Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thing #23 - My thoughts about the 23 Things

Wow, wow, and oh wow! I learned so much in a relatively compressed amount of time, but spent much more than 18 hours exploring along the way. Our district requires that we earn continuing ed hours every summer, and this has been the most relevant and usable course that I have taken!

Finally, I have a blog, I know how to use RSSfeeds, and I have done my first podcast!

This course has given me Web 2.o tools for my lifelong learning toolbox, tools that I can also use to help my students, so that we can sip judiciously from the firehose of information, entertainment, and general hoo-hah that is the Internet.

I enjoyed being able to do the 23 Things course during the summer; it would not have been as much fun to try and accomplish the Things in the evenings during the school year.

I'll be ready for the next level of Library 23 Things next summer ... thanks again, SBISD and the Kickball Captains!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thing #22 - Nings

Yeah, I signed up for Texas School Librarian Ning a good while ago, but just keep forgetting to check in and add content! Of course, it was TX school librarian extraordinaire Shonda Brisco (soon to OSU as professor!) who started this Ning. And other heavy-hitters in our realm, like Naomi Bates of Northeast, Carol Simpson from UNT-SLIS, and VWB and Dr BB of Spring Branch are on this Ning, too.

A ning can be of much more manageable size than the biggies, but you do have to get to 'critical mass' - either of members with a little to say or a few with quality content to contribute - before a ning would be truly useful.

Perhaps a ning could be used in school for teachers to communicate with one another in group way instead of interminable rounds of e-mail to answer a convoluted question. Hopefully our district would be okay with unblocking a given, work-related ning, even though other blogging and social networks are off-limits from school computers.

Thing #21 - Podcasts and audiobooks

Hmmm... I missed the part about needing a mike for this course, so had to borrow one and record under less-than-ideal conditions.

I can certainly see the possibilities of these technologies for school use. Teachers could record explanations of particular math processes or chemical changes, for example, and have those podcasts/vidcasts available for students to access at any time, either for new learning or for review/remediation.

Of course, the book review/teaser is now ubiquitous, so it would be important to find a solidly memorable 'voice' for such recordings, rather than just contribute more tossaway content to a crowded field. And also be sure NOT to give away the endings of the books, as the example podcast did, without telling the listener/viewer that it's a "spoiler" - why would I want to read the book if I know the ending??

Thing #20 - YouTube, TeacherTube and Zamzar

So many videos, so little time! (and the frustration of knowing our district blocks YouTube, even though it has much educational content that is not repeated on TeacherTube)

San Diego State University's edtech folks (yes, where Bernie Dodge of WebQuest fame teaches) did a cool video project using SecondLife (found on YouTube, not available on TeacherTube... sigh)

On TeacherTube, selection is rather sparse in many areas, but I did find this clear explanation of putting those leader dots (you know, the line of dots running between menu item and its price) in MSWord - now I can show folks how to make programs look great without typing in squizzillions of periods on the lines!

I did enjoy the Abbott & Costello math video on the high school channel of TeacherTube, but wondered about copyright issues.

Because I couldn't get the ConstructionChallengeFinals closing video to play at school, I had tried Zamzar in May at home, but had some trouble getting it to 'translate' the YouTube .flr into something that I could burn on a CD. I will try again later.

Searching on the Blinkx site for vacation info, I found an interesting video about Mesa Verde's 100th anniversary, which led to video about yesterday's lightning strike of Rocky Mtn NP hikers - since we are visiting both places soon, it's vital for us to know about the upswing in lightning activity in those mountains. Previously, I would not have had a way to check with the Denver TV stations!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thing #19 - Web 2.0 tools

Some 'old' favorites that I have used for months are on this list of Web2.0 award-winning sites.

I StumbleUpon videos from YouTube and MetaCafe all the time, regularly refer to Kayak to find travel deals, use Facebook to play Scrabulous with my librarian buddy in Australia daily and on occasion to check in with another group & share their photos.

First experiences probably have a lot to do with how you do Web 2.0 - since I did Picasa before I saw Flickr, I think Picasa is easier; I would place StumbleUpon (especially with the new bookmark integration with Firefox3 -wow!) before, Pandora music project before Last, GoogleBlogsearch way before Technorati.

I do soooo love my GoogleMaps, PBwiki, and now GoogleReader! Couldn't live without any of them.

Omnidrive to synchronize files (free) may be what I am looking for to keep things flowing between home and school computers... IF it can be accessed at school! We'll see in August.

My students may be able to share sizeable documents through docstoc, if they mark as private and give private url to one another; worth looking into later, since sometimes large ppts and other image-rich docs don't go through e-mail well. looks like a good alternative to the $$ genealogy sites out there - but I will be playing with it more when I have plenty of time to spend entering names,,, looks addictive!

Zango - fairly standard gamesite; - whoa, buy your own star and create your own galaxy!? hmmm... No Doof for me - I don't really want the social aspect of gaming to be so open (I want to know who I am playing against, old fashioned me) and prefer single-player games anyway.

Thing# 18 - Online productivity tools

I guess that I knew about OpenOffice in the back of my mind, but had kinda overlooked it because I have MSOffice at work and at home. But this will be great for my students who only have MSWorks on their home computers and find that their .wps documents won't print at school, as well as for those who have Vista-based MSWord at home and find that their .docx documents won't print at school. Definitely more full-featured than Works. I can see burning a few CDs of OpenOffice to keep at the circulation desk to send home with students who don't have the online access to download it.

And the collaboratability (is that a real word?) of GoogleDocs is just what I want to promote for our students who are doing group PowerPoint projects (and wind up not being able to work on their project when one person is absent because the ppt is on that one's school account). Being able to get to your docs from any web-on computer is great for those of us on multiple computers each day. Another plus is not having to download any software. A drawback is the potential for not having access to your docs when there are internet difficulties, versus having them saved on your own computer when the Net is out.

On either OpenOffice or GoogleDocs, we may get some flak at school because our BCIS classes teach the Microsoft products. I hope that the clarity of having a single version available (as opposed to the older version in the Library and newer MSOffice in the computer classrooms) and being able to work together in realtime-realspace (like in the real world of today's workplace) would override that concern.

hmmm....let's try shared GoogleNotebooks for gathering up information and sites, GoogleDocs-Presentation for putting together the group project... sounds like a winning combination - as long as we can access them at school! We will see in August.

Thing #17 - Rollyo

Rollyo - meh, as my college daughter would say, just not that impressive so far.

I chose Travel searchroll from the starter pack, then did a search with it for Colorado factory tours (excluding Celestial Seasonings and Hammonds Candies, since I know them), to see if there was anything new to visit (last time there was 4 years ago). Lots and lots of sponsored results, i.e. commercial stuff, and had to slog through long pages on to find anything. Not much there...

Better results on google with exact same search terms (colorado factory tours -celestial -hammondscandies) because it was not just searching the high-profile sites (hmmm... does this mean they paid to be on the Rollyo starter pack for Travel??) that just had the same-old same-old.

So, I will be aware of this service as a potential helper when I want to take the time to put together a very targeted group of sites to save and search together. But for the nonce, no dice!

(And Library2play should have quotation marks around this entire entry, with first line as disclaimer that it's all from Rollyo site verbatim.... tsk, tsk)

Thing #16 - Wikis

Oh, yes! I do wikis!

Since I don't have a school library website, or the time to handcraft one, or district resources to do that for me, I will be using a wiki as a stand-in! I've gotten started at but haven't updated it yet for 2008-2009 - waiting for new bell schedule, etc. With luck, we can get this site as the start-up on all the Library Computer Lab computers by the time that students have enough AUPs in that we can allow access to the Lab (about 2nd week of school, I hope). This is a 'gold' pbwiki, so I have the right to lock all the pages, unlike a plain-vanilla wiki. It will be so easy for me to quickly add pathfinders to the wiki for incoming class projects, and so on! Also will be the one-stop database place (that other libraries have on their pretty, fancy websites... sigh) for GHS. If I can ever get remote OPAC services, that will be on this wiki, front and center!!

My humanities class pbwiki is password-protected for my students' safety, so I cannot share it directly. We use it for class calendar, all assignments posted there (they lose so many papers, never mind that they are seniors in HS), links to websites, etc. I even uploaded the Works Cited page from one of my SLMC grad papers so they could see proper MLA formatting (but I don't think they ever really got it right...) Last year, they didn't use it to post their own observations much, so I will encourage that more this year.

Right now, the incoming class is doing their summer reading of "Sophie's World," a novel about philosophy by Jostein Gaarder, so they are on the wiki already to have access to assignments (1 is due on first class day) and other pertinent info. So they are using this great tool for sharing links and asking questions to... post funny comments after their names on the group discussion page! Well, it is a start.

On PBwiki, it does take a little doing to get links to insert properly and sometimes the formatting just won't behave to suit me, no matter what I do, but the price is perfect! I like their support of educational institutions, and enjoyed a podcast/webinar in May on ways to use PBwiki with libraries. At least 1 PBWiki staffer is a degreed librarian, so they do understand 'where we're coming from.'

At start of school, I will again let our teachers know about this free service (and, yes, I know about wikispaces, too; I just have more hands-on with PBwiki) so that they can use it to post homework, explanations, links to sites, etc. for FREE!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thing #15: Web 2.0, Library 2.0 and the Future of Libraries

I started this section in a positive mood, reading the articles, but after reflecting on the realities of the current school library world, well...

Interesting to read the OCLC interviews/articles on the future of libraries. Sure as shootin', we cannot expect to survive the inevitable funding cuts if we just sit in our physical school library spaces without bringing forth creative interfaces and products that will safely intrigue the power-players in our school hierarchy while also safely engaging our students in the hunt for relevant and authoritative information, providing brain-stretching and satisfying entertainment, and, yes, developing the love of reading for personal satisfaction.

Seeing David Warlick's comments on how much he enjoyed giving presentations outside the USA, in locations where teachers and school librarians can actually use the Web 2.0 tools that foster authentic student learning and products... sigh...

Yep, David, it seems that we are forced into being curmudgeonly gatekeepers of technology tools, guarding a single portal to keep students safe at school, while the students are learning, exploring, growing, and sometimes messing up outside of school. They invest enormous amounts of time in SecondLife or MySp@ce or Facebook when, given both latitude and direction, these same students might be creating new aggregations of knowledge and interactive-learning -somethings that will allow others to experience that part of Everything that is their particular passion. "All of us is smarter than one of us," the wisdom of crowds opines.

My vision of Library 2.0 is just so much cloud-gazing, in the practical sense. Since there is just one of me, and a whole lot of next-levels-up protection (of students, of the district's technology equipment, of the district itself), it seem fairly unlikely that I will be able to pull together Library 2.0 for my students and staff in the immediately forseeable future.

It costs money and/or time to have an online OPAC, therefore we don't currently have it. Realistic concerns about student misuse of interactive technologies, including chat and e-mail (a bit pre-Web 2.0, I grant you) , are specters haunting our teaching possibilities, so that train of thought is shunted onto a siding for an indeterminate time.

Looks like another chocolate infusion is required at this point to avoid becoming completely hopeless about the what-we-should-provide-for-our-users that is not-gonna-happen-anytime-soon,,, and some mood-uplifting music from -- selecting Positive-Energetic, in Latino, Classical, Vocal,World, and Reggae styles - ahhh, that's better!

Thing #14 - Technorati & Tagging

Okay, I still find Technorati to be clunky and limited - is it just me?

So I searched for School Library Learning 2.0 in the Blog Directory and got 1,073 results... hmm, not as many relevant hits as I expected. Oops! I forgot the quotation marks (slaps forehead) - trying "School Library Learning 2.0" nets 33 hits. That's more like it. Most on the first page are about California's School Library Learning 2.0 classes, so I head for the second page of hits... no dice- I get message "There are no posts in English with a lot of authority containing "School Library Learning 2.0" ." Oh, well...

Guess what? Keyword search for exact phrase School Library Learning 2.0 also nets 33 hits, without having to use the quotation marks. More current/uptodate blogs, including fave Blue Skunk, but still can't get to anything past the first page of results... what gives?

Of the 10 blogs found using "School Library Learning 2.0" none are from folks I recognize or who have any/much authority, just learners like me who have created blog for similar class... dull as ditchwater. I want my searching time to result in higher knowledge, not MOTS (more of the same). Better get another cup of coffee...

Plunging back into Technorati again, to Advanced, then search TAGS for "School Library Learning 2.0" - resulting in 1 post, uno, a single message, that's all. And it's from the spring term of this class.

Looking at Technorati's 'what's popular in books' on 7/3/08 - mixed bag of obvious self-promotion, business books, and the occasional truly interesting entry... still not much of worth to me, personally or professionally, here.

So, even though I have "claimed" my Katyroo blog, I am not a Technorati convert; I don't expect my future blogs to get a lot of notice/press through this venue or any other, and I don't really care if I'm ever in the top percentages there. As their own marketing manager said in the video - do those top folks even have a real life, if they are posting responses to 20+ blogs daily, day after day??

Nope, I won't be checking in with Technorati any time soon, but I can see the value of being able to tag items on my own computer/learning space, to give them additional labels that might not be explicitly stated in the post/site /e-mail. For instance, an online catalog page with small eagle glass static clings could get tags as - Dad, gifts, Eagle Scouts - that would allow me to search my favorites and docs later on as I was finding last-minute presents (don't worry - my dad isn't online yet, so no surprises spoiled - I mean, if I did find those eagle glass thingies for real).

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thing #13 - Social Bookmarking

Okay, so maybe it's just a function of my age, but I really prefer clonking a saved website into a subject-folder to having to tag it with one or more folksonomic tag-dealies that I have to remember - "hmmm, did I call it 'recipe' or 'recipeS'?" every time I tag.

Granted, it is annoying to have to wonder if I saved some wonderful site on this computer or that computer or both, but I think that I will be using GoogleNotebooks to synch between home computer, school computerS, and travel computer. That way, I can still have the subject-clumping-together that I prefer, yet not worry about whether I saved it on this or that computer.

I did set up a delicious account last summer, but only put 1 article in it. So I got back in, read (and discarded) that article, and now have an empty delicious account. I do understand the social-ness of it (having listened to the podcast), but just don't currently see the value in changing over all my bookmarks from various computers onto delicious.

Furl looked cool, in the 'your copy of the page, archived' aspect, but I just did not get any good vibe from Ma.gnolia at all = clunky start page, much less clear than start for delicious or furl. So, no Magnolia for me, maybe Furl, maybe delicious, definitely GoogleNotebooks for school-related and current projects. To synch home and travel computers' bookmarks, I will be using FoxMarks since I prefer Firefox to IE.

For school use, I am concerned about the social aspect of delicious - most social sites are blocked anyway. I think that the sharing of sites-lists could be fraught with potential problems for high schoolers at school - "just who is this person sharing sites/ accessing my sites list, in real life?"
The other invitation-based or password-protected tools like GoogleNotebooks would be a better fit for school use.

Thing #12 - Community through Commenting

Nice to know that I got some of this 'homework' done early, by commenting on various blogs at earlier times in the course.

For instance, when I found the blog during RSS feeds searching, I read several fascinating posts about word origins (one of my personal passions) and was particularly struck by the discussion on "gabions," those wire mesh pillars filled with rocks that we see on construction sites (and as corner fenceposts in less-wooded desert country), as the comments led into the related "fascines" which are bundles of pipes/sticks which can quickly be dumped into a ditch to provide a stable 'road' for tracked or wheeled vehicles, then taken up again and carried until needed again. That reminded me of the word "fasces" as in the bundle of sticks bound around an axe, carried by Roman lictors as sign of office, sooo.... I commented with that observation. Made me feel so darn smart, finally using some college research work after all these decades.

I have also commented on Library2Play blogs when I can specifically know that they are also school librarians - sort of that common bond thing.

My pet peeve with commenters is the "This is Photoshopped" as first comment game - yeah, I know that they don't really think it's PSd, but it's still annoying to have to slog through those sorts of comments. Then the "me, too" or "really cool/cute" oneliners are pretty much space-wasters, as well. Unless the blogger is asking for a vote/consensus-by-comment, I won't post comments of the "great post" nature.

Some commenters on Drape's Takes Edublogger Etiquette series felt that they could not go back to comment on a post after taking the time to digest it and think it over, feeling that the blogger and readers had "moved on," but I think that it's okay to revisit a post with comments if you have something authentic to add to the conversation, whether or not it's within a quickie time window.

I'm not so sure about the continued interjection of the blogger into the comments-conversation when it's just "thanks for the comment" type comment. To me, that interferes with the flow of the conversation, unless the blogger poses further question for all =- but then, that would more rightly call for a new blog entry, with reference to the starter entry.