Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Collaboration

Love Prezi almost as much as Google Docs. Groups can collaborate in real time to create presentations that pack a punch! Check it out. (Quick text version available here.)

Check out collaboration in action -- Google Style. Not sure what the true spirit of Halloween is but these folks sure look like they had fun and demonstrate a collaborative spirit we can all aspire to.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hacking hinders human happiness

Dateline: Washington Post; October 6, 2011

An Associated Press-MTV poll finds 3 in 10 teens and young adults have had people get into their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other Internet accounts and either impersonate or spy on them. That’s nearly double the level seen in 2009.

The poll found solid majorities saying they knew who was behind it . . . . . . [Often] It’s meant to be funny . . . . . . . . . But sometimes the hacking can be malicious. (Link to full article)
I went to YouTube to find a video clip to make light of this situation and was inundated with hundreds of videos promising to show me how to hack my friends email, Facebook and other accounts.

According to the article much of the "hacking" reported was done by friends who take over a computer that has been left unattended or who have "stolen" an obvious or previously shared password. Even the "funny" intrusions can often be interpreted as bullying “It’s supposed to be obvious that this is something I would never say,” and these are often things that embarrass or bother the owner of the hijacked account.

Professional hacking of social networks appears, based upon this study, to be the least of our worries. It is our "friends" who are out to get us!

With tools and techniques available to teach interested "friends" how to hack our accounts, it is these "friends" we need to guard against. I have not taken the time to research these tools but assume the best guard is, as the professionals warn us, changing passwords frequently and using combinations of letters, numbers and even characters.

What about the "friends" who take over the computer we left logged in or who borrow our laptops or smart phones that save passwords to automatically log in to all of our favorite sites? What about these loyal friends who look over our shoulders (figuratively speaking) to read our most private correspondence or who, "being funny," send email or post to Facebook things that we wouldn't ever do or if we did would never share?

I love technology! I love what it can do for us, and I love sharing the best it has to offer with students, teachers and friends. I offer and suggest. I do not preach (or at least try not to). Those of us who live in glass houses have no right to preach. On this point though, I see an urgent need to caution all around me to be cautious about passwords and about open accounts.

We cannot count upon our friends to have our backs on this one! It is up to each individual to protect their online privacy as much, perhaps more, than we work to protect our real, physical privacy.

This will not prevent purposeful, malicious bullying, but it will prevent us from feeling the barbs of a "friend's," supposedly "funny" jabs. As we encourage our students to develop an ever increasing online presence with blogs, discussion boards and an increasing volume of Web based application and those same students develop their own social and in some cases professional and financial networks outside of school, it is imperative that we encourage the safest possible behaviors.

Check this article about Google Apps for Education and community fears. What the Internet hath giveth, thy community (or district) can take away if fears outweigh perceived benefit.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Explicit instruction limits learning . . .

I often teach technology to students quickly. I often start with the comment, "I know many of you already know how to do this but if you'll give me a few minutes I might remind you of something you've forgotten." Once started, I try to keep things interesting and fast paced and will say as I skim rapidly over very important tips or techniques, "If you need help figuring out how to [get here / do this / take the next step] let me know and I will be glad to help you."

I have found that this method causes students to try harder to figure out how to do things they may have struggled with if I taught in greater detail. I think we (all) tend to rely on as much assistance or guidance as we can get and only when pushed to extend ourselves does our creativity and motivation to learn by doing engage. This seems to me like the basis of constructivist learning and the model we should all pursue as educators.

I watch teachers repeat basic instructions again and again until, "everyone in the class gets it," but notice that it sometimes takes forever and in following lessons students need the explanations again and again. With my method, after the first time, when I tell the students, "This is easy and I know nobody will have a problem with it," if I have to revisit later it is done individually or very quickly to the group with a preface like the one above.

A recent MIT study seems to confirm my rationale and support my opinion that sometimes to promote learning, when it comes to teaching, explicit instruction, less is more.
Suppose someone showed you a novel gadget and told you, “Here’s how it works,” while demonstrating a single function, such as pushing a button. What would you do when they handed it to you?

You’d probably push the button. But what if the gadget had other functions? Would it occur to you to search for them, if your teacher hadn’t alluded to their existence?

Maybe, maybe not. It turns out that there is a “double-edged sword” to pedagogy: Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery. A study by MIT researchers and colleagues compared the behavior of children given a novel toy under four different conditions, finding that children expressly taught one of its functions played with the toy for less time and discovered fewer things to do with it than children in the other three scenarios.

According to Laura Schulz, . . . Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at MIT, this is rational behavior, as teaching is meant to impart skills quickly and efficiently. The danger is leading children to believe that they’ve learned all there is to know, thereby discouraging independent discovery.
The rest of the article is available at MIT News.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Scare tactics aren't working

Great refresher for teachers, librarians and parents on how to teach cyber-safety. Time to pull back from the scare tactics and focus on the facts. Scaring kids from drugs and sex hasn't worked since the '50s and scaring them about cyber-bullying isn't working today. It's time to treat kids like adults, give them the facts and the concerns, and assist them in finding safe and honorable choices.

Does this mean I have to loosen the reins on my own children's digital lives? Jury will remain out on this one . . .

Larry Magid, co-director of Connect created another slide show a while back that is more detailed and explanatory and perhaps suitable for middle school students.

School Days . . .

Wow! Has it been that long since my last post . . .

New school year underway and lots going on. Teachers are excited about Google Docs, specialized searches, Web reference evaluation and focused database research. I am busy making new and affirming old contacts to grow my collaborative network.

I made it to final round of interviews for several librarian positions over the summer only to be edged out in the end by laid off librarians also in the interview pool. While this is financially crippling, I am holding head high and am confident I will find and accept a perfect position.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Librarians do what search engines can't

Flo & Friends

As frustrated as I get with library budget cuts all around us, we are seeing a more and more vocal core of support in communities across the country. The following excerpt appeared in an editorial in the Houston Chronicle on March 31. If only the decision makers and majority of population of communities and schools realized what this editor defines.

The infoverse has exploded. Data still comes in book form - and in a bazillion other forms as well: among them, databases, online journals, architectural plans, maps, photos, microprints, CDs, DVDs, podcasts, posters, manuscripts, Tweets, [blogs,] musical scores, scripts, magazines, software and web sites.

Librarians make it possible to navigate the wilderness.

Handed a difficult question, a good librarian happily hacks through the data jungle, sorting the good info from the bad, and procuring exactly the answer you wanted.

But great librarians do something even better: They help you ask a sharper question, then find the answer you didn't know you needed.

Maybe printed books will largely disappear in the next decade. Even so, we'll still need libraries - because we'll need librarians.

Thu 03/31/2011 Houston Chronicle, Section B, Page 8, 3 STAR Edition

The amazing power of the reference interview! Define a question to improve the outcome. What a concept.

Google's most recent Webinar, May 4, 2011 "Writing successful search queries," describes "predictive searching" and describes, the "number one rule of search engines [is to] search for you answer, not your question." This is good start, and as a HUGE supporter of all that is Google, will benefit users who stumble upon and understand this concept, but for now, and judging by the interactions I have at work and throughout my daily life and the media I interact with, the vast majority of our population can still benefit from the expertise that librarians can provide.

I just got back from SLMS conference in Buffalo, NY. I hope to post more here on that later but suffice it to say, conferences are sooo motivational and empowering. This one offered so much info, it did not help my focus on one aspect or another but filled my brain with ideas for teaching, learning, improving and advocating.

Friday, April 1, 2011

And another one gone, and another one gone

In a sign of the times, Newport Beach is considering closing the city's original library and replacing it with a community center that would offer all the same features — except for the books.

Instead of a reference librarian, patrons would be greeted by a kiosk equipped with video-calling software that would allow them to speak with employees elsewhere. And books — when ordered — would be dropped off at a locker for pickup.
Tomes' time might be up at Newport Beach library
Are we numb to these stories? Locally the town of Greece, NY has announced the perceived necessity to eliminate half of its budget for libraries going into next year. The superintendent of Rochester city schools announced yesterday that his proposed budget eliminates 900 teaching positions.
Aside from the fact that I am in search of a job as a school librarian and enjoy my occasional service as a substitute at the public library, and aside from my role as the son and grandson of teachers and father of students, and aside from the fact that I now work as a technology assistant in a school library and visit our public library regularly with my children, aside from these facts, I am trying to figure out how I really feel about library closures and school program elimination.

In other words, how do these cuts affect citizens and students who may not have the love of books, knowledge, technology, collaboration and academic discussion, that I have? How do these cuts affect my neighbors who do not realize the opportunity they are passing up to read books and magazines and use computers for free?

Will it matter to them that there are 30 students or more in a class instead of 25. Will it matter that elementary students do not have stand-alone art or music lessons or a chance to enjoy reading without pressure in the library? Will it matter to them that elective classes at the secondary level are shaved to the bare minimum or eliminated. Will the lack of sports and club activities and related activity buses cause them frustration?

I believe in America and the ideals our country was founded upon. I believe that American pride, ingenuity, influence and strength to affect change still exists. I believe, however, that it can only be disturbed as we feel great pain as a national (or at least regional or local) community. I believe that we have within us the power to reverse this economic and social landslide but not unless the pain becomes unbearable and the urge to ease the pain unavoidable.

So, have we become numb to stories of cuts and eliminations of programs and facilities? I guess I am not sure. Are we sheep who will follow our leaders wherever they take us and agree to whatever cuts they impose? Are we, as a population, comfortable with our leaders and in agreement with most of the decisions they make? Or do we have the fortitude to cause our leaders to alter decisions to our will and to choose leaders who support our will?

Past attempts to change the traditional library model have not always worked out.

In 2008, Long Beach considered turning its main library into a depot of sorts that would fill book orders for neighborhood branch libraries. But residents rallied to save the stacks and the proposal was shelved.
In 2008 these citizens noticed, disagreed, and prevailed. What happens now?

What happens in Long Beach California? What happens in Greece, NY? What happens in the city of Rochester? What happens in cities and communities coast to coast to our schools and our libraries, and tangentially speaking, our healthcare and our infrastructure and our economy and society as a whole?

In a special, off-season, election to choose a new mayor for the city of Rochester, 26% of eligible voters showed up at the polls yesterday. This was up from 20% in 2009 but down from almost 40% in a hotly contested 2005 election. Fifty six percent of eligible voters participated in our last national election, the highest in any election since 1968. As the country has simmered during this presidency, 40.9% of voters turned out to shake up our legislative branches (highest off-year turn-out since 1970).

Do these statistics matter? I guess I can only answer, "I hope so."

Will the voters focus on the cuts to education and to library services? What is the future of education and of library service in our country in the near and long-term future? Sadly it is not the teachers or the librarians who will answer that question. It is our neighbors, our students, parents and patrons, and the large unknown masses who have forgotten or who never understood the value of programs, services and education that we offer.

The time to save your school or your library, your teacher or your librarian, or your job if you are in the profession is NOT after cuts have been announced or are being discussed. The time is NOW! Usage statistics, evidence of success, patron and student growth and satisfaction with services and teaching, and community support in advance of budget discussions are critical to continued funding. Converting a non-library user every day and developing strategies to remain relevant in our communities and schools into the 21st century should be among our many goals.

I apologize for blending the lines between school and library budgets in this discussion and know the answers and even the questions are not the same for each and yet they do share many commonalities. I know of no consolidated resource that identifies cuts to education, but want to share and ask all lovers of libraries to help keep your town off of these maps.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

E-readers -- Yes, but do questions remain?

On some topics I claim some expertise and on others just interest. I have not delved into the Nook, Kindle, iPad e-reader technologies, nor have I monitored popularity trends toward these technologies. It is as an uniformed outsider that I pose the question, "What happens if the technology you buy into does not survive?"

Does anybody remember the VHS / Beta wars? VHS was declared the winner but few of them still survive today. How about the game system wars? Which did you choose: Atari, Sega, or Nintendo? How is that holding up today?

If content and format are unique to the device and the device is replaced, what do you have? I only offer questions on this topic but am intrigued by this video about technologies I have never heard of before: Nelson, Coupland and Alice. They sound like people's names but they appear to offer another alternative to traditional e-readers.

I do not doubt for a moment that the future is in digital formats. I am fairly confident that after the Christmas rush this year a large percentage of human readers in our country will own some form of digital reader. Scanning library forums, it is apparent that many libraries are buying into current technologies. I am not questioning this direction, but the path.

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.

Meet Nelson, Coupland, and Alice — the faces of tomorrow’s book. Watch global design and innovation consultancy IDEO’s vision for the future of the book. What new experiences might be created by linking diverse discussions, what additional value could be created by connected readers to one another, and what innovative ways we might use to tell our favorite stories and build community around books?
Perhaps my questions are the irrelevant ramblings of the ignorant and if I better understood the technology they would not pass my lips. I wish this were so and beg any who read this post to correct me if my thought process is wrong. I also welcome comments of agreement and clarification if I am correct.

I promise to pay more attention and to pursue this technology in the near future. I look forward to the experience of reading my first digital book on a reader. For today though, I ask, please educate me.

Fact is stranger than fiction

Orwell's 1984 was considered science fiction in it's time. People laughed at Wilbur and Orville Wright and Glenn Curtiss until they proved flight was possible. Any of us born before 1970 knows at least someone who or whose parents thought computers were a gimmick or fad that would wane in time. And yet, look at where we are today . . .

Is it ridiculous to think that this video from Corning Glass is a realistic view into the future? (I honestly don't think so.) Whether you believe technology will seep into every aspect of our lives or not, this video proves it is possible in ways most of us could not even imagine. Even The Jetsons didn't have these technologies that are possible today!

This is must watch video for anyone responsible for teaching today's youth. It sheds new light on the phrase, "preparing students for jobs that haven't even been invented yet."

If anyone is shopping for my birthday, the technologies in this video would be a great place to start . . . .

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Copyright is more than a concept

Reading from the Travelin' Librarian's Blog, came across a post reiterating our trite disclaimer about using copyrighted material but with an added twist. He quoted, as I also do below, from an Associated Press article posted on the KTVN Channel 2 Website:
Associated Press - February 15, 2011 7:05 PM ET

DENVER (AP) - A law firm that targets the unauthorized use of news content on the Internet has filed 32 lawsuits in federal court in Colorado seeking to stop the use of a Denver Post photograph showing an airport pat-down. . . .

Righthaven has been criticized by some for suing first, rather than asking bloggers or operators of websites to remove copyrighted content. . . . CEO Steve Gibson defended the strategy Tuesday, saying many people wrongfully assume that if something is posted on the Internet, it's in the public domain and can be used for free. . . .

In a notice to readers published Nov. 14, the Post said it would use all legal remedies to address copyright infringement. . . .

1 [sic] of those sued by Righthaven is Brian Hill, 20, of Mayodan, N.C. Hill said he found the Post picture on Google Images and posted it on his news and politics website, not knowing it was copyrighted.

Hill said an attorney from Righthaven called him Feb. 10 and said he could be liable for up to $150,000 in damages . . . . [apparently a settlement offer for $6000 is a possibility]

This, my friends, is why I try to teach our students about copyright law when we create multimedia content. Perhaps, as students they will not become the target of a lawsuit like the one described above but how many of our students might build their own businesses or work in small companies where they find themselves as Webmasters, public relations or news providers, marketing agents or social media liasons.

In education, with liberal interpretations of fair use, we feel protected but as we send our students out into a digital world, unless or until our national copyright laws are re-written, they will be held accountable by firms like Righthaven. Could you afford to pay $6000 (settlement offer) for every copyrighted image you ever used without permission? (I am sure I could not but do my best to use Creative Commons images and give credit whenever possible.)

Travelin' Librarian also identified an image search engine I had not seen before. Compfight searches Flickr and with one click on the primary search page, can limit search to Creative Commons images. In a couple quick tests, I did find images through Compfight that Google did not provide and so will definitely add it to my toolbox, but using Google's "advanced image search" and choosing "labeled for re-use" still seems to provide a broader selection of images.

NOTE: Remind students that searching creative commons does NOT assure that images are available without limitation. A copyrighted photo saved by another user to a Creative Commons license is still copyrighted. Multiple wrongs do not make a right.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Google in the kitchen

Sunday afternoon, sitting at home and looking for recipes and what did I find? Google has made it easier than ever before to find exactly the recipe you are looking for. Search recipes by ingredients, cooking time & calories.

Not only did this help me find exactly the recipe I was looking for more quickly than I ever could have on any of the recipe database sites, but now I have a new tool to share with our cooking classes. Bon appetite . . .

Check out the Google Blog introduction to this new tool "Slice and dice your recipe search results," posted on February 24."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"The Last Text"

Just for a moment, on my soapbox . . .

Not sure where this fits into the library curriculum but as a parent, uncle, teacher, friend, driver, human being, and as a citizen of the world with a voice and a platform, I cannot keep this to myself.

From the AT&T page where this video originally appeared:

Watch AT&T's new 10-minute documentary titled "The Last Text," featuring stories of real individuals whose lives have been adversely affected by texting behind the wheel.

AT&T created this documentary as part of its "It Can Wait" campaign because we want consumers be safe while using our technology. We are grateful and humbled by the bravery of the people who agreed to be on camera for the documentary. We would have no story to tell without them.

Learning you can see!

Check out this great new tool! Create a video trip across a map complete with music and captions in minutes on TripLine.

In conjunction with our focus on Black History Month, check out this demo of King's march from Selma to Montgomery. Click "Full Screen" for best effect and press the play icon to start video. Click on the caption summary boxes to pause video and read an elongated caption.

It literally only takes minutes to create a project like this! Available tools allow you to select points through search or by dropping directly on map. Text and pictures are easily added as captions. Uploaded pics can create trip automatically using time stamp and geotags! A diverse selection of music is available on the site and adding is as simple as a click!

Great tool with potential uses in any subject from mapping civilizations to wars to political campaign trips. Highlight a biography, an event, a mission or even a period in history; Where were the hotbeds and turning points of the Industrial Revolution? Maps can be made with connecting lines or without for projects like this.

Would love to see a map of Homer's travels, the Iditarod sled race, and my next vacation (or my last). Maps can be made public or private with a simple click.

Registering to create your own maps on TripLine is is simple and easy but many maps are available for viewing without registering or logging in. I give this site an A++ rating!!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Hey Doc, Can I help you ?

Working with one of our computer techs today, we were approached by a student who asked advice about her personal computer. I thought nothing of it until the tech related to me that he is often approached at parties and by virtual strangers with tech questions. He compared the approaches to those endured by doctors, lawyers, mechanics and other professionals with advanced knowledge in specific areas desired by less knowledgeable acquaintances.

Are librarians approached in this same manner? Not at the reference desk of the public library or by students or teachers against a tight deadline, but by friends, neighbors and acquaintances on the street or at the gym?

I realized as he made his comment, without malice or realization of what I was hearing, that this is the problem we are facing today as librarians fighting for our jobs and the right to continue serving the public. Trying to get legislatures and executives at local, state and national levels to see us as professionals is almost futile without the support of our friends and neighbors and strangers on the street.

Is it too late? I pray not but but wonder, how can we shift the paradigm? What can we do to elevate the perception regarding our ability to improve people's lives? Our ability to discover and organize information is irrelevant if others do not covet that ability and see us as the avenue to enlightenment.

We see ourselves as professionals and believe the lessons and the tools we can share with our students or patrons are both beneficial and can improve quality of life. Unless we can convey this opinion to others in a way that motivates them to aggressively seek and promote our services, the end may be nigh.

I have spent much of this year building my skills as a librarian through actions and through reading. I have not focused my attention on self-promotion or promotion of our field but it is becoming increasingly obvious that our only ray of hope is in tooting our own horns and trying to be heard.

Merely logging usage statistics is a path to eventual extinction. We must promote our services and ourselves to a far larger group than that which may be interested in usage statistics. It is not this narrow group who will decide the fate of the last librarian, but the users themselves who rise in our support.