Saturday, September 27, 2008

Google Books

Today I thought I would write about Google Books. Google is trying to amass a number of free downloadable books in full text. Most of these books are classics and some like Animal Farm are still being used in our English classes today.

Now the reason that I'm writing about this is that I'm thinking that there is a practical use for these online books:
1. If you are studying one of these books in class, then students can't use the excuse of forgetting the text at school and not doing homework - the book is online.
2. A student doesn't have to cart the text home - the book is online.
3. A student can't complain that the book from school (which is 20 years old) is falling apart - the book is online.
4. Now this is the cool part but one I'm having trouble with. Google Operating System blog has some code listed that can be used to actually embed these books into a wiki or a blog. If you had a library wiki you could create a page that housed a collection of classic texts or if you had an English class blog you could have access to the book right on the blog.

Apparently, you just have to copy the html code and then substitute the book id into a part of it and - Bob's your uncle - the actual book pops up in its full version that you can read right from the page you put it on. Joyce Valenza says that it's fairly simple and really, it looked simple. I've embedded code into my wikis and blogs and it usually works fine.

However, this time it isn't and I don't know if its me or Blogger or Wikispaces 'cause I can't get the darned thing to embed.

I'm nothing but persistent. I left a comment on Joyce's blog and sure enough, within 24 hours she responded (I wasn't sure what part of the book's URL held the book id that I had to insert and both Joyce and another reader who also got this thing to work helped me out). So I'm thinking that if they could do it, I could do it. I also read the comments on the Google Operating System blog and tried to do what they said as well. Honestly, I tried to get the code all on one line by doing what they said but Blogger wouldn't let me. I was so much into the flow of trying to get this to work that I lost track of time and was almost late for a wedding (not mine - I sing at these things sometimes).

To make a long story short, I still can't seem to get it. So this entry is minus the book that I was planning to embed. If anyone is able to do it, let me know how.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Too Busy To Be Betty

For this week's post, I'm going to link you to the Adolescent Literacy Book Club blog. I wrote a post in response to a chapter that I read on Saturday morning. The previous week was so darned busy that I needed the weekend to catch up on my program work. So, here's what I blogged about if you want to take a look. It's about writing and part of it's about drawing as thinking. The chapter is written by Linda Reif and she writes about using a "tellingboard" to aid reluctant writers. Next week I hope to have a regular post.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Book Banning and Palin - The List

I just received the list of books vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin tried to ban when she was mayor in Wasilla, Alaska. The list originated from a colleague who received it from a colleague who received from a colleague at the University of Windsor. You may or may not have heard or read about it but you can get some background here, and here.

Here's the list of books that she wanted banned (this information is taken from the minutes of the Wasilla Library Board):
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Blubber by Judy Blume
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Christine by Stephen King
Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Cujo by Stephen King
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen

Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Decameron by Boccaccio

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
Fanny Hill (Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) by John Cleland
Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Forever by Judy Blume
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner

Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Impressions edited by Jack Booth
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
It's Okay if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Love is One of the Choices by Norma Klein
Lysistrata by Aristophanes

More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My House by Nikki Giovanni
My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
Night Chills by Dean Koontz

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
One Day in The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Our Bodies, Ourselves by Boston Women's Health Collective

Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl

Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Separate Peace by John Knowles
Silas Marner by George Eliot
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Bastard by John Jakes
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Devil's Alternative by Frederick Forsyth
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Living Bible by William C. Bower
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
The Seduction of Peter S. by Lawrence Sanders
The Shining by Stephen King
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster

Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween
Symbols by Edna Barth

Quite a list, isn't it?


Check this out:

It's made from a neat online tool called GoAnimate. I'm playing with it now.

K12 Online Conference 2008

Found the poster for the K-12 Online Conference this morning as I was going through my reader.

I found this last year and emailed our board email conferences as a personal professional learning opportunity that can be attended from the comfort of your own computer. It was through this conference that I was introduced to people such as Konrad Golgowski, a teacher and PHD candidate from Toronto using blogs with his junior students and Dean Shareski in Saskatchewan who is a leading web 2.0 presence and one of the organizers of the conference.

The conference is free. You can attend in real time or attend sessions as they are archived. There are sessions for people just starting out and sessions for more experienced users. You can check out some of the conference sessions here. Catching my eye are the following:

Beyond the Stacks: Using Emerging Technologies to Strengthen Teacher-librarian Leadership
Carlene Walter and Donna DesRoches and

the Getting Started section.

There's a support wiki that has a section for first timers. And if you've heard of David Warlick but haven't heard him, you can do it hear as he is one of the keynote speakers.

I'll be attending, hope you will too!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Gets Tested Gets Taught; What Gets Reported Gets Measured

I started this post by first going on a bit of a frustrated rant regarding the lack of a specific curriculum document from the Ministry of Education for information studies and the MIA vision statement for libraries that was submitted to the Ministry last year. Then I changed my mind and am going in another direction because as I was writing I realized that we do have curriculum - it's just that it's embedded into the content curriculum documents and it's not in one convenient spot. It would be nice if it were in one spot but it's not so I'll move on.

So now the challenge is how do we assess these expectations in a precise way? How do we collect data on student achievement with information literacy skills? And how can we use this data to advocate for students in this information-age?

Well, I found this interesting FREE assessment tool for information literacy skills linked in my PLN (personal learning network). It's called Trails: Tool for Real-time Assessment of Information Literacy Skills developed at Kent State University. It's free (did I say this already?), it will assign student logins to take an online multiple choice test, gives individual student reports and class reports in pdf. I took the grade 9 test and scored 94% ( I got 2 questions wrong). In the class report it told me exactly what areas needed improvement (topic development and evaluating sources). I can't attach the exact reports that it generated for me (Blogger doesn't allow it) but there are samples available on the site and you'll get an idea of the type of data it's collecting.

It's worth a look. If you can get by some of the American content, it's an excellent outline of the types of skills that need to be taught to help students achieve. For example, I created an account (it's easy) and had a look at the grade 6 test (only tests for grade 6 and grade 9 are posted). One of the first items is narrowing a topic. Let's think about this. Narrowing a topic is really important in this time of information overload. Where else are we asking students to narrow their topics? In writing! And where does this fit when we teach writing? In ideas - the first traits of writing. So you see when we teach skills in information literacy, we are not only teaching them how to research but really how to read and write and think. Literacy skills.

But back to the main theme of this post, how can we use this little tool? In a couple of ways. One, it would make an excellent diagnostic to get both class and individual student base-line data. Based on the data, as a teacher librarian you could target the exact skills that students need to improve. You could then test at the end of the year and look for growth in individual students and classes. Even though it has tests for grade 6 and 9, you could use the test items and modify them for other grade levels based on the expectations in the curriculum docs.

Bottom line is that data needs to drive instruction. We need to collect data on student achievement in information literacy. This little tool may help you do this in a more precise way.
Remember, what gets tested gets taught and what gets reported gets measured.