Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I'm no Jim Cantore, but I do have a story to tell...

Those of us living along the Texas coast find particular interest in the weather. At the mere mention of the terms "tropical depression," "tropical storm," and far worse "hurricane," we feel our collective pulses quicken. Other news, domestic or foreign, political or economic, pales in comparison to reports of meteorologic and atmospheric conditions. Sarah who? Goldman-Sachs what?

Well, given recent events, it would be obvious to say that the weather holds an immediate effect over our daily lives. Will the day require raincoat or light sweater, sunscreen or snow tires? Perhaps the location of batteries, a supply of bottled water and knowledge of Red-Cross Centers? Certainly, knowing what to expect helps one plan for the day (or in our case, weeks) ahead. But perhaps that is an over-simplification: certainly there is more to weather than our immediate self-interest and self-preservation.

Some people might dismiss the topic of weather all together. True, it is the least common denominator of conversation... Got nothing better to discuss? How about the weather? Stuck in a socially awkward position? The weather is always a safe topic! Yes, it is safe to say that some of our most banal and insipid conversations revolve around the weather. Boy, it sure is (fill in the blank) out here!

Others might argue against weather on more intellectual grounds. A reductionist might simply consider weather as a report of meteorologic and atmospheric conditions. A sceptic might emphasize that weather is "predicted," that it is as much quackery as it is science. Alarmists might add that weather is nothing but another for of media- induced hype.

I, on the other hand, offer a different view of the weather, the story-teller's view. In some way, weather seems to fulfill our desire for tension, for our expectation that something is about to happen, for our sense of anticipation! Yes, weather, in some way, forms the conflict for the world's stage.

Now, don't take those terms - tension and conflict- too seriously. I'm not talking about confrontation; instead, I'm talking about tension and conflict in the dramatic sense, in its narrative function. Drama, by its classical definition , gives any story form and purpose.

But wait, you don't believe weather breeds drama? No better evidence can I offer for the intimate connection between weather and drama than The Weather Channel. Consider The Weather Channel's feature "Storm Stories." Seasonally, survivors of epic weather events recount their own sagas, be they the result of a hurricane, tsunami, blizzard, or heat wave.

Wind-whipped, cold-chapped, or heat-shriveled, they begin their tales of woe (aided of course by filmed footage and sound effects), and we viewers sit on the edge of our sofas ,the suspense, the tension, the angst mounting, wondering how, how, how they survived! How did they make it for five days in a storm cellar? What do 100 mile winds feel like? Will the dyke hold? Will the roof last? Will the walls continue to stand against the buffets and bruises of gale force winds? Will they be alright? And just when we think we can't take it anymore, aaahhh: sweet relief comes. The winds subside, the blizzard breaks, the raging waters calm, and the survivors come out to tell their stories.

And we love those stories - stories of victory and loss alike - stories of our frail human condition and our struggle against unseen, unknown, and uncontrollable forces. Drama, my friends, pure and simple drama.

Need further proof? According to the Nielsen Rating System "More than 62 million people watched TWC during the approach and landfall of Hurricane Ike on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 12-13." 62 million people! That's about 9 times the population of Houston, Galveston, and the affected parts of East Texas combined. Sure, we Texans were keenly interested in Ike's arrival, but so was the rest of the country. You tell me people aren't interested in the weather now!

Why? Well, according to Debora Wilson, president and CEO of Weather Channel Companies,
"There's a deep-rooted, a primal relationship, that a lot of people have with the weather. It's about connecting to Mother Nature and about the awe and the majesty related to that. It helps people understand their place in the world."

Pretty high-falutin, isn't it? I've got a different explanation: I'll say it again: drama! Everyone loves a good story, we crave tension and suspense and fear and storms and floods and zephyrs, oh my!

And so, I'm left wondering what your particular storm storm story is. Wont' you tell us? None is too big or too small, too insignificant or too monumental: each one of us experienced Ike, each one of us realized something about ourselves or the world in which we live, and each one of us is left with a story to tell...

As always, I anxiously await your response...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Storm Lingo

Ok, friends: I've got a little game for you! (Everyone loves a game, don't they???) No, it is not Storm Bingo, although that would be fun, it is Storm Lingo!

Now that we are through the first wave of Ike's drama, let's begin a list of words related to his presence...

I'll start with a few of my favorites:

storm surge
push (as in "push the commodities")

And your favorites?

Friday, September 5, 2008

What did you learn at school today, dear?

NOTE: I apologize in advance for the random formatting of this post. For some reason, paragraph breaks are not being registered, and you can imagine that just drives me CRAZY. So, to amend that situation, I have color coded each paragraph. New color? New paragraph! Thanks for your tolerance...
I have probably already mentioned that I grew up in a family where learning and knowledge were very important. My father was a chemist and my mother a nurse, so our dinner table conversations always took on an elevated tone.
I don't know what other families talked about as they reunited at the day's end, but I envisioned lively conversations where each member shared amusing anecdotes from their day... Pretty idealistic, huh? However, this Utopian vision stands in stark contrast to my own family's evening ritual. My parents would talk about their own days, their conversations peppered with words like "renal failure" and "ketoacidosis", "diatomaceous earth" and "titration." Yes, I knew more about diabetes treatment and waste-water filtration than the average teenager, and I could keep up with their discussions, but I was expected to do more than just listen politely: my parents expected that I participate.
Instead of "How was your day?", the benign question most kids heard after school, a question that could be answered with a simple "Fine" or even "OK," my parents asked a different question: "What did you learn today?" Oftentimes I struggled for an answer. I couldn't say that I learned that teenage girls are mean, or that my Spanish teacher always had chalk fingerprints on the side of her slacks, or that after three years the cafeteria still smelled like a wet dog: no, Norma and Duane expected a real answer, an intellectual response.
Some days the answers came easily -- lessons and their purposes were clear... "Well, I learned about the structure of the DNA molecule" or "We learned a new dialogue in Spanish: Esta Susana en casa? Si, esta con una amiga. Donde esta, en la sala? No, en la cocina!" Other days I had to reach a bit: What was the purpose of that Trigonometry lesson? And what is a parabola, anyway? And will I ever actually use this information?
So, we've been in school for almost two weeks now, and I'm posing the dreaded question to you : What have you learned so far? What have you taken away from our lessons in AP English? What have you gained about our approach to literature, to language, and/or to writing? What questions or concerns do you have?
You see, I think my parents always wanted the reassurance that their youngest child was actually learning something, that the hours and days spent in school were not in vain, that I wasn't utterly confused and lost, that I didn't waste my days searching for split ends and doodling in the margins of my paper (although I'm sure I was guilty of both...), and I'm afraid that I've inherited some of their concerns. I want our time together to be meaningful. I'd like you to gain something from each and every class. I hope that you'll understand the goals and outcomes for this class and see the purpose for our activities; however, I won't know for certain until you respond!
And so, I anxiously await...

Monday, August 25, 2008

The College Essay...

Welcome to my blog! As you can see from perusing my previous posts, I am relatively new to the world of blogging, to the use of technology beyond the most rudimentary of tasks, but I am so excited by all of the possibilities that this blog might offer our classes!

For our first post, I'll ask you to read at least two of the following articles regarding the college essay. Choose any two from the list provided, then respond with your insights, observations, comments, etc. Try to move beyond simple responses like, "I knew that" or "I didn't know that." Instead, reflect on your own experiences and expectations as a student readying for college admissions. What topics do you plan to explore in your college essays? What events, experiences, etc. seem like appropriate content for your essays? What insights do these readings offer on the development of those essays? These are just a few questions that you might consider...

Please refer by title to the articles that you read and use direct quotations where appropriate.

Each person is required to post an individual response, but feel free to comment upon the observations and insights of your classmates, as well.

I look forward to reading your responses...


TheAdmissions Essay Ordeal - The Young Examined Life

College Essays Nerve-racking...

Making a hard-life story open a door to college

Controversy over College Essay Sites

College Admissions ... A little guidance

U.Va. Office of Admission Essays

Advice from an expert - The Boston Globe

College applications can be too good - The Boston Globe

How much do college admissions essays matter - USATODAY.com

Teacher Says College Admissions Essays (washingtonpost.com) (2)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Worst Teacher Ever...

During yesterday's district-wide convocation, the keynote speaker Clay Parker stressed the relationship between teacher interest and student success. Now this isn't ground-breaking theory, but it does express an idea best repeated on a regular basis.

As his presentation ended, I made my way across the rows - a salmon swimming against the tide of teachers rushing headlong to the parking lot - to one of my own high school teachers, one who embodied the qualities which Mr. Parker had described. I thought that she might want to know the impact her interest and enthusiasm had on my attitude toward learning. I didn't love Government and Economics, but I felt compelled to meet her high expectations. I didn't necessarily relish the hard work she assigned, but I felt a great satisfaction in succeeding in "Killer Miller's" courses.

There were two others teachers, now long-retired, that I wished were there as well: Minerva Upchurch and Mildred Bowries. It was Mrs. Upchurch's gentle ways and friendly honk and wave each time she drove down my street that won my affections and untimately my respect and willingness to achieve. Mrs. Bowries - she spoke my language! She combined literature with real life and made me feel the plight of Hester Prynne, still one of my favorite heroines in all of literature.

Those three names and faces stand out against all the others that Spring Branch ISD offered during my twelve years there. Human, compassionate, humorous, energetic, and enthusiastic, I would have died rather than disappoint any one of them and indeed felt a failing when I did.

I should add, though, that I had a alarmingly high number of ambivalent and disinterested teachers, too. I can think of two in particular whose character alone stymied any growth on my part: one, a five-foot chemistry teacher who wielded anger and cynicism as effectively as any weapon; the other, a dance instructor who belittled and beleaguered her students to the degree that her own program was left abandoned. Their collective cruelty stands out in harsh juxtaposition against other fading memories of twenty years ago.

Fortunately, my own students will have better teachers than I did. Looking around the crowded colliseum, I see teachers with whom I am proud to work, teachers I would choose for my own children.

I don't mean to be too maudlin, sentimental, or romantic in my depiction of teachers. I know there were those who rolled their eyes during Mr. Parker's presentation, those who said "I don't want to be my students' friend. I just want to teach and go home."

Well, I'll brush over the gross misinterpretation of interest as "friendship" and ask instead, "Really? Just transmitting the facts of French, Calculus, English, World History - whatever you teach - is enough? You could teach any audience - it matters not who they are? You don't care whether your audience is interested, engaged, and successful? Is it really just about you and getting the job done?"

Allow me to qualify for a moment: I do empathize with that kind of thinking. As teachers, we spend so many hours preparing, grading, in meetings, inservices, etc., that it would be nice to say "I am doing this much and no more." But let's try to keep our students in that list of things that we are willing to care about, shall we? Let's cut out something else, like bulletin boards, or one more worksheet, or whatever we spend our time on instead.

Mr. Parker suggested that we are all teachers because of one or two great teachers in our own lives. We live to model their actions and attitudes. But, I think we also work against the specters of those bad teachers - those who did anything but inspired.

I'm not here to teacher bash or to suggest that I am as good as or conversely any better than those mentioned above; instead I use Mr. Parker's comments as a cautionary tale of what I could become. Of what any of us could become.

Although I hate cliched expression and would accuse my own students of going for the Miss America/Chicken Soup for the Teacher's Soul conclusion, I will adopt one this time: When your students look back on their years of education, how will you be remembered? They will remember, you know. I did. You did. They will...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's Your Move...

Always on the lookout for new books, I regularly check in with fellow blogger, Readerbuzz. A librarian and an avid reader, she always has some interesting reads posted on her site. This morning, while noodling around her page, an unknown term caught my eye: meme.

Well you can imagine that my first issue was proper pronunciation: /meem/ or /mim/ or /meemee/ ? Like any self-respecting web-crawler, I scurried to the source of infinite wisdom and googled it.

Here is what I found: as for pronunciation, the first two phonetic spellings seem to predominate web discourse. Ironically, pronunciation is the most complex aspect of this web2.0 phenomena.

Originally used in sociological and psychological constructs (Google it if you want the full discussion), the web application refers to an exponentially expanding discussion that revolves around a series of questions and answers. An author creates a series of compelling queries, publishes them, and hopes that readers will read, answer, and spread the news.

I'm not sure what the true motivation is: the thirst for answers to some of life's great questions or the desire to start a trend, to be noticed, to be noted and/or known. Somehow I'd bet on the latter. Who wouldn't want to give birth to some kind of cultural revolution? To be able to say, "I invented that move."

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes, "Fusilli Jerry," explores the importance of having a "move." Although directly referring to sexual techniques, George makes an important point about "moves" in general: to Jerry he complains "You told David Putty your move and you didn't tell me? I need a move. You know I have no moves, Jerry. "

We all want something that will make us special, set us apart, define us. So, what is your move? Wait -- before you answer that question, let's put some parameters on this discussion!

First, we don't want to know about the intimate moments of your life. I'm sure there are other forums for those discussions, but you'll have to ask someone else: this blog is strictly "pg" or perhaps "pg-13."

Second, let's decide how a "move" is defined. For our purposes, a move is some act that either defines or is defined by the mover. For example, Elvis' move involved the swaying of the hips; Kramer's, falling; Johnny Carson's, the little salute... A move is some action that implicitly bears a signature.

So, I ask again, what is your move? What words, actions, habits, and/or ticks help to define you?

Questions to consider:
1. Do you have a signature move or movement?
2. A saying, phrase, or idiom which peppers your parlance?
3. An identifying mark or brand?
4. A particular article or artifact that people would associate with you?
5. A theme song?

Don't worry about sharing your carefully cultivated characteristics. We, the readers of this blog, collectively agree to attribute any moves we adopt to the original source. For example, the shoulder dance: that move belongs to Nancy. The gumbo recipe? Grandpa's, of course.

As Jerry remarks to George, "The point is when something like this is passed along, one must be certain that it's going to be used in a conscientious way. This is not some parlor trick to be used---" (http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheFusilliJerry.htm).

So give us your best, fair readers. We won't steal them, we won't adulterate them, but we just might copy them!

Oh, my answers?
1. Do you have a signature move or movement?
Clinched fists - my body language of choice for any activity from teaching to running to chatting at a cocktail party. (Best executed with a little wad of Kleenex or paper towel inside.)

2. A saying, phrase, or idiom which peppers your parlance?
"For lack of a better descriptor," "Well...," and "All that good stuff."

3. An identifying mark or brand?
I have lots of freckles and (I hesitate to even admit it) moles. I didn't choose these, of course, and find them enough on their own. No further embellishment needed.

4. A particular article or artifact that people would associate with you?
A can of Diet Coke. In fact, in a caricature drawn by one of my students, the "ubiquitous Diet Coke" (her words, not mine) featured prominently.

5. A theme song?
"Brick House."

Again, here are the questions to consider:
1. Do you have a signature move or movement?
2. A saying, phrase, or idiom which peppers your parlance?
3. An identifying mark or brand?
4. A particular article or artifact that people would associate with you?
5. A theme song?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Web2.0 Training Plan

It seems that late summer and early fall are made for planning. Time to mark the calendar, to look ahead, to pencil in some events and to commit others to ink. The summer grants the luxury of taking each day as it comes, living spontaneously and as the spirit moves, but the fall demands greater focus and deliberate choices. Oh, how I hate the advent of fall...

I usually follow other people's schedules rather than develop any of my own - with the strictures of school-year calendars, lesson plans, athletic schedules, social events and training plans, what time is left for self-made plans anyhow? (I must sound much the victim here - forgive the plaintive tone: it is not as I intended, and I will see if I can right the situation as I go...)

A great fan of the calendar, my husband's planner gleams with dates color-coded by event, organization, and/or key player. and Want to know where we will be in January of 2009? Well, the chances are that his Alma-mater (The University of Houston) will play in one of three bowl games, and they are likely to play in cities x, y, or z, so those dates and places are already penciled in...

I will admit that this detailed planning does help to add some structure to our lives. To play off of my beloved, Robert Frost, something there is that loves a schedule!

Rather than a rigid graphic depiction of life's commitments, I like the idea of the calendar as a plan for my future - a way to achieve my goals. Some of you are thinking that the difference exists only in semantics, but I beg to differ: the difference is in philosophy. Although I resist being tied down to dates and times, I embrace the idea of growth and progress. And, if a calendar or training plan will help me progress toward those ends, then I embrace it.

Along those lines, I am developing a plan for my nascent web2.0 skills. A firm believer in the adage , "Use it or lose it," I worry that all I learned this summer will fade into the institutional, antiseptic mist of the school year. I hope that our friends at library2play will continue to augment their blog and training plans, but in case they don't I have come up with one of my own.
My ideas follow, ordered only by the chronology of the Library2play blog. I welcome any ideas or further suggestions that any of you learn2players or any other technology-savvy readers might have...
Well, that's enough for now. It is still summer, the temperature has dipped below 100 degrees, and the overgrown bushes on my back patio beg for trimming.

Items in black print have received no action; green, done; pink, in progress.

1. Modify my avatar and maybe put one on my mhs website? Is that possible?
Yes, this is possible, but I haven't done it yet.

2. Put a link from on my mhs website to my blog?

3. Ask vwb how to put the proper citations on my flickr photos.
(Since I am always after my students about proper documentation, I can hardly demand less of myself.)
Received instructions but haven't executed them yet...

4. Limit the time I spend on mashups or image generators to 10 minutes. Seriously!
Nice thought, but have you seen my voki? Hamnet, the cyberpig?

5. Figure out how to retrieve files from Google notebook;
figure out how to delete items from Google reader;
decide whether I really want to have an rss reader.
Have contacted a fellow blogger who reported success w/ Google reader; waiting for response.

6. Delete my account with Library Thing and update my account with Shelfari.
Deleted account with Library Thing,
started updating Shelfari account,
removed Shelfari widget from my blog.
Thinking of another way to include my novels and reading list.
Will have to consult librarians' blogs to see what they do...

7. Decide who to include in my "circle of the wise."
I added a two blogs that deal w/educational technology to my list.
There is a third that I want to include, but it is not one that is regularly updated, so...
Change in plans here: Since very few of our learn2players are still blogging, I deleted my bloglist, at least for now. Once people are up and posting again, then I'll start adding again.

8. Find out which learn2players are going to continue to blog.
(This seems inextricably tied to number 7).

9. Completely revisit Delicious and Technorati, Rollyo as well.
I didn't pay enough attention to these topics the first time.
I think, though, that Delicious really serves the purpose that I want Rollyo to...

10. Decide which to pursue for use with my class:
a blog, a wiki, or a ning?
Maybe get some group feedback on this one...

11. Look at the list of 43 things that inspired this initiative,
and see what I can add from that list.

12. Get the advice of other learn2players
and see what their recommendations are.

13. Seek students' advice on new and emerging technologies.
They are always ahead of the curve.
(As was so painfull apparent this afternoon as a former student
informed me that the term web2.0 is already passe. Huh!)

14. Find out what a meme is...
Done. See 8/6/08 post.

15. Update and revise newsfeeds.
Ahthough I never linked these to my blog, I have updated my google reader,
eliminating those that I rarely read in hopes that I might
actually read the ones remaining.
Maybe I need to put these widgets on my blog.
I'm more likely to check them there than the google reader page.

16. Clean up my blog!

I have started this process, eliminating my blog list, list of students' favorite words, and Shelfari widget.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Web2.0 Wordle

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I am going back and reviewing the 23 things, hoping to crystallize my summer's learning, beginning with the difference between web1.0 and 2.0.

In yesterday's comments (Misty2.0), I gave a general overview, but this morning I went back and looked at specific comments made in connection with each of the "things," highlighted key words or ideas associated with each application and the web2.0 movement overall (see specific quotes and highlighting below), and then from those key words, I created a wordle.

(Haven't seen wordle yet? Give it a google, and it will pop right up. Hours of great fun to be had there, so make sure you have some time to spend...)

Anyway, I like the effect created: the words really capture the essence of 2.0 technologies. What would a wordle for 1.0 look like? It would probably be limited to a few words like "log-on, " "read," "link" and "log-out." Simple, one-sided and limited in comparison to 2.0, huh?

I think I've got it now? Do you? Could you really explain to a colleague, better yet a parent or older friend or relative what the difference is? Even more important, could you hold your own in a conversation among the technologically literate? Let's try it today and see if it works!

Quotes that formed the creation of the wordle...Keywords in orange!
"Flickr is a photo-sharing website where anyone can upload and tag photos, browse others’ photos, and add comments and annotations. Users can create photo sets and collections to manage content, and participate in topical groups to cultivate a sense of community. Launched in February 2004, Flickr embodies what has come to be known as Web 2.0 technology. The site provides the tools, but the value derives from the contributions of the user community—photos, comments, ratings, and organization—and the connections that the site facilitates between individuals. Flickr also provides a range of privacy settings, giving users considerable control over how their photos can be used."

In technology, a mashup is a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool;The architecture of Mashup web applications is always composed of three parts:- The content provider: it is the source of the data. Data is made available using an API and different Web-protocols such as RSS, REST, and Web Service- The Mashup site: is the web application which provides the new service using different data sources that are not owned by it.- The client web browser: is the user interface of the Mashup. In a web-application, the content can be mashed by the client web browsers using client side web language for example JavaScript.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashup_(web_application_hybrid)

Web Mashup = API [1] + API [2] + API [N]
A web mashup is a website or web application that uses content from more than one source to create a completely new service.
Content used in mashups is typically sourced from a third party via a public interface or so called API. http://www.webmashup.com/

Flickr has an open Application Programming Interface (API for short). This means that anyone can write their own program to present public Flickr data (like photos, video, tags, profiles or groups) in new and different ways. There's a long list of API methods available to you to work with, and we love it when this happens, so... go forth and play! http://www.flickr.com/services/

Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control — a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy — a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.
Creative Commons is working to revive them. We use private rights to create public goods: creative works set free for certain uses. Like the free software and open-source movements, our ends are cooperative and community-minded, but our means are voluntary and libertarian. We work to offer creators a best-of-both-worlds way to protect their works while encouraging certain uses of them — to declare “some rights reserved.” http://creativecommons.org/about/

Although we generally equate Google with web searching, that's not what this "thing" is about. Google also has a variety of free web tools that can be particularly useful in education.Calendar - lets you organize your schedule and share it with family and friends.iGoogle - gives you a customizable home page where you can add links, news feeds, gadgets, etc. (Be sure and look at the gadgets - these are really fun!).Google Notebook - lets you clip and collect information into an online notebook as you do research on the Web. It can be shared with others.

In the information world, RSS is not only revolutionizing the way news, media and content creators share information, but it also is swiftly changing the way everyday users are consuming information. As leaders in the acquisition of information, it is one Web 2.0 tool that you MUST know how to use and use regularly.

What is LibraryThing?
LibraryThing is a site for book lovers.
LibraryThing helps you create a library-quality catalog of your books. You can do all of them or just what you're reading now.
And because everyone catalogs online, they also catalog together. LibraryThing connects people based on the books they share.

The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs according to the article about blogging from Wikipedia. A blog is a vehicle for a group of people with common interests to communicate, share, and learn in spite of barriers of time and distance.http://library2play.blogspot.com/2007/11/thing-12-roll-your-own-search-tool.html

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My sister's podcast



Have I told you all about my nephew Jimmy? (Good Lord, you may be thinking, How many nephews does this woman have? Five, to be precise, and five nieces, too!) Twenty-three and blessed with a college degree, a good job with an oil-field support company, the love and support of his family, a cute little house, and a loyal dog, Jim lives a pretty sweet life.

Add to the aforementioned qualities his classical good looks, and you have what matchmakers and mothers of single women refer to as " a good catch."

Although girls have always flocked around Jimmy, I particularly like his current girlfriend Misty. A dark-haired, dark-eyed nursing student putting herself through school while working at a fast food restaurant, she should not be mistaken with the other Misty, the one he dated a few years back... In fact, to lessen the chances of confusion, the family affectionately refers to the two girls as Misty1.0 and Misty2.0.

When I first heard the moniker, I understood 2.0 to represent an newer (and hopefully improved) version of the original, but my knowledge was limited to Jimmy's dating life - I had no real comprehension of what these terms meant in the world of technology. That is, until I started to learn2play.

Looking back, there was no "thing" that required us to define web2.0 and explain its fundamental difference from web1.0, but it seems like it would have been a good idea, in fact a good place to start, an organizing concept of sorts. It could have been one of the 23 things: explore the basic differences between web1.0 and 2.0. Surely Wikipedia has some quick entry on the topic?

(I'm going to be embarrassed if there was and I just missed it, but honestly I don't think there was... I'll go back and double-check just to be sure. Well, you know what? Even if there was and I didn't give it full attention, I am now, so there! I stick to my principle that learning occurs when it is needed! Anyway, I digress...)

So, just for my own purposes, and yours too if you care to play along, I'm going to begin reviewing what I've learned beginning with the difference between 1.0 and 2.0. From computer guru Tim O'Reilly as cited in howstuffworks.com:

"Here's a collection of strategies O'Reilly considers to be part of the Web 1.0 philosophy:
Web 1.0 sites are static. They contain information that might be useful, but there's no reason for a visitor to return to the site later. An example might be a personal Web page that gives information about the site's owner, but never changes. A Web 2.0 version might be a blog or MySpace account that owners can frequently update.

Web 1.0 sites aren't interactive. Visitors can only visit these sites; they can't impact or contribute to the sites. Most organizations have profile pages that visitors can look at but not impact or alter, whereas a wiki allows anyone to visit and make changes.

Web 1.0 applications are proprietary. Under the Web 1.0 philosophy, companies develop software applications that users can download, but they can't see how the application works or change it. A Web 2.0 application is an open source program, which means the source code for the program is freely available. Users can see how the application works and make modifications or even build new applications based on earlier programs. For example, Netscape Navigator was a proprietary Web browser of the Web 1.0 era. Firefox follows the Web 2.0 philosophy and provides developers with all the tools they need to create new Firefox applications. "

So, to recap web1.0 is static, non-interactive, and proprietary. That suggests that in contrast web2.0 is constantly changing, interactive, and shared. How true is that definition? For the next couple of days I'm going to go back and look at the 23 assignments, testing them against that precept. This might seem a bit redundant or after the fact for those among you who are quicker than I, but I know that others of us need it so have patience, please.

As for the two Misty's, some review might be prudent, as well. Is Misty2.0 flexible, interactive, and sharing? Is she an improvement over the limitations of Misty1.0? Well, she came to all of our family celebrations this weekend, and she tolerated stories, late nights, and dancing to the sweet strains of "Brick House" and "Play That Funky Music White Boy." Those qualities along give her an advantage in my book. Let's keep her!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thing #23 - Skip the Face Lift

Women, I think, are especially sensitive to issues of aging. And how can they not? Society seems to equate beauty with youth; hence young is beautiful and old is not.

Need proof? Just look at any magazine! The predominance of ads for "cosmeceuticals" like Botox, Strivectin, and Restalane (sp?) and "non-invasive restorative procedures" like light-line peels and dermabrasion reinforce the notion that the youth is synonymous with worth. And, I have to admit that at the age of 41, I am susceptible to this line of thinking: I don't want to look old, and far worse, I don't want to feel old!

So, does this have anything to do with web2.0, or has Laura plucked one too many gray hairs? Believe it or not, this argument relates directly to the learn2play initiative! How, you might ask? Well, this summer I've discovered that the key to perpetual youth comes not from a potent serum or in-office procedure, but from two other sources: one, the desire to learn, and two, staying current with the times.

Just to give you all a little background, I'd always considered myself fairly computer literate; however, my knowledge was born of a need to complete some assignment rather than any desire to stay current with technology. Like so many other "digital immigrants" (otherwise categorized as anyone over the age of 35), I felt overwhelmed by the ever-changing landscape of cyberspace and like I could never catch up.

Ultimately, I decided that I wasn't even going to try - I would do what I had to for work purposes, but as far as blogging and networking and chatting went, that was a fad better left for the "kids". Now does that sound like an old person, or what? You remember hearing your own parents say something like that and thinking that they were soooooo old? What I didn't realize was that in consciously deciding against an opportunity to grow and learn, in choosing to let something pass me by, I had indeed begun to age. And old I grew, far beyond my years.

That is, until I learned to play. For the details of my learning you can look back at my earlier posts. To say that I've worked hard and learned a lot would be a great understatement. And there is still the slightly galling knowledge that this stuff is so natural to others: even last night, as I tried to explain to my 18-year-old nephew Sam the great accomplishments of my summer, he just said "Oh, really?" as if mentally texting to his friends, "OMG: It's nt rokt scinc!" Well, it isn't to him and all of those others seemingly born with a cellphone in one hand and a keyboard in the other. But for others of us, the huddled masses of cyberspace, the journey has been amazing.

However, the joy of Learn2play was not limited to the concrete lessons gained therein. A larger and completely unexpected source of joy grew out of the relationships formed along the way. Instead of a cold and impersonal experience with a mute computer screen, I found the warmth and camaraderie of other educators, who like myself ,were just venturing into the darker reaches of cyberspace: SJThinker, Infomaniac, Daydreamsintechnicolor, and Readerbuzz are just a few of the friends made along the way.

And of course, there is my dear sister Frogntoad. (For those of you who don't know, she really is my sister. Not a "sista" but my biological sister.) Though we live hundreds of miles and hours apart, we have worked through these "things" together, sharing our discoveries and disappointments alike. I love her all the more for undertaking this with me. But, come to think of it, she has always been willing to hold my hand along the way...

With the companionship of my Learn2play friends and my family, and with the satisfaction of each "thing" completed, I found renewed confidence and enthusiasm for myself as a student of technology, and more importantly as a student of the world.

So, would I do this again? You bet! Even if the same exact class were offered next summer, I'd take it again. Anything to keep learning. Anything to stay current. Anything to avoid growing old, old, old.

So, to sum it all up in one sentence, I'd say this: skip the face lift and try Learn2play instead.

ps - Some of you may have noticed that the original image associated with this post has been deleted. Rather than spend time in the circle of hell reserved for those who run fast and loose with copyright laws, I thought I'd go back and amend some of my posts. Hope the new photo from Flickr's Creative Commons satisfies as much as the first did...


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thing #22 - What is in a name?

As you all probably could have predicted, I wasn't much of a math student throughout my early years. That side of my brain didn't really kick in until later in life... No, I was born a right-brainer: words, language, reading, writing, and expression were more to my liking.

Math, not so much. I can't explain what it was that eluded my comprehension, but I always felt lost. As early as 3rd grade and long division I remember having difficulty with math. I don't know why - My mother and father - they were math people. They got it. I can remember my mother looking at a division problem and saying, "Oh, 499 divided by 19? That's easy! Just round 499 up to 500 and 19 up to 20, and you know that the answer is one more than 25." I thought she was speaking another language. I could only solve the problem one way, and poorly at that.

So, my career as a mathematics student was spent trying to achieve invisibility, praying that I wouldn't be called on and thereby expose my ignorance. I never, never, asked a question. Never. I feared that one question would reveal the depth of my ineptitude, that my teachers would look at me and think (or far worse, proclaim aloud to the whole math lovin' world) "That child is as dumb as a stump! We need to send her back to elementary school and start all over again!" And as teachers, haven't we all felt this way? We know, despite platitudes that suggest otherwise, there really are some dumb questions. Well, I wasn't going to be the one to ask the dumb questions then, and I hesitate to do so now.

Oh, so you are realizing I have a potentially stupid question? I'll bet a number of you all do, as well. I find myself thinking that some of these "things" are awfully similar. Blogs, wikis and nings? Aren't they all pretty much the same?

I have to stop and apologize to our kickball captains right now. Can't you hear them? "Good Grief! Didn't she read the information? Didn't she follow the links? Send her back to Thing#1 and make her start all over again!"

Hoping to avoid the scenario described above, I read everything on the learn2play pages about the three networks. And here's what I found... the answer to my own question! Yes, Virginia, they are very similar! All are social networking sites, and all hope to capitalize on the idea of exponential growth. Anyone can create a blog, wiki, or ning, invite a few friends to join, and watch it grow as users continue to spread the word. Once the group gets large enough and loses some of its focus, sub-groups, splinter groups, sects, and special interest groups can split off and form their own social networks. (This ,by the way, is exactly what the creators hope for... More users equal more money!)

For example, what once started as a group of ten friends in the Houston/Galveston area interested in baking could easily grow into a group of 1000 people from all over the country sharing recipes, tips, etc. And little subgroups could form and break off- a cupcake coalition, a pat-in-the-pan party, another for fondant aficionados, a sarcher torte sect, cobbler, slump, and grunt groups - just imagine all of the possibilities.

Ok, so wikis, blogs, and nings are social networks, but what differentiates each? Well, at this point I can only speak to nings, but here is what I figured out. (Oh, I have attached my sources below...)
Nings (Chinese for peace, apparently...) seem to have three advantages the other social networking options don't: one, the groups of users are more focused around a central subject - let's say the work of the new poet laureate Kay Ryan. Users might share her poetry, offer analysis and insights, report on sightings and book signings, etc. There would be no reason for a fly-fishing expert or professional card stacker to intrude and leave some random remark or post an off-color limerick.

Another reported advantage is that the conversations are reportedly easier to follow than the strings on wikis and blogs. You know how you often have to work backwards through blog entries to find the original topic? Apparently nings resolve this dilemma by posting the original topic first and subsequent discussions follow chronologically.

A third feature that might be of some interest is discretion. Nings seem to offer a little more privacy than other sites - an advantage over purely social sites like myspace and facebook. As a teacher, this offers a definite advantage: there is something creepy about too much familiarity with your students. I remember as a twenty-year-old student teacher, a young man asked me "If I see you at a club, will you dance with me?" And thus began my career as a hermit... Seriously, there are some parts of a teacher's life that should remain private, don't you think? (Like her midriff, and hence my argument against low-rise jeans!)

And students need their privacy, too. Of course, we know that the high degree of disclosure encouraged by myspace and facebook users offer little protection, but that is another argument altogether... Anyway,with nings we don't have to worry about bumping into each other in cyberspace. (Unless, say, we share a passion for rapper Fiddy Cents.)
Nings are more exclusive than other social networks, even to the extent of invitation only sites. So, if you wanted a place to organize your upcoming family vacation, and you didn't want the whole world to have access to the details, a invitation-only ning would be perfect for you!

Focus, ease in following discussions, and privacy - these are just a few of the qualities that separate nings from the other networks out there. There are probably a myriad of other features and subtleties that I missed, but I am satisfied with my answer for now. Calculus might scare me, but nings don't!


Monday, July 14, 2008

Thing 21 - How much is enough?

Wisdom can come from some unlikely sources, can't it?

As proof, I offer the words of country singer Jerry Jeff Walker, comedian - and I use that term lightly- Larry the Cable Guy, and the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu. (I wonder if those names have ever before been connected? Are country-western aficionados, self-proclaimed rednecks and scholars alike wincing at the very thought of it?) Let me explain...

Looking around the playground, there have been plenty of bloggers content to experiment with the web2.0 technologies, write up a little blurb, and move on. Short and simple, maybe too much so, but they get the job done.

You know by now that I am not one of those people,. Instead of viewing these 23 Things as assignments to be checked off a list, I feel compelled to create something meaningful. I awaken in the wee hours of the morning, log on, and begin work. And generally I am rewarded for my efforts. I either manage to complete the assignment in a way that is pleasing or I write a response with which I am pleased.

Not this time, my friends. Thing 21 has been the source of four days' frustration, and I am ready to call it quits. Why? Well, I had used photostory before with great results, making a movie for my nephew's graduation(See insert below. You might want a hankie, even if you don't know him...), another for back-to-school night, and a third over The Canterbury Tales for use with my seniors. Since I felt fairly adept with that application, I thought I'd try something new. Wrong move.

I signed up with Audacity and began making podcasts, playing around with readings from Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings and James Whitcomb Riley's "Little Orphan Annie." The skill set required is fairly elementary, but to get quality results some non-standard equipment is needed, namely a microphone. And a quiet house. And the ability to make peace with the sound of your own voice.

After roughly 15 - 20 readings of Welty's work and an equal number of Riley's, I never could get past the sound of my own voice. In short, the timbre and pitch was vaguely reminiscent of an old boozer still awaiting her first snort of the day. The link to one of my many attempts is included below; however, I would not encourage anyone to actually listen to it. (Unless you want a good laugh. My sister, by the way, is a fellow blogger, and I imagine she will get quite a giggle from it.)

So this is where Jerry Jeff Walker comes in: In his words, "The only way to know how much is enough, is to do too much, and then back up." And that is exactly what I did. I backed up and took a more expedient stance: Was I trying to do too much? Surely four days' work was enough, right? It would be ok to just do something and call it a day, right? Sometimes, in the immortal words of Larry the Cable Guy, you just have to "Git-R-Dun."

I know how to use several of these applications, how to embed them in my blog and/or create hyperlinks to them, etc. That is enough for now; I have done all I can and I am content with my limited knowledge. For as the great Lao-Tzu said, "He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough."

Sam's Graduation Video

Laura's Podcast: Listen at your own risk...


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thing #20 - I figured it out!

This blogging stuff is starting to go to my head! I fancy myself having an audience of readers who has noticed that I haven't posted anything of great value all week long. Figuring that some of us might need a break from the increasingly technical demands of the 23 Things, especially the source code problem with youtube that so many are experiencing, I thought a little fun was in order and suggested the Vocabulary Game.

This bought me a little time, to be quite honest. Yous see, I spent the week at an AP conference at Rice, and if you've ever attended any week-long conference, you will recognize the seemingly contradictory symptoms of "Conference Syndrome" - a brain enfeebled by information overload coupled with a body suffering from the innervating effects of sitting for eight hours. Remember the movie "Parenthood" with Steve Martin? In it, his young son would run around the house with a metal bucket on his head, blindly careening off of walls and other obstacles that got in his way. Yet, he had all this pent of energy that had to be spent! That is exactly how I felt each afternoon: thoughtlessly energized.

However, now that a couple of days have passed, all of of that information has started to sink in. Even better, I can better appreciate the value of our newly-learned web2.0 applications. For instance, I am going to create a roll for all of the websites I learned about in my conference. That way I only have to remember where I heard the information, not the specific addresses, etc. I will post it for you all to see when I am done...

In specific response to this thing, I have included a few video clips. One of our great debates this week was about the merits of the different Hamlet productions. So, I played around on youtube to see what they offered. Sure, the expected clips are there, starring Mel, Lawrence, and Ethan, but here are a few I didn't expect to find from The Muppets, Animaniacs, and Cat Head Theater. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vocabulary Game

Hey there, fellow Learn2Players! I have an idea: let's play a word game! Respond to this post with a new word that you have learned through Learn2play.

The word can be technological jargon (sorry Ann, I know you hate jargon) like "blogosphere", or "wiki" or "lurking." Seriously, you need a whole new lexicon to participate in this initiative, don't you? So??? What words have you learned?

Looking for a more creative outlet? How about coming up with your own original term -- one that you've made up to suit a particular situation? For example, I coined the term "Johnny Appleseeding" to describe my daily visits to other blogs, encouraging chatter among others. Here's another: "hit and blogging" - I like it to describe my sister's random visits to other bloggers. She just pops in, says hello, and then moves along. (FrognToad is her blog, by the way).I think she's hoping to become a web celebrity. Hey, there's another budding term - a weblebrity!

Come on you guys, let's have some fun! I've read your blogs, and I know how clever you are, so let's see what you can do!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thing # 19 - The Link not Taken

Well, I couldn't really get a bead on my post for Thing #19; in fact, I completed the thing before I went away for the 4th, but a meaningful response eluded me. What is there to say? It is a great list? It is. There are a lot of cool sites? There are. In fact, I was astounded by the variety of sites listed in each category.

Each category, you ask? The assignment said to pick one proven winner and explore it. Easier said than done, my friends. Let's walk through a category like.... hmnnn... food. Let's see... oh, the highest rated site contains videos - not a video person (at least yet) ; the second is a restaurant rating site - interesting, but we tend to revisit our favorite places rather than venture out; the third is another video site - still don't like those and the graphics are slow to load; but wait, here is an interesting site listed as the honorable mention: Recipe Key. Cool! It has an ingredient match where you can specify ingredients you already have on hand, and the search engine will find recipes that match, or nearly match, those particular items.

Let's see, I have peanut butter, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs, I want to bake something - a dessert...wowee! Do you know I have almost all of the ingredients to make 896 different recipes? Where shall I start? But wait, I have oatmeal too, and salt, and refined sugar, and...

You can see the problem: too many cool sites, too little time. It puts me in mind of a line from Robert Frost's "The Road not Taken": "Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/I doubted if I should ever come back." What if I looked at one site and not the other and missed something wonderful? So, I keep clicking around, and around, and around.

And you know what happens right? The same has happened to you all - I've read about it in your own posts! One hour turns into two, two into two-and-a-half, and I'm still sitting here, clicking around because I might miss something!

So, in the spirit of another really cool site , Seventeen Syllables, one that I found in a link from an award-winning site, One Sentence, I'll close with a haiku:


Alone at my desk:
Click, link, next, back, click, next, home.
Seconds become hours!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back to Thing #12

Well, I took the day off today - kind of...

Instead of completing Thing #19, I just spent the morning looking for responses to comments I left on other blogs. (Wow, that sentence is seriously flawed, but it is late and I must get ready for bed soon!) From this, I learned the value of two things: 1) having responses to your comments e-mailed to you (managed through the settings post of your dashboard) and 2) setting up a blog list. You will see mine at the right side of the page. I included those bloggers with whom I have chatted over the last couple of weeks. Now, when I want to see what they are up to, I can just click on their updated posts rather than going back to the learn2play page and trying to remember whose blog I visited! (Again, this is created through the settings tab on your dashboard - add element - blog list.) Somehow I didn't appreciate these features when completing Thing 12, but like the Google notebook that I wrote about earlier, it is only when the information is needed and valuable that learning actually occurs.

Also, in the spirit of creating community, I visited some quieter blogs and encouraged people to get out there and chat! I get the feeling that many of us are still writing for an audience of one...

Well, I'm off to Oklahoma for the 4th and am looking forward to replacing the electronic glare of the computer screen with the warmth of the sun; the clickety-clack of the keyboard with the popping of fireworks ; posted comments with live conversation. I wish you all the same blessings!

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thing 18 - Just how productive are these tools?

I have to give you a bit of personal information as the foundation for my response to Thing 18 - Online Productivity Tools. You see, I spent several (read two-and-a-half to three) hours on Sunday afternoon making invitations to a wedding day luncheon for my niece. Wow, you are probably thinking, that seems like an inordinate amount of time for a relatively simple process! No kidding! So, what was the problem? The word processing program installed on our new home computer - Microsoft Office 2007. What a mess!

How can it be that despite all of the hours spent creating my blog, playing around with different technology applications, etc., a simple word processing program derails me? Please! It was so bad that my husband, who approaches technology on a "need to know" basis, offered to help!

I ended up pulling out my old laptop, creating my document there, saving it to my travel drive, and then pulling it up and printing it from our new computer. I won't even trouble you with the sad story of printing the envelopes...

Anyhow, I tell you all of that so you will be able to appreciate the great relief I felt when I read Office Tools' advice: "Remember ..., you can save it (your document) in several different formats, including MS Word '98, 2000, and 2003." Could this be a way to circumvent future woes? I eagerly opened the link only to receive this message: "Your browser cannot display the site correctly - please ask your vendor for an update." Oh, the irony of it all...

Well, fortunately I had already registered on Google, so I just opened their tools instead. And, as we have all come to expect, things proceeded according to Hoyle. Lovely, lovely, lovely Google!
Since I am pretty adept (or so I thought) with word processing, I decided to play around with their publishing software and made a brief power-point instead. I'm not sure it is any easier than other applications I have used, but the idea that it can be saved online and accessed from any place - even offline, apparently, though I haven't tried it yet - is pretty amazing.

I think of my students who are always bemoaning their techno-glitches as an excuse for not having their homework. Wouldn't it be cool if they all had Google accounts and saved their documents online? That way, we could just pop over to my desk, log on, and print out their
assignments? No fuss, no muss! (Unless, of course, they haven't done the assignment and are just using technology as a scapegoat. No, surely not...)

I think of my own difficulties with those silly invitations and how I could have saved hours of frustration... Well, I guess that's why they call it learning!

By the way, I am going to try to include the work-in-progress-power-point below... I think it is kind of amusing... Hope you guys enjoy it!

(Hmmm - does anyone know how to do this? VWB are you out there?)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thing #17 - Three Inches for Rollyo

If you'd looked for me last Sunday, you'd have found me in Cancun, sitting under the shade of a papa, a dusting of white sand on my toes, warm breezes stirring the pages of my book, the crystalline waters of the Caribbean shimmering only yards away. Five days of heaven...

But, the problem of "getting away from it all" is that it is all still here when you return! For some that provides comfort -- my husband, for example, is always ready to get back to our normal routine. I would be in the opposing camp. Normal seems pale and dull and, well, so normal.

So maybe that explains my indifference to Thing #17 - Rollyo. For someone coming off a vacation high, it is just so linear , so focused. It allows for no spontaneity, no discovery. It creates a very small box.

Remember that scene from "The Jerk" when Navin (played by Steve Martin) is working at the carnival? To the question of what prize a particular winner gets, Navin responds "Uh, anything in this general area right in here. Anything below the stereo and on this side of the bicentennial glasses. Anything between the ashtrays and the thimble. Anything in this three inches right in here in this area. That includes the Chiclets, but not the erasers."

I know, I know - Sometimes, especially in the vastness of cyberspace, you long for someone to say "Look here - right in these three inches. This is where you will find your answers". Sometimes you want focus, sometimes you just want information, free of distractions. You know the websites you like, you know the ones you don't like, you know which are credible and which are just junk. Yes, sometimes a small area, created through a personalized search engine like rollyo, is exactly what you want.

And I'm sure in the fall, when I am helping my students with research or when I am looking for a particular piece of criticism, I will be glad to have put boundaries on the vastness of cyberspace, to have defined my own three inches of shelf space.

But not right now, not today. Today I want to keep the fullness of my vacation alive: bare feet, lightly tanned, splish-splashing down miles and miles of coastline.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thing #16 - Wikitopia: A solution to all of my technology problems?

Whew: talk about controversial! I think I'd rather talk about the upcoming election or religion or The College Bowl System than get into a debate about Wikipedia. Oh, you didn't know there was a debate?

Well, neither did I really: I knew there were concerns about the credibility of the contributors, and because of that I forbade my students from using Wikipedia as a source in research. Instead, I wanted my students to use criticism from scholarly sources and databases. It seemed an easy answer for me - end of story, right? Wrong!

Apparently, there is a whole storm a-brewing out there about the margin of error found in Wikipedia, how that margin compares to long-revered sources such as Encyclopedia Britannica, rebuttals from Wikipedia's founder...what a brouhaha! Or is it?

Honestly, credibility is an issue in every form of media isn't it? And isn't it incumbent upon us as consumers (of thought as well as material goods) to carefully screen whatever we purchase, whatever we believe? Do we allow our opinions, thoughts, values, etc. to be shaped by one source? Hopefully not.

That determined, I move on to more salient topics: creating our own wikis. Once again, the guys over at Common Craft make simple work of the topic. (I think I love them. Really.) For the last year or two, my partners and I have tried different technology applications hoping to generate online discussions among our students. Unfortunately, none of them worked very well. There was always some limitation, procedural or within the technology available, that hindered meaningful discussion.

I am hoping that wikis might offer a solution to the problems encountered. Looking at the wikis and blogs through the learn2play page, I came across some really neat applications. There was one great wiki on Hamlet. Have you guys seen it? If I can find it again, I will include the link in this posting. And the one from the New Jersey Public Library? Great!

I have only one question - how does what one posts in the sandbox differ from what one posts on the wiki itself? Anyone know? Am I exposing my ignorance again?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thing #15 - Tropic of Cancer or Tropic of Capricorn?

I know, I am so predictable, but I just have to do it! How could I live with myself if I didn't? How could I justify the hours and hours spent watching reruns? Some of you know that I am a great Seinfeld fan and sense where I am headed here -- others of you may be a bit baffled: what on earth is she talking about???

In Episode 22, "The Library," Jerry is investigated by Mr. Bookman, the New York Public Library's detective. At question - a copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer supposedly returned in 1971. Below are two particularly salient (not to mention darn funny) passages from the script:

Phillip Baker Hall visits Jerry in his apartment and issues a flaming oratory on the sanctity of the library and finally an ultimatum...

BOOKMAN: Well, let me tell you something, funny boy. Y'know that little
stamp, the one that says "New York Public Library"? Well that may not
mean anything to you, but that means a lot to me. One whole hell of a
lot. Sure, go ahead, laugh if you want to. I've seen your type
before: Flashy, making the scene, flaunting convention. Yeah, I know what
you're thinking. What's this guy making such a big stink about old
library books? Well, let me give you a hint, junior. Maybe we can live
without libraries, people like you and me. Maybe. Sure, we're too old to
change the world, but what about that kid, sitting down, opening a book,
right now, in a branch at the local library and finding drawings of
pee-pees and wee-wees on the Cat in the Hat and the Five Chinese
Brothers? Doesn't HE deserve better? Look. If you think this is about
overdue fines and missing books, you'd better think again. This is about
that kid's right to read a book without getting his mind warped! Or:
maybe that turns you on, Seinfeld; maybe that's how y'get your kicks. You
and your good-time buddies. Well I got a flash for ya, joy-boy: Party
time is over. Y'got seven days, Seinfeld. That is one week!

Later in the same episode, Bookman comments on the qualities and virtues of the librarian...

BOOKMAN: I remember when the librarian was a much older woman:
Kindly, discreet, unattractive. We didn't know anything about her private
life. We didn't want to know anything about her private life. She didn't
have a private life. While you're thinking about that, think about this:
The library closes at five o'clock, no exceptions. This is your
final warning. Got that, kewpie-doll?

I think these stereotypes fit so perfectly in the case of Thing #15. After reading the five perspectives one cannot help but accept that a great shift is occurring, and for myself may I say "Hallelujah!" Undoubtedly we all have our own "librarian" stories - have you ever read Eudora Welty's description of Mrs. Calloway, her hometown librarian? And, true, it may be unfair to place the blame solely on the librarian, but I'll bet that every one of us has run up against the archaic library system at some point in our life. Those of you who know me have heard (ad nauseum, probably) my own tale of woe as my "lending privileges were suspended" one summer. The sting of those whispered words still pierce my tender psyche.

But I digress. Back to the words "archaic library system": I think that is what the five perspectives presented in Thing 15/Library2.0 strive to overcome. While reading the words of each expert, I used my Google Notebook ( a pretty cool feature, by the way) to keep notes. As I did, I tagged key concepts, words, and phrases. When done, I couldn't help but notice the contrast of past and present. Take a look at the lists below...

Words used in discussing the past included:
remnants of a bygone information age
practices and attitudes that no longer make sense
difficult, expensive and slow
barriers that exist between patrons and the information they need
privileged with access
libraries no longer have the monopoly power that they had in the days before the Internet
policies and procedures that impede users’ access to the library

Words for the present and future?
anticipates the user’s every need
our patrons will expect access to everything
user-centric service
more humble in the current environment
a social and emotionally engaging center for learning and experience
breakdown barriers and allow users access wherever they are: home, work, commuting, school, or at the library
a climate of collaboration
users add value
social services
Libraries should welcome the submission of reviews, assignment of keywords (“tagging”), addition of scholarly commentary, and other forms of user participation

Forgive me for failing to cite each and every one of the five authors separately. For the quotes used in their exact contexts, see the links below.

So goodbye Mr. Bookman, Mrs. Calloway, and the lady in the pink sweater at the Hedwig Village libary. Times they are a'changing, and dinosaurs need not apply!

Five Perspectives:
Away from Icebergs
Into a new world of librarianship
To more powerful ways to cooperateTo better bibliographic services
To a temporary place in time

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thing # 14 - I'm a sucker for language...

Yes, it is true: I am attracted to words. Certainly single words pique our interest (see my students' list in the sidebar), but used collectively words wield a particularly seductive power.

A certain turn of words, a particular phraseology, the way some words come trippingly off the tongue - ah, that is true bliss. Go ahead, roll your eyes the way my students do (Or perhaps you are among those who nod silently or proffer a slight smile of agreement?)

I am not ashamed to admit my love of language, but I will concede that it does cause a certain blindness at times. Take, for example, the language used in the introduction to Thing 14: Technorati is described as "a portmanteau... of technology and literati...". Those words alone were music to my ears: portmanteau! literati! Could it be true? A thinker's approach to blogging?

Don't get me wrong - I am no great intellectual; in fact, each day I grow more and more aware of how little I really know. But, I do think it is important to discern between the truly important and that which I refer to as "mind candy". (Do you know how long I have been waiting to use those words ???) So, getting more directly to the point, based on the language used to describe it, I thought that Technorati would help elevate Internet above the influence of pop-culture and its associated forms of idiocy.

Well, I did admit that words could be seductive, didn't I? Only time will tell for certain, but I'm afraid that I may have been lured by the Sirens' song once again...

The two clips by the brain trust at Technorati offered the first glimpse of the conflict between theory and reality. Their own discussion, peppered with the language of democracy - the voice of the people, the authority of the people, rarefied versus regular people, the raw and uncut human experience, the voice of the regular guy bubbling up from the bottom - these words suggested that Technorati offered a portal through which the masses could be heard! Can't you just visualize Thomas Jefferson nodding in approval?

The problem is that, at least as indicated through my morning's sojourn through the site, the contributors to Technorati address the same topics that any other website does. Yes, it does allow the voice of the huddled masses to be heard, but we just don't have much to say...

Or am I wrong? I acknowledge the tendency to speak before I think, so please let me know if I am misguided. Maybe I just haven't given it a fair chance? Or have I been been foiled by words once again?

PS - Just so you don't think I'm completely close-minded, I've spent the last 36 hours mulling over my comments, and I have to amend my stance. (Go figure...) So, what follows is my confession. Should I sit behind a darkened panel for this, or is the relative anonymity of the Internet enough? At any rate, here it is: My assessment of Technorati was ill-informed, biased, and unfair. I operated out of a rigidly preconceived notion of what the site would be, and then when it wasn't what I expected I dismissed it with a sniff and huff. In doing so, I missed the point... Well, I didn't miss it, but I didn't fully appreciate the democratization of the blogosphere and how it completely changes the traditional relationship between knowledge users and brokers. It wasn't until this morning's readings associated with Thing#15 that this change really caught my attention. I won't divulge all of the details here: I don't want to spoil the activities for you. However, if you want another perspective of Technorati, one that really seems to synthesize the whole schmere (sp?), take a look at the link below.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thing # 13 -Something is abuzz at the bottom of the page...

Have any of you read Gary Paulsen's Hatchet? If so, you no doubt remember poor Brian surrounded by swarms of gnats and mosquitoes even to the degree that his eyes and nose were clouded by the offenders! That horrifying image always stuck with me, and to a large degree it colored the way that I looked at social bookmarking tags. I considered them a nuisance, an unwelcome presence that buzzed about the bottom of webpages I tried to view.

I wasn't sure of these semantic intruders' origins nor could I speak to their intent, but I did know that ignoring them and hoping they would go away was out of the question. The blue underlined pests buzzed around the screen and distracted me from my webquests. Honestly, if I came across a website or blog that harbored these little intruders, I would hit the back button with lightning speed. Could any site that gave refuge to that disorganized mess of words (and I do hate a mess!) really be credible? Really?

Well, that was my opinion until the wee hours of this morning. Imagine my surprise when I heard that these "tags" (as I learned they were called) really held some value. I have to credit the guys at Common Craft for my changed heart: really, those fellows are amazing! Who would ever have thought that a white board, a few paper dolls, and a dry-erase marker could be such an effective educational tool?

Once I watched their video and listened to the podcast by Kathleen Gilroy, my previous disdain melted away. Concepts like "the magic middle," "topical authority," and "folkarchy" suddenly added purpose to what I previously considered worthless junk.

After such a thorough introduction into Del.icio.us, Furl and Ma.gnolia seemed to pale in comparison, so I didn't even pursue them. Instead, I just played around with the tags already posted in Del.icio.us, spending most of my time in the most popular tags in the food section.

So, what is my new and improved opinion of social bookmarking? Well, I like the idea of using one's own system of organization to create order out of the increasing tangled worldwide web. How many times have I wished that there was a better way to categorize my bookmarks, one that would allow greater flexibility in nomenclature? My own word associations do far more to charge the synapses than do the stilted titles of some website. The title of the play Tanglewood Tales is a far better reminder than the name of the article which discusses the play, "Hawthorne in Salem."

But will I use it? Will I encourage my students to use it? I think I'll have to be sure that those little clouds at the bottom of the screen are fireflies or lightning bugs before I do!