Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is an ambitious, even audacious project to organize and make available via the Internet virtually all information about life present on Earth. At its heart lies a series of Web sites—one for each of the approximately 1.8 million known species—that provide the entry points to this vast array of knowledge. The entry-point for each site is a species page suitable for the general public, but with several linked pages aimed at more specialized users. The sites sparkle with text and images that are enticing to everyone, as well as providing deep links to specific data.
The EOL dynamically synthesizes biodiversity knowledge about all known species, including their taxonomy, geographic distribution, collections, genetics, evolutionary history, morphology, behavior, ecological relationships, and importance for human well being, and distribute this information through the Internet. It serves as a primary resource for a wide audience that includes scientists, natural resource managers, conservationists, teachers, and students around the world. We believe that the EOL's encompassing scope and innovation will have a major global impact in facilitating biodiversity research, conservation, and education.
The EOL staff is made up of scientists and non-scientists working from museums and research institutions around the world. We currently have 20 full time employees, but as this project grows, so will the EOL family.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
BY KEITH BONNELL
Vancouver Sun: 2008 February 27
Filling classrooms with computers doesn’t seem to be making students any smarter and may actually be harming the education of younger children, suggests a new report.
The analysis questions the millions of dollars being spent each year by school boards across the country to ensure elementary and high school students have access to the best technology.
Released by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy think- tank, it cites several studies — including an international review that found students with less access to computers actually earned higher grades in math, reading and science.
The report was penned by Manitoba high school teacher Michael Zwaagstra, who has first- hand knowledge of the ways computers are changing classrooms.
“ More computer access does not automatically mean a better education,” Zwaagstra said Tuesday after teaching a class in Grunthal, Man., about 65 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
Zwaagstra says the push to make students computer- literate could come at the cost of teaching kids basic subjects like reading by cutting into class time.
“ I’m not a Luddite trying to say there shouldn’t be any computers anywhere,” said the 32- year- old. “ I’m just simply issuing a call for some balance.”
His main concerns are not for high school students, but for children in Grade 1 or Grade 2.
He questioned how much sense it makes to teach young elementary school students to use computers and software that inevitably will be obsolete in a few years.
“[ Students’] time would be better spent getting a solid grasp of the basics — such as reading and mathematics,” the report said.
Manitoba spends more than $ 26 million annually on information technology in schools. Ontario offers school boards $ 60 per high school pupil that can be spent on computer hardware, software and other technology services. Boards are offered $ 46 for each elementary student.
Zwaagstra, whose report focused on Manitoba, said the money could instead be spent on capital costs for schools and more teachers.
The Manitoba government says its schools integrate computers into their lesson plans.
“ We have a balanced approach to our curriculum, and we see information technology as one of those basic skills for students,” said Darryl Gervais, a government coordinator of instruction, curriculum and assessment.
Manitoba expects school divisions to spend $ 32.3 million on computer equipment, services and salaries for related personnel in the 2007- 08 budget year.
The Zwaagstra report cites a 2004 analysis by a pair of University of Munich economists.
They looked at the OECD Program for International Student Assessment, which tests 15- yearold students in dozens of countries, including Canada.
The review found that when variables such as household income were taken into account, students with the most access to computers at home and at school had lower scores in math, reading and science than students with less computer access. It concluded that while moderate computer use was beneficial, excessive access had a negative impact on students.
“ We must not delude ourselves into thinking that more computer use increases academic achievement,” writes Zwaagstra.
One expert says that if there is a problem adapting classrooms to technology, it’s the lack of funding for teachers’ professional development.
“ It’s not the computer that makes kids smarter or not smarter, it’s what they’re doing with the technology,” said Don Herbert Krug, a professor of curriculum studies at the University of B. C.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Special to the Sun
Monday, February 25, 2008
I sit across from an Afghan boy named Ali. Ten years old, he is doing reading and writing exercises tailored to his English-as-second-language level, part of a local non-profit program that helps refugee children with literacy.
He asks me if I can help him with his schoolwork instead, and I agree. As I open up the Grade 5 reader and go through reading comprehension with him, I am baffled.
Asked to underline the words he doesn't know, he turns the page red as he stumbles across each sentence, often resorting to phonics to read. He tells me that he is often frustrated because he falls behind in his classes.
Ali is one of many students who struggle with the current integrated approach to ESL.
Children are placed in classes according to their age groups, regardless of their English literacy level. After provincial funding cuts for ESL support programs in schools, teachers and parents begin to question the sustainability of integrated learning without proper resources. Without specialized assistance in mixed composition classrooms, majority of ESL students do not meet acceptable literacy levels.
Literacy is crucial to making sure that new immigrants are active and successful members of society. In British Columbia, many of the students who struggle with literacy have English as a second language. With increased immigration expected from non-English speaking countries, the challenges of our education system will only become more apparent in the years ahead.
By 2017, one in three British Columbians will be foreign-born. Metro Vancouver school districts are already experiencing growing pains, currently struggling with a ratio of one in four students from non-English speaking households.
With adequate resources, integrated approaches are better than segregated classes. But without proper support, students will fail.
The B.C. Teachers Federation is questioning the efficacy of Bill 33, the latest provincial education reform. The number of ESL students allocated to each classroom is not limited by the bill. Teachers are stretched thin dealing with high numbers of ESL students. Without sufficient attention, ESL students have lower academic performance, with dropout rates more than double the high-school average.
Teachers and parents agree that inclusive policies create the best environment for ESL students, given the right resources. Many newcomers feel ashamed to attend segregated ESL courses and don't receive sufficient language instruction to be proficient in English. ESL classes foster stereotyping and exclusion within schools.
As a graduating SFU arts student, I don't exactly look back with fondness on the three years of segregated ESL classes in my Burnaby high school. In my first week, classmates from my home country took me aside and told me to scratch ESL off my binder and replace it with English. Until that moment, I hadn't realized that learning English is something I should be ashamed of. It was the first time I felt stigmatized as an immigrant.
I quickly got myself into a "normal" classroom. The segregated approach alienates students and makes them feel anything but "normal." Integrated classrooms could be a solution, but because they lack adequate resources, teachers, out of desperation, are considering moving back to a segregated curriculum.
Last month, Premier Gordon Campbell reaffirmed the province's commitment to the Canwest Raise-a-Reader campaign as part of Family Literacy Week contributing nearly $900,000 in funding.
Since 2001, the province has pledged more than $131 million for new literacy programs to make British Columbia "the best educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent."
Yet by 2005 this government had eliminated 20 per cent of ESL teachers, closed more than 100 school libraries and laid off more than 23 per cent of teacher librarians. It is hard not to think of these initiatives as publicity stunts.
Vaughn Palmer recently reported that literacy "results to date have been disappointing," with little improvement made since the 2004 promise. While non-profits are a great tool for ESL, public education must come first.
Our teachers are on the frontlines of immigrant literacy. Instead of focusing on media-friendly initiatives, the government should first of all strengthen the education system.
If the government wants to live up to its own Bill 33, teachers must get adequate funding for ESL learning in integrated classrooms.
Language is the most crucial factor in determining the success of new Canadians socially, culturally and economically.
Niya Karpenko is part of the Simon Fraser University's undergraduate semester in dialogue.
If the B.C. Ministry of Education is wondering why the auditor general cannot find evidence of progress on the government’s literacy goal, it should look to Ontario.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has just announced it will spend $40 million over the next four years to increase staffing in school libraries across that province. This is in addition to a huge grant announced last year to purchase new books and databases.
Ontario has learned that its earlier failure to fund school library programs was actually expensive. It cost in terms of literacy rates and it cost a generation of Ontario’s children access to vibrant, important, exciting, inspiring reading experiences. Ontario has learned that computer labs are no replacement for a current, robust school library collection staffed by an informed, passionate teacher-librarian.
When will our Ministry of Education wake up to the news?
Because the money is coming directly from Ontario’s education ministry, school districts are not being forced, as ours are, into Solomon’s choices that pit school music programs against literacy goals and shop equipment against textbooks.
This level of dedicated funding would translate into $177,500 per year for the Greater Victoria School District. It would increase elementary teacher-librarian time from the current paltry one day a week to a day and a half.
The B.C. government sits on a $4.1 billion surplus. It’s time to loosen the purse strings for the good of our children.
Karen Lindsay, Saanich
Times Colonist: 2008 February 25
JUDITH LAVOIETimes Colonistjlavoie@tc.canwest.com
Times Colonist has cracked the $ 1- million mark.
The weekend sale, which raised a record $180,030 for education and literacy projects in the community, boosted sales figures over the past 11 years to a total of $1,103,185.
“ We were really keeping our fingers crossed. We were pretty sure we could do it,” said promotions Times Colonist manager Kathy Baan.
When the book sale started in 1998 it raised $ 21,800 and numbers have risen steadily every year since. It is part of Canwest’s national Raise- aReader Campaign.
More than 600,000 books were on sale this year as crowds crammed into the former NOW Furniture store on Douglas Street, donated for the event by John Asfar of the Traveller’s Inn.
Karen and Robert Mowat make the sale an annual tradition. “ I make a list before we come down or I can’t remember what it is we want. My memory’s not so hot. In fact, now I can’t remember where I put my list,” said Karen Mowat, as she sat in a chair poring over her finds, which included a hefty tome on healing plants, fishing books and westerns.
Zosia Lacz was looking for books about the man who saved her mother’s life — Lt.-Gen. Wladyslaw Anders, a Polish general in the Second World War. Toward the end of the war, Anders disobeyed orders and led Polish women and children out of Siberian labour camps, knowing they would die if they were left behind.
“One of them was my mother, so I owe my life to him,” Lacz said. Times Colonist publisher Bob McKenzie said the event’s sponsors and its 300 volunteers deserve a huge vote of thanks. “This sale wouldn’t be possible without their support,” he said.
Today, teachers and nonprofit groups can collect as many books as they want, for free. The remaining books will go to a wholesaler.
Application forms for grants from book sale proceeds will be issued in April.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Vancouver Sun: Saturday, February 23, 2008
John Wood boasts that the organization he founded to bring literacy to developing countries is opening school libraries in Asia and Africa faster than Starbucks is opening coffee shops.
At the home of University of B.C. president Stephen Toope this week, the former Microsoft executive and superstar philanthropist jokingly told donors to his non-profit organization, Room to Read: "We are taking [Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz down, people."
The crowd cheered as Wood, author of the inspirational 2006 memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, reeled off Room to Read's accomplishments since the year 2000.
"We are opening libraries at an insanely rapid rate. In 2007, we opened 1,600 school libraries -- four new libraries each and every day.
"We have opened 444 schools across the developing world in the last seven years. This year, we go bigger and open 250 new schools -- five new schools per week."
Wood's epiphany came in 1998, when he was trekking in Nepal. He visited a school whose headmaster proudly showed him its library. It was a bare, unfurnished room and its few books -- backpackers' castoffs, unsuitable for children -- were locked in a cupboard so the 450 students wouldn't damage them.
When Wood registered dismay, the headmaster ventured: "Perhaps, sir, you will one day come back with books."
Wood took up the challenge. He and his septuagenarian father brought 3,000 books to Nepal and, renting a yak for the equivalent of $5 a day, handed them out.
He decided to leave his high-paying job ("I wanted to do something with my good fortune, I had enough to take a risk") and apply business principles, such as leveraging and scalability, to achieving philanthropic ends.
Three statistics from the developing world that would depress most people serve to motivate him. The first is that 110 million children of primary-school age aren't enrolled in school. The second is that 800 million people, or one-seventh of humanity, can't read or write. Lastly, there's the fact that two-thirds of both those groups are girls and women.
Wood, who is 44 and lives in San Francisco, urged listeners with "excess liquidity" to support his cause, saying a mere $250 can pay a girl's school fees for a year.
One Vancouver enthusiast is Praveen Varshney, of Varshney Capital Corp. His contributions have built 11 libraries in India. Two more are Shu Lui and Richa Misra. Lui helped to organize a Live-in for Literacy, during which Misra and friend Anita Bernardo camped inside UBC's Koerner Library for 10 days in January, collecting $5,000 in donations for Room to Read. "This is one way I can help," said Misra.
Sharon Davis, who heads the Vancouver Room to Read chapter with Lisa Clement and Joyce Reid, said Wood's presentation elicited "some very large verbal commitments, far larger than expected," which should materialize over the next month.
Friday, February 22, 2008
New and emerging writers from Quebec, Alberta and Ontario are among the latest winners of the CBC Literary Awards.
CBC Radio host Eleanor Wachtel revealed on Thursday morning the latest batch of English-language winners:
- Creative Nonfiction: 1st prize - In a Garden by Shelagh Plunkett of Montreal; 2nd prize - Vidh by Phyllis Nakonechny of Swift Current, Sask.
- Poetry: 1st prize - Sundress, Fortress by Jeramy Dodds of Orono, Ont.; 2nd prize - Catching a Snare Drum at the Fraser's Mouth by Harold Rhenisch of Campbell River, B.C.
- Short Story: 1st prize - White by Lee Kvern of Okotoks, Alta.; 2nd prize - Preservation by Alex Leslie of Richmond, B.C.
Radio-Canada's Christiane Charette also announced the French-language winners Thursday morning. They are:
- Creative Nonfiction: 1st prize - La valise rouge by Chantal Gaudreault from Quebec City; 2nd prize - Havre-les-Chiens by Guy Lalancette of Chibougamau, Que.
- Poetry: 1st prize - La science de l'adieu by André Roy of Montreal; 2nd prize: Je suis une espionne by Tania Langlais of Montreal.
- Short Story: 1st prize - Louise by Vital Gagnon of Sept-Îles, Que.; Une baleine dans le ventre by Chantal Gaudreault of Quebec City.
The winners were feted at a ceremony in Montreal Thursday, with the first place writers receiving $6,000 each, and $4,000 going to each of the second place finishers.
Presented annually, the awards honour excellence in unpublished work submitted by up-and-coming writers across the country and are presented by CBC and Radio-Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and Air Canada's enRoute magazine.
Writer and Rheostatics member Dave Bidini, poet Di Brandt and authors Nino Ricci, Barbara Gowdy and Thomas King were among the English-language jurists.The winning texts, chosen from the more than 5,000 pieces submitted from across Canada, will be published in Air Canada's enRoute magazine and presented on CBC Radio's satellite radio show Between the Covers during week of Feb. 25.
Presentations of the winning pieces will also be available as podcasts from CBC's Words at Large page beginning Feb. 27.
Words At Large http://www.cbc.ca/wordsatlarge
Thursday, February 21, 2008
(Ottawa, February 22, 2008) Oliver Twist, The Golden Compass and Rolling Stone magazine were among the library materials challenged by Canadian library users in 2007, according to a new survey released today.
The Canadian Library Association’s 2nd annual Survey of Challenged Materials in Canadian Libraries identified 42 items challenged by patrons. Children’s books, mainstream films, graphic novels and popular magazines were all challenged, and a policy on Internet access was also disputed. The survey was released in advance of Freedom to Read Week, February 24 to March 1.
Many of the books and DVDs were challenged by parents and grandparents who found the materials to be age-inappropriate, sexually explicit, violent, racist, or questioned family values. Included in the 2007 challenges were Masterpiece Theatre’s DVD of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, citing a “childbirth depiction”, and The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman for religious viewpoints.
”The reasons given for challenges this past year strongly echo those documented in the mid-1980s,” says CLA President Alvin Schrader. “Librarians and public library trustees need to continue to be knowledgeable and articulate about potentially controversial topics and about our core values, freedom of expression and the freedom to receive information. If libraries don’t create a safe space in Canadian society for as many voices as possible, nobody else will. This will always be an important policy goal for libraries in Canada.”
In addition to being CLA President, Dr. Schrader, a professor at the University of Alberta, has published Fear of Words: Censorship and the Public Libraries of Canada, based on a survey of censorship pressures on Canadian public libraries.
Despite the challenges, the status of most of the materials identified in the survey was not changed within the library’s collection.
Professor Toni Samek of CLA’s Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom, thanks the survey respondents who reported in, noting most challenges go unreported. The entire report is available on the CLA website.
The Canadian Library Association/Association canadienne des bibliothèques is the largest national library association in Canada, encompassing public, academic, school and special libraries. It represents thousands of Canadian libraries and 57,000 library workers.
Copyright Campaign Among Most Visible Media Campaigns of 2007
OTTAWA, ON (February 19, 2008) – The Canadian Library Association’s bold gamble to hold a media event on copyright four days before Christmas paid off with a national award from the CNW Group (Canada Newswire).
CLA’s media release was ranked in the top 10 files accessed by journalists on the day of release. The CLA news release was accessed by journalists a total of 682 times on Dec. 21, 2007 alone.
This award underscores the huge reach of the CLA campaign that led to major coverage in newspapers, magazines, radio and television media across Canada. Highlights included front page coverage in the Globe and Mail, special coverage on Macleans.ca, and coverage on CBC Radio news and on CTV.ca.
In addition, the campaign received massive coverage online and on social networking websites such as Facebook. The online story alone reached an estimated 50,000 Canadians.
Led by the Association’s Copyright Committee, the renewed campaign on pending copyright legislation calls for balance between the rights of creators, rightsholders, and users like library patrons.
A key component of the plan was a major national press conference on Parliament Hill and a national press release. These efforts were combined with a media outreach campaign that utilized direct calls to journalists and editors, e-mails and a newswire release. Overall, the campaign was a major success in building awareness of library community concerns on copyright and highlighting public concerns on the issue.
“This award is a real boost for our copyright campaign,” says CLA Executive Director Don Butcher. “To know ours was one of the most accessed news releases by journalists shows we made a real impact. This, combined with feature coverage, means the public, the media and politicians are aware of our cause.”
CLA will continue the advocacy campaign in the coming months and will look for continued member support on this important issue. The subsequent launch of CLA’s copyright advocacy kit, available on CLA’s website, was also captured on significant public policy blogs.
The Canadian Library Association is Canada’s largest national library association, providing a broad range of services to 2,300 personal and 500 institutional members, and representing the concerns of some 57,000 individuals who work in library and information services in Canada.
For more information, please contact:
Alana FontaineTel.: (613) 233-8906
Cell: (613) 299-4017
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
This is the third weekly submission by Business BC’s newest columnist, Michael Geist, one of Canada’s leading experts in technology law and policy. A law professor at the University of Ottawa, Geist is a frequent and outspoken commentator on digital copyright, privacy, telecommunications, and Internet law issues. His column provides a uniquely Canadian perspective on the intersection between law, technology, and policy.
Under most circumstances, Telus and Rogers Communications fiercely compete in the marketplace. The same can be said for Google and Yahoo!, the world’s two leading rival Internet search companies. Yet last week these companies joined forces with a who’s who of the telecom, Internet, retail, and broadcast communities in a single cause — the call for fair and balanced copyright reform.
Following months of Industry Minister Jim Prentice citing business demands as a critical factor behind his commitment to copyright reform, a powerhouse group of companies and business associations formed the Business Coalition for Balanced Copyright ( BCBC) to speak for themselves.
The coalition, which also includes the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Canadian Wireless and Telecommunications Association, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and the Retail Council of Canada, publicly released a seven- point plan for balanced copyright reform that responds to business concerns that “ the government would err too much on the side of the copyright holders.”
For example, the BCBC’s plan cautions against overly restrictive legal protection for digital locks, warning that new provisions “ must not prohibit Canadians from engaging in non- infringing activities.” The private copying levy, which the Conservatives promised to abolish in their 2005 policy declaration, was also featured as the coalition urges the government to “ seriously question the continued existence of the private copying regime."
Business is unsurprisingly interested in facilitating innovation. Its plan calls for greater flexibility in the law’s fair dealing provision, which it believes will spur new business models and remove the legal uncertainty associated with common consumer activities such as recording television shows.
Several of the coalition’s other issues serve as an important reminder that matching copyright laws in other countries involves far more than ratcheting up the level of protection. It notes that while most other developed countries grant broadcasters certain copyright exceptions and ensure that Internet service providers face no liability when acting as intermediaries, Canada has thus far neglected to address these issues.
Consistent with the recent emphasis on more effective intellectual property enforcement, the BCBC also urges the government to ensure that there are appropriate penalties for commercial scale copyright infringement.
However, in a clear reference to the file- sharing lawsuits in the United States that raise the prospect of multi- million dollar liability for individuals, it argued that “ courts should have more flexibility to limit damages in circumstances where there is only minimal harm to rights holders resulting from the conduct.”
The emergence of a major business coalition is noteworthy not only for a broad array of participants ( every Canadian region is represented including Eastlink from Atlantic Canada, Cogeco Cable from Quebec, as well as MTS Allstream and SaskTel from the West), but also for the remarkable consistency between its policy position and those of other key stakeholders such as the education community and consumer groups.
In fact, it appears that business, education, consumer, and many creator groups are moving toward a consensus around Canadian copyright policies that would meet the requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Internet treaties, preserve consumer rights over their personal property, and provide Internet and technology companies with a legal framework that fosters greater innovation.
Members of the BCBC indicated that given the lack of government consultation, they felt that there was a need to develop a common public position. Combined with the outcry from thousands of Canadians, the government may have heard enough as rumours swirled late last week that it has again decided to hold off introducing the copyright bill. The Canadian business, consumer, and education communities undoubtedly hope that Prentice uses this latest delay to consult more broadly in order to build support for a made- in- Canada copyright solution.
Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E- commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at mgeist@ uottawa. ca
Monday, February 18, 2008
People who already have books requested to keep them at home
All nine branches of Greater Victoria’s Public Library system will be closed and behind picket lines this morning as a long-simmering labour dispute reaches the boiling point.
Saying it could no longer afford to pay workers 100 per cent of their salary for 75 per cent of the work, the Greater Victoria Labour Relations Association locked out 250 members of CUPE 410 at 5 p.m. yesterday.
“I think the last straw is [that] they’re working at 75 per cent efficiencies. We’re paying them full wages and we’re at an impasse,” said Ron Brunsden, association negotiator. “They’re the ones that went on strike, and there comes a time when employers have to say: ‘We just can’t continue on this basis.’ ”
Ed Seedhouse, president of the CUPE local, said his members are ready for a fight.
“Up to now, I’m getting nothing but absolute determination,” he said.
Workers will receive the standard strike pay from CUPE’s national and provincial coffers. That means for a week of picketing four hours a day, members will receive $250 in non-taxable pay.
The library workers are seeking pay equity with city of Victoria employees — something they say the employer agreed to a decade ago but has failed to deliver.
Without a contract for more than a year and in a legal position to strike since Sept. 4, the workers have staged a variety of job actions, including rotating strikes totalling 10 days.
The union has closed branches during lunch hour, stopped collecting late fees and fines, and shut down computer terminals.
Brunsden said the union’s demands would cost an additional $1.8 million a year.
“And they’re not underpaid compared to other library workers in the library industry,” he said. “It’s no different than the 85-day strike in Vancouver. Our library workers are not underpaid.”
Seedhouse said the library agreed in 1992 to compare library workers with city workers for the purpose of pay equity. “The comparison has been done and we know the relationship between the jobs. But the funding has never come through.”
For example, the union says, a parking-lot attendant at the parkade beneath the Broughton Street main library is paid $20.03 an hour, while a library clerk who checks out books is paid $17.58.
A librarian with six years of post-secondary education is paid $27.66 an hour, while a research analyst with the city, who likely also has post-secondary education, is paid $30.97.
Seedhouse said the union is prepared to see the increases phased in.
Informal discussions are continuing through mediator Grant McArthur.
Brunsden said McArthur won’t bring the sides together unless there’s some movement in the respective positions.
Brunsden said a book dropoff box will be open at the central branch downtown, but all others will be closed. Eight managers in the library system will continue to work.
“All fines will be waived,” he said. “We just want our patrons to hang on to the books, to keep them at home — keep them secure until this dustup is finished.”
Central Saanich Coun. Chris Graham, chairman of the library board, has been getting an earful about the situation; the union posted his name and phone number for people to call about the dispute.
THE traditional library is fast transforming itself to keep up with the digital age, as the internet forces a move from wall-to-wall books to wall-to-wall screens.
Victoria's community libraries have had to reinvent themselves as digital learning centres to remain relevant.
The State Library of Victoria has recently increased its digital reach by providing wireless internet access to more than 400 patrons inside the library, on the lawn, and in the cafe.
Patrons can now gain access to library databases, journal articles and other reference material, without the hassle of ploughing through copious hard-copy collections.
"The big role of a librarian these days is to help people navigate digital resources while still maintaining the effort with traditional services," State Library spokesman Greg Honeyman said.
Melbourne University arts student Laura Wong, 20, spent yesterday studying in the library, using both her laptop and library books.
"It's really easy to look something up on my computer if I need to, and then just go back to reading," Ms Wong said.
School libraries are also feeling the heat as laptops replace textbooks.
Education experts say library-free schools are a reality in a computer society, spurred on by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's pledge for every school student to have access to a computer and provide every school with broadband.
One new Melbourne school, Coburg Senior High School, does not have a library, preferring students to use research materials online.
The school still employs a teacher librarian to show students the best possible way to get access to information.
School Library Association of Victoria executive officer Mary Manning said while the concept of a school library had changed to embrace the digital age, teacher librarians were more important than ever.
"Teacher librarians are still showing students how to access the most appropriate information and use it effectively, even if they are doing it online," Ms Manning said.
"There are still the same issues about information literacy and it is even more important, as there is a lot of misinformation on the internet," she said.
Victorian Association of Secondary School Principals president Brian Burgess said it was possible more schools would go down the path of removing traditional libraries and keeping teacher librarians.
"For research, you can't beat the access through the internet," Ms Burgess said.
"But you still need people like teacher librarians there to help the students."
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Scholastic Administr@tor: 2008 February
As workstations replace dust-covered shelves in your district libraries, a new breed of librarian—the library media specialist (LMS)—has become an essential part of a school’s faculty. These are the people who will integrate the digital world into today’s classroom and throughout the curriculum. Specially trained and knowledgeable in the use of information technology, library media specialists have become one of the most important instructional partners, working with teachers and administrators to change what is possible in the classroom.
“Library media specialists empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information,” says Sara Kelly Johns, president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), one of the 11 divisions of the Chicago-based American Library Association.
The LMS is not confined to the library or to a single function. According to Johns, library media specialists:
* work with educators to design and teach curriculum
* create curriculum and promote an engaging learning experience tailored to the individual needs of students
* evaluate and “produce” information through the active use of a broad range of tools, resources, and information technologies
* provide access to materials in all formats, including up-to-date, high-quality, varied literature to develop and strengthen the love of reading
* provide students, educators, and staff with instructional materials that reflect current information needs.
Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE) in Washington, D.C., agrees with Johns’ description. He adds that this role, responsible for ensuring that students and staff are efficient and effective users of information, demands versatility. “The library media specialist is at once a teacher, an instructional partner, an information specialist, and a program administrator,” Knezek says. “They collaborate with teachers, administrators, and others to prepare students for future success.”
Like a school principal, library media specialists touch the educational lives of every student and teacher. Unlike principals, library media specialists work directly and on a full-time basis with students, teachers, and the curriculum. Therefore, it’s critical that administrators responsible for hiring key personnel pay close attention to the evaluation and selection of library media specialists. “School administrators must select an LMS who is knowledgeable about new media and is also capable of integrating technology into the curriculum,” says Kathryn Meeks, ADEPT coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Education.
ADEPT, the professional development system for the South Carolina Department of Education, stands for assisting, developing, and evaluating professional teaching. The program has created a set of evaluation standards and developed a standardized hiring and screening process for prospective LMSs. These guidelines assist administrators in finding qualified candidates, and can be adapted for use by administrators in states other than South Carolina.
“ADEPT’s library media specialist evaluation system begins with educator training programs,” Meeks says. “The ADEPT standards for library media specialists define clear expectations for what library media specialists must know in order to perform their duties in schools.”
Under ADEPT’s guidelines, a library media specialist’s first year in the school is an induction period. During this year, the newly hired LMS is assigned a mentor, typically a fully accredited library media specialist. The apprentice assists the mentor by putting into practice the standards for library media specialists. Depending on individual circumstances, the new library media specialist may be asked to complete a second induction year. Once the induction period is completed, the LMS moves directly into formal evaluation. During this stage, the ADEPT standards are applied, and the candidate’s performance is evaluated by district administrators, the library supervisor, and at least one certified library media specialist. In order to advance, the LMS must successfully complete the formal evaluation process.
ADEPT has also created interview guidelines for administrators to use in screening LMS candidates. (Find a sampling of these questions in the sidebar on page 40.) “We provide administrators with an actual interview form that prescribes exactly what questions the principal should ask LMS candidates,” says Meeks. “The questions are designed to probe in areas we feel are most salient in terms of assessing the qualifications of a library media specialist.”
ADEPT guidelines are highly prescriptive and are designed to walk an administrator through the entire LMS hiring process. These guidelines include, among other elements, instructions for putting together a review team to evaluate LMS candidates. The evaluation process is based on a number of criteria including the interview, long-range planning, observation, reflection, assessment, and professional development. According to Meeks, however, one requirement stands above the others as “absolutely essential” in the opinion of the statewide committee: the ability to collaborate on lesson plans. “An LMS must be able to work with teachers to plan lessons that utilize technology,” Meeks says. “That requirement separates the library media specialists in the public schools from those in the private sector.”
How to Find the Best and Brightest
Armed with evaluation and hiring guidelines like those offered by ADEPT, administrators are better equipped to judge the qualifications of graduates from the schools that are producing today’s master’s level library information science graduates. When asked which universities are producing the strongest LMS graduates, AASL’s Johns suggests administrators look for programs that work closely with a school of education. She cites the program at Eastern Carolina University, headed by Linda Teal, where pre-service teachers learn to work with library media specialists, and pre-service librarians work with teachers. “Both sets of students will enter the workforce with skills that will change the world,” says Johns.
“There are a number of outstanding programs,” says Phillip Harris, executive director of the Bloomington, Indiana-based Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). His list includes the University of Maryland, Indiana University, Penn State, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and the University of Georgia.
There are also myriad online university programs producing highly capable LMS graduates. According to Johns, these include Mansfield, the University of South Carolina, and the University of North Texas. “These online programs work hard to keep their curriculum energizing,” Johns says, “and they produce people with degrees who are ready to enter school media centers.”
To take full advantage of the advanced training that today’s LMS graduates receive from the top university programs, administrators may need to refurbish or upgrade their school’s existing library facilities. “Administrators need to make sure their school libraries have an up-to-date infrastructure,” says ISTE’s Knezek. They should also ensure that both students and faculty have unscheduled access to multimedia resources.
A functioning 21st-century library is no longer a place dominated by bookshelves and magazine racks. According to Knezek, a media center today has to deliver interactive media and instruction in the most effective way. Administrators should make sure the library center is supplied with up-to-date interactive multimedia equipment, such as video equipment and MP3 players. It should include distance-learning capabilities and offer unencumbered workstation access. Ideally the media center will also include a whiteboard, which should be an unassigned station where teachers can go and share ideas.
AASL’s Johns expands upon Knezek’s point. Since technology develops rapidly and information is being constantly updated, timeliness is a key concern for an LMS. “Materials can’t be old,” she says flatly. An LMS should also check to see how much cooperation is taking place between teachers and librarians and how many projects they are collaborating on. As Johns puts it, “Administrators should be evaluating how much the library extends beyond the walls of the school.”
AECT’s Harris makes suggestions that might once have been considered unthinkable. Since today’s generation of “digital natives” take technology for granted and is seemingly wedded to its gadgets, Harris asks: Why not use this trend for constructive ends? “Most schools require that students leave cell phones, iPods, and video cameras at home because administrators and teachers find that type of electronic equipment disruptive,” he says. “However, instead of fighting kids in regard to the use of digital devices, we should be encouraging their use in education. We need to find out how we can take advantage of these tools instead of discouraging their use.”
Harris continues, “Consumer electronics equipment is getting more sophisticated every year. Think about how the speed of information processing has changed over the last ten years—in the next decade, it’s going to be at least four times as fast.” One of the forces driving that growth is computer gaming, which Harris predicts will be a significant educational initiative in the next decade. But for now, his vision of the future looks like heresy. “Ask a librarian, ‘What can the kids learn in your library about gaming?’ They’ll say, ‘Well, we don’t play computer games in the library.’”
Are YOU Qualified?
Use these questions, drawn from the ADEPT interview guidelines for administrators, when interviewing a potential library media specialist:
By Steve Hargadon -- School Library Journal, 12/1/2007
Having trouble keeping up with the torrent of online information? Thank goodness for social bookmarking. With this handy tool, users can not only save and organize their personal collections of “bookmarked” Web pages, but they can also share them. We polled members of Classroom 2.0, an online community of educators, who selected the following services as their favorites in social bookmarking...
Friday, February 15, 2008
If you've been following the wonderful story of Lisa, Susan, and Denette, you'll be happy to know that the Washington State moms are half way there. Senate Bill 6380 passed by a resounding and unanimous vote of 49 to 0! It now moves to the State House.
We're not there yet but we've learned that:
- Grassroot efforts work.
The $40 million announced Thursday for new library staff in Ontario's elementary schools, won't translate into a single librarian locally, school boards say.
"The intention is a good one and we'll make the best use that we can of the money," said Paul Wubben, education director for the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.
But his board's share of the funding amounts to $99,950 in each of the next four years.
"With 30 elementary schools in our district, you can see that won't go far," Wubben said.
Funding shortages prompted the Catholic board to chop teacher librarians in the mid-90s, replacing them with library technicians in nearly every school.
Technicians keep the libraries functioning but don't teach library skills to the students, Wubben said.
"They don't teach how to do research or teach lessons from fiction and non-fiction books. There's very little interaction between the technicians and the students."
The new money will likely help the board maintain library technicians, Wubben added.
"With declining enrolment, it's more and more difficult to find the money for that."
The Lambton Kent District School Board will receive $138,245 in each of the next four years as a result of Premier Dalton McGuinty's announcement.
The public board's education director Gayle Stucke said that won't go far.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Government of Ontario: 2008 February 14
MISSISSAUGA — Elementary students in Ontario are going to get extra help reading and learning in their school libraries.
Ontario will provide school boards across the province with an additional $40 million over the next four years to hire about 160 more library staff.
Research shows that students who develop solid reading skills in elementary school have a better chance at success in high school and beyond.
"To keep Ontario moving forward, we need everyone to be at their best — and that includes our youngest students," said Premier Dalton McGuinty. "That means we must make sure they have all the help they need to reach their full potential."
"We're committed to making publicly funded education the very best education," said Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. "That's why we're funding more library staff and investing in new books and computers — so our students have the tools they need to succeed."
A majority of students in Grades 3 and 6 are scoring 10 per cent higher in reading, writing and math tests. Since 2004, more than a million new textbooks have been added to Ontario's schools.
The government's announcement today of$40 million in new funding to hire more library staff moves the province one step closer to providing elementary students with the quality education they deserve, says the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO).
"This funding is very good news for elementary students," said ETFO President David Clegg. "However, it is essential that school boards use this funding to hire teacher-librarians. Only teacher-librarians have the training to help students with literacy and research skills and to help classroom teachers deliver their programs."
While welcoming the funding, Clegg stressed that the goal should be a full-time teacher-librarian in every elementary school.
"In spite of the government's announcement, many elementary schools will still not be staffed with a full-time teacher-librarian," he said.
Currently, an elementary school must have 750 students to qualify for funding for a teacher-librarian. Most elementary schools fall far short of this number. Elementary students are disadvantaged by the current approach, said Clegg.
Clegg explained that the shortage of teacher-librarians is just one example of how elementary education is underfunded in Ontario.
"While the government has done much work to rebuild the publicly funded education system and give our students the quality education they deserve, funding for elementary students continues to be significantly less than what is provided for secondary students.
"We believe the government will not realize its goals of improved academic achievement and a reduced high school drop out rate if it fails to close this gap in elementary funding."
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario represents 73,000 elementary public school teachers and education workers across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
In the last few months I've attempted to lead the transition of the journal Biomedical Digital Libraries (BDL) from publication on BioMed Central to publication via the Open Journal Systems (OJS) platform. The critical difference now is that prospective authors owe no author fees. In its four years of existence BDL has published several articles that received buzz among people interested in digital libraries. It felt good to be part of reviving the flagging fortunes of BDL.
But something funny happened on the way to OJS: I became firmly convinced that the traditional journal model is antiquated for sharing research and knowledge among librarians. A better course is to develop and nurture excellent blogs, with multimedia capabilities and guaranteed preservation of the postings. This could be an entirely new blog that starts from scratch, or an established journal that evolves into a blog...
Monday, February 11, 2008
The Canadian Library Association media event on Canadian copyright reform on Dec. 21, 2007. Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada
CLA voices the concerns of 21 million library users on copyright reforms, and calls for balance between users’, creators’ and distributors’ rights.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Students know how to use MySpace, Google, Facebook and e-mail, but they don't always know how to use their computer savvy to do something more old fashioned: research.
That's where teacher librarians such as Theresa Mbaku at Salt Lake City's West High School come in. She spent a recent day teaching a class of students how to find accurate information about Fiji on computers in the school library.
"They need to be able to get to information quickly and efficiently and be able to decipher what's good and bad information," Mbaku said. "Knowing these resources is so important because whatever they do after high school, they will have to work with technology."
Teacher librarians such as Mbaku don't just smile and check out books. They're licensed educators with endorsements in library media who teach students how to understand, research and organize information - and some state leaders would like to see more of them in Utah schools. Rep. Tim Cosgrove, D-Murray, is asking for $1.7 million a year for the next three years to help hire 50 more teacher librarians for Utah schools. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has asked for $1.5 million for more teacher librarians.
Now, only six of Utah's 40 school districts have licensed and endorsed teacher librarians in all their schools, and only 14 percent of Utah's nearly 500 elementary schools have teacher librarians.
"When I say 'librarian,' someone might picture someone telling you to hush or checking out books, but there's so much more we've lost out on," Cosgrove said.
Specifically, students in schools without teacher librarians are missing out on a K-12 state curriculum designed to teach library media skills, said Sharyl Smith, former Utah State Office of Education Specialist for library media.
Teacher librarians are supposed to teach kindergartners, for example, the difference between an author and illustrator. They're supposed to teach sixth-graders how to recognize that advertisements and other media messages are edited to achieve a certain message. They teach students how to cite sources and attribute information.
"Unless you've got a media teacher teaching in the library, kids get virtually none of this," said Dennis Morgan, retired Murray School District director of library media services.
Supporters say in this era of Internet research, students stand to benefit from teacher librarians more than ever.
On Thursday, Mbaku helped a class find information on Fiji by showing them how to get to the Merriam-Webster, CIA World Factbook and CultureGrams Web sites. These are better ways to find accurate information than by typing 'Fiji' into Google which could produce hundreds of Web sites, she said. She also squeezed in a quick lesson about attributing information from the Internet.
"Now when you're working on this, will you just cut and paste this?" Mbaku asked the class. "No, because that's cheating. That's plagiarism."
Teacher librarian Sarah Herron, who simultaneously helped a class of students learning English prepare for the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test (UBSCT) in another corner of the West library, said such research skills are essential. "Without having that instruction, they get to college, and don't know how to do research," Herron said.
Cosgrove, Smith and Morgan, who are working together to push for more teacher librarians, point to research that shows correlations between teacher librarians and student achievement.
On Thursday, lawmakers on the Public Education Appropriations Committee preliminarily ranked the request for teacher librarians relatively high on their list of priorities for education funding this session. But the request still faces some stiff competition for state money this year.
At least 10 other bills seeking money to ease the state's teacher shortage have already started to progress through the legislature.
And those bills address other areas of critical shortages such as math, science, special education and other teachers.
Still, Cosgrove and many others believes his request for more teacher librarians is one legislators should heed.
Cosgrove said schools have to prepare students to function in a world with an endless, immediately accessible supply of unfiltered information.
West High sophomore Akesa Kioa said Mbaku's lesson Thursday helped her learn how to sort through some of that mess.
"This way it's much easier to get a lot of good, reliable information," Kioa said.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Vancouver Sun: 2008 February 9
The auditor- general was out this week with a critical report on Premier Gordon Campbell’s four- year- old vow to make B. C. “ the most literate” place on the continent.
“ Plans have been slow in coming together,” auditor- general John Doyle said.
“ No one really knows what is already being spent on literacy or how much funding will be needed to reach government’s goal.”
Consequently, he found that results to date have been disappointing.
About 40 per cent of working age British Columbians still lack sufficient literacy skills, or about the same number as when the premier first made the vow in 2004.
The auditor- general’s 50- page assessment offered six recommendations for getting on with the goal, from better planning and monitoring, to implementation.
The findings were especially e m b a r r a s s i n g t o C a m p b e l l , because the continent- leading literacy rate is one of his so- called “ five great goals,” centrepiece of his second term in office.
As a footnote to Doyle’s report, one should also note that the Liberals have already been trying to fudge this particular great goal.
Originally they vowed to make B. C. “ the most literate location in North American by 2010.” Then last year they switched the target date to 2015.
One can only hope that Doyle will eventually get around to auditing the other “ great” goals: Lead the way in healthy living; build the best system of support for the needy; lead the world (!) in sustainable environmental management, and create more jobs per capita than the rest of the country.
For now, be content with another recent report from his office, the one exposing lack of progress in the government’s effort to “ target the unacceptable rate of death and serious injury in the forest industry.”
The premier himself launched the campaign five years ago, vowing to “ cut death and serious injury rates in half” by 2006, “ with further reductions in later years.” Later the goal was revised to “ zero deaths and serious injuries.”
Either way, the Liberals haven’t come close, Doyle reported in a 90- page report released Jan. 23.
"The government’s efforts are just being implemented and have not yet been proven to be effective,” the audit stated.
"There has been no detectable impact on rates of death and serious injury.”
Doyle and his staff found that “ existing occupational health and safety regulations have not been vigorously enforced for all forest industry workers.”
The auditor- general is not the only independent voice to be challenging the Liberals on the failure to match actions with words.
Provincial tree planters this week noted a disturbing decline in government- backed efforts to restore the ravaged provincial forests.
There’s been a 25- per- cent drop in orders for seedlings for the year ahead, according to the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association.
This at a time when Campbell has spoken repeatedly of the need for B. C. “ to become as well known for planting trees as we are for cutting trees.”
Tree- planting is of the cherished themes of his “ climate action plan,” a way to combine restoration of the pine beetle- killed forests with the opportunity to pile up credits in a carbon- trading system.
"We should be global leaders in the husbanding the value of our forests in fighting climate change,” he told a forest industry audience recently.
"We can restock our land base, protect and restore our watersheds, clean the air and create massive carbon sinks with aggressive new strategies.”
After discussing climate change with the other Canadian premiers late last month, the B. C. premier said: “ We have to include our trees as a major carbon sink. We have to ensure that we get full credit for what we’re doing in terms of offsets.”
Better make that full credit for what they’re “ talking” about doing, since there’s no sign the Liberals are actually moving on this front.
Seedlings have to be ordered from provincial nurseries more than a year in advance of the planting season.
So, as my colleague Gordon Hamilton noted in an article in The Vancouver Sun this week, “ even if the province had a beetlereforestation strategy in place, there would be no seedlings available at least until 2010.”
Literacy. Forest safety. Tree planting. In each case the promises were grand, while the execution to date has been greatly disappointing.
Nor are these isolated instances. Indeed, each serves to illustrate a characteristic weakness of the Gordon Campbell style of governing.
First, his tendency to confuse words with actions, press releases with programs.
Second, by the time anyone notices one of his promises has not been kept, he’s usually moved on to other enthusiasms.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Thursday, February 07, 2008
VANCOUVER -- Author Lorna Goodison has won one of Canada's largest literary prizes - the B.C. Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.
The honour, announced by the province today, is for Goodison's lyrical family memoir, From Harvey River: A Memory of My Mother and Her People.
The book was published by McClelland & Stewart.
Premier Gordon Campbell presented Goodison with the $40,000 prize in Vancouver at a ceremony that also celebrated the two other finalists for the award, Donald Harman Akenson for Some Family: The Mormons and How Humanity Keeps Track of Itself (McGill-Queen's University Press) and Jacques Poitras for Beaverbrook: A Shattered Legacy (Goose Lane Editions).
The award, now in its fourth year, is the only national literary award to originate in British Columbia and is the largest award for Canadian non-fiction, a provincial news release said.
Presented annually, the award was established by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, an independent foundation endowed by the province.
The 2008 jury for the award consisted of David Mitchell, Patrick Lane and Sandra Martin.
They cited Goodison's book for how it "evokes family history through lyrical storytelling and imagery that is both vivid and lush. [From Harvey River] is a memoir of a family, their roots and the memorable characters who formed them ... a book that combines love and tragedy, poverty and loss in rich and authentic prose."
Education minister Shirley Bond says the government is acting on recommendations put forward by the auditor-general today to improve literacy in BC.....the auditor says more work must be done for the government to reach its goal of making BC the most literate jurisdiction in North America by 2015.
Bond was asked how confident she is that goal can be reached.
"Is there more work to be done? Absolutely, but this is a government who said it's our priority, we've set very significant targets, is there more work to be done? Yes there is, but together you know I’m confident we are going to make progress and continue to see British Columbia lead the world."
The auditor says not enough is being done to monitor progress or even spending on literacy programs.
VICTORIA - The auditor general says the B.C. government needs to do more homework if it wants to reach its goal of making British Columbia the most literate jurisdiction in North America by 2015.
B.C. Auditor General John Doyle makes six recommendations in his report, including urging the Education Ministry, Boards of Education and post-secondary institutions to join forces to develop plans to encourage the use of services to improve literacy.
Doyle says British Columbia's literacy rate compares favourably with other jurisdictions but 40 per cent of working age British Columbians lack the literacy skills to fully participate in the workforce.
He says the government does not explain how much it is spending on improving literacy and there is little data measuring the program's progress.
Doyle calls on the government to issue a provincewide annual public report on its progress in achieving literacy goals and objectives.
British Columbia students currently rank in the top three in the world in reading, math and science based on an international literacy standard that focuses on 15 year olds, says Doyle's report.
Literacy: Creating the Conditions for Reading and Writing Success
Report 6 - February 2008 Report PDF
News Release Backgrounder
National Union of Public and General Employees
Ottawa (7 Feb. 2008) - In time for Black History Month the Library and Archives Canada has launched Under a Northern Star, an online web resource which promises to be an important tool for researchers, students, activists and all Canadians.
The website is intended to "document the diverse historical experience of African Canadians. The collections include historical papers that contextualize the life and work of persons who fought against slavery and racism, built settlements, and flourished as early Canadians."
In her introductory essay award-winning poet, author, historian, curator, performer, cultural worker, and recording artist Dr. Afua Cooper thinks that:
"What is brilliant about these collections is that each one speaks to the historical experience of African Canadians in different parts of the country at different time periods. Moreover, each one tells a story of the important contributions Blacks made to Canada as pioneers, enslaved persons, explorers, citizens and settlers. Of great import is that these collections lay to rest the myth of Black people just 'came off the boat,' but reveal that they were a part of what became known as Canada from its very inception. The collections reveal the multi-layered history of Black Canadians, and explore, in depth, Black people's vast achievements and their contributions to Canadian society."
The site provides access to digitalized collections on the themes of: Reverend William King - The Elgin Settlement; Mary Ann Shadd Cary - Abolitionist; Sir James Douglas - Colonial Governor; Green Thurman - Runaway Slave; Black Loyalists - Nova Scotia; Africville - A Community Displaced; and, Railway - Black Porters. Each collection comes with a short essay by a recognized authority on the topic.
Dr. Cooper sees the online collection playing a valuable role in countering "the invisibility of Black history in the dominant narrative of Canadian history. These digitized collections will ensure this can happen no more." NUPGE
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Last week, one of our teachers wanted to set up a temporary chatroom for a small group of students working on a collaborative project but without having to endure a lot of technical hassles. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything to offer. A week later, Chatmaker showed up. It’s exactly what I wanted.
Chatmaker is simplicity itself. There’s no registration needed or account required. Simply give your chatroom a unique name. That generates a unique URL. E-mail the URL to the other participants. That’s all they need to join.
The application’s simplicity is also a glaring weakness for educators. For example, there is no way to make the chatroom private or to control access via username and password. Anyone who has the URL can join. Nevertheless, if a “quick & dirty” chatroom is something you need from time to time, Chatmaker is the best I’ve seen, by far.
Check it out at:
Libraries have changed. Yes, they still have books and they still get checked out. However, library media centers in the 21st century are not your mother's library. And I am most decidedly not your mother's librarian.
Do you have a blog or wiki for your library, chapter or district? Check to see if it is listed on the BCTLA site at http://psas.bctf.ca/bctla/web.html
Send additions or changes to email@example.com
By Thomas Washington
from the February 6, 2008 edition
Christian Science Monitor
As a school librarian, I wind up reading all sorts of damning reports on students' lack of reading skills. The latest dire news came from the National Endowment for the Arts' recent "To Read or Not to Read" study, which warned that "less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier." High school students are faring even worse: Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of "nonreaders" has doubled over a 20-year period, from 9 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004. This multitasking generation, we're led to believe, can't focus on any item for longer than nine minutes.
But despite the ominous reports, it's business as usual for students today, at least the ones I'm talking to. So what gives?
Educators or parents might start by framing the questions differently. Who isn't having trouble concentrating these days? Who doesn't find it nearly impossible to stick with a 450-page novel?
The other night, for example, I stumbled over a paragraph in Milton Friedman's seminal 1962 tome "Capitalism and Freedom." Years ago, I might have worked with Friedman's convolutions and tried to unspool the main idea. Today, I have neither the time nor the desire. Well, I probably do have time, but with so many other books by my bedside, queued like a fleet of 757s on a snowy runway, there's too much competition to endure such prose. I put Friedman down for good after Page 30.
I suspect that the tipping point in information overload has tipped. Students' aversion to reading does not necessarily signal a weakness, much less a dislike of reading. For them, and now maybe for me, moving on to something else is an adaptive tactic for negotiating the jungle that is our information-besotted culture of verbiage.
These kids manage to survive by bushwhacking through the muddle – while seamlessly dealing with an e-mail, a Word document, or a 50-page PDF from the scholarly database JSTOR. It's taken them just a few years to arrive at the same conclusion that I've reached after a lifetime of sustained reading: The pursuit of knowledge in the age of information overload is less about a process of acquisition than about proficiency in tossing stuff out. By necessity, we spend more time quickly scanning manuals, king-size novels, the blogosphere, and poems in The New Yorker than we do scrutinizing their contents for deeper meaning.
This is the price we pay for the changed demands in reading. Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff defines this new reading terrain as "the paradox of our age." We've grown into a culture of searchers, not readers. "Surely, we have never read, or written, so many words a day," Schiff writes. "Yet increasingly we deal in atomized bits of information, the hors d'oeuvres of education."
Of course, I still believe that students have to pay their dues as readers. English teachers turn students into more skilled readers by moving from "The Catcher in the Rye" to "King Lear" in something akin to the way a fitness trainer slowly increases the heaviness of a weight to create muscle. But in the process, if we're going to insist on extracting the main ideas from chunks of text instead of admiring, as we once did, such aesthetic values as a book's form, rhythm, and content, then we need not berate ourselves for our failure to mount an assault on Denis Johnson's thorny "Tree of Smoke."
Reading is all about testing these days. As the NEA reports, it is also about some prospective employer who ranks reading comprehension as "very important." Students know this. It's part of the reason they're in SAT preparation overdrive in their freshman year.
Living in the era of information overload forces a few key questions on all readers. What do we need to know? Why do we need to know it? And, given that by the end of our lives we will have absorbed and converted to knowledge only a sliver of the information available, should we bother knowing it?
• Thomas Washington is head librarian at the Potomac School in McLean, Va.©2008 The Washington Post.
View full article and comments here http:///Mediacheck/2008/02/06/CanCopyright/
By Michael Geist
Published: February 6, 2008
With Industry Minister Jim Prentice preparing to unveil his controversial copyright bill, there has been considerable speculation about the role that the U.S. government has played in pressuring Canada to move on the copyright file. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins has been very vocal, repeatedly, if misleadingly, claiming that Canada's copyright laws are the most lax among the G7 nations.
While the influence of the U.S. government in crafting a Canadian version of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been a recurring theme, what has gone largely unnoticed is the role that some Canadian lobby groups have played in quietly encouraging the U.S. to step up the pressure. Indeed, according to documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act, last spring Canadian Recording Industry Association president Graham Henderson met with Wilkins' counterpart -- Canada's Ambassador to the United States Michael Wilson -- to encourage him to pressure both governments to prioritize U.S. style copyright reforms.
The private May 2007 meeting led some government officials to openly question why the ambassador would be willing to meet with CRIA on such a sensitive file.
A report on the meeting noted that Henderson told Wilson that "everything the Embassy hears from stakeholders on IP issues is true." He added that the government should prioritize the ratification of the World Intellectual Property Organization's Internet treaties, remarking that the only prior attempt to address the issue -- the Liberal government's failed Bill C-60 -- died before the lobby group was "able to fix it in parliamentary committee."
Henderson also dismissed the privacy-related concerns associated with copyright reform (recently reiterated by Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart in a public letter), arguing that the government should not concern itself with the issue.
The internal reports on the meeting reveal not only efforts to fan the flames of U.S. pressure on Canada, but also the skepticism of policy makers with the U.S. and lobby group claims within both Industry and Canadian Heritage. The briefing note jointly prepared by the two departments for Wilson advises that "the Government is aware that TPM [technological protection measures] enforcement is strongly requested by some rightsholders such as CRIA. However, many Canadians have raised concerns over public interest issues such as their potential impact on privacy, innovation, competition, and consumer choice."
It also downplays U.S. criticism of Canadian law, stating that the U.S. Trade Representative Special 301 Report, which Prentice has presumably relied upon to support claims that Canada's trading partners have criticized the current copyright law, was "essentially based on U.S. stakeholders' submissions on alleged denials of adequate or effective intellectual property protection."
In fact, an early draft of the document went even further, cautioning that this issue has "raised considerable world wide controversy and media attention over the years, where all countries who have been trying to implement TM [technical measures] legislation have had to go through the slow process of carefully balancing the public interest."
Made in Canada?
The concern expressed by tens of thousands of Canadians is that calls for balance have not been heard, drowned out by the vocal lobbying from the U.S. and well-connected lobby groups.
The Conservative government campaigned in 2006 on a platform of government accountability and transparency to put an end to these forms of secretive influence. If the copyright bill proceeds without addressing public concerns and before conducting the promised House of Commons review of the WIPO Treaties, Canadians will be left to ask whether Prentice's plan is a made-in-Canada solution or, as it appears, a bill that was born in the U.S.A.
Related Tyee stories:
Unpopular new ruling reveals flaws in current copyright system.
Privacy watchdog fears new copyright regs.
Hint: Deregulation isn't the silver bullet.
A version of this article appeared in the Hill Times. Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.