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.