Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Power of Images

One of my ongoing interests is infographics. I love the many cool informational images that are available on the web. I think they are great for working with students of all ages, both to show and share, and also to have them create their own. Today I was struck by the impact of one such graphic on me personally. There is a great site called Daily Infographic (, which offers just what it says. The one I happened upon is called Sitting Down is Killing You ( For some reason it really grabbed me and made me think about something I already knew...that I am far too sedentary. Because of this graphic I got out of my recliner on Saturday, the first day of Christmas Break. I mowed the grass and swept the walks. Then I took my good boy dog for a walk. I am almost positive I would not have done any of that if not for the graphic. That's pretty powerful! I think I feel a New Year's Resolution coming on...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

With a Heavy Heart I Write to Defend Child Labor Laws

The reason I am sad is that it seems child labor laws in our country NEED defending. It appears that Newt Gingrich's cynical idea of striking down those laws is actually gaining some traction. This prompts feel I have to respond and try to explain why those laws must not be diluted, much less repealed. To my Facebook friends, I am just trying to explain what I tried to say there about child labor. Here goes:

I find it distressing to feel the need to explain why I think child labor laws should not be repealed in our country. To me, it is like having to explain why laws against fraud or theft should not be repealed. But we have a presidential candidate who says child labor laws are outmoded and should be eliminated. This is a verbatim quotation from Newt Gingrich’s description of his idea: “"It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in, first of all, child laws, which are truly stupid," said the former House speaker, according to CNN. "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school. The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they'd begin the process of rising."

Now, why is this a bad idea?
• Kids can already work at age 14. At the age of 11 they can have paper routes. They can also do agricultural work. So Gingrich seems to mean to “emancipate” younger kids than 14, or in the exceptions, the age of 11. Is this really what we want?
• Picture the end of a school day. The kids with parents who can provide for them welcome the bell. They are off for scout meetings, music lessons, soccer or softball or whatever sport they enjoy. If they are lucky, they are off for a little goofing off in the back yard before it’s homework. The other kids, the poor kids, report to a “master janitor.” They are in for several hours of cleaning up after their more affluent peers. No down time for them! No after school programs, computer clubs like the one I used to sponsor, or boys and girls clubs which now often serve kids regardless of income. No tutorials or other extra help offered after school. After all they have to work, right? THEN for all, there IS HOMEWORK after supper. Who will have the energy and wherewithal to do a good job on it?
• Oh yes, and maybe they can work in libraries. Of course. Because all librarians do is stamp books and then put them on their shelves. Those books get evaluated, selected, budgeted, acquired, processed, and promoted by… well by whom? And who teaches kids how to navigate in the sea of digital information in which we all flounder today? Far too few people know what a teacher-librarian does. To say KIDS could take on the job of teacher-librarian or, for that matter for custodian, is demeaning to the adults who work hard to do the best for the kids at their schools.
• If you don’t think this will result in a level of classism that is far more pronounced to what already exists in public schools, you are na├»ve. What is to stop the rich kids from purposely creating extra work for the poor kids? This is a likely and sad by-product.
• And what to the “rich kids” learn? They learn that there is an underclass that serves them, even from the earliest age.

Does this make me a liberal wingnut who wants to enable the poor to remain lazy and shiftless? I don’t think so. First of all, to say that poor people are in that state due to their own laziness is a cruel and cynical lie. Many people are out of work today due to our economy, remember? And many others are under-employed. I worked with kids in public schools for 25 years and I do not recall ever specifically remember knowing of a family of welfare cheaters. At the same time I knew plenty of poor kids and their parents.

OK so why am I against having kids work in schools and libraries? Well I am not, of course! As a classroom teacher I had student assistants at the junior high where I worked in Spring Branch. I have followed their progress into their adult lives. They were more than students to me, they were my special kids. The same held true when I was a junior high librarian. I was lucky enough to work in a school, York Junior High in Conroe ISD, TX, where I had 2-3 library assistants every period. At York, you had to prove you were worthy of being a student assistant. It was an honor. I interviewed my future helpers, who were top students and great kids. They were the ones who maintained our shelves and they were proud and diligent workers. Beyond that I had a library club. I started it in the first days of my new library job. We named it TLC, The Library Club. These were also kids who wanted to help in the library. They came in before and after school and during lunch. Further, I always asked to work with hearing disabled kids. They would come in with their aides and work. There were other kids working in our school in the counselor’s office, nurse’s office, and administrators’ offices. Anyone who does not know that kids daily perform valuable work in schools right now every day has not spent much time in a public school to see how it really works. But it’s not for pay and it should not be.

Another thing that was mentioned in the Facebook exchange was that we adults worked as kids and it didn’t hurt us a bit. Well, right. I worked in my family business from age 12. We all pitched in, with Mom and Dad working long hours in the kitchen after supper to crank out the documents, abstracts, for our title business…and I do mean cranking out. They used a manual mimeograph machine. We kids would clean the kitchen and help with other chores, As soon as I could type, I was working in the office. BUT I was also in scouts, the band, the pep squad, and clubs. If I had a big assignment due, I didn’t have to work. School always came first. Surely people can see the difference between this and the situations that will rise from the repeal of child labor laws?

The notion of repealing child labor laws is horrifying to me. If people really think this is OK, it means our country has sunk to a lower level than I ever imagined. It took years of hard work to enact these laws. Before that, children were terribly exploited. And by the way, kids are still badly exploited today, especially in our growing fields. To go back to the pre-Depression days when kids were widely employed in factories is not a possibility I ever dreamed would be presented by a political candidate. To know it is gaining some traction literally hurts my heart.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wisdom of Kathy Schrock about Collaboration

For several years I have been, as my dad would say, "treatnin' to" write a book about the need for collaboration between school librarians and school technology specialists. Ever since hearing Marla McGee and Barb Jansen present about their book, The Principal's Guide to a Powerful Library Media Program, I have thought there should be something of that kind to advise librarians and tech teachers. The problem was...I had no answers as to how to make things better when there is not a good working relationship between the two entities. Finally I decided to propose the book anyway and find answers as I went along. I enlisted to wonderful colleagues, Dr. Holly Weimar and James VanRoekel, and we are hoping to conclude this project before too very long. I sought advice from the experts, mostly from those in the trenches. Today I also gathered up my courage and contacted some of my heroes. Within two hours I had a wonderful and very practical response from KATHY SCHROCK! Here is what she had to say:

“I would strongly encourage them to create a three-sided teaching model that includes the librarian, technology specialist, and content specialist in the development of the curriculum. "Library" and "computers" are not subjects, in my opinion. They are both very important components of curriculum that both allow students to showcase knowledge as well as become proficient in all of the 21st century skillsets.” She went on to say, “I would suggest a sit-down together, each listing the types of things they do with students, and first see the overlap. I am guessing that the librarian list, among other things, will include some type of information literacy model that is used to make sure students develop good questions, pick the appropriate resources, effective searching skills and critical evaluation of the information they find, with the addition of correctly citing the information. In addition, the librarians will talk about copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons and the respect for the intellectual property of others.

The technology specialists will talk about having students pick the correct tool for the job, whether on the computer or tablet, or Web-based. They might include tools that help students gather information and collaborate in real-time as well as the creation of project-based things that culminate in a movie or presentation. This group will also include the overview of publishing material with respect to font and color and how best to communicate using technology. They will include the fact they cover cyber-safety and identify protection and proper Internet etiquette.

The third part of the triangle that should be invited to the table is the content specialist (the classroom teacher). The classroom teacher should be one to drive the content of both of the other two, and work with them to development appropriate formative and summative assessments that both showcase mastery of the content as well as use of the technology and information literacy skillsets.”

Such a meeting of minds could not help but be beneficial to all concerned. Kathy is absolutely right that the third side of the triangular model, the classroom teacher, must never be overlooked. The librarian and technology specialist share the responsibility of supporting classroom teachers in all their efforts and needs from immediate quick answers to staff developments to collaborative projects. And it should be added that the real raison d’etre for the entire set of efforts is the students. I wish I had this back when I was in a school library and working with our technology specialist. Having a formal model and keeping the principal in the loop would have been very beneficial.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I wish I was an every-single-day blogger like my hero Teri Lesesne. Or even three times a week as I have done for a while in the past. But I am not yet quite un-busy enough to get my act together for that. However there are times when nothing fills the bill for me like a blog post so here goes...and I am FARMING OUT THE REST! I had a wonderful response to a question last week and want to share it (with her permission). The question do you help ratchet down the fear that helicopter parents have about their kids? The wise answer was from:

Lisa Hunt, NBCT 2005
School Library Media Specialist
Apple Creek Elementary
Moore, OK

And here is what she said:

Helicopter parents? I combat that in the way I run the library. Our students use self-check-out and it works. Students beginning in 1st grade learn their ID number, type that into the Circ Desk and check out their own books. I have a rug below the Circ Desk keyboard and we have a rule... one person on the rug at a time. I do this to begin lessons on Identity Security. No one needs to see the screen when someone is doing library business. One person on the rug and everyone else waiting patiently in line teaches students that it is wrong and rude to peer over someones shoulder as they conduct business, and society expects us to be able to wait patiently in a line for our own turn. Students need these lessons to do business as adults at an ATM, the Post Office, a bank, or any other place they conduct private business.

So, this expectation sets the stage. I also use Skoob the Shelf Elf as part of my library behavior program. His message demonstrates expected library behavior from the students. They work as a class to earn the Golden Shelf Elf certificates that I award (and additional recognitions.) I build cooperation and teamwork among the classmates when they come to the library.

Now, back to those Helicopter Parents. I've watched over the years as parents and some primary teachers are amazed at the behavior our students exhibit in "Their Library." The sense of ownership that students feel is the best part of how I run the library and that is why it works. Recently, our district opened a new elementary school that took 150+_of our students. That faculty "voted" that the librarian or clerk would check out books and there would be no self-check-out. ( I was incensed that my friend who was opening that library would allow the faculty to make such a decision, but she said she was going for unity.) Anyway, many parents (many of them volunteers in that library) complained that students weren't feeling the ownership of their library like "they had at the old school" and it was because they didn't independently check-out books and make their own behavior decisions when they visited the library. That was one year ago, and this year the librarian took back her domain and changed several things.

My point here is that my students learn independence and demonstrate pride in the way they operate in their library. Parents (and there have been many) and even some of my teachers have exclaimed "I love the way you allow students to have this control! It really boost their esteem to do their own business. I never thought my 7 year old was capable of doing something like this without adult help." I even had one teacher new to our building but with 11 years experience (other states and other districts) tell me, "I love the way you run this library. It is the most efficiently run school library I've ever used." For the first time in 5 years I have no assistant this year. Also, know that our district is a flexible scheduling district and library time is not part of the rotation.

Basically, I combat helicopter parent syndrome by building independent information literacy. I tell students in almost every lesson, "You are becoming good consumers of information, and you need these skills to survive!"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Onward and Upward

Yesterday was my birthday, and it was a milestone one. Nah I don't try to hide it even if I cannot quite say the exact number (rhumes with bixty hive). Neither do I plan to retire. My dad worked right on up to age 95 and only quit because his wheelchair was unwieldy in the office. He is my hero and I believe that, like him, I am not a person who would retire well. BUT I have taken a major step in the direction of a less stressful and tiring work schedule. As of September 1, I am no longer Chair of the Department of Library Science at Sam Houston State University. I am resuming my "old identity" as full time Associate Professor of Library Science. I am able to do this because my friend and colleague, Dr. Holly Weimar, has agreed to step up into the Chair's position. Last Friday was moving day. She moved into the 4th floor corner office with the great view. She will get to have the business cards with CHAIR on them. I am so grateful to her for taking on this largely thankless job. It does come with a decreased class load and a humorously diminutive stipend. Well maybe its not so funny but laughing about it helped me. I will go back to doing the things I really love--teaching, writing, and presenting. I will also serve as Assistant Chair and promise to help Holly at every opportunity. Maybe, maybe, I will also post to my blog more often! I am grateful to all the great folks in our department who supported me, listened to me vent, and went above and beyond the expected in helping with department initiatives, including our dramatic increase in enrollment in the last two years. Thanks everybody and especially Holly! The job has many rewards as well as headaches. I confess to feeling a great weight removed from my shoulders and I am humbly grateful for that.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday and I am all alone. My daughter is on a trip. I chose to stay off the roads over Labor Day because I always hate the holiday traffic. So here I am with just my dog and cat. One thing I tend to do on my birthday is remember past ones. I remember a backyard party with a pinata. Maybe my all time favorite memory is a surprise birthday party on my 16th. Another time, many years later, I looked up from the circulation desk in my library to see kids pushing a piano through the door. A wave of irritation swept over me because I had no notice of an event being scheduled that day. But then the choir trooped in and sang Happy Birthday. What a thrill! I remember black balloons on a couply of landmark birthdays. And I remember one sad day when I went to work and not a single person mentioned my birthday. My daughter was away at school and my husband was spending the week down in Houston. By the end of the day I was enveloped in gloom. I came home and checked mail. No cards there either. I had been surrounded by people all day but felt very, very lonesome.

Today I have not had any calls. No cards came in the mail, another sad reminder that Dad is gone, because he always sent one. BUT I am overwhelmed by an avalanche of great greeting! I have a wonderful collection of Facebook greetings and ecards. I have heard from old high school friends, many of them who were at that surprise party. I have heard from colleagues, students, and even some of my heroes! I do not feel a bit downhearted about my choice to spend this beautiful day relaxing on my back porch, enjoying incredible weather, and watching all the events in my back yard. I got my fountain up and going this morning after weeks of weather so dreadfully hot that I didn't have the heart for it. I am truly blessed to have such a nice day. And I am very grateful for social networking and specifically Facebook.

I am not one of those naysayers who want to claim social networking isolates people. This gloomy description still pops up despite a very credible PEW research survey to the contrary. I did a quick search and found that there are still people out there making this claim. Here is the wackiest article I could find:

ANYTHING can be done in excess. I have had students who READ constantly and were very isolated from their peers. I had a friend whose husband got obsessed with playing darts in bars. They divorced over that. Another guy got hooked on playing those games where you snag the toys with the little crane. Shopping is fun but too much of it can break your pocketbook and your marriage.

As for me, I just want to say thanks for all the wonderful messages! I treasure them one and all. I have actually lost count of how many I have received, but counting would be a little obsessive anyway, huh? So thanks again to all my online friends. I am off to buy myself something online for my birthday...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This will be a brief entry but I cannot resist saying good-bye to a very special person on the SHSU campus. Normally my entries are not directed just to students and faculty, but I feel compelled to celebrate the career of Dr. Alice Fisher, Chair of the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Sam Houston State University. Alice became my mentor as I stunbled through my first year as a department chair and remained my go-to person through the next two years. Now she is taking a well-deserved retirement. There were tons of wonderful things said by colleagues, both in the video we prepared for her and in person, but I just want to add one more fond farewell. I have never worked with a more generous, positive person. Her example has been a motivator for countless students and colleagues. One of the last comments shared at her reception today was from a member of her faculty. He said..."In all these years, Alice has NEVER DISAPPOINTED ME." That comment is what I think makes this worth publishing to a wider audience. What a thing to be able to say about someone, especially someone who has had

a position of leadership. It is too late for me to earn such an accolade, but I will continue to remember her example as long as I continue teaching, and indeed beyond that. And remember Alice, I DO have your cell phone number!
PS That's Alice on the right with our new Department Chair, Dr. Holly Weimar, on the left.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three Cheers for Higher Education

It's that time of year again...students and educators at all levels are gearing up for the 2011-12 school year. If your local school has not started already, it will likely have its first class day tomorrow, at least in Texas. SHSU starts a week earlier than some universities, but the startup is looming for all of us. Yesterday I went to Freshman Convocation at Sam Houston State University. The coliseum was crowded with students, faculty, and parents. There was a bit of pomp and circumstance with faculty in regalia and a formal beginning to the event. Then we heard from our university president, and the student body president, and ended up with the Alma Mater. The band was there with usual exuberance. It was a beautiful (if sweltering) evening with supper served for all afterward. I enjoy this kickoff event every year even though our department only serves graduate students. It's a great time of coming together to share our loyalty to, as our previous President Gaertner used to say, "this grand old university."

As I was sitting in the audience, I could not help thinking of Western Governor's University which touts a 2 1/2 year bachelor's degree for $15,000. This school has recently received a lot of attention in Texas due to "Governor" Rick Perry's endorsement. It allows students to work at their own pace and use "life experience" as part of their studies. I wonder about that. When I showed up in Waco for my freshman year at Baylor, I had precious little life experience to prepare me for anything other than being a highschooler who worked for her daddy on Saturdays and during summer vacations. I worry about what these students will NOT get, both in and out of the classroom. One strength of colleges like WGU is said to be that they will allow "non-traditional" students to get educations. Maybe so but I know that SHSU has a great track record in this arena as well. I am proud of the fact that over 70% of our graduates are the first in their families to receive bachelor's degrees. In addition to campus life, I cannot help suspecting that actual instruction will get short shrift also. Students will not have much contact with their professors, who will teach large (think triple digit) online classes. An article I read last week shared the fact that grading of work has been contracted out also. So the student cannot meet or converse with his instruction (yes I know there will be videos and audio presentation) and will not benefit from that person's insights for grading. And of course THAT means that assignments are likely to be the type that can be machine graded. Yes I know almost any subject can be taught online. Our MLS is online but we do also offer face-to-face instruction resulting in hybrid courses. Studies show this is a great model.

I think our newly minted Bearkats will benefit from their time on this beautiful, friendly, and historic campus. And I applaud their families for supporting them as they work toward their goals. I worry about an anti-education, especially higher ed, strain that is showing up in our state. I hope we have this problem worst of all states because I would hate to think anybody else was worse off than we are. I will comment further on this concern in a future entry. But rest assured, your state universities are not ivory-towered academic theme parks with slacker intellectuals who bask in their offices and call that "research."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am...Just the Facts.

This is a serious posting, but I want to start with something that will make you laugh out loud. Many readers are surely too young to remember the classic TV show Dragnet. I did not see the movie that came out several years ago but there is no one who could play Sgt. Friday like Jack Webb. Stop what you are doing and view this skit with Jack Webb and Johnny Carson. Oh and, it doesn't matter if you never even heard of the show. Just do yourself a favor and go to this link:

Now for the serious part...Today a student contacted one of our professors with a concern about our program. A friend told her that the Sam Houston State Department of Library Science was not accredited and that she would never get a job with our degree. This friend had attended another program in our state. I sincerely believe the friend was trying to be helpful and was passing on what she had been told. But it is not true and needs to be refuted. To that end I would like to share several points:

1. SHSU has the correct ALA (American Library Association) accreditation for our program. We are rated exemplary, and our program is used as a model, by AASL (American Association of School Librarians). AASL is a subsidiary of ALA. This is the entity that accredits single-purpose programs like ours that prepare school librarians. So we ARE accredited by ALA for that purpose.
2. We are also rated exemplary by NCATE, National Council for Accreditation of Teachers of Education, a rigorous process that extends accreditation to American Colleges of Education.
3. Our program is highly regarded by Human Resources personnel across Texas. I often get calls for recommendations for jobs from administrators in all parts of the state, including districts with other programs in or near their own cities. Even in these hard times we have placed a number of graduates in new jobs for the coming school year.
4. Our graduates are extremely well known nationally and internationally. Several that come to mind immediately are former students of mine, Naomi Bates, Teresa Schauer, and Analine Johnson. Other grads are district library coordinators, like Ric Hasenyager, and Brenda Huston. I should add I only named a few who instantly came to mind, but are representative of many other distinguished graduates. We have graduates serving on state and national library association committees, which obviously would not happen if they were not qualified.
5. Our faculty is highly regarded across the state, nationally, and internationally. I would send you to search in particular for the long-standing faculty members: Dr. Teri Lesesne, Dr. Rosemary Chance, Dr. Joanna Fountain, and myself.
6. Our program is thriving. We graduated 94 brand new school librarians this August and have an enrollment of around 300 students. We are also the longest running library science program in Texas, having been founded in 1929.

Yes, I am biased but I also want to be honest. I think true representation is an ethical imperative and would never misrepresent our program or anyone else's. If someone wants to be a public or academic librarian, I truthfully tell him/her that one of the three general MLS programs in our state might be a better choice. I send students to UT Austin, UNT Denton, and TWU, also in Denton. I really believe that Sam Houston State University's Department of Library Science is an exemplary program. But don't believe me...believe the accrediting agencies.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Newswordy gives a vocabulary word from that day's news, It gives the definition and then the quotation where it was used, the context of the news story, and other quotations using the word. This is a great twofer for teachers and librarians: current events and vocabulary in a nifty mashup!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WOW, Double WOW, and OH BOY!

I just spent a delightful 30 minutes exploring some sites with amazing photography. The start was a link that was on a page where I was really looking for something else. It pointed me to something called 31 Pictures at a site called Inspiredology. There I learned that 31 Pictures is an annual contest held by National Geographic with 31 winners. Here is the site I found and get ready to say WOW!

I couldn't help but notice that these shots were from 2009 so I went looking for--and found--2010 winners at this site and prompted me to say WOW AGAIN:

I did not find a 2011 collection so surmise it has not been concluded yet. But I was then curious about the host site, called Inspiredology. So I backtracked to its site and now have a whole raft of OTHER pages to explore by this creative design company. The link is self-evident but here it is anyway:

The ways these pictures and pages could be used with students are only limited by your imagination. I know I would have loved something like this when I was in the classroom teaching creative writing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love this Lovely Site

I really love to learn from my students. This site was shared as part of my Internet for School Librarians site. And to think she is practically my neighbor! Gail Lovely is an IT teacher and presenter, and her site is Lovely Learning. It is a very nice collection of resources for educational technology. Title: Lovely Learning of course!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cool Blog Entry Using Cool Tool

Thanks so much to the inimitable Cathy Jo Nelson for sharing this via Facebook:

And it was made with ANOTHER cool tool. I am looking forward to playing with this as soon as I finish grading for this semester. It is called Thinglink:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just One Cool Site Today...

But it lists a bunch MORE cool sites. I saw several listed that were new to me. The title of the site is Edudemic. Here is the main URL:

Here is the page with a bunch a of neat links...but explore the whole site!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool Sites for Today

I am grading student work, an activity I really enjoy. One of my requirements when I make up an assignment is to be sure the response will be something I enjoy grading. I think this can be achieved without much difficulty if I just ask students to perform interesting tasks. One thing I learn from students is great new sites. Here are the ones I picked up today:
1. Capzles-- This site allows you to make timelines. They can include video clips, photos, text. I am already thinking how great this site would be for students writing travel journals!
2. eduTecher-- This is a great clearinghouse for all things Web 2.0. I had to force myself to continue grading and not go off on tangents exploring the many great resources and links.
3. This nifty little tool does just what you would think!
4. Ducksters--
This is a very cute directory site for kids with lots of good links and a safe search window.
5. Easy Kid Recipes: International Recipes for Kids--

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kick-Starting My Blog Again!

Next January I won't have to think too hard to come up with a New Year's Resolution. I can just use this year's. My resolution was to post daily to this blog. I know lots of other people do this, and I gave myself an easy way to succeed by saying that just posting a link and a short blurb would suffice, with longer more thoughtful entries to be added when time permitted I had a perfect record all through January. But that was a long time ago. Indeed January seems like distant past for reasons other than my blog. It was the beginning of a semester that presented more stress and worry about schools and finances than I can remember in my life, and frankly that's a long time. All during fall 2010 we were told that the State of Texas was in great financial shape, due to the wise conservative leadership of "Governor" Rick Perry. He managed to defeat a good and decent man, Bill White, to gain another tem as governor. Almost immediately we were told that calculations were incorrect and that our state had joined just about everybody else in hard financial times.

A combination of factors kept me from keeping up my blog but I think one was pure discouragement. It is hard not to feel beat down when your hard work is devalued and your profession is under fire. The strong anti-higher education mood in Texas, on top of the radical cuts to K-12 schools, made for a gloomy outlook on my part. Beyond that, I was not feeling up to par and was barely keeping up with my responsibilities as a professosr and department chair. But enough of that! Crying over spilt milk or oil or Bluebell ice cream or whatever we are currently spilling in Texas will not make things better.

Thus I am officially kick-starting my blog today. Will I be posting every day as per resolution? Well I hope to come close! And so, for the 3rd time in 2011, I am instigating a do-over and hoping to make the resolution stick this time. This entry is long and way too much about me so I will close with a cool link. I shared this one via Twitter and Facebook earlier this week, but if you haven't seen it, take time to enjoy. It does put my piddling blog into perspective. The title is The Scale of the Universe and it lives up to this lofty title:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Texas School Districts Fighting Against the Governmental Assault on Public Schools

I started working on this post over a week ago. Time is way too scarce these days. Still I want to tell the story. About 10 days ago we had our bi-annual Teacher Job Fair and Sam Houston State University. The coliseum floor is filled with tables and displays from area school districts, and the aisles are crowded with graduating and newly minted teachers. There are giveaways, sign-up sheets, and lots of bright and shiny faces. I find it touching to watch the hopeful applicants wait their turns to visit with prospective employers. This time the feeling is bittersweet. For the first time ever, I wonder if all grads will find jobs. I worry that if they do, they will be faced with oversized classes and undersupplied classrooms. Seems like all of the sudden, after the November 2010 elections, we learned that the economy was NOT hunky dory in our state. After hearing our “governor” brag about how his leadership kept us from being “like California,” we learned the real truth of his words. We are different all right…we are worse off. I know these young grads are well prepared. Our programs are exemplary. Just ask our accrediting body, NCATE. We are a model of what a College of Education should be.

While I am bragging, a word about my niche, the Department of Library Science. NCATE likes us so much that we are on their website as an example of how a program should present itself. Also…YES FOLKS…we have ALA accreditation. Our program is single-purpose, preparing school librarians. Our AASL accreditation is the appropriate one for such a program and we are rated exemplary there too. Our MLS grads are sought by districts all over the state. But if I’m worried about those new teachers, I am even more worried about our new librarians. Because our state is suddenly declared in a fiscal state of emergency, with lots of scare talk and no real facts from our “representatives,” there is a lot of fear for our schools, K-20. I should add that graduate programs are in some ways even more threatened.

Thus with a measure of consternation, I walked the aisles of our event and talked to the HR representatives and administrators from districts large and small, urban and rural. I asked each person I met these questions: “Are you staffing your libraries with certified librarians? Are you trying to maintain these positions?” The first 2-3 people I approached shook their heads no. I don’t remember all the districts with that response, but know that two were Hearne and Splendora, where some or all positions were actually cut before this year. Then a funny thing happened. I started to get positive answers. Each encouraging conversation left me feeling a bit more hopeful. Many educators said they were holding fast and not jumping the gun. They hope, as do I, that things will not be quite as bad as the rumors. Others went so far as to say they would not cut librarians in any case. Yes, they might have to cut aides and other positions, including one district that is drastically cutting assistant principals, but I was heartened to hear the courageous and thoughtful words of so many. By noon I had talked to reps from THIRTY DISTRICTS who are fighting to keep their librarians. I want to send a public shout-out to the districts listed below. They are in no particular order. Some are small, some are large, and demographics vary widely. But they share the attribute of trying to put kids first and not make the easy choice to cut positions.

One of the best conversations I had was with a young man from Lamar Consolidated ISD. He was very proud of his district and had high praise for the district uperintendant. Anyway, this young man told about long meetings to discuss budget cuts. He said every single time they talk about an adjustment, says, “Is this a quick fix or a real solution. We are not going to pass any quick fixes that we’ll regret later.” I even stopped in my tracks and wrote down those words so I could quote them accurately. Kudos to this district and its leaders! And hooray for all the other districts that are fighting what seems to be an all out assault on public education in Texas.

Here is the Honor Roll of districts giving me reason for hope. If one is yours, thank your decision makers and encourage them to continue fighting the good fight. Here they are:

Conroe ISD
Huntsville ISD
Houston ISD
New Caney
College Station
Ft. Bend
LITTLE ROCK ARKANSAS—I was pleased to see them at our event.
Deer Park
Spring Branch
Anderson-Shiro (keeping their one K-12 librarian, an SHSU grade)
Cypress Fairbanks
Lamar Consolidated
Cedar Hill (did cut some elementary librarians along with AP’s and counselors but hoping to restore)
Texas City

If you are a Texan, you will see that most of these districts are from Southeast Texas, though some are from the Dallas area and there were the nice folks from Arkansas. I would love to hear about other districts that are trying to stand firm against the assault on our schools.

Repeated Posting of Previous Message

NOTE: Due to some formatting errors, the previous posting appeared twice. I have deleted the 2nd rendition, but am leaving this behind because of the comments attached.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Texas Wildflower Links

I always wish that school spring break holidays could coincide with wildflower season in Texas, but they always seem to be at least a week early. Driving from San Marcos to Huntsville yesterday I did see some flowers, especially around Brenham where they are such a big deal. There were even people out taking pictures. I thought on the first day of spring it might be nice to share some wildflower links. Spring IS going to show up this year...I know it is hard to believe in some parts of country but it has arrived in Texas and I am happy to send springtime wishes to friends across the country.

Wildflower Sightings

Identifying flowers

Bye-Bye Spring Break Blues

Alas, the end of spring break. As always I engage in a angst-ridden litany of things NOT done that I meant to do...
1. Back up all my files in the cloud.
2. Read those books I checked out for research.
3. Play around a lot more with iPad and apps.
4. Post blog entries (after one last Sunday).
5. Clean out my email files.
6. Buy a lawn mower.
7. Tweet...did not tweet even once
8. Take my taxes in to be finished up.
9. Shop (purposely avoided, a good thing in my opinion)

NOW to cheer myself up, here is a list of things I DID do...
1. Wrote first draft of article due in couple weeks.
2. Kept up with grading for classes.
3. Managed some department issues from a distance.
4. Took walks in the woods every day.
5. Went to Luckenbach.
6. Took dog swimming in San Marcos River.
7. Visited with brother and wife.
8. Visited with daughter and fiance every day.
9. Made arrangements to build new deck on back of house.
10. Slept when I felt like it.
11. Enjoyed a lot of Texas music.
12. Took bike in for repair.
13. Saw bluebonnets and primroses on drive home yesterday.
14. Bought vegetables to plant
15. Fertilized garden
16. Wrote this entry on last day of break.

I guess things went pretty well, all things considered. I wonder what other people did/didn't do?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Link O'Day: 60 Things We Need Less and More Of

This list was originally shared in Bobbi Newman's Librarian by Day Blog, but it is not really about librarianship. It is rather a very apt commentary on today's world, especially in the USA. I wonder if anybody has additions?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Link O'Day: Right/Left Brain

Do you always forget which side of the brain you are? Then I betcha you are right-brained. That's the creative side. And also, I suspect, the drifty side. The only person I know whose brain is more right-sided than mine is my daughter. Don't know how that happened. Her dad is an engineer for Pete's sake. Anyway, here is a link that provides some cool visuals about brainsidedness. I love the colorful depictions of my ever-whirring quirky brain.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Periodic Pleasures OR Irrefutable Proof that I am a Hopeless Geek

A couple of years ago I got very excited about visual literacy, graphic design, and all the cool examples online including graphs, diagrams, comics, charts, etc. Through the magic of hypertext, these can all be interactive and, in my opinion, really, REALLY fun and interesting. I presented on this topic and the basis of my preso is at my wiki. If I do say so I have a lot of cool information there and here is the link:

I was reminded of my love for visuals when someone on a message board recommended the interactive visual periodic table. When you move your cursor over the elements and pause on one, you will get its name and a few facts. If you then click you get more extensive information on three tabbed pages. I have vivid memories of my high school chemistry class and can say without a doubt I would have loved this site and would have learned from it. There is also a nifty game that users can play to refresh memory. Here's the link:

Visiting this site made me remember a riff on the periodic table that adapted the design to visualization tools. In order to see this table in action you need to go to the URL and click on the picture of the table. You get a pop-up that shares the table. If you move the cursor over the table, you get the name of the tool represented, and also a visual document pops up. I can think of TONS of ways to use this with students. Here is the URL and then remember to click on the pic:
Similar to the Merck table, this one provides information if you just rest the cursor on a square, you get the name of the type of tool presented and also an example. Take a look at the other visuals on the page also. They are interactive too.

Next, I found another scientific periodic table that is very cool. For each element there is a video that shows the properties of that element. The professor who does the talking is a delightfully nerdy guy whom I wish had been my high school chemistry teacher instead of dull old ex-weatherman Mr. Snyder.  Catch an interview or two to see the prof. Try hydrogen and view a fun explosion! Here is the URL:

Now I was on a roll and having glorious geeky fun. I found another table similar to the Merck one, that I think kids would like. Once again you get brief information by hovering over a square. Clicking takes you to the Wikipedia article on that element. Leave it to Wikipedia to come up with this one:

And I was not surprised to find other adaptations of the periodic table design. Here is one for typefaces:

Business types might like the Table of Brand Evolution Terms:

There's even a periodic table of beer styles, though I had trouble getting the large version to completely load in:

After I found the beer table I thought I had come across the piece de resistance. But no! Here is THAT gem! If you are still with me, go to this site with a list of sites. The blog entry is called "There is a Periodic Table for That: 15 Geeky Periodic Tables" Happy geek-surfing!

Oh and of what use is any of this information and what point beside geekiness prompts me to post? I think this would be fun to share with students (Well not The Periodic Table of Vulgarities but other examples. Then have THEM make periodical tables...of US Presidence, of endangered animals, of Texas heroes, of American authors, name it!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Link O'Day: Just for Fun: Bookfiend Cartoon

I love this! No discussion needed...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are you afraid of the imposter police?

I have mentioned Delancy Place ( before as a great way to get your daily dose of nonfiction. You can subscribe for free and get in the email a short piece that you can read in a minute or so. Today's offering really struck home for me. It is about the impostor police. I first learned about them when I was working toward my doctorate. During that time I belonged to an online support group for doctoral students called PhinisheD. Members used to joke about finally getting the coveted degree but then living in fear of the imposter police coming into your office some fine day and ripping your diploma off the wall and exposing you for the dolt you really are. I first had such fears back as a school librarian because I was given a nice award. I kept thinking someone was going to revoke it or something because clearly I did not deserve it. And the fear still pops up when I am having a bad day, except now I am thinking it will be my diploma that get confiscated. Here is an excerpt from their excerpt"

""The term 'impostor phenomenon' was coined in the 1970s by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, both then at Georgia State University. Clance and Imes noticed that many of their students with excellent test scores and good grades admitted during counseling that they felt they did not belong at the school. Although these students were successful and accomplished, they expressed the idea that they had somehow conned their way into their current positions. They were astutely aware of their weaknesses and tended to overestimate the strengths and abilities of others. In their minds, they always failed to measure up - and they dreaded the day they would make a mistake and reveal to the world the grand illusion.

"Clance and Imes described this impostor phenomenon in a 1978 paper, taking care not to call it a 'syndrome' or a 'disorder,' because it is not a debilitating medical condition. Still, such thinking can be persistently troubling for those who suffer from it, and it may even keep some people from fulfilling their potential or finding contentment."

Author: Birgit Spinath   
Title: "Great Pretenders"
Publisher: Scientific American Mind
Date: March/April 2011
Pages: 33-37

OK there...I am admitting it. That sums up how I feel more often I like to admit. Now I know I am not alone!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Link O'Day: Tikatok---Children write their own books

This looks like fun for parents and grandparents as well as educators. Tikatok was shared with me by a library science student. It is sponsored by Barnes & Noble. You can join for just $1, and your children/students can make books. If you want to buy the hard copy of the book there is a charge to order it. But if you are not able/willing to pay, you can send the book to Facebook FOR FREE! While I can see some teachers or librarians doing this, due to the fact that Facebook is often blocked in schools, I suspect it may have more appeal to parents. I know that I would have loved to have a copy of one of my daughter's creations, bound like a "real" book and saved as a keepsake....not to mention the gift potential.  Also, a teacher or librarian could have kids make the books, send them to FB, and also then allow parents to buy if they wanted. The free to Facebook potential is what allows me to recommend this fee-based site, and for that reason I think it is worth a look.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Link O'Day: Instapaper: Great for us procrastinators!

Instapaper can be useful for those of us who are guilty of procrastination and cursed with poor memory. I noticed it several days ago in a message board post, where it was recommended for helping keep and organize articles that you come across on the Internet but want to read later. Since I do a fair amount of Internet research, this caught my eye. What you do is go to the site and set up an account by just supplying a username and password. Then you can drag a little button that reads "Read later" up to you bookmark bar. Then every time you come accross a page you want to read later, just click the button while you are viewing the page. My first thought was, well that is all well and good, but I can just bookmark the page with Delicious if I want to go back to it. But wait! Here is a very appealing plus with Instapaper: You can choose to view it just as it appears from your browser, OR, you can click on a button called "Text" next to the article, and it comes up without the extra stuff, just nice black text on clean background with plenty of white space. You could also print from that view if you want to waste some trees. You can also get the iPhone app and also sync with Kindle. I gave it a test drive today and liked it. If you do a lot of online reading, this may be a very useful tool.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Link O'Day: Quizlet

This is a great site for whipping up flashcards, quizzes, etc., and as such is sure to have teachers as fans. While I was aware of it, I had not put it to use because I do not have need to create this type of aid for memorization/rote learning. However, as is often the case, I learned from a student. I ask students to complete a tutorial and convince me that they have assimilated the content via a creative response. One student used Quizlet and created questions and answers that covered the material. Great idea! This nifty tool could be useful at almost any level, either by the teacher to create review materials or actual quizzes, or by students reading material and then creating the challenges to demonstrate comprehension.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Link O'Day: History, the History of Computers, and the History of Computers in Education

This is a walk down memory lane for anybody who has used computers in schools as students or as educators. How much do you recall? I am doing some research on the history of computers in schools and frankly I can personally remember a startling number of these events. When you think about it, there has been a great deal of change in a short period of time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Link O'Day: Yippy

Remember Clusty? I used to really like that tool. Well, Clusty had an identity crisis and changed its name to Yippy. I like both names but think the first was more descriptive. There are some reasons why you might find Yippy attractive:
  • Like Clusty, results are "clustered" into categories. You can click on one of these and get just the sites that are related.
  • Yippy promises that your searching is PRIVATE--they do not save your 
  • Yippy purports to be "safe" and to not take you to objectionable sites. I am NOT a fan of filtering so this is not a big plus for me but not necessarily a minus if it gives useful results
  • There are lots of fun options to play around with. 
Things I am not so sure about:
  • To take advantage of all the nifty resources they promise, you need to download the app. I was OK with doing that but my download failed, leaving me frustrated.
TEST DRIVE: I tried Yippy out with a search that I knew could bring up results with at least two totally different meanings. I searched for "shoe tree." There is such a tree just a few blocks from my San Marcos, TX home. And of course there are the devices that people use to save their shoes' shapes. Sure enough the results were separated out. I DO like that feature which was the whole big idea with Clusty as far as I remember. I had fun playing around with Yippy and find it worth recommending.

BY THE WAY, shoe trees are an interesting American (and British) custom. People toss or affix old shoes to trees, usually on a highway though the one in my home town is on a residential street. I blogged about that one a couple of years ago:  Not only that, I learned that the San Marcos Nature Center, which I have yet to visit, has a path of shoes leading to some trees made entirely of shoes, all which have been fished out of the San Marcos River.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Link O'Day: Infotopia

No, I am not kin to Dr. Michael least not to my knowledge. I would love to claim kinship though. He is wonderfully generous librarian leader and teacher who has developed Infotopia, an academic search engine. It promises to search only authoritative sites, and offers subject headings for browsers as well as a search window.

Bell is former president of TASL, Texas Association of School Librarians. It is offered as a help to all teachers, librarians, and home schoolers. In addition to a search window, there are categories for browsing. This should be a welcome addition to anyone's collection of search tools.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Link O'Day: Brainy Quote

Actually I wanted to make this my Link O'Day:

Yes, Uncle Chi-Chi is believed to be the oldest dog in the world. I thought it would be fun to be a little bit frivolous and feature that link but then thought that was maybe taking it too far. And a quotation came to mind...
"A little nonsense now and then
Is relished by the best of men," Which I thought was an old Chinese proverb. So I did a search and instead found the quotation attributed to our old friend Roald Dahl. So I decided to share the site Brainy Quote. It is a great resource for looking up a quotation or for browsing for a quotation. Since one good way to start a student composition is with a quotation, teachers and students can find this site useful. You can browse by subject, by author, or by key words.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Link O'Day: TinEye

I just learned about TinEye today. Anybody interested in various ways to search the web...INCLUDING LS591 STUDENTS...might want to give this a try. It is a reverse image search engine. That means you can upload an image or give the link to a web page where an image is located, and TinEye will look for other sites where the image is used. Why is this useful? Well, I think it is important because it is a way to search and see if, where, and by whom the image is plagiarized. I tried it out with an image of Black Cowboy Bill Pickett. I use him for a sample search in class. Anyway, I used an image of him that I know is used in more than one site. Sure enough I was able to come up with 3 additional sites in addition to the one where I found it. Interestingly, one was a site called "Heroes of Rockdale, Texas." That was my mother's home town and one familiar from my own childhood, so I had a sort of odd circular feeling about the search starting and ending with me. I feel sure the perfectly harmless Rockdale site is using the picture without permission, and also without realizing this is a copyright issue. Who would want to go to all this trouble? Well, YOU would if you had original messages out there on the web that were for sale, and you were suspicious that others were using the image without purchasing and maybe even for their own profit. OR it could give you some information of a page you were evaluating. If the webmaster is plagiarizing, that impacts the validity of the page. Plus, it is just a little fun in a geeky sort of way.

Oh and if you have an interest in Rockdale Texas, the website I found is here:

Link O'Day: Kay Vandergrift's Special Interest Page

This SPECIAL "Special Interest Page" is a gold mine for anyone who loves children's literature, whether educator, parent, grandparent, or just appreciative reader. I had it in my mind to do a few more literature sites, including favorite author sites, for my blog. This seems like a great start. I have been using this site for eons in cybertime, dating back to late 1990s at least. In seeking to verify that date I found on the home page the origination date of 1995. While many of the illustrations are familiar, and well they should be, the content is continually updated. This is just a great spot for learning about children's literature, authors, history....really anything related to the main topic. Dr. Kay Vandergrift is a professor at Rutgers University, and has shared her knowledge and that of other outstanding colleagues. There is also a link to her Young Adult Literature Page, which in turn has more links for your perusal. This is a great site for present and future reference.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Link O'Day: Bare Bones Internet Tutorial

A while ago I posted about using creative assignments to combat plagiarism and I mentioned an assignment I have using an online Internet tutorial. It occurred to me I should make the tutorial a Link O'Day. So here it is from University of South Carolina,  Beaufort Library. I have used this tutorial for a very first assignment in my Internet For Librarians course. Even though it makes no forays into Web 2.0 resources, I continue to think it is a valuable resource and starting place for teaching about the Internet. I have communicated with the webmasters about my use, and they are fine with sharing this great tool which might help a lot of educators and general users as well. We go on from there to other activities and assignments, but I consider this a very strong resource for laying basic groundwork.

Bragging on Students and, yes, on myself!

I love grading papers! Does that sound weird? One reason I can say this is because I strive to give assignments that are fun to grade. I also like to elicit responses that are plagiarism-immune. I am in agreement with David Loertscher, Jamie McKenzie, Doug Johnson, and many others about the nature of assignments and the part it plays in encouraging or discouraging plagiarism. For one of my first assignments in my Internet For Librarians class, I have students complete an online tutorial. They are forbidden to do summaries in any form to describe their learning, and that includes pasting them over into Powerpoint and calling that a presentation. They are directed to convince me that the covered and ASSIMILATED the information by a creative means of their choice. Obvious response are diaries, letters to someone explaining the Internet, time travel either backward or forward, radio scripts, etc. So far today I have had two radio shows, a poem (takeoff on Night Before Christmas), song (tune of "Jingle Bells"), and my favorite, a wonderful letter from a student to her previous self circa 1984. This one had pictures and personal touches and also many great visuals she created because she was and still is a visual learner. I don't have a problem with students conversing, exchanging ideas, etc. and suspect the poem and song writers may have talked over options. But the content was theirs. NO CUT AND PASTE.

Is this type of assignment new and novel? Anybody who had Dr. Clement Goode at Baylor for English back in the '60s and after will remember his party tests. He would set up a scenario and you had to play it out demonstrating thorough knowledge of the characters and works covered. For example, imagine your characters all attended a Medieval feast. Who would sit above or below the salt? Who would get into arguments? What would Wife of Bath say to Sir Gawain? How would Beowulf make his appearance? Any response could be fine as long as you were true to your material.

I gave "party tests" to 7th grade Language Arts students for years. The first one would blow their minds. No matching? No multiple choice? How could they be sure they were right? But they got over it and came up with some great responses. I had students come back to see me years later and tell me they never forgot those tests, just as I never forgot Dr. Goode's exams.

So here is a shout-out to originality and creative thought! Let's fight to keep them alive in the face of standardized tests.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Link O'Day/Blog O'Week: The TWAIN Blog

Here it is Friday and I have not featured a blog this week for my Link O'Day series. Off I go to my Delicious marks to pick one out. The blog I just selected stood out because of its name, The TWAIN Blog. As a Mark Twain fan, I was drawn to this one and revisited. That was a trick! The blog is NOT about the author at all, though obviously the acronym is no mistake. It stands for "Technology Without an Interesting Name: An inside view to technology integration."  I originally tagged it just a little over one year ago, but have not consistently followed it. However, there are several reasons why it is a very timely choice for me. First, the blogger is from the Texas Hill Country, which is also my home base more and more these days. Second, it is about the experiences of an educational technology specialist and technology integration, and I am just starting out on a book project that is partly about ed tech. I think I will be visiting this a lot more in the near future and hopefully starting up a conversation with the author. The most recent entry is about our old friend/nemisis, Powerpoint. The blogger plans to offer summer staff development called "Powerpoint Intervention," and direct it towards folks who are still reading directly from ppt slides that are packed with dense text. Cool idea!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Link O'Day: Fun Online Word Game...Knoword

Give it a try! It has levels, is good for vocabulary, and fun! Thanks to Sally Kelly Johns and everyone else featuring it today.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Link O'Day: Find the Best

I need to play around with tool to get a better idea, but it might be an interesting resource. It describes itself this way:

"FindTheBest is an objective, socially curated comparison engine that allows you to find a topic, compare your options and decide what's best for you. Ultimately, FindTheBest allows you to make faster and more informed decisions by allowing you to easily compare all the available options, view expert ratings on products and services and read and write reviews on millions of listings.

Other sites such as NextTag also offer comparison shopping but Find the Best claims to have numerous other types of comparisons. They are grouped into categories such as Entertainment, Technology, etc. You can also do a word search and see if your desired specific subject or product is compared. I tried netbook computers because we are trying to build a case for purchasing a model that our tech department does not like. We want the inexpensive ASUS netbooks that are only about $200. I found a site giving them five star ratings and plan to send it in a memo explaining why we want this particular, well regarded, small computer. 

This site looks like fun to just plain browse. I feel sure that not every single product or topic you seek will be offered, but if it is covered you might find the information helpful, as I did for my search. So I am giving it thumbs up and recommending it as an alternative to a straight Google-type search.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Human/Computer Interactions...good or bad?

I am watching the PBS Frontline show about Americans' digital lives. I am not entirely in agreement with the dire accounts about the dangers of being constantly connected. But am I kidding myself? I am not saying kids' brains are not being affected. I believe they are. Dr. Gary Small at UCLA has physiological proof. But I wonder how bad that is. People's brains changed after the printing press. Things change. Whether we like it or not, the current situation is what it is. I think our challenge is find ways to cope in this rapidly changing world. Bemoaning the trends is pretty pointless. I don't see this as something that can be slowed, much less stopped. We need to find balance in our own lives and teach our children to do the same.

Marc Prensky's thoughts on this topic are similar to what I was saying about change above. Information overlaod is just part of our world now. We are evolving.

I was feeling pretty comfortable in my views until the show moved on into WOW (World of Warcraft). Now THIS is too much for me! I will admit to discomfort about virtual reality. I am ambivalent about Second Life and totally turned off by WOW. People using Second Life say that the avatars serve as substitutes for real friends and colleagues. Not happening for me. But it doesn't alarm me that other people find these environments attractive.

Moving on to the is interesting and maybe hopeful that servicemen troubled with PSTD can use experiences in virtual reality to overcome their symptoms. And of course we have heard for a long time about the virtual reality training for battle and survival. PW Singer's book, Wired for War, sounds like a promising resource for learning about this topic. Again, assigning labels like "good" or "bad" seems almost naive. This is our world and we need to learn to live in it.

The conclusion featured two quotes, one by Prensky and one by Sherry Turkle. I like her final statement, "Technology is not good or bad. It is powerful....Slowly we will FIND A BALANCE." OK that is what I have been thinking and saying all along, so I found the end quite satisfactory.

PS The link from the title is to the PBS site that accompanies their programming about this topic.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Link O'Day: Greenwich Lock Shop

Link O'Day:  Greenwich Locksmith...This one is just for fun. Someone shared this recently and I am passing it on. It is a very, very cool decor at a Lock Shop in NYC.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Link O'Day: Information Fluency!

Today I was teaching a class to a wonderful group of students in San Antonio. I was sharing Teacher Librarian Ning with them, where I have a class group. During our lunch break I was looking around and noticed one of their spotlighted groups was about "Information Fluency." The term sounded a little familiar but it is not one I have been using. I went to the link that I was sharing and from there to other links and was completely captivated with the concept and nomenclature. It reminds me a little bit of Big6 but for older students, and for teachers to use. Anyway, there is great information to be had by going to the link above or to one of the links shared from it. Then you want to ask fluent are you? How can you increase students' fluency?

By the way, if you are a teacher or a librarian and you are not using TLNing, take some time to explore, join up, and participate! There are tons of great things going on there!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Link O'Day: and My Personal Story

Do you know someone who has had or is facing open heart surgery for heart valve repair or replacement? If so send them to this wonderful online support group for valve replacement recipients and their families:

Watching tonight's Barbara Walters special about open-heart surgery was more interesting than I expected. I got to see what went on in the operating room when I had my heart valve replacement in 2000. I got to see the heart lung machine like the one I was on. They even showed the saw that they use to open your chest and it really does look like a buzz saw. Her scar is similar to mine; in fact anyone having open-heart surgery has the same scar.  After surgery she stayed home for two and a half months. Wow. I was off work for about three weeks. I only missed one teaching day. Barbara had an aortic heart replacement. That is the most common valve-replacement surgery. Mine was the “out” valve, the mitral. Less common. Also, unlike Barbara and Robin Williams, I was not a candidate for a tissue valve. I have an artificial valve made of titanium. I think it is about the size of a nickel with two little flaps. If I am in a quiet place the ticking sound is audible both to me and to others. One day I had been out walking and got on the elevator to go back up to my office. A student looked over and said…is that your watch? Nope, I said, it’s just my heart.

Robin Williams talked about the “brotherhood of the cracked chest,” and he likes to make a big deal of it. Same with Letterman. For them, it is comedic material as well as a life experience. Dave had a quintuple bypass. using arteries from his chest and legs. One thing I related to was when Dave talked about how bad he wanted to get them to take out the breathing tube because I felt the same way.  In fact, Dave’s description of the aftermath of surgery sounds more like mine.  I do remember being in ICU, as does he. He remembers the challenges of getting back on his feet and then taking walks in the hallways. Dave says he is different after surgery.  He also talked about the fact that his problem may return and he may go through the same thing again. Like Dave, I may have to have another surgery though there is no indication at this point. Sometimes the titanium valves just wear out! So if I live quite a few more years that could happen…it’s like the good news and the bad news.

Newsman Charlie Rose had aortic valve surgery, and then four years later while in the Middle East later he had a spell with difficulty breathing. He was flown to France. In Paris he had both mitral and aortic valves replaced. His surgery was 14 hours. Wow. That’s a long time on the heart lung machine. He nearly died. He was in an induced coma for three weeks. Now he is back full force. He expects that at some point he will die a sudden death. This is something I think is possible as well, because I know about valve recipients who did pass this way. If the spare part malfunctions, that’s it! But the truth is, I don’t worry about it. I have already had ten years instead of the two I was told to expect without the surgery. I am very, very lucky…even if I am not a star!

So how am I today? I get breathless climbing stairs or going up steep inclines. Pretty much that’s it; except for a bit of short-term memory loss that I am told comes from being on a heart lung machine for several hours. Since 2000 I have written two books and am working on my third. I have taught travel study classes, taking students to London four times, and also to Canada, Chicago, Ireland, New York City, and Washington DC.

Conclusion…I learned that heart disease affects more women than men. Women have no chest pain. Their number one symptom is fatigue. That was true for me. The first time I went to the doctor for fatigue and shortness of breath I was misdiagnosed. I had to get a lot worse and have my husband insist I go back to the doctor, at which time I saw another doctor since mine was on vacation. He diagnosed me right away. For my own part, I would urge anyone with fatigue, shortness of breath, and/or swelling of extremities. Barbara’s final words were moving. She said her doctor urged her not to put off the surgery. He told her about another woman who had waited. While she was waiting to go in for surgery, she died. Barbara said, “That could have been me.” Like Barbara, I am lucky.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Link O'Day: Google Art Project

I have a very slow connection tonight. I am using my MiFi and there is a wintry mix falling outside--but don't want to miss a day. So I am just going to join everybody else and recommend Google Art Project! It is getting lots of attention this week and I will just join the throng. Try out the nifty slider to zoom in/out on images. To maximize your experience, go to the videos by clicking on "Learn More" on the main page.  Do not miss out!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Link O'Day: Library Grits

I didn't need to go overseas to find a good librarian blog...but I did anyway. I have 167 blogs bookmarked at my Delicious site. This one has a name I love, though. Grits is something I can identify with as a Texas native. Furthermore, my mother always reminded me that just like her, "I have grit in my craw." Anyway, I stopped in to revisit this blog just now and the February 2 entry really resonated with me. Librarian Dianne McKenzie, of Hong Kong, notified her faculty that students in her K-12 school were lacking in research skills. This email had the result of beginning a conversation with teachers about ways to fill the gaps in student's learning. They are now planning to teach skills through interdisciplinary projects. And all this from one email to faculty! Sounds like an idea whose time has come!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Link O'Day: Three Cheers for Gary Price and Resource Shelf!

Gary Price is an Info Hero! He is the founder and boss of The Resource Shelf. I got to thinking about him today because he posted the information below to LM_NET. It is just a sampling of all the RESOURCES at The Resource Shelf. The link from the title goes to the home page of this most excellent resource. You can learn more about Gary at this link:

Here is Gary's posting to today with some specific resources of interest to you:

Greetings from DC.

The past 10 days have been an exceptional time for new and free
web-based resources to go live online.

Here are links to info from our

1. Just WOW!
A Must See: (New) The Google Art Project: Super High-Resolution
Images, Virtual Tours, and More

2. A new version of the essential Wayback Machine from the Internet
Archive is Now Available
Archived web pages back to 1996.

3. State Library of Kansas Releases State History Database, Powered by Gale

4. This is not a research resource but might be of interest.
Egypt: The Director of the Library of Alexandria, Ismail Serageldin,
Has Posted a Statement on the IFLA Web Site

5. Again, not a research resource but a lot of fun.
Cool! Movie: "Do You Want to Be a Librarian?" (1946)

6. Global: Historic Weather Conditions & Real Time Weather Conditions
(Interactive Map)
The real time map is very cool!

7. New from National Geographic: Interactive Map of Surnames in the
United States

Feel free to drop by our site at

whenever you have a few moments. We post material
seven days a week.

You can also follow us on Twitter:

Finally, don't hesitate to share a link to ResourceShelf with your colleagues.
We're also free to access and use.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Link O'Day: LISNews

Back in 2006 I started using Delicious which at that time was for social bookmarking. Contrary to the big hoo-hah last fall, Delicious is still going strong and is not threatened with extinction. One of the first tags I started back then was "blogs." At that time I had students follow one blog for a semester and wanted to provide an ongoing list for them. Right now I have marked around 170 blogs. This one was the very first to be named and is still going strong. To be honest I have not been to this site in ages, but had fun with it tonight. The most recent featured story is about a disgruntled senior citizen who was arrested for putting condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and maple syrup in her local library's book drops. Bad idea...landed her in the pokey. This blog highlights news stories from around the world, and is updated daily. Here is the self-description at the website:

"LISNews is a collaborative weblog [aka blog] devoted to current events and news in the world of Library and Information Science. A dedicated team of international bloggers scour the World Wide Web to find stories they find interesting. You'll find links to news stories and Web sites, along with original writing, interviews and reviews. LISNews is updated frequently, usually 7 days a week. We are a non-commercial site, supported by our users."

I scrolled through recent entries and saw a mix of serious, humorous, and offbeat. I did NOT see anything within the last few days about funding woes that are so much in the news right now. Maybe someone should send one in...they do call for submissions.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Link O'Day: Webspiration

Yesterday I shared a nifty mind-mapping site called Mindomo. It is a free site with a lot of potential and I thought it was well worth recommending. As mich as I like it though, I think Webspiration is better for teachers and kids. It is the Internet version of Inspiration software, long a favorite educational tool. Once Webspiration came along, it was free in BETA for the past three years. Now the free ride is scheduled t end. There is a notation at the Webspiration site that users who have joined prior the the end date of April 4 will be allowed to continue use through April 30 and then will be offered a discount for the future use of the site. This is one tool that I think is worth paying for, and if you take advantage of the last weeks of free service, then you can decide this for yourself. I feel sure there will be educational pricing. So hop on board while you have the chance!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Link O'Day: Mindomo

I love it when I learn from my students. Actually in this case I picked up a great link from a super former student, Naomi Bates. She posted the link to Mindomo via LM_NET. It is a fun and intuitive mind-mapping application, free online at the link above. You can just sign in with Facebook or create your own membership not linked to any other site. It reminds me a lot of Inspiration, another mind-mapping program. It looks a little simplistic compared to Inspiration, but it is FREE and you save your work right there at the site, in the cloud, so you can bring it up anywhere on any computer. I played with it enough to like it. I still like Inspiration better, but this may be a close second choice. Did I mention it was free?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Link O'Day: Multnoma County Library, Oregon

I have a soft spot for Multnoma County Libraries because I have visited them numerous times. In particular the downtown main library is quite wonderful. Here is a link with a good description of the downtown library:
If you go, be sure and go into the Children's Room and see the storybook tree. It is a wonderful bronze sculpture with images of many well loved book characters. Surprisingly, it was not easy to find pictures of the sculpture. This link leads to the best ones I found.
I have been to branch libraries as well, including a couple in charming older buildings. My daughter was a big library user there, and especially made use of their extensive collections of music.

Another thing I like about this library is their website.  Their site is a great reference tool. Teachers and librarians will do well to mark it, and anybody with an ounce of curiosity will enjoy browsing their links. So if you cannot get up to Portland and have a real visit, enjoy a virtual one!

This Saturday I will be teaching my Internet for Librarian class, and one thing we will of course talk about is website evaluation. Having students evaluate sites dealing with controversial topics is necessary for one of my assignments. The link below is one I will be showing--it is a list of social issues.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Link O'Day: National Archives Digital Vaults

Had a bit of a hard day today. This leads me to want to end it on a positive note. Thus I am sharing one of my very favorite websites in the whole world. It defies description. Just go and browse. It also carries forward the theme from yesterday of history and primary source material.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Link O'Day: Footnote: The place for original historical documents online

On the evening of the State of the Union Address I thought a site that highlights American history is a good choice. This site puts thousands of primary source documents at the user's fingertips. Speeches, letters, legal documents, even photographs are included. There are several ways to access this information. You can browse using the timeline provided, or you can search for a specific name, event, or other search term. Also, there are eight special collections to browse. Certainly this site is invaluable for teachers and students, but I think it can be a great browse for any American or anyone interested in American history.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Hero and Facebook Avatar, Dick Tracy

When I was a kid I was crazy about Dick Tracy. Yes, I was a nerdy little sprout. I even had a Bonnie Braids doll, as well as a Sparkle Plenty doll. This all dates me age-wise, I know. But I can remember playing out in the back yard, talking to my wrist, pretending there was a two-way wrist radio on it. The two-way wrist radio was a very big part of my infatuation with the square jawed-hero. I got to thinking about him recently when everybody on Facebook changed profile pics to cartoon characters to call attention to abuse against children. My choice was easy to make. I just did a little searching and discovered there is a Chester Gould/Dick Tracy Museum:  Also, the comic strip lives on, it seems, though not in my paper. Here is a recent article about the future of Dick Tracy:

Now I am noticing that people are starting to change back to previous or new profile shots and I probably will do the same before long, though reluctantly. Good old Dick explains a little about why I am a gadget freak today. It started back in my own big backyard. And now...look at me! I have the equivalent of the two-way wrist radio with my iPhone! I also have an iPad and a Kindle, a netbook, and a lovely MacBookPro. Life is good.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Link O'Day: BJ Pinchbeck

I remember recommending this site to students while still a school librarian back in the late 90's. BJ was just a little tad then, putting up homework help sites along with his dad. I liked the fact that I could show kids a site developed and maintained by a kid. BJ is still at it, now a 20-something with a degree from Drexel and an interest in photography and film studies. His motto is "If you can't find it here you just can't find it." I am happy to see the site still thriving. It is a great pick for kids of all ages.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Link O'Day: Kathy Schrock

OK surely every teacher and librarian in the United States KNOWS about this website, right? Nope...I talked to a group of new MLS students today and shared her site. I may be wrong, but I don't think there was one person out of the 18 present who knew about her site. So never assume...Your colleagues will love you forever if you show them this site. If nothing else excites them, they will love Puzzle Maker, where you can make FREE word searches, crosswords, and other puzzles right there at her site and then print them out and use. When I brought the site up, I noticed changes since the last time I visited. I had to click around a little to find the things I wanted to share. One useful tip is to use the tabs up at the top of the page: Administrators, Teachers, Parents, Students. Puzzle Maker is in the dropdown from the Teachers tab. There is such a wealth of information at this site, all of it exemplary, that I am not going to try to list off things to look for. I will just mention ONE other because I think she is absolutely spot on with her tools to help teachers and students evaluate websites. This is SO important. I am sure there are several ways to get to the checklists, and she has several for different ages of students. I think the easiest is to click on the main page under the heading called Teacher Helpers...Critical Evaluation Tools. A lot of people share similar checklists, but I don't think Kathy's can be beat. She is sharing all her information royalty free, so you can take one of her lists and even edit it if you want. You have permission granted at the site. Oh and I have to mention one other thing: Clip Art. Her clip art collection is constantly growing. It is royalty free. All the graphics are appropriate and attractive. I think if you don't tell your colleagues but one link for an entire year, you should make that one Kathy Schrock's page. It is that good.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Link O' Day: Taxedo takes Wordle idea to new heights

If you like Wordle you will love Taxedo. It allows you to put your words into letters, shapes, etc. You can use one of their images or provide your own. I will try to do some soon and share but maybe by then you will be using it too!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Link O'Day--Dogo News

I shared a real favorite news site last night, which is especially good for secondary students on up through adults. Today's news site is just for kids. It is strong in both science and social studies.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Link O'Day: Newsmap--Another great visual

Since I encountered and shared a great visual yesterday, I thought I would continue with the same theme. This one has been around a while, and is a great way to get a cross-section of world news, see what is going on, and read the articles that interest you most. There are a number of options for settings. This one is great for anyone with a nose for news, and for classes that follow current events.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Link O'Day: Media Universe

I LOVE graphic presentations of information. I am always on the lookout for new and compelling visual representations of data. This one is called Media Universe and it shows the many digital venues by which we communicate today. I think visual literacy is an important capability that we need to encourage in students. Besides, it is cool!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Link O'Day: Song Remembering My Dad

Today's link is admittedly very personal. My daughter is a singer-songwriter. People in the Portland OR area know she is a familiar performer in that area. She moved home to Texas in October, partly to be near my dad, Zeb Fitzgerald, was turned 98 in June of this year. She was a daily visitor with him until his death December 11. His death hit her very hard, as can be said for me. He was a constant in both of our lives. She sang "Amazing Grace" at his funeral. Then she went home and started on a song to honor him. That is my link for today. I am not sure what she will title it, but I am calling it "Song for Zeb." She worked it up over several days. At one point she got to a place in the lyrics, part of the chorus, and could not decide what should come next. I contributed a line and, amazingly, she liked it! She has NEVER liked any of my suggestions in the past and yeah, most are pretty off-the-wall. Anyway, here is MY line, which she pronounced the heart of the song:
"Take heart in the gift of knowing him
To remember as we go on."

I love that phrase "take heart" as an inspirational exhortation. I have serious doubts that she is likely to take a line from me in the future. She performed the song about a week later at Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos. There were several people there who remembered him. It was a very touching and memorable event for me. I missed out on the very first bit, which may make the beginning sound abrupt, but I hope you enjoy it. In her remarks before the song she told how, in her mind, Dad was so special that everybody in town should have been at his funeral. Later, she takes comfort in the fact that at least people pulled over as the funeral procession made its way to the cemetery.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Link O'Day: Doodle for Google

This is a fun activity for students, whether or not they even submit entries. But why not go for the prize? That would be even more fun!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Link O'Day: Four Guys and a Guitar

This youtube video was shared by a Texas musician and Facebook friend, Bo Porter. I think it would be good to use at the beginning of a lesson or staff development about collaboration. In any case, it is a fun video. Oh and give Bo a visit too. This generous man heard my daughter play at Luckenbach and on the spot invited her to be a guest artist at Gruene Hall. People in Texas know both these Texas music landmarks, playing at Gruene Hall was a dream come true. Here is his website:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Link O'Day: Get your daily non-fiction fix at Delancey Place!

Do you love non-fiction? I think that for all librarians, the answer is yes. I love back stories about historical events, articles about science, and all kinds of informational readings. Here is how you can get yourself a daily fix: Subscribe to Delancey Place (linked from title). You will receive an emailed piece every day with a short and interesting offering. The selections are taken from periodical articles, from books, and from other resources.  I often save mine to read during my lunch break. Some days I am just too busy and simply delete without reading, but often I find these readings quite enjoyable. Case in point: Today I learned that Gutenberg got his idea for the printing press from the wine press. Who knew?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Link O'Day: ANOTHER Brand New Site...Blog by Alice Yucht

When Alice Yucht posts, I read. She has been an active contributor to the large and active message board for school librarians, LM_NET for as long as I can remember.  Her contributions are always worth reading. More often than not, she makes me think and laugh at the same time. She also has a great blog, Alice in Infoland (  Now she has another blog! She calls it Y's Guide SLIMPS and will be supporting her classes that she teaches at Rutgers. If you want to learn more about her, go to this link which will give you several facts and link to five more: lSo far it looks like she is sharing lots of link via her new blog. I promise not to swipe from her but also to learn from her. Stop by!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Link O'Day: Jumo! Another brand new social networking tool!

Jumo is the brain child of one of the original Facebook crew, Chris Hughes.  It is an idealistic endeavor for people who want to change the world for the better.

The purpose is to help people find non-profits and causes, follow them, and eventually contribute or become an activist. You sign on with your Facebook account. Then you find a cause that resonates with you and follow it. You will be informed of the organization's activities and perhaps take part in them or support the group financially. I signed up last night, on the launch day. I then did a search and found a number of praiseworthy organizations. I looked for two topics, libraries and pets, and found some interesting and worthy causes. In a world where there is way too much pessimism, cynicism and bigotry, maybe this is a way to make a difference.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Link O'Day: Author Chris Cleve

I don't read nearly as many books as I once did, or as I would like to enjoy. The reason is my work. My current job's administrative side eats up large chunks of my time during and after regular work hours. Then, like all online teachers, I find myself interacting with students, grading, keeping discussions going, etc. Cleve's book Little Bee has been on my want-to-read list for at least a year. I enjoy ebooks, but picked up a paper copy of this one for my flight home from a conference in San Diego. As promised by reviewers, I was drawn in and had trouble putting it down until finished. It is a quick read, though, and most readers will only need a few hours to finish. The set-up is interesting, with alternating chapters narrated by the two protagonists, Little Bee and the woman who sought to save her. The story really makes me think about how little I know about the conditions in Nigeria and other African countries today. It is one not to miss. All the laudatory reviews are spot on.

Then you will want to go to Chris Cleve's website. He talks about all his books and shares the first chapter of each. AND he posts in and converses with readers who leave comments. He also offers blog postings with his musings, and has a free children's book, satirical and frankly not my cup of tea. But I LOVE Little Bee. This is a book to remember. Great for book club choices also.