Monday, December 28, 2009


"It's not the rats you need to worry about. If you want to know if a ship is going to sink, watch what the richest passengers do... If your ship is sinking, get out now. By the time the rats start packing, it's way too late."

Seth Godin's very smart post highlights the importance of paying close attention to your "market," adjusting your service model, and remaining relevant to your customers. In the world of school libraries the rats leaving the ship is analogous to finding your job on the cut list. By the time your program is on that list it is too late.

How do you avoid this fate? Be curious, be bold, find out what the smartest school librarians and educational tech visionaries from around the world are doing and saying, and see how it can be implemented to the benefit of your students and faculty.  Embrace the unknown, and be prepared to jettison the familiar if it fails to move learning and student achievement forward. Be a crucial voice in discussions of change and innovation and the first to roll up your sleeves to make it happen.

As we embark on the second decade of the 21st century, these are a few of the projects I believe will keep the school library central and indispensable.
    1. Transform the "library" into a "learning commons." Libraries are crucial in this age of abundant information, but only if they provide relevant support for those actively navigating the digital environment. Hang up your "shhh," stop fussing over the coffee cups, welcome students in with wide open arms along with their mess and Facebook. Give them new tools so that they can find, evaluate, and create. Teach them how be ethical and productive citizens. Teach them how to communicate responsibly and publish to the world. Creativity can be messy and loud. Get over it. Welcome to the learning commons.
    2. Stop paper training students. Push information out to students digitally and also teach them the critical skills of finding and evaluating it for themselves. Paper is our orientation, but doesn't do any favors for our digital natives. The age of the reading packet is gone because it can't be accessed by students with reading disabilities. It can't be posted to a collaborative platform for analysis and discussion. It can't be linked or embedded, and it isolates the learner. Students need to manage their information and materials using  RSS feeds, web portals, and collaborative platforms. They deserve the opportunity to share learning with an authentic audience made up of peers, experts in the field, or a global audience. Use paper only as a last resort.
    3. Be a leading voice in bringing new ideas to your community as a tool for evaluating current practice. Change is hard. Be enthusiastic of innovation and supportive yet positive with those who may feel overwhelmed.  There is no such thing as a "dumb question". Recognize and value the best of "old school" methods with the same vigor you use to promote the new.
    4. Advocate for the diversification of formats.  Planning for the future still involves books, but collections should also include ebooks, MP3 books, graphic novels, and collections that are rich in media. This means leading investigations into new technologies that will allow us to manage, catalog, and curate media productions, media files, student artwork, student performances and more. This means researching vendors, piloting digital textbooks, and supporting hand held digital devices for students.
    5. Treasure and promote curiosity and creativity in our students. Bringing new tools  to teachers as a way to provide alternate ways for students to find information, create meaning, and share their learning is a unique skill librarians can bring to their schools.
Wishing everyone curiosity, joy, and healthy budgets in 2010.


Blog inspiration:
Seth Godin
Seth's Blog 
It's not the rats you need to worry about

    Photo Credit:
    R. Cicchetti
    Using LiveBrush

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    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Wii are having fun in the library!

    The three days before vacation present unique - uhm - opportunities. Buckling down isn't at the top of the list of preferred activities for students during lunch blocks. Often the noise escalates and things can get a little stressful. This year, we are embracing the challenge. Wii are having a great time!

    The Metrowest Regional Library system generously makes available a full Wii gaming package for teen programs. CCHS is the first school library to take advantage and it is off to a terrific start. But why, you might ask, would a library encourage gaming?

    Our goal is for students to become life long learners and library patrons. If they feel a sense of welcome and belonging in their school library this will translate to positive associations later in life. How many adults do you know who feel nervous walking into a library? The old "shhhh" and sterotypical disapproving librarian did not foster a positive image.

    And what about joy? What about fun? As the game runs on the first floor there are students still working, undisturbed, on the second and third floors. The computers are full with students working on papers, powerpoint presentations and Quizlet flashcards. But the vibe is loose. There is a light, holiday feel to the library.

    Thanks to Metrowest for providing the games and support in bringing this program to the students of CCHS. I'm going to try Mario Cart now.

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    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    My toolbar

    These are my daily tools, and this is how I work. Every single day my iGoogle page acts as my portal for work, play, and socializing. So, let's break it down. (You can click on the image for a clear enlargement.)

    The upper toolbar holds the bookmarks I use most often. Google Wave is still in beta, and I play here, seeing what it can do and how it might be used by students and teachers. Once it is opened for general use I can see it as an ideal collaborative space for group project work. My blogging tools are Blog This, Blogger Dashboard, Share on FaceBook and Flickr Creative Commons. I can grab interesting posts from my RSS feed and quickly add them to a post to blog about later, or even just to re-visit and think about and try. Of course, a picture tells a thousand words and Flickr Creative Commons is my one-stop shop for great images I can use with attribution.

    The next bar is for Diigo, a FREE social networking site designed for researchers. The Diigo toolbar allows me to grab a website or blog post, annotate it on the live web, attach digital sticky notes, archive it for later use, save it to lists, and if I want I can share it with my Diigo network. Every morning I get an email from my Diigo groups with articles that have been shared by other educators and researchers. The generosity of the Diigo community is a large source of information, most recently from a guy in the U.K. who has been sharing wonderful European primary source sites. I follow lists for school librarians, Web 2.0 Educators, History and English Teachers and a couple of others. Each morning (at the ridiculous hour of 5:30am)  I have my tea, listen to the weather, ignore the dogs, and go through my Diigo updates. Right then I will pull out valuable resources and post them to the library wiki. This allows us to keep enriching our  portal to be a true 24/7 support and resource for students.

    After Diigo comes the YoLink toolbar. Another FREE resource, this facilitates deep web searching in a very elegant, easy to use way. As a case study, if you look carefully you can see I accessed Google Scholar (academic sources - terrific resource!) to search "Brecht" and "anti-colonialism", used YoLink to help with the search, and annotated the site using Diigo. YoLink plays beautifully with other applications and also archives searches and sites for notation. If they would partner with NoodleTools life would be perfect in research land. (Why I was searching Brecht and anti-colonialism is another story that involves my college age daughter, a late hour call and a fast approaching deadline.)

    Finally you can see the tabs I had open at the time, which are generally always the tabs I have open. Google Docs holds my library documentation, primarily the forms we created to track library data and lesson plans. These forms keep our data organized and churn out beautiful little graphs that I can share on a moment's notice. At this point Google has so much information about me they could create a clone and nobody would ever notice. I got over that reality awhile ago.

    And Facebook. I check in quite a bit and use this for professional as as well as personal connections. Awhile ago a library colleague from central Massachusetts recommended a friend. I had never met this person but over Facebook we developed a lively friendship based on similar humor and a mutual (slightly manic) addiction to quizzes. This online friendship resulted in Anita (hi, Anita!) spending professional days observing in the CCHS Library and we will be attending the ALA Mid-Winter conference in Boston together.

    There is always something new to try, to play with, to learn. I am connected to smart people who care passionately about learning and generously share this wealth. Our students and staff are the beneficiaries.

    Now, about Brecht and anti-colonialism...

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    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Invisiblity - Thoughts from the Circulation Desk

    Some kids really believe they are invisible. They come into the library with their heads down trying to avoid drawing attention to themselves. Kids don't start out being invisible. It happens over time and for a variety of reasons. These are the names I learn first.

    We see hundreds of students every single day, and it can be easy to slip into complacency and let the crowd surge by, taking note of the kids who are good at making themselves known. They have the confidence to say hi, chat a bit, and the expectation that you will remember them.

    The quiet, invisible kids don't have that expectation. Earlier this year I said good morning to a new freshmen using her name. She stopped in her tracks, looked at me with big, widening eyes, and said "You know my name?"

    And you know what? That simple hello is like sunshine on a plant. I swear, they bloom. In the days and weeks that follow they say hi, chat, ask for your opinion, and they glow with the confidence of recognition. 

    This is one of the daily joys of working in the CCHS Library.

    Photo credit:
    Flickr Creative Commons

    Flower Starting To Bloom

    Uploaded on June 12, 2008
    by Zero Talent Photography

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    Monday, December 14, 2009

    ...and a child shall lead them

    Watch this middle school student manage her life and learning with confidence and pride. You can hear the enthusiasm in her voice. In 3 minutes and 20 seconds she gives us a breathtaking vision of what is possible, and how quickly the digital world has evolved.

    So, here is the challenge. How do we provide our CCHS students with the same educational opportunities? How do we provide the tools for students to acquire information, the critical thinking skills to evaluate and reflect on what they find, the tools to understand, make meaning and share their learning, and the organizational skills to manage it all, as shown by this middle school student? What she demonstrates is the result of careful planning and a systemic, consistent approach to learning. This is an incredibly exciting discussion for educators, and it is inspirational to see students mastering the skills we want for our own kids. It is time for us to begin pushing ourselves to move away from paper and shift toward the intellectual skills and digital tools to seek, find, organize and share.

    As adults, we have to jump in as well, and this terrific middle school student is leading the way for us. These are a few FREE Internet desktops designed to help organize the web to work for you. My personal favorite is iGoogle, but they all look pretty amazing.

    With Symbaloo, you can now create your own desktop on internet, including your favorite websites and sources. The advantage is that you can navigate easily to the most important websites, without remembering the links. 

    Pageflakes, the social personalized homepage, is revolutionizing how we how we start with and use the Internet. At, you can easily customize the Internet and make it yours using ‘”Flakes” – small, movable versions of all of your web favorites that you can arrange on your personal homepage. You can also participate in the Pageflakes community, sharing your page as a “Pagecast” with a private group or with the world, and connecting with other users across the globe. Over 235,000 Flakes and 140,000 Pagecasts are available for thousands of uses and interests, including Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, news, sports, e-mail, local events, search, photos, music, videos – even interactive tools like a calendar and a to-do list – and just about anything else you do on the web at school, work and at home.

    Edu 2.0
    EDU 2.0 is a free, web-hosted learning management system that allows anyone to create an online school in minutes. It's easy to use, comprehensive, and can be accessed from any web browser.

    iGoogle lets you create a personalized homepage that contains a Google search box at the top, and your choice of any number of gadgets below. Gadgets come in lots of different forms and provide access to activities and information from all across the web, without ever having to leave your iGoogle page. Here are some things you can do with gadgets:
    • View your latest Gmail messages
    • Read headlines from Google News and other top news sources
    • Check out weather forecasts, stock quotes, and movie showtimes
    • Store bookmarks for quick access to your favorite sites from any computer
    • Design your own gadget.

    Listening to the enthusiasm of a middle school student share her learning and demonstrate her skills is certainly inspirational for me, and provides an exciting glimpse of what is possible in education. A very nice gift in this holiday season.

    Thanks to Buffy Hamilton and her Media 21 Project, Wendy Drexler, and Dr. David Loertscher for sharing and leading the way.

    Photo credit:
    Flickr Creative Commons
    Digital Collage: Child In Me
    Uploaded on February 19, 2006
    by Isabel Ginsberg

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    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Check your book shelves!

    School budgets are tight and the CCHS Library is reaching out to our community. Please consider donating a book you may already own. Check out our website for a full list of books we hope to obtain through donation.

    The CCHS Library doesn't want your money. We need your books! Please consider visiting our donation site and see if you have a good condition copy you would be willing to give to our library.

    CCHS Library Donations

    Thanks to CCHS parent Jim Philippou for his generous gift of time. Jim created the donation portal for us. Thanks, Jim!

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