Survey says…results shared

My survey on K12 Filtering is done for now. I probably should re do it in September, when school is back in, and things have settled down (since many SC Schools go back mid-August). I don’t know if I will though, as I feel I got good a fair representation with the 55 responses. That in itself is amazing since 55 people took my survey since Thursday of last week, and it’s summer break and vacation time for many.

The respondents represented seem relatively balanced over the grade bands (k-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12) with the exception of post k12, where I had 4 respondents (7.5%) Overwhelmingly 87% of the respondents agree that filters are needed in k12 schools, and almost equally, that many folks have encountered a blocked website. The vast majority said that their district technology department decides what content is to be blocked. Surprisingly though 35% of the respondents indicated they either were not aware of or had ever read CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act.) (Read ALA take on CIPA.)

When faced with a blocked site, most respondents seek alternative relevant content (which is not surprising), but what was surprising was that almost 70% take measures to request blocked material be reconsidered. When asked who should have a say in what is filtered out, many indicated school personnel, such as a district superintendent and high level district administrators, district technology departments, building level administrators (principals), and teachers. Few thought the school board, parents, students, or the community should have a say. Most respondents feel safe even though filters do not always work, but I was surprised to learn that almost 30 do not trust existing filters. However, the respondents said overwhelmingly they would continue using online resources even without a filter, though 36% said they would use it w/ reservations. None, though, would stop using it.

So my curiosity is appeased. I do not hope to “change” the way filtering is done where I work. Quite frankly I’m pleased as punch that I have a “back door” to most blocked content, and can also request relaxing the filter on sites I or my collaborating teachers desire to use as a resource. But I do have reservations that it seems most areas have the filter set up and executed without having it explained to users (students, teacher, or higher) in detail. Perhaps some would find that irrelevant or boring, but I very well may have a discussion about this as a part of my orientation in the library this year—for all of our learners, professional and not. I think dissecting that acceptable use policy and discussing the Child Internet Protection Act may reduce anxiety and help the learners understand the need and use of filtering. Maybe, and that is a big MAYBE, it will keep the learners from trying to “get around” the filter. Maybe…(in my dreams??)

Here are the responses to the open-ended question that simply read “Your final thoughts.” I have BOLD PRINTED my personal “take-aways” or things that will effect the way I talk about or teach about filters in the future. I’ve added or responded to their comments with my own comments in parenthesis, italics, and a different color text.

I am in a charter school. Our tech person works with filtering. She is very concerned with liability issues and I feel she blocks too much, however it is easy for me to get a site unblocked. I don’t have an override password yet but I think she will provide me with access next year. She is still learning the system. I feel that our charter school board should be looking at filtering processes and assisting in making those decisions after being sufficiently informed of the issues pro and con. Putting the decision on one person is not fair to that person nor to the users.

It is about teaching ethical behavior on the internet

Despite their limited effectiveness many teachers and administrators would probably choose not to access the Internet with students if filtering was not in place. (The survey did not support this statement.) Fortunately, I have override access at all times and can request any site to be unblocked without a lot of red tape. In almost 100% of the requests permanent access is granted unless IT finds providing access would open up too many portals. School access is no different than workplace access–limits are imposed. We have the responsibility to help students understand that access in this arena is not the same as access at home–just as they will find in their places of employment. (True! I will include this in my instruction.)

We have two levels of filtering in our system. Level 1 is the provincial government and it is set in stone. There is no way to contact them to plead your case. Level 2 is with our local district. They have been very reasonable in unblocking sites for specific uses when requested. We have access to a fairly wide variety of sites including blogs, wikis, Facebook, YouTube, and Hotmail so I feel fortunate compared to many other places I read about. One site that was recently blocked at the provincial level was Awesome Highlighter. I don’t know why and have no recourse for finding out or launching an appeal. Interestingly enough I had planned to introduce it to staff next term. My big concern with filtering is, how do we teach kids to use the net safely if we can’t show them the pitfalls of certain types of site? I plan to show students my Facebook account in the fall so they can see how to set privacy levels as many have no idea this feature even exists.

I’m very lucky. Very little is blocked. I used to be in charge until the church hired someone to take care of their services and we were included. It is really just x-rated blocking.

I think there should have been more questions and a choice for other – if a response did not meet your needs (Excellent point!)

It’s a waste of time, money, and human resources.

Filters can’t block every inappropriate site. Our students need instruction in cyber safety & digital citizenship for real “protection”

When done right, filters can block the extreme cases of indecency. I don’t think filters should block every single case of profanity or indecency. Kids will find that stuff anyway.

I am the director of libraries for a school district in Texas and arrived at your survey via your blog. My district is one of the few in the area where filtering issues are decided by instructional personnel, rather than network administrators. We are also one of the few that allow teachers an override password to access sites that they feel are relevant to their curriculum. Currently we have a committee that looks at requests to unblock a web site, but I feel that anything requested by a professional staff member should be unblocked without question. We are considering revising our policies to address web 2.0 tools in the near future. Hopefully, we can make the filtering less restrictive while remaining in compliance with CIPA.


I’ve read about schools with no filters where students have extensive instruction about “proper” surfing, and they seem to have few problems. The students eventually police themselves. Maybe this wouldn’t work in all communities, but it probably would in the majority of them. (I’ve witnessed the same at SLA in Philadelphia. I agree, but in SC I just don’t see it happening.)

To elaborate on questions: #4: The content that is filtered is done by category. Categories chosen to block are typically non-educational such as games, gambling, violence, sex, etc. Unfortunately, good websites get caught in the filter because they are categorized under multiple content headings to increase traffic to the site and become a casualty in the war against exposing students to inapporpriate websites. It’s not like someone is picking and choosing sites on an individual basis. Also, the filter we use does have reliable people behind it making sure that in addition to the site being educationally appropriate, it does not contain any “hidden” malware, spyware, or backdoor viruses which some otherwise terrific websites may contain. As to #9, even if no filters were in place, a good teachers will review online resources appropriate to his/her curriculum and not allow students unsupervised use. I know this would not eliminate the possibilities of students wandering (intentionally or not) but I have seen so many teachers give up control of what resources they use and tell their students to “get on the Internet and find”…… BAD approach. (Excellent points! I have seen teachers do the same (last statement) and treat the existing filter as their personal babysitter. We revised our computer lab policies this year to state that unless face to face instruction is occurring, the teacher may not be on a workstation, but should instead be moving around supervising and monitoring online activity. This is just like a teacher’s responsibility outside during student free time–we must be ever vigilant, and being honed in on a single workstation just does not allow that.)

Librarians need to be able to access unfiltered internet on at least 1 computer on campus (not student-observable) and be able to unblock site for temporary/time-limited use, then have it reviewed by IT for permanent unblocking (WOW–what a great idea!!)

I think that with consistent communication between all parties a balance can be struck.

Even with Destiny’s web path express, some of the links will be blocked. I can’t watch every student every minute on a computer. I’m glad we have filters in school. Most of the students with computers at home will go to the site later to finish research if they really need it.

They are imperfect at best. They block the obvious stuff, but my experience tells me that the students who want to get around them will get around them.

There’s a lot of truth in the statement, “Follow the money”… I am fortunate enough to work in a small district and have a great relationship with the county IT folks; I am able to email or call regarding a site and will generally have something unblocked within 10 minutes at the longest. (Lucky you!!) I have also witnessed firsthand, individuals that have teaching credentials, that walk into a lab of 30 computers, fill every one with a student and then announce “just go look for information”; I then watched as the teacher proceeded to complain that her shopping sites that were blocked. Filters seem ridiculous to folks who view the internet as educational/information resource. Many of my colleagues view the internet as a great big playground as opposed to a source of meaningful learning… We are dealing with many issues that are multi-sided and they cause GREAT angst for those trying to find the best for students, teachers and learning. ….. (The remainder seemed more like a private message to me and was not related to the survey.)

Filters are a reality that is not going to go away. As an LMS, I feel that I should be allowed the ability to override the filter when I deem appropriate. But apparently, I’m trusted to purchase books and databases, but not trusted enough to use good judgment when it comes to the Internet.

My district has been very prompt in removing blocks–however the sites are blocked by broad categories–“entertainment; games; sports” so many things get blocked that never should be in the first place.

K-12 is a broad range. High schools would be fine with no filter, but with guidelines. But the little kids might need some filtering. Porn is really ugly. I think the filtering is too stringent in our district because teachers do not have the override capabilities. However, the filter is outsourced to Secure and if we plan ahead with sites, we can request that they be recategorized and it happens quickly. But, the filter is IT driven, not instruction driven. The “illegal” V tunnel override is what many teachers and students do. We are actually thinking that maybe that is what we are supposed to do and it is a big secret! Working inside a bureaucracy is never ending frustration in many way, not just filters. (BINGO–prior planning is really a godsend to get material unblocked for me as well. I would never expect a site I requested unblocked on the same day-that would be wishful thinking for me.)

I agree that there is definitely a need to protect students from undesirable sites and if a teacher/LIS prepare his/her lesson in advance – they should be able to use sites that are not blocked due to content, etc.

I have no problem getting sites unblocked. I just tell the technician what I need, give them the URL and they unblock it.

In my school, the filter tends to limit the teachers, but the students are given the power because they use proxies.

If you have any other insight you’d like to add or share, please don’t hesitate.

Image Attributions – All Images were obtained through FlickrCC

Image: ‘white like chocolate::reprise or ID [manifesto]
Image: ‘untitled
Image: ‘yes

Wordle Anyone?

Okay so Wordle has been the rage in the bloggosphere of late, and many are making tag clouds for their Delicious Accounts. I can’t because I hate to admit this, but my delicious account is a mess, one that I seriously need to take the time and clean up. Why? I have tags that only have meaning to me. My tags would not mean anything to anyone else. Like what? Well like dates for when I need something–it is a tag. See what I men? Meaningless to anyone but me.

So I was missing out on the Wordle fun! This morning I took time to check out Wordle, and wow the possibilities. I discovered that Wordle will make a cloud out of any writing. I made a cloud (above) of my June archive in my blog. My hot topics are school, blog, learning library, media, teachers, & students. I’m pleased to see I focus more on “learning,” but disappointed that the word “teacher” and “student” still seem to be prominent words in m vernacular. I had a goal not too long ago to try and replace those two words synonymously with “learner.” Well at least I can see the effort is there.

I can definitely see the possibilities of this in the classroom, particularly a classroom where writing is emphasized. It will help writers see what words are used in abundance (or overused). I can just imagine the word “like” hugely displayed in most middle-schooler’s writing. I can also imagine a lot of txt-talk there as well. I am looking forward to sharing this with the learners who lead in the classroom at my school.

What am I?

It is funny how summer really brings out the reflective me. My husband and I were having breakfast this morning, talking about qualifications for certain jobs in the education field. The conversation steered towards what makes me qualified for a library job. Now he has a different perspective as a school administrator who is significantly involved in the interviewing and hiring of faculty and staff.

What he said to me shocked me. He said he didn’t really see me as a good candidate for a library job-a media specialist (as they are called in SC.) He said while I am quite progressive and good at what I do, I am too far removed from the traditional look and feel of a school library media specialist. He further explained that while he knows am above average in my position, he said I did not fit the mold of a school librarian, that the things that excite me do not center around books and reading, and that I am prone to get wrapped up in the “what’s new” and the technology side of everything. He said that I would not be considered as the “most qualified” candidate anymore because of how progressive in my thinking I am and ways of doing things.

While I know he was not trying to be mean, it did come as a sucker punch. Since when did being good at technology or being a forward minded thinker become a bad thing? Since when did one have to reel it in, and dumb down the extent of their knowledge to appear “normal” or fit the mold of expectations for one’s job? I do not apologize for my knowledge on any one topic. I do not criticize others for not having the same extent of knowledge I have. As a matter of fact, in the position of a school librarian, i proudly link together those who can compliment the learning. I say this all the time. We all have our gifts and bring different things to the table. And since the role of a “contemporary” LMS is multi-faceted, I celebrate that I can meet many needs in a school setting. I am happy to do it from a library. I will never go back to being a traditional book lover or gate keeper in the library. My paraprofessional in my media center brings that gift to our table.

But I do want to leave this rant, if one can call it that, with this. I do not hold it against any LMS who is more of a traditionalist in their school. In all likelihood, there is another who brings the gift of technology, progressive thinking, and 21st century learning to the table in their schools. Just be good at what you do, that’s all I expect from other LMS’s in the field. I don’t think anyone should be just like me. And I do not hold it against them if they are not.

Just don’t hold it against me, and know that I am willing to work with any and all–because I know we all bring a gift to the table, whatever table it is.

Who wants in?

June 18, 2008 I am scheduled to give a half day a.m. workshop on Web 2.0 tools and I’ve been given some freedom and flexibility on what I do and how I do it.  I am planning to show a few short videos, get a Twitter hello w/ advice, and Skype in a few folks.  I have personally contacted a few already, but have decided to use my blog (and Twitter) to solicit more volunteers.  I just want some people to allow a skype (w/video or not–the choice is yours) to talk to my audience about how you personally use any 2.0 tools for professional development or projects with students.

I am not talking an hour commitment or anything like that, just a short, sweet “hello” and “here’s an idea or example I’d like to share.” Actually I’ll limit volunteers to no more than 10 or 20 minutes at the most.

Please contact me if you are willing. I am on the east coast, so eastern time rules. I’ll help with the time conversion if you need it. This would be so AWESOME, and what better way to talk about and/or showcase 2.0 tools than to utilize them in my session?

Did I mention my target audience is teacher-librarians–AKA school library media specialists?  These are your potential head collaborators at your schools, and I want to equip them with some knock-your-socks-off project based learning ideas they can take back to their schools.

Okay, if you can’t be available to help out, perhaps you can make a video or podcast hello with a tip, example, or advice?  I would be MOST appreciative! Use the comments here or the contact form on the blog to join me for this endeavor.


Image: ‘Peeping.
Image: ‘07:07:03 07/07/07

End of the School Year Reflection, sort of

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been really busy, and I’m on the final checkout sheet that teachers must have initialed before they can leave, so I sit here ready to go, and just waiting for the ones who still need a signature by the library/technology statements. Earlier this week a school library student ( a current practicing teacher working on a grad degree in library science) contacted me asking if i would be her interview for a paper she was writing in one of her grad classes. The topic? Blogging and 2.0. We tried a couple of times to arrange a skype interview, but my crazy schedule kept getting in the way, so finally she asked if i would just respond in an email. After doing my best to complete it, I decided to post some of it here (removing specific school references that I did not feel at liberty to publicly post.)

I say it is an “End of School Year Reflection, Sortof” because it is more like a summary of my knowledge at finger-depth’s level in the world of blogging and 2.0. While I seek to be a role model and exhibit best-practice, this makes me realize I have such a long way to go and grow. But that’s the nature of 2.0–ever evolving and changing daily, isn’t it?

So this may be long and tedious to read, but I will post anyway. So much for my promise to post shorter entries from back in January.

The Interview: Questions and My Answers

Question 1: How do use your school media center blog? What are its purposes?

I have used my school media center blog as a forum for discussions. I thought (or intended) to use it for book discussions) but never did really push it in that direction. I may even scrap the whole school blog next year, and go with a wiki for different projects or discussions so I can invite students to add. Right now the school media center blog has too much “ownership” by me and not the students.

Question 2: Describe the responses to your blog by Administration? Teachers? Students? Parents? Other community members?

Ho Hum. When I push it, kids will use it to respond to discussions. But if I don’t remind or point blank ask students to use it, it basically goes unnoticed. One of my teachers reads and comments on my blog. I have made him a 2.0 convert and junkie. It seems to have made him more interested in lesson plans and collaborating or brainstorming for ideas, and his students seem to get very excited about his class.

Question 3: What inspired you to first create your both your school blog and professional blog?

My inspiration began several years ago (maybe 2004) when Alan November was a keynote speaker at 2 different conferences that I attended (and both were basically state level conference.) But he awakened a part of me that no other educator on a speaker circuit had ever done before. He introduced me to Skype then too, which I used for a while, but gave up. It was too new then. I got back into skype in 2006 and actually intro’d it to my Mom. Now my Mom says, “Do not call me, Skype me.” Lately though I’ve had very little time to use it. But the point here is that Alan November introduced me to global learning and global tools. I began to seek out other educators who blogged, as it was becoming a buzz word in the educational technology world. In 2005, I decided to attend NECC in Philly. I literally had my eyes opened. Now my district then was way into the Schlecty material (engaged learning, Working on the Work.) The educational technology mantra then seemed to morph into relevant and meaningful learning with 21st century tools embedded–NOT teaching and then trying to find a way to integrate technology. So suddenly I was gaining a richer understanding of meaningful work for students. Here (NECC) is where I learned names of some of the top movers and shakers in educ’l tech and library, like Alan November, David Warlick, Will Richardson, David Jakes, Gary Stager, Kathy Schrock, Joyce Valenza, & Doug Johnson.) At least those were my “first” bloggers that I followed. I wasn’t brave enough then to write one, but i devoured these bloggers’ written word. Since then I’ve attended many conferences, specifically NECC annually, and these conferences help me network with other forward minded educators that inspire me to explore and do more.

Question 4: What advice would you give to others, whether classroom teachers or media specialists, who want to start blogging?

I would say find a group of bloggers who resonate within, and read them. Once you have begun reading more than a handful, learn to use a reader (like google reader or Bloglines) for management (as these free programs will tell you when there is new content, and you won’t waste time visiting blogs that do not have anything new.) Learn about the bloggers you read. Learn who they read. Once you have done that, decide if you want to be a blogger. One doesn’t have to jump in to be a part of it. Being a reader/commenter can be just as rewarding. If one decides to develop a blog, seriously reflect on who the intended audience is as well as the purpose for the blog. Research the blogging platforms well. Ask what other bloggers use and why. (I currently use Edublogs, primarily b/c it is not blocked as much as other blogging platforms. I also find the interface easy to use. Many beginners use Google’s Blogger, but I seriously detest it. I find it somewhat unprofessional in the look and feel, though they have made some improvements and changes.) If one creates it, don’t get discouraged if there are no comments for a while. That will come. To cultivate a readership is a difficult thing to do, but it can be done. Simple things like adding your blog to a signature file can help. The best way to draw readers is to comment on other blogs, and leave the URL for your blog in the place calling for a URL. Often times bloggers will visit the links that commenters leave, including your own blog. If your comment resonates with them, they may add you to their reader. Also other visitors to that blog may read your comment and decide they want to “follow” you as well. Eventually you will have cultivated a readership. So don’t get discouraged or feel like you are writing to yourself. Reflective writing is very rewarding in itself.

Question 5: Have you encountered any issues concerning privacy, access, etc. that you would consider noteworthy? If so, please describe them. What are your thoughts on blogging and copyright issues?

I have not faced any issues of privacy or access. But being in a public school that uses filtering, it is constantly on my radar. I try to cite all photos used in my blog, and I also strive to use pictures that have a creative commons license. As an LMS, I feel I should model citing when I use material (especially pictures) that are not mine.

Question 6: I also saw that you have a professional blog called TechnoTuesday that offers lots of useful information and technology tips for both classroom teachers and media specialists. Can you tell us a little about that blog and how it differs from your school media blog?

This is my primary blog, the one I spend more time on. It allows me connections to other educators, both teachers and LMS’s. Networking through the tools gives me a wider perspective on issues. I like to consider this a vital part of my professional learning network (PLN).

Question 7: Have you involved any students/teachers in blogging? If so, how, and what were some of the results?

Being in the library has not really afforded me an opportunity to do that. It may be that I just have not pushed it either. But I have tried to get other educators on board, and I can say I have successfully gotten other LMS’s to do some, and I have 2 teachers here who have created blogs. Only one uses it regularly, and he loves it. He uses it for parent information as well as student info. He is at I am very proud of his accomplishment as a new blogger, and yes, we collaborated a good bit on his creation, and even got a few kids to do it. They are in his class, and they have their blog in his blogroll.

I was asked back in March to do the “teacher” career for career day here at school. I wanted the kids to hear a fresh voice instead of me, so I arranged for several educators from all around to speak using Skype to my 3 groups. I had a 5th grade teacher, Lisa Parisi, from Long Island, New York. I had a 6th grade teacher, Chrissy Hellyer, from New Zealand. I had commitments from Dean Shareski and Alec Couros, both educators from Canada, one a k12 level educational technologist, and the other a college level professor. I had Doug Johnson, media coordinator from Mankato, MN. All were to skype in at certain times. Too bad after my first two, we lost our school’s internet connection. It was very memorable though.

Question 8: I noted from your professional blog that you have been involved in several professional development activities with blogging and using other
Web 2.0 applications. Can you tell us a little about those? Were you facilitating the workshops? What are some highlights you would mention to

For the last few years I have been presenting at local and state conferences, and recently I have begun to present on the 2.0 topics. I have done several presentations on the value of reading blogs and using a reader at the library conference, a couple of teacher conferences, our state technology conference, and our annual administrator’s conference (3 yrs in a row for them.) I have also begun visiting schools and districts to do workshops (half-day) on podcasting or just global 2.0 in the schools. I wrote in my blog a good while back about a parent workshop i did at school. This garnered me an invitation to come to Charleston, SC to do this same preso at school for their parents. I said I would come if they would modify it some, and include a panel of experts that included an admin, teacher, guidance, social worker, SRO, lawyer, college entrance officer, and students. Yes Students. I suggested they allow me to do my spill, and then turn it over to a panel discussion that included me and the others they could get, and it was beyond belief how well it went, AND how wonderful the discussion was. OH, and they paid me. How awesome is that? This one is the one that stands out the most, but I do love spreading the message to parents, students, and teachers. It seems the toughest sell is teachers. Go figure. The administrators who have heard me have been highly complimentary, and they are the reason I get invited to do workshops around the state. I say I am cultivating my next job in 6 years when I can retire–>Consultant. But who knows, in six years I may not be as up on the tools. I can’t back up a lot of what I’ve learned with real world classroom experience–yet. And my interest and focus could change too. So who knows?

9. Are you aware of other media specialists in your district who blog? If so, what is the level of collaboration among them in developing this tool?

No other school level LMS’s in this district blog, but I do have a folder in my reader of SC LMS’s that blog. I am sad to report its very small in number but the ones who are blogging, either through their library or personally are very progressive. Our district media coordinator has set up two blogs for summer reading, but it is in its earliest stages–very knew to many in the district. (The rest of my answer here has been cut for personal reasons.)

10. What do you consider the biggest advantages to blogging in the school media center?

I’m not sure I see any advantages yet for students. They see blogging as “schooly” if I can use that word. But I think educators who use it in the classroom have caused that, which is another reason I have not totally pushed the media center blog. I don’t want it it be like school-work. But it does allow students to read and see that they have different perspectives, and it does give them a forum to express their opinions.

11. Can you provide any insight as to the future of blogging in school libraries and classrooms and what the implications are for students and
their achievement?

Blogging per se I fear will be molded into something schooly, and lose steam. Like most new things, schools adopt them and then “beat them to fit, paint them to match.” It will lose its authenticity then. I don’t want to say blogging will not work, but I do want to say that the use of them will have to be authentic and engaging for student learning, and not just something else students and/or teachers have to do. I can only think of a few examples where educators use it as a vehicle for learning, and they have a “walled-garden” type set up, either with private blogs, moodles, nings, or class blogmeister. I don’t necessarily agree with the walled-garden concept. If educators can create social network atmosphere similar to face book or myspace, they will probably have more success. Students want to see the tools they use out of school in school. Having a blog will not necessarily meet that need, especially if it is not provided with exciting, interesting school lessons. I hope that makes sense.

12. What are you thoughts on/experiences with using some of the other Web 2.0 applications (podcasting, social networking, etc…) either separately or in conjunction with blogging?

I love the tools and use them myself quite frequently for my own learning. I have used Twitter for quick help or a place to vent. I am on some of the nings (Classroom 2.0, TeacherLibrarian, etc.) as well. These allow me to network with other educators who use 21st century tools. I can get many ideas for real classroom application as well. Ustream is really beginning to play a big roll in my use of 2.0 tools as well, and I’ve heard that much of NECC and November’s BLC Conference will be Ustreamed so virtual attendees can participate. I follow many podcasts, and have gotten teachers to explore podcasting as a vehicle for demonstrating concept mastery. We are also playing a lot with video editing, though we are not publicizing it through the 2.0 tools yet.

I still feel very much like a beginner at a lot of this stuff, and don’t really use it as much as others. This summer at NECC in San Antonio I will be sitting on a panel discussion with Joyce Valenza and others to discuss using 2.0 in school library. I can only hope I have the expertise they have.

Image Attribution:
Steffon. “Skype Phone” re-ality’s Photostream. 8 September 2005. 7 June 2008. <>.


Does anyone remember that annoying tune from Pink Floyd? Just in case you are not familiar with it, linking so you can refresh your memory. Enjoy, as it takes me alllll the way back to high school.

That video though is not why I write tonight. My head is spinning with ideas for grants. I have a long track record of getting grants funded, but most of them are small time. I have assisted in some larger grants that were $20K, and can proudly attest that one grant was funded three times in a row! W00T!

Grant writing has not always come easy to me. I have however, figured out some tricks to getting them funded.

  1. Make sure the funding source knows just exactly how needy your kids are. Using your words to paint a bleak picture of pathetic poor students who are suffering without. Most grants require a needs statement, and this is your opportunity to whip out the metaphorical violin and draw the bow across the heartstrings with that sad and moving tale of just how much your students suffer because there is no funding to do creative and interesting projects.
  2. Somewhere in the mix you will be asked to spell out goals, objectives, and maybe (more than likely) an evaluation of your project proposal. While the goal can be written with a relatively global flare–“My students will be better students after participating in this project.”–make sure you specifically state objectives in measurable terms–>Students will increase their scores on MAP testing math assessments by 20 points after the completion of the project. Give specifics here on how you will measure them . If called for, tell how you will evaluate–>When MAP scores are available after the April Assessments, scores in math will be compared to the January assessment.
  3. Finally, the third most important part of the grant is the project description. Here is where you get to say what your kids will be able to do if you can implement this project. Describe it in terms of what students will do, and keep it grounded on students. Make sure it is creative, innovative, and engaging. Notice I did not say wow them with technology. Too often people writing grants think if it is liberally sprinkled with technology, it’s bound to get funded. After all, technology grants are typically creative, innovative, and engaging, right? Wrong. Yes they have the potential. But don’t forget to focus on the student learning because of those factors, and not just those factors.

Other tips? I would certainly focus on student engagement. And actually, the last seven or eight grants that I’ve had funded, I purposefully used the language of engagement in my project descriptions as I find those words tend to help the reader focus on the student learning, and not the budget that will follow. This link is a page I created for my old school’s website to inform parents about a school and district focus, and I personally referred to it frequently in trying to locate words I knew would flavor my grant with compelling evidence that it was a proposal focused on student learning. Of particular care I took to write my project description using as many relevant design qualities, and I must say it seemed to pay off. No these weren’t necessarily jargon words, but rather a way to stress that what I was proposing was good for the bottom line, student learning. I used them where relevant. No I did not use everything there 100%, but where it fit, yes, I used it. (I guess I’d better copy/paste and recreate that page since I’ve just confessed I use it frequently. I’m no longer there to maintain it, and in reality it could disappear any day…okay, it is done.)

Why am I writing this?

Well, just recently my principal has been sending out from the district grant opportunity after grant opportunity. I have let so many slip by. But suddenly today, I felt the grant bug bite. I actually whipped up 2 before I left school today. And my mind is churning away on another one, though it will need to be a group effort. Will they get funded? I don’t know. They are due in 12 days, so I have time to sit on them, let them get cold, and then reread, looking for typos I’m notorious for, and also to see if I can add to, rephrase, or improve in any other way. I’ll also get some others to read as well.

Where do the ideas come from?

I read journals, blogs, and partake of many professional development opportunities online (virtual PD) and in real life–attending conferences. One today came from a session I heard about (but did not attend) at SC EdTech and SCASL presented by MaryAnn Sansonetti! Even though I did not attend her session, I did pick her brain about it, and get her handouts as well as review her material made available online. W00T!! A virtual goldmine–thanks MaryAnn. Ipodabilities sounds like a fabulous grant. The second idea came straight from Twitter of all places, thanks to Karl Fisch. He tweeted about attending a neighboring school’s Techstravaganza. I dm-ed him, and asked for a few details. What he emailed me sent me into a tailspin, and I had to write it up! I even suggested it to my principal BEFORE writing the grant proposal, saying we should do this. A grant with a little funding will just make it a little easier! Advice to take away–when you attend conferences, don’t leave disheartened saying we’ll never be able to do that because we don’t have___. GO back and begin that grant. You never know when the right one will drop in your lap that it will fit into.

I hope they get funded, but even if they don’t, I can feel good about the effort. And confession–> I’ve had many more rejected than funded. I just don’t like to share that. But the ones that have been funded have motivated me far more than the rejections have deflated me. Sigh.


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Booktalking Meaning virtually at Karl Fisch’s school

While I had hoped the class I virtually participated in for a backchannel discussion on the chapter on meaning would focus on meaningful learning, I guess that was a lofty hope. Only teachers can truly make that connection, I suppose. This was the last chapter of Karl Fisch’s school project where the students in English classes read Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind and then invited guests from Karl’s network were able to join in the back channel via a blog and commenting.

The students focused on deep conversations about life and the meaning of life. I was not disappointed though.  The students opened the door to a witnessing about religious beliefs, and the conversation was allowed to happen, both in the inner circle and the backchannel where Vicki Davis and I were.  I was a wee bit nervous about clearly stating my beliefs, but you know, when the Lord opens the door, you have no choice.  Both Vicki and I shared our beliefs and how everything in life happens for  reason, even if it is not clear to us at the time that things happen.  I left the conversation thinking, WOW we are able to be witnesses to God’s love to a class–a public school class.  Mind you there were still some students who questioned whether there is a higher authority in life, and if life has meaning at all. It was a truly interesting conversation.  I hope you get a chance to read the discussion. (The picture above shows how I participated-I am in a studio at school. Vicki Davis I believe is at her desk in her classroom.  Although we are only 471 mils apart, and she was south of me in Camilla, Georgia, the temperature was significantly cooler and more unstable where she was than me. She reported a terrible thunderstorm going on during the class, and cooler weather. I, meanwhile had rain and temps in the upper 60s.  Notice she has on a turtleneck. I was wearing a short sleeved school shirt. I had FireFox open with several tabs including the MeBeam site with the class video, my video, and Vicki’s video, as well as Skype so I could privately talk to Vicki, and the a whole new window of the comments feed for the class, so I could follow along and see the video at the same time. I wish I could have enlarged the video of the class, but I didn’t see that as an option on MeBeam.)

Karl has been providing some reflection on the project as it goes, and you can find it on his blog. I’m really anxious to hear the final thoughts now that the book discussion has concluded.

This I believe

Recently Carolyn Foote was contacted by the School Library Journal Technology Editor about an article they are including in the March 2008 edition.  Here is what they wanted (and Carolyn asked me and Joyce Valenza to chime in.)

We’d like to run something about the Educon program in the March issue. Could you give us an idea of the response? Who attended and what did the non-library audience have to say?  Also, we’d love to run a photo from the event. Do you have any Flickr images we could use?
Thanks so much.

My bridge metaphor from Educon 2.0 was about how the use of print resources are dwindling as electronic resources gain popularity. So my “This I believe…” statement centered on me being a bridge to bring my patrons back to the library by connecting them to the resources available print or electronic. I also talked about modeling the use of the tools in instructional practice so that teachers can see how students respond when we use 21st century tools, and learn side by side with students (and with me.)  I discussed that the stakeholders all need to see that we are all on a learning journey, and not everyone is at the same place in this journey, and i can act as a friend, guide, teacher, assistant, or whatever the situation calls for in my quest to bridge the gap of yesterday’s way of learning to the new horizon ahead of us.  I want to be that bridge that my learners are willing to take advantage of, and my mission is to model effective and ethical practices along the way. Being in the library gives me the perfect scenery to bring up ethical use and best practice while using or introducing new tools.  I just want to connect my learners (students, teachers, parents, stakeholders) with 21st century tools, and make them associate the use of them with learning from the library.

The SLJ Technology Editor wants more, like reactions by participants, pictures.  I am uploading the pictures I have tomorrow, and  will share reactions from participants. They had many questions, but a reoccurring one was “how do we get our librarian to do these things you do?”  All I could say was one at a time, one at a time.

I compared it to how we get teachers willing to try the new tools out, and take leaps in their instructional practice and instructional design. We share, model, encourage, invite, assist, and more.  I suggested that if their school had a librarian not necessarily up to par on 21st century tools, then be the one who approaches this person, just as I approach teachers. That bridge can be a two-way street, and it doesn’t have to originate from the library.  Plan activities or lessons where the tools (be it blogs, wikis, video, presentations, whatever) are done in the library, and invite the librarian to be a part of the implementation.  At first he or she may sit on the peripheral and be a silent observer, but engaged learning is infectious, and eventually this person will see that taking a risk and getting in this sandbox where we are learning is not so difficult after all, and we don’t have to be the expert.  Our kids certainly know this.  Eventually that paradigm shift in the old way of thinking will swing over to the new way.  Other teachers who come through the library will ask questions, either on the spot or later.  The principal will probably hear about things too, and if not, go tell this person.  Anyone in the school environment that has a vested interest in learning will want to observe and more than likely become involved. I also stressed that you will have your nay-sayers, and you’ll have your reluctant particpants. You’ll also have the “yeah but’s” and you’ll have some that just like with every other “new” thing, jump right in.

It’s just an attitude of willingness–willing to try, learn, fail, try again, and learn more. I never really learned anything until I tried and failed, and then kept trying. If I didn’t struggle then I obviously already knew it. Never stop learning. As my former (and now retired) professor Dan Barron always said—“Grow or Die.”

I had a student ask me this week a strange question.  He said, “Mrs. Nelson, you know so much about technology and computers. Why don’t you work in a job using them? I replied, but I do! He disagreed, saying I could make much more money doing something else, maybe from the business world or even technology world.  I told him my job is a calling, a desire. I teach because I want too, and being in the library also fills my need to use, handle, learn, and teach technology too. I told him I have the best job ever. He was baffled, and so I asked, “Are you glad I’m here?” He said yes. So I said, “See, I’m in the best possible place for both if us, and I like it that way.”

Carolyn, Kathy, Joyce, and others…I have some good photos of the attendees working on their metaphorical drawings of a modern library, and they are on a camera at school.  I will do my BEST to upload them to flickr tomorrow and then share.  Sorry about “sitting” on them. I’ll post again and ping you as soon as it’s done.

Picture Attribution:

NOTE: This is a picture I took while at NECC 2006 in San Diego!

Nelson, Cathy. “LASD 442.”  Online image. CNelson’s Photostream.  5 July 2006.  <>

The Critic’s Corner

Recently my school underwent a migration from Novell networking software to Microsoft networking software. It was pretty painless and I’m surprised at how easy we all made the transition. There have been a few snafus:

  • Our keyboarding lab had the oldest computers in the building, and they are struggling to accept the new script. We are trying to transition less older computers in there as we find them in storage or find that they are not being used in classrooms. The workstations are Gateway E series. I inherited a situation where I don’t think a true inventory of hardware has been done in a while, and this migration is showing it really bad! Guess what’s on my to do list now?
  • I’m having to go around and reset the email client (Outlook) as well.
  • I’m in the process of teaching folks (or in some cases doing it for them) finding their printers and setting them as default. I love that “print screen” function!

I write though about the students’ responses to the migration. At the beginning of the year the district rolled out individual student logins. We were told the migration was coming, so we decided as a school to “sit” on the individual accounts until the migration. Our students used a generic “student” login, which caused its own set of problems. Once the migration took place, the generic student account would fall by the wayside, and all students would be required to log in. As the liaison at my school for student accounts, I disseminated the info, and each grade (6,7,8) had teachers who would give out information. I talked about it briefly on the morning news program, giving a few details and then sat back and watched. I had exlained that all document saving would go to the student’s indivivdual folder on the network, and anything saved to the desktop or C drive would be deleted at the next log in. Of course I knew kids would have to try it. They did not let me down. The very next morning my “regulars” who like to come to the library in the morning before school were all around the 20 computers trying out their logins. They were “decorating” their desktops with crazy backgrounds, creating paint pictures, ppts, word documents and more to the c drive, and then logging off to log back in and try it out. They shrieked with indignation that none of the changes or saved material was there. I used it as a teachable moment, explaining that the default saved to the network folder, and all their material would be safe unless they gave out their logins and passwords. I also talked about students who make bad choices and now they could access their work from anywhere in the building without worrying that someone else might delete it.

But I did “mess up” a little. You see their exploration into what the log in was like was my first exploration too. As I observed and answered the questions asked, I also found myself mildly surprised at the students’ desktops. They were all a simple solid royal blue, with only the user name subtly displayed, and a start menu/task bar. Right click was disabled. There were no icons. The only way students could maneuver around the computer was to click on the start menu, and access programs via that route. I know I said it, but didn’t realize a student had picked up on it.

What did I say? I said, “This is not real-world. How am I going to teach students to be ready for the 21st century if normal computer standards like desktop icons and right click are not available?” Yes I distinctly remember putting voice to that comment. And only now do I realize how keenly the crowd that gathers in the library each morning listens to me. You see we have an 8th grade current events exploratory class. The class is creating a newsletter for students–target audience–> students. One of my morning “regulars” is in that class, and his group is creating a “critic’s corner” for their newsletter. After getting a “no” on anything that might criticize a specific teacher or student, and getting shot down on love, sex, drugs, or profanity, the group has finally come up with a new topic they are enthusiastically researching for their contribution. It will be a critique of the new student login and restrictions on the computer. The plan to write about blocked sites, no icons, the inability to make a workspace that is “theirs” (translated they want a cool background on their desktop, their own bookmarks, etc.) and get this: they are going to QUOTE me making my statement.

Ouch. Yep, I said it. Yes, I said in front of students. No I did not realize they were paying me any attention. So what should I do? Their teacher is so happy to see them enthusiastically researching their topic, and came to tell me how excited they were. Then she asked me had I indeed said what they were using as a quote. Color me shocked!

So, my network, I need some feedback. Should I nix allowing them to use my comment? Perhaps I should allow it on the grounds of anonymity. Maybe I should allow them to use my name and stand by my quote. What would you do?


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This flood is coming

Today on our SCASL-listserv, a fellow teacher-librarian asked about how schools are dealing with students who bring their own laptops to school. The posted question also inquired about how schools Students with laptopsare using webcams, with the follow up statement “couldn’t they be used to help our homebound students.” Of course we had quite a few respond, and it was divided relatively 50/50 on good vs. bad reasons to allow the laptops. No one, however, addressed the posed supposition about the benefit of webcams in school. I sat on this all day today (though I did individually reply to a couple of people about what I knew about my former district, and the value of the concept. But I wanted to see how others would respond. The following is my posted reply after seeing everything from kneejerk reactions (almost denial) that student owned laptops have a place in our schools, to some obviously very accepting and most welcome to the idea. I shared 3 issues in my response, and they are as follows:

1) More and more districts are looking into wireless as a more feasible means of providing access in their building(s) and district offices, and removing the costs associated with wiring. It is becoming the norm for more and more wireless places, and this is no different for schools. A school or district can go wireless with secure networks, and all one has to know is the password to gain access. The IT hardware folks can lock down a wireless network and make it secure in a relatively easy manner. Even the routers and such you buy at Best Buy and other electronics stores can easily be secured. I predict that in probably 7, but more likely 5 years, there will be more wireless workstations than not. You almost cannot buy a laptop anymore that does not come equipped with wireless capability, and many laptops are also coming equipped with an internal webcam, which brings me to my 2nd thought.

2) This initial thread also asked about the use of webcams in schools. Brian Crosby (author of the blog Learning is Messy and recipient of NUMEROUS awards) out of a school district in Nevada was able to completely and efficiently serve the needs of a former student diagnosed with Leukemia who b/c of her illness had to stay at home. Brian arranged for the student to have a webcam and for his classroom to have a webcam, and through a program called skype, involved this little girl in the everyday activities that took place in his class. This gained him national attention and notoriety, and caused many educators to rethink what possibilities a webcam can bring into a school. Most shockingly, this was not recently, but I want to say 2 years ago. I personally use a webcam and skype to talk to other school librarians around the nation, and would like to explore bring guest speakers into my library program in an effort to show that our world is truly global today, and students can gain insight and perspective from folks they might never have had the opportunity to see, hear and interact with before. Carolyn Foote of Austin, Texas recently had an article in School Library Journal about hosting an author at her school using Skype and a webcam, and I have participated frequently in conferences from around the world I might never have had the opportunity to participate in, all b/c a friend (Lisa Parisi) who had a webcam found a way to include me in the session (using Skype and Ustream as the vehicle to transport me there.) These 21st century tools are here, and we must embrace them. I promise our students have.

3rd) and last, more and more students are going to be bringing their laptops into our schools. There is no denying it, and with the difficulty (especially in SC) with budgeting for Technology, why not embrace this concept and allow the students who have the capability to provide their own means to connect at school? With them bringing their own, and students without access using the schools resources, we would definitely come closer to a 1:1 program for providing computer access, and maybe join our counterparts from around the world in global projects and 21st century learning.

Yes, it does open up a can of worms, and yes, the higher ups will have to develop guidelines and policies. There are already schools in our state that allow students to bring their own laptops to school, and it is ludicrous to deny them when they have the means. Let’s not bemoan this, but rather celebrate it. We as school librarians can be a part of the solution instead of the problem by assisting our building level admin with policies and procedures to accommodate this growing trend. It is not going away.

I wish I had included one more thought. As we prepare students for college, it isdam holding back a flood of water
practically inconceivable that anyone would send their child to study at a post high school institution with out a computer of some kind. I read somewhere earlier this year that nearly 87% of entering college freshman bring either a personal desktop or laptop computer with them, and identify it as a critical tool for their success. In my opinion, it is inevitable that this will trickle down to our k12 schools. It is a futile battle to try and keep them out. We cannot hold back the flood of 21st Century Learning.

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