Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sprinkling here at Burgy Farm. Other than thunder, all is quiet and mellow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Can't wait for tonight's Burn Notice. Fi is abducted!
For personal/family use, I like Cozi more than Google Calendar. Maybe not for school use tlchat
Tonight is the last open library night of the summer! Hope to see you between 4 to 7 pm!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two new posts to my Random Thoughts blog! tlchat

An iPad in My Future? Maybe not

This morning I went to Best Buy with Lora.  She bought a really nice Dell for about $530.00.  While she was completing her transaction, I sauntered over to the Apple display and checked out the iPad.  What I saw left me unimpressed.

Don't get me wrong - it was pretty.  But a base model costs $500.00.  Compare the functionality of the iPad with the Dell laptop my daughter just purchased.  For roughly $30 more dollars I could buy a machine with a lot more potential.  Needless to say, I did not buy one.

My daughter asked me why I had wanted an iPad in the first place.  I told her I wanted a digital reader.  "That's it?" She asked.  I thought about her reaction.  Yeah, I really want a digital reader, and I am unimpressed with the  Kindle.  Yet I am quite enthusiastic with the concept of digital readers.  So what gives?

Basically, I can't bring myself to spend $500 for something my laptop can already do.  Before I would buy an iPad at its present price, I would have bought a cute little laptop like the one Lora purchased.

I do believe in digital readers,  but I have a feeling that for students would prefer a platform that would translate to their cell phones.  The iPad and Kindle, to me, seem like a moderating step between the two.    I will buy more e-books for my students as soon as Follett devises a platform to transfer e-books to students' cell phones.

Could I Keep It to Six? Maybe Before Breakfast!

In his July 26 post on the Blue Skunk blog, Doug Johnson challenges us to see if we could limit our use of technology to six websites and two gadgets for an entire week.  Admittedly, I haven't put a lot of thought into this, but I just don't see it working for me.  Take a look at my day.  (For argument's sake, we'll assume it is summer,  and I have no reason to actually search for other people.)

6:00 a.m.:  Wake up my baby (my Samsung laptop)  Device 1 used. Launch Internet Explorer.
                 Open my Excel spreadsheet that contains my checkbook.  Log into Huntington Bank's Online                                    
                 Banking site to check my financial health.  Website 1.
6:05 a.m.:  Check my Google Analytics account to determine if anyone has looked any of my blogs or sites. (I                                        
                  know this is somewhat vain, but it is useful to know if anyone is interested in your work.)
                 Website 2.
6:10 a.m :  Login to my. local newspaper, the Dominion Post. Website 3.  
6:30 a.m.:  Grab my third Diet Pepsi and fire up Google Chrome, because Facebook  runs better  on Chrome 
                 than Explorer. (Website 4).  After catching up on all the news that is news among my friends, I
                 settle in for some serious surfing.
6:40 a.m.   Now it's time to check my Google Reader account. (Website 5) Here's where things get
                  interesting.  It all depends on what is on my Google feed.  Perhaps I have a notification from
                 Informal Learning Flow that I think would be interesting for my teachers.  I open my Brookhaven 
                 Technology Center (Website 6)site and add a snippet.  Likewise, I might find information on a
                  children's author or series that I want to share with my peeps.  I login to my Ping (Website 7)
                  account and choose the appropriate venues for sharing.  If my find is important enough, I might
                 add it to my library webpage, AskMrsMartin (Website 8).
7:00 a.m.   Time for breakfast and my fourth Diet Pepsi.  Afterwards I'll return to my Google Reader.
                  Hopefully I'll find some wonder thought to ponder in my Random Thoughts blog, like I did with
                  post from Doug Johnson.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My new blog for parents and students: Brookhaven Library Media Review! Please subscribe!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

So, WV School Librarians: Do We Have a Professional Death Wish?

I recently read a blog post by Doug Johnson that gave a synopsis of Gary Hartzell's presentation at a Minnesota advocacy workshop. Prefacing his summary of Hartzell's thoughts was Johnson's rant about the professional death wish of the school library media specialists in Minnesota. Of more than 500 LMS in the state, fewer than 30 attended this event that headlined a national speaker.

I understand his frustration and commented with a rant expressing mine. Now it is time for a confession:

I can't claim much of a high road when I seldom attend offerings in my own state, and there have been many quality offerings. Karen Figgatt, Cathy Davis, and Celene Seymour have recently done remarkable work in organizing summer professional development sessions for us, yet I think the last time I attended a session was the time Ginny Franks hosted us at Bridgeport Middle School. Was that in 2007 or 2008?

I know we all have family obligations that take precedence. Last summer I passed up a chance to hear Keith Curry Lance due to family obligations. My obligation? I was dogsitting my daughter's weimeraner will she was on her honeymoon. Don't you think I could have boarded the damn mutt- and by that, I mean my precious granddog- for a few days? KEITH CURRY LANCE!

This summer my reason for not attending were varied. The event took place during my first open library session of the summer. I didn't think the sessions were relevant to my needs. Etc. But were the sessions really irrelevant? Isn't the opportunity to learn and share worthy, regardless of the topic? Isn't the opportunity to just talk with other library media specialists worth the effort?

So, now it is time for a New School Year's Resolution: I resolve to help facilitate discussion and disseminate information by:

  1. Opening up our InfoGoddesses wiki to all library media specialists the state. There we can share and catalog our collective wisdom and concerns with fellow librarians. (Send me your email address, and I will add you to the wiki! Or just request membership on the front page!)
  2. Attend the Fall Conference of WVLA at Stonewall Jackson Resort.  ( Assuming the School Libraries Division will be active, I will volunteer to present!). I will regularly post conference updates to the K-12 Librarians listserv.
  3. Pay my WVLA dues and reactivate my membership. I just rejoined ALA and AASL, and I need to show the same involvement and professional courtesy to my state organization.
  4. Post relevant finds from my daily feeds to the K-12 Librarians listserv. I encourage you all to do the same!
  5. Attend national conferences, including the 2011 conference in Minnesota. (Yes, I am sure I will be paying for this out of my own pocket!) Again, I will post updates to the K-12 Librarians listserv for those who cannot attend.
  6. Create and commit to a schedule of training for all my colleagues.  I'll let you know what is being offered and invite you to join us.

Sent from my U.S. Cellular BlackBerry® smartphone

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Open library tonight at Brookhaven Elementary from 4-7. Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 19, 2010

School Begins in Five Weeks!

In five  weeks, the 2010-2011 school term will begin in Monongalia County.  When August 23 arrives, we all will marvel at how quickly summer evaporated;  In truth, five weeks is a lot of time - time workers in other jobs would love to have.  (Let's forget, for a second, that our summer break is unpaid leave.) I know I am going to need almost every second of these upcoming weeks to get ready for the new school year.  Here are some things I have done so far:

Reading:  At the risk of being stereotypical, I have spent a lot of time this summer catching up on reading I have meant to do a long time ago.  On my completed reading list is another re-reading of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I also read Shutter Island, Eragon and the Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey.  I have two more books, Endymion Spring and Alcatraz and the Scrivener's Bones to read in the next five weeks.

I  have been catching up on professional reading, mostly via RSS subscriptions through Google Reader.  I have been perusing two of Carol Simpson's works on copyright for schools; these are valuable resources, but not much fun.

Planning:  Most of my planning has been in regard to our reading theme, A Reading Rainforest.  I have spent TV time this summer making construction the paper chains I will be using to simulate vines.  Doretta Malone, one of our kindergarten paraprofessionals who for the past two summers has volunteered for the summer reading program, purchased green vinyl table coverings in 100-feet rolls.  Combined with the chains, these table coverings will be used to make a canopy.  My daughters' Beanie Babies will be used to provide wildlife.  Each child will be given a rainforest animal marker to track his progress through the rainforest. 

Cybersafety education is a goal I hope to pursue aggressively this year.  I have downloaded and reviewed the iSafe curriculum for each grade level.  I want to meet with each class once a month in the computer lab or library to meet these curriculum standards.

Of course, I also am very interested in continuing and expanding existing research projects, such as the fourth grade explorers, Native American and scientists units, and the fifth grade energy unit.  I want to re-institute the third grade nonfiction writing project and add a few more projects along the way.  I would like to schedule a time to introduce second grade to the OPAC and 4th grade to Destiny Quest.  

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Should teachers be required do develop and monitor RSS feeds?

Should we require school employees to have RSS readers?

Dr. Scott McLeod has written two interesting blog posts on whether teachers should be required to establish and regularly follow RSS feeds.  In his first post, McLeod sets the premise for his position that feeds should be a part of our daily professional responsibilities. In the second post he responds to his readers comments, mine included, and asks for more reader feedback.  It is definitely a conversation worth having.

Personally, I have learned a lot using RSS feeds. I sincerely believe that the professional development I have gained through following RSS feeds just this year have been far more valuable than the cumulative value of all face-to-face experiences I have had in the past twenty years.  Why?  Well, likely because I get to choose the content that is most interesting to me, rather than topics imposed on me by others.  I am looking forward to sharing RSS feeds with my colleagues this year.  My hope is that five of my colleagues (at least) will be regular feed readers and will share what you learn with the rest of us, as I do through Brookhaven Technology Center.

In his second post McLeod asserts that my goal of having five of 40 teachers use RSS feeds regularly is short of what our aim should be.  McLeod states, "I don’t think it’s naive to believe that we can do better than that with our professional development."  I'm giving his feedback serious thought, giving special attention to factors I analyzed  to arrive at this specific goal.  

First, through my study of change-agents, I have learned that only eight percent of any group, according to the Concerns Based Adoption Model, is likely to be an early adopter of an initiative.  Following this model, only three members of our faculty would be likely to frequently use RSS readers when it is initially introduced.   Five, then, would be an optimistic goal.  In the second round of exposure to this topic, following the model, we could expect 17 percent of the faculty, or seven teacher leaders, to become users.  As we develop through all phases of the adoption model, we will likely find 17 percent, or seven teachers, who never do adopt the RSS feeds.

Second, I have seen the results of required professional development efforts.  When our school was involved in the Reading First program, all K-3 teachers were required to complete 100 hours of professional development.  Many of these hours were met by reading selected articles and writing reflections on these articles.  My observations:  Very few teachers did this willingly.  There was no follow-up or interactions about the reflections.  All that mattered is that something was written; quality of thought was not an issue.   Teachers resented that this reading/reflection requirement was added to the list of other requirements they needed to meet as a Reading First School.  The required staff development's greatest contribution, in my opinion, was the creation of ill will.

Most of the teachers in my school are in their late 40s to early 60s.  I do not for a minute believe that older teachers cannot successfully adopt 21st Century technologies, but I do need to stress that reading blogs, wikis and feeds are not generally the preferred modalities of this age group.  I am 50 years old, and these are my preferred modalities, but I believe I am the exception to the norm.  Therefore, for the majority of teachers in my faculty to adopt and use RSS feeds on a regular basis, they will have to develop positive dispositions to both the professional development activities  and the technology itself.  This would be double the expectations placed on the young, digital native faculty member.

On a related note, I think that teaching is a field that requires constant reflection.  I believe my teachers constantly reflect on their teaching and learning. (They are wonderful teachers!)  I don't think, however, that they are accustomed to sharing their thoughts with the faceless world in a digital format.  Most teachers of my age are not accustomed to having their thoughts exposed to the world.  (Of all the teachers you know, how many volunteer to lead professional development initiatives?  Not many!)  The idea of blogging their reflections and sharing will require personal as well as professional growth, if not the acquisition of what some might consider an inflated ego.  Blowing their own horns is just not a cultural norm for my colleagues.

I think the goal of any professional development initiative is for steady, sustained growth and adoption of dispositions to improve our practice.  I believe that requiring teachers to develop RSS feeds will cause more exposure than a steady, scaffolded approach, but that for the habits to be sustained and for dispositions to use the feeds to develop, more individualized nurturing of faculty members must occur.  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Don't forget open library night at Brookhaven Library Media Center! Mrs. Malone and I will be there from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Farm Morning.doc

Dan and I are sitting under the maples trees, listening to the birds and insects, waiting for the fog to lift.  Today promises to be a beautiful clear, moderately hot day after a week of blistering mid 90s. 

It has only been five days since our last farm visit. Not much has changed in our brief absence, except for a tree in Carl's field.  Last weekend, July 3-5, I thought I noticed a patch of red in this tree's leaves.  This weekend the bottom leaves have turned bittersweet, and color has spread to a few neighboring trees.

I search my mind for reasons why this tree and its neighbors have begun their fall display.  Is it lack of rainfall? Was it the few mornings of temperatures in the 40s?

The tree usually is the first at the farm to change colors, and usually I welcome the change as the sign of a new school year ahead, full of endless possibilities.  But this is too early. I am not ready to let go of summer yet.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Never Knew: The Campaign to Ban Comic Sans

Okay, so LeBron went to the Heat (with Da'Sean, I might add), and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert writes a scathing opinion. This, however, is not what has the Twitterati's panties in bunches.  The issue: Gilbert wrote said scathing opinion in {gasp!} Comic Sans.

I honestly don't care about LeBron's move or the NBA in general, but who the hell let the Cavaliers' owner post his letter in Comic Sans?

The Tweetdom is trending Comic Sans posts like never before.  Who knew the simple choice of a font could be so consequential?

Apparently there has been a movement to crush the use of Comic Sans, developed in 1994 by Vincent Connare for some time.  According to an article in The Wall Street Journal graphic designer Holly Sliger and her husband Dave Combs began the Ban Comic Sans Movement in 1999.  The couple has gained global awareness for their movement, which is supported by the sale of stickers, coffee mugs and other paraphernalia promoting "typography awareness."

Personally, I don't know what the big deal is.  Yes, one should choose a font to convey a message or a tone.  Maybe Gilbert's opinion and choice of font was a statement that worrying about LeBron's move to Miami was sort of second grade.  Maybe the guy just likes Comic Sans.  Who cares?  Apparently way too many people!  Since I began writing this brief post, my Twitter feed has turned up 186 new tweets on Comic Sans.

Make that 192 tweets.

Elementary teachers like Comic Sans for its child-friendly appeal.  I don't think we will stop using the font anytime soon.  When it does, you can count on me to write all my official reports in Wing Ding.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Almost Open Library time!

What I Have Done (So Far) on My Summer Vacation

This summer I have elected to abandon traditional professional development commitments.  This does not mean I have abandoned learning.  To the contrary, I have spent a good portion of our very long summer engaged in activities that should prove helpful throughout the school year.  For example:
  • I've been keeping up on my feeds with Google Reader.  Using Reader ( a totally free service, by the way), I subscribe to a variety of blogs, mashups, Twitter searches and more that help me stay updated on technology or whatever the subscription describes.  Setting up a Reader feed is easy.  Here's how: (But please excuse the crappy sound.)

  • I have explored Glogster .  Glogster is a cool way to make interactive posters for your students.  It would be an even cooler way for your kids to make posters for projects!  I hope to make more glogs to coincide with the pathfinders for various units. Here is a glog I made for my AskMrsMartin page:    

  • I have used to update all my posts at once.  This allows me to reach my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogger and other services without having to update individual services.  This is  not always a practical way to use each of these services; sometimes updating specific services is more appropriate.  For example, it is more appropriate to update personal accounts individually.  If I want to reach a maximum number of faculty, parents and students, however, Ping is the way to go!
  • I have been exploring ereading platforms, as I mentioned in a previous blog.  I have downloaded Borders and Kindle apps to my laptop.  Neither have worked successfully on my cell phone - yet.  I suspect enhancements will come any day and make these apps more usable. 
  • I have held Open Library Nights each Thursday since June 17.  During that time Mrs. Malone and I have been decorating for the upcoming year's theme, Reading Rainforest.  It is definitely a work in progress, and I  have spent a lot of evenings working on the finer points of these decorations (if you can call them that).
  • What else?  Well, I have been reading.  But don't you know my reading list keeps getting longer, thanks to recommendations from friends on services like Shelfari and Good Reads.  Oh, yeah.  I have been writing blog posts and updating Brookhaven Technology Center.  
There are, of course, many things I haven't done.  For example, I can't bring myself to think about instructional design for the year.  I know there are topics, such as cybersafety and information literacy, that I need to cover more in depth.  I just haven't decided how.

    Don't forget tonight is Open Library Night at Brookhaven. Mrs. Malone and I will be there from 4 to 7!

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    I need to do something positive, physical, creative. Stack wood, perhaps?

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Off to the store. I don't know what the day will bring. It is summer, and I love it!

    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Productive weekend. Four new blog posts, including Transliteracy: Our Freedom Depends on It.

    Transliteracy: Our Freedom Depends on It

    Happy Fourth of July from my farm here in Wood County,WV. My Internet connection has been very spotty today, so I have not had the best connection with my PLN. However, a few tweets have been coming through and from them I can see that many of us are deeply affected by what this day means, even if it means different things to different people.  Many of us see this as a day to honor our troops. Some see it as a day of family get-togethers and picnics. I prefer to think of this as the day our liberties were born.

    In this post I would like to discuss the basis of our freedom and the responsibilities we must assume to maintain our freedom.  The Constitution assures us of certain rights but does not tell us how to insure these.

    To maintain our freedom, I believe we all must be critical consumers of information. Transliteracy is required of all of us to make sense of the wealth of information and misinformation available to us. We all must be critical viewers, readers listeners - cynics,even - to sort through the trash and arrive at the truth.

    We must become more adept at finding and analyzing primary sources of information.  By the time most of us receive our news, it has been analyzed and edited and repackaged several times. Sometimes it is really hard to get at the truth.  So where do we begin?

    I suggest libraries of all types - but most especially public libraries - as starting places to delve into the origins of the news. But before we leave home or log on, we must first adopt a critical stance about any and all information we are to receive.

    Libraries of all sorts must take the lead in helping citizens bridge the multiple literacies and interpret their findings.  Many libraries and librarians already have adopted this charge.  For me, as an elementary librarian, this means I must help and encourage children to question all forms of media. I will be but one of many foot soldiers in the necessary war for our continued freedom.

    Actually Composing from a Laptop

    The past several posts have been written on my BlackBerry Curve 8330.  I have been relying on that medium in part because I wanted to see how effective I could be using my phone as a handheld computer.  My analysis:  I did pretty well.

    I definitely like the idea of anywhere technology.  I think cell phones will be providing a larger percentage of the information stream in coming years.  How nice to be able to write when the idea strikes, even if one is away from more traditional media.  Serendipity could lead to the best ideas one has; of course, a lot of drivel and lack of polish could also be the result.

    I wonder if we will become more adept at extemporaneous writing as cell phone as a word processor use expands.  Many have decried the use of text and instant messaging and email as avenues of inferior writing.  To be sure, once an email is sent it is difficult and often impossible to recall and edit.  Certainly our reputations as learned individuals will be tarnished if too many hastily written posts are not proofread before being sent into the ether. 

    I disagree with the critics’ debasement of IM language, however.  Do any of you remember that course that was once taught in all high schools?  It was called shorthand.  I see no difference philosophically in the use of IM-speak and shorthand, excect that the use of IM-speak has evolved organically with the technology at the hands of young people.  Both IM-speak and shorthand serve the same purpose, if the audiences are different.

    I love my BlackBerry and will be using it for the immediate future.  Soon, however, I will look to the Android market to see what it can offer me in terms of on-demand computing.  I can’t wait to find out!

    Checking Out Digital Readers

    Before anyone freaks out on me, I want to be clear that I don't think the printed word in its traditional formats - book, magazine, newspaper - is going away.  However, there is a lot to be said for digital readers.  Part of my time this summer is being spent exploring various options.

    My county technology director, Nancy Napolillo, loaned my her Kindle for a few weeks this spring.  Without any directions I was able to navigate the device, but I did not find it terribly intuitive.  The resolution, however, was wonderful, even in bright sunlight, and the battery seemed quite resilient.  Unfortunately, the device is black and white only, which means it likely would have little appeal to kids.

    A few days after borrowing Nancy's Kindle I had the brief opportunity to preview an iPad owned by our school psychologist, Stephanie Oberly. Although I did not get to play long, I was impressed!  I definitely see an iPad in my future!

    In the meantime, Kindle has been making some moves to combat obsolescence.  I had heard that it had released apps for mobile devices, allowing customers to freely download the apps without the costly purchase of the Kindle device.  Once the app was installed, customers could purchase Kindle editions at a much discounted price and read these editions on their phones.  Unfortunately, my particular smartphone is not supported.

    I was able to download a Kindle app. For my PC, however.  Again, in terms of graphics this is bare bones. For scholarly research, however, it is quite ample.  I particularly like the ability to highlight text and to highlight text with a note.  I downloaded some MacArthur Foundation papers from Amazon to test drive this device, and while I find it utilitarian, I can't see me relaxing with a good book on my laptop!

    I see many advantages to using an ebook format.  The major advantage is that space would be conserved. Also, annotation with digital formats is quite versatile.  If one chooses to store his library on his cell phone, he could conceivably carry his entire personal library with him.  The costs for Kindle versions of ebooks are, in many cases, less than the cost of publisher's hardcovers, thereby saving the user money.
    There are disadvantages as well.  For me perhaps the biggest setback would be the inablility to share books with my friends. Also, unless one is faithful and persistent about backing up his device, one's whole library could be lost and unretrievable if something happened to the device.  Also, I am guessing that using one's phone as an ereader could be draining on its battery, which is something to consider if one is unable to charge his phone regularly.

    Mostly, though, I think ebooks have great promise. For the school library, I would like to see more digital books incorporated into our collection. In order for this to be used widely, our vendor, Follett, must come up with an application to allow students (or whoever) to download books and othe materials to their cell phones. This will make student utilization of this platform a reality.


    This past week I had to replace my Blackberry - again.  It was my second replacement since March.  The first Curve had lasted almost a year, even though I drove over it (twice) in November and cracked the screen.  It was quite usable until the charging port went bad.

    As much as I loved my original Curve, I liked the replacement I got in March even better. The OS seemed faster and the reception was excellent.  Unfortunately, the charging port in it only lasted three months before having issues. Hence, I got online at the phone insurance site,, and $40 later, this replacement Curve was on the way.

    The setup process and data conversion from Curve2 did not go smoothly.  I spent about an hour online with two U.S. Cellular customer service reps before I got my issues resolved. During the lag time in our call, I had a nice conversation about the Android phones the company will be adding to it's lineup later this summer.  I think that when it comes time to renew my contract in late September I will switch my home phone number to the Curve and buy a new Android phone for me.  The HTC Desire sounds promising.