Sunday, May 31, 2009

My dog ate my YouTube

If you are looking for bandwidth, don't come to the CCHS Library. It is being chewed up by proud students sharing their school video projects with each other via YouTube. Media production is in full force with students creating videos for everything from Earth Science to Foreign Languages to English classes. The library has been busy with students checking out Flip digital video cameras, downloading clips, and editing with iMovie. It is awesome! (Oh, yeah, there has been a lot of research going on, too.)

I find it incredibly exciting that students are using YouTube as a means to submit and showcase their media productions. The classroom teacher clicks a link and can quickly view or share student work on the ActivBoard. No worries about the DVD not loading, incompatibility, or damaged media. It is also so much easier for students to share their projects with each other and potentially, the world. This is one of the many ways we see Web 2.0 in action at CCHS.

P.S. Our bandwidth is terrific! Shout-out to our tech team - Gene, the Bobs, Ed, Peter and Derek. Thanks for taking care of the library.

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

Tube Generation by GH.Planet-09

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good Friends

When times get tough you find out who your real friends are, and man, times are tough. The current fiscal situation for public schools in Massachusetts is dire. Teachers and support staff are being laid off, class sizes are going to increase, programming will be constricted, and students will feel the pain; but we all know this.

The CCHS Library book budget is drastically reduced for 09-10, and things do not look hopeful for the next few years. In light of staffing cuts and increased class size, cuts to the book budget are appropriate. Imagine what it meant when I received emails of support from the Concord Free Public Library, reaching out to offer assistance and strengthen an already strong partnership.

In the coming year I will be relying on the generosity and creativity of my colleagues at CFPL in working to maintain library and information services for the students and staff at CCHS. Thanks Barbara, Sue, Karen, Robin, Claire and the staff and Friends of CFPL. In tough times, you are true friends.

Photo credit:
Flickr Creative Commons


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Monday, May 25, 2009

How to Cha Cha or Babe Ruth goes to Prague

My mother is a baseball lunatic. She makes fanatics look like sane, balanced individuals. Bear with me here. When she turned 70 in October, 2004, Boston was still in the grip of the Curse of the Bambino. My mother had a dream that she could break the curse by rounding the bases at Fenway with the Infant of Prague in her grocery cart. (Otherwise known as the IOP in our family, the Infant is a religious statue that lives under a glass dome in the living room and has been passed down for a few generations.) We got my Mom onto the field and while she didn't actually round the bases, she got the IOP onto home base. The rest is history. She takes sole credit.

Fast forward to this past weekend. My son was working on his travel itinerary for a trip to Europe, and was wondering about how to find a certain location in Prague. My daughter piped up "Cha Cha". Following her instructions, he texted 242242 (chacha). Transcript:

5:03 pm Where in Prague is the Infant of Prague statue?
5:04pm Acknowledgement of question receive.
5:05pm Infant Jesus of Prague is a famous statue located in the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Mala Strana, Prague.

Question asked, acknowledged and answered in two minutes.

How is that for 24/7 reference? According to Wikipedia - Cha Cha is a mobile question answering service which uses a technique known as the Human search engine. Scrolling through the site is a lot of fun, with live questions and answers from "Guides" being posted, and covering everything from relationship advice to any variety of "real" questions. Now, there is a certain leap of faith here as to veracity, sources, etc., but - wow.

On a certain level Cha Cha seems like nothing more than the ultimate arbiter of a bar bet. I think it is more important than that, as it represents a new twist in the social web. Combining classic reference services previously only available through libraries, free information is readily available via cell phones. Public libraries had a national system of 24/7 web-based reference services but it never seemed to get traction. Cha Cha is quickly succeeding at what public libraries envisioned.

Doing a little digging, this is a company looking to hire. A Guide for Cha Cha can earn $4 - $9/hour, although as one testimonial put it, he felt like "Lucy at the chocolate factory working the conveyor belt." As a business model this is worth watching.

I have a question for Cha Cha.

Who broke the Curse of the Bambino?

I already know the answer.

My mother, and Jesus Infant of Prague.

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
Jose Madeira - "Dance Band Cha-Cha", 1950s by Retro Today

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

VocabGrabber : Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus

Roget (of thesaurus fame) is rolling over in his grave, because VocabGrabber is in da' house! I copy/pasted text from a few recent blog posts and got a visual map of my word usage, analysis, relevance, and I can dig into specific words for richer interaction with my vocabulary.

This is a powerful tool for a student to analyze work in a non-threatening way. Kids invest a lot into their writing, and live under the pressure of grading and the whole "my grade=my sense of self-worth dynamic." (OK, I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, and I am ready for a nap.) I can imagine this might also be a powerful way to study the classics and the word choices of the great authors.

I love tools like this because they are relevant to how students process information. This relevance also means they have the opportunity to view their work as relevant, and not something to be turned in and forgotten. Analysis like this is critical to intellectual growth. The colors are pretty, too. Time for a nap ;)

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Google - Better than ever!

I have grown disenchanted with Google over time. The search results are massive, flabby, and junky. There is just too much stuff to wade through. The new search options on Google make it suddenly more relevant for productive searches. I still have to play with it, but the graphic organizer looks fantastic! For those kids who are hooked on Google, this will help them use it more effectively. I have to go play now.

By the way, the Google Blog is a great one to add to your RSS feed.

Official Google Blog: More Search Options and other updates from our Searchology event

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Twhirling Tweets on Twitter

Twitter has been a challenge for me, but I am finally starting to see the value. Using Twhirl, I now have an open window to Twitter on my desktop, and can watch tweets from my network in real time. A few weeks ago I monitored a conference I was unable to attend, while minding the circulation desk after school.

Today there was a tweet about using wikis for open textbooks. With budgets under such pressure, the benefits and economies of social media are looking better and better. When I clicked the link and saw the list, my eyes lit up! I could also see a number of names I recognized from Twitter had also clicked and saved the list within minutes of me; Twitter makes this kind of sharing incredibly dynamic.

Open Textbooks - List | Diigo

I have a long way to go, but thanks to Twhirl I just took a leap in my understanding of Twitter, and the benefits of using it as a personal learning network. Of course, I also follow Ryan Seacrest. Can't say I have really learned anything from Ryan yet, but I am hoping he might tweet the winner of Idol before next week.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Playing with Words

How about this for a twist on meeting minutes? I used the library department minutes from 4.29 to try out this new tool.

Word Sift is a nifty little application that allows you to paste text into a window and generate a visual analysis based on frequency and other little algorithm bits. Words that are classed as academic show up in orange. Click on any word for a definition, related web sources, and the location of the word in your text.

Project research, access, demonstrated - orange and high frequency.
Student, laptop, library, noodlebib, english - high frequency.

Over the past two weeks we have had a large number of English classes booking in for research, using the laptops, and getting lessons in how to use NoodleBib for citation and note taking. Very accurate!

There is also a visual thesaurus, as can be seen with the word "student". Plug in a more sophisticated word, and the thesaurus really gets interesting. At the bottom of the page you can click on a recent Obama speech for a demo. Cool.

Why is this important? Word Sift is another way to visualize writing, another way to evaluate, and another way to understand words and language. More important, it is fun. I'm going to copy/paste the subject lines from my spam account. That should prove interesting!

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Best Infraction of Library Rules - and the award goes to...

True story. I was shelving some books when I caught a whiff of something delicious. I look around, and there, sitting at a table in the library, is a young man with a bottle of vinegar, a bottle of olive oil, and an array of herbs and spices. He is carefully pouring olive oil into a ziplock bag.

"Sean?" I ask (not his real name).

"Yes?" he politely responds, pausing mid-pour as he looks at me quizzically.

"What are you doing, Sean?"

"Making vinaigrette." He responds.

So much for no food in the library.

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons
soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil by frankfarm

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Wolfram - Google Killer?

is a "computational knowledge engine" that is generating a lot of buzz on listserves, blogs, and on Twitter. I registered CCHS as a possible beta test site, and would love to have students kick the tires and try it out. Fingers crossed.

So, what's the big deal? Unlike Google, Wolfram's algorithm uses curated data, then organizes the information using a "sophisticated Natural Language Processing algorithm." This engine was developed with academic standards, as opposed to Google, which is more free market. It is supposed to be really amazing with mathematical and scientific searches.

Google isn't going anywhere, but Wolfram may be the first serious online challenger to web-based reference and textbook sources. This 10 minute YouTube video is worth the time:

Stephen Wolfram discusses Wolfram|Alpha: Computational Knowledge Engine

Source: ReadWriteWeb - Wolfram|Alpha: Our First Impressions

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