Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marble and Mud

"Life is made up of marble and mud." -Nathaniel Hawthorne

Jeremy came back to visit today. After graduating last year, he enlisted in the Navy. He has completed his training and will report for duty at Pearl Harbor on December 14.

Joelle gave me a poster today advertising her dance studio's holiday presentation of The Nutcracker. My daughter and I will enjoy the magic of music and dance as we celebrate the holiday season.

Two unique personalities, two students whose lives have intersected mine.

"Every experience in life, everything with which we have come in contact in life, is a chisel which has been cutting away at our life statue, molding, modifying, shaping it. We are part of all we have met. Everything we have seen, heard, felt or thought has had its hand in molding us, shaping us." -Orison Swett Marden

Monday, November 26, 2007

Grinning Inside

“Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.” -Melba Colgrove

There's been a lot of blogging lately about the Kindle, and I can see that this electronic device has many positive attributes.

But it will never be able to duplicate the experience of sharing a beautifully illustrated, rollicking picture book like my new favorite, "I Ain't Gonna Paint No More" (Karen Beaumont), with a class of enthusiastic first graders.

When a classroom teacher tells you that the kids sang the story to her as soon as they returned from library time, you know you have a hit on your hands.

The digital world is wonderful, but there is still a time and a place for books.

"Then I thought of reading - the nice and subtle happiness of reading ... this joy not dulled by age, this polite and unpunishable vice, this selfish, serene, lifelong intoxication." -Logan Pearsall Smith

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dangling Conversation

"Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,

Couplets out of rhyme,

In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation

And the superficial sighs,

Are the borders of our lives."

Simon & Garfunkel, The Dangling Conversation

Just as I'm starting to feel comfortable in my new identity as a blogger, there are ominous rumblings about the "death of blogging".

Ryan Bretag is not so much condemning blogs as questioning their validity as "participatory media tools". He describes his own frustration at failing to to "add much in terms of value-added through analysis or reflective thought that adds to our collaborative efforts to learn and improve education." Troubled by a lack of common goals and absence of "constructive confrontation", he wonders if blogs have stalled in their necessary evolutionary process.

Many of members of my PLC have either responded to Ryan's posting or begun parallel discussions. While recounting details of the Stager and Richardson UStream "Bootleg", Clay Burell mentioned "blogger burnout" and the lack of interaction by "top-tier bloggers" when comments are left on their pages. The announcement in October by Will Richardson that he was considering giving up blogging to concentrate on Skype chats caused consternation and controversy, as those outside of Will's inner circle contemplated losing his direct guidance and leadership [he continues to post, but not as frequently as in the past]. Clay reminds us (and them) that the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with some of the leaders in educational technology has always been a key benefit of reading and writing blogs.

A commenter on Ryan's post, Evan Scherr, is critical of those who spend time "telling me what they are doing in their classroom. For many of us, we can't get excited about how you are using UStream in the classroom when the UStream site is blocked by our public school district. We can't get excited about how your class built a MySpace page, when MySpace is blocked by our school district." I strongly disagree with this criticism. Although it can be disheartening to read about innovation that is (presently) out of my reach, every example I am able to cite from the edublogosphere is a valuable persuasive tool in helping convince my administrators, BOE, and fellow teachers of the value of embedded technology tools. Jo McLeay's Voicethread, Anthony Armstrong's podcast project, Cathy Nelson's experiments in both these venues, Clay Burell's digital storytelling renditions of "Paradise Lost", Carolyn Foote's virtual author visit via Skype...all serve to inspire rather discourage me. If they can do it, so can I; more importantly, if their students can do it, so can - and should - mine.

Finally, I'd like to share a quote from SC Morgan: "Twitter is for the linking--blogs are for the thinking." Twitter serves as a way to stay connected with colleagues. Blogs are better suited for the conversations, debates, explorations that will result in deeper understanding and professional growth.

"It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought." -Agnes Repplier

"With thee conversing I forget all time." -John Milton

"IMG_0214" by blair christensen

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Day in the Life

"I read the news today oh boy" -The Beatles, A Day in the Life

Items of interest reprinted in my local daily newspaper this morning:

"But there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

"Reading the Tulsa Tribune" by DScott28604

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The World's Great Anguish

"Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic throng, the coward and the meek who see the world's great anguish and its wrong, and dare not speak." -Ralph Chaplin

The Megan Meier tragedy has been on my mind a lot lately. Yesterday I took an informal poll of some upper elementary and high school students, hoping to get a sense of their technology use and their awareness of how to be safe online.

Approximately five of forty 5th and 6th graders said they had their own Myspace or Facebook accounts. A few boys said they occasionally posted messages using another person's log-in. When I reminded them that the legal age for signing up for these services is 14 (the oldest of them were 12 years old), they laughed and said that they just clicked on whatever birth year would allow them to join. Many more of them had webkinz virtual pets. The webkinz owners enjoyed the online interaction and didn't seem bothered by the limited messaging that the official site allows.

It was quite a different story with my high school Current Events students. The boys (our sole female class member was absent) estimated that 2/3 of the middle school and high school population belongs to Myspace or Facebook. They seemed to feel reasonably safe online and accept the fact that our school blocks all social networking and most interactive sites.

Since the Meier case is very much in the news lately, I had my class watch an interview with Megan's parents and read some tips from the Department of Homeland Security on Dealing with Cyberbullies. The students' most interesting reactions were in response to some short YouTube clips, prepared by the non-profit Ad Council.

The first video, Cyberbullying Talent Show featured a fresh-faced little girl standing in front of a school assembly, sweetly listing the things wrong with a classmate ("Her dad doesn't work, they have no money, that's why she wears that nasty pink sweater"). In Cyberbullying Kitchen a similar scenario unfolds as one teenager calmly tells her "friend" (ironically named Megan) that "you are a tramp" and the "most desperate girl [he] knows - besides your Mom". The idea being presented in both vignettes was "If you wouldn't say it in person, why say it online?"

My students seemed shocked by the comments, even though their own language occasionally strays from the "school appropriate". Perhaps they hold girls to a different code of behavior, or perhaps hearing such insults being used in front of a teacher made them uncomfortable. The point that words written online can be just as hurtful as words spoken aloud was well made and well taken.

Although I had heard of a girl being harassed online by her classmates last year, none of the boys said they had ever felt uncomfortable or threatened online. I asked them to write their reaction to the Megan Meier case, and these are some of their responses:

"I think that it's very sad. If people weren't such bullies, she'd probably still be alive, to live her life."

"Cyberbullying is a problem. I think it needs to be dealt with. I am not scared by cyberbullying because I think cyberbullies are little woosies trying to act tough on the internet."

"I think that the whole Megan Meier case is just sad. I think that she should have alerted somebody about it. She shouldn't have done what she did. [committed suicide] They should definitely start making laws concerning Myspace, chat rooms, and other stuff like that."

"I have never been bullied or bullied anyone. It is wrong and should be stopped...There should be certain rules and if they're broken, certain punishments should be set up. It is wrong..."

"I think it should be monitored on Myspace and others [sites]. I think the people [who set up the fake "Josh" account] should be prosecuted."

"I think that this case is very sad. I wish that someone could have helped this girl or that she could have figured out what was really going on."

"Cyberbullying is a problem. Megan Meier should not have died."

"Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
-John Donne

"Saddness" by RadoB

The First Fall of Snow

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?" -J. B. Priestley
"True solitude is a din of birdsong, seething leaves, whirling colors, or a clamor of tracks in the snow." -Edward Hoagland
“Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow" -T.S. Eliot

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." –Albert Einstein

Monday, November 19, 2007

Timor mortis

Timor mortis conturbat me is a Latin phrase commonly found in late medieval English poetry. It can be translated into a number of different ways, most literally as "fear of death confounds me". However, a better translation in the context of the poetic usage of the phrase is "fear of death upsets me". Another looser translation is "I am scared to death of dying". The phrase comes from a responsory of the medieval Office of the Dead, the third nocturn of Matins...Wikipedia

It was from a Twitter friend that I first learned about the Megan Meier tragedy. This young teenager took her own life after being the victim of cyber bullying on a MySpace account. The disparaging messages that led to Megan's suicide were actually written by adult neighbors monitoring their own daughter's online activities.

Megan Meier's parents thought they were adequately supervising her computer use. They knew about her social networking and had been told of the fictitious "Josh" who was messaging their daughter. When Megan began responding to unexpectedly cruel posts with vulgar language, her mother told insisted that she stop such "upsetting" behavior. Twenty minutes later, Megan Meier was dead by hanging.

Wesley Fryer
recommends stronger anti-bullying instruction in schools, more parental involvement in prevention programs, and increased emphasis on positive online experiences like digital storytelling to showcase information literacy skills. He also urges parents and school districts to "encourage students to socially network online in age-appropriate, moderated and non-commercial environments like and/or"

Tomorrow in class I'll be sharing the story with my high school Current Events students and tackling the issue of cyber bullying. Perhaps I can get them to realize the seriousness of bullying, whether in person or online.

On a dark and cold November evening, my surroundings are as somber as my thoughts. Megan, requiescat in pace.

"The most painful death in all the world is the death of a child. When a child dies, when one child dies—not the 11 per 1,000 we talk about statistically, but the one that a mother held briefly in her arms—he leaves an empty place in a parent’s heart that will never heal." -Thomas H Kean, Governor of New Jersey

"A child miseducated is a child lost." -John F. Kennedy

"Writer's Close 04" by cx1uk

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

"la nuit blanche – not retouched" by Dom Dada AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works

"One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions." - Admiral Grace Hopper

Depending on their results, bloggers have reacted with delight, dismay, or indifference to the ratings issued by the Blog Readability Test. Just what the test is evaluating, and how the scores are calculated, is never explained.

A bit of online searching brought me to Juicy Studio, a site whose mission is to "promote best practice for web developers in a fast moving industry." One of the Quality Assurance links takes you to Readability Tests:

"Gunning Fog, Flesch Reading Ease, and Flesch-Kincaid are reading level algorithms that can be helpful in determining how readable your content is. Reading level algorithms only provide a rough guide, as they tend to reward short sentences made up of short words. Whilst they're rough guides, they can give a useful indication as to whether you've pitched your content at the right level for your intended audience."

All three algorithms are used to evaluate any given website. The results are interpreted and compared to the readability of familiar documents, from TV Guide to academic papers.

If you are targeting a particular audience or would just like to analyze your writing, the Juicy Studio test is a far more useful tool than the showier "criticsrant" variation.

"Away with the cant of Measures, not men! -- the idle supposition that it is the harness and not the horses that draw the chariot along. No, Sir, if the comparison must be made, if the distinction must be taken, men are everything, measures comparatively nothing." -George Canning

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Can You/Will You Read This Blog?

From the Blue Skunk Blog: The Blog Readability Test
This Blog is at a Genius Reading Level.
I submitted my blog address, and this was the result. I don't know the criteria and can't decide if such a "classification" will hurt or enhance my readership. So I'm posting the "results" as a one-time oddity and passing on the permanent site badge.

Genius is as genius does.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'" -Genesis 2:16

"That was the birth of sin. Not doing it, but KNOWING about it. Before the apple, [Adam and Eve] had shut their eyes and their minds had gone dark. Now, they peeped and pried and imagined. They watched themselves." -D.H. Lawrence

Adam and Eve were tempted not by the Tree of Life, but by the Tree of Knowledge. Their desire to taste the "forbidden fruit" of this tree resulted in expulsion from Paradise.

Satan/Lucifer declared it "Better to reign in hell than serve in heav'n." (John Milton, Paradise Lost).

Another "light-bearer", Prometheus, risked the ire of Zeus to bring the secret of kindling fire to mortals - and suffered daily torment as a punishment.

The mythologies of many cultures warn men of the consequences of seeking to know that which is hidden or forbidden. Does the greater danger lie in recognizing evil or in being unaware of its existence?

Should we be innocent or armed?

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.AttributionNoncommercial

Uploaded on February 13, 2007 by Lawrence OP

Sunday, November 11, 2007


"We all live under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon." -Konrad Adenauer

I've been thinking about my role as Librarian and how it's changed through the years.

Some of the changes are the result of shifting standards and curricula. But the most meaningful ones, the ones that have transformed my perceptions and shifted my teaching goals, are those that resulted from my participation in an online information literacy course and subsequent headlong dive into blogging.

Many teachers work in professional isolation, regardless of the size of their institution. The problem is magnified for librarians, who are frequently the only media specialist in their building, if not their district.

Discovering an online community with which to interact has been literally a life-altering experience for me. My new cyber colleagues share information, tools, and best practices in a constantly refreshed conversation. They teach in Texas and South Carolina, Australia and Korea. We share successes, dissect failures, and brainstorm possibilities.

It is not always a comfortable environment. There are the occasional philosophical "wars" and critical comments. Sometimes the innovations of others leave me feeling backward or inadequate. But someone always responds to my questions, someone always takes the time to reassure me that my efforts are worthwhile.

My new world is scary, exhilarating, exciting. It's where I want to be; I won't go back.

“Never look down to test the ground before taking your next step; only he who keeps his eye fixed on the far horizon will find the right road.” - Dag Hammarskjold

"porte vers l'horizon" by coincoyote

There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image. AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Comet Holmes

"Comet 17P/Holmes" by Happy Cat Dave

"Comets importing change of times and states,Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars." - William Shakespeare, Henry VI

There is something new in our firmament: Comet Holmes has erupted into a bright "fuzzball" visible to the naked eye.

Discovered in 1892 by Edwin Holmes, the comet, officially named Comet 17/P, occasionally and inexplicably grows in magnitude. Between October 23-24, 2007, it increased in brightness until, by October 25, it appeared as the third brightest star in the Perseus constellation.

My husband lured me away from books and computer to step into the cold, clear night and observe this strange phenomenon. We reminisced about previous celestial events (the Northern Lights) and non-events (the much ballyhooed but ultimately disappointing Comet Khoutek of the early '70s) that we had shared.

And we observed:

“The endless, foolish merriment of stars
Beside the pale cold sorrow of the moon” -Harriet Monroe

If a Tree Falls

*"If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?" -Philosophical riddle

I had the great good fortune to hear Joyce Valenza speak about both evidence-based practice and library 2.0 this week. Joyce is a dynamic speaker who manages to convey the importance of the information she shares while simultaneously encouraging and challenging her audience to make a positive difference in the districts where they teach.

Joyce reminded us that the focus of our "noise" should be to advocate for programs that directly impact student learning. Emphasis needs to shift from "what's good for the library" to "what's good for the learners". The treefalls wiki includes links to this and other presentations Joyce has done; it is a "must read" for any educator - not just librarians - who wants to use web 2.o tools to impact student success. And shouldn't that be all of us?

"When there is an original sound in the world, it makes a hundred echoes." -John A. Shedd

*I cheated a bit on the picture: we woke up a few weeks ago to find that a pine in our front yard had fallen over the previous night. We didn't hear it come down, but my husband, who had to cut and remove the pieces, can testify that the tree definitely fell, whether it was heard or not!

Monday, November 5, 2007


"A bunch of germs were whooping it up
In the Bronchial Saloon.
The bacillus handling the larynx
Was jazzing a gag-time tune,
While back of the tongue in a solo game
Sat Dangerous Ah Kerchoo.
And watching his luck was his light of love
The malady known as Flu." -Cal Beacock
The gift that keeps on giving: one (or more) of our children has shared a virus with me, thankfully a cold and not the flu.

Although I'm a veteran teacher, I do occasionally fall victim to the germs that are sprayed, wiped, and sneezed on us daily. In a K-12 Library, you can't even assume that it's the little ones who are the culprits, since none of the students seem to be inhibited when it comes to distributing viral largesse.

Coincidentally, three eighth grade science classes have begun doing research on viruses. The teacher conferred with me beforehand and we decided on some appropriate medical sources. Friday was their day in the reference section of the LMC. Today, we all headed to the computer lab to continue searching on some sites that the teacher and I had pre-selected. Neither the adults nor the students were pleased to find that many of the web links were blocked by our district filter. The IT tells us that we can request specific addresses be temporarily unblocked, but that teachers do not and will not have override privileges. In some instances, I resorted to using Google cached information to get some facts or statics for the increasingly frustrated researchers.

The experience was as unpleasant as having the flu; and none of the students were "infected" with a desire to participate in similar projects in the future.

What are we trying to protect them from? And what are they losing in the process?

“You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man's freedom. You can be free only if I am free.” -Clarence Darrow

"influenza_virus" by changturtle

Friday, November 2, 2007

...and then where should we be?

"Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?"George Orwell, Animal Farm

Item #1
Pulitzer Award-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. recently voiced his outrage over FEMA's "information management". Seems that the Agency called a news conference on very short notice, then planted FEMA staffers in the audience to act as "reporters" and ask mildly phrased questions about government response to the California wildfires.

Pitts cites this as just another example of the Bush
administration "manipulating news and information."

Item #2
The Child Internet Safety Act (CIPA) requires that:
  • Schools and libraries subject to CIPA may not receive the discounts offered by the E-Rate program unless they certify that they have an Internet safety policy and technology protection measures in place. An Internet safety policy must include technology protection measures to block or filter Internet access to pictures that: (a) are obscene, (b) are child pornography, or (c) are harmful to minors, for computers that are accessed by minors.

  • Schools subject to CIPA are required to adopt and enforce a policy to monitor online activities of minors; and

  • Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement a policy addressing: (a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet; (b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications; (c) unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online; (d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and (e) restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.

In everyday language, this means that schools must filter internet access for all users. If valuable learning resources are blocked (try researching AIDS or even Civil War battles), and no administrator is willing or able to unblock them, at least we can all feel comfortable knowing that our children are "safe". On school computers. When closely supervised. Usually.

Item #3
USA Today reports that the Nashville school system "plans to become the first in the nation to use security cameras that spot intruders with controversial face-recognition technology." Digital photos of all students and staff members will be stored in a database. When the camera spots a face that doesn't match a stored photo, it will automatically alert security team members.

The ACLU denounced the technology as intruding on personal freedom of movement. Some police departments that tried the system have discarded it as unreliable.

No mention was made of how the procedure will prevent Columbine-like situations involving legally registered students with no prior record of violence or misbehavior.

"Big Brother is watching you.” -George Orwell, 1984

"Big Brother is watching you" by Maurosk1

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Part of the Team

"Information networks straddle the world. Nothing remains concealed. But the sheer volume of information dissolves the information. We are unable to take it all in." -Gunther Grass

David Warlick started it. His request for comments on "what does Web 2.0 mean to the school library?" inspired me to compose a short but brilliant response...which I couldn't post on my school network, because it routinely blocks any attempt at "interactive" activities.

After returning home at the end of a long, interesting day, I checked in at Twitter, scrolled through Google Reader, and came across a few more edtech postings relevant to Library 2.0.

Carolyn Foote twittered about a free School 2.0 map. The graphic was nicely done - except that it failed to include School Librarians (SLMS) in the circle of people collaborating to help students achieve success. Yes, we are Teachers; but we are also Technologists and Policymakers. I informed the creators of the site that I intend to have my artist husband create a "mini-me" to paste on the poster, suitably labeled. No way I'm going to be left out of that visual!

Over at the Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht shared a diagram that illustrates the structure necessary to support technology in schools. He described the evolution of Librarian into Literacy/Media specialist and flatly stated that " No matter how you slice it, a school should have a Literacy/Media Specialist" working as a team member along with the Educational Technologists, and Information Technologists. The team's job would be to support the overall use of technology in the school: "from professional development for staff, to teaching research skills to students, to making sure that the network systems are running smoothly."

Librarian, leader and visionary Joyce Valenza has embraced technology. Her wiki, Information Fluency, serves as a constantly expanding repository for information technology resources.

The 21st century Library Media Specialist is no longer just a guardian of knowledge or an all-knowing guru, but more a guide and companion on the search for information. That's my answer to David: Web 2.0 means that the Library is now a concept more than a place. It's not constrained by time or space. Libraries provide resources for living an enriched and networked life. And Librarians exist to help make the necessary connections.

"Not having the information you need when you need it leaves you wanting. Not knowing where to look for that information leaves you powerless. In a society where information is king, none of us can afford that." -Lois Horowitz