Monday, July 19, 2010

The Dark Ages began with closing a library

Are we entering a new "Dark Ages"?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ask Twitter and Ye Shall Receive! Re: wawoodworth | Old Spice

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Reading Rewards

"It's summertime and the living is easy" , oh too easy for children to forget those reading skills they honed during the school year. Now that summer is upon us, we as parents, librarians and educators fret about how to prevent "summer learning loss". After spending the school year advancing reading and study skills, how can we get kids to keep reading and engaged in pursuits to retain their literacy? Libraries offer summer reading programs, but not all children are able to get to the library regularly. What to do? Michelle Skamene, a Montreal, Canada mother who is a web designer by trade, took a pro-active approach and decided to challenge her children to match the amount of time they spent in front of TV and computer screens with time reading books. Her husband suggested that a web site for tracking time spent reading might be helpful to her challenge. And so Reading Rewards and its French language counterpart were born. And thanks to the social web, we can all use it.

The Reading Rewards website is very easy to use. Kids set up a free, private account which must be approved by a parent. Families determine together what rewards should be for a set amount of reading. Kids log in periodically to record their time spent reading and earn RR Miles for their reading (RR miles-- think similar to airline miles) which must be validated by a parent. But the site goes far beyond tracking reading time. They can also see what other kids their age are reading, write their own reviews, and get reading recommendations by age from a variety of sources, including the National Education Association, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, recommended by,Parents Choice Foundation, Cybils, recommended by, Publisher's Weekly Books of the Year, Newbery Medals and Honors, Caldecott, and American Library Association.

Reading Rewards can be used on an individual basis, of course, but has the ability to create groups, making it suitable for use by teachers to manage a group from a single account.

Creating a group couldn't be easier. From the 'Groups' tab, click on create to set up a new group. Give your group a specific name that your kids will be able to find. Put in the start and end dates. Click on 'Create' and you will then be able to add the details for your group and put in a description and rules, if any. If you have a reading target (in minutes), you can enter it as well. Click on 'Apply changes'. You can also set up a default reward for the kids in the group (optional). When you are ready, click 'Publish'.

Once your group is published, just let your kids know how to find it. Tell them to register on Reading Rewards, and find your group in the 'Groups' tab. Once they've found it, all they need do is click on 'Join' to become a member and start tracking their reading.

Rewards can be set up as a group, or individually since some kids need more encouragement than others. You can click on 'Change reward' next to each child's name and modify their reading targets. By clicking on the smiley face next to each child's name in your group, you can send little messages to encourage them. These message appear in their news feed, on their public page.

If you want to have a list of 'Books I Recommend' appear on your group's page, simply click on the 'Add book' button and find the books on their Amazon-driven website. More about this can be found in the slide show.

Think about how you and those you know might use Reading Rewards to keep those kids reading skills in tip top shape over the long hot summer or anytime for that matter. And for those folk on Facebook, you can search an like their page on Facebook:

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Reading Utilities: Readability and Instapaper

Reading on the web can sometimes be challenging. Text blocks are broken up, advertisements are flashing relentlessly, type can be tiny. What is a person to do to make reading on a web page more pleasant? Enter Readability , a nifty utility that removes the clutter around what you’re reading. Readability works with most major modern browsers and has been tested on many news sites and blogs. It isn’t 100% effective but works surprisingly well.

First you can choose your preferred style from among newspaper, novel, ebook, inverse (light on dark) or Athelas (graceful using white space to advantage). Then choose your font size from a range of five from extra small to extra large. Finally choose your margin width ranging from extra narrow to extra wide. All of these selection choices can be viewed for effect at the bottom of the page as you choose so you can immediately see their effects and fiddle until you're happy with your selections.

You have an option to convert hyperlinks to footnotes by checking the box at the bottom of your setting choices. What will this do? Articles are often strewn with links — distracting you from the content — and pulling your attention elsewhere. Selecting the "Convert hyperlinks to footnotes" checkbox will pull the links out of your articles and format them as footnotes. Originally linked text will be marked with a simple reference mark so that you know exactly where footnotes correspond to your documents.

Once you have selected your settings, you simply drag the bookmarklet to your browser’s bookmark toolbar. When you find an article that you want to read, click on the bookmarklet and presto, you will be able to read it in the format that you have chosen.

Readability - Installation Video for Firefox, Safari & Chrome from Arc90 on Vimeo.

Install Readability and enjoy some quiet reading without distraction thanks to the folks at Arc90 and their laboratory experiment. And if you like their little experiment, don’t forget to follow their RSS feed or Twitter while you’re there.


Now that you’ve used Readability to declutter your reading space, you might want to check out another utility that allows you to save web pages or articles for reading later. Instapaper is an app that will bookmark web pages, but rather than saving them to your PC or Mac, Instapaper allows you to access archived articles from any computer you own, even smartphones and Kindle e-book readers.

Instapaper works the same way as Readability by creating a button in your browser toolbar. Go to Instapaper and click on “register for a free account”.

When you’ve registered, this is what you’ll see:

Simply drag the “Read Later” bookmarklet to your bookmarks toolbar. (If you have trouble with installation, check to be sure that Ad Aware or another pop-up blocker isn’t blocking you from adding the bookmarklet.) Once installed, all you need do is click the “Read Later” bookmarklet on a page you want to read later.

Be sure to check out the “Extras” tab at the top of the page to see what other tools, toys, features and applications are available to get content into and out of Instapaper. There are so many ways which you can use Instapaper, it will make your head spin. Check out the many ways from bookmark to e-mail to ebook readers to mobile devices and RSS feeds that you can save content to read later. There’s even an app similar to Readability but using a different technical approach called “Instapaper Text” which you might wish to try. And you can export your list of saved articles, up to the most recent 2000 articles you've saved.

Play outdoors while the sun shines but stock up your reading for a rainy summer day using Instapaper.

Happy reading with Readability and Instapaper!

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