Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thing # 11.5 : Evaluation

End of the Trail by Schizoform

This image may indicate how I feel, but as long as I am a Spring Branch librarian, I know I will never reach the end of the trail! I might fade out with a whimper, though.... This course of 11.5 Things has been a labor of love, and I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I am proud of that! I was challenged, but I didn't give up--haven't given up (see Second Life). I have faltered but never fallen. I have enjoyed moments of prideful success and instances of rueful self-doubt. There have been times when I felt dumber and denser than a fence post, but I always got to the "aha" moment, sometimes with professional help (thank you, VWB) and sometimes by reading the blog entries of colleagues. The important thing is that I did it, and if I did it, then so can everyone else.

I have mini-lessons prepared for staff development that I cannot wait to offer! I chose the easier ones to demonstrate first: wordle, screencast, slideshare, glogster. I am reminded of the impact that trading cards had on most bloggers last year. Suddenly, it seemed as if no lesson were complete without a culminating trading card or magazine cover! Was everyone doing it? Yes! Did it matter? No! Teachers felt successful integrating technology into their lessons, and students loved having a technology product at the end of a unit.

If each of us takes away just two or three great, new Things to use with this year's crop of students, then each of us will be rewarded by the harvest. When I think about that, it doesn't matter how many hours I spend on 11.5 Things. We are not paid by the hour; we are paid by the lifetime.

Thing # 11: Digital Citizenship


What I am taking away from this lesson is that every teacher in the system is responsible for teaching digital literacy / digital citizenship. Our philosophy in Spring Branch has always been "meet the student where he is and take him where he needs to be," but I have read blog entries in which teachers advocate letting colleagues know that they, too, are responsible for teaching digital literacy, expecially when it comes to the evaluation of resources and the citation of sources.

The advice to go beyond the first few sites google spits out is invaluable as that brings back to the user the responsibility for evaluating and assessing websites. I think our district does very well teaching digital literacy and citizenship in the elementary grades, but I know that I have not done a thorough job of it in high school and am motivated to do better.

Maybe the culminating activity for such a lesson could be a wordle?

One Second After

Want a thought-provoking, fast-paced, apocalyptic thriller on the order of On the Beach, Alas, Babylon, or maybe even The Stand? Try One Second After by William Forstchen.

John Matherson, a widower rearing two daughters, is a retired Army colonel who teaches history at a small college in rural North Carolina. One late afternoon, all the power goes off at once. Suddenly, there are no working cell phones, televisions, microwaves, refrigerators, generators --none of the everyday modern conveniences we are so used to--and even most cars refuse to run.

John, with his Army and military history background, becomes aware that this is not just a local disturbance of some sort. He begins to suspect that the United States has been targeted by a high-altitude nuclear bomb which has unleashed an electromagnetic pulse that has instantly disabled all electronics and made America vulnerable not only to its attackers but to its own population which quickly descends to humanity's lowest level. Chaos, starvation, and death ensue. John's background and experience push him to the forefront in his town's bid for survival.

Newt Gingrich's foreword is enlightening; the premise of this book is entirely possible.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thing # 10: Second Life Second Step

I changed emails and was able to create a Second Life account and have been able to log on. At last! I am Squatchina Bumblefoot, and I am in--except that I received this message: "Unable to upload yada yada...The server is experiencing unexpected difficulties. Please try again later." Well, I will, because I have to, but how many people who are digital immigrants will be willing to encounter this frustration every step of the way? I predict that a lot of people will just give up.

Well, it is later, and the server is still experiencing difficulties. Which server? Theirs or ours?

Thing # 10: Second Life

I had read other blog entries for the dreaded #10 so that I would have some idea what to expect, and I was lulled into thinking it wasn't going to be such a scarifying challenge as I had anticipated. I was already intimidated since I am not good at video games, and I watch my son play these involved and complicated games that look just like second life to me. His avatar seems to do a lot of running, which I am not fond of, but his avatar also heals, makes things, sells things, gardens, etc. My son finds it all relaxing, fun, and entertaining, as do his friends who are also online and playing this same game.

I did have some initial difficulties--such as registering my avatar. The first time, the registration failed. The second time, the registration failed. The third time, the registration failed, and I received a message that I had too many avatars for one account. I couldn't figure that one out--how could I have too many if each attempt had failed?!

Anyway, I contacted "help." I filled out the questionnaire I was emailed, and I received a ticket number. I can check on this ticket number if I log in, but not being able to log in is why I needed help in the first place! I was able to log in as a guest, but when I tried to access the ticket number (as a guest) I was told I wasn't authorized to see that ticket with its helpful information.

I have not given up; I am just temporarily stalled. I have looked at everything I can view and read and explored what I was able to, but I have not yet been able to enter a world. Hopefully, my registration difficulties will be resolved before August 10th!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stephanie Plum? Anyone? Anyone?

If you are a Stephanie Plum / Janet Evanovich fan, you need no introductory remarks! You know who she is and what she is up to!

In this New York Times interview, click on the link below, Janet Evanovich talks about her transition from romance writer to number one best-selling author of crime fiction, featuring a mediocre bounty hunter with Jersey hair and a manicure. Evanovich's son and daughter are deeply involved in her book business, and her family has a contest each time for the best new title!

What makes Evanovich's books so popular? She thinks it is because she writes happy books about good people. Watch for her new series starring Diesel!