Friday, February 20, 2009

Some Exciting Changes for Newsbank

I was very pleased to get a phone call from Newsbank yesterday telling me of new updates for our Newsbank subscription. They have added many new features that will make research projects much easier! For social studies, there are now many more categories available such as easy access to International News (searchable through a world map), a World Economics category, Conflict and Terrorism Around the World, America’s Historical Newspapers (from 1690!). And for science and health they now have Science Source Collection, World Health section, as well as Science and Health in the News.

But that's not all! We also now have access to Newsbank articles through EBSCO (go to POWER Library from school). When you do a search in EBSCO, you will now see a link to Newsbank in the lower left-hand side.

Give it a try. It's pretty impressive!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Telling a Story at PETE & C

My seven days at PETE & C allowed me to see a lot of fabulous tools which our students can be utilizing in the classroom. Brilliant podcasts; terrific music compositions; professional-looking movies, cool virtual spaces for learning… Most of the technology, perhaps all, I had already used or had explored at some point prior to this conference. But then again, learning how to use a new piece of technology is not necessarily what this conference is all about.

The biggest thing I took away was a continuing theme I heard throughout my days there. I heard it from all three of the keynote speakers as well as from many of the session presenters: the importance of giving students the ability, tools and confidence to tell a story.

As keynote speaker, Jason Ohler pointed out, stories help us to organize information, remember a place and express the emotion of an event. Everyone has a story; he or she may just need help in finding how to tell it. Keynote speaker, Daniel Pink, described design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning as the six aptitudes of the right-side of the brain which are so crucial to our students’ success. Similarly, Rafe Esquith brilliantly and emotionally demonstrated the importance of creativity, innovation and empathy in a child’s learning experience. The videos he shared of his students' learning celebrations clearly verified that these components matter - really matter - in a child’s learning experience.

Ken Rodoff’s session on Improving Student Presentations reminded us that students need some guidance in telling a story: they need to find the story's “hook” and they need to realize that they are entertaining an audience, not simply completing a class assignment. Mercyhurst College's session on Imagining in Second Life had a very creative way to tell a story – using Second Life islands as a stage for Abraham Lincoln revisions or a gallery for art work.

Students deserve to have all the tools and opportunities they need to tell their story. Technology holds a mother-load of them. As Ohler points out, a big amplifier won’t make a bad guitar sound good – the story has to be good in order to sound good. But whether it’s a movie, a song, a play or a podcast – it’s another chance that a good story will be heard and shared.

Monday, February 9, 2009

New Books - No Cost

CBS recently reported that libraries are booming because of the free services offered in this struggling economy. People visit the library for the free Internet services and, of course, to borrow a good read at no cost. So, of course it seems ironic (and unfair!) that libraries are being targeted in cities and communities looking to cut spending.
That being said - please do take advantage of our wonderful high school collection. In fact, we just received a new shipment of books in to help you get through the winter blues. A sequel to Wicked, a new Wally Lamb book, and a variety of vampire reads are just a sampling of the gems. For the full list, click here. Or, better yet....stop by the library and see them on display!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Three Cups of Tea" and the Value of Education

Today I finished reading “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and find myself amazingly inspired. It is a book which every American should read, most especially teachers. Mortenson, along with his comrades in Pakistan and Afghanistan appreciate the value of an education and the power it holds for change.
Recently, Gen. Petraeus reportedly sent Mortenson an email with three key-points which he gleaned from the book. The keypoints for me come from three Himalayan’s which were noted in the book:
  • A quote from the Bhutan king – “true measure of a nation’s success is not gross national product but ‘gross national happiness’” pg. 120
  • Speaking of his village, Haji Ali, the illiterate, elder leader of Korphe claimed “I’ll pay any price so they have the education they deserve”. Mortenson reflected , “Here was this illiterate man who’d hardly ever left his little village in the Karakoram. Yet he was the wisest man I’ve ever met.” Pg. 153
  • Pakistani general, Bashir Baz – “The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business.” Pg. 310