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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Technology, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. An interview with Brian Hughes, digital strategist

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This week is National Library Week in the United States. Oxford University Press is celebrating the contributions of these institutions to communities around the world in a variety of ways, including granting free access to online products in the United States and Canada. To better understand the work that goes into these reference works, we sat down with Senior Marketing Manager Brian Hughes to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the digital space; how Oxford strives to provide knowledge to students, scholars, and researchers; and the hidden considerations that must be made.

What do you do here at Oxford University Press?

I’ve been with OUP for 14 years now and have seen many of our products develop from ideas on paper to the dynamic research and teaching tools they are today. After working in academic marketing for well over a decade, I moved to the global online team and I’m extremely lucky that my current role is diverse and ever-changing. That’s the exciting part of working with digital products.

Much of my time does involve working with the User Experience Platform Management (UXPM) Group, which looks at the functionality and design enhancements for our digital products. I’m also very involved in the Future Business Models Group, which looks at how we can better serve our customers in the near and distant future. The group discusses options and scopes out pilots that will help the business make evidence-based decisions about viable new sales models. For example, later this year we’ll be piloting a Pay-Per-View option on some of our products. In this case we are partnering with a third party but we will have reliable data that will aid us in determining whether building the option ourselves would be feasible. I’m also working with a group that’s looking to make our presence at academic conferences more efficient and further integrate our digital products in the day-to-day discipline marketing. It’s rewarding to work in so many areas and see how the digital program impacts them in a positive way.

What’s the dynamic of the product marketing team?

The biggest difference from my previous positions in academic marketing is that my daily interactions are strictly with those within OUP. Each of the groups and teams that I work with now are made up of an impressive cross-section of the organization: sales, market research, technology, finance, and design. Whether it’s deciding on a site change to Oxford Bibliographies or testing a new price for Grove Art, there’s a team of people helping to ensure the decision is the right one for the Press, both now and in the future.

How do you choose which enhancements to make or prioritize?

There’s a small assessment group that reviews all enhancement requests that come from different parts of the business. First and foremost, we think about how the enhancement is going to help the user. We ask ourselves a lot of questions:

  • Will this change improve the user journey?
  • How will it impact users coming from other Oxford digital products?
  • Are users expecting this functionality because it’s common on competitors’ products?

Of course, we always have to look at the cost. Generally the business case is strong and the benefits will outweigh the cost and the enhancement is approved. But when that’s not the case, it’s important that we in the assessment group provide context for the rejection and provide feedback. Just saying no isn’t fair. But in the end, if it’s good for the user and is cost effective, the change does get approved. Implementation isn’t always immediate. We have to design, test, and schedule the enhancement, which can take a few months, so it’s also important to explain that timeline to my colleagues throughout the business.

What makes excellent online reference from a user experience or web perspective?

Users expect digital products to be intuitive, information to be served up quickly, and finally, information to be as relevant as possible. It’s important once a user engages with any of our digital products that they are able stay within the OUP ecosystem. They came to us as a trusted resource, so we try to create connections between our online products — giving them all the information they need. We have a very short window in which to capture the users’ attention before they move on in their research. We are constantly working to provide them with the best online experience possible. It sounds like a simple task, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of people to make it happen.

What kinds of new tools or technologies would you love to explore further?

One very exciting tool we’re looking to implement within the next six months is an A/B testing system. This will be a very important piece of business intelligence that we’ll be able to use when it comes to enhancements and product development. Currently, we’re unable to test in a live environment, and being able to serve up attributes like availability markers or style changes to different groups will help us make the right decision for our users. I think this is going to be one of the most exciting and important pieces of UX in the next year for the digital program.

What should new users of Oxford’s online resources should know?

Oxford digital products are extremely dynamic. Not just when it comes to functionality or technology, but also content. Our content is being updated on a regular basis; we don’t just replicate the print in an online environment. New types of content are also being added, for instance, we’re adding timelines and commentary to supplement what has appeared in print.

Is there anything loyal users would be surprised to learn about our online resources?

One thing I was surprised to learn is just how much goes on “behind the scenes” to make our digital products better for users. Helping students and researchers along their digital journeys involves a lot more than site design. The team of people working to improve search results, linking, and deliver the best and most relevant content to our users. There’s a lot more than data feeds and style sheets when it comes to digital products.

Professionally speaking, I come from a print background and until I started in my new role, I had no idea how much work and effort went into any one of our products. In 2003, when Oxford Scholarship Online launched, there was nothing like it in the market. Someone once commented that “Oxford has the ability to see around the corner” when it comes to digital publishing. I think that’s pretty telling when it comes to our development and commitment to academic research.

Brian Hughes is Senior Marketing Manager for Oxford University Press’s online program, and oversees advancements on over 40 online products. He has worked at Oxford for 14 years.

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2. Making without a Makerspace

What?! Makerspaces again?! No, not really. Though makerspaces in libraries has been a seemingly ubiquitous topic of conversation and debate the past several years, building one at your library is for another post on another day. Still, you’ve probably heard of all sorts of program-based maker ideas being implemented at libraries across the country, or maybe designed a few programs yourself (see Andrea Vernola’s recent post on Exploring Tech with Kids, which is full of great links and program ideas). But these programs can be expensive to run, the technology can become obsolete quickly, and the staff effort involved can be significantly greater than with other kinds of programs.

So is making, especially high-tech making like you see featured in all those library publications, out of reach for your financially-strapped or short-staffed library? Not necessarily. By reaching out to nearby private makerspaces and maker organizations, libraries who would like to try out a maker program or who cannot afford to offer access to more expensive maker equipment on their own can start to participate in this movement.

For instance, in the Baltimore and D.C. area a special company has popped up to provide kid-centric maker programs and activities to local libraries, schools, and other organizations. FutureMakers, founded in 2010, provides a wide assortment of maker projects and exposure to advanced tech equipment for kids ranging from first grade through early high school. My library system has had FutureMaker coaches come with 3D printers, vinyl cutters, MaKey MaKeys, miniature robot electronics, sewing machines, laptops, LEDs, electric drills for hacking Legos…they’ll bring pretty much anything that you can think of that involves making and can be transported in a van. The focus is on allowing the kids access to these great tools and giving them the creative space they need to make something uniquely their own.

FutureMakers logo

FutureMakers logo, attributed to https://kidsmakethingsbetter.com/

A few years ago, FutureMakers had been primarily working with local schools to bring the maker philosophy and technology into the classroom. By reaching out to them, our library was able to tap a ready-to-go resource that made maker programs almost instantly available to us for a per-program fee, which was not too much more than other performers we contract with regularly. Library staff who are supervising the programs are also encouraged to learn and even participate with the kids, which has been an easy and informal way for staff to learn more about making and about using maker tools and technology.

Collaborating with FutureMakers has been a great experience for my library, but not every community has a company like it to draw from. Other collaborators could be nearby private makerspaces or local vocational schools looking for a way to reach out. Those avenues might require a bit more effort, but could become valuable partnerships that could relieve some of the administrative and cost burden from library staff and library budgets.

Do you have tech or maker programs at your library resulting from collaboration with a local business or organization? How did that work out for your library? Any lessons learned or best practices? List them in the comments!

Rachael Medina is a Programming Coordinator at Baltimore County Public Library. She is a member of the ALSC Children and Technology Committee.

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3. Writing as technology

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In honor of the beginning of National Library Week this Sunday, 13 April 2014, we’re sharing this interesting excerpt from Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction. As technology continues to evolve, the way we access books and information is changing, and libraries are continuously working to keep up-to-date with the latest resources available. Here, Robert Eaglestone presents the idea of the seemingly simple act of writing as a form of technology.

The essential thing about technology is that, despite our iPhones and computers and digital cameras and constant change, it is not new at all. In fact, human civilization over the longest possible time grew up not just hand in hand with technology but because of technology. Technology isn’t just something added to ‘being human’ the way we might acquire another gadget: the essence of technology is in the creation of tools, technology in the creation of farming and in buildings, cities, roads, and machines. (p. 87) And perhaps the most important form of technology is right here in front of you, you’re looking at it right now, this second: writing. It too—these very letters here, now—is, of course, a technology. Writing is a ‘machine’ to supplement both the fallible and limited nature of our memory (it stores information over time) and our bodies over space (it carries information over distances). So it’s not so much that we humans made technology: technology also made us. As we write, so writing makes us. It is technology that allows us history, as a recorded past and so a present, and so, perhaps a future. So to think about technology, and changes in technology, is to think about the very core of what we, as a species, are and about how we are changing. As we change technology, we change ourselves. And all novels, because they are a form of technology, implicitly or explicitly, do this.

The word ‘technology’ comes from the Greek word ‘techne’: techne is the skill of the craftsman or woman at building things (ships, tables, tapestries) but also, interestingly, the skill of crafting art and poetry. ‘Techne’ is the skill of seeing how, say, these pieces of wood would make a good table if sanded and used in just that way, or seeing the shape of David in the block of marble, or in hearing how these phrases will best represent the sadness you imagine Queen Hecuba feels in mourning her husband and sons. It’s also the skill, in our age, of working out how best to use resources to eliminate a disease globally, or to deliver high-quality education. But ‘techne’ has become more than just skill: it is a whole way of thinking about the world. In this ‘technological thinking’, everything in the world is turned into a potential resource for use, everything is a tool for doing something. Rocks become sources of ore; trees become potential timber for carpentry or pulp for paper; the wind itself is captured by a windmill or, in a more contemporary idiom, ‘farmed’ in a wind farm. Companies have departments of ‘human resources’. Even an undeveloped piece of natural land, purposely left undisturbed by buildings and agriculture, becomes a ‘wilderness park’, a ‘machine’ in which to relax and recharge (p. 88) oneself from the strains of everyday life. Great works of literature are turned into a resource through which to measure people, by exams or in quizzes. This is the point of the old saw, ‘To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail’: to a technological way of thinking, everything looks like a resource to be used (just as to a carpenter, all trees look like potential timber; to a university academic, all fiction is a source of exam questions). More than this, the modern networks which use these resources are bigger and more complex. Where once the windmill ground the miller’s corn to make bread, now a huge global food system moves food resources about internationally: understanding and using these networks are a career in themselves. This technological thinking, rather than the tools it produces, is a taken-for-granted ‘framework’ in which we come to see and understand everything. Although many people have made this sort of observation about the world, the influential and contentious German philosopher Martin Heidegger, from whom much of the above is drawn, made it most keenly.

Is this a bad thing? It certainly sounds as if it might be. Who wants, after all, to be seen only as a ‘human resource’? It’s precisely technological thinking that has put the world at risk of total destruction. On the other hand, technology has offered so much to so many: in curing illness and alleviating pain, for example. The question is too big to answer in these simple terms of ‘bad’ or ‘good’. However, contemporary fiction seems very negative about technology, positing dystopias and awful ends for humanity. However, I want to suggest that contemporary fiction doesn’t find the world utterly without hope, precisely because of technology.

Robert Eaglestone is Professor of Contemporary Literature and Thought at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is Deputy Director (and formerly Director) of the Holocaust Research Centre. His research interests are in contemporary literature and literary theory, contemporary philosophy, and on Holocaust and genocide studies. He is the author of Contemporary Fiction: A Very Short Introduction and Doing English: A Guide for Literature Students (third revised edition) (Routledge, 2009).

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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4. A conversation with Alberto Gallace

From Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR Inc. to the latest medical developments, technology is driving new explorations of the perception, reality, and neuroscience. How do we perceive reality through the sense of touch? Alberto Gallace is a researcher in touch and multisensory integration at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, and co-author of In touch with the future: The sense of touch from cognitive neuroscience to virtual reality. We recently spoke to him about touch, personal boundaries, and being human.

Out of all the human senses, touch is the one that is most often unappreciated, and undervalued. When did you first become interested in touch research?

I was in Oxford as a visiting PhD student and working on multisensory integration, in particular on the integration between tactile and visual signals in the brain. Soon I realized that, despite the fact that is a very important sensory modality, there was not much research on touch, and there were not even a lot of instruments to study such sensory modality. I started by working more with engineers and technical workshops then with psychologists and neuroscientists, just because I needed some device to test the sense of touch in a different way as compared to what was done in the past. Touch was mainly studied with reference to haptic object recognition, mostly on visually impaired individuals or in terms of its physiological mechanisms. Many of the most relevant aspects of touch were very little, if not at all, investigated.

HandsWe use touch for walking, talking, eating, nearly everything basically. It also plays a major role on our interpersonal relationships, it affects the release of hormones and it contributes to define the boundary of our self.

To my students I often say, where our touch begins, we are. I wanted to understand more of these topics. I wanted to compare touch with other sensory modalities. In doing that I was convinced that research on touch had to get away from the fingertips or hands and extend to the whole body surface. The more I studied this sense, the more I became interested in it. For every question answered there were many more without responses. I like touch a lot because there are many things that still need to be understood about it, and I am a rather curious person, particularly when it comes to science.

What do you think has been the most important development in touch research in the past 100 years?

I am not sure if it’s the most important development, but what I certainly consider important is the recent study of certain neural fibres specialized in transmitting socially-relevant information via the sense of touch. That is, the C tactile afferents in humans, that are strongly activated by ‘caress like’ stimuli, might play an important role in many of our most pleasant social experiences. However, I should also say that my personal way to think about science is much more ‘future oriented’. That is, I believe that the most important developments in touch research are the ones that we will see in the next years. I am really looking forward to reading (or possibly writing) about them.

Why did you decide to research this topic?

Most of the previously published books on touch — there aren’t many, to be honest — were focused on a single topic. Most of them were based on research on visually-impaired individuals, and the large majority of them were authored books, a collections of chapters written by different people, sometimes with a different view. Charles [Spence, University of Oxford] and myself wanted something different, something more comprehensive, something that could help people to understand that touch is involved in many different and relevant aspects of our life. We envisioned a book where the more neuroscientific aspects of touch were addressed together with a number of more applied topics. We wanted something where people could see touch ‘at work’. We talk about the neural bases of touch, tactile perception, tactile attention, tactile memory, tactile consciousness, but also about the role of touch in technology, marketing, virtual reality, food appreciation, and sexual behaviour. Many of these topics have never been considered in a book on touch before.

Philippe Mercier - The Sense of Touch

Philippe Mercier’s The Sense of Touch

What do you see as being the future of research in this field in the next decade?

I think that research in my field, pushed by technological advances, will grow rapidly in the coming years. One of the fields where I see a lot of potential is certainly related to the reproduction of tactile sensations in virtual reality environments. Virtual reality will likely become an important part of our life, maybe not in the next decade, but certainly in a not so distant future. However, if we want to create believable virtual environments we need to understand more of our sense of touch, and in particular how our brain processes tactile information, how different tactile stimulations can lead to certain emotions and behaviours, and how tactile sensations can be virtually reproduced. Following the idea that ‘where our touch begins, we are’, research will certainly invest a lot of resources in trying to better understand the neurocognitive mechanisms responsible for supporting our sense of ‘body ownership’ (the feeling that the body is our own) and how this sense can be transferred to virtual/artificial counterparts of our self. Here research on touch will certainly play a leading role.

If you weren’t doing touch research, what would you be doing?

I think I’d work as a scientist in a different field, but always as a scientist. I am too curious about how nature works to do something different. Since I was twelve I’ve always had a special interest in astronomy and astrophysics and I can easily picture myself working in that field too. Understanding the secrets of black cosmic matter or studying the mysteries of white brain matter? Not sure which would be better. What I am sure about is that I like my job a lot, and I won’t change it with anything else that is not based that much on creativity and curiosity.

Alberto Gallace is a researcher at Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, and co-author of In touch with the future: The sense of touch from cognitive neuroscience to virtual reality. His research interests include spatial representation, multisensory integration, tactile perception, tactile interfaces, body representation, virtual reality, sensory substitution systems, and neurological rehabilitation of spatial disorders.

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Image credits: (1) Via Catalana Barcelona Plaça Catalunya 37. Photo by Judesba. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) The Sense of Touch, painting by Philipe Mercier. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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5. Confer with Students Via Google Hangout

Make use of Google Hangouts when you need to work with writers outside of writing workshop time. Here are five quick ways to use this FREE technology.

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6. A doctrine of ‘market sovereignty’ to solve international law issues on the Internet?

By Dan Jerker B. Svantesson

One of the most prominent features of jurisdictional rules is a focus on the location of actions. For example, the extraterritorial reach of data privacy law may be decided by reference to whether there was the offering of goods or services to EU residents, in the EU.

Already in the earliest discussions of international law and the Internet it was recognised that this type of focus on the location of actions clashes with the nature of the Internet – in many cases, locating an action online is a clumsy legal fiction burdened by a great degree of subjectivity.

I propose an alternative: a doctrine of ‘market sovereignty’ determined by reference to the effective reach of ‘market destroying measures’. Such a doctrine can both delineate, and justify, jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet.
It is commonly noted that the real impacts of jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet is severally limited by the intrinsic difficulty of enforcing such claim. For example, Goldsmith and Wu note that:

“[w]ith few exceptions governments can use their coercive powers only within their borders and control offshore Internet communications only by controlling local intermediaries, local assets, and local persons” (emphasis added)

However, I would advocate the removal of the word ‘only’. From what unflatteringly can be called a cliché, there is now a highly useful description of a principle well-established at least 400 years ago.

ethernet padlock

The word ‘only’ gives the impression that such powers are of limited significance for the overall question, which is misleading. The power governments have within their territorial borders can be put to great effect against offshore Internet communications. A government determined to have an impact on foreign Internet actors that are beyond its directly effective jurisdictional reach may introduce what we can call ‘market destroying measures’ to penalise the foreign party. For example, it may introduce substantive law allowing its courts to, due to the foreign party’s actions and subsequent refusal to appear before the court, make a finding that:

  • that party is not allowed to trade within the jurisdiction in question;
  • debts owed to that party are unenforceable within the jurisdiction in question; and/or
  • parties within the control of that government (e.g. residents or citizens) are not allowed to trade with the foreign party.

In light of this type of market destroying measures, the enforceability of jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet may not be as limited as it may seem at a first glance.

In this context, it is also interesting to connect to the thinking of 17th century legal scholars, exemplified by Hugo de Groot (better known as Hugo Grotius). Grotius stated that:

“It seems clear, moreover, that sovereignty over a part of the sea is acquired in the same way as sovereignty elsewhere, that is, [...] through the instrumentality of persons and territory. It is gained through the instrumentality of persons if, for example, a fleet, which is an army afloat, is stationed at some point of the sea; by means of territory, in so far as those who sail over the part of the sea along the coast may be constrained from the land no less than if they should be upon the land itself.”

A similar reasoning can usefully be applied in relation to sovereignty in the context of the Internet. Instead of focusing on the location of persons, acts or physical things – as is traditionally done for jurisdictional purposes – we ought to focus on marketplace control – on what we can call ‘market sovereignty’. A state has market sovereignty, and therefore justifiable jurisdiction, over Internet conduct where it can effectively exercise ‘market destroying measures’ over the market that the conduct relates to. Importantly, in this sense, market sovereignty both delineates, and justifies, jurisdictional claims in relation to the Internet.

The advantage market destroying measures have over traditional enforcement attempts could escape no one. Rather than interfering with the business operations worldwide in case of a dispute, market destroying measures only affect the offender’s business on the market in question. It is thus a much more sophisticated and targeted approach. Where a foreign business finds compliance with a court order untenable, it will simply have to be prepared to abandon the market in question, but is free to pursue business elsewhere. Thus, an international agreement under which states undertake to only apply market destroying measures and not seek further enforcement would address the often excessive threat of arrests of key figures, such as CEOs, of offending globally active Internet businesses.

Professor Dan Jerker B. Svantesson is Managing Editor of the journal International Data Privacy Law. He is author of Internet and E-Commerce Law, Private International Law and the Internet, and Extraterritoriality in Data Privacy Law. Professor Svantesson is a Co-Director of the Centre for Commercial Law at the Faculty of Law (Bond University) and a Researcher at the Swedish Law & Informatics Research Institute, Stockholm University.

Combining thoughtful, high level analysis with a practical approach, International Data Privacy Law has a global focus on all aspects of privacy and data protection, including data processing at a company level, international data transfers, civil liberties issues (e.g., government surveillance), technology issues relating to privacy, international security breaches, and conflicts between US privacy rules and European data protection law.

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Image credit: Ethernet cable with a padlock symbolising internet security. © SKapl via iStockphoto.

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7. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – April 4, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between April 4 and April 10 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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8. Self-Directed Programs: Scavenger Hunts

An amazing way to get your tweens and teens to know the “unfamiliar” bits of your library is to do self-directed scavenger hunts. You know that your “kids” tend to congregate to one particular area- whether it’s your teen space, a place with the most comfortable chairs or a low table for card gaming, or the place furthest away from the supervising eyes of the non-teen people at the desk. And while they’ll know where to find the YA books, MAD Magazine and Alternative Press, and manga, do they know where to find non-fiction books for reports? Or how to operate one of the databases? If you become devious and take a little time out of your day, you can take a theme and turn a lesson in the library world into a creative self-directed program that will make them want to participate.

Scavenger hunts can be as intricate or as simple as you want them to be. Think about your current teens and the browsers that you have. What do they like, what things grab them? Do you have a program coming up that you could use this program as a gateway, like a Lego or Rainbow Loom makerspace? Are your teens gearing up for state tests or are you starting to build up for summer? Are you celebrating Free Comic Book Day or Star Wars Day or any of the newer movie releases? Take any of those and create silhouettes or in-house graphics to place around the library- depending on the length you decide your program will be (a day, a week) they can be printed on normal printer paper or card-stock, but they don’t have to last long.

Or, like I did for Teen Tech Week this year, take a page from Gwyneth Jones (http://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/2012/05/qr-code-quest-scavenger-hunt-part-deux.html), The Daring Librarian, and go with a QR scavenger hunt! Instead of characters and pictures, make your hunt virtual and hide QR codes around the library for teens to scan and learn. I used ours to introduce our new Ipad and tablets to our tweens and teens.QR Code hunt

Once you have your theme, decide on the length of the hunt. I typically have used 8-10, depending on the size of the library, but you may want to go larger or smaller. Remember your audience- you don’t want them to completely zone out, but you don’t want them to think it’s a “baby” thing, either. Questions I’ve used before have been:

  • Nicely, introduce yourself to a staff member you’ve never met before, and get their initials. (with a picture of the Mad Hatter Tea Party on the reference desk)
  • Horror is a sub-genre of our fiction section, and Carrie is based on a book by this author. Find the author and the book and find your next clue.

So get creative and then sit back and watch the fun!

Submitted by Christie Gibrich

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9. Is there a “cyber war” between Ukraine and Russia?

By Marco Roscini

Alarming headlines have recently started to appear in the media (see, for example, the CNN’s “Cyberwar hits Ukraine”). This, however, is sensationalism. What has actually happened so far is limited disruption of mobile communications through Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. In addition, certain state-run news websites and social media have been defaced and their content replaced with pro-Russian propaganda. In the months that preceded the current crisis, Ukrainian computer systems were also allegedly targeted by “cyberspies”.

If the above scenario sounds familiar it is because it isn’t the first time that cyber operations have occurred during a military crisis involving the Russian Federation. In 2008, immediately before and after the Russian troops entered the secessionist Georgian province of South Ossetia, several Georgian governmental websites were defaced and their content replaced with anti-Georgian propaganda, while DDoS attacks crippled the Caucasian nation’s ability to disseminate information. Estonia was also the target of severe DDoS attacks in 2007, although in the context of a political, and not military, confrontation with Russia. In neither case has it been convincingly demonstrated that Russia (or any other state) was responsible for the cyber operations. The same can be said of the cyber operations against Ukrainian computer systems and websites, which have also been, at least until now, far less severe than those on Georgia and on Estonia, leading some to suggest that Russia is exercising restraint in the use of its cyber capabilities.

Does international law apply in this scenario?

Fingers on the keyboard

While the DDoS attacks and the defacement of websites obviously don’t establish on their own an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the fact that they have been conducted in the context of kinetic exchanges of fire and a situation of occupation may potentially lead to the application of the law of armed conflict (jus in bello). Two points are important from this perspective. First, although there have been no extensive armed hostilities between Ukraine and Russia yet, it has been reported that at least one Ukrainian soldier has been killed and another wounded, allegedly by Russian military forces or pro-Russian militias. Unlike in non-international armed conflicts, the jus in bello applies to any shot fired between states, regardless of intensity thresholds. The Commentary to Article 2 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the Protection of the Victims of War clearly states that “[i]t makes no difference how long the conflict lasts, or how much slaughter takes place, or how numerous are the participating forces” (p. 23). Secondly, the fact that Crimea is now under the control of the Russian forces determines a situation of occupation that also falls under the scope of the law of armed conflict (Article 2(2) of the Geneva Conventions).

However, the law of armed conflict would extend to the DDoS attacks and other cyber operations against Ukraine only if these have a “belligerent nexus” with the hostilities and the occupation. Otherwise, they would be mere cyber crimes and would fall under the scope of domestic criminal laws. To have a belligerent nexus, the cyber operations must have been designed to cause a certain threshold of harm to a belligerent (Ukraine) in support of another (Russia) (see Recommendation V(3) of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s Interpretive Guidance on the Notion of Direct Participation in Hostilities). Harm must be either death, injury, or destruction on civilian persons or objects, or military harm, whether physical or not (Recommendation V(1)). Even though they didn’t result in material damage on protected persons and property, then, the threshold of harm would have been crossed if the DDoS attacks and other cyber operations had at least aimed at affecting the Ukrainian government’s ability to communicate with and the operability of its armed forces, so to disrupt Ukraine’s military operations or military capacity. From the information available, we don’t know whether this is the case.

Do the DDoS operations against Ukraine amount to “attacks” under the law of armed conflict? The question is important because the rules on targeting and protecting civilians, including the principles of distinction and proportionality and the duty to take precautions, only apply to “attacks”, defined in Article 49(1) of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions as “acts of violence against the adversary, whether in offence or in defence”. I have argued elsewhere that a cyber operation is an “attack” in this sense whenever it employs cyber capabilities that produce or are reasonably likely to produce “violent” consequences in the form of loss of life or injury of persons, more than minimal material damage to property, or loss of functionality of infrastructures. From the available information, this doesn’t seem to be the case of the DDoS attacks against the Ukrainian communication systems and, even less, of the defacement operations. Cyber “espionage” also doesn’t normally affect the functionality of the accessed system or amend/delete the data resident therein. It doesn’t have “violent” consequences and is therefore not an “attack”, although it may be an act of hostilities.

To conclude, we can’t establish for sure whether the international law of armed conflict applies to the cyber operations conducted so far against Ukraine because we don’t know whether they were designed to militarily support Russia to the detriment of Ukraine. What we do know is that the operations in questions are not “attacks”, and therefore the rules on targeting don’t apply to them, whether or not they have a belligerent nexus.

Dr. Marco Roscini is Reader in International Law at the University of Westminster. He has written extensively in international security law, including cyber warfare and nuclear non-proliferation law. His most recent book, Cyber Operations and the Use of Force in International Law, has just been published by OUP. He is also the author of ‘Cyber Operations as Nuclear Counterproliferation Measures’, published in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law (2014). Dr. Roscini regularly blogs at Arms Control Law and can be followed on Twitter at @marcoroscini.

Oxford University Press is a leading publisher in international law, including the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, latest titles from thought leaders in the field, and a wide range of law journals and online products. We publish original works across key areas of study, from humanitarian to international economic to environmental law, developing outstanding resources to support students, scholars, and practitioners worldwide. For the latest news, commentary, and insights follow the International Law team on Twitter @OUPIntLaw.

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10. Dopamine, Twitter, and the bilingual brain

By Arturo Hernandez

Before I wrote my last blog entry, I got a Twitter account to start tracking reactions to that entry. I was surprised to see that people that I had never met favorited my post. Some even retweeted it. Within a day, I started to check my email to see if someone else had picked up on it. It felt so good to know that people that I had never met from all over the world were paying attention to me.

The addictiveness of Twitter is not specific to me. There have been articles about getting Justin Bieber to follow you as a form of addiction. But the problem is much more pervasive than that.

Many of the symptoms associated with cocaine addiction are popping up in people who are simply on the Internet. The toxic effects of cocaine addiction have been known for years. Studies find that rats will self-administer cocaine to the point of death over a period of time. The pharmacological effects are also well known; cocaine magnifies the effects of dopamine chemically. The interesting part is that Twitter, Facebook, and video games seem to have a similar effect as well. Thus, dopamine is part of a reward system.

iPhone in grass

Interestingly, dopamine is also known to play a role in the brain systems that are used to control our mental focus. Recent work has found that dopamine plays a role in the connection between the frontal areas that are involved in cognitive control and the posterior areas of the brain involved in processing incoming information from the senses.

And here, work in bilingual literature might have found an antidote to the plague of Internet addiction. Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues have found that bilinguals tend to be better at switching between tasks and at using inhibition — what researchers call cognitive control. Theoretical work by Stocco, Pratt and colleagues proposes that the use of two languages on a regular basis helps to strengthen the use of brain areas that are highly linked to dopamine. Many of the same frontal areas have been shown to be involved in control in bilinguals. Thus, it is logical to conclude that dopamine which leads to increased addiction may also be involved in giving bilinguals an edge in focusing. It is a classic U-shaped function where too little and too much are bad but somewhere in the middle is just right.

So what happens when a bilingual faces the onslaught of Internet addiction. Is s/he more resistant? I don’t know the ultimate answer to that question. But I was struck by how quickly the Twitter craze that had me checking my page every minute faded. Perhaps it is the four languages that I have learned that serve to protect me more and allow me to stop the urge to check my page again. Today, I am happy to report that I have written this blog entry with the understanding that any benefit will come long term. And I have my language learning history to thank for that.

But, please, favorite this; please, retweet it. Please, please, please!

Arturo Hernandez is currently Professor of Psychology and Director of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience graduate program at the University of Houston. He is the author of The Bilingual Brain. His major research interest is in the neural underpinnings of bilingual language processing and second language acquisition in children and adults. He has used a variety of neuroimaging methods as well as behavioral techniques to investigate these phenomena which have been published in a number of peer reviewed journal articles. His research is currently funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. Read his previous blog posts and follow him on Twitter @DrAEHernandez.

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Image credit: Apple’s iPhone 4 with a busy home screen on the grass with chamomile flowers. © ZekaG via iStockphoto.

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11. YALSAblog Tweets of the Week – March 28, 2014

A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.

Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between March 28 and April 3 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.

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12. Making Multimedia Connections with Books

Recently I was invited to present at a conference of the Northwest Association of Independent Schools on connections between books and technology. Perhaps because I’m a writer married to a technology guy, I see the potential for a rich marriage between books and multimedia resources on a given topic.

For one thing, because of the Internet, students can get a behind-the-scenes view of the research and writing that went into a book.  Websites, Facebook pages, and blogs can (miraculously, I think) connect students directly with authors. Many authors have websites (try the author’s first and last name.com or do a google search by using the author’s name and the word “author”). Author websites also often contain links that can deepen students’ understanding of a book or topic. 

For example, after reading Muckrakers by Ann Bausum, they can stop by her website and click on the "photo research" link for an interactive tutorial on how to conduct photo research using the online collections of the Library of Congress.

After reading Bausum’s Unraveling Freedom, they can visit the page for that book and click on the "political cartoons" link to begin an interactive session about decoding political cartoons, using six cartoons from World War I.

Many authors also have Facebook pages which can give readers insights into the on-going life of writers, updates on developments related to their books, and play-by-play descriptions of their current work on new writing projects. (I’m just getting mine going at https://www.facebook.com/authorelizabethrusch). Some even write blogs or contribute to group blogs like this one. (Try googling the author’s name and the word “blog,” or check author websites, which will have links to their blogs.)

Many nonfiction authors write about current topics that are still unfolding after the book has been published. The internet can continue the story.  For instance, after reading Loree Griffin Burns’ The Hive Detective, students can watch a TED talk about the plight of the honeybee or learn about pollinator conservation at the Xerces Society’s website. Likewise,
after reading Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal, students can check out what’s happening with the company now at http://www.apple.com/hotnews/ or read recent articles about the company at www.techspot.com.

After reading my book, The Mighty Mars Rovers: The incredible adventures of Spirit and Opportunity, students can explore what the rover Opportunity is up to now (10 years after landing!) at JPL’s website, which includes regular mission updates, press releases, photos and videos; and follow the newest rover Curiosity, too.

And after reading one of my volcano books—Volcano Rising; Will it Blow? or Eruption! -- students can learn more about current on-going eruptions at Earthweek; Volcano Discovery, which includes a map of recent eruptions and  webcams at active volcanoes; and Smithsonian’sGlobal Volcanism Program, which has both weekly updates of volcanic activity and an amazing searchable database of past and current eruptions.

Think this only relates to current events? Think again.  Fascinating additional reading and other resources such as audio, films and websites related to American history, 1492 and onward, can be found on the website of the Zinn Ed Project, which is searchable by theme, time period, document type and reading level. You can also search by book. For instance, the entry for Gretchen Woelfle’s Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, (https://zinnedproject.org/materials/mumbets-declaration-of-independence/) links to actual court records from the lawsuit Mumbet brought against her owners to win her freedom.

Multimedia experiences can bring a book to life. After reading A Home for Mr. Emerson by Barbara Kerley, students can visit thehome online. They can view a slideshowfrom the New York Times about the caretaking of the home, which Emerson bought in 1835; the site includes interior shots of the home, including the rocking horse in the playroom and Emerson's hat, hanging on the wall. To dig even deeper into Emerson’s life, readers can go to an online exhibit by the Concord Free PublicLibrary with photos and essays about Emerson, which also features many primary source documents.

If you want to offer your students a multimedia experience, most likely you don’t have to do the research on the best resources yourself. Many nonfiction authors include a list of the best multimedia resources in the back matter of their books or on their websites. Check them out – and send your students to them, too. You’ll both be enriched by the experience.

Elizabeth Rusch

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13. An interview with I. Glenn Cohen on law and bioscience

There are huge changes taking place in the world of biosciences, and whether it’s new discoveries in stem cell research, new reproductive technologies, or genetics being used to make predictions about health and behavior, there are legal ramifications for everything. Journal of Law and the Biosciences is a new journal published by Oxford University Press in association Duke University, Harvard University Law School, and Stanford University, focused on the legal implications of the scientific revolutions in the biosciences. We sat down with one of the Editors in Chief, I. Glenn Cohen, to discuss the rapidly changing field, emerging legal issues, and the new peer-reviewed and open access journal.

Journal of Law and the BiosciencesWhy have you decided to launch Journal of Law and the Biosciences?

This is an incredibly exciting time to be working in these areas and in particular the legal aspects related to these areas. We are seeing major developments in genomics, in neuroscience, in patent law, and in health care. We want to be in the forefront of this, and we think that a peer-review journal led by the leading research institutions working in this area in the United States is the way to go.

How has this subject changed in the last 10 years?

The genomics revolution, the reality of cheap whole genome sequencing, further developments in the ability to examine neuroscience, the realization that biosciences are a crucial aspect of criminal investigations, and the importance of research ethics have all become more prominent, as have roles that law and the biosciences play in the criminal justice system, health care delivery, and our understanding of ourselves.

What are the major intersections of law and the biosciences?

Neuroscience, genetics, research ethics, human enhancement, development of drugs and devices in biologics, and medical ethics, and many others.

What is it that makes this such a fast growing area of law?

First, we are fuelled by development in the biosciences, which is moving at an increasingly fast pace since we can build new technologies over old technologies. Second, there is increasing interest by jurists and by lawyers in these areas. Third is an increase in interest in health care and sciences more generally. From President Obama’s announcement of a major enterprise in studying the human brain to the passing of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing a golden age in this field.

What do you expect to see in the coming years from both the field and the journal?

The ethical issues that have always been in the background are going to be made much more pressing, such as with cheap whole genome sequencing, fetal blood tests called non-invasive genetic testing, and increasingly science-based attempts to restrict abortion rights. All of these are raising questions that have always been present but are making them more pressing and also making it more likely that courts and legislatures will have to be the ones to wrestle with them correctly. We are hoping that the journal plays a role in answering those questions.

Last year, with the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and revisions to the common rule in human subjects’ research, there has also been a lot more emphasis and rethinking about the rules by which science operates at the level of human subject research regulation.

 What do you hope to see in the coming years from both the field and the journal?

Increasing number of law students and non-lawyers realizing the important role that law has to play in these disputes and enabling discourse at a deeper level than we have seen to this date.

What does Journal of Law and the Biosciences expect to focus on within the field (trends / new approaches)?

Stem cell technology, reproductive technologies, law and genetics, law and neuroscience, human subjects’ research, human enhancement, patent law, food and drug regulation, and predictive analytics and big data . . . but those are just off the top of my head. We are hoping to get submissions in many more areas as well.

Nita Farahany, I. Glenn Cohen, and Henry T. (Hank) Greely are the Editors of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences. I. Glenn Cohen, JD, is Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology & Bioethics at Harvard Law School. Cohen’s current projects relate to reproduction and reproductive technology, research ethics, rationing in law and medicine, health policy, and medical tourism. Nita Farahany, PhD, JD, is Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke Law School and Professor of Genome Sciences and Policy at the IGSP. Since 2010, she has served on Obama’s Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Henry T. (Hank) Greely, JD, is the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law at Stanford University, where he directs the Center for Law and the Biosciences. He chairs the California Advisory Committee on Human Stem Cell Research, is a founder and director of the International Neuroethics Society, and belongs to the Advisory Council for the National Institute for General Medical Sciences and the Institute of Medicine’s Neuroscience Forum.

The Journal of Law and the Biosciences (JLB) is the first fully Open Access peer-reviewed legal journal focused on the advances at the intersection of law and the biosciences. A co-venture between Duke University, Harvard University Law School, and Stanford University, and published by Oxford University Press, this open access, online, and interdisciplinary academic journal publishes cutting-edge scholarship in this important new field. The Journal contains original and response articles, essays, and commentaries on a wide range of topics, including bioethics, neuroethics, genetics, reproductive technologies, stem cells, enhancement, patent law, and food and drug regulation.

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14. Universally Accessible E-Content and Gadgets #pla2014

I dream of the day when every public library is my public library.

-Brian Charlson

This Public Library Association 2014 Conference offers a particularly impressive selection of programs about various aspects of serving traditionally underserved users.  And boy–is there a lot to learn.  Before this afternoon, I hadn’t heard about Refreshable Braille Displays.  According to Brian Charlson, Director of Technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind, they are actually the most popular devices for K-12 students who are blind or have low vision.  Refreshable Braille Displays are electronic devices that allow users to read text that is typically displayed visually on a computer monitor.  The devices themselves do not have any screens, but are connected to computers by a USB cord.  Showing 18 characters at a time, Refreshable Braille Displays convert visual text into tactual text and produces Braille output for the reader.

A question that was asked during this program–how do we as librarians provide access to reading material to patrons who are blind or have low vision?  Brian went on to explain that three things are required:

  1. Your users need to know that the technology exists.
  2. Your users need to be able to afford the technology.
  3. Your users need to know how to use the technology.

This is where our role as librarians is crucial.  Even our youngest patrons who are blind or have low vision rely on libraries to provide information, access, and training.  And while consumer products like Kindles and Nooks are not required to comply with ADA Standards, public libraries are, indeed, required.  So, if you circulates e-reader devices in your Children’s Department or elsewhere in your library, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do these devices have text to speech capabilities?
  • Can the user change the font size and the font type?
  • Is there functionality to change contrast settings?
  • Can the user have individual words spelled out?
  • Can users change the background and foreground colors and set transparency to make the interface easier to read?

One last takeaway.  No two people–whether they are blind or sighted–are alike.  Every user has their own set of needs, and we as librarians can/should do what we can to help.

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15. Something to like about bitcoin

By Richard S. Grossman

Within months of being introduced in 2009, enthusiasts were hailing bitcoin, the digital currency and peer-to-peer payment system, as the successor to the dollar, euro, and yen as the world’s most important currency.

The collapse of the Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange last month has dulled some of the enthusiasm for the online currency. According to bitcoincharts.com, the price of bitcoin, which had peaked at over $1100 in December, tumbled to about half of that in the wake of the Mt. Gox failure, leading a number of commentators to suggest that bitcoin is finished.

Others remain bullish on the currency, arguing that the collapse will lead to greater scrutiny of the system and the reemergence of a stronger, more secure bitcoin. Although the price of bitcoin has declined since the Mt. Gox collapse and volatility remains high, rallies are not unheard of. On 3 March 2014, for example, bitcoin began the day trading around $580 and peaked at over $700 before falling back into the upper $600s (data from bitcoincharts.com).

I have argued elsewhere that if bitcoin were to replace the leading world currencies, the results would be catastrophic. The most important objection is that—when it works according to plan—bitcoin mimics the gold standard. The total number of bitcoins that can be created (“mined” in bitcoin terminology, just to maintain the image of gold) is fixed and cannot be altered. Adopting a bitcoin standard would make it virtually impossible for central bankers to undertake aggressive monetary measures—as the Fed and European Central Bank have done—to bolster a flagging economy and a financial system on the point of collapse.


Another public policy downside of bitcoin is that because it is peer-to-peer, without a centralized monitoring authority, it allows funds to be transferred away from the prying eyes of government. This famously came to light last fall when the on-line drug bazaar Silk Road—which conducted much of its business in bitcoin–was shut down by the FBI and its proprietor arrested on drug and computer charges. Needless to say, the attractiveness of a payments system like bitcoin to criminals and terrorists should dampen the fervor of even the most enthusiastic bitcoin devotee.

Is there anything to like about bitcoin?

Yes. Bitcoin—or, more precisely, a system with some of bitcoin’s attributes—would give a boost to commerce.

Moving money with bitcoin is cheaper than using PayPal, credit cards, or bank transfers, all of which charge one or both parties fees. The savings on international transactions are even greater, since these transactions, when carried out with traditional currencies, typically involve both higher fees for moving the money as well as additional charges for converting form one currency to another. Denominating the transaction in bitcoin eliminates the currency conversion fee altogether.

Eliminating fees associated with commercial transactions is the most compelling argument in favor of bitcoin, as anyone who has ever used a credit card overseas, tried to transfer money, or used an out-of-network ATM will attest. The disadvantages of bitcoin far outweigh its benefits. Still, its ability to facilitate cheaper trade is appealing. The sooner someone figures out how to adopt that aspect of bitcoin for safer, more adaptable traditional currencies, the better for all of us.

Richard S. Grossman is Professor of Economics at Wesleyan University and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. He is the author of WRONG: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn from Them and Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World since 1800. His homepage is RichardSGrossman.com, he blogs at UnsettledAccount.com, and you can follow him on Twitter at @RSGrossman. You can also read his previous OUPblog posts.

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Image credit: Bitcoin banknote by CASASCIUS. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons.

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16. The Sadistic Overlord of Technology

Although outwardly it may appear that I am in full possession of my life’s reigns, I’ve come to realize that I control very few things besides my attitude. Most events occur around me while I jab at the air to try to influence their outcome. Like a giant game of cornhole, I throw the bean bag in the air, lean left, hold my tongue just right, and hope it goes in the hole. To give my analogy an Olympic flair, I’m swishing a broom violently in the hopes of pushing the stone to the left. I think we are all very reactionary in how we approach life because the demands of family, creditors, employers, government (and the list goes on) dictate most of our schedule.

I enjoyed my college philosophy classes, but remember nothing except my professor who had spindly legs supporting a massive belly. His poor knees creaked and cracked as he paced around the room. I’m sure he would say my theory is some type of classic Plato “–ism” where we are sitting back watching our lives on screens, only able to choose between limited outcomes.

Don’t overestimate my depth. I’m not philosophical at all. I only know that I have no choice in many things – even in my house. But at home, at least I am the Sadistic Overlord of Technology! Don’t you love the title? I gave it to myself. I should probably put it in bold. The Sadistic Overlord of Technology. If anything remotely technological doesn’t work the way one of my family hoped it would, I am to blame. I get blame, ergo, I get the title.

Take, for instance, our printer. It was one of the first wireless printers and worked perfectly for a long time. It still works fine…for some of us. Three of us have Windows 8 and it seems to like that OS. But it gave up trying for Windows 7. My wife and oldest daughter have Windows 7. I have updated the drivers and tried everything I know to do. But when they push print, it will print no more than one page before it dies. Usually it prints about half a page, violently spits the paper onto the floor, and goes into some form of cleaning mode that makes them scream in frustration. Since both are night owls, this nearly always occurs after the Overlord has gone to bed.

My attitude when awoken to fix the printer is where the word Sadistic got added to my title. I’m not much help after I’ve gone to sleep – part by mental capacity and part by groggy choice, I admit. The help desk is closed! I come out of the bedroom like Jack Nicholson poking his head through the door in The Shining – “Here’s Johnny!”


We’ve been dealing with this for a while and I’ve been dragging my heels on getting a new printer. I guess in some way, my sub-conscious sees this as one thing I can control. As you can imagine, there are ripple effects – mainly in attitude towards the overlord.

Come to think of it, control can be a dangerous thing…

Anyone have a recommendation for a wireless printer?

Photo credit: Jack & some cool app on my iPad

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17. I Do. We Do. You Do.

The gradual release of responsibility works for teaching one's mom how to use a smart phone just as well as it works for teaching writers.

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18. I Do. We Do. You Do.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. –Maimonides Last week, my mother took a plunge she’s… Read More

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19. Kindle Trouble

I’m a bit unnerved. My Kindle seems to be developing an opinion about how quickly I finish a book and move on to the next. About two weeks ago I finished reading Willa Cather’s Alexander’s Bridge at the end of my lunch break. Stilling have a few minutes of my break left I thought I’d start reading Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. Kindle freaked out. It froze, then unfroze, then kept trying to get me to turn on my wi-fi to go to the Kindle store. Did it not want me to read Hesse? Was it trying to get me to pick a different book?

I turned it off and then back on. I got my list of books and Kindle would let me page through the list but when I came to the page with Steppenwolf on it Kindle would not let me move my cursor down the page to select the book. I must have restarted the thing three or four times with not luck before I had to go back to work. I was feeling a bit panicky because what was I going to read on my train ride home? I don’t carry a paper book with me. I sought help from Google. Google told me about a secret restart command accessible in the menu while on the settings page. This was supposed to fix the problem. So I tried it during a quiet moment in the afternoon and it didn’t work.

Going home at the end of the day I sat down on the train and pulled out my Kindle and thought, well, I’ll just try it and see. And it was working just fine. Like nothing happened. Weird.

So yesterday I told Bookman I was almost done with Steppenwolf, would be finishing it today and could he put one of his Discworld books on my Kindle? So he did. And then he made the mistake of clicking out of Steppenwolf to make sure he’d put Reaper Man in the right place. And Kindle freaked out again. I tried restarting and Bookman tried restarting and Kindle refused to cooperate. The files are still accessible from a computer when the Kindle is plugged in so Bookman, what a guy, said I could take his Kindle to read on today and we moved Hesse to it so I could finish it.

This morning I checked my Kindle just in case and it was still in a snit. Bookman tried to comfort me by saying I could get a new one, but that didn’t help me at the moment. Off to work I went. Reading on Bookman’s Kindle was weird. It’s the first version, white and the buttons are all in the wrong places. But I could read, so that was something.

Now, when I got home from work this evening and saw my Kindle sitting on my desk I thought I’d try it and see if it would work and it did! Just like nothing happened.

Kindle must have decided that when I finish a book, or get near to the end, I need to spend some time thinking about what I just read, letting it sink in a bit before moving on to the next book. That after three years — or has it been four already? — Kindle should decide to start asserting itself is annoying. If it were a paper book I could throw it on the floor or slam it down on a table like I had the urge to do. But of course, if I do any throwing or slamming with Kindle that really would be the end of it.

Now I feel like Kindle is tyrannizing me. Do what I want, but not too fast, when I want you to, or else, Kindle seems to be telling me. Suddenly it is in charge and I am tip-toeing around trying to keep it from freaking out again. Curse you technology!

Oh, yes, I can hear you asking why I don’t just carry a print book. I have reached the age when, in order to read comfortably, reading glasses are required. To fiddle with putting on and taking off glasses on the train (it’s only a 20 minute ride) is a nuisance and cuts into my reading time. So on my Kindle I have the font just big enough that I can read without glasses.

I thought my Kindle and I had such a beautiful relationship, but apparently not. What could have gone wrong?

Filed under: ebooks, Technology

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20. How STEM Books Make a Difference to Girls in One Dallas Afterschool Program

One afternoon last week, a big box of books arrived in Miss Vicky’s classroom. After she explained to her students, who devote each Wednesday to studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), that the books were about “why things work and how they work”, the girls “shot up from their seats and ran over to the books.”

“Some of the younger girls didn’t understand all the words, but they kept reading,” she said. “Working hard to figure out what the book was about.”

Miss Vicky — known to the world outside her classroom as Vicky Hernandez — teaches girls, ages 6 to 18, at Girls Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas, and she strives to help them be strong, smart and bold.

[INFOGRAPHIC] STEM Education Makes a Difference in Children’s LivesHer students come from the surrounding West Dallas neighborhoods, an area known for high crime and struggling schools. Their parents have chosen to pay $5 every month so the girls can participate in tutoring and educational programming and receive a full, healthy meal each night after school at Girls Inc.

Recently, Miss Vicky received a grant from First Book, made possible by our generous corporate partner, Lockheed Martin. “We had some books,” she said, “but not STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] books.”

Despite the lack of resources, STEM is central to the curriculum at Girls Inc. They believe studying STEM improves their students’ chances for successful college and career placement.

And they’re right. By 2018, there will be over 8 million STEM jobs in the United States, but only 5 million people qualified to fill them. Women in STEM careers also make more, with median annual earnings in selected STEM occupations nearly doubling that of women workers overall.

“STEM books are so valuable, because they teach specific concepts while helping the girls develop their reading skills,” Miss Vicky said. “It’s not just reading to read, it’s reading to grow a greater knowledge base.”

First Book is grateful to our friends at Lockheed Martin for making it possible for us to provide books about science, technology, engineering and math to students like Miss Vicky’s across the country.

The post How STEM Books Make a Difference to Girls in One Dallas Afterschool Program appeared first on First Book Blog.

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21. Digital Tools Invite Writers to Compose – #NCTE13

Two of the sessions I attended at NCTE in Boston helped me think about ways two digital tools could be meaningfully integrated into early childhood and elementary school classrooms to engage young writers. The "Exploring Collaboration of Multimodal Literacies in Early Childhood: Digital Filmmaking, Designing, and Co-Authoring" panel discussed the way digital video cameras could enhance learning, while two of the presenters in "Writing Workshop Is for All Students: Using Visuals, Oral Language, and Digital Tools to Maximize Success and Independence for English Language Learners" suggested the incorporation of digital cameras.

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22. Monday Meanderings

I didn’t post my usual rambling post yesterday, so here it goes today!

I’m working from home this week, working to get an article completed and ready for submission. I’ve got to clear my mind and my ‘to do’ list so I can concentrate on what I need to get done.

I’ve been stalling.

My mind was struck by wanderlust forever ago and I think of writing in small European city where I can visit markets for fresh meats and cheeses and sip hot beverages at a bistro while working late. Or take a long afternoon walk in a tropical hillside to refresh my thoughts after hours of working. These four walls aren’t working for me right now!

I’ve found other, short projects that might get me started.

It doesn’t help that I’m writing about places in YA lit! Or, does it?!

Around this time of year, I work with Zetta Elliott to complete a list of YA fiction books written and published by African American authors. So, far I’ve identified all of 22 books. We do typically identify books that were missed throughout the year, however, that’s a frightfully small number.

Dr Jonda C. McNair release the current edition of Mirrors and Windows newsletter which features informational texts and a profile of author/illustrator Steve Jenkins.  I’ve placed the pdf in Google Drive to make it available, however if it is not accessible, email me at crazyquilts at hotmail dot com and I’ll be glad to forward a copy.

A completely separate publication that came out this week is Windows and Mirrors: Reading Diverse Children’s Literature by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen in the online publication Gazillion Voices.

Despite the statistics, today’s diverse children have more options to see their experiences reflected in children’s literature. White children, too, have many more opportunities to learn about experiences other than their own. In this essay, I primarily (but not exclusively) discuss Asian American children’s literature to highlight principles for meaningful multicultural content, as well as point out some of the persisting problems, with the ultimate goal of encouraging you to pick good books for young people, especially during this coming holiday season. Given that 3,000-5,000 children’s books in many different genres for a range of reading levels are published each year, I hope to provide you with some principles and guidelines for critically evaluating children’s literature and thinking about our role in supporting and promoting diverse, high-quality stories for all young people.

I recently wrote about the impracticability of expecting students to express their desire for books with characters of their own ethnicity. This is anecdotal statement is something I hope to research further. Why are some young children able to indicate an interest in a book based upon the race of the character while others are not? How and when do children develop racial awareness? My interest deepened when I read an article shared by @WritersofColour on Twitter. The article written by @hiphopteacher posed a much more reflective analysis into why children of colour are less likely to write about their own ethnicity.

In her essayPlaying in the Dark’, Toni Morrison argues that “the readers of virtually all of American fiction have been positioned as white.” (Morrison 1992:xiv) We might ask if the same is true of children’s literature and how that might affect children’s relationship to story-writing.

All in all, giving the young people in your life a book (or books!) written by authors of color this holiday season sounds like a gift worth giving. It would be a great time to donate books by authors of color to your local school or public library, too. Young adult books perfect for giving can be found on my annual booklists and books for all ages of children can be found on the BirthdayPartyPledge.

Teachers and students will equally appreciate learning apps for those tablets Santa places under the tree this year. Consider these 10 (mostly free) apps for documenting learning.

 #NPRBlacksinTech continues on the Tell Me More blog through 20 December. The series is well worth following because there are continuous ‘day in the life’ posts giving readers insights into real life experiences of Blacks in technology. This is so valuable to young people who need to see real life role models! This linkwill take you to the postings on Twitter and you do not have to have an account to read them.

I have another recent post which lists young adult literature from South Africa. In looking at the list you may wonder why J. L. Powers was included as the only non African on the list. Reading her recent post will help you understand why.

… my classmates and friends were the children of recent immigrants or immigrants themselves–some documented and some undocumented. Migrant workers followed the power lines next to our house to go work in the chile fields of southern New Mexico. I witnessed firsthand the injustices of our economic system that encouraged migrant labor, did not pay migrants sufficient wages to support their families, and made it necessary for those who did bring their families to live in our country in poverty and without the protection of legal rights despite working back-breaking jobs every day. These were people I knew. These were people I went to school with, young men I had crushes on, girlfriends I shared secrets with.

I’ve been getting a lot of blogging done in the past week, however that trend isn’t going to continue. BFYA makes its final selections at ALA Midwinter in January and I have more books to read than I have days to read them. No, I will not be blogging much at all! I will take a break on 21 January for Cookies and Cocktails with my sister. Hopefully, the weather will be mild enough for me to drive over to spend the day cooking, eating, drinking and making merry!

You may remember that my word this year is ‘courage’.  I have a better understanding of this virtue and I’ve become more aware of times when my courage fails me. I’m more unwilling to let myself be a coward. I’m a bit more likely to speak up, lean in and move forward. Yet, I still struggle with picking up that phone. I don’t know what it is about the phone, but using it takes a special kind of courage for me!

I’ve found several people including writers and publishers who are going to write about courage in a series that will appear here beginning 21 December. It’s definitely something you won’t want to miss!

For now, I have some researching to do!

“From caring comes courage.”Lao Tzu

Filed under: Me Being Me Tagged: Birthday Party Pledgedge, courage, diversity, technology

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23. Dot.: Randi Zuckerberg & Joe Berger

Book: Dot.
Author: Randi Zuckerberg (@randizuckerberg)
Illustrator: Joe Berger
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Full disclosure. Yes, Dot. is one of those picture books written by a celebrity (business maven Randi Zuckerberg) to convey a particular lesson. I am not generally a fan of such books. This one is even kind of a spin-off of an adult title by the same author (Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives), with the same release date. And yet, Dot. worked for me. 

Dot. is a simple story. We learn that a little girl named Dot is quite skilled in the use of digital devices. "She knows how to tap ... to touch ... to tweet ... and to tag." And she talks and talks on phones and devices and webcams. But when Dot's brain becomes a bit fried from too much device-time, her mother sends the zombie-like child outside to "reboot." Outside, among friends, Dot learns different meanings of tap (tap dancing), touch (touching a sunflower), tweet (like a bird), and tag (you can guess that one). And at the end, she and her friends embrace both the outdoors and real togetherness AND devices. 

I think that ending is a big part of what made the book work for me. If the story had ended with Dot realizing the error of her device-prone ways, and spending all of her time playing outside, well, it just wouldn't have been realistic. But it IS realistic to think that a child could get caught up sitting around inside, tapping away on the computer, only to be reminded that playing outside is fun also. Only to be reminded that it's more fun to do whatever you're doing with other kids than to do it alone. 

By keeping the focus entirely on Dot, and finding a solution to her specific problem of tech burnout, Zuckerberg avoids making Dot. feel didactic. It helps, I think that Mom is only shown as a pair of hands shooing Dot outside. Otherwise, there are only kids, dogs, and butterflies.

I also quite liked the parallelism that Zuckerberg uses, between actions we do on devices, like "surfing", and actions that can be done in real life, like "surfing." Some of the examples work better than others ("swiping" paint seems a bit of a reach), but the idea of focusing on these dual meanings works. 

Joe Berger's illustrations help, too. When Dot, in dotted dress, is "surfing" on the computer, she lies across the back of the couch with one leg up, reaching down to the computer. This is a nice visual clue to what is to follow later. The indoor illustrations are fun, but all set against plain backgrounds, white walls, etc. This provides a nice contrast when Dot goes outside, and is surrounded by birds, flowers, trees, and so on. I'm not quite sure why Dot has gray hair, but she also has an impish smile, a swirly skirt, and a cute dog.

I think that kids will like her. And if they like Dot, hopefully they won't feel dictated to by the point that this book is making. And let's face it. There are an awful lot of kids out there who could benefit from spending a few hours outside, where the only screen is the screen door. Mary Lee from A Year of Reading liked it, too, calling Dot."the perfect antidote to BYOD" (bring your own device). 

I suspect this one will work better with five to seven year olds, kids who spend a bit of time using keyboards, and talking on the phone to friends or family members. My three year old was unimpressed. I think you'll find that Dot. is worth a look, particularly for libraries and classrooms. Perhaps one could pair it under the Christmas tree with a jumprope and some sneakers. 

Publisher:  HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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24. Using Diigo

I really enjoyed writing for the ALSC blog about how I use Evernote for my storytime archive and thought it would be fun to share another online tool I make heavy use of, and see what your experience has been.


Diigo is a social bookmarking tool (like delicious or Google Bookmarks ) that you can use to save links to websites, pdfs, slide sets, and other sites on the web. Because it’s cloud-based, it’s available to you no matter where you are. I’ve used other systems before, but in 2011, Google Bookmarks rolled back their lists feature and hundreds of my carefully curated links were left in one untagged pile in my account, grrr, and Delicious looked for awhile like they were going to get shut down (they weren’t, just sold from Yahoo.) So I looked around for an alternative and found Diigo, which I’ve been using happily ever since.

Caveat: This is NOT an exhaustive Diigo tutorial. I know I am not using this service to the max, and if you are using it too you probably know things I don’t, so share them in the comments! At the same time, I know other services may have similar features; Diigo is just the one I know best.


Once you set up a Diigo account (there are free and premium options), to add a url to Diigo, you can use the “Add” button on your Diigo page, or use a bookmarklet or a browser extension. You fill in a form with the url, title of resource, and then can add an annotation and some tags. If you use the bookmarklet, the url and title will auto-fill and Diigo will suggest tags for you. Then the links go into your Diigo library in a big list, most recent on the top.

Search & Tags

It doesn’t matter how the links are stored, however, because there’s a search available that checks for keywords in the url, title, annotation, and tags. Before I started building up my library, I spent some time thinking about my taxonomy, and really made a commitment to tagging, and I think this has helped me a great deal. I thought about how I remember the resources I come across, and decided to tag for format (PDF, slides, blog post, website, abstract, etc.), for content (I use the six skills and five practices from ECRR a LOT as tags for my work), and also by project (staff newsletter, storytime, collection development, etc.). I’ll think, “Oh, there was that pdf handout with vocabulary activities I came across while I was writing the last newsletter,” and then I can look for “vocabulary” and “pdf” and “newsletter” and pull it up. Your tags will be different, but don’t hesitate to use them–there is an advanced search so you can look for combinations of tags or keywords and narrow your results list.

Highlights & Notes

The search feature is great but what I REALLY love about Diigo is the ability to mark up the webpage and save those notes with the site. You can do two things: highlight specific text on the page, and write general sticky notes. Both are saved with the site in your Diigo library, so when you come back later, you can see what your thoughts were and what you liked from the site. PLUS you can send a marked up link to a colleague, who can see your notes and highlights with without needing a Diigo account of their own.

Here’s a link to an article I came across last month while I was looking for great quotes about why writing is an important early literacy skill. You can see my highlights–I didn’t make any notes on this one. http://diigo.com/01d9jo

My colleague Laurie Anne thought this might be something she could use in her outreach work with busy preschool teachers: She could send them a regular email with a link to a new article every month, with certain points already highlighted. It could also be a quick way to start discussion within your own department.

Here’s a really little thing that I appreciate: say I come across a website or article and I’m not sure if I’ve read it before. I open up my Diigo bookmarklet and if I’ve already saved the site, the bookmark form pops up filled in, and any highlights I made previously appear. I don’t have to go searching through my links to see if I’ve already saved it.

Groups & Lists

Diigo is a social network, though you can decide how social you want to be. You can allow followers and can follow other users, and see what they are bookmarking on your Network page, but you can also set your account so no one can follow you and you can mark your bookmarks private so no one can see them. You can also make a group, inviting specific users to join, and use it as a way to gather resources for a department or library-wide project, joint presentation, or paper. You can post notes to the group, so there’s room for general conversations as well; you’re not limited to comments on links to communicate.

Another helpful feature is the ability to make lists. You can manually add links to a list, which you can then print (your annotations will show up along with the title and url), give out as a simple url (like a bit.ly), or play the list as a slideshow. I’ve used the printed lists for quick handouts for staff trainings and the list url during presentations as a “consult later” resource for attendees.

Connecting Accounts

You can also link your Twitter account, and Diigo will save your favorite tweets (up to 20 a day for free users); you can tweet or Facebook your links; you can have Diigo generate a blog post with a link you saved and your annotations; save links to Diigo via email; use Diigo via app on your phone; and probably a million other things I’m missing.

Are you on Diigo too? Let us know how you use it!

Melissa Depper is a Librarian in the Child and Family Library Services department of the Arapahoe (CO) Library District, where she starts every week off right with baby storytime. She serves on the ALSC Children and Technology Committee, is on Diigo as MelZed, and is on Twitter, right now probably, at @MelissaZD.

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25. A Master Writer’s Notebook in Evernote

A few years ago I thought I had a brilliant idea.  I created a master writer’s notebook since my notebook writing, which I shared with students during writing conferences and in minilessons, was… Read More

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