Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Digital Literacy Decoded: Beyond Basic Web Skills

The world is moving fast, but keeping up is easier than you think. If you possess the basic building blocks of digital literacy- vocabulary, tools and confidence- you can post, download, Skype, text and message with the best of them!


The digital age has brought with it a new lexicon that can, at times, sound confusing. Much like a traveler in a foreign country, knowing the basic terms for daily life can get you quite far. Listed below  are the key terms used most frequently used in the digital landscape. This list was created by the Fair Lawn School District in New Jersey. I've added a couple new terms and changed some language that applied only to the school environment. 

Anti-Virus - An application designed to search for viruses and repair files on a computer. 
Applications - Programs that allow you to accomplish certain tasks such as write letters, analyze numbers, sort files, manage finances, draw pictures, and play games. 
AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) - A set of rules and guidelines that are set up to regulate Internet use and to protect the user. 
Blog – Short for “web log”; refers to a list of journal entries posted on a web page.
Browser – A program used to view webpages on the Internet; such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.
Cloud (Cloud Computing) - Applications and services offered over the Internet. These services are offered from data centers all over the world, which collectively are referred to as the "cloud." 
Copyright Law - The law that protects the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something.
Cookie – Special type of file which is saved on the hard drive of your computer which tracks your activity on the website when you visit a website for the first time.
CPU – The heart or brain of a computer usually housed in a tower or box; stands for “Central Processing Unit”. 
Cyberbully - The electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person, often done anonymously.
Database - A database is an organized collection of related information that can be used for searches. 
Desktop – The primary start screen of icons on a computer monitor, from which users can access programs, files and folders.
Download - To copy data from one computer to another.
Domain - Contains a group of computers that can be accessed and administered with a common set of rules.
e-reader – A portable hardware device that is designed to display textual data like e-books, magazines and digital newspapers (e.g., Kindle, tablets).
File - A file is a collection of data stored in one unit, identified by a name; files can be opened, saved, deleted, and moved to different folders.
Firewall - Technology that prevents users from visiting inappropriate web sites and protects the network from unauthorized users. 
Flash Drive – A small external device for storing data; also called Memory Stick or Thumb Drive.
Folder – An object that can contain multiple documents; folders are used to organize information.
Hardware – The physical part of a computer which includes the keyboard, monitor, mouse and CPU (computer box).
Home page - An introductory screen on a web page on the World Wide Web, used to welcome visitors. A home page can include special text or graphics on which you click to jump to related information on other pages on the Web. 
Hotspot – An area that has an available wireless signal for Internet access (usually public and often free).
Hyperlink or Hypertext - Special text when clicked jumps the user from one related topic to another. 
HTML – The computer language in which web pages are written; stands for Hyper Text Make Up Language.
Icon – A small image or picture on a computer screen that is a symbol/shortcut for folders, disks, programs or printers.
Identity Theft - A crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception.
Intellectual Property – The ownership of intangible and non-physical goods, including ideas, names, designs, symbols, artwork, writings, and digital media (i.e., audio and video clips that can be downloaded online). Since intellectual property is intangible, it is more difficult to protect.
Java Script – A mini program that runs in the background of webpages to add some dynamic features.
Netiquette -Etiquette governing communications on the Internet.
Network - A system of connected computers that allows the sharing of files and equipment. There are two types of networks: local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN). 
Operating System – The software that controls the basic function of the computer, such as Windows XP, Windows7, or Yosemite on a Mac.
Phishing – Phony emails, popups or texts that lure you into giving out personal and financial information. 
PDF – A file format that is developed and used to display and print documents; usually not editable (stands for Portable Document Format).
Program – Software that runs on a computer; also known as application, such as Word, PowerPoint, Smart Notebook.
Save As - To save a document with a new name or file location. 
Server – Designed to support a computer network that allows users to share data, software and peripherals.
Shortcut - An icon that points to a program or data file. Shortcuts can be placed on the desktop or stored in other folders, and double clicking a shortcut is the same as double clicking the original file.
Social Networking – Using the Internet to create a virtual community by sharing messages, comments and other information using websites designed for that purpose. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. 
Upload - To transfer data from one computer to another.
Tablet – A portable computer that uses a touch screen as the primary input device instead of a keyboard and/or mouse. iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.
URL – The address of a specific website or file on the Internet; stands for “Uniform Resource Locator”.
Web Browser – Program used to access the Internet; common browsers are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Chrome and Safari.
WiFi – Refers to the wireless network technology that allows computers and other devices to communicate over a wireless signal.

Having the right words to explain questions or concerns can make troubleshooting easier.
Now that you understand the digital vocabulary, it's time to apply it. How you find information you need as seamlessly as possible?


Need to dig deeper than a Google search? Have you used the Library resources your library card gives you access to? Start on the SPL home page and click on Browse the Library.

Next, select Learning and Resources from the drop down menu. You can search by interest category or select All Research Links for the database list.

Remember to have your library card handy since most of the databases will ask for your card number and some will require you to create an account with them in order to save your searches. You can apply the same search techniques from the Google video inside the databases. The best way to become comfortable is to practice on your own. You can also take advantage of Ask A Librarian services from the library and either ask questions or schedule a one-on-one session for a specific topic. 


Now that your foundation is set, you have the tools to build your knowledge base. As you do more online, your skills and confidence will grow. One of the best sites for self-guided practice is Learn the Net. Take some time to explore the site and watch their how-to videos. Don't forget about You Tube either. 

Remember- practice makes practically perfect in every way!

Monday, November 3, 2014

What Comes First: Chicken or the Egg? Book Before the Movie?

 While this isn't exactly a question posed since the beginning of time, it is one that evokes a heated response among avid readers. As both a librarian and a passionate reader, I find myself planted firmly on the fence here for several reasons.

1. I won't even begin a debate on which medium is best for storytelling. Both have their merits and limitations. (Though if pressed, I'd pick a book for my taste.)

2. While I suspect that book readers go to see the movie version at a higher rate than movie-first goers reach for the book after seeing a film they enjoy, both routes promote books.

3. Movies bring beloved characters to life in a new way for a reader.

4. Books take you deeper into a world you enjoyed in a film.

What I will concede however, is the advantage books appear to have in film making of late, especially Young Adult titles. The latest batch of book-to-film releases include beloved favorites and newer titles that don't shy away from asking life's tough questions.

There's more happening here than studios wanting a solid return on their investment. (Though with comic book franchise films that is most definitely the case.) I have to believe that someone is reading these stories and recognizing what made these books bestsellers. The best art, in any medium, informs and entertains seamlessly.

For those of you who haven't picked up a YA book in years, I recommend you take a peak into this very popular (and profitable) genre. 

The Harry Potter series is still one of my favorite reads of all time (We named the dog Weasley!). And while I didn't enjoy the films nearly as much as the books, my husband and I are planning a visit to the studio where they made the movies when we visit England next year.

I enjoy the Hunger Games movies thus far, but was disappointed by the Divergent film.

As for John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, I intentionally passed on seeing the film because the book was so emotionally satisfying I didn't want to lose that feeling inside me. My Husky readers still tell me I should see it and perhaps someday I will.

At the end of the day any reading is good reading and I won't judge the road that leads a student to a book. Luckily, all the roads are good right now.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What Dreams May Come-Creating the Perfect Library Space

The Kansas City Public Library

I found this picture last week and I can't stop looking at it. For me books are magical all by themselves, but to see them like this gives reading a whole new look. I'm inspired  that the design is made up of books and not cell phones, tablets or a Kindle. If that labels me old-fashioned, then I guess I am.

One thing that is vital to creating a thriving and used library is a dedication to not only design, but redesign as times, trends and patron interests evolve. Here at HHS, we are nearing completion of a makeover in the Library Media Center that includes new tables, chairs, couches, more student use devices and of course books, in both print and e-format. 

We are excited beyond belief and to watch the students' reactions to the changes has added to the experience. Kids notice everything!

The best libraries are adaptable. Our goal hasn't changed with the times. A library is a space for the discovery of information, ideas and stories. We just have more ways than ever to go about doing it. 

Once we have all the new additions practically perfect in every way, I'll post pictures. 

You're going to like the way we look!   

Friday, January 31, 2014

Weeding Books: Getting Your Hands Dirty in the Name of Progress

Before you panic- this is NOT a picture from HHS!

Any good library will update its book collection periodically. We call this weeding. Here at HHS we are beginning the lengthy process of weeding the Non-Fiction section. There are a variety of reasons we take books out of the collection-
  • Outdated (happens often in Science & Technology sections)
  • Damage beyond repair (sad but true, backpacks are often unkind to books)
  • Low circulation (due largely to curriculum changes over the years)
As an avid reader and writer, it pains me to see books go, but when we clear space, the good materials we have remaining get more use.

Libraries are still fighting against the image of our services and offerings as being out-dated and unnecessary in the digital age.  To talk about weeding books appears, on the surface, to only perpetuate that image. Dynamic environments are in constant states of evaluation and adaptation. These processes move with more accuracy and speed when they're directed by trained and dedicated library staff. (I could name a couple people off the top of my head.)   

Even with budget cuts, I honestly believe this is an exciting time to work in a library.  Here at HHS, we're expanding our collection to include e-books for the first time. Our fiction section is the most current in the district and will be growing when our Spring book order arrives.  By far the most exciting news is that our reading-for-pleasure population continues to grow.

In addition to improving our collection, we're redecorating the LMC. The first wave of new furniture has arrived and hopefully by the end of February we'll be done with our beautification process. Please come by and visit us!

All of this just goes to show you, if you build it with teens in mind, they will come!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Art of War

Last week Ms. Morse, one of our Social Studies teachers, asked if the Library Media Center had room to display some of the class projects that were overtaking her room. Naturally I said yes. She brought them down today and I am a bit awestruck by the scope and creativity of the projects. Her students are finishing their unit on the Civil War and she managed to design a project that enabled students to express their knowledge of the complexities surrounding the causes of the war in a simplified way.

Without further ado, I present Setting the Table For the Civil War.

The kids had key figures sitting at their tables.

They added biographical info and the person's own words.

And a heavy dose of individuality.

I love the juxaposition of formality and manners of a table setting intertwinded with the brutality of the war to come.  

A detailed look at one of the dinner guests.

History was my favorite subject in school and I'm an avid reader of historical fiction. I've always believed that quality historical fiction can bring to life the events and facts of the past in a way most textbooks cannot. With that in mind, I'd like to recommend my top five novels set in or around the Civil War.

1) March by Geraldine Brooks. This is quite simply one of the most beautiful written books I've ever read in terms of language. It's as close to poetry as one can get in a novel and stirs your soul with every sentence. But don't just take my word for it, the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded it their top honor in 2006. The slim novel follows the deployment of Mr. March (yes, the father of the famous March sisters from Little Women) as he faces the harrowing and dangerous realities of war, fear and limitations of racial equality in a world that does not appear as ready for it as he would like to believe. 

2) Widow of the South by Robert Hicks. This is not a story for delicate constitutions. A plantation is taken over as a make-shift field hospital for the Confederates before and after a devastating and distasterous battle against the Union in Tennessee.  Based on a true story, the novel explores the gory (literally) details of medical practices and suffering on the battlefield. I could not put it down.

3) The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus. This a long, yet delightful narrative that follows the marriage and life of a very young women who marries and aged Confederate veteran. The narrative voice is addictive and you will hang on her every word. They made a TV movie out of  it years ago that did the novel justice. 

4) Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. The haunting journey of a solider who walks away from the war in order to return to his beloved. I stress the walking part because that is not a fast mode of movement and at times the novel can be slow, but it's well worth your perseverance. Like any good war story there is unspeakable brutality and glimmers of beauty, generosity and bravery that restores your faith in the goodness of men. The movie won Renee Zwelliger an Oscar.

5) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. No I'm not kidding. If you love the film, treat yourself to the book, they are quite different. What I think GWTW does best is show the reader the utter destruction of the South; its land, its people and its culture. And the love story isn't half bad either considering how flawed Scarlett and Rhett are. I toured the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta a few years ago and saw the very spot she typed the novel. Fun fact- she has an Arizona connection, her cousin was none other than Doc Holiday and it is presumed that Ashely Wilkes was based on him. 

Sadly, there aren't exactly happy endings in stories set around wars but by creating a character a reader can relate to, he can, ever so briefly, step back in time. It's important to know where we've been in order that we don't end up places we don't want to. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Librarians in the Media

Subway Sriracha chicken Melt

There's a saying that goes All publicity is good publicity. In the worlds of entertainment, big business and politics I would add the word free to that sentence. Libraries and librarians are generally not publicity seekers. This has worked for and against us. While most people support libraries and the services they provide, librarians are often seen as stodgy spinsters who are obsessed with rules and silence.

The new Subway ad for its Sriracha Chicken Melt depends on this rigid stereotype as the perfect compare/contrast for the spicy excitement of the sandwich. Because, I must assume, some ad executive easily sold the concept that a sriracha sandwich will make even the most dull people feel like they've added some spice to their life.

On one hand I'm thrilled to see a library setting (If you haven't seen it, watch the movie The Day After Tomorrow where people take refuge in the New York Public library when the polar ice caps melt- they are quite literally saved by literature!) but on the other I'm a bit miffed at the portrayal of librarians in the commercial.

And yeah, I'm miffed that they're eating in the library too- I can't lie! (You just know she's going to spill sauce on the carpet or worse, a book.)

So let's set the record straight here and now. Librarians are dynamic and exciting people. We are on the front line of technology integration and education. We don't sit at the circulation desk with our heads in the clouds. Instead we travel to other worlds and serve as guides to assist patrons on their own journeys. Through books and the internet, there's no place we haven't been to.

We're brave. We have to be as first adopters of new devices, software and interfaces.

We're patient. We have to be as we teach you to use new devices, software and interfaces.

We're flexible. A library is a busy place. Librarians have to be able to shift gears instantly.

And we're super cool. As evidence I submit this photo from Heroes and Villains Day.

Jedi Mrs. Treude and Sith Master Mrs. Pilarski

The Force of good librarianship is with you here at HHS.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Banned Books: In the Hand of the Beholder

Welcome to the American Library Association's annual Banned Book week where we celebrate what it means to read in the United States!

In preparing for this post I looked up the 2012 Top Ten Challenged Books and was surprised to discover Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series at the top of the list. With titles like Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets (Pt.1) I can't fault people for being skeptical or concerned but given that the first book came out in 1997, I expected a more current title, with more graphic content (as compelling as nasal secretions are, we all know stickier situations exist).

Confession time- this librarian banned Captain Underpants in our home. Back in the day (early 2000's) when I read to my boys every night, I brought home one of the books because I knew they were popular, especially with boys. (Boogers!) I read one chapter and stopped. It wasn't that I minded the potty humor (As the mom of two boys how could I not?) but I hated the way the adults and kids spoke to one another. Neither side had respect for the other and that's what I wanted banned from the house.

Pilkey is a hugely successful author both commercially and critically, his picture book The Paperboy was a Caldecott Honor Book. His books continue to be favorites of school-age readers which shows me that had I been willing to finish reading an entire book of his, I might have read more. You could call what I did censorship, but I'd prefer to call it parenting.

The books that continue to be challenged (like The Hunger Games, To Kill A Mockingbird and most recently Ralph Ellison's classic Invisible Man) are as popular and relevant as ever. Why? It's quite simple- people connect to the characters and story. As a writer it's my job to create characters that readers can relate to and root for. It's the level of connection that creates bestsellers or classics. Captain Underpants makes kids laugh and gets reluctant readers to enjoy, perhaps for the first time, a chapter book. Is that a bad thing?

Books are a form of art and art is subjective, but all art tells a story. Sadly many of the stories about the human condition involve pain, war, death and a host of other upsetting topics. Keep in mind that where there's darkness, light will follow.

Parents should feel comfortable being informed and involved in  media choices for their own children. Just remember, the book that offends you might very well be a life-saver for someone else.