Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thank you

Thank you.

Thank you to every reader of this blog, whether you're a fabulous teacher librarian looking for ideas or a frantic fan hunting Twilight fonts (guess what is still the most popular blog entry here at Skerricks...!!).

Thanks for reading this year.

Thanks, most especially, for comments and links and your ideas/contributions.  Comments are so appreciated (special mention of Fiona, a most regular commenter! - her useful blog is A Reader's Random Ramblings).

Thank you to all the online sources I've been able to draw upon.  I love what the internet makes possible.

Thank you to the many teacher librarians who inspire me with their brilliant ideas and enthusiasm.

Thank you to the readers of the articles I've written this year, and the audiences at the presentations I've done for ASLA and the Met West teacher librarians.  It's been fun to share ideas with you.

In our library, the loan rates are up, the library looks better now than it did at the start of the year, with more to engage kids, make them comfortable, encourage them to read and learn and be happy in the library, and we've had fun.  Stocktake is done, plans are being made for the new school year in 2010 when the happy life of teacher librarians will continue.  Thank you to my wonderful staff, without whose enthusiasm and willingness to listen (when I utter the dreaded phrase, I've had an idle thought...) have made so many things possible.

I was able, this year, to contact the teacher librarianship lecturer whose presentation to my English teaching method class over two decades ago persuaded/inspired me to change my other teaching method to teacher librarianship - without her, I wouldn't be a teacher librarian, and this blog wouldn't exist.  Being able to thank her was a highlight of 2009.

Cheers

Ruth

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Noteworthy Notions

The New York Times has a most engaging list of the best ideas of 2009, from Advertisement That Watches You, The to Zombie Attack Science

Once again, The Times Magazine looks back on the past year from our favored perch: ideas. Like a magpie building its nest, we have hunted eclectically, though not without discrimination, for noteworthy notions of 2009 — the twigs and sticks and shiny paper scraps of human ingenuity, which, when collected and woven together, form a sort of cognitive shelter, in which the curious mind can incubate, hatch and feather.

If you float your cursor over the letter list at the top of the page, you can see the entries under each letter.

Cheers

Ruth

Monday, December 14, 2009

E-books and e-book readers in Australia; and the last week of term

If you're interested in this topic, read Kathryn Greenhill's blog for lots of useful information, links and more.  Especially useful because it's from an Australian, relating to what's available here.

In answer to a recent question, no, nobody has sent me a Kindle to review (sigh!).

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Apple's e-reader tablet computer seems likely to become available in 2010 (read the article here).  Pricey at $1000US, though.

It's been crazy-busy around here with the end of the term and the school year (Australia's school year follows the calendar year) fast approaching (just this week to go), stocktake, chasing overdues and supervising some renovations we've been undertaking too (imagination, paint, fabric and people saying "WOW" quite spontaneously!) (I'll hold the pictures and info on those till next term, because we ain't quite finished...).  So blog entries have been not quite daily as per usual.  But I'm sure you understand, dear reader.  Don't you?

Pictures of the other school library Christmas trees will, however, go up this week (when I have ones that are in focus, my little camera doesn't always like lit Christmas trees).    Three days left with the kids at school, two days after that of staff development activities, and then it's the summer holiday break, hip hip hooray!  Still lots to do before the final bell...

Cheers

Ruth
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: Tenpin

Yup, I do sport one afternoon a week.  Not all teacher librarians do, and it depends on your school.  It's not always fun, but there are ways to make the best of it.  Another teacher and I have teamed up, and with the sports we've had over the last year, we've set up draws and tournaments and score-keeping on the computer, not only to record the kids' progress, but also to work on the socialisation, so they don't just play against their friends.  We award them certificates at the end of the term too, something to add to their portfolios.  The kids appreciate the extra effort we put in, and we can see its impact on each term's group.

This term, we've had tenpin bowling.  A couple of times, one of us has played too, and the kids like seeing if they can beat us.  A couple of weeks ago, when I bowled, I told the kids I'd buy a cool drink for any of them who beat my score.  That week, it was 92, and I bought about five drinks.

This week, we needed one more body on a lane, so although I hadn't planned to bowl (it makes it harder to pay attention to the other lanes and see how others are going, encouraging the kids and so forth), I did.  Hmmm.  The bowling gods were with me (this little black duck not actually having done any tenpin bowling since my teenage years) and I got a couple of strikes and some decent tallies. 

I glanced over at the lane of the boy I knew to be the best bowler.  Hmmm again.  I was almost level pegging.  So I had my turns, and scooted up and down the lanes celebrating strikes and spares and nicely aimed bowls with the kids.  That boy's lane group finished faster than my lane group, and I saw his final score was 138.  I turned around to collect my third last ball, and saw him standing behind our lane, watching my score...

And I laughed aloud, and said, "Eddie, I feel like a winner already!"

He looked at me, puzzled.  "Why?"

"Buddy, if you have to watch the score of this old bat, then I've got you a little worried, and that's a great compliment!"

He grinned wryly.  And was back watching as I had my last two balls to go.  

I got a spare, and thus an extra ball too, and my final score was 144 - the highest of our school group, that day.  Eddie nodded in acknowledgement, and went off to join his friends. 

And I chuckled at the happy life of teacher librarians, sporting style!

Cheers

Ruth

(PS.  His name isn't Eddie, of course, but that doesn't change the story...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

GIFSL* 45: School Library Christmas Trees: 1

Who'd have one Christmas tree when more will do??
Reading the Christmas issues of Australian magazines such as Inside Out (their Christmas issue this year was brilliant!) and Home Beautiful, I came across this idea:


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...and I got to thinking.  It's got potential, but a I need a blank wall. 
In the library entrance.
Where we've painted a word wall, and I ain't stickin' anything on that...
but
I don't have to, do I?
Because if you turn around our ever-useful bookcase...


...you have a blank wall.  Yay!
And then if you buy a length of wide creamy white quilt wadding, and use a couple of bulldog clips, you have a background (if you're really indulgent, and squint, you might think, very vaguely, of snow.  Not that there's any of that around here, we've been having hot hot days over 30degC, a warm start to summer).


Christmas cards? Meh. What is one of the things ornamenting the library?
Our beautiful students, of course!  I took a bunch of photos of kids in the library, got them printed as 4in x 6in photos (less than 20c each) and just used white ball-head pins to attach them to the wadding.
Here's the result:
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We outlined it in a simple ball-garland, added a couple of decorations and some low-voltage fairy lights under the wadding at the base of the tree, and there you are.
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The kids love to see themselves and their friends; it's also a message to them that we value them (another bit of library PR - there are so many ways to welcome and encourage kids, and thus get them in the door and using the library, discovering the library, being happy in the library.  If you're happy somewhere, you're more likely to come back...).  Any of our 'decorating' is never just pretty-pretty - it's for educational reasons, and judging by the library usage, they're working as we intend.  I've had some commentary from a couple of presentations I've done recently where people have said they  'don't have time for this decorating stuff', which is why I make this point.  How many libraries do you know that are stale and old and boring (not to mention school blocks, school classrooms...); do you like walking into stale and old and boring places?  Do you want to?  Do you want to stay, or explore them?  Why would kids be any different?
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(In case you wondered, most of the commentary after those presentations has been overwhelmingly positive, which is great! - it's been fun to share our journey and ideas with other teacher librarians.)
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The Christmas banners are made from Snoa fabric from Ikea's Christmas 2009 range ($9.99 per metre).  While the heart is a great graphic image, our two pillars are actually different heights.  Making each banner with a single heart and a co-ordinating fabric below means that you can't tell (as you could if we had used all the heart fabric and had a big half-heart on a banner - and who wants to be half-hearted?!).
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I've shown you a number of our banners on Skerricks this year - use that search box up on the left to find them (they're also under the library display tag).  The first blog entry about banners, which included sewing instructions, is here.  We've done a few, and will use them again through next year.
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At the end of term, we'll fold away these Christmas banners and wadding; next year, take more photos, and be able to put up banners and the new edition of the tree of kids (our only cost being the photos), easy-peasy!
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I'll take photos of our other trees and blog them before the end of term.
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We'd love to read your comments...
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Cheers
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Ruth
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* GIFSL = good ideas for school libraries


Friday, December 4, 2009

My Place (TV series) tonight on ABC3



My Place, the picture book, is brilliant.
(Image from www.bookdepository.co.uk. )

Fingers crossed for the TV version.  Series 1 starts tonight on ABC3, 13 parts covering half the book (success will likely translate to the second half being filmed, one gathers).
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Read more about the TV series here in an article by Greg Hassall from the Sydney Morning Herald (also the source of the image above).
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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS I won't mention that it clashes with Collectors on the ABC, because that's why we have DVD recorders and programs with repeats...

ADDED LATER: If you couldn't find ABC3 on your DVD player, you might need to run the setup program that finds channels again - since ABC3 is new, it wasn't there if you ran the setup months/longer ago when you acquired the DVD player.    You might even find other channels launched since you ran the setup.  Bonus! (And you can guess exactly why I mention this.  Yup, I'm going through the DVD player's channel guide and wondering where ABC3 might be found... - it's the set-top box/digital receiver, not the telly).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are film...


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Yes, the film / movie version of Where the Wild Things Are finally opens in Australian cinemas today. 
After writing a bunch of blog entries anticipating it, and reading the reviews from other places where it opened, oh, nearly two months ago, it will be good to see if for myself.  And then I can read the Dave Eggers novelisation I've been pretending not to see for a while (because I want to see the film first).
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Nothing will ever be as good as Maurice Sendak's picture book, though.  Ever.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stocktake, and lemons from lemonade

...so much to do, so little time (the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, if I'm not mistaken...).

In the lemons from lemonade department, on the first day of stocktake we had an invasion of workmen to fix roof leaks - scaffolding, bingety-bangety, oh me oh my and can you please move those three tall double-sided (full) fiction shelf units?

So we did.

And put them somewhere else, temporarily, you know.

Only we looked at where we'd put them, and said, AHA! (actually, I said I had an idle thought, and my school assistants, who know exactly what that means, looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and anticipation...)

If we put them there, we can put the comfy seats upstairs over here, and wouldn't it be great to have another reading retreat, if we can scrounge some more chairs, and look how the sightlines work, and yes we'll have to move all the fiction books, but that will freshen it up too, different things in different places, kids will find books they haven't found before....

Lemons from lemonade.  The roof leak is fixed and painted, I'm thinking out ways to scrounge more chairs, we've moved the fiction books into this new configuration, and heigh-ho, stocktake goes on.  (I'll take photos when it's set up properly).  My school assistants and I are happy with the prospects and opportunities of the new arrangement of furniture.

Tomorrow is the Year 6 into 7 orientation, and all of those kids come through the library so it's a chance to say hello, welcome them to the library, get their photos taken for their library cards, and get an initial peg on what that cohort is like.

The usual busy end-of-year!  Hope yours is going well too.

Cheers

Ruth

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free e-books from The Book Depository


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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS. We've started Christmas decorating in the school  library, and I'll show you some photos soon, as a couple of things are still In Progress...
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Tomorrow When the War Began film

According to an article in Saturday's newspaper, filming has finished on the adaptation of John Marsden's book, Tomorrow When The War Began.  No release date shown as yet on the imdb page for this film.
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Today we will start our annual end-of-year stocktake, as scheduled.  And tomorrow, scaffolding will be going up to fix a roof leak.  Hmmm.  I suspect noise will be involved.  We'll work around it.  And while moving bays of shelves wasn't on the original agenda, sometimes you can get good ideas for reorganising from this.... (lemons from lemonade!).
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The last couple of weeks have been quite astonishingly busy, so there have been a couple of days without blog entries.  Always a good chance to chase up something great from the past (click on a tag over there on the right) or something new from one of the blogs on my bloglist (also over there on the right).
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Cheers
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Ruth

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today... HSC All My Own Work (and tomorrow, and...)

Today I have been rolling Year 10 students through the library's computers to do HSC All My Own Work. Over 200 need to get it done.  As each one finishes, I'm sending for the next one.  Haven't sat down all day, my initials have been needed nearly 400 times (and are getting more baroque/scrawly by the time) and it's been madly busy.  Thanks be most students are co-operative; I wish I could say the same of the computers...I prefer such technology consistent rather than contrary! 

HSC AMOW will take up a lot of this week; except Wednesday afternoon, because Wednesday night is The Oscars, I mean, the Year 10 formal, and hair appointments, fake tans, facials, makeup and primping of all sorts and kinds (I read today that the industry around formals is now larger than that around weddings!) will of course take priority over anything else.  They do settle down a lot by the time the Year 12 formal rolls around...

If you're not in NSW, HSC AMOW is a program about issues such as copyright, acknowledging sources and so forth, and the site has information and quizzes.  All HSC students need to have completed HSC AMOW before commencing Year 11 work - our school aims to get 'em done at the end of Year 10, so they're ready to roll at the start of the next school year.

Cheers

Ruth
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Barack Obama on libraries

At the moment that we persuade a child, any child,
to cross that threshold,
that magic threshold into a library,
we change their lives forever, for the better.
It’s an enormous force for good.
Barack Obama


This quote, which I've used in various library documents here, is from a speech Barack Obama gave in 2005 to the Annual Conference of the ALA.  You can read the speech here.
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Cheers

Ruth
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hand-selling fiction

I'm sure every teacher librarian hand-sells books, fiction in particular.  Try this? Or this?  I loved this one....the people who loved that one also liked this...
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It's fun, and keeps you on your toes and aware of your stock, but it's also sometimes an interesting challenge.  I just keep up with the vampire-romance crowd (voracious they are, too!) but one boy's keeping me on my toes for sure.  Earlier this year, he asked me for fiction war stories.  I suggested, among other things, the Moran series by Wendy Catran.
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He worked his way through them, liking them, and came back for another recommendation.  Took a few goes, and then he went away happy with Temeraire.
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And worked his way through that series too.  Like me, he's keenly waiting for the next one (sometime next year).  Meanwhile, what else can I suggest?  I suggest a few, and he goes away happy with some steampunk (I'm widening his horizons a tad, I know...): Worldshaker.
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OK.  That took him hardly any time at all, and he's back for another one (since this is a stand-alone, not part of a series).  What about the brand spankin' new Scott Westerfeld steampunk, Leviathan?
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Took him less than a week - he really liked it.  Also a stand-alone (I don't know if a series is planned).  He came back on Monday this week, and muttered in the bashful way of a quiet lovely boy something about how he may as well ask me for another book, because I seem to be able to find things he likes.  The pressure... I was going to try Muchamore's Cherub series, but The Recruit (first book in the series) is on loan.  I show him several other possibilities, but he isn't keen on any of them.  I ask my work experience student for his ideas (he's a reader) - he thinks the Muchamore series would be good, but what about Ranger's Apprentice?  It's nearly bell time, and I have three students wanting to ask me things.  I hand the WExp student the first RA book, tell him to hand-sell it to our customer, and leave them to it while I attend to the others.  Our borrower is persuaded (yay for the WExp student!) and so has started (I hope) on another enjoyable series.
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I'm really appreciative that he trusts my suggestions (well, some of them!) but the pressure... if he's reading a book a week or so, that's over thirty books a year, and if like some, his focus/interests happen to be narrow, it's surely a challenge!  Each time he's come, it's usually taken half a dozen books before he's found one he wants to borrow (the others he quietly returns to wherever I got them - he usually only goes by what I say, the cover and the blurb, and if they don't catch him, he isn't caught.  What I say helps, but isn't enough - the book has to appeal).
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So if you have any ideas I can suggest to him when he comes by again, do leave a comment!
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I don't remember all of the hand-selling I do so clearly (the brain can only hold so much) but thought this was a progression I'd like to document here, to show the pattern of reading of just one of our many readers, and the impact hand-selling can have.  It's lovely to be trusted - a reputation for good book suggestions is another tool in the teacher librarian's arsenal to keep our students happy with their library's service, and to keep them happily reading.  It also helps our library remain effective in encouraging them to learn.  All good!
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Cheers
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Ruth
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ADDED LATER: lots of great comments, thank you.  Including a couple from My Humble Work Experience Student...!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is this the next Twilight?


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Some of my students seem to think so - they're desperate to read about Grace and Sam (he's a werewolf in winter, a human being in summer, and coming close is the year when he won't change back when winter ends...).  My lovely local bookshop's teen/fantasy specialist told me Shiver is her new favourite book.
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First of a trilogy (Linger, the second book, cover below, is out next year), film rights already sold (unsurprisingly) and author Maggie Stiefvater has a website here.  She has a book trailer for Shiver here, along with some other resources and reviews..

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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS. Above is the hardcover of Shiver; a paperback is also available.  Covers sourced from the author's website..

Monday, November 16, 2009

Work Experience

We have a work experience Year 10 student this week.  I remember a rotten work experience experience at a local library when I was in Year 10, so I don't want this to be the same for this student (he's interested in librarian rather than teacher librarian work, but things couldn't be squared with the local/TAFE/uni libraries, so he's come here).  Already we've scooted over basic loans/returns, the gist of stocktake (which we aren't doing yet, but it came up in conversation), library philosophy (eg. the Darien Statements), book banning and the big question: if he's after a forty year career in libraries, will they last that long? (and all the associated interesting why/why nots, in this digital age of Googling, Google Books and so forth).
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It's taking up some time - not something I'd want to accommodate every week - but it's also good in that it's making me articulate various library things I may otherwise just think about, and giving input to me from what he sees and thinks and wonders about libraries.  This morning he wrote me a few paragraphs about libraries - why he wants to work in them, what he sees as their purpose, etc - and I'll get him to write about the same topics again at week's end, hoping that I'll have expanded his ideas and understanding in that time.
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Cheers

Ruth
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Learn Genetics

A Science teacher pal of mine has pointed out that Skerricks isn't heavy on science content...


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...so here's one I learned about from the very excellent Bright IdeasLearn Genetics, a site from the University of Utah.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ideas from elsewhere: why bother spiffing up your library?

Interesting results from a homeless shelter that renovated - read Adele Horin's article from the Sydney Morning Herald.
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The point, for me, of sprucing and spiffing and working on our library space is not only to make it dynamic and interesting and colourful and fun and engaging and welcoming.  Of course, to do all those things: but also to make it educationally effective, to have a positive impact on students and their learning.  And thus improve their lives and opportunities and futures.
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I was intrigued to learn from this article that their research shows the positive impact that the changes at the homeless shelter have had on the people who have used their facilities; it seems most reasonable to assume that this would be the case for a school library, too.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS. Major topic for conversation right now: The Hair Trial.  Yup, the Year 10 formal's only a week or two away, and after the Oscars, well, it's THE Event.  If you're in Year 10...!!
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Monday, November 9, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: Bingo!

Miss, I'm going to make a film [says a lovely boy who's into graphic novels, cool 60s/70s music, Serious comics &tc]
That's great!
I have the title worked out - it's irresistible!
Good-oh - what is it?
N u n s  and  A m m o
Terrific!...only I think it's already been made, buddy.
Has it?
'fraid so.  You might be familiar with it....
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The Sound of Music.
MISS!!!!!!!
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(Another Bingo! moment in the happy life of teacher librarians).
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Friday, November 6, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: Busy

Today I:
  • invented television (well, not quite, but you could not get past the crowd in the foyer this morning) (pics next week, OK?  We're still refining it...)
  • were busy with classes all day (except last period, which was quiet, and a grace moment to draw breath)
  • found books by cover description, story description, doyourememberItoldyouaboutitlastweekmiss description, findmesomethingelseIlikebecauseyoudidlasttimeandIdid, scattered them on tables for browsing, found them on shelves to 'hand-sell', went from adventure to insects to Into the Wild to The Endless Steppe  to alovestorywithadventuresmiss..
  • read more NaNo stories (my favourite phrase from one girl's tale: "We belong together - you are the cheese and I am the macaroni" - PRICELESS! - and watched them being written (I'm behind and have to catch up, so I have at least five kids who are going to ask me on Monday if I'm on target with my word count - hope this will goad me to write enough!)
  • thought about the bookmarks for the latest theme (mentioned yesterday) but didn't quite get to them - and then luckily found some NaNo ones from last year which will do till I get the new ones designed)
  • typed the last two paragraphs of a student's scholarship application (because I type at around 80wpm and he doesn't and the bell had gone and another student was waiting for the computer) and suggested some polishing he was pleased with
  • was delighted to tell a kid from sport yesterday that the score he made was so improved that he'll be in the next group up next week - a quiet kid, he was so pleased!
  • printed off a copy of my article in the current Scan, about re-imagining your library, to give to my Principal
  • agreed to host a student for a week of work experience (couldn't get him in to the local council or tertiary library, unfortunately, and he really wants to experience library work)
  • watched students enjoying the library, the cushions, the comforts, the books, the place...
  • enjoyed the company of kids and teachers, their energy and laughter and individuality, scooting around the library during class time and lunchtime
  • got to use one of my phrases for miscreants a number of times: when I catch a kid doing The Wrong Thing (and it's not a major evil and they're a kid who'll play along with this and respect the opportunity), I ask, do you want the short version or the long version?  Short, they usually say.  Don't! I say, and they and I know exactly what I mean without my going into a long spiel about what they and I know they shouldn't do.  And we exchange a look of agreement, and the matter is dealt with and done in a civilised way.  And I generally don't have to repeat myself, at least not with that kid.
  • ate half of my lunch by day's end (and was glad for the weekly whole-staff morning tea)
  • told a student how to be really boring when replying to inquisitive friends about something she can't talk about.  Demonstrated, too, and won a grin from her, and I hope a sense that the situation wasn't as dire as she had thought.
  • checked our borrowing stats - we're still running at over 75% higher than the average of the last three years - woohoo!
  • knew that I'm going to have to get stuck in to my NaNo novel or I won't get to 50,000 words by the end of November
  • cheered for colleague Sue Pitt who was quoted in an article in the Daily Telegraph today about the Twilight phenomenon
(I'm sure the list above is not complete..Why not write out yours, and see all the fun you've had today?). 
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...and now it's the weekend.  Enjoy!
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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS. I forgot, I also wondered behind which of the built-in cupboards in my office a mouse has so inconsiderately died.  I know it's there, as its soul remains, at least on an olfactory level...and they always expire in inaccessible places...
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

The next theme for our foyer...


started with this fabric from Ikea.
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Slightly surreal, and I thought it looked full of stories.  So I'm working on that idea for bookmarks, and we have done some banners and so forth.
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More soon (just didn't want you to think there was NO entry today, heaven forbid!! - what with the ASLA (NSW) professional development day last Saturday, and the article in the current issue of SCAN, and the Met West teacher librarian professional development day coming up, all with ideas from here being presented by yours truly...)
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Cheers,
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Ruth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Skerricks in the world: the National Library of NZ loves us!

Create Readers, a blog by the staff of the National Library of New Zealand, is a constant in my blog roll over there on the right (worth perusing that list every day for the cornucopia of new entries!).  Last week, they had an entry about library display ideas, and mentioned Skerricks, as well as other blogs useful for ideas.  So if you want more, toddle over there for the links.
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Very Soon Now (I know, too late for you, but it's been a tad busyish around here!) I'll bung up pictures of this year's excellent Halloween decor.  We used some things from last year and added some new for this year and the kids liked it all very much.
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Also, hello and greetings if you are new to reading this blog and came here as a result of attending the ASLA (NSW) professional development day last weekend.  Yup, nearly everything I mentioned is findable here on the blog (or will be soon).  Nope, I'm not going to put my PowerPoint presentation here as it's not at all the same with the all-singing, all-dancing (no, neither) voice as I spout on about Sprucing Your Library And Having Fun (and I'm sprucing the PP too for future outings).  It was lovely to be able to enthuse others and share the ideas we've played with here. 
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Five reasons why I like guardian.co.uk


Andrew Motion on Jane Campion's film, Bright Star, about Keats and Fanny Brawne (film not yet out in Australia: it's to be released on Boxing Day 2009 according to IMDB).  Hmmm, a candidate for Trailer Time?
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Give them away or pass them on – but don't let go of printed books: They may be bulky, but bound volumes still contain much more than ebooks could ever holdSuzanne Munshower on the dilemmas and joys of printed books, reading, culling and keeping.
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David Eggers on how his novelisation of the film script of the picture book, Where the Wild Things Are (including an extract), and...



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Maurice Sendak's recent comments on Where the Wild Things Are (does he think it is too scary for kids?)
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And that was just a quick scoot around the Culture section recently.  Oh, I do love reading (and being able to read) good overseas newspapers online.  And one where the articles remain online indefinitely, not just a fortnight.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Monday, November 2, 2009

Time.com reviews...

Time magazine is a constant in the library, and one thing I'm always grateful for is their free archive, which is an excellent resource.
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Recently reviewed: Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. 

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I have no shares in this media organisation - but I find I often like the thoughtful, intelligent approach of their writing.
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There's buckets more than these two items which would be of use in your classrooms and to your students.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Behind the 'Wimpy Kid' Phenomenon

....is the title of an excellent article by Tara Parker-Pope, in the New York Times.  Not, as you might expect,  in the Books section, but in the Health section, with thoughtful insights into why the books work as well as they do.
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There's a film coming too, on 1 April 2010 (no, I'm not kidding, that's the information on IMDB here).  Haven't yet found a trailer, but I'll post one when I do.
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Cheers

Ruth
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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween cupcakes III


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You need to go and see the recipe to see its full glory - the cupcakes are marbled vanilla/red, to enhance the eyeball look!
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Another triumph of surreal foodie imagination from food blog Not Quite Nigella.  Boggle your mind with her amazing Hallowween party feast.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS.  I do wonder, in idle moments, if there are other teacher librarianship blogs covering such essential material as brain cupcakes and eyeball cupcakes.  But then the idle moment all too quickly passes, something else shiny catches my eye, and I toddle onward, amused, pursuing my own particular yellow brick road.



Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The happy life of teacher librarians: student amazed!

I've been doing a lesson on vampires for various English classes who are studying horror as a genre - the idea being to give them a bit of a tour through vampire folklore and the ways in which the idea of a vampire is found in many cultures and has been appropriated/manipulated in various ways through popular culture such as books, TV series, films etc.
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One student from yesterday's class was talking with me this morning, and took a moment to say, "You were awesome with the vampires thing yesterday, Miss."
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Isn't that lovely?  I thanked her.
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She added, thoughtfully and in a tone of slight surprise, "Actually, Miss, I didn't know you knew that much."
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Isn't that - um - .....
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Extremely funny!  Preserving my countenance, I thanked her again, and she pootled off cheerfully.
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The happy life of teacher librarians: yes, we do know some things!! (and kids remain, as ever, hilariously amusing).
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Cheers
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Ruth

100 Favourite Books of all Time (well, for some folks right now)


This is from a list compiled recently by Borders bookshops in Australia.  Angus & Robertson does one too, and a kids' one.
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I always kind of wonder about these sorts of lists.  The fact that Pride and Prejudice seems to be a reflex pick for so many, fabulous though it is.  The reality that recent exposure (eg. the film of My Sister's Keeper) influences lists - would books like this rate as well in a year, or even six months?
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Still, it's always interesting to see what's on the list.  Film or not, I love The Time Traveler's Wife, so I'm pleased at its rank.  
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Now how might such an idea by adapted to a school library? 
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Hmmmmmm.  Thinking..............
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Cheers
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Ruth

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dark territory made light: republishing titles as e-books

Since the e-book format was not born/thought of/included in contracts when many many books were published (well, most, really) - it's not surprising that publishers are moving into this dark territory and looking  to make existing backlist titles available in this new format.  Read about one such publisher here.  According to Jane Friedman, "Electronic 'is going to be the centre of the universe'".  It's an interesting insight into current thinking and developments in the world of e-books - not just in the publishing model, but in the use of social media to publicise the e-books. 
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Cheers

Ruth
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PS I have not (yet) been offered a Kindle to review.  Just in case you wondered...!!
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Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween cupcakes II


Vampire bat cupcakes, courtesy of Martha Stewart.  All details here.  She has lots of Halloween resources on the site, as you might expect.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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who plans to download, fix up and post our Halloween decor (short on gore, and with a few special details that are just for fun) pictures any day now...
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Where the wild things are: fonts


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If you're after the title font from Where the Wild Things Are - book or film - then here's a source: Scrapnfonts have a bundle for sale including both and a couple of other ones (see .
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I have other blog entries about WTWTA (which doesn't open in Oz till December, although it's October in the US, sigh) if you're after trailers etc.  Just use the search box, top left of the blog.
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Skerricks in the world: the maths teachers love us!


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It's always kinda fun to see the referrals to this blog - how people are finding it.  The major answer is often googling.  A recent mention from a maths blog, however, was a lovely coup (maths teachers not always being the most frequent users of libraries).  Mathsclass.net has an entry about 'DERing with Year 9' (great verb - to der!) which mentions my seven things to try week 1 list from this blog entry.  Thank you linesmen, thank you ballboys!  Not only does the Mathclass.net blog entry have other useful web links, it's one I'll be able to share with our teachers - not just the maths ones.  One of the useful things about referrals is the chance to find out about great new online resources.
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Cheers

Ruth
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PS. I've just written a piece for SLAV on the seven things list - it will be out in their journal early next month.  It seems to be a useful list that's finding a bunch of friends, which is great.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where the wild things are - do the kids like it?

Bruce Handy, in an essay in the New York Times, Where the Wild Things Aren't, says, in his experience, no. 
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David Barnett, in a blog entry at the Guardian, has a different story - his son wanted a wolf suit like Max's, to wear to a school book event, and many pricked fingers later, his dad had sewn something that charmed his son (and, so he was told, Maurice Sendak). (Found this one via Alien Onion).
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I've read it to small children many times, and almost invariably it has caught them - you can feel their attention, and when you finish, they often as not say, AGAIN!  High school kids are happy to read it, very often again, and even if they don't remember it at first, they generally then do, and seem happy to revisit it.
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They're very personal things at times, aren't they, books?
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I have at home a copy of Daniel Eggers' novelisation of the script of the film of the picture book; and also the illustrated (abridged) movie storybook.  And I don't want to open either.  The film has opened in the US, but it's not opening here till early December, and I would prefer to come to its version fresh.
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Cheers
Ruth
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image source: www.bookdepository.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Laptops: 40TB and rising

ITnews has an interesting article on the NSW DET netbooks/laptops, including discussion on how the internet access and filtering works, and how the current 40TB/month of use is likely to rise...

Read more here.

Found via this blog.

Cheers

Ruth

PS. I remember once chuckling at someone who had rashly gone out and invested in a 10GB hard drive.  Madness, utter madness...what on earth would one do with so much storage?  Hmmmm.  This shows either my lack of vision, or my age.  Or possibly both.  I do apologise, now gifted with 20/20 hindsight.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halloween cupcakes I


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Sorry, should I have warned you about that?!
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The writer of food blog Not Quite Nigella has a mad imagination.  Find the recipe for these here.
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We're busy making bats (not food ones) - will show you the results soon.  We don't go gruesome like these cupcakes for the rest of our Halloween decorating, but I did find them hilariously horrid....
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Cheers
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Ruth
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Monday, October 19, 2009

GIFSL: rearrange the furniture (encore edition) and Skerricks Live (well, sorta)


Hey, does that photo look vaguely familar?  You might have seen it here (GIFSL 11) - it's currently having an encore in issue 71 of the excellent Curriculum Corporation journal, Connections
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And if you don't go and follow that link and read issue 71, you are a great gaby (I've been rereading Georgette Heyer in the holidays and being reminded of some excellent historical colloquialisms) because there is some fine and brilliant reading there.
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Welcome back!  I hope you had a great holiday too.  Every holiday's a good holiday!
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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS if you're interested in a Live Version of GIFSL and other treats from here, I'm speaking about such things and more at an ASLA NSW one-day conference Planning for 2010, in very fine company (June Wall, Ian McLean, Terry Bruce and Sharon McGuinness).  Click on the link to find out more - the location is in Sydney, less than an hour from the CBD.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Dear Australian reader, Mr Bezos would like to sell you an Amazon Kindle

He would.  Cost (for Kindle and a leather cover) including shipping is just under $400 Australian (note: the exchange rate's in our favour at present at around 90c to the $1US).   Toddle over to http://www.amazon.com/ and see...

They've sorted international wireless, so if you're in area (check them thar coverage maps...) download time is likely to be under a minute, but books are $2 more than US Kindle owners pay. 
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What isn't immediately clear is whether publishing territory will come into play - ie. if the rights aren't available 'for this geographic area' - the trouble I've run into with Audible.com - is the book available to Australian Kindle owners?  Are we shopping from the same range as US Kindle owners?  There is a link to a country-specific page to address country-specific issues including content availability, but it doesn't outline content limitations beyond saying it offers over 280,000 books to Australia (and the main Kindle page offers US buyers over 350,000 books).  Me, I'd want to know which are the 70,000 unavailable to me here in Oz....
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But even so, it's a verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry interesting change to the e-book landscape here.  By far the cheapest specific e-book device I'm aware of here (the Dymocks Iliad at around $1000 looks very naff by comparison), and the largest range of books (caveat: still depends on which books...).
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And of course there are all the general limitations/differences in relation to a Kindle edition.  Can't be lent (unless you lend the device), sold/donated, for instance.  I'd rather lend out a $30 book than a $400 device in the library (even assuming there is a Kindle setup accommodating school library ownership/use).
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Ah, but is there a lazy $400 lying around Chez Skerricks, the modest palais this blog calls Emoh Ruo?  Hmmmmm. 
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Cheers
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Ruth
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PS Anyone want me to evaluate one?????  I'll write you a lovely report...
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Monday, October 5, 2009

October is Breast Cancer Month

Don't forget to click on the Pink Ribbon Day icon on the right and order pink ribbon products (eg. pink silicon wristbands) as fundraisers in the fight against breast cancer. When I ordered mine, they asked who had inspired me - it's scary to know so many people who have been affected by breast cancer. Some are survivors. Some are not. I'll have the wristbands to sell in the library when we get back from holidays. I hope you can do something too.
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For those outside Australia, the McGrath Foundation is a significant charity putting Breast Care Nurses into the front line around the country, to support those affected by breast cancer.  They have items for sale too, or you can make a donation (icon on the right takes you to their site).
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Cheers,
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Ruth.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Mea culpa...

A while ago I was culling, and came across a book in the fiction section which I never remember seeing before.




That would explain how it lasted so long.  It's very thin, too... (she says, making excuses).

I give you the last few paragraphs...

Julian looked down at her and there was an ardor that was close to worship in his eyes...

[hero's sister - why does she have to be part of the final scene??? - says] "As long as you make Julian happy, Robin, you are my friend.  That's all I want. [isn't it romantic, to be being Told by the hero's sister?  and excuse I, but why can't Robin be happy too???  Doesn't Julian have ANY responsibility for that??]

Robin said, her voice not quite steady, "It's all I want too, Steve."


Julian looked contentedly at his two women folk. [womenfolk?]

He dropped an arm about each of them and said tenderly, "And now let's go home, shall we?"


"Home!" Robin repeated in a tone that wrapped in the single word all the yearning and hope and eagerness with which she faced her new life as Mrs Julian Gilbert, of Hibiscus Cay in the Caribbean.

[MRS JULIAN GILBERT???]


Ye gods and little fishes.  It's culled.  Decidedly.  Last borrowed in 1987.  Oh, and published in 1962, in case you wondered.  And it was, originally, a donation (as one devoutly hopes, although one also devoutly wondered why it was accessioned At All).
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And while you're snorting at that one, it's a chance to slip in this gem to amuse you.  We don't have this one in the library (or at least, I haven't found it and severely doubt it is in the library collection.  I could always check the catalogue) but thanks to the blessings of the internet and blogs like Judge a Book by its Cover, (source of image below) all you need is a screen, and the ability to count, to enjoy this:


Hint: count the heroine's hands..... (The additionally amusing thing to know is that this book sold Extremely Well because of its notorious cover...!).
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Clearly, things are getting nutty around here.  Time for a holiday!  See you in a fortnight!
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Cheers
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Ruth

The happy life of teacher librarians: you know it's time for a holiday when...

Miss, have you got any Matty Evil books?


Not sure.  Is that MaTTy Evil, or MaDDy Evil [thinks: there's always a new series I haven't heard of...]


Just Mattyevil, Miss.

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[Aha! moment]  Medieval?  Middle Ages?

Yes, Miss

I establish that he's after stories, not nonfiction, and he totters happily off for the holidays with a pile of good looking prospects.

I sit down again at my desk, laugh at myself and KNOW it's time for a holiday!!!

Cheers

Ruth

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Laptop Policy - another view

Our school's laptop policy is still being tweaked and revised, evolving in light of experience.

I was interested to read Will Richardson's take on school computer policies on Weblogg-ed.  Make sure you read the comments, too.

As a significant architect of our school's policy - not its final arbiter, but a carpenter creating a structure - one focus was to put things in positive terms, wherever possible.  One does not of course want to discourage students from using their laptops - instead, fuelling and directing their enthusiasm is a great educational opportunity.  On the other hand, the reality of life in schools is that it's important that students are aware of the necessary boundaries, such as respecting copyright, and treating other people respectfully.

So ours is still a work in progress.  Feedback from the students has been positive - they appreciate clarity, because it's calmed some fears they had, from gossip/chat, about what might happen if...

Cheers

Ruth

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Laptops, Day 4: so kids, what do you think?

Before the end of term on Friday this week, the school has decided to survey the students to see how they're going with their laptops at this early stage.  A couple of classes did this as a group talkytalky exercise in class this morning; on the basis of that, I refined the survey to fine-tune some questions, and every year 9 student has been given the opportunity to participate via email.

Here are the questions we've asked - they are open-ended by design, to give room for a variety of answers (although I know it's more time-consuming to collate):
  • These are things I like about my laptop:
  • These are things I don’t like about my laptop:
  • These are things that haven’t worked:
  • Please note any of these that have been fixed, and if so how (eg. teacher advice, TSO assistance, a friend helped me, it worked the next time I tried it):
  • These are sites/software I would like to have unblocked:
    • Schoolwork related:
    • Personal interest (eg. MySpace, MSN):
  • The school guidelines (outlined on Friday) were clear? Yes / No / Mostly
    • If you chose No or Mostly, please add what could be done to improve them:
  • Is there anything else that you think should be added to the school guidelines?
  • I have used my laptop in class in the following subjects:
  • With my laptop, I hope that I can: (if you mention replacing books, please be specific –eg. workbooks, textbooks)
  • If I was in charge of the laptop program for the Department of Education, I would:
 As we speak, replies are rolling into my inbox.  I kinda sorta hope all 200+ of them don't feel compelled to reply...

From the talkytalky this morning, the most popular answer to the final question after "unblock sites like MSN and My Space" was, interestingly, let people have them in any colour they want: which is a marked lack of enthusiasm for a perfectly pleasant metallic red and faintly bewildering in that they are free to personalise their laptops with stickers etc, so they can cover up the offending red.  (Kids.  Some days they're shallow enough to paddle in, aren't they??!!).

Cheers

Ruth

PS If you use or base a survey on the list above, can you please credit its source?  Thank you.






Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Laptops Day 3: some days are diamonds

Already the day 1 lunchtime library laptop mayhem has settled down.  As you would expect, the kids who want to run around at lunchtime and play ball are back at that.  Those who have come into the library have learned that I am a regularly-patrolling, interested observer (so if they're planning mischief, the library maybe ain't the best place to be laptopping).  I've had discussions with some kids about copyright (I'm sure this movie on my USB is legal Miss....No kiddo, I'm sure it's not!) and so forth.

Period 2, a teacher booked in to do a lesson we had jointly planned.  It was based on a website - we'd had the website unblocked by the DET a month or two ago, so it was fine.  The teacher had already had the students set up a notebook in One Note for this subject, and a page with the correct URL of the site.

The best laid plans...

Problem 1: about 1/3 of the laptops wouldn't connect to the internet.  I checked the wireless bars on them - most were showing four white bars, which is dandy-fine.  A couple had these red-x-ed out (hmmm, dunno what that means apart from it oughta find the wireless and it isn't).  The class was the only one in the library using wireless, so there were plenty of access spots available (given that we have 60).

Problem 2: any of the laptops which could get onto the internet could not load the site properly due to a Java problem.  All-righty then.  Bit of a problem, this, since the whole point of the lesson was the Java-based application on the page.  I've been loaned a pool laptop (ie. the same one, same configuration as the kids have, not a teacher laptop) and when I logged in to that, it connected to the internet with no problems and loaded the site fully.  The teacher logged in on her teacher laptop and again the site worked, no hassles.  Hmmmm.  A tad irritating.

We called the TSO (Technical Support Officer) who was free and came down and spent the rest of the lesson tweaking individual machines re the internet problem.  The Java problem is apparently one with Internet Explorer and we asked if this could be addressed as soon as possible.  Which means that, for now, the lesson as planned is impossible to do.

[insert naughty word, said in the mind not with the mouth]

It took a little while to establish the widespread nature of the problem - checking the URL entered and so forth.  Other parts of the site are still blocked, and google searches to get to the site (students tried this when the given URL didn't load properly) came up as blocked too.  By the time we had worked out how badly things had gone awry, a number of students had switched their attention to other entrancing possibilities of their new red babies.

Plan B lesson - one always needs a plan B.  We got the students to look up the artist we were focusing on, using Google images, to see his work.  My laptop travelled around the class so they could see what they should have been doing and how it worked.  Salvage work in progress...

But we really had done our homework before the lesson, and couldn't, as far as I'm aware, have anticipated a multiple failure of this kind.  It was, as you can imagine, on the frustrating end of frustrating for the teacher, for the class, and for me.

So we'll have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.  And make sure we always have a Plan B lesson (or two) up our sleeves.

Cheers

Ruth

The happy life of teacher librarians: love your work

I know I bang on with the phrase, 'the happy life of teacher librarians'. I have of course all sorts of agendas for this, but one is to say, look, it can be HEAPS of fun to be a teacher librarian. An article by Charles Waterstreet in the Sydney Morning Herald on the weekend had an apt section quoting Kahlil Gibran:

...when pursuing a career, one should always choose one that coincides with passions, and not just with convenience, the wishes of parents or perhaps even financial security. If you have a job, then love the one you have.


The great Lebanese-born philosopher and poet Kahlil Gibran said it best:

Work is love made visible.


And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.


If you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger.


And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.


And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

If we show by our actions and words and the atmosphere we create in our libraries every day that we are happy to be there, it cannot but make our libraries better places to work, better places to visit, more effective in our schools (and it kills off the disappointingly persistent cliche of the cranky librarian).  One of the most important things any teacher brings to a classroom is their enthusiasm for being there.  I know I'm not perfect on this - it's something I have to remember every day.

And thus one can continue working on the happy life of teacher librarians.

(Here endeth...)

Cheers

Ruth

Monday, September 28, 2009

Laptops, day two (+ 7 things to try)

Day two: not as frenetic as day 1, thanks be to all the gods and little fishes.

In the library, we were busy, but not overwhelmed with laptoppers during breaks.  As there are 60 wireless access points in the library, and some of these may be accessible/within range from outside the library, it's not always possible to tell if an internet connection fails because the 60 spots are gone, or if it's a computer problem.

I showed a number of students how to auto-hide their taskbar; on the small acreage of a netbook screen, even half an inch is valuable.

Several students I know to have A Record of Evil tried to hide in the senior study.  I am of course loath to think ill of anyone who would try to hide in the most hideable corner of the library (and Year 9 students who don't have senior study access until they are in Year 11).  They and a number of other students were doing a bunch of Bluetoothing of files between themselves.  One of those laptop things which can be used for Good or Evil.  Unhelpfully for them I was doing the library rounds very actively, and seemed to be popping by to look over their shoulders at their screens in a way that must have seemed quite inconveniently frequent (if it was Evil they had in mind).  Now why would you think their shifty body language might have prompted my interest?

The majority of the laptoppers were engaged in innocent amusement, in changing the colour of their displays in the control panel (yay!  I'm an emo!  I can make lots of stuff black!), playing quiet games, accessing the internet.  Lots of footy images as desktop backgrounds on boys' computers.  One boy looking up pictures of cute kittens (which is a tad unusual, 'cute kittens' and 'cute puppies' more often being popular image searches among Year 7 girls - but hey, to each their own). 

The gender balance on our desktop computers in the library is reasonably even; our laptoppers at lunch today were nearly all boys.  Despite the accounts I've heard from some other schools, lunchtime in the library was nothing like an invasion of the Visigoths, thanks be.  The structure we have in place, the guidelines outlined to them on Friday, must help in clarifying the many things that are OK and the few things that are not.

One thing I had done last week for the staff meeting was prepare a list of seven things any Year 9 teacher could try with their Year 9 class, madly hungry to do stuff on their new red babies.  This is designed to be general, and simple.  There is certainly specific subject-related software that could be used as well by particular faculties, but I wanted to focus on existing technology, general computer knowledge and suggest activities that could be done whether or not the teacher themselves had a DER laptop (we got 27 teacher laptops in the T1 rollout, for 70 staff.)

If you'd like to read 7 THINGS TO TRY WITH THE LAPTOPS, WEEK ONE, then you'll be charmed to know I've put a copy in Google Docs.  Click on the link above to read it.  I've had a number of requests for it - if you use it in your school, please leave my name on it. (It is a copyright document:  I am happy for it to be used for non-profit educational purposes by schools/education systems.  Any other use, please contact me first.)

One of the Geography teachers used this as a template/prompt, and her class was very happy to be using their laptops in class straightaway.  For some other teachers, the list was a springboard to thinking of what they could/might do in connection with our laptopped-up Year 9 students.

So we got through day two, and it's onwards to day three.  Some stuff came up in class time today to which I had immediate answers, others were things referred on to the TSO (Technical Support Officer).

Cheers

Ruth