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Facebook Blues May 23, 2010

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There has been MUCH angst lately over the liberties that Facebook is taking with user information. I followed directions provided by librarian blogs to adjust my privacy settings for my maximum protection. I was indignant at how difficult it was do so, and I was dismayed at the strong advice provided by Facebook at every turn to NOT utilize high privacy setting options. However, I fully accept that I relinguish any and all control of what I put out there (as well as others’ photos and content “tagging” me). This is just the nature of this type of social networking tool. An enormous percent of the population has jumped onto the Facebook rollercoaster and is riding it hard with both hands high in the air. I don’t consider myself an exception. I don’t live on the site, and my content is sparse. But it’s more than enough and late enough in the game for me to ever expect to take it down and return it safely into the Pandora’s Box from which it came. Further, I think there will be many, many unanticipated consequences of our collective abandonment of the value of personal privacy. Culturally it makes sense that this craze would follow the last couple of decades of revelatory talk shows and “reality” shows.

But all that is NOT what’s been sticking in my craw lately. I am probably going to attend an all-class reunion of my elementary school (which ceased to exist in the early 1980’s) in Buffalo in mid-July. This initiative was clearly inspired by the ease of networking in the Facebook universe. I expect that attending this event will become one of many fantastic connections to the past that have occurred courtesy of Facebook. I fully expect that I will be making many new Facebook “friends” from this period of my life in the next weeks and months. So I took a quick look at my profile to consider the content and perhaps update it to maximize the impact of my first contact. The ability to convey lots of information in my personal profile and to glean lots of information about others without an exchange of hundreds of e-mails has been a major benefit of Facebook. Upon checking my profile, I realized that it had been GUTTED by a recent update to Facebook explained in this Huffington Post article entitled, “Facebook Community Won’t Let You Personalize Your Interests.” I had invested a bit of my valuable time and thought into deciding on the content of my profile – my activities, interests, music, movies, TV shows, and above all, BOOKS. The sum total of the content (no more and no less) was exactly what I wanted others’ to see when we crossed paths in this brave new world. When this Facebook update was activated, much of my profile just disappeared, leaving behind only select items from the original. When you consider the amount of content hosted by Facebook, I find it unfathomable that it was necessary to truncate my text – which takes up the least space of any kind of content!! Frankly it feels like the technology is bossing me around – coercing me even – to maximize its marketing and sales goals. By limiting my options to topics or concepts for which there are already existing groups, it is reducing the vocabulary and forcing me to fit it into a large but finite number of boxes that can’t really do the trick for me as well as a few more simple key strokes could and did. I can’t help but think of Orwell’s 1984 (read the entire public domain work online here) or the 1997 film Gattaca. The technology is quickly and efficiently herding us into places where we may not want to go. Am I overreacting? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell.

So what to do now? I have already drunk the Kool-Aid. Can I walk away? I have to admit that despite what I perceive to be Facebook’s latest offensive moves on its users, I have had some powerful experiences and valued connections and re-connections as a result of my membership. How far outside of the social order will I find myself if I just pull the plug?

This is what’s on my mind, and I am considering my options.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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Public domain audiobooks! Who knew? May 17, 2010

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In a meeting of Project Elite held last week in Second Life, our guide Elaine Tulip provided us a tour of the Professional Library in Second Life. There was a section where public domain audiobooks of public domain titles were available for listening. This brought to my attention the fact that public domain audiobooks exist. After the meeting I browsed for sites offering free books and discovered, “Libri Vox: acoustical liberation of books in the public domain…  LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.” Listeners can easily download public domain audiobooks in many languages for use on various types of players. Volunteer readers create recordings of chapters to add the collection of available titles. This is an exciting discovery for me. Now, in addition to audiobooks which I purchase, I can add public domain podcasts and public domain audiobooks to my digital audio collection for use with iPod shuffles at my school. I am still in the first few weeks of student and teacher use of the iPod shuffles, and so far the feedback has been very positive.

In my RSS feed this week I saw an interesting video posted on Bobbi Newman’s “Librarian by Day” blog. Here is a link to the video on YouTube entitled, “Social Media Revolution 2.” Great food for thought. Exciting. And a little scary, too.

I rolled out new projects with 8th graders (using Glogster.com and Voicethread.com) and 7th graders (using Wikispaces.com). In almost every class it took me the entire period to explain the nature of the projects and to demonstrate the use of the tools. Unfortunately the students did not have time to begin their own work. On the plus side they will be provided time and support for these projects both during their weekly library periods and their weekly technology class periods. Furthermore, the students were much more attentive than usual during the demonstrations, which is very encouraging. They are eager to use these tools!

I hope to have good progress to report by the end of this week as well as some finished student information products to share.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Putting It Together May 10, 2010

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I had a great day of Web 2.0 learning. I have quite a bit of work ahead of me in these last few weeks as I guide my 6th, 7th, and 8th graders through projects in which they utilize Web 2.0 tools I have learned about in Project Elite.

My primary task today was to prepare the assignment documents for my last projects of the year with 8th graders. I am giving them  the choice to use Glogster or Voicethread. And since it’s so late in the year (and I likely will see them only a few more times due to graduation rehearsals and other end-of-the-year irregularities) this project will not require in-depth research. The students are encouraged to share information or express themselves about something about which they are passionate – a book, a movie, a music group, a cultural tradition, a personal story, etc. I also suggest that they explore Teen Health and Wellness to identify a topic of concern to people their age. I wanted to take one more opportunity to bring that resource to their attention. Here is the two-page assignment as it stands right now:

8th grade Glogster Voicethread project

I fully expect this project (as well as the print information I provide about it) to change. This is the first time that I have tried to summarize directions for how to use relatively complex tools. Between the two of these tools, Glogster is the more complex. I predict that for some students detailed directions and live modeling will be more than they need to use these tools easily and successfully. But I also predict that it won’t be enough for others! I will get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this assignment as it stands after rolling it out tomorrow.
In the meantime, what fun I had this weekend in Web 2.0 land!

Last week’s Project Elite assignment required us to use Animoto.com, which creates online slide shows accompanied by music. I am going to use this tool with my 6th graders, who will create “book trailers” of favorite titles. I cobbled together one promoting Savvy by Ingrid Law. Check it out: SAVVY

Exploring Animoto a little more deeply today, I realized that it interfaces with Facebook (and other online photo services). That allowed me to import all the photos from an existing set of photos of a recent family wedding in a few seconds, select a song, and generate a really terrific product in NO TIME. I immediately e-mailed the link to the bride and texted her to check her e-mail when her husband arrived home. And guess what? The bride cried! Success! Click here to see why: KIM’S WEDDING You may notice that I used the same song in both slide shows. There are many, many other song options (available within Animoto or elsewhere) but I just really liked that song!

Looking more closely at Voicethread today, I was further delighted to see that Voicethread also interfaces with other services to ease the importing of images – from Flickr, Facebook, the New York Public Library, and from my own existing voicethreads. In the case of Flickr and the New York Public Library, Voicethread directs users to items that are public domain. This is a very welcome discovery, as it is a very tough sale to persuade students to seek out public domain items over the first thing to pop up in a search of Google images. I can confidently demonstrate the use of these tools and promote appropriate use of others’ work at the same time!

I solved a problem myself today! I realized late last week that my library lab computers don’t allow the window in Glogster to open that is needed to “grab” audio or visual images from a microphone or a webcam. A call to the CPS technology support service made it clear that they had no solution. So I figured out how students can create audio recordings of themselves and save them as sound files (using Microsoft Sound Recorder) and then upload those recordings into Glogster. That felt good! Along the way I discovered the “Snipping tool” that allows the user to create an image file of a portion of whatever is on the computer screen. I am not sure that the “Snipping tool” is an option of the operating system installed on the library computer lab units, but I hope so!

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Audiobooks and iPod shuffles April 28, 2010

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Below is a letter I wrote today to my school staff with information about the school library’s newly acquired audiobook collection and newly acquired iPod shuffles for playing the audiobooks. I am optimistic that the options provided by these new resources will have positive results for many students!

Dear IAMS Staff:
 
I have begun creating a digital audio library. To date I have 26 audiobooks stored in my computer that can be loaded onto nine iPod shuffles for checkout by teachers and students. Attached is a spreadsheet detailing the titles, languages, and the number of print copies of those works in the library.
 
Please take a look at it and consider ways to utilize these resources in your classroom.
 
Also, please offer suggestions for other specific titles you would like to use in the future. Only a fraction of books have audio versions, but I will do my best to find recordings of books you request.
 
The iPod shuffles can be played on headphones, on speakers, or with listening centers (with the right connectors). Please show me your listening center equipment, and I will purchase the needed accessories for them to work together.
 
I will also be making the nine iPod shuffles available for check-out by individual students, but I wanted to give you the first chance at using them before the year ends. I will create a form which parents can sign to give their students permission to use the iPods and to commit to paying the replacement cost if the unit is lost.
 
Below is a portion of the text of the grant proposal I wrote to obtain the grant for the iPods from DonorsChoose.org
 
The iPod shuffles are VERY basic. They have no screen and none of the usual “flash” of more high powered iPods. I think they represent a great option for exposing kids to great literature and to great language models.
 
Best,
 
Fran
 
xxx
 
Research has demonstrated that listening to audiobooks fosters reading comprehension, fluency, language acquisition, vocabulary development, and improved achievement. Moreover, students can benefit from opportunities to listen independently, encouraging the enjoyment of literature so critical to literacy development. For proficient readers, audiobooks present opportunities to develop comprehension skills and strategies in critical and creative thinking.
 
xxxxx
 
Fran Feeley
Bibliotecario Escolar/School Librarian

ISLMA, Wikis, and Google Forms. Oh, my! April 28, 2010

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Tonight I submitted the following proposal to present at the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) Conference in the fall.

Here is the proposal…

Web 2.0: Have no fear!

5th-8th grades

Successful curriculum projects using online tools will be showcased with student work products. Web 2.0 tools featured include Voicethread (digital storytelling), Glogster (interactive digital posters), Wallwisher (online bulletin boards), Wikispaces (wikis), and online data collection (Google Forms). Connect these tools to your curriculum. Find out how easy it all is!

I have made some progress on my school library wiki. Check it out here: http://iamslibrary.wikispaces.com/

It’s a work in progress. Wikispaces is a great tool! In under an hour I was using it with ease.

I also tried my hand at Google Forms tonight. Very easy! The following took me about ten minutes:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?formkey=dGRZaEFQRHZpT2hjX0c0WjBSN3JKeHc6MQ

This week I will be working on my wiki and maybe a few more Google Forms. My 6th graders are just about ready to start creating their Voicethreads based on their research on famous women in history.

In the next couple of weeks I will begin work with 8th graders using Voicethread and Glogster.

Wiki time April 21, 2010

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We are in the middle of  an assignment to create wikis about our libraries. I want to make it immediately useful as well as flexible.

One of my last library school classes at Dominican University in the summer of 2005 was a web design class. By the time the class started I was already hired to work at King Lab Magnet School in Evanston in the fall. So I created a great big web page for the school library. We did all of our web design projects the “old fashioned way” using html. It was slow and painstaking but I acquired a good appreciation for what’s going on “behind the scenes” on websites. The website I created for King Lag School was used during the year I worked there and at least one year after I left. Since coming on board at Inter-American Magnet School I have not created a library web page. The school itself didn’t even have a page for more than two years after the school relocated to a new building. Relocating a school is very, very difficult, and it takes a few years for everything to settle down. I had so many balls in the air, and I didn’t want to take ownership of the school website for many reasons, including the fact that I would be spending a lot of my time translating any and all text that is posted on the site (into English or Spanish). Now seems to be the perfect time for me to finally build a site for a few reasons: 1.) I have been in my school library long enough to know exactly what content will have the most impact; 2.) I can act independently of the school website and arrange for a tab or a link on the official school site to link to my site; and 3.) Wikispaces is a very easy tool to use and provides free storage on its server.

I am going to work on my wiki and will have something to show in a few days. Given the numerous categories of content and the need for everything to be in Spanish and English, I plan to get started this spring and really flesh it out over the summer.

Safari Live, Wallwisher, and Technology Withdrawal South of the Border April 6, 2010

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Our latest virtual meeting took place on Safari Live, a service provided by the Chicago Public Schools which provides videoconferencing. I was a little disappointed that I “showed up late” as a result of difficulties joining the group that I believe are due to Windows 7. After building my day around that 7:30 PM meeting I struggled and struggled to get into the environment. Eventually I gave up and started up my old computer, knowing that it would probably be able to access the site and operate my webcam. During the 15 minutes or so that it takes to start up that antique of a computer, my partner arrived home. I immediately relieved him of his laptop and was chatting and webcamming with my classmates like a pro in no time! This tool has great potential. We managed to have five or six of us using it at once. For small group meetings it provides the closest thing to an actual meeting or seminar possible in the virtual world. It lacked many cool options of second life (like cool graphics and the ability to “fly” and “teleport”). But it’s much more personal because you can actually see the real-life faces of the people involved talking, moving, smiling, etc.

During my spring break vacation I experienced tech withdrawal! A group of us met up in Tucscon and drove down to spend a few days on the beach of Puerto Peñasco in the State of Sonora, Mexico. None of us made the effort to get international service for the days in Mexico, and we were collectively curious about what it would be like to be cut off from phone service, instant messaging, e-mail, and Internet data for a few days. On the second day almost everybody but me went into town in the morning to shop at the fish market for dinner and do some sightseeing. I stayed behind to read and nap. About three hours after the others departed I began to think, “Gee, they have been gone a while,” which quickly turned into, “There is no way on earth to reach them, and I won’t have any way of reaching them even if they don’t come back for ten more hours!” Fortunately they returned very shortly after my irrational thinking took over. I fully expected to feel a bit anxious to use my iPhone after a few days, but this moment came after only 24 hours of being unplugged. I am happy to say that after that I really forgot about all those communication options until we returned to the U.S.

Here’s a photo of us hiking in Sabino Canyon in Tucson:

There are some other photos from this trip on my FLICKR page (accessible on the right hand side of this blog).

Our assignment this week was to create a “wall” on Wallwisher.com. This tool allows you to create a wall on which members of a community of any size can post “sticky notes” to answer a question or contribute to a discussion.  Sticky notes can contain text (up to 120 characters per sticky note) and/or an image, audio, or video link. The person who creates the wall moderates the content by approving or disapproving any “sticky note” comments – an important consideration for classroom use. Individuals who post comments can identify themselves, create a name, or simply post anonymously.

I decided to create a Wallwisher wall to support a project I began today with three classes of 6th grade. They are working on a women’s biography project that is a collaborative project involving myself, the English teacher, and the technology teacher. In the context of the Big6, they will select and research a biography subject; write a “script” about that person’s life within parameters set by the English teacher; create a PowerPoint presentation (heavy on images, light on text); convert their PowerPoint slides into JPG files and import them into Voicethread.com; record themselves reading their “scripts” to accompany their Voicethread images; create a bibliography; and include 3 reflections about this research experience using Big6 terminology correctly. I have provided them a list of approved resources, step-by-step instructions, and a grading rubric – all of it posted in a folder on FirstClass so the students can click easily to the links of approved resources. Because of the complexity, I expect some difficulties. So I added a link to my Wallwisher “wall” for the students to post questions about the project. The link to it is included on the list of approved resources. Each week at the outset of class I will review the posted questions and address them.

Here is my “wall”: 6th Grade Women’s History Project

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Glogster! No, not monster – Glogster! March 23, 2010

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Bill Gates has nothing on me these days. I am finally settling into my new SUPERcomputer at home. There have been a few issues with applications and hardware that aren’t quite ready for Windows 7. Some will probably never be ready, and I regret that I see no way around the planned obsolescence build into the computer industry. See The Story of Stuff next time you have 2o minutes to spare. Other than those few Windows 7 issues it’s smooth sailing at home. To be prepared for an upcoming change from my current library software to a centralized library automation system (an exciting opportunity provided by the fantastic CPS Department of Libraries) I made an arrangement with my principal for the purchase of a new desktop PC for my checkout desk at work. My longstanding computer was VERY limited. The new one was delivered and installed today. So it bears repeating. These days Bill Gates has nothing on me!

I learned of yet another online tool this week called Glogster! Described on its home page as an, “original educational resource for innovative and interactive learning,” Glogster invites you to “Poster yourself.” In the spirit of transliteracy and cross-pollination, it allows users to create digital posters that combine audio, video, text, graphics, and links to just about anything. Like Voicethread.com, it provides yet another option for communication, presentation, and/or self-expression. To get familiar with it we were assigned to create a “glog” about our libraries. I included a few photos, some audio clips that I “grabbed” from my webcam, a very short video of myself speaking which I also “grabbed” from my webcam, graphics with links (one to my school’s website and one to brief video about the Battle of the Books program), and an embedded link to a YouTube video about a visit by the Cubs Caravan that I hosted at my school three years ago.

As with most of the tools new to me in this program, there was a frustration factor at the beginning as I figured out what the tool can and cannot do. Glogster is clearly designed for use by students. It’s very simple with a limited number of options. I did not locate any help functions but managed to figure out most of it by trial-and-error. I already find it quite easy. Although I haven’t figured out all the administrative options yet, it appears clear that this tool allows teachers to have a great deal of discretion with regard to student privacy and student-generated content.

I have not figured out a way to embed my first “glog” into this wordpress blog (WordPress is a LOT more complex than Glogster!). For the moment, I will simply include a link:

Fran’s glog about the Inter-American Magnet School Library

Regarding the use of this tool with students, I intend to use it first for an open-ended self-expression project rather than as a vehicle for reporting research findings. I will suggest that the kids use it to introduce themselves, express themselves, and share things they are passionate about with others.

I hope you like my glog! And I thought glog was a hot alcoholic beverage to stave off the cold of winter! What did I know?

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More on transliteracy… March 17, 2010

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I received a comment last week from Bobbi L. Newman of Librarian by Day. It was my first comment from a librarian power blogger, and I am really excited about it. She read my post Transliteracy and the New Literacy and suggested that I read some definitions and reflections about transliteracy that she posted on her own blog: Defining Transliteracy.

While exploring Ms. Newman’s blog I also enjoyed this video about the future of publishing. Definitely check it out and watch it all the way to the end!

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Second Life: Meet Paco Asadar! March 17, 2010

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It’s been a week filled with tech wonders!

First of all my new SUPERcomputer finally arrived after three delays. I knew when it finally came it would be a mix of joy and anguish (see The Agony and the Ecstasy). Most of the data transfer effort went well, but I really struggled with transferring Microsoft Outlook 2002 data to Microsoft Outlook 2007. I was quite dismayed to discover that after making a purchase of this magnitude (and the purchase of the “Dell Premium Warranty”) neither Dell nor Microsoft was willing to offer me any support for my problem without charging me for it. I found each guilty of pushing the responsibility back on the other. I found out the hard way that I had forfeited Microsoft software support by having Microsoft Office preloaded by the manufacturer. In the spirit of learning, resourcefulness, and self-reliance I explored many online solutions, attempted several solutions, and even consulted with more expert friends. Finally today I threw in the towel and ponied up $50.00 for the fix.

So now – in addition to a great big screen, snappy design features, and a bevy of fun new beeps and bings – I am able to run multiple applications again simultaneously. Oh, Joy!!  iTunes, Outlook, First Class, Firefox, and even SECOND LIFE!!!!

Yes, Second Life.

I have made it clear in the past that I have resisted many available communication tools (See The End of My Resistance? …) . Of all the online environments that seemed the most dubious in value, Second Life was at the top of my list. About five years ago college classmate Kevin Guilfoile wrote a very well received book called Cast of Shadows. Major portions of the work take place in Second Life, a term which was not on everybody’s lips yet. And frankly, the book scared the hell out of me! In more recent years I became aware of the use of Second Life as a professional tool and periodically received notices about meetings and events from the Chicago Public Schools Department of Libraries, to which I said, “No thanks!”

When I enrolled in Project ELITE I knew the day was coming when my avatar would be born, and that day came last Thursday. Here is PACO ASADAR (on the left; exotic, I know) on his birthday posing with a couple of his Project ELITE classmates. I don’t know who is who yet, but aren’t we all pretty?

We had lots of fun at our first gathering in Second Life. Of course in reality we were already in the same room, which sped things up a lot! I befriended my classmates, joined some groups, and selected some places that are professionally interesting. With my new computer and operating system (Windows 7) everything is different but bigger and better, too! On Saturday I played around with Paco. I accidentally took off his pants, created a new pair, missed the old pair, and finally managed to suit him up in his original blue jeans again. I showed off Paco to guests on Saturday night, and they were quite fascinated and especially enjoyed watching him fly.

Today I attended my first meeting. The Project ELITE instructor (known as Elaine Tulip in Second Life) arranged for American Library Association Presidential Candidate Sara Kelly Johns to speak to interested librarians at the “ALA Island.” I arrived late due to a required update download and couldn’t figure out how to sit down. Almost everybody else was seated on comfy looking stacks of books. The experience was good! The sound was good. The format was good. There was a PowerPoint presentation. I was a little confused about the etiquette. There was an ongoing chat for everybody, most of which consisted of questions and comments directed to the presenter. It appeared that other group and one-to-one communication was going on simultaneously also. I suppose I will figure out the etiquette and what’s possible in time. After the presentation I enjoyed a one-to-one voice chat with Elaine Tulip, and the quality of that voice chat was as good or better than Skype’s. Another hurdle overcome!

Here’s another shot of PACO!

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