Friday, September 26, 2008

Fiction Friday: Twilight READ poster. And Twilight chocolate.

One of the latest American Library Association READ posters features Robert Pattinson and Kristin Stewart reading a book with which they're not unfamiliar...

Mind you, you'd think they could have switched on a light, or lit a candle.  And do Robert and Kristin really read at exactly the same speed???  Or is Robert saying, "Remember this bit?  I'm, I mean Edward's so cool there."  (Better caption suggestions are welcome as comments!)
In Australia, Southern Scene stocks selected ALA READ posters.  Not sure if they have this one in stock yet.  But hey, if enough people enquire...
Twilight chocolate?  I kid you not.  Read more here.  It was hard to find in the US, according to that article, so probably not a hope for Australia, if you want one.
This blog's taking a spring holiday for a couple of weeks.  And so am I.  It will inevitably include books, for what's a holiday without a book or three?
Back soon....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where is Barack Obama?

Just out of curiosity, I toddled over to Barack Obama's website to take a squizz, and from an educational point of view was interested, in this digital age, to see where the campaign has established an Obama presence.  Apart from anything else, it's a snapshot of social networking/blogging sites and Web 2.0:

Some of which I know, some of which are new to me.

I couldn't find an equivalent image/set of links on the John McCain website (ie. I did look, for the sake of equity/fairness).

Update: read about Twittering Obama supporters during the first presidential debate here.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is Web 2.0?

Three years on, Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 are not unfamiliar terms to most teacher librarians. It's interesting to go back to the 2005 article from Tim O'Reilly (who coined the term, Web 2.0), to see what was said then and consider where we are now.

What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software
by Tim O'Reilly


Image source: the article link above

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Librarian's 2.0 Manifesto

Learned about this through oztl.

If the above video doesn't play, here's the page's URL:

And the date on Laura Cohen's manifesto?  2006.  It's a journey...

If you'd like the words alone, here's her original blog post.

And for an analysis/critical perspective on this, see what Annoyed Librarian had to say in response.   And the comments left about this blog post.


Monday, September 22, 2008

I Love My Librarian 2008

Well, I could if I was in the US. has annual awards for public, tertiary and school librarians. 
To quote from the site:
Librarians in our nation’s 123,000 libraries make a difference in the lives of millions of Americans every day. Now is your chance to tell us why we should shine the spotlight on a librarian at your public, school, college, community college or university library. Nominate your librarian for the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award!
Up to ten librarians will be honored. Each will receive $5,000 and be recognized at an awards ceremony hosted by The New York Times at TheTimesCenter in December 2008.
Just out of interest, these are the questions asked of those nominating a school library media specialist aka teacher librarian:
Reasons for Nominating this Librarian
  • How did you come to know the nominee and how long have you known him or her?
  • How has the nominee helped you and/or students at school? For example, did the nominee help you with a project, recommend resources or collaborate with you to enhance student learning?
  • How has the library, and the nominee in particular, had an impact on students and the learning process?
  • How does the nominee make the school a better place? Please be specific.
  • How has the individual demonstrated leadership in the school community or the profession?

It's a useful exercise to self-evaluate on these criteria.  What answers can one give about oneself?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fiction Friday: gnus and lynx

A tad late (Fiction Saturday, anyone?), a few fiction-related snippets.

Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl books, will be writing a sixth and final book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.  Read more here.

The chilling children’s tales of R. L. Stine are to be turned into a film series to rival the Harry Potter movies. Well, that's how the article starts.  Read more here.

Find video of the New York release party for Brisingr, including a speech from Christopher Paolini, on the Suvudu blog here.  Note: video is YouTube, which may not work if you're on a school-based computer.  We've got a waiting list for Brisingr and  our library's copies will be zooming out on loan early next week.  One kid's been asking for DAYS when it will be available, even though I explained (each time) about embargoes and special release dates...he can't wait to read it.

To know that Where the Wild Things Are is 22nd on the current children's books bestseller list (whoo-eeee there's a lot of Stephenie Meyer ahead of it) makes me a happy happy reader.  For children of a certain age, this is a book that just stills them and talks to the depth of their minds.  Again, they say, when you reach the end.  Read it again.  And I do.  There is a Spike Jonze film adaptation of this book due out in the US in October 2009.  More info on that here.

Currently, the most stolen books from our library (not a happy list to think on - our loss rate's usually pretty low and we do have a security system): unsurprisingly, Stephenie Meyer.  We're down two Twilights, one Eclipse and one The Host.  I hope they're hidden elsewhere in the library.... but we've decided to keep Meyers behind the counter for now, visible but having to be asked for, to deter other light fingered fans and preserve them for other borrowers, and have put a sign on the section of shelves where they'd normally be (it's handy to have the actual Twilight-cover font to play with - if you want all four Twilight fonts, here's my blog entry about them.).


Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Destroy anthology": poem censored

When a major UK schools exam board responded to several complaints and withdrew Carol Ann Duffy's poem, "Education for Leisure", their instructions apparently required that the anthology be 'destroyed'.

The complainants were apparently concerned that the poem might encourage knife crime.  One of them, Mrs Schofield, is an exam invigilator (supervisor of exam room).

Read more about the controversy in this article from the Guardian (UK), which also includes the poem in full.

Carol Ann Duffy's response: another poem, "Mrs Schofield's GCSE", which includes the following lines:

Explain how poetry
pursues the human like the smitten moon
above the weeping, laughing earth; how we
make prayers of it.

Read it in full here, and more about it here.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Education and technology: pros and cons

I've been browsing the New York Times, as you can tell.  Today's blog entry includes two recent articles about technology.  First,  reconsidering the role of technology in education: At school, technology starts to turn a corner, by Steve Lohr.

The educational bottom line, it seems, is that while computer technology has matured and become more affordable, the most significant development has been a deeper understanding of how to use the technology.

“Unless you change how you teach and how kids work, new technology is not really going to make a difference,” said Bob Pearlman, a former teacher who is the director of strategic planning for the New Technology Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

and, from an English school program:

Sir Mark says he is convinced that advances in computing, combined with improved understanding of how to tailor the technology to different students, can help transform education.

“This is the best Trojan horse for causing change in schools that I have ever seen,” he said.

Conversely, another NYT article, Seeing no progress, some schools drop laptops, by Winnie Hu, discusses the pros and cons of issuing students with laptops.

“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”


Districts have dropped laptop programs after resistance from teachers, logistical and technical problems, and escalating maintenance costs.

Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums. Last month, the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement between students who used educational software programs for math and reading and those who did not.

It's not just technical glitches and students behaving in the ways that students inevitably will:

In the school library, an 11th-grade history class was working on research papers. Many carried laptops in their hands or in backpacks even as their teacher, Tom McCarthy, encouraged them not to overlook books, newspapers and academic journals.

“The art of thinking is being lost,” he said. “Because people can type in a word and find a source and think that’s the be all end all.”

And that final point is the one that, as a teacher librarian, I see happening all the time as a mindset and choice among kids, and that, as a teacher, is the one that I think needs serious thought about how we teach - process/information literacy, not just content.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Class Matters: NYT series on class and society

One for Society and Culture, Early Childhood and maybe some other subjects too: a New York Times series, Class Matters

A team of reporters spent more than a year exploring ways that class - defined as a combination of income, education, wealth and occupation - influences destiny in a society that likes to think of itself as a land of unbounded opportunity.

This is a resource of lesson plans, articles, timelines, images and more.  While its focus is of course American, the value of its content has wider application.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Twitter for babies?

And, in an update to the entry posted earlier today, here's a NY Times article about social networking for babies.  Not just Facebook or MySpace -  if you don't know these sites yet, one day you may: Totspot, Odadeo, Lil’Grams and Kidmondo.

O brave new world...


Digital Intimacy: Twitter, Facebook and ambient awareness

You've probably heard of Facebook, the social networking site.  And maybe Twitter, microblogging - small instant messages.

There's a fascinating analysis of these technological options, and their social impact, in the New York Times: Brave New World of Digital Intimacy, by Clive Thompson.

Why would you want to let your friends - close or distant or maybe only met on the net - know what your sandwich tastes like, or other minutiae of daily life, or equally, why know such details of their lives?

This is the paradox of ambient awareness. Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting. This was never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would botherto call you up and detail the sandwiches she was eating. The ambient information becomes like “a type of E.S.P.,” as Haley described it to me, an invisible dimension floating over everyday life.

And, in a world where we may seem to be more isolated:

This is the ultimate effect of the new awareness: It brings back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knows your business. Young people at college are the ones to experience this most viscerally, because, with more than 90 percent of their peers using Facebook, it is especially difficult for them to opt out.

The article's conclusion:

Laura Fitton, the social-media consultant, argues that her constant status updating has made her “a happier person, a calmer person” because the process of, say, describing a horrid morning at work forces her to look at it objectively. “It drags you out of your own head,” she added. In an age of awareness, perhaps the person you see most clearly is yourself.

Whether or not you're twittering now or yet, it's an article worth reading.  If you're not on Facebook or another social networking site, the kids we teach surely are.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Fiction Friday: The story of the little mole who knew that it was none of his business

I run a high school library, and this is one of the most popular books in the place.  Juniors, seniors, the kids read it together, read it aloud, read and laugh and enjoy an experience they can only get from a book.
The mole, at the start of the book, acquires the head decoration you see here.  Yup, it's poo.  So he goes in determined search of the rotter what done it, consulting various experts along the way - most of whom helpfully demonstrate that it isn't their poo.
You can see the appeal - kids, poo, a marriage made in... well, made somewhere.  A guaranteed snigger, at worst, but this book is so much better than that.  It's just fun, and gets a chuckle from pretty much any kid (I've used it as a mood-changer).  And does the mole succeed?  Ah, read it and find out.
If your home library and school library don't have this one, buy it!
Image source:  The Book Depository.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The September 11 Digital Archive

The September 11 Digital Archive uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath. The Archive contains more than 150,000 digital items, a tally that includes more than 40,000 emails and other electronic communications, more than 40,000 first-hand stories, and more than 15,000 digital images. In September 2003, the Library of Congress accepted the Archive into its collections, an event that both ensured the Archive's long-term preservation and marked the library's first major digital acquisition.
Browse: Explore the collection for stories, images, emails, documents, sounds, and videos of September 11
Research: Search, sort, and examine the entire collection
Contribute: Tell your story, add your email, and upload images, documents, and other digital files to the Archive

Find it here.

From all these thousands of miles away from a field in Pennsylvania, from the Pentagon, from the twin towers, I remember that day seven years ago very clearly.  I wonder how many times I've seen that footage, a plane arcing in, an explosion, a building sinking to its knees...I'd guess, maybe hundreds - not that I've searched it out, it's not just omnipresent in popular culture but also hard to look away from.  One's eyes remain disbelieving, one's heart utterly horrified.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Google's new browser: Chrome

As part of its ongoing competitiveness with Microsoft, Google's released its own browser, Chrome.

Google's own page about it is here.  You can download it free: note that it is still described as being in beta (ie still being tweaked - updates are applied regularly and automatically).

Sydney Morning Herald articles here and here: longer analysis here.

New York Times article here.

Right now, Windows only - Mac and Linux versions are coming.

Image source: the Google page link above.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Big Mac Index

There was discussion about the Big Mac Index on the oztl list last week, and so here are two sites for making this comparison (cost of a Big Mac hamburger vs. exchange rate etc):
And whaddya know?  Just as I'm writing this blog entry, a Maths teacher comes by who's just about to do a topic for which this is great.  Bingo!

Monday, September 8, 2008

One book, two reviews

Courtesy of the excellent info on the oztl mailing list, First Opinions, Second Reactions, an online journal reviewing children's literature K-12.  Volume one, issue one is online now and it's to be published three times a year.  Published out of the US, its advisory board has international representation.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Twilight film - Australian release date update; updated teaser trailers; Midnight Sun

According the the Internet Movie Database page on Twilight, the Australian release date for the film has been moved forward to 11 December 2008.  (And will that cause HaPpY dAnCeS among some fanlets I know?  Oh yes!)

MovieJungle has updated teaser trailers of the film here.  That page also has links to interviews with various people associated with the film.

A partial draft of Midnight Sun (Twilight from Edwards point of view) was released virally on the net (breaching copyright).  Stephenie Meyer has now made that draft available online at her site here, and has abandoned any publication plans for this indefinitely.  There's a statement about it on her site.  She also has a FAQ for Breaking Dawn here (many spoilers, so be aware of this if you haven't read the book).


Fiction Friday: Cycler

Cycler is by Lauren McLaughlin, and I want to read it almost entirely (well, entirely) because of this blog entry from Scott Westerfeld (author of Peeps, Uglies etc). In it, he IM's with Lauren McLaughlin (what a great format/entry to show students as a type of text/review!). (If you're not sure what IM means, it's instant message - go look at the blog entry and All Will Be Clear).

I've read Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness several times and found it a challenging and vaguely unsettling read, uncovering as it does our innate expectations about gender. Sounds like this one could be another such exploration.

Here's the beginning of Scott Westerfeld's blog entry about the book:

Early last year, I got to read the unfinished manuscript of a book called Cycler, by Lauren McLaughlin. It was about a girl named Jill who has a problem: she changes into a boy four days a month.

Obviously, this isn’t the best way to go through puberty, what with all the identity issues and stuff. So with the help of her parents, she’s managed to keep her transformations hidden. In fact, she’s repressed her memories of being a boy to the point where her male self, Jack, has developed his own personality–and he’s very much a boy.

A boy who’s getting really tired of being hidden . . .

Needless to say, the book was really awesome, and I wound up blurbing it:

Artfully fractured and wickedly smart. A brilliant screwball comedy about love, self knowledge, and the secret identities inside all of us.

Picture from the blog entry.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner

From the AASL document:

Common Beliefs

The learning standards begin by defining nine foundational common beliefs:

  1. Reading is a window to the world.
  2. Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
  3. Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
  4. Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
  5. Equitable access is a key component for education.
  6. The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  7. The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  8. Learning has a social context.
  9. School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.

The Standards

The Standards describe how learners use skills, resources, and tools to

  • inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge;
  • draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge;
  • share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society;
  • pursue personal and aesthetic growth.
 Read more on the AASL site here.

Read a low-res .pdf of the document here. (The site link above also has a high-res .pdf link on it).

Image source.  Link from NSW DET School Libraries and Information Literacy Hot Topics.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Image Labeler: Devious or Genius?

So if you're Google, and gosh oh golly me, you'd like your ginormous image library labelled, what on earth can you do as inducement to get it done free?
Aha!  Make it a game, of course.  With nice short two-minute increments, and the inbuilt competitiveness of trying to beat another (unknown) participant in real time.  No need to login, you can play as 'guest'.
This is what Google itself says about Google Image Labeler:
How does it work?
You'll be randomly paired with a partner who's online and using the feature. Over a two-minute period, you and your partner will:
  • View the same set of images.
  • Provide as many labels as possible to describe each image you see.
  • Receive points when your label matches your partner's label. The number of points will depend on how specific your label is.
  • See more images until time runs out.
After time expires, you can explore the images you've seen and the websites where those images were found. And we'll show you the points you've earned throughout the session.

What do you need to participate?
Just an interest in helping Google improve the relevance of image search for users like yourself.
Devious or genius?  Your call.  A student told me about this, and he thought it was fun.  It's in beta (ie. a trial).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Melina Marchetta's new book: Finnikin of the Rock

Update: Click here for my review of Finnikin of the Rock and some general observations on fantasy writing.

I've been a huge fan of Melina Marchetta's work since Looking for Alibrandi - which continues to be very popular with students.  Saving Francesca is probably my favourite, while On the Jellicoe Road didn't quite draw me in so much.

She has a new book out in October, Finnikin of the Rock, and you can read the first chapter in .pdf form here.  Check this page for the link to another chapter to read online.

From this page of her website, a description of the novel's story:

At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.

And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.

And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light...


Monday, September 1, 2008

Interview with Twilight's scriptwriter and more

Melissa Rosenberg is the scriptwriter on the film of Twilight.  Read an interview with her here (and it's not just relevant to Twilighters, but also to those interested in the process of translating a book to film).  The interview's from the Shock Till You Drop site.


Shock: The first Step Up was your first feature film, Twilight your second, furthermore, an adaptation which can be tricky. Can you talk about the process of sifting through what Meyer established then deciding what to keep and what to excise?

Rosenberg: It was less trimming the fat and more condensing it. There are a lot of conversations that play well obviously in the book, less so on the screen - the sitting and talking scenes, I mean. The essence of it, you distill it down to the essence of those character's emotional arcs and still hit the same points to move the story forward and stay true to the book.
For another view on the Twilight film, the director, Catherine Hardwicke, has a production blog here