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?