Search this site
Other stuff

Follow me on Twitter at:

@BlueSkunkBlog

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

Locations of visitors to this page

My latest book:

   

Available for pre-order.

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Fan Page on Facebook

EdTech Update

 

Teach.com

 

 

 


Saturday
Mar292008

Qualities of relevant libraries

"The Internet is like a librarian without the bad attitude or breath." - student, in The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their schools,” 2002.

For most of my career, I have been interested in how libraries can remain vital and relevant. So whenever I hear or read of successful programs and especially student-centered attitudes, I get pretty exited. Three things came across my radar this week and they are worth a second (or third look).

_________________________________________________

Ann Krembs, Head Librarian at American School of Bombay, asked some time ago if she could cite an article I wrote some time ago in a presentation she was giving ASB UnPlugged conference held in Mumbai and was nice enough to share with me how that talk went (shared here with permission):

Hi Doug,
 
I thought I’d share with you what I ended up presenting.  I spoke about virtual libraries and basically gave ways of incorporating the old stereotype of a library while transitioning into the new mold of a library.  Here’s the link: http://www.asbunplugged.org/drupal/ASB_Un-plugged/files/VLT%20III.pdf (or here.)
 
Our conference was very successful!  I learned tons from the experience and also received motivation.  The newsletter I usually send by email is now a blog.  Feel free to check it out if you like.  http://dearlibrarian.edublogs.org/ and http://bookoftheweek.edublogs.org/
 
Thanks again for your help.  
 
Ann

oldvsnewlib.jpg
Slide from Ann's presentation.

Ann's slideshow is one of the best summaries of how the school library media field is changing I've seen for some time. Take a look - outstanding. Student-centered - you bet!

 _________________________________________________

This LM_Net post caught my eye last week. It was posted by Debra Evers a media specialist Cushing High School in
Cushing, Oklahoma (reposted here with permission):

... I came across Tony Doyle's VENT: "This is a library; be quiet!" I can't resist sharing with the group. I love for our H.S. library to be a "student-friendly" place. I always play light jazz over our speaker system and encourage all sorts of activities (we had a Guitar Heroes tournament during lunch period a few months ago). I realize that some of you are shaking your heads and "tsk-ing" --but it works for me.

I absolutely HATE to have the library "hijacked" by classroom teachers who require absolute silence. Don't get me wrong! I LOVE to have classes in the library! I encourage teachers of all content areas to use the library, and we've had great response. I love to brag to other librarians about our collaboration (some minimal collaboration, but I have to get my toe in the door somewhere) with teachers of English, Math, History, Foreign Languages, Humanities, Science, Speech, Consumer Living, Chorus, and even Band! But when teachers schedule library time, I always remind them that the library will remain open (if at all possible) and other students will be using our computers, browsing, and checking out books while their classes are here.

Right before Spring Break, a scheduling glitch caused us to schedule two classes into our little 50' × 50' library at the same time. I checked with each teacher and the consensus was that both classes were small and we should have no conflict. Of course, one of the teachers is one of the "Shushing Library Dragons" while the other is pretty laid back. Nevertheless, the overlap seemed to be going well when one of our most innovative English teachers happened in with 8 or so students in tow. She wanted to know if they could use the library for completing some creative components for a class project. I told them that I felt that we might be pushing our limit, but I deferred to the other two teachers, who graciously said "the more the merrier". I overheard this non-scheduled teacher telling a student, "That might be a demonstration that you'll want to keep for our classroom.Mrs. E. might not like it here in the library." I inquired and discovered that the student wanted to do some "Performance art" that demonstrated his biography of a famous athlete. I considered this and gave the go ahead-how crazy could it get? It turned out that his "Performance Art" was doing three consecutive standing back flips!

Everyone gave him a standing ovation and I was the one left shaking my head, tsk-ing, and counting the minutes to Spring Break! I only hope our Principal happened to be watching through our fish-bowl windows at the time! He thinks I'm pretty unconventional and I love to affirm his opinion. Who wants to be predictable?

Why do I get the feeling kids come into Debra's library because she there, not despite the fact she's there?

_________________________________________________

Last Wednesday, I do believe I heard something I'd never before heard in my 30 year library career. A Fulton County (GA) HS librarian stood up during the workshop and said:

I just want to tell you elementary and middle school librarians that I think you are doing a terrific job! Every year, the entering freshmen in my high school come better prepared to do research and use technology. I just want to say thank you.

Wow!

_________________________________________________

I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that the quote that began this post didn't come from a student in Cushing, Bombay or Fulton County.

Tuesday
Mar252008

If I can't get it legally is it OK to steal it?

I love getting these sorts of e-mails:

I have a 9-year-old who is utterly hell-bent on defining himself as a "Super Mega Nerd," and naturally, I am attempting to integrate digital rights and ethics into his brain now, rather than in a few years when the FBI comes knocking at the door.

Here's my problem --

Music.

Specifically video game music, and various niche-market televisions themes.ringtones.jpg

Some video game studios release accompanying soundtracks, but usually for very high budget games, such as the
Halo trilogy, Gears of War, etc.  Some TV shows release soundtracks, or the occasional single MP3 or ringtone.

What do you do about the games/shows that do not?

Case in point:  Microsoft's
MechAssault 2.  He owns the Papa Roach album with the theme song, "Getting Away with Murder," but wants additional music from the game.

Second case:  He wants the
Torchwood theme as a ringtone on his phone, but it is available only in the UK as a 3£ download, as a direct download to your phone to prove you are only in the UK.

My issue isn't in cost -- it is in availability.  He is having trouble with the idea that he cannot simply rip the files because it isn't ethical despite the fact that an "official" version is not available.

This is an interesting question. First, let me tell you that I am not a lawyer so any advice I give should be verified. Maybe twice.

I posed this question to my 22-year-old son who is not a lawyer either, but who is a video game fan and works in a large video game retail store. This was his reply:

As for the game music, if you already own the game you already own the game soundtrack. Therefore if you download ripped files on your computer it's just fine. This is the legal loophole a lot of websites use to get away with emulators, roms, and other files. Like this one called Kingdom Hearts Insider. http://downloads.khinsider.com/ They have virtually every game soundtrack known to man.

As for the TV shows and foreign music, they sell imported albums on Amazon and Ebay. I'm not sure of any other sites or the legal/ethical issues behind downloading these.

OK, that’s a Net Genner's view (who is thoughtful and knowledgeable). Here is my take:

In general, when it comes to intellectual property, a difficult concept for most people, especially younger ones, is that the creator does have the right to control the use of his product. He does not have an obligation to sell it or make it available for use if he chooses not to. If I make a chair and even let you look at my chair, there is nothing that requires me sell you my chair, a copy of my chair or the design plans for my chair. I can legally stop you from making a copy of my chair if the design has been copyright/trademark protected, I believe.

As far as I am concerned, if the music is not on the owned game disk itself or available commercially, acquiring and using it would be illegal and certainly unethical. And we can’t always get what we want. (Hey, that would make a great song lyric!) Not a bad lesson to learn at an early age.

I have no idea if converting a legally owned mp3 file to a ringtone is legal or not. But I am guess not, since it is changing format. I hope there are other Blue Skunk readers more knowledgeable than I about this issue.

Having said that, we need some perspective here as well. As a boy, on more than one occasion I stole apples and watermelons from neighboring farmers. Obviously illegal, but in the view of most rational people, more in the realm of mischief and youthful indiscretion than a grand theft punishable by a stint in juvie. Now had I stolen cars or television sets, the nature of the crime would have different – at least in my view. Where one draws the line as to what is serious and what is mischievous varies by individual. Dollar amounts do figure in, I believe, when it comes to determining legally the degree of a crime.

As a parent, I tended to turn a blind eye to the personal use of music of dubious provenance by my son. I did draw the line at having any computer in my house used as site whereby others could obtain illegal music via a peer-to-peer network.

Readers? A better response for this conscientious mom?

Monday
Mar242008

The Grandpa assignment

Last weekend I received this from my grandson Paul who is in first grade:

grandpasm.jpg

Here is the response I would like to write, but the LWW doesn't think it is such a hot idea:

Dear Grandson Paul,

When I was your age, I was a pioneer child on the prairie in the wilds of northwest Iowa. All 13 of my brothers, all 12 of my sisters, my mom and dad, two second cousins and I lived in the little log cabin that is still in the city park. There are now only me, your great-aunt Becky and great-uncle Jeff left of all my brothers and sisters. Two were carried away in a flood, four were adopted by wolves, a tornado carried away three, a band of robbers captured four, giant rattlesnakes scared away five, one went missing in a blizzard, a great golden eagle swooped down and flew off with one, and we think one just got left someplace and nobody remembers where. We are looking for some of my brothers and sisters to this day. It was a hard life when I was a little boy growing up on the prairie. Most parents always had a few extra children - just to have some spares.

We were very, very poor when I was your age. Instead of toys, we only had sticks and dirt clods to play with. The rich kids in the neighborhood had rocks too, but we didn't. Grandma made all our clothes out of tree bark and animal skins - and not very fresh ones, either. We mostly ate mush, field corn and bullheads for supper. For Christmas, sometimes we got a raisin in our stocking. And were we excited! Breakfast and lunch usually were just the berries we could find in the woods. We had to fight over them with the bears. Our TV set only had 13 channels and color was not yet invented. In fact, the entire world was in black and white except for part of the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Most of the time we just worked. It was my job to gather eggs from the pigs. Pig eggs are very hard to find and sometimes the pigs got grumpy when they were nesting. You had to be careful or you might get bitten. My sister Lefty, had that happen to her. We tied a rope from the cabin to the barn door so we could follow it during dust storms. Once we had a dust storm that lasted so long we planted potatoes in the air around the cabin. When we harvested the spuds, they were already mashed. Yummmm!

I did get to go to school every other year from ages 5 to 27. Like most children, I had to walk to school, five miles each way and both directions were uphill. My teacher was very nice, but very busy with the 837 children in our one room school. Each of us had a laptop computer, however, and when the teacher was busy with other children, we surfed the Internet. I actually got to talk to Miss Snippet (my teacher) twice while I was in school. Both times she told me I was doing a good job. Our library only had seven books and it took a long time to get one to read at home. It was harder to learn to read when I was a little boy since the letters m and r had not yet been invented. They had just discovered the number 7 when I was in 3rd grade so I had to learn my number facts twice.

But I was happy growing up since I knew one day I would be a grandpa and have a wonderful grandson like you. And that's a fact.

Love,

The Grandpa who lives on the lake