Tuesday, March 31, 2009

BC Public Education Election Kit 2009

BC Public Education Election Kit 2009

"The BC Society for Public Education has prepared this Election Kit to help individuals, community groups and Parent Advisory Councils raise issues related to public education in the lead up to the May 12, 2009 provincial election."

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nancy Pelosi's Child-Safety Law Leaves the CPSC to Clean Up the Unintended Consequences - WSJ.com

Nancy Pelosi's Child-Safety Law Leaves the CPSC to Clean Up the Unintended Consequences - WSJ.com:
Wall Street Journal: 2009 March 30

"It looks like 'Jumanji' in local libraries these days, after the classic children's book about chaos unleashed by the failure to heed warnings. In February, an overzealous law governing lead in products resulted in toys going from store shelves to the trash heap. Now, confusion over how the rules affect children's books has led some libraries to rope off kids' sections."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

AL09-003: Conficker Worm

Public Safety Canada: 2009 March 25
AL09-003: Conficker Worm

"The purpose of this alert is to raise awareness that a new variant of the Conficker worm (“Conficker.C”) has drawn a lot of attention recently. This worm is also known as Downanup. CCIRC is releasing this product to increase awareness of this new variant and provide detection and mitigation information."

Masters program for teacher unionists - Report Card

Masters program for teacher unionists
Report Card: 2009 March 26

"A new masters program will soon be available at Simon Fraser University for teachers who want to become union leaders...

"(It) may be of particular interest to current teacher leaders and those interested in becoming more active in leadership, such as local and provincial committee members, school union reps and PSA activists."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is there a literacy crisis in Canada? - Report Card

Is there a literacy crisis in Canada? - Report Card:

"The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network, which has been holding public hearings across the country in recent weeks, believes Canada has a serious literacy problem."

Student fights to save school libraries

Student fights to save school libraries:

"A Grade 12 student at York Mills Collegiate is petitioning to help preserve library services in the city's secondary schools."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Most Portland schools don't have certified librarians – OregonLive.com

Most Portland schools don't have certified librarians – OregonLive.com:

"Seven Portland school campuses have no library staff. In 42 libraries, assistants or clerks run the show on their own. Only 28 campuses have librarians who can teach classes on research and library skills. Half of them are part time."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hands-on with IE 8: A giant step for Microsoft | The Download Blog - Download.com

Hands-on with IE 8: A giant step for Microsoft The Download Blog - Download.com:

"Setting aside the issue of speed for a moment, some of the features in Internet Explorer bring it up to what we've come to expect from a browser, and some of them forge ahead. Many of these are borrowed from other browsers, and at least in the case of Firefox, the features can be imported using extensions. Indeed, some of Microsoft's bigger innovations like Web slices and Accelerators were replicated via Firefox extensions a while back."

Learning Resources – Geography: Lessons

Learning Resources – Geography: Lessons: "Geography: Lessons"

Free Canadian lessons and maps.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sony, Google team up on e-books (The Globe and Mail, 19 Mar 2009, Page B9)

Sony, Google team up on e-books
The Globe and Mail
19 Mar 2009

Sony Electronics Inc. is pairing with Google Inc. to battle Amazon.com Inc. in the growing digital books market. In a strike against Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader, Sony and Google plan to launch a partnership today that will give users of the...read more...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

MLAs gone wild: baring necks and heckling?

Times Colonist: 2009 March 15

BOOK BOOM: It was just a couple of years ago that government tried to move the legislature’s stately old library and replace it with office space for MLAs. The resulting outcry closed the book on the plan and saved the space, which includes millions of documents, microfilmed newspapers going back 100 years and a reading room.

The library’s latest annual report, released last Monday, shows demand keeps rising for library services — when it’s not under threat of demise.

Complex research questions rose 36 per cent last year. Visits to the website jumped 200 per cent when Google started indexing the content and some products are now available by RSS feed.

But the vast collection of historical documents continued to drive demand. Good old-fashioned book borrowing increased by more than 50 per cent.

The library is open to the public when the legislature is not in session.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don’t Worry, Be Scrappy: Good, Cheap Tech for Schools, Cloud Computing and More

It’s the perfect time to try cheap new technologies

By Jeffrey Hastings -- School Library Journal, 3/1/2009

When asked to weigh in on what might be the next big thing in educational technology, I first did what I felt an SLJ gadget guy should do: I scanned the horizon for the next gizmo or software advance that would eventually grow legs, rise up, and utterly transform our profession. But what I saw was more about evolution than revolution. Sure, Windows Vista will become Windows 7, USB 2.0 will become USB 3.0, and geekdom will march on, just to a predictably faster drumbeat. Meanwhile, a broader and bleaker brand of change was happening right under my nose; our school system’s tech staff was shrinking, our licensed software was aging, and support contracts for things like our ILS (integrated library system) had been allowed to lapse. It was as if our school’s technology plan had suddenly been condensed into a two-word mandate: save money. That’s when I realized what the next big thing in ed-tech really is: austerity. For many of us, it has already settled in and is pretty much running the show.

Does crisis—even financial crisis—contain opportunity? I think so, especially for school librarians who have been inspired by leaders like Joyce Valenza to adopt new tools, but who have found that, ultimately, it’s tech departments, not library media specialists, that typically call the shots. If you’ve ever felt chained to a tired set of standard software served up mainly through standard desktop computer labs, an extended cash crunch could provide just the shake-up needed to make reinvention happen. Interested in getting back into the loop? Then prepare to help steer change by boning up on the following cost-cutting trends.

Virtual desktops

Employed to distribute the processing power of one computer to several workstations—ideally without users realizing they’re not connected to a dedicated machine—virtual desktops are an increasingly popular way for tech departments to save money on hardware, support, and power consumption. The NComputing X300 virtual desktop kits I reviewed in the February issue were deployed in my library last fall and actually got me thinking about this theme. Since virtual desktops don’t enhance performance more than one-to-one student-to-PC situations, they’re widely reviled as being glitchy compromises to the “real thing.” But, while not a good fit for processor-intensive apps and “power users,” virtual desktop technology allowed me to double the number of workstations on my library floor by being applied exclusively to low-demand tasks like Web browsing and catalog searching. A giant leap forward? Not really, but the cash-cutting measure—thoughtfully applied—enabled a needed expansion while making us leaner and greener, using less power per station, and employing recycled keyboards, mice, and displays. Like it or not, virtual desktops, whether hardware- or software-based, may be coming your way. Be proactive. Find out where they would and would not be an appropriate fit, and you may actually find yourself asking for them instead of being left feeling hobbled by them.

Open source software

For school systems struggling to pay their licensing fees for products like Microsoft Office, free software suites like Open Office may soon become the no-brainer replacement solution. Get to know your options. Likewise, in our business, it may be time to start playing around with open-source library systems so that you can steer that choice, if necessary. With an aging library circ/cat system, an expired support contract, and no plan for a replacement, I’m currently exploring several open-source ILS options, hoping that I can be ready to suggest a low-cost or no-cost fit when the time comes. For David Lininger, a secondary school librarian in Missouri, that time is now. He’s already chosen the open-source favorite Koha as his next library management suite. While the software is technically free, he’ll be spending some of the software savings on one of the many Koha hosting providers out there. That move will shift responsibility for things like records storage, software upgrades, and backups off of his school system’s shrinking tech staff and into “the cloud.” The cloud? Read on.

Cloud computing

Like the wispy white things floating in the skies above, the term “cloud computing” seems lofty and nebulous, but it’s a concept firmly grounded in modern computing reality. Fact is, while everything one did on a computer 10 years ago probably sprang forth from one’s local network or desktop, much of that utility can now be found on the Web. Increasingly, Web 2.0 style applications and storage live in that “cloud,” and upgrades and maintenance take place there, too. That spells potential savings in software, storage, and support costs. Cloud-based service providers are well aware that a bad economy can be good for them; the theme of this year’s Cloud Computing Expo, being held March 30–April 1, 2009, is “Triumph Over the Recession—Connect Yourself to The Cloud in ’09.”


Once a school system has gotten behind a set of cloud-based tools like Google Docs or Zoho, done the training, and made sure students have accounts set up, the stage is set for netbooks and other portable devices to begin replacing less flexible desktop computer labs. Netbooks, cheaper and leaner versions of laptops, are the perfect tool for cloud computing. Their relative lack of processor power and storage isn’t an impediment when the cloud is hefting the load, and their quick start-up and small footprint could help make educational computing a lot more organic and spontaneous. Toss WiFi into the mix, and you’ve got computing that happens wherever and whenever teaching happens, not computing that demands that teaching schlep to it.

Recently, I chatted with our district’s technology director, Paul Pominville, about these cost-saving trends. He told me that those not already being rolled out are being strongly considered. Pominville also agreed that these efforts would not only save cash, but could also benefit students. So what’s the holdup? “You’ve got to realize that there are still plenty of parents who feel their kids are being shortchanged if they’re not being exposed to the very latest version of Microsoft Office,” he said.

As both an educator and a parent, I feel exactly the opposite way. I think we can serve students best by exposing them to as many different computing looks as possible, especially to Web-based tools that encourage sharing and collaboration. Latest version of Office? Who cares?! If we can ride out the economic storm and get our kids and colleagues using Google Docs or Zoho instead, I’d count that as a double victory.

If prosperity means more of the same old ed-tech, maybe we could all use a little downturn.

Author Information
A library media specialist, Jeffrey Hastings writes SLJ’s Test Drive column. Email him at hastingj@howellschools.com.

Stephanie Rosalia: The New Poster Girl for School Libraries

SLJ: 2009 March 11

Stephanie Rosalia became a poster girl for school librarians when she made the front page of the New York Times on February 16. The article, "The Future of Reading: In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update" by Motoko Rich, which featured the Brooklyn-based Rosalia and the key role she plays at her school, became the most emailed story of the day, receiving more than 75 comments from readers and becoming the topic of more than 100 blogs around the world. The newspaper even featured a video about her program and the story appeared in the paper’s February 20 Book Review podcast.

School Library Journal
caught up with Rosalia to find out how all this came about and the reaction to her newfound fame.

How did a media specialist from Public School 225 in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, end up on the front page of the New York Times?
I received a call one day from the New York Times reporter Motoko Rich, who was referred to me by the then president of the American Association of School Librarians, Sara Kelly Johns. She asked if I would be interested in being interviewed and followed in my library for an article on the new role of 21st-century school librarians. I was familiar with Ms. Rich's work from her other articles, most notably the one on R U Really Reading? and with an entrée from Sara, I felt it would be a worthwhile endeavor. I brought the idea to my administrators who ran it by the New York City Department of Education for their approval. All agreed it would be a good thing.

How long did the reporter spend with you?
Motoko visited a few times a month at all times of day from October to February and observed all facets of instruction and circulation at most grade levels. She took copious notes and spoke at length with many students and teachers. She met with my principal and his assistants and even accompanied me to our annual professional development day hosted by Barbara Stripling's Office of School Library Services [in the New York Department of Education] to get a better feel for what we do.

Did she manage to get it right?
I am really impressed with the accuracy of her portrayal with the single exception of the comment in the video that suggests I am not a typical librarian. I may not be typical in many elementary schools in New York State, but what I do in my library is what every trained librarian does given the chance. I don't even think she meant it that way. I think what she meant was that I am atypical in the sense that I am a certified librarian in an elementary school who enjoys the freedom of a completely flexible schedule and open access at a time and place where, if there is a library, it is most often staffed by a teacher assigned to the library who works as a "cluster" teacher covering prep periods for other teachers, and who, by necessity, must spend most of their over-scheduled time circulating and shelving.

Have you been following the comments and hundreds of blog posts to the article?
I have been following the comments posted to the Times site. I have not had time to review the blog posts. I am awestruck at how this article has struck a nerve all over the country with people who are not librarians. I was delighted at the level of discourse in the comments: they were largely insightful and thoughtful and supportive of school libraries.

Were you surprised by any?
The one exception was the letter from the school board director in Washington State who was absolutely clueless about what we do and how important it is to the future of our children's success—not only in school, but in life. I was not surprised that other posters still don't understand, and I wish I could answer each of them personally to explain things. I loved the comment that more education takes place in a library without a school than in a school without a library.

What do you hope comes from this article?
I hope with all my heart that certified school librarians are mandated in elementary schools. The lessons we need to teach them and the love of books and reading we have to impart, cannot wait for middle school and beyond. It is critical that students begin to be taught information fluency from the time they learn to read.

I hope parents get angry if their child's school has no library or librarian. I hope decision makers understand libraries and librarians should be the LAST areas to be cut simply because of the value we provide: We teach each student every year that they are in the school if the program is run right. I hope the article shines a spotlight on the work of my colleagues who struggle with poor budgets and ignorant administrators. I hope it enters the mainstream of educational thought and discourse because the squeaky wheels get the grease. I hope those who run schools of education start to teach their pre-service teachers to collaborate with their school library media specialist as a necessary best practice. And I hope that Motoko Rich and the New York Times win a Pulitzer Prize if any of the above comes to pass. What a public service they have done!

If you had one wish for your library and another for school libraries in general, what would they be?
My library needs space! I wish for all of us to have the staffs and budgets to do our jobs to educate students, teachers, and parents alike. Only one wish? I wish for administrators and politicians to be locked into a room with a library media specialist and not be allowed to leave until they "get" it.

There have been some negative comments. Any in particular that you feel were unfair or unjustified?I take issue with the few comments that seem to suggest that one media is better or worse than another. I am an unabashed bibliophile and I always promote books and tell my students that if the grid goes down, they can stand in the sunshine and read a book. However, it is my job to bring all media and sources of information and reading to my students. They have to learn to gather all information from all sources and assess it all. Print is NOT dead; Internet is NOT evil. All must be considered by an educated person seeking knowledge in all forms. It is my aim to direct my students to become self-directed, discriminating, lifelong learners. Limiting them to one kind of information or another does not accomplish that.

What’s next?
Why, I go back to work! I go after more teachers to do more with me in the library. We scaffold our learning and grow. And I give a hearty pat on the back to my principal who had the vision and understanding to let me do my job. I would also like to encourage Motoko Rich to continue to write about school libraries and librarians to keep that spotlight focused and the discussion ongoing.

Teacher-Librarian Cuts at TDSB

OLA Blog: 2009 March 12

Is student success important to the Toronto District School Board? One does wonder, in the face of last night’s decision to cut teacher-librarian staffing for next year. Not only has the Government of Ontario signaled their recognition of the need for increased library staffing through new monies over four years but also research done through Queen’s University in 2006 indicates

• Grade 3 and 6 students in schools with teacher-librarians are more likely to report their enjoy reading
• Schools with trained library staff are more likely to have a higher proportion of grade 6 students who attained level 3 or higher on reading tests
• Schools without trained library staff tend to have lower achievement on the grades 3 and 6 reading tests :

Similar findings have been reported in close to two dozen States in the US in recent years.

This news from TDSB Trustees comes at a most unfortunate time. Until recently, the state of school libraries has been in steady decline due to on-going funding cuts. A study released in February of this year states: “The ad hoc approach to the role of school libraries in education from the three levels of administrations (school, board and province) results in the hard-won expertise and knowledge vanishing from the education system”. At a time when literacy gains and graduation rates are showing promise, can we really afford to put our school libraries in jeopardy once again?

McGuinty Government Expands School Library Services. Ministry of Education. February 14, 2008; retrieved March 12th, 2009.

School Libraries & Student Achievement in Ontario. The Ontario Library Association, a study by Queen’s University and People for Education, April 2006.

Exemplary School Libraries in Ontario. Klinger, D.A.; Lee, E.A.; Stephens, G.; Deluca, C.; Luu, K; 2009

It’s Pink-Slip Season for California’s School Librarians

American Libraries: 2009 March 11

In what seems to have become an annual spring rite in the Golden State, school boards throughout California have been issuing layoff notices to school library media specialists, as well as other educators and support staff, to ensure that the districts meet the March 15 notification deadline mandated by the state education code. With an $8.4-billion drop in state support to K–12 schools and higher education through June 30, 2010, the California Teachers Association estimated in early March that some 17,800 preliminary layoff notices would be issued to its members; 10,000 were sent in 2008.

“Please, please reconsider some other options that are open to you,” Modesto Teachers Association President Charlie Young urged school board members March 2 before the board voted 5–1 to cut 8.5 library media teachers and eight library assistants. Also scheduled for reduction in force to narrow an estimated deficit of $11.3 million through July 2010 are college counselors and K–6 music teachers. “It has been no easy task,” Superintendent Arturo Flores told attendees, according to the March 3 Modesto Bee.

The library cuts to the Modesto City Schools are particularly ironic in light of the $506,048 Improving Literacy through School Libraries grant MCS recently received for staff development and materials purchases. The district website explains that the funds enabled K–6 library media teachers and library assistants—many of whom are now on the chopping block—to develop standards-based lessons intended to help MCS close the achievement gap of its English-language learners, a districtwide strategic goal.

“The effect of these drastic cuts in personnel will be the undoing of one of the state’s premier library programs,” MCS Library Media Teacher Cindy Bender wrote in a letter published in the March 10 Bee. Serving two elementary schools prior to the cuts, Bender noted that the FY2010 reductions would result in the remaining MCS school library staff being “expected to serve five or more schools weekly” and eliminate media-center visits for “our youngest students, those whose literature development is most important.”

Among the other school districts where library media staff have been notified that they are on the layoff list are:

  • Corona-Norco Unified School District, whose board approved March 3 the issuing of pink slips to its five high-school teacher-librarians;
  • Las Virgenes Unified School District, which okayed layoff notices March 3 to all six school librarians and announced plans to merge media-center duties with technology support for classroom teachers;
  • Lompoc Unified School District, whose board voted February 19 to cut its two remaining school library media specialists and halve the hours of its library assistants.

The big picture

Although a few school boards have reversed course on layoffs—including Madera Unified School District, where library advocates have successfully fought off cuts for three years in a row—the state’s dire fiscal crisis does not foreshadow happy endings all around.

“There has been more discussion this year about actually closing school libraries,” Barbara Jeffus, school library consultant for the California Department of Education, told American Libraries, noting that while the state education code requires districts to provide library services, “There isn’t any teeth in [the code].”

“When school libraries are left unattended, the collections disappear and are not replaced,” Blanche Woolls of San Jose State University library school told AL. Determined media specialists were readying talking points and protest signs to sway decision makers. “Libraries should be an easy sell,” school-library advocate Stephen Krashen mused to AL, lamenting that too few connect the dots between school-library quality and student success.

“It is important that library advocates and supporters make sure that school superintendents, school board members, and their governor understand the importance of using [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] funds to invest in our children by investing in school libraries and librarians,” American Library Association President Jim Rettig agreed March 11.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may come to rescue of struggling school libraries

State officials should use stimulus funding opportunities for schools, libraries

ALA: 2009 March 10

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With state funding for schools on the decline, the American Library Association (ALA) says the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) could not have come at a more critical time for school libraries.

The ARRA includes $100 billion for education that can help school libraries ensure that our nation’s students are prepared to enter a 21st century workforce. The funding from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Educational Technology State Grant program will help prevent cutbacks, prevent layoffs, and modernize our nation’s school libraries.

As state funding to schools has declined, dropping 2.8 percent from 2001 to 2006 according to the National Center for Education Statistics, many schools are choosing to close their library doors or reduce funding – actions that Ann Martin, president of the ALA’s American Association of School Librarians (AASL), said greatly impair our nation’s educational system.

“Saving funds by eliminating certified school library media specialists or closing school libraries denies equal access for all students to the shared resources and information skills instruction crucial for students to learn and thrive in the 21st century,” Martin said.

“Across the United States, research has shown that students in schools with good school libraries learn more, get better grades, and score higher on standardized test scores than their peers in schools without libraries. The correlation between school librarians and student achievement is tied to a robust collection, a licensed school library media specialist, and a strong program.”

Martin pointed to a study released by the U.S. Department of Education in January, the Second Evaluation of the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries (LSL) Program, which reported that students attending schools participating in the LSL Program are performing higher on state reading tests than students in schools that do not take part in the program.

ALA President Jim Rettig said he agrees that strong school libraries staffed by state-certified school library media specialists are essential for preparing our students to thrive in the competitive global marketplace of the 21st century.

“It is important that library advocates and supporters make sure that school superintendants, school board members, and their governor understand the importance of using these funds to invest in our children by investing in school libraries and librarians,” Rettig said.

For more information on how libraries can benefit from the ARRA, go to: www.ala.org/knowyourstimulus.

BC Book Prizes: 2009 Finalists

The West Coast Book Prize Society is thrilled to announce the finalists for the 2009 BC Book Prizes. Congratulations to the authors and their publishers!

Winners announced April 25, 2009 | emcee Alan Twigg | Marriott Pinnacle


Here comes the future: Is education ready?

Vancouver Sun: 2009 March 12
Mitch Joel

It's not enough to just worry about how your revenues are going to look at the end of this quarter, and it's also not enough to be thinking about how your business is going to adapt to new realities in the coming years. We need to take a serious step back and also analyse the state of education, and what it's going to mean (and look like) in the future.

None of us are going to have any modicum of success if we can't hire, develop and nurture the right talent out of school. It's also going to be increasingly challenging if those young people are not prepared for the new realities of the new workplace.

While in New York City recently for a series of meetings, I was introduced to a senior publishing executive who was intrigued by the topic of my forthcoming book (Six Pixels of Separation, expected in September). It turns out said executive has a son who is about to complete his MBA at an Ivy League school. The problem (according to this industry executive) is: "Where is he going to work? All of those jobs are either gone, or people with tons more experience are willing to do them for a fraction of what they were paying only six months ago."

It's not an uncommon concern, and the obvious fear in this father's tone of voice is becoming much more apparent in conversations with other business professionals who have young adult children about to enter the workforce.

The reality is that the education system is going through some of the most dramatic changes it has faced since the industrial revolution, and schools are struggling to stay ahead and to keep their teaching as up-to-date and relevant as possible.

And with all of these dramatic changes in the economy, universities are even more strapped when it comes to funding new technology, bringing in the right people to teach with it, and providing a high level of results. It's an indictment on how our society operates, and it's going to hit businesses bottom line this year.

Sir Ken Robinson is widely regarded as one of the leading thinkers on the topic of education, creativity, leadership and innovation. In his must-see presentation at the TED conference a few years back, he stated that young adults entering the post-secondary school system today will statistically be working at a job that does not even exist today. The world is changing that fast.

There are educational institutions and teachers doing everything they can to keep their students either ahead of the curve or, at the very least, using newer tools and technology to inform and educate.

Another great story from Robinson's TED talk is about a young girl, Gillian, who struggled in school back in the '30s. She just couldn't concentrate. If it were 2009, this child would have probably been diagnosed as having some form of ADHD. Her mother took her to see a specialist. Here's how Robinson describes what happened next to little Gillian:

"As they [the doctor and mother] went out of the room, he turned on the radio sitting on his desk. When they were out of the room, he said to the mother, 'Just stand and watch her.' The minute they left, she was on her feet, moving to the music. They watched for a few minutes, and he turned to her mother and said, 'You know, Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school'."

Little Gillian is actually Gillian Lynne -- the famed choreographer behind Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. Her mom wound up sending her to dance school with other people who had to "move to think," as Lynne explains the story. Robinson concludes: "She eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School and had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet and became a soloist. She later moved on, founded her own company, and met Andrew Lloyd Webber. She's been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, she's given pleasure to millions, and she's probably a multi-millionaire. Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down."

It's not that more kids should be dancers and not thinkers. It's that schools were (and still are) very much built like factories: Boys and girls, all the same age, sitting at desks, in a row, all expected to learn the same things at the same pace. In recent weeks, the New York Times ran two interesting news items: The first, Students Stand When Called Upon, and When Not is about a school near Minneapolis where kids are learning from new school "desks" that allow them to stand while they work. "Teachers in Minnesota and Wisconsin say they know from experience that the desks help give children the flexibility they need to expend energy and, at the same time, focus better on their work rather than focusing on how to keep still."

The second story, In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update, highlights Stephanie Rosalia, a school librarian at a elementary/middle school in Brooklyn, who is working with students by showing them how to use PowerPoint, build blogs, and much more. The library is becoming a multimedia centre that is blending how to best use Wikipedia along with knowledge that comes in the more traditional, paper format.

There are many examples of how schools -- at all levels -- are doing everything they can to update not just the computer labs, but the new reality of a world where professionals are working from anywhere and from everywhere. The bigger question is this: Are young people really getting the right education for this brave new world, and how ready is business for the next wave of employees who work virtually, collaboratively, on their iPhones, and -- to a certain extent -- without paper?

Mitch Joel is president of the digital marketing and communications agency Twist Image.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Toronto school board spending spree kicks off

Quill & Quire: 2009 March 6

It wasn’t exactly a free-for-all, but the first day of an unprecedented two-day spending spree for Toronto’s elementary school librarians has kept participating vendors happily busy.

The selling fair, which is taking place at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, was organized by the Toronto District School Board, the country’s largest school board, in order to spend its $1.8-million allotment of the $15-million earmarked by the Ontario Liberals for buying new library books. That entire sum must be spent by the end of the day on Friday, or librarians will lose the funding.

Thirty-four vendors had set out their wares in long rows of collapsible tables stretching across the show floor on Thursday. “It’s just like being free in a candy store,” said Queen Victoria Public School librarian Melissa O’Brien, who was wandering the aisles with $5,900 to spend. Outside the venue, one librarian struggled to load her trunk with a half dozen heavy boxes, and then returned to the exhibition hall for more.

The only real complaints were the long lines at the checkouts of individual vendors. By midday, a bottleneck of nearly 30 customers had amassed at the display of library wholesaler S&B Books; president Arthur Gale noted that demand so far had been “massive.” Even some of the smaller vendors attending the fair for the first time were experiencing higher-than-expected demand. “There were times this morning when we just couldn’t keep up,” said Second Story Press publisher Margie Wolfe, who was helping out at the display for Toronto retailer and wholesaler Another Story Bookshop.

Paula Murphy, a librarian at Henry Hudson Senior Public School in Scarborough, had been worried that, given the short notice, vendors wouldn’t have the kind of stock she was looking for. “I knew I had certain gaps in my library that needed filling,” said Murphy, who was shopping for books in science, history, geography, art, and music. Overall, though, Murphy was “very impressed” by the selection.

Another Scarborough librarian, Ray Hopkin of Bliss Carman Senior Public School, noted that discounts at the show seemed steeper than at similar events in past years. In order to attend the fair, vendors approved by the ministry had to commit to a minimum discount of 20%, though most of the big wholesalers were offering cuts of 30% or more. Oxford University Press School Division, for example, was offering a 40% discount, and 45% off complete school sets.

The fair was a new experience for several vendors catering to the school library sector for the first time, including Indigo and indie bookseller Mabel’s Fables, which were positioned side-by-side and had equally prominent displays.

The TDSB resource sale continues all day Friday.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Book of Negroes wins Canada Reads contest

Vancouver Sun: 2009 March 7

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill has won Canada Reads, CBC Radio One's annual literary contest.

The 2007 historical novel about a girl whose life is shaped by slavery beat out four other works of fiction: Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards, Michel Tremblay's The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant, Gil Adamson's The Outlander and Fruit by Brian Francis.

"I hope this will encourage more readers to look again at our shared history and at the amazing resilience of the human spirit," said Hill, who lives in Burlington. Ont.

Al Jazeera journalist Avi Lewis, who championed Hill's novel on the show, said the book is "a riveting historical tale." But, he added, it is also "a soaring literary accomplishment -- a book in which the pages seem to turn themselves."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teacher named one of 20 best

Chilliwack Times: 2009 March 3
Mike Chouinard

A local distance education teacher was honoured by the premier Monday as being one of the best in the province. John Goldsmith of the Fraser Valley Distance Education School (FVDES) was picked as one of 20 teachers for a Premier's Award for Teaching Excellence. The announcement marked the second year in a row for the awards.

"B.C. teachers are among the best anywhere in the world, and I want to thank them on behalf of all British Columbians for the dedication they bring to educating our students," said Premier Gordon Campbell said in a news release.

"These educators do amazing work in making our students the best educated in the world. This is an occasion for students, parents, teachers and administrators to honour our outstanding teachers."

The announcement also marks the second time a Chilliwack educator was honoured with one of the awards, as retiring apprenticeship coordinator Garry Wall received an award in 2008.

Goldsmith teaches grades 11 and 12 at the FVDES. He was honoured for his efforts to create one of the first virtual classrooms in the province as well as his work teaching new technologies and skills to his students. The government release also notes how Goldsmith has been a frequent presenter at most distance learning conferences in B.C. and Alberta over the past 12 years, and is happy to give his time and advice to other teachers and provincial organizations such as LearnNow BC and the BC Social Studies Teachers' Association.

The Times tried contacting Goldsmith on Monday about the award but he was not available. The FVDES website notes he started his teaching career in Fort St. John and has been involved one way or another with most major B.C. online initiatives in education, such as the Southern Interior Telecommunications Project, the New Directions In Distance Learning Program and the SFU x-Change Program. He admits he had an early interest in applying technology to education.

"When computers started appearing in the school system, I was one of the first to get involved. That probably explains why my school was one of the first in B.C. to have a computerized student management system, a networked IBM compatible computer lab and an automated OPAC and circulation system in the library. It wasn't long before I gained a reputation for being a 'techie,'" he said on the FVDES site.

Goldsmith also keeps a blog about emerging online resources for teachers and leads weekly training sessions for students. As well, he has been leading a team at FVDES to improve the school websites and other technology.

The Ministry of Education received more than 100 nominations from across B.C. Lt.-Gov. Steven Point and Minister of Education Shirley Bond are presenting the winning teachers with a certificate of achievement at a Government House ceremony. Each teacher will also receive $1,500 to be used for professional development.

Lt Governor Point visits Agassiz youth

The Honourable Lt-Gov. Steven Point made a special visit to local students last week.

Point came to Agassiz Elementary Secondary School as part of his pledge to visit as many schools as possible during his term. He talked with a gym-full of youth last Friday, Feb. 27 about the role of the lieutenant governor in B.C., the importance of literacy and about the desire to see leadership from today's youth.

"Leadership is about taking control of your life, planning where you're going to be," Point told students. "It's about understanding that every moment of your life, the creator up there has provided opportunities for you to learn things."

He made it clear that youth today need to look forward instead of dwelling on the things that have happened in the past. Point called out those that do drugs and snub authority, saying leadership is about doing something that may not be popular, but you know is right.

"Your life shouldn't be a series of errors . . . it is exactly what you make it," he said. "Plan your life. Make it a good one, because no one else has the power to do so."

The other subject Point took the time to discuss was literacy. When he became lieutenant governor, Point looked at the issues facing British Columbians.

"Speaking with Shirley Bond, literacy is an issue not just with Aboriginals, but across the province," he commented. "In a country so high with our standard of living, why do we have such a high problem with literacy? That's a question I'm interested in."

When he began his term, Point decided to help increase literacy levels in B.C. in a few ways. The first was to bring books to isolated communities within the province, especially to First Nations communities. The second was an online initiative to allow children to tell stories and send them to Government House. Pictures are available at the official website of the Lieutenant Governor. Children can download the images, write a story about what is happening in the pictures and send the story back to Point.

He encouraged the students to read, to learn how to use the library and to ensure they have literacy skills needed for jobs. He talked about the knowledge gathered in books in the library, and said students today not only need to have the ability to read and understand those books, but to contribute to that knowledge base as well.

"The obligation is for you to contribute to that knowledge. You can't do that if you don't read and write."

He went on to share a story of his days as a judge, finding that even lawyers sometimes did not have the communication tools necessary to adequately explain their cases.

At the end of his presentation, Point opened up the floor for students to ask him questions. Most were thoughtful questions, such as who inspired him and did he always want to be a lieutenant governor, and who does he look up to? To that question, Point said while he has met many inspirational people, including the Pope, the Queen, and the Dalai Lama, people close to him have been the great role models in his life including his brother. He said for today's youth, there are many role models to look up to, citing local First Nations RCMP Corporal Chris Gosselin sitting in the front row as an example.

After the question time, Board of Education Chair Al Fraser and Kent Councillor John Van Laerhoven both got up to say a few words for the occassion. Then some students presented Point wiht some gifts, incuding a large framed painting of the late Chief Dan George. Gwen Point acknowledged that they had a painting of Chief George that was lost in their recent house fire, so this gift was very timely and appreciated.

Following the ceremony, students shared a meal with Lt.-Gov Point and his wife, her honour Gwen Point.