Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Evolution of Books

This post caught my eye today, Forget E-Books: The Future of the Book Is Far More Interesting.  I posted a link to it along with some questions in another blog I write for teachers beginning to blog in my district.

It brings attention to the changes coming for teachers and librarians.  I asked readers to consider:

How do you envision teaching in a world with no textbooks?  How do you envision your students as consumers of information?
How do you envision your students as producers of information?
What do you envision as the purpose for schools and teachers in 10 years, 20 years?
How might learning to write a blog be considered an essential skill for students to acquire?

How would you answer these questions?  I'd love to hear your comments.

Celebrating Together

In the spirit of giving Sue Waters has created a space using WallWisher.  Thanks, Sue!  Please add your wishes, traditions and greetings.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Musings

As I write I'm listening to the December playlist on readergirlz.  I love the concept of choosing songs to suit a particular novel or character and it's an idea that at least on of my English teachers has tried with great success as kids love it too.

My morning dose of humour came from Jeffrey Hill who writes The English blog where he has imbedded the Copenhagen According to Dr. Seuss clip along with the lyrics.  His other entertaining offering comes from Abe Books who have opened a Weird Books Room.  Worth a browse if you are buying for someone with eccentric tastes or just want to amuse yourself for a few minutes.  He finds the best stuff!

@deangroom tweeted about a photo contest happening in Sydney just now.  The idea of giving kids open concepts to work with could be adapted in other ways.  Some time ago I posted some words in an area of the library where I put books I hope boys will read.  The words would hopefully draw them in:

Face Off
On the Street
Blood & Guts
On the Edge
Over the Top

A few days ago I had one of those kids who has never been a reader, has no idea what he likes and is really hard to match up with a book.  As I floundered about questioning him the words on the wall caught my eye and I asked him which ones appealed.  When he picked 'on the edge' I knew exactly which books to show him.

Time to dive back into my own pile of books.  I am almost finished with Loving Frank, and yes, I am loving it.  I've only put it down long enough to look for images of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses and to replenish the chocolate supply.  On to Marillier next!  I'd love to hear what book gems you've discovered over the winter break, or summer break or whatever season it is in your part of the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Break Reading

Like a hungry guest at the buffet I tend to overload my reading plate when it comes to holiday time.  This year I have selected:

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan a fictionalized account of Mamah Cheney's affair with Frank Lloyd Wright

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier  - Based on the Beauty and Beast legends from a masterful fantasy writer.

Vanishing and other short stories by Deborah Willis

Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner is one of the contenders for Canada Reads.

The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon - Life through Aristotle's eyes.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Gone by Michael Grant for the YA crowd.

The Philosopher and the Wolf by Mark Rowlands

And just so that I don't forget what my real passion is, Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson.

With a fire going and lots of chocolates and eggnog close at hand I might just make it!  I'll let you know which ones get my seal of approval.

Got 20 Minutes?

If you've read much of this blog you'll know that I'm a big fan of the K12 Online conference and have been involved with bringing these presentations to teachers in my own district via LAN parties.  It made me smile to hear one seasoned colleague say that these sessions were the best professional development he had experienced in his career.  Wow!

I've been viewing as many of this year's offerings as I can and they're as inspiring as ever.  The one that stands out for me so far in terms of the way we work with students is Paul Curtis' Building a Web 2.0 Culture.  We chose it to show at our first LAN party of the year and Paul generously offered his time to join us in an Elluminate session for some discussion after we viewed his presentation.  The chat is archived here.  He's part of the New Technology Network whose philosophy is to inspire and engage students to become collaborators, thinkers, innovators and leaders.  Whether you're transforming a school or just wanting to improve your practice on Monday morning this presentation will get you thinking.

In order to keep the presentations straight in my head I started a Google Doc to briefly list the focus of each presentation.  Here are a few I will definitely be bringing to the attention of others:

Grab some refreshments or even a colleague or two and pull up a chair for some engaging viewing!  Most will take less than 20 minutes of your time to view.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Canada Reads

Canada Reads 2010 gets underway soon. Visit the CBC website for more information and find out more about the nominees here:

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Read more

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland
Read More

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott
Read more

The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy
Read more

Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner
Read more

Enter to win the entire collection over at mike's bloggity blog, enter before midnight, Tuesday December 15th. (Residents of Canada only)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Twitter Question

This request popped up on Twitter tonight.  I've posted a few suggestions below.

Scholastic Book Lists:

LM_NET Archive


It's List Time Again

At the local children's bookstore I have developed a bit of a reputation as the one who likes those edgy reads for kids.  One of my 'go to' people for great teen book recommendations is Jen who writes Reading Rants: Out of the Ordinary Teen Book Lists!  Need to fill out your Reality Bites or Slacker Fiction shelves?  This is the place to go.
Jen comes up with Yearly Top Ten Lists as well as maintaining a Jen's Top Ten Books of ALL TIME list. This year's list with reviews can be found here.

Readers over at goodreads have put together a list of Best Books published in 2009.  Seems to have been a great year!   The list is re-scored every 500 seconds so it's about as up-to-date as you can get changing as new readers add their votes.  In Shelfari you can look at their Highest-Rated Books of All Time or the highest rated this week or this month.

And of course there's YALSA's 2009 Teen's Top Ten  A quick Google search will bring up any number of other 2009 booklists.  One of my fave activities at school is to have the English teachers ask their classes to recommend books.  I collect the lists, collate them and then put up displays in the library.  Some of the past themes have included:

  • Don't leave high school without having read ...
  • Gr. 10's best books this year.
  • Pageturners 
  • The Book I Most Want for Christmas
Image used under a creative commons licence from
Travelin' Librarian

Advanced Search Options

Beyond Basics

Often when I’m asked, “How did you find that?” it’s because I went straight for the Advanced Search option.  These types of searches are available everywhere from online databases to Twitter.  Using Advanced Search options can save you a great deal of time and frustration.

Google’s advanced search lets you include or exclude terms without ever having to use that scary word, Boolean.  Mention Boolean searching to students or staff and you’ll often get a ‘can’t spell it, can’t pronounce it, ergo it must be difficult’ kind of reaction.

Twitter Search
Using the Advanced Search options allows you to search for specific words or phrases, to search for tweets from or to a specific person.  You can narrow your search to specific places, dates and even by attitude: positive or negative. 

Flickr’s Advanced Search is the first place I head for finding Creative Commons licenced images.  I know there are other ways to do this in Flickr but I prefer the results I get from using the Advanced Search option. 

Using Advanced Options in YouTube let’s you filter out videos that may not be suitable for minors, include/exclude terms, search by type or show only results that have annotations or closed captions.  You can search within categories, by language and date, or by duration: short, medium or long. I was able to filter out all the cartoons videos in a search for a short clip to introduce a class to the topic of bears.  The results returned were from FirstScience TV, National Geographic and BBC Worldwide.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Welcome and thank you to all the new people who have been visiting The WebFooted Booklady today.
I too have been exploring new blogs found via the Edublog Awards and seeing the many ways educators interact and share.  It's been a feast for the mind!

Image used under a creative commons licence by

Monday, December 7, 2009

December Pro D

I've been a bit quiet this past week.  No posts here.  I've been posting on our brand new NVSD teacher librarian blog.  That's what you do when budget cuts are in the air and libraries are once again under fire.  We wanted to take a pro-active approach that would showcase what it is we do.  In doing so we will also inspire each other by compiling a rich bank of ideas.  Please drop by and have a read or leave a comment.

I'm also in full swing with the rest of the team prepping for LAN parties.  That's Learning At Night, one of the ways we deliver Pro D opportunities to teachers in our district.  (I can't talk about LAN without a nod to Kim Cofino and Jeff Utecht at the Bangkok International School who came up with the idea.)  We submitted our own K12 Online presentation this year and it will be up for viewing on Tuesday Dec. 8 - LAN: Learning is Social.  We've constructed a supporting wiki that outlines how to launch your own K12 Online LAN party.

At our first event we will be viewing 3 presentations:
- Building a Web 2.0 Culture by Paul Curtis
- Probing the Possibilities of Paperless Pedagogy by Jason Neiffer
- Around the World with Skype by Silvia Tolisano

All three presenters have generously agreed to Skype in for some informal conversation after we have viewed their presentations.  As my friend @jansmith says, "The net is generous."

Why not join us?

Paul Curits from the New Tech Network ( will be joining us live from Napa, California to discuss his presentation "Building a Web 2.0 Culture."

You can watch the presentation and participate in the conversation via Elluminate, an online learning space. Elluminate is free and easy to use.

Join us at 5pm!

Elluminate link:

For more information contact us on Twitter 
Or visit our blog

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Edublog Awards 2009

Taking a little time to think about whom I would nominate for a 2009 Edublog Award is one of the ways I can say thank you to people who have inspired me and informed my practice.  It's hard to pick just one when there are so many!  It's my hope that a nomination will bring a wider readership to these deserving individuals.  I liked the way David Truss has offered honourable mentions in his list of nominees and I only wish I had more time to do the same.

Best individual tweeter - @Alec Couros - He's the one person who gets his own column in my TweetDeck

Best class blog - Huzzah For anyone wanting a detailed road map of how to engage students in blogging this is it.  Jan Smith is a master craftsman, generous with her time and expertise.

Best student blog - Eric's Blog This student's thoughtful posts show a talent beyond his years.

Best resource sharing blog - Free Technology for Teachers by Richard Byrne is a wealth of resources in all subject areas from a teacher who takes the time to explain how they work and offer suggestions for their use in the classroom.

Most influential blog post - from TeachPaperless: Top Eleven Things All Teachers Must Know About Technology (or I promised Dean Groom I wouldn't write a top ten list; so this one goes up to eleven.)

Best teacher blog - Kim Cofino's Always Learning  This is the one I always take time to read, refer back to often and get the most 'use in my practice tomorrow' ideas from.

Best librarian / library blog - The Unquiet Librarian -  Buffy Hamilton is the one that most pushes me to change by modelling what a library/librarian should look like today.

Best educational tech support blog - Sue Waters' The Edublogger Sue is tireless is her efforts to help students and teachers make the best use of blogging tools.

Best educational wiki - WSDs eToolBox  Dianne Krause is constantly adding to and refining this wiki on using technology in the classroom.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Me, giving thanks

My neighbours to the south have just finished celebrating their Thanksgiving and for us here in Canada it's a month gone already but I am in a particularly thankful mood these days.  The WebFooted Booklady has been nominated by two fellow educators for an Edublog award.  Thanks again to David Truss and Liz B. Davis both extraordinarily thoughtful, creative and generous educators in their own right.

This is very humbling and a great honour.  It has also induced a state of writer's block although I am more of a post-when-the-mood-strikes kind of writer than a post-every-day person.  :)

Alec Couros (@courosa) re-tweeted recently something that struck a chord, "RT @Kicode Amazes me that strangers find content I produce helpful when I can't get people who know me well 2 even look"

In a world where the daily frustrations of working with busy people can be discouraging it's gratifying to know that the work one does reaches people beyond the work place walls.

Design and Redesign

Twitter is such a rich source of ideas!

Moira Ekdahl, TL consultant for Vancouver School Board has posted some thoughtful reflections on the YSL Virtual Conference focusing on Library Design.  This is a 'must read'  for anyone in the process of re-structuring their libraries physical space or re-defining the role of the librarian.  Seriously, shouldn't we all be looking at redefining our roles?

Two useful tips for people designing library web pages came across my desk this week:
- from @joycevalenza - Color Scheme Designer lets you select the perfect pallette.
- If you work on a Mac go Applications>Utilities>DigitalColor Meter. Mouse over any color on your screen to get RGB as percentages.  This comes in handy when you find a colour you like and want to match it exactly.

Or maybe you are redesigning on a smaller scale and just want to do a make over on that old library cart.  Take a look at this year's winners of the Pimp my Bookcart contest.

If you work with teachers helping them redesign their classroom practice @NikPeachey has created 10 Tasks to help teachers develop their use of learning technology.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Status Quo or Living Your Dream?

Image used under a creative commons licence from vanhookc
Click image for a clearer view.

Spending some time following twitter links on Saturday morning allowed me to look in on the AASL 2009 conference virtually.  Seeing what those impassioned, creative and forward thinking librarians were up to got me thinking.  What is holding us back from creating the libraries of our dreams, libraries that are work spaces for students libraries where the librarian acts as guide and mentor and students gather to research and create collaboratively or on their own?  Are we constrained by the systems we work within or are those restrictions self-imposed?

There are so many free ways to create libraries that are innovative.  I wish I had been able to attend Buffy Hamilton’s session.  I got so many great ideas from viewing her slide deck I can only imagine how rich her session was.  The presentation was entitled Not Just Another Brick in the Wall? Engaging 21st Century Learning Through Participatory School Librarianship.  I took a page of notes as I viewed the slides.  Tomorrow I will begin to investigate great people for teens to follow on Twitter, holding a lunch hour session to advertise the many mobile reading opportunities, and establishing a teen advisory committee to find out what the students would like to see in their library.

To learn more about participatory librarianship check out Buffy's Delicious bookmarks.  I found the bookmarked article We Live in Shakespearean Times  particularly inspiring.  Also her wiki
AASL2009 Participatory Librarianship.  I think you'll be impressed.

As I watched the tweets go by I began to collect some memorable quotes.  I can't cite the speaker as often attributions weren't given.  It's 140 characters after all.  To see them for yourself do a Twitter Search for #aasl2009 or go to TwapperKeeper.

We've upped our standards, so up yours.
Loertscher wants librarians to be the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored.
Being an advocate isn't enough.  Be an activist.
I say you have TIME, you're just not using it well. (Aim that one at the next person who doesn't have time for collaborative planning with you!)
Make the library a learning centre not a stuff centre.
School librarian: resource specialist, information literacy teacher, collaboration gatekeeper
Mash content, literacy and 21st century skills together or you will go nowhere.
You can't be burnt out if you have never been fired up.

So that's it, my report from a conference I wasn't able to attend.  Thanks Twitter!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Twitter Lists

It had to happen.  Hasn’t everyone blogged about Twitter lists in the past week?
The jury is still out for me as to how useful I will find them.  I made one list of my own and selected 4 others to follow.  So far I haven’t ever clicked on the feeds to see what’s happening on them. 

I worried as I made the list that I might inadvertently leave someone off and offend them.  Compiling the list was onerous but now that it’s done I find it easy to add new people in as I come across them.

I have used lists created by others to find new and interesting people to follow. 
I’m thinking it might be useful to be able to send a message to ONLY the people on your list.  That way you could ask questions or share information with people on specific lists while not boring or irritating the other folks who follow you.

Somehow I have managed to end up on 40 other people’s lists.  Highly flattering in a way.  See the list below.  Just for the record, I might be considered bookish although it’s not a term I consider in an attractive light.  I have passed on a few useful links.  I’m definitely not an ESL teacher or translator but as a teacher librarian can recognize a useful ESL related site when I see on.  I’m not a publisher, unless you count publishing a blog post.  The same can be said for being a writer.

Twitter lists I’m tickled, amused or perplexed to find myself listed on:

-       bookish people
-       quality linkers
-       esl stars
-       publishing
-       rockstar librarians
-       translator –esl teacher
-       writing writers

So what’s your take on twitter lists.  Useful? Waste of time?  Undecided?
Am I missing something blindingly obvious that’s worth a mention?
Please comment!

Look at that, a post with not one hyperlink!  Tsk. Tsk.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Comment Moderation

When I started the WebFooted Booklady blog over two and a half years ago I wanted to be as open as possible.  Consequently I did not enable comment moderation nor did I require those who wished to comment to jump through the screen captcha hoop.

Today I see that a spammer has been seeding the blog with advertising comments.  I have removed those comments and turned on the moderation feature.  This is unfortunate as I feel it stifles the flow of conversation.

To those of you who have asked questions and added value or support through your comments, thank you.  I appreciate your interaction and the conversations you engage in here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last links for October 2009

Image: Japanese Persimmons used under a creative commons licence from Big Grey Mare
Chosen in honor of the black squirrel who is distracting me as I watch him trying to help himself to the persimmons in the backyard.

It's been a great week and I have loads to share.   In the interests of brevity I have posted a few here today but you can check out the rest on delicious.  Over there.  On the sidebar where it says My Bookmarks.

Once in a while I come across a slide set that I really wish I had come up with myself.  Such is the case with Donna Saxby's classy Prezi on Delicious.  (@librarydonna)

It's that time of the school year when we welcome student teachers into our classrooms.  Cybraryman1 has compiled a useful page of links for student teachers.

The Twitterverse has been all agog over the release of Lists to everyone this week.  I've made some useful connections by checking out education or school librarian related lists and created one of my own:   teacher librarians.  My name has been added to a few and a couple have left me scratching my head.  How did I end up on a list of publishers?   Really, this blog doesn't count.

Here are a couple of useful list-related sites:
How-To: Use Twitter Lists by Demo Girl
Listorious: The Directory of Awesome Lists on Twitter

The Unquiet Librarian has written an interesting post on Advocating with more Dimension to your Monthly Reports.

I am User Generated blog has an interesting comment on plagiarism.

My favourite podcast/slideshare of the week from Dean Shareski When You're Not the Smartest Person in the Room.  Pass it on to someone who doesn't understand the value of educational networking.  Click on his name above to see his really cool/creepy twitter avatar.  (This may be time-limited so if it's gone when you get there don't blame me, please!)

I started a Google Doc after asking this question on Twitter:  What one book do you think every teacher should read.  I'm looking for titles that make you think or make you change your practice or open your eyes to a whole new way of seeing the world.  If you have a suggestion please add it to the list, it's open to everyone.  Take a look, there are some cool titles there.

And finally a great student lesson plan from David Truss:  Halloween Scavenger Hunt on Ning he created it for a class doing a philanthropy project.  Great model!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Drop Everything and Read

Please join me and thousands of teachers, students, government and members of the public across Canada as we celebrate National School Library Day and Drop Everything and Read for 20 minutes this morning.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Collaborative Conferencing

Image used under a Creative Commons License from ChrisL_AK on flickr.

I am more and more loving the idea of the collaborative conference. On Saturday I attended a day-long session with Steve Hargadon on Social Educational Networking. (Steve has officially renamed it). His session model was inspiring. Here’s why:

- He posted an agenda on a wiki page and then proceeded to rewrite it based on the interests and needs of the group that came out during the introduction to the day.
- During introductions he mined the group for talents or knowledge that individuals were willing to share.
- He reassessed throughout the day to determine that individual needs and expectations were being met.
- The feeling of spontaneity and serendipity was exciting. He connected our session with another in California by Skype during the lunch break and the two groups shared what they had learned that day. He brought in three other educators using Skype to talk briefly about their experiences with networking.
- He ensured that the interests of both beginners and more seasoned practitioners were met through the use of breakout sessions.
- He ended the day with an energized speed-geeking session where participants shared useful tools or ideas.
- He developed a real sense of community amongst participants who left with a desire to reconnect with each other and extend conversations beyond the session.
- We didn’t ‘sit and git’ but rather shared our strengths, asked questions and had deep conversations.

I came away with a clear sense of how I might restructure the training sessions I do.  I also wonder how this might be effectively used in the classroom.

Do we have the courage to step away from the front of the class and allow students to create learning clusters that better meet their needs?  Clusters that change as the students' needs change.  Would this help to build a sense of trust and a culture of learning in the classroom?  I think it's worth a try.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Student Bloggers Read for Life

One of the Grad Transitions teachers came to me a few weeks ago with an idea. She wanted students to read books that were contemporary and might give them some insight into the world they are about to enter as adults. The topics could encompass almost anything and we got them started by putting out a display of titles that included themes such as finance, travel, living with disability, the environment, life lessons, memoirs.

A sample of titles:

How To Live Successfully on Your Own
An Inconvenient Truth
Me to We
The Last Lecture
In a Sunburned Country

Then we set up a blog using Edublogs and the students were all given author rights. I love working with Gr. 12s because they know the ropes. Consequently we did not need to spend a lot of time teaching them how to write journal responses. They had done this many times throughout their high school careers.

They were intrigued by the idea that people other than just their teacher would be reading their posts. We offered extra credit for those who got their parents to post a comment. Nothing beats the excitement in the room as they considered what they would write and who might be reading their words.

We talked to them about the importance of tagging. Most had never heard of the concept. We explained how we would be following them using RSS feeds for both posts and comments. They will be required to post at least once per chapter and to comment on other's posts but we are hoping that they will be motivated enough that they will post because they are excited, informed and entertained by what they are reading.

Please stop by if you have a moment and offer your comments, insights and support.
Reading for Life

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Short Stories – Offering Choice Online

I was inspired to put together this list of resources after reading Buffy J. Hamilton's Unquiet Library post from Oct. 16, 2009
Short Stories + iPods + Happy Readers. Her excellent post is chock full of ideas and resources. At the next English Department meeting I'll spend a few minutes introducing teachers to these: – a search for “short stories” turned up 183 results

Google Book Search has a short stories category (382 results)

Short Stories
Nine genres, listed with number of pages, age ranking, study questions, guides and activities, rating, dictionary feature for pronunciation and meaning, and how to contact the author. Notice the tab for children’s stories.

Classic Reader Search by author.

American Literature
Lists 20 Great American Short Stories on the home page. Use the menu tabs to access an alphabetical list by title or author as well as a children’s section.

Classic Short Stories
Search by author or title.

A Few Project Ideas to Get You Started:

Book Trailers using iMovie or PowerPoint

Cartoons using online cartooning tools such as Toondo

Read, Write Think’s list of project ideas.

The English Companion Ning post and replies.

This Week's Smorgasbord of Links

Some good resources that caught my eye this week. Dig in - Enjoy!

Five Tips for Teachers New to Blogging on Gail Desler’s BlogWalker.

Why Twitter? What can Twitter do for my library & my community? How would you use some of these ideas for your school library?

Twurdy: a search engine that uses colour coding to rank sites by readability.

From The Answer Sheet an article – Willingham: Student “Learning Styles: Theory is Bunk

Image used under a creative commons licence by Heather

Saturday, October 3, 2009

ESL Resources from Twitter

Today's question comes from someone who has just introduced her principal to Twitter: "She is looking for info/articles about best practice in ESL instruction - any thoughts?"

So I sent out a tweet to my network asking for the names of ESL teachers to follow, besides @LarryFerlazzo whom I already knew about and follow.

These are the responses:

@mtechman directed me to TweepML for a list of ESL, TEFL and ESOL teachers on twitter. This list was compiled by @shellterrell.

@kristenswanson recommended @SeanBanville @Mtranslator and @daylemajor

@Larryferlazzo directed me to his Best Resources for Beginning to Learn What Twitter is All About which includes ESL teachers to follow.

Also check out wefollow and do a search for the tags esl, ell, languages.

So while I have not directly answered her question I hope that I have provided her with a way to access many great resources. By following some of these ESL focussed teachers on Twitter she can build a powerful PLN. She can read their tweets and ask questions when she wants to locate specific resources.

Some of them have links to their own blogs or sites from their twitter pages which she can have a look at and choose to add to an RSS feed if she finds them useful.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ways to View Videos in the Classroom

This tweet caught my eye.

Unable to answer in a mere 140 characters I came up with the following:

- Show the video with no sound or with sound but no picture. Ask students to tell what they have understood and what questions they have. Show the video again with both sound and visuals and have them complete their summary.

- Show the video without sound and have students write the script or dialogue.

- Have students write down keywords from the video and compile them into a Wordle.

- Have students watch a video clip and then tell the story from another point of view. This could be done in a variety of subject areas.

- Have students watch a video and collect points that might support opposite sides of a debate on the subject.

- Have students write a review as if they were a reporter or critic.

- Play a Kim’s game. Students view a clip and then list as many items as they can.

- Have students compile timelines or a sequence of events.

- Have students create mnemonics.

What interesting, innovative ideas do you have for engaging students when you show videos in class?

k12 Online Conference 2009

Mark your calendars now for some of the most inspiring Pro D. out there. And the best part, it comes to you, in your livingroom, in your PJs, anytime of the day or night. Why not plan to get a group of colleagues together and make it a party.

The presenter's list for the K12 Online Conference has just been posted. Presentations start Dec. 7th. Mark your calendars!

I am thrilled (and terrified) to be part of a team putting together our own very first K12 Online Presentation. It's called LAN: Learning is Social. We will 'tell all' about our experiences this past year bringing the K12 presentations to staff district wide. This was an enormous undertaking as we put together six events that each showcased 4 presentations, skyped with the authors, discussed, offered hands-on training and fed up to 80 people at a time.

This was, bar none, the most exciting pro d I have ever attended. It proved to be an effective way to spread the message and ignite a fire under district teachers who might otherwise have never been aware of the many possibilities K12 Online showcases. I hope I've caught your interest and that you'll tune in when this year's presentations go live.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gems from Twitter This Week

cm magazine offers book reviews, media reviews, news, and author profiles of interest to teachers, librarians, parents and kids.

Google’s Librarian Central – Newsletter Archive
Sign up box at the bottom of the page to subscribe by email.

Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza) explains how she put together her new library interface using a virtual bouquet of tools. (Did you get that nice play on words?) This is a fabulous example for anyone wanting to liven up their own library web page.

From Simon & Schuster: 40 authors, 14 questions, 2 weeks, 1 blog

Photo used under a creative commons licence from marragem on flickr.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Introducing RSS Feeds to Students

This request was posted on Twitter this morning.

Here are a few suggestions:

Many public libraries have Library Blogs for Teen Patrons.

Tie learning about feeds into an assignment from any subject area. Have the students create feeds from Google News. This would work well for current events topics around science, politics, geography, business, technology, sports, and health.
Google Alerts

Google News Feeds

Teen magazines often have blogs. Check their websites for links.
Lou Lou
Teen Vogue has several:

Mountain Bike Action

Of course, one of the best ways to have students use RSS feeds would be if their teachers and classmates were blogging.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Using Twitter to Promote Your Library

You may have noticed, I'm a big fan of Twitter. This blog post "How your Library may not be using Twitter but Should" provides some great suggestions.

So how about some feedback by way of comments?
Do you (or your school library) have a twitter account?
What is your best tweet so far?
How could you reword some of your tweets to make them more intriguing to students?

Still not convinced that Twitter is of any use? Here's what I came across recently on Twitter.

- Google Fast Flip - an interesting new way to search the news
- 7 alternatives to SparkNotes & CliffsNotes for Book Summaries
- 10 Solid tips to Safeguard your Facebook Privacy
- 4 Websites with LOTS of Completely Free Ebooks that don't Suck

Friday, September 18, 2009

Technology in Biology Class

Photo used under a Creative Commons licence from Vik Nanda at

A post on twitter earlier this week asked people to suggest some unique ways to use technology in a biology classroom. The following ideas came to mind. Not all that original but I hoped that they might serve to spark some further ideas.

• Sharing resources online with social bookmarking tools such as delicious or diigo
• Use RSS feeds for biology news delivered to you like netvibes or google reader
Google maps – track virus outbreaks, show species distribution
• Use Toondoo or another online tool to create cartoons to illustrate concepts or processes
• Mind mapping tools for showing relationships. Larry Ferlazzo has a list of useful online mindmapping tools.
• Create screencasts to use as study aids or combine with a draw program to illustrate concepts
• Use a combination of flickr and jing to create annotated digital biology stories. Have students use images licenced under a creative commons licence. There is an extensive list on the copyright friendly wiki.
• Video conference with a biologist to learn about jobs in biology or to hear them talk about new developments in the field.

Then I had an even better idea. I emailed former colleague, retired biology teacher Briar Ballou. Briar is a master teacher who led her school in the innovative use of technology. Here are some of her ideas:

• there are some pretty cool biology songs. Students could pick the song and set up a power point or keynote to it. Listen to Earth Songs I would also suggest having students create their own biology songs using GarageBand if you have a licence or a new, free online tool called Myna

• pick a central theme, like mitosis and have the students do a video to represent what is happening. See this example on you tube: Shoe Mitosis. Look for other biology clips on YouTube.

• Isabella Rosselini is known for her animal sequence on Green porno. The earthworm one is safe to show. Have students select an organism and then do a short video clip on it. I would strongly recommend previewing before showing to students.

• Kids love karaoke and there are some clever biology themes. I love the tRNA one.

• in the 70's one cool prof set up a large class video on protein synthesis. Students could create their own works in small groups.

• one thing I was trying to set up before I "graduated" was doing some podcasts on selected topics. These would be a great resource for other students.

• Publish a new guide to a specific topic. Have you seen the small soft cover books that you can produce now? About 20 pages cost $12 for three from iPhoto.

• Crazy idea: run a photo contest. Print the winning photo. A large 1/2 size poster can cost under $20.

• Another crazy idea: using media, create a study guide for specific topics. Include photos, summary notes; you can set your own criteria for it.

• The new Nano has video ability and Flip cameras are easy to use.

So thanks Briar, for those inspiring ideas. And to you, my readers, how do you bring technology into the biology classrooms in your schools.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

For the Joy of Reading

One of the most effective ways to engage teen readers in the classroom is to let them choose their own reading materials. For the past four years I have worked with staff and students at my high school to build a rich, varied and engaging collection of both fiction and non-fiction. These books provide the resource for a number of themed units used by both Social Studies and English teachers. Themed units offer many possibilities for reflection and discussion that relates to the world outside the classroom.

Themes cover a wide scope of topics and are as varied as your imagination. In Socials class the students read historical fiction titles set in the time period they are studying. English classes work on themes that range from social issues to bestsellers or award winners. Some examples are survival, persecution, Shakespeare, fantasy, the power of belief, the future, personal growth and war. Any one book can often be used in a range of themes and across multiple grades. Titles vary in length and difficulty. Compiling a list becomes easier when one considers the excellent online resources such as EbscoHost’s NoveList, accessible through many public libraries, or the numerous book lists provided by libraries around the world such as Nancy Keene’s ATN Book Lists. When doing an online search, including terms such as YA, book list, or theme can be useful.
When the unit is introduced teachers bring their classes to the library for a book talk. Sometimes I present the books and sometimes the teacher and I take turns talking about the titles in rapid-fire tag team style. Our objective is to generate enthusiasm. Showing the same book with different versions of the cover helps students avoid “judging a book by its cover” syndrome.

The focus is to engage the students in reading so the activities that follow the reading reflect this. These are some examples:

Interviews – staff and students meet one on one for a ten-minute discussion about the book. Students are not given the questions beforehand unless they have been asked to come prepared with a favourite quote. Sample questions include:
• What made you angry/sad/excited/laugh out loud?
• Did you like the ending?
• What did you want to learn more about when you finished reading the book?
• Why do you think the author wrote this story?
• What were the enduring themes?
• Which character was the most convincing?
• What is your favourite quote?
• How did the author make good use of literary devices?

Book club style sharing – have students meet in groups and provide a guide to get discussion started. Make the groups small enough that all have a chance to share in the time allotted. Groups can meet with the teacher alone or in front of the class.

Posters - Have students design posters or create digital presentations that include the following four elements:
• A graphic – This can be hand-drawn, selected from an old periodical or computer generated.
• A short synopsis of the story. This is a valuable skill as it teaches students to summarize the novel encapsulating the essence of the story.
• Background information. This might include a snapshot of the times for historical fiction, a FAQ list about an event or a condition one of the characters has ( trip to Japan, grandparent with Alzheimer’s disease). It could be a “What I wanted to learn about after I had finished reading the story” spot.
• Reaction – Have students express their personal reactions.

One-page Newspaper – This is a great activity for an historical novel. Students should include one article that gives factual information about the main event in the story. They might also include a letter to the editor, classified ads for items common to the time period, graphics and other things that lend authenticity.
The poster and one-page newspaper projects make great library displays. I have the students use an 8.5 x 11 sheet. Teachers who wish students to engage in more in depth activities may want to consider the following online resources.


Web English Teacher: Book report Ideas
which includes a link to the fabulous 91 Ways to Respond to Literature.

The Adaptive Dimension: Gr. 6-9 co-operative study novel unit


One of your most powerful tools for making this a success is to acknowledge those students for whom reading is drudgery. One student I know amazed himself by reading his book in a single night when he tried the Two Bookmark Trick. Here are some simple tricks I use:

• The Two Bookmark Trick - If you have a deadline to finish reading a book follow this simple rule. Divide the number of pages in the book by the number of days you have to read. Use one bookmark to mark your target for the day. Use the second bookmark to mark your place. Most people find that they can easily reach their goal and often read beyond their daily limit. Setting the goal gets kids into the first 15 pages of their book and hooks them.
• The Flood Book - Someone in a course I took many years ago suggested that everyone needs a book with them in case they are trapped by a flood. Take the book everywhere you go. All those 5 minutes you spend in the car waiting while your mum picks up a quart of milk or drops off your sister could be spent reading.
• The 5 Finger Test - many students learned this in elementary school but need to be reminded of it. Open the book at any full page of text and begin reading. For each word you don’t know hold up a finger (They can do this in their heads if they don’t want to be too obvious). If you have 5 fingers up before you reach the end of the page then the book is probably not at your recreational reading level.
• The Fast Return - If you are not into your book within a day or two return it immediately and find something that grabs you. Remember the point of this is to hook kids into reading not turn them off.
• Your brain is like a muscle. The more you exercise it the faster it will learn to process information.

The excitement that students feel about reading becomes palpable. They make connections to their own lives, the world beyond and across the curriculum. When you see a student who has never used the library voluntarily leave with a big grin on their face and the perfect book in their hand it just doesn’t get any better. When the kids see that you really care that they have great books to read they open up. They begin to share their reading experiences with you and suggest titles to add to the collection. Teachers are amazed at their students’ enthusiasm for reading and the insights those students have when they truly enjoy what they have read.

What fabulous ideas do you have for engaging students with books? Please share your ideas by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Monday, September 7, 2009

On the Eve of Instruction Revisited

Two years ago at this time I posted about wanting to get all my staff reading at least one blog each. In this I have been a miserable failure. So I am contemplating whether I was setting unreasonable goals or whether I need to work more proactively. Maybe a little of both. For some, I think it falls into the 'you can lead a horse to water' category.
Then I read Jen Wagner's post on never giving up and appreciating small changes. Thanks Jen, for buoying me up. This past year I have been involved with district ProD events that introduced blogs and feeds to teachers. I hope that some of them have incorporated blog reading into their daily practice. This list of blogs was created to inspire them. Pay attention to the link to Scott McLeod's Moving Forward Wiki. He recently asked his followers on Twitter to recommend the best blogs in a variety of education related subjects.

Some other great resources that came to me from Twitter or RSS blog feeds this week:
Wake County Library's Teen List Mania has dozens of themed lists for YA readers.

Ian Jukes' post on The Committed Sardine "Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beerholder: Coming to Terms With Technology in Education" made me smile. He offers a retrospective of the challenges faced by educators using technology going as far back as 1703. He urges readers to understand the potential that technology tools and devices have to enhance learning opportunities. has some excellent tips on How to Find a Book Without Knowing the Title or Author.

Peter Pappas of Copy Paste offers 18 Literacy Strategies for Struggling Readers - Defining, Summarizing and Comparing

Tom Whitby on Twitter posted a link to Teaching with Wikis from the University of Minnesota. Tom is well worth a follow as he posts useful links regularly.

So there you have it. As I start back to school tomorrow I wish everyone a rewarding and successful year. And if you've made a difference using technology in your school or community, please share.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Exploring the many fabulous features of posterous

A friend put me on to today.  It's a ridiculously simple way to get content online fast.  First, I can post anything by sending an email to posterous with text, pictures, video, or files.  The 'sharing' picture is from flickr using a cc licence from ryancr.
Or let's say I see something on flickr or youtube or slideshare that I want to share with others.  I simply hit the bookmarklet in my toolbar and it automatically saves it to posterous for me.
Cool beans!
This is the tool for all those people who don't have the time, skill or courage to start their own blog or wiki.  They can simply email posterous.  I will definitely be showing my staff how easy it is to post class notes or homework assignments.

Posted via email from Lesley's posterous

Everything above the line was created in a email I sent to Not sure why the picture posted twice so I guess I have a glitch or two to work out. Otherwise it could not have been simpler. This is a tool I see myself using often.
Oh! Now I get it. The picture posted twice because I included the URL from flickr as part of my image credit. It used the URL to upload the photo itself. To see the photo source simply click on the image.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Once more into the fray

In two short weeks I will be heading back for what might may very well be my final year in the teaching profession. It's a odd feeling. Here are some random things I've been stockpiling in delicious.

Last week Slate Magazine published an article titled "How the brain hard-wires us to love Google, Twitter, and texting. And why that's dangerous." I tweeted about it saying that I had always thought I loved the thrill of the search because I was a librarian. The quick-witted Nancy Alibrandi replied, "Yes! What we thought was a mad search for information all these years turns out to be a mad search for dopamine! : )"

Maybe we can turn that to our advantage with students. If searching is such as addiction they should lap up the search challenges we give them to hone their skills for finding good information. There are some useful search tools and ideas posted on the Web in the Classroom wiki.

If you are helping teachers with blogs or wikis this year, here's a useful post from Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age:
Blogging?? Wiki?? What?? It includes rubrics for assessing student blogs, sample permission documents, and addresses copyright issues. This post is a veritable gold mine of ideas for using blogs and wikis in the classroom and includes many links to useful resources.

Another tool your teachers may want to learn more about is Skype. in her Teacher Et cetera blog, Ms. Ward has assembled a stellar collection of resources with links to ideas for using Skype in the classroom, getting started, resources, and ways to find other teachers and projects using Skype. Be sure to read the comments for more good resources.

Learn-gasm provides a list of 100 Incredibly Inspiring Blog Posts for Educators. There's bound to be something here to inspire your colleagues as they head back into the classroom. offers 4 Great Ways To Keep Track Of Your Expanding Book Collection. I've have been trying out Shelfari and have found it to be very useful. These tools could be used to highlight books in a your library collection or as a tool for book clubs. School Library Journal has an article on YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults teen session with some great recommedations and feedback from teens.

There you go. If you have resources to recommend as we head back into our libraries and classrooms please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blogging in the School Library World

This list caught my eye this morning and started me thinking about my own favorites.
100 Best Blogs for Library Science Students

Some of my favorites:
TLC= Tech + Library + Classroom This is an elementary school library blog but there are many fabulous ideas that are easily transferable to secondary libraries.
Joyce Valenza's NeverEndingSearch
School Library Monthly
The T/L Weekly Special Report by Vancouver School District's T/L Consultant, Moira Ekdahl. This blog is brimful of current activities and links to great resources.
Dear Librarian author Ann Krembs works as an International School librarian. She is currently moving from India to China and hopefully will resume blogging once she and her family are installed in Beijing.
Eternal Learning of the Open Mind from a middle school librarian who integrates web 2.0 tools to promote libraries and learning.

Some of these blogs have gone quiet during the summer but I'm hoping will spring back to life when school resumes. Check the sidebar for a full list of library blogs I subscribe to.

I have also added a feed from my reader that features blog posts from a variety of authors that I think are worth sharing. It's in the sidebar too.

For those of you who have your own blog or are thinking about starting one here are 100 Terrific Tips and Tools for Blogging Librarians.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reading some of the posts written by Alec Couros' new group of students has taken me back a few years to when I was just dipping my very tentative toes into the ocean of new technologies. I read about how they are feeling overwhelmed and somewhat skeptical and this made me think of one way to approach the steep learning curve that technology represents for most:

The Green approach to learning about technology.

Reduce the number of applications you are trying to learn. Start small and build.
Pick one of two things to learn well. See how they fit into your world. I would recommend using for social bookmarking. Learn how to tag effectively, seek out other educators and add them to your delicious network, learn how to use delicious as a search tool. This will help you keep your learning organized as you collect pages of ideas, tutorials, information and sources of inspiration.

Reuse the ideas of others by adapting them to your own purposes.
Using Twitter and reading blog posts by other educators is like having your own gold mine. As you learn a new technology, look to see what others have done. Chances are someone has:

-reflected on their learning process.
-come up with ways to use it in the classroom
-written a tutorial or screencast about it
-posted student examples using it
-collected their own set of bookmarks for all of the above

Recycle your ideas by sharing with others through Twitter and your blog.
Everyone sees things in a slightly different light and beginners too have something to offer. Share out your ideas, experiences, reflections or questions. You never know when something you say will spark an idea in someone else's mind or provide a key idea for them to move forward with.