Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Get a Voki now!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Vanity License Plates

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more Another new twist in the world of Web 2.0 products. Using what you've learned about your Texas Native American Tribe, create a Vanity License Plate .
Anyone know which tribe ordered this one?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Let Em' Write

I teach a blogging class as part of our After School Program. While I do get paid a pittance (nobody ever got rich teaching the public schools) I offered to do it for the love of writing. Having wrung all the joy from reading the wretched TAKS test is now doing the same for writing.

Children are taught to "write to the prompt" - and the prompt is almost always some variation on "A Day I Was Happy" or "A Sad Day" or "The Best Day Ever " - you get the gist. In addition, these kids, many of have fingers on a keyboard since they could toddle must write in pencil and must do all the edits and revisions via total re-writes. No wonder they consider writing an exercise in misery.

I know that my own blogging experience has improved my own writing. The computer freed me from my own constraints of horrid spelling and wretched handwriting and allowed my ideas to flow.

I hoped the kids would mirror my own experiences and I think I might be right. This is my second year and many of the students signed up for a second round. We even added a second class. It's a two hour class and when it's time to go home I'm greeted with whines of "not yet" and "already??".

We always begin by brainstorming some possible topics. A number of our teachers were out today and most of the kids spent the day with some beleaguered substitutes.

"Write about how you tortured the subs today" I suggested.

"We can't write about that!!!!"

"Why not, make it funny and don't use any names and be sure to write nothing inappropriate"

"You mean we really can write about that? "


"Won't we get in trouble"

"No, just let me me read it before you publish"

So off they went. My role is that of the grammar and punctuation police and general editor and chopper of run on sentences. Most of the students are ESL or bi-lingual and while they write in English they still think in Spanish. Much of their writing still uses the Spanish syntax so it's my job to show them how to adapt it to English syntax. I always edit with them one on one and do it as a "think aloud" so they can grasp there is a method to my madness.

They love the spell check Blogger provides and adore the fact that revisions take only a flick or two on the keyboard.

This one made me laugh out loud. The writer is a 5th grade boy who is in a bilingual classroom. It called for a bit of editing, but not much. Best of all, he had fun writing it and I had even more fun reading it.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Scene: A garage sale (where else would I be on a Saturday morning?)

I amble over to the wife with 3 books in hand.

“How much ?” .

“Books are $1 each” . She takes a second look at the titles

“Honey, are you sure you want to sell these books?” she calls out

“These books” were 3 Engineering texts with good ranks and selling prices of $100 each.

“Nah, I don’t want them anymore” replys Honey

“Are you sure? “

“Nope , don’t want them”

“I think….and she's distracted by another customer.

I quickly shove $3 into Honey’s hand and make a bee line for my car.

Hit the gas and hit the road. Hope nobody thinks to write down my license plate number.

The weather was tolerable till 9:30, so maybe one of these days it will be fall again. Best garage sale haul I have had in a VERY long time.

Monday, August 24, 2009

1 Day Down, 179 to Go!

Snippets from the first day of school:

The first child of the year to grace the Assistant Principals office is in Kindergarten. He's never been to school, daycare, Mother's Day, Sunday School or any other setting involving groups and rules. His reply to the teacher when told to get in line "I don't want to and you can't make me". I fear he'll be a frequent flyer.

One class has both an aunt and her niece. Said aunt and niece are both 5. I suspect the aunt became an aunt while still in the womb.

We had a gullywasher of rainstorm but thank goodness the skies opened after the busses rolled.

Not as many students were retained as in the past. For once we don't have any 13 year olds in the 5th grade. We do , however have a few that are already 12.

Thanks to an uncertain economy we had very little teacher turnover this year. Most folks aren't fool enough to let go of a steady job that comes with a pension.

Given the number of Moms I saw today with "baby bumps" I would say I have job security.

Thanks to the help of a couple of library interns I started out the year totally caught up. I'll enjoy it while it lasts. Which it won't.

On the whole the kids seem happy to be back in a place where there are routines and they get 2 squares a day.

I was the recipent of many hugs as the kids came down the hall. Felt good.

And, like all teachers on the night after the first day of school I can barely keep my eyes open.

Good Night!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Six Word Saturday

Six Word Saturday is a new one that's winding its way through the blogshpere. Blogging meets Twitter? When the mind is dense (it's hardto get a good nights sleep when you are the filling in a kitty sandwich) these sort of things help prime the pump and prompt a post. A tip o' pen to Scheiss Weekly for the link.
Thrift Stores yield Books equal Sales.

That's been my life this summer. School starts on Monday so expect some changes!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

More on Apps

Tonight is "catch up on reading the blogs I haven't been reading" night.

Granted, I'm not reading ALL of them and I'm doing a great deal of "mark all as read" when they aren't but such is life when there are 879 blog posts in ones Google Reader.

One that I did read was a post by CoolCatTeacher that pointed me to 50 iPhone Apps to Get Kids Reading. All the SBISD libraries are supposed to get an iTouch or two this fall and I'm on the prowl for ways to use them. I plan to turn the kids loose with them, but after my encounter with sexy lingerie I want to make sure there is a fence around the corral.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Musings While Fasting

Had one of those fun medical tests that require one to fast and hang out in the waiting room.
Ah, the joys of getting older. Not.

  1. Real Simple Magazine is not the best choice of reading material when one is fasting
  2. Coffee always smells really good but when you can't have a cup it smells extra specially good.
  3. Waiting room chairs are uncomfortable.
  4. White slacks and pink underwear are not a good combination.
  5. White slacks & pink underwear with the word "WOW" on the backside are a very bad combination.
  6. If you are wearing white slacks & pink underwear with the word "WOW" on the backside you should avoid bending over.
  7. I wonder what the wearer of the white slacks & pink underwear with the the word "WOW" on the backside would do if I pointed out her fashion faux paus?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Second Life Redux

I've been musing on Second Life and it's possible uses. I'm quite certain I'll never develop an affinity for it, given that of all the 23 + 11.5 things it's the one that really requires dedication and an interest that extends beyond the school day. Either you like it or our don't. There are so many players out there that folks like me must be the minority.

I'm wondering if it couldn't used in High School or Middle School by kids who are already fans. The teacher wouldn't have to spend days teaching it since they students already know how it works. Since it requires an e-mail address it would be hard to use in elementary school like mine where many of the kids don't have one.

The Second Life Wiki has some interesting ideas. I really like the idea of using SL to facilitate second language learning. There is such wide gulf between the the regular ed and the ESL / Bi-lingual students. They don't mix or mingle and so many of the bi-lingual students are really mono-lingaul, despite being native born American citizens. This SlideShare (Hey, there is another 11.5 tie-in) gives a good and simple explanation.

Seems there now a Teen Second Life for kids ages 13 -17. Educators can buy private "islands" and that's an interesting concept. A social studies department could buy an island and the students could recreate the world of Ancient Greece, a Shakespearn theater, a Colonial market or the Battle of Gettysburg. It's not a project for everyone but it's one that could be given to the G/T students.
This sort of thing is right up the alley of many of them. Linden Labs appears to be the front runner with this sort of thing.

So, I still don't care for Second Life (but then I don't like Chemistry either) but I can see it has real potential in the high schools, provided the school has a teacher with passion and an IT department that is willing to unblock Second Life.

Library2Play 2 - Thing #11.5 The End!

I'd really hoped to finish this by July 31, however the book business got in the way. My July ended with a record high monthly gross & I found myself packing over 100 packages during he last week of July.

So now it's August ......my weekend orders are all packed and it's time to finish this up. Besides, there are cats sprawled on my packing table who have it quite clear that they don't want to be disturbed.

1. What were your favorite discoveries or exercises on this learning journey? I'd already used Wordle and Bookr at school and I'm looking for a Facebook 12 step program so it's safe to say those are my favorites. ScreenCast and SlideShare will make their debut this year.

2. How has this program assisted or affected your lifelong learning goals? Of course, just as the first 23 things did. So many of them are now a daily part of life and I've had great fun sharing them with the kids, who also adored them.

3. Were there any take-a-ways or unexpected outcomes from this program that surprised you?
No not really, having done the original 23 Things. I knew Second Life was complicated but had no idea it was THAT complicated. Uploading a video was way easier than I thought it would be. I keep struggling with Twitter. Every time I think I've grasped it the "hows and whys" float away.

4. What could we do differently to improve upon this program’s format or concept? I love on-line learning and the fact that I can do it at home in my jammies. Maybe it would good to pair folks up in clusters so that everyone gets some comments on their blogs. I've an informal blog network but folks who are new to blogging don't.

And on that cheerful note - I'm FINISHED! And I get my flex days. Yeah for flex days.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Library2Play2 - Thing #11 Digital Citizenship

I'm feeling cynical tonight. I don't think schools are going to spend a serious amount of time on Digital Citizenship till it appears on a state mandated test. Schools such as the one I teach at are so stressed over the wretched tests and making to Exemplary that everything else falls by the wayside.

It's taught scatter shot style at my school. Some teachers mention it and some don't and a goodly number of the teachers don't exactly model stellar Digital Citizenship themselves. To many teachers still begin all reference assignments (such as we have) with "Go to Google and type in_____". And don't get started on the topic of Walt Disney videos....

I hammer the topic home to my bloggers. The students know I take Cyber Bullying very seriously.
I banned the entire 4th grade from The Library Lunch Club last year when one of them indulged in Cyber Bullying and no one would fess up.

I like to use "teachable moments" every year some public figure does something stupid with e-mail or Facebook or Myspace and it ends up all over the news. That is always an excellent time to point out just what happens when someone posts without thinking. Many of our students have a FaceBook or a MySpace page, despite the fact that they are to young to be on either site.

Prior to writing this post I did a bit of reading on some of the other Beachcomber's blogs. Vaughnl posted this link to Kenton County School District. October is celebrate as Digital Citizenship month and the entire district works together (or so they say) to bring the idea to the forefront. To Be GT has a wonderful list of 5 things she plans to tell her students. In the best teaching tradition, I'm going to take her list and run with it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Library2Play - Thing #10 Virtual Worlds

I'm crying "Calf Rope". I don't have enough time to keep all the edges tucked in on the life I have, much less create and keep up with a Second One.

I followed all the links, registered and then ran into one glitch after another. Server Problems. Registration Problems. Try Again problems. All Second Life problems, not problems on my end problems. So my Avatar remains naked and nameless and I don't give a flip. Maybe a Virtual Policeman will arrest it and jail it for indecent exposure. Since I don't have any Second Life currency I won't be able to post bail and it can stay there.

There is a
Second Life section in E-bay where you can use real money to buy virtual land! Who knew?

Seriously, I am not a games person. I don't like card games, board games, computer games, Wii games or any sort of game. On the other hand, one of my girls was so addicted to
SimCity that she had to put the brakes on herself during school, otherwise she'd never study. She would love Second Life. In fact, she probably has an entire Second Life that I know nothing about (which is fine, she's 27, not 7).

I know my computer nerds at school would adore Second Life - they already adore
Poptropcica, a kid friendly virtual world. Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kid books helps to create that particular world and he knows exactly what kids want.

I view Second Life in the same way as I view cars. Cars get you from point A.o point B. It doesn't matter if you drive a ratty PT Cruiser with dents and dings or a brand new Ford F-10 truck with high dollar wheel rims and a fancy fade paint job. Both will get from point A to point B.

In the world of Web 2.0 one has virtual chat rooms, forums, IMs, Skype, list servs, back channel,blogs, Wikis & Nings to communicate with others. And then there is Second Life. They all allow folks to communicate but the former are PT Cruisers and the latter is the Ford F-10.

P.S. My child left me a comment. It wasn't Sim City, it was the SIMS and she too is much to busy with her current life to create a second one.

Library2Play2 - Thing #9 SlideShare

Thing #9 in 25 words or less
SlideShare = YouTube for PowerPoints
AuthorStream = YouTube for PowerPoints with Voice or Music Added
280 Slides = PowerPoint without having to pay the Man (i.e. Bill Gates). Love It!

Library2Play2 - Thing #8 Screencaset

This was interesting and more complicated than necessary. Since there were so many options I read some of the other blogs to see
see which sceencast tool they opted to use.

I started out with Screencast. Easy to d/l, easy to use, loved the simplicity of the bars you moved in or out so you copied just what you wanted. Clicked on the copy button - oops, up popped an error. Screencast was suddenly stuck. Clicking on the "x" resulted in a symphony of pings and tings. Pressed Ctrl/Alt/Delte
and tried again. Same error, same result Screencast must not like Vista (it's not alone ).

Onward to Sceencastomatic. Once again, easy to d/l, easy to use but the cross hairs were preset - and you had to figure out your size first. To mathematical for me.

Went with Jing and the third time proved to be charm. Easy to d/l, easy to use and it speaks Vista. Created a screen print from the district's newest toy BrainPop. Loved the fact you add arrows and type words on top of the screen print.

Actually, my favorite screen print device is the Camera tool that comes with the Activboards. Every SBISD issued laptop comes complete with the Activboard software so it's already there for the using. Once you've "taken the picture" you can work with and manipulate the image in a flipchart. Once that is finished a right click and save as turns it into a jpeg and you then use it on your blog, in a document or most anywhere.

Library2Play 2 - Thing #4 Uploading a Video

Well, that was easy. No different than uploading a photo or an Animoto to blogger. I opted to upload one of my Animotos to Teacher Tube - that way, should I so desire I can show the video at school.

I'm not having any file storage issues on my own computer, but I can see that if I did create a great many videos uploading them would make life so much simpler for my computer. Of course, since I'm not a video person (even though I own a Flic Video camera) that's not a likely scenario on my part.

I've been reading some of the other Library2Play2 blogs and just about everyone talks about how they can whil away the hours watching videos on YouTube and TeacherTube. Not me, I get the links from others all the time (the crazy wedding entrance is the viral video du juor). I watch maybe 30 seconds if that much, get bored and click out. I don't have that kind of time to waste - to many books to sort, to many books to pack.

So, how could students use this? Unlike me, the kids LOVE to watch videos and I know they would love to make them. By uploading it would be possible to them to share their work with their families and friends. It would also make it easy to critique them and to organize a contest.
The dreaded "oral report while dressed as an historical character" might improve if the students saw the final results up on the computer screen.

I am delighted to discover that Youtube has a government offshoot - that is going to be a wonderful addition when creating Flipcharts for the ActivBoards.

P.S. Just to prove that even I can get distracted by YouTube I did get sucked into watching this:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Library2Play2 - Thing #7 Video Resources

I'm not much for watching videos on my computer. I'm a very fast reader and I can usually glean what I need to know faster by reading than by watching. Also, I tend to be on my computer most of the time either doing e-mail or working on my Internet book business.

I am also woefully out of touch with American popular talent. At my house the TV is on the Golf Channel 24/7 (or so it seems). I have never seen an episode of America's Got Talent or Dancing With the Stars. I get my news from National Public Radio and I watch old movies I rent from NetFlix while I'm packing books. I'm a "listener" not a watcher when it comes to media.

I knew about Goggle Video - it's a long time favorite with my Library Lunch Club kids who long ago figured out they could get around the the district ban on YouTube by using Google Video to look for "scary videos". I wasn't familiar with Blinkx - that's one amazing and comprehensive search engine.

Just for fun I typed in "Dewey Decimal System" and up popped The Dewey Decimal Rap that made the rounds of the library list serves last spring. Conan the Librarian made me smile - that clip is destined to become a lesson "hook".

I also checked out videos on blogging and found a couple I'll use with my blogging class come fall.
Most of what I found plays on YouTube. Rumor has it that it is going to get unblocked" in the district which would be wonderful. I know how to convert a video via Zamzar but that requires planning ahead. There is nothing like a video when it comes to "teachable moments" and those can't be planned - they just happen.

totlo is going on my school Delicious page - though I wonder, since it is YouTube owned if the district blocks it too?

So, when it came to Thing #7 I really was a Stranger in a Strange Land. I vaguely knew what Hulu was but didn't realize it had current TV shows nor did I know I could watch PBS shows in their entirety on PBS.com. I finally got to see just what The Wiggles are (and oh, am I glad I no longer have small children) on totlo.

I'm thinking that my little pink netbook start doing double duty as an Internet video monitor!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Library2Play2 - Thing #3 Skype

I loathe talking on the phone so I don't think I'll ever embrace Skype. I love to blog, e-mail or IM and I'll even text on occasion but I have 4000+ un-used cell phone minutes and the number climbs monthly.

Skype reminds me a bit of EMG, which the district embraced some 15 years ago. It arrived with bang and left with a whimper and all that's left of it at my school is the library's direct phone line which supports a cordless phone. I do love me my cordless phone (so I can take the phone to the shelves) so I still have a soft spot for EMG. It was an early experiment in video conferencing and was supposed to help bring "the world to the classroom". Looking back at it from a 15 year perspective I can see that it was, in many ways way ahead of its time, though it was very awkward to use. Technology was unreliable (some things never change) and it required careful coordination between EMG and the classroom. Given that unexpected "things" pop up in an elementary classroom coordination didn't always work as planned. When a student upchucks, vomit trumps scheduled video conference every time.

Back to Skype and its possible use in the classroom. The manual created by The Learning Librarian is excellent and some great suggestions for classroom use. 50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype has even more suggestions. My favorite is using it to include home bound students in classroom activities. Given how many hospitals have wi-fi these days Skype is something the district's home bound department needs to investigate.

I'm wondering if the schools with an international student population might promote Skype to their parents as a way to keep in touch with friends and family overseas. Not the sort of international student body that's at my school - the villages they hail from are lucky to have electricity, schools with students from countries such as Japan or India.

It has potential as a field trip prep project too. Prior to going to Washington on the Brazos the 4th graders could "meet" one of the guides and get a feel for what they will be seeing and what's expected of them I find that the more prep one does, the better the experience. Government classes could perhaps "converse" with an elected official or science students with an astronaut.

Yeap, Skye is a keeper, even for folks like me who loathe talking on the phone.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Library2Play2 - Thing #6 iTouch Apps.

I'm already in love with the Apple Apps. The iPhone entered my life in December of 2007 and we've never been parted. It's one of my silent partner in my book selling biz. I have the Amazon & E-bay apps loaded, plus a couple of restaurant finders (book scouting brings on an appetite).

I followed the link to The Pinch Feed for Apps - and immediately wished they had a G rated version. I don't think iHandgun or sexy lingerie has any educational value.

I also read a couple of the blogs written by teachers who used them in the classroom but didn't find them as helpful as I wished. The iTouches were handed out but there didn't appear to be much follow up in how useful they were.

I can see these being used on field trips - the Google Map app and the Wikepedia app would be invaluable. Curious about something - well just look it up! There are a couple of mileage apps that have potential too. The games could also soothe the savage beast during the in transit time .

iTouch time is going to be an AR celebration in the upcoming school year. I suspect the kids will come up with uses that will astound me. Only, I wish there was a way block sexy lingerie.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Library2Play2 - Thing 5 - Microblogging

As always I can't seem to do Library2Play2 in order. No, I have to skip and jump around, just as I did with the original Library2Play.

Microblogging: Facebook is downright addictive but try though I might I just don't "get it" when it comes to Twitter. I suspect some of this is age and some of it is that I'm just not on my cell phone 24/7. I don't have the kind of job that lets me monitor it constantly (I have no clue how the myth evolved that librarians just sit around and read all day).

I can see students following their favorite authors, as well as following a politician as a current events assignment. It might be best however if they didn't follow SC Governor Sanford though.

Twitter could add an interesting twist on career assignments - if a student is interested in the law have her follow a lawyer.

I've been on Facebook for some time - just everyone else I've connected with people from my past and enjoyed the day to day peeks into the lives of my Facebook "friends". It can also be one of the biggest time wasters in the universe. The quizzes and the endless pie tossing and "lil green patch" are a mystery to me. Who has time to keep up with these and why do I keep getting them? They are Facebook's version of the endless e-mail forwards (all of which I delete too).

I've seen some interesting educational uses - the most prevalent being where the student creates a Facebook Page for a historical personage. A student could also do a Facebook "book report" - post a thought on each chapter as they go through the book. It would make it easy for the teacher to ensure the book was actually being read!

Facebook is an easy way for a teacher to create a class "web page" and keep in touch with parents. It's ideal for "helicopter parents" - the class Facebook Monitor could post hourly updates. The Twitter monitor could follow up with multiple tweets. Be idea for field trip updates.

Correct grammar and punctuation seem to be the norm for Facebook but not so Twitter which tends toward cell phone speak. So the former could be used as a language arts springboard, the former as perhaps an example of what isn't standard English.

While you can follow a Twitter feed on a computer, the medium is best used on cell phones. Before Twitter starts making great inroads in the schools said schools must revise their cell phone polices.

Technically one isn't supposed to have a Facebook (or a Myspace page) till age 13. I can atest from my own school experince that this rule is ignored on a regular basis. This is another can of worms that schools need muse about. I taught some lessons on thinking twice about posting to MySpace / Facebook to my 4th & 5th graders. Many teachable moments since it seems every day one celebrity or athlethe is in news for posting without thinking!

Do these mircorblogging tools fill a need in education? Yes, though at this time mainly as a real time communication tools. Given time I can see them incorporated in standard assignments too.

Librarian Porn

It's now July 5th and I am finally starting my summer vacation. I should have about a month off prior to going back to work in August. I'm not sure how the myth that teachers get 3 months off arose. I've been in the biz for 19+ years and I've yet to experience it.

In June I:

  1. Worked till the end of my contact time (4 extra days)

  2. Picked up required to keep my certificate 18 hours of non contract in-service. Added about 12 more hours to the total while I was at it.

  3. Visited my mother (well that does count as vacation but it does nothing for getting things done around the house)

  4. With the help of two hard working library interns plowed through a 3 year cataloging backlog. And no, I wasn't paid. I was still better off than the 2 interns who had to pay for the priveledge of dealing with my stuff.

This cart was overflowing with book and the floor was stacked with math, science and language arts materials.

These carts are now full of shelf ready titles and the AV materials are ready to deliver to the math, science and language arts specialists.

Thank you L & A. and a special thank you to Dr. B. for sending the two of you my way!

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.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

There Aren't 2 Levels of Health Care...

.... in America ...there are three. I always knew that there was a world of difference between health care for the those with insurance and those without. I now there is yet a third - one for those with insurance + money or friends in high places.

My Beloved had knee surgery and which resulted in complications. Six days after the surgery she developed a blood clot in her calf, which necessitated a 5 day hospital stay. She's currently building a new building for Methodist Hospital, so of course it was her venue of choice.

One thing lead to another she ended up on "Fondern 12" - the floor where the hospital houses the rich and famous. Barbara Bush stayed there during her recent surgery. It's one of the crown jewels of Methodist and nothing is spared to ensure the patients are as comfortable as possible.

Large, spacious private room complete with a dining table and chairs, coffee table, recliner , couch and chair... .. and oh yes, a hospital bed. Think Hyatt meets hospital.

Wi-Fi, cable television, 2 phones, a ratio of 4 patients per nurse + nursing assistants and "patient care coordinator" whose job it was to ensure that nothing went wrong. The level of care was right out of a Sue Barton book.

And best of all... a private chef on the floor and room service from 6am to 8pm. No powdered eggs on plastic plates at 6am for the residents of the 12th floor. They dined on omelets, served on china, with linen napkins and a fresh rose on the wooden tray. Lunch was equally delicious and at 4pm one of the staff made the rounds to share the daily special - and "would Madam desire it, or would Madam prefer the snapper with crab meat that Madam enjoyed yesterday?". Madam ate very well indeed. Madam's other half tromped down to the hospital cafeteria and had salads in plastic bowls. Whenever Madam was thirsty she called and a chilled Sprite Zero complete with stemmed glass and ice appeared on a tray. Madam was royally spoiled.

So spoiled that on her first day at home she looked at me and said "I'd like some tofu with sauteed squash and red peppers for dinner".

I looked at Madam and said "there aren't any squash or red peppers in the fridge and you're not at Fondern 12 any longer". Madam is feeling much better but is mourning the loss of her personal chef.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

When She Fails the TAKS Test....

.....it will be once again "a failure of our education system".

This story has dominated the local news for the past week:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/moms/6381800.html (drunken driver drove his car into a flooded bayou while talking on his cell phone. 5 children drowned, the father, another adult and 1 child survived. None of the children were wearing seat belts or in car seats. Father, who had a long criminal record is currently in jail charged with 5 counts of manslaughter).

One of the follow-ups reported that the one child who lived - a 10 year old girl is in foster care. She'd been living with her father (the drunken ex-con) for about a month. Her mother checked her out of the hospital but CPS took custody since Mom has a serious substance abuse issue.

1 month with Dad = 1 school, Foster care = a 2nd school. Number of schools attended between August and move in with Dad = unknown but even if it's just 1 (highly unlikely) that's still 3 schools within the space of 1 school year.

At age 10 she's either in the 4th or 5th grade (we hope). This upcoming week is TAKS test week - 4th graders take the reading and math test and 5th grade a science test.

This child, who just survived an horrific accident, who lost her siblings and half siblings and who is a poster child for "dysfunctional home life" is expected to sit at a desk for 8 hours and take a test and give it her personal best. The chances of her passing the TAKS test are slim to none. Her score will impact whatever school she attended on "snapshot" day which is in October.
The school will get the "ding" and the blame.

Nowhere in "No Child Left Behind" is there any accountability for home life and personal circumstances. NCLB assumes educating children is no different than factory farming chickens.
You apply the latest and greatest and hey presto, perfectly educated children and record egg production.

Only difference is, the factory farms can cull the hens who don't measure up to the standard, the schools can't.

Take My Money - Please!

I did my utmost to counter the recession and spend some money today but the stores did their best to foil my efforts. I now understand why some retail establishments are folding. I hope that the two I attempted to patronize today join the ranks of the bankrupt - and quickly.

Experience #1
Location : Target
Product : A rolling office chair.

Thanks to knee surgery My Beloved is on crutches for the next 6 weeks and we thought a rolling chair might make it easier to maneuver around the house.
Target had just what I wanted, but but I couldn't find any , other than the sample (mounted on a display board).

"No problem" I told the clerk, "I'll take that one"
"I can't sell it to you" she responded.
"Why" I asked in utter astonishment.
"We're not allowed" she answered.
"Why" I asked again "I don't care if it's a bit dusty".
"No, you can't have it" she said, turning to leave.

I pushed my cart (I'd picked up some other things en route to the furniture department) in her general direction.
"Then I don't want what's in this cart either. I'm not about to to stand in line to pay for this merchandise and then go somewhere else to buy a chair and stand in line again.".

Target just lost about $200 in sales + hell will freeze over before I shop there again.

Experience # 2
Dry Creek Cafe
Product : A hamburger & french fries

My Beloved desired a hamburger so I stopped at Dry Creek, which makes very good burgers.

Me :"I'd like a hamburger and fries to go please"
Order taker: You can't order a hamburger.
Me "Why, have you changed your menu"?
Order taker: "No, you can't order hamburgers till 12 noon.
Me "It's 11am, isn't that normally considered lunch time"
Order taker: "We're serving breakfast, you can't have a hamburger".
Me "All you need to do is put the burger on the grill that's already hot since you're cooking eggs.
Order taker : No hamburgers till 12 noon.

If it's this hard to spend money during a recession I shudder at what it is going to be like once the economy improves.

Thank goodness for Amazon Prime. They are always happy to accept my money.
To bad they don't sell hamburgers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What If They Gave a Friends of the Library Sale....

And nobody came?

The Houston Public Library FOL book sale was this weekend, with Friday being the members night. I was on the fence about going since I knew HPL sells to Better World Books and since I bought a grand total of 1 book last year.

To go or not to go…that was the question.

I got an unexpected donation of $100 to buy books for my school library – the FOL sale advertised that their “I Can Read” books would be only $1 each and I knew from past purchases that many would be like new. So that cinched it. Nasty weather was in the forecast and I had no desire after a long day at work to stand in line in the rain or deal with the opening bell mosh pit so I planned to arrive when the doors opened. It was sprinkling so I splurge on the underground parking. The Heavens opened shortly after my 4:15 arrival for a sale that started at 4:30.

There was NO LINE!

There could not have been more than 50 – 75 people (the sale is at the convention center) standing around waiting for the gates to open. Everyone was really laid back and in a good mood. The starting gun went off and there was no reenactment of the Oklahoma Land Rush. Only a couple of people ran, nobody pushed or shoved or tripped anyone. No hording, no sweep the tables, no grabbing. I had the art books all to myself. The prices were much lower than last year – still very spendy for a library sale but bearable. The bulk of the non fiction is individually priced - $2 -$10.

I didn’t see any of the regular dealers but it’s been a long time since I’ve attended an FOL sale. There were other scanners, many of which were , judging from what they picked up newbies or penny book sellers. I ran into the dealer who runs the Texas version of BetterWorldBooks and he said quite a few dealers (esp. the out of town ones) skipped the sale this year because it was so bad last year. He said he lost money at last years sale and so far he was doing well.

I’d planned to buy a stack of “I Can Read” books and leave – and instead I was there for 4 hours. I bought 3 boxes of books for $240 (told you it was pricy), the bulk of which are art books cause that’s where I went first. I was also dead – I was at work by 6:45 and I was on my feet for the bulk of the day. I dragged into the house at 9pm and collapsed.

The FOL Sale chairperson was doing crowd control (not that there was any) at checkout & I commented on how empty the place was. She agreed and said they didn’t expect as many people as last year because they had fewer books (true) but that she was very surprised at the low turnout. I told her the prices were way more reasonable this year and she said, yes they realized they had overpriced and that they made changes. She confirmed that many of the regular dealers were not in attendance.

Texas Better World was the one who told me HPL is cherry picking books to send to Better World and I believe him. I found good inventory but just about every book was a “punch in the number” rather than scan the number. The scannable books were for the most part, worthless for resale. Texas Better World agreed with my assessment.

The rain on Saturday was way worse than Friday and I doubt they had many shoppers. There should be some good pickings at bag day on Sunday
Maybe it’s time to re-think FOL sales.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My Strangest Garage Sale Buy Ever...

I spend almost every Saturday trolling the Heights garage sales for books to sell. Along the way I pick up other treasures, many of which find their way into my library. I’ve the only library in the district with 10 Lava Lamps and a complete zoo of puppets and stuffed animals.

Saturday I came across a Book Cart. A brand new, metal, retails for almost $400 Bretford Book Cart. How it arrived at a modest Heights rent house is beyond me but there it was.

“How much” I asked the seller, expecting a quote for $25 to $50.

“Ah, I guess $5” he said.


I think every librarian turned bookseller needs her personal book cart.

P.S. It was a day for a strange buys – another sale turned up the contents of a newly closed gourmet grocery store. $10 bought $50 worth of fancy salad dressings.

15 Perfect Gentleman

Thanks to a bizarre chain of events that fell into place without a hitch (Hey, there really is a Goddess who looks after librarians) I hosted my first “name” author last Friday. We’ve had many author visits over the years, but they are mostly the self published type. Pleasant enough folks, but it’s very apparent that the main source of their income and their book sales are their school visits.

Not so Justin Somper the author of The Vampirates series. He’s from London and his American book tour included a stop in Houston to hobnob with librarians during the Texas Library Convention. Conventions aren’t my thing which meant I was the only librarian in Houston who could cobble together a school visit on 2 weeks’ notice.

I tossed up a display and a created Flipchart. I prepped, book talked and handed out the tomes. It helped that the books have very, very enticing covers and subject matter and that Justin has an enjoyable and informative web site. The kids enjoyed the books and looked forward to the event.

All the work paid off. Justin’s visit was worth every bit of effort and more. His rapport with the kids was excellent and he had them mesmerized. We sold over 100 books and made some money Blue Willow Books, the local independent bookstore. Owning one of his books became the newest status symbol and having all 4 meant you were at the top of the heap.

I’ve a group of 5th grade books who are devoted fans of the Cirque du Freak books and since there are some similarities in the two series I invited them to eat lunch with the author. I’ve always catered a lunch for visiting authors (have Crockpot, will cook) and included students. One advantage to not having an active PTA is that I can do my author lunches just as I please. At other schools author lunches are the province of the PTA and consist of the PTA Moms and their own offspring.

The menu is always simple – pasta with meat sauce, good French bread, butter, a tossed salad and something chocolate for dessert Every time I do one of these I’m always amazed at what’s novel.

Once year it was the “real forks”. I hate to eat with plasticware so I always bring my stainless from home. Another year it was the homemade salad dressing and the “real” whipped cream. This time it was the crusty French bread and the unsalted butter. The boys ate their way through 4 loaves, each slice slathered with butter.

"This doesn't taste like the butter from the cafeteria Ms. Moore".

I provided table cloths and we helped ourselves to tables not yet picked up from the carnival and set up a large, square banquet table. 15 boys sat round it, ate massive amounts of food, asked respectful, thoughtful and polite questions and brought tears of joy to the eyes of their principal.
Not one descended into horseplay, acted silly or did anything goofy. There were perfect gentlemen and did themselves and their school proud.

It's days like this that I love really, really love my job.