Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: Last Night I Sang to the Monster

"Some people have dogs. Not me. I have a therapist. His name is Adam.
     I'd rather have a dog."

Each year before spring break the 9th grade human development class comes to the library to check out fiction books on serious topics they cover in human development class. I set aside books about addiction, divorce, sexual identity, racial identity, eating disorders, etc, and the students can choose whatever they want to read about. This year the kids will make book trailers for their choices.

I try to read some new books for this project each year, and I just finished a fabulous one: Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Zach is 18, an alcoholic,  and in rehab.  He slowly remembers what brought him to this place - his family. Each of his family members has a part to play in his abusive childhood, but it takes him the whole book to remember the incident that actually brought him to rehab.

With the help of kind Adam, his therapist, Rafael, a father-like figure to him who is also a patient, and the other "clients" at the facility, Zach finds his voice and his will to live. A sad novel with hope at the end, readers will admire Zach's will to get better.
Zach believes that God predicts your temperament in life. He says, “I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes happy and on some people’s hearts he writes sad and on some people’s hearts he writes crazy and on some people’s hearts he writes genius and on some people’s hearts he writes angry and on some people’s hearts he writes winner and on some people’s hearts he writes loser… And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. And when it came to my turn, he wrote sad.” (pg. 11)
Zach is a great main character, full of warmth and insight, and I recommend getting to know him.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ignited by DML

This week I was lucky to attend the Digital Media and Learning conference in Long Beach, California, only a thirty minute drive from where I live. According to the website,

The Digital Media and Learning Conference is an annual event supported by the MacArthur Foundation and organized by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub at University of California, Irvine. The conference is meant to be an inclusive, international and annual gathering of scholars and practitioners in the field, focused on fostering interdisciplinary and participatory dialog and linking theory, empirical study, policy, and practice.
The smallish conference attracted people interested in sharing current research and innovation connected to online experiences and learning. There were four tracks (Digital Media and Learning, Emerging Platforms and Policies, New Collectives, and Youth, Digital Media and Empowerment), and people floated between tracks quite easily. Browse the almost 100 page conference program to get a sense of the discourse and the amazing presenters.

I was excited to learn about digital learning from a perspective other than the librarian perspective, I was interested to learn about trends we could see in librarianship in the coming years, and I wanted some help with a new part of my school life (next year I am probably gong to co-teach a class with one of our educational technology specialists about using social media for social justice. Several workshops and sessions focused on aspects of this theme, which made me realize we were on the right track by proposing the class.).

Inspired by the workshops, sessions, ignite talks, and exhibits, I took more notes at this conference than most others I have attended. Here are some recurring themes related to school librarianship :

Now that we have our 2.0 skills down, get ready for another change. Many people spoke of the importance of teaching a deeper understanding of the technology in regard to trouble shooting, and understanding that you are in control of your digital experience - if you don't like something you can change it. Our next skill set? Hacking. Remember thinking we didn't really need to know too much html because so many tools do it for you? Well, maybe we do need to know the code.
Look at hackasaurus and find out about their Hack Jams.

People like incentives. Make your social justice campaign or even your portfolio, a game with badges, and people will respond. Yes, badges - online versions of those earned by Boy and Girl Scouts across America. Maybe we should make badges for reading clubs, or badges for new research expertise? Proud you learned how to make a QR code? Now try making a badge - people didn't talk about QR codes at all at the sessions I attended.
Look at the P2PU wiki about their badge program.

Finding time to play and innovate is particularly hard at institutions like schools - but can it be done? How can we make the down time when the students appear to be wasting time on Facebook a more playful and productive time?
Look at YOU Media and think about how we can bring some of this innovation to our libraries.

Participatory media is growing up - but in what ways? How can it be used effectively for civic engagement? What prompts people to participate in online social action? Will games make youth want to use digital media for social justice? Can the games be designed with the values of the community inherent in the design? Why do people get involved in writing entries for Wikipedia? Is that civic engagement?
Look at Nuf Said. Are you inspired?

Next year DML will be in San Francisco.  Want to join me?