Saturday, October 25, 2008

Site Sharing From Student Assignments AGAIN

Once again I am sharing noteworthy sites gleaned from students in my Internet for Librarians class.
  • National Register of Historic Places Hispanic Heritage Month...I included this, one of many good sites about Hispanic heritage, because I never realized what a wealth of information is out there via National Register of Historic Places/National Park Services to teach history via historical sites.
  • Here's a nice easy way to chat with a group without downloading anything--Chatmaker:
  • This is a great online newsletter maker! It starts out free and then has paid upgrades. If a student wanted to use it for an assignment, it would be a fun and free option:
  • Be Funky! Here is a fun sight with all kinds of fun things to do with a computer. Great for projects, etc.
  • Finally, here is one more site. It is not actually from a student. It is from a Tweet! This person picked me up to follow and I in turn went to his site: Fantas'tic' Blog Nice job!
I know I have said this before, but it is inspiring to see all the great resources we have to use and share. Kudos to all I visited!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tonight's Debate--My Current Events Report

Tonight I did four things while watching:
  • Texted with my daughter in Oregon
  • Texted with my friend Debbie in Austin
  • Twittered with my tweets
  • Participated with live chat with Austin American Statesman newspaper readers.
Again I just have to mention how much interacting in these ways while watching adds to the experience of watching something like a presidential debate. The new dimension was the live chat and it was very well moderated by Alberta Phillips. Not sure what her title is, but she did a nice job of moving things along. The thing that was interesting about this experience was that there were people from both sides of the fence. The tone was generally quite courteous, and it was interesting to get comments from McCain and Obama backers both. What did I think? Well, most of the participants favored Obama, and the online polls they put up during the chat were in his favor also. But I would say this one thing for sure...from that group, not one single mind was changed. We all went in with our opinions and left with them intact. As they said just now on MSNBC, the big winner is...JOE THE PLUMBER.

I am grateful for the chances to vent to my tweets and also interact with people from all sides via live chat with Austinites.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Singing Praises to My Tweets

Tonight I watched the debate, the "Town Hall" with Tom Brokaw. I started to go downtown and watch at party headquarters, but opted for my recliner. I was afraid that they might not watch on my favorite channel! Yes, I get worked up about politics. This goes back to my early memories of my dad being our county's party chairman and my family working in the polls, doing everything from sharpening pencils (me) to counting votes (Dad, with witnesses). Anyway, even though I stayed home I was not alone. I was in constant contact with a number of smart, funny, and observant folks, my Tweets! I will admit that those participating in our exchange were like minded. I am sure there were similar discussions going on elsewhere in the Twitterverse that were very different from mine. And that is well and good. I just felt like mentioning that tonight for me was a striking example of how Twitter can be a rewarding The comments were a mix of serious and funny, and being able to exchange impressions with the immediacy that Twitter offers, gave an added dimension to the experience. Also, if I had been at the debate party, while I would have been in good company, making comments out loud would have caused us to miss other things that were said. Many of the nuances of the contest that we mentioned are now talking points for the talking TV heads. But we were there discussing it right when it was happening! So...thanks Tweets, you ruled tonight!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lucky Me, Grading Papers

I DO love to grade papers! I learn so much from my students. Already today, after opening up just one Annotated Bibliography assignment, I have some links to share:
  • Nature Songs: Nature Recordings and Photography: I could spend way too much time at this site. The files are OK for educational use, as is clearly stated in the Terms of Use. I started out with the sounds and thought they would be my favorites, but just now looked at his photography. There are some truly delightful shots, which make me think he must be the absolute soul of patience. I tried to learn more about Doug Von Gausig but did not succeed in finding a satisfying bio. Clearly he is a photographer and nature lover who also sells photographic and sound equipment and sound CD's. I wish he offered more about himself than the fact he lives in Arizona, but cannot fault his work. Some of his photos of birds catch them in mid-song or other activity and are well worth a visit to his site.
  • Big Huge Labs: Actually this site is NOT new to me but it has been ages since I used it, and do not think I have previously mentioned it here. This site is great for playing around with your Flickr images. You can do fun things with them such as make personalized name badges (new since I last visited), make mosaics, make magazine covers, etc. It is one of the reasons I stick with Flickr. My problem is finding enough time to "play around" with images at all.
  • Project Gutenburg: Again NOT a new site...but when were you last over there? Again it has been ages for me. While I may not have visited lately, plenty of other teachers have. That is clear from the top 100 downloads from yesterday. Lots were for class assignments, I feel sure.
  • Here is a great article about Internet safety. This is, of course, a current focus of mine, and I am very grateful to the student who selected it for one of her journal readings. The title is Online Safety Summit Emphasizes Community Collaboration, and it can be found at EdWeek at this URL:
  • So here's to you, Rio Grande Valley students, great job on work so far!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We Should All Be Angry About This

SPOILER: The last part of this entry is POLITICAL!!

This past Sunday, some of you may have received a FREE DVD in your newspaper. I don't know about everybody else, but I love to read the Sunday paper and once and a while receive a freebie. I fondly remember getting those cute little boxes of cereal or a small sample of a household cleaner product. Certainly we know that curious kids are likely to be the first to try out such freebies. This past Sunday, if you live in a "swing state," you very likely got a DVD, along with a leaflet describing it as a "must see," distributed by an outfit called "The Clarion Fund." More about them in a minute.

Since Texas is not a swing state (alas, I wish this were not so), I did not get the lagniappe. But my daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon did find one. Actually she found on the front porch of the group home where she works, which is inhabited by girls between the ages of 13 and 18. These youngsters could just as easily have found it, and would have been quick to pop it in the house player. When she figured out what it was, she was incensed, so much that she called me and, voice quivering with anger, described it to me. The DVD is entitled "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West," and is quite a diatribe against all Muslims, filled with fear and hate. You can find countless articles and blog entries about this video and its nefarious distribution via newspapers and direct mailouts, as well as watch segments on YouTube. To make things worse, on Monday after the item was distributed in Dayton, Ohio, there was an incident at a mosque, where a 10 year old girl was directly sprayed in the face (through an open window by an unidentified man) with a toxic gas that also affected other children and several adults. Police there do not want to call this a "hate crime" but far too many others see the obvious connection.

So far I think this my account is relatively non-political in that this is a blog about technology and I think we must teach our patrons, whether they are teachers, parents, or students, to be very aware that everything they see on a screen or read in print is not automatically true. For this same reason I think secondary students should be able to see the scurrilous Martin Luther King site called "Martin Luther King: A Historical Examination"--
As usual, this insidious hate site came up #3 on a Google search for me just now. Visiting the site of the wacky Holocaust denier, Arthur Butz, is also a good lesson in web site evaluation.

SPOILER...SO NOW FOR THE POLITICS: I cannot conclude without pointing out that the timing of this distribution, so near our Presidential election, is far from coincidental. Also, you do not have to look very hard at Clarion Fund to see some reasons for concern. Like the Martin Luther King hate site, they stress that their goal is to "educate," and that they want to do so with video production. Their home page lists college outreach as a prime goal. The videos are NOT what any fair-minded person would want to see used in an educational institution at any level, unless it was to study bias, propaganda, and hate sites. And here's another thing...who do we see on the Board of Directors? This takes a bit of searching. As with many hate sites, Clarion Fund's gives NO names for authors or webmasters, or for those in leadership roles. However, delving just a bit more, you will find none other that "Rev" John Hagee, John McCain's fire-breathing preacher supporter whose endorsement pretty much resulted cessation of the right wing's over-the-top criticisms for Obama's association with his pastor since McCain had been sucking up to his own crazy preacher friend. Here is one link:

The one bright side to this sorry story is that without exception, subscribers and US Mail recipients of this scurrilous DVD have reacted with outrage. Many copies have been mailed back to the distributor, and countless letters to the editor have been written. As a proud mother, I cannot resist sharing the missive my own daughter wrote to her local paper, Portland's The Oregonian. Her response is more measured and reasonable than I fear mine might be had I received the "gift." Here it is:

"I am a supporter of free speech, and I have a soft spot for the ACLU. So, I do not attempt to suggest that inclusion of the "Obsession" DVD in last Sunday's Oregonian is anything less that perfectly legal. The law however, does not account for incidents of sheer tastelessness. As a transplanted Texan, you can be sure I know that. You can also be sure that I will not be purchasing another Oregonian for quite some time. 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...can't get fooled again.'"

No, her letter did not get printed, but I think that was due to the large volume of messages sent to The Oregonian, including one, I am proud to say, FROM A LIBRARIAN.

Enough! We must no longer put up with the politics of fear and hate. We must speak out loudly and forcefully against candidates and their supporters who continue to try to cram this bunk down our throats. We must remember the oft-quoted poem most often credited to Pastor Martin Niemöller and yes, I referred to Wikipedia:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up."
If I have offended anybody, then frankly I will count that as a success. People who support this kind of skulduggery deserve to have their cages rattled now and then.