Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poem of the Week no.11: Fire and Ice

I couldn't go too long without working in a Robert Frost poem. As the seasons turn towards winter, this one seemed apt (although its frame of reference is far wider than the weather).

He died in 1963, so by my calculation, if copyright in the US lasts seventy years after death, his work is still in copyright. So I won't include a copy of the poem here (although I'm sure it's on the internet in multiple locations).

I asked one of the Maths teachers if they'd put the Numbers poem up in their classroom. No, they said, in certain tone of voice I didn't much enjoy, they didn't, because they didn't think it was a particularly good poem. Nor did they want any more poems. OK. I tried. (Note: deliberately gender-obscuring personal pronouns used). I refrained from asking their qualifications in evaluating poetry, and how these outranked, say the Library of Congress Poetry 180 selection committee, or my own tertiary qualifications in English literature and English teaching; or indeed personal opinion should have outweighed support for a school program... You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More on Twilight

In response to the Time magazine article comparing Meyer to Rowling, here's a blogger commenting with a different perspective.

The film of Twilight is due for release in December 2008 in the US - links, pictures and more at the Internet Movie Database here. (IMDB was the source of thumbnail below, click on the picture to see more).

Generation Z and their health issues

Generation Z is defined as children 17 years and under. Or, in other words, the kids in our schools right now. The Sydney Morning Herald recently featured an article on the health issues faced by Generation Z (and consequently, issues schools need to consider and where possible, address - mental health being one significant one. I've never worked in a school library where you didn't have at least some of the kids who came in during break times being in the library because they felt safer there).


One in four will be bullied, most likely over the internet. Also known as the New Silent Generation, it will be the most educated, financially well-off and technologically literate in history.

Exposed to marketing at a younger age, Zeds are experts at multi-tasking and spend their free time communicating online and texting on their mobile phones. Zeds have older parents, fewer siblings and are more disconnected from their communities than any other generation.

Time magazine has an article asking Why do Women Need to be Perfect? Although it discusses adults, there are kids afflicted by the stifling effect of perfectionism which hinders their achievements; and control is an element in eating disorders. Read more here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stephanie Meyer's Twilight compared to JKR & HP

Time magazine has an article this week discussing Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, comparing its worldbuilding and popularity with JK Rowling and Harry Potter.

Quite apart from anything else, it's good to see teenage fiction talked about seriously in mainstream media.

A couple of quotes:

Her story reminds one a little of J.K. Rowling's--Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as an unemployed single mom while her baby daughter slept--and Meyer is quick to point out that her success is a direct result of the way Rowling changed the book industry: children are now willing to read 500-page novels, and adults are now willing to read books written for children. But as artists, they couldn't be more different. Rowling pieces her books together meticulously, detail by detail. Meyer floods the page like a severed artery. She never uses a sentence when she can use a whole paragraph. Her books are big (500-plus pages) but not dense--they have a pillowy quality distinctly reminiscent of Internet fan fiction. (Which she'll readily grant: "I don't think I'm a writer; I think I'm a storyteller," Meyer says. "The words aren't always perfect.")

Meyer and Rowling do share two important traits. Both writers embed their fantasy in the modern world--Meyer's vampires are as deracinated and contemporary as Rowling's wizards. And people do not want to just read Meyer's books; they want to climb inside them and live there.... There's no literary term for the quality Twilight and Harry Potter (and The Lord of the Rings) share, but you know it when you see it: their worlds have a freestanding internal integrity that makes you feel as if you should be able to buy real estate there.

Stephenie Meyer: A New J.K. Rowling? By Lev Grossman

Article here.

Printable single page version here.

Can the cellphone help end global poverty?

One of the things I've always appreciated about the internet, for my students as well as myself, is the opportunity to sit in our school and read newspapers we may never have seen in paper form, or which may have been just impossible to access in any easy way. The chance thereby to read other points of view, other perspectives on the world.

For myself, it's years since I read a paper New York Times, but online, well...

A recent longer NYT article on mobile phones (cellphones) and the third world is a great example of something worth reading - with relevance in Business Studies, Commerce, Design and Technology, to name just three. And just interesting anyway (oh, I do like the NYT film reviews and articles, too).

The teacher librarian's challenge becomes connecting students with such resources; alerting them to possibilities in the internet jungle.

Friday, April 11, 2008


End of term 1. Yay! Lots of good things to do, and some reading to enjoy. I'm planning to venture into Maximum Ride, and a bunch of interesting ones (new Australian adolescent fiction) came in Australian Standing Orders this week.

Back in a fortnight.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bookmarks - original student work

Some of our library regulars spend lunchtimes drawing in manga and other genres, so I've started with them in working on having some original bookmarks. I've scanned the originals (at 600dpi to preserve detail) and printed them in colour. We'll back them with coloured paper (noting they're part of our Original Art bookmark series) and laminate them, then have them as a freebie at the borrowing desk. Here are four of the first ones in the series. I insisted that the students sign their original work (in whatever form they choose for their 'artist's signature'), to own and be proud of their creations.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Web 2.0: Blogs are good for your health

A report on the ABC World Today program investigates research into blogging, and how keeping a blog can have a positive effect on depression and stress, helping people (including young people) feel more socially integrated.

Reporter Michael Turtle: From a psychologist's point of view, James Baker, believes the power of the blog has been underestimated.He thinks, perhaps ironically, people should increasingly use their online diaries to become more connected to the real world.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nudging and manoeuvring: choice architecture

This entry is half-baked, because I'm still thinking about how the ideas could/would/might apply to the environment of a school library.

Skidding through Time magazine (April 14, 2008 issue), there is a book review of Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness, by Thaler and Sunstein.

Here's a quote from the review (my choice to bold one section):

For 30 years, Thaler has documented the ways people act illogically: we eat more from larger plates, care twice as much about losing money as about gaining it, fret over rare events like plane crashes instead of common ones like car accidents. That research underpins Nudge's argument that as policymakers go about their jobs--whether regulating the mortgage industry or organizing food in school cafeterias--they should design programs that give people choices but also invisibly coax them away from bad ones. Putting healthful food at the front of a cafeteria line, for example, leads kids to take more of it, even with nothing to stop them from picking the chips and cookies farther down.

I wonder, without yet having any answers, how this might apply in a school library, and our learning environment. How might we rethink the way in which choices are presented? How might changing things alter learning outcomes, student experiences? How might we be coaxing students away from bad choices, and towards good ones?

Still thinking. It could relate to how books are displayed/accessed/promoted, how we design the spaces of our libraries, all sorts of things. Go read the review and see what it suggests to you.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Manga bookmarks

Manga's incredibly popular with some kids right now - reading, drawing, engaging with this world and style through the internet. I've asked some of those who spend happy time drawing in the library to make me some bookmarks in their own unique mangaesque (is that a word?) style, and they've eagerly agreed. Colour, please, I said - I'm happy to scan and print them in colour - and make sure you sign/autograph your original work.

I'm looking forward to seeing the results. We keep a supply of free bookmarks at the borrowing desk - there are other ways (I'll blog about later) to have an interesting selection at minimal cost.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Poem of the Week No. 10: Numbers

This week's poem is Numbers, by Mary Cornish. The Library of Congress in the US has a project called Poetry 180, a poem a day for American high schools (hey, we teach 202 school days!) and that's where I found this one.

In roll call/focus group time (20 min each morning) our students have been undertaking a variety of programs to work on their reading/literacy/numeracy skills. The next 6 school weeks are about numeracy, so a poem about numbers seemed apt, supporting another school initiative.

While I usually supply a colour paper copy of the week's poem to each English teacher (and any other teacher who wants one, eg. the Support Teacher (Learning)), I also supplied a copy of this week's selection to each Maths teacher (with the offer of regular poems, if they wish).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Children's Book Council shortlist 2008

The Children's Book Council of Australia Awards shortlist was announced yesterday.

Web page shortlist here.

Printable pdf shortlist here.

Other shortlists include the Crichton Award for New Illustrators shortlist here

and the 2008 Notable Books list here

or in printable pdf here. There are judges' comments on the notable books in the Notable Books publication available from the CBCA.