January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

If there is a definite disadvantage to not paying attention to pop radio, and spending most of my time listening to audiobooks rather than music, it’s that I often don’t get cultural references or understand spoofs.  I could name many examples, but the one of the more recent was when the Librarians Do Gaga video was virally spreading throughout the library world.

Thus, when this video was mentioned, I didn’t realize at first that it was a sort of spoof:

My lack of recognition of the cultural reference aside, this is an awesome video.  The students not only manage to make math fun and create an easy way for fellow students to remember math function, but THEY DO IT SO WELL.  I’ve seen less-than-fabulously-produced songs and raps that achieve a similar purpose, but this one renews my faith in such endeavors.

Simply fantastic.

Thanks to Michelle Luhtala of EdWeb seminar fame for posting the video.

Sense making and censorship

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I was in college, my favorite professor would ensure us that it was OK that we had no idea which end is up, because understanding history is like nailing jelly to the wall.  In my historiography class, he told us this so often that we conspired to make him actually attempt to nail jelly to the wall, producing an extra large iron nail, a hammer and a packet of jelly from the cafeteria.

I’ve been reminding myself of this lately, as I’m trying to make sense of the goals of education.  As pointed out by Jerrid Kruss in Teaching as a Dynamic Activity, goals do not equal the phrases that we name them with.  I agree that labels are slippery things.

I’ve also been pondering about what technology integration means, and what education should look like. Believe me, for a non-teacher, this is a difficult topic to wrap your brain around. Here are a few things that have gotten my brain firing lately:

A TEDxNYED talk by Jeff Jarvis, and the response by Teaching as a Dynamic Activity, and Dan Meyer. George Siemens in his TEDxNYED talk. This post, among others, by TeachPaperless.

Particularly in the Gary Siemens video, I’ve found some phrases that appealed to me: “authentic information interrogation systems,” “the combat for lucidity”, “the act of showing others how we are learning is an instructional task” [this is the value of blogging].

I thought that these posts such as these may benefit others who are thinking about technology, education, and how they interact.  Last week, I shared Jarvis’ talk with a Diigo group I belong to.  Or, I should say, belonged.  When I went to share a TeachPaperless post today, I found that I was no longer a member.  When I tried to contact the owner of the group to find out why, I found that I was blocked from contacting him.  I can only assume the rather brazen title of Jarvis’ talk prompted this.  I must add that nowhere in the Diigo group were any rules posted about content sharing.

I wrote to the owner of the group (it was easy enough to find an email address, along with the rest of his online presence) apologizing for offending him, but justifying my actions of sharing a thought-provoking blog post.  I have yet to hear back.

***Update*** I have heard back.  Apparently, given the title of the post I shared and the fact that he didn’t recognize my name, the owner of the group assumed I was a spammer.  Apparently, the group is also mostly meant for a certain user base. This is interesting, since I think I shared quite a bit with this group over the past year or so (I can’t check because my items were also deleted from the group), and because the group is open to all Diigo members.  But at this point, it doesn’t look to necessarily be censorship, but rather an unfortunate misunderstanding (on both sides).

Technology aids the student, not the teacher

January 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve said it before: I am not a teacher.  At least not in the formal sense.*  I do not have a teaching degree.  However, I consider myself a dilettante (in the most positive sense of the term) as I’ve spent the last two years building a PLN that includes teachers and librarians, and reading about education.  I have certainly learned LOADS since coming to my current position.

As you may have already figured out from previous posts, as well as my Twitter profile, I am an enthusiastic user of technology.  I often become excited about the vaguely imagined “possibilities” of a technology long before giving its use considerable thought.  However, I usually find this useful, since it eventually dawns on me how a particular technology may fit seamlessly into a project, or aid a current effort.

All this is by way of introduction, to explain my interest in a couple of posts by Teaching as a Dynamic Activity and ITBabble.

I definitely fall into the camp of “it’s not necessary, but man, is it nice” when discussing technology.  I don’t argue that one can’t be a great teacher with only a chalkboard.  And I definitely agree that many people can lose sight of a goal when using a particularly glittery technology.

The point I usually argue with the professors I work with is that the use of technology does not necessarily change their teaching in the classroom, it changes the student’s experience inside and outside the classroom.  Since I am recently (relatively) out of graduate school, and my graduate experience was vastly different than my undergraduate experience, I often use these as examples, and I will here as well.

Here’s the scenario: a professor is teaching a new concept. The class is partially taken up by student brainstorming about what the concept is and what it means, and partly by the instructor lecturing.  The professor makes notes on the board, possibly draws a picture.  The student leaves the class feeling like the concept is tentatively understood.

That’s it.  Most of my experience as a learner that I can recall goes something like this.**

Now, the above scenario can take place in two different settings. One, with only a chalkboard, notepaper and pencils (my undergraduate life).  Two, with PowerPoint (or some variation of presentation software, my favorite being Prezi***), computers, an interactive whiteboard,**** a course software technology like Blackboard or Moodle, cloud computing and social networks (my graduate school life).

In the first setting, the student will have to furiously take notes, hoping to both capture the conversation and lecture, and be able to pay enough attention to understand what is going on and contribute to the discussion.  Later, when reviewing the topic, the student will have only his or her notes to refer to.  The chalkboard has long been erased, and there is no hope of seeing if the drawing in my notebook is accurate to what the professor drew.  Some students are friendly outside of class, and decide to form a study group.  They meet and share notes, and take more notes from others’ notes.  They ask additional questions in class.  Consequently, the professor will probably have to take more class time to review the subject.  This is how we never got to the end of a syllabus in any class I took in college.

In the second scenario, students  still take notes, but on their laptop.  In my experience, I’m a much faster typer than writer, and can get more down in less time.*****  But since the teacher is using an IWB, there is no need to copy down what the professor is writing on the board, only particularly helpful points to refer to later.  The professor will save the board and post it on the class Blackboard page later so students may refer to it and review.  For the lecture portion of the class, the professor has prepared a Prezi.  This, too, will be available for students to review.  The professor has also created a video she will use in class, using the overhead projection unit, of herself drawing the picture of the concept so the students can watch the drawing being created over and over again if necessary, so no subtlety will be missed.  Students are encouraged to use social media to discuss topics introduced in class, and through this they learn that several other people are having trouble comprehending aspects of the new concept, and agree to meet to review and help each other.  They create a Google Doc to share their combined understanding, and ask the teacher to participate.  The professor has time to correct some misunderstandings before the next class time, and so the class can move forward in their discussions.

OK.  I realize that what I just gave you was an idealized version of the classroom (I think in both scenarios).  In the second scenario, I’m assuming that the student is engaged enough to be taking notes, rather than cruising Facebook during class, that the teacher will actually post the IWB screenshot and Prezi in a timely fashion, that students will review the posted material and discuss their respective realizations and frustrations, and that they will take the initiative to create a document summarizing their mutual understanding.  Not every student will be thus engaged.

However, this is no reason to shy away from technology.  Technology doesn’t make a better teacher, and it certainly won’t make a better student.  What it will do is give the student opportunities that he or she wouldn’t have otherwise.  Ideally, it will free them to think more critically about a subject, since they won’t be struggling to write down everything, and can review at their own pace.

* Full disclosure:  I was an education major until the end of my sophomore year in college.  I didn’t make it past the psychology prerequisites, and decided to focus on history instead of history education.  I blame NCLB (I started college in the fall of 2000), as well as a distaste for being told what I can and can’t do (i.e. textbooks to use, subjects to cover).  Originally, I intended to get a PhD in history, but stalled out due to fear of failure and taking the GRE.  Librarianship seemed a the perfect answer to my career dilemma.

** If I could remember more of high school, I could confirm it being my experience there as well.  As it is, from what I can recall this is accurate.

*** I particularly like Prezi because of the zooming feature.  I prefer to think of the space as a content map, so that you can zoom out and the full picture makes sense for the topic, and the viewer can see an overview (quite literally), and zoom in to various places to see detail.  I am obviously a visual learner.

**** Again, full disclosure: we didn’t have one of these when I was in graduate school, but I wish we did.  I’m including it here for the sake of showing how it could possibly be useful.

***** I’ve been known to actually transcribe an entire class session on a particularly frustrating topic.  Seriously. If we had been using an IWB, I may not have needed to, but I probably still would.  It is for these instances that I think that digital recorders are useful for some subjects.

And the statistics are in!

January 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

So, I know that I shouldn’t be super excited about 4,000 checkouts in a year. But heck, I’ve got about 275 students and faculty as my patron base, so that’s roughly 14 checkouts each over the past year.*  Sadly, I’m sure there are still students in our program who have never set foot in the Curriculum Library, but I’m working to remedy that.  I hope to give presentations in each of our EDUC 205/207 courses (the course required before entry into our program), as well as Children’s Literature and Education Technology courses.**

I didn’t have a chance to do any door statistics this last semester, but I hope to this spring.  Last year’s count showed a marked increase in the number of students using the library as a study space, and I expect that this number has grown in the past year as well.  I’ll share those statistics when I have them.

Facebook “likes” have remained steady since last spring. I’ll be brainstorming in the near future about how to get more students to follow the page, as I’ve been trying to use it to disseminate valuable department information and deadlines, as well as fun stuff.  Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to accomplish this goal?

* Actually, if you want to get technical about it, most of these checkouts would take place in the eight months that students are here.

** Last semester, I gave nine presentations, though only one in a 205 course.


January 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

When considering purchasing an e-reader, I think it’s important to think about what you will be using it for, and what kind of devices you already have. For example, if you are a student who constantly carries a laptop everywhere, you may do well to download something like NookStudy to read e-books. If you have a smart phone, and are only going to do light reading, you could easily read on your phone.* But with the price of e-readers falling, it may make sense to take the plunge and purchase a new gadget.

I’ve talked before about my Nook a few times before, so I’m sure you know my recently-discovered love for the e-book.** While actual reading of pages, paper or e-ink, has become a luxury for me lately (the void being filled by a steady flow of audio books), I still am happy I made the plunge. My friend Julia has recently declared her love for her Kindle, and made a wonderful case for the e-book in academia, particularly (gasp!) those studying library and information science (LIS).

I am particularly happy to be a Nook owner now, because my library has recently started carrying e-books (thank you, DPL)! Through the magic of Overdrive, I can now access quite a few newer titles in digital format, as well as a number of classics.

A while ago, I started a draft post of places where you can get free ebooks. I haven’t had the chance to flesh this list out, but here are a few places to start searching:

  • your local library (via NetLibrary, Overdrive or similar)
  • http://www.readprint.com/
  • http://projectgutenburg.org/
  • Amazon (If you own a Kindle)
  • Barnes & Noble (If you own a Nook or have downloaded NookStudy, they offer free books every few weeks, usually from the pubic domain, and also “free Fridays,” where one free book is offered per week.)
  • Julia has compiled a great list of places to find free content.

Happy reading!

* Though the bright screen hurts my eyes after a few minutes, and I prefer the e-ink display).

** As a side note, when I purchased the thing, I swear that the “n” was lowercase. Now it is capitalized, and it makes me sad.

Also check out this post and this post by Stephen’s Lighthouse about e-reader compatibility with libraries and the increasing number e-book downloads.

An Open Video Message To Steve Leinwand And Jerry Becker

November 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

dy/dan » Blog Archive » An Open Video Message To Steve Leinwand And Jerry Becker.

More evidence as to why Dan Meyer is my hero.

Behold! A way to provide multiple links with one, teeny, tiny URL. No printing, mailing, or even emailing necessary.

As a side note, it absolutely amazes me that people still provide handouts, at least in such quantity as the second example he shows us here. I am further astonished that this presenter would then offer to snail mail copies on request, rather than just emailing the digital file he started with. Really?

I’m a reading fool!

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

A friend of mine (Hi, BiblioVixen/SumoKnitter!) posted this on Facebook. I thought it was appropriate for this venue, so I decided to post it here rather than in a note on Facebook. I did post this list once before, about a year and a half ago. I’ll summarize the difference in the results below. I’ll also comment on some individual books throughout the list.

It’s a strange list of books, really. For example, why in the world would Dan Brown be in the same list as William Shakespeare, or Carlos Ruiz Zafon? All this makes sense when you think that the list is of Britain’s favorite novels, voted on in 2003 (see the original blog post mentioned below).

***Begin list!***

“Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.  Instructions:

-Copy this into your NOTES.

-Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.

-Underline the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

-Tag other book nerds.”

(By the way, it’s just a meme – have fun with it!  It was probably created from this original BBC post in 2004 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml )

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee — SUCH a good book, especially if you listen to it read by Sissie Spacek

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott — I definitely feel like I should have made it through this at some time. I loved the movie!

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13  Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien — A real let-down, after reading TLOTR trilogy.

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger — I hope it’s more satisfying than Her Fearful Symmetry

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell — I was too young to appreciate it, I think, when I tried to read it (like, 9)

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy — Currently reading!

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan BrownReally?

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan — I thought the movie was fantastic, so I’ll hopefully read this soon.

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon OMG — Favorite!

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac — I’ve heard it’s overrated

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding Really?

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker — It bored me, but I nearly got through

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett — Currently reading!

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce — I’ve heard it’s maddening to read

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


22 read in full or part (at that time, I did not count Gone with the Wind, because I had barely gotten in to it so long ago. This time, I did)


25 Read in full
13 Read in part

Not too shabby, really, for a year and a half. Especially since I was definitely not working on this list specifically. It just so happened that this list contains a lot of books that I mean to read, or read again.

How do you score?

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