Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can You Hear Me? -- Voice in Effective Blogs

I confess--I am a regular reader of the blog Zen Habits. I find the voice and the tone of its writer, Leo Babauta, distinctive and calming. On a typical school day, peace and tranquility are not typically around. But when a post shows up on Zen Habits, I take the time to read it and to find a window of calm in my day.

The post that I want to refer people to is effective in achieving the goals that Babauta states: he wants his readers to focus in on what they are doing, to savor that moment, and do that action with mindfulness. Such words are good reminders to teachers of all sorts. We need to be mindful of what we do, of how our actions shape and influence our colleagues and our students, and of how we learn and grow from what we do.

An effective post is exactly that—it creates in the reader an effect that the author wants. In the writer’s distinctive voice, the post encourages the reader to think, act, believe, or feel. It engages us to take something from the post and to find its relevance to our own lives.

The award winning blog posts of Frank Noschese and Joyce Valenza do the same sort of thing for teachers and librarians. They are trying to take us out of our usual realm of complacency and to catapult us into thinking and questioning about our practice. While they are both encouraging us to re-evaluate how we behave as teachers, they do so in voices that are strong and distinctively their own.

So what makes an effective blog post? Some are effective in their overt practicality, such as sharing useful links for teaching (Free Tech for Teachers, Larry Ferlazzo). Some share strategies or humor for a particular field (A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette, Attempting Elegance). And some, like Zen Habits, work to make us feel our humanity.

In each of these blogs, the voice of the writer is clear and thoughtful. Before I shifted to being an elementary school librarian, I spent 20 years teaching college-level writing. And I can tell you that there is nothing more important to becoming a good writer than to find your own distinctive voice.

--Cross-posted to

(image by dbphotographs via Flickr Creative Commons)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Taking the Teacher Challenge

I have signed up to participate in the "Teacher Challenge" as a blogger, and this new page is part of my effort. I am charged with taking on the role of a reporter who asks my blog ten questions, so here goes.

1. Why did I start this blog?
I created this website because I felt as if I need to share the many books that I read in my role as a school librarian. Because I work at a small, cash-challenged school, I usually pre-read books before I am willing to buy them for our school library. In addition, I have learned (the hard way, at times) that books that are labeled "young adult" vary widely in who they are directed toward--a twelve year old precocious reader should not be reading a book that might be completely appropriate for a mature high school senior. I wanted to make use of the time I spent, so I created this website.

2. When did I start this blog?
I began this website in the summer of 2009. I had just finished a course through PB Works for teachers and wikis, and I was inspired to take my technological training to a new level. I discovered, though, that the best intentions of a teacher in summer may fall prey to the realities of time constraints during the school year.

3. Why have I chosen to participate in the Teacher Challenge?
I need to develop the discipline and persistence necessary to make this website thrive. I hope that I can make myself walk away from the computer games to make time for the computer work.

4. Who is the audience for this site?
I see my audience as parents, teachers, students, and other school librarians looking for books to read and to add to their collections.

5. What are my goals for this website?
My primary goal is to help people find the books that might otherwise slip under the radar. Sure, I have read the Hunger Games series, just like everyone else. But that series doesn't need me to promote it. Instead, I have been searching for the hidden gems, those diamonds that will shine if someone just shines a light on them.

6. Why is the site sorted as it is?
I wanted to make it easy for people to find the sorts of books they were looking for. I have primarily chosen to focus on literature for children and young adults, since I am a school librarian. But I have included a section for the "mostly grown-up" as well. The library I manage includes an adult collection, so such a section is appropriate. But I also wanted to include it because I am going to be returning to teaching at a local college, and I feel that I should include books that I read as well.

7. How did I get interested in exploring technology?
My training is decidedly NOT technological. I have my doctorate in English and spent many years teaching writing at universities. But technology became an increasingly essential tool in my work. Then, when I shifted to working as a school librarian, I found myself using technology in many ways. I spent several years team-teaching with our technology specialist. Then I took a class targeting librarians and the "23 Things" and a follow up course. Now I have responsibility for both the library and the computer center at our school

8. What role does technology play in an elementary school in general
I have learned from my Personal Learning Network (PLN) that technology is essential in education today. Students today are completely plugged in and wired. Today I watched a preschooler playing games on his mom's iPhone while she sat in a meeting. He didn't need any help. He knew how to turn it on, how to find his game, and how to play it without any assistance. Technology is simply another tool to him. And so it is with our students as well.

9. And the library in particular?
As a school librarian, I feel responsible to help students think about how, when, and why they use technology when they do. I teach keyboarding to make them more efficient, we talk about cyberbullying, we explore how to use and find sources without plagiarizing. I give advice about e-readers and how to find books for them.

In the end, I can't imagine my job without technology.

10. What future do I envision for the students of today?
All I can safely predict is that there is no way we can imagine where they will find themselves. I went to college with a manual typewriter in an era before photocopiers. I began graduate school using a Commodore 64 and a word processing program called "Paper Clip." I could never have imagined the internet, cell phones, or microwave ovens. I really can't imagine what the future will hold. But I do know what my job as a teacher is--I am to help students learn how to think, how to find out information, how to evaluate that information, and how to reach good decisions and judgments based on that information and knowledge. No matter what the future holds, those skills will serve them well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Smart Board Lessons

Well, I have attempted to upload SMART Board lessons directly to the blog, but was unable to. So instead, I am going to keep a running list of the lessons I have created in the Side Bar. If you are a media teacher and are interested in using any of these lessons, based on their titles, you can contact me and I will happily share.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Librarians just want to have fun...

I cracked up at this video of librarians (and Library students) doing this riff on Lady Gaga.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Role of Social Media in our Lives

I found this in Free Technology for Teachers by R. M. Byrne, who cites Gary Hayes as the creator. I find it interesting just how prevalent the technology has become, and how much more comfortable we all are becoming to it.

My Grandmother Agnes