Thursday, January 29, 2009

'21st Century Media Center' Video

'21st Century Media Center' Video Drives Home the Need for Certified Library Media Specialists in Michigan Schools

Michigan.gov: 2009 January


More than three years in the making, the Library of Michigan and Michigan Department of Education today announced the availability of the "21st Century Media Center" video, a collaborative effort showcasing the essential need for fully supported school library media centers with qualified staff - all for the benefit of Michigan's K-12 students' educational success.

The full video is geared toward the stakeholders who influence school library media programs in Michigan schools (superintendents, building-level administrators, school boards, parent groups, community leaders, legislators and educational associations) and can be viewed at www.michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan.

State Librarian Nancy Robertson applauded the efforts of Library of Michigan and Department of Education staff, along with partners that included the Michigan Association for Media in Education, the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning, Wayne State University, and representatives from several intermediate school districts and regional educational media centers.

"We started in the summer of 2005 with the simple question of what could we at the Library of Michigan do to best support school library media centers and powerfully tell the story of just how valuable these centers are?" explained Robertson. "We invited people to the table who made sense to be a part of the planning process, people from the K-12 and university learning communities, the ones who see firsthand and understand the variety of educational challenges facing today's students."

The Michigan School Library Initiative Group, as it came to be called, met twice that first year for preliminary discussions. As more members joined the group, Robertson said it made sense to divide the focus into two areas: a standards subcommittee, to focus on "Guidelines for Michigan Library Media Programs," a document crafted in 2003 by the Michigan Association for Media in Education; and a marketing subcommittee geared toward finding the "right product" to best illustrate the value of school library media center standards and programs.

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills - an organization which seeks to position 21st Century skills at the center of U.S. K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders - today's schools must align classroom environments with real-world environments by infusing the following skills:

* Information, media literacy and communication skills;
* Thinking and problem-solving (critical thinking and systems thinking; problem identification, formulation and solution; creativity and intellectual curiosity);
* Interpersonal and self-direction skills (interpersonal and collaborative skills; self-direction; accountability and adaptability; social responsibility);
* Global awareness;
* Financial, economic and business literacy, and developing entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options; and
* Civic literacy

Robertson believes that properly staffed school media centers are indeed the best place to nurture such skills for today's students. "There is so much information out there and available to kids today, and not all of it good," she said. "It's not about just clicking the mouse and seeing what answers you can find; it's about learning how to navigate myriad informational resources and developing the 21st-century analytical skills that will help students of any age determine a course of action."

Robertson said that the Michigan School Library Initiative Group felt a video would be the most powerful and accessible tool with which to education the stakeholders it was targeting, because it would be simple to include a variety of illustrative examples on the benefits of school media centers, and it would also be easy to make the video accessible to a very wide audience. She commended the efforts of Nancy Larsen, Clarkston Community Schools media specialist, who wrote the script; and video specialist Mike Maison of the St. Clair County Intermediate School District, who was integral to seeing the production through to completion.

"This is a compelling video that clearly tells the story of why school library media centers matter a great deal to the success of Michigan's K-12 students," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan. "If Michigan is to turn out highly educated and information-savvy students who can confidently make their way in life, in business or in any setting, then our school media centers must be considered an integral part of the education process."

Robertson agreed. "This is a conversation we must have over and over and over again, with statewide educational associations, parents, teachers, government officials and anyone else who cares about the educational success of our kids," she said. "Our schools need and rely upon well-funded and fully staffed library programs, and it's a need that our kids can't afford for us to ignore."

The Library of Michigan is part of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). HAL is dedicated to enriching quality of life and strengthening the economy by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan's heritage and fostering cultural creativity. The Department also includes the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Historical Center. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/hal.

Read more press releases from the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL).

I'm sure B.C. kids need Scientology's help

Victoria directs teachers to religious group's human-rights website

Province: 2009 January 29
Ethan Baron


Attention students: it's now OK to jump up and down on your desks and rave about your latest crush.

The Ministry of Education is referring teachers to an organization set up by the Church of Scientology, the group made infamous by Tom Cruise, the raving couch-bounder and Scientology adherent. Two ministry teacher-support documents direct teachers to the website of Los Angeles-based Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI).

The Church of Scientology, founded by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, set up YHRI in 2001. This group holds events and produces materials to advance the teaching of human rights to children and adults around the world.

And get this: the mayor of an Argentina city was so impressed with YHRI that he put its materials into 90 schools. The name of the mayor's city? Moron. To be fair, Argentinians put an accent over the second 'o.'

And since I'm being fair, while I'm noting that Statistics Canada lists Scientology on its "classification for religious denomination" directly below Satanism, I'll point out that StatsCan's list is alphabetical.

The Education Ministry was not exactly jumping up and down to answer questions about the inclusion of this Scientology group in its teaching-aid materials. A spokesman who didn't want to be identified said the ministry doesn't endorse the websites, and that if teachers want to use them in class, they need approval from their school board, or from an "authority" that the spokesman wasn't able to define.

I went down to the B.C. Church of Scientology, a storefront on Hastings Street just west of the Downtown Eastside, to see what they were all about. They offered to give me a free 200-question personality test.

Amazingly, I had the results back in about 10 minutes. Goodness, I had no idea I was so screwed up.

For starters, I am severely depressed. On a scale of minus-100 to plus-100, I was 10 points up from rock bottom. My mind is unstable, and "dispersed." The nice young man named Curtis who interpreted my line-graph score explained that I have a hard time focusing on tasks. As if! Now what was I, uh, oh right, a column.

Curtis said I scored far from the "inactive" level, but that's not so good, because I am, in fact, "manic." Surebuddyanythingyousay.

Also, I lack empathy, and people may consider me "cold."

"Am I cold, Cheryl?" I asked a colleague when I got back to the office.

She hesitated. Then she hedged.

"I wouldn't say 'cold,'" Cheryl told me.

Oh God, it's all true.

But at least I have options.

While Curtis was scoring my test, I watched a short video on Dianetics, the "science" behind Scientology. Apparently, Dianeticiticists, or whatever the brains behind the operation call themselves, have discovered that all the bad stuff that happens to us is stored in a part of our brains called the "reactive mind," and we need to get rid of it and become "clear" so it stops making us unhappy.

Hmmmm. Dead parents. Dead friends. Divorce. Crime scenes. War zones.

It's no wonder I'm so messed up.

To help clear my admittedly overflowing reactive mind, I can buy the 460-page Dianetics book for $25. Or, I can get a shorter version of 150 pages for $18. Then, for $40.95, I can take a course of one to three weeks. Golly, I told Curtis, that's not so expensive. I looked around their space on Hastings, which is assessed at $2.3 million.

"How do you operate?" I asked.

"Well, if you want to be professionally trained, it's more expensive," Curtis told me, "roughly equivalent to a college education."

But what the heck, here in B.C., the ministry has put Scientology resources right in teachers' hands. We can get the students professionally trained even before they get to college. And I'm sure those kids are already way more troubled than me.

ebaron@theprovince.com

Department of Education Evaluation Highlights Success of Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program

ALA: 2009 January 29

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Library Association (ALA) today hails the Second Evaluation of the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (LSL) Program released by the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month, which indicated that students attending schools participating in LSL are performing higher on state reading tests than students in schools that do not take part in the program.

The study stated that in schools that participated in LSL in 2003-04, the percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency requirements on state reading assessments increased by an extra 2.7 percentage points over the increase observed among nonparticipating schools during the same time period.

“The ALA is pleased to see these results, as they demonstrate the vital role school libraries serve in a student’s education,” Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA Washington Office, said.

“Literacy impacts every area of one’s education, and it is so important that more schools pursue ways to invest in their school libraries through opportunities such as the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program. This is one of the most successful programs in No Child Left Behind, but it has never been funded at even 10 percent of the authorized level."

According to the Department of Education Web site, the LSL program provides grants to help Local Education Agencies (LEAs) improve reading achievement by providing students with increased access to up-to-date school library materials; well-equipped, technologically advanced school library media centers; and professionally certified school library media specialists.

The evaluation also stated that grantees roughly tripled their expenditures on books, subscriptions and computer hardware, while nongrantees showed little change.

Highlights from this report can be found here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wikipedia editors may approve all changes

Bobbie Johnson in San Francisco
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 January 2009

Wikipedia faces a revolt among thousands of its contributors over proposals to change the way the online encyclopedia is run.

Until now, Wikipedia has allowed anybody to make instant changes to almost all of its 2.7m entries, with only a handful of entries protected from being altered.

But under proposals put forward by the website's co-founder Jimmy Wales, many future changes to the site would need to be approved by a group of editors before going live.

Wales argues the scheme will bring greater accuracy, particularly in articles referring to living people. But the possibility has caused a furore among Wikipedia users, since many see it as a fundamental change to the egalitarian nature of the site.

A user poll on the website suggests 60% are in favour of trials, which could take place within the next few weeks. But some think the split could ultimately threaten the future of the site.

"The big issue is that while we have majority support, we don't have consensus, and that's the way we have always made our decisions," said Jake Wartenberg. "A lot of editors are becoming disenchanted with the project; we are losing them all the time."

Such changes have been considered before, but were brought into focus last week when Wikipedia falsely announced that two prominent US politicians had died.

On the day of Barack Obama's inauguration, the site reported the deaths of West Virginia's Robert Byrd - the longest-serving senator in American history - and Ted Kennedy, who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and collapsed during the inaugural lunch.

Both reports were false, and Wikipedia quickly changed the site back to reflect the truth, but the situation drove Wales to push strongly for change.

"This nonsense would have been 100% prevented by flagged revisions," he wrote on the site. "This was a breaking news story and we want people to be able to participate [but] we have a tool available now that is consistent with higher quality."

The technical system that allows Wikipedia to run in this way was released last summer and has already been put into place on the German version of the website. But German editors have decided that changes will not be approved for around three weeks - a timescale which Wales suggests would be "unacceptable" for the English-language site.

It would not be the first major change in the way the site, ranked as the world's seventh largest by traffic analysis tool Alexa, operates. In 2005, Wikipedia said it was going to prevent anonymous users from creating entries as a way of stopping cyber-bullying and vandalism.

That change was also spurred by a political controversy, in which prominent journalist and Democratic party aide John Siegenthaler discovered that an anonymous user had written a biography of him which alleged that he was involved in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy in the 1960s.

Wikipedia has also locked down a number of controversial articles in order to prevent long-running "edit wars".

If the site grants new powers to editors, it would bring Wikipedia even closer to traditional encyclopedia websites such as Britannica, which last week announced that it would be launching a new online version that would allow readers to submit their own updates to entries. That change came after a bitter war of words, following a 2005 study by science journal Nature that found Wikipedia and Britannica were often comparable for accuracy - and in some cases, Wikipedia won.



Gov't Investment in Library Books "Puts Cart Before the Horse"

TORONTO, Jan. 27 /CNW/ - Spending millions of dollars on library books
for elementary schools when there is a critical shortage of teacher-librarians
is a misguided investment in student literacy, says Elementary Teachers'
Federation of Ontario (ETFO) President David Clegg.

Clegg was responding to the provincial government's announcement of a
'$15 million library book investment'.

"This truly is a classic example of putting the cart before the horse,"
said Clegg.

"Library books alone will not build student literacy. Teacher-librarians
have the skills and training to ensure that library resources are used in the
most effective way possible. They work with classroom teachers to provide
subject-specific, age-appropriate, and curriculum-related reading materials
for every class. And, they teach students how to find, critically assess, and
organize information."

Clegg notes that despite the government's current focus on literacy, few
elementary schools are staffed with a full-time teacher-librarian whose role
is to help students with literacy and research skills. (According to People
for Education's '2008 Annual Report on Ontario Public Schools', only 60 per
cent of elementary schools have a teacher-librarian, most of them part-time.)

Currently, an elementary school must have over 750 students to qualify
for funding for a teacher-librarian. Most elementary schools fall far short of
this number.

"Our students deserve the best. However, they are being disadvantaged by
the current approach to investing in elementary education," said Clegg.

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.

For further information: David Clegg, President, ETFO, (416) 962-3836
(Office); Larry Skory, ETFO Communications, (416) 962-3836 (Office), (416)

948-0195 (Cell)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Canada celebrates Family Literacy Day

TORONTO, Jan. 26 /CNW/ - Families and communities across Canada will be
participating in literacy-related events on and around January 27 for Family
Literacy Day, Education ministers Kelly Lamrock and Shirley Bond announced
today on behalf of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC).

"Family Literacy Day offers an opportunity for families across Canada to

discover and explore the joys of reading and learning," said Shirley Bond,
Minister of Education for British Columbia, CMEC's lead province for literacy.
"There are so many great and fun ways for families to share and grow together
- whether through playing word games or puzzles, reading or telling stories,
writing thank you letters or working from a recipe. By promoting literacy in
the home, we are investing in our children's future and preparing them for
success later in life."

Now in its 11th year, Family Literacy Day is a national awareness

initiative to promote the importance of literacy-related family play and
learning. Events being held across the country include:

- story-writing contests
- scrabble tournaments
- festivals
- public story readings
- read-a-thons - fundraisers
- book drives - reading circles
- traditional story-telling


Family Literacy was launched in 1999 by ABC Canada Literacy Foundation.
As part of Family Literacy Day celebrations, on January 23 and 24 ABC Canada
is encouraging Canadians to help break the Guinness World Record for "Most
Children Reading with an Adult, Multiple Locations." Participants can register
for the challenge online at www.FamilyLiteracyDay.ca.

In their joint declaration, Learn Canada 2020, Canada's education

ministers identified literacy as one of their key priorities. As well as
supporting initiatives such as Family Literacy Day, they have created networks
on literacy across the country with the goal of gathering and sharing teaching
resources for learners of all ages.

"Literacy is the gateway to opportunity," said Kelly Lamrock, New
Brunswick's Minister of Education and Chair of CMEC. "By fostering an interest
in reading when children are young, we are supporting their growth into fully
literate adults, equipped with the skills and confidence to live happy,
healthy, productive lives."

CMEC is an intergovernmental body composed of the ministers responsible

for elementary-secondary and advanced education from the provinces and
territories. Through CMEC, ministers share information and undertake projects
in areas of mutual interest and concern. Last April, CMEC held a Pan-Canadian
Literacy Forum to engage members of the education, non-profit, business, and
labour sectors in a dialogue about literacy. Highlights from the forum are now
available online. For more information, visit www.Literacy.cmec.ca.


For further information:
Tamara Davis, Council of Ministers of
Education, Canada (CMEC),
Tel.: (416) 962-8100, ext. 241,
E-mail:
t.davis@cmec.ca,
Web site: www.cmec.ca;
Government of British Columbia, Public
Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Education,
Tel.: (250) 356-5963


Friday, January 23, 2009

Virus slows school district's computers

Technicians must detach each machine from network after suspected 'trojan' attack

Vancouver Sun: 2009 January 23
Tara Carman and Mary Frances Hill


The Vancouver school district's information technology staff is working overtime to repair the damage caused by a virus introduced into its computer system more than two weeks ago.

The virus hit the school district's system Jan. 6. It affected computers in school offices, slowing data entry for processes such as enrolment, school computer labs and library computers.

There are more than 10,000 computers in the district, each of which had to be shut down and disconnected from the network, then individually scanned and repaired if necessary, said Vancouver school board representative David Weir. He said he could not identify how many machines were infected.

The virus is not destructive, and all student and staff-related data is safe. The virus was replicating itself and causing computers to slow down, he said. "We know we were not targeted by hackers."

Weir said the business systems at schools, including the front-office systems, are all running. IT staff are now focusing on "curriculum sites" such as school computer labs, he said.

Because the process of scanning and repairing each computer is onerous, it is not possible to estimate how long it will take before the district's computer system is fully operational, Weir said.

Although Weir couldn't confirm the name of the virus, on a Point Grey secondary student online forum, students suspected the virus was Win32.Krap.b trojan, a bug that affects mostly Windows operating systems, shutting down computers as soon as users try to start them.

Alex Gondek, a Grade 9 Point Grey student who runs his own server and website, noted on his blog that his home personal computer system caught the virus. He used anti-virus software to remove it quickly, he wrote.

Mohammad Akis, security and privacy lead at Microsoft Canada, said there are three possible ways such a virus could have been introduced: someone on one of the district's computers could have downloaded an e-mail attachment containing a virus, visited a corrupt website, or a student or teacher may have been working at home on an infected computer and used a USB stick or other device to unknowingly transfer corrupt files onto a school machine. Once the virus enters a computer system, it can attach itself to e-mails and documents, Akis said.

Akis said if the virus in question was the identified by the Point Grey students, it is likely the work of a "script kiddie," an aspiring hacker who lacks the ability to write sophisticated programs capable of capturing data, but can use scripts or programs written by others to attack computer systems.




Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change has come to WhiteHouse.gov

The White House Blog
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 at 12:01 pm
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/

Welcome to the new WhiteHouse.gov. I'm Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House and one of the people who will be contributing to the blog.

A short time ago, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and his new administration officially came to life. One of the first changes is the White House's new website, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.

Millions of Americans have powered President Obama's journey to the White House, many taking advantage of the internet to play a role in shaping our country's future. WhiteHouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration's efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.

Just like your new government, WhiteHouse.gov and the rest of the Administration's online programs will put citizens first. Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:

Communication --
Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.

Participation --
President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

We'd also like to hear from you -- what sort of things would you find valuable from WhiteHouse.gov? If you have an idea, use this form to let us know. Like the transition website and the campaign's before that, this online community will continue to be a work in progress as we develop new features and content for you. So thanks in advance for your patience and for your feedback.

Later today, we’ll put up the video and the full text of President Obama’s Inaugural Address. There will also be slideshows of the Inaugural events, the Obamas’ move into the White House, and President Obama’s first days in office.

Google docs get templates (and other big Google news)

SLJ: 2009 September 19
NEVERENDINGSEARCH: Joyce Valenza


For those of you who haven't yet found a compelling reason to try Google docs . . .

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/440039444.html?nid=3714

A president librarians can love

Minnesota Post: 2009 January 19

So where are you going to remember being the day Barack Obama became president? I’ll be at the library.

Tuesday, the Brookdale and Central Minneapolis libraries will present the inaugural swearing-in ceremony of this author-turned-president live on the big screen. This is the first time either library has screened an inauguration.

“Hundreds of people come through on MLK Day when we screen his 'I Have a Dream' speech, and it seemed natural to follow it this year with the inauguration," says Brookdale youth services librarian Ginger Gomes. "Our library has seen a great deal of interest in Obama. On Election Day, we ran a mock election for kids, and we had a very big response. Obama won by an enormous landslide. There is also a long waiting list for Obama’s ‘Dreams from My Father’ [Current Requests: 133] and books about him have been very popular."

Librarians have a few reasons to love Obama, including the fact that he gave libraries a shout-out in his weekly address on Jan. 3: "To make America, and our children, a success in this new global economy, we will build 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries."

And unlike Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, he has never been known to try to ban a book — not even "The Case against Barack Obama" (current Requests: 44).


Readicide: a book discussion on VoiceThread, a 2.0 book tour

SLJ: 2009 January 19
NEVERENDINGSEARCH: Joyce Valenza


Bill Ferriter's Tempered Radical Blog is currently hosting a discussion with author Kelly Gallagher about his new book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.

The author describes Readicide as:

The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools...

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1340000334/post/460039446.html

Sunday, January 18, 2009

ALA Seeks Exemption for Children’s Books from Anti-Lead Law

American Libraries: 2009 January 15

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s interpretation of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which lowers the permissible level of lead in children’s products and imposes certification requirements, may require libraries to limit access to their children’s collections or have them tested for lead content. The new law becomes effective February 10.

In a notice to ALA’s Federal Library Legislative Action Network, Government Relations Specialist Kristin Murphy wrote, “As a result of these new regulations, publishers have tested the components of books and found that the levels of lead in children’s books were far below the future legal requirements. . . .However, the advisory opinion from the CPSC says that not only must the testing be done by one of their certified labs but that this legislation is also retroactive, and every book must be tested.”

Despite the advisory opinion from CPSC’s general counsel, ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff told American Libraries, “We have spoken with congressional offices and they have said that it was not congressional intent to include books” in the law.

Sheketoff said the Washington Office has asked the commission for a formal opinion exempting libraries from the testing requirements. She has also contacted an attorney to explore the possibility of filing for an injunction against the commission, and is prepared to ask the Obama administration to intercede if necessary.

Until the commission makes an official ruling, however, “There’s really nothing anyone can do,” Sheketoff said. “We’re sort of stuck waiting for them.”

Even so, news of the law is trickling down to library patrons. Kate Pohjola, director of Lapeer (Mich.) District Library, told AL that she had received questions about the law’s potential impact, from both library-borrowing and home-schooling perspectives. “I think there’s a lot of fear right now, because people don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

The Washington Office will release updates as new information becomes available on its District Dispatch blog.


Online book club turns teens on to reading

High schoolers can post reviews, chat and win prizes on B.C.'s own TeenSRC

Times Colonist: 2009 January 18
Richard Watts

When Grade 9 student Christy Moser wants something to read, she heads for the library. But before that, Moser goes online.

Moser, a 14-year-old student at Esquimalt High, uses a website pioneered in B.C. called TeenSRC, a virtual book club that offers discussions, chats, reading lists, reviews and a chance to win prizes.

For Moser, TeenSRC provides an opportunity to check out lists of teen-friendly books, compiled into handy categories: science-fiction and fantasy, which she likes, and romance, which she definitely does not. And they're all reviewed by other teens.

"I can just look something up and see what other people have said," she said. "Or if it's a romance, I can just avoid them completely."

TeenSRC, now entering its second year, grew out of a program that began in 2004 to encourage teenagers to continue reading through the summer.

SRC actually stands for Summer Reading Club, but organizers haven't been able to think of a new name that won't lose the club's name recognition.

It now has more than 3,200 members across Canada, and a few in the U.S., who post notes, write reviews and take part in online discussions and chats. Christy herself is a committed book reviewer who has already posted about 15.

SRC operates like an online book club for teenagers, but it's more. Discussion groups, for example, are often on topics in the news as well as books.

Some of the discussions are even moderated by teenagers, with some oversight from participating librarians.

Anonymity is protected at all times and adult librarians monitor the discussions to make sure they stay within reasonable boundaries. (Christy keeps her online identity secret, despite the use of her name in this story.)

According to some of the participating librarians, teenagers themselves are the most adept at spotting adults trying to worm their way into the discussions and kick them out.

TeenSRC operates with $35,000 a year from a variety of sources, including the B.C. Library Association, the B.C. Ministry of Education, and the Public Library Services Branch, local library branches, donations and volunteers.

Participating teens are eligible for prizes -- Christy won her IPod that way -- but they're limited to B.C. members, largely to protect teens' privacy. Prizes are mailed to a teenager's nearest public library for pickup, so no one has to reveal a home address. And so far, only B.C. libraries are widely participating.

Kirstin Andersen, teen services librarian with the Greater Victoria Public Library, said the website is all about outreach.

"It's delivering library service to where people are," said Andersen. "And where are all the teenagers these days? They are online."

Librarians are especially proud of some of the online discussion groups, which have included authors taking and answering questions.

Christy was disappointed to miss a discussion with Deborah Ellis, author of several books, including The Breadwinner. It's an account of an 11-year-old girl in wartorn Afghanistan who is forced to provide food for her family.

"I would like to have asked her if she had any personal experience of Afghanistan," said Christy.

Christy's parents, Colleen McKenna and Walter Moser, are both gratified to see their daughter using the web as a gateway to reading.

Moser believes too much online chatter has become inane because it's instantaneous. The discussions on TeenSRC, by contrast, have some permanence. A review is posted and remains up for others to see and comment on.

"It actually forces them to give [the reviews] some thought," said Moser. "Kids are reminded there is a community they are part of where there is slightly more thought at work."

McKenna appreciates the fact SRC grants Christy intellectual recognition.

"For her to be able to say, 'I like this book and here's why' -- that's a really neat thing," said McKenna. "It's like she can see, 'My opinion matters even though I'm a 14-year-old girl.'"

Go to teensrc.ca to check out the website.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BC Spends Another $5 Million On Literacy Programs

FUNDING FOR STUDENT LITERACY A PRIORITY
nanaimo-info-Blog: 2009 January 14


The Province is providing $5 million for the fifth consecutive year to support the efforts of school districts to improve their students’ literacy skills, bringing the five-year total to $25 million, Education Minister Shirley Bond announced today.


“We continue to be committed to student literacy and building on the significant progress districts have made over the past four years,” said Bond. “Even with the changing economic circumstances, we are working to make B.C. the best educated, most literate jurisdiction on the continent.”


The Literacy Innovation Grants support innovative literacy initiatives and practices in kindergarten to Grade 12. School districts will receive the same funding levels as last year and will continue to be given the flexibility to support innovative literacy practices in the K-12 system, or to support District Literacy Plan development.


The availability of these grants for a fifth year means districts can expand literacy initiatives. Last year, some districts developed summer reading and family literacy programs, while others focused their efforts on assessment and intervention projects for younger learners.


“We recognize that students have changing needs as they develop and learn, and this funding helps encourage creative ways to improve literacy skills as students move through their school years,” said Bond. “Our government is committed to ensuring that each and every student is successful, and has the tools they need to succeed.”


Peace River North school district discovered a dramatic improvement in the reading skills of a group of primary students whose teachers took part in a peer coaching program. This approach has helped raise the percentage of students meeting or exceeding reading expectations in five of the seven participating grades. The most dramatic improvement was noted with the Aboriginal student population, where the district’s year-end reading assessment shows grades 3 and 4 have achieved a 20 per cent increase in their reading level over two years.


“Over the last four years, we’ve seen significant progress from many students who were finding reading a challenge,” said Gordon Anderson, board chair of the Peace River North school district. “We are committed to this project, as we know that no skill is more crucial to a child’s future than literacy.”


Since 2001, Province has invested more than $150 million in new literacy initiatives, including pre-literacy and early learning programs, such as $12 million to operate the kindergarten readiness program Ready, Set, Learn and $2.7 million for the ActNow Literacy Education Activity and Play (LEAP BC) program that encourages literacy, physical activity and healthy eating in preschool-aged children.


Editor's Comment: Call me old fashioned but I thought all that money being spent on schoolin' was supposed to teach our youngun's how ta read and rite? So how come another $5 million to make sure that happens?

T.O. school board to review Atwood novel

Toronto school board reviewing Atwood novel after parent complains
Hamilton Spectator: 2009 January 13

Toronto’s public school board is reviewing Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, after a complaint from a parent whose child was studying the novel in a Grade 12 class.

While the board would not discuss the nature of the concern over the 1985 dystopian novel — described by some educators as a staple of its genre that is used nationwide — a source said it was believed to be over sexuality and criticism of religious fundamentalism.

According to board policy, it is obliged to investigate any complaint about a book that can’t be resolved at the school level.

The process involves a committee of roughly eight experts and a community member, and it is time-consuming.

The review committee meets Thursday at Lawrence Park Collegiate, where the complaint originated.

Atwood could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

“Any controversial novels that we use sometimes generate comment from the public and I think that’s quite normal,” said Melanie Parrack, the board’s executive superintendent of student success, who also co-chairs the committee.

The last time the Toronto District School Board faced a similar controversy was in 2006, when the Canadian Jewish Congress lobbied boards to restrict access to Three Wishes, by Deborah Ellis, complaining about its portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Parrack would not speculate on possible outcome for Atwood’s novel, but said if something is “extraordinarily offensive” it could be taken off the shelves.

The book is used in an English literature unit on social commentary, alongside Brave New World, and 1984.

The acclaimed novel — which won the Governor General’s Award in 1985 — is about a futuristic theocracy in which women are used as breeders.

Once the committee meets, it will make a recommendation to the board’s director of education, who makes the ultimate decision.

If the parent is still not satisfied, only then does the issue come before trustees for a vote, trustee Howard Goodman said.

The Handmaid’s Tale is listed as one of the 100 “most frequently challenged books” from 1990 to 1999 on the American Library Association’s website.

The Canadian Library Association says there is “no known instance of a challenge to this novel in Canada” but says the book was called anti-Christian and pornographic by parents after being placed on a reading list for secondary students in Texas in the 1990s.