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Sunday
Jul272008

I never looked better

Thanks to Cathy Jo Nelson for sharing this site, Cameroid.* (Sort of an online version of Photobooth that that comes with the Mac)

Evidence of Intelligent Design?

Using Abby Normal's brain.

This wasn't really what I intended to do this morning!

*Are there any attractive words that end in 'oid"?

Saturday
Jul262008

Fewer Cheetos and other Kindle-related observations

"Always be wary of any helpful item that weighs less than its operating manual." - Terry Pratchett

I've been using the Kindle e-book reader now for a solid month. I'd like to be able to say that I either love it or hate it, but I can't. The reading experience isn't better or worse than a paper book, just rather different. And there have been some surprises - fewer of a technical nature and more of those that are behavioral or social. So...

  • I am much neater about eating and drinking around this device. It's one thing to get Cheetos fingers on a book page; quite another to gum up this pearly white and costly machine.
  • While it is very nice having the decreased weight of multiple books on a trip, it's almost unnerving not to be able to read during take off and landing. The airline magazines suck. I worry about leaving this machine (I suppose I should give it a name) in the airline seat pocket - which I have done more than once with a paperback.
  • The LWW is not happy when I buy something for the Kindle that she also wants to read, such as Sedaris's When You Are Engulfed in Flames (which is very funny). She also needs to ask me what I am reading on a regular basis - sometimes 2-3 times a day. The relatives who normally buy me a Barnes & Noble gift cards are now flummoxed.
  • Non-fiction doesn't hold my attention any better on the Kindle than it does on paper. I am finding the much celebrated Here Comes Everyone a little tedious. Sorry, fans. Perhaps I am just in a summer mindset, requiring my books revolve around guns, goons and gorgeous girls rather than the social implications of Web 2.0.  Zzzzzzzzz.
  • It's annoying to find a book you want to read NOT available for the Kindle. I can see I will need to use two formats - print and electronic - for quite some time. There are some books this device just doesn't do justice to. The Back of the Napkin which depends on graphics to get its message across is a poor choice for reading on the Kindle.
  • I was really hoping that the adjustable font size would allow me to read without having to find my K-Mart reading glasses. It is certainly possible to make the text that big, but it then means turning the page every 30 seconds. Four or five words per line doesn't help the narrative flow. The clicking noise of the select wheel drives the LWW nuts when she is trying to get to sleep.
  • It is much more difficult to find your place after losing it on the Kindle than in a print book. And given the unfortunate, much lambasted position of the page turn buttons, it is very easy to lose one's place. If you let somebody borrow the device to play with, you can be assured you will be spending time finding your place again.
  • The device has a primitive web browser, but the software is pretty crumby yet. I don't see that Amazon has much incentive to improve it since one could use it to read for free the blogs it sells on a subscription basis. I've not yet used the device to listen to an audiobook or a song or to view a photo. I did trial subscriptions of both a newspaper and a blog. The newspaper didn't have the funnies and the blog was expensive so the subscription to neither lasted past the trial.
  • I love how the Kindle tells you the time. If you press ALT-T while reading, a small script appears that says, "Six minutes of eight." or "Half past seven." Just as though you had asked a person.
  • I am amazed at the body of support that has already developed around the Kindle. Stephen Windwalker is releasing the draft of his book The Complete Users Gide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle. Lots o' blogs, discussion groups, etc. "I was so busy learning how to use the book, I never got around to reading it," Groucho might now say.
  • My mother-in-law's biggest complaint is that Amazon allows one to read the beginning of the book rather than the last chapter before purchase. Margaret always reads the end of a book to make sure it has a happy ending before she buys it. Given that only English majors and film critics much care for tragic endings, perhaps Amazon should re-think its preview policy.
Will I keep using it? You better believe it - I've got $360 wrapped up in this puppy. It works great for trips. It's much easier to read at a table when eating alone.  It has features I've not yet explored enough. And it does become transparent when the reading material is compelling. It just needs to be priced much, much lower to find a popular market.

It is the future. Have you noticed that the future always seems to take some getting used to?

Does reading the Kindle make your brain...

larger or

smaller?

Friday
Jul252008

Going public

My friend and colleague, Principal Matt Hillman, wrote a very good post on LeaderTalk yesterday called "Getting the Word Out." In it he stressed the importance of schools taking their messages to the public beyond "web sites, fliers, or parent nights" and...

personally spreading the news about what we do for kids and our families to folks who might not typically cross paths with school personnel.

Given that in our community fewer than 25% of our households contain public school children, finding effective ways to inform all voters, taxpayers and community opinion leaders about our schools is increasingly important.

Matt's posting is weirdly coincidental since next Monday I will be giving a 20 minute talk* to my Kiwanis Club. Titled "Do You Know More Than a Fifth Grade Teacher?" it has these three objectives:

  • To raise the level of respect for teachers in our community (not that they really need the help)
  • To raise the awareness of the importance of technology in classroom (which really does need help)
  • To demonstrate the district has spent technology referendum dollars wisely

A letter will go out next week to other service clubs in town, in which I'll offer to give this talk at their meetings as well.

I've done lots of talks for service clubs. The members of these organizations have a high tolerance for bland food. They often meet at ungodly hours. They sing, pray, pledge, and conduct silly rituals.

But I also I find in every case that these club members are interested, involved, supportive and ask good questions. They care about kids and the community. They work hard and are generous with both their time and money. And they make you feel welcome and appreciated. 

My simple suggestions for an effective community talk include:

  • Keep it short - 20 minutes max
  • Show pictures of happy kids (HPLUKs)
  • Wow'm a little
  • Stress the positive
  • Make it about kids
  • Make a point

Matt concludes:

Groups like Rotary, Kiwanis, and the Lions Club are just a few examples of civic organizations where individuals committed to our communities gather and talk. These are great organizations to engage. What are some public relations efforts you have used to spread the good word in your community?
Well. library and tech folks, how do you engage the larger community? It's vitally important.

_______________________________

My slides for Monday's talk are available on Slideshare. If you are confused by the first few, they are simply there to illustrate this little introductory story:

A pundit once speculated that should a 19th century physician be transported to the present day, he or she would not recognize a modern operating room. A 19th century banker would not be able to function in today's bank. In fact, the writer observed, the only professionals whose working environment would have changed so little that they could begin working immediately would be public classroom teachers.

And the rest of the talk sets out to disprove it.

Have a great weekend.



Update:
The talk went fine. Thanks!

Club member Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology for the Mankato Area Public schools updates the club on new technologies used in the classroom at the July 29, 2008 meeting.