Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Whack a Mole

Do you remember playing Whack a Mole? You get a big mallet and wait for a mole to pop up out of the game board. The second you smash one mole, another one pops up quicker than you can whack 'em. This pretty much describes finals week in the CCHS Library, except for the whacking part.

The first and second floors of the library are for regular teen-style studying. Groups reviewing test prep packets, some light banter to relieve the tension, surreptitious snacking. We reserve the third floor for quiet, individual study. No group review sessions, no chit-chat. Many students seek out the silence, and this is the only place in the high school they can find it. Good 'ole library "Shhhhhhh."

We pack away the chess and Scrabble boards, and computers are strictly for academic use only. With so many students waiting to finish papers, download ActivBoard flipcharts and check online review material, the demand for keyboard time is high. No Facebook.

Monday was busy and sooo quiet. Kids were a little panicked.

Tuesday and Wednesday the panic was gone, and students were showing up more to relax than study. The chatter was at 11 (homage to Spinal Tap). We would get one group to quiet down and another table would bubble over. I feel like I'm out of quarters!

It doesn't really matter. At the end of the day CCHS has really nice kids who work really hard. The Library is where they want to be, and that's a good thing. I won't get out the Whack a Mole mallet just yet.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Busy week with the kids... by Life in the Pumpkin Shell

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Google Launches a Community Service Search Engine

"All for Good helps you find and share ways to do good."
Google continues to lead the pack in organizing global information.

The All for Good website has a very nice video from First Lady Michelle Obama (just love Michelle!) explaining the program. I can see this as particularly useful for students looking for U.S and international opportunities for community service. It will be interesting to see how this platform develops.

This link from the indispensable social media guide, Mashable, also explains it very nicely.
Google Launches a Community Service Search Engine

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

sky repair........ by *hb19

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sand in my keyboard

Google Books has come a long way. If you want to play around with alternate formats for reading, check it out.

Personally, I can't read for extended amounts of time off a computer screen. More than 2 pages and I hit print. However, I absolutely love digital ink and the Kindle, so am prepared to give Google Books another shot.

Not sure how well it will go on the beach this summer. Sometimes sticking with print is still the best option. Happy reading!

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

A New Twist on the ole' Magic 8 Ball

We have Google, Cha Cha, Wikipedia and a gazillion other sites to help us find information. What about those tougher life/relationship questions? Now we have hunch, a "decision-making site that gets smarter the more its used." Called "machine learning", it gathers information about the user's personality and preferences to generate customized decisions. hunch is "like a friend getting to know someone's taste and preferences over time, so they can provide sound and trusted advice."

What kind of car should I buy? Where should I go on vacation? Should I really go to my 30th high school reunion? The Magic 8 Ball is designed for yes/no questions, with 20 standard answers. It has worked very well for me over the years, so I am going to run both applications side by side for awhile ;)

The hunch team says "Mostly we're a bunch of MIT nerds with backgrounds in computer science and math, which comes in pretty handy when you're building a massive collective knowledge project based on machine learning."

Caterina Fake, the genius behind Flickr, launched this start up on June 11th. It will be fun to watch and see if it takes off.

When I asked the Magic 8 Ball about attending my 30th reunion it said "cannot predict now". I wonder what hunch will advise?

Some other sources on hunch:
Hunch Launches Monday - But It Already Knows All About You
hunch fact sheet

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy trails, Class of 2009!

"We are missing 8 frozen cats." A sentence to chill your blood. A few weeks ago specimens for a dissection lab went missing, and staff was put on alert for a potentially ghoulish senior prank. After a few days of nervously peering into the stacks, terrified we would find the cats, word came that they had been stored in the wrong fridge. Phew.

When they are creative and well-executed, pranks are iconic. Every graduating class searches for a good prank. The CCHS Class of 2009 went for shaving cream. Fragrant, washable, lots of bang for the buck, it wasn't the worst decision in the world. We had a few freshmen seeking refuge in the library when things got out of control in the cafeteria during D block, but order was soon re-established.

Seeing shaving cream caked students wandering down the hall looking to smear the unwary inspired me to set up shop with a little desk right outside the library door. As senior students (OK, boys) approached with backpacks and a wild look in their eye, I calmly asked how many cans of shaving cream they were packing. They would tell me! I collected a stack and turned them into the office. (There was a follow up report that a few cans were the favored brand of a grateful guidance counselor.)

During H block I had a group of seniors (studious library regulars) tromp to the second floor and pitch camp nearby my desk. They were seated cross-legged on tables which is a no-no, but as it was the last block of their high school career, I smiled and let it pass. Then things escalated with some loud chit-chat and Tom Foolery, but I again, I smiled and let it pass. Suddenly the library was filled with a shrieking acid rock mash-up. It wasn't shaving cream that had been smuggled into the library, but a boom box. Calmly walking to the group I pointed my right hand toward the door and said "Out you go!" High fives, jubilant grins and "Yeah! We finally got kicked out of the library!" In one case "My last time getting kicked out of the library!" They were leaving on a wave. Great kids, one and all.

Good luck, Class of 2009. Be safe, and have wonderful lives.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Shaving Cream 2 by rakeif


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Copyright the Classroom

Unbeknownst to a teacher, he has been recorded during a class, the video edited to show the teacher in a negative light and posted to YouTube. There is little recourse in getting the video removed. Nightmare scenario for a teacher. Technology has entered the classroom in ways that support student learning, but the potential for abuse is very real.

Education has always focused on respecting the use of copyrighted works. What about protecting teachers and the integrity of the classroom?

Acceptable Use details permissible online behavior, responsibility and consequences, but is this enough? A teacher's words, lesson plan, delivery, materials and image are proprietary. Can a teacher be protected by copyrighting his/her work and image? Could this add another layer of protection and legal recourse against intellectual theft as well as malicious activities?

I recently saw a demonstration of a "smart pen" (Livescribe) that, when used with specialized paper (the binder looks like any other spiral binder, but the paper has embedded microdots) can aid students with note taking. The user takes notes and can, at any time, return to the notes, press the pen down at a specific section, and listen to an audio replay of the class lecture. The pen also records video of the note page that can be used with a computer to review the notes, has ear buds for individual listening, and probably eight other amazing features. Truly a fantastic tool for the student who needs educational support.

In addition to cell phones, this is yet another type of recording device being brought into the classroom. Where are the guarantees that the audio of the teacher's lesson won't be downloaded, edited, and used against the teacher in some way?

Technology has outpaced school policy. Teachers are nervous, with every right. It is time for policy review to protect the teacher.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Now brought to you by copyright by Glynnis Ritchie

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