Thursday, December 18, 2008

World on Fire

World on Fire crossed my path once again today, and the timing is perfect (thanks to The Fischbowl). It is a great video that, with image and music, tells the story of global social action. As part of our One School One Book program, tonight we are hosting representatives from OXFAM America who will be discussing relief efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This video will make for an appropriate opening.

Students seem particularly sensitive to inequities in wealth, yet appear oblivious to the amount of money they spend on coffee, music, Ugg boots, and the general trappings of teen life in the affluent western suburbs of Boston. Is it really only about money, though? Or is it about change?

CCHS is saturated with clubs promoting social change, and fund raising for causes they care about. They promote their causes on Facebook, and enlist their friends to support their events. A cynic would point out that the roots of these problems are deeply embeded and all the bake sales in the world aren't going to change a thing. Maybe. But there is value in speaking, and letting your community know that at this moment in time, there are people who care, and in their small way, want to focus on the lives of others less fortunate than they.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Slife - How much time do YOU spend online?

Well, this is a unique post because 1) I added two new blog tags - life, and RSS feed and 2) it will help me assess how much of my life I devote to online activity.

This site came to my attention via Wes Fryer's blog At the Speed of Creativity. Wes was a keynote speaker at the most recent Massachusetts School Library Association conference, and because I liked what he had to say, I put his blog in my RSS feed. This is an example of why I like Wes and his most recent post, and why I love my RSS feed.

Slife is an analysis site that states "Time flies. With Slife, you find out where it goes." I love data. You can't argue with the picture that good data paints. Whether you want to assess how much time you spend online and how you are allocating this time (Family dinner hour? Not good.) or you want to enter into an informed, data driven discussion with your child about his or her online life and the Facebook/homework ratio, this is the kind of web application that can help you craft an informed discussion. Link

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Graphic Novels - EDCO

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I'd like to suggest a few immersion adjectives: soaked, poached, saturated, brined, pickled, marinated, stuffed - any one of them will do. Or, maybe some super-hero vocabulary like Yowzah!, Bam! Kapow! would be more appropriate. This one day class on graphic novels and comics was really intense, and really fun. The presenters were passionate, knowledgeable, and skilled at sharing their expertise.

The use of graphic novels, manga, and comics is compelling. Building visual skills into reading and writing instruction is a powerful way to engage those students who do best with a more hands-on or visual learning style. There is no doubt that they love the stuff.

True story. Last summer we invested in a large starter collection of manga and graphic novels. The books flew off the shelves. We had waiting lists and were ordering additional requests through inter-library loan. When we reviewed our circulation statistics for the month of September 08 and compared them to September 07, the results were astounding. Stats indicated that students were checking out the new books at an astronomical rate, but our fiction circulation was also up 75%! Overall circulation was up 94%! The data clearly shows they came and checked out graphic materials, but we had clear evidence that they were suddenly migrating to other material, and were checking out fiction for pleasure reading in startling numbers. Do graphic novels contribute to learning? Should they be part of every library collection? Do they build reading and comprehension skills? Yes.

This post has links to other blogs and resources. It is going to take me awhile to process this new information. Grant funding for an expanded graphic novel collection is definitely on the horizon, and there are certainly more than enough suggested titles!

Robin Brenner, Brookline Public Library
Notes from MSLA Conference, Oct. 2008
Getting Graphic in School: Graphic Novels, comics, and manga in education

Metrowest Regional Library System - Resources - very good!
Sarah Sogigian
Material from multiple presentations
Introduction to Manga, Anime, and Graphic Novels
Japanese Manga for Libraries

Excellent Listserve - good for info,questions, and welcoming to newcomersGraphic Novels in Libraries Listserv

Andrew Wales
Comics are great for the struggling reader. Light reading leads to heavier reading. Comics are a conduit to other forms of reading.

Tim Callahan
Research and Literacy organization - scholarly approach to graphic format material
Comic Book Resources - a lot of fluff, but also good content columns, super-hero central!
Matt Madden, 99 Ways to Tell a Story

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reflections on MassCue - the Gleam of Engagement

MassCue 2008

Saturated. Overwhelmed. Engaged. Challenged. Intimidated. Excited. Tired. Stressed. Euphoric!

This is amazing. Conferences like these charge my creative batteries and make me want to shout from the rooftop! I can't wait to play with all these new tools and ideas, and see which ones will gain traction and work with students. I have to be prepared to fail, be prepared for frustration, but what if it works? What if students have that gleam of engagement as a result of incorporating some of these strategies? Actually, strategies isn't really right. It is more a philosophy of presenting content and sharing control.

I need to process this experience with colleagues who are as jazzed as I am. My beloved RSS feed is good because it feeds me, but I need to interact and bounce ideas around. Twitter may be useful in creating a community of like-minded souls to more actively share thoughts and process.

As much as I love this, I am going to leave early. I am worried about the library, about the library staff, and about what I am missing. Short-sighted, perhaps, but is always a balancing act. I am just so grateful to be working in education, and for a school district that supports my professional development.

Google Earth

MassCue - Google Earth
Notes from two presentations

Awesome Integration of Google Earth

Kevin McGonegal, Tech Specialist, Cambridge Public Schools

Google Earth - Makes a World of Difference in Your Classroom
Carol LaRow, Google Certified Teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator

I went to two presentations because I really want to get some vision about what is possible, and some depth in the range of this application. How are teachers and students using this? Google Earth, Google Sky, Lit Trips, layers, this thing is like Aladdin's Cave! I want to show it to Foreign Language, English, Social Studies, Earth Science - this is so far beyond enhancement. This is transformative.

Google Earth is a geographic information system. Google's goal is to make information universally acceptable and useful. Over half of the world's population can see their home!
Google Earth Pro - free to educators, but you have to go through an application process. Can get a lab license to install on every computer. Benefit is there is a dedicated Google server so it is a little faster and can embed extra media.
Can use any embedable code.

Revenge of the Digital Immigrants

MassCue - Hall Davidson, Director of Discovery Education Network
Revenge of the Digital Immigrants:
Teaching with Media Technology

Discovery Education

Conference materials:

View of digital native classroom with full technology and global perspective. Goggle Earth featured in this classroom. The whole class is multi-tasking, teaching and working simultaneously. Compared to immigrant classroom - static, fixed seats, teachers at front of room delivering information.

The way students think has changed, the the babysitter is to blame. Who is the babysitter? The television set. Who is turning the TV on? Changes in attention. Data on how media affects brain function and attention skills aka attention problems. However, children don't struggle to pay attention to media, like games. They have a "new brain". and need new ways of teaching them. We have the technology to teach them faster and better. Their brains have extra levels of potential, and learn in more fluid ways.
Studies show students spend 2 seconds on a site before deciding to stay with it or move on. They are processing very quickly, with good results. Short length video bursts to focus lessons are more effective. The day of 20 minute videos has passed. Plug for Discovery Streaming video with demo of 1.5 minute clip on earthquakes. 10 years ago this wasn't possible.
Value of making media/video with kids; the make more meaningful connections to the content.

Student learning has fundamentally changed. Childhood obesity has risen. What happens in utero affects morphology of children. Infant bodies are hardwired to store fat based on maternal nutrition - study came from Canada. Diet has changed children, and their minds have changed too.

Age compression - "I like to think of kids as the Chief Technology Officers of their families." We should use the technology to teach them. Adobe Premier Elements - video photoshop with green screen capability. Cool tricks with Photobooth on macs. Can drop in backdrops. It is the kids who learn the content when they engage in media presentations. They are engaged, invested.

Apps to Engage via Cellphones audio upload from cell phones to a website - very cool
YouTube media preset so you can upload video straight from cell to site - very cool
live polls utilizing cellphones, many class uses, free for educators - very cool

Figuring out how to build cellphone use into teaching/practice is one of the most captivating ideas I am taking away from this conference. Why not have students text writing via cell to teachers? Live polls - cool way for quick assessments. I'm going to set up an account on PollEverywhere and try this.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Twitter and Plurk

MassCue - All a' Twitter about Twitter
Beth Knittle - K12 IT Specialist, Barnstable
MassCue Conference Handouts

Twitter - What is Twitter? Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Micro-blogging in a professional networking tool. We network because we are social beings, and we need to connect. Twitter helps foster connections, and keep us networked to learn. There are many lurkers in a network, but everyone can contribute through sharing and collaboration. For the "older" getworking is still the best done face-to-face, with body language and tone of voice. These cues aren't as necessary for the next generation.

Wes Fryer contributes that these new tools need to be personally integrated by teachers, before they can successfully be integrated into classroom practice. These social networking tools also help us continue professional growth as educators. When we come to teach students about these connectivity tools we can do it with authentic voice. We are receivers as well as contributors on this type of network.

Following - let people know you are a teacher. Include blog link in your profile and let people follow you. It's up to you how much information you choose to disclose.

How do you find people to follow? When you create an account fill out your profile. When people search or link to you, they will see this page. There are privacy settings and you can protect your updates. Then people have to request for you to accept them as a follower. Getting started can be a challenge, and is best done at conferences when you meet people face-to-face. You can block and/or ban people.

A Twitter portal for teachers -
Tweeter Directory - Just Tweet It

Plurk - A Social Journal for Your Life
A variation of Twitter. Different feel.

A walled garden version of Twitter. A "sandbox" in which students can practice these tools. A safety net for educators as well. The world isn't looking here.

Media to Enhance Traditional Methods

New Media for New Minds:

Audio, Video, and Web Production to Enhance Traditional Methods
Vera Ventura - Watertown, Media and Production Instruction

Web 2.0 and free Google apps address equity and access issues for students. Student presentations for synthesis of content are important, and these tools are available via Google Docs. This allows sharing via email or collaboration options. Can download as powerpoint or pdf. FreeFreeFreeFree!

It is OK for students to be ahead of teachers on mastering the nuts and bolts of technology and applications. Let the students teach you, learn together. Use students as a resource. Bridging the new media ind and the old educational mind is the challenge.

iTunes University
There is a little video tour embedded in the top right corner.

MassCue Keynote '08

Keynote: Wesley Fryer
Creating and Collaborating: The Keys to 21st Century Literacy
How much faster does the brain process images over text? More than 60,000 times. In the context of literacy and learning, if we are not using images, are we really trying to communicate?
When do students in our school get to touch technology, and what do they do when they get to use it? The old model of learning focuses on the teacher presentation of learning. Boredom is a by-product of this model.
Preaching to the choir. Create, Communicate, Collaborate.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

iGoogle and Gadgets

Add gadgets to your homepage

I don't buy shoes compulsively. I have never impulse shopped in my life. Well, I have been known to buy books on impulse. On a recent visit to the AWESOME Apple Store on Boylston Street, in Boston (my personal Mecca) I was queried by the funky welcoming-person, "Can I help you today?" My response was "No, I'm just here to play." I got a very enthusiastic and heartwarming high-five, along with a "Welcome, Sistah! That's the best answer I've had all day!" So, what is my pecadillo? My Achilles' heel? My guilty secret? Google apps. I love 'em. Can't get enough of 'em. This is my most recent acquisition. " Google Book Search". I already have an accounts with LibraryThing and Shelfari.

My iGoogle page is my personal portal to the world. Gmail, BBC News, Drudge Report, Artist of the Day, Literary Quote of the Day, and my beloved RSS feed. Aaaah. I can't help myself. Like some women buy shoes, I subscribe to free online apps.

If you don't have an RSS feed, you should get one today. Better than 3 inch heels.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Historic Tale Construction Kit

Historic Tale Construction Kit
This is the coolest site I have seen in awhile. It makes me want to re-read The Canterbury Tales. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, you can create your own, embroidered, medieval legend. It has great music, too. What a wonderful way to create alternate assessments or review elements of character or plot. You can save your historic tale, add panels, email it to someone, or upload it. It is fun, easy to use, and free.

Innovate or Wither

Innovate or Wither - Personal Strategy For Times of Change :: The Education Business Blog
Not too long ago people were quipping about libraries and books becoming obsolete with "everything" available on the "information superhighway". How the conversation has changed. Yes, more and more content is available in digital format, but this transition hasn't been the death-knell of books or libraries. Far from it. We have entered an incredibly exciting time where before our eyes the delivery of information is changing, enabling more and more people access in increasingly diverse ways. Graphic novels are opening a world of books to teens who never considered themselves readers, and we see them crossing over to novels for additional reading. E-books, MP3 format books, digital texts, all of these are breaking down barriers caused by learning issues and/or financial hardship. These are equity technologies, and they are fueling learning. Where are the libraries in this time of change? Smack dab in the middle of the action. School libraries are uniquely positioned to see the changes coming, and get them established into curriculum planning and school culture. What does it take to reach these lofty goals? Continual outreach, teacher professional development, and publicity. Oh, and a huge amount of bravery.

As the linked article Innovate or Wither, from the Education Business Blog, so concisely puts it, we must be willing to take risks to keep moving forward, because forward is the only way to go. We can't serve our students by falling back, because then we truly are obsolete to learning. Integrating new technologies can be frustrating and time consuming. However, not moving ahead and learning about these alternate technologies will ultimately be more costly to the education of our students.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One School One Book

We all GET that the world has changed. We all GET that we need to be aware of other nations and cultures. But how do we start the process of really CARING about what is happening beyond the walls of CCHS? What does it really mean to enact CHANGE? What does CHANGE look like? What does ACTION look like? Show up and be part of the discussion. Show up, and care about Ishmael and other children involved in conflict situations around the world. Show up, even if you haven't read the book. Pay attention. Lend your voice. Be the change.
Join Us

Thursday, Nov. 6th
6:30pm - CCHS Library
Shared Interest
Social Action Through Micro-lending

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Video Republic

Camera phones and YouTube have changed the terrain. Students are visual learners, they create visual content with ease and skill. Statistics show we live in a visual world, with most adults getting their news in digital formats. This video (three and a half minutes) speaks to this point very well. Britain is far ahead of the U.S. in the integration of different forms of media into the educational system. We need to do do the same.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Teen Read Week - Bite Me

Teen Read Week
Getting teenagers to read isn't really hard. They read constantly, and they read for pleasure. They read each other's work, and they comment on what their friends have to say. They engage in the world, and many are collaborating globally (YouTube) on a regular basis. They care about their world. The thing is, they don't necessarily do it in school with the same enthusiasm with which they do it for themselves on their own time. Everyday, teens are engaged in creating, customizing, and developing with their own personalized digital environment (Facebook is clearly the elephant in the room here). They are eager to share, which is why they engage in social networks (Digg, Our job is to reach them in ways that are relevant to what they value. 21st century skills are being talked about more and more, and this is what students are already engaged in - but not always in school. They are already creating, collaborating, and sharing their efforts with a global audience.
The theme for Teen Read Week this year is "Books with Bite". A great theme, given the incredible popularity of the Twilight Series and other popular vampire fiction. Here at CCHS we invested in lots of graphic novels, manga, and high interest fiction. Books are flying off our shelves, and our circulation statistics are higher than ever. So, to people who moan about teens not reading, I say "bite me", because I see them reading more than ever.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tag Galaxy

Tag Galaxy
This is something I could waste a lot of time with. This is a funky little application that lets you put in a keyword that pulls photos from Flickr tags. This is what I got with "books". You can click on the individual photos and they pop up to allow for closer inspection. This also helps rotate the ball. I'm going to see what it comes up with for "puppy".

Blocked Bytes Week

Blocked Bytes�Week - Home - Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk BlogSeptember 27 - October 4, 2008 is officially Banned Book Week. Really though, we are well past the point of protecting just books. As library blogger Doug Johnson so wonderfully points out, "Americans need the freedom to read more than just books." People are publishing in so many formats, yet filters aggressively block much of this content. Not only are we denying people access to content, but also the experience of seeing how this content is being shared. Wordle, Twitter, Ning, even FaceBook, are all publishing formats. Incorporating social networking into our definition of publishing is now important. We need to redefine our interpretation of "banned".

Web Search Strategies in Plain English | Common Craft - Explanations In Plain English

Video: Web Search Strategies in Plain English | Common Craft - Explanations In Plain English

This little video gem just appeared in my RSS feed this morning. Common Craft creates short, instructional videos in "plain English". This one takes the complicated topic of effective web search strategies, and with simple images and basic language, breaks the process down into an easily understandable process. This explanation is much better than anything I have ever been able to a present to students, that in future I will include it in all classes on web searching.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jing Project: Visual conversation starts here.

Jing Project: Visual conversation starts here. Mac or Windows.

Jing is pretty freakin' amazing. Using this screen capture tool, we plan to create video tutorials for the library web page. Our first tutorials are already up. Dr. Nora Murphy, (CCHS Science) requested support for students doing searches for biology labs. She provided us with some labs, did some preliminary database searches herself, and passed along notes about her experience and useful keywords. This became the basis of our script for the first tutorials. Jing is easy to use, easy to embed, and will allow us to post tutorials on all sorts of library services. This means more support for students at home, when they are doing their homework and need it most.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before

Worldmapper: The world as you've never seen it before

What an incredible tool for looking at the world. These maps re-size countries based on the topic of interest. Just clicking through the religious maps was an eye-opening experience. Take a look at these two maps.
Which one shows the population distribution of Christians, and which shows Muslims? Interesting stuff.
To see, so clearly, the distribution of populations based on religions illustrates the need to tone down divisive rhetoric, and learn how to co-exist with other belief systems. Looking at sheer population maps is a wake up call when we consider everything from economies, food production and globalization. What a great alternate lens through which to view the world.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Think Different at Students 2.0

Think Different at Students 2.0
Take a few minutes, click the link, and read this article straight through to the end. It is worth your time.

This is what believe in. This is why I love my RSS feed - it gathers content like this for my professional development as a teacher. This is why I love education. This is why I believe in ALL students. This is the clarion call for educators.

Everyone should have an RSS feed. We all need to be supported as we endeavor to "think different".

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Site for Books & Readers - Shelfari

The Site for Books & Readers - Shelfari
When I see cool applications like this, I just lose my head! What a great way to share books and start discussions. It was easy to link my Shelfari account to both my blog, and my Facebook account. The most fun for me was reading all the comments and reviews for Breaking Dawn. It was just released yesterday! WOW seems to be the most popular response.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Summer Reading

Reading is my compulsion. Absolutely love it. Last week I unpacked the first lot of our summer book order. Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer hadn't been released yet so it wasn't in the box, but I can wait. I think.

On the subject of reading, I am really hoping that students got the message about our One School, One Book project. We chose A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier, by Ishmael Beah. As part of this project Kate Richmond and I are working together to plan a series of discussions and presentations to bring depth and global awareness to the reading experience.

As part of this process, we went to see a presentation at the Needham Public Library by a group called HERvoices. Their mission is to share the voices and important roles of women around the world, with this presentation focusing on the unique work in developing a model for non-violence in Wafir, a remote area of Kenya. This model was so successful that during the recent civil unrest, the Kenyan government turned to the women of Wafir and asked for assistance in adopting their model.

This will add a fascinating layer to our discussion of A Long Way Gone, and what happened in Sierra Leone.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What I did during my summer vacation

My summer has been a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
Right after school ended a delegation headed to Nanae, Japan. Nanae is the sister-city to Concord, located in Hokkaido, the northern island of the archipelago chain. Accompanied by CCHS staff and "old hands" Al Dentino, David Nurenberg, Tom Curtin, as well as Concord Public School staff Karen Pettyjohn (Thoreau School Librarian) and Susan Erickson (Thoreau School Grade 4), and Dr. Sue Curtin and translator/guide Junko Kargulla, we had an amazing journey. A video will be playing on CCTV documenting our transformative experience.

I am still trying to process BLC 08. "Building Learning Communities" is an annual conference hosted by Alan November. November is based in Massachusetts, which means the conference is always local. How nice for us! What can you say about a conference that cracks your head open and pours in best-practice from around the world? I listened and interacted with educators from Kenya, who are transforming their educational infra-stucture using CELL PHONES because Kenya doesn't have national Internet yet! How about a school in NYC where 20% of the student population is homeless and the other 80% lives in housing projects, and they are hitting their testing goals as well as sending a team to the national science fair. How about THAT for education! Teachers from Canada, Scotland, and Concord, MA, presented and spread the word about the highest standards of education. At the end of this conference I felt like the top of my head was going to explode. It was incredible!

So, what did I do over my summer vacation? I saw the world, and the potential for students. You can't ask for much more than that.

Encyclopedia of Life

Encyclopedia of Life
The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) was launched in February, 2008, and is an international collaboration of scientists, universities, museums and laboratories to authentically classify every specie on earth. Wow! This project has robust funding, scientific credentials, and is seeking input from students, teachers, and passionately interested people.
For more insight, check out these links:
TED Talks E.O. Wilson
EOL Intro Video

Thursday, July 17, 2008

informationfluency � home

Information Fluency

Joyce Valenza presented on this topic during the Building Learning Communities '08 Conference, organizind by Alan November. "What we should be teaching our kids, and how to do it" is the subheading, and this is a treasure chest of resources to guide vision and instruction. There are NEW TOOLS out there that can engage students in new ways! Creatively, visually, interactively, globally - this is an exciting time to be in education, and an even more exciting time to be in libraries.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


The seniors have two days to go until they are finished, and you can feel the excitement in the air. We just had a quartet serenade the library with "When the Saints Go Marching In". Trumpets and horns in each corner of the library during E block in a sort of kamikaze concert. It was great!
photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Trumpet View by Geoff Carr

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


We are halfway through May, pulling book orders together, up to our hips in student research projects, and database vendors are calling to check on renewals. We need to evaluate the year and make some careful decisions.

TagCrowd is a neat new (free) online tool that offers a snapshot evaluation, using tagcloud technology. Highlight a body of text, or submit a URL, and TagCrowd spits out a cloud that visually ranks word repetition., the social networking bookmark site uses this, as does LibraryThing.

Using it with my blog over the past year you can get an idea about what we have been doing. The word "comments" jumps out at me, which isn't surprising as so much of this year has been dedicated to getting feedback from students and teachers. The 5 Year Plan Survey generated a lot of information, and we will be working with the data over the next month to draft the final report.

Think about what it would be like for a student to use this to evaluate some writing, or to check a site for bias? I'm not sure how I'll be promoting this, but it is great tool to have on hand.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Overwhelmed by fiction

Recently, I found myself without a book to read. I was visiting my daughter at her university and spending the night at a nearby hotel. I had just finished a book at home, and the next one on my nightstand was a really heavy hardcover that I didn't want to pack.

After a fun dinner, my daughter headed off to an event, and I wandered over to the campus bookstore in search of reading material to pass the evening. Glossy displays of best sellers, staff favorites, classics, self-help, global perspectives, graphic novels, YA lit, chick lit, old lit, new lit,seductive cover art, different genres, new authors, established authors; this was the firm grip of decision paralysis. I was overwhelmed by fiction.

Suddenly, I was completely in-synch with the students who stagger through the CCHS Library door, glazed look in their eyes, saying "I need a book". As I go through the good 'ole reader's advisory interview "what sort of books do you like?" "what was the last book you read that you enjoyed?", the flight response gets upper hand and they try to bolt with that great lie "I'll come back later." Once they leave, they never come back.

I was that student. Overwhelmed by choice, not sure what I wanted, hopeful that someone would take pity and shove a book into my hands, saying "Just read this", and it would somehow be the perfect book. That didn't happen. Empty handed, I left the store in a total funk, and passed the evening reading a tourist promotional guide.

The next time a student staggers past with that unique, slightly desperate look, I will grab three of my favorites and say "try these". At least the kid will leave with something. And maybe, if we are lucky, one of them will be exactly the right book. If luck is really on my side, I'll have a repeat customer.
(photo credit: Flickr books=bliss by SoulBella)

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I love this picture. These happy, thumbs up guys are what it is all about. Thanks to a generous grant from the CCHS Parent's Association we have 10 beautiful new chairs for student use. Studies show that that a hard desk chair is not the best study posture for everyone. Many kids are more productive and better able to concentrate when they have comfortable seating. Why not provide them with seating choices that will help maximize their studies?

Thank you, CCHS PA!


During April, the library was open on a cold, sad Sunday morning. Nearly a hundred students, counselors, community members, parents and teachers gathered to mourn the untimely death of a student. Another student was in critical care as a result of the same accident.

On this particular Sunday in April, we gathered and mourned together. Counselors from Concord and Bedford, along with members of the clergy, met and prepared to offer support to whoever might be in need. These caring people guided students in creating large banners filled with memories and goodbyes. Cards were written for the hospitalized student.

Soon, FaceBook appeared on the ActivBoard, and students looked at images of their friend in happier times, read messages of shock and sadness from friends away at college, and reached out to their community, in their own way. A student connected his iPod to the library sound system, and the music of their lost friend filled the space. Soon, YouTube was up, and funny videos of carefree kids were playing, and memories were flavored with laughter.

Libraries are community spaces. In work, in play, and sometimes in sadness.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Powerpoint – Ugh

Ms. Richmond’s class (Juniors and Seniors) came by to do research on Afghanistan to prepare and build background knowledge prior to reading The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. We did comparison searches using Google, Google Scholar (GREAT new resource, by the way), various databases, and we also looked at what was available through the library catalog. At the end of our class, while students, working in collaborative teams, looked for materials, I asked Ms. Richmond how the kids would be presenting the results of their research. Powerpoint. They would present their results with Powerpoint presentations.

It just so happens that a growing number of very smart people have been talking a lot about Powerpoint presentations lately, and thanks to my trusty RSS feed, they have been making me think.

“After 10 years, it was time. We could not sit through another bullet-ridden, brain-numbing student presentation. We interviewed the kids. For them it was just as bad. They dreaded each other’s Powerpoints.” Joyce Valenza

Kate Richmond is one of those great, brave teachers who welcome new experiences, ideas and concepts, and works hard at incorporating them into her teaching. As an example, she went to Ghana last summer with a group of teachers and used the experience to enrich her teaching of novels with African themes. Her classroom is draped with Kente cloth and various handcrafts from Ghana. Anyway, after a brief conversation about possible alternatives to Powerpoint and strategies to improve traditional (and typically pretty poor) presentation skills, Kate decided to offer her students a challenge. They were to try something new, and think about an audience outside of the classroom. In creating their presentations, they should challenge themselves to speak to a global audience. Let their research on Afghanistan tell a story of that country and have meaning beyond bullet points.

To support students, I created a wiki with various resources ranging from presentation skills, alternatives to bullet points, examples of great presentational speakers, the importance of story-telling, making an emotional connection with the audience, and new free tools available on the web.

Beyond Powerpoint, is available on the CCHS Library website. The links are rich repositories of resources, illustrate the power of image and music, and provide a commentary on the importance of giving our students the opportunity to craft their own voice, connect meaningfully with content, and build those crucial 21st century skills.

Friday, February 1, 2008


We deal with a lot of students every day. This past January, as a matter of fact, we seated 10,420 kids at an average of 521 per day. That is kids in seats, not just those who walk through the door. I know this is true, because we count them every block.

Midterm week, however, was a totally different challenge. In years past the library (and school) has been overrun with hordes of students looking for places to study, to socialize, to relax. Last year was apparently epic. To avoid a repeat of that, we needed a plan.

In the past, students were required to maintain strict silence and individual study in the library during exam weeks. How would that suit students who wanted to study in groups? Recent studies support the benefits of collaborative work with students. I was prepared to chuck the “rule of silence”. Before making a decision though, we decided to poll our patrons, the students.

Look at the survey and see the choices.

To be honest, who would choose A? To my surprise, one-third of students chose silent, individual study as their preference. There were a few comments, too. One student, who chose B, wrote “This answer is false. Really, I circled A but my over-talkative friend made me change it to B”. When I was in high school, I probably would have been that chatty friend.
So what did we do? We compromised. The 1st and 2nd floors would be for “regular library rules”, meaning business as usual. (That’s where I would have chosen to sit). The 3rd floor would be for silent, individual study. Of course, lots of kids chose the 3rd floor and then didn’t get that they couldn’t do group study. Mostly, though, we had students on the 3rd floor working incredibly hard, and very intensively. Clearly, they needed that space.

The 3rd floor study carrels have always been for individual study, but there is pressure during lunch blocks for it to be a social space. Given the experience of midterms, I have a new appreciation for the large number of students who really want/need a quiet place to work. We will be reinforcing this area as a quiet area.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

January - Struggle

A few images of January in the library.

For me, the interesting thing about this month has been watching students struggle with research assignments. Gathering resources to support your thesis statement requires a combination of scanning and critical evaluation. Doing a search and pulling up 32 critical essays on the theme of "Hamlet and madness", and then digging into them to locate an appropriate point, is challenging. Struggle is where the real learning occurs. That "ah - ha" moment when he or she has tracked down the perfect point in the seventh paragraph is a great thing to witness.