Thursday, February 28, 2008

Misty Eyed Voter

I voted today. I was glad to use a good old soft pencil and paper for my ballot. I realize that voting is a bit off my topic for this blog, but I think the technology that is altering the ways we vote is pertinent since this is a blog about tech issues. I have grave concerns about the different methods by which people vote and the technology involved, from hanging chads to more sophisticated concerns such as whether one's vote is really counted and whether it is really private. I think we need to be very cautious about jumping in with technology in this arena until we can know for sure that our votes really are being tallied correctly.

As to my experience today, there was not a line to vote at our courthouse annex, but there was a steady stream of people going in and coming out. I stood behind an older man who looked to be in his 90's. He looked glad to be there, as was I. On the way home after casting my vote, I surprised myself by getting a bit choked up. I grew up in a family that was actively involved in elections. My dad was party chair in our Texas county for many years and we all pitched in to make the voting move smoothly. I was in charge of sharpening pencils. We were there all day, and after the votes were cast my dad had to drive around and collect ballots, and then deliver them to their destination. He was likely to be out all night that night. So voting is sacred to me. However in a lot of my most easily remembered experiences, my pride has been mixed with feelings of futility, stress, and even regret because of the candidates and my concerns about our country's direction. Today I had a big smile on my face during the process of voting. Like my favorite Texas singer (next to my daughter) says: "It Feels So Good Feelin' Good Again."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

So Mad I could Just Spit

Today's Houston Chronicle has an article titled "Conservatives to resurrect rejected curriculum plan." Here is my posting to listservs: Yesterday's article about Houston ISD's plans to upgrade school libraries was something of a mixture of good and not-so-good news. Today's state education news has no ambiguity. It is about an effort being launched by the State Board of Education to insure that kids will like reading less...."Conservatives to resurrect rejected curriculum plan," 1st page City/State section.or
I cannot resist quoting a teaser line for you, which comes from the last sentence, so here it is:
"Miller said McLeroy "is trying to do this with a last-minute bait-and-switch, offering a curriculum document that the board, parents and teachers haven't even discussed. The arrogance is breathtaking." " The only thing about this sentence that comes to mind is...this is news? Didn't we already know that???

And here is my letter to editor, probably too sarcastic to get in:

I see in today's paper that conservatives on the State Board of Education once again want to rewrite language arts curriculum, making sure kids do not read relevant and up to date titles that they love. Instead they should read classics, in part to avoid the "gay agenda." I am an English major and librarian who loves the classics. Here is a partial list they might want to include: Lysistrada, Oedipus Rex, Leda and the Swan, or anything by these authors: Chaucer, Virginia Woolf, or Oscar Wilde. On second thought, let's just leave all this to the educators who know what they are doing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Librarians and Administrators Working Together: Marla McGhee and Barbara Jansen's Message

Recently I was moved and inspired by an inspiring and thought provoking conference presentation. Every February in Austin, TX, Texas Computer Educators Association, TCEA, has one of the biggest and best edtech conferences in the nation. A vital and growing subgroup of this organization is LIB SIG, Librarian Special Interest Group within TCEA. This year we had close to 200 attendees who gathered to talk about important issues involving technology and librarianship. As we entered the room we were greeted by my favorite song by my favorite Texas musician, Robert Earl Keen's "Feelin' Good." We enjoyed refreshments, fellowship, and door prizes, but most of all the presentation.

Marla McGhee and Barbara Jansen are indeed an amazing duo. They wrote a much needed book, The Principal's Guide to a Powerful Library Media Program, Linworth Press. Marla speaks as an administrator and Barbara as a librarian. They have a positive message about how these two professionals, who both have good intentions and want the best for students, can work together for literacy and strong library programs. The gist of this particular presentation was a report on a survey that they conducted in fall 2007, asking librarians to share the five things they most wish their principals knew. The responses, they reported, coalesced around these five points, expressed in the first person and speaking for each librarian who contributed to the survey:

1) The most important part of my job is my instructional and collaborative role. Librarians need to communicate that they are prepared and dedicated to working with all patrons to support their schools' curriculums, to foster a love of reading, and to support colleagues in all their efforts to offer students the best possible experiences.

2) I am knowledgeable about curriculum and the 21st century learner. The information explosion that has occurred and continues to happen in today's digital world demands that as educators we must teach students to be discerning and disciplined in the face of so much data on any imaginable topic, much of it questionable. Librarians must lead the way in showing how to evaluate sources and find the best information for their needs.

3) An effective library media professional impacts every student and faculty member. We are already doing this, but we need to make our administrators and colleagues aware that every student is our child, that every staff member from custodian to principal is our patron, and that we stand ready to also serve families and communities.

4) The library program is critical to literacy. Clearly we need to continue to stress the importance of research that proves that schools with strong library programs produce students who perform better on tests, who can think constructively, and who have an ongoing love of reading.

5) Some aspects of my job may be done behind the scenes. On a personal note, once when I was to be evaluated, rather than put on a demonstration lesson, I invited my administrator to just follow me around for an hour or so on a typical day in the library. She was astounded at the variety and magnitude of demands that confront a librarian on such a day. We need to educate administrators about the multi-faceted nature of our jobs.

As Barb told me in an email about their efforts to educate administrators about these points, "We took a 'show and tell' approach to demonstrate how to talk about these points with a principal." Reading their book is a good start. Taking these five points to heart and moving forward to share them with all our colleagues is a good resolution to make in this relatively new year.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Important Article about Kids and Reading

I posted earlier today to LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH about an article that originally ran in The Washington Post. It is likely appearing in a number of papers today, one being Houston Chronicle. Here is the content of my post called MUST READ TODAY with pertinent information:

I NEVER use caps in a subject line...oops just used them again. The minute I saw a leader for this column, before I even turned to it, I knew it would be something that librarians will want to discuss. I read the blurb with a bit of dismay, then found the article. The blurb, on the front of Houston Chronicle's Outlook Section (my fave part of paper after comics) said: "Read and weep: No wonder our kids are reading less. I am, too, confesses a high school librarian." Naturally I went right to the article. It does bear our reading and discussing. The URL for reading it from my paper will be provided, but the article which first appeard in The Washington Post, is certainly found elsewhere. Here is one location for it:
Actually Thomas Washington does not say anything that we have not said before, but since this piece is out there for everyone to read, we should know about it. Cheers!--mabell--

I would most certainly be interested in any comments about this article and hope lots of librarians and people who care about books and reading will give it a look. It is not as pessimistic as the title/blurb sound. Instead, Washington says what many of us are saying, that the way we read, write, and communicate is changing and that librarians, educators, and bibliophiles should take note.

Six word novel...can you create???

At least I could come up with a six word title for this entry! The article that prompts this challenge is in today's Houston Chronicle after first appearing in Los Angeles Times. I think I have heard of this exercise before, but this article is a fun read because of the examples. I just posted about this to LM_NET, TLC, and EDTECH, saying:

Yes, I am a newspaper fanatic. Here is a super fun premise: Write a novel in 6 words. What a great exercise! I am going to blog about this. Would love to have your 6 word masterpieces. I would be doing this with my students tomorrow if I were still in a public school. Since I am not, I will do it with my MLS students! is the URL for this article, called "Short on words, deep in meaning: Write a novel in six words? Try it" To get to the article, just click on the title of today's entry above.

I am hoping to see some fun responses to this little challenge!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Superbowl Ads

You can view all ads at these two sites:

My fave is the screaming woodland critters during 1st half. 2nd is Budweiser dog/horse ad.

Easy Schmeasy pdf Conversion

There are lots of ways to convert Word files to pdf, and Office 2007 has this as a dropdown option. BUT for anyone who needs another way or wants to share with colleagues, it cannot get much easier than this...a free online converter. I just tried it and it took about one minute but was still nifty and very easy:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Recent Reports on Internet Filtering at School

I am working on a very short entry about Internet filtering for a brochure to be shared by the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee. What I have now is about twice as long ans I can submit, but I thought I would put the information here in its entirety since it has some helpful links. Here it is:

Both ALA andThe National Coalition Against Censorship ( highlight a 2006 Public Policy Report from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice which examined filtering products used in public schools between the early 1900’s and mid 2000’s.

o This document is an update of The NCAC’s 2001 Document, “The Internet: A Public Policy Report,” and reiterates that the highly imprecise nature of Internet filtering continues to be a problem.

o Overly broad parameters are commonly set for “unacceptable” categories which block categories such as “politics,” “intolerance,” and “alternative lifestyles”

o Keyword blocking continues to be the most common method of filtering despite claims that technology has improved through use of “adaptive reasoning technology.”

o Entire report available in pdf at or free copies available if requested by writing to

o The NCAC also provides a Fact Sheet with information about legislation including CIPA and COPA and filtering issues, available at

· Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) continues to voice similar concerns about Internet filtering at schools:

· Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use (CSRIU) Director Nancy Willard, describes continuing problems related to school filtering:

o Filters overblock, denying students and educators access to valuable information

o Filters underblock, in some cases allowing objectionable material through. But their presence offers educators a false sense of security that leads to less oversight of student Internet use.

o Centralized filters do not provide educators with immediate override as stated in CIPA, thus causing restriction to content beyond the letter and spirit of the law.

o Broad keyword blocks in many cases result in viewpoint censorship, which was clearly declared unconstitutional in Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v Pico.

o With the advent of Web 2.0 resources, filtering becomes even more of an issue as it denies educators and students access to online collaborative sites and services.

o Dependence on filters rather than teaching safe and smart Internet use hampers students’ ability to be safe online when not at school.