Friday, 31 August 2012

Are Librarians Still Important?

Lead and link to an article showing how effective school libraries boost student achievement:

In a word, yes. In fact, they may be an administrator's most underutilized resource. Learn how schools are freeing them up to help students, faculty, and principals find the information they need.

Holding Still For As Long As Possible

Holding Still for as Long as PossibleHolding Still for as Long as Possible by Zoe Whittall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Holding Still for as Long as Possible contains some zinger lines and insight into young people living in Toronto. It is set in a specific time, place and culture politics: post-9/11, SARS, and sexual ambiguity.

Like the title suggests, the plot doesn't move much. Instead, the inner thoughts of the three main characters are explored. I think I would have enjoyed Holding Still more if I had read this book in my twenties since it really concerns that generation trying to figure out how to grow up.

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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Cognitive Surplus

Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into CollaboratorsCognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers into Collaborators by Clay Shirky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the ideas explaining why people work for free and how money fundamentally changes personal relationships, but this book did not set my mind on fire.

In terms of educational application, Deci's Soma experiment showed why we should never pay students to do their homework. I would recommend Cognitive Surplus to get people thinking more consciously about how technology can be used towards the greater good.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Salt Road

The Salt RoadThe Salt Road by Jane Johnson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had tears in my eyes while reading this book: First, out of frustration; then, ultimately, from being swept up by the story and its emotional resolution.

The Salt Road is very much a romantic book. Set in exotic Morocco and following the fate of a disappearing nomadic tribe, the novel intertwines a mystery and a story of enduring love. I settled myself for a perfect summer read, anticipating to be transported to the desert and be immersed in the nomadic culture.

Unfortunately, I was jarred by the very Western point-of-view of the book. The protagonist, Izzy, goes to Morocco after her estranged father’s death. He left her a riddle in the form of an amulet. I found her to be petty and petulant. I often thought to myself: Why does the author want her to be so unlikeable? The ending of the story does offer an explanation, but the justification and the transformation happen so quickly that we don’t really have enough time to “forgive” Izzy or Jane Johnson for Izzy’s character.

I also found that the plotting was clunky. Events happen in quick arrangement: Johnson apparently wants to get her characters into position, but I questioned her choices. For example, Izzy arrives in Morocco with her friend Eve. They are ostensibly there to do rock-climbing, their hobby, but really they are there to answer the riddle of the amulet. The two girls meet up with Miles and Jez and decide to go climbing together. On their first day out, Izzy wrenches her ankle, and through a convoluted series of ropes and levers, is left literally hanging near the bottom of the climb. Luckily, Taib, is passing by to catch her.

From that point Eve, Miles and Jez disappear from the novel. In my opinion, I would have cut them out of the story all together, have Izzy travel to Morocco on her own. Izzy, on her own in Morocco, would have provided ample material for her to be in some sort of danger and be rescued to Taib, thereby propelling the rest of the story. Despite Izzy’s persnickety behaviour, there were times when I thought: She’s my kind of woman. The only book she’d brought with her was a biography of Gertrude Bell (yes!). She has no time for her friend’s “girlie novel” as it “utterly failed to hold [her] attention after two pages of inconsequential chatter about shoes and boyfriends”(147).

To reduce the amount of characters and transitions perhaps would allow Johnson to show more and tell less. There is a list of sources at the back of the book, so she has done her research. I would just like the research to show more in the details and nuances of the book.

Lastly, until the final fifth of the book, some of the writing drove made me feel like I was “juddering over...rutted ground”. Lines like, “every tooth in my head was rattling and I was blessing the fact that I was small-breasted and supported by a good underwired bra” (203) made me wince.

On the other hand the line and the sentiment, “Love is the strongest force in the world” (373) is never trite and always a story I want to read.

The Salt Road had the potential to enrapture me with its search for a past denied. I did learn something about the Touareg people and history, but I wanted to see Izzy enter the culture more fully and develop relationships instead of hearing a lecture from one of the characters. Still, the ending left me moved: The novel does evoke the power of love.

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Globe & Mail article: There's No Online Substitute for a Real University Classroom

I've been thinking and blogging a lot about MOOCs lately. Here's the reluctant POV:

Ever read the short story "The Fun They Had" by Isaac Asimov? This article made me think about some of the issues in the story and the subsequent discussions I've had with students on whether or not they'd prefer online or face-to-face learning. 

I wonder where teaching will take place in 20 years time. I think it will depend if schools are seen as areas for learning or for socialization.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Do you value the role of the teacher-librarian?

I've been pondering this summer what is my role in the school. Are teacher-librarians evolving into virtual support, facilitating just-in-time learning and acting as a partner to classroom teachers to support literacy and numeracy?

Or are we disappearing because we are still seen as bookkeepers and supervisors of a space?

Doug Johnson has some interesting things to say about the growing number of school librarians who have gone MIA:

Uh-oh: MOOCs & High-tech Cheating

Anticipating the cheaters:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Content Curation for Education and Learning: Robin Good @Emerge2012 - Mind Map

This mindmap has a lot in it, but its ideas and information are worth spending an afternoon exploring it. Great resources if you're interesting in starting to do some curation in your teaching/learning/research. One section also explains why Google has lost its mojo.

Content Curation for Education and Learning: Robin Good @Emerge2012 - Mind Map:

'via Blog this'

Why Curation Will Transform Education and Learning: 10 Key Reasons

Chock full of information regarding how research and learning is changing in the age of the internet. We've asked students to critically examine the resources they use for their assignments. I think curation could be used in assessing student learning.

Why Curation Will Transform Education and Learning: 10 Key Reasons:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey CreekThe Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek by Sid Marty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last year, my husband almost bumped into a black bear, so we both picked "bear books" to read when we went back to the area this summer.

The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek was my choice. I have compared this book to John Valliant's book The Tiger. I preferred The Tiger because of personal bias: I really enjoyed how Valliant incorporates Russian history into his exposition and delivers suspense to the max.

On the other hand, some readers hated Valliant's diversion from the main story. The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek sticks to the facts--as much as it is able. The book outlines the hunt for an elusive bear who mauled tourists in Banff. The author spends a good portion of the book telling the story from the bear's point of view. Based on his expertise, I'm willing to trust what Sid Marty has to say about how and why this bear began to attack humans. Still, at the end of the book, no one has any clear answers. Perhaps this ambiguity is an important lesson to take away when dealing with wildlife.

I found that The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek was not as suspenseful as The Tiger, due to its straightforward narrative structure. As well, some of the book felt dated: The events and procedures happened in 1980, and are an indication of how far (or little) we have come.

I did learn that bears suffer from both hunting and anti-hunting lobbies, as well as human hubris when we encroach on the bear's habitat by putting in "parks...for people". These parks include restaurants, hotels, and hiking and biking trails. We expect the wilderness to be tame for us.

After reading The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek I have much more respect for the power of a bear and would not take a subsequent encounter so lightly.

One last, but important thing to add: Sid Marty also writes poetry, and it splendidly shows in this book.

p.s. Here's a second opinion:

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