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Cowgirls and Comics

March 29, 2007

First all, I have to say congratulations to the University of Wyoming Cowgirls basketball team for making it to the NIT Championship game on Sat.  My family and I bought tickets right after the exciting game last night and will be making the 190+ mile trek to Laramie to watch the girls take on the University of Wisconsin.  GO WYO!

While I was listening to the game on the radio last night, I was reading a book that was out of my normal reading material.  American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (here is review from BlogCritics) is a graphic novel of high magnitude, having won the ALA’s Michael L. Printz award and being a National Book Award Finalist, and so I thought I’d give it a try (plus, I’ll donate it to my library once I’m finished).  Anyway, I finished the novel long before the game finished as it took only 90 minutes to finish the book.  While I was completely amazed by the story line (I highly recommend it), what stayed with me was I now have a better understanding of why graphic novels, especially manga, are such a draw for kids whose attention is pulled in so many different directions.  I could very easily read this book and being doing something else, like texting a friend or watching tv.  Even though I was listening to the game, I still feel a got a very good understanding of what the book was about and the message it was getting across.  The drawings help with this.  I can get at a single glance that a character is surprised or anxious.  It didn’t have to go into words.  Some parts of me feel that I should be crying, “This is not a book.  It is not a literary form because it has pictures, does not solely rely on words.”  But I can’t protest too much as I found this novel to be just as rich as if it were all text and no pictures.  In fact, I don’t think the message was lost at all.  I know that often graphic novels are compared to comic books, but I think that is wrong.  I don’t know much about comic books but I don’t think they have the depth that graphic novels have in the plots.  Yes, they keep characters going and yes, there is drama, but I think graphic novels hold a little more sophistication.  I could be totally off base with this and please correct me if I’m wrong.  I’m slowly trying to build a collection of graphic novels.  I don’t know that I will get much into manga; one, because there is a bazillion out there and I could never keep up and two, my budget is limited and to keep up would probably expend my entire budget.  Besides, I have noticed that most students who like manga go out and buy the books then they share among friends.  I will get what I can, but I can’t get it all.

Underestimating kids?

March 23, 2007

I just had a visit with one of the teachers in my building regarding an assignment she is giving. She wanted to know if she burned a template of the work the kids need to do onto a CD if we could keep a couple in the library so if her students wanted to use the template they could get the CD and use the template off of it. Now, we have this wonderful thing called School Web Lockers (SWL). One of the functions of SWL is the ability for teachers to post assignments to all of their classes by uploading a document. Students can then access their “locker”, see the assignment, complete it, and turn it in to a “Homework due” section. The turned in assignment can be accessed through the teacher’s “locker”. The teacher can then grade the assignment right on the computer and upload it back into the student’s “locker”. No printing is required.

I recommended this method to the above mentioned teacher and was shocked at her reply for not using the technology. The first reason she was a little legit: time. She was running up a against a deadline and had not used the SWL before. Her second comment gave me food for thought and led me to this posting: the kids would get too confused with the technology. They wouldn’t be able to do it and it would take them too long to learn how to use the “lockers.” Plus, our at-risk kids really wouldn’t be able to use it because they are not technology literate and they don’t have the technology at home to use it and figure it out. WHAT??? (This same teacher made the comment that PowerPoint is too difficult for kids to learn.)

Now, I’ll admit some bias towards this teacher. This person frustrates me on a daily basis, but I think that her comments really aren’t about the kids. Not many teachers think that the kids can’t handle the technology, but in truth it is the teachers fear of using the technology and having the kids know more than them. (A few days after this incident I had a conversation with this teacher and it came out that her lack of training was a big reason for her misgivings about using it.)

My answer to these teachers is let go, learn with the students. If we don’t show these students that learning even takes place as adults, why are we touting life-long learning. Plus, in the explosion of information in our world and at the rate that technology is changing, we have to come to together and learn. Why web 2.0 is all about collaboration and working together to create something better or to get a handle of something that is beyond the scope of one person (I’m thinking social bookmarking here).

Justifying Need

March 16, 2007

I’ve been reading a great deal lately about the fact that despite being free, libraries still are not being utilized as much as they could be and even threatened in their existence. I personally don’t believe libraries will cease to exist, but one of my experiences with my local library is the idea that because their free, they don’t have to put forth much effort. Despite being a librarian, I don’t frequent our public library as much as should. Mostly these is due to time constraints but also because they don’t exactly fit my needs. I’m more willing to go out and buy the sources just because it is easier to do so. Also, because I work, I don’t always have time to attend their programs. As a mother of young child I find that story time for example does not fit in a time slot for me. My sitter doesn’t take my child to story time and since it is only offered during the day, I can’t take her. Luckily, I read to her. Most parents don’t.

Utecht’s TechLearning Post

March 15, 2007

Jeff Utecht has an great summarization of how blogs go beyond being just an electronic journal (http://www.techlearning.com/blog/2007/03/a_problem_with_blogs.php). I really like how he emphasizes the blog being an extended conversation. So many of our young adults are into conversations. I mean look at how many of them are connected to social networks or talking/texting on their cell phones. They love to talk and blogs give them away to take what they are learning or discussing beyond the

Old vs. New

December 21, 2006

Within the past two weeks I have had two conversations with two English teachers regarding NoodleTools.  During the course of these two conversation, it became clear that these teachers would not use NoodleTools because, as one put it, “we are teaching the students to manipulate the technology, not teaching them to do a bibliography page.”  It was also mentioned that when the students leave our school then they will not have this resource and so will nto have learned how to do a bibliography.  My question is are they learning when they do it by hand?  I guess my whole point is that even now students are not memorizing formats for bibliographies.  At least with NoodleTools they are learning that they need to cite sources and what information they need to do this.  In answer to not having this source, I have provided both with a list of free sites that students can use when they don’t have NoodleTools.  My other argument to them is that right now, if I had to cite a source I would have to look up how to format it.  I also know that in the past two years both of these teachers have come to ask me how to cite certain sources or at least where to look to see citation formats.  Doesn’t this seem odd that they expect students to be able to look up the information and format it correctly from a piece of paper they provide.  Is it really so important to know where to place the period or that they are giving credit to others?  I had one student comment after using NoodleTools that he will now do a works cited page whenever a teacher requests one because the program makes it easier.  Before he never did one because he always got it wrong.  His thinking was that he lost the points anyway through his mistakes so why put himself through the pain and waste time.  I guess my whole point is we have to ask ourselves whether or not it is know how to do the bibliography or just that it gets done and the students realize they need to give credit where credit is do?

P.S. Both of these teachers are my former English teachers.  Yes, they did teach me how to a bibliography page and today, some odd years later, I still have to look up how to cite sources.

Insights

December 9, 2006

The year has been very busy so I haven’t been as active as I would like to be, but yesterday I read a post by Jeff on The Thinking Stick in which he states:

“No longer do I have to learn something just in case, but instead the skill of being able to find information when I need it is what I need to learn how to do.”

and

“We need to help students and teachers build these networks of findable knowledge and quit teaching just-in-case knowledge. Your network will gather the information for you…you just need to know how to find it.”(Offloading Knowledge post)

Both of these statements got me thinking about what I do as a librarian and how this is my job. To teach my students how to find the information. In many aspects, this also relates to what I’ve been telling teacher’s about project-based learning. Through project-based learning, students find the information rather than simply being given the information by the teacher. This is a skill they need. My husband and I were talking about this last night on the way to a Christmas party. He related how in his job, he doesn’t necessarily need to know everything because he can very easily look up that information in a manual or even on the Internet. He has people call him all the time to help with problems because they know he has the expertise to help them. Just like we know to go to a mechanic for help with our car. We need to be able to identify those individuals who have the knowledge and tap into that. Students need to know this and be able to utilize this. The old saying of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” has taken on a whole new meaning in the digital environment. Jeff takes this even further with his concept that in today’s Web 2.0, we can easily tag and identify where to find the information when it is needed. He is right in saying that our teachers don’t need to know everything just who or where to go to find the information. This is such an important skill in this day and age of information overload. Jeff also mentions a book by George Siemens that I am definitely going to look for.

HELP? Filter Hell!

October 4, 2006

Question to anyone who might be reading this…I just read this post by Joyce Valenza’s post Premature (?) Sharing… (she seems to be my favorite lately) on some exciting things students are doing in her building. I’ve read several of these at other places and have so wanted to pass these along to my teachers. However, I have a hitch. With our new filters in place, we can’t get to site like Flickr or Flagrant Disregard’s Flickr Toys (see Joyce’s post) or several Web 2.0 sites. Several blogs are blocked and the like. The reason for the block, the powers that be say, is that it may not be the part that someone is getting to but several pages within the site that contain inappropriate material that student could to if they are willing to navigate through and find it. I’ve tried to convince the powers with that it is good for students. But all they see is that it can also be abused.

My question: Any other tactics I could try to get them to unblock some of these sites (i.e. Flickr)? I thought about showing them what others are doing, but I can’t get into the sites to even show them. Suggestions?