Friday, September 25, 2009

Just in time for Banned Books Week: YA Author Hopkins Banned from School Visit

As librarians around the country round into Banned Books Week, author Ellen Hopkins had her visit to Whittier Middle School in Norman, Oklahoma blocked due to a request for review of her book Glass. There's no better statement than the following to capture the intent of the week:
"While Hopkins says she understands parents who decide against their child reading her books, 'no one person should be able to tell other people what their children can or can't read.'"
Ms. Hopkins also composed a Fahrenheit 451-like poem titled Manifesto to publicize Banned Books Week:
Torch every book.
Burn every page.
Char every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Conference Attendance: David Warlick and Web 2.0

At last week's Technology Advisory Council meeting, Dr. Peasley invited folks to attend a David Warlick conference on Personal Learning Networks and Web 2.0 technologies. Sponsored by the Kent County Intermediate School District, hosted by Calvin College, and taking place at their lovely Prince Center, with breakfast, coffee, and an ample lunch included.

I have attended one of Mr. Warlick's presentations before, and there were some redundancies, both thematically and in content: a joke about his North Carolina accent and how he fails to fit in the Midwest to open up the session, and the concluding We're not Afraid slides were content I had seen previously. Mr. Warlick's web and technological literacy is certainly broad and impressive, but as my seatmate exclaimed, "Ours would be too if all we had to do all day would be to prepare for our lectures."

In addition to his role as lecturer and presenter, Mr. Warlick has developed web tools that supplement classroom instruction, with the Education Podcast Network, Class Blogmeister, Citation Machine and Rubric Builder, hosted on his Landmark Project website. Mr. Warlick's presentation style is amiably disorganized, as we were nowhere near the agenda that was presented to us, and we spent an inordinate amount of time on Second Life as an educational tool; this may have been the point in the late morning that he lost the audience, as teachers simply aren't going to spend the time to build an online simulated classroom to deliver instruction, especially since it's a fee-based service. An innovative aspect of the day did occur with the unveiling of KnitterChat, a chat program made available to all event attendees, with text limitations not unlike Twitter. The KnitterChat content was later made available as a sort of record of the conference content (which was a helpful assist to those of us who took notes via Blogger, but for some reason, lost the content). Some of the other tools introduced included (much thanks, Seth, this is the content I lost due to Blogger's fail):
  • Backchan: "A tool for involving audiences in presentations by letting them suggest questions and vote on each other's questions."
  • BackNoise: "Lets you create conversations on the fly, in meetings, watching TV, during class, on the train, anywhere and anytime."
  • ClassTools: "Free flash templates for educators."
  • FlowingData: "Explores how statisticians, designers, and computer scientists are using data to help us understand more about ourselves and our surroundings."
  • Tag Galaxy: A Flickr visualizer, where photo searches are organized in a celestial display.
  • Twitscoop: "A real-time visualisation tool which enables users to 'Mine the thought stream' provided by Twitter."
  • Wordle: "A toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text."
Finally, another tool introduced to us was Prezi, a presentation web tool that doesn't use slides, but spinning concept maps, a new method of communication that would appeal to students and in which I will look to invest myself and my lectures.

The event was well attended, with most of the name tags listing school districts, understandably, from the west side of the state. There were 3 projectors used to facilitate audience viewing, although the main unit went down for a time, the wireless broadband worked seamlessly, and the bathrooms were spotless, and curiously, provided candy. An iPod Touch was even given away, along with some other, less flashy swag, and all of the attendees lustily remained to see if our names would be drawn. A day away from the work isn't what it used to be, my overfull and varied schedule as librarian, book deselector, tech supportist, audiobookologist, and teacher leaves me with much to catch up upon my return, but I was glad for the time with my colleagues even if all the content wasn't new.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Behind the Maricopa County Library District’s Dewey-less Plan

Library assistant Janet Brennan (left) and branch manager Jennifer Miele start shelving books at Gilbert's Perry Branch, which is set to open in June.

Old news, but we're revisiting this topic currently in the online class I am teaching. The Maricopa County Library system is dumping the Dewey Decimal Classification system for more of a bookstore approach to organization, where there are fewer subject headings and resources are grouped together. Some valid questions are:
  • Is the bookstore method of organization actually more browsable, more user-friendly than traditional library classification systems, like Dewey?
  • Does this browsability come at the expense of findability? In other words, can a library user or employee find a book in the library's electronic catalog and walk directly to the book's exact location on the shelf?
Doubtful, but I'm obviously biased toward a more disciplined approach to organization and access. While the browsable, bookstore method of rough organization may appeal to some users, is it not a dilution, a dumbing down of a proven organizational method? Finally, what about retraining costs for the library staff and a complete overhaul of the electronic catalog? In this economy, is it cost-effective to dump a system and transition to a new means of cataloging, arranging, providing signage and reapplying spine labels?