Thursday, July 28, 2011

Never Underestimate...

My friend, Buffy Hamilton, recently had a very unsatisfactory conversation with a representative from Amazon Kindle Education. According to the company, Buffy's LibGuides page contained incorrect information about the Amazon End User License as it relates to Kindle use in school libraries. Read the complete posting at the Unquiet Library blog.

The bottom line is that Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, will no longer be purchasing Kindles for its library media center.

With Kindle sales contributing to "robust revenue growth" for Amazon, the loss of business from a single Georgia high school might seem insignificant...except for two pertinent facts:
  • this librarian is well-known and well-respected as a library leader; her opinion is trusted
  • Buffy used her social networking skills to get her message read: on the day the posting appeared, it received over 4500 hits
Some commenters, reacting to the information shared on the Unquiet Librarian blog, stated that Amazon's policies have convinced them to opt for the NOOK reader as being better suited for school library needs. "Mrs. ReaderPants" enlarges the conversation when she notes, " If Nook is what is in their school library, Nook will be what they are used to. When they are ready to purchase an e-reader for themselves, which one do you think they are most likely to buy?"

I own a Kindle and love its convenience. Amazon one-click shopping means I can purchase a title and have it instantly delivered to my reader electronically. However, if I were acquiring multiple devices for educational use, I would opt for the library-friendly Nook.

Referring to the both the experience and the responses she's received, Buffy wrote this Facebook message, "All I can say is the Amazon has truly underestimated the potential of the K12 market."

Someone in the corporate realm had better be listening.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." -Bill Gates

"Roxanne and Buffy Showing off the New Bouncing Baby Kindles!" by theunquietlibrary

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Open Studios Tour: Enchanting Art

On Saturday, my husband and I spent a wonderful day touring artists' studios in Washington County, NY.

I couldn't help but notice that the success of this event depended largely on the infusion of those elements described by Buffy Hamilton in her presentation, libraries as communally constructed sites of participatory learning: creating conversations and connections through enchantment. (video now on YouTube)


Open Studios is a juried event. The organizers of this free, self-guided tour made sure that only established artists, with an respected body of work, were featured. This was a celebration of fine art, not a craft fair.


Each artist was present and eager to talk with visitors. When I asked for permission to take photos, I was encouraged to do so; the artists themselves happily posed with their paintings. Hosts had stories to share: about the evolution of their career, the steps in the creative process, what they choose to incorporate into their art and why. This infused products with meaning and put them into context for interested viewers...both the artists and the art thus became accessible and likable.

Fantastic Product or Service

The Open Studios site advertised that "professional artists will once again open their doors...
offering a glimpse into their creative lifestyles, and a unique opportunity to purchase great art directly from their studios," and they delivered on the promise. Artists offered special discounts and personally signed purchases. Casual browsers were greeted as warmly as paying customers. At each venue, some sort of refreshment was offered, from homemade cookies & lemonade to colorfully-wrapped Chinese sweets. In addition, Open Studios of Washington County and its sponsors hosted a complimentary reception for all tour visitors on the first evening of the two-day event, with hors d’oeuvres wine, and "a chance to meet with all the artists and other Open Studios visitors and to share stories and discoveries of the day."

Other Positive Attributes
  • choice...of locations and art genres [wouldn't it be fun to initiate a self-guided tour of local libraries, a mix of public, academic & school?]
  • each studio displayed both finished pieces and works in progress, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how art is created
  • business cards, with website addresses, were freely distributed - interested people could ue the information they contained to learn more about the artists (and perhaps become future customers)
  • variety of architectural design: studios were located in renovated barns, farmhouses, and converted factories; common to all were good natural lighting, plentiful space, and numerous display options
  • setting: Washington County is largely rural, with small villages rather than big cities. Nature is nearby and evident, creating a calming, creatively-stimulating atmosphere

In the Library

Wikipedia defines an artist as "a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art." Librarians fit all of those descriptors, as they assist in the acquisition, creation, and dissemination of information (the artistic product).

In a logical extension of the concept of librarian/artist, libraries would become less like knowledge warehouses and more like artists' studios, incorporating interesting design, transparency, and personalized service.

Enchanting spaces.

See additional photos in the Open Studios of Washington County, NY Flickr set

"Open Studios of Washington County, NY" by dmcordell
"Three Artists: Leslie Parke,
Adriano Manocchia, Leslie Peck" by dmcordell
Will Moses signing a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Hagan" by dmcordell
"110/i365" by Purple Phoenix

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


"You begin with the possibilities of the material." -Robert Rauschenberg

Less than a week after returning home from ISTE 2011, I set out again, this time for a reunion of friends in Missouri. Our hostess planned a variety of events for us, and, as is my habit, I jotted down ideas, and took photos of things that caught my eye or presented opportunities for further exploration. The following is a compilation of some of these points of possibility.

On Play and Time Travel
One of our stops was the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City. Signs there reminded us that "Dollhouses used to help teach household management skills" [hands-on learning through play] and that dollhouses can serve as time machines, showing us how people lived, what they wore, their sense of style BUT an ideal, not necessarily the reality. When my husband and I did historic reenacting, we studied 18th century paintings to learn about clothing, tools, and other artifacts appropriate to the time period. It is interesting to consider using dollhouses for the same purpose.
*photographs were not permitted in the Toy and Miniature Museum. The dollhouse room below is from the Knoxville Museum of Art

The History of Art
After touring the Toy & Miniature Museum, we had lunch at the Cafe Sebastienne, in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The walls in the cafe are covered with an installation of 110 paintings, specially created for this space by artist Frederick James Brown, who explains,
"This is a project of love. It is a tribute to art and artists throughout the ages...The works in this exhibition are my interpretations of the selected artists and/or art. No attempt was made, nor was it ever the intent, to reproduce or copy any works of art."
My companions and I had fun guessing at the artists represented, and I couldn't help but think what a great curricular unit this would make: identifying Brown's tribute pieces, discussing why he choose these particular works, then having students construct similar walls of art - or applying the concept to photography, music, etc.

Current Events
On a day trip to Atchison, Kansas, we had the opportunity to observe first-hand the magnitude of the Missouri River at high flood stage. Now running 30-35 deep, the river is not expected to recede significantly until early autumn. Among the concerns are the possibility of breached levees and disrupted transportation, with some bridges closed and railroad tracks in danger of flooding. Teachers in any part of the world might use this situation to discuss extreme weather, disaster preparedness, the Army Corps of Engineers and their flood control plans, long-term impact (food prices, the local economy), etc.

Library Digitalization
With so many ways to connect online, work sometimes spills over into vacation time. One of my friends had to reschedule some meetings related to a Mellon Foundation Award. Knowing my continuing interest in libraries, she shared with me information about a digitalization project being undertaken by the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium, intended "to integrate digital resources into the curriculum."
"The five objectives of the grant are to (1) help faculty to identify, build, and integrate digital collections into their courses through a partnership with librarians; (2) enhance access to scholarly endeavors of both faculty and students; (3) create a professional development program for library staff to enrich their technological sophistication and implement innovative efforts; (4) establish a digital infrastructure to improve support for new initiatives; and (5) develop a portal that will function as a gateway to digital collections and a site for accessing digitization procedures and training documents."
I look forward to following this project, since it certainly contains elements relevant to all types of school libraries, from K-12 through higher education.

On one leg of the plane ride home, I was seated next to a semi-retired school counselor on her way to a conference in North Carolina. We had an interesting discussion about technology use in primary and secondary schools, and she shared with me a nice Technology Tips page from the Missouri Association of Student Councils. It made me wonder how many other associations have valuable resources to share - and if there is a central registry somewhere with a comprehensive list of educational groups.

Echoes of ISTE
One of the highlights of my ISTE 2011 trip was hearing the five amazing teacher librarians, Anita Beaman, Buffy Hamilton, Cathy Nelson, Gwyneth Jones, and Shannon Miller, discuss their visions for school libraries. Buffy's visit to a New Orleans restaurant, Bouche, provided the central image for her discussion of participatory learning through Enchantment, with its elements of trustworthiness, likability, and a fantastic product or service. During my time in Kansas and Missouri, I encountered this type of enchantment on numerous occasions.

Justus Drugstore provides a unique dining opportunity: innovative food served in the most unlikely of places, a converted drugstore. Wait staff was not just attentive: each person with whom we interacted took the time to explain, suggest, and add little touches that enhanced our overall experience. The chef visited our table, recounting the history of the business (his family ran the original drugstore) and sharing his passion for local products creatively combined to please the senses. I was delighted that the little hors d’Ĺ“uvre we were served is known as an amuse-bouche ("mouth amuser")...if I hadn't been thinking of Buffy's enchantment before, the name of that delicious tidbit certainly brought it to mind!

The Indian restaurant I visited on my last day in Missouri had some of the design elements of Bouche in New Orleans. By simply draping fabric and hanging curtains as visual barriers, the owners created little private pockets for dining that gave the feel of intimacy in an otherwise open room. I couldn't help but reflect on how much my students would have enjoyed this type of separation in parts of our library, spaces to read and think and dream a bit.

Many of us have had the "virtual vs. real" discussion with people who denigrate the value of online relationships. I first met the two women with whom I shared my Kansas/Missouri adventures on the social networking site, Plurk. We discovered similarities in our lives and shared interests, and last year we met for the first time face to face. We weren't strangers, even then; we were friends who already knew a lot about each other. This happens more frequently than I could have imagined when I first hesitantly tried interacting with "strangers" online. Some of my dearest friends are separated from me by geography but close in the ways that matter.

The possibility of finding these kindred souls may be the greatest possibility of all.

"Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude." -Alfred North Whitehead

"Morning Has Broken" by dmcordell
"American Summer Kitchen" by Knoxville Museum of Art
"Frederick James Brown "The History of Art" Cafe Sebastienne - details from window wall #3 installation" by dmcordell
"Flooding along the Missouri River" by dmcordell
"Justus Drugstore" by dmcordell
"Indian Restaurant" by dmcordell
"Tres Pals" by dmcordell

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Can Do That!

Like many who attended ISTE11, I'm still processing what I heard and saw and learned.

This was my second such conference, the first being NECC08, in San Antonio. Three years ago, I was frankly overwhelmed by the size and scope of the gathering. My approach has changed, and the result has been a richly-layered experience.

In 2008, I spent most of my time in the Bloggers' Cafe, connecting with people from my slowly-developing network. In 2011, I only visited there occasionally, preferring to wander. While face-to-face interaction with my PLN is still very important to me, I also took the opportunity to strike up conversations with "strangers" - the Vermont technologist who asked to share a table, the photographer taking ISTE portraits, the magazine writer whose photo I snapped when he asked for directions. These random encounters added an element of the unexpected, and served to broaden my horizons.

During one of her presentations, my friend, Shannon Miller, recalled how, early in her career as a teacher librarian, she had heard Joyce Valenza speak and left determined to follow her example. Shannon wasn't discouraged by Joyce's depth of knowledge and innovative approach to librarianship, she was inspired by it.

It was a theme I heard repeated more than once: this person has embraced technology to benefit his/her can I.

Another friend, Buffy Hamilton, spoke of a participatory culture that encourages, supports, and inspires its members, ultimately creating involvement and enchantment.

In many ways, ISTE11 followed this model, empowering attendees to say, "I can do that!" And believe it.

Here's a link to the video of the Learning Tools Family Feud session in which I made a guest appearance.

And here's what I looked like on the prowl with my camera (thanks to the very talented Robin Henson for this great portrait!)

"ISTE 2011: Unlocking Potential" by dmcordell
"Portrait" taken by Robin Henson