Wednesday, March 31, 2010

365 Project: March

"March is the month of expectation..." -Emily Dickinson

This has been an unusual month for us, traveling from our cold northern climate to the sunny beaches of Puerto Rico...and back again. It was fun to explore a new environment, armed with two cameras and a lively sense of curiosity.

Interestingly, the most popular photo for the month is a late winter capture, The Garden of Eden in Winter (I hope to return next month, to try and solve the mystery of the hanging fruit)

My husband Tim's art always attract viewers; A Work in Progress shows his en plein air setup on the beach of Dorado, Puerto Rico

Pictures can tell stories. This ocean Baptism caught my eye as I strolled the Dorado beach one day

On my return home, a visit to my favorite local park proved that Spring had not yet arrived, since there were still Ice People about

And just this morning, I snapped my favorite maco and most hopeful picture of the month, Beginnings

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn." -Hal Borland

You can see a slideshow of the 28 February photos here or view all of my 2010 photos to date here.

The three groups to which I contribute are 2010/365, EdTech 365/2010, and Project 365.

Fire and Ice

Last night, Sir Ken Robinson participated in a live and interactive Elluminate interview that attracted more than 500 attendees. Robinson's talk focused on the concepts examined in his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

One definition of passion is "
intense emotion compelling action." People who are passionate about some thing or some one evince energy, enthusiasm, and focus. Channeled positively, passion can drive creativity and facilitate change. It can infuse the passionate person's life with purpose and meaning.

Sir Ken is a passionate advocate for creativity in education. But with scripted lessons, mandated standardized testing, slashed budgets, and teacher layoffs (particularly in non-core subject areas, like library programs and the arts) is there room in our education system for student and teacher passion? And can passion live where it is blocked, stifled or belittled?

The fire of passion or the ice of indifference and indecision... which do we choose for our children?

You can access the Elluminate session, or view Sir Ken Robinson's Hammer Lecture on the same topic

"The Eye of the Fire" by onkel_wart
"frozen heart" by Hilarywho

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It All Started with a Rant...

JOHNSON, Doug. School Libraries Head for the Edge: Rants, Recommendations, and Reflections. 196p. illus, bibliog. Web sites. CIP. Linworth. 2009. pap. $35. ISBN 978-1-58683-392-3. LC 2009022053.

When I "discovered" the world of blogs, RSS feeds, and online interaction, I began by reading the offerings of four people: David Warlick, Will Richardson, Joyce Valenza, and Doug Johnson. Although I now skim more than 240 subscriptions in my Google Reader, this quartet continues to challenge my thinking and enrich my professional understanding.

Doug Johnson's new book, School Libraries Head for the Edge: Rants, Recommendations, and Reflections is a collection of his columns for "Library Media Connection." For some reason, this volume became vacation reading for me: I first opened it on the train to Philadelphia for EduCon, and finished the Afterword on a beach in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

The book is divided into thematic chapters, like "On LIbraries and Education in Transition," "On Reading, Research, and Technology Skills," and "On Technology in Education." Individual offerings are arranged in chronological order, which shows both Doug's evolution as a teacher/learner AND his early identification of trends and issues in educational applications of technology.

Rather than try to reprise the author's pithy and entertaining writing, I decided to spotlight one entry, "How We Spend Our Days."

Doug begins by mentioning time management and the stress of increasing job demands. But rather than stopping at advocating for staffing or funding, he urges "all educators, especially those involved in libraries and technology" to consider some key points when assessing a program:
  • Should someone else be doing this task?
  • Am I operating out of tradition rather than necessity?
  • Is this a task that calls for unique professional abilities?
  • Is this a job that will have a long-term effect?
In times of fiscal crisis and budget slashing, it's not enough to "save" programs. Appropriate utilization of available resources, including personnel, is essential. As Doug reminds us, " is important to our patrons, our organizations, and to ourselves that on a daily basis we consciously evaluate how we direct our energies."

"School Libraries Head for the Edge" is full of observations that cause the reader to pause, reflect, reconsider.

Like a fine wine, it is for savoring, not gulping. This book was, after all, perfect vacation reading.

Thanks, Doug!

Disclosure: This review was based on a press copy of the book, which I received for free from Linwood Publishing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kite Day

Monday, March 22, was Día de la Abolición de Esclavitud, or Emancipation Day. This is an official Commonwealth of Puerto Rico holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery in 1873, while the Island was still a colony of Spain. Schools are closed and many people celebrate the 3-day weekend with visits to the beach or family outings.

My husband and I happened to be visiting Old San Juan on Emancipation Day this year.

Dominating the city is Castillo San Felipe del Morro (or El Morro), a citadel with a commanding view of the entrance to San Juan Harbor.

Every year, the San Juan National Historic Site hosts a Kite Festival, open to the public free of charge, which is held on the grounds of El Morro. Through this event, the National Park Service hopes to share and promote environmentally friendly ways to enjoy the area, a World Heritage Site since 1983.

The "official" Kite Festival was held on March 6th this year, but we happened upon an informal reprise on Emancipation Day. A number of school buses brought students to the grassy esplanade in front of El Morro; other children arrived, via cars or ferry boats, with their families. A steady wind from the sea provided perfect flying conditions, and it was evident that a good time was being had by all.

Most kids (and adults) flew commercially produced kites. My mind kicked into teacher/lesson plan mode, and I couldn't help but think of ways to integrate this type of activity into the curriculum: in technology (design), art (decoration), English Language Arts (description, storytelling). Mathematics, science, social studies, physical education...connections could be made in any subject area.

Teachable moments abounded. But, on this hot and sunny tropical day, it was enough to enjoy the sight of kites dancing on the breeze and listen to the sound of children laughing.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, or a new country.” Anais Nin

Other photos from our visit to Old San Juan can be found here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"The King of the Wild Frontier has passed on"

Childhood hero, exemplary role model: we'll miss you, Fess Elisha Parker, Jr. (August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010)

" I guess you could call me plain. I don't go in for show. There isn't anything I want too much except to be a good actor." -Fess Parker

"Be sure you’re right, then go ahead." -Davy Crockett, Fess Parker

Related Posts:
The Alamo
My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Report from Dorado

It's been gratifying to learn that I can stay loosely connected to my network while heading out to explore the "real" world. So, although I may be missing some of the details, I've managed to stay current with broader issues by skimming my Google Reader and popping in to Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook occasionally via my laptop. Not exactly unplugged, but not obsessive, either. Good to know!

Here are some random observations from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico:

Because my brother-in-law's family has been visiting this area for over 30 years, he and his wife have made friends with many of the local residents. It's nice to have that more authentic perspective on daily life.

Many of the other condo owners have lived and worked in the states, most often as teachers or government employees.

The children, and an impressive number of adults, speak fluent, effortless English.

All students wear uniforms here, with each school having a distinctive "look." We've seen shirts in red, pink, yellow, and black; a variety of patterns on jumpers and skirts; and some truly startling plaid pants!

It is amazing to observe the variety of plants that thrive in this tropical climate. The orchids that were an Easter corsage luxury in my younger days spring exuberantly from planters and grow on trees here.

Although temperatures have been in the mid- to high-eighties F, the sea breezes and lack of humidity keep the climate very pleasant at this time of year.

The beach we use each day is sheltered by a coral reef. The water is pleasantly warm (although I hear that it becomes almost uncomfortable in summer) and trees provide welcome shade. The tides leave a fascinating residue of shells and other sea treasures. A particular favorite of mine are the pieces of fan coral, which sometimes resemble feathers or even wings.

We have visited Isabela and will be exploring Old San Juan some time soon, but most days, I am content to sit on beach or patio, watching, listening, and dreaming.

I fill my ears with the sound of the sea, trail my fingers in the sand, and enjoy this gift of warmth in winter.

My (still growing!) Flickr set from Puerto Rico can be viewed here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Place Where

In The World Without Public Libraries, Andy Woodworth speculates about changes that might occur in our society if the public library became extinct.

But what if, instead of shutting down, libraries and the memory of libraries, vanished from our world, as if they had never been?

George Bailey was surprised to learn about all the lives he had touched, and the contributions he had made to his hometown, in the Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life.

How many lives does a library touch, and in how many different ways?

Libraries have traditionally been storehouses of knowledge and literature. As society has changed, libraries have expanded their services, evolving into information hubs and community centers, while still providing the recreational reading material, in a variety of formats, that patrons desire. As Andy points out, "The public library is in the life enrichment business."

What if all this were gone, had never existed? Would only the wealthy be literate? Would authors create, companies publish, bookstores survive, except as curiosities? Would people still be writing with quill and ink, scratching out texts on vellum or parchment for only a select few to read? Would the Internet have been invented?

What would the world be like without public libraries? I hope we never have to find out.

"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where library incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life." - Norman Cousins

"Empty shelves" by

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Preaching to the Choir

One of the criticisms of educational technology events, like EduCon, TEDxNYED, ISTE, etc. is that Keynote speakers and session presenters are "preaching to the choir" of like-minded people.

Is this necessarily a bad thing?

Away from the heady atmosphere of conferences, with their innovations and energy, many digitally-comfortable educators find themselves back in their home school districts, a lonely minority. Sometimes it is the encouragement received, and the connections made, at tech-infused gatherings that inspires teachers to keep working towards the changes they believe are key to students' success in learning.

Knowing that there are other members of the Choir is a comfort and an inspiration.

"Musically, of course, what better way to learn than to perform something at the very highest possible level...if these students the typical choir concert, that's not the same as being onstage in one of the world's most important halls and seeing how it works." -Patrick Gardner

"choir boys" by Leo Reynolds