Archive | January, 2011

Weekend Website

31 Jan

Often students inadvertently create projects that use copyrighted material. They assume that if they can find something with Google and they can save it to their computer that it is fair game. Providing them with a way to adhere to copyright laws regarding usage is part of educating them about this issue.

Veezzle is a simple site that provides free stock photos from photo sharing sites. The site essentially aggregates the free stock photos on multiple other sites and allows you to access them through their simple search engine. Some Veezzle searches may not provide the same image options as a Google search, but all of the images that are given can ethically and lawfully be added to students’ work.

The images that I found for “pony”, “strawberry” and “eye” provided me with some useful options and dramatic images.


When I was a girl, we didn’t even have computers.

27 Jan

I’ve started a new UBC course about using Web 2.0 tools in the library. One of our first assignments was to think back over our computer lives and look at how much they have changed. It seems like mine has changed a lot. The following is my contribution to my technology history.

Oh, computers. I love them and I hate them. I love that I can do so many things; I hate that my L key has fallen off so that I can only do things that don’t involve the letter L. Sometimes I think back to a simpler time, one when L’s weren’t complicated, when a pen and paper was all that I had….

My family got our first computer when I was 13. I used it primarily for email and playing games (Captain Comic and Tetris mostly). Eventually, I started to use the computer for research projects and to type written assignments. Since I had an artistic bent, I tended to stay away from computer generated work and would try to do as little as possible with the computer. I had neat handwriting and as a result I didn’t have much practice at typing. Honestly, I was a terrible typist. Even when things needed to be typed I resisted. I would write out my papers and my best friend would type them for me.

In university I was finally forced to accept that I couldn’t escape from using a computer. I did terribly in first year physics because all of the labs were done with Excel spreadsheets and I had absolutely no idea how Excel worked! I started to see the benefit of using a computer when I figured out how to access online journals through the UBC library website. This gave me a feeling of success which encouraged me to continue to develop my skills. Completing my Masters forced me to develop my typing skills as I typed (and retyped) my thesis over and over again.

Over the past 3 years I have been developing my creative computer skills. I am a member of the executive of the Provincial Intermediate Teachers’ Association PSA and I do all of the advertising, web design, branding, newsletter and print materials for the PSA. I mostly use Adobe InDesign and I have been forced to become fluent in this program. I really enjoy doing this type of work because it links into my creattive bent and I find it a hugely rewarding challenge. I am always learning.

I also work for my father and do all of his accounting and invoicing which means that, yes, I finally know how to use Excel! My husband taught me to use it and I supplement his knowledge with tutorials on YouTube. I hated Excel with a passion in university and now I love it!

While I have used email for quite awhile, I tend to be a quiet internet user; I look around but I don’t really make my mark anywhere. That has changed quite a bit this year with my job as a high-school teacher librarian. I have started a blog, created a web page, worked with the library collection and started to sign my name to my written work which is put onto the web for the Provincial Intermediate Teachers’ Association.

Right now my husband and I own 4 computers. One computer is stored away, my computer has no L key, his computer has a broken internal modem and our most recent computer finally came yesterday so it is still sitting in the box. When I am teaching in a classroom, I primarily use a computer for creating worksheets, classroom signage, attendance and reporting. In the library, I spend my day searching the web for useful links, maintaining the library website and creating new signs and displays. At home, I use the computer to read my favourite crafting and organizing blogs, check Facebook and watch Project Runway on I buy products off, check out weekly store flyers, download audiobooks off BC Library, search public libraries, do research for lessons, learn sewing techniques from YouTube videos, do our banking and book travel. There are still many things that I like to do the “old-fashioned way” but often that is just because many things are within walking distance of where I live and doing them the old-fashioned way is a good excuse to get outside and get some exercise.

My new computer is about to come out of the box. I’m excited for all of the things that I will be able to do with it. When I was a kid, I used to become excited for a new package of felts or a box of crayons, and while those things let me create, I was limited to my own skills and talents. My picture could never be more than I was able to do. On a computer, with all of the tools it makes available to me, being linked to so many resources, allows me to find that I am able to do more than I could do alone. I just need to learn how.


Weekend Website

23 Jan

In the past, I have only used Facebook to share photos. I know how to upload them, crop them and turn them so that they are not displayed sideways (and I only learned how to do this because my sister messaged me frustrated that she had to turn her laptop in order to view half of my photos). My skills with Facebook photo sharing are by no means extensive. I usually opt not to share photos online since I am my own worst critic and I tend to feel that I look fat or my smile is crooked. This seems to be getting worse as I get older (the big 3-0 hit me hard). I am becoming more critical and, as a result, I am less likely to share my photos willingly. I know someone who Photoshops every one of her photos before she shares them on Facebook, but seriously, who has the time for that?!?

I have previously looked at using Flickr as a photo sharing site and my experience this time wasn’t any different. It reminded me a lot of the photo sharing found on Facebook with albums (sets), sharing and very basic editing (rotate, rename, etc). In all fairness, Flickr is a good method for photo sharing between a group of people. I found the page of a quilting group I have been interested in joining so I saw some of the amazing talent that I would be joining into (though this was also somewhat intimidating).

But then Picasa came into my life. Picasa was like a breath of fresh air compared to the previous two photosharing sites! When cleaning my house the other day I realized that, while my husband and I have albums for our wedding and engagement photos, we have nothing to display our honeymoon photos. Picasa has remedied that – we now have a honeymoon slideshow! (WordPress won’t let me embed the slideshow so if you want to see it, check out

Picasa’s editing capabilities are easy to use and intuitive. Many of the photos in our honeymoon folder were overexposed and had harsh shadows but after dedicating some time to editing using Picasa, and Picnik, a linked photoediting service, when Picasa wasn’t enough, I have a series of photos that are a great reminder of the time that my husband and I shared.

The photos below are my favourite example of the editing capabilities of Picasa. When we were on the beach, a couple asked us to take a photo of them and, in exchange, they would take a photo of us. The gentleman made Matt take at least 20 photos with very specific instruction to get the perfect shot of them and then he only snapped one of us, assuring us that it was the perfect photo. I had my doubts and those doubts were confirmed when I saw the photo (see the image below on the left). You can barely even see us!! I was so disappointed because we have so few photos together. But Picasa saved the day. It took me quite a  while, and I became good friends with the Undo button, but I am so happy with the resulting photo (below, right).

When I showed my husband the honeymoon slideshow that I created, he had two favourite photos. He insisted that I email them to him right away because he has seen how I get distracted when I’m finding new things on the computer. No problem! The controls on the bottom toolbar are clear and easy to use and, before he knew it, the two photos were in his inbox.

Picasa allows much of the work to be done on your computer hard drive and then you can easily upload the photos that you would like to share. But wait, that’s not all! Once uploaded, the group of photos can be changed into a slideshow, posted to Blogger, made into a collage, made into a movie, emailed to friends, printed, purchased or further edited. How do you do all of those things? For someone like myself, who sometimes has difficulty understanding “computer-speak,” Picasa provides slides and detailed instructions with many of its program options. Using the prompts and instructions that Picasa provides, I have collaged some  wedding photos that were “saved” with editing that I was able to do on Picasa. These photos no longer need to be hidden in my digital files; they are now good enough to display proudly!

From Wedding

My mind is brimming with ways to use Picasa in my high school library. Over the past few months, I have been taking photos of the window art and library makeover that I have been working on. I would love to document the work that I have done and the exciting things that are happening in the library and a slideshow of these photos is the perfect addition for our library website! I will also download the slideshow to our library computers and have it run as the screensaver when the computers are not in use.

For classroom applications, Picasa would be a quick and easy way to document a classroom activity as a slideshow, create a collage for a special event or make a movie at the end of the term to document the moments and memories. In a high school biology or chemistry class, students could take photos of a lab as it progresses and create a captioned movie of what took place at each step. This would be a great way to have students demonstrate an understanding of the process and details of a lab. Picnik has a section in their Help pages called Picnik for Educators that provides ideas for how educators could incorporate Picnik into the classroom (and I see that they have a lab dissection listed there but I guess that great minds think alike because I had that brainstorm well before I found this resource). I will be using the lesson “Creating a Website Header” for myself. Stay tuned for a header update in the next week or so.

I am so excited to have found Picasa! It makes my photos look beautiful, allows me to share them easily and makes me proud of what I am able to create. My photos may not be Photoshopped but I think I have a few photos that I will be sharing on Facebook the next time I log on!

Overheard in the library today…

19 Jan

Student: (To another student) “Did Newfoundland eventually join Canada?… Wait, no, no, don’t tell me…. Don’t ruin it for me.”

At least she’s looking forward to the ending of this current event story.

Take a picture, it’ll last longer.

18 Jan

LIFE and Google have joined forces to create a huge databank of photos organized by decade from the 1750s to the present day (hmm, when were cameras invented?).


You can search by topic: people, places, events, sports or culture. For any regular Google search, if you add “source:life” in your search description it will only search the LIFE collection.

Here are a few of my searches:

I am not sure what I was expecting to get with this search but it wasn't hippies on a quilt.

The word "daisy" brought up this picture of Daisy Bates (after scrolling through a page or so of celebrity Daisy's). This would be an interesting way to start a mini-research project.


This search engine is an interesting way to challenge the assumptions that are part of our culture. I expected my "shoe" search to give me an image of Jimmy Choo shoes but instead I got this image of the Endicott Johnson Shoe Company. Interesting how I don't associate shoes with the place where they are manufactured.

Weekend Website

16 Jan

Next month is Black History Month and this would be a good time for teachers to start thinking about scheduling this topic into upcoming lessons. I used to think that this was more applicable in the US but after reading Lawrence Hill’s book “The Book of Negroes” I knew that I had been completely wrong (for those of you who haven’t read the book I highly recommend it. One of my top ten favourite books).

The Dominion Institute has created a collection of resources for teachers to help plan a unit for Black History month.


They have also created a PDF teachers’ guide full of lessons.

Black History Canada Teachers Guide (PDF)

The National Film Board (also Canadian) has put together a collection of films for Black History Month. Many of the films can be watched on their site without purchase. This is a site that I highly recommend for the high quality of their videos and how applicable they are to discussion and critical thought in the classroom.

And again, if you haven’t read The Book of Negroes, that needs to be remedied asap!

Some snow doesn’t melt right away

16 Jan

Our new library display is a magical one. It is slightly creepy from the outside but beautiful and tranquil on the inside.

The black trees were lovingly cut out  with an x-acto knife by moi while the snowflakes were cut out with my mom’s Cricut machine (a serious lifesaver). There was definitely some serious time that went into this display.

The library technician and I spent time in the morning suspending clear line throughout the library and hanging snowflakes all over. The flakes lazily spin and twirl in a hypnotic way. Shortly after putting up the flakes we had a class come down to the library to work and I noticed that quite a few of them spent a good amount of time watching the flakes flit around.   

The bird is a stunning shot of colour in our indoor winter wonderland.

I think that this is my favourite window display yet! The Valentine’s Day display may have to be pushed back a week or so to allow me to enjoy the clean, white, tranquil environment that currently is the library.