Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thing 3. Set Up an RSS Account & Add Feeds

Setting up an RSS account and adding feeds was one of those technology skills that I just never got around to using. I've always just bookmarked a favorite blog or placed the link on my desktop and accessed it when I've had a spare minute, usually while eating lunch at my desk. Consequently, I've never become a regular reader of any blog.

The steps for Thing 3 were easy to follow. I chose to use Google Reader and add the feature onto my iGoogle page. I'd set up iGoogle after seeing it demonstrated at our MEMO conference and used it as a suggestion for a student seeking a different idea for a demonstration speech. He got an A and I added one more skill to my technology toolbelt. Having Google Reader appear each time I access Firefox will help me take time to read the blogs appearing there. Now that it is set up, it will be painless to add new blogs as I come across them. I added some of the 23 Things on a Stick blogs from our SMILE region as well as the couple of blogs previously residing on my desktop. I experimented with Bloglines Search tool and did a blog search in Google. I added a blog from the International School Bangkok in Thailand (my daughter has been stationed in Thailand and I was really impressed with this blog.) and did a Google search for "school libraries + blog" and came up with a site listing school library blogs that I'd like to explore another day. If I add too many, I will bury myself alive before I've made it to Thing 4. Besides, I confess: I don't know how to delete blogs yet from Google Reader. That wasn't obvious and I didn't take time to find out. Deleting blogs may prove to be as necessary as learning how to add them.

I like this convenience but worry that it may become as unmanageable as all the emails I glance at and don't delete so I can come back to them when I have more time. Eventually my full account forces me to deal with the overload. I suspect that as I read these blogs I will need to make decisions to keep or delete them in Google Reader. I do like the fact that I have one more avenue for being aware of changes/trends in our field, but I also feel stressed by the fact that this is one more thing on my daily "to do" list.

This would be equally useful for the rest of our school staff to keep abreast of advances in their field. Only by using it themselves will they begin to use it with students. Recently our 9th grade class met 9th graders from another district for a day of skiing at Mt. Kato. The purpose was to promote diversity education between our Hispanic students and the students of the other district. Prior to the trip, both schools had used a blog format to discuss both teen and racial issues. Groups had been set up for the blogs and those groups then spent the day together, getting to know each other in person. It would have been nice to have students set this up in an RSS feed so that they could have responded right away to each other's postings. I see potential for this with teachers using MOODLE as a classroom delivery system, wanting to create an online literary circle, or just looking for a new way to engage learners in a discussion. A library blog might be a fun way to promote new books or allow students to post commentaries on what they're reading.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thing 2. What is Web 2.0 and Why Should I Care?

Stephen Abram must have a personal insight into those of us who have difficulty finding time in each day for all the top priorities we have. No matter what we call it - setting priorities, time management, procrastination - there are still only 24 hours in a day. However, he does point out that if we use the same best practices we teach our students by identifying our goal, making it a priority, becoming engaged in hands-on learning and then reflecting on and evaluating that learning process, we will empower ourselves. Moral of the story: Practice what we preach!

As I read the articles and blogs for Thing 2, I couldn't help but reflect on the changes in libraries since I became a media specialist. If we no longer offer what our patrons are looking for, how can we expect them to continue looking to us to meet their needs? I became the media specialist this year in our district's high school media center. Except for the row of computers down the middle and the disappearance of the wooden card catalog, the room looks just like it did when it was built in 1960. One of the hardest things for me to get past this year has been that while I cannot change the "dungeon's" appearance except in subtle ways, I can change the program it houses. Making it a place where teenagers are always welcome, expanding hours, providing a web page with the links they need for assignments, offering help continuously and without judgment and enthusiastically reading and promoting young adult titles didn't cost additional money and the time spent has made my job bearable. As I have been able to provide what students want, the numbers coming through the door have also increased proportionately. Sounds like the theory of supply and demand from Econ 101, doesn't it?

Houghton's statement "The basic drive is to get people back into the library by making the library relevant to what they want and need in their daily lives ... to make the library a destination and not an afterthought." (blyberg.net) couldn't be closer to the truth when talking about young adult users. The library as a destination often does not mean a physical location to today's generation of patrons. Does it really matter where the user is as long as they are a user of the information offered? Instead of spending my time "policing" the internet, why not instead use those same tools to get the behavior and results I am seeking? We talk about technology being a tool but yet we are hesitant to let our students use that tool to its fullest potential. To do that, media specialists must have the knowledge, experience and confidence to allow patron-driven programs to become more than just the jargon of our library mission statements.

We've all seen the
YouTube posting of Did You Know? by Karl Fisch. As media specialists we have a professional obligation to continue to at least try to stay abreast of the changes and prepare our students for the future. 23 Things on a Stick, the classes offered on WebJunction, webinars, workshops and conferences are a part of that personal obligation for me. So are the journals I receive in the mail, the email links I get to professional newsletters, the blogs I glance at when I have a few moments, and all the other things I do to stay current in my job. I certainly spend more time on professional growth than I did during my first years of teaching. However, I no longer must spend hours on the road during the summer in order to take graduate classes because that is the only available avenue of professional growth. The opportunities to learn are endless. I can pick and choose. Just like my students, I can even sit in front of my computer and learn something new 24/7. Maybe change isn't so bad after all.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Thing 1. Set Up Your Blog.

This is my first post for the MN version of 23 Things on a Stick. As usual, I am waiting until the last possible moment to actually finish what I started in January. After spending the last two days participating in a workshop with an Apple trainer, I am not sure my brain has room for one more computer skill. However, two days ago I had never created a podcast either.

Creating this blog has been relatively easy. I had already created my avatar one day during lunch. I had browsed through the other SMILE blogs a couple of times and had an idea what this should look like. The hardest part has been reading and following directions on a Friday evening!