Category Archives: In the Library

Book Blog: The Fairy-Tale Detectives

Image Credit: MuggleNet

Image Credit: MuggleNet

If you had to choose, which fairy tale would you name as your absolute favorite fairy tale?  Would it be Goldilocks and the Three Bears?  How about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?  Maybe it’s not exactly a fairy tale but a story that has magic in it like the Wizard of Oz?  Perhaps, it is a nursery rhyme like Three Blind Mice or a legend like King Arthur and the Knights at the Round Table.

These characters plus so many more form the massive cast of characters in Michael Buckley’s first installment in the Sisters Grimm series entitled, The Fairy-Tale Detectives.  Ferryport Landing is a small town along the Hudson River in New York and Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are stuck here!  Their grandmother finally sends for them a year and a half after their parents disappear, after time in an orphanage, and after multiple, horrible foster homes.

But, from the moment they meet their grandmother, Relda Grimm, something is off.  Is it her random ramblings?  Is it scrawny Mr. Canis who is always with them but not related to them?  Is it the multiple locks, the weird decorations, or the forbidden room in their grandmother’s house?  Is it the townspeople who just don’t seem quite right?  So many unanswered questions but the most important one is: Is this woman really who she claims to be?  Their grandmother is dead!  At least that’s what their parents told them from the time they were little!

Sabrina and Daphne are about to find out the hard way who their grandmother is, who they are, and what on earth is going on in Fairyport Ferryport Landing!  Are you ready for the adventure, the suspense, and a few of those questions to be answered?!

THE DETAILS

Title: The Fairy-Tale Detectives
Author: Michael Buckley
Illustrator: Peter Ferguson
Copyright Date: 2007
ISBN: 978-0-8109-9322-8
Dewey Decimal Number: 813
Reading Range: Grade 4-6
Curricular Connections: This would be a great read-aloud for our Grade 3 teacher after their Language Arts/Library unit on Fairy Tales.  I anticipate that many middle school students who call fantasy their favorite genre would like this updated and modern look at fairy tales.  I think they would also appreciate that this is a 9-book series so it’ll keep them reading and exploring for quite a while.  The Reader’s Guide at the end of the book has some great ideas for teachers (or even students) to extend learning beyond this book’s extension of fairy tales.

Works Cited

Fischer, Robbie. “The Fairy-Tale Detectives.” MuggleNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.

Book Blog: Counting by 7s

Where do you get recommendations for books to read?  Maybe your recommendations come from me.  Maybe your recommendations come from your teacher.  Maybe your recommendations come from friends.  I get a lot of my recommendations from my friends and acquaintances online.  They start talking about a book that they really liked.  Some of them change their profile pictures to the book cover.  And they start raving to anyone who will listen about how good the book was.  A year and a half ago, that book was Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  And now, there’s Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  And it definitely didn’t disappoint.

Image Credit: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Image Credit: Holly Goldberg Sloan at Jenna Does Books

Willow Chance is in middle school and definitely does not fit in!  Her clothes are wrong.  Her way of thinking is different.  And, in “17 minutes and 47 seconds,” she scored an absolutely perfect score on a standardized test given to all students (Counting by 7s 35).  Willow Chance is obsessed with the number 7 and two other things: medical conditions and plants (12).  Her life is dominated by those three things until the day that it isn’t, the day that it can’t be, the day that everything around her crashes.  Then, all she has to hold on to is an unlikely friendship with the Nguyen kids and her school counselor, Dell Duke.

Like the extremely popular book Wonder, Counting by 7s doesn’t just tell Willow’s story.  It also jumps from narrator to narrator, broadens the borders of the story by including important insight into other characters, but keeps coming back to Willow’s powerful story of coping with immense sadness and loss.

 

THE DETAILS

Title: Counting by 7s
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Illustrator: n/a
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 978-0803738553
Dewey: 813
Reading Range: Grade 5-8. Ages 10 and up.
Curriculum Connection: This book could be used by an upper elementary or early middle school teacher as a classroom read-aloud with potential for conversations about differences, unlikely friendships, and coping with trauma.  I see the potential for conversations in regards to Child Safety training that we do because of a character who exhibits indicators of potential child abuse.  I can also see it being a popular individual read for those who liked Wonder, Because of Mr. Terupt, or Mockingbird.

Works Cited

Goldberg Sloan, Holly. “Blog Tour: Counting by 7s with Holly Goldberg Sloan.” Jenna Does Books. N.p., 9 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Oct. 2013.

Goldberg Sloan, Holly. Counting by 7s. New York: Dial for Young Readers, 2013. Ebook.

Book Blog: Hoop Genius

What would the Philippines be without basketball?  While it’s not the official national sport, it is played EVERYWHERE!  It’s rare to drive through the city and pass a tin-roofed basketball pavilion and not hear the sounds of feet running down a concrete court, isn’t it?  Flip through the channels on Philippine TV and you’ll eventually come across a PBA or college basketball game.  You can be driving on the national highway in the province and have to come to a stop to wait for the men playing a pick-up game in the road to realize that a car is coming towards them.  And, even as you head down Penny Lane when you leave school, you pass a dirt basketball court that’s often filled with kids lobbing the ball towards the netless hoops.  The last page of John Coy’s book titled Hoop Genius reads, “And today, millions of people around the world play the game that was invented by James Naismith and that rowdy class.  Do you?”

So…do you?

Image Credit: John Coy

Image Credit: John Coy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s no doubt that James Naismith had his work cut out for him on that fateful day in December 1891 when he walked into the gym that two previous teachers had marched out of.  He was met by a group of bored and rowdy boys.  He realized that he had to do something to keep them engaged and to keep them from hurting each other!  Football was out.  Soccer was out.  Lacrosse was out.  He needed something new!  Just 4 days before Christmas, he had it!  He came into the class a posted rules for new game with a ball, with goals mounted on the walls, and with penalties for “holding, pushing, and tripping.”  And thus, the international phenomenon, known as the game of basketball, began.

Joe Morse’s illustrations pair well with the story that John Coy writes.  His stylized drawings reflect the historical time period in artistic style as well as the movement of the rowdy action of the group of boys.  He also manages to distinguish an even earlier time period with James Naismith’s flashback to his own boyhood and then finishes with a still-stylized but more modern rendition of the game of basketball today.

THE DETAILS

TitleHoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball
Author: John Coy
Illustrator: Joe Morse
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7613-66171
Dewey: 796.323
Reading Range: Ages 7-11
Curriculum Connection: This picturebook has multiple curricular connections: a fun read-aloud for any of our PE teachers as they start a unit on basketball, an example of an invented game for our HS PE 1 students who have a final project option of inventing their own game, a read-aloud with our Grade 1 students who study inventors, a biography for multiple grade levels, and as an analysis piece for our art students looking at the highly stylized illustrations.

Works Cited

Coy, John. “Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball.” John Coy. Winding Oak, n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2013.

Book Blog: Balloons Over Broadway

Image Credit: International Reading Association

“Quite simply, Tony Sarg just never grew up,” his daughter Mary once said.  From the time Anthony “Tony” Frederick Sarg was a little boy, he loved making things!  One of the first things he made got him out of doing his chores.  He invented a way to feed his family’s chickens from his bed!  But, it was eventually his specialty of making marionette puppets that got him his most well-known job as the puppeteer of the annual Macy’s Parade.

And, just like Tony Sarg, Melissa Sweet, the author and illustrator of this book, created the art for this book out of a whole host of materials!  Some of the images on the pages are her drawings, some are actual photographs of Tony Sarg with his creations, some are photographs of toys and puppets that Melissa made herself, and some of the pages use Tony’s illustrations from his book called The Tony Sarg Marionette Book.  The result is a visual feast on the page with heaps of interesting little tidbits to examine and ideas for your own creations!

Image Credit: International Reading Association

THE DETAILS

Title: Balloons Over Broadway
Author: Melissa Sweet
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Copyright: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-19945-0
Dewey: 791.5
Reading Range: K-3
Curriculum Connection: This book has a wide range of opportunities for curricular connections: a fun read-aloud with our puppet-loving Kinder teacher, a read-aloud with our Grade 1 students who study inventors, a biography for multiple grade levels, or an idea-book for middle school and high school art students who are exploring the use of different mediums for creating.


WORKS CITED

“5 Questions With… Melissa Sweet.” Engage: A Reading Today Blog. International Reading Association, 23 Nov. 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.

Sweet, Melissa. Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin for Children, 2011. Print.

Taking It Mobile

The black and white Faith logo takes mobile users to the Library web-app.

The B&W Faith logo as an icon.

I spent the last week working on creating a mobile web-app for the Library blog (and essentially turned the blog into a full-fledged website in the process).  It was a lot of work but I’m so pleased with the outcome!  If you’d like to read more about the process that I took to create the app, check out this paper that I submitted to my professor: link.

It needs a bit more work before it can go live with my students and staff but I think that it will be a fantastic one-stop shop for all Library-related information and links.

If you’re on a mobile device and want to see the web-app in action, go to: http://faith.edu.ph/blog/library/

Defining our Parent Cafe

The Thursday and Friday before March Break, the Elementary Librarian and I conducted our first Parent Cafe in the Library.  Now, a week later, I’m still trying to figure out whether I would define it as a failure or as a success.

A brief introduction…

  • Our goals – welcoming parents into the Library, explaining a bit about our reading/library philosophy, helping parents navigate reading level vs. interest levels, and demonstrating the features of our Follett Destiny program.
  • Timing – We scheduled two sessions during times that appeared to work well with Parent-Teacher conferences in Elementary and Middle School and with the Middle School Speech Tournament Finals.
  • Agenda – We split the time between talking through our slides, taking questions, and helping parents use the Follett Destiny program for themselves.
  • Advertising – We put out the details with a Smore flyer sent via e-mail one week prior.  Brief details went out with our weekly All School Bulletin on the two Wednesdays before the events.  Elementary and Middle School parents were invited via teachers’ weekly class newsletter and the Middle School weekly Student Calendar handout.
  • Food – Yeah, we tried to entice with homemade cookies, delicious coffee, and refreshing iced tea.

Defining it as a failure…

To be honest, I’m not sure that the balance of preparation for outcome made it worth it.  We had a grand total turnout was 7 parents – 6 on Thursday and one on Friday.  There was a lot of extra food left.

Defining it as a success…

  • If I examine our list of goals, we definitely succeeded in meeting those.  I think every one of those 7 parents felt welcomed, left understanding our reading/library philosophy a bit better, now knows how to search for books by reading level and interest level, and was able to successfully log in to the Destiny program and explore it a bit on their own.
  • The small group allowed for more time for questions and hands-on experience with Destiny.

Learning from our failures and successes (i.e. preparing for next time)…

  • This was our first time offering anything like this in the Library…and we had 7 people show up!  I actually think this was a great way to ease into the idea.
  • Rather than solely relying on digital forms of communication to advertise our next Parent Cafe, I’d like to ask the 7 to personally invite other members of the Faith community.  I think we solidified 7 library advocates last Thursday and Friday and they have the potential to be some of our greatest advertisers.
  • I think we scheduled this one on the best possible days.  They were days that we had more parents than usual on campus.  I think the timing of the end of Quarter 3 wasn’t the best, however.  We’ll look at doing our next Parent Cafe at our Back-to-School Afternoon at the beginning of the school year (in August).
  • One hour was a really good amount of time.  Just long enough to be able to say what we really wanted to say and just long enough for the parents to be able to ask questions and try out the online tools we discussed.
  • Another positive was that the Elementary Teacher Librarian and I were both available to work with parents after that hour was up.  Neither of us had a pressing schedule which meant that we could stay after to answer more questions.
  • And the food was delicious.  We’ll definitely keep that at our next Parent Cafe.

While I still remain a bit discouraged that we didn’t have the turnout that I was anticipating, I think this first Parent Cafe was, ultimately, a success.  There are definitely things that we can improve and build upon for the next Parent Cafe.  And those are fairly easy to define.

We needed to start somewhere…and we did.  And next time, we’ll do even better.

 

Dystopian Recommendations

Need a book but you’re in a post-Hunger Games funk?  Try one of these.

http://msbecs.edu.glogster.com/dystopian-to-try

My Fave Chrome Tools

Are you using Google products?  Gmail?  Google Calendar?  Google Drive?  If you’re using Google products, you should also be using Google’s browser – Google Chrome.  They work best with Chrome.

And here are a few of my favorite features and extensions that make Chrome work even better for me.

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Chrome Settings

Chrome Settings

1. Signing in to Chrome

Hands-down, the best feature, in my opinion.  Sign in to Chrome and all of your bookmarks are synced.  Sign in and the tabs you had open on another device are synced.  Sign in and passwords that you saved on other devices are synced.  If you’re opening Chrome for the first time, it’ll ask if you want to sign in.  If you missed that chance, click the Settings button to the right of the omnibox (address bar).

2. Multiple Users

You can have multiple user accounts open on Chrome.  Want to separate the personal bookmarks from the ones that you need professionally?  Create a second (or third or fourth or…) user by clicking on the white head in the top righthand corner.  There are options to create a new user account.  You can also customize that icon and name your account.

Chrome User

Chrome User

3. Pin Tabs

Find yourself with 20 tabs open at once and half of them are ones that you need ALL THE TIME?!  Right-click on the tab and select “Pin Tab.”  The tab now merely takes up a large enough space the icon.  I have 6 tabs pinned all the time: Netvibes, my school e-mail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, my personal e-mail, and Facebook.  It keeps my Chrome window looking neat and tidy.

4. Manage Search Engines

Chrome takes Google’s site search to a whole new level.  You can go into “Manage search engines” in your Settings and set specific protocols for regular searches that you do.  I’ve changed mine so that simply typing the letter “a” into the omnibox and then hitting the space bar means that I’m doing a site search on Amazon for a particular book or product.  Other ones that I have set up and use with frequency: cc – Search Creative Commons, f – Flickr, i – Google Images, nt – NoiseTrade, and yt – YouTube.

Chrome Site Searches

Chrome Site Searches

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Thus far, the tools above are ones that Google actually provides for Chrome users.  However, there’s a couple more tools that I like that are extensions of the Google products.  Extensions can be found by visiting the Chrome Web Store.  Don’t let the word “store” stop you.  Both of these extensions are free!

Turn Off the Lights

I love using this tool in my classroom.  Turn Off the Lights blackens all on your screen except for the video that’s playing, allowing your students (or maybe you) to focus on the important.  There’s a little flashlight to help you navigate around the screen.

Turn Off the Lights

Turn Off the Lights

OneTab

This is a new discovery for me…as in this week!  Back to the age old problem of: “I have twenty tabs open, my browser is slowing down, and I actually don’t need these tabs until later this afternoon.”  Click on the blue funnel to the right of your omnibox and voila! all of your tabs in that particular window are condensed down to one tab.  You can restore all of them later or just open one at a time, as needed.  There’s an “export” option that I think would work very well for students who are working on research with a number of tabs open.  One word of warning: right now, OneTab doesn’t save your history so, when you restore your tabs, you won’t be able to use the back button.

OneTab

OneTab

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I’m always looking for ways to make the Internet work for me…and these features of and extensions for Google Chrome do that for me.  What are your favorite or go-to features and extensions?

Nifty Tool: Smore

I stumbled upon a new tool last week through a blog entry from Angela Stockman that turned out to be quite the hit for me, for my students, for my supporters, and for my family.

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The Smore tagline is: “beautiful pages instantly.” They weren’t lying. It didn’t take long at all to figure out the simple features of the tool. In a matter of minutes, I created an online flyer to introduce my school community to the features of Destiny that they now have access to and to “house” the screencasts I had recorded to walk them through the process. It was simply a matter of starting off with a title and then adding one element after another – first a textbox with an image, then a header, followed by a video, with a shorter textbox underneath that.  And then I repeated those last three elements in two more sequences to get all three of my screencasts on the page.

Click on through to the Smore flyer!

Click on through to the Smore flyer!

I took another three days to send the flyer to others for feedback, to revise the wording to reflect exactly what I wanted to say, to change the theme and font to easily readable ones, to move the videos from YouTube to Vimeo (accessible on school computers), and to wait for a day that I knew more folks would take the time to read their e-mail thoroughly.

When I finally sent the e-mail on Monday morning, a school holiday, it took just 3 hours before the flyer reached 100 views. And, since sending it out three days ago, it has been viewed 357 times. Telling are the other analytics that are provided.

I can see where the views are coming from (both geographically and the various digital sources), how people are using the flyer, and whether they’re leaving the flyer to access the provided links.

Introducing: DESTINY Analytics

Introducing: DESTINY! Analytics

Ultimately, the feedback on this tool has been very positive. I showed it to a student on the night before his group was doing a presentation. He quickly made a content-rich flyer to help spread the word about Half the Sky: link. They all ooohed and aaahed over the flyer and a number shared it on their own facebook walls.

I also used it for personal communication with my friends and family in between my regular quarterly newsletter: link.  With 303 views in three days, I’d say that I got the message out.

I’m definitely looking forward to showing this site to more staff and students.  I love that it can be sent via e-mail or linked to on a website.  However, there are still kinks that Smore needs to work out.  No matter how much I try, I have been unable to get the actual flyer to embed on a blog or website.  As it moves out of beta and gains more features, I think Smore will become an even more valuable option for spreading the message in this digital world.

Shaking Off the Shackles

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As I scrolled through Facebook about a week ago, something caught my attention.  It wasn’t the ads that seem to have taken over my newsfeed.  It was a little statement in blue below a news article that a friend had linked to that read, “Click here to read more articles from ___________.”

Here we are almost 2 years after Eli Pariser’s Beware Online Filter Bubbles TED Talk was first posted online and the personalized web is so ubiquitous and pervasive that it took one little line to both call my attention to a personalization option while, at the same time, making me wonder if Facebook was giving me the tools to break out of my filter bubble.

Despite their age in this time of frantic change, so many of Eli Pariser’s statements, claims, and pleas still ring true.  We live in an age of immense digital and real-world personalization.  Burger King says to us, “Have it your way!”  We expect to have OUR music, OUR videos, OUR apps at our fingertips on our smartphones.  Starbucks has transformed the entire coffee culture with the green boxes on their cup allowing the ultimate personalized order.  Our news is tailored to our liking.

Pariser asks us to think about the costs of the “web of one.”  With the specific tailoring that comes of our own favorites sites and sources, but also with the computer-generated algorithms, comes a world in which our focus is narrowed to what the Internet “thinks we want to see, but not necessarily to what we need to see.”  As Pariser states, we “don’t see what gets edited out.”  This is incredibly detrimental to our ideals of being well-informed citizens of a “functional democracy.”  How can we be well-informed if we aren’t even seeing the vast majority of the information?

We need to not be contained in an information bubble of an algorithm’s making.  We need a balanced diet of information coming in from a variety of sources.  We need our information vegetables as well as our information desserts.  Pariser calls to the engineers of the world’s largest digital companies, many of them sitting in his TED Talk, to instill journalistic ethics into the algorithms.  He pleads that we need to see not only the relevant but also the “important, the uncomfortable, the challenging,” and, ultimately, “other points of view.”

With that statement in blue on my Facebook newsfeed, was Facebook heeding Pariser’s call to allow me to see what is getting filtered out?  Or were they simply trying to personalize my experience even more?

My guess is the latter.  Pariser’s 2-year-old cry to beware online filter bubbles appears to be going unheeded.  It may even be worse than two years ago when Pariser challenged those sitting in that auditorium…and I have an ethical responsibility to make my students aware of that.  Personalization, while providing numerous benefits, is also highly dangerous when it comes to getting a balanced view of the world.  They need to truly embrace the adage, “There’s two sides to every story,” in their digital lives as well as in their personal lives.  They need their “information vegetables” along with their “information desserts.”  They need to see the relevant, the important, the uncomfortable, the challenging, and other points of view.

My students need guidance from their teachers and their librarians in this process of learning what a balanced diet looks like.  They need voices to remind them that the other side of the story exists.  They need to be empowered to actively seek out the truth.  They need the tools to help them shake off the shackles of personalization to see a broad and, ultimately, a more accurate view of the world.  It will be then that they become well-informed citizens of a functional democracy.

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Pariser, Eli. “Beware Online Filter Bubbles.” Lecture. TED2011. Mar. 2011. TED. May 2011. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html>.