Search this site
Other stuff

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

My latest books:


        Available now

       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 Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





“We’re on a Mission from God”

Whether you take the Blues Brothers’ movie line figuratively or literally (small g or large G), your have to admire people who seem to be driven by a higher cause. That’s why I like Stephen Krashen’s work. You just get the feeling that he thinks about nothing but getting kids to read by reading - joyfully and with the help of libraries. And he will keep writing letters to the editor of various newspapers and journals until everyone in education sees the light.

His book, The Power of Reading, 2nd ed., is a must read for all school librarians and anyone else in education librarians can get to read it. (My review which appeared on KQWeb.) Through extensive research, he builds an excellent case for how Free Voluntary Reading improves both reading ability and desire and why libraries are vital to supporting FVR efforts.

But if you want to really want to see Krashen in action, sign up for the mailing list on his website. He shares all his “letters to the editor” pummeling the educational establishment for their benighted views of reading instruction. Lively reading and he must write four or five of these things a week.

I hope all educators are on a “mission from god” when it comes to their work. I hope we are less about technology or math or reading and more about ending poverty, bringing about social justice, and giving kids fulfilling lives. I know the test scores loom large, but it’s really about the changing the world. If we aren’t about that, we ought to all get jobs in industrial adhesive sales or something.

What’s your “mission from God?”


IMSA’s 21st Century Information Fluency Model – Take a Look

I get requests to look at quite a few websites related to libraries, technology and information literacy skills, and I usually at least take a grudging peek at them. But once in a while, I find one that’s worth sharing with others. The The 21st Century Information Fluency Project (21CIF), developed by Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (headed by a long-time colleague, David Barr) is one of those sites.

While information literacy/fluency models are fairly abundant, the 21CIF strategy focuses on using digital information sources and the unique skills it takes to locate and evaluate them. The site contains “Wizard Tools” designed to help the student (or I supposed struggling adult – like me) tackle each step of the process, tutorials, lesson plans and “tips.” Kudos to the web designer for a clean, easily-navigated, and appealing user interface.

IMSA also is offering a wide range of free training events including online classes and webinars, alas, only for Illinois educators.

Here’s my thought: AASL’s ICONnect effort to offer online courses for its members seems to be languishing. Do I sense there might be a way to for AASL and IMSA to work together to take some of these training materials nationwide?

I know I could use the training!
1 Comment »
Doug, kudos on the Blue Skunk. I enjoy reading pages with voice and personality…and your pages do all that and more. Is Gonzo Librarianship a genre? A quick glance at your blogroll seems to say yes.

Thanks too for your efforts to spread the word about our project. We’ve been building tools, creating curriculum, doing workshops, and teaching online classes for the past four years. It was time to rebuild the website to make it easier for the casual visitor to find the goodies. (It’s ironic that so few web visitors actually use the search box on the home page.) Traffic is up, the redesign seems to be cooking. It’s a bright new fall…8)

Most recently we’ve been talking about where our work fits in the landscape of research skills. We’re definitely digital. You take a long thoughtful stop after hitting the Big6 and we’ll be there. Our attention is split between the close up work of promoting library media’s place in all this by delivering workshops, online classes and webinars, and the new effort to reach a national audience of educators with our website and information fluency tools.

It’s tough to get folks’ attention. (By the way, we’re ready to open the doors on our webinars & online classes for tipping point folks from other states. We’d like to package our content for online delivery around the county. Iconnect sounds like a great idea.)

We’re working to detail the ksd’s of the ‘info fluent student’ (that has a ring to it) with a new document that describes student core competencies for search, evaluating, and ethically using digital information. (

All this is foundation work that we count on when we’re making more light hearted learning exeperiences like the search challenges. The first one is online at: . We’ve got a half dozen more in the chute. We’re hoping these flash based pieces capture the elusive attention of educators already bombarded with info.

Thanks for the help Doug! Everyone on the team appreciates it.

(It’s a 21st century trick that I can work full time in Illinois and still live in the Sierra Nevadas.

Comment by Dennis O'Connor — September 19, 2005 @ 10:26 am


Showing Up, Bathroom Reads, and other Idle Weekend Thoughts

Seems like it as important to rest one’s brain on the weekend as it is one’s bod, so just few small ideas, perhaps less professional than the norm.

1. We really should heed Woody Allen’s observation that “eighty percent of success is showing up.” I thought about this statement this morning as the LWW and I participated in the school’s annual “Run for Education” fundraiser. This is the seventh year it’s been held, and I haven’t missed one yet. (I walk.) While the event is fun and good exercise, it is also a chance to “show up.” Ed the superintendent, a couple school board members, some community leaders, and of course quite a few teachers, principals and parents are there. It’s a chance to be associated (no matter how subliminally) with something positive. Also one feels justified eating the large breakfast at the local pancake house afterwards.

2. Perhaps it is a guy thing, but I like having handy reading material near the “throne.” Magazines are good and poetry anthologies are OK, but books with short little chapters are even better. I’m currently enjoying Why Do Men Have Nipples?, a collection of answers to questions you’d be too embarassed to ask unless you had a few drinks. While I have not yet read the answer to the titular question (pun intended), I do now know that I can swallow my gum without health risk.

3. There’s been some back and forth about the benefits or lack thereof of gripe sessions among librarians. I suspect such things are healthy so long they are among friends, rather than just acquaintances or co-workers. One thing I try NOT to do is ever start a grip session with my boss. Richard A. Moran says, “Never go to your boss with a problem that doesn’t have a solution. You are paid to think, not to whine.” Whining, if one needs to do it, should be done to one’s spouse or cat (and if you don’t have one or other you really should for no other reason). There is an old riddle told in principals’ circles: “What is the difference between a puppy and a teacher? The puppy stops whining when you let it in the door.” Ouch.

4. Would someone please explain “9 Chickweed Lane” comic strip to me? I have yet to find anything understandable, let alone humorous in the panels that have been running for about the last three weeks in the paper. Thank you.

5. David Warlick’s 2 Cents Worth blog has a recent entry on the amount of television that is being offered today - something like 29,000 hours per week. Here’s the irony: When I was a little boy growing up on the Iowa prairie, we had two channels that didn’t start programming until Sunrise Semester at 6am and ended with the National Anthem at, what, 11pm? But I was still a TV fiend and would have watched TV all day had I more understanding parents. As it was, I’m sure I watched more than today’s kids’ average of 3.5 hours a day. Currently I sometimes catch the Daily Show - that’s it. I am not trying to be a snob, but I can’t find a single other thing to watch that is worth sitting through commercials for. I guess I’d rather spend my leisure time reading David’s thoughts than hearing Homer Simpson’s. (Damned by faint praise?)

Tomorrow I spend preparing for my visit to Encylo-Media in Tulsa, OK, next week. Sooners are great folks, but I always feel intimidated knowing that librarians from Norman may be in the audience. Outside of southern Minnesota, these folks are the best school librarians I know. I better be on top of my game.
1 Comment »
9 Chickweed Lane — was *originally* a strip about 3 generations of women in 1 household (4 if you count the cat), each with very distinct personalities and story-lines. Within the past year, however, the creator seems to have shifted the focus to concentrate on Edda and her adventures as a ballet dancer in NYC. If you know the backstory, the strip is still good; if you’re new to it, it may be less appealing/understandable.
FWIW, take a look at some of the ‘history’ of this strip, at

Comment by Alice Yucht — September 19, 2005 @ 12:16 pm