Sunday, February 25, 2007

Word Power

All day I have been thinking about two things:

  • The power of words
  • Julie Amero

Both topics engender sad feelings. The word in particular I have been thinking about is scrotum. Because of this word, the 2007 Newbery Award Winning book is getting tons of publicity, as are librarians. The book may actually profit from the attention, since making public that a book has CERTAIN WORDS or other QUESTIONABLE CONTENT tends to have that effect. The impact on librarians and librarianship seems to be more deleterious. Because of a few unfortunate quotations and a lot of hype, the NYT article about the controversy over this word has grown legs, as news types like to say. They talked about it on “The View,” and bloggers are incensed. Librarians were described in the article as more than ready to BAN the book. Alas, the story may be inaccurate and full of misstatements and overstatements, but it is out of the box now, like Pandora’s suddenly released ills. As librarians, we are going to have to do damage control regarding how we acquire books, starting with a clear description of our SELECTION POLICIES and the standards that we bring to bear on our choices for library materials. Librarians who are putting the book out on the shelves are much more likely to run into challenges due to the wide publicity it has experienced.

All this brings to mind the book I just finished enjoying via audio, The Book Thief. It too is about words, of course. I wonder what Papa would have done if Liesel had asked him about the word in question. Would he have rushed out to call the word police? They were certainly around in those days, as vividly depicted in the book burning scene. But I think not. I think it is just possible he would have given her his gentle smile and explained its meaning with accuracy and without horrified gasps. I find it depressing how close we come at times to the mindset of people in Hans’ and Liesel’s world. Real words offered in books that dare to question and challenge are vilified, and political doublespeak is promoted. So yes, my thoughts about the power of words, for today, have been sad.

And what of Julie Amero? That is another sad story, and one I will treat in another entry. In her case as well, though, the hysteria that can erupt over the thought that children may be exposed to something QUESTIONABLE has led to a sad miscarriage of justice. Her life is irrevocably marred by the extreme reaction of the media police in her community.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

NCLB...But TEACHERS in Texas are a different thing

I sent the following letter to The Houston Chronicle this evening. I have not sent them anything in quite a while, and seem to bat around 500 on getting in. Whether or not this one gets printed, I wanted to vent somewhere!

According to Saturday evening TV news, some Ft. Bend area teachers in route to TExES tests (standardized exams required for Texas teacher certification) in Ft. Bend County were delayed in getting there this morning by a wreck on the freeway, which is already under construction. If you have driven this route, you can imagine that they were blocked by barracades as well as other cars. Fittingly their destination was George Bush High School. When they arrived, some were only one minute late. They were locked out. Officials said rules are rules and no excuses for lateness were accepted. Some of the teachers were in tears, because their jobs were on the line. Surely there will be some leeway granted by these educators' employers, but why put TEACHERS AND KIDS thought the terrible stress that is synonymous with standardized testing today? Who benefits?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Super Site Sightings: My Own and TADALIST

One of my blogging heroes is Dr. Teri Lesesne, aka Professor Nana, Goddess of YA Literature. I have often wished I could be like her and tell people about great books. But of course I am not up to date on all those books, and she is constantly reading. Then it came to me...maybe I could talk about GREAT SITES the way she talks about GREAT BOOKS! I am someone who loves to keep up with favorite web sites, both old and new. So, from time to time I want to share some of my new finds and old standbys.

Here is the ultimate old standby, a site that has been around as long as I have been staring at screens. It has grown and developed over the years, and continues to be the #1 place I tell all students to share with their colleagues. I know most of you are familiar with it, but if you have not stopped by lately, do check in with KATHY SCHROCK'S site:
She and her signature little red schoolhouse continue to serve as a fantastic starter site for anyone interested in teaching or librarianship. Take note of her great list of Web 2.0 resources as well as her many other resources. And, of course, she has a blog as well!

Here is one that is perhaps less known but worth checking if you need an online to-do lists:
TADA Lists. I could not live without this site. It keeps me on task despite my forgetful and not-so-organized approach to life. Here it is:
It requires a sign-up but is free and well worth setting up if you are in need of a list for reminders. It is available to you anywhere you are, unlike a paper list that sits on your counter at home. I am logging off for now, but if you are new to the listing site and try it, let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


First, acronym alert! TCEA ( stands for Texas Computer Education Association, and LIB SIG stands for Librarians’ Special Interest Group. I am proud to be a part of this group of librarians, who like to gather at the larger technology convention which happens to be one of the biggest in the country and actually has larger attendance numbers than TLA (Texas Library Association). Here are some reasons to attend TCEA:

  • It always has fantastic keynote speakers. This year they were: Erin Gruwell, Greg Schwem, and Steve Gilliland
  • Sessions are by and for educators and are always good.
  • Exhibits are fantastic! They are great for getting ideas and learning more about products and services. There are always tons of great freebies.
  • SIG groups like TECH SIG and LIB SIG offer great ways to connect with people who have similar interests to you.
  • It is ALWAYS IN AUSTIN! What more can I say?


Wednesday afternoon, February 7, librarians attending TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association) had a chance to meet as a group. We have our very own SIG (Special Interest Group)! Sadly, I learned Monday night that our President, Shonda Brisco, would not be able to attend. She had been sidelined by a nasty flu bug. Since I am past president and have been working together with Vice President Holly Weimar with meeting arrangements, it fell to us to take up the torch. We did so with a bit of apprehension but everything turned out great! We met in a Ballroom which looked cavernous at first, but we did draw a nice crowd of about 150 enthusiastic attendees. Librarians love to seek each other out at larger gatherings, I think. Also important to attendance were two big, and I mean BIG, draws:

  1. Our speaker was none other than TONI BUZZEO!
  2. We promised some great door prizes, including at least ONE FREE BOOK FOR EVERY ATTENDEE! What librarian can resist that lure?
  3. Also we served cookies and iced tea, which was probably not a big draw but was a nice bonus for attendees. I was both happy and sad to note that we ran out of refreshments. That meant that we had a great group but also meant some people were disappointment. NEXT YEAR, EXPECT MORE FREE EATS!

Toni was wonderful! To see her presentation, go to this URL:

It is actually a wiki set up by Shonda, and her presentation is part of what is presented there. She had a lot of great information and tips about collaboration, what the term really means, and how we can work to better our collaborative efforts. After the presentation, we had a great time sharing WONDERFUL DOOR PRIZES! We gave away:

  • Over 250 brand new books, courtesy of Sam Houston State University Department of Library Science
  • T-Shirts from Gaggle
  • Several books provided by Linworth Press
  • 60 beautiful bags provided by Mackin
  • A wonderful statuette of a girl reading a book, also from Mackin.

After the presentation I also announced a slate of officers for next year. They are:

  • President Holly Weimar from Sam Houston State University
  • Vice President Tara Rollins from Aldine ISD
  • Treasurers Jennifer Larriviere and Heather Lamb from Irving ISD
  • For Secretary, I jokingly said I would gladly step aside if anyone was interested in stepping up for this job, and otherwise I would take it. To my AMAZEMENT and GRATITUDE, someone took me up on this! Heartfelt thanks to her and I hope she gets in touch with me soon! In the rush at the end of the meeting I gave her my email but did not get contact information for her. Unfortunately I did not get her name and contact information but rather gave her mine, so I hope to hear from her soon!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST!! This meeting would not have been such a great success without the generous support of Linworth Press.This wonderful company has sponsored our speakers for the past two years, and has also offered to help us in the future. So stay tuned for announcements in the fall…we are going to have another dynamite gathering!


On February 7, Holly Weimar and I presented a session at TCEA called “FUN, NEW & FREE IDEAS AND SERVICES VIA THE INTERNET.” TCEA stands for Texas Computer Educators Association. We offered a fast romp through a number of new and exciting web sites for educators and students. The URL for the presentation is

The first part of the presentation covered the first two groupings of websites on the above page, which are particularly directed at teachers, teacher training and professional reading. Holly has a particular interest in professional reading, which is the topic of her dissertation. She was extremely prepared and thorough in presenting information and special features for each site highlighted. I wound up the session with a fast tour of the rest of the sites, emphasizing those with Web 2.0 properties. As is the case with many sessions at this large conference, we filled all seats in the room and people were turned away. The response afterwards was quite heartening, and I suspect that this type of presentation that I will continue to offer, hopefully along with soon-to-be DOCTOR Weimar. Also as always when I present, Nancy Pearl Library Action Figure made an appearance. She stood on the podium while I talked and was even invited to pose in some pictures afterwards! She has a magnetic personality. We had lots of fun with the presentation. If you are looking for some different, exciting and fun web sites, try out some of the ones listed at my page. They are locations I have just come across lately. I learned about many of them at the Multimedia&Internet@School Conference this fall, and others were shared by listserv members from LM_NET, EDTECH, and TLC.

What the heck is ISTE NETS and why do I care?

TCEA 2007: ISTE Standards Meeting Tuesday February 6 2007

I would not have gone to this session had it not been for my convention running buddy, soon-to-be DR Holly Weimar. It sounded boring, and as a rule, discussion of standards makes my head swim. Especially in early afternoon, when my spoiled noggin craves a nap. But she talked me into it. “We NEED to know this,” she said. “It’s FREE,” she said. Well, OK I thought, upon hearing my favorite four-letter-word-that-starts-with-F.” So we joined an ominously small gathering of folks in a large room filled with round tables. The paucity of attendants did nothing to dispel my notion that this was going to be boring. BUT IT WAS NOT! (I should add here that more people came in after we arrived, anyway).

My first clue that the meeting would not be dull was discovering that it would be a working session. I had just arrived at the convention center and had not read up on the event in the program, so I did not know this already. We were to be seated by our grade level interest: elementary, middle grades, or high school. Holly and I chose middle grades because that was the level at which we had both worked most recently in public school. Our colleagues at the table were district trainers, teachers, and technology specialists. They were an impressive group. One member had come all the way from Wyoming just for this particular emphasis on standards since she was involved in refreshing the tech standards there.

Our charge was to look at existing ISTE NETS and suggest how they should be updated. We were encouraged to either reword or even delete existing statements, and also add anything additional that we viewed as important. I confess to being in the dark at first, not even knowing what ISTE NETS stood for. Yes, of course I had heard of ISTE and knew it was an organization promoting technology, but had not really thought about what the initials meant. I was even more in the dark about the NETS. So I was tabula rasa regarding everything we covered. I learned the translation for the acronyms:

  • ISTE stands for: International Society for Technology in Education.
  • NETS: Stands for National Educational Technology Standards

Because these standards are so well crafted, they have been adopted by many states, including Texas. Our job was to look at the draft of revisions of the ones set forth in 1998.

In case you are similarly superficial in your understanding of ISTE, here is a self-description from their website:

“The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is the trusted source for professional development, knowledge generation, advocacy, and leadership for innovation. A nonprofit membership organization, ISTE provides leadership and service to improve teaching, learning, and school leadership by advancing the effective use of technology in PK–12 and teacher education. Home of the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), the Center for Applied Research in Educational Technology (CARET), and the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC), ISTE represents more than 85,000 professionals worldwide. We support our members with information, networking opportunities, and guidance as they face the challenge of transforming education.” (

First we had introductory remarks from ISTE’s leadership, CEO Don Knezek, Refresh Project Directors Lynn Nolan and Lajeane Thomas, and then we set to work discussing the standards. Our group was very congenial, but of course we were middle school folks. People who work with this age group have got to stick together! At first I was still leery that this was just an exercise, but came to realize that our suggestions were really important. They had had a similar meeting recently in Florida and clearly were taking the suggestions seriously that came out of that event. Early on, I became aware that there was an important omission. There was no real mention of the need to promote respect for intellectual property! This tenet is, of course, basic to librarianship. I had a hot idea to offer! This HAD to go into the document! My cohorts agreed and we came up with a statement that went something like this:

“Students demonstrate respect for intellectual property, including awareness of copyright and plagiarism issues by citing sources and producing original work.” I think it got tweaked a bit more but that is close. I got so excited that I brought out my virtual traveling companion, Nancy Pearl, Librarian Action Figure. When it came time to share, I got to present this new component and also introduce Nancy. She was a big hit as always, and I really think this additional standard will be included. I felt like a kid at show and tell, and for this contribution I was given a door prize, a fantastic book by Jim Lerman called 101 Best Websites for Secondary Teachers.” Other people had already earned prizes and I had spotted this book as one they were going to give, and had already wished for it!

As the meeting continued, a number of other suggestions were made. Some came out of the small groups, and some evolved from discussions offered when the group as a whole shared ideas. All the input was turned in at the end of the meeting, and I was sure by then that our voices had been heard. The meeting concluded with a photo op for Nancy Pearl with our presenters! Look for it to be posted soon. I am now looking forward to the completion and publication of the new, improved ISTE NETS.

If you would like to add your input or learn more about this project, go to this web site:

Hint: I went there this morning (Feb. 13) and it was down. I am sure they are revising and will revisit and you should too. In my mind I am thinking…maybe right this minute they are adding my idea!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I Love Books Too!

My colleague Teri Lesesne has so much fun blogging about books. I am sure you know her blog, "The Goddess of YA Literature" at
Well I cannot compete but I like to talk about books too! I especially enjoy adult fiction and YA titles. When I was a school librarian I was very much up on all the titles. But since I moved over into technology for my specialty, I cannot claim to be current any more. BUT here are two titles I read and enjoyed recently:
  • Some Old Lover's Ghost by Julie Lennox. It is hardly new, and I bought a used copy a couple of years ago at my favorite bookstore in the world, Powell's in Portland Oregon ( I finally picked it up over the holidays. It is certainly a mystery but more than that it is a human interest story, about love gone wrong and people's complicated lives. The characters are very well drawn and appealing with a realistic mix of good and bad. I can tell this is a book I will remember for a long time, unlike more formulaic mysteries that are fun but hardly memorable.
  • The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde had me laughing out loud. I downloaded this one to my iPod and listened to it in my beloved Honda CRV, Yolanda Honda, which has a built in iPod connection. Even though I was very worried about my dad, who was in the hospital after a fall during the time I listened to it, I still found myself littering shouting out with laughter! In order to enjoy this book and its predecessor, The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime Mystery. You certainly have to suspend disbelief and buy into the notion that nursery characters live and breathe in modern England. Bears are a minority group trying to gain equal rights with humans. Some nefarious goings-on with exploding cucumbers baffle Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant, Mary Mary. Once you get into the spirit, these two books are hilarious. I cannot wait for the next!