Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More Random Thoughts

1. The iPhone's free wi-fi app is a wonderful thing.

2. To get to my mother's assisted living place one must pass a Krispy Kreme with a "Hot Doughnuts" sign. It's a good thing I am going home today.

3. It is going to be 55 tonight in Hendersonville and 90 in Houston. Maybe it isn't such a good thing I am going home.

4. Pack n' Mail places are a God-Send for book sellers who are addicted to scouting.

5. So is Booksalefinder.com

6. Some thrift stores need to get a grip on their pricing. Yeah, sure the book sells for $50 on line. What are the chances of someone wanting that particular book wondering into that particular very small town thrift shop and spotting it? Had it been priced at $10 I am willing to be any number of book sellers would of nabbed it and the charity would be $10 richer.

7. There is way to much Michael Jackson coverage on TV. It's time to move on. There are a few other semi important things going on in our world.

8. What's with the elected officials these days? State after state (New York, California, Arizona ) is reeling from one financial crisis after another yet they seem to busy worrying about their sex life to deal with it. If they aren't explaining that no, they weren't "unfaithful, they were just friends" they are busy blaming somebody else for the fiscal mess. I think every Mother's invisible child "Not Me" got himself elected by his invisible constituents.

9. The best gift a parent can give a child (after a happy childhood and good education) is to arrange for their own long term old age living arrangements while they still can. Talk about priceless.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Random Comments

Hendersonville , North Carolina

1. Very obese people look even more obese when their mouth is chomping on a Double Big Mac.

2. Free Wi-Fi is a wonderful thing

3. Spending a weekend in a retirement home makes one suddenly feel not so old after all.

4. Pink Mini-Dells always garner a second look. Is it because they are small or because they are pink?

5. The Baptist churches in small Southern towns are very, very large. And ugly.

6. Governor Stanford joins another in a long line of Republicans who believe that marriage is between a woman, a man and his mistress/ office staff / call girl / boy toy.

7. I don't think Michael Jackson ever wanted to grow old. He wanted to be the perpetual Peter Pan and now he will be. He always reminded me of Dorian Gray.

8. Kindles were made for traveling. The thing will pay for itself in the fact that I will never pay excess weight fees on luggage again.

9. The Episcopal churches in small southern towns are always charming and made of weathered grey stone.

10. I have had 2 migranes in 2 days. What's with that? Thank goodness for migrane meds.

11. Voluntary airline bumps are a good thing when they get you a free ticket. They are an even better thing when they ensure you won't be on the flight with the two hyperactive and loud children.

12. Hot weather in Hendersonville is no comparison to hot weather in Houston.
I am glad I am here and not there.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Library Sale Aventures

Friends of the Library sales are far and few between in my part of Texas. Hurricane Ike blew 10 feet of water through the Galveston Public library and several other libraries have taken to selling on line these days.

I saw an ad on Booksalefinder for a San Antonio Public library FOL sale and was intrigued. The San Antonio PL has a permanent FOL bookstore, which I’d visited before – DD went to college in San Antonio – with good results. I'd never been to one of their FOL sales & the web page said they received a large donation of 100 boxes of books.

The donation turned out to be from St. Philip’s College. The processing department at the college removes all the dust jackets as a matter of course. We weren’t the only dealers and all the dealers were armed with scanners which of course were useless since there was nothing to scan. We had to open the books and punch in the numbers. To be sucessful one needed both a brain and a scanner – and a great deal of perseverance. I selected books based on the titles and the publishers. It totally leveled the playing field and slowed everyone down.

For once there wasn’t the frenetic mosh pit atmosphere that pervades most FOL sales. Everyone was good natured and we all talked and chatted as we worked. The books were in boxes on and under tables and in no order at all. The library uses the Library of Congress cataloging system – which I’m not familiar with so I couldn’t use the call numbers to help me out. I speak perfect Dewey Decimal but I’m not fluent in Library of Congress.

One dealer announced loudly he didn’t have the patience to punch in all those numbers and left after 30 minutes. The rest of us carried on and were amply rewarded for our efforts – at least Wallacex and I were. There were lots of clunkers but also some gems in those boxes. The books were only $1 – that’s unheard of in these parts.
do not sell one and we actually found list able titles.

Of course we ate Indian food, drank wine and talked books, books and more books.

I just finished listing my finds – between San Antonio and yesterday’s garage sales I added 72 books which listed at a combined $2,400+ - average price per book came out to $33. . I have a nice mix of high priced books with high ranks and lower priced books with ranks under 100,00.

The FOL folks are integrating the St. Phillip’s books into their store and told us they had many more books to unpack. We are planning a return trip in late July.

I'm very glad I took a gamble on an unknown FOL sale - it paid off tenfold!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Library2Play2 - Thing 2 - Image Generators

I discovered Bookr last fall and introduced it to the first and the 4th grade. The kids adored it - in fact 4th graders were begging for the opportunity to write another Bookr book. Bookr has some weakness, which are in a way also the site's strength. There isn't any choice of fonts - you use what they give you - not as much fun but then the kids don't do all their work in unreadable Gothic either. The pictures most come from Flickr and the choices are limited. Again, that's both a plus and minus - the kids don't waste hours of time looking at every possible picture but sometimes it is difficult to find "the perfect one" within the offered choices. The main weakness of the site is that there is no "edit' option. Once you publish, you publish. On the positive side, it is free and no e-mail address is required. We found it best to publish the Bookr Books to an already existing blog.

Wordle is another site I discovered last fall. Several of the teachers used it as the "carrot" to get the kids through a keyboarding exercise. Once they finished typing they could "wordle" the results. It's also an fun way to reinforce spelling or vocabulary words.

I'd not played with WordShift. Wordle, which allows you change fonts and colors wins in the playing prize, Wordsiftf, which can pull up links wins the "more information " one.
I put The Gettysburg Address through both of them.
Below is the Wordle's Version

This is Wordsift's version.

My bloggers adored Glogster. It didn't do much for me - I thought the results were very busy and cluttered but I suspect I'm showing my age. I would think any parent would embrace Glogster since it frees them from those 10pm runs the 24 hour Walmart because someone just realized they need poster board RIGHT NOW. The kids and I did have problems saving our Glogs. I noticed that many of the glogs on the site are edgy to the extreme. I see they now have an education area, which will help with that problem. The help files and Glogster Buzz sections are full of good ideas on applying Glogster in the classroom. This site is "green" to the extreme and must use for any school using digital portfolios.

Voicethread - this one is new to me. Whoo-hoo - a new new tool to introduce to the bloggers come fall! This one beats the others hands down when it comes to tutorials and help files. I can see many group collboration opporunties for VoiceThread. It would also be interesting to post a final produce and use VoiceTread to comment and critique it. What a wonderful way for ESL students to practice their English.

Animoto was another hands down favorite with the bloggers. They tended to make Animotos of kittens and puppies but one could certainly make an Animoto of Texas Hero's or mammals or just about anything. I applied and was given an educators account which meant I could create e-mail addresses so that the students could make their own Animotos. We learned that if 2 students used the same e-mail address they would overwrite each other's Animotos so it is impartive that each student have their own individual address. The students liked their Animotos to be very long, but I think the 30 second ones are more effective. They are perfect for introducting a topic. Everytime I put one every child in the library gravitated toward the screen. The combination of music and flashing pictures is a child magnet.

The bloggers and I played with Vokis too. Two of the more creative kids proceeded to have their Vokis talk to each other. They were trash talking but a teacher could use it for a 21st century version of Reader's Theater. A student could create a historical Voki and have it talk in character.

All the Image Generators I discovered in Library2Play and these were wildly popular with my students. I found them all easy to use and the results were most professional. The students adored learning and using them and most went on to further explore the sites on their own. SBISD is pushing electronic portfolios and all these sites dovetail nicely with that mandate.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Library2Play 2 - Thing #1

Child of 23 Things here I come! It's summer and time to play. I am at Beck's Prime at The Memorial Park golf course hanging out while My Beloved chips and putts. It is beastly hot - only Mad Dogs, Englishmen and Golfers venture out in the Houston sun.

I have a new toy - a Pink Mini Dell that is light as a feather. Unfortunately, the Memorial Park Golf Course does not have wireless so I accessed the Library Media Services web page via my iPhone. However, I while I can get to TeacherTube I can't get the video to open up. Curses. Foiled by technology. I wonder if it is posted on YouTube? Off to check............

10 minutes later....yes, it was there. YouTube isn’t as hinky as TeacherTube. In fact, I've seen this video before - I think it was included in the original 23 Things. I have conquered technology - yeah me! Usually it is the other way around.

Thoughts on the Networked Student. Right off the bat I see 2 major hurdles the 21st Student must jump before he or she appears in an SBID school near us.

One is the textbook lobby. They don't want to kill that goose that lays those golden eggs - or those 70 dollar bricks. Teachers might not want to use them but the school district has to buy them...even if they pile up unused in warehouses. Kids over load their backpacks and ruin their posture dragging them back and forth. For what it costs to supply a student with a full set of textbooks the district could buy everyone an inexpensive laptop and stack of books on CD.

Two is our no so beloved TAKS test which is mired deep in the 1950s. I taught a Blogging Class this year as part of the after school program. I didn't use a textbook and the students never ever picked up a pencil. Kids begged to be included and we had a joyful time. They were proud of their work and clamored to share. They never realized they were learning the mechanics of writing. I didn't allow “cell phone speak" and insisted on correct grammar and spelling.
These same students dreaded pencil and paper writing in class. With me, their keyboarding improved and once they got beyond hunt and peck their thoughts spilled out through their fingers. The TAKS writing test is a paper and pencil test. During class the kids had to practice their handwriting and worry about spelling. Were electronic copies allowed neither of those would have mattered. Well, spelling would since kids can foil the spell check but they still could have concentrated on content rather than mechanics.

So, can a librarian be a 21st Century teacher – yes he/she could, but not till our legislature and the TEA catch up with said librarian. Will that happen during the lifetime of my teaching career? Cynic that I am, I have my doubts. In the meantime I'll keep plugging way, aiming for the small clinks in the armour that is called education.