Monday, June 30, 2008

Not All Who Wander are Lost

We arrived safely in San Antonio after a rather tame journey. NECC is exciting and overwhelming.

The best part of the experience has been, as I expected, meeting some of my PLN in person.

There will be oh so much to post about in the future. But for now, Vaya Con Dios.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last Day

Today was the last day of classes for our students, last day to report for staff members, last day in the district for our superintendent's very capable and well-loved secretary.

Since Mrs. N., a lifelong learner of the best sort, is leaving to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse, our high school art teacher created a "Wild Thing" to which we all attached charms, symbols, and joke gifts.

One of the students in my current events class decided to recycle some old book socks and library cards. His colorful creation will grace one of our library walls next fall.

And a quiet little first grade girl celebrated a successful year by presenting each of her teachers with a rose.

Everyone is ready for a break, adults, children and teens. But we will miss each other and chatter excitedly when we meet in the mall or at the market. Because our connections are real and important.

How will you keep the learning alive over summer vacation?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Saturday morning, my husband and I will leave for San Antonio. I'll be participating in NECC 2008 (the National Educational Computing Conference); Tim will be visiting art museums and checking out the "Cold Margaritas and Hot Senoritas" (Hmmm).

I've already mentioned in Twitter that we'll only be taking carry-on luggage: a duffel bag for hubby, and a backpack, with laptop compartment, and a small handbag for me. After a few less than successful incidents with airline baggage handling, we're convinced that traveling light is the only way to reach your destination with wardrobe intact.

If you would like to follow our example, you might want to visit One Bag for tips on how to avoid overpacking.

A challenge faced by vacationers hoping to travel light is the restriction on the type and size of liquids and gels that are permitted in carry-ons. The Department of Homeland Security's TSA gives updates on the current regulations on its site. Remember more than 3 ounces per container packed in a 1 quart ziploc bag with 1 bag permitted per traveler.

The size of the carry-on is also important. Rules vary by airline, but a general rule of thumb given by the FAA is "the maximum size carry-on bag for most airlines is 45 linear inches (the total of the height, width, and depth of the bag). Anything larger should be checked."

A final tip to make your trip less stressful: go to Expedia and read the guide to whichever airports you connect through. There you will find information about food, shops, activities, even smoking areas. Rather than settle for the limited (or non-existent) food choices on an airplane, purchase a sandwich or regional specialty to munch on. Oh, and be sure to include some extra ziploc bags to contain leftovers - you don't want any drips or leaks to stain your pared-down wardrobe! [I usually tuck in a Tide pen, just in case]

I love to travel and am very excited about exploring San Antonio for the first time. I'm bringing along a small tote bag to contain any tiny treasures we find there. Anything larger can be shipped home.

No checked luggage for this couple - we want to get there and go, not wait at a carousel for cases that have taken an unexpected left at Albuquerque !

This entry is cross-posted on This Mommy Gig.

"Suitcases" by masochismtango

Sunday, June 22, 2008

NECC: The posting

My first NECC, and I couldn't be more excited! I'll get to attend Keynotes, check out new technologies on the exhibition floor, and explore a city that is legendary in American history.

As a member of a international panel of librarians, with Joyce Valenza, Carolyn Foote, Cathy Nelson, Anita Beaman, Judy O'Connell, and Kim Cofino (presenting remotely), I will get to experience the conference from both sides.

Not bad at all for someone with these stats:

Feed, Tag, Research: Remixing for School Library 2.5
Date: Wednesday, July 2
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Location: Grand Hyatt San Antonio
Room: Lone Star Ballroom F

Remember: Information fluency isn't just for librarians any more! Please come join us and add your voice to the conversation.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lolita in the Library, Vampires on the Shelves, and Gay Penguins in the Zoo

"Oh, my Lolita, I have only words to play with!" -Humbert Humbert, Lolita (by Vladimir Nabokov)

In a chance Twitter conversation with Clay Burell today, he happened to remark that his blog was still getting traffic based on a discussion of Lolita, originally posted April 10, 2008. When I joked about pumping up my stats by finally reading and discussing the book, he mentioned a "Teachers as Blogging Vampires" post that also draws people doing a keyword search of "vampires."

Obviously, if I included both words, I might attract (trick?) more people to Journeys.

Now that you're here :-) I feel obligated to provide value. I refer you to two prior postings:

Thanks for the inspiration, Clay!

"The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion." -Henry Steele Commager

"lolita" by brainware3000



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Today I continued my exploration of connective options at school. Here are the results:
  • Twitbin and Twiteroo are blocked on school computers and my MacBook
  • Twirl will come up on my laptop but tells me "There is an error receiving direct messages" so the screen remains blank
  • I installed Snitter on the MacBook - it also comes up blank
Note: I tried to install Snitter on a school computer, but received a message reminding me that all installations require Administrative permission.

As an experiment, I tried to search for proxy sites on Google. The entire search was blocked, "Category: Web-based Proxies/Anonymizers." I suppose I could find the addresses of proxies before I left home in the morning, but there is no guarantee that would work either.

My one success was surprising: YouthTwitter is not blocked here at school! I did get a WARNING! but was able to click through to the site and read student postings on both school computers and my Mac.

Interesting that a student online community is permissable but not an adult one. It seems that our youth are deemed more capable of interacting appropriately than their teachers. Score one for authentic Voice.

Perhaps if Twitter were subtitled AdultTwitter...but no, that sounds vaguely risque. It all comes down to trust. I would like to be treated as I feel our students should be treated when it comes to cyber safety and digital citizenship: provide instruction on safe & appropriate use of the Internet, set clear and reasonable limits, spell out the consequences for inappropriate use, and enforce policies consistently.

If I'm not trusted to conduct myself professionally, perhaps I shouldn't be here instructing children.

At least, that's my opinion. If you disagree, please speak up. I'd like to know the rationale behind Internet censorship.

Update: Now Twitbin is unblocked! I'm not sure why, but I'll link to this posting and hope for the best!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I have been logging in to Twitter at odd moments during this entire school year. Yesterday, though, this message appeared on the screen:

The reason given for blocking the site is "Category: Online Communities." I've contacted both my Administrator and the company to request further information.

On the surface, at least, it appears that our district, and, by extension, our BOCES, considers "online communities" to be undesirable. I consider them a key component of 21st century learning.

What's the view from your corner of the world?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day 2008

To Tim...

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Worst Job?

Christian started the ball rolling by describing his gig as "Binky the Clown" for a Pizza Hut children's birthday party. He tagged Damian, among others, and Damian passed the torch to me.

Most memes require that you link back to the person who tags you, address the theme, and tag other bloggers to keep the theme alive.

The question Christian posed was
Looking back on your life, what was the "worst job" you ever had that ironically helped prepare you to one day become an educator?

After some thought (because I've had a LOT of jobs!) I came up with three possible answers:

Babysitter In my teen years, babysitting was one of the few socially acceptable ways for a girl to earn extra spending money. For 50 cents an hour, I was expected to entertain, feed, clean and tuck in my charges. While it could be exhausting - and stressful - these weekend jobs gave me experience in entertaining small children, calming their fears, and keeping them from running wild. Good training for motherhood, good training for becoming a teacher/librarian.

Working in the NYS Misc. Fees Department During the 1960s, NYS Regents Scholarship winners were guaranteed summer jobs in Albany. My first state job was in the Misc. Fees Department. A regiment of college students spent each day opening and processing payments from LPNs and other licensed professionals. It was enormously boring work, and I privately vowed to never have to do such a dull job again - so the main lesson I learned was the value of obtaining an education. Of course, every position I've held since then has included some variety of record-keeping, organization, etc. Perhaps I acquired skills I didn't even realize were valuable. [Ironically, the summer clerical positions I filled for the state brought me one benefit of immense worth: I was able to gain Tier I status in the Teacher Retirement System. Any educator in this state can verify how significant THAT is!]

Teacher Assistant Before I received my Teaching Certification, I worked as a TA in a local public school. One of my assignments was in a classroom for students with multiple handicaps. Some were in wheelchairs, most had to be toileted, a few needed to be fed by hand. It was difficult, dirty work, and I greatly admire the dedicated people who continue to provide this service. I also admire the students, who don't choose to be different but fight their battles as best they can. I learned about tolerance and compassion in my Option IV classroom.

I tag
Jeffrey Keefer, Terry Shay, Anne Mirtschin, Carolyn Foote, and Julie Lindsay.

"Here's Mud In Your Eye" by Clearly Ambiguous

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

"Last year, more people were killed by automobile accidents, heart attacks, lung cancer, and natural causes combined than by any one tomato." -from the movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

In the 1978 spoof, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, mutant variants of this seemingly "docile" fruit stage a murderous revolt against humanity.

The current tomato crisis is no laughing matter.

When a Twitter friend from Texas mentioned that there were "no tomatoes at Mexican restaurant tonight due to statewide salmonella scare" I tossed off a joking remark and thought nothing more about it. I don't watch TV newscasts very often, and I had seen no relevant articles in any of our local papers.

When I read online yesterday that MacDonald's had stopped serving tomatoes in their fast food chain, I sat up and took notice. The small piece that appeared in our local paper didn't give much information, so I did a quick Internet search.

The Food and Drug Administration site was very informative. It described the situation, listed the varieties of tomatoes that are safe to consume, "
cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached, and tomatoes grown at home," and those that should be avoided "raw red plum, raw red Roma, or raw round red tomatoes." There is a list of areas NOT associated with the salmonellosis outbreak, and the FDA adds:

Consumers who are unsure of where the tomatoes are from that they have in their home are encouraged to contact the store or place of purchase for that information.

Consumers should also be aware that raw tomatoes are often used in the preparation of fresh salsa, guacamole, and pico de gallo, are part of fillings for tortillas, and are used in other dishes.

Restaurants, grocery stores, and food service operators have been advised by the FDA not to offer for sale or service raw red plum, Roma, or red tomatoes and products made from these types of tomatoes unless they are from one of the areas listed above.

It concerns me that none of this information was made available until two months after the outbreak began. Even in an "Age of Information," it's impossible to stay well-informed if key facts are concealed from the general public.

I'm not an alarmist, but I don't take unnecessary chances: I expect to be told about potential health risks.

I plan to take a trip to our local Farmers' Market this weekend, just to be on the safe side. Because Killers Tomatoes apparently come in all shapes and sizes.

"Tomatoes hanging overhead" by sylvar

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Most Hateful of All Things: Adult Bullying

A lot of discussions have been taking place regarding bullying, both face to face and online. We are concerned, and rightly so, about the physical and psychological damage done to bullied children and young adults.

Unfortunately, it's not just students who are subjected to the pain of being bullied.

I have recently witnessed instances of adult online bullying. One person felt so threatened that he/she shut down all personal interactive sites, including Facebook, a blog, and Twitter. Another has withdrawn from commenting and only lurks where once he/she was an enthusiastic participant.

Many of us verbally spar with Twitter friends or leave dissenting comments on postings. Yet most of us understand the line dividing teasing from tormenting.

This is my public declaration that if I ever become aware of deliberate, persistent bullying taking place in Twitter, or in any of my other online spaces, I will publish the name of the bully and the nature of the taunting.

I won't tolerate bullies, and neither should anyone else.

"Most fatal, most hateful of all things is bullying." -D.H. Lawrence

"pain d'epices" by Mzelle Biscotte

Saturday, June 7, 2008


“The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds and combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers, and adults.” -Loris Malaguzzi

Children start their lives as beings of enormous potential and unlimited possibilities. By the time they begin their formal education, they have already begun to develop many of the skills that will be necessary for their continued success and well-being in life.

Curious and full of wonder, these little ones enter school and encounter...what? Kindergarten was once a time of extended play and guided exploration. Emphasis was placed on socialization, developing fine motor skills, and increasing attention span. A typical full-day program included imaginative play, group interaction, some sort of vigorous exercise, and a nap.

Today's kindergarten student has no time for naps. In New York State, grade-specific Performance Indicators spell out standards and competencies for even the youngest learners. With high stakes testing taking place at every grade level, school districts can't afford to wait until first grade to introduce literacy skills: most students leave Kindergarten with some reading and writing facility. In this highly structured continuum, there is little time for spontaneity or silliness.

Where is the space for exploring ? When is there time for possibilities?

"What this Picture is" by

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Feathers and Wings: A Birthday Poem

“Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.”Jean Paul Richter

Feathers to enable flight
Wings to lift and carry
High and far above the earth
Wheeling in a joyous arc
Returning home to solid footing
Memory of wind and cloud
Earth below
Sky above

"By words the mind is winged." -Aristophanes