Monday, March 25, 2019

Hello Again

Wow, it's been almost 5 years since my last blog posting! What inspired me to begin again? Actually, it was my accountant...

In 2016, I published a book, Using Images to Teach Critical Thinking Skills. Since then, I've been collecting modest royalties and deducting professional expenses, including conference costs, on my income tax. Last year, I just traveled for personal reasons, my only relevant deduction being ALA membership renewal. I joked with my H & R Block person that I wished I could write off my upcoming trip to France. She told me I could, if it involved research for another book.

Hmmm. The last time I saw Paris was in 1968, as a 21-year-old college student. Things in my life, Paris, and the world in general, have changed a bit since then. I've decided to start blogging about my memories and, eventually, the actual trip. Perhaps I'll be inspired to write a biographical piece, or some sort of fiction, and earn those deductions. At any rate, it will be fun reminiscing!

Paris - Champs-Élysées (1968) by Roger W

Saturday, March 29, 2014


It started, as so many interesting projects do, with a conversation on Twitter...

John Schumacher (@MrSchuReads) started it off by commenting:

 I just had to know more:

and, of course, add my own piece to the story:

plus additional background:

By this time, others had joined in the conversation, including Andy Plemmons (@plemmonsa), Jennifer Reed (@libraryreeder), Heather Moorefield (@actinginthelib), and Sherry Gick (@LibraryFanatic). Andy proposed that librarians Tell Your #whylib Story for School Library Month (April).  Jennifer provided the #whylib hashtag.

So, here goes!

My path to the profession was, unsurprisingly, if you know me, not exactly a straight line. Although I grew up loving reading, books, and libraries, my first choice of a college major was Mathematics. A fascination with Algebra, solving puzzles (and devouring mysteries) did not survive advanced levels of Calculus; halfway through Freshman year, I switched to English. After thoroughly enjoying the syllabus, I graduated with a B.A. and no clear career course. 

I spent two years as a social caseworker in New Rochelle, NY, then reverted to my true love and applied to C.W. Post, for admission to their MLS program. As a graduate assistant, I got to work in the university library and assist professors with research projects. It was a wonderful opportunity to sample the profession, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After graduating, I worked in one public library as a Junior Librarian in the Children's Room, and in another covering the Reference Desk (in pre-Internet days) on holidays and weekends.

More turns in the path: my husband and I moved back upstate (Adirondack area of New York) to manage a campground. Eventually, Tim accepted a position as a graphic artist, and I successively clerked in a bookstore, worked in a child care facility, served as a special education assistant, and put in evening hours at the local community college library. When offered an opportunity to sub as a school librarian, I started the process that eventually led to my certification as a New York State teacher librarian, a position I subsequently filled until my "retirement." All of my prior experience, varied as it was, helped prepare me for the diverse demands of a K-12 school library. Although I'm not in a classroom any longer, I work part-time for CyberSmart Education Company, do some free-lance writing, and enjoy presenting at a variety of professional conferences.

The threads that tie all this together are a love of literature, a pleasure in learning, and the desire to share both of these enthusiasms with others.

#whylib? Why ever NOT!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On New Year's Day

"Another Year With Thee" by dmcordell
 As I have done for the past few years, I've created a short slideshare with some highlights of the last 12 months. It serves as both a reminder of what I've done, and a pointer to what might lie ahead.

Another task for the new year is to update my blog Flickr badge generator. This is my 6th year of participation in the 365 Challenge. I find that this activity acts as a visual journal, while stretching my powers of creativity and observation. The other members of the Challenge groups post their own contributions, so there are constant examples of innovative photography from which I can learn.

The groups I belong to are Project 365, 2014/365, and 365 Project. To learn how to create a badge generator for any type of Flickr set, you can refer to the posting I originally wrote in 2010.

I hope that 2014 finds all of you full of optimism and enthusiasm for the future. Have fun, take lots of photos, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Intellectual Property...and Passion

This Autumn, I had the pleasure of visiting a digital photography class at Fort Ann Central School to discuss copyright, plagiarism and fair use, particularly in regard to digital images. I shared some resources with the students, then told them the story of educator Alec Couros's experience with  the uncredited use of one of his original photos.

A few months later, I was blindsided by an even more egregious example of copyright violation.

As an amateur, but passionate, photographer, I take pleasure in sharing my original captures with others, via Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking venues. Except for the photos of family members, I usually attach a Creative Commons license to my work, allowing others to use individual shots with attribution.

If you are a Flickr user, you probably know that there is a mail option on the site, accessed by hovering over your icon in the top right corner of the site. I am occasionally contacted, via this mailbox, by people or organizations who wish to use my content.

"Flickr mail" by dmcordell

On 12/06/13, I opened this message:

"Stolen Picture" by dmcordell

To backtrack just a bit... on September 13, one of my photos, There Is A Crack In Everything, was selected for Flickr Explore. This is quite an honor, and means that an image gets an amazing number of views (6,468 as of this moment). The "thief" mentioned in the above email had posted my photograph in his/her photostream with no attribution (evidently an ongoing practice for him/her, since others have contacted me about their photos also being stolen).

Fortunately, Flickr has a mechanism for dealing with these types of issues.

After clicking into "Report Abuse" and "Someone is posting photos that I have taken in their Flickr account," I was redirected to the Yahoo page dealing with Copyright and Intellectual Property. I followed the procedure indicated, and within a few hours, the photo was removed from the offending site. The poster had tried to disguise the theft by changing the date of the photo, but since Flickr itself had chosen the image from my photostream, such a lame tactic was doomed to failure.

"Copyright infringement" by dmcordell

I sincerely thank the person who alerted me to this blatant theft of my original work. Monetarily, there was little or nothing at stake. But when it's your passion that is trampled upon and discounted, strong action is indicated.

“Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping... waiting... and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir... open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us... guides us. Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank. Without passion, we'd be truly dead.” -Joss Whedon

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Power of We

My first tweet, on September 29, 2007, was not exactly brimming with enthusiasm:

Fortunately, I stuck around, eventually adding other sites (Flickr, Facebook, Plurk) to my social networking neighborhood.

Where my blogging has slowed down, the connections I make with professional colleagues, friends, and family are frequent and vibrant. We share resources and photos, make plans to meet, and keep in touch where physical distance precludes face-to-face interaction.

I often refer to myself as an embedded librarian, but social librarian would be just as apt. Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends, Karen Wright-Balbier, along with her collaborators Andrea Keller, Michael Soskil, and Dyane Smokorowski, posted a link to the Kid Wish Project:

"Greetings and welcome to our Kid Wishes 2013-14 Project where we link Life Skills Special Needs Classrooms with Mainstream Classrooms for a Holiday Card and New Years Wish for the World Exchange.  Our hope is by partnering students across the continent for a cultural exchange, we can begin a dialogue of personal perspectives for global positive impact.   We would love for your classrooms to participate for our quick turnaround adventure, make new friends, and share what wishes your students have for 2014."
Andrea has also written a blog posting further explaining the Kid Wish Project.

Since I no longer have students of my own, I volunteered to spread the word on my network. I've received some responses already, and may even get to visit a local classroom to see the project in action.

While Karen, Andrea, Michael, and Dyane are connected educators, their contact lists obviously differ from mine. One voice on Twitter or Facebook is powerful. Our combined voices magnify that power to a significant degree.

Social networking isn't just for idle chitchat. Used in a positive way, it can expand our horizons and enrich the lives of our students.

If it's appropriate for your situation, please consider participating in Kid Wish. If that isn't possible, then take a minute to spread the good word. It's a worthwhile project and a true reflection of what the upcoming holidays are really all about.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In My Life

"Icy reflection" by dmcordell
The house is quiet, on the cusp of a busy Thanksgiving gathering. Time to take a moment for reflection.

How is this retirement gig playing out? Well, I still attend, and give presentations at, professional conferences. I'm active in social networking, and participate in the photo-a-day 365 project (many people I meet f2f for the first time know me through my photos). Occasionally, I visit classrooms via Skype or interact with students as a collaborating teacher at my former school. My online work for CyberSmart Education is interesting and accommodates itself to my travel and family schedule.

What do I value most? Top priority these days is interacting with my granddaughter. Although I was a stay-at-home mom myself, I find that I had forgotten (or maybe I was too busy to fully appreciate) the wonder of discovering the world anew with a young child. I teach her sign language and read stories; she shares her toys and her kisses and her unconditional love. We are a pair.

Another source of satisfaction is functioning as as embedded librarian for my far-flung network of friends and acquaintances. In my definition of the term, that means I find and share resources, connect people, do a bit of research on topics of interest: it's not that I have special talents, it's the fact that I have the unencumbered time that others might lack. I spent years acquiring my teaching and librarian skills, and I'm not about to turn my back on the profession that I love. Besides, I'd be terrible at shuffleboard.

I am thankful for family and friends, reasonable health, travel opportunities, and a comfortable home to anchor my journeys.

I remember the past. I dream of the future. I love the now.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

"Playground fun with Grandma" by Ellen White

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

There's Plenty of Room at the Top

summit: the highest level or degree that can be attained; a conference or meeting of high-level leaders, usually called to shape a program of action. -TheFreeDictionary

Last week, I again had the pleasure of attending the SLJ (School Library Journal) Leadership Summit, held this year in Austin, Texas.

This gathering is purposely kept small, but it is by no means "exclusive." Teacher Librarians and their education partners need only apply before the list is filled. While attendees must cover their own travel and lodging expenses, there is no registration fee.

The Summit theme was "Transformation Through Effective Collaboration." Keynote speakers Annie Murphy Paul and Antero Garcia addressed this topic from their unique perspectives. Ms. Paul, talking about "The Science of Interest," explored how learning works, linking the nurturing of interest to the growing of knowledge. Mr. Garcia's presentation on "Participation and Collaboration as Critical Transformation" may be viewed on the SLJ website.

The Keynote Panel,  an administrative team from Vancouver, WA Public Schools, discussed "Pivot Points and Opportunities for Teacher Librarians." A follow-up Leadership Exchange offered attendees the chance to pose questions about collaboration strategies in small breakout groups.

Two additional panels viewed collaboration from other perspectives. During "Storytelling in Transition," authors and other creators examined how the art of sharing stories continues to evolve, with readers/viewers increasingly becoming part of the experience rather than passive consumers.

"Smart Stakeholders" featured representatives of the publishing companies that helped sponsor the Summit. Their message was that a business-librarian partnership is essential, as publishers seek to create resources that complement the needs of the students for whom they are purchased.

American Library Association President, Barbara Stripling, eloquently spoke about how "School Libraries Change Lives," and offered those present an opportunity to sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries.

Also valuable were the Fast Learning short presentations by Beth Yoke, Carolyn Foote, Stephanie Ham, Deborah Jones, Jennifer D. LaBoon & Cindy Buchanan, and Joel Castro.

I'd like to take a moment to recognize the approach taken by the Summit's corporate sponsors, Capstone, Brain Hive, Gale, Junior Library Guild, Lerner, Mackin, Rosen, and Rourke. They gave us gifts,  hosted dinners, and went out of their way to generate positive interactions. While representatives were available to answer questions about products and services, there were no hard sell tactics. They were there to thank us, and, by extension, all their library customers. It was a class act all the way.

There were a number of people present whom I already knew, either through social networking sites or past conference interactions; others I met for the first time. As wonderful as virtual connections can be, nothing compares to a face-to-face conversation, which might veer off into unexpected, enlightening, or delightful directions.

Summit Sites
Editorial Director, Rebecca T. Miller, told me that SLJ wants the Summit to fulfill many needs: to be informative, empowering, and enjoyable. Host cities are chosen as destinations that will offer opportunities for attendees to relax and explore a bit when formal events are over. Austin certainly met and exceeded that requirement. I'm sure the SLJ Summit 2014 location, St. Paul, MN, will be just as much fun to visit.

I understand how difficult it can be for Teacher Librarians to get administrative approval for professional conferences. If you can only attend one program next year, you might want to consider SLJ's a mighty "little" conference, where EVERYONE is a leader.

"Glorious and sublime Librarians." -Annie Murphy Paul

See these and other photos at SLJ Summit, Austin, Texas

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flickr Explore

"There Is A Crack In Everything" by dmcordell
One of the ways that I choose to connect with others, in a visible and (I hope) meaningful way is through photography.

For the past five years, I've been active in a few 365 challenge groups, posting a new photo on Flickr every day. Some of my images tell a story, others attempt to capture the beauty of nature or the uniqueness of the people with whom I interact in my daily life. These photosets serve as a visual diary as well as an impromptu "course" in the art of the photograph. Seeing the work of others, having them offer praise for my more successful efforts, helps me to grow as - yes - an artist.

In addition to uploading them to Flickr, I share the images on Twitter, Facebook, and Plurk, thus broadening the reach of my offerings. On a good day, my daily photo might get 50-100 views, with possibly a few comments and/or favorites. An exceptionally striking or timely shot might draw an even larger audience. Extensive use of tagging contributes to the number of hits recorded.

Last week, I posted the above photo. I had just finished reading Louise Penny's latest Inspector Gamache novel, How the Light Gets In, and was struck by the Leonard Cohen lyrics that inspired both the title and the plot:
"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
 As I tracked the history of my photo, I noticed first an upswell, then a tidal wave of interest. The numbers began to zoom: 500, 1,000 views...crazy numbers. I didn't understand some of the comments, until someone in my network asked if the image had been chosen for Flickr Explore. Therein lies the answer.

According to some information that I found on the site,
"Explore is Flickr's way of showcasing the most interesting photos within a given point in time -- usually over a 24 hour period. Flickr receives about 6,000 uploads every minute -- That's about 8.6 million photos a day! From this huge group of images, the Flickr Interestingness algorithm chooses only 500 images to showcase for each 24-hour period. That's only one image in every 17,000!"

And how does Flickr define "Interestingness"?
"There are lots of elements that make something 'interesting' (or not) on Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic content and stories are added to Flickr."

My photo, There Is A Crack In Everything, was selected for Explore on September 13. So far, it has had 6,162 views and was favorited 169 times. Fourteen people, from countries around the world, have left comments. [I have seen some Explore images with over 25,000 views!]

While I am proud of this photograph, I don't consider it my "best" one. It was a combination of the Interestingness factors, mentioned previously, that brought it to Flickr's attention. For a few days, I tried to follow some of the tips that supposedly increase your chances of being selected for Explore. But I found that such mindfulness took the fun out of my daily shoots. So now I'm back to setting my own agenda. If lightning strikes again, I would be gratified, certainly, but I don't take photos to win recognition; I take them to satisfy my creative urges.

The most satisfying return for me is having others ask to use my images for various reasons of their own: to illustrate an article, to share in a family or genealogy newsletter, to clarify a point in a slideshow (I use a variety of CC licenses, but am quite willing to give permission for other uses, when contacted).

I would highly recommend that you visit Flickr Explore to enjoy the mix of quirky, innovative, and hauntingly beautiful photographs displayed there. 

“While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.” -Dorothea Lange

“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” -Robert Frank

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Maker Fun at the Farmers' Market

"Glens Falls Farmers' Market" by dmcordell

 A drizzly Saturday morning seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit our weekly Farmers' Market. I bought some fresh vegetables, homemade bread, and a molasses cookie to nibble on.

In addition to produce, flowers, and baked goods, today's market featured a Maker Space. Although the volunteers in charge had never heard the term before, they were happy to embrace the concept and asked me to blog about their efforts.

"Maker space" by dmcordell

 The activity, run by the Warren County 4-H Club and Tri-County Transition Town (a sustainable living group), invited visitors to create upcycled t-shirt bags. Supplies and sewing machines were available, along with free samples and printed instructions (adapted from instructables) for future projects. A fact sheet about plastic bags added to the educational value of the project.

"Facts about plastic bags" by dmcordell

Crafting similar t-shirt bags would be a great classroom activity, marrying creativity with authentic learning. Students could make the bags and tuck information about recycling and environmental issues inside.

Coincidentally, today my Twitter feed linked me to an excellent blog posting, Why the Maker Movement matters to educators, by Sylvia Martinex and Gary Stager. 

Maker spaces are not exclusively about building high tech models. Gather up some t-shirts and let your students sew up a useful product with a socially-responsible twist.

"T-shirt bag" by dmcordell

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Reading

"Outside the New York Public Library" by dmcordell
Our local newspaper ran an article today about a nearby public library and its summer reading program.

Evidently one young man has won prizes for the last five years because of the number of books he completed as part of a reading challenge. While the children's room aide applauds this accomplishment and sees no problem in continuing the competition, her director wants to change the procedure to give every child a chance to win by entering participants' name in a random drawing.

Each woman makes some valid points:
"Casey [the library aide] said everyone in the club is on a level playing field because all begin and end the same day and all have the opportunity to read as many books as they wish...My feeling is you work, you get it. That’s just the way it is in anything." 
An opposing viewpoint comes from Gandron, the director, "Tyler 'hogs' the contest every year and he should 'step aside.' Other kids quit because they can’t keep up."

I am a very fast reader. As a child, I could have easily bested my peers in this type of contest - but I read because I loved it, not for praise or prizes. When reading now, I sometimes have to consciously slow myself down, to savor language and grasp nuances.

Some of my school library students devoured books, showing up many times during the week to select new titles. Others were plodders, slowly working through their reading selections. There is room in the world for both approaches to literature, especially when it comes to reading for pleasure rather than solely for information.

Are reading contests beneficial to students? Would a book club be a better choice...or would that seem too "schooly"? I'd be interested in learning how other librarians approach this issue.