Spheros in the library

Fourth-grade students building a Sphero obstacle course

Oh man our kids love Spheros so much. We were lucky enough to get a class set of 15 Sphero Bolts this year, which is great – last year we just had five (and at any given time only three of them were likely to work), and it’s hard to share these babies between more than two or three students. 15 is perfect.

Whenever we use Spheros, I let the kids play around for a few minutes first. Honestly, in “Drive” mode, they’re basically just fancy RC cars, but who can resist an RC car? Once they’ve gotten that out of their systems, we start introducing engineering challenges (constructing bridges, tunnels, mazes etc. for Sphero to navigate; seeing how much weight Sphero can carry on the chariot) or asking them to use block coding to operate Sphero.

Here’s the handout I made for a couple of PD sessions this school year. It has some ideas for how to use Sphero in the classroom, and lots of links. Enjoy, and good luck!

Go Phish

So I fell prey to that Google phishing scam yesterday.


Now I’m going to make a bunch of excuses: I got the email before it became big news (it hadn’t even shown up on Twitter yet!), it was from a guy I volunteer with who was supposed to send me a Google Doc this week (and who usually BCCs the other volunteers), it was after lunch and I’d hit a blood sugar lull…

But I knew. In my heart of hearts, I was like, “this looks kind of weird, what’s the deal with this hhhhhh email address” – but I clicked it anyway. And now I have to live with the shame. I mean, I teach kids about internet safety, and I fell for a phishing scam?!

And then I thought: oh man, what an opportunity.

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Of e-readers and sprained wrists

So a couple of weeks ago I bought a Nook. I had a couple hundred dollars in gift cards for Barnes & Noble (what else do you get for the librarian who has everything?), and I thought to myself, “Hey, you’re a techie kind of girl. Don’t you think you should hop on that bandwagon? Even your dad has an e-reader.” Aside from the money thing, the Nook seemed like the best choice – the Kindle’s restrictions on file formats and DRM stuff  were too limiting for my purposes, and none of the less-popular e-readers are as well-reviewed as the Nook. The iPad, while appealing to my inner Apple geek, is mad expensive – plus, I really do get headaches from brightly lit screens, so e-ink seemed too important to give up. (Also, the money thing.)

Two hundred dollars later, I walked out of the store with my Nook. I was so excited! Finally I was going to be like those cool people I always see on the El, carrying their Nooks and Kindles in stylish little cases while they read, I don’t know, some clever novel by one of those hipsters at n+1. My previous experience with e-readers was limited to my attempt to read Mockingjay on my iPod Touch because I was too impatient to wait until the bookstores opened. While that didn’t go so well (seriously, I felt like I was reading fanfiction – and I liked Mockingjay!), I just knew that the Nook’s big e-ink screen would change my opinion.

Sadly, the love affair with my new Nook ended as soon as I got home.

1. All those adorable and brightly colored covers? Made of leather. AGGGH. Plus, they cost like forty bucks. No thanks.

2. I chose the Nook over the Kindle because I wanted to be able to read books from lots of different sources – particularly the books I get from NetGalley, which are ePubs and only open in Adobe Digital Editions. Transferring those over to my Nook was supposed to be a snap. NOPE. Guys, I know my way around a computer. I gave up after about three hours of putzing with it.

3. The awful refresh rate. It is so distracting to have the screen flash black and white at you every time you turn the page. And apparently the original Nook was orders of magnitude worse. I can’t even imagine.

4. Being accustomed to the iPod Touch, the Nook’s touch screen was a huge disappointment. It’s not very responsive, which meant I spent a lot of time jabbing at the screen and half the time it selected the wrong thing anyway.

With great disappointment, I put the Nook back in its (very attractive!) box. I would have to return it, and spend those gift cards on real books that I could curl up with, share with friends, spill Cheetos on, and display on my living room floor. (We’re out of shelf space.)

I didn’t give it much more thought, as I had 14 days to return it. For days it languished in the pile of bills and overdue library books under my desk.

Until I sprained my wrist.

I’m sort of accident-prone generally, which means that figure skating is probably not the best sport for me. (Although last year I broke a finger playing football and sprained my ankle playing tennis, so maybe the lesson is don’t exercise?) Still, I’d come pretty far with minimal injuries – until Wednesday, when after landing a loop jump (!) and successfully completing several RBO three-turns, I tripped over myself while leaving the ice and sprained my wrist. Pretty badly, as it turns out, so I have this charming splint (it’s black, so it goes with everything!) and an array of prescription painkillers. Typing is a pain, as are other important things like cooking and washing my hair, and lifting anything that weighs more than an ounce is out of the question. I spent the weekend trying to find creative ways to hold up The Knife of Never Letting Go (which you should read, by the way, it’s like the glorious offspring of Hunger Games, Star Wars, and Finnikin of the Rock). Then I got to the cliffhanger ending. What to do? Reading a hardcover had proven extremely difficult. Going to the store or library would require driving – not gonna happen – or getting jostled around on the El – also no.

Faced with these two problems, the solution became clear: I would have to face the Nook again. I took it out of the box, charged it up again, and  bought The Ask and the Answer. And you know what? I got used to the refresh rate. The instant gratification of buying a book on the touchscreen and having it magically appear is pretty awesome. I like that it weighs a lot less than a 600-page hardcover. Best of all, I could easily read and navigate one-handed without my arm getting tired. I don’t love it – it’s just not the same as a real book, I’m sorry – but it serves its purpose. (Imagine if I could’ve taken this to Iceland over the summer instead of eight books!)

Anyway, the upshot is, Nook has grown on me, although maybe I’m just transferring my affections for Chaos Walking to the device I read them on. As far as using them in libraries goes, though, the jury’s still out.

Program: Intro to Web Design for Young Adults

This is my final project for Media Literacy and Youth. It is a plan for a four-week (eight session) class on web design, aimed at high school students and taught in conjunction with the high school. Forgive the goofy place names – they’re the ones I used throughout the semester, and mad props if you know what book they’re from.

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