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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thank yous

This last month has been a crazy, stressful ride searching for where I can make the most difference next year. My vision has altered a bit, but as of last night my sense of flux is settling.

Inspired by Leah Dieterich's quirky musings on her ThxThxThx blog
, here are a few recent thank yous of my own...

Dear Wine - Thanks for taking grapes to a whole new level of anxiety relief.

Dear Young Adult Fiction - Thank you for allowing my not so young adult brain to believe in dragons, werewolves and fantasy.

Dear Wedgy High Heeled Shoes - Kudos for having those wedgy high heels that look sexy, make me look skinnier and still allow me to walk without a hobble when I take you off. <3

Dear Girlfriends - Thank you for your varied awesomeness, for listening to my whining, steering my uncertainty into confidence and believing in me when I was starting not to believe in myself...

Dear Irony - Yep, the wtf moments have been stellar this past month. Keep 'em comin'

Dear Southern Accents and Guitars - Thank you! Why? Well, if you know me at all, you already know why :-)

Dear Tears - I have been very mad at you recently for showing up when you were not invited, but thank you for inspiring the decision to buy the expensive sunglasses and for being part of who I am.

So, of course, why not bring this writing idea to kids? As the school year comes to a close, what a great way for eighth graders to think about the things they appreciated from their elementary school experience. Now, to find a willing 8th grade teacher to work on this project with me.... Keep you posted:-)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bumptop Bling!

With my morning coffee today I took note of Doug Peterson's recent blog post mentioning that Bumptop had been acquired by Google. Being the self proclaimed Queen of Bling, I decided that while Bumptop was still available for download I would take a look at reinventing my desktop. As a diehard fan of 'bling' I thought it might be fun to load the 3D type interface on my laptop. Enjoying the inital novelty of sliding, throwing and piling my desktop files, I merrily decorated my new desktop space. Not surprisingly, in a short while the plain blue background began to look a bit blah to me. So, after a quick goggle search I discovered that I could personalize the Bumptop even further by downloading theme skins. I found a simple how to video which showed me just how easy it was to add a Bumptop theme to my desktop. And voila! I now have a lovely Dali inspired desktop...

Oh the joys of bling:-)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Me Read, and How!!

Let's Talk About Boy's Literacy

In my role as Special Assignment Teacher Librarian I travel to 17 schools in the District to work with Teacher Librarians. One question I am guaranteed to be asked at pretty much every school is... "Do you have a list of good books for boys"?
Being a mom of two girls I have no family connection buying enticing books for boys. My husband does NOT read for pleasure (unless you count the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader that been in the downstairs bathroom since 2004). So I rely on research.

Dare to search the internet for research on boys' literacy and you will be inundated with studies, action research, opinion pieces and Ministry guidelines. One of the most recent publications is Me Read, and How?, an Ontario Teachers' Report On How to Improve Boys' Literacy. This publication is full of well researched pieces of information for teachers to use when planning for their literacy teaching. The ideas are great for boys (and not surprisingly for girls too)! Guidance and suggestions are given as to the types of books boys would be motivated to read.

Sometimes as educators we over think. As I was sifting through 'books for boys' lists and catalogues to order books for one of our elementary libraries, it dawned on me... Why not ask the real experts? I have a good many experts right here in the school! The boys in the four intermediate classrooms should know what boys might like to read. Armed with the lists from the 'experts' I dove into some discussion with the male contingent of our senior classes, and came away quite surprised. These boys were not interested in books about sports, nor animals, or random books of facts. These boys did not seem excited by the prospect of fiction based on skateboarding, basketball or hockey. Books in series did nothing to stir excitement. My research telling me that boys will devour classic fiction in graphic novel form was not received well by my experts!

So, in discussion with the Principal it was decided that we would empower these boys and give them choice of the books selected for the school library. Each of the four intermediate classes selected a representative to accompany me to Chapters to purchase books of their own choosing.

And preparation for this trip this team of 5 boys were asking for websites where they could look for titles, were visiting the library to see what the school already owned and were polling their classmates for suggestions.

The energy of these five boys on our book buying trip was tremendous. Each boy had a firm idea of the genre he was looking for. They had self organized a strategy so that they would not double up on the titles. One student even had a clipboard with a list of Manga title to hunt down. We had a budget of $500.00, so each boy was given $100.00 and they were off, calculators in hand!

I learned so much from these 11, 12 and 13 year old boys. These boys are from diverse backgrounds and all live in a struggling urban area. One of the boys had never been in a taxi before that day and two of them had never stepped foot in a bookstore. That lack of experience did not hold them back. They were respectful, listened eagerly to the brief book talk given by the Chapters staff, then they were off on their mission.

Here are a few of my favourite (and somewhat surprising) quotes from my boys’ book buying team.

"Mrs. Moore, we like playing sports, we don't like reading about them!" - Vu (When I was trying to direct him to the Sports section.)
"Manga is what we want, not that fake comic book type stuff, real Manga. You know they translate the text and it is way cooler in Japanese" - Raymond (When I was pulling out some graphic novels to share.)
"Boys like to read about vampires too. This one is about a zombie... that is even cooler." - Vu (Choosing the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the sequel by Carrie Ryan )
"I like Star Wars books and I am going to buy these novels even though they weren't in the Young Adult sections. I tested them out and the reading level is good." - Ben
"I like to read movie remakes of books because it makes me think of the movie and I like to know what is going to happen." - Jon (When explaining why he chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid and IronMan2 movie versions of the novels.)
"Wow, I better put back this gaming book - it has lots of guns. Really Miss, lots of games aren't THAT violent." - Jon
"I didn't know books were so expensive. I'm going to find some good ones in the bargain section." - Vu

Below is a Bitstrips comic strip inspired by 3 of my book buying team!

For a list of the titles the boys selected that day take a look at the Benson Library Wiki. Feel free to add their list of books for boys to those you have collected which are compiled by researchers. This 'books for boys' list was compiled by the real experts, the students themselves!

Addition of Snap-Shots to My Blog

I just installed a nice little tool on this site called Snap Shots that enhances links with visual previews of the destination site, interactive excerpts of Wikipedia articles, MySpace profiles, IMDb profiles and Amazon products, display inline videos, RSS, MP3s, photos, stock charts and more.

Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

These Blogs Inspire Me ....

Thinking about throwing this blog out to my personal learning network prompted me to spend the evening visiting, revisiting and devouring my favourite educational blogs. Each of them has something special which inspires me in a different way. The cloud is filled with talented educators sharing their knowledge, philosophy and creativity. Below is a shout out to just a few of my go-to blogs and the bloggers who are unknowing mentors in this new blogging endeavor of mine.

Miss O's Library Land - This blog contains frequent, well written book reviews focused primarily on picture books for K-2. The format is friendly and the info spot on.

Portable PD - I found this blog recently and although I have never met the 2 teachers, they teach in the same Canadian province as I do. Perhaps we will meet up some day. For now I follow them on Twitter ( @janesmith @ntoft )and enjoy reading thier blogging and podcasting blog. In fact a most recent post listing a top ten of blogging things to think about was very timely as I begin this blogging journey.

Web-Logged - I met and worked with Will Richardson ( @willrich45 on Twitter) at a GECDSB technology session in 2008. I respect his view of the digital path our students are on and can connect with how he often relates tech use to the experiences of his own children.

Doug:Off the Record - One of my favourite people, Doug Peterson ( @dougpete on Twitter), who has been so supportive of my technology learning in the decade, has one of the most engaging educational blogs to follow. I can't tell you how many inspired classroom experiences I have had as a direct result of springboarding off of an idea in one of his blog posts.

I'll conclude with a promotion of sorts - Doug and I will soon be presenting a wiki & web2.0 session as part of the Ontario Teacher's Federation Summer Program. If you are anywhere near Hamilton this July, we'd love to meet you! You can read more about this here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Blog Resurrected

Recently I have had a few setbacks in my own professional growth. An opportunity was presented to interview for the postition of tech/literacy lead and sadly, I was not the successful candidate. The process though, has made me dig deep and think about my philosophy of education in the 21st century. I use technology with my students because learning becomes more engaging, successful and meaningful when we are working on the 'cloud'. So, even though my 'dream job' now belongs to another, I decided to resurrect this blog and record my musings about all things techie, library and whatever else might come to mind.
In preparation for my 'big interview' (and just because I am geeky like that)I bookmarked hundreds of articles and postings about professional development and learning using technology. I now need to sift through and pick out the gems. The treasures may just be future fodder for blog posts to prod my thinking on professional learning. It is about the learning and not the technology, after all. This Alan Kay quote really sums up what educators need to remember about learners using technology.
The computer is simply an instrument whose music is ideas – Alan Kay