Saturday, December 31, 2011

Inspiration for 2012

I've noticed that many of my online friends are posting inspirational quotes on this, the last day of 2011.

With that example in front of me, I've selected some guiding thoughts and reminders for 2012:

"There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story." -Linda Hogan

The Poetry of the Earth is Never Dead

"The poetry of the earth is never dead." -John Keats

The Fair Adventure of Tomorrow

"The day shall not be up so soon as I, To try the fair adventure of tomorrow." -William Shakespeare

"Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time." -Deborah Chaskin

“The journey between who you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.”- Barbara De Angelis


When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness,
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
-Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Learning More Deeply

"measuring up" by woodleywonderworks

In a recent posting, Buffy Hamilton took advantage of winter break to reflect on her professional practice:
"My colleague Kristin Fontichiaro inspired me earlier this year to hone in on helping teachers and students go beyond surface level knowledge and the 'shininess' of students merely producing something with a web 2.0 tool and to look at how digitally created content reflects rigor in terms of content and composition."
I would strongly recommend that you visit The Unquiet Librarian and read Midyear Reflections: Challenges of Supporting Student Digital Nonfiction Composition in its entirety. Buffy's self-assessment is tough but fair, displaying the type of rigor, that can be defined as "the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate" rather than "severity or strictness; excessive sternness."

If our educational goal is to have students acquire knowledge, rather than merely complete tasks, we must provide the scaffolding, exemplary models, and formative assessments that Buffy is striving to infuse into her students' learning experiences.

"It might be easier to define rigor by noting what it is not: Rigor is not a synonym for ‘harder,’ and it does not mean moving first-grade curriculum into kindergarten, or algebra into the seventh grade. … Rigor means teaching and learning things more thoroughly – more deeply." -Nancy Flanagan

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Five and Ten

As I write a longer, more reflective piece about 2011, I'm pausing to note my five most read blog postings and ten most viewed photos of the past year.

I hope some of them have entertained or engaged you.

From Journeys:

May 16, 2011 Cat Among the Pigeons
A response to Seth Godin's posting, The future of the library: "Change is not only an option, change is an imperative. Don't just get your feathers ruffled: inquire, assess, learn, adapt. Evolve."

June 21, 2011 ISTE Update - Two Days to Departure
Getting ready for ISTE 2100, in Philadelphia: "I've added an exciting event to my ISTE planner: TEDxPhiladelphiaED. This (naturally) creates a conflict in my schedule, but a group of us will be leaving EduBloggerCon a bit early so that we can attend both events."

July 28, 2011 Never Underestimate...
Buffy Hamilton takes on Amazon: "Referring to the both the experience and the responses she's received, Buffy wrote this Facebook message, 'All I can say is the Amazon has truly underestimated the potential of the K12 market.' Someone in the corporate realm had better be listening."

October 16, 2011 AASL 2011 Learning Commons
Our spot to "Share, Connect, Grow" at the American Association of School Librarians conference: "The Learning Commons is the perfect venue for self-directed professional development. It's free and open to everyone at the conference. Consider the possibilities; join in the fun!"

January 22, 2011 The Power of the Product: An EduCon Conversation
Gwyneth Jones and I facilitate the creation of a crowd-sourced slideshow: "A conversation is only as 'Creative, Meaningful and Daring' as its participants. Come join us, and see what we can build together!"

From Flickr:

Looking into the Past 6/21/11
Dad took this photo of his new bride 65 years ago tomorrow, in front of the Queensbury Hotel. My parents were on the way to Montreal for their honeymoon.

Hometown Graffiti 3/20/11
Brigham Young basketball sensation [now signed as an NBA rookie with the Sacramento Kings] Jimmer Fredette has been "immortalized" on a brick wall in Glens Falls, NY, where residents take pride in the success of a local boy.

Digital Divide poster 8/07/11

The Frog Prince poster 4/27/11

Shoes of ISTE 11: Buffy Hamilton Edition 6/28/11
Librarian wardrobe essential: wedge heels with flowers - in silver, of course!

Anywhere's a Better Place to Be 8/14/11
School version.

Sunset, Dorado 3/03/11
We are in Paradise!

Good Morning, Buffy! 11/26/11
It was nice to open my morning newspaper and see a friend looking back at me.

Luscious 2/05/11

36/365 While the weather outside is frightful - sleet, ice and snow in a crazy melange - it's nice to contemplate a sweeter variety of frozen matter. This vegetable- and fruit-flavored gelato tempts shoppers in Philadelphia.

Fish Story 1/19/11
A Redeye Bass starts to show its true colors on my husband's drawing board.

To all my friends, old and new, face-to-face and virtual (but still "real")...thank you for visiting my blog. Whatever you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


My first Tweet:

"blogging, browsing my Google Reader, trying to figure out twitter!"
04:50 PM September 29, 2007

From such a modest beginning, my network has expanded and so have my horizons. I value the connections and the conversations.
Just being part of such a diverse group makes me feel like a winner!

If you would like to vote in the 2011 Edublog Awards, please visit the official site.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Portion of Thyself

"Box with Gift" by Robo Android

It's that time of year when many people are searching for that perfect gift for someone special. Why not take the opportunity to do more than exchange "stuff;" why not exchange - and create - memories?

Here are some suggestions that will help you tap into the power of storytelling:

Charms and Jewelry
Among my mother's bits of jewelry was a charm bracelet, which my daughter now wears with an extender, as a necklace. Each tiny gold object represents a person, place or event. I enjoyed sharing the history of this heirloom with her as we remembered a dearly loved relative.

There are a number of popular charm bracelet options available, so if you haven't inherited such a piece, you can begin creating one now.

Lockets and Ornaments
Personalizing objects with images is a lovely way to remember special occasions and share family portraits with future generations. Either purchase a frame and insert your own photo, or visit a site like Zazzle to design and order customized items.

Audio Recordings, Books and Albums
Why not interview a grandparent, or just capture random musings about your childhood and days gone by? You can purchase picture books that will "record a story" in your own voice; fotobabble, where users create "talking photos," provides a free alternative.

There are dozens of sites where it is possible to write a book or collect photographs for private publication. It might be fun to include family members in the creation process rather than just present them with a finished product. Photos can also be share in a physical album, on a CD or archived in a website or wiki. Please remember to label and tag as much as you can!

When the urge to declutter hits (maybe a New Year's resolution?), select and share both objects and their stories with others. My family has had fun reminiscing about clothing, toys, household items, and, of course, books and photos. I treasure my mother's WAC dog tags and her apron.....the tiny bib overalls that both my children wore as babies... some of my father's WWII aviation instruments and one of the soft and snowy handkerchiefs he always carried with him. Sometimes the plainest, most ordinary things trigger the dearest memories.

The Gift of Time
American essayist and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, said that “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” Although presents add to holiday merriment, making a conscious effort to spend time with those you love is the greatest gift of all.

Share your stories, help others create their own stories.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” -Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Civil Discourse

"couple yelling at each other" by hang_in_there

There have been numerous mentions in my network recently of an online petition to Save School Libraries, which recommends that:
"Any school receiving Federal funds should be required to have a credentialed School Librarian on staff full time with a library that contains a minimum of 18 books per student. Failure to have a school library open to all students and/or failure to have a credentialed School Librarian to run that library should be punishable by a immediate withdrawal of all Federal monies."

While many people supported this proposal, Buffy Hamilton chose to blog about Why I Am Not Signing the "Save Libraries" Petition. Doug Johnson voiced his agreement with Buffy in You can't mandate quality, but you can mandate mediocrity. Each of these postings was thoughtful, reasoned, dispassionate. Unfortunately, many of the comments added by readers were not.

During my classroom days, I sometimes shared with my students the Rules of Civility that were written by a teenage George Washington. Although we laughed at some of the caveats ("Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it."), and shook our heads at others ("In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.") we found some recommendations that still hold true after more than 250 years.

In regards to conversation, Washington admonishes:
  • Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
  • Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for 'tis a Sign of a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion admit Reason to Govern.
  • When you deliver a matter do it without passion & with discretion, however mean the person be you do it too.
Two hot topics in education today are cyberbullying and good digital citizenship. We cannot just pontificate on these issues. We need to model positive behavior for our students. Disagreeing with a professional colleague in a respectful manner is appropriate; personal attacks and name-calling are not.

When engaging in a public discussion, please remember to keep a civil tongue in your head.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turning the Page

Turning the Page: AASL 2011

It has been about ten days since I returned home from AASL 2011, in Minneapolis, MN. I get so involved and distracted at large conferences that I never blog on site, and only tweet during some of the presentations. My intent was to write at least one, perhaps two, postings on my experience there.

Life has intervened.

So I'll just highlight a few items, share what I did (and photographed, of course!), and recommend that those interested in more information pay a visit to the AASL11 Ning, which is still being updated and contains a wealth of content.

This was my debut as a presenter in the Exploratorium, and I loved it. It reminded me of a school science fair, where people circulate and ask questions about projects. The space was nicely set up, with room to move around among the tables, which were arranged by topic. My partners - Shannon M. Miller and John Schumacher - and I talked about our collaborations: all of us in Club Click, and Shannon and John through the Two Libraries, One Voice series of activities. The information exchange worked both ways, and I feel that I learned as much from our visitors as they, hopefully, learned from us.

Exploratorium - Shannon Miller, Diane Cordell, John Schu(macher)


There was an amazing, almost over-whelming, selection of general and concurrent sessions from which to choose. Full registration at AALS 2011 included the Virtual Conference, which offered both livestreaming of events and access to archived slidecasts, recordings, and speaker handouts. Conference videos and discussion forums can also be found at the aforementioned Ning (which is still encouraging presenters to share materials and engage in conversation on the site).

Definitions of Transliteracy - Buffy Hamilton

The Learning Commons

AASL 2011 National Conference Conference Committee Social Media Chair, Buffy Hamilton, did an outstanding job of organizing and publicizing all the many ways to share in this event, whether attending physically or virtually. By far, my favorite choice was the Learning Commons, a space for teaching, learning, connecting. There were short presentations, informal discussions, and casual conversations. The LC was, and should be, about networking and sharing knowledge. It succeeded on both fronts.

Diane Cordell, Tami Tagtow in the Learning Commons


The city was a delight, with enclosed walkways, easy transport, good restaurants, plentiful shopping opportunities and, above all, friendly people. The closing celebration for the conference featured Minnesota delicacies, like pan-fried Walleye and a wild rice paella. Even the weather cooperated, sparing us the snow that my home state experienced while I was away. Given the chance, I will definitely visit Minneapolis again in the future.

Love from Minnesota
Looking Ahead
AASL 2011 was a valuable experience for those lucky enough to attend. Although the next national conference won't be held until 2013, in Hartford Connecticut, there will be a Fall Forum from October 12-13, 2012, in Greenville, SC. The theme will be Transliteracy and the School Library, with speakers to be announced soon. If you'd like to learn more about this increasingly important topic, please consider joining your fellow school librarians in beautiful South Carolina.

SlideShare from the Learning Commons, A Way of Knowing
A Livestream recording of my commentary on the slides
Wiki created for our discussion of library design
All photos are from my AASL11 - Minneapolis, MN set

Sunday, October 23, 2011

School Libraries...Free eBook

School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come

Ebook By Kristin Fontichiaro
$0.00 Rating: Not yet rated.
Published: Oct. 15, 2011
Category: Non-Fiction » Education and Study Guides » Teaching
Category: Essay » Technology
Words: 45706 (approximate)
Language: English

A crowdsourced collection of over 100 essays from around the world about trends in school libraries written by librarians, teachers, publishers, and library vendors. Edited by Kristin Fontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton. Foreword by R. David Lankes. Photographs by Diane Cordell.

I've recently had the pleasure of contributing to this project, the brainchild of Kristin Fontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton. The essays were written by a wonderful mix of education professionals, and will hopefully spark many future discussions.

My essay can be found in Chapter 9, Collaboration - "Diane Cordell: Bridging Space and Time: Collaborating for Learning," and my photos are scattered throughout the book.

School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come is available for free download in a variety of formats at Smashwords. Continue the dialog by leaving a review on the site.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Learning Commons at AASL 2011

Come join us in Minneapolis, and take advantage of the opportunity to Share, Connect, and Grow!

To see the full-screen version, go to AASL 2011 Social Media and Learning Commons

Sunday, October 16, 2011

AASL 2011 Learning Commons

"Bloggers Cafe Joyce presenting" by msbrendadanderson

In November 2009, I participated in an exciting professional experience. Joyce Valenza invited a group of Teacher Librarians to join her in manning an area where informal exchanges of information could take place. We branded ourselves as the Geek Squad (now the Geek Tribe) and facilitated a participant-driven parallel "unconference" during the more formal AASL Charlotte Convention.

This year, at AASL 2011, we hope to offer the same type of opportunity via the Learning Commons, "a space where participants can gather to extend and sustain conversations from the conference experience as well as place where you can ignite new conversations for learning." Conference attendees are invited to sign up for a half-hour slot, during time which they can host a discussion, share resources and/or teach a new skill.

I've signed up for two sessions, "A Way of Knowing: The Power of Storytelling as a Connector in Libraries" on Thursday at 10:30 a.m (resources to come); and "Reimagining Libraries" on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. (reLibraries wiki).

The Learning Commons is the perfect venue for self-directed professional development. It's free and open to everyone at the conference. Consider the possibilities; join in the fun!

Visit AASL 2011 National Conference & Exhibition

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cohort D

Cohort D: Michelle Fromme, Elisabeth Abarbanel, Buffy Hamilton, Diane Cordell, Heather Braum

For the past few days, I’ve been privileged to participate in the first Reimagine:ED conference, an exploration of the intersection of design process and library planning.

As many good learning experiences do, this exercise threw us a few curves, challenged participants in unexpected ways, and led to some exciting new perspectives.

The organizers of the event set up three “cohorts,” or large clusters, A, B, and C, divided further into small collaborative groups. Each cohort was assigned an overriding question, with the ultimate goal of creating and presenting a final product related to a new vision for school libraries. Guided by mentors, inspired by design professionals, visionaries, even jazz musicians, we worked to master some of the fundamentals of innovative design, always relating it back to the library experience.

On Saturday evening, I met with some friends for camaraderie and conversation. Excited by what we had discussed in our formal activities, we started to brainstorm “the library as...” generating quite a long and eclectic list. Although we had been assigned to different cohorts, one idea really caught our imaginations. In this situation, we were students, not teachers, and 21st century ones at that. We decided to follow our passion and form our own group - not because we didn’t value our experience with fellow attendees, but because we had something we really wanted to flesh out and share with others. Thus was born Cohort D.

The powers that be (thanks, Laura!) allowed us to add our presentation to the culminating program, encouraging rather than criticizing Cohort D’s deviation from the “rules.” And so we were able to share our vision, the library as...A Field of Dreams. Rather than dwell on tangibles, we tried to capture the universal qualities in that particular movie that would foster an emotional, sustainable connection between a library and its users, no matter the physical form into which that library might evolve.

We hoped to:
  • suggest possibilities
  • show the value of questioning and inquiry
  • emphasis permeability: the field could be entered from multiple access points, seamlessly
  • describe a non-judgmental, nurturing environment, a place of safety and growth: a community
  • celebrate choices: individual/team member; participant/spectator; mentor/student; with users being able to choose the role that is appropriate at any given time
  • encourage passion in learning
  • demonstrate how library could be a multi-sensory experience
  • highlight the importance of storytelling and the diversity of the many stories that wait to be shared and acknowledged
  • propose that the “sweet spot” of connection to the library is emotional attachment

Our goal was not to create a template, but to suggest key components that would be transferable to any library, easily customizable for a broad spectrum of communities of learners.

We were taught a process, then allowed to express our vision. I hope that you allow your students the same freedom.

Long live Cohort D!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Considering New Perspectives

On Thursday, I'll board an Amtrak train in Fort Edward, NY, with a final destination of Atlanta, GA, where I'll participate in Reimagine: ED.

Our purpose will be "exploring the future of learning in K-12 education by identifying ideas, places, and professional roles that would benefit from new perspectives...[to] bring together diverse voices and use the design process to develop shared understandings and action steps for change."

With this goal in mind, I've been considering some recent personal experiences which have contributed to my life as a learner.

Open Studios Tour: Enchanting Art
This self-guided tour offered an opportunity to interact with artists in their working spaces, permitting a glimpse of some of the underlying structure that is necessary to a productive creative life. Photos.

Raptors in the Park
Community members dropped by to learn about native birds of prey. The audience was diverse and multi-generational, and information was delivered in an entertaining manner - a perfect blend of facts and fun. Photos.

Yaddo Mansion Tour

The public was allowed a rare glimpse of this private retreat, which has hosted artists from around the world since its founding, nearly 120 years ago. The guest rooms are spare but functional, each with a well-lighted desk (and dictionary); studio space offers a "blank canvas" for artists to utilize as they choose. Yaddo provides two meals a day, during which artists-in-residence can choose to interact with fellow guests or eat in a quiet area, where they can continue their thinking, undisturbed. Extensive grounds and beautiful gardens present other opportunities for reflection and conversation. If I could select the perfect venue for creativity and collaboration, Yaddo would be my choice. Photos.

Locating sites for en plein air painting is just a first step for my husband: both he and I track down sources that gives his artwork context and adds other levels of meaning. We became "citizen journalists" of a sort, when a local landmark burned down. Tim's painting, and my photos, were the most recent record of the building. And the facts he had gathered, from a railroad expert in his network, key facts about the purpose of the structure, gave some news reporters important background information. Photos.

My love for photography has resulted in some very interesting connections. When I recently posted photos of my mother's family on the Troy, NY Memories group in FaceBook, I was immediately contacted by relatives (of whose existence I was unaware) who provided genealogical information about the family dating back to 17th century France. With their help, I identified our mutual great-great-grandparents in a scanned image. This not only inspired me to learn more about a previously-unknown group of ancestors, it also triggered a rich storytelling and resource sharing burst that still continues. What better way to learn history than through exploring your roots? (I've blogged about my Italian heritage: In My Grandfather's Voice and Inquiry, Search, Results, Applications. Now I need to learn more about the Irish branch of the family tree). Photos.

But to get back to my original point: I've found that, for my learning experiences, I like a variety of spaces (intimate and expansive, interior and out-of-doors); opportunities for interaction but with an option for quiet self-reflection; informal exchanges of information; multiple modes of input and output; access to tools (typewriters, notebooks, laptops, etc.). I'm comfortable online but equally value face-to-face communication. I need motion as well as rest. I want to learn about topics that are of personal interest.

I look forward to participating in Reimagine:ED and will certainly share my experiences in future postings. If we truly desire a better educational system, we need to consider, collaborate, create, communicate.

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." -John Dewey

"The eternal conflict of good and the best with bad and the worst is on." -Melvil Dewey

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reprise: Our World Changed Forever

It was ten years ago today that coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States profoundly changed our lives.

Even though a decade has passed, writing about this event brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Four years ago, I blogged about a discussion I had with my students about September 11, 2001; another posting, from 2009, includes more of my memories of the day. I will let that stand as my record of a pivotal moment in history.

A few weeks after 9/01/01, our high school students gave a concert as a tribute to those who responded and those who died. While I'm not normally a country music fan, one of the songs they performed then still affects me whenever I hear it.

I AM proud to be an American. However you choose to remember this day, let that be your slogan and your comfort.

God bless the U. S. A.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Senior Moment

A member of my network mentioned that today is National Senior Citizens Day, as proclaimed by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1988, and celebrated yearly ever since.

According to New Jersey Senior Citizen Coordinator, Paulette Drogon, "There is no set age when a person becomes a 'senior citizen.' The age requirements for federal and state programs and entitlements are established by legislative action," and range from 60 to 70 years and older, depending on the benefits sought. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) actively begins recruiting members once they hit the advanced age of 50 (much to the chagrin of some recipients of their mail advertisements!).

Although I meet many of the criteria for being considered a senior citizen, I hardly consider myself "elderly." And while I enjoy interaction with young people, I am honestly not in need of someone to "change a lightbulb" or perform other daily tasks. Some day, maybe, but not quite yet.

I had the chance to spend some time yesterday with a few of my high school classmates. All of us are around the age of 64. We continue to be active in a variety of ways, from the former police chief who now teaches forensic science, to the naval vet who flies State Police helicopters, to the "retired" nurse who is helping a friend renovate a large house. No one is sitting in a lonely room, waiting for someone to come in and entertain them - not now, hopefully not ever.

To coincide with the 2011 Treasure Mountain Research Retreat and the AASL National Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kristin Fontichiaro and Buffy Hamilton are accepting submissions for "a collection of crowdsourced short essays on the future of school libraries from multiple perspectives, to be published in e-book format." My contribution to this project (in the Collaboration Chapter) is titled "Bridging Space and Time: Collaborating for Learning," and it represents my vision of a meaningful retirement.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on both the future of collaboration and modern attitudes towards aging.

"The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."

-J. R. R. Tolkien

"The road goes ever on and on..." by dmcordell

Monday, August 15, 2011

Variations on a Theme: Two Gardens

Located in adjoining towns, within a few minutes driving distance of each other, Hovey Pond Park and the Rite Aid Community Garden share elements of the type of enchantment that Buffy Hamilton so eloquently describes in her presentations.

As I did in my Open Studios Tour posting, I'll try to analyze where the keys to an enchanting experience lie.

Hovey Pond Park is maintained by the Town of Queensbury and a squad of volunteer gardeners. Interpretive signs explain both the history and the environmental importance of this area. The land on which the Rite Aid Community Garden rests, formerly an empty lot, is made available to local residents by the adjacent Rite Aid store, as a public service.

The botanical gardens at Hovey Pond Park are complemented by an assortment of wildflowers which populate the pond and marsh areas (and sometimes "invade" the garden proper). Pathways, benches, a handicapped-accessible fishing platform, playground, and picnic areas invite exploration or quiet contemplation.

Individual plots at the Rite Aid Community Garden reflect the personalities of those who tend them. Whimsical bits of found art, hand-lettered signs, the choice of plants - tomatoes and cabbages cheerfully share their space with sunflowers and marigolds - are reminders that this garden is cultivated by people, not high-powered machinery. Even the tools in evidence reflect a very human, slightly nostalgic, influence.

Fantastic Product or Service
Each garden provides a green oasis; the Community Garden is particularly refreshing to the eyes, being situated close to the heart of the business district in Glens Falls, NY. Both sites are free to use (although you must sign up for a garden plot), environmentally friendly, and invite collaboration from the public. There are opportunities for exercise and multi-generational interaction: older adults and young children can often be seen fishing together at Hovey Pond; Brownie troops, church groups, and local residents of all ages garden side-by-side in the Rite Aid Community Garden.

There are certainly common elements found in these two gardens which might be applied to a school or library experience. These spaces invite purposeful play. Any rules are clearly written, publicly posted, and designed for the benefit of users. Information is acquired via text, in some instances, but also through human interaction with the environment and with with other people.

The school in which I taught had an open space, visible from my library windows. After being ignored for years, this little courtyard was prettied up with a trellis and some beautiful flowers. But a few years ago, something else was added: a vegetable garden, maintained by student volunteers. It would be wonderful if every school could have an actual, physical garden. But even lacking that, it's possible to add some garden-like elements, both literally and figuratively, to a classroom or library.

Gardens lend enchantment, and enchantment can lead to engagement, passion, and learning.

"Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there." -Thomas Fuller

From Flickr:
Hovey Pond Park Collection
Rite Aid Community Garden

Check out (!) this information from our local public library:

"One Community One Book is back, from its May 19th kickoff through the October 6th finale, featuring Kristin Kimball’s The Dirty Life. In conjunction with our Folklife Center’s “Foodways: Documenting the Local", enjoy the story of a city gal who meets and marries a farmer and moves from metropolitan NYC to upstate Essex. A little bit love story, a lot of dirt. Join the Reference Department for book discussions, alternative farming talks, and movies culminating with a meet the author night on October 6th in the Community Room.

The Children’s Department will present programming using the following: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.

Our teens will be reading and discussing Seedfolks by Paul Fleishman and visiting a local farmer’s market. They will also be enjoying Cooking Outside the Pizza Box by Jean Patterson and sharing in a pot luck dinner. Yum- this should prove to be a fun and delicious endeavor and a great way to congregate with our neighbors." -Crandall Public Library

What a perfect example of how to secure engagement by tapping into an area of interest and providing a diverse menu of related activities.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Musings

spontaneous stochasticity: objects placed in a turbulent flow—even objects that are identical and are dropped into the same spot—will end up in different places. -The JHU Gazette

Mathematical physicist Gregory Eyink emphasizes that "It is crucial here that the flow is turbulent—as in whitewater rapids or a roiling volcanic plume—and not smooth, regular flow as in a quiet-running stream.”

Two truths: violent forces will push us in directions we can't anticipate; and moving out of the sphere of turbulence allows a measure of control.

Sunday musings.

"Near Butler Pond" by dmcordell

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Never Underestimate...

My friend, Buffy Hamilton, recently had a very unsatisfactory conversation with a representative from Amazon Kindle Education. According to the company, Buffy's LibGuides page contained incorrect information about the Amazon End User License as it relates to Kindle use in school libraries. Read the complete posting at the Unquiet Library blog.

The bottom line is that Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, will no longer be purchasing Kindles for its library media center.

With Kindle sales contributing to "robust revenue growth" for Amazon, the loss of business from a single Georgia high school might seem insignificant...except for two pertinent facts:
  • this librarian is well-known and well-respected as a library leader; her opinion is trusted
  • Buffy used her social networking skills to get her message read: on the day the posting appeared, it received over 4500 hits
Some commenters, reacting to the information shared on the Unquiet Librarian blog, stated that Amazon's policies have convinced them to opt for the NOOK reader as being better suited for school library needs. "Mrs. ReaderPants" enlarges the conversation when she notes, " If Nook is what is in their school library, Nook will be what they are used to. When they are ready to purchase an e-reader for themselves, which one do you think they are most likely to buy?"

I own a Kindle and love its convenience. Amazon one-click shopping means I can purchase a title and have it instantly delivered to my reader electronically. However, if I were acquiring multiple devices for educational use, I would opt for the library-friendly Nook.

Referring to the both the experience and the responses she's received, Buffy wrote this Facebook message, "All I can say is the Amazon has truly underestimated the potential of the K12 market."

Someone in the corporate realm had better be listening.

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." -Bill Gates

"Roxanne and Buffy Showing off the New Bouncing Baby Kindles!" by theunquietlibrary

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Open Studios Tour: Enchanting Art

On Saturday, my husband and I spent a wonderful day touring artists' studios in Washington County, NY.

I couldn't help but notice that the success of this event depended largely on the infusion of those elements described by Buffy Hamilton in her presentation, libraries as communally constructed sites of participatory learning: creating conversations and connections through enchantment. (video now on YouTube)


Open Studios is a juried event. The organizers of this free, self-guided tour made sure that only established artists, with an respected body of work, were featured. This was a celebration of fine art, not a craft fair.


Each artist was present and eager to talk with visitors. When I asked for permission to take photos, I was encouraged to do so; the artists themselves happily posed with their paintings. Hosts had stories to share: about the evolution of their career, the steps in the creative process, what they choose to incorporate into their art and why. This infused products with meaning and put them into context for interested viewers...both the artists and the art thus became accessible and likable.

Fantastic Product or Service

The Open Studios site advertised that "professional artists will once again open their doors...
offering a glimpse into their creative lifestyles, and a unique opportunity to purchase great art directly from their studios," and they delivered on the promise. Artists offered special discounts and personally signed purchases. Casual browsers were greeted as warmly as paying customers. At each venue, some sort of refreshment was offered, from homemade cookies & lemonade to colorfully-wrapped Chinese sweets. In addition, Open Studios of Washington County and its sponsors hosted a complimentary reception for all tour visitors on the first evening of the two-day event, with hors d’oeuvres wine, and "a chance to meet with all the artists and other Open Studios visitors and to share stories and discoveries of the day."

Other Positive Attributes
  • choice...of locations and art genres [wouldn't it be fun to initiate a self-guided tour of local libraries, a mix of public, academic & school?]
  • each studio displayed both finished pieces and works in progress, giving visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how art is created
  • business cards, with website addresses, were freely distributed - interested people could ue the information they contained to learn more about the artists (and perhaps become future customers)
  • variety of architectural design: studios were located in renovated barns, farmhouses, and converted factories; common to all were good natural lighting, plentiful space, and numerous display options
  • setting: Washington County is largely rural, with small villages rather than big cities. Nature is nearby and evident, creating a calming, creatively-stimulating atmosphere

In the Library

Wikipedia defines an artist as "a person engaged in one or more of any of a broad spectrum of activities related to creating art, practicing the arts and/or demonstrating an art." Librarians fit all of those descriptors, as they assist in the acquisition, creation, and dissemination of information (the artistic product).

In a logical extension of the concept of librarian/artist, libraries would become less like knowledge warehouses and more like artists' studios, incorporating interesting design, transparency, and personalized service.

Enchanting spaces.

See additional photos in the Open Studios of Washington County, NY Flickr set

"Open Studios of Washington County, NY" by dmcordell
"Three Artists: Leslie Parke,
Adriano Manocchia, Leslie Peck" by dmcordell
Will Moses signing a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Hagan" by dmcordell
"110/i365" by Purple Phoenix

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


"You begin with the possibilities of the material." -Robert Rauschenberg

Less than a week after returning home from ISTE 2011, I set out again, this time for a reunion of friends in Missouri. Our hostess planned a variety of events for us, and, as is my habit, I jotted down ideas, and took photos of things that caught my eye or presented opportunities for further exploration. The following is a compilation of some of these points of possibility.

On Play and Time Travel
One of our stops was the Toy and Miniature Museum of Kansas City. Signs there reminded us that "Dollhouses used to help teach household management skills" [hands-on learning through play] and that dollhouses can serve as time machines, showing us how people lived, what they wore, their sense of style BUT an ideal, not necessarily the reality. When my husband and I did historic reenacting, we studied 18th century paintings to learn about clothing, tools, and other artifacts appropriate to the time period. It is interesting to consider using dollhouses for the same purpose.
*photographs were not permitted in the Toy and Miniature Museum. The dollhouse room below is from the Knoxville Museum of Art

The History of Art
After touring the Toy & Miniature Museum, we had lunch at the Cafe Sebastienne, in the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The walls in the cafe are covered with an installation of 110 paintings, specially created for this space by artist Frederick James Brown, who explains,
"This is a project of love. It is a tribute to art and artists throughout the ages...The works in this exhibition are my interpretations of the selected artists and/or art. No attempt was made, nor was it ever the intent, to reproduce or copy any works of art."
My companions and I had fun guessing at the artists represented, and I couldn't help but think what a great curricular unit this would make: identifying Brown's tribute pieces, discussing why he choose these particular works, then having students construct similar walls of art - or applying the concept to photography, music, etc.

Current Events
On a day trip to Atchison, Kansas, we had the opportunity to observe first-hand the magnitude of the Missouri River at high flood stage. Now running 30-35 deep, the river is not expected to recede significantly until early autumn. Among the concerns are the possibility of breached levees and disrupted transportation, with some bridges closed and railroad tracks in danger of flooding. Teachers in any part of the world might use this situation to discuss extreme weather, disaster preparedness, the Army Corps of Engineers and their flood control plans, long-term impact (food prices, the local economy), etc.

Library Digitalization
With so many ways to connect online, work sometimes spills over into vacation time. One of my friends had to reschedule some meetings related to a Mellon Foundation Award. Knowing my continuing interest in libraries, she shared with me information about a digitalization project being undertaken by the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium, intended "to integrate digital resources into the curriculum."
"The five objectives of the grant are to (1) help faculty to identify, build, and integrate digital collections into their courses through a partnership with librarians; (2) enhance access to scholarly endeavors of both faculty and students; (3) create a professional development program for library staff to enrich their technological sophistication and implement innovative efforts; (4) establish a digital infrastructure to improve support for new initiatives; and (5) develop a portal that will function as a gateway to digital collections and a site for accessing digitization procedures and training documents."
I look forward to following this project, since it certainly contains elements relevant to all types of school libraries, from K-12 through higher education.

On one leg of the plane ride home, I was seated next to a semi-retired school counselor on her way to a conference in North Carolina. We had an interesting discussion about technology use in primary and secondary schools, and she shared with me a nice Technology Tips page from the Missouri Association of Student Councils. It made me wonder how many other associations have valuable resources to share - and if there is a central registry somewhere with a comprehensive list of educational groups.

Echoes of ISTE
One of the highlights of my ISTE 2011 trip was hearing the five amazing teacher librarians, Anita Beaman, Buffy Hamilton, Cathy Nelson, Gwyneth Jones, and Shannon Miller, discuss their visions for school libraries. Buffy's visit to a New Orleans restaurant, Bouche, provided the central image for her discussion of participatory learning through Enchantment, with its elements of trustworthiness, likability, and a fantastic product or service. During my time in Kansas and Missouri, I encountered this type of enchantment on numerous occasions.

Justus Drugstore provides a unique dining opportunity: innovative food served in the most unlikely of places, a converted drugstore. Wait staff was not just attentive: each person with whom we interacted took the time to explain, suggest, and add little touches that enhanced our overall experience. The chef visited our table, recounting the history of the business (his family ran the original drugstore) and sharing his passion for local products creatively combined to please the senses. I was delighted that the little hors d’Ĺ“uvre we were served is known as an amuse-bouche ("mouth amuser")...if I hadn't been thinking of Buffy's enchantment before, the name of that delicious tidbit certainly brought it to mind!

The Indian restaurant I visited on my last day in Missouri had some of the design elements of Bouche in New Orleans. By simply draping fabric and hanging curtains as visual barriers, the owners created little private pockets for dining that gave the feel of intimacy in an otherwise open room. I couldn't help but reflect on how much my students would have enjoyed this type of separation in parts of our library, spaces to read and think and dream a bit.

Many of us have had the "virtual vs. real" discussion with people who denigrate the value of online relationships. I first met the two women with whom I shared my Kansas/Missouri adventures on the social networking site, Plurk. We discovered similarities in our lives and shared interests, and last year we met for the first time face to face. We weren't strangers, even then; we were friends who already knew a lot about each other. This happens more frequently than I could have imagined when I first hesitantly tried interacting with "strangers" online. Some of my dearest friends are separated from me by geography but close in the ways that matter.

The possibility of finding these kindred souls may be the greatest possibility of all.

"Our minds are finite, and yet even in these circumstances of finitude we are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of life is to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude." -Alfred North Whitehead

"Morning Has Broken" by dmcordell
"American Summer Kitchen" by Knoxville Museum of Art
"Frederick James Brown "The History of Art" Cafe Sebastienne - details from window wall #3 installation" by dmcordell
"Flooding along the Missouri River" by dmcordell
"Justus Drugstore" by dmcordell
"Indian Restaurant" by dmcordell
"Tres Pals" by dmcordell