Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Destined for le top

'I always knew,' Miss Piggy once told TV Guide, 'that I was destined for le top.'

She has it all: fame, fortune, sex appeal, and a cute green boyfriend. What life and career lessons can we learn from that porker extraordinaire, Miss Piggy?
Live life according to your own rules:
Miss Piggy refused to be defined by her gender or species. Don't be a prisoner of your job description.
Determination can take you anywhere:
An unlikely candidate for super-stardom, Miss Piggy chose to ignore skeptics and blaze her own path. Don't let others slow you down.
Work with what you're given:
Big became beautiful for the Divine Miss P. Turn liabilities into assets: exploit your uniqueness.

Always leave 'em wanting more:
There was a hint of mystery, that undefinable "something" that set Miss Piggy apart. She didn't feel compelled to reveal all (thank goodness!) and neither should you.

Additional words of wisdom from Miss Piggy:

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

“Only time can heal your broken heart just as only time can heal his arms and legs.”

“Never eat anything you can't lift.”

“Never purchase beauty products in a hardware store.”

"The Muppet Show - Miss Piggy" TV Image

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Rainbow Connection

"Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?

Somebody thought of that

and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?

And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,

the lovers, the dreamers and me."

-Paul Williams, The Rainbow Connection, sung by Kermit the Frog

I will not be a cultural snob. I will acknowledge poetry where I find it and refrain from mocking the sensibilities of others.

When words spark emotion and melodies trigger mood, I will smile at the sentiment and search for the vision.

Who am I to dismiss a song and a dream?

"Rainbows have nothing to hide" by RonAlmog

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Providence of Adventurers

"Chance is the providence of adventurers." -Napoleon Bonaparte

An interesting link appeared in my Reader yesterday. It explained how sports fans can "purchase a contract associated with a specific team that translates into a ticket to a championship such as the Super Bowl or Final Four if that team reaches the game." The cost varies inversely with the previous success of the chosen franchise; if a long shot does well, the fan could end up with a desirable ticket at a rock-bottom price.

Suppose "education fans", perhaps large corporations, adopted this model, subsidizing students with less than stellar records, taking a chance that they might one day become productive employees. Scholarships and grants do this to some extent, but are less accessible to underachievers. The key ingredient would be desire, just as it is in sports: how much do you want to win, what are you willing to do to accomplish success.

The adventurers in this case would be both the investor, willing to take a risk, and the individual, willing to accept the challenge to perform.

Or, perhaps the analogy could be applied to schools themselves: would the district (the bettor) be willing to allow some freedom of choice regarding class structure, teaching methods, and professional development to the staff members (the competitor/athlete)? Not all teachers would accept or even desire such a choice, but for those who accepted the challenge to greatness...

Would you dare?

"What kind of man would live where there is no daring? I don't believe in taking foolish chances but nothing can be accomplished without taking any chance at all." -Charles A. Lindbergh

"One chance is all you need." -Jesse Owens

"Roulette" by stoneflower

Monday, January 21, 2008

Age of Aquarius

“When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then Peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius”

-Fifth Dimension, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In

A young friend of mine asked what it was like to be a "hippie" in the '60s. This is my answer.

Like most middle class children of my era, I lived a pleasant, well-regulated life. The shadow hanging over us was the specter of the "Evil Empire", Soviet Russia. The Cold War was in full swing, the Iron Curtain firmly drawn. We practiced duck and cover drills in school and shuddered at photos of mushroom clouds. The UK's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament combined the semaphore signals for N and D to produce the icon later adopted as the universal Peace Symbol.

A defining moment for my generation was the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the young, charismatic president who carried the dreams of a nation on his shoulders. After his tragic death, the world turned colder and darker. Demons had been let loose.

The Vietnam War began to escalate as many of us entered college. I listened to protest songs and marched in demonstrations in New York City and Washington, D.C. There were still good times to be had: open air concerts in Central Park, weekends exploring Greenwich Village, an unforgettable summer at Oxford University with trips to London (Carnaby Street), Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam. Beatles songs became progressively more complex mirroring the growing counter-culture mindset of college students with time to discuss issues and act on convictions. We rejected, or thought we did, our parents' values. They didn't like or understand our long hair and activism.

My present-day students use the word "hippie" in a mocking or derogatory sense. One elementary-aged child told me that hippies live on the street, have funny clothes, and don't like technology. The high schoolers think being a hippie was all about drugs. When I tell them that I never chose to participate in the drug scene they don't believe me, but it's the truth. I was high on the experience, the music, the sense of being part of a youth movement unlike any seen before.

The war dragged on and a lottery was instituted. Young men I knew chose to resist the draft by emigrating to Canada or fleeing for parts unknown. My husband, a young sailor at the time I was a peace marcher, tells me that servicemen felt unwelcome or invisible on returning home. I was anti-war, not anti-soldier, I reply. We both agree that we would not want to see our son drafted or serving in the armed forces.

Our wedding was as non-traditional as we could make it without offending our families. My hair flowed past my waist as I walked down the aisle. The music we selected included "In My Life" and "Morning Has Broken".

With the arrival of two children, my life settled into a more conventional pattern. But my attitude and world view are still firmly based on what I experienced as I matured in the late '50s and '60s.

I still consider myself a member of the Woodstock generation.

"And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I don't know who l am
But you know life is for learning" -Joni Mitchell, Woodstock

"Keep true to the dreams of your youth." - Johann Friedrich von Schiller

"Blah-age" by Zeusandhera
"The Companion Plan for Survival at Home" by Uh...Bob
"JFK Motorcade" by Tom Dillard
"Once Upon a Time" by dmcordell 

Saturday, January 19, 2008


"A node (Latin nodus, ‘knot’) is a critical element of any computer network. It can be defined as a point in a network at which lines intersect or branch, a device attached to a network, or a terminal or other point in a computer network where messages can be created, received, or transmitted." -Wikipedia

I find myself the nexus of a unique network, as is anyone who builds their own PLE.

My colleagues include librarians (school and public), teachers, IT, students, writers, artists, cartoonists, and just plain folks.

We exchange information, debate, create, commiserate and console.

Through blogging, tweeting, and messaging, we stay connected.

We are never alone unless we choose to be so.

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." -Jane Howard

"Node Networks" by jared

Friday, January 18, 2008

Only Those Places

"Access only those places on the Internet which are intended to be used for appropriate information retrieval, correspondence, and communication. Appropriate is defined as morally correct, free of antisocial behaviors, pornography, and any form of abusive or obscene behavior." -Secondary Student Agreement

More than 20 students, grades 7 through 12, were suspended today for violating our district's AUP (Acceptable Use Policy). The infractions covered a three-month period; miscreants lost computer and pass privileges for two weeks. Their crime was to use a website that allowed them to circumvent the school's internet filter. Most of them had been paying illicit visits to
MySpace or Facebook.

School districts across the country remain convinced that blocking inappropriate websites is the best way to keep our children safe from harm and focused on learning. Yet students continue to maneuver around school filters.

When I did some research on the issue of internet filtering and the CIPA legislation, many of the sites I found were authored by hackers offering advice on how to beat the system. Obviously, many of our middle- and high-schoolers have found the same information. By going to a
website based proxy like ZTunnel, individuals logged on to the Internet can make an end run around watchdog filters. Without prior cyber safety instruction, these users are vulnerable to whatever dangers might lurk in the digital world.

In the introduction to his safe digital and social networking presentation wiki, Wesley Fryer reminds us that
"Generally adults help young people learn to drive safely before giving them car keys and turning them loose on the streets of the world. Young people also need guidance and adult assistance to learn how to safely navigate the virtual environments of the 21st Century. Schools must be proactive, rather than merely defensive, in helping students acquire the skills of digital citizenship needed today and in the future. Simply banning read/write web tools on school networks is an inadequate response: Educators must strive to learn alongside students and parents how these technologies can be safely and powerfully used to communicate and collaborate."
Fryer's wiki provides a rich assortment of multimedia resources, including PowerPoint slides, podcasts, articles, and links all addressing the need for safe digital social networking (DSN).

Julie Lindsay describes "digital citizenship" as "knowing how to behave appropriately and responsibly with regard to technology use." Her grade 9 unit called Digital Citizenship in Education
outlines 9 elements essential to digital citizenship and provides a project outline and scoring rubrics. Also mentioned in Julie's blog is the free CyberSmart! K-8 curriculum, which provides worksheets and guided activities addressing issues like cyber safety and digital manners (citizenship).

Describing the frustrations of his students when encountering blocked sites, Clarence Fisher states
"I am still vastly against even the idea of filtering. Filtering content is a messy, inexact, and inappropriate solution to their being "bad things" online. I find it offensive and pure and simple censorship; something democracies should abhor. But as I think about our situation more, I am also worried. The Internet service that our school is provided with comes via a Manitoba government service called MERLIN. They provide highspeed service to many hospitals, libraries and schools. So in the end, it is my democratically elected government that is restricting the access of my students to information and content."

How should the education community define "appropriate information retrieval, correspondence, and communication" in the 21st century?

"The same fence that shuts others out shuts you in." -William Taylor Copeland

"The only fence against the world is a thorough knowledge of it." -John Locke

"None Shall Pass" by Clearly Ambiguous

Thursday, January 17, 2008


"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." -Albert Einstein

I had an interesting conversation with a second grade student (7 or 8 years old) yesterday. "Mrs. Cordell," he told me very seriously, "I've lost my illusions."

Intrigued, I grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen, and let myself be drawn into a conversation.

Me: What do you mean by "illusions".
Child: Sometimes I can make things happen. I made the lights in my house flicker, but my illusions weren't strong and they went away. I need more practice.

Me: How did you get your illusions?
Child: I didn't know I had any illusions, but when my cousin came from Nevada, he squeezed my shoulder and then I had illusions. He has illusions all the time.

Me: Tell me more about your illusions.
Child: When my cousin is here, we have battles on our bikes and we make each other fall off with our illusions. I know I'll have illusions back when he comes to visit again.

We finished our discussion and I and thanked him for sharing a bit of his world with me. I wonder what he's seen that moves just beyond my field of vision.

"It's life's illusions I recall
, I really don't know life at all." –Joni Mitchell, Both Sides Now

"17illusion" by Nobik Attila

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Space Beyond Measure

Paul Klee, Twittering Machine, 1922

"The 'Twittering Machine' is neither ironic or idealizing, but rather a product of the imagination, which Paul Klee's art affirms at every turn. Crank it up, and these strange, mechanical birds start to sing their hearts out against a vast, atmospheric wash backdrop that opens up a space beyond measure." -Fine Arts exam, California State University

Twitter as experiential art; conversation as creation: for those who have integrated Twitter into their lives, such claims are validated each time the connection is enabled.

Discussions continue about the value of this interactive and still evolving "social networking and micro-blogging service". In a previous post, I shared my initial reluctance to hop on yet another cyber bandwagon. Now I'd like to add some additional insights gleaned from other edubloggers.

Scott Schwister traces his "Twitter awakening" to an invitation from Carolyn Foote, who gently urged him to visit because "It's developed into a really fun and amazing little place." Scott took note of the incredible diversity of the Twitterverse, where you could learn about new apps, carry on a deep and rich conversation, shop for T-shirts, or invent a new poetic form.

In Twitter is my Village, presentations consultant Laura Athavale Fitton describes Twitter as a venue for becoming better acquainted with "a critical mass of interesting people". She emphasizes the socially connective function of this type of network rather than its professional applications.

A number of bloggers have been posting tips on how to increase the functionality of Twitter. Dave Fleet explains how to find people to follow, an essential step in building a unique, personal twitterverse. Wesley Fryer explains changes that make it easier to carry on Twitter conversations. Once connected, individuals find mentors, ask for help in locating information sources or plan collaborative projects.

Humor is an essential element, at least on my Twitter network. Brian Van Dyck offers a Twelve Step Program for those who slide into Twitter addiction and want to take back a part of their lives. Lisa Parisi blames her procrastination on the irresistible allure of Twittering.

The creators of Twitter have been promoting it as a useful tool in times of crisis.
"There have been raging wildfires and rumbling earthquakes inspiring avalanches of Twitter updates over the last few weeks [November 2007] out here on the West Coast of the US. In Tumultuous times, people turn to Twitter."
Twitter even made a guest appearance on CSI, surely a sign of some measure of social cachet.

Twitter appeals to a large community of committed users. Whether it continues to refine its capabilities or yields to an even more sophisticated form of networking remains to be seen. But for now, Twitter is the social network of choice for a significant population of educational bloggers. It offers a "space beyond measure" in which to explore, connect and expand.

"Through space the universe encompasses and swallows me up like an atom; through thought I comprehend the world." -Blaise Pascal

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Annual Report 2007

Well Dan, my gifts certainly don't lie in the area of graphic design!

My four slides represent the connectedness I've found through my blog; some of our home electronics; a quick snapshot of my school district; and, always at the center of it all, my family.

"If one does not fail at times, then one has not challenged himself." -Dr. Porsche

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Harmful Situations

"Web Wise Kids’ proven prevention strategies empower youth to recognize and resist all types of harmful situations that exist online. Situations such as social networking, blogging, Instant Messaging, online predators, cyber romances, cyber bullying, identity theft, flaming, piracy and more are introduced in our engaging and challenging Internet safety games." -Web Wise Kids website

Darren Draper's posting today certainly caught my attention. A new program, Web Wise Kids, is being introduced in some of Utah's schools to teach children internet safety through educational game playing.

Since I haven't previewed the product, I'm not qualified to pass judgment on its effectiveness. I can and will express my dismay at the overt linking of blogging and predators on the promotional banner and game description.

With the release of the National School Board Association's report on social networking, Creating and Connecting, proponents of blogging and other interactive and connective social media tools had reason to hope for a more enlightened approach to their use in elementary, middle school, and high school settings.

One of the stated goals of our educational system is to prepare students for life beyond 12th grade, in the 21st century. By questioning the safety and effectiveness of blogging as a tool for learning, Utah, and any other states who accept this approach, are doing their school population a great disservice.

University professor Daniel Lemire asserts that
“to me, my blog has become the single most powerful knowledge management tool I use. The way I use it, it gives me a view of where I am, where I’ll be, where I’m thinking about being. My blog is like my intelligence department… it collects lots of data in an organized fashion and it sits there, waiting for me to go to. The fact that I’m read means I get feedback, and hence, people help me complete my information. I also find out about new, interesting people because they link to my blog, comment on my blog and so on.”
Professor Henry Farrell identifies five major uses for blogs in [college] education, including the organization of in-class notes and providing equity in discussion for all students.

Blogging is also an import tool for those enter the world of business. Dave Pollard describes his evolving recognition of the value of blogs:
“So when I read that blogs were the next big thing in KM [Knowledge Management] I was dubious. It took an eternity even trying to understand what they were -- everyone had their own definition that seemed to deliberately exclude most of the actual applications of the leading blogging tools. When I finally realized that blogs were simply online journals, I decided to start one to get a feel for what they were about, and to start reading them to assess their potential value to business. Since I have always had a passion for writing, my own blog quickly proved addictive: Not only could I easily post my writing, as often as I wanted, without learning about HTML -- people actually read and commented on what I wrote! But it was only after I started learning about RSS -- the ability to send blog content to personal subscription pages the same way my Profiles filtered, aggregated and delivered all the site-licensed content, that I realized blogging was also a robust electronic publishing and subscription medium. And both the tools and the content were essentially free.”
In May 2005, Business Week devoted an entire issue to business blogging. Their advice boiled down to "Catch up...or catch you later".

The world of education would be wise to heed the same advice.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Splitting the Atom

"Twitter does the Internet equivalent of splitting the atom. It creates a unit of content even smaller and more trivial than the individual blog entry. Expect the response to be suitably explosive." -Lev Grossman, The Hyperconnected, Time magazine

I'll admit that I harbored doubts about Twitter.

Google Reader
connected me with personal and professional resources and allowed interactivity through the option of leaving comments on blog posts. Email was available for more extended or private conversations. I had no desire to be privy to the minutiae of people's daily lives.

Yet at the end of September, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to give Twitter a try.

I began by "following" some bloggers with whom I was familiar. By reading their messages (Tweets) to others, I gradually built up a list of other Twitter users (Twits) who had interests similar to mine.

There were minor annoyances. Some Twits declined my invitation, which meant I could view their comments but not directly interact with them. Occasional technical problems resulted in the Twitterverse being offline or otherwise unusable.

Ah, but the positives far exceeded any negatives!

My Twitter community does much more than track the details of their day. They share websites, provide links to new blog postings, have stimulating conversations about everything from menus to professional conferences to child rearing to health issues.

Yesterday a mixed group of teachers, librarians, and information technologists discussed "authentic voice" in blogging, weighed the pros and cons of rating systems for edubloggers, then invited interested parties to leave Twitter and continue conversations in wikis, ichat or Skype.

Time magazine used the word "trivial" to describe the content of Twitter. I would suggest that Twitter is trivial in the sense of "relating to or being the mathematically simplest case." By restricting users to 140 characters per comment, Twitter distills conversation to essential concepts and facilitates the rapid exchange of thought. It helps to incubate ideas and encourage collaboration.

Used properly, Twitter can easily become the thinking person's texting tool of choice.

"How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" -Guy de Maupassant

"Atom paths" by lorda

Friday, January 4, 2008

What Gets Measured

"Evaluate what you want -- because what gets measured, gets produced." -James A. Belasco

Jeff Utecht has compiled a list of essential questions for administrators to pose when conducting interviews for potential teaching candidates.

This list might also serve as a useful self-evaluation tool for educators who wonder how they compare to their peers when it comes to knowledge of essential 21st century literacies.

Never one to pass on a challenge, I've decided to "interview" myself and try to determine whether I'm International School material.

Skill set: average to advanced; some gaps, but motivated and a quick learner

E-mail: use Outlook at school; have gmail and hotmail accounts; comfortable with communicating electronically as well as face to face

Searching online: since I'm a school librarian, doing research and verifying information is part of my daily routine; very familiar with copyright, plagiarism, bias, point of view; practice and preach cyber safety and digital citizenship

Filtering: aware of CIPA regulations but do not feel that they adequately "protect" students; instruction and guided practice, a strict AUP with consistent and appropriate consequences for infractions, would be the course I'd advocate

Blogs: I feel that the blogs I read, in tandem with the Twitter conversations I track, are my best Professional Development activity; started with David Warlick, Will Richardson, Joyce Valenza, and Doug Johnson; now follow over 160 edubloggers. I have my own professional/personal blog which gives me immense satisfaction.

RSS Feeder: without my Google Reader, of course, I could never track so many blogs

Online Communities: Twitter, various nings, a few wikis, Facebook, Pownce, Skype (just beginning)

Learned from my Network: I've begun to experiment with Skype, am getting better at listening to conversations while "chatting" (thanks to WOW); first heard about Animoto & VoiceThread via blogs & Twitter; have bookmarked many graphics sites; added numerous links, videos and podcasts to my del.ici.ous account because of online recommendations from my PLN. I learned that I have many colleagues around the world who are happy to share their knowledge with a fellow learner.

How will the world be different for our students: Change will be the constant; tolerance and willingness to collaborate with people from other nations and cultures is essential; skills are not enough...the ability to continuously "reinvent" themselves will be key; those who are inflexible or incurious will be doomed to lower level, dead end careers and unsatisfying lives

Last new technology learned: just got a new MacBook to explore; love to play with my digital camera; will use both in teaching and blogging

Technology leader: emerging role: I keep mentioning tools to teachers and some have stopped in for further discussion; was given a current events class to teach this year because administrators knew I wanted to share some of my new expertise with students

What I didn't learn in a classroom: I was curious about a "news aggregator" that I had access to from an online course I took; went online and found Google Reader; began reading blogs and felt compelled to start my own. Added Twitter to my repertoire when bloggers kept mentioning it. Now I have continuously updated professional information, a global community of friends and colleagues, and a very satisfying creative venue.

Thank you, Jeff, for giving me the chance to reflect on these questions. I can see my strengths and weaknesses, areas for improvement and key selling points.

It's been a valuable New Year's exercise. All things considered, I think I would hire me.

"Measuring time" by aussiegall

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Becoming of a Person

"Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things." -Denis Diderot

"According to a preview of unpublished research on the online activities of higher education institutions, a significant percentage of colleges and universities sometimes dig into would-be undergraduates’ social-networking profiles." -Scott J. Crech, Online Profiles a Factor in College Admissions, Education Week Online

As students become more comfortable with creating and sharing online content, colleges and prospective employers are beginning to utilize this information for assessment and decision-making.

Young adults who have been taught the essentials of responsible digital citizenship and cyber safety will take care to only post appropriate text, photos, audio, and video clips. This remains the prudent course to follow when constructing an online persona.

But such a deliberate orchestration might exclude one key element: passion.

Vinnie Vrotney's latest posting explains the reasons why blogging is an important means to explore and share personal passions.
"We blog so that we can share and allow others the chance to know who we are, what we are passionate about, and what we think. We build up the currency of thoughts and ideas which is becoming more valuable in this information age that we are living. We are establishing our portfolio to share with the world."

Colleges and businesses must look deeper than Facebook or MySpace to discover and evaluate an applicant's passion for an activity, an avocation, or a cause. And young people should recognize blogging as an opportunity to establish themselves as a unique presence in the world.

The contributing staff of Students 2.0 understands the joy and passion of blogging. Surely their individual and collaborative blogs will serve as impressive selling points in their educational and professional futures. Other students would be well advised to follow their lead.

"What is passion? It is surely the becoming of a person. Are we not, for most of our lives, marking time? Most of our being is at rest, unlived. In passion, the body and the spirit seek expression outside of self." -John Boorman

"Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can give forth its spark." -Henri Frederic Amiel

"Laptop desks in the computer science building" by maebmij

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


"Change is the end result of all true learning. Change involves three things: First, a dissatisfaction with self -- a felt void or need; second, a decision to change to fill the void or need; and third, a conscious dedication to the process of growth and change -- the willful act of making the change, doing something." -Leo Buscaglia

As many bloggers post their end-of-the-year reflections and resolutions, my thoughts have been increasingly occupied with personal goals and aspirations.

My global colleagues have not shied away from asking difficult questions or advocating for change.

Clay Burell wondered "is school a good place for teachers who want to make a difference in the lives of their students, and to the future of the world?"

Sylvia Martinez stepped up to defend the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative from a journalist who sneeringly called the program "an insulting 'let them eat cake' sort of message to the world’s poor.” On the contrary, Martinez replies, "The least the “developed world” can do is give kids, their parents, and teachers access to the most powerful intellectual amplifier ever invented - the computer, and a connection to the world of information and expertise."

Doug Johnson discussed the necessity of "both an open mind and values firmly held by both the heart and the head" to achieve change in the educational sphere.

And so the questions I need to answer for myself are:
  • what are my sources of dissatisfaction
  • am I willing to take the steps necessary to address the problems
  • how will I implement meaningful change
No easy questions, no easy answers: challenges and opportunities.

"Instead of looking at life as a narrowing funnel, we can see it ever widening to choose the things we want to do, to take the wisdom we've learned and create something." -Liz Carpenter

"There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them." -Denis Waitley

"Golden metamorphosis" by cyrus_sj