Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Student-Centered Motivation to Genrify

Is it ridiculous that I feel that I am late to the genrefication party? Since I first heard the term, I was not on the fence at all; I was happy in the middle of the "if it ain't broke" field and did not think that the grass looked greener on the other side. This despite keeping current with journal articles, Twitter hashtag debates, and the electrifying AASL conference this fall.

So what changed? For me, it wasn't an epiphany or major event. It began with a change in position and the wonderful conversations that happen every day because I now have a co-teacher librarian. Jen planted the seed with a simple question on how I felt about genrefying the collection. Being the newbie on the block, I listened...and the idea had many more merits than I was able to see from my position on the far side of the fence. 

As my blog title might give away, I did what I love to do - research! I read blogs, looked at signage, scoured Evernote entries for my conference notes. What finally jumped off every page, post, and debate was that genrefication would be good for students. If we aren't willing to do what we feel is beneficial for them, what will help make reading more accessible, what are we protecting? The alphabetical filing of fiction books? That's not a sufficient argument for me anymore. 

Jen and I recently sat down to brainstorm genres and to investigate different labeling options. The exciting thing is that we have begun the process! 

My next post will go into the trials and tribulations of genrefication in the MARC records. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review of "The Book Whisperer"

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every ChildThe Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We just had the pleasure of hosting Donalyn for a half day conference in our district. She bowled me over and I couldn't wait to read the book. Fantastic! I borrowed the assistant principal's copy so I have to get it back ASAP - there's a l - o - n -g list of people waiting to get it next.

Let your students read! Stop with the worksheets, stop telling them what they can and can't read, stop sucking the fun out of reading!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Websites Protest SOPA &PIPA

You may find your online activities interrupted tomorrow (January 18) by a protest against the proposed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) bills.

The list of participating websites is growing quickly. Their protests range from banners expressing their protest to actually shutting down for the day. Some of the more well-known are:

  • Google
  • Wikipedia
  • Reddit
  • Internet Archive
  • Greenpeace
  • Syracuse University
 While these interruptions may prove frustrating, they will also provide a teachable moment.
The Cliff's Notes version of the controversy is that the bills are intended to protect Intellectual Property but are more far-reaching and may encroach on free speech and contain language that suggests censorship.

If you would like to learn more about the proposed legislation, there are many articles out there - all with their fair share of bias. This link seems to be rather straightforward.

added: Wikipedia, while dark, did link to this informative page

Here are the links to the proposed legislation

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tech Gifts: Tablet Edition

Image by

Something interesting happened at work recently; people began asking each other's opinions about which tablet to get for the holidays. This is obviously a hot topic, you might be wondering about selecting the ideal tablet. Let me begin by saying that I own an iPad, but I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all device.
By definition, tablets are a style of computer that has a touch screen, is portable, self-contained (no mouse, keyboard, or other connected peripherals),  and operates on WiFi and/or cellular networks. Programs - referred to as apps - are purchased from the company's online store.
The most important things to consider are:
  • Why are you considering a tablet?
  • What is your budget?
  • What features are 'must haves'?
Most tablets are in the 9" to 10" screen size range while the Blackberry Playbook is 7", closer in size to the Nook from Barnes & Noble and Amazon's Kindle Fire. If you plan on using your tablet for more serious computing tasks such as word processing, screen size may be something you want to have at the top of your list. With the advent of cloud storage, on-board disk storage capacity is less of a concern than in the past. If you plan to store photos, videos or music on your tablet, you may want to up the storage space or choose one of the options that include an SD card slot which will allow you to increase your storage space as needed. Tablets do have built in cameras; Apples has the lowest resolution in the category. While I have seen people at events hoisting their tablets in the air to take photos, I'll stick to my phone or camera. If you want to use your tablet for simply snapping images of QR codes or for video chatting, any of the tablets will suffice.
Steve Jobs declared long ago that Adobe's Flash would never run on Apple iPhones or iPads and he kept his promise. There are websites with Flash content that will not display on Apple tablets and I admit that can be frustrating. However, Jobs seems to have been vindicated. Adobe recently announced that it has abandoned its mobile Flash development in favor of HTML5 which will work on all of these devices.
As a library media specialist, I originally wrestled with the idea of adopting an eReader and eBooks. Nothing beats curling up on a sofa with a good book, but I have come to appreciate the convenience of my eReader apps. When traveling, you only have to pack your tablet and bring as many books as you wish. With a tablet, you are not limited to proprietary software of a dedicated eReader such as the Kindle line. I have three eReader apps on my iPad and can compare prices as well as take advantage of the features unique to each one without being limited to a single company. AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Apple's iBook also allow you to download free previews.
Can a tablet replace a 'traditional' computer? Perhaps. Again, it depends on your specific needs. Would I recommend a tablet for a college student who needs to do

Image by CampfireMi
research as well as compose lengthy research papers? Probably not. If you are a touch typist and rest your fingers on keys, you will have a bit of a learning curve when beginning to type on a tablet. There is a reason you see kids adopting the more efficient 'hunt and peck' strategy. If you touch the screen's keyboard, the touch will register. Even after months of regular use, I still type faster and more accurately on a traditional keyboard. If you like, however, you can purchase auxiliary keyboards for tablets. As a hobbyist photographer, I still need the photo editing software only available on a traditional computer. As an amateur genealogist, I take my iPad with me to scour library stacks and repositories. I can quickly take a photo of a page or enter data into my family tree on the tablet without lugging my laptop around. There are even grocery store apps that allow you to create lists and check of items as you go through the store.
If you are in the market for a tablet, I suggest that you get your hands on them before you decide on which one to purchase. The size, weight, and feel of a tablet are things we've never had to really consider before. If you hate how it feels or it's too heavy for you, then you won't use it. Browse the app stores and search for programs of interest to you. It isn't a bargain if there aren't applications to meet your needs. My tablet has become a constant companion - my library, cookbook, and source of entertainment. I am continually finding out how to make the most of its capabilities. My middle school students scramble to be the ones who get to use them in the library. If their reaction is any gauge to the popularity of tablets, they are certainly here to stay. Happy searching!
Android App Store
Apple App Store
Apple Store
App World

Sunday, October 23, 2011

YouTube Space Lab: Kid-Designed Experiments on the ISS

Please follow the link to my latest blog on the Connecticut Hearst Media Group.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Getting a Handle on Facebook Settings for You and Your Kids

Image by Paul Klintworth

If recent stories about Facebook's new features have you questioning your own account settings or if you are concerned about the safety of your kids on Facebook, pull up a chair and let's walk through some steps you can take to reclaim your privacy. Keep in mind that Facebook's own Terms of Service restrict accounts to those over 13. As a middle school library media specialist, I know that there are many students with accounts who do not meet the age requirement. As a mom, I know how important it is to stay involved with your children's online activities. For the record, I have a Facebook account that I use daily. It is a great way to keep up with friends and relatives and I do my best to stay on top of the security settings. However, Facebook continually updates the services, so the settings are a bit of a moving target.
With the availability of mobile devices and wifi connections, online safety begins with your Internet connection. Unfortunately, account hijacking happens. One of the easiest things you can do to keep your account information safe is to switch to secure browsing by typing https:// instead of simply http:// in your browser's address bar. This tip can be used with many other websites; give it a try and update your bookmarks. Another simple idea is to name your devices within Facebook and set up an email alert when your account is accessed. Let's set both of these options now:
Click the arrow in the upper right > Click Account Settings > Click Security > Look at Secure Browsing and click Edit > Select the check box > Save Changes > Now look at Login Notifications and click Edit > Select the check box to be notified > Save Changes
Image by ssoosay
If you look down that list to the final item, Active Sessions, you can check to make sure that you are the only one accessing your account. If you see something on that list that isn't you, clicking End Activity will shut them down. Of course, you'll want to change your password, too.
Whether you use Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome or another browser, they will all provide you with another measure of security. Cookies are computer snippets that allow websites to keep information about you and your browsing. If you've ever seen a form filled out automatically as you type, you can thank cookies for the convenience. You can typically manually delete cookies by clicking on the browser name at the upper left corner of your browser window and then clicking preferences. If the browser permits private browsing, you will want to select that as well.

Image by Paul Klintworth

What comes to your mind when you think about the term 'status symbol'? Sports cars? A great house? Fabulous shoes? For many of our kids, the number of names in their Facebook friends list fits the bill. "You only have 100 friends? I have 200." As adults we have an easier time recognizing that our social lives have many layers and that not everything should be shared with everyone.
One of the ways that Facebook allows you to customize sharing is with their privacy settings. These can be set to Friends Only (only those who are in your friend list), Friends of Friends (those in your list and in the lists of all of your friends - think how many people that could be), and Everyone (be warned, this is everyone online, not just on Facebook).
Look for the triangle in the upper right corner of your Facebook screen and select Privacy Settings. Locate 'How You Connect' and click edit. You can then select the settings you feel comfortable with.
Now let's think about your posts and who gets to see them; this is important not only for our kids but for us. We want our close friends to see the photos of our kids, but people at work? Probably not. Creating lists allows you to limit your posts to an appropriate audience. There are a few standard lists, such as Family, that can be automatically populated. However, you can create as many as you like. I have lists for family, close friends, acquaintances and work.
Look for 'Lists' in the left-hand column and click 'More'. To edit an existing list, click on it. To create a new list, select that option and give it a name. Find 'Manage List' in the upper right corner. By selecting 'Choose Update Types', you can decide what postings you will see from the people on that list. To limit the audience for a posting you create, click the arrow in the 'Update Status' box and select the lists appropriate for your post.
There have been many emails and postings about Facebook implementing a subscription fee to use their service. They aren't doing that nor do they need to. Facebook is full of advertisers that are happy to have access to millions of potential customers. Remember that your information is not limited to your account and advertisers use this to their advantage. This applies not only to ads but to the applications and games. You could have your account locked down tight, but if your friends' sites aren't, then advertisers have access to your information. While I can appreciate the well-placed ad for something I can use, I prefer to err on the side of caution and restrict their access.
To turn off the 'Info accessible through your friends', click on the arrow in the upper right corner. Select 'Privacy Settings', click 'Apps and Websites' and then select that option. While you are in that menu, you may wish to opt out of the 'Instant Personalization' and delete any apps that you don't need. The last option from this menu is extremely important; make sure that the box for 'Enable public search' is left UNchecked.
Image by DonkeyHote
Perhaps the hardest thing for our kids to understand is that posting online means you have no expectation of privacy. Anything posted, regardless of the carefully crafted private list, can be copied, downloaded, shared. Their addresses, hometowns, phone numbers, schools, and birthdays should not be posted online. Yes, it is fun to have all of those birthday wishes, but your close friends know when it is without Facebook having to tell them. It would be too easy to find out where they are and provides the perfect information for identity thieves. Unfortunately, one of the most fun and interactive features of Facebook is also one that exposes us the most: tagging. You can be tagged in photos, videos, notes, and posts which means that your friends and their friends can see those posts. How many of those people would you actually know? How many would you feel comfortable sharing an embarrassing photo with? Thankfully, you can set Facebook to ask before allowing a tag to go public. You can also opt out of a new feature that relies on facial recognition. This is important because Facebook's servers, full of millions of images, are suggesting photos of you (or people who look like you) to your friends and encouraging them to tag you.
Click on the arrow at the upper right corner and select 'Privacy Settings'. Select edit next to 'How tags work' and set profile and tag reviews to on. Set your 'Maximum profile visibility' to friends and leave 'Tag suggestions' off. The last category is also important. Checking into places means that you are posting your location. If you decide that this is ok to allow, I suggest that you turn off the option to have friends check you in places. It is extremely important that you UNcheck the box that says “include me in ‘people here now’ after I check in”. This would broadcast your child's location to everyone else at that location.
Facebook is fun. I have been able to keep in touch with friends I haven't seen in years. It allows me to see those adorable pictures of my friends' children and to connect with people who have shared interests. The important thing to remember is to keep talking with your kids about their online activity and to use common sense in what you post and who you allow to see it. If there are any other major changes to Facebook, I will keep you updated.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Ripples Continue

One of our fellow NASA Tweeps, @IamTay, posted this link to our Facebook group. It is interesting to see that the Twitter hashtag #NASATweetup logged over 44,000 Tweets between the end of May and today. Not that we have stopped blogging and supporting one another, but this is quite an amazing number. My Twitter handle, @ResearChameleon, just squeaked onto the list at 1.78%.

Keep in mind that the idea of Tweetups was not created by NASA nor has NASA stopped hosting them with the end of the shuttle program. Keep following the group to learn more about our space program and how to include NASA in your classrooms!

NASATweetup Archive from Mix Online