Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm going to try again....

I think I finally figured out why I haven't been able to embed videos! So here's the Poe video once again!

The Tell Tale Heart - UPA (1954) from glasscapsule on Vimeo.

The Tell Tale Heart--animated video

Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite writers especially at Halloween.  I would always try to schedule my short story unit around October just so I could end with Poe's stories.  I found this little video through a site called Open Culture --it has audio books, video, full length movies, courses--some great stuff! 

This is an animated version of the story The Tell Tale Heart.  To show you how long I've been in education......I used to show the 16mm version of this on a threaded film projector....sigh.....

Happy Halloween!

The Tell Tale Heart

Friday, October 28, 2011

Red Ribbon Week

In Texas our schools celebrate Red Ribbon Week, an anti drug promotion.  I always want the library to participate in whatever the schools doing, so I found this cute list and I always send it out to the faculty

26 Reasons Why Books are Better than Drugs.

1.      Books are available in clean, well-lit libraries and bookstores.  You don’t have to go to dark, smelly alleyways to get them.

2.      No one ever had to have rehab from reading too much.

3.      While it’s not impossible to be arrested and imprisoned for years for mere possession of a book, it is very difficult.

4.      Good books can be enjoyed forever; they don’t disappear up your nose.

5.      Books do not have seeds that explode and burn little holes in your clothes.

6.      You can read books without having to burn expensive incense to cover up the odor.

7.      Although driving an automobile while reading is dangerous and not recommended, at least, there isn’t an organization called Mothers Against Smart Drivers running noisy picket lines outside the courthouse.

8.      A book is self-contained—there are no needles, pipes, papers, spoons, screens, razor blades, straws, mirrors, or other “extras” to buy.

9.      Books allow you to enter other realities and visit other worlds……..and come back again.

10.  Nobody ever read too many books and then jumped off a building or walked through a plate glass window.

11.  You don’t have to flush all your books down the toilet when there’s an unexpected knock at the door.

12.  Books enable you to enter other people’s minds.  Drugs only allow you to enter your own mind and stay there.

13.  It is extremely rare that anyone gets machine-gunned to death in a book dispute.

14.  Your friends won’t desert you when you run out of books.

15.  Dogs won’t slobber all over your luggage at the airport sniffing for books.

16.  You can proudly display books on your coffee table, even when the preacher visits.

17.  You cannot get AIDS, hepatitis, or cirrhosis of the liver from a book.

18.  You can read all you want, and it won’t show up on a urine test.

19.  If you miss reading one day, you won’t go into painful withdrawal. (well, most people won’t anyway……………..)

20.  No matter how many books you have, you can’t be charged with “intent to distribute.”

21.  Books don’t have negative interactions.  You never have to worry about what’s going to happen if you mix two or more books.

22.  The supply of books is not governed by unpredictable circumstances, such as the weather in South America.

23.  Courtroom and hospital stories are always more fun to read about than to participate in.

24.  Books don’t make your nose run.

25.  If you sneeze, you won’t blow your expensive books all over the floor.

When you expand your mind with books, it stays expanded.

Happy Red Ribbon Week!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm writing a novel....

Okay there I've said it out loud--I'm writing a novel.  Just starting actually....but I'm trying to write a YA novel.  My goal is to write a series that appeals to kids but won't make librarians nervous to put it on the shelf due to language or content.  Not sure I can pull this off but I'm going to try. 

I'm always nervous about telling people I'm writing something--I don't want to be one of those folks who says, "I'm an author" but haven't published a thing....or have self published something because no company would pick it up.  That, to me, isn't a real author.

I have been published before--my reviews for SLJ still give me a thrill everytime I see one in print.  And I never will forget when my principal came into surprise me with the publication of my first journal article--he had seen it in the journal and interrupted my class to tell me.  I didn't even know it had been accepted, and I was so excited!!! 

But writing a book is a scary proposition.  Just about anyone thinks they can write a book.  Some can; some can't.  I've seen some pretty poor ones over the years.  And I think how did they get a publishing contract???  And then I think, if they can, so can I. 

I once read a quote--I can't even remember who said it--that writing is easy; you just sit at the typewriter (well, computer these days...) and bleed.  And that's so true.  I know when I've written something good because it flows out of me like blood on the page.  And I know when I'm not thrilled with something because it's like pulling teeth to get the words out.  And that's a good scenario to share with our students, I think.  They need to know that even professionals have to think, plan, struggle and work to get a piece of writing done "right."

So now that I've taken the first step and said the words out loud, I need to get busy.  Once I have a substantial start to my book, I'll post it here so I can get some feedback.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Zealand has the right idea!

I ran across this website from New Zealand recently and it really got me to thinking about the way libraries offer reference services these days. This site offers real time reference help from librarians during the afternoon--prime homework time.  Or if it is after hours, then the site offers suggestions of other sites to visit for answers.  This is such a good idea!  Instead of the traditional reference librarian on the phone, let's go to where our patrons are these days--online.  I wish more libraries could offer this service.

I think there was initial reluctance to the site on the part of librarians who were afraid the impersonalness of the Internet would impede their service.  Librarians can learn a lot about what a patron needs just by talking to them and trying to determine exactly what sort of information is needed.  And talking via the Internet just isn't the same. 

But students don't have any qualms about talking via the Internet--matter of fact, most think it's no big deal.  So shouldn't library help be offered so it's no big deal either? 

Now if I could just figure out the time difference so I could catch the site while someone's online..........

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

History of ebooks and readers

I found this very interesting powerpoint on SlideShare and it talks about the history of ebooks and ereaders.  Did you know Project Gutenberg started in 1971?  I didn't realize it was that long ago.  And do you know what was the first entry into Prject Gutenberg?  The US Constitution.

 But the timeline of ereaders is really fascinating. 1993 was the year Apple introduced the Newton--remember those?  I didn't either.  They didn't last long.

Sony's ereaders came in 2006 and the Kindle came along in 2007.  I've owned mine since 2008--I have the second generation one. I love the cover from Newsweek magazine the year the Kindle was introduced. On the Kindle it says "Books aren't dead; they're just going digital."

Watching this powerpoint is a bit like time travel for me--I remember these devices and now to see they are considered "antiques".....well, it blows my mind.  Just goes to show you how fast technology is changing these days!  And it seems to be getting exponentially faster!!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Texas Book Festival

So according to this article in the Austin American Statesman, 35,000 people attended this weekend's festival.  I was one of them!  I love the book festival and the numbers show me many others do as well. 

I didn't really get to sit in on any authors this year--I volunteered and got to work outside the Senate chambers talking to people waiting in line for the sessions.  My second session was an author who had researched Warren Jeffs. a polygimist who ran a compound in west Texas and the session was packed! 

I was amused by the number of questions people asked me --like I was a Capitol tour guide (I know where the bathrooms are now!)  Good thing I've spent lots of time going to the festival in years past!

I must admit it makes me proud as a literacy educator to see so many people gathering to talk about stories and books.  My favorite part of the festival is to stand outside one of the many children's tents and watch.  To see kids loving the storytelling, the music and all the events just for them makes my heart happy and somewhat hopeful for the future.  Reading and writing, storytelling and sharing--these skills aren't going away any time soon.

And a side note to my librarian friends.....have you seen the new crowd sourced, free ebook distributed by Kristin Fonticharo and Buffy Hamilton? It's called School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come. Download your copy here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shelter by Harlan Coben

I recently reviewed this book Shelter by Harlan Coben for School Library Journal. (link courtesy of Amazon.)  Today I saw a book trailer for the book.  The trailer does a good job as a teaser for the book.

I thought this was a really good book--I believe it's the first YA book from this author.  I was investigating his website and saw my review as a pop up on the site!  Actually it was listed as being from SLJ but I recognized the words and knew it was mine!  As long as I've been writing reviews for SLJ, I still get goosebumps when I see a review of mine in print. 

Coben writes other adult books as well as YA.  Think I'm going to have to look for some more of his books--if they are as good as this one, it will be well worth it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

National Day of Writing

I would be remiss as a literacy educator if I didn't mention today is the National Day of Writing.  Here's the link to the NCTE website about it.  What are you writing about today?


We have found a great concept we use to help our students understand the types of questions they need for their research --red light/ green light questions.  I first read about it in Kristin Fonticharo's book 21st Learning in School Libraries (link courtesy of Amazon).  Red light questions are the yes/ no questions students tend to ask which prevents them from gathering any  more information.  Green light questions are the open ended type of questions they need to help them focus their research.  And the concept of red light/ green light is one students seem to grasp.

After doing some searching on the Internet, we found this great powerpoint on SlideShare which we have been using with our students when they begin their research.  Our seniors are almost finished with their senior projects.  When they are finished, I think I might survey their teachers and see what they thought about using the red light/ green light concept.  I'll let you know what I find!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wrong technology focus in the classroom

Wrong Focus: Teacher-Centered Classrooms and Technology 

An article I read in Leader Talk from Education Week discusses the idea how education is putting technology in the wrong hands.  Instead of teachers having all the "toys" and all the fun, we should be putting the "toys" in the hands of the students.  Aren't they the ones who need to learn how to use it?  Sure, it makes for a great lesson when teachers can use white boards and clickers but isn't it a better use of the technology to give the kids access to laptops so they can search and type their assignment?

I see this happening all the time.  The current theory is "let's give teachers this tool" but no training or not enough time to learn it.  So instead of the money being used to buy items for students' use, the money goes for something teachers don't have time to learn to use.  And in these current budget times, is that the best use of our limited funds?

Another comment in the article is about the theory that teachers have to learn how things work before they can give it to the kids.  I don't think so.  Kids these days can figure out technology way much faster than any adult I know.  And I get so tired of trying to undo a problem for a teacher who is trying to use a piece of technology or equipment and that teacher has no idea what to do.  I want to say, "Don't use it if you don't understand it!"

A wiser use of teachers' time is to design a better context for learning.  Then let the technology function as a support mechanism--as it should.  In other words, don't design a cool lesson for a powerpoint--design a cool learning experience where one option for a product is a powerpoint.  But don't make the focus of the lesson the technology--unless you are teaching a computer skills class!

What do you think?  Are we putting the technology into the wrong hands?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gaming to teach literacy?

Interesting article here entitled Is Gaming the New Essential Literacy?   At first I read the article to find fault with it but the author has a point.  "They are learning a new interactive language that grants them access to virtual worlds that are filled with intrigue, engagement and meaningful challenges."  And for someone interested in literacy education, I cannot ignore this growing trend.

Games do a good job of teaching problem solving.  But their content is sometimes severely lacking.  And the English teacher in me can moan about the lack of depth and content all day long-- the fact remains kids love to play games and we as teachers would be remiss not to capitalize on that love. "Although video games have great potential to be powerful vehicles for learning, there is no guarantee this will happen. Just as there is no guarantee that someone will understand the themes and symbols of The Lord of the Flies by simply reading it"  I've never of it in this way but this is very true.

I am still bothered when I see kids just sitting in front of a computer screen staring seemingly mindlessly at a screen.  I am sure their brains are working on the problem solving end of the game.  But I would rather see them reading and thinking about what they are reading -- developing the long term thinking skills rather than the short term, quick attention spans kids seem to all have these days.

The article concludes with a good point about adults getting involved in games, too, so we know what is out there.  He compares it to not being able to discuss Lord of the Flies if you haven't read it.  Guess that's true!

So I'm curious--what's the status of gaming in your school?  My library has a strict no games policy but only because of the lack of computers.  I can't justify someone playing a game when I have kids who need to finish homework in the mornings before school.  But maybe when it's not terribly crowded in the mornings, I need to start turning a blind eye --I'll just have to remind myself they are learning to problem solve.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ebooks and libraries--my rant

I saw this article from Publisher's Weekly this weekend and it sparked the following rant!

Etailers and ebooks move ahead

I get so angry when a teacher tells me I need to look into ebooks for our library....whatever do they think I am doing these days?  Sitting around bemoaning the fate of paper print books???  Ppplllluuueeeezzeee!!!!!!!!!  I'm still so irritated--I've been thinking about this for several days following a confrontation with a teacher.

Does this teacher use any of the current ebooks we subscribe to?  Does he look at the science books online and share that info with his class?  Has he ever used his projector to show graphs, pictures or stats from any of our current resources? I know that answer to those questions--NO.  But yet he wants to stand there and proceed to tell me I really need to get with the times and buy some ereaders because he uses one and therefore knows all about them.
I wanted to say, "When you've done the amount of research I have done on ebooks, then we'll be on a level play field and can talk."  But I didn't--I was so stunned at his arrogance.  Does he know anything beyond being an individual reader?  Does he know anything about the roadblocks publishers are throwing up for libraries because heaven forbid, they might have a cut in their precious profits!  Has he considered the logistics?  Who's going to monitor the content?  Who's going to pay for it? Does he have any idea how much Overdrive wants to charge for their service?  Way more than our district can begin to afford!

 And not to mention what sort of platform should we go with--Kindles? Nooks?  Ipads?  Or should we concentrate on a platform that can be downloaded to individual's own devices?  If we do buy devices, how do we protect them from damage?  What happens if one is broken, lost or stolen?  What happens if someone downloads inappropriate content? 

I wish publishers would realize how publishing is mirroring the music industry--once the music folks found a cheap easy format for distributing their music--it's become a universal standard!  And I'm not seeing any muscians or music publishers losing money these days.  We need a simple way to distribute books to whatever reading device people own.  And yes, that means Kindles should be able accept the same sort of download as a Nook.  And until the publishers and distributors realize that simple fact, the ebook battles will continue.

But the next time some smug teacher tries to tell me I really need to get with the times, I won't stand by stunned into silence.  I will pull out my research and facts and clobber them with information.  Because after all, knowledge is power.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How a one year old sees a magazine

A video making the rounds this week shows a one year old with a magazine and then with an Ipad....the baby seems to think the magazine "won't work" because she can't turn it on.....

Way of the future?  I'm still wondering why a baby is playing with an ipad--isn't that a rather expensive toy??

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I just finished reading Delirium by Lauren Oliver, a popular YA book. (link courtesy of   It's an interesting look at the future--another sort of dystopian society ravenged by war.  It is reminiscent of Hunger Games and The Giver.  The premise of the book is when the young adults of the society reach 18, they are "cured" of the disease of love through surgery before the "deliria" sets in.  So you have a society of basically zombies who don't show emotions or feelings, even to their children.

So of course, the main character, Lena is scheduled to have her surgery soon after she graduates from high school.  But before then, she falls in love--or as the book puts it--she becomes "infected" with the disease.  Her mother had the same "illness" so all her life, Lena has dreaded it.  But the "disease" allows her to see the world in a new light--she realizes colors are brighter, sounds are clearer and her town looks very ragged and run down.  Maybe the government control isn't all it seems. 

She makes a visit to The Wilds with Alex and finds a whole society living outside the law.  And she begins to understand everything she has been taught and everything she has believed has basically been a lie.  The ending of the book wasn't what I expected.  But I was hoping for a happier outcome after the sadness of the book--although that wouldn't have really been fitting.

I find it interesting how popular these dystopian society themes are right now.  These books are flying off the shelves.  Are kids --and adults--feeling things are so out of control in our world right now?  Does reading about a worse society make us feel better?  Or is it a warning of what people fear will come?  I'm not sure--maybe it's just a marketing trend like vampires and werewolves--the latest "hot" topic.  I do know I enjoyed the book and will be recommending it to my students!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Web 2.0 in libraries

So how many of these Web 2.0 terms do you know?  How many do you use in your classroom/ library?  It's getting increasingly harder to keep up with it all but keep up we must....or go the way of the dodo bird......

School libraries and the future a slideshare presentation by Anne Robinson,

Also, check out this page from joyce Valenza--School Libraries Teacher Librarians--a page of news and information for school librarians.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


A book that belongs in every professional library is called Mindset by Carol Dwick.  This book had a profound effect on my thinking about every detail of my life.  Dr. Dwick's premise is the way you perceive events or your mindset about those events can be the difference between success and failure.  If you look at  events as growth opportunities, whether or not it was a success or a failure, you will be more successful at whatever endeavor you choose--whether it's school related or personal. 

She give example after example of famous people who choose to learn from mistakes rather than sit and brood over them.  She also gives examples of people who sit and pout, those who don't learn from their mistakes.  I know of many people personally who fall into both of these categories.  There's the "it's always someone else's fault" type of thinking and then there's the "what can I learn from this?" type of thinking.

I try to be the latter but honestly, sometimes it's hard.  Making mistakes is not fun, but I used to always tell my daughter, "A mistake becomes a problem only if you don't learn from it."  But the self analysis the growth mindset requires can be painful; however, the rewards can be immense.  To keep tweaking details until a situation works just like you want can give you results beyond measure.

Teachers especially can learn from this mindset.  Our district believes in continuous improvement--a perfect example of the growth mindset.  One of our favorite sayings is that we "fail forward." --in other words, we are free to try new things and learn when those new things don't work.  Not every district is this supportive but our teachers are supported and encouraged to try--to "fail forward" with great results.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Normally on Mondays I like to share a teaching tip for teachers and teacher librarians to give you something new to try for the week.  Today, though, I want to ask a question.  Our district technology people want us to buy some ereaders.

 I'm a proud Kindle owner but I don't think they are designed with libraries in mind.  We have a rep from Barnes and Noble coming to show up their Nooks. And there's always the Sony ereaders.

 But our technolgy people want Ipads.  I tend to think while the Ipads are a multifunction device, it's a bit like giving a kid a Game Boy.  I see what takes place on our computers on a regular basis-- and a lot of it isn't educationally related!  I see the Ipads having the same sort of problem.

 Unfortunately I'm not sure the librarians will have a whole lot of voice in the decision making process so I'm looking for some ideas from people out there--what is your opinion of the various ereaders?  Have you had success with any certain ones?  Do you have problems with Ipads becoming gaming devices rather than ereaders? 

And what about the whole idea of checking out an expensive piece of equipment to students?  I'm more in favor of an electronic platform where kids can download material to their own devices so I'm not constantly worrying about breakage, loss, damage, etc.

Any ideas, suggestions, etc. would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Goodnight Ipad

A new version of the classic children's story.......:)
Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hunger Games again.....

You know I've been thinking more since I wrote about Readicide and what we as teachers do to kill the love of reading in kids.  I always worry when teachers want to take YA novels and turn them into in class reading.  Take for example, the Hunger Games trilogy.  I've already talked about how popular the series is with students so in some teachers' minds, these books would be perfect to use as class novels to teach literary elements.


Sorry for yelling.  But I get tired of great books being "read to death" in class, picked apart by teachers and turned into worksheet answers.  Nothing kills the love of a great book any faster.

And I can say this because I've DONE it!!!  Okay, embarrassing confession time is over, but I have.  I've really great books and made kids hate them.  And the sad fact is at the time, I didn't know what I was doing wrong.

Well, now as a librarian, I can tell you what I was doing wrong.  Instead of letting kids read and enjoy a great story, I was picking it to pieces.  Details, literary elements, themes....I turned a fun story into an assignment.  Of course, we need to be sure kids understand the things they are reading.  Of course we need to instruct our students in literary elements, themes in literature --all the reasons we all became literature teachers. 

But we don't have to do it to every great story that comes along, especially at the moment the story is popular.  In a few years, when the excitement over the Hunger Games has died down and another series is popular--maybe?  maybe not?  I still hate to see YA literature turned into an assignment.  Some books are just meant to be read and enjoyed.  Am I wrong?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My love for LibGuides

Not sure if I've talked about LibGuides before.  But if I haven't, then it's time!  LibGuides is probably the best website design tool ever made for librarians.  I don't know what I did before I found it....well, I do...I stumbled along trying to make something work.  But this tool has literally changed my library world!  For the first six weeks this school year, we had 10,717 hits on our LibGuides pages.  I know our library webpage has never had 10,000+ hits in any six weeks!

Springshare has done a good job of making a "plug and play" website specifically with librarians in mind.  I've seen lots of differenct uses by lots of different libraries.  Most university/ college level libraries use it to design course guides--help for students enrolled in different courses. 

At the high school I use it more to design specific project pages for different teachers.  This way, I can tailor it to the specific project.  I add the teachers' assignment, due date and whatever library resources are pertinant to that project.  I send the link to the teacher and link it to our library page; however, the class doesn't have to be in the library.  And I know the pages get used because I can see the statistics.

Before LibGuides, I know our library databases weren't used to their potential.  Now I know they are being used and I can tell you how much.  I can add a link to our Destiny catalog and I have a standard page to add with all our Noodletools information.  I add this page to every project--even if the teacher doesn't plan on requiring a citation page--sort of a "peer pressure" to encourage it anyway!  We can also add links for Google books, Google scholar, embed videos, add documents and files or even ask survey questions.

I know I have not tapped the potential of the site--I'm still at a beginner level.  But I tell you what--if I only had $500 in my budget--I would purchase LibGuides before anything else! 

Here's the link to if you want more information from them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I would recommend that every person involved in literacy instruction read the book Readicide: How schools are killing reading and what you can do about it by Kelly Gallagher.  (Link courtesy of  Amazon)  This book describes what we as teachers are doing to extinguish the love of reading in our students. 

Now I never thought what I was teaching would extinguish the love of reading, and I'm sure you don't either.  But have you ever interrupted students in the middle of a passage to ask if they knew what was going on?  Have you ever given study questions to "help" with understanding?  I have --lots of times.  And while there is a time and place for that sort of instruction, we don't give enough time to reading for reading's sake--the sort of pleasure reading you and I do automatically. 

Kids don't get the time now to just read for fun.  If it's not going to be tested, maybe we don't have time for it--that's the prevailing attitude.  And with good reason--we teachers are scared to death of test results.  Our jobs, our livelihoods depend on these tests--often with circumstances we can't control.  So we control what we can--our instructional time.  Time must be alloted to those test skills.

But what about the good old fashioned notion of reading something because we love it?  I hear kids say all the time how much they "hate" to read.  I think it's a matter of they haven't found the right materials yet because I also have seen a student pick up the right book--whatever it might be--and read it straight through.

For some kids the right book is a novel--a sappy romance or a mystery.  For some, it's a nonfiction book on sports, cars or animals.  For some it might be graphic novels.  None of these books lend themselves to being tested so we try to restrict our students to the "classics", the ones we've always taught.  The ones we know we can ask questions a test......

Now don't get me wrong. There's a time and place for this sort of instruction.  As an educated society, we all need to know what references to Shakespeare mean.  Or we need to have read certain novels to have a cultural basis together.

But my point is don't let the fun reading get lost in this instructional time.  Make it a point to give kids time for pleasure reading so you're not guilty of Readicide like I used to be.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Another name game....

Well thinking about the random name generator reminded me of another way of calling on students--this time the old fashioned way.  And I have to give credit to this idea to my dear friend Megan who moved to the land of VERY FarFar Away...

Get some craft sticks/ popsicle sticks.  If you have just one class, write students's names on the sticks.  Drop them all in a jar/ can/ container of some sort.  Draw out names to call on students.  You can leave the sticks out once you call on a student or replace them in the can--that way students never know if you might call on them again.

But in my situation teaching in the library, this is difficult if not impossible to do.  I have classes come in and out and sometimes I may only have 10-15 minutes with them.  But I could use a jar of numbered sticks--assign students a number and call on the numbers.  You could put numbers on the desks/ tables where they will be sitting or hand out "tickets" with numbers on them as they come in the room.  The idea is to be able to randomly call on students and make it easy to deal with multiple classes.

If you have any suggestions to help to engage students in lessons, I'd love to hear them!