Monday, May 26, 2008

Help is just a click away

Every day anxious faces appear at my door with a problem. Usually it's a problem opening files and today was no exception. A student had created a PowerPoint presentation on her mom's new computer at home. She had saved it to a flash drive but couldn't open it when she wanted to show it in her English class.

Zamzar to the rescue! Zamzar offers free online file conversion so I was able to convert the student's .pptx file to a .ppt file that she could show at school. It is ridiculously easy to use. Simply select the file you wish to convert, choose the preferred format, and give them your email address. Depending on how busy the Zamzar system is you will usually receive a link to your converted file in under 20 minutes.

Last week a friend called asking if I new how to change a pdf file into a fillable form. No problem. I used Zamzar to change the pdf file into a Word document.

It converts .docx files into .doc files. This little bit of magic has saved the day many times!

Photo credits to Aphrodite on flickr

Upcoming Book Events

Tough City Writer blogs about the CWILL-BC event Spring Book Hatching at the Vancouver Public Library on June 14th and Bookfest at Malaspina University on May 31st. Click here to download the CWILL-BC poster for the event.

Photo thanks to Chris(archi3d) on Flickr

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Comp Fight Searching

I read about a better way to search flickr over at ReadWriteWeb today. It's called Comp Fight and I was very impressed. I'll be checking there first when I want an image for my blog. RRW does a great job of explaining the features Comp Fight has to offer. I loved the way Comp Fight displays image thumbnails which saved me a lot of scrolling. The images were so intriguing it made me want to come up with blog posts just to use them.

Image thanks to Leonardo Cardoso
Found using Comp Fight

Saturday, May 17, 2008

YA Blog

A blog worth subscribing to: The YA YA YAs blog is written by three YA librarians who combine, "book news and reviews (of fiction, non-fiction, and manga), thoughts on librarianship, links to online resources, and craft ideas to use for programming, all with a YA bent". I love their enthusiasm!

YA Authors Cafe has interviews with authors writing for teens along with a list of links to YA authors who blog.

School Library Journal has an interesting blog post written by Anastasia Goodstein "What Would Madison Avenue Do? Marketing to Teens".

It reminded me that I am truly living my dream. I was born a few decades too soon. My home town library had no teen section. The high school library was the kind of place where dropping a pencil in the hushed atmosphere could get you thrown out if the librarian didn't like the look on your face.

Now I run an 8,000+ volume high school library with excellent Internet access. The place is hopping from 8:00 AM until 4:00 in the afternoon. We average around 21 class visits a week, often double or triple booked for some blocks. It is not a quiet place; it is a busy place.

The kids are so busy in fact that they seldom have time just to read for pleasure. It hurts to see the look of regret on a student's face when I show them a book I know they would love and they tell me they simply don't have the time just now. I want to declare a 'no homework' week. Month? I want to ban all needless, endless testing. Why DO they have to memorize things it would take them less than a minute to find online? Who cares exactly when the battle on the Plains of Abraham took place? I rant.

I wish they all had more time to read more of the wonderful YA titles out there. More Stephenie Meyer, more Shelley Hrdlitschka and Susan Juby, more Jane Yolen, more Chris Crutcher, Alex Flinn, Anthony Horowitz. These authors know how to engage teens. Check out Stephenie Meyer's playlist for her novel Twilight.

Image Credits: The Webfooted Booklady, all rights reserved.

Friday, May 16, 2008 for book orders

I have started using as a way to save the titles of books I want to purchase. When I come across titles in a blog or wiki I can click on the link if one is provided or look the title up on a bookstore website. I save them in with the tag 'bookorder' and when I'm ready to put an order together I can go to my account and browse through the collected links. As I order I can delete the title links from This lets me save books to my wish list anytime anywhere - no more scribbled notes.

I can also share this list with staff or librarians in other schools. I may in future further categorize by using subject specific tags such 'bookorder_english'. If it catches on perhaps staff will also save book links for me in using a set of pre-arranged tags.

Image thanks to Laughing Squid:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I posted a link to the Art of Manliness blog which has a list of The 100 Must Read Books for Men. The guys on my staff have given some very positive feedback on the list. Hopefully it will also introduce a few of the newbies to the world of blogs.

What I really wanted to write a post about was Blogs in the Comics but as I was only able to find two I'll just add them here for your enjoyment:

Fisher: the Strips

Pearls Before Swine

I'm excited about a new course being offered next year to the Grade 9 students. It's called Design 9 and will cover much of the software used in school. Every Gr. 9 student will take the course as part of their Planning 9 rotation. I'm going to push for the inclusion of Web2.0 applications.

ASCD has published an article in Educational Leadership which our principal had all staff read this week. It's called Turning on the Lights by Marc Prensky. In it he discusses the "boredom crisis" and how kids are "powering down" in schools and offers four possible remedies. It's a positive step to see admin. taking an active role in promoting change.

Photo Credits go to inju:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Playing with Snapvine

My blog talks! John Goldsmith at DE Tools of the Trade posted about using a new application called Snapvine which lets you post a voice recording to your blog or webpage. Readers can comment back in written form or add their own voice comment.

I can see this being a useful tool for teachers using blogs in the classroom with students who have written output difficulties. Or to lend dramatic effect to English class blogs by posting readings, comments, poetry and much more. How would you use it?

So here goes, my first attempt.

Comment | Copy This

Photo used under Creative Commons Licence by ittybittiesforyou:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Spring Diversions

Not much blogging going on of late. Spring has finally arrived and the pressures of year end at school are mounting.

In her blog, The Innovative Educator, Lisa Nielsen talks about how her employers have mandated that no employee can have their blog url in their email signature. This makes no sense to me. I think of the countless hours of ProD. I have accumulated by reading and writing blogs, all at no monetary expense to my school system but to the system's considerable benefit. I just have to shake my head. Then I say a quick thank you to be working in a (so far) very accepting and liberal system. No blocking or mandating here. I do feel frustrated by the fact that many of my colleagues don't know how good they have it because they aren't trying any of the fantastic options that exist beyond the doors of their classrooms.

Lisa's suggestion to include blog urls in email signatures makes a lot of sense. It's one more way to introduce people to the 21st century digital world. I would extend that idea to adding your wiki, social bookmarking or other urls to email signatures.

Now, back to my distractions. There's a visitor in the backyard. Thank heavens for zoom lenses!

Striped Skunk

Photo Credits:
The Webfooted Booklady