Libraries, Hackspaces and E-waste: how libraries can be the hub of a young maker revolution

How libraries can be the hub of a young maker revolution? What is the role of   libraries in the 21st century? The following is  an except from  Canadian author Cory Doctorow’s blog entry for Raincoast Publishing, to celebrate Freedom to Read Week, 2013.

Every discussion of libraries in the age of austerity always includes at least one blowhard who opines, “What do we need libraries for? We’ve got the Internet now!”


The problem is that Mr. Blowhard has confused a library with a book depository. Now, those are useful, too, but a library isn’t just (or even necessarily) a place where you go to get books for free. Public libraries have always been places where skilled information professionals assisted the general public with the eternal quest to understand the world. Historically, librarians have sat at the coalface between the entire universe of published material and patrons, choosing books with at least a colorable claim to credibility, carefully cataloging and shelving them, and then assisting patrons in understanding how to synthesize the material contained therein.

Libraries have also served as community hubs, places where the curious, the scholarly, and the intellectually excitable could gather in the company of one another, surrounded by untold information-wealth, presided over by skilled information professionals who could lend technical assistance where needed. My own life has included many protracted stints in libraries — for example, I dropped out of high-school when I was 14 took myself to Toronto’s Metro Reference Library and literally walked into the shelves at random, selected the first volume that aroused my curiosity, read it until it suggested another line of interest, then chased that one up. When I found the newspaper microfilm, I was blown away, and spent a week just pulling out reels at random and reading newspapers from the decades and centuries before, making notes and chasing them up with books. We have a name for this behavior today, of course: “browsing the Web.” It was clunkier before the Web went digital, but it was every bit as exciting.


That is to say that society has never needed its librarians, and its libraries, more. The major life-skill of the information age is information literacy, and no one’s better at that than librarians. It’s what they train for. It’s what they live for.

But there’s another gang of information-literate people out there, a gang who are a natural ally of libraries and librarians: the maker movement. Clustered in co-operative workshops called “makerspaces” or “hack(er)spaces,” makers build physical stuff. They make robots, flying drones, 3D printers (and 3D printed stuff), jewelry, tools, printing presses, clothes, medieval armor… Whatever takes their fancy. Making in the 21st century has moved out of the individual workshop and gone networked. Today’s tinkerer work in vast, distributed communities where information sharing is the norm, where the ethics and practices of the free/open source software movement has gone physical.

At first blush, the connection between makers and libraries might be hard to see. But one of the impacts of building your own computing devices (a drone, a 3D printer, and a robot are just specialized computers in fancy cases) is that it forces you to confront the architecture and systems that underlie your own information consumption. Savvy librarians will know that our access to networked information is mediated by dozens of invisible sources, from the unaccountable search algorithms that determine our starting (and often, ending) points, to the equally unaccountable censoring network “filters” that arbitrarily block whole swathes of the Internet, to underlying hardware and operating system constraints and choices that make certain kinds of information easy to consume, and other kinds nearly impossible.


Damn right libraries shouldn’t be book-lined Internet cafes. They should be book-lined, computer-filled information-dojos where communities come together to teach each other black-belt information literacy, where initiates work alongside noviates to show them how to master the tools of the networked age from the bare metal up.

Cory Doctorow

February 24, 2013

Freedom to Read Week is an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

as cited from  Cory Doctorow’s blog entry on

Teachers and tech: @ home and in the classroom: a Pew Institute Research report

teacheripad A survey of teachers who instruct American middle and secondary school students finds that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalization. At the same time, the internet, mobile phones, and social media have brought new challenges to teachers, and they report striking differences in access to the latest digital technologies between lower and higher income students and school districts.techlaptops

Asked about the impact of the internet and digital tools in their role as middle and high school educators, these teachers say the following about the overall impact on their teaching and their classroom work:

  • 92% of these teachers say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to access content, resources, and materials for their teaching
  • 69% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to share ideas with other teachers
  • 67% say the internet has a “major impact” on their ability to interact with parents and 57% say it has had such an impact on enabling their interaction with students

studentipadThe survey finds that digital tools are widely used in classrooms and assignments, and a majority of these teachers are satisfied with the support and resources they receive from their school in this area. However, it also indicates that teachers of the lowest income students face more challenges in bringing these tools to their classrooms:

  • Mobile technology has become central to the learning process, with 73% of AP and NWP teachers saying that they and/or their students use their cell phones in the classroom or to complete assignments
  • More than four in ten teachers report the use of e-readers (45%) and tablet computers (43%) in their classrooms or to complete assignments
  • 62% say their school does a “good job” supporting teachers’ efforts to bring digital tools into the learning process, and 68% say their school provides formal training in this area
  • Teachers of low income students, however, are much less likely than teachers of the highest income students to use tablet computers (37% v. 56%) or e-readers (41% v. 55%) in their classrooms and assignments
  • Similarly, just over half (52%) of teachers of upper and upper-middle income students say their students use cell phones to look up information in class, compared with 35% of teachers of the lowest income students
  • Just 15% of AP and NWP teachers whose students are from upper income households say their school is “behind the curve” in effectively using digital tools in the learning process; 39% who teach students from low income households describe their school as “behind the curve”
  • 70% of teachers of the highest income students say their school does a “good job” providing the resources needed to bring digital tools into the classroom; the same is true of 50% of teachers working in low income areas
  • Teachers of the lowest income students are more than twice as likely as teachers of the highest income students (56% v. 21%) to say that students’ lack of access to digital technologies is a “major challenge” to incorporating more digital tools into their teaching

How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms report as cited on

Happy Bobbie Burns Day

Royalty-free; scanned from a Dover bookRobert Burns was born on 25 January 1759. To commemorate the 250th birth of  this Scottish poet,  The Prince of Wales recorded two of his favorite Robert Burns poems for the BBC Scotland audio project  in 2009. He recited My Luve is Like a A Red Red Rose and My Heart’s In The Highlands.

The site was launched  as part of the multi-platform BBC Scotland celebration to mark the 250th anniversary of Burns’ birth and more of his works will be added over the next two years. The project has also seen contributions from First Minister Alex Salmond,  and actors Alan Cumming, Robert Carlyle and Robbie Coltrane.

_45406433_charles_burns226paMy Luve is Like a Red Red Rose was the most popular of the Prince’s readings and received 23,444 hits.  For American audiences an audio clip can be found by clicking here.

Jeff Zycinski, Head of Radio Scotland, said:

There’s no doubt in my mind that the involvement of Prince Charles in this project gave it a real boost and his recitals attracted interest from Canada, Australia and all around the world. We were especially pleased with the care His Royal Highness took during the recording session. He was very keen to give us a real, heartfelt performance and not just a simple reading.

as found on


Lance Armstrong biography…fiction or non fiction?

In a true testament to the hyperactive power of social media, this photo surfaced  recently in an Australian  public library…Image

Just days after the disgraced cyclist, Lance Armstrong,  admitted to doping throughout his decorated career, the notice jokingly suggested his books would be moved to the fiction section, created by a library clerk of the Manly Public Library. A library patron snapped and posted the image  on social media. By January 20th, 2013, the image was making the rounds on global media websites, including  USA Today.

The clerk, Jack Dee, was shocked and removed it immediately when he realized it had gone viral and apologized to the town’s local government, the Manly Council.

He was shocked to see how fast it had spread online, and deactivated his Facebook account after media outlets started contacting him.  Mr Dee said he was frustrated to read media reports and tweets suggesting that the library was actually reclassifying the books.

Manly Library’s acting manager Wendy Ford said

Libraries Australia classifies all material, and member libraries follow that interpretation.

While many people feel betrayed by  7 time Tour de France  winner, cyclist Lance Armstrong’s admission of  usage of performance enhancing drugs,   this  notice, while a tongue in cheek joke,  is a prime example of how social media is shrinking our world.  Information, via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the like  spread information (some true, some not so true)   quickly.   Availability of camera phones,  allow quick documentation  and dissemination of events .  This is a gentle reminder to be wary and question content  as  the role of the reader.

as found on

Blog Anniversary

Happy Blog Anniversary to ME!  Today is the 5th anniversary of  my blog….any excuse for cake…..

Thank you to the many people to stop by my blog, read it, make comments, post a ‘like’ to it etc.  Thanks to you,  I seem to be averaging around 120 views per day….on my heaviest day…468 views  on  August 5, 2012. Thank you!   Feel free to share your suggestions  of future blog topics with me.

Library services to help your child

With a new school year freshly begun, I would like to highlight a few services Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School offer our Falcon community. Please do not hesitate to ask me (or email me for help or clarification.

1. Our Library Catalog

Do you know what what books we own? Do you want to know which books your child has signed out? Our library catalog is available 24 / 7 at . By using your child’s library barcode number, you can create an account, allowing you access to the catalog. Children in grades 3 through 6 have their library barcode attached to their study buddy, inside cover. Informally, children use their AR password as the library account password as well.

The home page of the library catalog will also offer a list of links to various subscription databases to help your child with their research.

2. Accelerated Reader

Parents can help their child be a better reader by helping them locate books via and identifying their book’s reading level. Also, parents may see their child’s reading progress by using Home Connect. Again, parents will need their child’ AR username and password to access their accounts. Children in grades 3-6 have the written their AR username and passwords in their study buddies on their birthdays/ or half birthdays.  Children in grade 1 and 2 will have this info sent home by the end of September. Please note that AR tests can be taken from anywhere on campus. Please feel free to contact Mrs. Potwin of account information.

3. Ebooks/ Audio books

We are very fortunate to be able to offer ebooks and audio books in a digital download format, free of charge. Overdrive will allow families to download children’s books to their home computers, or their mobile device ( Kindle, Ipad, ipod, tablet etc.) Children are permitted to bring their device to school during free read time, providing parental approval is given. The Overdrive system will ask for your child’s library barcode. This can be found on the inside front cover of the student’s study buddy ( grade 3-6). Children in grade 2 will have this info sent home by the end of September. Children in grades 7 and 8 will receive this info on an Overdrive instructional bookmark by the end of September.

As always, please contact Mrs. Potwin with any questions you might have. Helping your children be the best student they can be is my goal.

Literary Characters I would like to friend on Facebook…..

Sadly, I admit to wasting away part of my holiday weekend with Facebook.  (Never mind the  piles of laundry which need my attention.)  Eoin brought me our current bedtime novel to read,  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. We are enjoying reading many of  the classics together;   I,  reliving them from my childhood.  Many of these characters are like old friends whom I am reconnecting with, much like Facebook is a source for people to reconnect with  others. I then began to think about  fictional characters I would like to friend on Facebook.

Here are a few.  And why.

Elizabeth Bennett…one of the most complicated literary characters ever written.  Pride and Prejudice is one of the great romances of all of literature but yet extra special because it seems so romantic and realistic.   Elizabeth became attractive  to Mr. Darcy when he discovered her true personality, despite   not holding the same status as was required of couples in Victorian England.  Jane Austen introduces a couple that is not glamorized by beauty but fall in love with the personality of the other. Austen created characters with contrast.  Besides, I so love the Colin Firth movie version of Mr. Darcy.

Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables devilish curiosity, personal strength, helped her overcome the harsh hand life deal this orphan and as a result became a teacher. I so love her vivid use of imagination.

Charlie Buckett from Charlie and the Chocolate factory.  While this is a current read in the Potwin household,  I am reminded of Charlie’s kind  and gentle disposition as well as his honesty, despite being presented with the opportunity to profit greatly by deceitfully  participating in industrial candy espionage.  Besides, I would warn him to stay away from the  nasty Veruca Salt.  Not only is she a spoiled little girl, but has dreadful manners.

Nora Krank from Skipping Christmas by John Grisham, became multi million dollar grossing movie Christmas with the Kranks.  Anyone who celebrates the Christmas holiday with as much vim and vigor as Nora has my undying appreciation. I can totally relate to her and teh demands of holiday preparation.  Plus, I would love some of her holiday decorating tips.

Paddington Bear ( who, admittedly,  is really not a person).  Perhaps  meeting up for coffee…or tea…would be a better  initial meeting , before deciding to ‘friend’ Paddington.  I am not sure about having an actual meal with a bear, though in the whimsical spirit of this blog,  I would elect to have a proper British tea, including marmalade sandwiches, with the  Bear from deepest, darkest Peru,  most likely in Harrod’s Food Court..or possibly Fortum and Mason’s…or the like.  Hold the cream …I know that Paddington would make a mess of the cream and then I would be responsible for wiping off his whiskers. And use paper cups,  I do not wish to be responsible for  broken china.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven,  though I would choose when  to accept this friend request…..distinctly not  in the  bleak  December. Yes, I too choose to read as a form of escapism, though not  for seek solace  of  Lenore’s lost.  And yes, I too feel for the narrator’s sense of undying  devotion, though perk up buttercup…madness is not the answer.

Colin in the Secret Garden.  I would love to discuss his transformation from  doom and gloom to being a sunny optimist.

Eloise…living in that New York hotel for so long, I am sure she has become accustomed to  a certain level of service and a ” joie de vie” when approaching life.  Friending Eloise would be a must.  When she returns from Paris, of course.

Babar…I want more tidbits of life behind the palace walls.

Birdie Boyers…the Strawberry Girl  depicts Florida Cracker life,  in lieu of a friend request perhaps a nice meal out on the town, perhaps a strawberry short cake  desert would  be welcomed.  I would like to  learn more about how she   applied herself to hard work around her. If there is one thing which I value above all else in this world, it  is hard work and those who apply themselves to a challenge.

So many great books, so many great characters…many of them are like old friends.  I look forward to revisiting them,  perhaps not through Facebook, though through readings with my son as he grows to love the expressive written word as much as I do.

No Difference Between Kids’ Comprehension of Ebooks, Print Books, Study Says

Below is a reposted article, sponsored by Renaissance Learning, an automation company which profits are generated by student reading scores across the country, thus their business interest is boosted by the results of this study. As well, the variables of images /diagrams / picture books was not  factored into the results. While an interesting study,  one needs to take it with a grain of salt.

There’s no real difference between ebooks and traditional paper books when it comes to kids’ reading comprehension, says a new study.

kindlestudy(Original Import)Student Comprehension of Books in Kindle and Traditional Formats” by Michael Milone, a research psychologist and educational writer at Renaissance Learning, asked students in two fourth-grade classes located in the Upper Midwest to read up to six books from a selected list of a dozen popular fiction titles that included Eleanor Estes’s Ginger Pye (Harcourt, 1951), Gary Paulsen’s Lawn Boy (Random, 2007), Mary Pope Osborne’s Sunset of the Sabertooth (Random, 1996), and Megan McDonald’s Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid (Candlewick, 2005). The 31 students—who read a total of 135 books, 69 on the Kindle and 66 in print—were asked to alternate between reading half of the books on the Kindle and the other half in a bound, printed format. After reading each one, they completed a brief, computer-based Accelerated Reader quiz to measure their understanding.

Milone found that there was no statistically significant difference in reading comprehension levels, with students correctly answering an average of 88 percent of questions about the books read on the Kindle, compared to 88.5 percent of questions answered correctly for print books.

“Results of the study indicate that parents and educators can rest easy knowing that students comprehend books they read digitally as well as they comprehend books read in a print format,” especially since electronic reading devices are rapidly becoming popular for both personal and educational use, the study says. Only narrative texts were used, and the results do not include informational texts or textbooks.

“As more schools and districts begin to incorporate ereaders into the curriculum, it is important to better understand how students comprehend books read digitally compared with print books,” says Glenn James, the CEO Renaissance Learning, a provider of tech-based student assessment programs for K-12 schools. “The results of this study confirm that every book read, in any format, is another step toward higher student achievement.”

Although previous research suggests no difference in reading comprehension between digital and print formats, many of those studies were conducted using animated storybooks—and none involved extensive reading for pleasure in a typical school setting.

When asked about using the Kindle, the majority (76 percent) of students said it was very easy to use. In terms of their reading comprehension, 28 percent found the Kindle much easier to understand than a printed book, 24 percent said it was a little easier, and 40 percent said it was about the same. If given a choice, 62 percent of those surveyed said they preferred to read using a Kindle rather than a book.

“The large number of books in the study and the naturalistic approach to the research—students read the books in a typical setting at school or at home—suggest that the results are dependable, and that students’ comprehension of narrative texts is the same for ereaders and print books,” the study says. “Students enjoy reading on ereaders, and the novelty effect of these devices may encourage less proficient students to read more.”

The study may help educators, especially since a growing number of individual schools and districts are incorporating ereaders like the Kindle and Nook, as well as tablet computers into the curriculum.

“This trend has not gone unnoticed by educational publishers; most are at least dabbling in adapting their texts to electronic formats,” the study adds.

Even though a relatively small number of students were used in the study, the report says its findings are dependable, “but replication and extension are clearly necessary.” The study does point out some limitations, saying that its results should not be applied to all forms of reading on digital devices. “Reading on a very small screen device, however, like a smartphone or online reading, with its links, multiple pages, and sometimes distracting graphics, pose very different comprehension challenges.”

The greatest limitation of the study is that students read narrative rather than informational texts, and “research has found that most ereaders are used for reading for pleasure, and most users are satisfied with their devices for this purpose.” When it comes to studying, traditional print books are preferred to ebooks.

Participants read the books beginning in early April 2011 after spring break, and the study concluded during the final week in May. The lists of books, in the order they were to be read, were provided to students, teachers, and librarians.

as cited from

Librarians Turn Wikipedia Blackout into Teachable Moment

Wikipedia is turning off its lights for 24 hours beginning 8 am  on Wed January 18th, 2012 to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), a move that’s inspired school librarians to turn the blackout into a teaching opportunity.

220px Wikipedia logo en big Librarians Turn Wikipedia Blackout into Teachable Moment“I might make a quick button that says, ‘Can’t get to Wikipedia? Ask me,’” says Cassandra Barnett, former president of the American Association of School Librarians, and a high school librarian at Fayetteville (AR) High School. “I thought, my gosh, what a perfect opportunity to talk about the subscription databases we have. Or walk over to the shelves, take a book and show them an overview of their topic where they don’t even have to log on to a computer.”

News site reddit, and blog Boing Boing will be darkening their sites as well. The blog publishing service WordPress is offering plug-ins for users to black out their blogs and Google is adding a message on its site expressing its opposition to the antipiracy legislation. (Find a list of protestors here). The collective goal is to protest the two bills, which are aimed at stopping online privacy but also potentially grant the U.S. government the ability to shut down sites that are infringing on copyrighted content. For more information on  SOPA , go to

For school librarians the issue is of particular concern.

“It’s hard for kids to understand proprietary information and what belongs to someone else, and proper etiquette for using it.  We already struggle with that and if we have to worry about someone coming down on us for that, that’s more for us to watch.”

Whether or not the blackout works to permanently squash the bills, it promises to be a learning moment. (President Obama stated Monday he would not support SOPA. PIPA is scheduled to come before the U.S. Senate January 24.)

cited from