Alright, I begin again

Like I really have time for this… but it’s a little like the title of Wally Lamb’s prison lady essay collection – I couldn’t keep it to myself. So here we go.

I get a lot of email every day. I mean a lot. Like well over 200. It has become a two-plus hour daily activity to address the contents of my inbox. And it is relentless. There are no vacations. Even when I am on vacation, all I get to do is “notify” my senders, not stop the flow. A regular Energizer bunny, that email inbox!

The next questions are:

  1. “What is all that email?” and
  2. “Who sends it to me?”

It’s got to mostly be junk, right?

Yes and no.

This is an approximation, but I might start documenting for a week because I am curious:

  • There’s the yada yada yada work email. I am guessing that constitutes about 25% of my digital correspondence. Only I get much of that in duplicate and triplicate (because of my inability to redirect mail properly – never had a head for math, and it is clearly a mathematical problem), and most of my sender fields say Michelle Luhtala (again due to same inability to redirect other accounts mail in an intelligent fashion). The redirected mail from other accounts (like my school accounts – yes, that “s” is supposed to be there. There really are two work accounts – don’t ask) is a real problem, though. I tend to ignore emails that do not specifically indicate the sender by name until I have an email “catch-up” session. This can take days, weeks, hours…months (not necessarily in that order). So sometimes, I don’t answer colleagues for days, particularly if they don’t invent catchy subject lines. This is a bad thing. Actually, it is a very bad thing for a person whose job is to HELP people find answers to their questions!
  • There is my personal email – most of which is really just me and my daughter exchanging one or two liners about… oh jeez, everything! This might actually total 5%? Depends on how busy we both are.
  • Then there are the ads/promos – most of which I really did request- to keep informed about Book/Movie/Theater/Concert/Shopping updates. I really do look at most of this stuff – 10%?
  • News – I barely glance at this. I listen to news better than I read it. Thank you Mr. Gardener for allowing me to feel OK about that – it’s an intelligence! And thank you NPR AND PRI for providing brilliant audio news coverage. Oh, and yeah for podcasting! 5%?
  • There is SPAM – lots of male enhancement stuff  – most of which is redirected from one of my work accounts (I can’t imagine how much we would get without the SPAM blocking software!)– 5%
  • Politicians asking for cash – always couched in some upbeat message about their most recent accomplishments. I have to say that this is my least favorite development that emerged from the 2008 Presidential election. 5%
  • Personal business – banking, bills, banalities, bananas (wait, not bananas – it just seemed like the next best thing to write in that list). 5%

So that’s what…60%, right? What about the other 40? I think this is where my inbox may differ from others, and the question I am getting at is this: Is the remaining 40% of my email junk or not?

For the most part, that 40% is not addressed to me personally, which makes it junk, right? But it is all generated by bloggers who write about things that interest me. Most people will tell me they don’t have time for all that. Neither do I. Trust me. And this is where the dilemma arises. Because if I follow through, process it, learn from it, pass it on, share it, catalog  it, write about it, it is valuable information that helps me:

A) better understand emerging technology trends, and their impact on productivity

B) better understand the changing brains of young people thanks to A

C) know how to capitalize on A and B to be a better educator

So while reading all this information sucks time out of my day (kills my productivity), it helps me (and others) do many things better/smarter/more efficiently/more creatively, etc (improves productivity). In other words, it feeds my brain, keeps me thinking, presents challenges, new ideas, questions to ponder, problems to solve. It is the proverbial “lifelong learning” that engages me with the world.

So I guess you could say that 40% of my email isn’t really email at all. It is what incrementally helps me get better at what I do. It is what inspires me to keep striving for growth and improvement. It is my IEP (Individualized Education Plan for you non-educators).

That was a really long way of saying I am going to resurrect this blog. And I am doing so to share what I learn from 40% of my email inbox.

PS These are the items that prompted me to write this entry today

October Ram-O-Gram (Parent-Faculty newsletter)

In September, we added a book recommendation form to the home page of www.nchslmc.org. It has been an effective tool for further developing the New Canaan High School VoiceThread, recruiting for Teen Advisory Group (TAG) members, and nominating selections for library chats, our monthly book discussions. Teachers and students have been suggesting new books daily.

Since the last newsletter, we added over fifty books to the New Canaan High School VoiceThread! Teachers and students are all joining in the conversation. Please check out the new posts.  We posted a link on our homepage at www.nchslmc.org.

Our Teen Advisory Group (TAG) has grown to an unprecedented size. This band of NCHS students help the librarians with library matters – from policy setting to acquisitions. Since the club’s inception in 2002, we’ve never had more than 12 members. This year, we are up to twenty!  Our new members are bringing fresh ideas to the club. One member is volunteering time to read to a local senior citizen with a visual impairment, another is sprucing up the library’s FaceBook page.  Our new club president, Courtney Stevenson, is working with a group of Connecticut Teens to bring author John Green (Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns) to Fairfield County.

We are also using the new book recommendations as nominations for our library chat books this year. In our next update, we will give the complete list. As of this writing, it is not finalized. Library chats got off to a great start this year! Ten Twilight series enthusiasts turned up at the Outback Teen Center to discuss Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn on Wednesday, September 10th. Over pizza and soft drinks, we shared theories about why the series is so popular, compared it to other über popular series, like Harry Potter, and tried to pinpoint why, in spite of Meyer’s literary limitations (about which attendees had a lot to say), we were all so profoundly engrossed with the Twilight series characters. It was a great way to start the year. The October library chat (Wednesday, October 29th) selection is the aforementioned Paper Towns by John Green, which is being released on October 16th. Thanks to John and his brother Hank’s vlogs (video blog), the Green brothers have a phenomenal fan base. John will appear at the Tribeca Barnes & Noble for a reading and a book signing on October 16, and it is likely to be quite an event.

The state of Connecticut “upgraded” its Internet filter. There is something inherently contradictory about the upgrade concept. It usually means that sometime in the future, after you work out all the bugs and pull your hair out for a bit, there might be an improvement to something you currently use seamlessly. In any event, the new filter blocks Connecticut students from using many educational Web 2.0 (collaborative) sites like YouTube, blogs, FaceBook (which can have educational value) in school. So, for example, all NCHS library tutorials, which are conveniently stored on YouTube, cannot be accessed from school. We have been able to modify some blockage (originally, my blog, my podcast page, John and Hank Green’s vlog were blocked, but we tweaked the filter to allow access to those sites), but the YouTube thing doesn’t seem fixable at the moment. Several New Canaan teachers have appealed to the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology, in writing, to restore local (NCPS) control of the filter. You can see my letter on my entry below this one.

Many students bring their personal laptops and PDAs to school. To access the Internet at school, students used to have to make a few network configuration changes when they first brought in their electronic devices, but the instructions were simple enough that, given a step-by-step guide, they could get their machines working independently.  But the town of New Canaan recently beefed up network security, so students will no longer be able to configure their own equipment.  Now students will need to report to NCHS computer technician, Chris Magni, to get their devices configured to the school network. This is a one-shot configuration. They only need to set it up once. It will work fine after initial set-up. Mr. Magni will be available before and after school in his office outside of computer lab B, in the library.

The federated search tool I boasted about last month was such a disappointment that we disabled the link and asked the vendor for a refund. The product will eventually grow into a helpful tool for students, but it simply isn’t ready – not for us, at least.  We offered to beta test it for the remainder of the year, but we are going to reallocate the search tool funds toward a more useful product.

We uploaded our first podcast of the year to our podcast page at www.nchslmc .org! Please check it out. We will post one podcast per month for the remainder of the school year. Please email me your podcast topic suggestions at mluhtala@mac.com.

Here is our last bit of news. We are starting a Mac club (Apple product users). More details will follow next month, but if you have an interested student, please have him/her stop by to learn more.

:-)ML 

 

The Connecticut Education Network has a new Internet filter system… and… well… read on!

So I received a survey invitation today. It went like this:

Good afternoon:

Now that the new Connecticut Education Network (CEN) filter system, 8e6, has been in place for several months, the Commission for Educational Technology (CET) would like to seek your input on the mandatory minimum filtering level.  To collect your input, there is a brief online survey that is accessible via the link below.  Based on the feedback collected, the Commission will decide at a special meeting on October 23rd if/how the mandatory minimum filtering should be modified. We request that you please complete the survey by Friday, October 10th.

Thank you for taking the time to share your input.

Needless to say, I completed the survey. Here’s what I said:

The new state filter imposed on Connecticut school districts is preventing educators from integrating 21st Century skills in their instruction. The policy of using filters as a strategy to “protect” children from inappropriate material demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of both technology and today’s youth. It is a policy born of fear and ignorance – one that is far more likely to harm children than hurt them. The best way to protect children is through education, not censorship.

We work very hard to find imaginative ways to integrate technology across the curriculum. We read professional literature, we attend conferences, we collaborate, and we brainstorm. It is with great enthusiasm that we apply new technologies to classroom content. This innovative approach engages students and helps us differentiate our instruction.

Blocking Web 2.0 resources like YouTube, FaceBook, the iTunes Music Store, and blog sites perpetuates the myth that these resources have no educational value. This is completely false, and yet it must be the assumption of our uninformed policy-makers. Unfortunately, our current filter increases the likelihood that this assumption will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If these resources are blocked, how will we, as educators, and students ever populate them with educational materials?

Web 2.0 technology is no longer the future. It is the present. We need to come to terms with it – embrace it, even. We must learn to cope with its inherent problems, and teach students to navigate, investigate, and publish responsibly. We cannot afford to cut them off from it for 6-8 hours per day, when they are doing their most active learning, and then turn them loose, expecting them to use it appropriately when they are less supervised. We wouldn’t do that with any other new learning, why are we doing it with technology? My only guess is that it is because the technology is misunderstood.

Our students will be expected to collaborate and publish online throughout their lives. It is already an expectation in many white-collar fields. But if fail to teach children how to collaborate and publish online at school, these skills will be self-taught, often through social networking – hardly as effective as having them taught by educators, who are certified by the state, and paid by districts, to teach!

As a library media specialist, much of my work is conducted in a Web 2.0 environment. Our library has a FaceBook page. We have a blog. We podcast monthly, and we publish our recordings to the web and the iTunes Music store. We have a YouTube Channel. Our recommended reading conversations occur online, using VoiceThread and LibraryThing. We use Jott and RememberTheMilk, Sandy, WhenIsGood, and iGoogle for productivity. We use RSS feeds to stay abreast of new technologies. This is the way it should be. It is, after all, the 21st century. But when state-imposed censorship prevents us from running a 21st century program, we start to wonder if the state education department has any genuine interest in supporting technology integration at all. In fact, the new filter requires us to scale back on technology integration.

I urge the state education department to trust districts to manage their own filtering system, starting now. Meeting to evaluate the filter system in late October, when the school year is 20% over, underscores the state’s failure to see the hindrance the filter presents to Connecticut educators. Clearly, someone doesn’t get it. That’s fine, so long as that someone isn’t making decisions that impact teachers and students across the state all day, every school day. District administrators are in a better position to understand the idiosyncratic nature of their constituency and make decisions how to best protect students while adhering to the highest standards of technology integration. The state has already acknowledged administrators’ professional expertise by granting them certification. The state needs to let them do their job, rather than constrain them. After all, this is the 21st century. Educators need to be able to teach accordingly!

:-)ML

September 2008 Ram-O-Gram (NCHS Parent Faculty Association newsletter)

Happy new year! There is something so invigorating about starting a new school year. Perhaps it is an educator’s version of what everyone else experiences on January 1st,but the teacher version has the added bonus of new faces, new settings, new goals, new books, new school supplies, and great weather – awesome! 

 

We had in incredibly productive summer. Beyond the usual plebian tasks, like reconciling our inventory, updating the records in our circulation system, we implemented several new programs that will improve student services.

 

We ordered tons of new materials. At some point we will break down the numbers, but items are still streaming in and we can’t begin to categorize the information right now. For starters, we really beefed up the fiction collection. Fiction circulation has been steadily falling since 2004 and we aim to rectify that trend. Our students value currency in their recreational reading. We think that our collection was starting to feel a little dated. Not anymore! We focused on popular authors, award-winning books, teacher and student recommendations, and library literature to update the collection. I think your kids will find it enticing.

 

Of course, many students prefer to read non-fiction. We focused on those students’ needs as well. Not only did we consult the aforementioned resources for non-fiction acquisitions, but we also reviewed the curriculum here at the high school, paying very close attention to research projects that come through the library. Very often, kids choose to research topics that interest them, so we reviewed what students wrote about, particularly when working on research topics they selected independently.

 

We revolutionized our summer reading program. We posted our summer reading list to a thread in VoiceThread.com to make the summer reading experience more social and interactive for students. In VoiceThread, students were allowed post comments using their voice, video or text. As of this writing, there are almost 40 posts (excluding my own, and Ms. Block’s descriptions) to the New Canaan High School Summer Reading 2008 VoiceThread. We are really pleased with the student participation, particularly since we notified the NCHS community about the program rather late in the summer. We have high expectations for next year.

 

As in previous years, we moved our summer reading books over to New Canaan Library for the summer so that students could borrow them while school was closed. By the end of July, the New Canaan Library circulated the NCHS summer reading collection 25% more than last year! We continued sending books, as they came in, to New Canaan Library throughout the summer, including ten copies of Stephenie Meyer’s much anticipated August 2 release of Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final installment in the immensely popular Twilight series. Breaking Dawn will be the focus of our first library chat this year on Wednesday, September 17th at 6:00PM at the OutBack Teen Center. All NCHS Stephenie Meyer readers are welcome. Please have your youngsters RSVP to mluhtala@mac.com, if they plan to attend.

 

 

We added a federated search to the database page. Using this tool, called PowerSearch, students will now be able to search our entire database collection and our online card catalog simultaneously by entering search terms in one search field! This is quite progressive technology. We are very proud to introduce it here.

 

We worked on shelf listing, facilitating browsing for students. For example, we moved the presidents’ biographies from the biography section and placed them with all the other history books for that chronological time period. So instead of having to look for books on American presidents in two places, students will only need to locate the correct time period in 973 (United States History), which is arranged chronologically. There will be presidential biographies there, along with other relevant resources to the study of American presidents.

 

We worked on curriculum this summer, updating the ninth grade My Personal Wellness project and adding a school-based mock model UN conference to the tenth grade Global History curriculum. Freshmen will create a personal wellness booklet during their first semester at NCHS.  Thanks to our summer work, they will have online access to all related materials, including video tutorials for most Information and Communications Technology lessons on the Moodle, our online course management software. The NCHS Model UN activity will occur in late May.

 

Finally, Oliver, our online card catalog, has a new face! We upgraded the software and it looks completely different, although its functions are the same. Old things that were less than intuitive are now much simpler. I think students will like the improvements. The great feature about our new Oliver, though, is that it will be included in our PowerSearch, so students can search the book collection at the same time as the database collection – all with one search!

 

JML

 

 

 

 

 

Links:

New Canaan High School Library: http://www.nchslmc.org

Online Card Catalog (Oliver): http://oliver.newcanaan.k12.ct.us/opac.htm

Ms. Luhtala’s blog: http://loots1964.edublogs.org

VoiceThread: http://voicethread.com/?#q+new+canaan.b164125.i874369

LibraryThing: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/nchs

Instructions for VoiceThread: http://www2.newcanaan.k12.ct.us/education/components/docmgr/download.php?sectiondetailid=13738&fileitem=8526&catfilter=1287

Summer Reading 2.0 continued…

As I mentioned in my June 27 blog post, I wasn’t too happy with the summer reading options I posted on June 11.  I have been trying to come up with an alternative that would not require gobs of code writing. In my quest, I was reminded of VoiceThread, which is a simple discussion board that accepts visual threads (images or video) to which registered members can post text, video or voice (microphone or mobile phone) comments.

So, It is done.  Last week, we posted our summer reading list to a thread in VoiceThread. Each book is posted there, with a link to its LibraryThing post and a description posted by Ms. Block, from the NCHS library. I also added more books. Students and teachers have been emailing me about what they have been reading and I added those books too.

You do need to register to post comments on VoiceThead. All you need is a name, an email address and a password. I urge students to use the same password they use for the NCPS network (what they use to log on to a NCPS computer).

VoiceThread is fun and really easy to use (see instructions, if you need extra help). You can post your comments using your voice, video or text. If your computer has a built –in mic and webcam, it is a piece of cake. You just click on the record button or the webcam icon and record. If your computer does not have a mic, you can just use your phone to record. All you have to do is click on the phone icon, and enter your area code and phone number. VoiceThread will call you within minutes. When you answer, it will give you instructions, but basically, it tells you to record your comments after the beep, and then hang up. Your comments will instantly appear on the thread.

Please continue to email at mluhtala@mac.com me about books you are reading, if they are not already posted to the New Canaan High School Summer Reading 2008 thread. Please post comments about what you are reading to our VoiceThread. As promised, participating students will be entered into a drawing for a $50.00 iTunes gift certificate. I will also give a list of participating students to all New Canaan High School English teachers in the fall.  

Happy reading!

:-)ML

Chat as a venue for online learning

This post is an assignment for a course on Web 2.0 technologies for libraries. I don’t really want to talk about chat rooms for the library.

The whole point of online instruction is the convenience education without travel or common instructional time, so I don’t see chat as a practical application in online learning.

Having said that, and having done the bulk of my Masters Degree (and 60post-graduate credits) online, I must stress that online learners benefit immensely from networking with online course mates, just not in online real time contact.

It felt absurd, when I finally met with my course mates, to spend our much anticipated real time experience sitting in a computer lab chatting online. Consider the challenge of pulling together twelve individuals from all over the state and doing so with less than eight hours notice. Clearly, we all craved a face-to-face experience. We all showed up! Our time conversing face-to-face was much more valuable.

IF, and I do say IF, online course mates must communicate in real time, it should NOT be through the written word. It should be on ground or through voice over IP (i.e. Skype) – the phone is too expensive. Online learning requires students to spend unnatural amounts of time reading and writing at a computer. The last thing an online learner needs to do is spend more time sitting at a computer to read and write – which is exactly what a chat is.

The glory of online learning is the forfeiture of real time constraints. In that context, chats are utterly counterproductive. If one is to concede to real time meeting needs, it should not be in a reading and writing, computer-based experience.

:-)ML

IM at NCHS? No way.

Note: This post is an assignment for a course on Web 2.0 technologies for libraries. I don’t really want to talk about IMing in the library. I explain why below.

IM is fast. I can’t even type fast enough to make it meaningful. The whole point of IM is instant communication – hence the name Instant Messaging. The expectation of instant response is built in to the experience.

It is usually the one reference librarian on duty who handles reference questions (few libraries have more than one reference librarian available at a time). It can take time to answer a patron question. If reference questions were easy to answer, patrons wouldn’t consult experts with Masters Degrees in Information Science for help. So, reference work takes time, and in most cases, only one patron can be helped at a time. Reference librarians take questions from patrons in the library, and patrons who call in. When there is a backlog, they usually serve the person standing in front of them, and offer to call phone patrons back. Nothing in the process is remotely instantaneous.

This brings me to the antithetical nature of reference work and instant messaging. IM builds in the patron the expectation of instant response, which is unrealistic, if not presumptuous. I think that libraries need to be careful about how to approach introducing instant messaging as a service. Dissenters often raise the issue of training. But the more important issue is staffing.

It is fine to promise patrons IM reference service, so long as there are extra reference librarians on duty who are responsible for IM service, and who are stationed far away from the reference desk. Is that cost effective use of extra staffing? Doubtful. Furthermore, reference questions seldom come in a tidy succession of single inquiries. Is the “IM librarian” expected to type “BRB” to waiting patrons, and if so, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of offering IM service?

I was, as part of this assignment, expected to IM a reference librarian. I chose to attempt this assignment at 8:15PM on a Friday night (yes, I have no life). I couldn’t find a single reference librarian online. I tried public libraries and higher education libraries. I tried libraries in different time zones, but no one was available. All of the libraries I tried to contact offered email and phone service, so I was able to effectively leave my query. So why the IM service? What does it add but frustration for both the patron and the librarian?

IM is great for what it is – instant messaging. But most libraries are not in a position to promise instant service. It is unfair to the staff and it will ultimately exasperate patrons. IM is a new technology that libraries have latched onto to try to stay current and appeal to younger patrons, but in reality, IM service might do just the opposite.

As a high school librarian who eagerly wants to jump in to new web 2.0 technologies, I refuse to succumb to the technolust that has prompted libraries to offer IM service. Technically, my reference work ends when the school library closes. Kids email me with questions all the time. I am glad to answer them on my time, as a favor, but only when I happen to be at a computer and I insist on not doing it in real time. Email is okay, because I reply when I can. IM is totally different. Students are not supposed to be IMing during the school day, which is when I am contractually available for reference work. So there is no need to use IM for school day reference work. And I am not willing to commit to extended hours without compensation. High school library reference service still works as a face-to-face enterprise. IM reference would radically change that.

Ah…to Wiki or to blog? That is the question.

Well, now that I have posted this elaborate multi-pronged summer reading 2.0 program, I am thinking about adding yet another option. I had lunch with three college-aged colleagues this week and we discussed my FaceBook/LibraryThing/forum summer reading plan. They all agreed that the FaceBook idea (which I thought was the strongest – go to where they are, right?) was less than ideal. They stressed that FaceBook was strictly a social, even gossipy place to do non-academic things (like procrastinate) and they weren’t keen on the idea of mixing academics with FaceBook. I explained that my objective in using FaceBook was precisely to make the summer reading program not academic, but more recreational. They didn’t buy it. So, I am wondering how to present the summer reading list in another 2.0 format that will require very little work of the kids who participate.

Coincidentally, I came back to work after that same lunch and found a teen librarian listserv post that referenced the Forman Library’s summer reading list. It is presented in a Wiki. I really liked the format. It includes audio clips about each book with an image. For those who do not want to listen to the audio clips, there is a list available for patrons to read. The only thing missing from the Forman Library summer reading Wiki, is a place for participants to post their comments about each individual book. There is a discussion tab, and conversations can occur there, but it is not specific to each book, so users will have to just post and respond randomly.

So I want to borrow the Forman Library idea, but expand it. Kids need to be able to carry on conversations about specific books without being encumbered with posts about books that don’t interest them. I have a number of options available. I could use our web “service,” SchoolCenter (the one I used to create our website www.nchslmc.org), to post, but in spite of its utility, it is clunky and the list I want to make is complex, so I have concerns about going that route. I could create the table, link each book to a separate discussion in the blog feature, but posting links to individual discussion posts for fifty books is going to be tedious, not to mention uploading the audio files (remember there are fifty books on the reading list!). I could use a Wiki, but then I would relinquish the ability to manage posts. My experience with teenagers has taught me that I should expect some degree of “tampering.”  Leaving the Wiki open to anonymous posts is a scary prospect. I also considered a blog, which would allow me to approve comments before posting them.

I think (I have been wavering for days and picking the brain of anyone who will indulge me in a conversation on the subject – Thank you for your patience Paul, Taffy, Cathy, Chris and Rob, not to mention the original three: Alex, Bret and Chris – oh, and also Emma-Jean – who didn’t really want to have the conversation with me but humored me anyway!) I have decided to use a combination of technologies. I will create the list in HTML, post it to my Moodle and link each book to a forum within the Moodle. This way, kids won’t need to register for anything (They already have a Moodle open source course management) account and their UN and PW is the same as it is for the school network log on). I will also know who is posting – a big plus in my world. I will link the whole thing to the library’s FaceBook page, our LibraryThing group, and our www.nchlmc.org website.

Ugh! This is another ridiculously long post. Now I have to get to work. My HTML skills are rather unimpressive and I have to make a complicated table. I will post again when I am done. Until then, I think I might have to Twitter an update that I am fumbling with HTML. OMG! I am in a 2.0 abyss!

:-)ML

Summer Reading 2.0

Letter to the New Canaan High School parent community:

Dear NCHS Parent:

I am not sure that this is the comprehensive PFA mailing list, but I will start with you and hope that it gets passed along so that lots and lots of NCHS parents (including current eighth grade parents whose children will attend the high school next year) get the news.

 

First, let me apologize. I have been out of touch this year. After submitting monthly library updates to the RamOGram for six years, I stopped. I included a link to my blog on the renovated NCHS Library website, http://www.nchslmc.org, and it seemed redundant to duplicate my posts in print. I was also hoping to generate parent traffic at the new website. In hindsight, I think I made a mistake. For one thing, I stopped posting to my blog back in the fall (as you can see, I am posting again). So clearly, the pressure and deadline involved in RamOGram submissions motivated me to write regularly. My decision also presumes that folks want to read our news online, which is simply not the case. So I apologize, and I promise to keep in touch next year.

 

This is the time of year when parents ask about summer reading. With the exception of individual teachers, particularly in AP courses, the high school does not impose any summer reading requirements on students. That being said, our library annually publishes a recommended reading list that is primarily comprised of recently published books we think will appeal to our students. We ask students and teachers for recommendations; we include many award-winning books, and featured works in publishing and library literature.

 

We usually feature 50 books. They cover the full spectrum of genres. We include young adult literature as well as adult literature, although this year, adult literature outweighs young adult. We welcome feedback about that decision. I want to give special thanks to my colleague, Christina Russo, who single-handedly compiled the list this year. Students and teachers contributed suggestions through a form on the nchslmc.org website. This was a new approach for us and we were pleased with the results. Nearly 20 students and 15 teachers recommended books that way.

 

The New Canaan Library (in town) uses the list. We have a great collaboration there. We send over our collection of summer reading books for the summer and they buy what we don’t yet have. So the entire collection is available to students throughout the summer, and prominently displayed on a special cart at New Canaan Library. They send over their circulation statistics for our summer reading collection at the end of the season.

 

So we know what kids (and/or parents) are borrowing, but not why. At the high school, we never really know what kids are actually reading during the summer, if at all. We don’t know what they like and don’t like. We don’t know what we missed on the list. We don’t know if anyone actually sees the list! It is all very one-sided. We say, “Here, try this.” And that’s pretty much where it ends.

 

We wanted to develop a plan that might generate a discussion between students about what they read. So we are trying a Web 2.0 approach to summer reading this year. We guessed that popular social networking and collaborative online tools might help us generate interest in summer reading. We posted our summer reading list in three places: our website’s book discussion forum, LibraryThing, and FaceBook (putting FaceBook to constructive use). All of these links are available on the www.nchslmc.org home page.

 

In FaceBook, we are using the application Visual Bookshelf to post reviews, but students can just post comments to the New Canaan High School Library FaceBook page, if they don’t want to download the Visual Bookshelf application. We also have a New Canaan High School Library group in FaceBook. Sixteen NCHS students joined last weekend alone! When students join that group, I will be alerted.
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http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Canaan-CT/New-Canaan-High-School-Library/29323106472>

In LibraryThing, students will need to register (they have to be older than 13). LibraryThing registration only asks for a user name and a password. Even the email address is optional. I will be notified when new members join the New Canaan High School Library group.
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http://www.librarything.com/catalog/nchs>

Our nchslmc.org website book discussion forum requires no registration or membership. It is just less visually appealing and a little clunky.
<
http://www2.newcanaan.k12.ct.us/nchslmcbookdiscussion>

We fully understand that many of you do not want your children to have FaceBook accounts. This is why we offer two alternatives, one forum that requires registration and one open venue. For students who do have FaceBook accounts, this is the best way to reach them, which is why we offer this option.

 

We met with the English department last week to discuss this program. They agreed to offer recognition to students who participate in the Summer Reading 2.0 program. If students join the New Canaan High School Library group(s), I will be able to keep track of their posts. If they post to the nchlsmc.org book discussion forum, they should include their name in the post or email me that they posted (my email is at the bottom of the forum page) if they don’t want to post their name. I need to know who is posting so that I can let the teachers know who participated. We will enter participants’ names in a drawing for $50.00 iTunes gift certificates.

 

This is all very new and experimental for us. We have no idea how it will turn out. We do feel as though this is the best way to get high school students involved in summer reading. We are impressed with the success of the Battle of the Books program (at Saxe). We can’t quite replicate that at this level, but we can offer a “next step.” It can’t be worse than our old, “Here, read this. The end.” approach.

 

Have a great summer, and happy reading!
:-)ML

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast ideas

About 3-8 times per school year, someone who knows I am a high school librarian asks me “What do you do?” To the layperson, this is a legitimate question. Seldom is it asked with any mischievous or malicious intent. It is usually asked out of simple curiosity. Kids see that I am busy, running around, teaching, but they do wonder what it is that keeps me so busy all the time.

There is a relationship between this post and its title. I am developing a podcast “plan” for next year. I have experimented in podcasting for the past year with utterly fruitless results. I have a few recordings linked to my website, one in the iTunes Music Store (Bibliocasts), almost everything on my YouTube channel, but no one cares about them – not even me. I don’t think anyone has actually ever downloaded one. But next year, I will record ten podcasts – one per month during the school year. And I am hoping that someone might be interested in listening to them.

So as I ponder about the purpose and marketability of my podcasting project, I wonder if I should address this persistent, gnawing question: “What do I, as a high school librarian, do?”

The format is going to go something like this:

Max 20 minute sessions

  1. Intro
  2. Greetings and thanks
  3. News/updates/housekeeping (include library chat events – that’s our book group)
  4. Discussion of monthly poll
  5. Featured new materials
  6. Research tip
  7. Student interview
  8. Topic of the month – this is where I might focus on “What does a high school librarian do?”
  9. Read email/blog comments
  10. Outro

So I write this post to invite feedback.

From students, parents, faculty: What do you want to know about a high school librarian’s job?

From fellow librarians: What do librarians want students to know about being a librarian?

That’s it. This is a short one. 

:-)ML