28 May 2009


is a group of strategists, designers and technologists passionate about creating compelling web applications. And boy, have they created an awesome tool, Readability. Read more and watch a short video about this browser bookmarklet here. Readability's setup page allows you to select the style, size of font, and margin width to customize what you read on the Internet. It removes all the columns, ads, and extra stuff that appear on a webpage.
Here's an example. The color and style of print is hard to read, right?
Now take a look. Below I chose novel style, medium size, and medium margins.
This tool is great for my aging eyes, however, it's a great tool for students too. It will allow the reader to concentrate on the content and gets rid of distractions.

Turbo Tagger

16 May 2009

Learning Commons

I'm not sure why I haven't been blogging...into Twitter/Friendfeed??? Well, anyway, I'm back.

I attended a webinar, Transform the School Library into a Learning Commons, presented by David Loertscher and Carol Koechlin. Awhile back I also participated in a AASL-ISTE SIGMS learning community meeting in Second Life where David Loertscher facilitated a discussion about the learning commons concept.

In the webinar, David and Carol began with a history of school libraries and how they have changed. Isolated librarians have become collaborators, co-teaching, and participating in learning partnerships. Inquiry and learning literacies are now part of the program with flexible scheduling and "just in time" teaching taking place. Print materials have been joined by many other forms of media.

The presenters discussed what schools need in the 21st century:
  • Learners who are Engaged
  • Classrooms that Foster Student Achievement
  • Specialists with Access to Teachers and Learners
  • Principals who Promote School Improvement

They compared two models: Microsoft's "if we build it, they will come" or Google's "if they build it, they will use it". The user-centered Google model is the basis of the learning commons concept. Client-centered commons that exist in both the physical and virtual realms.

Virtual learning commons that allow conversations and collaboration, built by everyone (teachers and staff, students, community), and available 24/7/365. Learners build their own information spaces for personal and group use within the school setting and also globally in the community and world.

Physical learning commons encompass an open commons and an experimental learning center.

The open commons will: be flexible, mobile and portable; be wireless; be comfortable and stimulating; include books and other resources and computers; include networking spaces and tools; include productivity spaces and tools; celebrate learning and exhibit exemplary learning experiences; provide individual, small and large group areas; have its own calendar; provide "office" space for specialists; and become the cultural center of the school.

The experimental learning center will: be a neutral area that is safe for risk-taking; nurture new teachers; provide professional development; conduct action research; initiate school improvement

Learning Commons Characteristics

  • Sense of ownership
  • Place to create, collaborate, exhibit, think, and learn
  • Flexible
  • Active Learning
  • Change is the norm

The webinar is available here. (requires Windows Media Player to view. Mac users may have to move to a windows machine to view.) The book, The New Learning Commons Where Learners Win: Reinventing School Libraries and Computer Labs by David V. Loertscher, Carol Koechlin, and Sandi Zwaan is supplemented by the School Learning Commons Discussion Wiki. The wiki includes a link to the webinar's powerpoint presentation slides as well as discussion questions, resources and connections.