Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Habits and senior students

I've been part of a team presenting a study skills program to Year 11 students this term, aiming to bed them down effectively with the tools they need to handle the demands and requirements of senior studies effectively.

The habits they have, and the habits they need are not always the same thing.  And change is never easy.

Came across this blog entry about habits and how to change them - and why it is so hard; which will be worth sharing through study skills and with my Year 12 mentor students.

The summary is this:

1. Most of our day-to-day actions are ruled by habit, custom, and environment.

2. Reflective thinking/planning goes a long way towards finding new things to do, but it’s still very easy to default to habits, custom, and environment.

3. The process of changing habits and customs takes a while. I call it “scratching and clawing forwards” – that’s what it feels like sometimes.

4. Set small, achievable goals on habit/custom change. I recommend aiming for 70% success rates, and making consistent incremental progress.

5. The biggest bang for your buck in the short term is moving your environment around. This can be big stuff like finding a new place to hang out after work, or little stuff like setting your gym clothes by your shower the night before. It works.



Found indirectly via Twitter

Image is Creative Commons licensed, from Flickr.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Creating effective surveys

I've just been compiling/creating the evaluation survey for the senior study skills program for Year 11 in which I've been involved through this term.

SurveyMonkey (mentioned previously on this blog) is what I've been using; the school has subscribed to this so we can create more detailed surveys than the free option allows (note that there is a free option, though!).

Toddling around the FAQ, I discovered that there is a fabulous freebie there, an information booklet pdf, Smart Survey Design.

Here's what that text says under the title:
This guide provides information on writing successful and effective survey questions, creating survey flow and layout, calculating response rates, tips for increasing response rates, and the pros and cons of online surveys. (Plus an appendix of links and works cited for additional help in survey design.)

And doesn't that sound handy-dandy for all those students in subjects like Society and Culture who create surveys as part of the process involved in their PIPs (personal interest projects) etc?

I've filled out some doozies for those (teacher librarians being notoriously easy to find at break times/study periods, so they can be asked to fill in surveys).  My fave are the ones that divide the world into ages in this kind of style:
  • 12-13
  • 14-15
  • 16-17
  • 18-23
  • over 23
(because over 23 is, of course, OLD!  Sometimes they might go, 24-30, 40-60... Bless!)

I'll be popping this link on over to the Society and Culture teachers, and any others with subjects where the kids have to compile surveys.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing activities aplenty!

Digging around for some material on behalf of one of our English teachers, I came across Linley Stace's blog - in particular, her excellent collection of blog entries on writing activities.  She lives in Australia and this is how she describes her blog:

This is a blog about writing and reading, with an emphasis on New Zealand and Australian fiction. I am especially interested in short fiction, approaching stories from a writing point of view rather than a strictly literary one. Also a place for my random opinions on movies, books and stuff.

One worth sharing with your English teacher colleagues (the one I was helping was very excited!).

I've also been following @AdviceToWriters on Twitter; check out the website with often concise, pointed and from-real-writers advice here:



Friday, March 25, 2011

GIFSL* 58: Enchantment and your school library

@brainpicker on Twitter, and the associated blog Brain Pickings, provide a constant supply of inspiration and ideas on a huge range of topics.  Not narrowcast "teacher librarian-focused stuff", but all sorts of things from left field and out there and what about?, and hey, here's something to think about.  I love foraging among the wider world to bring back good things to inform my teaching (eg. this blog! - see the intro reference to a flypaper mind).

Take this infographic from a recently published business book, Enchantment: the art of changing hearts, minds and actions, by Guy Kawasaki.  Not something I've tripped over in education circles, but a great lens to use in thinking about our business as teacher librarians, promoting our libraries and their services.

Read the whole blog entry on Brain Pickings here, including links to an enchantment aptitude test, an interview with the author, and more. 

As school library staffing is being challenged, our work as teacher librarians evaluated, the ill-informed happy to spout that 'it's all on the internet now' and so forth, this infographic is, to me, valuable professional reflection for considering what I do and why and how, and how I can do it better.



*GIFSL: good ideas for school libraries

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rick Riordan's new book: sneak peek chapter

If your Rick Riordan fans who loved Percy Jackson have kept going with the Kane Chronicles (Red Pyramid is out, Throne of Fire is out soon) they may like to get hold of sneak peek of Throne of Fire via Amazon.  At time of writing (these things change, so don't get cranky if the freebie is gone!) you can preorder a Kindle e-book edition of "The Throne of Fire Chapter Sneak Peek" for $0 (not $18.99) and it will be delivered on May 3, 2011. 

You don't need a Kindle e-reader to read it, you can read Kindle-formatted books via iPhone app, on your PC/Mac etc - the page has links to these.

Here's the link!

Great chance to offer your students a freebie by a popular YA author.



Image source: Amazon, as per link above.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Display of banned books

Searching through Flickr for something else, I came across this image of a display of banned books. 

Toddle on over to the image source to see it in larger sizes, and check out what's been included. (It has a Creative Commons license).

Click here to see more of this school librarian's displays.

Click here for my recent GIFSL about displays of banned books.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fiction reviews, straight to your inbox

The very excellent Fiction Focus blog from CMIS in WA has an email subscription option so you can find out about new fiction reviews.  Find out about all their sub options, and sign up by clicking here.

One to share with your English teachers?



Monday, March 21, 2011

A free sci-fi e-story (still!): Boojum

So this morning I had a conversation with an English teacher who wanted to plug his senior English class into the many science fiction options in our fiction section...

And I remembered as well this blog entry from two years ago:

A while ago I read the anthology of pirate stories, Fast Ships, Black Sails, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer: they've edited a number of anthologies in the fantasy/steampunk genres, generally pitched at an adult audience (which isn't to say the stories aren't good for kids, but is to say that the anthologies aren't constructed to eliminate that which might not be considered by some suitable for an adolescent audience).

My favourite story in this anthology, without a doubt, was Boojum by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. Black Alice is a space pirate, not a wet pirate, on a ship that is a creature (a boojum); it's a clever clever tale with a twist. It was one I lent to senior Extension English students to look at as an idea of how a longer short piece of writing might be constructed (since a number of them were writing prose fiction for their major works).

And tootling around on Google in the hols, I discovered that of all the pirate stories in all the world, this one is available online (as described in this blog entry) as an e-story pdf, Hurrah! Click here to read BOOJUM!

It has a couple of bits of contextual coarse language in it, so if that's a concern for you read it first before sharing with kids (read it anyway, just because it's good). It's high school level in its ideas, rather than primary school. But if you're looking for an e-example of a story to share, try this.

Knowing I'd blogged about it here on Skerricks, I went back to the entry and you know what?  The link still works!  So if you didn't read/use it then, or had forgotten about it, here's a reminder of a spiffing story.  You can save a copy of the pdf, too...



Image source: the story's pdf.

Friday, March 18, 2011

New US Dietary Guidelines

A simple map to the land of wholesome, by Jane Brody in the New York Times, discusses the new US Dietary Guidelines.

The article begins:

For the first time since it began issuing dietary guidelines, the government offered new recommendations last month that clearly favor the health and well-being of consumers over hard-lobbying farm interests.

The new science-based Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released Jan. 31 by the Departments of Agriculture and of Health and Human Services, are comprehensive, sensible, attainable and, for most people, affordable. They offer a wide variety of dietary options to help you eat better for fewer calories without undue sacrifice of dining pleasure.

Now it’s up to consumers to act on this advice and put the brakes on runaway obesity and the chronic diseases that cost billions of dollars before they kill.

The article continues:

Here is a summary of the guidelines, which combine the goals of fewer calories — and especially nutrient-poor calories from sugars, fats and refined grains — with more emphasis on nutrient-dense foods:

  • Eat lots more vegetables and fruits, filling half your plate with them.
  • Choose lean meats and poultry, and replace some of them with seafood.
  • Consume mainly nonfat or low-fat milk and other dairy products.
  • Choose low-sodium products and use less salt and salty ingredients in food preparation.
  • Eat more fiber-rich foods; replace most refined grains and grain-based foods with whole-grain versions.
  • Use vegetable oils like olive and canola oil instead of solid fats like butter and margarine, but remember that all fats have lots of calories.
  • Eat out less; cook at home more often.
  • Drink water, calorie-free beverages like coffee and tea, and 100 percent fruit juice instead of regular sodas, fruit drinks and energy drinks; limit alcoholic drinks to one a day for women, two for men.
  • Eat less and exercise more to achieve a better balance of caloric intake and output.
 Find the full pdf of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans by clicking here.  Want to compare with the local version?  Find the pdf of the Dietary Guidelines for Australians by clicking here.  A blog entry to share with your Home Economics, PDHPE and science teachers; not just for the basic content, but for the implications about the influence of vested interests on public health initiatives.



Images: my own, using the Hipstamatic iPhone app (see my blog entry about this for more information) and a few moments at a local supermarket.  From memory, John S. lens and Kodot film.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Elizabeth Bennet's email inbox

You didn't know she had email?

Think again!

Apart from the fact that it's highly amusing, it's also got fabulous potential as an English exercise.

Find it here, and the site has more famous inboxes from literature (Dickens, Harry Potter, etc) and elsewhere.

Found via Twitter.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Library website design

Browsing around various library blogs (as you do), I noticed on the Librarian in Black this image of the updated website for the San Jose Public Library.

I'm mulling over ways to have a library website that's accessible to the kids (we don't yet have Student Sharepoint active, many online wiki sites are blocked and we don't yet have a DET wiki option, Moodle is a possibility...).

This provides an interesting idea of how to format/divide/categorise such a site.  It's easy to think, well, that would be useful to have, but the steps before that, the structure/organisation that will be durable and workable and effective - that takes more thinking out.

So, I'm thinking.  And this was handy.  Have you got any library sites you'd like to share in the comments, that you think are durable/workable/effective?



Monday, March 14, 2011

Extreme weather events of 2010: slideshow

Volcanic Eruption Eyjafjallajökull

It's always worth mining a site that has tossed up one useful thing as it's likely to have others.  Along with the infographics I told you about a while ago, has slideshows, such as this one with excellent images and content on extreme weather events of 2010 - snow! drought! volcanoes! - and more.

Another one to share with your Science, Geography and Earth and Environment teachers. You could also suggest that students could do their own versions, sourcing their own images and content in this 12-slide format.



Image source is Flickr: Volcanic Eruption Eyjafjallajökull.  Click on the image to go to the photographer's photostream.  Creative Commons licensed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Glog of school library links

Now and then I take a squizz at the blog stats, and look at the ways people find Skerricks - via Google, or Google Reader, or Twitter, or Bing, or Unknown...

And a little while ago I came across this source:

Which gives you a whole bunch of useful school library links. Thanks for including my name (and thus Skerricks!).  If the above doesn't work for some reason, here is the original link:



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Auschwitz museum revises its exhibits

KZ - Sachsenhausen

One for your history teachers discussing how presentations of history can change.  The museum at Auschwitz is changing the exhibits, which were originally devised by former camp inmates.  Read about the changes, and the why, in this article from the New York Times: Auschwitz shifts from memorializing to teaching, by Michael Kimmleman.

Shoes, Auschwitz

The article begins:

OSWIECIM, Poland — For nearly 60 years, Auschwitz has told its own story, shaped in the aftermath of the Second World War. It now unfolds, unadorned and mostly unexplained, in displays of hair, shoes and other remains of the dead. Past the notorious, mocking gateway, into the brick ranks of the former barracks of the Polish army camp that the Nazis seized and converted into prisons and death chambers, visitors bear witness via this exhibition.

Now those in charge of passing along the legacy of this camp insist that Auschwitz needs an update. Its story needs to be retold, in a different way for a different age.

Partly the change has to do with the simple passage of time, refurbishing an aging display. Partly it’s about the pressures of tourism, and partly about the changing of generations. What is the most visited site and the biggest cemetery in Poland for Jews and non-Jews alike, needs to explain itself better, officials here contend.

the gas chamber in Auschwitz I

I've never been to Auschwitz, so to illustrate this blog entry I went to Flickr and searched for Creative Commons licensed images to use; which is what all the ones here are (click on any image to go to its Flickr location/photographer's photostream, where you will find larger versions; I used the Small size for them here).  There is also a Flickr group for Auschwitz photos.  Another idea to suggest to your history teachers, when they are seeking images to illustrate particular historical topics: chances are for many many historical sites, ancient or modern, someone's been there, photographed them and uploaded their images to Flickr.  The images here are the gateway (Work makes you free), the shoes of inmates, the gas chamber and the monument at the site.

Monumento ad Auschwitz

Two ideas in one blog entry! Double value today!



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Margaret Atwood on the future of publishing

At the recent Tools of Change conference, author Margaret Atwood spoke on The Publishing Pie: an Author's View.  Agree?  Disagree?  Make up your own mind; you can watch her presentation on YouTube.

Here is the original link on YouTube:

More of the conference proceedings, some with slideshows/video: click here.



Found via this blog, which consistently covers a whole lot of interesting links about ereaders, digital books and the future of publishing and books.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day 2011

We put up the banners and signs - it's great to have resources from previous years.  Check out the entries here to see what they are!


Ruth (who wore green today)

Monday, March 7, 2011

What is the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower?

Fancy you asking that.  I have the answer right here.

and if you toddle on over to the Arounder site by clicking here, you can take a 360 degree tour of the view.  One to share with your languages teachers?

The Arounder site has 360 degree tours of art museums, world cities and more.  Here's a glimpse of the Asia/Pacific/elsewhere selection:

If you'd like to take a squizz at the hometown of this blog, Sydney, there are twenty options, not only the (expected) Sydney Opera House.

If you want something more astronomical, how about Mars or the Moon?

So one for LOTE teachers, art teachers, geography teachers, science teachers and more.  Share it!



Found via Twitter.  @brainpicker consistently comes up with a whole bunch of great links.  Definitely worth following.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bookstore organisation, or dear old Dewey? or both?

A couple of years ago, when I attended a day for teacher librarians when visual merchandiser Kevin Hennah was talking about his ideas for libraries, one of the ideas he put forward was about organising a library based on bookshop principles rather than Dewey.  From memory, one example he put forward was a public library in New Zealand, where there were about ten major sections that aimed to connect readers and books more quickly and efficiently, by reflecting reader interests and associations rather than the library default of Dewey.  One of those was a travel/places section, which included travel books (900s) and foreign languages books (400s) shelved side by side.

It would be a big big change to do, and in the context of being a NSW DET school library with all the support structures and organisation in place as part of a large education system, it's not something I'd jump into without a deal of thought.

But it's interesting to think about, to consider how else we could organise a library to make it work for our customers.  There are advantages and disadvantages - as when cataloguing a book/resource, you can use several subject headings for the catalogue to help readers find it, but in the end the one physical resource has to get one shelf location (in our current system, one Dewey number); a decision has to be made on the main topic of the book, and thus its final shelf location.

Here's an article about libraries who have changed from Dewey to using bookshop merchandising style organisation.  Food for thought.

One thing I wouldn't do (and have been asked for occasionally over my career) is grouping books by faculty/subject 'because it would be easier'.  Sounds simple, but then it ignores the fact that the 'science' books may also be 'geography' books (eg. volcanoes/natural disasters).  When I politely point this out, the teacher who is suggesting this usually looks thoughtful, and recollects an engagement elsewhere....

There are, though, plenty of ideas from bookshop merchandising that we can borrow for school libraries.  Which of the shelves below would you explore for longer?  These...

or these?

We don't have enough space to put all our books face out; this is one of three bookcases like this, and not all will have everything face out.  But it's better presentation to encourage reading than the first, isn't it?



Article found via Twitter.
Photographs of shelving from my library's browsing area on the mezzanine: first photo with iPhone camera, second with Hipstamatic iPhone app.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why students should be blogging

Blogging has the potential to reach and influence many. Furthermore, it has greater potential for being a life-long skill. And isn’t that our goal in education? People from all walks and professions blog for the purpose of teaching, creating, and informing. And in the masters courses I’ve taken, so far, I haven’t written a paper, but both have required blogs. Why? Because blogging is the new persuasive essay.

If we’re trying to prepare our students to think critically and argue well, they need to be able to blog. It allows for interaction. It allows for ideas to be tested. And the best posts tend to have a point that can be argued.

I think blogging across the curriculum, not just in Language Arts, allows for both formative and summative assessment. Blogs allow us to see the progression in the development of both thinking and writing. It may actually take more talent to create an interesting, persuasive post on the French Revolution, than a traditional essay.

Shelley Wright, in her blog Wright's Room, arguing that Blogging is the New Persuasive Essay.

When the DET in NSW released its blogging platform BlogEd last year, I took the time to play and learn and then to do a presentation at a staff meeting.  I'm not sure that many of my colleagues took up blogging with their classes, and for many, it was probably because they saw it as another extra looking for space and time in an already full teaching program.

The angle of this blog entry is one that could help some of them review their approach, and hopefully integrate blogging into that already full teaching program as an alternative teaching strategy rather than an extra.  I would guess that this is a common problem with new ideas/sites/platforms/programs/technology; unless a teacher tries it, or until a teacher sees its value in their classroom, it will likely be seen as an extra, with lower priority than the sheer busy dailiness of the classroom and its demands.  It's an ongoing challenge to create the bridges/find ways to change this perspective.

One of the roles of the teacher librarian is to be a learner and teacher in relation to new technologies, and I am regularly consulted on technology matters by colleagues.  One important aspect is being a user-friendly resource - I sometimes get the questions people are concerned may seem 'stupid'; they know I'll answer without judgement and will help.  Me, I'm well aware that I am as much if not more a learner, so that's part of what drives my user-friendly, non-judgemental approach.  I'll add this article to the staff blog I write for my colleagues (another avenue to share information and ideas).



Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is a good book? Nancy Pearl's answer

Nancy Pearl, yup, the one that's the model for the librarian action doll, was recently named Librarian of the Year.  In Library Journal's article about this, Nancy discusses her idea of 'a good book'.  I've highlighted a couple of bits that particularly caught my attention.

What is a “good book”?

As part of the author tour for her newest book, Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers (Sasquatch Bks.; LJ Xpress Reviews, 10/8/10), Pearl went to Westport, CT, to “talk about good books” to librarians and library patrons. “By good,” she says, “I don’t mean any literary canon, but just books that you might enjoy. A good book is a book someone likes and a bad book is one they don’t like. When someone doesn’t like a book, it doesn’t mean they will never like it. They don’t like it for that moment,” says Pearl.

“We shouldn’t be afraid to suggest a wide variety of books to people. I think libraries are the last democratic institution, small ‘d’ democratic. It wasn’t always that way. Librarians were gatekeepers.... When it comes to readers’ advisory, though, I think we need to validate a patron’s reading,” Pearl says.

“When people ask, ‘What should I read next?’ we should always try to give them three books. One should be pretty close to the one they loved. The second should be a little bit different, a bit of a stretch. The third book is the real stretch book, the reach book. The book they never would have found because it is nonfiction and they only look at Westerns,” Pearl says.

“People come into the library and head straight to the section where they have found the most pleasure.... It is our job to take them around to the rest,” she ­continues.

“I do believe that the more well-written books you read, the less tolerance you are going to have for bad writing, but the hardest thing to define is a well-written book. When someone tells you they liked a book because ‘I love well-written books,’ they usually mean books like award winners, for instance the Pulitzers. Those books win awards for the writing. You don’t have to understand what somebody means by ‘well-written,’ but you have to go beyond the awards we all know and see which books won the Governor General’s Award in Canada, or [Britain’s] Man Booker Prize. No one who reads for the story will say, ‘I like well-written books.’ They will talk about page-turners, books you stay up too late to finish,” Pearl ­concludes.

Lots of food for thought there.  I'm going to try that three book idea... I think I've been more likely, when kids ask, to find three similar rather than that three book progression.  Not always, but often enough that I should be trying to extend myself, as well as my readers.  Always good to get a new perspective!  Read the complete article here.


A few more thought-provoking quotes from the article:

...she is a passionate and diligent advocate for old and important library ideas: literacy, reading, entertainment, enjoyment.... She is neither snobbish about the old ways nor disdainful of new ideas. Ask her about audio or ebooks or gaming, and you’ll get an earful about the importance of stories told in their myriad forms,” says Janes.
says Pearl. “My fear is that we don’t recognize or will forget that library service is like a three-legged stool: information, outreach and programming, and reading.”
The book will never disappear as a piece of narrative fiction or nonfiction, according to Pearl, but it is obvious that the format, the way it is delivered, is changing. She knows people will always need escape, stories, and ways to look at the world through the experiences of others.

“I think the more you read, the better person you become, because you can see how other people respond, the way they think, and the way they behave in various circumstances,” Pearl asserts.
“When you read a book, it is just you and the author. Even when people read the same title, everybody reads a different book.... When you listen to a book, a third person enters the equation,” Pearl says. “It is a different experience.”