Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Gaining Web 2.0 Access in Schools

Back to the question about why promote Web 2.0 resources when so many schools block them. I think it is important to encourage more positive and reasonable attitudes among our colleagues regarding interactive and social networking sites. In my previous entry I mentioned the one thing I think is invaluable: participation on a campus or district technology committee. If no such group exists, concerned faculty should campaign for the formation of one.

Another important component is accurate and full information. One person who left a comment to my initial entry on this topic said she gained access for a blog after zeroing in on one blog service and building a strong case for allowing students to use that single site. This resulted in students getting the chance to blog at school for the first time. A small step such as this is one good way to open the door to that one and possibly other opportunities.

Also, Nancy Willard shared a great story the other day on LM_NET and gave me permission to share it here:

David "white hat" wowed them all with the opportunities presented by the Web 2.0 connections. And he graphically illustrated the risks (and the reason we need librarians) by showing them an article on Martin Luther King -- and then backtracking to show them that this was an article on a site hosted by the hate group Stormfront (which is actually a Web 1.0 site).

They loved his presentation. Then I got up and told them of these recent LM-Net emails and how the library community is concerned that because of the fears and legitimate concerns is resulting in many districts simply blocking access to Web 2.0.

I had the "black hat" task of discussing the challenges -- cyberbullying risky sexual activities, unsafe and dangerous groups, addiction, unsafe provision of personal information, online strangers. Then I set forth a comprehensive approach to address these challenges -- which will be necessary to take advantage of the opportunities. Each state also received a copy of my "hot off the press" new edition of my book on cyberbullying, which includes a template for a comprehensive plan to address these

You see, we can't just say "we need Web 2.0." There are very real management concerns related to student use of these highly interactive technologies. It is essential to address the challenges to take advantage of the
opportunities. I can't say that they "loved" my presentation. ;-) I stunned them with the range of concerns. I advised them to Google "bypass Internet filter" to witness how ineffective their current management approach is. I laid out an important agenda for revising how schools are managing student Internet use."

Those who would block all Web 2.0 sites and those who would make them accessible share one important attribute: genuine concern for the students. Finding ways to communicate and work together is important. The message I would like to promote is that teaching all parties involved: students, teachers, administrators, and parents about smart and safe Internet use is the only real way to insure that our youngsters avoid the pitfalls that go along with net use.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Answering My Own Question

Yesterday I posted asking why should I even talk about blogs, wikis, etc. when they are blocked in so many schools and districts. I appreciate all the responses here and to me personally. Additionally I should go on to say that I had thought this through prior to planning the presentation. TCEA is one gathering where this topic really needs to be covered, since in many cases it is the technology director/department/specialist who plays a major role in deciding what should or should not be blocked. Only by continuing to speak out for professionals and students will we be able to bring about change. Speaking at librarians' conference is important, but to a degree is "preaching to the choir." With this group, maybe raising awareness will help wear down resistance to the types of sites that need to be accessible.

I want to talk a little more about this topic tomorrow but thought I would express one thought tonight. If your school/district is not allowing Web 2.0 sites, the first recourse is a technology committee. I recently wrote an article which is in this month's School Library Journal, about restrictions to web access above and beyond filters--things like limiting time on sites, being very rigid and strict about only allowing online access for assigned projects, over-blocking, forbidding use of search engines, allowing access only to sites on an approved list, and other constraints. For this article I asked listserv members who had gained improved access how that was attained. In every single instance, the respondents named technology committee membership as key. So get on the committee and if there is not one, campaign to get one started!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Why Even Talk About Blogs, Wikis, Web 2.0?

I am preparing for a presentation week after next at TCEA, Texas Computer Educators' Association. I will be touting exciting Web 2.0 sites and other great online resources. While I look forward to talking about all these great services, I am suffering from a sense of futility. Why talk about this topic? So many attendees and even more of their unrepresented colleagues who cannot get support to attend the conference have no access to anything that offers Web 2.0 features. In a recent district where I presented, I could not even use my university's online databases. Getting to any blog was out of the question. I know all the well that this is the norm, not the exception. I would love comments from people who have experience in overcoming the roadblocks to creative teaching with technology that are so common in the restrictive environments existing in so many schools. If you have been able to make progress and gain access that has improved your ability to access online resources, I would love to hear your stories. What suggestions can I offer to attendees regarding ways to make things better at their schools?
PS If anyone is attending TCEA, my presentation will be Wednesday morning, February 8, at
10:30 AM and is called "Fun, New & Free Ideas and Services Via the Internet."

ChaCha! Try It!

Last night I tried out a search engine, ChaCha, that offers a unique social feature. You can ask and immediately get your own personal search guide who chats with you and helps you find the information you are seeking. I was looking for information about the migration of goldfinches in Texas. They come through in early spring every year, and I thought I saw some the other day, but it did seem early. I asked my new friend, who told me her name was Sandra, if she could help me find out if indeed my little feathered friends could be passing through this early. Of course I was also giving the service a test run, but the question was bonafide. I chose this question because I myself had not found exactly what I hoped for. The pages Sandra offered me were ones I had already seen, but that did not necessarily surprise me. I asked her if they ever so busy that they did not have enough representatives to meet demand at a given time, and she said that so far they had plenty of people. I enjoyed visiting with her and found the exchange to be pleasant. I would certainly not turn to this service unless I was faced with a very difficult question, but in that event I would give it another try. If you want to take a test drive, just go to

If you want personal attention, select the button on the right, “Search With Guide.” Someone should show up promptly to offer help!

PS About the goldfinches, I went low tech today. I put out their favorite treat, thistle seeds in a net “thistle sock” and hung it along with another feeder with sunflower seeds. Within minutes I had a busy mob of goldfinches and, thereby, my answer. I will post pictures to illustrate as soon as I upload.

Happy Digital Immigrant, That's Me!

This was written on January 18, 1007, in anticipation of posting to my upcoming blog. I was in the town where I grew up, while my dad, age 94, was hospitalized after a fall. I showed up just in time for an ice storm.

Even though I was completely housebound yesterday due to icy steep roads leading to Dad's neighborhood, I was not lonely. I was able to touch base with my students and also heard directly from colleagues in 25 states. That was via LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH listservs. People were responding to my queries about listservs and their value. I got many wonderful messages, and will use them in an upcoming column that I write for Multimedia&Internet@Schools, called Belltones.

Suffice it to say I love listservs!

A lot of press is given these days to the terms “digital immigrant” and “digital native.” Natives are youngsters born in recent years who have never known a world without digital technology. Immigrants are folks like me who remember a past without all of today's wonderful gizmos and thus must “immigrate” to new ways of thinking and doing things. I think it is exciting to be an immigrant! Because I can remember a world not only without computers but also lacking such ubiquitous conveniences as air conditioning and television, I am able to get a thrill out of the little, and of course big, things that technology makes possible. So onward and upwards immigrants! We should all be glad to learn new things in this rapidly changing 21st century. Here are some things that I get a kick out of:

· I am alive because of a little gizmo about the size of a nickel, called a St. Jude's mechanical mitral heart valve. Without open heart surgery in 2000 to install this gadget, I was on schedule to die within two years of my initial diagnosis. That would have been 2002. Since my surgery I have been to London three times teaching study abroad, took students to New York and DC, and last summer took a group to Ireland. This past month I was happily hiking on the Oregon Coast, I work full time, and in no way find my heart issue to inhibit my life. Before surgery I could not climb a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath.

· During treatment and preparation prior to surgery, I found an online support group called, sponsored by Cleveland Clinic. Because of the advice and encouragement of others who had been through open heart surgery for heart valve replacement, I learned that this procedure, while challenging, is not a terrible fate. Instead it is an opportunity to regain an active life. Support groups such as this exist to help folks through almost any health challenge one can imagine. When my husband was being treated for lung cancer, I found a group for cancer caregivers, and just recently I found a group for children whose parents are aging and experiencing issues with health, independence, morale, etc. So hooray for support groups!

· I love my cell phone! I was at one time one of those people who “hated” cell phones but I am a complete convert. Today I was able too keep in touch with my brother while we went through the process of trying to find rehab care for Dad. Last night when I lost power during the ice storm, I used my cell to call in the outage. Didn't get power until this morning but that's another story. Also, my daughter and I send pictures back and forth and just recently I have become an avid texter.

· Digital cameras are another favorite thing that comes to mind. My daughter's new phone has such a good one that she no longer uses her “old” KoolPix. I have a Casio Exilim which is two years old, and am Jonesing for a new one! But this particular little camera has been with me to Ireland, Mexico, New York, DC, California, Oregon, and points in between. It fits easily in my jeans pocket and goes where I go. What would I do without it is a question I don't like to contemplate.

· I am typing this on a cool little tablet computer. It is about the size of a regular piece of copy paper. When it is in the closed position I can write notes in longhand. Now I have it open so I can type on the full keyboard. It weighs about 3 pounds and is a handy companion. I especially like it for conferences and meetings when I do take notes with the stylus. The hospital has wifi so I am online at Dad's bedside while he snoozes before supper. Incidentally, like all patients, meals are a big deal to him and I already know he will eat his institutional fare with gusto. Did I mention he is 94? He already wants to break out of this joint.

· Ooooh! I must mention one more gadget before I quit, unless supper iPod! Right now I am listening to Jasper Fforde's The Fourth Bear, 2nd in his Nursery Crimes series. It has me laughing out loud, as did his first in the series, the one about Humpty Dumpty. If you have not picked these up, do yourself a favor and get them. I listened to both but the many references to stories and rhymes makes you want to read as well. I actually bought the hard copy of Humpty after listening to it. I got the little microphone, iTalk, for my iPod and with that I record messages and explanations to share with my students via BlackBoard. Wherever I happen to be I just save my voice files and then upload with iTunes and then add the file where I need it. So hooray for iPods

Multimedia&Internet@Schools Conference, November 2006

I wrote a couple of entries back in November 2006 while I was in Monterey, California, for the Multimedia&Internet@School Conference. My plan was to use them to launch a blog during or right after the conference. Instead, on the last day of the event, I fell and broke my wrist. That resulted in a long delay while I had surgery and recovered, keying with just one hand for a long time. I am including those comments below. You will notice that they are in the first person but keep referencing my companion as well as myself. That is because I was traveling with my Librarian Action Figure, Nancy Pearl, who goes where I go. If future posts I will talk more about her but will discontinue using the “we” device.

Monday, October 22: Internet Librarian/Internet@School Conference is the BEST! Nancy and agree on that. We are in our second day here in Monterey, CA. Nancy was pretty peeved at me yesterday because I did not take her out of my bag one time, but I was so busy! I went to four sessions, all of which were top notch. In the morning I concentrated on sessions designed to bring us up-to-date on the latest and best Internet search tools and techniques: We learned sooo many new tools to try out and use, including:




And many others…all will be posted to my website. Here is the URL for the index page to it:

In the afternoon we heard presentations about schools and libraries.

Today, Tuesday, October 23, we were a little nervous, because I presented at the time slot just before lunch. I talked about my new book, Cybersins and Digital Good Deeds, and certainly had plenty of material to cover. But I always get a little jumpy before speaking at conferences. Nancy was happy, though, because I introduced her personally and even let her stand on the podium while her talked. I will post a picture of her taken there. Having her there bolstered my courage and the session went very well. This afternoon's sessions were again quite good. The folks at Kent University SLIS have done wonderful things in the area of teacher/librarian collaboration and I got some ideas from their presentations. Incidentally, a lot of what they have developed is FREE for ANYONE. Go here to learn more~! During the afternoon break I actually went back to my room for a short nap. Then back to the conference for the last session of the day, and one I was really looking forward to, because it featured Gary Price, of The Reference Shelf and also, recently, from ASK.COM. Now I can say, hands down, that I have a new favorite search engine and that it is You have got to give it a try. Here is a quick example. Go to their main page and just search for “dog.” Take a look at all the extra added value features that appear right below the search window, as well as the expected results. Next try their maps. Maps at are so cool! They even give walking directions—the only search engine on the web that does that! There is more, and here is a link to his presentation with tons of great links as well as info about Next up for me is a reception for speakers, and then I am heading back to the hotel. The helpful lady at the front desk recommended a restaurant just down the street from my hotel called The Sardine Company. It is just down from Cannery Row which probably explains the name. Nancy and I are looking forward to a nice relaxing supper after the reception.

Startup Process

I am launching this blog on Sunday, January 28. I have already tried two other blog spaces, Bloglines and WordPress. Both of these seemed disappointing to me. I did not like the looks of WordPress after I started up there, and thought Bloglines was less intuitive than I hoped. So far, this is my favorite and the one I think I will use.