would have been an issue for me since I want to install this to an HP table computer that lacks a disk drive. Not a problem! As soon as you hook your iPod to your computer, you go right to the Apple site, register, and get the software you need.
  • Of course you end up at iTunes with lots of music, books, etc. for sale but what the hey? I LIKE iTunes. I have not bought anything though. Not yet...but...
  • THERE IS NO POWER CORD! How cool is that??? You just charge up by hooking up to your computer. I think that the old one was that way too, will have to check.
  • My new lil' buddy went right to my previous collection of iTunes music and synced without even being asked. It did ask if I wanted my pics done too, and of course I said yes!
  • How about documentation? Well there is not that much but this device is so intuitive that you don't NEED much.
  • I had the little wonder up and good to go in less than 30 minutes, including syncing with my previous music and images.
  • Do I love Apple for their style and user-friendliness? YES I DO!!!
  • In fact here is a little secret I will soon as I get a chance, I am going to finally allow myself to get an iPhone. I am hooked after playing with my nephew's this past weekend. He has been using his for several weeks and gave me the affirmation I have been using, a positive reaction from a fellow gadget lover who has been using the phone for several weeks, enough time for the novelty to wear off.
OK so how about the motion computer? I will make that my next entry since I like to keep them short.

UPDATE SEVERAL HOURS LATER...I took Iola for a walk and just got back. I do have a habit of naming inanimate things that I really like:

  • My car is Yolanda Dos Honda (Yolanda Uno gave up her life to save mine in summer 06 rollover)
  • My titanium heart valve is named Fido. He never fails me!
  • My Sony Vaio laptop is named Vera.
  • And new iPod is named Iola. I never named the other one.
Iola kept me going for two extra laps, I was walking with Merle Haggard, Robert Earl Keen, Alice Stuart and other lowbrow favorites of mine. I think I even tired out my dog! To sum up, I like my iPod even more than I did when we first met. She is so light and easy to carry, and gave me great company. I only have one video so far, a vlog I downloaded from NASA recently. But it looks great! Take a look at NASA's video podcasts. I know kids will like them. This one is about stability and features a skateboarder but also gets into rockets.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Great Library Research Idea!

My students do webliographies for one of their assignments. Someone today chose the topic of "Houdini." Among her resources, she mentioned the public library from the town where he was born, Appleton, WI. Here is the link:
They also have pages for two other famous locals, Edna Ferber and Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Thinking of my own home town, I can come up with several great topics of local interest that could also be unique resources for others. San Marcos, TX could feature a page about President Lyndon Johnson, for instance, since he went to college there. Royalty free pictures could be available of the school buildings that were there when he attended, and the house where he lived (now a museum).There are certainly people around who knew him, and it might be possible to offer some interviews. I wish I had thought of this idea when I was still in a junior high library. It would have been a great project with kids just at the right age...

Monday, October 1, 2007

Survey Monkey...sneaky or just clever?

I am not one to give a TV show my undivided attention. I often do have TV on in the evenings, but usually I am surfing the web at the same time. It takes a fair amount of enticing to get me to take my hands off the keyboard and focus on the TV screen. But I have to admit getting very involved in the new-ish game show, "The Power of 10." When it comes on, I put the computer aside and sit forward in my chair. I may even shout out instructions to the contestants and gesture wildly with my hands, encouraging them to raise or lower the percentages that indicate how many people in America feel a certain way about a given topic. For some reason I have always been fascinated by polls. I love to see numbers indicating how people feel about issues, and where my opinions stand in comparison to those of others. This interest leads me to frequently ask listserv friends how they feel about things. And last week, it also led me over to Survey Monkey.

Survey Monkey is a "free" service whereby you can post questions and invite participants to respond online at the site. All that is required is registration. I had visited the site in the past, and had participated by responding to some surveys, but had never tried it out until last week. Then I got the idea to poll people about Web 2.0 participation, and especially ask how they feel about blogging. So I went to SM and registered. Setting up the poll was easy. I had a little fun playing around with various color combinations and background styles. I keyed in some ranking questions and also some open-ended queries, because to me on of the best things about polls is gathering people's comments. Once I was satisfied with my product, I took the URL that SM provided and checked to be sure it worked. I also forwarded the address to two friends who tried out the poll as well. Then, confident I was ready, I announced my poll on my favorite listservs, LM_NET, EDTECH and TLC, and waited for results. Alas, although I got a couple of takers early on, I got many more messages from people for whom the URL did not work. Instead of taking them to my survey, it just took them to the main page and asked them to register. Evidently the URL was not compatible with some (many) people's email providers At that point I was pretty peeved with Survey Monkey, and tempted to give him the boot out of my virtual life. Before doing so, though, I decided to give Mr. Monk one more chance. I converted the URL to a shortened tinyurl and posted this to the listservs.

Voila! That evidently solved the problem, and I ended up with 83 participants, having hoped for only 40-50. Next, I went to the survey site and analyzed the results. Voila again! I got a nice display showing both numbers and percentages for responses, and also displaying all comments. All Right! I thought! Now to share!

That is where I have to ask the Survey Monkey sneaky or just clever? When I clicked on the button for displaying results, I got a message that my little primate friend would not do that unless I paid for upgraded service. And he is proud of this service, to the tune of $200/year! My first reaction was...forget it! I will just share on my own. But I really liked the display as it appeared at the site. I wanted all those nice people who had participated to see the final results of the poll. And I knew that I was going to refer to the poll in a couple of articles and presentations. I decided that I would cough up the money, opting for convenience and nice looking presentation of the data. So what is the best way to describe Survey Monkey? Sneaky? Clever? I think SM is both. I could have repackaged the data and avoided the cost, and having used the site still would have been worthwhile because it was a great way to collect responses. I made the choice to go ahead and pay the fee. Either way, the site does offer an easy way to conduct informal or even formal polls. Take a look:
And here is the URL for those results! For goodness sakes visit...after all I paid for it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pet Peeves

It seems to me that LM_NET members are already hungry for comic relief. A week after the funny names deluge, we had the pet peeves thread. This one also really resonated with people. Of course for some people, the pet peeve is "frivolous" or off-topic posts, which brought a bit of irony to the exchange. Anyway, this one got me wondering...what are your technology pet peeves? I certainly have a few and will add to this post in a bit, and also provide this place if anyone else wants to comment with peeves, especially techhie ones but others as well.

Fun with Funny Names

Recently there was a thread on LM_NET about funny names. This has always been something that cracked me up. The thread was rightly ended after so many messages, but it reminded me of the fact that I used to build upon the idea in my days as a junior high Language Arts teacher and then as a librarian. At one point I had very few materials, especially on the level needed for my students, and I learned then to use things like the phone book, catalogs, maps, etc. that I could get free. Forever after, I remembered the fun that could be had with these resources. One thing I would do was challenge kids to find names that were funny because of the occupations of the people. Using the Yellow Pages, they could look up doctors, for example, and find Dr. Payne, Dr. Pepper, Dr. Tickle (yep, in my home town though he was a veterinarian), etc. In the library I used to tell kids they could have a Jolly Rancher if they could make me laugh by doing this.

A variation on this is humorous author names. Back in the old days when we did inventory with shelf list cards, I can remember getting slap happy with my assistant over some author names. It would start out with names like Quackenbush and Pinkwater. Then we would start noticing that certain names were just perfect for the book subjects or titles. Was it fate that determined that the Van Wormers would write bird books? Doing inventory this way tends to make you slap happy after a while anyway, and by the 500's aisle we would be rolling in the aisle.

One other direction you could take with kids would be to think of funny names for book characters. Right now none come immediately to mind, but I know there are lots. Anyway, if you are interested continuing this thread or suggesting ways to have fun with students and names, here is a place you can add comments!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Danger! Protect Our Kids!

I am thinking of a resource that is very popular today, used by people of all ages. People meet up there to catch up with each other. For most people, it is a friendly, fun place, and even a place to conduct business. They may also meet there for romantic encounters. They may end up leaving this relatively secure location and going somewhere else to have sex. Child predators are known to habituate this type of environment. Often, parents have no clue what their children are doing there. This environment professes to have rules and security measures, but admits that these are hard to enforce and that 100% safety cannot be guaranteed. And yet, these environments thrive. And parents let their kids go, in fact they enable them to go by providing them with ways to get there! What am I thinking of???

OK, another analogy from me...this time I am talking about the mall. Or maybe the movie theater. The thing is, people regularly let their kids off there and pick them up several hours later. One thing kids do at the mall is go to computer stores and open/update MySpace accounts. And at the movies, kids have been known to.....well, you figure that one out. I am not saying parents should not let kids go out in public, though sometimes I think some parents let their kids be unsupervised in malls at too early ages, and for too long. But what they need to do is teach their children to be smart and safe wherever they go. And that goes for social networking sites too. Paranoria about social networking sites is NOT the answer!

Friday, September 7, 2007


Actually I joined a couple of hours ago, looked around a bit, and took the dog for a walk. I am liking this tool more than I thought I might! Here are some observations...they are in no particular order other than the order in which they occur to me:
  • This is a great way to advertise your blog. You could post an inviting Twitter that would lure people there.
  • Another really good way to use would be, as a librarian, to send out very short book reviews.
  • A lot of Twitter sites, both librarian and teacher, are open only to subscribers.
  • On the down side, many sites, including some that at first glance seem to offer promise, have not been updated in a long time. To really use Twitter, it seems to me you would need to post frequently.
After a quick look-see, here are some sites I like
  • If you had a very specific plan, it could be that Twitter would be your solution
  • There is a lot of chaff and not so much wheat if you go searching and looking for Twitters with substance.
  • For someone who wants to use it with a phone and to keep up with friends, it could be lots of fun.
  • For me, it does not resonate enough that I think I will be a regular user. It looks like fun, but I know myself well enough to know that I will likely just end up being one of the many people out there who have not updated in months.

Bird Bath!

Well, my brain is pretty close to fried right now, due to working all day online. Mostly I have been working on communications with people who are applying for the grant received by our department. It is a wonderful opportunity offered though the Institute of Museum and Library Science. The title of the grant is Laura Bush 21st Century Library Grant, and the name of our particular program is South Texas Educational Program (STEP) Grant. I made up the acronym and admit to being a bit proud of that. I am also proud to be the grant administrator. Anyway, the work I was doing today was tedious and a bit frustrating, but I finally brought it to a close and thought...GREAT! Here is the perfect time to try TWITTER before taking the dog for a walk, since my attention span is definitely on the short side at the moment. Alas, TWITTER is down at the moment, and the notice says it is out "for a brief shower." Hopefully I will be able to do more than just mention it before the day is done! Twitter is a social networking site where people can post very brief messages, no more than 140 characters, called TWITS. They can then share these with others. Some educators are finding exciting uses for Twitter and I am curious if a bit dubious at the moment. But time will tell...maybe the little twitter birdie will be back up for business soon!

Monday, September 3, 2007

My Take on MySpace

The other day in class I said to students..."I am thinking of a technological development that can pose a threat to young people. It is something often used by child predators. It is also a place where people can get together for sex. Parents and teachers should be teaching children about the dangers of this thing I am describing. It can even be deadly! What am I describing?" They were slow to respond, probably suspecting I was trying to trick them (true, I was). Finally someone timidly offered...MySpace??? I replied "NOPE! I WAS TALKING ABOUT THE AUTOMOBILE! After all, kids have been having sex in cars for years! Cars and parking lots are often used for abductions. Far too many teens die in cars every year." My point is that MySpace is an entity that, in and of itself, is benign--just like the car. BUT people can certainly use either for nefarious purposes. So here are some comments on MySpace...

Every parent and educator should visit this community and see what it is all about. We should urge parents to teach their children safe and smart Internet use, certainly including the use of online communities like MySpace and FaceBook. As someone said the other day regarding how to find resources about online safety, two words come to mind: Nancy Willard! Do a search for her name, use her resources, and you will be well on the way to helping yourself, your colleagues, your students, and their parents.

So what about MySpace? First of all, its original intent was to provide a place for artistic types such as musicians, writers, and artists to meet, share their work, and exchange information and ideas. Of course it has grown exponentially, but this is still a very large part of what goes on at MySpace. Now you can find everything from religious groups to zoos with a healthy dose of library sites included in MySpace sites.

As part of a class assignment, I am asking students to find and describe one GOOD/constructive MySpace site, and also offer one "bad" example that is the type of site you would want to steer youngsters away from. In keeping with my pledge to do the same assignment myself, here are my "good" and "bad" sites. There are so many good ones I have trouble picking. As for the bad, I know there are lots but I do not intend to waste my time seeking out a large number.

First the BAD and a disclaimer. I am not going to post a link. I don't even suggest you do this. But I thought to myself, how can I find a really terrible site? I thought of an organization that exists for men who seek to justify their interest in child predation. I don't even want to name the organization but you can probably figure it out. I did the search and came up with some very troubling sites. I just do not want to go further in this blog with a description of what I found, but it was convincing evidence that MySpace has offensive sites.

OK, I thought, how about something more likely to turn up for a kid? I did what I suggest you do. I went to MySpace and did a school search. I searched for my own high school alma mater and for current students. I did find sites tnhat looked to me to belong to kids younger than the age limit. I also found sites where too much information was offered for the safety of the users, regardless of their ages. I found one without looking too hard that I would want to know about as a parent. The page beloned to "Sexy Kitty," who says she is 16 and posts with a lot of profanity and general silliness. She could easily be younger. She does not have security set for her page, so it is out there for all to see. This is the kind of page that is all too common, and with close reading I could no doubt track her down. I already know what she looks like and the small town school she attends. I am betting her parents have no idea that page is out there, but I found it quite easily.

Visiting the bad examples is not fun. It is enough to make me question the entire community. What I need now are compelling GOOD examples. They are most definitely there. Here are some constructive types of sites:

  • Political sites...think of any current Presidential candidate and visit his/her site. This is an environment that cannot be ignored in an election year. Howard Dean taught a lot of people that back in the previous campaign when he spread his information via the Internet in the early stages of the campaign.
  • Libraries. There are some fantastic library MySpace sites out there! Here is one: I just used the first one I came to, because there are so many. This one does offer a blog entry about MySpace safety with a link to Nancy Willard's site.
  • Church Youth Groups: You can find a lot of these site, but not browse them because they appropriately are secure sites for their members. Here is one:
  • Musicians and artists:
    • My daughter booked a coast to coast tour from her MySpace site. She is an independent singer/songwriter, specializing in Americana. Here is the link:
    • Don't just go to hers, though. Here is one I really like, because he is an artist as well as musician, with amazing original and creative work in both areas:
    • Here is a publicist who works works with a lot of musicians, including my daughter:
    • OK all of those have some connection to my daughter, but there are hundreds of others out there. Try any musician or artist you have ever heard of and see what I mean! If the person does not have his/her own site, there will be a fan site.

Assignment for Me and For My Students!

Eons ago when I taught 7th grade Language Arts, I would often tell students that I should not give them an assignment that I was not willing to do myself. So if they were assigned a topic upon which to write, I would assign myself the same task. Students seemed to like the idea that I was doing the same work they were asked to do, and of course I would "turn in" my finished product to them. I also did this from time to time as a librarian. I drew the line at doing a science project, but I would tell them that I had conducted research in the same manner and on the same topics as they were being asked to do. Of course in any school library, the assignment should start with the collection/available materials in order to be sure it is reasonable for students to complete, so that makes plenty of sense.

Well, the other day I got an idea for updating an assignment for students in my class, Internet for School Librarians. The purpose of this assignment is to get students to explore educational Web 2.0 resources. My experience is that many of them have little or no experience in this rapidly growing area. They may be familiar with the term "blog," but most seem lost when I mention "vlog," "twitter," or even "podcast." Many are quick to tell me that MySpace is BAD, but admit they have never visited the site at all. This is the gist of the assignment:

1. Visit Wikipedia and report back. Tell about at least two entries. One should be an article that you would allow students to use and another an article that you would not recommend.
2. Visit MySpace. Describe one good and one not so good page that you see.
3. Visit one educational podcast. Describe.
4. Visit one educational wiki. Describe.
5. Visit one educational ning. Describe.
6. Visit one educational twitter. Describe.
7. Visit one educational podcast. Describe
8-9. Visit two outstanding blogs: librarian or teacher. This is three separate entries, one per blog. Tell about them each in turn.

In addition to asking students to report on their impressions of these sites, I am pledging to do the same. Thus, in future postings I will report my feelings about the above mentioned resources. Not everything resonates with everyone. While I find all aspects of online communication interesting, some to not appeal to me personally. This is as it should be! If we all try to blog, vlog, podcast, twitter, IM, email, and otherwise express ourselves, we will spread ourselves far too thin! As I go on my personal odyssey through various online entities, I will share my impressions. Meanwhile I wonder, which ones resonate with you?

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Back in January, I had an article in School Library Journal called "The Elephant in the Room." It was about filtering beyond the filters, where additional layers of "security" further impede students and teachers from getting the information they need and deserve. The elephant is now trumpeting out some profanity in elephantese, based on frustrating recent experiences. Here is the story: Our department has been awarded a wonderful grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Studies, which will enable 20 fortunate South Texas students to move through our MLS program with all expenses paid, also receiving other great benefits. Naturally, I am communicating with candidates via email. Well, here are two ridiculous issues I have encountered:
  • In one instance, ALL responses to applicants were blocked as SPAM by a district. I had to make several calls to convince the powers that be in that district that emails from my university address about an opportunity for their people to get a master's degree free of charge did NOT CONSTITUTE SPAM.
  • And now this: I sent out a message this morning to 70 applicants. So far I have gotten blocked by two districts, stopping seven messages. Why? In the body of my message, I gave out the address to my blog. Evidently even mentioning a blog is dangerous. I know it is a four letter word but good grief! I am thinking some others right now. So...I will go back and remove the terroristic use of the "b-word" and see if the message gets through. I also gave a wiki address. I am going to leave that part in just to see if the messages get through anyway, as a little test.
People, if your districts are this paranoid, I do hope you get on technology committees and try to make some changes! By the way I did NOT use the word "specialist" in my message but you DO know it gets things blocked, right? After all, it contains "cialis."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Well Duh, Einstein!

The Houston Chronicle ran a story today about the Baby Einstein videotapes. It seems they may not turn your kid into an instant genius after all! In fact they might do the opposite and dumb him down! It seems the tapes jump around a lot and have very little language. The more a child watches the tapes, the less new words he may pick up. One expert even said he would rather see a kid watch American Idol than those videos, because then the little tyke would hear more words and maybe interact with others in the process. And here is the reason for the DUH...guess what was suggested as a better activity? Your little one would be better off if...revolutionary idea...YOU READ TO HER!!! Hmmmmm nothing like stating the obvious and calling it news...