Saturday, November 12, 2011

To filter or not to filter...that is the question...hmmm?

This week we were charged with discussing the virtues of filtering school websites. I am late to the party not for my lazy personality but I really needed to understand some of the background before I could truly understand the controversies. I can see both sides of the issues. As a parent I am very cautious with what my children view online…I don’t block anything at home, but I am also right there when they are online and we have had numerous conversations about online etiquette and proper searching. Often when they have found sites that they like I will just bookmark them. A lot of discussion was with my younger son…he is 8 now. He loves the computer! In fact limiting computer time was punishment during potty training. The stories that I could tell…but will spare you. But he LOVES YouTube! He loves videos on legos, Star Wars, Star Wars Legos, silly claymation videos and videos of talking produce. When he first started using YouTube I was concerned, he has a lot of trouble spelling and reading and would this end up taking him to scandalous sites?? Like others have said if you type in White you get something that is not Obama! I debated with my husband on whether we should block him from using YouTube but I saw it as a teachable moment. We told him that he was being entrusted to look appropriately and use his very best judgment. If he stumbled across something that made him feel that it wasn’t something that he should be watching than he needed to tell me. We has been really faithful with this…really his only filter is his older sister who is constantly looking over his shoulder to monitor his viewing habits. I have gone back and looked at his history, and while his taste in videos is interesting he is doing what he is supposed to do. Don’t think that my job is done I am constantly observing and monitoring but I do let them have a certain amount of freedom…to discover and learn for themselves…I won’t always be there and I want them to have the skills to help themselves.
So I guess that I answered the question all on my own already. I don’t think that filtering is a good idea. Children live in a digital age and have to be taught and given the right tools to learn on their own what is right and wrong. In one of the articles with Michael Gras and Scott Floyd they stated that No usable filter is perfect, and the best filter is achieved through training the child to behave responsibility. Proactive steps are taken in making sure the students are aware of policies, problem avoidance, and appropriate behaviors. I thought this to be true and so important.
For students it becomes frustrating when they can’t access information. Relevant, factual information that is key to their research is often blocked because of a word or phrase. It is frustrating to see them want to learn and understand but be limited by a word. We live in a world where information is in their face. In the blink of an eye information is at their finger tips. Students must be taught how to handle this information rather than be kept from it. If we continually limit their interaction with it they will not be able to handle it. It is our job not to judge what students should and not see or experience but give them the tools in which to understand and filter themselves. Horrible things are happening all around us…just look at the horrible story at Penn State. The story is everywhere, I can limit what my children hear, but they still can glean from what they do hear and make up the rest. It is my job to talk to them in a way that they will understand and in words that they can handle to help them understand without all the details what has happened and why it is important to know what is going on. We need to do this with our students. We can’t limit…if we do they will never learn. If we filter who is to say what is deemed inappropriate. If I say we need to filter Hitler and Nazis because of all the horrible things they did than we are denying that it ever happened. If I say that rape and sex are bad than we silence victims of abuse. How than does this become anything more than banning books, or free speech.
We have to educate not filter our students…wow I guess I did have an opinion…

Monday, October 24, 2011

Podcasting a go-go!

OK I promised my self that I would not dump a thousand ideas on you about this subject. This is one of my most favorite things we do in the library…I will try to restrain myself.

First let me state that when I started this job I had no idea what a podcast was or how to make one. It took some time to understand how to use the program but once you do it it is so easy you will think of a hundred things to do with it. So do be afraid! I will send you helpful tutorials...just ask!

The project that I love the most is the “This I believe project.” I talked about it at the beginning of the semester. I will post a link again. But this is based on the NPR program, students are asked to write an essay that lets them express what they believe. Students record the essays and incorporate free music to add depth to their recordings. Listening to them you are met with a depth of feeling and emotion that most of these students do not share on a daily basis. They struggle with adult things and they are honest with their thoughts. Some are funny, some are tragic, and some will make you cry. It is a very moving project, and I am honored when I am invited to hear their words. Here is a link to the project and listen to some of their recordings
For this project there is a writing component, and we work with the teacher and the class to walk them through how to podcast, use Audacity, the editing software…its free! and how to save it correctly...which quite honestly is the biggest challenge that we face when making a podcast.

Another fun thing to do is to create stations and use it as a component of that station. Many of our Social Studies and ELA teachers put short video clips on the iPod to show students as a part of a lesson. Students can watch and listen to short videos that enhance the lesson. We download clips from sites that our BOCES subscribes to, from Teacher Tube, or YouTube. We also can add sound clips to for students to listen to; we have used recordings from Supreme Court proceedings and radio addresses.

A project that I developed last year with the LOTE department has also evolved and grown. I had an Italian teacher who wanted to help her prepare her regents students for their conversation final. I suggested that they could record their conversations, post them to their teacher’s site and they could access each others and use them for practice. We thought that we would do this project three times during the year. In the fall students would work their partner and write the conversation in English and then convert it, record it and post it. The second time they had to write it in Italian first and then record they could use a dictionary. By the third time students had to write the conversation without the aid of anything, to help simulate the final. They than recorded the conversation and posted the link. Students really liked this process and felt that it helped them understand and prepare for the final. We have archived the podcasts so others can listen to them and use them. We have since expanded to Spanish, and German.

You can use podcasting to add and enhance PowerPoint…especially great if you have shy students, or one who have trouble speaking in public. Create a podcast and import it to the PowerPoint to play along with the slides. There are a ton of different ways to use podcast that isn’t just a book review…which is still an excellent use of podcasts! Let me know if you want further information on any of these projects or other ideas that I didn’t talk about…its so much fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I love to collaborate with my teachers! It makes my day to think I helped to make a difference in my students lives. Being a teacher librarian it is crucial that we learn to collaborate with other teachers. This relationship is the key to the foundation of a successful library. We are there to aid and assist others in their pursuit of information and if we can bring that to them and create and aid in their lessons than they begin to depend on us and want to work with us all the time...and well that just makes me happy. When my library is empty I fear I did something wrong, did I anger someone, don't they like me? But when my phone is ringing off the hook and I have five classes going I am the most happy...cause I know that they like me...they really like me...little humor for the post 40 it. But I also know that they need me and want to provide something different for their students.

One of the fears I had when I thought about working with high school students was knowing the content. I had horrible flashbacks to 10th grade algebra...I still shudder at the thought! How in the heck was I going to teach math or chemistry? But I had to learn that I am not the content area teacher I am the teacher librarian. My job is not to teach math...thankfully but instead work with the math department to find resources that support and enhance what they are already learning...which is good since I can't even help my 6th grader do her math. I don't have to teach physics but I can provide the window in which they can test gravity by tossing pumpkins out of it. OK that is not a good example...but it was really fun though! One example of the type of collaboration that we do is with science and it began with two earth science teachers who wanted to find some ways to help students learn vocab words. We developed a lesson that students would create interactive games to create interesting ways of defining their vocab words. Working in pairs the students choose their games and created their answers. From there the students from each of the two classes graded and commented on each others work. We saved the student work in a shared drive and students could access the games at any time. The result was more than anyone hoped for. Not only were students engaged, but they collaborated with each other, they were excited to play the different games and they were honest when it came time to judge each other. They said they really learned a lot and many can be seen going back and replaying the games to study. Since last year we have also added physics, chemistry and biology. We use to create the games.

We podcast with everyone from LOTE to English to business to science. We help create movies and advertisement for health to forensics to sports marketing to history. We use a lot of technology in our library and many teachers are often too afraid to use it. So we make it easy for them, we walk along side of them and teach them as we teach the students. If the class is podcasting so is the teacher. If they feel comfortable with it than they will want to try it again. Or they will want to use it in a different way. We are always trying to learn and develop new programs that will enhance student learning. We just purchased new webcams so we can Skype with authors and take virtual field trips to the art gallery for lessons that will cover many different subjects and not just art. I would love to create a wiki for the library and allow student work to be added. I would love to create a bigger space to include book reviews, book suggestions and a forum for our students to talk more about what they are reading. Many of our participants of the summer reading program stayed behind to continue to talk about their books even as class was ending. I would like to provide a forum for them to continue to hold discussions like this.

I realize that not everyone is going to want to collaborate with me or use what the library offers. I am OK with that. But I am not going to stop wanting to support what you do and finding tools that you could use. I may tell you once in awhile that I found a cool website you might be interested in or if you need any DVDs or books that you might want for your class that I would happy to purchase it for the library for you to use. That way when and if you are ready to collaborate on a project I will be there waiting for you.

Collaboration is what makes us valuable to others and in turn what gives us the greatest feeling of fulfillment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

RSS feeds

I really like RSS feeds. I started out pretty outlets and Irish dance info. Than I found fun stuff like the Onion and Cake Wrecks which piqued my interest even more into RSS feeds. Than I was asked to follow feeds for school...hmmm, not as fun. But I did end up finding some really interesting sites to follow and I haven't looked back since! I really enjoy RSS feeds, it allows me the opportunity to find information quickly without wasting time finding and contecting to all of the sites I really enjoy. Need a laugh go to Cake Wrecks, need info on the lastest library trend go to The Shifted Librarian.
I would love to use this tool in a school setting. I would love for students to use it as a means for keeping informed and up to date with current events but also as a way to express themselves.
Blogging is something that I would love to find time to do! I would love to write about my adventures in Irish dance and librarianship. I would love for it to be humorous and witty. I would love to have millions of followers who can not start their day without reading another of my witty, funny, inspiring posts. I would than like a book deal that takes all of my blogs and puts them in a book, and becomes so popular that they make a movie out of my life and my blog. Hmmm I suppose for that to happen I have to write more often than once a year. I also have to get over thinking I am talking to myself when I write one...I suppose I really am...
I really like blogs, I have followed many of them...until they become wildly popular, they get free products, free trips, and book deals...than I am just jealous. I think it is a wonderful way to view into another person's life and see their point of view. They are often funny, and often sad. I have learned a great deal reading being that my life is not as crazy as some...while others make me incredibly blessed for the life I do have. I think they are a vehicle to express ourselves in a way that isn't offered in other web 2.0 tools.
Perhaps I will dust off my blog and give her another try...stay tuned!