Monday, December 24, 2012

The Best Gifts of All

"It's a Wrap!" by dmcordell

Feeling guilty about my sparse blogging output lately, I made some notes for a Christmas posting regarding meaningful gifts:
  • Give them experiences
  • Give them memories
  • Give them your time
  • Curate memories, not "stuff"
I originally thought in terms of family, but yesterday I received an unexpected communication from a professional colleague that caused me to expand my focus.

Minnesota Library Media Specialist, Tami Tagtow, contacted me on Facebook, asking for permission to re-post something I had written in 2011. Turning the Page was a reflection on my participation in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) national conference, in Minneapolis, MN.  Tami paid me the very great compliment of calling my writing an "inspiration."

Tami's comments reminded me that, very often, our words and actions have positive consequences beyond what we intend. While social networking can serve as an effective means of communication, sometimes it's too quick, too facile a way to share information. Deeper thoughts often require more detailed explication.

So I would add to my list:
  • Share your own learning experiences through reflective pieces
  • Acknowledge sources of inspiration
My gift to myself, and my New Year's resolution, is to resume blogging on a more regular basis.

Thank you, Tami, for the inspiration.

"Diane Cordell, Tami Tagtow in the Learning Commons" by dmcordell

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Unquiet in Cleveland

"Visualization of Buffy Hamilton's Enchantment Talk" by theunquietlibrarian

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate my professional colleague, and personal friend, Buffy Hamilton on her new position as the Cleveland Public's Learning Strategist.

Some might consider this move a career change, leaving a school setting to join the staff of a public library. Yet, if you read the CPL's overview of the position, you will note that the words "learning" and "teaching" figure prominently:

She [Buffy Hamilton] will serve as an internal consultant to management and staff on matters related to CPL’s mission as the “People’s University”, the center of learning for a diverse and inclusive community. Ms. Hamilton will champion the formation of innovative, sustainable, library-supported communities of participatory learning throughout the city with special attention and focus on those that address specific deficits affecting our community. She will also work to coordinate and design a learning and teaching agenda based on the 2012-2014 strategic plan, and work with the new Literacy & Education Coordinator to build an array of effective learning programs at each of CPL’s onsite Learning Centers. As CPL’s liaison to the school systems, she will develop strategies to support curricula through library resources and services.

This is more an expansion of her current practice than a completely new direction. Buffy has been, and will continue to be, a thought leader in the library world. Her move into the public sector is a natural progression, when you consider her interest in participatory librarianship, transliteracy, and maker spaces. She perceives opportunities - to blur the boundaries between the various library genres (school, academic, public, special) - where others see barriers.

Public and school librarians, in particular, frequently serve the same population. I would love to see more collaboration, sharing of staff, and launching of joint programs. Buffy will be uniquely placed to facilitate such services. I look forward to following her progress.

Have fun, my friend!

"Diane Cordell and Buffy Hamilton" by dmcordell

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Troubling Non-Conversation

 Graphic from

On Friday, a *new follower on Twitter wrote:
 *I have blacked out this person's user name because I don't have - and have no way to obtain - permission to quote him/her.

Mindful that September 30 is the first day of Banned Books Week, I saw this contact as an opportunity to seize a teachable moment. My responses were intended to be as tactful as possible:

The "conversation" did not go quite as I had hoped. The questioner had also contacted librarian Patrick Sweeney (I have no idea why we were chosen), who was happy to have me include some of his remarks:

*Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz

When Patrick mentioned that Huckleberry Finn and the Bible are more frequently challenged than Scary Stories, our questioner not only bailed from the discussion but blocked both of us from following his/her Tweets.

I'm sorry that this person took offense at our responses. Challenging a book that is being used in a classroom or library is serious business. By limiting access to literature and information sources, we are limiting personal rights. The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom provides a general overview of the issue. As I pointed out, individual school districts should have challenge policies in place and available to parents.

The fact that someone asked these questions is good. The problem lies in the refusal to engage in any type of meaningful dialog. You can't understand what you choose to condemn out of hand.

"Everyone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage." -Winston Churchill

"Every burned book enlightens the world." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TL Chat

"Some Geek Tribe members" by dmcordell

Last night on Twitter, a passion of librarians - and other interested parties - participated in the first ever TL Chat.

The theme was collaboration, and suggestions ranged from distributing teacher orientation materials on flash drives to maintaining a staff diigo account to utilizing "bathroom ads".

In my network, TL generally signifies a Teacher Librarian. When considering collaboration, this might also be interpreted as Teachers AND Librarians, working in tandem to enrich understanding and, yes, address CCSS. Our other natural collaborators are students, parents, administrators, and the community at large. There were numerous suggestions for including this diverse group of stakeholders. At least one principal joined in the chat; hopefully, other non-librarians will participate in future discussions.

The next TL Chat will be taking place on Monday, October 8 at 8pm ET. For those who missed the inaugural event, #tlchat tweets are archived here.

*It can be difficult to follow a chat on the Twitter site. I used TweetChat to keep up with the conversation.

"Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." 
 -Ryunosuke Satoro

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Making It

“One of the strangest things is the act of creation.

You are faced with a blank slate—a page, a canvas, a block of stone or wood, a silent musical instrument.

You then look inside yourself. You pull and tug and squeeze and fish around for slippery raw shapeless things that swim like fish made of cloud vapor and fill you with living clamor. You latch onto something. And you bring it forth out of your head like Zeus giving birth to Athena.

And as it comes out, it takes shape and tangible form.

It drips on the canvas, and slides through your pen, it springs forth and resonates into the musical strings, and slips along the edge of the sculptor’s tool onto the surface of the wood or marble.

You have given it cohesion. You have brought forth something ordered and beautiful out of nothing.

You have glimpsed the divine.” -Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

Put simply, a Makerspace is "a place where you can make your ideas come to life." Although some associate the concept with hackerspaces, creations can range from robotics to fabric stenciling  to math manipulatives - and even a makerspace itself!

These tinkering labs might appear in pop-up spaces, social clubs, museums, or, increasingly, public, university and school libraries.

 My passion for photography led me to start some Pinterest boards:
With the third of these Boards, I hope to demonstrate that, beyond the beauty of the images themselves, it is possible to create interesting and useful products that incorporate photographs. I've begun (trying) to duplicate the crafts I've bookmarked for sharing with teachers and students. As the Pinstrosity blog demonstrates, projects are not always as simple as they might seem at first glance, so trial runs are necessary prior to recommending classroom activities.

The Facebook group, MakerSpaces and the Participatory Library, is full of wonderful examples and suggestions, appropriate to all types of libraries, and schools, as well.

 "Making Something" by dmcordell
"Personalized water bottle" by dmcordell

Friday, July 27, 2012

Photowalks: The Art of Observation

After remotely participating in the Podstock PhotoWalk last week, I decided to learn more about this type of activity.

Let's start with some definitions: according to Wikipedia, "Photowalking is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting." A more specialized version of the photowalk is street photography, which focuses exclusively on people, captured candidly in public venues. Another variation of the photowalk is the photo safari, a term used to describe a structured photography learning experience in a class or workshop environment.

Successful photowalks usually include:
  • a pre-planned route so that participants can join a walk in progress or duplicate the experience at another time. Scout the area ahead of time to be sure that it is accessible and pedestrian friendly. A map is also helpful.
  • a specific date and time Photowalks are inherently social, so decide on an agenda and let people know about it well in advance. Invite local photo clubs, add it to your newspaper's events calendar. Promote the activity on social networking sites.
  • a ringer Although photowalking is meant to be fun, that does not preclude acquiring new insights and skills. Some organizers intentionally include a professional photographer in their group. A savvy "amateur" would serve the same purpose: offering tips and suggesting ways to capture images in unique ways. 
  • a designated sharing space and tags After the walk is done, people will want to share and compare their photos. Set up a Flickr group or similar site, choose common labels, and enjoy reviewing the day's products. If your photowalk is sponsored by a club, set aside meeting time to reflect on the experience and discuss future expeditions.
Necessary gear:
  • a camera It's not the device that matters, it's the photographer's eye. Too much equipment (multiple lenses, tripods, etc.) will only get in the way (and become quite heavy, as the day wears on). Photowalkers can achieve success with a simple point and shoot or even a smartphone. Be sure that the camera is charged and you have enough memory (include an extra memory card, if necessary) for a goodly number of photos.
  • appropriate clothing This is a walk, after all! Comfortable shoes are a must, and, depending on the weather and time of day, dressing in layers might be a good idea. Remember, though, as with the camera gear, you will be carrying whatever you bring along, so choose wisely.
  • a water bottle and light snack for hydration and energy.
  • Virtual photowalks I was a virtual member of the Podstock PhotoWalk group, setting out at approximately the same time and in a similar environment to that chosen by the Kansas photowalkers. I have recently learned of a different type of Virtual Photowalk, one where a person who is unable to physically participate remotely chooses shots for an on-site photographer to take. John Butterill realized the potential of this type of partnership, and has created a Google+ site for volunteers who "Walk the walk for those that can't".
  • Tourist photowalks Find yourself in a new city and want to explore a bit? Join a photowalk and learn more about the local architecture, history or landmarks. Either sign up for a commercial tour, or enquire about area photo clubs that might be hosting a public event.
  • Cityscape photowalks Document the architecture of a community; the resultant images could be shared with county historians or museums.
  • Themed photowalks for students: Get acquainted with a building or campus...promote your library...encourage school spirit...all through photowalks. The curricular applications are endless, from photographing geometric shapes (Mathematics) to recording plant and animal life for later identification (Science) to seeking out intriguing images for story starters (English Language Arts). 

Photographer Elliott Erwitt declared that " is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place...I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."

And Paul Strand reminds us that "Your photography is a record of your living, for anyone who really sees."

Additional resources:
10 Tips For A Great Photowalk 
Find a Photo Walk Near You
The Photowalk Daily
Ten Photowalk Tips

"Photographer" by E.B. White

Friday, July 20, 2012


Podstock is a tech integration conference, held each summer in Wichita, Kansas. This gathering has a reputation for being friendly, fun, and innovative; many of its attendees are part of my social network on Plurk, Facebook, and/or Twitter. While I was unable to physically be there, I took the opportunity today to join the Podstock PhotoWalk 2012 as a virtual participant.

I've never been part of an organized photowalk before, although I take my own little camera rambles all the time. For this event, I had to sign up on a Google form, choose one of the themes, tag my photos appropriately, then add them to the official Flickr group.

Since I was on my own, I chose to interpret "Take a Closer Look" as encompassing both macro shots and photos of things that sometimes go unnoticed, like the impressive gargoyles that jut out from a local church steeple.

I took my walk in the nearby city of Glens Falls, NY, reasoning that its charming older buildings might parallel the Old Town area of Wichita where my virtual colleagues would be shooting. Rather than begin at the same instant as the Podstockers, I set out an hour earlier (my time) to be sure the natural lighting would be comparable.

The social aspect of a normal photowalk was lacking for me, as a virtual participant, but I look forward to seeing everyone's photos in the Flickr group and chatting online about the experience.

And next year, I intend to be walking those Wichita streets in person, camera(s) in hand and friends by my side!

Podstock PhotoWalk - Glens Falls Edition

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ignite! Six to Succeed

As promised, I've added presenter's note to my Ignite! slides and uploaded them to SlideShare. While this is a reasonable approximation of my remarks, I spoke directly to the audience and may have deviated from the "text." In fact, I know I did: I wanted to! Passion can't be canned or recited, it must be felt and shared in the heat of the moment.

If you are considering doing an Ignite! talk (which is a bit scary but ultimately energizing and very satisfying), here are six tips that might help:
  • understand the difference. Your 20 Ignite! slides will be on the screen for exactly 15 seconds each. That can be either an extremely brief or an unexpectedly long period of time, depending on the message you are trying to convey. There is neither time nor space for the "transition" slides that are part of a self-timed presentation.
  • don't be afraid to tinker. I kept changing the images I wanted to use, as my concept became clearer and more focused in my mind. I even changed the title (but not the core content, of course).
  • be wary of text. If your slides display a lot of words, your audience will be distracted. I did read one quote, but prefaced it with spoken commentary.
  • remember that you are telling a story. Be passionate, use personal anecdotes, make what you say interesting and universal. Bring your story alive for the audience.
  • practice, practice, practice! While I didn't memorize my talk, I did write out key points that I wanted to make and timed myself via PowerPoint. On the day of the session, I carried a single index card with a few keywords for each slide, in case my mind went blank. Once the Ignite! began, however, I really had no problem "telling" my slides because I was comfortable with what I wanted to share.
  • get a friend to film your talk. I didn't think of this beforehand, so I have no live recording of my presentation. Then again, that might not be an entirely bad thing. If I ever do this particular Ignite! again, I won't feel constrained by prior outings.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

If You Give a Kid a Camera

I've just returned from ALA Annual, and my mind is brimming with ideas. A much more detailed posting is in the works, but right now, I'd like to share the slides from my Ignite talk, which focused on a passion for photography and its relevance for students.

Ignite -if you give a kid a camera
View more presentations from Diane Cordell.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


It's difficult to settle down and write an extended posting, when life is so interesting. So here are a few bits and pieces, shiny thoughts that distracted me today while I skimmed and skittered through my various social networking sites.

Dance (from Facebook)
A high school classmate quoted William Butler Yeats: "Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!" which, in turn, reminded me of the Celtic variation on a 19th century Shaker tune, Simple Gifts,
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
I love the idea of the deity as a dancer, joyous and brimming with vitality.

Conferences (from a librarian ListServ)
An academic library assistant wrote:
I am in the process of applying for scholarship funds to attend the ALA conference in Chicago from little old New Zealand.  I need to justify why I should go, the benefits of attending for myself and others in libraries as well as education in general and what I'm likely to get out of it.
My response was:
I would say the number one benefit for me is the face-to-face networking. That helps me to deepen understanding of, and forge new collaborations with, professional colleagues from around the world. Sessions can be viewed virtually, but nothing compares to being able to carry on an extended conversation with someone whose ideas help expand your thinking. Social networking helps me to maintain relationships, but meeting f2f is what expands them, turning acquaintances into friends and learning partners.
How would you have replied?

Grandparenting (inspired by various blog postings and articles shared online)
One of my chief "distractions" these days is my new granddaughter. She is surrounded by books and toys and boasts an extensive wardrobe. But, more importantly, her world is filled with people who love and cherish her. Morgan will always have literature, and technology will be part of her life; her digital footprint began when she was a tiny entity, months before her birth day. Our baby will have what she needs to survive and thrive, physically and mentally. It makes me even more aware that this is not universally the case.

Embedded Librarianship (from Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Flickr, email)
Opportunities abound for "retired" folks like me to remain active and involved in library pursuits, both formally (collaborating on a White Paper for AASL, helping to plan Fall Forum) and informally (gathering, creating, and sharing resources for friends and colleagues on a variety of topics). I have the gift of time now, and still enjoy a reference challenge. Being a librarian is a lifetime job, and I love it!

Photography (from Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Skype)
 Part of the aforementioned embedding is sharing my passion for photography. I've Skyped into classrooms to answer students' questions about taking, editing, and sharing photos. My Flickr tagging sometimes results in interesting interactions. I've been contacted about locating headstones in area cemeteries for amateur genealogists; fielded requests for permission to use my shots on various websites (most of my photos are Creative Commons licensed); received inquiries about my availability as a wedding photographer (that was a "no" - too much responsibility!) and a free-lance operative (maybe). Most fun of all has been hearing from "long lost" cousins on Facebook. We initially connected on the Troy, NY Memories page and have since shared information and images of our common ancestors.

Quotations (from social networking sites and Google searches)
I love a good quote, frequently pairing them with my 366 photos. So I will leave you with some thoughts about "journeys"
"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." -Ursula K. Le Guin
"We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls." -Anais Nin
"One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." -Henry Miller
"Not all those who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

"Twirling Princess" by dmcordell
"Heaven: Morgan and Grandma" by dmcordell
"The Balthazard Family" by dmcordell
"Walk in the woods" by dmcordell

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Please Turn Off the Lights When You Leave (Rule #5 Mountainside Free Library)

 I love to take photos of libraries when I travel, yet one of the more unique examples I've encountered is located not far from my home.

The Mountainside Free Library, near Dunham's Bay, Lake George, NY, has electric lights, but few other modern conveniences: no automated check-out system, computers, heat, or air conditioning. It relies on donations and volunteers to function. Patrons can unlock the door at any time to borrow reading material, using a simple honor system.

According to the facility's informational pamphlet, Mountainside is an original Carnegie Library, "built in 1904 with funds from private donors and Andrew Carnegie, the industrialist..." It does not meet the stringent requirements for a public library, but is designated a "reading room." Although used most heavily during the summer season, Mountainside is "open" year-round.

A quick scan of the shelves reveals a respectable collection of current titles and classic literature. There is a children's section and an assortment of magazines, with comfy chairs and rockers, for those who wish to linger for a while.

 When you turn the key and step inside the Mountainside Free Library, you enter a timeless haven for books and their readers. Sometimes, simple is best.

"Mountainside Free Library" by dmcordell
"The key is always available" by dmcordell
"Interior, Mountainside Free Library" by dmcordell
"Check-out is on the honor system" by dmcordell

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Pocket Poems

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, a celebration sponsored by the Academy of American Poets as part of National Poetry Month. Since I no longer have classes of my own, Illinois elementary librarian John Schumacher was kind enough to invite me to Skype with a group of his second graders.

The students formally welcomed me, listened to the poem I had selected, then shared some of their own favorites. Each child was engaged, enthusiastic. It was evident that a lot of care went into the preparations for this activity. Other age groups Skyped with classrooms in Iowa, Michigan, Maine, Georgia, and Massachusetts.

It seems like an effective way to enjoy poetry, nurture reading fluency skills, and connect with new friends in far-flung places.

John shares book trailers at Watch. Connect. Read and blogs with his collaborative teaching partner, Shannon Miller, on Two Libraries, One Voice.

The poem I chose to carry in my pocket is "If I Had Wings" by Pie Corbett:
If I had wings I would touch the fingertips of clouds and glide on the wind’s breath.
If I had wings I would taste a chunk of the sun as hot as peppered curry.
If I had wings I would listen to the clouds of sheep bleat that graze on the blue.
If I had wings I would breathe deep and sniff the scent of raindrops.
If I had wings I would gaze at the people who cling to the earth.
If I had wings I would dream of swimming the deserts and walking the seas.

"Skyping with Mr. Schu's Second Grade" by dmcordell
"If I Had Wings" by dmcordell

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cultural Icons

 Almost thirty-five years ago, my husband and I were captivated by the first of the Star Wars movies, now called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Princess Leia Organa, one of the main protagonists in the original Star Wars trilogy, is capable, strong, has a dry sense of humor, and doesn't back off from challenges. She trained as a Jedi warrior and fights with the Rebel Alliance to defeat the evil Galactic Empire.

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to see the film version of The Hunger Games. Both of us had read Collins' trilogy, and agreed that the screen adaptation was reasonably faithful to the original book.

Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen hunts to provide food for her family.  When she voluntarily takes her younger sister's place as the female Tribute from District 12, Katniss' skill with a bow might be her only chance to survive the games. Despite the savage nature of the competition, Katniss remains compassionate; she will ultimately become a symbol for inhabitants of all the districts, as they fight to free themselves from the oppressive rule of the distant, corrupt Capitol. 

In 1977, I was pregnant with Ellen; she is now days away from giving birth to our granddaughter. Like all mothers, we dreamed of the children we would bear: intelligent, strong, caring daughters...someone like Leia or Katniss (and, yes, sons like Luke Skywalker or Peeta Mellark).

The baby got quite active during the climactic scenes of The Hunger Games. I'm going to take that as a good sign.

"Digital Painting: Princess Leia" by sk art
"The Hunger Games" by film_poster

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Picturing Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, a celebration of verse initiated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

Last year, inspired by friend and professional colleague Buffy Hamilton, I created a SlideShare that linked poems and images, using both my own photographs and some found via a Creative Commons search.

In 2012, I challenged myself to use only images I had captured to illustrate the words of poets - and to provide one slide for each day of April. While the finished product may lack some of the visual impact of last year's effort, it provided me with even more personal satisfaction.

Picturing poetry
View more presentations from Diane Cordell

There are many ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in the library and classroom. April 26 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Last year I Skyped with students in a number of states, sharing a favorite poem and listening to the children read their own choices.

This year, I've already read about an interesting Poem in Your Pocket Day activity from Cathy Jo Nelson:

"All the 'pockets' have poems ready to be had, and the pockets also have a qr code to poems from so kids can save them to their smart-phones as an option."

...and I'm sure that John Schumacher and Shannon Miller, of Two Libraries, One Voice, will have some wonderful, interactive celebration planned, as they did last year.

Some useful resources for educators include
In her essay, Why We Should Read Poetry, Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Amy Lowell called poetry "the height and quintessence of emotion, of every sort of emotion" She concluded,
"We should read Poetry because only in that way can we know man in all his moods - in the most beautiful thoughts of his heart, in his farthest reaches of imagination in the tenderness of his love, in the nakedness and awe of his soul confronted with the terror and wonder of the Universe. Poetry and history are the textbooks to the heart of man, and poetry is at once the most intimate and the most enduring."
So share a poem, write a poem, illustrate a poem, memorize a poem, recite a poem. The possibilities are endless and rewarding.

Related postings:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Photo Editing/Picnik Update

I just got the following comment on a prior posting, Captured Forever:

Hi Diane,

My name's Jenn. I work with a team of former Picnikers. Thanks for spreading the Picnik love! I just wanted to give you a heads up about PicMonkey, it's an exciting new photo editor that's sure to fill the hole Picnik is leaving in your heart.We're taking what we learned by building Picnik and making PicMonkey even better!

Sign up at and we'll keep you posted on launching. And shoot me an email if you have questions!

Don't know about you, but I have my fingers crossed that PicMonkey can deliver!

Image captured from PicMonkey

Most Loved Children's Books

The link to this graphic was sent to me by Sarah Fudin, of USC Rossier Online. I'm happy to share it here and to add an endorsement for both “March into Literacy” Month, and its sponsor, Toys for Tots Literacy Program. (I have no ties to either the university or to Toys for Tots).

As a librarian, bibliophile, mother, and now, a prospective grandmother, I celebrate reading and its importance in the development of children. Make time to share these and other stories, both written and oral, with younger generations. It's the gift of a lifetime.

Most Loved Children's Books - MAT@USC
Via MAT@USC: Become a Teacher

I would certainly not have included the Twilight series as a "children's classic."
What would you add or delete?

Captured Forever

In about a month, my favorite editing site, Picnik, is shutting down operations. This has spurred me to action on two fronts.

Photo editing sites
According to Flickr,
"Picnik is closing on April 19, 2012. That means that after that date, you will no longer be able to edit your Flickr photos in Picnik. But don't worry! We already have plans in the works to make sure you're still able to edit your photos on Flickr. We'll post more about the new and exciting editing options on the blog when they are fully baked."

One of the benefits of Picnik, in addition to its array of tools and effects, is the fact that it links directly to Flickr, eliminating a few steps in the editing process. While the following sites don't have that option, they might match, or (in the case of Aviary, in particular) even exceed, Picnik's capabilities:
  • FotoFlexer - touted as a Photoshop replacement. Export/Import your pitures from Flickr, MySpace, Picasa, and Facebook, and others. Save photos and create albums. An account registration is required. For a comparison with Picnik, read this review from PCMag.
  • Pixlr - free online photo editor, no registration required. A key weakness seems to be its import and export options. TopTenReviews evaluates Pixlr's features.
  • Aviary - offers a suite of tools, including image and effects editors, a music creator, and an audio editor. Free, registration required. One of the drawbacks mentioned by reviewers is the "fairly intense learning curve" for novices. Read more about Aviary in the Women in Business review. [one big plus for educators, as mentioned on Free Technology for Teachers: "If you are a Google Apps for Education school, Aviary can be added to your suite of services to allow students to save their works within their Google Apps accounts"]
  • iPiccy - free, no registration required. This reviewer found iPiccy's options to be very similar to those on Picnik. The site is still in beta, so I would be sure to keep backup options in mind. More information, and a link to the iPiccy video tutorial, can be found on

Photo Archiving

With Picnik disappearing from my life, and mindful of horror stories about deleted Flickr accounts, I've also been considering digital curation options:
  • One photographer suggested using "NAS (network attached storage) with RAID 1+0 or RAID 5 (redundant disks in case one fails)" and pointed to a wiki with vendor links. I need to do a bit more research about this, and consult with my in-house tech support (my very knowledgeable son-in-law).
  • External hard drive. No, I don't have one yet, and yes, I need to buy one!
  • CDs or DVDs. Storage, and longevity issues make these unsuitable for use as the sole backup for photos.
  • Desktop apps. After reading a few reviews, including one from a member of my online network, Kevin Jarrett, I decided to purchase the Pro version of Bulkr. My initial backup took a few hours, since my Flickr account has over 16,000 photos, with more added each day. Now I update about once a week.
Photography is an integral part of my daily life, but it's not only my own photos that I wish to preserve. I've been photographing, scanning and uploading images of family artifacts, including my parents' World War II photos (my mother's snapshot of King George VI and the royal family has been viewed more than 2100 times!), my maternal ancestors, family gatherings, even heirloom jewelry. These are not just static images: these are the stories of our lives.

I hope that Flickr will continue to survive and thrive, and that there will eventually be another site that mirrors the ease and flexibility of Picnik. But I'm not willing to risk my photographs on wishes and desires.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” -Aaron Siskind

"She glances at the photo, and the pilot light of memory flickers in her eyes." -Frank Deford

"Remember" by dmcordell

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Macro Photography: The World Up Close

In my continuing quest to remain relevant as a self-embedded librarian, I've Skyped with students in a number of states, frequently on the topic of photography.

Mary Kreul's class, in Whitefish Bay, WI sent me a list of questions, which I answered using examples from my Flickr sets. Their favorite photos (which happen to be my favorites as well) were the macros. As a follow-up activity, these fourth graders created a slideshow featuring Mystery Math Macros.

It's challenging to demonstrate photo techniques from afar. The children did a wonderful job, choosing a nice variety of examples for their project. I could recognize why some of their pictures weren't exactly what they had envisioned, because I've had the same problems myself.

For example, the following are three shots of the same fishing fly:

In #1, the camera has focused on background details rather than on the desired object. Adjusting the angle of a shot can help prevent this error #2 shows what happens when you move in too close, a common mistake. #3 backs up a bit and is the most successful of the series

Although editing tools can correct color and enhance the final product with interesting effects, excessive cropping causes a photo to lose clarity and leads to a blurring of the image.

As they become more experienced photographers, the students will begin to "see" with the camera's eye, discovering the strengths and limitations of the device they are using. They will be better able to plan shots, matching their vision with their camera's capabilities.

And they will have FUN learning!

*I'm always happy to Skype with classes about reading and/or photography. Leave a comment here or contact me, @dmcordell on Twitter, to arrange a visit.

For more photography tips, view my SlideShares , visit the Club Click or Using Digital Images wikis.

"Mystery Math Macro for Mrs. Kreul's Class" by dmcordell
"Macros: Flies for Fishing" by dmcordell

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Action Plan

I've had almost a week to process my experiences at ALA Midwinter; for the past few days, I've been participating virtually in EduCon. There is a conversational thread running through these and other gatherings, a sense that the time for talking is over, the time for acting is now.
How can I be part of the recasting of librarianship in particular, and education in general?

For all my talk of being self-embedded, there are limitations to what I can accomplish as an unattached teacher/librarian. With no students of my own, I must wait to be invited into a classroom. I am an afterthought, an add-on, rather than an integral part of the learning process.

I need to leverage my solitude, increase my productivity - and keep my sense of worth in the unfamiliar and unstructured world of retirement.

Here's my menu of possibilities:
  • continue to construct slideshares on topics that interest me, e.g. photography and storytelling
  • periodically remind members of my social network that I'm available via Skype for reading to, or chatting with, students
  • consider new options: would my friend's home-schooled child like to have a personal librarian or research buddy? Is there some way I could volunteer in our public or community college libraries?
  • spend less time chatting at conferences and more time actively participating in sessions, with the intent of investigating new topics for personal exploration
  • become more active in my professional organizations
  • seek out additional opportunities for writing
It's sketchy, but it's a plan. Retirement requires a tricky balancing act. I don't want to waste my time, I want to spend it wisely. Travel is fun, but after a while people tire of being around a dilettante.

In the words of the immortal Barbarella:

"A life without cause is a life without effect."

"Barbarella" by pellesten

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Self-Embedded Librarian

I recently had the pleasure of returning to the school where I had served as K-12 teacher/librarian - not to read stories, but to speak to a photography class.

The art teacher, Leslie Gould, and I have remained in contact via Facebook, so she knew of my passion for capturing images. After a few postponements, I was finally able to participate in the first of what I hope will be a series of onsite classroom experiences.

Our planning was done via an exchange of messages and emails. After the students left, Leslie and I discussed how we might collaborate in the future. I've begun utilizing Pinterest to archive project suggestions and to display my own collection of photography- and creativity-themed books, so that she can match my resources to her curriculum.

I've interacted, via Skype, with students in a number of states, even another country, but there is something very satisfying about being physically present during a lesson. I would love to expand this aspect of my professional involvement, becoming a "blended" visitor.

As many of you know, I'm nominally retired, but still active as a writer, consultant, and collaborator. After years of learning about, and reflecting on, libraries and librarianship, I just couldn't walk away from the profession. For anyone in a similar situation, I've created a short SlideShare that offers some suggestions for reshaping your career after retirement. If you have additional pointers, please share your insights!

"Welcome Mrs. Cordell" by dmcordell

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flickr Badge Generator

This posting originally appeared on January 2, 2010. I thought that some of my friends, who are just beginning their first photo-a-day (in a leap year, 366) project, might be interested in the information contained here.

Many members of my PLN have decided to participate in a 365 Challenge, taking and posting new photos at regular intervals.

Although some people choose to set up a unique blog for the project, I found it easiest to upload and tag my images in Flickr sets, separate ones for each calendar month and an additional set for the entire year.

If you're a blogger and decide to use Flickr for the Challenge, it's fun to add a badge to your site. Just go to the Make a Badge page and follow the simple directions.

"There are two types of badge to choose from: HTML or Flash. You will be able to select to display things from your own collection, one of your groups, or everyone's uploads. You can also filter any of these options by a tag, if you wish."

Be sure to tag your photographs and send them to your group(s). I also share my "picture of the day" on Facebook, Plurk, and Twitter.