Friday, November 30, 2007

No Time to Blog

I haven't had much time to blog lately. We're on the mad dash up to winter break. I have been working with many classes to get students using Google Docs and Notebook and for the most part they seem to love them. They love:

- the collaborative features
- the ease of access, no more attaching files to email or server storage issues
- the user-friendly format

We discussed yesterday how information becomes more or less indelible once it hits the Internet. Students who wrote social comments in Google Docs on the first day learned that those comments stay online in the revisions section even if they were deleted from the document at a later date. So the message here is stay on task and school appropriate especially if you are inviting a teacher to collaborate on or view your work.

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Where have you been? By using the Visited Countries site I see that I have been to 8% of the world's countries.

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Lost Art?

I am trying out Diigo because I liked the idea that you can post directly to your blog from another web page. You can also highlight text, add a sticky note or comment. It took a couple of tries but the blog posting feature worked. It seems it didn't like it when I tried to change the font size. See the link to Nick Senger's post below along with my comment.

It tied right into what I was doing yesterday when I spent a couple of hours cleaning out old files at home. That is, the paper files I have kept in my filing cabinet over the years. I found cards and letters going back to 1961. What a kick! There were ones from people I no longer remember which I put in the recycling bin. Who was Doris anyway? I kept the ones from relatives and friends. The thing that really struck me was how much emotion was attached to just seeing the handwriting let alone reading the letters. I began to wonder what my own child will have to look back on. Most of her correspondence is kept in the cyber world. Somehow reading old emails, if I have even kept them in the first place, doesn't pack the same emotional punch. Note to self: write daughter a letter, put it in an envelope and mail it to her.

I wouldn't give up my online connections for the world but I still value those personal communications that come through the letterbox!

A Thanksgiving Lesson for Teens  Annotated

  • Is writing thank you notes also fast becoming a lost art? - post by bookminder

It’s almost Thanksgiving here in the U.S., so why not use this time to teach your students the ancient art of writing thank-you notes?  Show the world that teenagers can be gracious and appreciative too, if they’re given the right skills. With the following six simple steps, your students can be the most courteous class in the school.

Photo Credit: Wim Mulder

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'm a Genius

Well, maybe not but apparently my blog reading level is. Must be all those big words. So, if YOU are reading this, consider yourself a genius!
cash advance

Thanks to Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog for this link.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Using a Blog for Assignment Links

Further to my last post, depending on the assignment that students are completing and the information literacy skills focus for that assignment I sometimes provide students with a page of suggested sources. I have a blog, which I link to off the school library's website, to quickly create Assignment Links.

If you take a look you'll see two entries. I usually give the kids some tips for searching before listing the sites I recommend. For the countries assignment which a Gr. 8 class was doing I also created a Google custom search engine which would send them to the sites we wanted them to use.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Student Pathfinders

I have noticed several threads this week about how much we may be spoonfeeding students by finding resources for them. It seems so much easier at times to just post of list of sites for them to use.
However, I try to work with students whenever possible to help them refine their own searching skills.
We start by developing a list of keywords. This is sometimes done in the classroom with the teacher first. I have come up with a search plan that I often walk students through or select specific parts of to focus on at the beginning of each research class. Here's a brief description of what we focus on. I have a more formalized version which I hand out to students. Some teachers ask their students to compile an annotated list of resources (pathfinder) justifying their choices at the end of their searching.

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Student Pathfinders

Project: Write a sentence describing your project.

Keywords – Remember to consider both subject (Amazon River) and type of information ( diagram, graphics, chart, FAQs, glossary, maps, history, etc.) As long as you need to find more information you should continue to build your keywords.

Start with print! This is a great way to begin your list of keywords. Is there information in the textbook? The encyclopedias or other reference books in the library?

When you have a little basic information and some good keywords begin searching online. Try a variety of search engines: AskX, Quintura, Vivisimo. Try a directory: Librarian's Internet Index (, dmoz, or the Internet Public Library ( They might also try Google Directory.

TIP: If you don’t find something useful in the first ten hits revise your search.

Which online databases from the school or public library might be useful? This includes encyclopedias and periodicals.

Are there any blogs or wikis which would be useful?

By the end of the first session in the library you should have at least three worthwhile sources.

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I find that when students are given the skills and a method of attack they become much more focussed. Before I started doing this we used to call the first research period "Madly Off in all Directions" after a popular radio program. Now the kids come in ready to work. They ask far more questions about the validity of sites and how to cite their selections. If their topic is a controversial one we talk about bias and how to find the author of a site.

It's still very much a work in progress but the results so far are gratifying.

Math/Tech blog

It's always a pleasure to come across a fresh new blog. This one offers a blend of math and information literacy at the k-8 level.
NJ Tech Teacher Musings

Friday, November 9, 2007

100th Post

A colleague put a newspaper clipping in my mailbox a few weeks back.
It was an article by a well-known columnist in a national newspaper. The gist of it was the utter futility of blogging. I was taken aback. Here was a presumably well educated, articulate journalist unable to see any upside to either writing or reading a blog. I scanned the article for hints of satire but could find none. What a shame I thought, to miss out on all the benefits of the blogging world.
This is my 100th blog post. To say that blogging has enriched my professional life would a gross understatement. The new ideas that have come my way have spread out into my practice. I now introduce students to an array of online applications which make their learning more creative, collaborative and productive. I have offered advise to colleagues I will never meet and benefited from their wisdom. I have read books and visited sites I may never have come across without the input of other bloggers.
I have a truer sense of how our world is shrinking and the potential for building global communities.
Thanks to all the people who have encouraged me along the way. Thanks to those who made me laugh, filled my day with wonder or struck a chord as they shared their teaching and learning experiences. I am glad I am part of your world.

Photo by cybertoad

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Funny Librarians?

It's nice to know that someone recognizes how truly witty librarian's can be. From Australia's comes the article Comedy's New Chapter: The Librarians a six-part TV series. Episodes can be watched online at ABC. Apparently librarians can also be racey as the series comes with an "M" rating for mature.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A Few of my Favourite Blogs

What makes a great blog? For me it is one which offers some practical tips, things I can put into use right away or provides some food for thought. Here are a few I make time to read whenever they pop up in my Google Reader:

Cathy Nelson's TechnoTuesday
Cathy's enthusiasm if infectious and she always pushes the boundaries.

Joyce Valenza's NeverEndingSearch
on the School Library Journal site
Joyce shares her successes and ideas as she explores new Web 2.0 tools

Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed
Another spot for great ideas.

Nick Senger's Teen Literacy Tips
My English teachers love his ideas and so do I.

Jen Hubert's Reading Rants
For edgey teen reads this is the place for inspiration.

Jeri Hurd's Bib 2.0
Jeri shares great ideas and chronicles her life as a librarian.

Improve your practice, make your day, read a blog!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Two Gems

I'm always on the lookout for web 2.0 applications which are easy to use and too good to resist. Here are a couple I came across recently which I know will be easy to hook both staff and students on. The first is Exploratree a site of interactive thinking guides. Think graphic organizers but with the ability to create, collaborate, save and share online. This application is in the testing stage which is good because it means you can easily contact the creators with suggestions or questions.

The next one is Class Tools free flash games for educators. Choose from 15 different templates to customize your own learning tools. There are examples from a variety of subject areas included which have great ideas to get you started.

AltSearchEngines have just posted their top 100 alternative search engines list for November 2007.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Math in the Library

Today I'm planning a display of Math books in the library. It may not be the most interesting topic for high school kids so I am trying to offer them more: a little humour in the form of some quotes and math jokes (The lottery is a tax on people who flunked math.) a bookmark with some math Homework Help links like Math Central and books like Calculus for the Utterly Confused.