Thursday, May 20, 2010

Only YOU can prevent helmet fires

The school year is a roller coaster ride that keeps accelerating.  By the time spring rolls around you hear words like "overwhelmed" and "overload".  My personal favorite is  "helmet fire", defined by Wikipedia as "an expression for a mental state characterized by unnaturally high stress and task-saturation and loss of situational awareness." The phrase originated with the military who said "the pilot is undergoing so much stress that his brain is on fire or smoke is coming out of his ears." Basically,  you have so much to do, and so many tasks to accomplish during a critical window that it is physically impossible to complete it all.  I think this describes a lot of teachers during the month of June!

Educational technology is often times the scapegoat of stressed teachers (and is a good example of the ideas put forward in the Information Gap).  Thoughtful professional development is required to nurture teachers and provide the support for continued growth in the quickly evolving world of information and education.

A lot of the skills and new literacies described in this excellent two minute video are found in the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. As information and media specialists we have an obligation to provide leadership and thoughtful professional development opportunities for our colleagues during the summer.  Our teachers need us. Only YOU can put out helmet fires!

YouTube - Partnerships for Powerful Learning

Photo Credit:
Flickr Creative Commons: My Co-Pilot

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Waving emphatically!

I was so excited to get a beta invitation to Google Wave. Immediately I invited a few other friends and colleagues, and was then so disappointed when all we did was wave back and forth at each other, pinging furiously. We weren't collaborating on a project,  so it's power as a collaborative platform was simply not utilized. How exciting that Google has opened the gates:

Google Wave Available for Everyone - Google Wave Blog

We are not a GoogleApps school, but this is exactly one of the very enticing platforms that makes me cast longing glances at districts (and STATES!) that have made the jump. I am a big advocate of Diigo, Evernote and NoodleTools as collaborative platforms, but the ubiquity of Google makes it incredibly relevant to the daily practice of students. It was also designed to be a collaborative work environment, perfect as a place for students to gather, store, organize and pull their work together.

As usual, this Google video is clever and really "hits the nail on the head." ;)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reading for FREE!

"In the virtual future, you must organize to survive." OK. I'm in. As a well known fan of dystopian fiction the opening line has me hooked - line and sinker. However, I won't pay for this book, because the author is giving it away. It has already been downloaded to my desktop.

I will certainly buy a copy for the library collection, and I'll purchase an MP3version because I really want students to have as much access as possible to this book. But for how much longer? Reading is alive and well, but the traditional venues are giving way to new ideas for reimbursing authors for their work.

Cory Doctorow is a writer/blogger who spends his time at the forefront of the digital world. By sharing his work freely it fuels his speaking engagements, paid writing assignments, and who knows what else. He also releases his work under a Creative Commons license and allows readers and fans to re-mix his work, as long as they follow reasonable guidelines.

Cory Doctorow: For the win "Below you'll find links to downloadable editions of the text of For the Win. These downloads are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, which lets you share it, remix it, and share your remixes, provided that you do so on a noncommercial basis. Some people don't understand why I do this -- so check out this post if you want my topline explanation for why I do this crazy thing. "

Example of a fan submitted Wordle:

This is new ground. Cory Doctorow is a pioneer who, by his actions, is changing the game for everyone. He is also a terrific writer. His first book, Little Brother, is also available as a free download, although you can check it out from our library, too!

Add  the quickly expanding array of sites dedicated to digital reading and free access (text and audio) and the scope of the transition becomes very apparent. Check out the CCHS Learning Commons wiki devoted to reading and look at the formats and portals we are making available to our students. We have a lot more work to do, but have made a good start. Taking a cue from Cory Doctorow, our wiki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. You are welcome to harvest our wiki in exchange for attribution.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wednesday Fun - Ghost Busters!

Here is a little bit of fun for a Wednesday. Remember Ghost Busters? Well, there are still plenty of ghosts running around the New York Public Library. Enjoy!

The beloved original featuring the librarian-in-a-cardigan:

The Improv Everywhere Remix:

Source: Mashable

Faux Ghostbusters Invade the New York Public Library



The next time somebody complains about student behavior I'm going to point them toward the King's Lynn Library in Norfolk County, U.K.

The staff are described as being "terrorized and tormented" by screaming children who were engaged in "anti-social behavior". Unfortunately, police were unresponsive and the staff was at wits end.

What did they do? The local council hired a "bouncer" to patrol the library three days per week for six weeks.

I am happy to report that while our students sometimes exhibit bouts of "over-enthusiasm", they are a really nice bunch of kids. Typical behavior issues we face:
  1. excessive chattiness and hyper-socialization (no books in sight, no intention of doing anything productive other than distract everyone else)
  2. snacks that are really meals (snack are OK, but if it involves eating utensils, condiments and two hands it is a meal and should be eaten in the cafeteria)
  3. socializing in the silent and individual study area - we keep this area for students who really, really need a place for focused, quiet study
  4. using a computer for non-school activities when there is a line of students waiting for access 
  5. printing out class sets of Powerpoint and presentations and sucking the toner dry (printing on this scale is expected to be done at home)
We will not be requesting a line item for bouncer in the budget - this year, anyway ;)

Council Hires Bouncer for Library


Mind the Gap!

One of the challenges I face is channeling the quickly changing world of information and media technology into collaborative planning with teachers. Often times they seem overwhelmed with choice and the changes in assessment and management that come with incorporating many of the new tools and skills into their content goals. I get it. But how do I address this? How do I more effectively address their concerns and support their goals without stressing them out?

An example is NoodleTools, the powerful citation and note taking platform. Instead of passing out style sheets teachers, with my assistance, have to teach students how to create accounts, share them with the teacher, and go through the process of evaluating a resource and generating a citation. Then they must learn how to use the (brilliant!) note card feature take notes on their resource. After that there is the outline where they build the structure of their paper. This takes a different type of planning and time allocation, but the benefit is the teacher and I have access to student work and can monitor progress and intervene when necessary. This is about the teacher substituting "content time" with some "skills time".  Ultimately students complete the final paper more successfully. The first time is a real leap of faith, and not all are ready to hold my hand and jump.

Dr. George Loewenstein wrote a paper called The Information Gap in 1994 that neatly frames this dilemma, and it sure isn't isolated to school libraries. Luckily there is a neat 3 minute video interpretation put out by a blog called mondaydot that explains the theory and puts it in context with neat little animations.

So, back to my dilemma. I need to focus my collaborative efforts and teacher-directed professional development role on the size of the information gap. If the gap is too small it means I am not moving my students or staff forward. If I push new tools, skills and platforms too aggressively the gap becomes too large and fear sets in, causing them to draw back. Again, they will not move forward.

By keeping track of the tools, skills and platforms that I introduce and support, hopefully  the information gap will fall in that comfortable middle range. The goal is for students and teachers to continue to move productively, and happily, forward.

Stephen's Lighthouse: Mind the (Information) Gap

Photo credit:

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Web 3.0 in 14 minutes

The "semantic web" is upon us, whether we were watching or not. According to Tim Berner-Lee,  the inventor of the world wide web, "data is our lives", and what we are witnessing is a web that aggregates the flow of data, and the relationships between data sets, in ways we cannot yet understand. Information is now far too abundant to integrate within the confines of our own heads, and the Internet facilitates the aggregation of these vast information stores.

This 14 minute video is one of the miracles of our sea of abundance. Arguably the greatest minds currently the probing the edge of the knowledge frontier, describing Web 3.0 and the possible implications. The cynics are just as creditable. And it is freely shared with all of us. Amazing.

Web 3.0 from Kate Ray on Vimeo.

Phrases and ideas that jumped out at me:
  • the semantic web as an expression of information
  • semantics is extra information (organizational code) that helps you build meaning from that information
  • links between people, items, locations, ideas all mean something and contribute to build context, and context is where meaning resides
  • "Does the world make sense, or do we make sense of the world?"
  • the first step is evolution, the second step is revolution - are we at the edge of informational revolution, and is this of form of evolution we are witnessing?
    • "That will be cool. That often is the future."
Information is a changeable sea. This is a great time to be a librarian. This is a crucial time to be a school librarian. Our students need to be informed participants in this evolutionary/revolutionary phase. This is our unique responsibility and privilege.

Cheers, colleagues!

Mashable - The Semantic Web: What it is and why it matters

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Not your Grandma's photo album

Photosynth is a very cool 3D platform where you "use your camera to stitch the world." Consider yourself warned, you can waste a lot of time messing around here.

There are lots of searchable galleries, which is where I found this example of La Push Beach. Fans of Twilight will recognize the iconic setting from the book and film adaptations, but this dream-like 3D tour brings a different experience.  Try it out!

"Different than static photos and video, Photosynth allows you to explore details of places, objects, and events unlike any other media. You can’t stop video, move around and zoom in to check out the smallest details, but with Photosynth you can. And you can’t look at a photo gallery and immediately see the spatial relation between the photos, but with Photosynth you can."

This free web-based platform offers yet another way to share learning. By creating an account,  students can upload their own photos and create their own interpretation of a reading experience. A team of photographers could document a field trip activity and use Photosynth to share the event in a detailed way. Imagine this in a scientific field study, with the ability to zoom in closely on a specimen.

It also offers a new way to visit places from around the world to build context. The archeology gallery brings visitors everywhere from Stonehenge to the Dazu Rock Carvings in Chongqing, China. Prefer cityscapes? Search Venice for an incredible 3D tour, stitched together from thousands and thousands of uploads. This is a great example of the power of social media to aggregate and create something stunning.

Photosynth is definitely going into the wiki as an alternate presentation platform for students. Maybe I should create a new page for virtual tourists? Hmm...

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Laugh it up, New Yorker

I know you have to power down your Kindle along with other electronic devices during take off and landing. You know what? I don't care! 

During a recent trip to Japan (chaperone for the Concert Band - more on that later) I packed as lightly as possible for the 10 day trip, but had a massive suitcase stuffed with technology to record, blog, video, and digitally capture the whole shebang.

Perhaps the most crucial bit of tech I brought along was the Kindle in my carry on. I had it loaded, and in the course of the flights, bus trips, jet lag induced insomnia and down time in rehearsal halls, I made my way through old classics by Edith Wharton, Henry James, and even Shogun by James Clavell.  It would have been physically impossible to lug that many books. So make fun of us Kindle readers all you want, New Yorker. Me? I'm just looking for a place to plug in my charger.

From the New Yorker:
"In preparation for landing, please turn off your books."

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A Match Made in Heaven - Google and Wolfram

I am almost in love.  Goofram is an easy to use toolbar extension that allows you to search Google and Wolfram Alpha simultaneously and see the results in a side-by-side split screen.

Using the search terms "Thailand" and "riots" Google gave me typical Google hits, sadly out of date with the most recent post dated April 13th.
Wolfram brought back typical Wolfram hits, very akin to the CIA World Fact Book or an almanac entry. If Goofram could also include (hint, hint) the advance features that have turned Google into the effective tool it is today (timeline, Wonder Wheel, News, Related Search) this would really be something because I could dig in to the country data to provide context as I explored the political situation.

However, the  power that gives me a frisson of excitement is the opportunity to compare side-by-side results as a vehicle to discuss different information tools for different information tasks. A political search didn't yield terribly useful results. Searching "Iceland" and "volcano" was a very different experience. Wolfram provided the world of data, giving context and relevance to Google results on the latest flight disruptions across Europe.

I'll be playing with this and looking for opportunities to include it in classes on web searches. Very nifty, indeed.

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