Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Publicizing NetLibrary

I'm starting to feel that the teachers I work with are going to start avoiding me. Every time I catch one I start talking about some of the neat things I learned while doing 23 Things on a Stick.

Today I caught an English teacher and introduced her to NetLibrary. She was really excited about the possibilities with a class that uses nonfiction. I'll have to see if she uses it.

Friday one of the social studies teachers and I talked about using Google Docs when he next had his students do group projects. We both need to look at it more closely so that we can anticipate the questions (and problems) that the students might have.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Young Adult Reading

I read a great article today. Check out Every Teen's Struggle by Sherman Alexie in a recent Publisher's Weekly. I haven't read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian yet -- but it just moved closer to the top of my To Be Read pile.

There are so many good books and so many articulate writers for young adults who post on their blogs and make videos and do podcasts. I know or hear about them. Now I need to make my students aware of them. I'm still looking for the best way to do that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Advertising LibraryThing

I spent part of today installing The Print Shop 21 so that I could make some promotional materials for my media center. I had used previous versions of Print Shop but the possibilities sure have expanded since the last version I looked at. The User's Manual must be an inch thick!

I needed to make some bookplates for books that are donated to our media center. I also wanted to make a poster to advertise our media center LibraryThing at DEHSLibrary. I want to encourage my readers to add to it. My para and I are both readers but I want to draw on the talents of the 200 or so kids in our Page Masters reading club. I want them to have some ownership.

Let's hope we get some takers.

For the readers out there, I just read Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and thoroughly recommend it for any middle high school reader who likes fantasy, adventure, and a touch of magic. I think both girls and boys will like this one. I'll be steering those who read Tamora Pierce in this direction.
Next from the To Be Read pile is Marked by P. C. & Kristin Cast.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thing 23: Final Thoughts

I enjoyed the opportunity to explore things I had heard about but have never had a chance to try. I do not know if this experience will change the look of my media center or the services we offer but it has certainly enhanced my personal knowledge. I know we won't have a presence of MySpace since it is blocked at school to our students and staff.

Some of the things were interesting but not possible in a one-librarian setting. IMing or text messaging reference questions implies that someone is available to answer them. There are too many other tasks (teaching mainly) to devote time to that one. Second, our students are required to keep their cell phones in their lockers during the school day.

My favorite things were the ones that I felt would enhance my personal productivity. I liked del.icio.us so that I could access my bookmarks from any computer. This has already proved useful as I try to tell someone about a great site that I have found. I expanded Bloglines to include more and more varied feeds including magazine feeds and podcast feeds. I would not have known that was possible without 23 Things on a Stick.

I am eager to do more exploring of Google Docs and Zoho to use with kids who are doing group projects. Our current system of having kids store their files on a common drive isn't working well for us. The common drive gets full and no one can save anything. Apparently, no one ever removes things from the common drive when the project is finished. And the common drive is only available when students are in school making it difficult for them to work on projects when they are not in the building.

I would definitely take part if a 23 More Things on a Stick program were offered. Although I would like to wait for a while until all the things I have learned in these 23 have "settled" and become part of my daily practice.

Thing 22: What Did I Learn Today?

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

My paraprofessionals and I have a running joke that we need to learn one new thing a day. The comment is usually -- "OK. That's my new thing of the day. Can I go home now?" It is especially amusing if it happens before 8 AM. But the truth is, when you are working with students and staff in a school media center, there are new things to learn every few minutes.

Learning the new thing is easy. Remembering and applying the new thing is the hard part. I already had many of the sites listed in this thing in my Bloglines account. Today I added a few more. It often takes an effort like the 23 Things on a Stick project to provide the incentive to break out of the usual day-to-day activities.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore new technologies and to think of ways that I can bring them to my program to better serve the staff and students who are my patrons.

I knew about LIbraryThing before 23 Things on a Stick but hadn't thought of using it for my Media Center. Now we have a growing list of good books there. I am excited to explore the possibilities of Google Docs and Zoho with my students too. Again I knew of Google Docs but hadn't done anything with it.

Thing 21: Beyond MySpace: Other Social Networks

After reading through the introduction, I decided to look at some of the resources. The link to the article about Gather trying to be the MySpace for books didn't work. I did find an article entitled "Can Gather.com Get Book Lovers Online?" in the December 5, 2005 issue of Publishers Weekly but I'm not sure that one is the correct article. I did join Gather because I thought it could be interesting.

View my page on 23 Things on a Stick

I joined the 23 Things on a Stick Group and left a couple of comments. As you see, I have added the membership button. I don't like that I don't have a photo but my photo is on my school computer's hard drive and not my home computer's. I'll have to remember to get a copy to take home.

I also joined WebJunction so that I can keep up with things there. I may have to retire to keep up with all the groups, organizations and websites I have joined.

Thing 20: Libraries and Social Networks

I looked at both MySpace and Facebook. I could do Facebook from work but not MySpace. We block MySpace because it got to be such a time-waster for our HS kids. They'd spend time there instead of doing the work that they should have been doing on the computers. I was talking to one teen yesterday who said that MySpace is getting to be a thing of the past for her and for her friends. She maybe checks it once a week now. I looked at the Hennepin County Library page in MySpace.

I like the privacy features of Facebook. I wanted to add some friends from other librarians doing 23 Things on a Stick but didn't know how. I don't have email addresses for any of the participants. I looked for a 23 Things on a Stick group but couldn't find one. I was tempted to start such a group but don't feel comfortable enough at Facebook to do that. The thing says to let "us" know when I joined Facebook but I wasn't sure how to do that or who "us" was. Any ideas?

Why isn't there a Rochester, MN region? The closest was Minneapolis/St. Paul. How do we start a new region? I have lots of questions about Facebook and don't know where to go for answers.

I did like the tutorial from Expert Village. It looks like there are a number of intersting tutorials there.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thing 19: Podcasts

NPR had an intersting article this morning about peer reviewing at Amazon.com. I got to it from the Podcasts.com website. I found the NPR: Books page. I could listen to the weekly podcasts there and, after reading a few help windows, found out how to subscribe to this in Bloglines. I also searched for children's books and added childrensbookradio to my feeds.

While I tried all of the suggested sources for podcasts listed, I found the first I tried -- Podcasts.com to be the easiest to use to subscribe to the feed in my Bloglines account. They all seemed to be listing the same podcasts.

I added 3 feeds to Bloglines -- NPR:Books, childrensbookradio, and Nancy Pearl book reviews. These or at least snatches of these will become part of my regular listening.

Thing 18: YouTube & Other Online Video

YouTube has so much information. Sifting it out to find the "good stuff" could become a full-time preoccupation. I did look at some of the suggested topics. But then I started looking for information about authors that my students are reading. I found this neat video about what Scott Westerfeld is planning next. Kids are already reading Uglies, Pretties, etc.

I can see using this sort of video on my website when I'm suggesting books that students might like.

Here is a video clip of Jane Yolen from Google Video. She will be at the Hubbs Children's Literature Conference at St. Thomas on Feb. 23.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Thing 17: ELM Productivity Tools

Gale/Cengage Learning
I created a RSS feed in my Bloglines account from the Gale Professional Collection to keep track of new articles written about Reading Interests--Analysis. That is a topic that I want to keep current on. It wasn't quite as easy as the Quicktime video showed but it was almost that easy. The hardest part was making the subject specific enough that I didn't end up with hundreds of articles in my feed.

I already had a personal account on EBSCO (though it took a little while to remember what my user name and password were). I had never created a web page before. I created one about Teens and Reading since encouraging reading is a goal at our HS this year. I'm just not sure what to do with the webpage after I create and save it.

I had previously used my account to set up email alerts so that I would know when a new issue of a magazine I wanted to read was available. Now I have used my RSS aggregator to set up the magazines as feeds.

This was the ELM database that I used the least. Creating and saving a search was easy. I'm still not sure what use this would be for me. Students though could create searches and email them to themselves at home on occasions when they had time to locate articles but not read them.

I hadn't done anything with NetLibrary until today. Now I have added a link to it on my website and gushed about it to a Business teacher who happened to walk into the Media Center while I was exploring it. This could be very useful for our high school students and staff. The notes feature will be really useful.

Thing 16: Student 2.0 Tools

I was introduced to the Research Project Calculator recently and brought it to the attention to my HS teachers. A few of them were aware of it and have used it. I hope that more of them will be using it now that they know about it. I directly teach 5th graders the research process. We are using the Big 6 system which closely parallels the model used in the Research Project Calculator. That should make the transition easier for students as the leave the elementary and enter the high school.

I was glad to see some of the handouts. I should be able to make use of them (perhaps in a simpler way) with my 5th grade researchers. I will do an email to my HS staff letting them know about these handouts too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thing 15: Online Games and Libraries

I have been hearing about Second Life for a while. I'll get information every so often that a couple of my favorite authors (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) are appearing in Second Life. But I have never had any desire to be part of it.

First was the technology issue. Did I have a computer with the right stuff? Did I have a fast enough internet connection speed?

Second was the purpose issue. Why be involved in Second Life? What's in it for me? I've never been a fan of role-playing games. I would watch my elementary students play games during "free choice" days in the computer lab and watch in amazement as they explored dark castles or engaged in other quests. My speed is Bejeweled or Tetris. I started in computers even before Number Munchers.

Today I took the plunge by joining Second Life. I already had a brief conversation with someone from London, England as we were both trying to find our way around Orientation Island. I'm sure this will be interesting if I can ever get off Orientation Island. I seem to be hung up on the Map. I can see me and see other green dots but somehow I keep having to redo that section of orientation. I have created and customized an avatar, learned to chat, learned to search, and learned to move (rather like an uncoordinated, 3-legged cow at the moment).

I look forward to visiting some of the library created areas. I'll be doing my exploring from home.

I do see some problems with doing this at school. First the technical requirements are pretty high. I'm not sure our computers can handle them. Second, they require a download which our tech department frowns on. Third, it requires a fast connection which we have but...how much of our bandwidth would we suck up if we had many students doing this at once? This would also have to be limited to 9th grade and above based on the age limit for Second Life (13+) and how would we keep younger kids from trying to join?

Once I can move around with more confidence I'll be exploring both the libraries and the educational opportunities that are available.

Thing 14: LibraryThing

I started a LibraryThing a while ago when one of my favorite Science Fiction authors talked about it on their blog. Of course, when I went back to it now I couldn't remember my user name or login. I know I didn't add too many books at the time. I have thousands in my home library.

So I didn't feel too bad when I started over this time. I paid the fee to be a lifetime member and ordered the CueCat scanner. My goal now is just to get all of my To Be Read piles entered. I'll tackle the ones I have already read some time in the future. I put the LibraryThing widget on my blog page too. It is interesting to see who else has the same books I do (and how they tagged and reviewed them). Since I'm beginning with books I haven't read yet, I didn't do any reviews or comments.

I like Brook Berg's account where she adds the books she has read and includes in the Comments section other books that a person might like. That would also be a good option for our High School Media Center. I'm always reading and recommending books. This would help my "failing" memory when someone asks me about a book I read. I added a few groups that I was interested in too. Now I just have to remember to check to see if they are talking about anything I need to know or want to comment on.

I can see starting an account for my school for the new books. I can put the LibraryThing widget on my New Books page of my Media Center website too.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Thing 13: Online Productivity Tools

I was familiar with some of these productivity tools but I didn't know that they were "productivity tools". I have been using iWon as my homepage for years. I have switched now to iGoogle. It let me add so much more content. One thing I really like is that I can check my Gmail right from my home page. Before I had it in a link (as iWon did let me have a list of links). After adding the links gadget, I transferred over my old links to iGoogle. One thing I like is that I can categorize links. One thing I don't like is that I can't have the links open in a new window.

I customized iGoogle by adding all kinds of fun things. I added Quotes of the Day, Google Calendar, WeatherBug weather, a to-do list, AskAWord, MapQuest Driving Directions, sports links for my favorite sports, and many more things.

The one thing I had at iWon and couldn't find at iGoogle was a listing of my TV schedule. I noted that My Yahoo had that as an option.

While I am planning to use this tool at home, I can see that it would be possible to design a home page for use in a library. Our school used to have an internal Start page with common links. It gave all computers a common look when Internet Explorer was opened but went away with our new website program. However, designing and installing one on even the 100+ computers in my two media centers is too daunting a task to take up now.

As a part of our switch to a new website, I was introduced to CutePDF and I have been telling everyone I know about it. It is very useful in adding content (that cannot be changed and is viewable by most people) to our web pages.

I was pleased to find out about Zamzar. I had just recently learned about Media Convert. We frequently have students who have worked on something at home and can't open it at school. Now I will have two things to try with those kids. While I haven't yet needed to try either, I did find that Zamzar has the cleaner look of the two.

Thing 12: Do You Digg?

This type of site was new to me. I looked at all four -- Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, and Mixx. There was no clear winner in my mind. Reddit lacked pictures. It's list format was just too "plain Jane" for me. For me, it was a tossup between Mixx and Digg for straight news sites. I chose Mixx only because in the Entertainment category they had a subcategory for books. I searched for books as a tag and had very mixed results. I also registered at Newsvine because I liked the look of the site but I am hesitant about becoming a columnist. This blog is enough writing for me.

I added the same article to both Mixx and Newsvine. The article is from Reuters and is about Mills & Boon publishers. The title is "30,000 Kisses and Steamier Than Ever." I know that when I was in my 20s and living in rural Minnesota (far away from the nearest bookstore) I subscribed to Harlequin novels through the mail. It was interesting to read about the changes in romance publishing now that I read many fewer books in that genre.

Right now, it feels like this sort of a site is a productivity distractor more than a productivity enhancer. I'm already reading general news sites and blogs. I'm not sure I want to add another source of daily reading. I haven't yet explored enough to see if there are educational used for these sites.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Thing 11: Tagging and Del.icio.us

Learning my way around Del.icio.us has been fun. Of course, I had to set up an account and import my favorites from my computer in the HS Media Center. So I have spent the last few hours tagging sites, trying to remember why I bookmarked a site in the first place, and deleting dead or no longer useful links. Because I travel between buildings, I will find this site very useful. I have often wanted to return to a site that I had bookmarked on another computer. Now my bookmarks will follow me. How useful! I have installed the Internet Explorer buttons on my home computer and my new school laptop (which was already on its way to solving the problem of me being away from the computer where I set up the bookmark or it would have been once I transferred my old bookmarks to it.)

I can see this as being very useful when groups of people are doing research on a topic. Agreeing on tags beforehand will allow them to share bookmarks they discover. I have already had fun looking at the bookmarks of people who have used some of the same tags I used.

I briefly looked at PageKeeper. Our new website program rSchool lets us set up our own pages of links. PageKeeper or del.icio.us would be useful for helping to find links to put on our own page. I don't think I'd have very many takers if I suggested that they go to a different website to create an acoount and create a links page there.

I had been tagging my blogs since the beginning but I did go through and add some tags. While I think tagging is cool, I am a little leary of the lack of controlled vocabulary. It can get to be quite a guessing game to try to figure out why a site got the tags it did. It can also be something of a problem if one day I tag a site Teens and the next day tag a site YA or Young Adult. I was tempted when I finished tagging the websites I kept in the transfer to change the tags on sites that had unique tags. A person's tags list can get pretty unwieldy quickly.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thing 8: Share Your Creations

Here is a mosiac created at BigHugeLabs for selected nonfiction books added to the HS Media Center in February 2008. This will also be useful on my school website. It will create more excitement about the new books if I publicize them this way. The process to create the mosaic is relatively simple assuming you have already saved and uploaded the covers to Flickr.

I also created a slideshow with the same information using Moonk. I found out about Moonk by reading Kathy Schock's Sites of the School Day Site 24.

Get your own Moonk!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Thing 9: Online Collaboration Tools

T H Here I goes coloured card disc letter n G 9

I liked using Google more. The tools seemed easier to find. I set up accounts in both places so that I can try them more fully later. I'm still not sure that I get the whole collaboration thing. I made changes and saved the changes. But what if I want to revert to the original document? One thing I liked about Google were the tabs. It was nice to see who made the changes and when. It was nice to be able to revert to the original version with Google. I didn't that option with Zoho. I would choose Google for later uses mainly because of the Revisions tab.

I'm not sure that I'm seeing any library uses (in a one-person media center) but I can see a number of educational uses as students work on group projects. I'll have to ask the staff I work with if they are aware of these tools and if they use them.

I have created a spreadsheet at Google Docs for book recommendations. If I did this correctly, readers should be able to add data. (I know it will let me add data anyway.) Please let me know about the best book you have read lately.

Thing 10: Wikis

T H I_McElman_070716_2442 letter n G 1 O

I'm skipping around a little today. Some things have to happen (both inside and outside my control) before I can complete Things 8 and 9.

I decided to spend the afternoon on this snowday learning about wikis. I am getting to be a real fan of the Common Craft videos. The explanation is clear and understandable. I can see that they would be useful for planning upcoming events especially if working with people from different locations. I wonder if my fellow media specialists have considered one for the planning for the annual convention that will be happening in Rochester?

I liked the idea for using a wiki for book reviews. That one will take more thinking about. How and where do I publicize it? Do I really have patrons who would contribute? I like this explanation at PBwiki about the differences between blogs, forums and wikis:

"Blogs are great for one-to-many communication, such as one person writing about personal finance.Forums are good for letting many users ask questions and letting many people answer.Wikis are excellent for collaboration. If you want to let students collaborate, add files, suggest links, and create a document that's comprehensive and up-to-date, use a wiki."

While we do not ban or block Wikipedia with our students, we do discourage its use. One of the things we try to convince our students about is finding the "authority" who created the online information. Often students who do research often know nothing about the topic and therefore have no tools to filter out "bad" information. Nor are students likely to visit multiple sources to check reliability of information if the first source has all the information they need for a project.

I edited the 23 Things on a Stick video by adding a comment for future projects.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Thing 7: Web 2.0 Communication Tools

IM me: Instant messaging may be controversial, but remember, we also debated telephone reference
By Aaron Schmidt & Michael Stephens -- Library Journal, 4/1/2005

Quote that caught my eye: "School librarians may even have the mandate to make sure kids don't use IM."

We don't even supply email accounts to students. We'd rather not deal with the possible consequences of misuse (coming from our school's domain) when we are not able to control the use. Certainly, many students who want email can get it from the numerous free sources out there. Sometimes, kids use it to send work home to themselves or to retreive work they have done at home. I have also used it to communicate with parents (almost always in response to email sent to me). While the classroom teachers may have distribution lists for the parents of their students who have email, I do not have access to those lists. I do have distribution lists for staff and frequently email them about new websites I have discovered or about other media center resources. I am on mailing lists for Kathy Schrock's Sites of the School Day and Surfing the Net with Kids which give me lots of good ideas to share with staff.

Instant Messaging
We (speaking for the school district) don't allow the students to do IM from our school computers. The computers in school are for school work only. IMers were using the computers to pass time with their friends while other students who had schoolwork to do couldn't get access to a computer. Outside the school day, we only have student access to the 29 computers in the Media Center for our school of 500+ students. (During the school day, we have the Media Center, two additional labs of about 30 computers each, and the business room with another 30 computers -- but the labs are checked out for classes or have classes scheduled in most of the time and after school they are unsupervised.)

As far as using IM myself to provide a service like instant reference, no way. First of all, I am the only media specialist serving two schools. I spend half days in each building. When I am in the Elementary Media Center, I have a fixed schedule of classes and can't stop my class to IM. I'm often away from the computer. When I am in the HS I am available face-to-face for anyone who has a question or needs help. While my paraprofessional and I try to extend the school day (HS student day is 8 - 3:07) by opening a 7:30 and closing at 4 PM, there is no staff to answer questions outside of those times.

Text Messaging
I'm just guessing here...but I bet you have to have a cell phone in order to text message. I may be the only person in the world who doesn't have a cell phone ... but I don't. See above, for the problems with IM. I'm sure they would be the same for text messaging except that the phone would be with me.

Webinars, etc.
This area looks like it could be useful to me for my personal staff development. I quickly glanced at the Webinar information about the ELM hoping that I could share it with my student users but it seems mainly geared to librarians not patrons. I can see the benefits of webinars. Not needing to travel is a big one. I can also see some disadvantages--primarily the need to engage in the webinar from work. I can't even often read my email without distractions. Taking part in something that requires more than a few minutes would require pre-planning (and possibly hiding ;-))

Thing 6: Online Image Generators

Book -- Igraine the Brave
Originally uploaded by kmartin802

Here is a trading card created at BigHugeLabs for one of the new books in the Elementary Media Center. The cards could give student ideas about what to read next.

Kids could collect and trade the cards for the books they have read and for the ones they want to read next. Did I miss the part about how to print them?