Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hot Topic - Filtering

It is hard to be creative on this post… I don't have an opinion other than the ones my classmates have already expressed. It is in our nature as librarians-in-training to be opposed to filtering. We share a compassion for upholding the freedom of information to our future students.

What is bothersome about filters to me is how can THEY deem what is appropriate or inappropriate for a student population? An algorithm or keyword search is more trusting to “filter” inappropriate information than a school librarian, teacher or administrator? Generally, a librarian is trusted for their ability in picking items for the physical collection – they should also be trusted to make those calls for site to be unfiltered. Unlike a person, a filter cannot understand the context of the site – is that person in a swimsuit being suggestive or just a model in a Lands End catalog? Is the mention of “breasts” in a suggestive manner or informative about cancer?

The more appropriate course of action seems to be the education of students to understand for themselves what is inappropriate. As many have mentioned, how will they learn this skill once they are in a filter free world if they are never given that opportunity? I don’t think we give students enough credit.

Of course our best interest is keeping students safe – no one would argue that. But when filtering affects their use of online resources, then that is not creating an effective learning environment.

So what do we do? There is no one solution that will work for everyone, but how can we as librarians ensure the rights of internet users in our library?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Engaging Learning Opportunities Through Podcasting

Podcasts - I listen to them throughout to day at work (not going to be able to do THAT when I am a librarian!), in the car on trips... ones on pop culture, "mommy" tips, tv recaps.

Podcasts have many benefits for integration into the school - they are cheap to create and publish, your students have a global audience (while being safe - no names or photos associated with your podcast), and the act of creating one has the potential to build research, creative writing, speaking and collaborative working skills. A student who is shy getting up in front of the class to read a page from a book or present a research project may thrive behind the mike!

When considering podcasts in the library, having students do book reviews is a win-win. But what other ideas are out there for this format in our schools & libraries?

• Provide a tour of the library! Before school starts, record a guided tour of the library for new students to listen & walk through when they first visit. A high school student would probably rather do this (and might even enjoy it!) than have you personally show them around. Put in some points of interest and hidden gems.

• Create a scavenger hunt - make a podcast leading students to find certain pieces of information throughout the library (either in a particular book or database, etc) with the ultimate goal of answering a certain question. Students could be timed to determine who was able to complete the hunt the quickest. I can picture this as being really fun, but am not sure logistically how to pull that off!

• Use already produced podcasts as the medium for a research project - maybe have students choose a podcasts, listen to a predetermined number of "episodes" and report on their findings. There a TONS of options for students (NASA Ask An Astronomer, BBC Global News, NPR This American Life......)

Some issues that may arise:
• Students need a devise to play the podcasts on - library would need to have MP3 players on hand for students who don't have their own.
• Copyright issues: protected music, interviews, literary works, etc.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Google for Education (and other collaborative goodies!)

This week, our class is looking into how we, as future teacher librarians, can use content collaboration tools. After joining Google+ (another thing to join!? Another thing to check? Yes and yes!), I can see how it is changing the way social networking in the classroom. The use of circles makes the issue (and fear) of privacy a little less daunting, allowing users to share only certain information with certain groups, or circles, of people. The chat feature would be useful for conducting a virtual bookclub over the summer (or anytime of year!)

Other ideas:
• Set up a Google Doc for students to input their lab results on after a science experiment, allowing students to analyze the classroom data.
• Use Google Calendar to share your schedule with teachers - publicize the time you are free to collaborate with them!
• Create a classroom Wiki and collaborate with students from another part of the country or world
• Have high school students create a Mindmeister ( when brainstorming an upcoming group research project
• Middle school students can create "Choose you own Adventure" type books with Storybird (

Possibilities = endless.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reading Creates Better Readers

This week, we have been looking at the topic of digital literacy - a topic, I have found, that encompasses a wide range of opinions and schools of thought.

Why are students standardized test scores on the decline? Well, some are pointing fingers at students lack of reading linear materials, such as a book, cover to cover (and for pleasure! Gasp!). I tend to think there might be something to this theory, but why not adapt the standardized tests to be better suited to what students ARE reading (because isn't the fact that they are reading something count for anything?!?!)? Non-linear reading, or reading information online, has its benefits for today's students. There is an interaction where students discover different points of view, learn the skills to locate information quickly, evaluate that information, and collaborate with others. There is no clear beginning, middle or end to the topic, but is that a bad thing?

I am not in any way discounting the importance of linear reading - getting students involved in each is key to developing 21st century learning skills. Teachers and librarians can incorporate both into exciting lessons - why not have students read a "traditional" book, and then go online to learn more about the author, write and read student reviews, or discover more about the particular setting or time period online.

My fellow librarians in training - any ideas in incorporating both skills?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Yet Another Reason to Thank Steve Jobs...

I discovered a resource in a slightly long-winded way, but it all started with exploring Bookshare. Bookshare, a free service for all US students with visual impairments, physical or learning disabilities, is an online digital library of over 125,000 books and other print resources. I found the search interface extremely user friendly, and I liked how users could browse by special collections, such as New York Times Bestsellers or teacher recommendations. When looking into how students view/listen to these downloaded books, I came across the Read2Go app for iPads, iPod Touch and iPhones, which allows students to search, download and read books all on one device, as well as control the font size, reading speed, and other properties with ease!

This got me to thinking about the power of the iPad for students with learning disabilities. A quick Google search revealed praise after praise for the device and it's portability, price, ability to customize, and ease of use. It can not only, for example, help children with autism communicate, but assist with fine motor and life skills.

One amazing app I saw was Proloquo2Go which provides people who have trouble communicating a solution. Users select symbols to form sentences and now have the ability to easily express feelings, needs and wants.

So that's how Steve Job's legacy has meshed with IST 611 this week. Classmates - any ideas you can think of to integrate the iPad into the library media center for student with disabilities? Any amazing apps you have discovered?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No Unread Items

So a little about my newest obsession (can it be an obsession if I have only been using it for a mere 12 hours?). Thank you IST 611. I never really understood what an RSS reader could do for me… Every morning I check my blogs. They might have new posts, they might not, but off I went, going through all my bookmarks, one by one. Young House Love – check. Heir To Blair – check. Dooce – check. You don’t even want to know how long that list is.

Enter Google Reader. Oh – hey, that’s convenient!

So we were posed a question regarding my new found love – is RSS here for the long run, or dying on the vine? I have seen a lot of talk about people just turning to Twitter to gather the information that an RSS reader used to provide them. I don’t think that RSS is dying all together, but that users just have multiple ways to do essentially the same thing – it all boils down to personal preference. One major difference I can see is that with Twitter, it’s more “real-time” for me (when I do use it!). Something that is tweeted, say, even 2 hours ago, I might never read. With Google Reader, any content I have missed, no matter how long it’s been there, you can almost bet I am still going to read it.

Another concept to ponder is the one of blogging – is it a useful and effective tool in the classroom? The short answer – YES! Teacher blogs provide a way to communicate with students, teachers, the administration and the school community. It can be simply posting homework assignments, or a write up about what’s going on in the classroom. It allows for students and teachers to comment, asking questions and getting clarification. Classroom blogs have the potential make students more engaged. Just as Kim Sivick (Coordinator of Lower School Technology, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy) spoke about in her presentation from the 140 Character Conference, those students literally were jumping for joy when receiving comments on their blog. They were able to find a voice, and were recognized for that voice. It’s exciting stuff – exciting stuff that I am finally getting a grasp on.

Welcome to....

Diigo, Twitter, Google Reader and now a blog. I really thought I was “up” on Web 2.0 tools, but am finding there is so very much I didn’t know about.

First blog post – here we go.

A little intro to “The Toppling Bookends,” shall we? I wanted to create a blog name that was going to grow with me as I work towards finishing up my degree and embark on this new career of school library media specialists. Currently, my bookends are toppling – my shelves are filled to the brim with no room to grow. Is it time to purge some of those books I have not read in 10 years? Pull those chewed up board books my 16-month old has shown little interest in for several months?

But figuratively, we are all “plagued” with toppling bookends. Information coming at us left and right, top and bottom, surrounding us on all sides. Too much information? Not in my opinion. We all must find a way to manage that information – what is important/credible/relevant to me? I can only hope, as a budding school librarian, I will be able to impart these strategies to my future students – keeping those bookends right in place.