Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back

It was a very good year.

In case you're wondering:
January: New MacBook
February: Daughter & her husband with their new Scion xB
March: Elementary students enjoy books in the LMC
April: Forsythia in bloom
May: Tim & I at a wedding on Dunham's Bay, Lake George, NY
June: En plein air painting in our backyard
July: Tim's pictures on display at the Remington Museum, Odgensburg, NY
August: Morning workout at Saratoga Racetrack
September: The family (except for SIL, who had to work) enjoys Tim's retirement cruise
October: View of Lake George from Prospect Mountain
November: Riding a school bus on a field trip to Warrensburg, NY
December: Mom and her new afghan
Center: NECC Librarians' Panel, San Antonio

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Celebration 2008

It's a mixed bag of photos, from Scott's TV appearance to Mom's afghan to Sean's Slinky. A patchwork of memories, fun and good cheer, the best kind of holiday celebration.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Seven Things You Don't Need to Know about Me

Liz B. Davis tagged me for this meme. It gave me an excuse to stroll down Memory Lane and pull out random facts about my life:

1. I can’t whistle, except by inhaling; I can only snap the fingers on my left hand.

2. I was a Camp Fire Girl (before the organization became co-ed).

3. I love to travel, have seen “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome,” but my favorite city is still London.

4. During summer study at Oxford University, I had a small part in a production of King Lear.

5. Although I started college as a Math major, I graduated as an English major.

6. I have climbed Mt. Marcy, New York's highest point.

7. The first time I visited Yankee Stadium was to attend a Mass celebrated by Pope Paul VI.

In keeping with my "no stress now that the holidays are almost over" policy, I'm not tagging anyone specifically. This is a fun exercise, though, so I'd encourage anyone who has a few spare minutes to play along and give us a behind-the-scenes look at your life.

"Rearview Mirror" by cammyrw

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Greetings

"Bringing Home the Christmas Tree" by Tim Cordell

Stars over snow,
And in the west a planet
Swinging below a star -
Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far -
It never will be far
-Sara Teasdale

May you find many lovely things in your life! Have a peaceful and joyous holiday.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Life is One Big Top Ten (2008)

I've been tagged by my good friend, and fellow teacher/librarian, Cathy Nelson, for a meme. Paul C. invites bloggers to write a Top Ten list for 2008 on a topic of their choice. He plans to collect the lists later for our instruction and edification.

A news article that popped up recently in my Google Reader quotes Florida State Senator, Ronda Storms, who "railed against the book-cataloging system during a budget hearing on state library aid, calling the Dewey Decimal System 'anachronistic,' costly and just plain frustrating."

Here is my response to such blasphemy:

Top Ten Reasons not to abandon the Dewey Decimal System

1. The Dewey Decimal System is the norm in most U.S. elementary and secondary schools. Students who learn to navigate the system can apply this knowledge when searching for materials in their local public libraries, which also use the DDS.

2. Melvil Dewey designed the system to be very flexible. Categories that didn’t exist in the late 19th century – computers, space exploration, nanotechnology – can be accommodated by the infinitely expandable decimals.

3. Although the Dewey Decimal System is copyrighted, libraries do not have to pay to use it. Melvil made his personal fortune through selling library furniture.

4. Library staff members quickly become familiar with the ten categories and can point patrons to relevant shelves. The same can not be said of the Library of Congress System, which is complex and less user-friendly.

5. The Dewey numbers always follow in sequence. No matter how large a collection becomes, items are arranged in order, not tied to a physical location.

6. Dewey numbers are not just for books. Video tapes, DVDs, magazines, hardware, software, etc. can easily be assigned Dewey categories.

7. Since the DDS uses numbers, it is not tied to a particular language. Any patron familiar with Arabic numerals can locate materials.

8. Without the DDS, each library would have to create its own system. Interlibrary loans and union catalogs would be difficult, if not impossible.

9. The OCLC, which holds the copyright on the Dewey Decimal System, maintains a database for cataloging and searching purposes and "integrates updates to the DDC almost as soon as they happen through quarterly, electronic updates to WebDewey and Abridged WebDewey."

10. Melvil Dewey was one of the founders of the American Library Association. He elevated librarianship to professional status.

If anyone else would like to contribute a Top Ten list, please be sure to do so and link back to Paul.

"Seattle Public Library - book spiral" by Padraic

Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow Day!

"A 'snow day' a day in which school classes are canceled or delayed due to snow, heavy ice, or low temperatures." -Wikipedia

The call came at 5:45 a.m.: because of an overnight snowfall and the possibility of icy roads and power outages, school has been canceled today. Snow Day!

What is it about these unplanned but highly anticipated holidays that causes such joy? There is a delicious sense of freedom, endless possibilities, time enough to complete all sorts of tasks...or not.

If nothing is "accomplished" but refreshing the spirit, isn't that a fine and rare thing, complete in and of itself?

“I love snow, and all the forms
Of the radiant frost…” -Percy Bysshe Shelley

At least, on Snow Days I do.

You can see my Snow Day flickr set here

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Others

"Commandment Number One of any truly civilized society is this: Let people be different." - David Grayson

My husband, an artist and musician, is left-handed. When he was in school in the 1950s and '60s, some teachers tried to "make him" right-handed. It didn't work.

Throughout history, society has had varying degrees of tolerance for nonconformity. Suspected witches and heretics were executed by being burned at the stake, hung, pressed or drowned as recently as the late 18th century.

Beatniks and hippies, Goths and Punks have all suffered some form of ridicule or discrimination. Time magazine reported on "a wave of shocking attacks and threats against emo youth culture" in Mexico, having "less to do with music than with the country's violent intolerance."

Most U.S. school districts try to accommodate teen individuality in matters of hair, makeup and clothing, as long as the styles don't distract others from learning.

Individuality in terms of curriculum and assessment, however, is another matter entirely.

A previous posting here, Today, My Job Was to Listen, prompted Paul Bogush to comment, "I wonder what the ratio is of minutes of teacher talk vs. student talk in classrooms." When he asked this question on Plurk, estimates ranged from 4:1 to 10:1, teacher talking time to student talking time. This impromptu poll would seem to suggest that traditional delivery of standardized content is still the norm in many classrooms.

Not all who are differently-abled have an IEP. Do you believe that our educational culture could be/should be more inclusive?

Are we reaching the Others?

"All eyes see a different world. All minds live in a different world. Why do we feel the need to force someone to see and live our way? When we do this, we lose sight of our world."
- Bobby Lambert

"Black sheep. Do u also feel different?" by pasotraspaso

Friday, December 5, 2008

CyberSmart! Africa

"What is it that binds all people together? What do kids in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, have in common with kids from M'bour, Senegal, Africa? Through digital storytelling we can discover those connections and forge new, valuable relationships that were never before possible." -Jeremy Teicher, Film Director/Project Manager, CyberSmart! Africa

CyberSmart! Education offers facilitated online professional development, a free K-12 Student Curriculum, and a downloadable Educator's Toolbar. Their newest venture is CyberSmart! Africa.

"CyberSmart! Africa began in 2007 as a personal initiative of Jim Teicher, CEO and cofounder of CyberSmart! Education. After visiting Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1, a rural school in Senegal off the electric grid, Jim worked to establish ties that would support the students.

This CyberSmart! Africa project enables teachers and students in
rural Senegal to share their personal stories with the rest of the world, revealing the common bonds that connect people across all cultures. The stories will be posted on the web site along with questions for discussion, which will extend into the iEARN and ePals online communities."

The students of Ecole Sinthiou Mbadane 1 "look forward to communicating and learning with a global, connected community of learners." Their video clips will give classes in other countries a unique glimpse into a very different culture.

Through these digital storytelling and laptop initiatives, CyberSmart! Africa hopes to encourage collaboration among students and support efforts to prepare students of many nations to meet the challenges of this century.

Worthy goals, fascinating project.

Photos courtesy of CyberSmart! Africa. All rights reserved.

Full disclosure: I am a part-time employee of CyberSmart! Education in addition to my full-time position as a K-12 teacher/librarian.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wordle Meme

TJ Shay just tagged me for a Meme. Participants are required to create a Wordle using their blog and/or account.

There were some technical issues on my end, so Terry was kind enough to plug my blog address into the proper box on the Wordle site, then email me the result, shown above.

Taken out of context, some of the words might give a slightly skewed impression of the "mission" of my blog: Salvation and Army appeared in my posting on that worthy organization; "Angels" refers to the tragic fire at Our Lady of the Angels School, which I remembered here.

My affiliation with CyberSmart! and preoccupation with "students" "school" "Internet" "sites" are evident.

Yet, since the majority of my postings center on education, I decided to produce an additional, more focused Wordle, shown below. I highlighted two groupings of words which I found significant, the "society/success" grouping and the "students" cluster. Due to firewall issues at school, I was only able to copy and edit a thumbnail version. You can link to the original here.

The postings used to create this second Wordle were:

Memes are meant to be shared, so I'm inviting any who visit here to try their hand at creating a Wordle. It's a handy tool for both analysis and creative endeavors.

Wordle images created at Images of Wordles are licensed .

Monday, December 1, 2008


"In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it." -Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

I talk about "connections" all the time, but sometimes our intertwinings and interactions truly amaze me.

A few years ago, I was able to take an online professional development workshop run by CyberSmart! As I've mentioned before, I felt so empowered by this experience that I hung around (virtually, of course), explored a bit, asked questions, and eventually became a facilitator for the company.

An RSS feed on one of the CyberSmart! sites inspired me to set up my own Google Reader account, then try my hand at blogging. I now also interact on social networking sites like Twitter and Plurk.

Through Twitter, I met Australian teacher Jo McLeay. Aware of my affiliation with CyberSmart! Jo pointed me to the Seedlings podcasts on Bit by Bit. During the November 20 podcast, Bob Sprankle gave the free CyberSmart! K-12 Student Curriculum a very positive review.

I commented:

I enjoyed hearing your comments re. CyberSmart! on your last podcast.

I started out as a participant in one of the CyberSmart! professional development workshops, and now work as a facilitator for the company, in addition to my duties as a K-12 teacher/librarian.

The updated and expanded free CyberSmart! curriculum addresses such key issues as good digital citizenship and cybersafety. We are particularly proud of the cyber bullying package and the resources it contains for teachers, students, and parents.

The educator’s toolbar features lots of pre-screened links of professional interest.

CyberSmart’s homepage is located at

and Bob responded:
Thanks for stopping by and your comments, Diane! CyberSmart is amazing!

Now another connection has been made. Wonder where this might lead!

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." -John Muir

"Facebook Connections" by Elliott P

Our Lady of the Angels

On December 1, 1958, students at Our Lady of the Angels School heard a fire alarm ring. Just hours later, the brick schoolhouse was a smoldering ruin. 92 students and 3 nuns lost their lives in a blaze fueled by varnished wooden floors and asphalt tile. The single fire escape was locked, the school alarm was not connected to the Chicago Fire Department's system.

I was in elementary school in upstate New York at the time this tragedy occurred. The news photos and eye-witness accounts were heartbreaking; many children, myself included, had nightmares about burning buildings and death by fire for months afterward.

The nation responded by reforming school building and safety codes. My own district began holding fire drills with grim regularity.

Today's students benefit from the standards established after the tragedy at Our Lady of the Angels School. It is a sad legacy from the children and teachers who died a half century ago.

Fire at "Our Lady of the Angels" from School Fires
"fire escape" by scott witt