Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ALA Infographic

This infographic from ALA is about public libraries, but it's applicable to school libraries as well. Interesting information. Weathering the Storm

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I just submitted this review to SLJ--Karen Hesse's latest book entitled Safekeeping.  When this book is published in September, grab it!  It's lovely!

Safekeeping---Grades  7  +

  In Karen Hesse’s latest novel, Safekeeping , a young woman quickly grows up during a time of turmoil and chaos, giving a nod to the current dystopian society trend so popular in YA literature but going beyond to bring some deeper themes to the story.  This masterfully written story, combined with lovely black and white photography,  will sure garner the author more literary acclaim

Radley Parker-Hughes has been volunteering in Haiti to help in an orphanage after the recent earthquake, but she returns home to a country in the grip of an even more chaotic situation. The American Political Party has assumed power in the U.S.; the president has been assassinated and martial law prevails.   Soliders  with guns at the airport, travel paper requirements—is this really the New Hampshire she left just a few months ago?  And where are her parents? They are usually so prompt  picking  up Radley at the airport, but today they are nowhere to be found.  Radley decides to get home any way she can, even though she will have to cross states lines, strictly forbidden by the new government.  When she does finally make it home, her parents are still not around, but the police are.  They come to the house several times, looking for Radley until she decides the best course of action is to leave, maybe crossing the border to Canada since she thinks surely that’s where her parents went. 

She takes off on foot for the journey, hiding at night in the woods.  One day she encounters an obviously ill young girl, who is also trying to make it to Canada on foot.  The two form an uneasy alliance and along with Celia’s dog, Jerry Lee, they avoid danger and slip across the border.  An abandoned shack becomes home and through the kindness of strangers, the girls survive and become close.  But Radley’s search for her parents continues.

Once the chaos in the US has subsided, Radley makes her way back home, only to find things never will be the same again.  A journey back to Canada can’t soothe her pain, but a trip back to Haiti does. And so she comes back full circle to where the story began.

The prose is written exquisitely, almost poetically, and interspersed with the story are numerous black and white photographs taken by the author, illustrating the story.   The simple beauty of the story combined with the photographs  actually intensify the story lines of confusion and disorder under the new government, giving the reader a chilling feeling of reality. The reader sees, through the use of flashback memories interspersed in the storyline, how Radley’s character grows from a confused, scared teen to a confident young woman, able to handle her own life.   Appealing to all types of readers, this book should fly off the shelves.

More about Noodletools upgrades

Another one of the Noodletools upgrades I am excited about is the different levels available.  Right now they have starter and advanced.  But in the new version, the starter will actually be very simple--desgined for elementary students.  Only a few source types and a very clean design will help start our youngest students on the right path and by the time they get to me at the high school, citations should be a lot eaiser!

I have jokingly (well sort of anyway) told our elementary librarians if our students would come to us and not know about any other citation generator, it would make our lives so much simpler!  But seriously, if our students knew the basics of Noodletools from a young age, we could help them do so much more!

The site will also add an intermediate version for middle school students.  And the advanced level will have a mulitude of source types to choose from!  New source types, including microblogs (i.e. Twitter) and YouTube will now be available.  In addition a long list of government document source types will be available, along with very detailed step by step directions to help students make their way through the complicated citations.

As in the past users can switch between levels but now they can also switch between citation types--MLA, APA and Chicago Turbin.  This will be a handy feature for some of my advanced students who have to complete research and change formatting for different subjects.

I actually have some students working on research over the summer and I asked about their projects.  I was afraid the changes might throw them a curve in their research.  But  any ongoing projects will not make the switch to the new format--only any ones started after the upgrade takes effect.  I don't know---I might tell my kids to transfer their information over to the new format anyway just for the ease of use with the improvements.

Can't wait to see the new site!  June 25 is the big day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Noodletools--upgrades and changes to come

I've written before about this site--it's one of my favorite tools to use when teaching kids research skills.  The site is going to launch a major upgrade this summer, and I was privileged to get a sneak peek at it earlier this week.  I can't wait for the changes! I learned so much about the new version of the site that I want to share--I don't want to overwhelm anyone with all the changes at once so I'll talk about a few of the new features over the next several postings.

One of the reasons I choose Noodletools over other citation generators is the teaching ability built in to the site.  The site wants to help teachers with research instruction, and so it is more than just a fill in the blank website.  Kids need to know what type of source they are working with and what relevant information is needed.  But lots of help is available on screen right at the point of need and after the upgrade, students will have even more hints available right at their fingertips.

The citation page will have a model citation for the source type available for students to check as they fill in their own information.  The relevant pieces of the sample will be highlighted to help them find the information from their own source.  And each line will have an error check--a mistake in capitalization, for example, will be pointed out immediately so students can correct it before finishing the citation.

Small popup menus will also help to provide information at the point of need.  Hopefully if students will just read the page, they can get questions answered before calling out for help from the teacher!

Can't wait to see the new site--the upgrade is scheduled to be live on June 25. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Digital Citizenship

I'm attending a meeting tomorrow on developing a curriculum for the district to teach digital citizenship.  I've made a page of some resources for us to look at while we are developing ideas.  I would love to hear any other suggestions out there.

What are other districts doing these days to teach responsible digital learning?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury August 22. 1920--June 6, 2012

"You weren't there, you didn't see," he said. "There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing."
 from Farenheit 451

With great sadness today, I read of the passing of Ray Bradbury, one of the great literary writers of our age.  I remember the first time I read Farenheit 451--I was appalled at the idea of someone burning books.  When I reread the book--as an older reader--I realized the significance of the story to our modern age.  To this day, it is still one of my favorite books.

Lots of articles are being written today about this great man so I will just say Godspeed and you will remain in our thoughts--as long as there are books to read and ideas to discuss.  Thank you for sharing your writing with us all--the world is a much better place because of it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A year of blogging

As this school year winds down to a close, I wanted to take a long hard look at my blog.  I have been doing this steadily for a year now.  I started writing on July 18 of last year with a goal to post something interesting every day  for teachers and librarians.  After looking at my statistics for the past year, I have some personal reflections. 

I have written 204 posts and pretty much kept to my goal of posting every school day. I must admit following my work schedule made it easier to keep up.  And learning to schedule posts in advance has been a godsend.  My post receiving the most hits was on the topic of Libguides--actually my top three most popular posts all concerned LibGuides!  I think this happened because I tweeted about the posts and the good people at LibGuides retweeted it to all their followers.  My top page has been viewed 82 times.  And my "All About Me" page was viewed 37 times.  I had 482 views last month, which is probably the highest number of views in a month.

So that's the good news.  Now for the not so good news.  Blogging every day is hard!  I sometimes get very discouraged when I see post after post with no hits or comments.  I have to keep telling myself it's not the number of hits, but the quality of writing that counts.  And I'm doing this basically for me and if someone reads my writing, even better.  But there were still some days I get very discouraged and wonder why I bother.

There's good news, bad news.....then the ugly truths....Am I a good blogger?  I don't know.  I know I don't have a lot of readers so in some people's minds, I would not be considered very good.  I know trying to write something daily makes me stay very alert to trends in the library and education world.  I try very hard not to get personal since this is a professional blog, but I've found a few of my personal "rants" received larger number of hits.  So maybe I should be more personal in my writings.  I think forcing myself to write this much has helped to get my writing "fingers" back -- it's much easier to let the words flow now than it was when I started.  However the time I spend on my blog takes away from the novel I'm dreaming of writing.  I mean, there are only so many hours in a day!

So what have I learned from this?  I'm going to keep blogging, although over the summer, I may slow down a bit-I'm going to aim for a couple of days a week rather than every day.  I'll pick back up when school starts for sure, but I'm going to slow down now.  I've joined an online teacher's writing group so some of my time will go there.  I'm going to set a writing schedule and do my best to get my novel at least finished--so I can start on rewrites on it anyway.

I still have concerns that my blog topic is confusing--is it for teachers? for librarians?  I don't see why it can't be for both, but maybe that's part of the problem of lack of readers.  I might need to fine tune my focus a bit.  So that's something to think about this summer as well.

I am going to post this blog link on my end of year report as a part of my professional development over the year.  As I said, I've found myself really watching the trends and watching for interesting information I could share here, so I consider this a portfolio of my professional development over the past year.

So there you have it...the good, the bad and the ugly of blogging.  If you're still reading this far into the page, thank you.  Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Saving a library

This is about a public library rather than a school, but it is still an absolutely brilliant plan!