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 canadahelps.org 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
http://www.graphicnovelreporter.com/content/elementary-schools-libraries-and-comics-roundtable (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 (www.bitstripsforschools.com), 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 www.media-awareness.ca, 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.
[ http://pdfs.voya.com/VO/YA2/VOYA2009tag-team.pdf ]http://pdfs.voya.com/VO/YA2/VOYA2009tag-team.pdf

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.

September 28, 2009 - Embrace academia

I was at a very long (very productive, but very long) meeting recently. As we talked "school library stuff", one of the points that arose was the lack of scholarship in school library issues. Yes, we have the 2006 and 2009 studies by Klinger and Lee, but part of the reasons those were so high profile were because they were the first studies of its kind in Canada. When I took my MEd course in educational research this past summer, my fellow classmates and I found it hard to find a research paper printed in a peer-reviewed, academic journal. Now, you may wonder, who except ivory-tower types and desperate grad students would read that heavy-duty stuff? Why bother producing stuff for such a seemingly small audience? It's important to get the attention of all sorts of sectors to champion school libraries, and that includes universities. Policy makers do pay attention to studies. There is a move afoot to make some of these collections and anthologies more friendly to the general public. I will be submitting a couple of abstracts for an anthology to be produced called "Critical Perspectives of Twilight" (see, I snuck in a Twilight reference!)In the CFP (call for proposals), Maggie Parke states that "the collection is intended for a broader audience than is the case for many scholarly anthologies. We welcome work from academics, graduate students, bloggers, educators, and fans. Abstracts and subsequent essays should thus be intellectual in tone and treatment, but accessible to general readers." I might be the only lunatic on the planet that voluntarily writes academic papers "for fun". I'll be doing this one as well as my capping paper for my MEd degree. In the summer, I wrote one on graphic novels to "sharpen my comic skills" that has been accepted for publication. But why should I be the only lunatic? Treasure Mountain Canada is starting to form, an exciting think tank about school libraries in Canada. Maybe I should consider doing some research and offer something to the minds gathering in Edmonton - I'm no David Loertscher, but if all of us make an attempt, what might emerge?

September 21, 2009 - One Way Conversations

How is it nearing the end of September already? My apologies! School has been busy and not so - I'm caught up in adding my new acquisitions to the database (just in time to buy more with the recent Ministry grant to elementary school libraries in Ontario) and begun to weed again, an activity unheard of this early in the year for me.

I'm at home today working on a writing project. Preparing for the task today made me realize how much I like having someone to bounce ideas off or act as an audience. Talking to the ether without getting feedback means I might be missing the point. After chatting with a colleague last week, for instance, I've discovered that many people read this blog to see what Twilight-related adventures I've been up to. Who would have thought? Now that I know this, I can freely mention things like the plea from a group of students to reintroduce the Twilight Club at my school (which I didn't run last year because I was too busy and didn't want to look too obsessed - but I am seriously reconsidering because 1. if the students request it and even have ideas on how it should be run, it'd be empowering for them to take the lead, 2. the New Moon movie is coming out in November and you know I'd be discussing the similarities and differences with my colleagues anyway, so why not make it a sanctioned event, and 3. I am presenting on Twilight in the library at OLA's Superconference in 2010 so it'd help to have fresh material to share).

This need to have a conversation about writing has more academic applications as well. I have to thank LD for letting me call her and ask her all sorts of vague questions to help me formulate my thoughts. Thanks you!
Okay, time to write.

August 31, 2009 - Free Stuff

I promised to post some "September Library Lessons" on here. I don't want to be known as a liar, so I'll post a bunch daily for the next few days. I wish I had the stamina of my friend Luisa Hansen. She just created a website called www.TwilightAdvisor.com (a site that gives honest feedback on Twilight related books, movies and conferences). The site just went live a week or so ago and she has already improved some sections, altered some others and solicited others for web content. If you check it out, tell her Mz Molly sent you.
Ok, so since Luisa isn't in charge of this blog, I better get to work uploading.

ETA: On LNG, there are 5 more posts with files attached. Once I figure out how to link those, you too can have access to the resources.

August 24, 2009 - Murder and other pre-September school preparation rituals

Today was the first day in a very long time that I entered my school library. I needed to spend some time away from the place, as much as I love being a teacher-librarian. Upon my return, I had to embark on a killing spree with my son. Before you report me to the OPP or RCMP, let me explain. My office was swarming with ants. Big, black ants. At first, I thought I'd just sweep them away with the broom I keep in my workspace. Turns out that there were just too many of them, and it didn't help that they crawled out of the garbage can to return to their home. I found out why they were so happy to be wandering in there - I had a bag of old Halloween candy stashed in my office that I totally forgot I had in there. (My garbage can hadn't been emptied since June either, which I'm sure didn't help matters.) So, I allowed my son to be an "ant bully" and stomp on any ants he found in the library. Now I know why a) they make rules about no food in the library (which I probably should extend to "no food in the library office"), and b) why my caretaking staff at school do not list me as one of their favourite teachers (it might also have to do with the time I drew on the carpet with chalk for a library activity, but that's another story).

Part of me wishes I had been more inspired to go to my library during July and August - think of all that quiet time to weed, to reorganize, to barcode, to mend books, and to do all those technical tasks that I never seem to have the time for during the school year. Then I look at what I was able to do during the summer - take my course, attend some workshops and conferences, read some good books, play with my children - and I realize that there will always be time for those chores during the year, as long as I make time for them.

One last event to attend before school starts. This weekend is Fan Expo Canada, and my daughter and I are going to check out the comics, anime and gaming panels and vendors. And yes, we'll be dressed up. I won't post any pictures here, but you can always check out www.hobbystar.com for generic photos of the event.

August 10, 2009 - May I be excused? My brain is full!

My apologies to the five people that occasionally read this blog. I've had such a full two weeks that I haven't updated the blog. Please allow me to "Twitter-size" my reflections on each of the incredible events I've attended.

Twi-Con: The organization left much to be desired with oodles of oppressively long lines and delays (they could learn a thing or two from OLA's Supercon, a well-oiled machine) but my priority for going was to meet my dear friends from across the continent and to present on Twilight and education, so it was a success. Check out www.teachingtwilight.wordpress.com for the results of the workshop. Twi-Con 2010 will be in Las Vegas AND Toronto. You know where I will be in 12 months' time!

Library Camp OTF 2009: Three days of incredible PD. The Lightning Talks, the EI on the Go presentation, Carol Koechlin's awesome day of questioning, the Unconference where Melissa, Pat and Margaret wowed us with their practical use of modern tools (these people MUST share their incredible examples to a wider audience because they are inspirational).

Meeting Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon came to town last night and I sat with 150 fans to ask questions and get books signed. She was bubbly and gracious, despite the hectic schedule she had. I only wish I had asked what her favourite charity was so I could give a donation as a way of saying thank you to her.

EDEL 567: Course is almost done. Reading on action research and mixed method design today. Once my capping paper is done, the M.Ed. will be in my grasp!

July 27, 2009 - Leaving on a jet plane

August is turning out to be a busy month in my household. On Thursday, I leave for a conference in Dallas, Texas. This isn't going to be like the usual conferences I attend; this is Twi-Con, based on the Twilight series of books by Stephenie Meyer. I will a guest on a panel on Teaching Twilight, which should be a lot of fun. Unlike the library conferences I attend, there will be a ball - I bought my first ball gown for this event. An exciting aspect to this conference for me is that I will be meeting eight of my online friends for the first time in person. This will be an adventure! I have plenty of reading material for the plane (I'm re-reading the Twilight series and will be ready to devour Eclipse for the fifth time, plus I have my textbook on Educational Research by John Creswell) and let's hope I'm not too exhausted or keyed up to read!

July 20, 2009 - Is it "more the merrier" or "misery loves company"?

I'm taking my second-last course for my Masters of Education degree through the Teacher-Librarianship via Distance Learning program with the University of Alberta this summer. It's on Educational Research. I'll admit - I was dreading this course. Relaxing on a beach with some children's literature, I could see, but getting comfy with a textbook explaining the differences between quantitative and qualitative research didn't sound like a leisurely summer pursuit. The collaborative nature of the course has helped me to understand the material (the professor is wonderful and hands-on; my discussion group members are active and never condescending)and I realized that this is a useful course for me to take, even though wading through all those statistical terms taxed my feeble brain. It would have improved the quality of the academic papers I've written in the past! In addition to the text readings and module notes, I've been reading research papers on what I suspect will be the topic for my capping paper: on exemplary school library and technology teaching practices (and their links to student success). One study talked about how professional learning communities help extend exemplary practice - and it made me thankful for my online classmates as we struggle or gleefully leap (depending on the day) through the course content - together.

July 13, 2009 - I wanna be friends with Liz Danforth!

My spouse is a quasi-professional blogger, and as part of his blog (Grognardia), he conducts and posts interviews with key people in the early history of D&D. He printed out for me an exchange he had with Liz Danforth, who was influntial in the early days of the hobby. Other than the fact that my husband obviously enjoyed corresponding with her, what I find exciting is her invovlement with gaming and libraries. The American Libary Association just finished having its annual conference (this time in Chicago, and I appreciate Lisa Dempster sharing the Twitters that came out of the conference - quite amusing!) and the ALA has been very involved in examining gaming and libaries. Some of the stuff they've been financing have been very out-there, cutting-edge stuff. Another important figure in gaming and libraries is Beth Galloway - I had the pleasure and honour of having her as an instructor of mine with the awesome Robin Brenner in a course called "Manga, MP3s, and MMORPGs". It was a great course. I'd love to sit down with other like-minded folks and pick their brains. It can be a bit lonely and uncertain when you are the only one (or nearly the only one - I can't forget my pal over at Heather Heights Jr. P.S. who also has a school Webkinz!) who is trying a different and untried direction to teaching.

July 6, 2009 - Going to Library Camp

I'm getting ready for Library Camp. Nope, it's not the mosquito-avoiding type with tents and campfire singalongs. It's CampOTF, sponsored by the Ontario Teachers Federation. It will be August 5-7 at the University of Toronto. The organizers are using a wiki to set up the three days, (as well as a wiki for the participants - if you're enrolled and haven't heard anything yet, don't fret; I haven't sent out the information email yet) and it looks like it will be an entertaining and educational one. Heard of lightning talks? Unconferences? Those are just two of the methods that will be used to present great topics. We are lucky to have the incredible Carol Koechlin headlining day 2 of the camp - I learn things just being in the same room as Carol and breathing the same air. With planning the camp, finishing a paper for Graphic Novels in Libraries and Archives (thanks to my wonderful hubby for proofreading it and noting that I was missing a conclusion and a thesis!) and beginning my course in Educational Research (and it's great to reconnect with Sandra in BC as well as other TLs from across the country), it's been a busy summer so far huddled close to the phone and computer, but it'll be worth the work. (No attachments today - maybe another time!)

June 22, 2009 - The heart is willing but the mind is weak

It's just one week left until summer vacation for school-based library staff. Thank goodness! However, there's no rest for the wicked. I have my second-last MEd course to take, on "Educational Research" to do in July, as well as a mini course on ethics. I've also joined a couple of new forum groups, one of which is hoping to establish a Canadian school library think tank, similar to the Treasure Mountain concept in the U.S.

The only problem is right now my brain has nothing to contribute. Nothing.

Do you ever read some insightful blogs or online articles and it's so clever it hurts your head to comprehend? A lot of things are feeling like that right now. I hope it's just due to fatigue.

Here's some fluffy reviews written in the past that will pass for content today.

June 8, 2009 - Hobnobbing

(Why do most of my blog posts talk about where I've gone and where I'm going?)
This week I attended two media functions. One advantage of doing the things I do mean that I get invitations to some of these events. The first was the press conference held by People For Education to announce the release of their annual report on Ontario's Public Schools for 2009. I was really pleased to see the attention they gave to school libraries, although neither pleased nor surprised to hear about their findings. Their four subheadings on pages 12-13 speak volumes: Acces to libraries is uneven among schools and across the province / reading enjoyment [is] on the decline / teacher-librarians make a difference / books and materials for libraries [helped but not perfect]. My favourite fact is that kids at schools with TLs enjoy reading more than kids at schools without TLs. P4E recommends "the Ministry of Education develop policy and vision for students that includes supported, functioning school libraries, accessible throughout the school day and staffed by trained teacher-librarians and library staff".

The second shindig was a launch for Kids Can Press' new specific collection, CitizenKid. To quote the press release, CitizenKid contains books "that explains complex global issues and inspires young readers to become better global citizens". I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the titles in this collection already a part of OSLA's Be The Change website (www.accessola.com/osla/bethechange).

At both events, I had the chance to speak to people who weren't teacher-librarians but had a keen interest in school libraries. We need to hobnob, to socialize with people other than fellow library staffers, so that when things get cut or threatened, it's not just the ones working in those spaces that speak up.

There's two more weeks of school left (9 days not counting weekends). I'll try to continue posting throughout the summer (although most reflections may be anxious posts about my course on Educational Research that I'm taking this summer with the U of A). No attachment today, but I'll make up for it next time.

June 1, 2009 - "Two librarians walk into a bar..."

I'm back from Montreal and the Canadian Library Association conference. I was a speaker at a very interesting workshop - the organizer (Terri Tomchyshyn) borrowed the concept from the Canadian Law Libraries. Here's the sitch: bring together representatives from all different kinds of libraries (school, public, university, business libraries) and have each person talk for a maximum of 15 minutes on a unifying question (in this case, "what makes your library cool?"). What astonished me was how much these diverse work places had in common - a concern for their users' needs/desires and a willingness to change were key. It was also obvious that the speakers really enjoy their jobs. I'd love to be a student at two of the universities profiled, because they have interactive maps that can either tell you where available computers in the library are located, or what specific shelf your book can be located. I'd love to visit one of the public libraries, that had innovative teen programming like a "Zombie" event and a "Wii Will Rock You" gaming night, provocative seniors book groups that tackle hefty titles like Vanity Fair, or a "living library" where you can borrow a person to talk to for half an hour and have sensitive discussions. I'd love to teach with some of the teacher-librarians that spoke and invited parents to come in and tell stories in their own languages. The 15 minute time limit was tricky as a presenter but delightful as an audience member - if left you hungering for more if you liked the talk, and was bearable if they presentation was dull - surprisingly, none of them were!

The conference was in Montreal, and despite getting lost driving in (je suis tres contente que je me souviens la langue francais un peu!), I was able to get a chance to enjoy the city a bit as well. One of the CLA social events was held at a snazzy bar called The Time Supper Club, so there were more than two librarians walking into the bar.

As my attachment, my PPT is too big, so here are a few more GN reviews.

May 25, 2009 - Dancing with Acronyms

Has it really been two weeks since my last post? Blogging has taken a back seat to all the other activities going on. If I could just hook up a USB cord to my brain, the thoughts of "what I would have written had I had the time" would be uploaded promptly.

Acronym #1 = TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival)
The festival was a huge success. Having it co-sponsored by the TPL (Toronto Public Library, for those who want me to clarify all the acronyms I'm spewing out) was a good move. The hail we had Saturday morning did not put a damper on the event. My daughter and I went on Sunday (yes, Mother's Day) and worked in the Kids area. Kudos to Naseem and Scott for their fantastic organization. There was so much to do and see, and it was all FREE! My girl (who I was going to get write up this part, but it's past midnight and she's in bed)loved listening to the guests they had, such as the French creator of the Sardine comics, the duo behind Ninja, Cowboy, Bear, and the author of Frankie Pickle. I wasn't able to see these artists because I was working at the electronic comic creator table, where kids could use Comic Life to create comics of their own. 15 comics were created in the span of one afternoon. I'll send the ones that don't feature actual children in them to Scott's blog for you to see (and to direct some online traffic his way). I'll post the URL later.

Acronym #2 = OLA FoR (Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading)
The Festival of Trees was held May 13 and 14 and it was awesome! I did a community circle with some grade 4 students from my school after to hear about their favourite parts. They loved all the crafts (e.g. making badges), all the displays (e.g. One Grain of Rice), all the games (e.g. mega-Jenga block building contest to win free books), all the celebrities (e.g. the authors and dancers and TV personalities). Check www.accessola.com for the list of winners.

Acronym #3 = CLA (Canadian Library Association)
The annual conference is this coming weekend and I will be speaking, albeit briefly, on graphic novels. This fits well, since earlier today I was interviewed for a roundtable discussion on elementary schools and their graphic novel collections, and last week I attended our GTA (Greater Toronto Area) Graphic Novel Book Club and Review Team meeting at Tinlids. I have a whole box of graphic novels to read and review before we meet again in September. It's so nice to be able to chat with other book lovers about what we've read. I'm also in the process of writing a paper on balancing popular titles with classic titles in elementary school graphic novel collections (due June 30).

Did I mention I still have report cards to write? Deep breath in, deep breath out, in, out ...

(oh, and I didn't forget - here are some graphic novel reviews from our recent meeting)

May 4, 2009 - TCAF Coming!

This coming weekend (May 9-10, 2009) is the annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). TCAF is an exciting event. I will be on a panel dealing with comics in education called "Will Libraries Save Graphic Novels?" on Sunday May 10th, 11:30-12:30pm at Learning Centre I (Toronto Reference Library). My daughter and I also volunteer at the children's tent and there are always neat and unique things going on there. Last TCAF, a renowned caricature artist (whose name escapes me at the moment) taught kids how to draw caricatures and my daughter was the model, so she received a free large portrait of herself that still hangs in her room. In honour of TCAF, I'm sharing one of my graphic novel reviews (I have dozens of these on my home computer).

April 27, 2009 - Picked and Picking

What a busy week! I am a member of the Red Maple Steering committee and part of my job is to find and select the students who will participate in the awards ceremony for the Festival of Reading at Harbourfront. We've received many submissions (although we need more - there are 40 spots to fill!) and I have to say I hope that the students get to read some of the glowing words that their teachers have written about them. It's very impressive and I hope that we won't have to turn anyone away.
My husband (a "pro blogger") interviewed someone who is heavily involved with ALA and their big "gaming in libraries" project. I'm very excited about some of the things they are doing. The interviewee was on the panel to choose grant recipients and she mentioned how incredibly hard it was to pick just a few from the many excellent proposals.
We nominated one of the teachers on our staff for a Premier Award for Teaching Excellence. He didn't win, but we still feel he's #1.
As the freebie today (try lining up a freebie with your thoughts for the day - not always easy!), please accept this media conventions lesson (helping to "sell that person or idea").

April 20, 2009 - Twi-Con, Here I Come!

I received some good news this week - I will be on a panel on "Twilight and teaching" at Twi-Con in Dallas TX this summer.
Yes, that Twilight.
For those who know me personally, they can attest to my devotion to the series by Stephenie Meyer. I'll spare you the ooh-ing and ahh-ing for now (because I'm late AGAIN in my weekly blog note) but I'm very excited about hearing some of the academic papers given on the subject of Twilight, meeting some of my online friends (fellow adult fans of the series) and enjoying the perks a fan convention / mega conference can offer.
In honour of my upcoming stint with the panel, here is a media/music lesson based on Twilight that I used with my intermediate vocal music class. (I am a teacher-librarian, but like many other TLs, I have to occasionally teach other subjects - but that's another rant for another night.)

April 14, 2009 - Melanie Watt is a genius!

Sorry - Easter skewed my blogging rhythm!
My family had a restful, enjoyable four-day weekend. One of the things we did was purchase Scaredy Squirrel At Night, by Melanie Watt. My children love reading the Scaredy Squirrel books. Heck, so do I.
Today's "gift" is a media lesson linked to the book Scaredy Squirrel.
Melanie knows her stuff, knows her audience, and gives them what they want.
Last week, something happened for the first time ever in a library lesson - and it occured with Melanie Watt's Chester. I read it aloud to a JK/SK class and as soon as I finished reading it, they insisted that I read it again, right then and now. So, I did. They loved it that much. My students look forward to seeing Melanie Watt at the Festival of Reading celebration at Harbourfront, and I can see why.

April 6, 2009 - The Best Laid Plans ...

It's 11:33 p.m. as I'm typing this entry - so technically, it's still a Monday. I'm glad I haven't blown my resolve only after one week. The attachment today is from my Media Lit Kit - a lesson plan on introducing Webkinz and creating a tally chart. Nothing earth-shattering, but even if you pop on over, grab your fix, and off you go ...
My goodness, I'm making this blog sound like a drug deal!
Although speaking of addictive substances, I just finished reading the sixth Sookie Stackhouse novel, "Dead As A Doornail". In one day. Or, more accurately, in four hours. It's a great mix of mystery, romance, supernatural elements and humour. I was supposed to be fixing up my lesson plans, but I got sidetracked by a good book.
Another example of best laid plans gone awry - my family of schools teacher-librarian group are in the midst of planning our our Forest of Reading celebration. We ironed out the date, location, author, activities ... and then found out the author couldn't make our original plan. Lots of phone calls, lots of emails, lots of consultations - thankfully it looks like we've got a new date, location, and author. I'm keeping my fingers crossed we don't have to switch it again.

March 30, 2009 - Introduction

Hi everyone!
After much prompting, I have finally joined the Library Network Group and started a blog. Why did I drag my feet so much? Well, I honestly didn't think I had much to say. In the blogosphere, there are so many bright lights (Will Richardson, Joyce Valenza, and so on and so on) with brilliant ideas and insightful comments ... what on earth could I have to offer that would compare to them? I'm related to a well-renowned blogger in his area of expertise, and I see the care with which he crafts his posts, ponders his pontifical addresses (okay, they aren't necessarily pontifical, but I liked the alliteration). His advice to me on creating a blog was "maintain it" and "post regularly". Thus inspired the title of my blog: Monday Molly Musings (you can see the obsession with alliteration again). I promise to try and submit something every Monday. I can't promise you essays that will set your mind spinning, but what I do vow (once I figure out how to do this) is attach a "gift" every Monday - be it a graphic novel book review or a media literacy lesson plan, or a SmartBoard library page you can use. What I lack in depth of thought, I will make up for with freebies.
As for the moniker ... my students have made it a habit (or a sport) to Google me on a regular basis. I'll save my Internet privacy lecture for later, but let's just say I try to keep my online self distinct.
So, here I go, jumping into the fray. See you next Monday!

August 31, 2010 - A New Introduction

Greetings everyone!
This blog is actually a continuation of an old blog on a provider that just wasn't meeting my needs.
In 2009, I began my blog on the Library Network Group, as a way to support the endeavor of the creators to form an online, one-stop library community meeting space. My "Monday Molly Musings" was meant as a weekly glimpse into what I was doing professionally in my school library and in school libraries in general. I was surprised to discover that some people actually read the thing - nothing like my husband's 6 000 readers, but enough that meant I should continue. The only disappointing thing about it was the technical problems that started to crop up. When my last two posts disappeared into the ether for no apparent reason, I decided to transfer my posts onto blogger, a system I have used successfully with my students. I don't want to totally abandon LNG, but I suspect I may find a wider audience out here, and I think school library folks need to expand their horizons and talk to people other than ones interested in school libraries - they'll find that many people who never would have considered themselves "school library people" are part of the club. So, bear with me as I copy and paste all my past posts into this new spot. Enjoy!