AZ School Librarian

Reflections on the events and happenings of a new librarian, veteran teacher, and soon to retire educator in Arizona. I've been a music teacher, computer lab teacher (VIC 20, Apple IIe, C-64, MacPlus, and PC), curriculum integration specialist, and am about to add Library Media Specialist to the list. My interests include photography, 4 wheeling (in a Jeep Unlimited), hiking, technology, and renovating my house.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I just read David Warlick's Blog Value vs Source.

My first response was a recollection of my own wood shop teacher in junior high, one Mr. Parker. One of the first teachers I had that recognized that I didn't see the world as others did, and had different goals. While most of the class made chessboards or drawing board that they would never use (they didn't have or make chessmen, and didn't like technical drawing) I was making a magazine rack in the style of my parent's living room furniture. He managed to make sure it was what I wanted to do, assisted me with things to try, but kept his hands off the project unless asked. And he did it without making me into a teacher's pet, while helping me to understand the power of drawing and planning - two tools I still use to this day in my own projects.

Second - I too would echo that I learned quickly that cheap tools and materials were just asking for trouble. And I'd add that a master can work with shoddy materials and still create something great - but its a truckload easier to work with the best.

My third response was to recall back a bunch of years when Logo was the programming language that was going to revolutionize education. Someone asked the question "What happened?" and the insightful reponse from the floor was BUTFIRST[REVOLUTION] ("evolution" for those that don't program in Logo).

I think that David's points are quite valid. We early adopters often wonder why the world didn't make the huge right turn with us. At least I find myself sitting in a metaphorical dead-end street wondering why everyone else isn't at the party. Early adopters often seem to "get it" but we are not in the majority. I think that in most years at my schools, at best there are 3 teachers that fit the description of early adopter. Three people isn't ever enough to carry a revolution, but its enough sometimes to cause a small evolution.

From time to time I also read about a school that has taken on some overriding theme or system, with all staff hired to be inline with that promising motif. You eventually hear about some award won by one of the staff or students, and then never hear about anything from that school again - unless it was "they tried but they couldn't do it." Funding is often blamed for the failure - and it probably played a big part. But that "evolution" thing is even more powerful.

I hope that we as teachers are working to identify and learn about the methods that work, examine and talk about why they work, and try to refine what we do from lesson to lesson.

Regrettably, what I see most often is teachers doing only what they find comfortable and/or timely, even when they are shown the results of other methods. We know for example, that graphic organizers help students to learn and retain information. We also know that it takes more time in class when graphic organizers are used in a lesson. Teachers are under pressure to teach to a long list of performance objectives, and teachers are understandably tense when presented with a method that seems to work well, but for which it is also clear we do not have the time to invest in learning ourselves how to implement graphic organizers. Instead of a widespread implementation, teachers pick and choose where they might use such a thing "when there's time."

That said, if nothing else is clear to me, it is clear that no one thing works for everyone. When I offer a class in the use of Inspiration to teachers, its always interesting to see how the room splits over the use of the webbed bubbles vs the outline view. You can almost see the tension ease from the faces of the "linear" folks when we view the outline, and the reverse when we shift to the more free form bubble/graphic view. Even better, there are usually a few that seem to finally get that no one version works for one class. The value comes in having the choice to match individual needs.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Completed the final installment of SEI Training today. I am now certifiable again in the Great State of Arizona. I get to keep my job and get paid for another two years. Then I have to renew my fingerprint card, renew my certificate, and show that I have participated in 180 hours of inservice designed to improve my teaching.

I think what strikes me most about all of the various sorts of training that we've experienced in the last 4-6 years (most of which focused on ELL students), is that the methods we are expected to use are methods that many "master teachers" are already using in very similar forms. A good teacher from the last 20-40 years would recognize every single one of them, and probably can tell you what works and what the pitfalls are as well.

The other standout is the lack of methods related to technology. I can't think of a single example that was specific to the use of any form of technology. Everything was paper based. You could create "forms" for use with students, but the form could have been created with the old ditto machine, a pen and a ruler as well. (Jeez, I can smell the ditto fluid just thinking about it!)

On the flip side, every teacher in every subject is subjected to some form of pressure to use technology.

Technorati Tags: education

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mentor Training

I've spent the last three days in mentor training for our districts teacher induction program, starting at 8:30am and going until 4pm.

This blog is about two subjects - new teacher induction, and teacher inservice.

I think this inservice started out as a response to a problem many districts/schools face - we are losing teachers just a hair faster than we take them in. We wanted to figure out how to keep them longer than 3 years. We discovered that most were leaving because of "lack of support." Having seen how new teachers are often treated (given the worst behaved kids, fewest supplies, least information, competing with veteran teachers), and looking at how many things are expected of a new teacher (compared to what I had to learn as a new teacher so many years ago), that's a more than accurate statement.

We know a few other things too - if a student gets a new teacher, the resultant assessment scores are usually lower than those achieved by the students of "veteran" teachers. Not good in this era of high stakes scores. Further, research shows us that three years of poor instruction, and those students never recover. I can speak from personal experience with one of my 4 sons - he had 2 consecutive years of poor instruction - it took a great deal of effort on the part of his two teacher parents to keep him on track. I can only image what 3 years in a row would have done, and that ain't pretty.

So, we pull veteran teachers from the classroom (for 2 to 3 years), train them in methods of collaboration, give them ongoing training for the job, tools, and put them with the new teachers. Results - higher retention rates, higher new teacher satisfaction, comparable test scores for students.

We are also learning that our veteran teachers acquire a few things too - a much broader vision of education, an understanding that collaboration works for teachers, and a refusal to go back to "the way things were." They become leaders in the change that I expected to see technology bring to the classroom.

These type of "inservice" sessions are usually the worst combination of teaching technique and timing. The technique is usually didactic, with note taking either sneered at or accompanied by rolling eyeballs by fellow attendees. No interaction is allowed for, and you usually sit for 2 hours between breaks.

This one is a fine example of how to begin to break out of that didactic mold.

First - its happening while school is out. I'm not already in the process of being a teacher, librarian and technical wizard. I can focus in on the process, without sweating the usual issue of "how will I fit this in?" I will have time to reflect on the information before school starts. Second, while there is still someone reading from the bullets, we move quickly to some activity that supports the current topic. We are not just sitting in chairs. Finally, we review the purpose of the inservice often enough that even the most resistant participant (isn't that an oxymoron?) can't possible honestly ask "what are we doing here?"

Still room for improvement? Absolutely! We'll never have the perfect solution - but I hope that one day our inservices will have the same quality we are expected to bring to out classrooms.

Technorati Tags: education

Monday, July 10, 2006

NECC post wrap

Well, its been 3 days since I left San Diego behind, to return to "sunny" Arizona. I've had time to share and chat with others about the experience.

Standout - Keynote by Dewitt Jones. Absolutely awesome speaker, fantastic comments, and a topic that translated well for me into many other areas of my life. I found myself talking about Dewitt's keynote to anybody that would stand still. Even better was the opportunity to live a part of what he spoke about, learning how to soar.

Exhibit Floor - always the biggest and the best. Great ideas every year, and it makes we wish that the world was setup in a way to spend %50 of budget on education. Events like these leave us having to make tough choices about what we will be able to provide for our students. Even harder is trying to decide which things are going to be around next year - and which are passing fancies - fun but not yet ready for the mainstream classroom. A nice way to ask, are podcasting and blogging just fads that will fade, or is this the new way we'll use to find and disperse information?

Trade Trash collected: 3 tshirts (Avid, M-Audio, Inspiration), one insulated lunchbox (Intel) two water bottles (CDW-G and Intel) 2 pens, and about 15 business cards for follow-up.

To my great surprise (I don't win drawing often at all!) I won a new Magellan eXplorist GPSr at the final session. I've been wanting a new one, I can't see my old Garmin too well anymore (My problem - not the Garmin's).

I went on the floor to get a question answered at the TechSmith booth - and they were terrific. They were able to answer my question, show me something in SnagIt that I can use as soon as school starts (popup labels in images, exported in Flash), and tease me with the capabilities in Camtasia.

The folks from Avid were also outstanding - doing a great series of demos and answering questions that seemed to dribble from my mind over the next 3 hours. I almost talked my way into some free software too! I can't get over the fact the they are released the Media Composer program for educators at $295.00. Wow!

The Adobe Booth was a little bit of a split personality. The purchase of Macromedia is still evident, many of us are wondering how this will all settle out. Version 8 of Studio was a hopeful sign!

Sessions - this is the first time I never left a session. I usually have a talent for reading the title and abstract, thinking "This will be just what I need to see/hear!" and then learning that the presentation isn't at all what I wanted to hear about. Then its across the hall or down to the next building to grab the next choice. Not so this time, every session was a winner. I walked out with good stuff that I can use come August - for students and staff.

Food - hmm. Many folks in our group were looking forward to eating in SanDiego. Only one member of the troop reported a great experience. He ate in the Old City Center, someplace that serves fried prickly pear cactus. He loved it, the other member of the bunch that are with him seemed a little uncertain. Everyone else (including myself) reported ho-hum meals, at "wow" prices. One stand out was at a place called "Stingaree." Interesting building, fine food (provided by the Edmin folks) and a great roof. If we had only known!

As always, the most valuable part of the experience is the one that isn't organized. The meetings in the hallway, the chance encounters with people who know what you want to know (or want to know what you know) are the best bit of all. I know that the "Birds of a Feather" sessions are meant to provide a similar opportunity, but there's something about the discovery process that adds spice and excitement.

The only blight on the entire trip was from the fine folks at Marriot, who decided to charge my credit card for the room, instead of billing my district as was agreed to by the travel agency and Marriot. There was an excited flurry of phone calls, and my district quickly stepped up and took care of the bill. The only question left is will Marriot double bill?

If you haven't been - its time to start planning to attend in Atlanta, end of June, 2007!

Technorati Tags: education, necc, necc06, necc06prep, necc2006

Friday, July 07, 2006

Avid Booth

My thanks to the fine presenters at the Avid Booth at NECC. These great folks took time to show the process of creating a audio podcast, editing with the Audacity software (and using the M-Audio bridge and microphone) publishing and setting up an RSS feed. Then they went the next mile, and demoed the process of creating, publishing and blogging a video podcast. One of my minor goals for learning about at NECC this year, and I learned it for free, was able to ask questions, and ended up with a hat and t-shirt. Great time!

Now I have to go home and play with these ideas - I've got a few projects in mind for the library. How about podcasts for finding certain types of books, checking out a book (let the K-3 kids see it before they come to the library) doing research, taking notes, and so on.

Technorati Tags: education, necc, necc06, necc2006

Geocaching at NECC

What to say? I volunteered a couple of hours to man the table here at NECC. I know that I have fun with this activity, lots of folks seems to wander by, aska few questions, and keep on wandering. A few walk away when they hear that it involves walking for a little over an hour - and even fewer sign up totake the plunge.

I have really enjoyed my forays into geocaching - but I don't think that its something for everyone!

They've set up a series of 9 caches around the conference area - people check out a GPSr that's preset with the coordinates of the caches, and they get a map, a set of clues, help on the first two caches. Then they are turned loose to go find the rest. Most come back with a pocketful of goodies, a tired but victorious look on their face.

Here's a few photos of the leaders (BTW - Happy Birthday Sandy!)

Technorati Tags: education, necc, necc06, necc06prep, necc2006, geocaching

Exhibit Floor

Exhibit Floor –

It was my plan to stay away from the floor today, but I got dragged into it, to take a look at something called the Supacam. Trying to resolve questions related to resolution and lens quality, digital zoom vs optical zoom and so on. At any rate, I bought one of the things as well. A simple, light, solid state movie, digital still, and mp3 player. Pretty cool, if somewhat limited. I really wish there was some way to overcome the limitations of physics and get a really good lens in these little digital things!

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Kathy Schrock - Primary Resources

Kathy Schrock and Primary Resources

“A genuine morsel of history is a thing so rare as to be treasured forever.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Looked to me like Kathy had a new subject, and she covered it thoroughly, with great organization. She included things in the mix of Primary Resources that I never would have considered as Primary Resources. I tend to think in terms of older historical material, but she thinks to include more recent materials as well.

She really went the distance – definition(s), textbooks, questions for analysis of data for bias, selection of resources, and on and on. Examples of many of the items as well.

One thing though – a pet peeve – why do presenters feel the need to read the bullets? Please refer to the first keynote from Dewitt on the right way to use PowerPoint.

Technorati Tags: education, necc, necc06, necc06prep, necc2006

Day Three

Keynote Speaker – Prof. Nicholas Negroponte. This man has a vision to bring laptops to the children of the world. He wanted to get them created for $100.00 each. Quite a dream – but he’s pushing forward with it.

Slimmed down Linux OS, instant on, mesh WiFi. Older processor, but since the OS is slimmer, he promises it to be rocket fast. Initial actual cost will be about $140.00 at the outset, but getting less over time. Servers available for the system. Projectors for $50? How did he do that?

Capable of being charge via human power, so they run at 2 watts. In contrast, he is doubtful that he will be able to sell the units to districts. We are too small a customer at this time. He might sell to states (and about 15 states have shown some level of interest). Its clear that part of his plan to keep costs down is to shift distribution onto the shoulders of others.

Another idea – sell the box in the US for $2000.00, and take the rest of the money to buy 19 other boxes to place in other countries.

Obviously countercultural. Part of me likes it already! Its purportedly been poo-poohed by major providers. Somehow I’m not surprised. It almost seems ironic that the benevolent Foundations of this world don’t seem to be paying much attention either.

On the other side, I had several questions. How hard would it be to plug these things into a parallel processing situation, sharing CPU power ala the SETI project? How easy will it be to hack the WiFi mesh to detrimental ends? Does a slimmed down OS make it easier or harder? Printers also seem to be missing from the mix.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006


Food Tidbits with other educators from the Great State of Arizona. We met at Buster's in Seaport Village, lots of great goodies and getting to see some familiar faces. I managed to get trapped behind a table, so spent the time people watching, and asking my neighbor what their neighbor just said.

Then out to the park to play. I brought along my little backpack ParaStunter, a little 2 liner that is fast and fun. I had to shorten up the lines for the lighter wind conditions, but spent a good 40 minutes playing with the sky and wind.

Managed to take a few pictures as the sun dropped behind the clouds. This is one of the better ones.

Technorati Tags: education, necc, necc06, necc2006

Second Day - Second Session

Second Session

Back to Cheryl for the afternoon session. This time Metiri looks at why technology works in some places and not others.

To summarze coarsely, it is largely two things. Leadership and Teaching.

We are told that leadership needs to get it. My own immediate leaders had other concerns - reading and math scores. Teachers, therefore, also had to concerns - reading and math. Hard to knock that when it is obvious that we have students that cannot read on grade level in every grade. middle grade students that have no automaticity with basic math operations. We have admittedly made great efforts, and we are starting reap great rewards, at least as far as assessment seems to indicate. The jury is still out on whether or not these students will be able to think - once they can read. But at least we are pretty sure now that we are doing to teach reading is in fact working.

Changing teaching is a huge challenge. We were told that it takes at least 25 various exposures of just one tech innovation before a teacher is ready to take it on for themsleves. That's assuming that the teacher already "gets it." I’ve heard this statistic before, and it seems to ring true with my own experience as a teacher trainer/collaborator/coach.

Perhaps I need to take a lesson from Dewitt Jones, and allow my passion for technolgy and learning to provide the impetus that I see missing in the leadership I choose to work with. I am surrounded here my great ideas, great thinkers, great tools. Why not take that forward? I can attest that it has worked in the past.

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Day Two - Exhibit Floor

Exhibit Floor

The first time I attended NECC (2003), I spent nearly all the time on the Exhibit Floor. I had avoided conferences for some time, for reasons that seemed reasonable and logical at the time. “No point in lookin’ if you ain’t got no money.” I wandered all over the place, looking at the goodies, trying to find trends in what I saw. It looked to me then as though the day of the commercial software package was soon to be over. It was clear that educators were starting to send the message that we expected more for our investment. I saw more titles that were trying to provide what we are calling productivity tools, and more booths that were starting to offer teacher training as part of the package.

Today I find myself pointedly going to certain booths, and asking specific questions. Its sort of like surfing the net, I’m ignoring the flashy ads, looking for the stuff I want.

I’m surprised to get my questions answered well, and even more surprised to see the very low key presence of Microsoft. They are showing the beta of Vista and the new Office, surrounded by four couches and wearing tye-dyed shirts. Almost a little spooky.

At one booth (eInstruction) I managed to win a flash drive – while my neighbor Jim won $2500.00 in hardware for his wife’s classroom. Exactly why he came to this booth. The eInstruction folks are offering tools that provide immediate assessment, and a way to keep students engaged in learning. Nice simple tool, with lots of ways for the constructivist teacher to work this kind of technology into learning. It also includes materials for the more didactic educator, providing questions from all the usual publisher of student textbooks.

I also picked up what I really needed – a pen! I somehow managed to leave home without it. I’ve heard that you can tell the quality of a convention by the quality of the free pens and the variety of trade trash being offered. I’ll have to walk around a bit more to get the feel of that…

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Day Two - Second Session

Second Session

Back to Cheryl for the afternoon session. This time Metiri looks at why technology works in some places and not others.

Looks like several things, starting with the vision of the leadership, and understanding that teacher will require 25 supported efforts with just one technology before they will be able to take it on themselves.

25 times? That seems a huge obstacle. I’ve heard this statistic before, and it seems to ring true with my own experience as a teacher trainer/collaborator/coach. We already work with our new teacher for 2 hours a week, on things like classroom management and standards. Now we also have to figure out how to shoehorn in 25 ways to do one sort of technology (or any other implementation you'd care to name). Woo! How do we ever get it done?

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Day Two - Keynote

Keynote Speaker

Our keynote speaker this day was Dewitt Jones. I had time before the session started, so of course I Googled the name. I couldn’t be certain that a National Geographic photographer was the speaker, but it turned out to be the man. This fellow gave one of the best speeches I’ve heard in some time. One of our group said he’d could of listened to this man for as long as the seat could hold him. Dewitt backed himself up with a slideshow of a smattering of some of his pictures, well chosen to carry his message, whether the picture was bad, good or great. Lots of outstanding points in his keynote, based on the idea that a vision leads to passion, to creativity and to purpose. There’s a lesson in how to do a powerpoint just in the way he presents. No bullet points!

I also had to reflect on the irony I felt when he shared the mission of National Geographic “Find what’s good in the world and share it” (that’s a little paraphrased, but it covers the ground). In our school environment, we seem this last year to have spent the time finding what was not succeeding, and focusing on what we were going to do to change it. We never really have learned how to celebrate and share the good in our schools. Our scores are higher again this year, but we made no serious effort to celebrate.

That comment being the antithesis of Dewitt's speech, I'll have to come up with something a bit more passionate!

Day Two - Session One

rough start, great sessions!

An unfortunate late start today. A little illness last night, and I chose to ignore the alarm at 6:15. I left the room feeling much better at 8:30. I tried to find a little breakfast, but somehow muffins and cookies just don’t seem to fill the bill.

My fist session was with Cheryl Lemke from the Metiri Group. These fine folks are an incredible research group, helping schools find out where and what they are, and then helping them to redirect themselves to where they really think they want to go. They also look and software and try to determine where or not the software does what it claims to do, or even if what it does do is likely to work based on what research says what works.

This session was imaginatively titled using the word “vortex.” I liked the way Metiri has chosen to identify software as various genres. Then they were able to describe what to look for, that is, what makes a good tool in that genre. The first time I saw this, they could only share titles that were out of print. This time we were able to see a few titles that fit the bill.

Cheryl also displayed a 3D graph that combines all these genres, and goes on to describe where the software might fall on the graph from didactic vs constructivist, authenticity of learning, basic skills vs higher order thinking, and real world vs artificial world. This is a tool that we use in our district as part of our software adoption process. Cheryl suggested that some school leaders use is as a check of how technology is being used in their schools. Great stuff!

Day One

Day One

Spent the day getting to San Diego. Started by getting to the airport too early, so I had a long time to wait and people watch.

We stepped out of the airport in San Diego to be struck by the best temperatures we’ve felt in weeks. Arizona is in the summer – the evening low temps are often in the low 90’s, so arriving to feel light breezes and 80 degrees was wonderful. Then off to the hotel. Then out of the hotel as fast as possible to track down some lunch. We ate at a place called Anthony’s - not 2 stars, but a passable lunch. Big chunks of clam meat in an olive oil sauxe with penne. It was advertised to have garlic, but that seemed to be missing. The tomato/garlic butter for the bread was excellent.

Then back to the convention center, to get our registration packet and goodies. We somehow managed to get a preview of the exhibit floor. We kept asking for directions, and kept getting to see more and more of the process of setup. Looks like there’s a lot to do.

Then we went over to visit the Geocacher’s. I had volunteered my time for later in the convention, and I've been a geocacher for a few years now. My fellow teacher, Jim, was up for something new so we grabbed to coordinates, and started out to find the caches. We didn’t realize that they were planning to clean up the caches at 5pm, so we missed the last 4 caches. We were certain that we had located the right spots, but the containers were gone.

Then on to the evening festivities. American food (does bratwurst really count as American?) Mariachi music, rocket pops, and pretzels. The finale was out on the balcony, where the city had placed 3 barges. The launched 3 identical (yet widely spaced) firework shows in the bay. Wonderful stuff! It was the first time I had ever seen a pair of cubes in fireworks! Next year, I suppose we should expect dice…

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

At the Airport

So, after rising at the normal time of day, making our way through the sparse July 4 traffic (kinda strange to see so few cars on the freeways) leaping out of the Jeep, standing in the wrong line (I was in the eTicket line - and had tickets already - thanks to SWA for helping me out!), waiting in line to get scanned, forgetting to put my laptop in its own grey container, and walking all the way to the gate furthest from anything, I am now in the right place, at the right time. Another hour of waiting around, and we'll board the plane on the way to San Diego for the NECC convention.

I just reviewed a few posts at IP, it seems that we are starting to experience the backlash effect of any large change. The complaint seems to be that technology hasn't delivered on it promise. The logical consequence seems to be "get rid of it all." As support for the arguement people point to the cost of IT, budgeting taken from students, teachers that seem no better today than they were before technology. Hmmm - I seem to remember reading other similar examples from the horseless carriage days, and other forms of technology. "There aren't a lot of roads and never will be - we don't need cars!"

My own reflection is that we still don't really know most teachers are capable of. The place I see the most change in bringing technology into the classroom is when classes are offered after school is out. Teachers then have the time to "play" with the ideas, reflect on the results of such ideas, and plan time to experiment during the next year with these new ideas (OK, its usually 1 idea).

I also do not think that we have yet to figure out what technology will really look like. Its still in a state of flux, with several kinds of experimentation always in progress.

I agree with the idea of a 1 to 1 ratio of computers to students - but I don't think we have the cheap technology we need to make that a reality. The laptop is too large, the cell phone too small. The tablet PC hasn't delivered on its promises either.

Tags: NECC06