Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It's On My List

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” -Susan Sontag

From a dimly remembered visit to California in 1949 (right after his graduation from college, my dad drove cross country; mom & I flew there to join him. I was two years old at the time) to a wonderful trip to Chicago last month, travel has always been a part of my life.

My first tour of Europe came between my junior and senior year of college. Three years later, I was lucky enough to spend some time on the Greek Island of Rhodos (Rhodes).

When our children were small, family trips tended to be shorter and less expensive, although we did make the pilgrimage to Disney World one spring vacation.

Now that I'm retired (sort of), I'm starting to indulge my love of travel again. My husband will join me occasionally (this year, we went together to Puerto Rico, Ohio, and Maine), but the conferences I attend without him always include friends and friends-to-be with whom I can associate.

This was my 2o1o itinerary:

January - EduCon (Philadelphia, PA) - my favorite gathering, a relatively intimate and always stimulating series of conversations

March - Dorado, Puerto Rico - my husband's sister and brother-in-law were kind enough to invite us to visit them at their winter home, a small but pretty condo within sight and sound of the ocean

June - ALA 2010 Annual Conference (Washington, D.C.) - this was my first ALA conference, offering the perfect opportunity to meet with some of my library colleagues and tour our nation's capital

July - Ohio (and the Schinkers in Queensbury) - we went to visit some online friends, and some other online friends came to visit us

October - U.S.S. Hanson Reunion (Portland, ME) - another first, as we attended a reunion of those who served on the Hanson, including some who were shipmates of my husband's during the Viet Nam War

November - SLJ Leadership Summit (Chicago, IL) - this was a gem of a gathering, sponsored by the School Library Journal: authors and illustrators and speakers, oh my

These trips were more than just sightseeing jaunts, although that was part of their charm. Three of the six were conferences; all involved connecting with people. Transforming acquaintances into lifelong friends and learning partners; blending virtual and real life, personally and professionally: that is what travel does for me.

In 2011, we're hoping to visit Puerto Rico again. I may travel to Buffalo, NY in May for the SLMS/NYLA Spring Conference. I plan on seeing Philadelphia in winter (EduCon) and summer (ISTE 2011). There's AASL National Conference at Minneapolis, MN in October; I'd love to fit in another SLJ Leadership Summit, if there's no scheduling conflict. And wouldn't it be fun to meet up with the student members of "my" photography club (and co-advisor, Shannon Miller) in Van Meter, Iowa!

When I created this little map of my journeys, I noticed that the U.S. West Coast, the Southwest, most of the Midwest, and a large part of the rest of the world, aren't represented. I need to do something about that.

Map created at

“Clay lies still, but blood’s a rover / Breath’s aware that will not keep. / Up, lad: when the journey’s over there’ll be time enough to sleep.” -A.E. Housman

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's Not Nothing

There's been an interesting conversation going on recently regarding "transliteracy."

Medical librarian David Rothman questions whether this concept is any more than a new buzzword for the same type of information literacy with which librarians have always been concerned. Rothman's stance is that "the world changes as technology changes. Education and libraries adapt (well or poorly, but they adapt). There’s nothing new here. There’s no need for a new movement, a new term, or so much discussion about nothing."

I strongly disagree.

The location, evaluation and aggregation of factual information will always be an essential component of the library experience, whether in a K-12, university, specialized or public facility. Providing materials for scholarly and recreational reading, listening, or viewing is a second key service.

But modern life require something beyond accessing and searching resources...and that's where transliteracy skills become necessary. Our students, our citizens must be skillful in collaboration and creation. They are expected to process, reconfigure, transfigure raw materials (be they data or ideas), sometimes while working with virtual colleagues across the world. They don't just find information: they create and disseminate it.

And they must perform these tasks with tools that are rapidly evolving. Information users need to be adept at learning new skills in a constantly changing information landscape, able to identify, investigate and utilize powerful new instrumentality for storing or communicating information.

In “The Librarian Militant, The Librarian Triumphant," Dr. David Lankes says
"What will kill this profession is not ebooks, amazon, or Google. It will be a lack of imagination. An inability to see not what is, but what could be. To see only how we are viewed now, but not how that is only a platform for greatness... It [librarianship] only survives if we, librarians and the communities we serve, take it up, renew, refresh it, and constantly engage in what is next."

There's an army of librarians working to keep librarianship relevant.

Bobbi Newman has given the term translitercy new traction with her Libraries and Transliteracy blog. Buffy Hamilton's Unquiet Librarian blog and innovative SlideShares highlight the elements of both transliteracy and participatory librarianship. Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones, Shannon Miller, Carolyn Foote, Cathy Nelson and others model the rich, multi-layered learning that can take place when transliteracy is regarded as a medium for learning.

Perhaps Mr. Rothman, Information Services Specialist at the Community General Hospital Medical Library, doesn't see evidence of transliteracy in his professional life. But any K-12 teacher/librarian can testify that information literacy is only a part of what their students need to learn. Exemplary student projects demonstrate mastery of the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

In a world that demands learners and creators, not just consumers, "transliteracy" makes sense to me.

"Lighting enTrails/Tunnel Trails/Tunnel Vision" by Mr Magoo ICU

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Greetings

Christmas Past...

Christmas Present...

I don't know what Christmas Future will hold, except that it will be infinitely better for your presence in it.

To Family and Friends, both near and far: Have a Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Tired of serving as the IT person for your extended family? Google has created an interactive "letter" that can help you construct an instructional package tailored to a recipient's needs.

Although Google has named the site "Teach Parents Tech," these tutorials would benefit anyone new to computers - from grandparents to students to teachers - as well as help fill in the gaps for those of us who have acquired our digital skills haphazardly over the years.

This "gift" is free, doesn't require wrapping, and will last a lifetime. Pretty good deal!

Thanks to @pfanderson for sharing this link on Twitter!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reflections At the End of the Year

As the calendar year draws to a close, many bloggers are posting reflective pieces. Some people focus on achievements won or lessons learned. Others resolve to be better, stronger, more effective or more famous (because, let's face it, no one is altruistic all the time).

These past 12 months have been interesting ones for me, with some unexpected disappointments that were more than offset by surprising bonuses. There's no need to be more specific: I know I am blessed in family, friends, and the freedom to choose my own path.

Two songs drifted through my mind today, each appropriate in its own way for this pensive time of year.

Make of them what you will - they are an early Christmas gift from me to you.

John Lennon - Happy Christmas (War is Over)

"So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun"

Alanis Morissette - You Learn

"You live you learn
You love you learn
You cry you learn
You lose you learn
You bleed you learn
You scream you learn

You grieve you learn
You choke you learn
You laugh you learn
You choose you learn
You pray you learn
You ask you learn
You live you learn"

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Way of Seeing

Want to get your students started on a photography project? Here's a quick introduction to spark discussion.

A way of seeing
View more presentations from Diane Cordell.

"What is art but a way of seeing?" -Thomas Berger

Cross posted on Resources and Links

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Absolutes? Absolutely Not!

Absolute can be defined as "expressing finality with no implication of possible change;" that which is "pure, perfect, or complete."

As I grow older, I realize that there are few absolutes in life - and this is a good thing. Without absolutes, there is always the possibility of new ideas, deeper understanding, and broader knowledge.

Mentors are simultaneously mentees; students and teachers can become co-learners; old dogs might acquire new tricks.

Everything becomes a work in progress. The journey is the destination.

Image from Absolut Bottle Generator

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Juan Proteus

A twitter friend, William Chamberlain, commented to me today, "I really need to learn more about that period [the 1960s] since it is really affecting our culture today." Later in the day, P.F. Anderson used the phrase "Singing rocks of Greece." These two seemingly unrelated tweets resurrected a long-forgotten family story.

On July 19, 1968, Life Magazine published a feature about "Young American Nomads Abroad." Reporter Thomas Thompson visited the Greek Island of Crete, where he found "40 or 50 caves filled with young people," one of whom called himself "Juan Proteus."

There are levels of isolation here. At the outer edge is Juan Proteus, an American, 24, thin, blond, who has lived for a year on Crete. Hardly anyone knows him because his cave is across the bay from the colony, halfway up a cliff, reachable only by a good climb that you feel quickly in the backs of your legs. You can see Juan, though, because he sits outside his cave much of the day, and if you walk on the sea rocks below him, you can hear his exquisite guitar music.

I caught up with Juan as he carried water back from the village. I introduced myself and wondered if he would talk to me. “I wouldn’t have anything to say,” he said. He sat down and started playing the guitar. It sounded like Scarlatti, but he had written it himself. He. told me he had gone to Annapolis, then to Hunter. He pointed to Mount Ida, which you could see in the distance across the sea, and told me it was where Zeus had been born. His cave was neatly swept; he had built a bed. There were no books, no radio. There were the beginnings of a wall of stone he was putting up outside his cave. He spoke in the manner of a man who had not talked in a long while; the words were dry and few.

“Why have you stayed so long?”

“I don’t think they’re gonna drop the bomb on Crete,” he said. “It’s not of strategic importance.”

“Are you going back to America, ever?”

“It would be a cultural shock to go back...What’s gonna happen is gonna happen. All the rest is irrelevant.”

Was his last name really Proteus? “Yes.”

Many days later, when I could find a book on Greek mythology, I looked up “Proteus.” It said: “The prophetic old man of the sea; he knew all things, past, present, future, but disliked telling what he knew. Those who wished to consult him had first to surprise and bind him during his noonday slumber in a cave beside the sea...”

My father showed me this article, and kept a copy of the magazine tucked away on a shelf in his bedroom closet. The enigmatic Juan Proteus was, in fact, my mother's nephew, my first cousin. He was an intelligent young man from a loving family. After asthma ended his sojourn at Annapolis, he began what must have been a personal quest for meaning. His journey finally ended in Hawaii: when a hiking companion was injured on Molokai, Juan went for help, and was never seen again. It is presumed that he fell from a cliff and his body was washed out to sea.

Although I know his birth name, I won't reveal it here. Juan Proteus is the identity he chose, and I will honor it.

So, @wmchamberlain, if you want to learn more about the 1960s, you could do worse than to read this issue of Life. Among other things, there is an editorial about whether the voting age should be lowered to 18; a review of the movie, The Green Berets, starring John Wayne; an ad for Vista volunteers; a photo spread about Julie Nixon (daughter of Richard Nixon) and her future husband, David Eisenhower (grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower)...

...and there is a brief conversation with Juan Proteus.

Related post:
Age of Aquarius

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Character One Needs

Those of you who are on Facebook must be aware of the campaign to post cartoon avatars as a protest against child abuse.

Recently there have been warnings - with vague mentions of the FBI - that these cartoons are being used by pedophiles to mask their identity and make contact with children.

Snopes addresses both these issues, and reminds us that:
"Real problems don't disappear as a consequence of 'slacktivism;' they're fought through the mechanism of donation of time and/or money. The character one needs display to the world is not that of a cartoon, but of a benefactor."

A further note regarding adult online predators

Police agencies and family safety groups (as well as purveyors of child safety software) warn parents that
"Sexual predators do exist and are a very real threat. They target both boys and girls of all ages and use the anonymity of the Internet to their advantage since they can be whomever they want. Many are master manipulators with skills that can cripple any child's sense of awareness." -Family Safe Computers

How real is this threat?

"While the abduction, rape, and killing of children by strangers is very, very rare, such incidents receive a lot of media coverage, leading the public to overestimate how common these cases are. Most sexually abused children are not victims of convicted sex offenders nor Internet pornographers, and most sex offenders do not re-offend once released. This information is rarely mentioned by journalists more interested in sounding alarms than objective analysis." -Predator Panic: Reality Check on Sex Offenders

Based on his research studies, David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, testified at Congressional hearings that
"...the public's perception of Internet pedophiles tricking children into revealing personal information and then stalking or abducting them is false. Most Internet sex crimes begin with weeks of explicit conversations that exploit a teen's sexual curiosity and desire for romance and adventure...To prevent these crimes, we have to take on more awkward and complicated topics and start with an acceptance of the fact that some teens are curious about sex and looking for romance and adventure...prevention efforts should focus on educating teens about drawbacks of a sexual message" (Foster's Online, 7/25/07, linked from CCRC in the News)

So...change your avatar, if you like, but back up your convictions with RL advocacy.

And share the University of New Hampshire's CCRC factsheet, Internet Safety Education for Teens: Getting It Right with your students and family members.

If you truly care about children, give them the knowledge necessary to function freely and safely in their connected world.

"My South Park Character" by Clearly Ambiguous

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Because They Wanted to Connect: My Tribe and the Edublog Awards

"And it turns out that tribes, not money, not factories, that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will. But because they wanted to connect." -Seth Godin

Voting is now open for the 2010 Edublog Awards, a yearly opportunity to acknowledge the blogging and tweeting efforts of educators who choose to connect and share online.

The "
Best librarian / library blog" category is a roll call of some (but by no means all) of the best and brightest in my field. I am happy to note, however, that teacher/librarians, and their sites, appear under a number of other headings: I believe that these nominations reflect a necessary broadening of our profession's vision and a continuing commitment to explore new ways to better serve our students and staff members.

Vote for excellence, not for job titles, but be proud of those nominees who represent TLs in this very public forum.

Good luck to my friends and colleagues: Buffy, Carolyn, Cathy, Doug, Gwyneth, Joyce, Shannon, and all the rest of our Tribe.

"There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish something." - Thomas Edison

P.S. I've been nominated for Best Individual Tweeter. If you feel it's warranted, I'd appreciate your vote!

"The Group" by Grzegorz Łobiński
Badge from the 2o1o Edublog Awards site

Friday, December 3, 2010

Magic Mirrors

History can be defined as "the aggregate of past events," but also as "the discipline that records and interprets past events involving human beings."

It's the human element which sometimes gets lost.

I've recently come across two options for exploring family histories, one digital, the other, at least in its initial stages, very low tech.

Our local newspaper shared a project called "the memory jar." According to blogger Carol McDowell, of Burlington, Vermont, "the best Christmas gift" she ever received started with a jar full of questions and a journal in which to record the answers. McDowell placed 52 slips of paper, each with its own question, in a decorated Mason jar and asked 89-year-old Ruth McDowell to answer one each week, then return the completed journal to her granddaughter for a Christmas gift.
"My grandmother loves to tell stories, so she not only did the questions, she pasted in old pictures and newspaper bits that she had saved. I ended up with a most cherished piece of her that I probably would never had known and she enjoyed every minute of doing it."

While McDowell's project involved paper and pen, a new website, Proust, offers the opportunity to digitally archive the same sort of information.

Still in beta, Proust aims to help people "discover stories you never knew about your family and friends, gain insights you'll long cherish, and enjoy sharing your own memories." A few of the sample questions might seem a bit trite: What did your mom always pack in your lunch? but such details make up the fabric of a person's life and may, in fact, serve as the key to unlock deeper truths.

Proust is a free service; information is kept private, only shared with chosen family members and friends. Individuals can use questions from the site or substitute their own queries, with the option of adding images or video clips.

The Memory Jar project and Proust share a common goal: to capture and preserve personal history. Imagine the power of combining the two! Ms. McDowell could record reminiscences in her grandmother's own voice, scan the fragile clippings and photos, and preserve them all on Proust. Not only would they then be accessible to other family members, but there would be less danger that these artifacts might be lost or destroyed.

As the holidays approach, why not plan to initiate a Family History project, whether on Proust, Voicethread, Flickr or elsewhere? Create a gift that will have value long after the ornaments and tinsel have been packed away.

"Family faces are magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future." -Gail Lumet Buckley

"If one could make alive again for other people some cobwebbed skein of old dead intrigues and breathe breath and character into dead names and stiff portraits. That is history to me!" -George Macaulay Trevelyan

"23 Reasons" by ShawnMichael
"Mom, WWII" by dianecordell

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Copyright Caution

The holiday season is about to kick into high gear, and so is the energy level of students. Many schools, particularly at the elementary level, choose to schedule movie screenings as a fun group activity.

Unfortunately, this practice is illegal, in most instances.

Copyright and fair use regulations can be difficult to decipher. Tools like the Fair Use Evaluator recommend that users "collect, organize & archive the information you might need to support a fair use evaluation" while cautioning that "Only a court of law can definitively rule on whether a use is fair or unfair. This tool does not assume or predict a court outcome."

When it comes to movies, however, the rules are quite specific:
"the showing of copyrighted motion pictures (videos and DVD's) outside of a classroom educational setting (including such uses as after school programs, student rewards, rainy days, lunch hour movies, summer camps, clubs, assemblies, staffing emergencies and idle periods between state testing) constitutes copyright infringement." -Showing Movies at School

There are some exceptions:
Under the "Educational Exemption" copyrighted entertainment movies may be shown in a school without copyright permission only if all criteria are met:
  • A teacher or instructor is present
  • The showing takes place in a classroom setting with only the enrolled students attending
  • The movie is used as an essential part of the core, current curriculum being taught. (The instructor should be able to show how the use of the motion picture contributes to the overall required course study and syllabus.)
  • The movie being used is a legitimate copy, not taped from a legitimate copy or taped from TV
-Movie Licensing USA

Schools districts could, of course, obtain a Public Performance Site License or a
One-Time License (as do public libraries) and eliminate any question of illegality.

I was recently contacted by a fellow teacher/librarian who was frustrated by administrators' response to the sharing of this information. They blatantly ignored it. My professional experience has been similar.

Teacher/librarians don't want to be perceived as "copyright cops." But we do feel that teaching and modeling good digital citizenship is part of our role as educators.

How can we preach responsible use to students when adults in authority fail to exhibit ethical behavior?

Now you know the law. Follow it.

"At The Movies" by Clover_1

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Of Innovation and Roadblocks

I've been planning to blog about my friend, Buffy Hamilton, and her new Creekville High School Library Kindle lab.

Buffy has been modeling best practices and transparency, taking us through every stage of the Kindle project, from preparing the devices for circulation to compiling a resource guide; recording a student Kindle promo to documenting the first Kindle checkout.

Wishing to build on this early, success, Buffy attempted to place an order for additional Kindles...and was blindsided by a new Amazon policy:

Due to strong customer demand, the current quantity limit is 3 Kindle devices per customer. We will forward your inquiry to the Kindle team and someone will contact you if we can meet your requirements and schedule.

A long phone conversation with customer service reps resulted in the same response. No exceptions for classrooms or libraries. Three per customer, period.

What has this policy accomplished for Amazon? In the short term, the loss of an order for 20-25 Kindles might seem an insignificant drop in the bucket. But there may be long term repercussions:
  • educators who have been debating the relative merits of Kindles, Nooks, and other eBook readers might decide to choose the more school-friendly alternatives
  • students will purchase (or request as gifts) the device with which they are familiar
  • as the reader goes, so go the book purchases
This could well be a temporary, pre-Christmas, quota system, but if so, it would have been politic for Amazon to indicate this in response to Buffy's queries.

I have to wonder if Amazon is subtly (perhaps not so subtly) trying to discourage Kindle use by libraries in general, rather than make concessions regarding the lending of eBooks.

Visit The Unquiet Librarian blog and follow the progression for yourself: from enthusiasm to frustration; adoption to...alternatives?

What are you thinking, Amazon? Really.

"CVHS Student Caitlyn Checks Out the First Unquiet Library Kindle" by theunquietlibrary

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Edublog Awards

I've always had a difficult time choosing the "best" of anything - books, movies, even desserts. Absolutes make me feel hemmed in, and I can usually imagine alternative scenarios that would justify a different response.

That said, I feel a responsibility to participate in the annual Edublog Awards. I read, enjoy, and learn from a variety of feeds in my Google Reader. It's time to recognize some of the bloggers who contribute to my personal and professional growth.

Here are my nominations for the 2010 Edublog Awards:

Best individual blog - David Lankes/Virtual Dave...Real Blog
Best individual tweeter - Beth Still/@bethstill
Best resource sharing blog - Wesley Fryer/Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Most influential blog post - Carolyn Foote/Listening to teacher voices part 2
Best teacher blog - Sylvia Tolisano/Langwitches
Best librarian / library blog - Buffy Hamilton/The Unquiet Librarian
Best educational tech support blog - Cathy Nelson/Techno Tuesday
Best educational use of video / visual - Gwyneth Jones/The Daring Librarian
Best educational wiki - Joyce Valenza/New Tools Workshop
Best educational webinar series -The TL Virtual Cafe
Best use of a PLN - Alec Couros/@courosa
Lifetime achievement - Doug Johnson/The Blue Skunk Blog

You can nominate your own favorites. Simply follow these directions:

Step 1: Write a post on your blog linking to:

You can nominate:

  1. For as many categories as you like,
  2. But only one nomination per category,
  3. A blog (or site) for more than one category
  4. Any blog or site you like but not your own blogs (sites)

Step 2: Email us the link to your nomination post

Use the form (on the Edublogs Awards home page) to contact us, please include a genuine email address (spam free, just in case we need to confirm identity) and the link to your nominations post.

You can’t submit your nominations without writing a blog post

Please note: You will receive an automated email reply when you successfully complete the contact form.

An important part of being an educator is self-reflection. Please take this opportunity to review your RSS feeds and social networking sites, determine what content has proven valuable to your life as a learner, and acknowledge those who have influenced your thinking in a positive way.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Edmund Burke said that "Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting." I believe that the same is true of presenting.

As a teacher, I asked that my students practice self-reflection as an integral part of their learning. I wanted them to critically examine their work, to decide what was successful, what didn't quite make the grade, and how they might use their experience in constructing new knowledge.

On Monday, November 1, I presented my first webinar, Eyes to See, for the TL Virtual Cafe. One of the great benefits of using Elluminate as our venue is that the entire session is archived: slides, audio, chat, etc., so I was able to revisit the experience and "see" it from a number of perspectives.

After the initial shock of hearing my own voice, I started to notice speaking strengths and quirks. Pacing wasn't bad, not too many "uhs" but a previously undetected predilection for the word "now" as in "Now sometimes...Now this project..." which immediately brought to mind a sweet family memory. When my daughter was small, she would gather her toy ponies, unicorns, mermaids, and fairies, and begin weaving tales. Frequently the first word of these sagas was "Now..." Did she pick up on that from me, or did I unconsciously echo this totemic word when I began sharing stories with others? At any rate, it was a connection that made me smile.

The content of my slidedeck was appropriate, I felt, if limited by time constraints. In order to supplement and expand the resources shared in the webinar, I've started to build a wiki, Using Digital Images, which I hope will become a useful resource for myself and others.

I had wondered about the dynamics of a webinar. Practice runs left me worried that I would sound stilted, sitting alone and talking into a microphone. I found, however, that even though I couldn't see the faces of my audience, their presence was very real. The online interaction was lively, and it was nice to see familiar names popping up.

Most valuable to me, as both presenter and co-learner, were the comments in the chat section, which I had been unable to follow while speaking. Participants shared projects and links that deepened the conversation; they will provide a rich source of additional material for the wiki.

There were a few technical glitches, mainly due to a prior Elluminate session that hadn't properly exited the room, but the always incredible Gwyneth Jones, handled the situation with great aplomb and even created a special handout explaining how to access the archive.

What I Knew: I was familiar with the content of my slides and comfortable with the topic in general

What I Wanted to Know: How to effectively communicate in a new (to me) format

What I Learned: Practice sessions are important (thank goodness Gwyneth pointed out that an exterior microphone was vital!); an experienced hostess makes everything flow smoothly; webinars are fun!

Would I do it again? Absolutely!

Related Resources:
Archived session, Eyes to See
SlideShare, Eyes to See
Using Digital Images wiki
Resources and Links blog

See a listing of upcoming webinars on the TL Virtual Cafe here

Monday, November 1, 2010

Eyes to See

This is the slidedeck from tonight's webinar at the TL Virtual Cafe.

Thanks to all who attended!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TL Cafe: Eyes to See

On Monday evening, I'll be the guest presenter for a TL Virtual Cafe webinar. A link to the Elluminate room will go live shortly before the session begins.

If you can join us, please do. I'd love to "see" you there!

Eyes to See: Using Digital Images in the Classroom
November 1st - 8pm EST
Guest: Diane Cordell
Host: Gwyneth Jones

According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, approximately 65% of the population are visual learners; the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text; visual aids in the classroom can improve learning by up to 400%.

With the advent of inexpensive, simple to operate digital cameras, teachers and librarians have the opportunity to involve students in activities that are engaging and enriching. "Eyes to See" will explore various ways to enhance curriculum through the use of digital images.

Monday, October 25, 2010

SLJ Leadership Summit 2010: The Future of Reading

Last week, I attended my first SLJ Leadership Summit. Here are some of my impressions, thoughts, and, of course, photos.

The location
: Although I've passed through Chicago many times, this was my first real visit to the city. Without much time to sight see, I did manage to walk around a bit, exploring the stores on the Magnificent Mile and snapping pictures of the amazing skyline.

The people
: re-connecting with my Tribe was, as always, a joy. But, on a broader scale, it was wonderful to be at a conference where everyone had a similar focus and a common vision regarding the profession of librarianship and the importance of both books and technology in libraries. This wasn't a print vs. eBooks crowd: speakers and attendees engaged in a rich dialog regarding the necessity of many tools to enhance and enrich the library experience of the students - and teachers - that we serve. It truly was a summit for Leaders.

The presentations
: Keynote speaker Stephen Abram set the tone by considering "The Future of Reading in 2020." Although he envisions changes, it's more of an evolution than a revolution, with librarians not just participating but leading. Abram concludes by assuring us that "It gets better. Librarians can help."

Student Voice was represented at the Summit by students from University Laboratory High School, accompanied by their librarian, Frances Harris. These articulate young people shared some insights about their life as readers. All of them had been read to by their parents, as children; their favorite genres are sci fi/fantasy; finding the time for recreational reading is a problem, due to packed schedules; all prefer print books, though they might consider eBooks for college texts (price is a definite issue).

Members of the Carnegie Council for Advancing Adolescent Literacy shared data pertinent to this topic, then discussed their recommendations for adding value to eReaders for classrooms and libraries. This list is still in draft form, and contains important points that need to be considered by both educators and developers: for example, the Council wants devices to have multiple capabilities that can be enabled or hidden by the librarian/teacher depending on student needs. In response to audience feedback, Council members agreed to incorporate strong language regarding the key role of librarians as leaders in the adoption of new reading technologies.

Author Patrick Carman talked a little about his personal relationship with books, then demonstrated how he enhances his stories with interactive features that turn the reader into a co-creator of the narrative. Trackers, for example, is "told through a collage of videos, text, and websites." It is not merely a book that you read; it is a world that you experience.

Caldecott-winning illustrator Paul Zelinsky walked us through the evolution of his newest picture book, Dust Devil. Although Zelinsky would appear, on the surface, to take a more traditional approach to books and reading - and was passionate in expressing a preference for print - his presentation included both electronic and "steampunk style" tools.

There was much more to hear, discuss, and ponder at the SLJ Leadership Summit. Many of the sessions were taped, and School Library Journal will be sharing archives on the conference site, as they become available.

Thanks to the corporate sponsors, and School Library Journal, for offering this opportunity to convene, connect, and construct.

My photos of the conference are here. The SLJ Summit 1o group can be found here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sometimes Good Things Happen to Good People

"Library Dream Team: Tammy Beasley, Buffy Hamilton, Roxanne Johnson, Dr. Bob Eddy" by theunquietlibrarian

Congratulations to a dear friend, and tireless worker for all that is positive in school libraries,

Buffy Hamilton

who has just been designated "Georgia Library Media Specialist of the Year for 2010"

In August, Buffy (aka The Unquiet Librarian) and her fellow librarian, Roxanne Johnson, received recognition as one of two “exemplary” high school library programs for the state of Georgia.

On October 12, Buffy was named to the National School Boards Association's list of "20 to Watch" for education technology leadership.

Today, the Georgia Library Library Media Association honored Buffy Hamilton for excellence in her profession.

Well done, Buffy, and well-deserved!

"Friendship" by dmcordell

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Listen and Learn

"Do not pass by my epitaph, traveler.
 But having stopped, listen and learn, then go your way." -Roman Tombstone

I have always been fascinated by old graveyards, those rambling, untidy cities of the dead. Love and longing, loss and sweet remembrance all find expression there.

Our American children celebrate Halloween, All Hallow's Eve, by wearing costumes and harvesting bags of treats from friendly neighbors. This harmless fun stems from the ancient Celtic belief that
"the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm." -Wikipedia
The Catholic Church has recast this pagan tradition as two Autumn feast days, All Saints' Day (All Hallow's Day), November 1, and All Souls' Day, November 2, both intended to honor the Christian dead.

There are many stories to be told in cemeteries, and the cross-curricular possibilities are endless.

I've gathered a collection of links and resources in a cemeteries wiki that is available for use by any interested educator.

Suggestions range from mapping grave sites to analyzing tombstones; composing epitaphs to writing dramatic "tours;" preserving history to researching ancestors.

The Poets' Corner memorial plaque for T.S. Eliot reads, "The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living."

Listen and learn.

Related posts:
The Brisbins of Saratoga County

"Requiescant in Pace 11/01/09" by dmcordell
"Alonzo P. Stinson" by dmcordell

Monday, September 27, 2010

Making It Real

Knowing that I'm "retired" and more apt to have free time than most members of our PLN, my friend Buffy Hamilton asked if I could do a live demo of document sharing in Google Docs this morning.

Buffy's lead off question was, "What are our favorite social media and web 2.0 tools?"
I contributed a few favorites, while she showed her students some of the editing options.

Since I had mentioned Google Reader, I opened a tab and checked my subscriptions. One item that caught my attention was Stephanie Sandifer's Education Reform Brainstorming posting. Like many educators, Stephanie has been concerned that "current dialogue around education reform
" does not adequately represent all stakeholders. Rather than merely rant or walk away, Stephanie has created a both a survey and a spreadsheet for brainstorming, hoping to built "a space that can become a repository of ideas for everyone involved and invested in improving the schools across our nation."

"EVERYONE is invited to help brainstorm ideas! Teachers, administrators, parents, students, community members, education researchers, anyone and everyone who is interested and who has an idea."

Stephanie mentioned students, those whose lives will be most directly affected by educational reform...or the lack thereof.

So I shared the links with Buffy and her class, a serendipitous opportunity to turn a demonstration into an exercise in authentic learning.

If your students are blocked from accessing these tools from school, please do as I once did with my Current Events classes: have them express their opinions verbally or in writing, then add the student comments yourself to Stephanie's document.

This is an important conversation. ALL voices need to be heard and valued.

"Put Learning in the Hands of Students" by katerha

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In My Grandfather's Voice: Found Poetry

A few weeks ago, I saw a comment on Twitter from Mary J. Johnson, The Primary Source Librarian:

I visited the Library of Congress Primary Source Set that Mary had recommended, then did some background research.

By definition, a "found poem" is a composition made by combining fragments of such printed material as newspapers, signs, or menus, and rearranging them into the form of a poem. Found poetry is fancifully described as the literary equivalent of a collage. In its purest form, found poetry uses only the original text, without alterations or deletions.

There are a number of lesson plans available online that focus on creating found poetry, including

My own foray into found poetry was inspired by some papers I found in my late father's office. Dad's parents, my grandparents, were Italian immigrants. They worked hard, found their version of the American Dream, and proudly became U.S. citizens.

Just prior to the outbreak of WWI, my grandfather had to return to Italy to settle an estate. Unable to leave the country once war was declared, Grandpa was given a choice: enlist in the Italian army, or be shot as a spy! He opted for the former, and served his time, while Grandma managed the family and their businesses. While far from home and loved ones, he kept a journal.

At some point, a photocopy of this document came into my father's possession, along with a translation of a few of the entries from their original Italian. On these pages, I see my grandfather's beautiful script and hear the loneliness and longing in his words.

Here are a selection of "found poems" in my grandfather's voice:

I. Malachin

Last night
at the usual hour
we had a roll call
of the 13th squad
and everybody was present
except for one soldier,
He is a country boy
and he likes to drink wine.
This evening
he is still missing
and nobody knows
where he is
or if anything happened to him.
The Commandant of the platoon
ordered us
to look for him
for some time
and at 11 pm
he was declared a deserter.
Pity for him.

II. Mail Call

The mail came this morning,
but for me, nothing.
I write almost every day,
but for me always nothing.
Word goes around
that in a few days
we have to advance,
and we hope
that God will keep us
in good health and safe,
so we can be together and
I think about my loved ones a lot...a lot.

III. Cold

The icy air really
cuts your face
and freezes your feet.
Just in a few minutes,
your feet
are not just frozen
but like marble.
The night is beautiful,
with so many stars,
a night for lovers!
The stars shine so
in the sky.
If a poet were here,
he would write
some beautiful
poetic words.
I look at my watch
and the time is 2 am.
We have to stay up
for another 3 hours
with this
tremendous cold air
and we feel
the nervousness
of the time.

IV. Battle

We hear the sound
of battle
machine gun fire
and even the air
smells of
gun powder.
We also hear soldiers calling for help
and, to top it all off,
is the feeling
of insecurity,
the end of this
messy and gory raid.
The potent
machine gun light
sweeps across the land
and everything is dead silent.
But this time
the light has a
from the other side,
and it seems that
it is a duel
between the
two giant lights.
Our light is
and the enemy light
tries to confuse us.
After a while,
the lights from both sides
go off.
No winners.

"Grandpa's Journal" by dmcordell

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Trailer Awards

From Joyce Valenza, on NeverEndingSearch:

New Book Video Trailer Awards!

"On September 27th, School Library Journal will ask readers to vote for the best video trailers that promote books and encourage reading.

Voters will be asked to select the best video in six categories:

  • Publisher/author created for Elementary readers (PreK-6)
  • Publisher/author created for Secondary readers (7-12)
  • Student created for Elementary readers (PreK-6)
  • Student created for Secondary readers (7-12)
  • Adult (anyone over 18) created for Elementary readers (PreK-6)
  • Adult created for Secondary readers (7-12)

There will be four nominations in each category, selected by a committee of librarians. Winners will be announced at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit on the Future of Reading on October 22, 2010 in Chicago.

The primary purpose of these awards is to recognize the important role that video plays in bringing readers to books as well as the wonderful creativity of the producers.

Only videos produced between January 1, 2006 to July 1, 2010 are eligible for consideration.

To suggest a video before the September 17th deadline, please send an email to


  • the name of the video
  • the video’s creator(s)
  • the author and the title of the book that the video is promoting
  • the URL for viewing the video
  • no more than 200 words about why this video would turn the viewer into a reader of the book

Anyone is free to suggest a title. Start nominating! And please spread the word."

Teachers, if you are searching for alternatives to the traditional written book report, having your students produce book trailers might be the perfect way to foster critical thinking and creativity while encouraging a love of literature.

There is a wealth of information available online. Book Trailers for Readers has an instructional video, tips, and links. You'll find an Assessment Rubric, among other resources, on the Reading-Active-and-Engaging wiki. Also helpful is the trailers and videos page of the incredibly rich bookleads wiki.

As you watch the sample below, a trailer for Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, consider the higher thinking skills that it displays: the student/creator had to analyze the story, decide which key elements to emphasize, select images that accurately convey the story, and script a compelling narrative.

If you and/or your students produced book trailers during the required time frame (between January 1, 2006 to July 1, 2010), please consider submitting them for the contest. If you've never tried this type of activity before, look through the above resources and give it a try.

"Light books" by