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

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

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EdTech Update





Chrismas confession

My daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons, and Willie the dog should be pulling into the driveway any time now. A pot of chili is on the stove and pan of cornbread ready to throw in the oven. We'll see how tired the  boys (one 4 years old and 3 months old) are before we decide whether to open presents tonight or tomorrow morning.

I was specifically asked by my daughter to not give my grandsons toy weaponry this Christmas - especially anything that involves projectiles.  She feels such toys run counter to the spirit of the season. While I'm concerned she's turning into some sort of religious nut case, I've tried to honor her wishes - no BB guns, no bows and arrows, not even a Nerf rocket shooter. No toy knives, swords, brass knuckles, or RPGs. I'm really trying to be good.

Still, I'm hoping tonight will be the great unwrapping since one of my gifts to Paulie, the 4-year-old, is remote control, roboraptor.jpgprogrammable dinosaur called The Roboraptor. It's gotta be four feet long and very cool. Excellent reptilian, carnivorous sounds and I'm thinking it can be made to stalk the cats.

I can hardly wait to play with it.


A couple good sites

For fans of It's a Wonderful Life, take a look at the clever parody at: It's a Wonderful Internet. (Thanks to WWWedu for this one.)


 Read Tony Long's passionate and funny defense of the First Amendment in "Your Right to Be an Idiot" in Wired online. Says Mr. Long:

There's an old expression in the newspaper business: "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." In other words, make sure your bullshit detector is always on. Be skeptical of what you're told, of what you read. Cross-check your facts with other sources. What applies in the newsroom applies tenfold on the internet, where anybody is free to post any damned thing they want to.
He'd make a great librarian.


 While I can't in good conscience make Will Richardson's prediction of a "blog break," I will be scaling back over the holidays. I'm looking forward to my daughter's family - husband and two grandsons - spending the week after Christmas with us. My mom will be here for a couple days. We'll head to the Twin Cities to have Chrismas dinner with the LWW's large  family. Son Brady spent the last few days with us, home from college, and is now heading to see grandparents in Iowa. Before he left, he gave me a few new Blue Skunk sketches too.


I never understood the old relatives when they would say, "All I want for Chrismas is just for you to come home." I get it now.


Librarians behaving badly

I have to say I was taken aback when reading this posting on this morning's LM_Net listserv:


It's the last day before winter break and I'll be spending it in traditional fashion: acting as an accessory to a federal crime.

Yes, friends, nothing imparts that holiday glow quite like the teeny thrill of naughtiness and the lingering sense of guilt that comes with being part of a willful breach of copyright guidelines.

Bust out the eggnog and pass the DVDs!

Oh, come now You know what I'm talking about: The holiday film festival. Isn't it pretty much de rigueur in every school on that last day before break? I know I've been asked to do it every year since entering the profession and, though I always, gently, point out that it's actually naughty, not nice, to bend copyright law, teachers and administrators alike always simply nudge me toward the play button with a wink and a nod.

Ah well, it's for the kids...

This year's line up is pretty hot, too: Our library will be hosting a gathering of about a hundred kids who'll grab some popcorn and get cozy in our Kiva area (I installed a dedicated presentation system complete with gut-rumbling cinema sound a few years back) and be treated to a big screen showing of "Christmas with the Kranks." By bypassing any pesky admission or rental fees, we'll be stealing bread off the tables of Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis and the hundreds of other artists and tradespeople responsible for the production and distribution of the show.

But that's not all:

For those who can't make it down to the library, I'll be pumping out "Madagascar" on our schools in-house TV distribution system. You heard me right! The just-released on DVD blockbuster will be available in every classroom in the house!

Now that I've shared my dirty little secret, tell me yours. Does your school system do this too? Are you and I part of what is perhaps the most overlooked mass act of civil disobedience in the nation? Are you doing it right now? Do you feel badly about it or do you kinda like it? Do you ever bring the nasty realities of the matter up to faculty and administration? Do any of you work in a district that has actually taken steps to arrest this sort of practice?

Tell me about it. I wanna know. And, if you tell me, I promise, I'll write you right back. The library's pretty much closed anyway.

We're watching movies!!!

Happy Holidays!

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more?  To the author of this e-mail, I would simply say, "Yes, what you are doing is wrong, wrong, wrong." (Yes, I've ragged on this topic before.) But, I do admire your courage for bringing the dirty laundry out.

Let's leave aside any financial ramifications this act might have. I don't worry about Jamie Lee Curtis not eating well tonight. Let's leave aside that this is a common practice in schools (and churches) across the country. Let's not even worry about a school getting fined if caught illegally showing films for entertainment purposes without a public performance license. Let's not even discuss whether this is a good use of school time or taxpayer dollars.

But let's do talk about the message a professional librarian, who as a part of his training knows and is regarded as expert on copyright, to students, is sending to other teachers, the administration, the parents, and the community: that breaking a law is just fine so long as it is common practice and there is little likelihood of getting caught. That it's better just to shut up and go with the flow than to be unpopular.

To our students who will almost certainly be making their living through the creation of intellectual property, we are doing a grave disservice. In a knowledge/information/conceptual/whatever economy which runs on ideas and creativity, not widgets or manual labor, the theft of intellectual property is no more or less moral than the  theft of physcial property - an idea that too few people seem to grasp. (Even by educators who, in most cases, are earning their paycheck because of brain rather than back power.)

Yes, I find it hard to tell people I won't illegally duplicate software or videos. It's not pleasant when I send a copyright work back to a teacher saying that my shop won't duplicate it. Other professionals get mad when I suggest that copyright images painted in our hallways be painted over (and put the recommendation in writing.) But dammit, I do it.

My district, like that of the author of the e-mail above, willing violates copyright. I never claimed to be a saint in this area personally either. But I sure as hell don't have to be an accomplice. It won't be my finger that pushes the button. I will keep on file memos pointing out activities I believe may be illegal. If we as librarians don't show some moral fiber, who will? I've always thought we were a bit better than the run of the mill educator. The request for dispensation above disappoints me.

OK, I will dismount from the pulpit. Am I being over-reactive or are there other professionals out there who find this problem serious and have taken a principled stand as an individual, even when the district seems to be saying, "Nnudge, nudge, wink, wink?"