Monday, November 14, 2011


Cyberbullying is "willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phone, and other electronic devices" (Hinduja). In other words, for some bullying no longer stops when you leave the school grounds, it's no longer enough to get inside your own home, now bullies can follow you basically wherever you go. They are on your facebook page, they are texting your phone, it seems like they are everywhere. 

So what can you do? 

As part of our reading for class this week we read about several strategies. Both parents and teachers need to stay alert, know what technologies, website and platforms the kids/students are using. A lot of it seemed to boil down to making yourself visible and available if someone needs help. Another aspect of dealing with cyberbullying revolved around education. Make sure everyone knows what the signs are and what to do if something is going on. This can be based on the schools anti-bullying rules, which should also include cyberbullying. We also need to make sure the students know how to behave online. They should understand how public spaces online work, how discussion boards and social networking sites function. They need to be taught how to keep their information private and how to keep themselves protected from potential bullying. It will serve the students in the long run if we teach them to be responsible users of the internet and all it has to offer.  

For me the biggest piece of the puzzle with not only cyberbullying, but bullying in general is that there needs to be swift and consistent consequences. There should be no grey area. If you are bullying someone, physically or emotionally, in person or in cyberspace, there needs to be consequences. The consequences need to be clearly outlined in the student handbooks and students need to be reminded of them at the start of the year, and maybe a few more times along the way. Parents need to be informed of what the procedures are in cases of bullying. If a student is being bullied then there needs to be a procedure that everyone follows. A person they can turn to and trust that they will be taken seriously, a plan of action to investigate any claims in a timely manner, a consistent set of punishments that will be handed down to anyone who is doing the bullying. One thing I've found is that there is a huge lack of respect from many children. They don't respect each other and they don't respect the teachers. This obviously doesn't apply to every kid at every school, but it is an observation I've made at several schools I've visited. They do not fear that there will be consequences for their actions and therefore are not afraid to act, this makes it easy or the bully to do so. The victims have the same feeling, that there will not be consequences, so what is to be gained from seeking help? All it serves to do  is to tick the bully off more. By having a clear and consistent plan of action, by being visible and available, by responding quickly and fairly you can create an environment where your students know that they are heard and that they will be protected. They also will know that bullying of any sort will not be tolerated. 

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2007).   Offline consequences of online victimization: School violence and delinquency.  Journal of School Violence, 6(3), 89­112.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dear Schools- blocking YouTube makes my life difficult.

Earlier in the week I posted a general post about internet filters in schools. Today I'm going to share how filters are making my life difficult by blocking YouTube. 

The Scene: Library student (me) is working on a collaborative project with a local high school. Part of the project is that I and my teammates are making short tutorials about the library commons website. We are then going to embed those videos into the schools website. 

The Problem: Seems SUPER easy right? A little Screen Cast-o-Matic, some YouTube, a little cut and paste of the embed code and voila... a series of tutorials on the website. Of course it would be way too easy if it really were that easy. This week we hit our first road block, and by road block I mean we ran right up against the schools filter system, which blocks YouTube. We can't very well embed videos using a site the students and teachers can't even access at school. 

The Solution!: Teacher Tube. Excellent, a back up plan that will allow me to upload the videos and have them be available at the school. The thing is, people use YouTube for a reason. It's easy. It's quick. It gives you lots of options. I don't claim to be a Web2.0 guru, but I'm also not a novice. I made a profile on TeacherTube, and then did it again because it didn't work the first time. Then I uploaded my video... ERROR... uploaded again.... more try....ERROR. This was followed by my yelling at the computer, then going and getting my husband who is, in fact, a tech guru. He couldn't make it work either. We tried IE, we tried Chrome, we tried changing the file type. No. Dice. 

The Problem is back: So now I have no YouTube and no Teacher Tube. How am I going to get these videos on the website?!?!

We have a solution part 2: I took to twitter and begged for ideas. Mary (@bkbiblio) was nice enough to chime in with Vimeo as a potential solution. I was all over it. I created an account (it worked on the first try!) uploaded my HD even! Then I waited.... and waited.... because I'm not a paying Vimeo customer my video kept getting bumped to the back of the line. Finally, 45 minutes later, we were ready to go! 

Where we are now: Now I'm just waiting to see if the Vimeo is blocked or not. If it isn't then we are in business. If not then we may be back to square one. 

So What?: In case you are wondering (you're not) this is my favorite part of my posts. The "So What?" section. A professor of mine, Oakleaf in case any one is interested, asked me that question on my papers constantly. Apparently I was missing that crucial part. I know I can ramble on about any given subject... but what exactly is the point. In other words, "So what?". 

I decided to share this on the blog because it tied in so perfectly to this week's discussions. This whole mess started because the one website I needed is blocked at the school. So I can't share the new resources with the students in any thing resembling a timely manner.  I have a week to figure it out, thank goodness I went in now to test it out and didn't wait until the last minute. Why do we block YouTube? Well, because there is bad stuff on there. Instead of teaching kids to conduct effective searches on YouTube or to ignore the bad stuff and focus on the relevant videos, it's easier to simply block the site all together. There are alternatives, but they are not as well organized or quick to use. The actual posting of the videos should have taken an afternoon. Now we are on day 3 and the videos are still not up. All because of the filter. This might just be a case of restrictive overkill....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Internet Filters

This week in school we are reading about, thinking about and talking about internet filters in schools. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with filters. I know from past classes that many people are passionately on one side of this debate or the other, and I've found myself in the position of being the wishy-washy flip-flopper in the middle of the debate saying things like "Wow, that's an excellent point!" and "Yes, I totally see where you are coming from on this issue." That isn't to say that I don't have my own opinion on this one, it just highlights the fact that I think there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate and I'm not sure that there is one good answer that will work for every school and every library. With that bit of rambling out of the way, let's get into what I do think on this issue. In other words- read on, I'm going to basically debate myself.

Point 1. Filters keep our kids safe from dangerous websites and people and also keep them from visiting sites that are not school related. 

Sure, I'll buy that line of thinking... but only to an extent. We want to keep our kids safe. This is a given. Keeping them from accessing sites that they really don't need to be on is a valid point. Do I want my students stumbling their way into some porn? Of course not.  As a matter of fact I distinctly remember stumbling my way into particularly unsavory sites a time or two while looking for normal stuff. For instance, I took a guess at the website for Dick's Sporting Goods one time and was greeted by something drastically different then sporting goods. The same happened when I was trying to get to the White House website (who knew that going .com instead of .gov would make such a difference?). I also buy into the idea that limiting access to certain social media sites will allow students to use the library for work and not for updating their facebook status. Many school libraries include in their mission statement that they are there to support the curriculum and learning. There is an argument that can be made that allowing sites like facebook and twitter or even personal emails is a distraction from the mission of the library. 

Point 2: Filters limit access to websites students need. Students need to learn to focus on their own, without filters to do it for them. This point is also known as "Everything I just said in point 1 is wrong"

In our reading this week one idea that was brought up was the idea that filters are "restrictive overkill". I think that this can certainly be true. For every site that we don't want them to get to, there are others that are blocked that are worthwhile and should be allowed. For instance, some filters block access to LGBTQ websites. By doing so not only are you restricting access to information that is valuable and pertinent, but you are also sending a very clear message that to be LGBTQ you are something that needs to be filtered out, something that must be kept away from the masses. That is a very powerful message and it's one that I wouldn't want my library to send out there. (read more about this issue here

Regarding the focusing issue. Like I said, I get that there are sites that don't really need to be accessed during the school day. Still, aren't we really doing a disservice to our students by simply blocking these sites instead of teaching them how to manage their time and multitask? When they walk out the doors and head into the real world, either in jobs or at college, they will not always have filters to do the job for them. In a sense we are sending them out there totally unprepared for the real world. 

Point 1... again.: But what about the school's liability? (aka "You're living in a dream world point 2")

Ahhh... liability. This is a huge chunk of what it boils down to isn't it? It's the all important "what if?" of filtering. What if something bad happens? What if the students have unfiltered access and are watching adult movies in the back corner of the library? What if one or two students is accessing their facebook account and they are bullying another student? What if this happens, what is the liability for the school? 

I don't profess to know all the answers on this one, but it is something that school need to take into account when making decisions. If things happen on school property, using the schools computers, what are the ramifications? One way the school can limit the possible problem is to simply limit the access to the potential issues. Block the sites, keep the kids off them while they are in school, limit the opportunities for the issues to occur. It makes sense. 

And back to Point 2: Why should you make those decisions? Who says those sites are inappropriate?

For me this is the clincher. Who makes these decisions? As a librarian, my job is to look at the resources and make a decision as to whether they are good or not. It's not to impose my personal views on anyone else. It's also not to limit the access to resources that students may need, for school work or for personal research. There is the argument that students can access these resources elsewhere, either at home or at the public library, but is a mistake to assume that all students have that option. For some, the school library might be their only chance to get on the internet. In a sense that makes us the great equalizer. Within our walls students are all the same. Who am I (or the tech staff or the administration) to say that our students don't need to access PFLAG  or WebMD's breast cancer page? When we limit access to certain websites we are limiting access to knowledge and information and when we do that we are failing at our job as a library. 

So what?

In short, this is a really controversial and heated topic. There are arguments to be made on both sides and I honestly don't think either side is 100% right. So what would I do? 

Well to start I'd take a good hard look at my library, my school and my students. What are they using the library for, what age are they and what is their level of knowledge regarding internet safety? Then I'd propose a combination of internet filters (as required by CIPA in order to get funding) and internet safety education. After long discussions in other classes I began thinking about the best way to teach students safety and how to reduce the number of sites that are filtered. My suggestion was that at the lower grades filters remain somewhat strict and that internet safety be something that is taught throughout the year. As students learn more about internet safety and how to use the internet in a responsible manner filters would be reduced significantly. By high school only the absolute minimum would remain filtered out. I would imagine that adult sites would be restricted, but most everything else would be open. By this point, student will have years of internet safety under their belts and will have learned strategies for using the internet responsibly and also how to focus while doing online work. Do I think we definitely need filters in the high school? Not really, but I also understand that they are not likely to go away. So what I would strive to do is find away to get my students access to the best resources while preparing them to leave school and be responsible internet users. 

I'm guessing that this won't be the last you hear from me this week on this issue. I'm still very much forming a final opinion on it all and over the course of the week I will get a chance to hear from all my classmates and I'll be taking all their thoughts into account. So check back here or catch up with me on Twitter as the internal debate over internet filters rages on. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

QR Codes


QR Codes... I kind of love them. That one there goes to the book blog I work on, Eve's Fan Garden, and can be found on the back of our business cards. I think they are a great idea for that kind of stuff, especially when I'm at conferences or book events. I've seen publishers and other bloggers give it a zap with their phone and check our site out right on the spot. An obvious use in the library would a similar type of marketing. The QR code on the library business card or informational materials like flyer and brochures would have the same effect of directing people to the libraries website. That's the easy answer for how to use them, but what are some other fun uses?

The Library Scavenger Hunt- I'll admit, I love me some scavenger hunts.Tie it to finding specific resources and you have a really fun activity for students that will help them learn not only where books are in the library but also how to use the Dewey Decimal System. You can stick QR codes inside the cover of the resource and when they find the right book he code will give them the next location. 

Classroom Projects- One thing I would love for my future library site would be to have a place to house students works. What might also be cool is to generate QR Codes for specific projects or areas of the website. Teachers can use the codes to direct their students or even parents to the right area of the website for their projects. 

Find More Info Here!: Sometimes the resources in the library are not quite enough. So one thing that can be done is to generate a QR Code that will lead patrons to a list more resources. You can hang a flyer with the QR code in the reference area near the books for easy access. For instance, do you have a set of biographies on famous Americans? Hang a QR Code that accesses a list of sites like

Of course, as with any project that requires technology, there will be a downside. The downside with QR Codes? Well, the biggie is that you have to have a smart phone and the app in order to use them. A lot of people have them, but not everyone. I don't. I love QR Codes, but I can't use them. In fact when I see a QR Code that is just the code and no other info I get annoyed because I have no way of finding more information- what if it's something super cool and I'm missing out? On marketing materials for the library having a QR Code along with additional information for those of us still rocking the flip phone is sufficient. So long as there is a way for the rest of us to access the information it works. But how about those in-library activities like the QR Code scavenger hunt and the links to more information? Well, either you have to provide the information another way (which defeats the purpose a little bit) or you have to provide access to QR Code readers, which can get pricey. It might not be prohibitive, but it definitely is something that you have to think about when planning out activities. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


(photo by wonderferret on Flickr - cc license)

Collaboration. That's kind of the goal right? We want to collaborate with teachers on great projects on any number of subjects. We want to collaborate with our students as they create interesting work products. We want to collaborate with each other on what technologies are working, what isn't and how we can best help our students and teachers get the most out of the library. That's something we've been told from day one. Which is pretty awesome. We are (hopefully) going to walk out the door ready to be collaboration experts, armed with an arsenal of cool, innovative and exciting technologies that can get it all done. Yes, it is definitely awesome. You know what else it is? Overwhelming. Not even looking at the personal side of it (i.e. how do we get them to want to work with us?) it's easy to go a little cross-eyed at the sheer number of resources there are out there for collaboration. 

Many schools have blackboard, which has collaboration functions that can be used by classes. For one fieldwork project I did I used blackboard to set up a library book club, we had discussions, could watch book trailers and even created a group document of questions to ask the authors (including one we ended up skyping with). All the new technology is awesome, but sometimes it's good to start with the familiar and then begin introducing new programs and technologies as teachers and students become more comfortable. 

Other technologies are also making their way into the school. Wikis, Blogs, LiveBinder, GoogleDocs, Edmodo, Cover it Live and Google+ can all be used effectively as collaboration tools. Even social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter can be implemented in different ways depending on the project. For me, I like the idea of a blog (no one should really be surprised at that answer) because from the blog you can build on so many different things. 

For example here are some ideas of ways to collaborate:
  • Create a student submission page that would highlight students works including art, writing and even tutorials and videos that the students make. 
  • Have a place for students and teachers to share book recommendations and reviews.
  • Create a discussion/forums page where discussions can take place about projects and assignments. You can make these require a log in (so you can only view your class) or keep them open for discussions on things like a book club or upcoming events.
  • Embed Twitter and Facebook feeds so that you can see a running discussion about not only things that are new to the library, but also about programs and other school events and news. 
  • Have a live calendar for teachers to use to not only see the libraries upcoming schedule, but to also sign up for library time for their class. 
  • Using Cover-it-Live (a site I love and use all the time) you can embed live chats. These can be used for classroom chats about projects, chats with teachers about upcoming projects or events and even to chat with authors as part of a library event or book club. 

Moving away from the blog- using tools like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to collaborate is also a great way to connect with different groups or people, from students to teachers to parents. 

So with all these great ways to collaborate, where is the downside? In my opinion the fact that there are so many ways is the downside. As I noted, it can be overwhelming, and in our rush to try out what it new and cool, we need to be careful we don't overwhelm our teachers or students. For instance, in this class I've looked at what seems like a huge number of technologies and resources. I'm signing up for accounts left and right and trying to keep track of what seems like it will be most useful in the future. Which is all okay, because pretty soon it's going to be my job to know all these technologies and pass that knowledge on. (Want a little taste of what's out there? Check out this list from Cool Tools for School) As a librarian I think part of our job will be to look at what the teacher is hoping to accomplish, what level the students are at in terms of technology, and then look into our bag  of tricks and make a suggestion of what we think will work best for each circumstance. What we don't want to do is say "Oh, we could use google docs or maybe google+  would be better, or instead we could try to just use blackboard. Oh and have your tried doing a wiki? Maybe that would be best..." and so on. We want to help, not overwhelm. 

So, in short, collaboration is great. The number of choices we have out there to aid us in these collaborative projects is great. We need to give everything a test run, see what we like, see what will work best for our school, our teachers and our students and get to work creating great, innovating and effective projects!

Things I did at Fieldwork- aka Glogster and I are friends again.

I'm sure we all remember a week or so ago when I declared that Glogster ruined my life. That may have been a bit of an exaggeration. More correctly it ruined my day, but the fabulous Jennifer from Glogster sent me some great tips on how I could still make it all work. So next week we will officially start building glogs. I can't wait to see how the students make out!

For my part I did an example glog to show the students. They are working on Wetlands, so I did mine on the desert. That way they can see all the components that will go into it, but I wouldn't be giving them all the answers.

Here is my glog . Fact: I was going to embed, but could not for the life of me size it right. Also, there is audio that start automatically, so turn those speakers down if you need to!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

UPDATE: Glogster Project Speedbump

So- this is pretty much unprecedented- 2 blog posts in one week. Usually I wouldn't be so on top of it, but today something happened that simply had to be blogged about. Glogster screwed up my life. Really.

I'm in the midst of doing my fieldwork at an elementary school. I've been at it for 3 weeks now, but this week was my first week with kids. the first 2 weeks were spent designing and setting up some really awesome projects with the librarian. One project will see the students researching and then creating a glog about life in the swamp. Accounts were set up- I was stoked to find out that we (the librarian and I) could each set up a free account and add enough students to get the project going for this semester. I created a demo glog and was pretty excited about it. This week we introduced the project to the students who were really, really excited!

Then, today, disaster struck. I logged in to change the passwords for the students and couldn't get to my student list. Why? Well, because as of today Glogster Basic no longer exists.

Yup, in order to continue this project I would have to upgrade to Teacher Light ($29.95/year and we would need 2 accounts) or Teacher Premium ($99/year). Even doing the month free upgrade won't work because this project spans 6 weeks... maybe I can squish it into 4, but that will put a lot of pressure on the kids to learn how to create a glog and actually do it in a short amount of time (roughly 3-4 classes what with Thanksgiving getting in the way and all).

Oh and for all my IST611 buddies- that project Erin and I turned in just last week? Yeah, it's kind of inaccurate now. The tutorial holds up, but some of the other information, especially in regards to the different account levels no longer applies. The strengths and weaknesses of Glogster would change too, since one big bonus was the ability to have free access for the most basic application. You couldn't do much with Teacher Basic, but it was enough to give students a little taste of what could possibly be done. Thank goodness Task One had us looking at alternatives- I may need to tap into those now!

So now what? Well, to start I have to get a hold of my librarian who is out of town for a few days and then try to figure out if there is a way to salvage this project or if we need to come up with soemthing totally different despite having already started the project with several classes. Needless to say I'm not overly thrilled with Glogster. They gave 5 days notice, which, because I only teach 2 days a week fell during the time I was not at school and therefore not working on Glogster. So for me, I got zero days notice. Not even an email to my actual email address (which I provided on account set up). 

I guess the moral of the story here is that you never know when a speedbump is going to be laid out in front of you. This is probably what life in the library is like all the time, so it's good to get used to it as quickly as possible. Also, have a back up plan. I better go get working on Plan B now.

UPDATE: So, despite Glogster messing my Wednesday up, I have to say I'm really impressed with the way it's gone from there. You'll note below in my comments that Glogster responded to this here post. Well, technically Jennifer from Glogster responded. Turns out that while I can't do it exactly the way I want to there are ways I can still get this project rolling and allow the kids to create some awesome glogs. It may take me a few more steps, and a little more time, but the fact that someone took the time to make some suggestions (and answer more questions via email) speaks volumes for the company. I get that they can't continue to provide everything for free (although, lets face it, that would be awesome) and that was never my issue. In fact, when I'm in a position to do so, I will probably pay for an account. It just doesn't make sense at this time, for this project. Now, thanks to Jennifer and her chance encounter with my blog, I've got a handful of things to take to my librarian and some feasible ways to keep this project going. So, in short, kudo's to Glogster. It's great to hear from companies, especially when you are frustrated!