Conference Season

Last week I went to a three-day conference, Technology Integration and Instruction for the 21st Century Learner.  I’ve been to a few other conferences, the Iowa Association of School Librarians, the 1:1 Iowa 1:1 Conference, and before that, the Wallace Symposium for Gifted Education before that.  This week, the Twitterverse is agog over the ISTE conference in Philadelphia.  It’d be fun to take my daughter who is an ed tech minor to one of those yearly meetings, but since next year it’s in San Diego, 2013 in San Antonio, and 2014 in Atlanta, it will be awhile (too far, too expensive, too much traffic).  Why don’t they do these meetings in say, Omaha?  I can handle driving there.  Maybe we’ll go in 2014 then my brother in Atlanta can drive me around. HA!

Anyway, this close-to-home conference was really good.  I’m glad to see a wide variety of sessions, for the beginner to the seasoned ed tech professional.  I thought the keynote speaker, David Warlick, was fantastic, although his fascination with Second Life has me wonder.   🙂  The idea of a “flat classroom” is really where we are headed, isn’t it?  Oh and after the conference, a rockstar teacher tweeted me and would like to collaborate!  How cool is that?

Here’s a few notes I took down, things I want to stay with me:

*Some countries have much greater internet access than we have.  It’s sort of every man for himself here (my phrase, not his), and Warlick said that we have disaster looming in our country because of this.

*Warlick – “Perhaps the best thing we can teach our children today is how to teach themselves.”  Exactly!  This is what I see as the foundation of information literacy and what I want to accomplish as a teacher librarian.

*The best way to get students to respect other people’s intellectual property is to make them intellectual property owners – have them create and post online and copy using Creative Commons their own work.  Even put these in the library for future students to see.  (Reminds me of when my 6th grade teacher kept my report on the Brahman of India that I took poetic license on and wrote in the first person.  She said she wanted to use it for future classes and boy did that make me proud!)

*Start your lesson with something that you learned yesterday

*Anatomy of the long tail – apparently I should know about this!  Find out more.

*Lulu is great for self-publishing

*Information skills is about exposing what is true (reading), employing the information (math), expressing ideas compellingly (writing), and doing all this in an ethical framework

*Peggy Coyne (another keynote) – Universal Design for Learning addresses the variability of students in today’s classrooms

*Coyne – provide multiple means of representation, action and expression, and engagement – great for our PLN class

*Blogging is motivating to student writing because it becomes a responsive experience, not because it’s technology


Well, I know that blogging is motivating to me as a good way of keeping track of what I’ve learned at conferences.  HA!

Anyway, T-minus-4 (days) until I start my job as a teacher-librarian.  Yay!!!

Summer Reading

My schedule is calming down a little bit since I finished my comprehensive tests last week (no scores back yet, knock on wood).  I still am taking three tech classes, but we’re also mostly moved in to the new house, so I can actually do some reading.  I probably won’t beat my reading last year of about 20 chapter books for children, but I’m going to try.  I am a volunteer reader for my state library association and have a list of children’s books I’ve been asked to read.

So my first book this summer is Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Rodrick Rules, by Jeff Kinney:

I know I’m behind in my reading as this was published and popular some time ago.  (Goodness, the movie is on DVD now!)  This book isn’t on the list from the association, but I wanted to catch up on the series anyway.  My husband read it too, and it  really is laugh-out-loud funny.  When I did my student teaching in 2009, one fifth grader encouraged me to read these.  I love recommendations from kids! 

So back to this list – I should give some background on it.  Members of the state library association are asked to read as many of these books on a list as they can, and rate them based on whether they should be included on a list for students to read.  Then the votes are tallied, and the results are used as choices for students to vote on as the best children’s book – not for this fall, but next.  So we’re already 1+ years behind.  That’s not really the problem, as the logistics of getting the list books to school libraries in time for the next school year requires it.  And as I said, Rodrick Rules is not on the list – but the first one Wimpy Kid book is!  So in 2012-13, students might be asked to choose Diary of a Wimpy Kid as the best children’s book!  What the heck?  I mean, it’s a great book, but could we choose a book that’s a little less popular?  

First, we should give attention to authors who need our help – Kinney doesn’t need it.  This list needs to be motivational, inviting students to read books they haven’t read.  Plus, we look completely irrelevant as an organization!  The high school voters chose The Hunger Games last school year – again, a great book, but since the third book is out and the series is finished, couldn’t we just not?  The average age for this summer’s list is 2009 – that’s not that behind, but seriously, let’s not choose such popular books to be included on the ballot.  I hate giving Wimpy Kid a 1 for  “definitely should not be on the list,” but that’s what I’m going to do.

I learned in a great math class years ago about the math of voting, and how the votes are counted determines who wins the election.  I don’t know how the votes are counted here, but I’m guessing it’s a simple counting, and the more people who gave a book a 5 for “should definitely be on the list,” the higher the score, and it will be the top choice.  Yes, most volunteers have probably read Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It’s that popular.  If it’s on the ballot, most of the kid voters will have read it too, and it will probably win.  But that doesn’t mean it should be on the list in the first place!

I know it’s not easy to make up the list for the summer reading by the librarians so far ahead, then get volunteers and get the results all tabulated and such.  But before the list was emailed out this spring, couldn’t we look at the list and take out such obvious successful outliers? 


It’s not long until I start my position, finish my coursework, and kids arrive at the school library.  Squee!

Here’s one of my favorite things I’ve done using the SMART Board.  It’s on my digital portfolio, but for some reason the link isn’t working to place it in my comps essay.  I don’t have the time to figure it out, so I’m posting it here.

Latest goings-on

I’m in the middle of my craziest summer.  We sold a house, bought a house, and moved, and then of course decided the next week would be a good time to go on a week-long trip to our nation’s capital.  That was also the week I started my final three courses for my MLIS degree, and now this week is my comps week, when I write 4 big essay questions so I can graduate.  DH had another load to grab from our old homestead (his shop has taken at least 6 loads with a big trailer plus a full pickup) and this time brought the farm dogs.  We are out in the country still, but not in the boonies anymore – we have neighbors across the street.  So the dogs are forced inside by mean-old-me, thus, I’m up blogging at 12:30 a.m.  Oh and did I mention I start my new job in 15 days?

I did find time to go to a “discuss books group” – not a book discussion group – which was lots of fun.  We all talked about some of the books we’ve been reading lately.  One group member had a very long list of books that she’s read since last month.  Very motivational!  I thought of a few books to mention – The Caretaker of Lorne Field, e.g. – but I am going to write the ones down and do better.  Once I get done with my classes in July, I’ll definitely have more time to read for pleasure.  Even with my new job – but of course I need to model reading, don’t I?

My most recent book:  

I’d never read Lupica before, but I hear it’s a big change from his normal sports fare.  It was hard to put down, but I’m disappointed in this the same way as I was with The Ghost and the Goth – the book was so clearly made to be the start of a series.  What is so wrong with writing one book and leaving it at that?  I know, I know, as a writer, why wouldn’t you want to milk that cash cow?  But as a reader, just once, I’d like to read a new book that has a nice tied-up ending.  (Carl Hiaasen does this for me, and I know he’ll write another book!  Just because he’s done with a character doesn’t mean I’m done with him as a writer.)

Nonfiction Monday

A really thought-provoking nonfiction book for kids is What the World Eats by Faith D’Aluisio, photographs by Peter Menzel.  It starts with a thought experiment – imagine it is early Saturday morning, and you wake up for breakfast.  What do you eat?  Well, that depends.  If you’re in America, you have lots of choices, like cold cereal and milk, bacon and eggs, or toaster pastries.  

If, instead, you wake up in a village in the east African country of Chad, like Anna Mustapha, twelve (page 38), there are no boxes of ready-to-eat cereal, no cartons of milk, and no pastries from a supermarket bakery (in fact, there is no supermarket). You and your parents grow and raise the family’s food. Your meal is always the same – pudding-like porridge called aiysh and a thin okra soup with maybe a bit of dried goat meat for added flavor. But before you can eat it, the sorghum or millet grain for the porridge must be pounded by hand or machine milled, the water for it pulled from a distant hand-dug well, the vegetables picked fresh or gathered from the drying shed, and the wood or dried cattle dung collected to fuel the cooking fire. Children do almost all of this work for the family” (p. 9).

The book looks at families in over twenty countries, both highly industrialized and those that aren’t.  It tells its story of differences in the world’s people through words and photographs.  This book reminds me of My Librarian is a Camel because it is another reminder of how easy our lives are in the Western world. 

Millions and billions

Here’s a really interesting article that suggests life – human, other mammals, amphibians, birds – lasts one billion heartbeats.  If you do the math and figure on 70 heartbeats a minute, that’s 100,000 heartbeats a day, which only gets you to 30-35 years.  Of course, that’s pretty much what we’d be living if it weren’t for good nutrition, modern medicine, etc.  

This reminds me of a great book by one of my favorite children’s authors, Andrew Clements.  It’s a picture book called A Million Dots that visually represents what a million is.  When I did my student teaching, I taught a unit on astronomy and I realized that the numbers we were talking about were so outrageously large that they really didn’t have any meaning for the fifth graders.  I showed them the math on counting if you counted one number every second without stopping, ever (which of course you can’t – it takes a long time to say “nine hundred seventy eight thousand, four hundred seventeen”).  I had them guess how long it would take for them to get to a billion.  It would take almost 31 years!  That worked with fifth graders, but for younger students, A Million Dots is a great choice.