Monday, September 21, 2009

Google Isn't About Keywords - Sort Of...

Do you know how the Google algorithm works? I tell you this, most kids at CCHS think they know (how many clicks a site gets), but they really don't know. This YouTube video from Google (under 2 minutes) isn't going to explain the algorithm in depth, but will give a little insight into some of the nuances.

Google Can’t Be Gamed; At Least Not by Meta Keywords


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Does R. Kelly croon?

The CCHS Library is often a battle ground for fierce debate. The most recent difference of opinion centered around R & B artist R. Kelly. "Does R. Kelly croon?" One young man said yes, the other declared no. I was called upon to adjudicate.

First step, define "croon".

Oxford English Dictionary:
croon v. To utter a low murmuring sound; to sing (or speak) in a low murmuring tone; to hum softly. spec. to sing popular sentimental songs in a low, smooth voice, esp. into a closely-held microphone

Next stop, Google. The crooning advocate suggested a search using the keywords "Does R. Kelly croon?" I almost choked. What kind of search was this? Had I taught this student nothing? "Don't worry, Mrs. C. This is a good way to find discussion threads in fan forums." He was right on the search strategy, because we quickly found a couple of nice forums, but nothing on crooning. Well, that isn't entirely correct. One post said R. Kelly put the mike to his crotch and it crooned. Terrific.

Final stop in the great G block R. Kelly debate? The Magic 8 Ball on my desk. "My sources say no". It is definitive that R. Kelly is not a crooner.

We have another storm brewing, though. Are zombies the new werewolves? This one could get nasty. I better keep the Magic 8 Ball within reach.

Photo credit:

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"The fact is that people don’t read anymore." —Steve Jobs

I take exception with Mr. Jobs' statement (1/15/08, MacWorld Expo, The Passion of Steve Jobs). People are still reading, they are just reading differently. Postliterate, new literacy, 21st century skills, call it what you want. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution.

In Doug Johnson's very smart article Libraries for a Postliterate Society, he examines the role of libraries in a society that is less and less paper based. For librarians this can be a tough discussion. We are a group of people with a strong sensory bond to the book-in-hand knowledge experience. "Postliterate" feels like a creepy shift towards illiteracy and a loss of skills. This is our paper bias.

The postliterate library, according to Johnson, will offer new materials and services for patron needs. Material in diverse formats, platforms for collaborative work, media creation resources to share learning, and these are just a few.

So, what does postliterate mean?

Wikipedia defines it this way (2008): Postliterate Society ,"In a postliterate society people can read words, but choose not to. They generally receive information in a visual form instead of a verbal form."

Webster's Online Dictionary's definition (1960): relating to or occurring after the introduction of the electronic media

Oxford English Dictionary (Sept. 2009) says: postliterate adj. of or designating a time or milieu characterized by a decline in the importance or prevalence of the written word.

According to Andrea Lunsford of the Stanford University Study of Writing, "we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization". Technology is revitalizing writing and communication. This revitalization has brought new literacies.

Our students are communicating at a greater rate than ever before. Just watch the computers at CCHS. Writing for class assignments, writing for social networking, texting, IM, reading in multiple formats, music, dialogue - they are engaged in a multiple sensory experience. Their world is rich and multi-dimensional. They are already in the postliterate world. The old fluencies are there, but augmented with so many new genres of learning, information, collaboration and sharing. Their world is so exciting!

And this brings us full circle. As Doug Johnson so eloquently states, "culture determines library programs; libraries transmit culture." The postliterate culture is here. Viva la revolution!

Source articles:
Libraries for a Postliterate Society
Multimedia & Internet @ Schools, Doug Johnson

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

Education Business Blog:
Wired Nails it on the New Literacy

New York Times:
The Passion of Steve Jobs
Published: January 21, 2008

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Treasured Books

Uploaded on October 4, 2008
by 1bluecanoe

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When paper=Kleenex

Libraries deal with a lot of vendors. Books, databases, supplies - there is always someone working hard to promote their product and save us money. Library vendors, by the way, are a very nice and polite bunch of people.

For context, we received an email from Scientific American with an interesting sales pitch.

"Nature is now offering Scientific American online. The site will be live at the end of October. From 1/1/10 to 12/31/10 SciAm online is $350. This is for unlimited access including remote. If you subscribe before March 31, 2010 you will receive archives back to 1993. If you subscribe after March 31, 2010 you get a rolling four years of backfiles. Subscribe for 2010 before November 1, 2009 and you will get November and December 2009 free.
Archives from 1948 to 1992 are available for $5,000. This is a one time fee."

We would love to go digital for a resource like Scientific American, primarily because it is so easy to search and available with the click of a mouse, which is imperative for student use.

However, $5,000 for scientific archives from 1948 to 1992? That's a lot of money for old scientific information. It reflects the traditional role of libraries to archive information. Is it important for archives like this to exist and remain accessible? Absolutely. Should public funds for educating high school students be spent on archives of the past? Let's put it this way, we no longer have books looking forward to "the day we have a man on the moon." Scientific archives going back more than two years are not a sales hook for the CCHS Library. It is all, as they say, academic. This year we can't afford the print or online subscription for Scientific American anyway!

So, what does this have to do with the demise of newspapers? Google Fast Flip is the harbinger of things to come. It is a very easy to use FREE digital collection of headlines and articles from major U.S. and English language international newspapers. Why pay for paper versions that we also have to recycle, when news content is so readily available? When dollars are in such short supply the emotional connection to paper starts to dissolve like wet Kleenex. ( Insert winky emoticon here.)

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate paper. The bottom line forces really hard choices. At the end of the day it has to be about access to content, and free is free.

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

newspaper blackout poem

Uploaded on October 4, 2008
by Precious Roy


Monday, September 14, 2009

Digital Bloom

Bloom's Taxonomy is one of those "school-ey" terms that gets thrown around, but is really important because it sits at the bedrock of education. It is an organization for the thinking process. Created in the 1950's, it has been the standard against which all other taxonomies are measured.

In 2001, it was revised and this was big news. The highest level of thinking skill changed from evaluation to creation, the verbs associated with each level changed as well, and were expanded to include the digital skills associated with the Internet, Web 2.0 and social media.

Here is an example for the new language for the most basic level:
knowledge / remembering
  • original "knowledge" verbs: recognizing, listing describing, identifying, retrieving, naming, locating, finding
  • new additional "remembering" verbs: bullet pointing, highlighting, bookmarking, social networking, social bookmarking, local bookmarking, searching, Googling
(I think it is pretty cool the Google has entered the lexicon in this way.)

What does this mean for research and inquiry? It isn't just about finding stuff anymore. High performing students will know how to search deeply, analyze and evaluate what they find, and create new content. Students will elevate discourse, not just regurgitate. Make no mistake, this is hard, challenging work. It is a skill that needs to be taught, practiced and learned. National organizations like the American Association of School Libraries have rewritten the educational frameworks to reflect this change. This is the challenge.

Bloom's Taxonomy Blooms Digitally, Andrew Churches

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Digital flower

Uploaded on April 23, 2009
by Marco Braun

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tech Planning for the CCHS Library

Sometimes I get stuck, because I am not a nuts-and-bolts techie. Start talking about bits per mega watts, IP address emancipation, and "the server doesn't communicate with the T bandwidth mega-whoosis" and I am lost.

Moving the CCHS Library forward in providing information and media services to the students and faculty is an exciting challenge. Every single day holds a technological hurdle of some sort. Luckily, I don't have to do it all by myself, and can call on our talented library staff, CCHS students (students are great guides and teachers in figuring stuff out), tech support and colleagues to help. It takes a village, every day. I know for a fact that I am not alone in wrestling with information services, education, and emerging technologies.

This article, The Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology came via my Twitter account and has good points for anyone involved in moving organizations forward in planning for and incorporating technology. These are the bullet points. Please click the link for the fuller presentation.
  1. Technology isn't as hard as you think it is.
  2. Technology gets easier all the time.
  3. Technology gets cheaper all the time.
  4. Maximize the effectiveness of your most costly technology investment -- your people.
  5. Iterate, don't perfect.
  6. Be prepared to fail.
  7. Be prepared to succeed.
  8. Never underestimate the power of a prototype.
  9. A major part of good technology implementation is good project management.
  10. The single biggest threat to any technology project is political in nature.

The Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology |

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Library Without Books?

Getting rid of the library books and switching from paper to digital is a daring move, and has generated wrath and outrage from librarians and bibliophiles around the world. Just a guess, but I'll predict that in twenty years all libraries will look more like Cushing Academy than they will resemble the libraries of today.

Remember Captain James T. Kirk on Star Trek? Kirk had funny little glasses that he wore to read the old-fashioned, antique books he collected, rather than online reading like everyone else. His character was more sympathetic, romantic, and intelligent as a result. (Is my crush showing here?)

Libraries are evolving. Magazines and the good old Reader's Guide to Periodicals (remember that!) have shifted to online databases. Much easier to use and search, and they don't take up space. Paper is a format to transfer information. We love it, and have powerful feelings associated with reading from paper. What about our digital kids? Do they have the same romantic feelings for holding a book? Some do, and are quite adamant about their love of books. Lots of kids prefer digital and say they like online reading. Some of the most dedicated readers at CCHS will proudly show you the reading apps they have on their phones. These teens usually have a hard cover edition at home, and use their phone edition so they don't have to carry an extra book during the day.

The financial implications of such a radical shift are tremendous. Investing in e-readers of various brands before a clear industry standard has emerged is a risky investment. Paying for licenses for an entire new collection is expensive, and again, in a quickly evolving technology the "shelf life" (ha ha) of titles isn't guaranteed. This move is clearly garnering a lot of publicity for this small, private school, so perhaps that entered into the business plan as well. This is not a transition a public sector library could afford, nor should they at this point in the technology.

I also wonder what a shift like this would mean for our shared culture of reading. The sensory experience of a book in hand, the sound of pages rustling, small pencil notations in the margin left by a previous reader, the satisfaction of seeing the bookmark move through the volume, tracking our progress. The best is the sense of dread I get when I see I am approaching the end of a book I just can't put down. Yet, I also love the portability of the Kindle.

What about that child, so proud to walk around with Harry Potter under his arm? And those unexpected connections with people when you see what they are reading and strike up a conversation? Is this a sort of book-vanity, or an important part of our culture and the comfort we get from libraries and books.

So where do I stand? Somewhere in the middle ground. Let's watch this trend, continue to evaluate the digital shift and the role of paper. For now, I say go for it, Cushing. And let us know how it works out.

This is a clever YouTube video on a similar theme.

Boston Globe: A Library Without Books
YouTube: Introducing the Book

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School: 15 Essential Web Tools for Students

Watching students stagger out of CCHS with armloads of freshly issued textbooks, backpacks loaded with sports gear, musical instruments, and assorted bags, made me think of Sherpas bowed under their loads. They have to manage a lot. Schedules, classes, homework, activities, and all the stuff that goes along with these various commitments. There are free, web-based tools that can help them, and cut down on what they need to lug. Portable, accessible, and they won't get left behind on the bus or in the locker room.

However, it isn't just about making it easier for students. These tools will help build skills they will need in business, and in their lives as citizens of the 21st century. Collaborating, organizing, scheduling, time management, creating, publishing, and communicating with co-workers from around the world are important , and can be introduced through many of these applications.

Stay Organized:
  • NoodleTools - A fantastic note taking and citation tool that keeps getting better and better, and available for free through the CCHS Library Learning Commons website. Every student should have an account. This is heavily used during research projects, and is also a great tool for writing assignment.
  • Evernote is so cool everyone should play with it. You can synch notes between the web, your phone and any computer. It handles multiple media formats and is available via mobile apps (think cell phones).
  • Notely is an organizational suite of services that allows kids to manage their calendar, assignments, note taking tools, and more. Very friendly and intuitive.
  • GradeMate is another online student organizer. I had never heard of this one, but it looks pretty good, too.
  • Backpack was designed for businesses, and also offers really robust organizational capabilities. I consider this one to be over-kill for your typical high school student.
Study Better:
  • Diigo is something I can't be rational about because I think it is one of the best bookmarking and organizational tools for the web I have ever seen. Reading web content, whether it is a website, a pdf file, or an online book, will never be the same. Highlighter, sticky notes, collaboration, tagging, they have it all.
  • StudyRails was a new one for me. They describe their service as "an online study tool for effective study habits and homework management". Think of this as a personal tutor who schedules a student's study opportunities and blocks out potential digital distractions. It is not a free site, so I haven't tried it out.
  • Delicious - "The tastiest bookmarks on the Web", is the leader in social bookmarking. I tried it but it didn't suit my needs or personal style, and yet I know many people for whom it is a way of life. I think students need as much focus as possible, and that is not what Delicious is about. Given its popularity though, they are clearly on to something.
  • Mindmeister is for visual learners and offers collaborative online mind mapping. I believe many students would get a lot of benefit from using graphic organizers as part of their process. This looks like a good one.
Work and Collaborate:
  • Google Docs should be a part of every student's academic tool box. Many schools have switched to Google Apps for Education just to roll out Google docs to students and staff. Why? It is a great tool for collaborating on documents, powerpoint presentations, and has a great forms feature. This allows for students to work together without having to sit next to each other. No carpooling! This link has a really good little video explaining Google docs.
  • EtherPad - I saw this for the first time at a conference I attended over the summer and was very impressed. It is a web-based word processor that allows people to work together on the same document, at the same time. Wow! You can see the other person, wherever they might be, typing on the same screen as you, simultaneously. Businesses are using this for meetings and collaboration, but it is very user friendly.
  • Sliderocket is really powerpoint on steroids. Web-based and accessible on any computer, on any operating platform, this tool allows you to build really stunning presentations online. Your work is username/password protected, and is stored in the cloud. Check out the little video tutorial. Cool, cool, cool.
  • Wikispaces (Concord-Carlisle Wikispaces is the district account) is a collaborative platform students and parents will be seeing quite a bit of, as more teachers are launching online discussion forums. Wikis are the best for fast, quickly updated, easy to manage web pages. Wikipedia is the most famous wiki of them all. Did you know that wiki means "fast" or "hurry" in Hawaiian?
  • NoodleTools - Gotta come back to this gem of an application. Again, this is free via the Library webpage.
  • CiteMe is a Facebook app (!) and works with WorldCat, the world's largest library catalog. I just added it to my Facebook page so I can mess around with it.
  • EasyBib is very good. A lot of kids use this, but it doesn't have the note card and outline feature that I think makes NoodleTools better for research projects.
  • Zotero turns people into evangelists. It is browser extension, and has a great track record.
The source for this post is Mashable, one of my favorite resources for information on emerging web tools and social media. I learned a lot from this post and played with some new tools. Thanks, Mashable!

ManagingBack to School: 15 Essential Web Tools for Students

Also from Mashable:
Back to School: Top 10 iPhone Apps for Students

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

bright idea...

Uploaded on September 15, 2008
by maebeitsme

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chairs w/ Alan November - notes

K-12 District Team / Chairs session w/ Alan November

Chairs w/ Alan November
Sept. 2

Cellphones in the classroom – invite but demand performance – we Have ActiVotes, same concept.

Unfair advantage to tech savvy students? Are there parents who don’t want their kids to use technology? It is a personal value, not pursued.

Assessment – is writing overlooked/surpassed by presentation and aesthetics of an assignment? Does glitz of technology mask the major component(writing)of assignment?
• AN – final paper – how did student get to the writing? Google docs revision history
• Takes draft to a whole new orbit – provides data to understand final doc in a new way.
• Have we given teachers enough info to do the best possible job? New tools give insight into the process of learning than ever before.

Research – how do we ensure that kids are taught tools/skills in K-12 continuum?
• Google Custom Search – design your own search engine. Power of Google limited to sites you put int. 100 people can be on design team, unlimited access. Create content search engines built by classes. One student tasked with being researcher-for-the-day. That student finds the worlds best resources while teacher teaches. Teacher can answer questions – or teach students to get their own answer.
• Teach kids they are building a search engine (design team) they will take ownership of it.
• The best tech teacher in a lab can teach, but it has to be reinforced in every classroom.

Overwhelmed by Technology
• Comprehensive plan to support teachers is needed
• Need teachers to model
• Scale up the pioneers in organizational design
o ActivBoards

Paradigm / Practice Shift
What could support look like to put this into practice and make this change.
• Start with curriculum – what is the toughest to teach
• What works the best
• What works the worst – where do kids struggle
• Give that list to your tech leaders to help
• Create bridge between tech and pedadogy
o Embedded specialists in each department
o Kick the wheels, play, choose a few things to start with, enlist the kids in helping you learn
o Manage tech you don’t know how to use, but know what is possible. Know the CONCEPT
• Specialists give suggestions for pedagogy

New Tools to make learning more powerful. Nothing new. Addition of new tools in communicating content to new learners. More attractive to kids.

How-To Research
Do we need to teach this? Discipline behind the knowledge, with reinforcement and practice. Technology isn’t an option but a core requirement.
• Secondary teachers use collaborative word processing
o Leaders models this so it filters down

Scotland and other small and developing countries – takes tech seriously, in a global economy they can’t afford to lose 1 kid. They get that there are new rules, and Internet as new tool for opening up economic opportunities.

Student Voice
SpEd – new opportunities for these students
Find new formats to find voice and contribute to their won learning
Task students with designing tutorials – they know it has meaning to others
Ownership of product > learning > publishing globally > authentic

Skills are merging in student projects, and collegial support for student production needs to be a design feature.
Professional community on the web - free

Robin's TO DO:


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Keynote Kick-Off with Alan November - Notes

"What do you do with technology when you are not in school?"

Confirm what you are already doing.

I don't like technology. it breaks, especially in front of audiences.

Helps expand relationships with kids and access to information.

West Point 1985 act of Congress required every student to have a laptop. First university to make this requirement. They hire all of their graduates (6 years). Possible that a student will be a field commander later. They have data on results of learning that most schools don't.
Change in mission. Win the war > now the goal is to win the peace. (Should the mission of K-12 change?) New curriculum, new skills. Massive wrenching change for institution and faculty.

Teaching graduate program in info searching. Now have to teach students that there are different points of view. Example: impact of pope's speech in Turkey.Serious real-life problem with bad results.
Google results return Western results w/ no Muslim perspective. This does not support the mission to win the peace. West Point wants students to find alternate perspectives to find the truth, to win peace. Knowing the language of digital search addresses this problem. You don't know what you don't know, and it isn't your fault because you were never taught.

Caught in transition from paper to digital.

Should we teach American kids that there are other points of view?

Class of 2010 - demographers created working label "Boomerangs" > children of Boomers.

Alan's Advice on How to Get Kids Out of Your Parent's House:
critical thinking in the web (syntax, grammar)
"the medium is the message" - Marshall McLuahn

(Students didn't know how Google algorithm worked) students look at top page, don't change search engines.

What can YOU do?
1. Announce that you don't know everything
2. Hire the kid who breaks in
3. "Hire" the kids to teach you the tools you need - they want to be helpful

Peeling back the web to validate information
Google -

altavista - seach engine for finding links into a website
this search engine returns far more links to main site

How should teach this? Should it be embedded in what you teach?

High Tech High, San Diego - highest standardized test scores in CA, but they don't teach to the test. They ask the students to find solutions to teaching the most difficult concepts in your curriculum, Have them come back with examples in diverse media formats.

Assessment - assessing final product rather than process of getting to the final product. Assess how the kid got there.

Kids have a developmental need to connect socially with other people
YouTube phenomenal growth - show students the work of other students from around the world - this is cross-curricular.

The mission of education: Brain research shows that if a kid goes home and does homework and makes a mistake, the mistake is embedded in the brain. The longer the wait for the feedback the less relevant the learning and the most damaging the mistake.
Need to give different kinds of homework, like looking at vodcasts.
Bob Sprankle, Welles, ME - We have underestimated what young children can do. Children can watch a review of what was learned the week before, that they produced. No mistakes, they love to publish.

What's the difference between regular homework and producing/publishing for class? Homework is for self and doesn't matter. Publishing for authentic audience increases value, learning, enthusiasm in learning. When kids produce tutorials there is HUGE traffic. Students who take notes off a pod/screen cast do better than those who take notes live during class.

Change in culture of teaching/learning where kids take more responsibility for learning in the class. WHO should own the learning? US ed system designed for teachers to own the learning. Teachers work harder than the kids. These new tools can change this power nexus.
  • Literacy more than reading paper. Internet is a core literacy.
  • Global perspectives, alternate POV. Skype is a social connection, and kids thrive on social authenticity. Share/publish globally. Kids will listen and go back over it because it is their voice. This is FUN!

Robin's Ideas/ TO DO:
  • prof development Google docs/forms (essential equity issue)
  • Google workshop - basic search
  • Deep web search tools - tricks and grammatical tools to validate web content
  • Jing workshop
  • IDEA - "Play in the Sandbox" workshops around themes/tools. Group exploration.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Digital Natives

In the wake of our keynote speaker, Alan November, there has been a lot of talk in the halls of CCHS about 21st century skills and the role of instructional technology. It is one of the most fascinating and exciting discussions in education today, and we are not alone in assessing where we stand, and where we need to go.

The term "digital native" is ubiquitous these days, but what does it really mean? Wikipedia says "A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already existed when they were born, and hence has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3s." That defines the students (632 yesterday!) who visit the CCHS Library each day.

Indeed, the way they interact with information is very different from the behavior of the 30+ set. Their sense of boundaries, openness to new formats, their joy in digital media and the energy they bring to this area of production is incredible. They click with fearless abandon. The line between their day to day existence merges with their online life. It is part of the air they breath.

So, what does this mean for education, where we teachers are the immigrants and less comfortable with technology than the students we teach? Recent studies are indicating that everything will be OK. John Palfrey (Harvard Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School) advises that digital natives are glad to act as our guides. The community of immigrants and the the community of natives are still joined by the same values and educational goals, but that we need to have a conversation to bridge between the two, and include the new skills and interesting opportunities brought by evolving technologies.

School libraries are about information, media literacy and the technologies associated with these areas. This is our content area. Palfrey has some thoughts for us that resonate with this mission.

"I think the message broadly to librarians is that there is a greater, not lesser, role for professionals in this area as the digital age grows. And the more engagement that librarians have with young people in guiding them through this information environment, the better. The more we as library directors or librarians can listen to the practices of young people in these environments, the better off we’ll be in terms both of figuring out how to provide services and figuring out what things we need to correct. I think that kind of listening process is something that’s important and that the technologies themselves are pretty good at facilitating it. So to me, that’s the punch line from a librarian perspective.

This is going to be a great conversation.

Resource materials:
Excuse Me. Do You Speak Digital?: Harvard's John Palfrey Explores What It's Like to Be a Digital Native - 9/1/2009 - School Library Journal

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser
"Examines how economy, culture, and family life may change due to the coming of age of a generation of digital natives--individuals who have been exposed to technology their entire lives; and discusses the challenges they face."

Marc Prensky: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants-- a New Way To Look At Ourselves and Our Kids

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

Baby swim

Uploaded on May 24, 2009
by Eythor

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