Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27 - Influencing Opinions

We're on holiday here at my house, enjoying the leisure time. I'm doing a re-read of the Twilight saga right now and today we went browsing at our local book store with all the gift cards we received as presents for Christmas. My daughter's current read-aloud novel for bedtime is "The Fire Within" by Chris D'Lacey. I have to confess that neither my husband nor I are particularly enjoying the book. The tricky part is to try and prevent our opinion of the book from coloring that of our daughter's views. She has not reached the rebellious teen stage as yet and likes aligning her judgment with ours on movies, books and TV shows. Often my husband will hear his proclamations on different subjects echoed by our eldest, which can be an odd thing to hear. We encourage her to hold her own opinions, even if they differ from ours, but she prefers to be on the "same team" ideologically.
It is also challenging to stop overtly influencing young readers when participating in the Forest of Reading program. Students can detect the views of their teachers whether or not they directly state them. I want the young people I chat with about the Silver Birch and Red Maple books to feel comfortable expressing a different opinion. Some kids relish taking the opposing view - like the members of my graphic novel student review team; they disliked "Courtney Crumrin" but I loved it, and they enjoyed debating me heatedly. However, not all readers are as secure with their ideas as these kids were. Maybe hearing two teachers debate the merits of a novel might help prevent this. But, is influencing opinion always bad? Food for thought.

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20 - Books Under the Bed

My Christmas shopping is almost complete and as I look at my list of purchases, I was surprised to see the lack of books. Before I started scolding myself, I examined my reasons and found them mildly acceptable. Books are pretty personal gifts because people have their own likes/dislikes and I feel sad when a book I've specifically bought for someone doesn't excite them as much as it excited me. (This was the case when I bought someone a copy of Twilight). I prefer giving gift cards to book stores because having "free money" to buy whatever book grabs your fancy is a wonderful treat. It's very tricky once you know someone's reading preferences to buy something they don't already have. My daughter is a voracious reader and it's hard to keep track of what volume in what series she owns. (Her father is much better at the tracking than I am and purchased for her Fairy Idol Kanon volume 4 and Vermonia volume 4.)Instead of buying books for friends, I've also made donations through Plan Canada and Canada Helps to worthy causes, many of whom support literacy. For instance, for $60 you can give a "library in a box" to schools serving remote communities in impoverished nations. Tonight I'll be wrapping the presents I bought (although I didn't hide them under the bed this year).

The "under the bed" title refers to a conversation I've been having via email with Sharon Jennings, a marvellous author. During the winter break from school, one of my goals is to read as many of the OLA's Forest of Reading nominated books so that when the program starts in earnest in January, I'll be ready to chat with student readers. I read Jennings' "Home Free" and was bothered by one particular section (about a book under a bed). No one else I knew had read "Home Free" yet, so I emailed the author about my questions and internal debate. She replied to me right away. Her explanations have made me feel a bit better about the inclusion of that scene in the novel. She was very polite and maybe in the future, with her permission, I'll share some of her insights here on the blog.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 14 - Small World

This past weekend has been a whirlwind of writing in our household. My husband is working hard on finishing the edits to the revised rule book for Thousand Suns (you can read more about it on Grognardia, his blog on old school RPGs). I've been quickly churning out graphic novel reviews for my GTA-Tinlids Graphic Novel Club meeting. To take a break from the keyboard, I picked up copies of Access and Canadian Children's Book News magazines to flip through. I admired the article Helaine Becker wrote on the work of school librarians - and then remembered that, as a contributing editor to Access, I read it before and recommended it be submitted to the periodical. Enough months had passed between collecting contributions and the magazine's publication that I had forgotten - and there's something extra nice about holding that paper copy in your hands, with professional layout all completed, that makes it a different creature than the one I had seen earlier. Then I skimmed the article on Arthur Slade in CCBC's magazine and remembered that I just finished reading his Silver Birch nominated novel, The Hunchback Assignments, and Tweeted about it. (I was excited to see he has a blog as well and promptly added him to my list - he's not a regular blogger, but would I have the time to read all the posts?) Then I read a good book review and realized the the author was Mary Anne Cree, a great teacher librarian at the Bishop Strachan School and contributor to The Teaching Librarian. I still get star-struck by authors and famous folks in school library news, but more and more I notice that it's a small world, where paths cross and intertwine. I look forward to more world-shrinking, as people read, write, share, and discuss all sorts of things. I hope the upcoming second meeting of the National Reading Campaign in Montreal will yield some concrete results. I attended the first one in Toronto and because of it in some parts of the library world I'm known as "that woman that screamed during the National Reading Summit" (remind me to tell that story here on the blog someday; it's a good one). We need to keep talking, and do something with those words.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 6 - Create my own desert (not a typo)

A remarkable thing happened yesterday - I remembered the entire content of a homily. For those unaware, I'm a Roman Catholic and I go to church every Sunday. We had a guest homilist - Fr. Rosica, a Basilian who is often seen on Salt and Light Television .He was a great speaker and his homily was engaging, relevant, and well-structured. It was on the Biblical figure of John the Baptist and three traits we should seek to embrace that he possessed/represented: the desert, humility, and prophesy. (Trust me, this does have something to do with school libraries and teaching.)

When explaining how we should embrace the desert, Fr. Rosica described the "wired" conduct of our youth. Usually when speakers go on about how technology is ruining society and today's teens don't know how to relate to other people when they aren't in front of a screen, I get annoyed. It's very easy to blame our gadgets for many of society's ills. I think it speaks to the quality of Father's talk that I didn't then tune him out completely. I also had my own mini-response > that technology can actually bring us closer together, like with my students working on meeting the deadline for posting their Voki interactive avatars. They have until Mon. Dec. 6 (today) to post it and receive descriptive feedback on their work so that they can change or improve it. Being teens, many of them have chosen not to start it 6 weeks ago when the assignment was originally given, but try posting it on the weekend. The students and I have been in touch with each other as some of our "student tech experts" have made themselves available to help their classmates publish the code on the online work site. The assignment also let me learn a little more about the individuals in the three intermediate classrooms - even, Father would be pleased to hear, their religious leanings (and how often do you hear pre-teens talk about that?)

However, I did see Fr. Rosica's point about needing to "go to the desert" so you won't get distracted by all the busy-ness of the world and can focus on what's truly important. The intermediate division teachers and I made it a point to announce to the class that if they were experiencing difficulties and needed an extension that they would have to come to speak to their home room teacher IN PERSON to make the request. We don't want them to think a quickly composed email will suffice. We want them to talk to us. We also want that solitary, reflective time, where we aren't jumping like Pavlov's dogs to answer every "ding" of a new message that we must reply to immediately. Those same intermediate teachers are going to go visit a book wholesaler next week to shop leisurely and in person for books for their class libraries and guided reading mini-sets, instead of relying on online catalogs. I won't get to go with them, but I'll be with them in spirit.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 29 - Transparency in education includes the Internet?

gwynethjonesgwynethjones @gntlinto Go at your own pace, but realize the idea of Internet privacy as educators is pretty much over now- school webpages? gwynethjones gwynethjones @gntlinto I respect privacy but Transparency for educators is so KEY right now! Creating that positive digital footprint for ourselves :-)

These were some immediate reply tweets I received from another teacher-librarian after I commented on her blog post. She had written a thoughtful piece on how she determines whom to follow on Twitter. I read them and was slightly dismayed to see item #3 (Twitter name = use your real one) and item #7 (location = mention where you Tweet from). I try to be pretty cautious about my online presence, after I once wrote a tongue-in-cheek mini-biography for a publication that made it online and gave too much information. I also know that many of my students use Google to search for evidence of me online. That's why I tend to use certain monikers or online aliases. My husband uses his real name for all his Internet activities but I think he has a thicker skin than I do and can better handle the challenges and insults sometimes thrown his way. Gwyneth's words itched at me like a mosquito bite, so I changed my Twitter handle to be something a little closer than my original Twitter name. I'm not ready to go whole-hog yet (my Facebook account is still pretty untraceable to most people), but I've made baby steps in the direction of being more transparent.

Positive digital footprint. How's yours?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 22 - Should some time be reserved "non-TL time"?

On Saturday November 20, I attended (at the request of my principal) a conference offered by SMART Tech. It was a good conference. I learned a lot. I got a free t-shirt and a backpack too and swag is always appreciated. I have to admit that I wasn't super-keen on going at first. If I hadn't chosen to skip the ECOO conference the previous weekend (which was hard to do because it's another very good conference), then I would have been booked to attend a meeting or conference every Saturday this November. I have children of my own (a nearly-11 year old and an 8 year old) and I like spending time with them on the weekend. I'm lucky that my husband's occupation allows him to work from home and take care of our kids - he is there to give them lunch, pick them up from school, and help them with their homework. Still, I hate leaving him and the kids for hours on days that should be "family time".

But how does carving out "family time" work, especially when people encourage 24/7 access to school library resources and flexible library hours? Friday was devoted to parent-teacher interviews, but we still had students in the school practising in the morning with their music ensemble and working in the afternoon with their volleyball team. This demonstrates the devotion these teachers have to the clubs and teams they offer and the dedication the students have to improving their craft - but should they get a day off? These are hard questions for me to ask myself, because I get really irritated when I read union-produced articles about extra-curricular activities and transporting students to events that encourage educators to "just say no" to everything.

I think part of the answer lies with quality vs quantity. I don't have to have the school library open every single recess for students to come to finish assignments (and avoid the cold) - I'm allowed to close it for bathroom breaks and visits to the staff room during treat day, as long as I try to keep it open for their use when I can. I don't have to be at home all Saturday with my own children and entertain them constantly - I'm allowed to take some time for me or for PD, as long as when I am with them that I'm truly "with" them, doing stuff together. I'm neither "SuperMom" nor "SuperSchoolLibrarian" - I do what I can as long as I remember: "to thine own self be true".

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 15 - So much to say, so little (screen) time

Last Sunday, Global TV aired a segment about education uses of technological innovations.

I don't like watching myself on TV, but it was a good opportunity to talk with the students, especially the students involved, about how media is created. As the grade 3s noted, the film crew spent the entire morning taping at our school. The team had 3 hours of footage just from our school alone, and the video seen on the news was less than 5 minutes long. The students did a good job of identifying the audience for the video, the main message it wanted to impart, and the reasons why some people were shown more than others. I was fascinated to see that an answer I had given to an unaired question became the closing remarks of the reporter. I'm glad they thought enough of the explanation to include it! This was a neat chance to feature the school library as part of 21st century learning (I ensured that we filmed in both the main lab and in the library's mini-lab). Thank you Global TV!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November 8 - Evidence Based Practice for all of us

Last week, during our administration team meeting, we were looking at our School Improvement Plan. Our board wants us to have SMART goals (SMART's an acronym that stands for something like "strategic-measureable-attainable...") and many of my colleagues felt uneasy with the notion of proving how we were helping students learn and assigning percentages to the gains. As a teacher-librarian, none of this was new to me. Teacher-librarians have been using evidence-based practice for quite a while now. Clearly demonstrating exactly how (and by how much) the school library program contributes to student learning was necessary because the school library staffing was neither automatic nor guaranteed. Regular classroom teachers aren't used to having to prove their worth, or the worth of what they do in the classroom, because classrooms aren't in danger of being cancelled. Creating end goals with evidence to support the success can be a good mindset to get into, because it makes you examine what you are teaching, and how effective it is. Sure, it'd be nice to worry about other things instead of collecting statistics, but if we look at it as assessment for/of learning rather than a pointless bureaucratic exercise, it becomes less of a pill to swallow. As long as we ensure that we are measuring what we think we are measuring (I had this aha while writing my 2009-2010 annual report and altered it to reflect my new understandings), then it might be worth the effort. As Anita Brooks-Kirkland said on her blog, we cannot rely on vague feel-good statements about school libraries.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 1 - Anyone wanna partner? Anyone?

This year, I have an amazing schedule. I provide a small amount of library and media prep but the majority of my time is devoted to "collaborative structured ICT partnering". What that means in layman's terms is that when the grade 1-8 classes go up to the computer lab, I accompany them and their home room teacher; we co-teach the lesson and that way, everyone learns from everyone else. I also have an entire day of open collaborative library partner time - fantastic, right?

The problem is that no one has signed up for my open partner time.

I can attribute this to several potential causes. It could be because everyone has structured time already built into their timetables so they may not feel the need to book more spots. It could be a lack of time for the classroom teachers to find and plan a unit with me. It may also be due to last year's less-than-ideal schedule, where I only had something like two periods available for partnering (which couldn't be retooled to best fit others' timetables, because last year I was 1/2 library [all prep] and 1/2 junior & intermediate literacy & numeracy SERT); if you're not used to having partner time available, why seek it out this year?

I feel terribly guilty about all this "free time" I have. I'd rather be teaching. I can't even assuage my conscience by bar coding books or shelving, because I have two amazing adult volunteers that have that all under control. I don't want to lose my open partner time because it isn't being used, but I do want it to be used. I'll keep offering those times (I noticed last week when I offered it as "free extra prep time for writing report cards" that I became the most popular person in the school) and hope things pick up. Any other suggestions?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

October 25 - Cast your (library) ballot

It's municipal election time, and public libraries are impacted by the decision-makers at the city level. The welfare of school libraries is also on the line, as school board trustees can be key to keeping school library staffing and funding healthy, despite the fact that education is a provincial responsibility. I've tried to read up on the various candidates in my area and I think (with the exception of the mayor's position) that I've made up my mind for whom to vote. I hope that tomorrow's winners will do their best to represent their community responsibly and will support library issues.

While one election ends, another begins. Tomorrow, the nominees for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Awards are announced. This is a contest that I must confess I pay more attention to than the political competitions. In the past, I was part of the committee that selected the titles, but for various reasons I've taken a semi-permanent hiatus from the task. Like with any list, there are sure to be people critical of the options presented, but I hope that the students enjoy the variety and that there's a worthy candidate that the young voters can rally around and be confident in honouring it with their vote. Voting's a serious matter - running and participating in a fair election is part of what it means to be a democratic society - so if you qualify, get out there and vote!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 18 - "The Media" and The School Library

This coming Wednesday, a television crew is coming to my school to film. The topic is on innovative uses of technology in education, and their focus is on my school's use of - I will co-teach a grade 3 class and they will shoot the kids in action using Bitstrips. I will be interviewed, as will some grade 8s that used Bitstrips for their history project last year and one of the founders of Bitstrips. I'm very excited about this opportunity, as are my students.

At the risk of sounding egotistical, I'll mention that this is not my first experience with what's often called "the media". I've spoken on CBC Radio commenting on the funding directed towards school libraries, and I've appeared on TVOntario as a panel member discussing whether or not school libraries need books.

I think it's very positive and promising that news organizations are doing features related to school libraries. In a past article in The Teaching Librarian magazine, PR people from various school boards gave advice on how to "handle the media". If I recall correctly, lots of the points involved not making grand political statements or stooping to sensationalism. The thing is, the relationship between school libraries and media outlets is one of "mutual usership" - this sounds terrible, but what I mean is that each needs the other for their own purposes. I think that as long as you remember to help the media get what they want, you can both be happy by the encounter. Let me give an example. When my school board was considering cutting the teacher-librarian allocation, several of us attended the board meeting. Many newspaper reporters were there and asked for some comments to use as quotes in their articles. A friend of mine wanted to rant about how principals misue allocation by making TLs prep fairies and minimize partnering slots, as well as budget diversions from the per person recommended funding model, but another friend held her back. Prep vs partnering? Principal discretion? These were details that would confuse the general public. I was asked how many teacher-librarians would lose their jobs or have to be fired because of the decision. As tempting as it would have been to talk about out-of-work-TLs, that would have been a misunderstanding of the issue. No one would be fired, but they would be diverted to other jobs, and the school library would suffer. I don't recall exactly what I said (I was quoted and I think it was in the Toronto Sun), but I tried my best not to go to either extreme - neither TL-edubabble, nor simplistic & inaccurate scare tactics.

So, "mass media", thank you for giving time to school libraries, for whatever reasons you have to do so.

Monday, October 11, 2010

October 11 - Themed Book Displays

Last Friday, I had a fantastic day at school. The tasks the students and I were working on were engaging and ripe with worthy discussion. The team-teaching in the lab with the grade 1/2s (where they taught us what they had discovered in their explorations of Notebook 10 software, and we discussed our new school Webkinz toy) led to some great ideas for future lessons for both me and the class teacher. The grade 3s working on an interactive map of the library had a side conversation on teacher as leader vs guide. Even my photography club impressed me with their analysis of what they deemed the best photos they took during our recent Terry Fox run. It must have been because of all these feel-good moments that I did something after school that I rarely do: I created a Halloween / scary book display.

I've never been big on pulling books for themed displays for several reasons. I thought it prevented teachers and students from becoming informed and skilled users of the library; they should be able to locate books using the online catalogue, rather than relying on me to find the books for them. I also worried that it limited my usefulness to the "book recommender" or "resource manager" of old, instead of being someone who integrates curriculum and information through collaborative lesson planning. Then, there was always the equity piece - was I being fair to certain books by pigeon-holing them into certain categories, or was I being fair to all cultures and religions by highlighting one particular one in a display form over another?

So why did I do it then, when I have all these misgivings? I tried it out because I had a couple of grade 9 volunteers who were eager to assist. I did it to explore my collection again, not using the catalogue but by perusing the shelves; in doing so, I found several books I didn't realize I had. I also had to admit to myself that teachers and students are rushed for time. I've been often asked for "scary books", and the way books are sorted in my library (everybody section, fiction, non-fiction, periodicals, reference, dual language, comics, etc.), there isn't a "spooky spot". I don't "do" holidays as lessons on their own usually, but I know teachers that do, and finding a quick read-aloud for the season will help them, and hopefully generate more goodwill to the library (and teacher-librarian).

I've done new book displays for kids to borrow (what's the point of having a display if you can't take the books?) and that's been successful. I'll see how well this experiment goes and how I feel about it a few weeks from now. Happy National Library Month!

Monday, October 4, 2010

October 4, 2010 - Define Appropriate

Procrastination can really bite you in the behind sometimes. During Library Camp OTF this summer, we had an incredible presenter, Karen Beulter, talk to the group about interactive whiteboard technology. The presentation itself was awesome, as she modeled a three-part congress lesson structure and incorporated differentiated instruction in her tasks. (For those of you who are not teachers, please forgive the edu-babble.) Back then, I planned to create a spectacular Smartboard file on something very practical for teacher-librarians: a lesson on how to choose appropriate books for themselves. Fast forward two months and here I sit, the night before I want to actually teach the lesson, and not only is the file uncreated, I can no longer find the notes I scribbled with the plans of how to craft it.

The thing is, I won't be able to just whip it up in 15 minutes. There are no manuals for me to refer to. Teachers and teacher-librarians are always using the word "appropriate" - "that's not appropriate language for school" / "was that an appropriate response?" / "make sure you choose an appropriate book" - but do we ever take the time to go over what appropriate means? It's so much more than an age rating on the back of a book or the presence/absence of a swear word. Appropriateness in choosing a book depends on the individual as well as the context - there are many books that are appropriate for me to read by myself that I'd never read aloud, such as the Larissa Ione series my good friend lent to me. I'm also concerned about condemning books that may deal with sensitive or mature subject matter - my friend Rum's blog dealt with banned books this past week and many of the groups that complained about certain titles felt that the content was inappropriate, yet many of these touchy issues shouldn't be swept under the carpet. I want my students to develop an inner thermometer, so that they can judge for themselves if a book is beyond their current stage of reading comprehension, social development, or maturity. With my graphic novel collection, I do have age limits set, but I know that sometimes I have to make exceptions to those rules, to ensure a boy that dislikes reading isn't turned off forever, or to challenge a reader that has read everything we have and can handle some scenes different from those read previously.

October is National Library Month in Canada. During the month, I'll be tweeting the responses my students made to my September question: what is our school library most like? While I post answers from them, I'll be wrestling with a new question of my own: how can I define appropriateness in a way that encourages individual judgment, reflective thought, and responsible choices?

Monday, September 27, 2010

September 27 - Reasons Riordan Rocks

My house is full of books. This is likely to happen in a family "led" by a writer/father and a teacher-librarian/mother. The habit of reading aloud to each other had its beginnings even before we had children, when my husband and I used to take turns reading the Harry Potter series books to each other, a chapter at a time, to ensure that neither one of us read ahead of the other. Bedtime reading is a special time. For my son, he prefers the Time Warp Trio novels. My daughter likes novels a bit longer than those. After she and I were finished reading the Harry Potter novels (me for the second time, she for the first), we wanted to find a new series that three of us could enjoy together. My friend Rum, author of the blog, highly recommended the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. In very atypical fashion, we actually watched the movie before reading the books. I can say with all sincerity that the movie was a horrible adaptation of the book, second in its awfulness only to the Spiderwick Chronicles film (which my daughter, husband and I also read together and enjoyed immensely). The Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan are awesome, and here's just a few reasons why.

1) He knows his mythology.
These books deal with Greek mythology, no surprise there, but his knowledge of the various legends and monsters is incredible. Often, I'd see my husband sneak to his computer after one of our reading sessions to look up a character mentioned as part of the plot. He has modern interpretations of them, but these new twists stay true to the creatures, deities and heroes.

2) He "lays the pipes".
I borrowed this expression from my husband. The solutions to the mysteries in the books are not so-out-there-you'd-never-guess (such as in some Agatha Christie plots). Riordan sets up key clues in the story that make sense. This doesn't mean he makes it totally obvious - the family's had some very energetic discussions about what some of the prophecies mean - but he also doesn't pull a rabbit out of his hat as the improbable solution.

3) It's age appropriate, yet with cross-generational appeal.
Percy is a 12 year old with dyslexia and ADHD. He's a great protagonist, especially for kids who believe themselves to be failures. He becomes good friends with Annabeth - and that's all it is as a tween, unlike what the movie would have you believe. Grover the satyr is an environmentalist, not the stereotypical horny goat from the film.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Readers of this blog will know how much I like the works of Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, and Maggie Stiefnativ (I think I just mangled her name) - dd Rick Riordan to that list.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September 20, 2010 - Sitting in a Silo

Today was the first day of my annual book fair. Thank goodness my mother (who has been volunteering at school libraries since I was in junior kindergarten 34 years ago and hasn't stopped) will be coming the entire week to run it. I couldn't do it without her. I'm also lucky to have a former student, a stellar librarian-in-the-making, traveling to help after school.

Despite all these people around me, I was feeling a bit alone in my role. Our board has a new electronic communcation system and the conferences where I used to virtually meet my fellow teacher-librarians is due to close. In the past, if I needed a book to borrow from another library or a question to ask (as I did about Google Educational Accounts), I'd send a quick note and several people would reply with advice or directions on where to find answers. In my attempt to wean myself off the old system, I've avoided logging on there, and I'm unaccustomed to this lack of immediate connections. I got the chance to talk on the phone with a colleague and it was so rewarding that I'm sure I talked longer than I usually do.

Even with this new blog address, I feel like I am shouting in the wind or sitting in a silo, surrounded by grain but only able to hear the echo of my own voice. In the old blog provider, at least I'd be able to see that I had 6 or 12 reads - right now, I have no followers. No need to join this pity party of one - but it does make me realize that you can have all these marvelous means of interaction around but if no one interacts with you, it's for naught.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 13, 2010 - The Prodigal Student?

This is a blog primarily about school librarianship. (Really, I should put that somewhere in the title banner or somewhere prominent, so people aren't misled.) However, like most things, the other elements of my life influence what I write about.

I try hard to make just one post a week. Ideally, I try to make it on a Monday (ergo the name of the blog) but as long as I get it close to the day, I'm satisfied.

Today I had a weird converging kind of experience in which parenting, church, and teaching all came together. Today's gospel at church was about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. As I was listening and giving my son the "you need to behave" look, I had an "aha".

If you are familiar with the parable of the prodigal son, you know that a man has two sons. The youngest asks for his share of his inheritance, ditches his family for an extravagant lifestyle in a different country, and ends up destitute. He decides to return home to apologize and settle for working as a field hand for his father, but his father accepts him back with open arms and holds a big celebration. The eldest son is angry with this rejoicing for his n'er-do-well sibling and refuses to join the party; his father explains that the eldest is valued but that his brother's return is worthy of honour.

I happen to have two children of my own. As I've explained before using a car analogy, she is like a hybrid while her younger sibling is like an SUV. It takes a lot more parental energy to get him to run. We love them both a lot; the youngest needs certain tactics (intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, for instance) to help him along. Thankfully, my eldest child is not resentful. I think she knows that equality doesn't mean being treated equally.

Then I realized how this Bible reading can apply to school. If a child consistently brings home As and A+s on their report card, how do you react when in their newest report card, they get As and A+s? Now, how would your reaction be if a child who constantly brings home Ds gets a B? I'd presume you'd praise him/her greatly, make a big deal of it, congratulate him/her. Does that mean you don't appreciate the child with the usually high grades? Not at all. That's why Wayne Hulley's advice to SOS (save one student), given during his talk at the TDSB's "Believe It, Our Time is Now" rally at the ACC, makes a lot of sense and can lead to much celebration if successful. Heck, I think that's why I cheered in the library this week when M. said he found 1 of his 6 overdue books.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 6, 2010 - Wall Wishing experiments

I'm writing this a day late, but *shrugs*, that's better than missing the week!

Today was the first day of school, and at my place of work, we no longer have a "day 0" where prep coverage is postponed. This meant that we started right away with library prep classes and collaborative ICT slots with classrooms. The ICT bit is a bit of an experiment, an attempt to integrate ICT with the regular curriculum, use it for differentiated instruction, and provide in-school PD for the staff. The idea is to collaboratively plan with the other teachers for this period but since it was the first day and first week, we were pretty flexible about our itinerary. Code of Online conduct, lab rules, password creation hints, and that sort of housekeeping business was the typical request. However, I wanted to make sure there was some "wow-new" stuff so I introduced Wall Wisher as well.

Wall Wisher, found at, is like an online notice board. Creating a board is super-easy, and once you share the URL with people, then participants can post "virtual sticky notes" on the wall, based on the topic. I first was introduced to this tool at Treasure Mountain Canada in Edmonton this past June and was impressed with the real-time updates and paperless way one can save the work - unlike real sticky notes, which fall off the chart paper and are difficult to store.

As with anything, there were several glitches in the proceedings. For some reason, the page I pre-saved to use with the grade 2/3 class did not update the additions made from other computers. One intermediate student decided to be "naughty" and wrote someone else's name as the author and put an inappropriate comment on the sticky - and we couldn't delete it. My data projector was an incorrect distance from the screen due to a short cord, so students couldn't read the content of the stickies when they were on the carpet. Some computers had an old version of Internet Explorer, so Wall Wisher wouldn't run. When a teacher minimized the screen and returned to it, everything disappeared and she couldn't navigate back to the page. These little snags worry me a bit, because when you are introducing something new, it's best if it works smoothly, thereby giving "nubes" to the software confidence that they could use it successfully. I can rave all I want about how it's environmentally friendly (reduces paper), is equitable (shy students can participate) and promotes higher level thinking (establishing patterns in the data and sorting according to student categories), but if half the class can't get it to work, who's going to bother with it?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 30, 2010 - Democracy and Demophobia

Little known fact - I am slightly demophobic. As my husband, who loves words, will tell you, demos is a Greek word meaning mob. Crowds freak me out, especially when I am crammed into hostile lines with strangers. My control of my fear was put to the test on Saturday when I attended Fan Expo Canada with my daughter. Reports claim that 60 000 people attended the three day convention. Even if those figures are inaccurate, there were definitely a lot of people at the Metro Convention Centre. It took us an hour to get in (and that was with deluxe pre-purchased passes) and the place was crammed to the hilt with fans of all stripes. We checked out the sales booths and artists alley, attended two sessions (one by Stan Lee and the other by two anime voice actors) and participated in the masquerade. My daughter enjoyed the masquerade the best - it was her second time competing and the costumes there were absolutely incredible. Search for footage on YouTube and you'll see how elaborate and accurate these fashion tributes are to the source material. It was neat to talk with an illustrator from Archie Comics, who has been working with the company for 16 years, and hear about how iconic characters (like Betty & Veronica, or the X Men) came about and continue to thrive. Some characters speak to a generation of fans strongly.

I predict that, like the students of Hogwarts or citizens of Forks, the inhabitants of Panem in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will be remembered and discussed for a long time. I attended a midnight release party last Monday to get my copy and I finished it on Wednesday. I loved it. My friend did a spoiler-free review on her blog and I had to object to one comment that she made, suggesting that the series was only about war. It's about media, ethics, the individual vs the collective, and definitely about politics. (My husband quoted me the next portion, after I double-checked my understanding of demos.) "In the Greek understanding of politics, there was three levels: the top level of gov't was monarchy, the rule by one man. It could be corrupted and become tyrany. The second best level was aristocracy, rule by the best, most capable people. It could be corrupted and turn into oligarchy, which is rule by the few. The lowest form of gov't is the republic, which could become corrupted and become a democracy, which is rule by the crowd or mob." I don't want to spoil anyone's reading of Mockingjay, but elements of it reminded me of the Spanish Civil War, or the Russian Revolution. It was a powerful book that left me contemplating issues long after I read it. I will definitely have to buy it for my school library and I look forward to having discussions about it with my students.

August 16, 2010 - Do we need to stage an intervention?

My family and I just returned home from a very nice mini-vacation. Due to my own foolishness, I am nursing a pretty bad sunburn, but everyone enjoyed the sandy beaches, nature trails and brief foray into small town life. Now it's Monday, and I took a moment to observe my family's recent activities. The son: played Kirby on his DS / watched YouTube videos to learn how to play Super Smash Brothers when he gets it for his birthday (he hopes) / met his friends and sister on Club Penguin to surf and dance.

ETA: The rest of this post was lost on LNG. If I find it again, I'll post the rest.

August 9, 2010 - Anyone got an extra pair of eyeballs?

How is it possible that I have a teacher's amount of summer vacation and STILL struggle to find enough time to read everything I want to read? I Skyped with a good friend of mine last night, and our conversation naturally migrated several times to the books we are reading and want to read. After talking to her, I have another couple of series I need to delve into. Then there's the literature review that I'm undertaking for a research project I wish to work on in the fall.

ETA: The rest of this post was lost on LNG. If I find it, I'll add it in.

August 2, 2010 - Channel the love

This past weekend, I attended a Twilight convention. Before you roll your eyes and begin muttering "crazy fanatic" under your breath, let me reassure you. There actually was a wide range of people in attendance (from teens to much older people) and although there were definitely more women there, there were some male fans present. The majority of the people I met at the event were polite and pleasant. (I only met two women that were obnoxious and vulgar that made me ashamed - thankfully I didn't have to be near them for long.) There were people around that were primarily book fans and others who focused more on the movies, and the company that ran this convention (Creation Entertainment) did an excellent job of catering to as many different interests as possible. They had celebrity guests, trivia contests, merchandise auctions, a few panels by some devoted and delightful people (The Hillywood Show and The Twilight Lexicon), karaoke and a fancy dance. I had feared (based on past experience at another convention) that it would be chaos, but the event was well run, with short, manageable lines and clear rules.

So, what does this have to do with libraries or school libraries? This convention made me consider how we, who love books, can channel the love that many readers have for their favourite series into a celebration. We are lucky in Ontario that we have the Festival of Trees, where young readers can gather in their mutual love of the Silver Birch, Red Maple, Blue Spruce, Hackmatack and White Pine nominees. Then, there are the midnight promotions run by bookstores. The local Chapters near me is having a midnight release party for Mockingjay, the third book of the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. I love Hunger Games and will definitely get my book then, even if I don't stick around for the community building and activities offered by the store. However, both of these celebrations take time, manpower, and money. Maybe it's important that these sort of opportunities only happen once a year, to keep them special. If so, I'll have to look into whether they'd do a "Twilight school club discounted rate" for the next Twilight conference that comes to town.

July 26, 2010 - We Want You! and Listen To Me!

Everything clamors for our attention. Bloggers want people to read their posts. (I confess even I glance at the number of reads each of my entries receives.) Bloggers will go to a lot of work to get people to follow them. My friend has a newish blog she started and to entice new readers, she's offering as a prize a copy of Mockingjay.
Yes, Mockingjay.
I have been anxiously anticipating the third installment of the Hunger Games series for months and months. In usual blog contests, you get points based on how you spread the word - one point if you start to follow the blog, one if you mention it on Twitter, etc. I wrote up a comment for her (yeah, because it's worth 4 points in her contest) but I thought it was school library-ish enough to post here.

(See below)

Rum, glad to be a new member of your blog (1 point) and as we are of similar minds, I'll leave my comment (4 points) and Tweet afterward (1 point) ... [who me? want a copy of Mockingjay? what makes you think that?]

I'm really fearful about Mockingjay, for several reasons.
One, it's a challenge to maintain the quality of a particular brand over three installments. Look at movie franchises, for example: Spiderman 1 = good, Spiderman 2 = great, Spiderman 3 = meh. It's finding that right mix of having the same stuff that drew you to the original tales but also having something new to move you forward. We aren't going to have the gladiatorial-like games occur like they did in Hunger Games and Catching Fire but will the continuing story be enough like the previous ones? Does that really matter as much as I'm making it out to be?

Two, Suzanne Collins is not afraid to kill characters we like. I won't title-drop, but I've been reading a lot of books where the main characters and their immediate circle don't die. The premise of the other books is that they had to die - there could only be one survivor of the games. I worry that the characters I care deeply about (okay, who am I kidding - Peeta, yes PEETA!) will get the axe.

Third, there's a movie coming out. Will the fact that a film is to follow impact or affect the plot of the final book?

There's a midnight release party for Mockingjay at my local bookstore. I'll be there, maybe not to partake in the activities (which I can't imagine what they will involve) but to get my book. I'll be afraid to open it but I won't be able to resist. After all, this was the book series that prevented me from watching the Olympics (and to hear that story, you'll have to read MY blog!)

(End of other blog comment post)

The "we want you" part of my title also refers to blogging attention, but moreso to the search for volunteers to the OSLA. I am so delighted that several people from Library Camp OTF (scarily enough, some are semi-regular readers of this blog!) are seriously considering joining the OSLA in some capacities. Pretend I'm wearing a white goatee and a stovetop hat and pointing - we want you to help out. Don't think "I'm not experienced enough" or "I'm too far away" or anything like that. If you are willing to do some work (and not just add it to your resume without the effort), then consider joining us. Help populate the T4L site, join council, be on the nomination committee, write an article - step out of your comfort zone and give it a shot.

July 19, 2010 - Is it possible to know too much?

Sorry I've been less-than-punctual with my posts. Last week was actually quite full with Library Camp OTF and a guest appearance at a Library AQ course. I met some absolutely delightful people while I was there, and I hope many of them take the hints I was throwing their way and consider writing some articles or volunteering on some OSLA committees. They would make a great addition to the team.

Many of the participants talked about having their heads spinning or buzzing with an overload of new ideas. When the Library Camp planning team reflected on this year's experience (over half-pints of beer at a nearby pub), we did wonder whether or not we packed the day too fully. I think we were correct to offer as many speakers and sections as we did, because (like with a typical classroom), there are so many different levels and experiences in the group that what is "info overload" to one person might be "old hat" to another (i.e. podcasting - we had some people who had never heard the term, all the way to someone who is an active member of the podcasting community and podcasted his reflections of the camp as it went on!) I think it's okay to turn off your brain and pick one piece to work baby steps towards.

Last night, I had a conversation (via instant messenger) with a friend of mine. We are both avid readers and the topic naturally gravitated to what we were currently reading. I'm on the third book of the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I've enjoyed it, even though I predicted some of the plot curves and twists. My friend said she read the first book but couldn't get through it, and part of the reason was her background knowledge on the story. It seems that the author used to be a huge figure in the Harry Potter fanfic community, and that the genesis for her book City of Bones came from a fanfic story she wrote but filed off all the identifying features that would tie it to the Harry Potter universe. My friend was bothered by the author's attempts to hide her roots and inspiration. That led me back to my original rumination regarding Library Camp OTF - is it possible to know too much, to have too much information? If I knew before I read the series that the author had already written a version of this story as a Harry Potter fanfic, would I have liked it less? Does knowing things about the author impact my enjoyment of their book? The book and story should be able to stand on its own, but influence is a hard thing to measure, even if you purposefully disregard extraneous information. We'll see as I finish the final book whether the news changes my perceptions. I think I received the information late in my reading of the text, so it may not rock the foundations - but we'll see if I begin to search for similarities.

Junbe 28, 2010 - Cell phone film directors, at an event near you!

School is now over (insert sigh of relief here!) and I can catch up a bit on my sleep, my movie watching (yes, of course I've watched Eclipse already - I saw it at midnight on the opening day), and my scrap booking. The grade 8 students graduated recently and there are many individuals from that group that I will definitely miss. It's a high-spirited, close-knit group of students that make you scream or smile. At their graduation, their classroom teachers performed a dance that highlighted some of the students' special moves showcased at our annual "So You Think You Can Dance" show a few weeks prior. Just before the teachers danced, however, they had to make an announcement: you are allowed to take pictures but please, do not make any videos and do not upload said videos to Facebook or YouTube. They had to make the request because at the dance recital, several cell phones were popping up in the audience to capture routines and share them with the world. As a school, the teachers have to have media release forms and special permission to post scenes with students, but students have no qualms about sharing their mini-films. What restrictions, if any, can be placed on this? If you performed a dance routine at school and someone in the audience taped it and showed it, what rights do you have to get it taken down? I know that the teachers would have been reluctant to act goofy if they thought there was a chance that their antics would have been placed for public consumption online. I also realize that banning video cameras at concerts is difficult if not impossible - and what if it's the parents posting the videos instead of the kids? I wish I had answers to these questions. I guess that's why this counts as a musing.

June 14, 2010 - How did a bully become a "joyous voice of dissent"?

I can't comment too specifically on this issue, because it involves individuals. In our board's online forum spaces, there's some heated discussion, often on the topic of the social web. One particular person takes a rather extremist and contrary viewpoint, but that is not my beef with the person - it is the way this person responds in derogatory, rude and insulting ways. The moderators have reminded everyone to permit dissent but write in a respectful fashion, and this has led a couple of people to post that they did not consider certain people to be crossing the line. It puzzles me how this lack of kindness is dismissed by some people. I asked my husband about it and he said there's a mistaken belief that dissent in of itself is praiseworthy and that some think a gadfly is good, regardless of the basis of their claims. I do like examining some of my strongly held opinions, but I don't like putting people down to do it.

It reminded me of a session offered at the Canadian Library Association's conference in Edmonton last week, in which an author spoke about Freedom of Speech vs Cultural Sensitivity. Her speech was written and delivered after the political cartoon of the prophet Mohammed was published in a right-wing newspaper and the uproar it caused. I agreed with some of the things she said and I disagreed with some of the things she said. The audience's reactions (and her reaction to the audience's questions) were very intriguing. It wasn't quite as clear-cut as some might've believed, but there was no name-calling or insults.

I guess when it comes to this particular person and their brand of "debate", that I need to remember Dr. Ross Todd's words - "don't water the rocks".

June 7, 2010 - Now the Twittering's a melody

I just returned from a great few days at the Treasure Mountain Canada think tank for school libraries and the Canadian Library Association's annual conference in Edmonton. My brain is full to bursting with new contacts, new (and not so new) thoughts, and new plans. I have lots of suggestions for the next TMC retreat, scheduled for two years from now, but in the meantime, I need to digest what I heard and the conversations I had. Helping that process involved my relatively recently created Twitter account.

I made my Twitter account because a fellow teacher-librarian I admire uses hers as a personal learning network, to hear from experts in the field. What can you get out of 140 characters? Sometimes it's a quick quote you can dissect. Other times, it's a link to a good article. While at Treasure Mountain Canada, I Tweeted some of the sayings and ideas. When I used the hashtag #tmcanada, it linked to all sorts of other people posting about the same issue. I'm no Twitter expert, so I didn't have much experience using the hashtag. Compiled with other people posting on the same thing, the various tweets combined to make a very nice overview of some of the highlights. Imagine my surprise when I found people re-Tweeting some of my posts (it was a "they like it, they really like it" moments).

Now to download the photos, write a report for School Libraries in Canada, compile my own journal notes, and mark the piles I left behind.
By the way, to the spam bots that have recently begun to post "comments" to my blog that are really just ads for their silliness - my hashtag to you needs to be #cutitout!

May 31, 2010 - And the twitchy one in the middle ...

I've been negligent in keeping up with my blog. Life's flashing by and other things (oh, like family) have taken priority over writing. I've also been busy, as the below link will hopefully show:

One thing I learned from this experience is that in real life, you try to make eye contact with everyone that you are speaking with, but on TV, it's only necessary to look at the host, otherwise you end up looking like you have ants in your pants. I hope the message came through - that it shouldn't be an either/or situation when it comes to computers/books, but opening school libraries up to many options.

Treasure Mountain Canada and the CLA conference is fast approaching. I hope to find time to ruminate here on what I learn. Happy trails everyone!

May 3, 2010 - Based on the symptoms, here's the diagnosis

May is a very busy month. Just this week, I have my school's Spring Concert, my own children's Spring Concert, and the regional Heritage/History Fair. I'm also busy preparing for our local area Forest of Reading celebration and my presentation at the Atlantic Provinces Library Association's annual conference. My topic is "A Prescription for Twilight Fever" and I was chatting with a fellow teacher and Twilight fan about how to approach the "symptoms" section of my presentation. I want to convey the powerful hold this series has on people without making me look like a complete loony bin. I'm not sure that'll be possible! I realized that as I drove madly to our neighbourhood bookstore, minutes before closing time, to pick up the latest Charlaine Harris book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Could I have waited until tomorrow? Probably, since I have marking and another book I'm already reading. Yet, I just couldn't wait until it was in my possession. I guess it's the same way those young readers that will assemble at Harbourfront in Toronto for the Silver Birch Awards will scream and holler and cheer for their favourite authors like if they are rock stars. If you have any ideas for things I can use to describe "symptoms" of people affected by books they love, please reply to this blog post and I'll try to include them in my presentation.

April 26, 2010 - Full of GLEE at Working Together for Learning

Before my weekend was hijacked by a monstrous migraine that sent me to hospital (thank you medical staff, mom and dad, and Demerol!), I had a productive meeting with the editorial board of The Teaching Librarian. One of the main agenda items was about how to best support the new OSLA document (produced with financial support from the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of Ontario's Ministry of Education), Together For Learning. The team came up with a great idea and their work reminded me a bit of my favorite TV show, Glee. No, no one has gotten another member of the team pregnant, a la Finn, Quinn and Puck. No, we didn't break out into song halfway through.

The cast of Glee is like the TingL editorial board because:
- despite coming from different backgrounds, they make good music together
- they are filled with quirky, funny characters that make me smile
- they still address what can be controversial subjects, but in a way that will make people ponder rather than take offense (we hope)
- it may look bumpy as we work on it, but by the end the way things harmonize wonderfully
Thank you Glee cast and the TingL editorial board. I look forward to seeing you more in the future.

April 12, 2010 - Just when you think it's going to heck in a handbasket

I was at a fantastic PD session posted by my area's teacher-librarian team (find Pivot if you want to use an easy animation tool with loads of possibilities)and so I missed the recent events at my school - turns ot some kids vandalized part of the school and wrote mean things about several of the teachers and students. I did not emerge unscathed from their criticisms (although I've been called much worse) but I wasn't tremendously bothered. Why? Because the other news I missed while I was away involved a group of junior division students who, inspired by the Silver Birch non-fiction book "Courage and Compassion", have formed their own committee to raise money for a specific charity. So, when you feel like banging your head against a wall because students have done something stupid or thoughtless online or in your library, keep hope alive that for every one of those negative actions is someone (sometimes the same kid) trying to initiate a positive action.

April 5, 2010 - Finished paper, one good idea, and one bad idea

My capping paper for my Masters of Education degree is finally, finally done! Hip, hip, hooray! I will post the monster paper here in a few weeks, but I thought the University of Alberta should get first shot at sharing it publicly.
I will be attending quite a few workshops and conferences in the next few months. I attended a gathering last week of some area teacher-librarians. I did a presentation on how you can tie graphic novels into differentiated instruction and into the teaching-learning critical pathways that many schools are involved with. As is often the case, I learned just as much as I shared. In particular, I found one good idea and one bad idea.
Good idea first - the organizers of the event came up with a very clever tactic: if the teacher-librarian at one of their area schools was unable to attend, they were allowed to send a teacher in their place. I thought this was ingenious for several reasons. Class teachers had an opportunity to share what they were doing and see how their goals aligned with the school library. In addition to that, the class teachers had a chance to see what it's like on "the other side" and to see what possibilities working collaboratively with their TL might bring. I really enjoyed talking to several of the classroom teachers that came, because they brought a fresh perspective.
I need to describe the bad idea cautiously because it was presented as a good idea by the TL that said it. As a presenter and as a fellow unionized teacher, one must be very careful about publicly criticizing the practices of a colleague. This teacher was proud of a club she has that goes through her collection of comic books searching for "bad words". When they find them, they show the TL and then they are encouraged to scratch them out. Good intentions are behind this, but I shudder at the censorship and message this is giving this group of boys. I have to confess that when I was in grade 8, I borrowed a book from a family friend to help me with research on the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana in the 1970s, and I scratched out all the "f words", even though they were used correctly in context. However, as a teacher, I feel very uncomfortable with this practice. Would she ever do this to any of her fiction books? Would the next "logical" step be to rewrite the ending to Charlotte's Web because the spider's death is too sad? I tried to express my feelings about this TL's revelation by sharing an anecdote of my own, about a TL that went on a rampage against nipples and black-barred all bare breasts in all books, including ones of The Little Mermaid. That particular TL may have missed my point but hopefully some of the other listeners picked up on the hidden response. (Speaking of comics, TCAF is coming to Toronto May 8 & 9, so attend if you can!)

March 15, 2010 - Thanks Tippett Centre and Self-Imposed Olympic Ban

It's March Break for me but not for the fantastic crew in my school board that processes our books and does all the Library Technical Services jobs. I'll be visiting them later this week to give a box of books for them to work with. To them, I say, thank you times a thousand! By taking these books to process, you're cleaning my library AND the back of my car!
I realized, in between play dates and scheduled appointments, that I never explained why I couldn't watch the Olympics while it was in Vancouver. It's because of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. If you haven't read these books, run out immediately and get them! They may be YA but they had me riveted, so much so that I could not watch anything from the Olympics without being reminded of key scenes from the books. I can't share what those scenes were without ruining the book. If Suzanne comes across this, I hope you realize what a profound impact your books have had on readers around the world.

March 1, 2010 - Super Superconference!

Hello all. Sorry I didn't post last week. The combination of my literature review deadline and finishing my OLA presentations (in addition to security issues on this URL) prevented me from posting.
This weekend, I attended the Ontario Library Association's Superconference. It was great. I wrote a summary of the three days for my colleagues but I thought the file you'd be more interested in would be a piece of my presentation, "Twilight and the School Library".
First, a mini-rant. There are plenty of "If you liked Twilight, you should read ..." book lists out there, but they don't take into account the different ages that read Twilight. It's also just a list - no opinions, no alerts. My attachment here is a short list of recommended books with annotations for different age groups. I'll add to the list later on, but it's a good start. This list can also be found at the OLA website.
Now to re-creating the "back to school" mindset! Yikes!

February 15, 2010 - Why I can't watch the Olympics and viral marketing

Latter topic first: one of my "new fave" authors asked her blog readers to post this link - I'm not sure if it will work, but here goes:

In Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past . . . and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves . . . and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.

At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love -- the light and the dark, the warm and the cold -- in a way you will never forget.

Comes out in stores everywhere July 20th. Pre-order here.

Enter to win an advanced review copies of LINGER, Sisters Red, The Dead-Tossed Waves, and The Replacement on Maggie's blog

February 8, 2010 - "A Living Entity"

Oh joy - it's report card writing time. I'm busy reading posts to our intermediate division wiki and when I need to step away from the screen, I pick up my pleasure reading: Nalini Singh's "Blaze of Memory". What struck me is that Singh's conception of the NetMind as a living entity made up of the sum of its parts but also unique to itself is a good description of our school wiki. Individuals are important to creating content and character, but somehow both have acquired a special "personality". Nalini's sci-fi / paranormal romance universe hypothesizes that the NetMind has splintered a bit into two creatures. (I'm not doing a good job of explaining what the NetMind is - it's the crucial biofeedback link for the Psy - imagine the Borg and the Vulcans merged together. Or better yet, find Nalini Singh's homepage and let her explain it in detail.) Our wiki has multiple facets too. It is serious and academic but it also has a playful side (the kids have made a "Rick Rolled" link - glad to see they've discovered the marvelous music of my youth) and a vulnerable, trusting side. Thank goodness I receive notifications about when, who and what gets posted (my school email in box is full of these notification) - I've never be able to keep up with what they produce (who says writing is dead?) > good thing I'm not like those evil Council members in Nalini's books!

February 1, 2010 - Finish what you started

I finally finished writing all those graphic novel reviews, but before I share the new ones, I'll post the old ones. This batch is in the L title category.

ETA: What follows are 17 more posts, each with 5 graphic novel reviews attached.

January 25, 2010 - Read like a maniac, research like a muse

My eyeballs feel like they are going to drop out of my head. My graphic novel club meeting is next week and the large box of books I borrowed in the spring of '09 hadn't been touched. I must return them next week, so I've been reading like a woman possessed. As of right now, I have 7 done with reviews written, 9 read but the reviews haven't been written yet, and 6 more to read. This doesn't count the 3 Keith Curry Lance studies I need to read in their entirety (no just reading the highlights, unfortunately), the Forest of Reading books my students want to chat with me about, and the PLC discussion books. Thank goodness I'm a speed reader. I promise to post the new reviews after I finish posting the old ones.

As for the researching, my old van, after 13 years of abuse at my hands, finally decided to croak last week. The engine block cracked (which I hear is pretty bad) and I had the task of finding a new vehicle. I don't like to shop, and shopping for something as expensive and important as a car had me stressed out. It was a week of authentic research as the family drove around to different dealerships and sales lots, gathered opinions from family and friends, and investigated different makes and models on the Internet. My son tried to sabotage the efforts by complaining loudly that he didn't want to go looking, then exclaiming in an equally loud voice at every single dealership we entered that he LOVED a particular van or SUV and didn't understand why we didn't buy it RIGHT NOW! (One salesperson said "I like you kid. You make my job easier.") We found a vehicle and thanks to extra research by my brother, found that the Internet price was cheaper than the in-person listed price, which was already a pretty good deal. We bought it for the Internet price and I pick it up tomorrow.

I have my teacher evaluation pre-conference this week, so I better stop typing and start resting. (Oh, and for those fans of weeding, I've made it to the M section of the fiction area. La lutte continue!)

January 18, 2010 - Group weeding, sentence writing, and other collaborative ventures

What should I write about in the blog this week? After looking at what I've been doing at school and online this past few days, reflecting on my collaborative ventures looked like a good bet.

The two chair people at my school approached me about integrating all our professional resources into the teacher reference section in the library. I loved the fact that it was their idea - it's so nice to have pro-library plans come from someone other than the teacher-librarian or school library staff member. I also loved the fact that they offered to help me weed my professional resource area to make room for the new books. When was the last time you had someone volunteer to do that for you? I'm still at the M section for the everybody books and in the F section for the fiction books. I'm also not the tidiest librarian, so my teacher reference section could use some TLC. What I'm not going to love is sorting through the dozens of videos I have. The previous librarian properly obtained the videos through ... gah, my mind has gone blank ... Classroom Connect? What's the name of the arrangement where you could legally tape things and keep them for a specified time? Anyway, I suspect many aren't used and some have expired and others just aren't known to exist. Any ideas for getting through this task without having to watch every single tape? Why does kidnapping our media/video specialist in the central library dept. sound like a good idea right now?

Two other teachers on my staff worked hard to problem-solve and get my SmartBoard working in the library. I'm the first to admit that I'm not using the technology to its maximum potential, but I have at least one big fan. I'm a 1/2 J/I SERT teacher and I'm seeing "S" to help him with his language skills. On the SmartBoard, we made an anchor chart on "What Is A Sentence", went through some examples (where he toggled back to the anchor chart to check our joint definition), then played a game found on Link To Learning called Wall of Words where you order words to make sense in a sentence. This idea and the approach came from a lunch conversation I had with the boy's class teacher and the MART/SERT/HS teacher. Their suggestions inspired the SmartBoard stuff. Now when I see "S" in the halls, he asked "So, can I come today to work with you on improving my sentences?"

The collaboration doesn't stop there. This weekend, I worked on a paper for Treasure Mountain Canada and the first portion of my capping paper for my MEd. My hubby read through sample capping papers from other years to give me some concrete advice on how to proceed and, wonders of wonders, I made the first deadline for U of A and knocked off a solid first draft of the TMC paper. I got my old-time mentor to read the TMC paper and got some positive vibes to take me forward on the next draft.

So, what wise "musings" can I extract from these sample interactions?
How about: collaboration, when it works, is darn good.

January 11, 2010 - "Digital learning at its finest"

I think I'm addicted to educational contests and so are my students. Every year I say we're too busy to participate in the annual Historica Fairs (sadly no longer sponsored by Historica itself this year in my region) and every year the students convince me that we should enter their projects. A few years ago, a grade 5 class I worked with won a Charlotte's Web / Toronto Raptors contest and got to watch an advanced screening of the film for free with some of the basketball stars. Last year, the junior/intermediate home school class won the Best Buy Best In Class Fund grant worth $30 000. We like the authentic learning that takes places, the firm timelines, and the prizes. Oh yeah, we like the prizes.

Right now I'm working with a small volunteer team to submit our school entry to the Microsoft-MindShare Learning 21st Century Digital Classroom Challenge. I sacrificed coming home early after a workshop so I could go back to school to meet with the group. They've spent hours tinkering, fiddling with sounds and images to make it "just right". The ISTE NETS standards are being used as criteria for judging. I must say the logistics of music acquisition are complicated; my students were very proud to say they were digitally responsible and ethical by using FreePlay Music for their soundtrack, but I had to point out the fine print: it's free for educational use only if it stays in the confines of your school. In this virtual landscape of today, how likely is that? It makes me think that Cory Doctorow and the "copyleft" movement isn't so crazy or radical. I've promised them that if we win, I'm taking them out to Mandarin for a buffet lunch. Since the grand prize is $15 000 in materials (including a trip to Denver), I think it's a decent offer. In my 100 word description that I must submit with the video entry, I describe the work the students and learning community has done, both in preparing our submission and in the work it highlights with wikis, interactive avatars, video manipulation tools and such, as "digital learning at its finest". We'll see if the judging panel agrees; wish us luck!

January 4, 2010 - Could Twitter create responsible writers?

Back to the original format! Happy 2010 again everyone. I brought home a big box of new graphic novels to review; I created 5 separate to-do lists and have started accomplishing things on them; I began my Wii Active exercise regiment ... I think I'm ready to be healthy and productive.

This past week, I made my first Tweet on Twitter. I told myself I was not going to post anything on Twitter. My main aim was to follow leaders in the library, technological, and education fields to get a daily dose of PD. LD was my model and I admire how she finds amazing things as part of her Professional Learning Network on Twitter and shares it with the rest of the teacher-librarians in our school board. My tune changed when I realized that my pal PT had shared some great sites with our small team. Would that be fair for me to hoard all that neat information and not share it, when others share so freely with me? I don't know if my first Tweet actually worked. I'm not astute in the ways of the Twitterer to see my own posts yet.

I noticed that several people I have chosen to follow have in turn decided to follow me. That's a great honour (since I think these people are rather neat-o) but also makes me think carefully about what I post. I don't have huge amounts of followers, unlike Peter Facinelli, who was chosen for some award as the Best Celebrity to follow on Twitter - he plays Carlisle, the patriarch of the Cullen family of vampires in Twilight and New Moon - he has thousands of followers and uses his Twitter account to promote charity events as well as keep his fans abreast of his professional and personal life. However, unlike this blog, for instance, where I know people are reading it but they are relatively faceless and nameless, I know exactly who is watching my Tweets. Could that make people who Twitter think carefully about how or what they post, or am I an anomaly? Does that 140 character limit force people to be choosy about their words, or just too brief to be meaningful? Knowing their teachers were watching didn't stop one or two of my junior division students from misusing the class blog but it's hard to record evidence of "would've" or "thought-about-it-but-didn't"s. I'm still new to Twitter but time will tell. My Twitter address (if I get this right) is @gntlinto.

December 21, 2009 - Better to give than to receive

It's vacation time but it doesn't mean the brain goes on holiday too. To ensure that people have something to read (do we ever lack?), I've decided to come on my blog every day while I'm not at school and post five of my graphic novel reviews. I'm curious to see how long it will take for me to post all of the reviews I have on my computer. Remember that these reviews were mainly meant for me and/or my Tinlids GTA graphic novel book club. They aren't polished and the opinions expressed in the reviews are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization I belong to. If I say "this is suitable for grade 4 and up", that's just my feeling based on consulting with my student graphic novel fans and my experience reading graphic novels. Thanks go to KB who got me thinking about GN reviews again.

ETA: What follows on LNG are 13 separate posts (called Christmas Share, subtitled by the gifts from "The 12 Days of Christmas") with graphic novel reviews.

December 14, 2009 - Ghosts of Canada Past and Twittering without Tweets

I can't believe there's just five days left until the winter holiday. My school is abuzz with concert preparation and their food drive in addition to the "regular learning" that goes on. The history unit that I helped the intermediate history teacher do as part of our Partners in Action co-planning/teaching/assessing has wrapped up. The task, including marking scheme and link to expectations, is attached to this blog. In all modesty, I must say I'm proud of what we accomplished in creating this task and impressed by what some of the students (not all) produced. (Yeah to JT, my fellow teacher, for trying this ambitious project.) (I think we needed to build in more conference time so that we avoided meeting groups who were still gathering information on key components of their project.) The task was to create an alternate history related to Confederation. It was meant to address differentiated instruction and involve creative thinking. This was not a "memorize all the dates" sort of project. I watched one production in which the students (two grade eight boys and one grade seven) used a green screen to turn one actor into a ghost that floated in the House of Commons to make its alternate history report. It was impressive.

This past Friday, I met with some impressive teacher-librarians that I admire a great deal to have a "mini-think tank" session. This was self-directed PD at its finest. We had fruitful discussions and at the end of the day, I finally decided to create myself a Twitter account. I don't want to tweet. I'll leave the Net-yakking to this blog. I want to use it to follow some fascinating minds in the school library world. My RSS feeds weren't working that well. I will put my Twitter on an iGoogle page and check it like I do my many email accounts. Thanks J and P and special gratitude to A for letting us crash her school library for an unscheduled tour that ended up as a 90 minute chat session.

December 7, 2009 - What would teacher-librarians want for Christmas?

I met the writing deadlines for my various projects. I ran my book fair (withOUT my mother, which is a serious hardship for me). I stood in line at Chapters behind a woman who was buying a copy of Twilight and prevented myself from gushing about the novel like a lunatic. I'm hoping that all these things mean that I'm on Santa's good list this year.

In my household, I'm usually the one that purchases the presents. That includes my own. So far, I've "received" hardcover copies of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire and will probably add a charm bracelet to the pile. (The Cricut, despite being on sale at the craft store, is still a little pricey to justify buying.) I like getting gifts for people, although I hate the crowded stores. This year, I wanted to ensure I gave my children's teachers something that they would appreciate that might be a bit different from my past offerings. I polled my staff for ideas (since we are teachers too) and this is the list we came up with.

- gift cards, especially to book stores or food/drink establishments (on the Tim Hortons card, you can put as little as $1 on it and as much as $200!)

- charity donations (I signed up with and it makes it very easy to give to legitimate organizations, based on whatever "subject" you want, and you can send an e-card or print card as part of the gift)

- something edible/drinkable (of course, this depends on what the giver is making or providing - the box of chocolates is an old standby, but I can't eat most of them because of my nut allergy; wine is a popular option as long as the recipient isn't opposed to alcohol)

- something created by the child (this works best if it's small and/or paper, because then it's easy to store and keep - ornamental knick-knacks are more likely to be "regifted" than a lovely note written in the child's own handwriting, explaining how you made a difference to them)

I'm often surprised by how many students give me gifts at this time of year. I'm not their regular class teacher and money doesn't fall from trees. Sometimes I wish they didn't go to the trouble or the expense - seeing how they learn (corny though that sounds) is a bigger reward. However, regardless of whatever treasure it may be, I always accept the gift with a thank you and a big smile. They considered me important or worthy enough to remember me on their list.

November 23, 2009 - Thank you Ms. Collins and Ms. Meyer (with help from CW)

This past week -
I've been captured, captivated, and changed because of a book.
I've been pleased, passionate and positive because of a movie adaptation of a book.

I will try not to include any spoilers as I describe the crazy cloud I've been floating on. I probably should be working on my proposal for my capping paper (due Dec. 1 - and if my advisor from U of A is reading this, then I *am* working diligently on it) but I'm one of these people that get engrossed in books - sometimes a little too empathetic, a little too absorbed.

At first, it was Shiver, an absolutely amazing read. I loved the significance of temperature to the plot. I loved the dual narration. I had to walk away from the book several times as I was reading it because it was just so intense. I cried, not at what was happening, but at my anticipation of what was to happen. My husband threatened to hide my books from me.

Then, as if to confirm that his initial threat might be a good idea, I read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I lay awake in bed way after 1:00 a.m., just thinking about the plot and the characters. I interrupted my husband to explain why the ending made me sob just as hard as the middle. I dreamed about the characters and frantically emailed fellow teacher-librarians that I knew had read the book so I could "decompress" (thanks GD and AS for the talk). I just finished reading the second in the trilogy, "Catching Fire" (the perfect title). The action, the terror, the strategy - I was just taken aback by how well woven it was.

On the back of Catching Fire is a quote praising The Hunger Games from Stephenie Meyer (author of the Twilight series, of course), who said "I was so obsessed with this book I had to take it with me out to dinner and hide it under the edge of the table so I wouldn't have to stop reading. The story kept me up for several nights in a row, because even after I was finished, I just lay in bed wide awake thinking about it." Speaking of Stephenie leads me to mention that I got to see New Moon on November 19. The theatre was 3/4 full and I had empty seats on either side of me. I wore my "tua cantata" shirt and sat and let the movie wash over me.

Now, I am usually a harsh critic of film adaptations of books. I still won't even watch True Blood from HBO because I've heard they deviate from the Sookie Stackhouse series too strongly for my taste (Tara is NOT the bartender at Merlotte's! Bill does NOT change someone over!) However, I have to say I really enjoyed New Moon. The changes made to the plot made cinematic sense. The acting seemed better. I like how they handled all the things that went on in Bella's head. (And yes, the eye candy was nice as well, from heroin-chic hip dents to six-pack abs and lots in between.) Thanks to my generous pal JM, I am the proud owner of a ALA Taylor Lautner poster (you can buy yours at the OLA Store) and my only troubles have been the students that want to buy it off me or paw it.

So what does this have to do with school libraries? Just that I hope that my students can have the same marvelous relationship I have with books and movies made from books.

November 16, 2009 - What does it take to build a nation of readers?

I haven't been to school in a while but it's not because I'm playing hooky. This past Thursday and Friday, I attended the TD National Reading Summit. The theme of this summit, held at the ROM, was Reading and Democracy. The purpose is to create a reading plan for Canada. We heard from a lot of speakers (almost too many, to be brutally honest - since I found that during the Q&A time at the end, more people were interested in commenting and pontificating than on questioning or clarifying). The best line came from Brazilian Ana Maria Machado, who said "We read because life is not enough." My favourite speaker was Cory Doctorow, who made me think hard about my notions of copyright. David Booth was witty as usual and Raymond Mar's research on the relationship between reading (fiction) and social processing sounds like something I'd like to investigate.
The people that attended brainstormed and discussed the vision, the outcomes and potential blocks we see in building a national plan but I'm not sure how much further we were in this goal by the end of the summit. I know one thing I definitely want to see in any national reading strategy but one that may be controversial - I want ALL types of reading to be accepted or valued and I want elitist attitudes to be shelved (pardon the library pun). I was truly dismayed to see people who still scoff at comics (one of the speakers even said something like "poor students only read comics") and one of the audience members took the microphone and went on a long diatribe that included the line "and Twilight is just garbage". As you might assume, that brought a strong reaction from me. (I'm debating whether or not to describe what form this reaction took to you, my blog audience. How about you just guess?) How could this woman diss hundreds of thousands of readers both young and old in one condescending swoop? At least I have my advanced screening ticket for New Moon purchased; between that and my Twilight Club at school, I will receive some consolation. We'll see what happens with the summit and the noble goal. Wish the steering committee luck.

November 9, 2009 - Sometimes I surprise myself

This weekend was incredibly busy because it was my parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration. They had a huge shindig and by all accounts, everyone had a great time. I was heavily involved in the planning so I'm glad that it was a successful event. Now that it's over, I have more time to devote to other things on the to do list.

Of course, new things get added to that to do list all the time. I was just asked to be interviewed on the topic of graphic novels and the person cited a roundtable discussion I participated in online. You can read it for yourself at (I know I should make this a cool hyperlink, but it's 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night as I'm typing this and I have a young pair of eyes reading over my shoulder waiting for me to re-put him back to bed). I totally forgot I did this. Have you ever read something you wrote and thought "wow, that sounds good!" That was the experience I had reading this link. I hope that will suffice in lieu of an attachment today.

November 2, 2009 - Kids Gone Wild (and not due to Halloween candy OD)

We had a great Halloween at our house - everyone in the family dressed up (even the usually reticent husband, who was absolutely adorable, imo) and we are swimming in candy here. Although I saw many vampires trick-or-treating, unfortunately none of them were sparkly. (I guess my big treat comes November 20 when New Moon is released in theatres - midnight showing anyone?) My students are buzzing and not just because of the new movie or the candy high (is there really a correlation or is that just a parent & teacher myth?).
I think I mentioned that my students are working on online comics (, blogs, and wikis this year. My students, in general, love to read but don't like writing. These venues provide authentic and (hopefully) innovative ways of communicating. I launched their use just a few weeks ago and activity on these virtual spaces have exploded. I can barely keep up and the nice thing is, I don't necessarily have to. The logs tell me who has been on and what they've been saying.
Attachment today? Hmm, either a book review or a lesson. (I had a great taped book club discussion with my junior and intermediate members of my graphic novel club, but that's another talk for another time.)

October 26, 2009 - By the numbers

My husband is a semi-professional blogger. He gets about 6000 unique hits a day - I forget exactly how many but he has the special "thing" that tracks the amount of visitors to the site, etc. I peeked at the # of reads I get on this blog and my highest views coincide with when I post free attachments (lesson plans, comic reviews, and so on). I guess I need to get back to sharin' the love (and the freebies!) Attached to today's post is a grade 4 media test I gave a group after a unit that explored models, comics, diagrams, lists and other media forms. There aren't a lot of ready-to-use media resources out there (not counting, which is a great site).
The more I've read and taught media, the more I realize that "hybrids" are the new reality, so being able to understand elements and how those borrowed elements enrich the product.

October 19, 2009 - When Teachers Get Mean

I don't like it when people are mean. I can't even bear to read most Peanuts comics because it's too painful for me to see the poor way Charlie Brown is treated by his so-called friends. I know this means I'm in for a world of hurt because the planet is populated with many ill-willed creatures that delight in being cruel (did anyone else see that photo online of the cat that was duct-taped from neck to tail and dumped in someone's yard because the teen who did it was "annoyed"?). Still, I hold out hope that some people at least will show some small bit of respect for their fellow human beings. When teachers decide to be mean, even to other teachers, it irks me.

I can't use names and I can't quote. I can paraphrase and use generalities. Like many school boards, we have online areas for teachers to discuss things. Lately, on the teacher-librarian section of my board's server, there has been a lot of talk about web 2.0 tools and fostering digital literacy and so on. One particular person is rather adamantly opposed to this. I know I've tried discussing the issues calmly but my arguments are dismissed. (You don't need to point out the irony of debating the importance of computers using email. I caught that.) I gave up and continued to discuss some exciting things some of us intrigued by this area are trying out with our students. I don't know if he's mad that we aren't engaging him directly or what, but I've noticed his posts have become more mean-spirited. He picked on the "signature font colour" of one person's post in a particularly snarky way. He's accused people who use things like social networking sites as trying to suck up to the kids so we can be popular, and of not teaching the proper basics and making the kids dumb.

I don't mind someone being critical of new initiatives and media. Respectful debate is good. Witness the talk recently on Joyce Valenza's blog about involving those in the discussion who aren't fans. Joyce can be hard-core but I don't think she's deliberately trying to be mean. Neither is the person worried about school libraries branding themselves in unnecessary ways that is talking with Joyce online via the comments page. What I object to is people mocking others.

I should be used to seeing flames like this. After all, several Twilight fan sites were hacked several months ago by organized groups of people who hate Twilight - they call Twilight fans "Twitards" and ridicule their passion. Why would you destroy something just because you disagree with it? Maybe if people like this could choose a more worthy or worthwhile target (ending child porn on the Net? stopping Internet news censorship by dictatorships?), we could all reap the benefits instead of having something we cherish get smashed by bullies.

October 12, 2009 - Flying with eagles or strutting like turkeys?

It's the day after Thanksgiving, so I had to pop in a turkey reference.

If you hang out with really smart people, does that make you look smart too?
If so, I want to hang out with LD more often.
She posted this to our board's email forum area recently:

"A study by Joyce Valenza and colleagues.
[ ]

Interesting observations on social networking by teens, much what we might expect.
But one pause for thought:"

(To summarize - some of the kids surveyed weren't too impressed with teachers using wikis - which of course worried me a bit since I'm beginning wikis with my grade 7s and 8s.)

In my intermediate PLC, we are reading "Start Where They Are" about differentiated instruction in the middle school grades. The chapter we just finished discussing was on Teacher Beliefs and Knowledge, and how our mental modes (inconscious beliefs and assumptions formed by our history, experiences and personality) prevent us from instituting real change, and that we need to try a strategy or technique that we think may not work and follow it up with a mentor to provide feedback, or to do "mental surgery" to undermine your old view and replace it with a new one. My colleagues and I found this chapter pretty optimistic; that change is possible. But what about those unwilling to change? Our principal was part of the PLC today and she mentioned the "watering" theory - you water and nurture the plants you know will grow and produce.

The Valenza quote (and you should really read the comments about "including those who aren't excited about this stuff in the conversation"), combined with the pedagogical philosophy talk has my mind whirling, but the conclusions and the connections are still uncertain.

I know one thing for certain - I'm having the darndest time finding midnight tickets for New Moon in my city but I'm determined to see it opening night. Any librarians want to do a mini-research project and help me find them?

October 5, 2009 - May I be excused (again)? My brain is full!

Sometimes I do not have enough time in the day to read everything I need to and want to. One of my professional learning community groups is meeting tomorrow and I had to read Chapter 1 of "Beyond Retelling" by Patricia Cunningham and Debra Renner Smith. I also squeezed in two chapters of "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms" by Will Richardson. In my print pile - "The New Learning Commons: Where Learners Win!" by David Loertscher, Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan, "Start Where they Are" by Karen Hume, and articles sent to me by my board's professional library to help me with my research essay for the Twilight anthology. It's times like this I wish I was a Cullen - I know exactly how I'd use those nights because I'm a vampire who never sleeps. (Yes, the Twilight references continue - next time I won't make it so obvious - I gotta appeal to my audience.)

There are so many things I want to comment on from Will's book but I actually wanted to go back to something I read yesterday. A colleague of mine in the secondary panel, one that I admire a lot, sent an email to our board's teacher-librarian online conference with this link in it:

I was so appreciative of her sharing this blog post. Naturally, I had to comment on it. (Can't keep my opinions to myself, it seems!) I love it when smart people I know send me good links. I also realized that LD's email actually was more a "true blog post" than mine have been (according to Will's book). I need to put more links, reflect and converse (but, in my defense, I think I wrote something about the delight in more than one-way conversations, which related to his point about the power of blogs being in the collaboration and joint talk). I'm trying to start a student blog for my junior division students - wish me luck on it, and pass me any advice you've had doing it yourselves.

With all these thoughts swarming my head, I feel excited but exhausted. Can't go to bed yet though - the pets still need to be cleaned, anchor charts made, committee budgets organized, and blogs created.