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Cyberbullying Alumni Panel

I think a great event for a school library to host would be an alumni panel where several alums in their late teens and twenties came back to their high school to discuss how cyberbullying affected them in high school and how they handled it, and how cyberbullying may still be affecting them at college or in their career.  It would be particularly effective to have some people who were victims of cyberbullying and went on to take a stance against it (or bullying or hate crimes in general) to talk to the kids, but also someone who cyberbullied and had to face the consequences, whether they be loosing a good friend, being suspended, or even resulted in legal consequences.  This panel could also lend itself to a discussion of how teens should be careful what information they post online (I have several friends who have be fired because of confidential information they posted on Facebook, and I know these are not isolated events), and what the consequences can be, such as losing out on important interview or being terminated from your job.  I think this panel could also be replicated at the middle school level with high-school aged alums – I feel that kids are more likely to listen to students a few year older than them and look up to them more than many adults.


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In response to IST 611 questions: “Should filters be the final authority? Who should be responsible for the safety of children online? What measures can we take to protect them beyond filters?”

“Is it possible that filters are being used to get around the issues of online safety?”

In all three of my classes – reference, information technology in educational organizations, and now fundraising which started this week, the idea of “teachable moments” comes up. How are we to have valuable teachable moments and learning opportunities if we are constantly filtering or censoring what our students read?

Students need to learn what is inappropriate material for school, and what may simply waste their time and not offer them new knowledge nor enhance their creativity or critical thinking skills. This week, when demonstrating the features of the Storybird website to a group of 2nd and 3rd graders at my fieldwork, a picture of a wolf smoking a cigar popped up. One boy went, “He’s smoking a dubie!” They all started laughing and repeating what he said. We told them it was inappropriate. Several kept repeating it. I asked them if they wanted to spend the whole time talking about a wolf smoking or if they wanted to actually have the opportunity to get on the computers and write their own Storybirds. They were hushed for a moment, and several glared at the boy who had started the commotion. Then the majority responded along the lines of “We want to get on the computers and try Storybird ourselves, of course.” And the smoking wolf was not mentioned again, nor did anyone try to use it in their pictures.

Filtering leads to things being taboo, which makes them more exciting for kids. If the smaller things, like the smoking wolf or the occasional swear words pop up, deal with them and move on. You don’t need a filter. Know the sites you are having your students visit for projects so you can anticipate any issues ahead of time, but also be ready to think on your feet – a skill you need to have when working with children, no matter the context. Monitor to make sure they are staying on task at all times – this is made infinitely easier by giving them creative projects that motivate them and that relate to their interests, and allow the students to get better acquainted with Web 2.0 educational tools. Most teachers know that the internet can be a dangerous space for children and young adults, and also a very distracting one. I would hope that most educators know they are the ones that are charged with teaching children online safety, and how to evaluate the information they find online.

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Thinking outside the box with podcasting

After reading about podcasting for my Information Technologies in Educational Organizations course and some innovative projects that educators were exploring with students, I am eager to explore podcasting on my own and research and think about other ideas for incorporating the use of podcasts with students.

Several years ago, one of my friends (a promising young stand-up comedian) was involved in writing and performing for The Queen City Radio Hour – Teen Edition.  The Queen City Radio Hour was a radio program that was first held, with a live performance (much in the style of NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion”), at the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration in Burlington several years ago.  There was also a teen edition that students, mainly from the greater Burlington area and St. Johnsbury, wrote for and performed in during the celebration, and also toured with in several Vermont towns.  The performance was also aired on several area radio stations.  You can read about the initial performance here (towards the middle).  Since then, I think there have been several more teen editions.  I think that it would be great if this idea was used in high schools, where students could create their own localized radio shows through the use of podcasting, that showcased their writing, acting, comedic, and musical talents.  The high schools could pair with local radio stations to reach a wider audience, as well as hosting their podcasts on the Internet.

My boyfriend is a stand-up comedian, and I think this is something else that could translate well to podcasting, especially among teens.  Several of the most talented stand-up comics in Burlington started when they were in high school or undergraduate students in college.  I think podcasting would be a great way for them to hone their talents and reach a wider audience, as well as make them stronger writers.  A high school librarian could easily start an after-school performance group, which could include stand-up comedy, oral storytelling, and poetry slams.  The librarian could then explore podcasting with this group.

Oral storytelling is something that often translates easily to the podcast format.  Vermont Public Radio often showcases local storytellers, comedians, and writers.  I think oral storytelling, with a final product of podcasts, is something that could be easily explored by multiple grade levels, including elementary students.  As the Rural Voice Project showed in the article we read this week, podcasts can motivate students to write and share their ideas and passions, while also building a sense of community (Goodson and Skillen, 2010).


Goodson, L.A. & Skillen, M. (2010).  Small-Town Perspectives, Big-Time Motivation: Composing and Producing Place-Based Podcasts.  English Journal, 100.1, 53-57.

Kingdom County Productions.  (2009).  “Fledgling Films.”  Retrieved from



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Content Collaboration

Ok, this will be a short entry because I just finished Assignment #2 and am exhausted. I will share some of my thoughts I posted in the group blog, but also say that I feel content collaboration is a necessary part of a teacher-librarian’s job. In a world where schools are under a lot of pressure, you need to connect what you are teaching with state curricular standards as well as AASL standards. In order for the students to use content collaboration tools the teachers must first be familiar with them so they can teach them. So it might fall to the librarian to offer professional development in these areas to the teacher, like in what I witnessed this past week (reposted from IDE 611/IST 611 group blog):
On Tuesday I attended a staff meeting at my fieldwork site where my supervisor gave a tech presentation on Google Calendar and Google Docs. The principal (who is new this year) is very dedicated to the faculty getting more familiar with Web 2.0 tech tools (my terminology, not his) and advocated the technology the librarian was teaching as a great way of communicating and collaborating with one another. He pushed for those who had greater knowledge in Google Calendar/Docs to help those unfamiliar with, and to use S. (the librarian) and himself as resources. He wants them to familiarize themselves with what was presented in the next several months. Most of the faculty seemed pretty open to what they were being taught. It was pretty inspiring, and made me want to learn more about Google Calendar, as I am unfamiliar with using it.


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In the digital age, what exactly is “reading” and how do we assess it?

We were prompted in our informational technologies in educational organizations to read this New York Times article and respond to topic questions regarding linear vs. nonlinear text.  I feel that both are important, and that we really need to reexamine how we are testing students in terms of reading in this country – are they really developing critical thinking and career-oriented skills by reading “classic” books they might have no interest in, like Sense and Sensibility and Heart of Darkness?

Storytelling itself is often non-linear, especially in its oral form, but also sometimes in book form.  In high school, we discussed how The Odyssey started “in media res” – in the middle of things, and close, chronologically, to the end of Odysseus’ journey.  In terms of other media, some of the more recent thought-provoking TV shows and movies, popular among both teens and adults, have non-linear storylines that explicitly make them not only more interesting, but wouldn’t activate your critical thinking skills in linear form – Lost and Memento are two such examples.  Several of the traditionalists in the NY Times article argue that students can’t read for sustained periods of time, because most of the reading done on the Internet requires a short attention span.  Though generally true, there are many novel-length stories that exist on, and even series that are/were very popular, such as the Draco Trilogy by Cassandra Clare (who is no longer hosted on the site, but that’s another story).  As a future librarian, I want to teach my students how to read both in a linear and non-linear fashion and the benefits of each.  Most importantly, I want to inspire them to truly enjoy both types of reading.

There are a multitude of benefits to reading online, such as the fact that it can inspire children and teens to write and publish their work online, whether it is in the form of a blog, book review, book trailer, or fanfiction (I’d like to use all of these forms of online publications with my future students).  Digital literacy also allow for students to explore multiple points of view on a particular topic in a speedy and efficient way, and to interact and converse with others online.   Many students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities find it easier to read and find information online.  In terms of reading comprehension, online reading is a great way to illustrate how to understand, make, and utilize textual connections, such as text-to-text, text-to-world, and text-to-self through hyperlinking and Web 2.0 tools such as Diigo and  Many students and more and more college professors are realizing and utilizing the benefits of digital literacy.  Yet, as the article “Online, R U Really Learning?” demonstrates, it is often those who shape educational policy and standardized testing in this country that don’t realize the benefits of digital literacy, such as those in charge of the National Education Association and the National Assessment Governing Board.  Which is why it is crucially important that teachers and librarians for students at all age levels become innovative and creative in their approach to both print and online reading and how they can teach students how to comprehend, evaluate, and respond critically to each type.  We need to find ways to motivate our students to read, teach them the critical thinking skills they’ll need for college and in the workplace, and still make sure they perform well on standardized tests, however outdated these tests might seem.  A lofty goal, indeed.

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Thoughts on and accessible technology

I really like and its focus on collaboration and volunteering, such as with bookshare mentors.  I like that it offers popular books, such as those on the New York Times bestseller list, and educational texts.  I like that it has such a wide database of texts already – I remember  several years ago reading an article about the braille version of the latest Harry Potter book, and how they were releasing it at the same time as the print versions so that children who were visually impaired could read it when it was being released, and that it was the first time that had been done with a popular children’s book.   Here is a related article in School Library Journal (not the one I first read, but contains the same story):  Often those that are visually impaired probably have to wait at least several weeks before the book is available in braille or audiobook format.

As an educator, the topic of students with disabilities is one that is familiar and important to me.  The article “Accessible Technology Can Help Colleges and Universities Remove Barriers to Education” by Diana Oblinger and Laura Ruby was enlightening for me.  I agree with the point advocated in the article – secondary education institutions, as well as all schools, should take a proactive approach to providing accessible technology and truly embrace it.  It makes sense to me that as a university or college, you would want to be innovative and ahead of the curve in terms of accessible technology for all learners, as opposed to always scrambling to meet or catch up on federal mandates or guidelines.  The article also made me realize how important collaboration and the involvement of multiple groups within the college is – you need administration, professors, department heads, researchers to all be involved embracing and instituting the policies surrounding accessibility issues.  The example of Rio Salado College and its distance learning program made me more curious about Syracuse University.  I wonder: How long have we had our distance learning program?  What do we offer in terms of accessible technology?  How accessible is our website to those with disabilities?  I would like to explore these questions more in upcoming weeks.  The quote from Norman Coombs of EASI: “Empowerment and transformation is the true purpose of education” really resonated with me, it is something I believe.

The issue of budgetary constraints in terms of access to education for all students that the article addressed is a familiar one to me as an educator. Vermont, the state that I live in, has a policy of inclusiveness in the classroom in terms of students with disabilities.  When I worked in a small supervisory union in central Vermont, many residents often complained about the cost of special education, because we had to hire many paraprofessionals to work with students with more severe disabilities.  Residents were often not well-informed of state educational policies and how their tax dollars were spent in terms of providing student services, so they became frustrated.

Finally, when I took a students with disabilities course as part of my early childhood education training, we had an assistive technologies consultant, Phyl Macomber, come and talk to the class about assistive technologies you could use for young children with disabilities – she particularly focused on the importance of  communicating with those students and teaching them the means to express themselves with the help of assistive technology.  For more on Macomber and the trainings and resources she offers, visit this website:



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Blogging in Education

It’s been several months since I have last posted on this blog, but I would like to update more often and not always for coursework.  In the meantime, here are my thoughts on blogging in education:

I really like that tools/sites such as Edublog and Kidblog exist so that younger students have the chance to voice their opinions and knowledge on a variety of topics and have a forum for online discussion.  The video featuring Kim Sivick showcased a great example of how students can use blogging (and Twitter) to pursue inquiry-based learning and interact with people from all over the world.  The video examined how the typical elementary school assignment we’ve all had at some point (write a report on a foreign country) can be greatly expanded in a dynamic and interactive way.  I also really like the idea of using a blog as an online discussion forum for students by posing questions to answer, as Janie Cowan did with her students (Cowan, 2008).  The librarian I am working with for my fieldwork, Susanna, has a blog for her library. My fieldwork will be at the Sustainability Academy, an elementary magnet school.   I think I will tell Susanna about Cowan’s blogging success and suggest she might use blogging to pose literature-related questions to her students, in a question of the week format.  She could also have them post examples of books, people, and websites that promote the three types of justice that the Sustainability Academy promotes: social, economic, and environmental.  Susanna also has essential questions she has for all the students that she wants them to explore all year long: “How can the library help us be community members?  How is it a place for me, a place to grow?  How can the library connect us with the outside world?”  I think she could also pose these questions on the blog throughout the year.

I like that the “7 things you should know about…Blogs” also presented the downsides of blogging such as certain individuals can make blogs their own personal soapboxes and use them to present their bias and inaccurate information.  I recently saw the film Contagion in which Jude Law plays a blogger who uses fear-mongering tactics in his writing for his own personal gain.  As I was reading the “7 things” article I was thinking about that character and hoping the article would present the dark side of blogging.

I also would like to explore blogging more for my current job.  We have a blog as part of our website at Sara Holbrook Community Center, but now it is mainly used for official announcements and newsletters.  I would like to use it as a forum to encourage discussion as well, especially among our donors and board members, as well as to promote our services to the larger Burlington community.

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