Thursday, September 30, 2010

Challenging Freshmen

Aah, freshmen!

A couple of years ago we had a freshman with an exuberant interest in one particular girl. She was studious. He was not. He would follow her to the individual, silent study carrels on our third floor. This area is for students who seriously decide they need to concentrate. This boy drove us nuts up there, in his earnest attempts to gain favor with the apple of his eye. The day he was found climbing under the carrels to grab her ankle, a line was crossed.

I wasn't there at the time, but one of our library assistants wrote the incident up in our cleverly named "Incident Book". In it, she documented the numerous attempts to quiet the boy down, move him (unsuccessfully) to another area of the facility, and the push back at having his attentions thwarted. In fact, he was pretty rude.

When I arrived at school the next day and read the account, I called his house. Yup. I got his number and his Mom answered. I explained the situation and she was really, really quiet. I started to read the report and then paused, asking if an email explanation would be more helpful. She said "No, keep going. I'm writing it all down." To tell you the truth I was pretty worried at this point. Mom was so quiet, so intense, and I was thinking this whole intervention might backfire.

Then she asked the name of the library assistant. I certainly didn't want a member of staff taking any heat, so I asked "Why?" She replied "So I can tell him who he needs to apologize to." I thanked her for her understanding, explained that because of her son's insubordination he would lose privileges for a week. She replied "Of course! His behavior was totally unacceptable!"

Twenty minutes later I could see, through our front windows, a car pull up to the main door. The car door opens and Romeo himself comes charging through the doors, into the Learning Commons. He screeches to a halt in front of the circulation desk and asks me where he can find the assistant librarian who reported the incident. It turns out he was home, sick as a dog and sound asleep in bed. His mother woke him up and drove him to school to apologize.

He graduated last year. A library regular. A great kid. I really miss him and hope he stops in for a visit when he is on break from college.

The "Incident Book" has served us well. Anytime there are interactions with students that are troublesome, concerning, or indicate patterns of behavior, we date them and jot them down. A simple thing and even a little cathartic at times, this is our document of behaviors we need to pat attention to and also, potentially, present to parents in an effort to address.

In the meantime, I have a freshman student with a serious coffee addiction. She also seems to think passes to the learning commons and appropriate behavior are optional. Cups are left everywhere, she floats all over and distracts everyone, and she is seriously driving us crazy. Maybe it is time for a call home...

Photo Credit:

R. Cicchetti
CCHS LC Carrels

Flickr Creative Commons
Coffee to go

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Future of the Book

I can tell you the precise moment when I fell in love with reading, and with books. When my Mom read Are you my mother? by P.D. Eastman to me for the first time, she read the line "You are not my mother! You are a SNORT!", but she said "snort" more like "shhhhnort!" I almost fell off my single Sears bed with the sensible coverlet and hospital corners, in peals of giggles.

Since I learned to read my nose has been firmly stuck in a book. Yet I am not worried about the future of "the book." Paper has served us well for quite a long time, and isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

The "future" of the book is what excites me. The possibilities of engaging with the written word, the transformed thought, the flight of imagination, in new ways.

As I talk with our students it is clear that, while they are digital natives, many are still firmly in the camp of the traditional book. Almost uniformly they state they would prefer digital alternatives to text books, but for personal reading, many still want the book in hand. One student talked about the privacy of disappearing into a narrative on the written page, which is a sentiment I have heard from colleagues. And yet this student had never experienced an e-reader, so his opinion is uninformed.

This is one of the reasons we will be grant writing for a variety of digital readers in the next month. I sure hope we are awarded because I look forward to sharing our process. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I found this in my neglected RSS feed. Worth the 4+ minutes. Especially the section when they refer to authority and information. But that is a different kettle of fish entirely!

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Guy

Don't kid yourself. School libraries are businesses. We have budgets, we are accountable to our school administrators, we have curriculum standards and benchmarks, and most important of all, we have customers. Without the kids we have no business. If we do anything less than make ourselves indispensable, we are on the cut list and our programs are lost. It is really the students who lose.

So what does a global business marketing guru have to do with school libraries?


  • Delivering relevant product (our 21st century curriculum)
  • Shipping every day (student and faculty service with a SMILE!)
  • Innovation (staying cutting edge)
  • Dominating our niche (being the go-to person for information technologies)
  • Visionary (inspiring and leading change)
  • Product (preparing our students for productive lives in the information economy)

Godin has just released his latest book as a vook. For $4.99 you not only get to hear from an exceptionally smart man, but also experience the quickly approaching environment of the hybrid book. This is an example of what our collections will soon be accommodating.

How do we catalog this? Curate this? Manage this? I sure as heck don't know, but I'll be scrambling to find out in order to be ready.

So, go on, take a look at the Vook...

"In a world where an Internet video of a piano playing cat can get more public attention that a multi-million dollar television advertising spot, how do marketers, business or anyone who has an idea they want to spread get the right attention? Seth Godin might not have a quick fix or a miracle solution, but his Unleashing the SUPER Ideavirus Vook will bring you completely up to speed on the tactics you need to survive and thrive in today's fast paced information economy."

For a little more Seth, check out his recent TED Talk.

Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Data and I'm not talking about Star Trek

Yup. Love d-a-t-a. Because behind the numbers are real students, real teachers, and real skills. I can tell all the nice stories I want, but without data they are just interesting anecdotes. With data and statistics I can turn my nice story into a compelling and dynamic statement of fact. Big difference.

And it is so easy to do!

Google Docs has a form option that allows you to create an embeddable form to collect information. I have forms for monthly circulation stats, patron visits, media lab usage and inter-library loans. They live on our staff wiki and responsibility for entering data is shared by our staff. The form I spend the most time with is the curriculum form, which is where I log all the lessons taught, subject area, skills and standards addressed. We check our stats across data points a few times each year to see how we are doing compared to previous years, and discuss whether we need to course adjust.

Behind every number is a student. Our opportunities to deliver critical information and media literacy skills to students are precious and can't be squandered. If I am doing my job well, I'll interact with a typical freshmen student multiple times across at least three disciplines (typically a combination of English, Social Studies, Foreign Language and sometimes Science). By checking the data gathered by my Google form I can see if I am missing departments or teachers and follow up, offer to visit the classroom or suggest a collaboration later in the term.

Sometimes I joke that I could be teaching kids how to play the kazoo and nobody would ever know. In truth, I suspect some teacher-librarians are doing the equivalent of playing the kazoo, which means doing nothing. Mostly because they can. I am not required to supply the data that I use in School Committee presentations and that go into my annual report. I do it because this is how I teach my school administration and parent community about the important instruction that takes place in the learning commons. I do it because it keeps me focused on instruction and student achievement. I do it because it requires me to continue to innovate and try new things. I do it because it is my professional obligation.

This is my form for this year. I have included a view only link so you can take a look at the data points I will be tracking. Click here for the view only of my form for last year. When you go there, click "Form" on the toolbar, and then "Show summary of responses" on the sub-menu. There it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.

This quick intro to Google Forms (2 minutes) provides an excellent overview of the power and flexibility of this tool. The first minute is geared toward business usage, but this certainly has applications for the business of libraries. The second minute is when it gets more into the overview.

If you aren't comfortable with Google, Zotero is another (free) well reviewed platform for data collection and management.

Already gathering data? Share your practice with your colleagues and state organizations. Not collecting data? Make this the year you jump off the proverbial dock and try it out.

Photo Credit:
I love data
20 Nov 2008

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Social Glogging

A new year, time for new strategies and new tools! We just launched our Facebook Fan page (CCHS LC) and our first newsletter of the year is a digital glog. Please join us on Facebook for regular updates on trends, books, learning, and new tools for students.

The CCHS Learning Commons glog marks the start of our campaign to  re-brand ourselves in the hearts and minds of our students, faculty and parent community. We want our brand to convey energy, creativity, embracing technology and innovation, and most of all, learning and critical thinking skills.

You can access our glog via the link provided, or below.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So emoticonal!

Am I the last person in the world to know about key strokes for Facebook emoticons? Thanks to a FB friend (hi, Beth!) for clueing me in. Just in case anyone else is interested I thought I'd share. At the end of the first full day of school, emoticons are about all I can handle!

Plus, if I put it here I'll be able to find it again.  :3

(FYI - On FB :3 would turn into a smiley face with a curly, confused smile.)

Complete list of Facebook Chat Emoticons |

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sometimes it is about the book

I often mark articles to re-visit at a later date, or because I felt too pressed for time to read them thoroughly at that moment. Sometimes when I review things I have marked I ask myself "what were you thinking?" I'll seriously have no clue why I marked it.

This New York Times piece from David Brooks, July 2010, really made me stop and reflect.

The Medium Is the Medium -

Using data gathered in a recent study, researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books each to take home over the summer, and they did this for three successive years. The results?

They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students. These students were less affected by the “summer slide” — the decline that especially afflicts lower-income students during the vacation months. In fact, just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school.

What about the Internet and the impact of alternate formats for reading? Doesn't access provide the same boost to learning as ownership of a physical book? It turns out sometimes it really is about the book. The literary world is still solidly print based with regard to our cultural perceptions. A book is still a book in our society, and it has very strong associations and implications.

The big result from the book study was the change in student achievement. Researchers concluded:

It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

A few years ago we invested heavily in graphic novels. Our circulation statistics went through the roof. Students I had never seen before were coming in to check out graphic novels. It wasn't a temporary blip. Circulation continued to rise in fiction and nonfiction. Once they got used to checking out graphic novels they began to see themselves as people who checked books out from the library.

I want all our students to see themselves as people who read and are comfortable with books, and the associations that come with books. As hard as I work to innovate and bring new formats of content to our school, I can't lose sight of the importance of the physical book in our society.

YouTube Credit:
It's a book
Lane Smith

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Back-to-School Review of Ed-Tech Trends | Hack Education

The 2010 Horizon Report is out and, as usual, provides fascinating reading. I really like the Key Trends because it helps me focus on planning for the future. "Future" is an interesting concept in an environment of such rapid change.

A cheat sheet on trends:

1 Year or Less: 
Mobile Computing
Open Content
2 to 3 Years: 
Electronic Books
Simple Augmented Reality
4 to 5 Years: 
Gesture-Based Computing
Visual Data Analysis

We are gaining experience in a number of these areas, but aren't there yet. Mobile services for the learning commons is my focus this year. Time spent experimenting is what we need to stay on track. Click for the free pdf download. Well worth your time.

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Friday, September 3, 2010


It has happened enough over the past few weeks that I started thinking about it. A number of parents and colleagues have stopped me to ask where I find links and resources that are integrated into our Learning Commons wiki. Like most librarians, I am a magpie. I gather things.

My RSS feed is the primary source of glittering, nourishing, astounding resources. Every day I zip through recent posts from the 97 blogs I follow. Peer librarians, technology gurus, publishing and book review sites, blogs on Google, social media trends and news aggregators from around the world all show up like the most personalized newspaper you can imagine.

By tagging items I build my own digital archive that I can search for specialized content. If I need to get quickly up to speed on the use of back channels in the classroom and the different platforms I can check my feed, where I have been tagging back channels for the last year. How about avatars? Yup.

For the last year or so I have known that I need to pay attention to mobile apps for the library. The best bloggers in the field of school librarianship have been posting resources and recounting their experiences, all for my benefit. By tagging their excellent work (thanks, Joyce Valenza!) I can easily refer to it when I am ready - which is this year.

I am not book marking websites. I am tagging content.

Here is a great example:

On the wire – September 2010 | Educational Origami

This blog post has some amazing web apps that work and are being used successfully with students. Click through for the links. Here are a couple of highlights:

  • grabbing images - we always have students pulling images off the web for media projects
  • cheat sheets for specialized programming languages (sending this link to our tech arts media teacher)
  • Quickstart guide for iMovie09 - this will get posted on the wiki
  • Sound Bible - royalty free music, great for those media projects, waiting to be posted to our wiki
  • Lovely charts - I have to play with this, but it looks really powerful and a great way to present data in a compelling, visual way
RSS feeds, Diigo, Facebook, Twitter, and a handful of other outlets are all part of the daily doings of this little magpie. And our wiki is my nest. By the way, did you know that magpies gather in groups called "parliaments"? How cool is that? I wonder what you call a gathering of librarians...

A shelf of librarians?

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The future of the book 1959

"A look into the future that never was.Paleo-Future is one of the funkiest little blogs I have come across in awhile.  A recent post called The Electronic Home Library 1959 struck a chord.

Today we are in much the same position as they were in the Chicago funny pages in 1959. The future is closer than we think. And we are trying to figure out which way to jump. Books are the perfect example. Kindle? Nook? Sony Reader? iPad? NetBook? Tablet?  Get a load of the Kno. It will blow your socks off.

Kno Movie from Kno, Inc. on Vimeo.

As librarians we are leaders in information technology. If you haven't started yet, make this the year you write grants and do whatever it takes to start getting these technologies into your schools, into the hands of students and teachers.

Not because we know they are the "right" technologies, but because we need to play, explore and experience the evolutions in order to understand the impact on teaching and learning. Yeah, I know. Technology is too transitory to make a commitment. Don't make a BIG budget commitment, but instead make small scale investments in exploration. This is one of my goals this year. I commit to explore, and  enlist others to join me on the expedition. Together we can lead the way.

Have a great school year, everyone.

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