Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thing 24 - Cluster Maps

I decided to keep on counting. What better way to do that than add a Cluster Map to my blog? I've noticed those world maps on blogs which show how many people are viewing the blog and where in the world they are. Today when I pulled up a blog I noticed one and decided to look at it more closely. It said you could click on it to get one. Well, I'll be...

If you want one, go to and follow the directions. It was simple to apply for, easy to copy and paste the html and it showed up immediately. Now if only I can get people to view my blog! It will be fun to see where those dots will appear. So those of you who are traveling, I'd be much obliged if you would just look at my blog from a distant location. :-)

What a good reflection on this class it is that I would just figure it out and get one of my own. In the past I might have just wished for one. How empowering this web 2.0 has been.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Week 9 Thing 23 - Copyright, Creative Commons and Congratulations

What a wonderful way to finish the class. I thought I knew what Creative Commons was, but my thoughts were somewhat warped. The tutorials, videos and links were all quite helpful to understand CC more clearly. Also the resources were quite timely as I am currently having multiple conversations about copyright and what fair use means. These resources help me to refine my own understanding, something I find I can never get complaisant about.

Now for the questions:
1. What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey?

Flickr, mashups,, wikis, zoho, library thing (and therefore Good Reads), YouTube, podcasts and Creative Commons are the objects.

A favorite discovery was how really able we are to use these resources, continue to learn and how in 9 short weeks these new technologies have become part of how I work and see the world. They do say that it takes 7 weeks to form a new habit. It appears that this habit has stuck with me. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts.

2. How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals?

Lifelong learning means always being open to new things, taking an interest in the world around you and continually trying to improve yourself. At least that's what it means to me. This program has made it easier for me to learn about a number of things which I was very interested in, introduced me to things I knew nothing about and assisted me in going further than I had before or was likely to get on my own. Let's just say it was like the Triple A or Mapquest of Web2.0. You mapped out the route, but I drove there. And I didn't even have to pay for the gas. However it did take a toll on me... (couldn't resist.)

3. Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you? is a big grab bag treat. I find that I am starting to think about using it and am enjoying using it. While I still bookmark things using favorites, I find that I actually have started to use instead. That's a pretty big paradigm shift for me. Checking my RSS feeds regularly is also a big leap. Both have really changed the way I relate to my PC.

It must be said that with all these new ideas and technologies churning inside my head, I find myself being more open to new things around me. I was in Circuit City this evening and found myself playing with laptops. Usually I go for one thing and don't get distracted, but this evening I wandered around and learned a lot. This course has had a big impact.

4. What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept?

There were a couple of very interesting links which weren't hot. Fixing the links or finding other links to do the same thing would have been helpful.

5. If we offered another discovery program like this in the future, would you choose to participate?

Absolutely. Positively. Without a doubt.

6. How would you describe your learning experience in ONE WORD or in ONE SENTENCE, so we could use your words to promote CSLA learning activities?


Thanks to everyone who took the class for making it a richer experience and especially to the people who made taking this course possible. I enjoyed reading everyone's blogs and gaining further insight. It will now take several months to really go back and dig deeper into the material.

Week 9 Thing 21 - eBooks and Audio Books

My opinions about what constitues reading, how it should be done and "correct format" have gone through considerable transformation over the past 5 years or so. Purist might have been a kind term to refer to my thoughts before I began the journey.

Audio books have stolen my heart. I used to think that listening didn't count. One had to read a physical book for it to "count." The fact is, though, that I can never read as much as I want to, even if I had all day to do it. Audio books allow me to increase my cultural literacy in the time that I do have. Still, students should read, shouldn't they? Getting over this misconception took me a bit of time, but now that I realise that so much of preliteracy involves being exposed to language audio books have a great part in learning to read and improving fluency. Also reading along while listening is an excellent strategy. So audio books have a special, if hard won, spot in my heart.

The new hurdle for me is getting used to downloading the books myself, finding appropriate storage methods, adjusting to a new format and making it part of my work/life.

Personally, I still feel more comfortable reading a book made of pulp. The amount of online reading I do is substantial, but it can be hard on the eyes. When I'm going to focus on a full work, I'd prefer to have a physical copy. I also wonder about the advisability of the focus on making libraries digital in an age when our natural resources are dwindling. One wonders how much we should be relying on electronic versions of books which are energy efficient to use (not produce) in the long run. It may be a moot point, but one I wonder about from time to time.

Frankly, I never thought I'd want to read a book online and then someone told me about Daily Lit. The folks who created Daily Lit found that they didn't read as much as they wanted to because they had busy schedules. They realised that they were reading their emails every day, but not finding time for great books. What they decided to do was to serialize books and send them by installment via email. There is also an RSS option. Through daily lit I have revisited many old favorites and found it very manageable. You control how often you receive the installements. The homepage shows books for purchase right up front, but if you browse you will see that most of their offerings are free. In the past I have chosen to receive them via email. This morning I tried to add the RSS feed to Google Reader without success. Using the feed option on VISTA worked, but I prefer to check Google Reader so I will have to conquer that hurdle. Daily Lit has made it easier to be open to the ebook and reading literature online.

It is great to have so many resources available.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Week 9 Thing 21 - Podcasting

I have been looking forward to this "Thing" very much. It is easy to imagine how podcasting can be used to enhance our services, image and credibility. The creation of multimedia, the personal involvement, the authentic buy-in potential of this medium makes it a truly valuable tool for motivating students as well as learning. The project I just completed for Read Across America involved photographing students and recording their voices. It was amazing to see students who had only shown their retiring side, suddenly blossom before my eyes. It was very powerful and humbling to be a part of the growth which occurs when a student truly finds a voice. Literally. So personally, the part I am more interested in is the "how to" portion of the lesson. Reading the podcasting tutorials made me feel that I will be able to do this. I already have experience with Audacity.

Searching for podcasts was a somewhat frustrating experience. The tutorials merely took me to Yahoo's search page. In each case I was asked to download something in order to listen to a podcast which I wasn't sure I wanted to hear. At this point in this class, I don't mind signing up for more free accounts, but I'm not sure about the wisdom of downloading much more. I need to do some weeding first. Finally, I determined that I find podcasts fairly easily serendipitously, but I am glad I have the resource to look for podcasts should I have a particular need. The great part of this was that I would not have thought of subscribing to podcasts in my Google Reader page and I am finding this to be a great new possibility. I went to NPR and subscribed to a number of podcasts including Children's Literature with Daniel Pinkwater. I'm not sure when I'll get around to listening to them, but conceivably they could run while I am on the computer doing other tasks. It is likely that I will try it and then weed my feeds, as I did when I first started using Google Reader.

The fact that I didn't automatically make the jump from subscribing to RSS feeds for blogs to subscribing to podcasts makes me reflect. So many of the ideas are not inherently hard or technically difficult. It is more a problem of the difficulty of keeping up, learning to continue to explore a tool past the initial learning curve has us complaisant. I wonder why I never really learn the tools I am using thoroughly, why there always seems to be so many layers left to explore. I would like to blame it on the fact that there is always another thing to learn to keep abreast of the profession. There is too much to learn and too little time. Part of me realises, however that this is not an acceptable explanation. I am currently reading Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind and am very aware that it is important to make the connections between things. So subscribing to podcasts should have been a no-brainer. This will be another thing I will be striving to cultivate as I incorporate the web2.0 tools into my life.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Week 9 Thing 20 - YouTube

Everybody daydreams sometimes. At least, I hope they do. I dream of joining a Book Cart Drill Team and competing at the ALA conference. It's kind of like the librarian's answer to running away and joining the circus. The Book Divas have such energy, style and presence that I find them fun to watch. It doesn't hurt that their wigs and boas match my blog. In other clips that they have posted you can see their practice sessions. You can see how hard they work. My hat is off to the Book Divas.

I noticed that you are supposed to provide a link back to YouTube when you embed a video. I'm not sure how that works so I am providing the link here:

There are so many wonderful possibilities for using YouTube for the classroom. Unrestricted use is obviously frought with difficulties, but librarian/teacher selected videos could be used for the purpose of instruction, writing prompts, inspiration, etc. I'm glad we had this excercise to complete as I learned more from the searching than I have from receiving links to random clips.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Well, his birthday was yesterday, but many of us who celebrated Read Across America had our cake today. Today culminated a month-long reading program at our school. We read Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss to all classes. To celebrate we had an assembly. I used image generators to create a slideshow for the event. You will see some of the images here.

We have school-wide read alouds for which we create a list of words called "Wow!" words. We have focused on these words as a school for the past month. After taking a picture of Seuss stuffed toys, I Warholized them and then added our Wow! words in the center. (Sorry I couldn't post it here, but I couldn't figure out how to copy just the one power point page.) During the assembly we read the words through. Then the students were told to look and listen for the words throughout the rest of the slideshow. Staff members from all parts of the building were photographed reading or holding favorite books. I then used Big Huge Labs to create speech bubbles. I gave each staff member a reading slogan, trying to incorporate Wow! words into the bubbles. Students raised their hands whenever they heard a Wow! word and then identified which word it was. It was powerful for us to see how students throughout the school had internalized the Wow! words.

I Warholized, captionized and rethought my presentation. The result was gratifying. These tools have been so useful already. I'm sure there will be plenty of ways to use them.