28 April 2011

The Last 10 Years

In April of 2000, I finally moved away from my folks and landed in Utah--BYU to be precise, to finish my BA in English. I was going to get my degree and go on to my Masters in Library Science. I really had no interest whatsoever in getting married at that time. When I first met my future husband, I couldn't stand the man. He was so freaking immature!! (And yes at the whopping age of 21 at BYU, I could say that about another 21 year old--if anyone has any insight into LDS culture, you'll get it)

He began dating my best friend and as a result, I had to hang out with the dude. Over a few months we did become very good friends. They obviously broke up, and he was not only a friend, but had become one of the bestest friends in my life. Falling in love didn't take much, and within 8 months of meeting the man, we were married. Crazy? Yes it was, but it has been great to be married to my best friend for the last 10 years.
 On our wedding day--28 April 2001--Manti, UT.
Less than a year later, I was very pregnant. Damn doctors don't know anything!! I still swear there should be a way to sue doctors that tell you it will be difficult to get pregnant only to find yourself knocked up by the end of your honeymoon. . . ;)
Us now.
 10 years and 4 kids later.
And I love the man more now than I did on our wedding day!! Thanks for putting up with crazy for 10 years!

We've been through alot over the last 10 years. College, kids, military, college again. I don't doubt for a moment that the next 10 years will be even crazier, but through it all, I've had the privileged of walking side by side with a man I love and who also happens to still be my bestest friend. No matter the struggles, we are very blessed.

21 April 2011

A Personal Preference

What do you like to read? Why? Has anyone ever told you that what you liked was stupid/juvenile/crap?

I'm sure if you have ever read, someone else has had an opinion about it. I'm here to tell you, no matter what you read, if you enjoy it, then it is worth it!! Every book is the reader's book. You see, even though I really love Twilight and so do a whole lot of my friends, the exact reasons why I like it, are going to be different from everyone else. Why? Because I am different from all my friends. Each of us puts a piece of ourselves into everything we read. What we articulate are the reasons for liking something may be practically identical to our neighbors, but those things you can never quite express, the ones that are so personal that when someone makes fun of something you like, you die a little bit, those are different for everyone. So, here's a novel idea. No matter what your opinion may be, always remember, what we read is highly personal, and every book read is of value to the reader. Instead of judging and making fun, revel in the sharing. You may never agree on what makes a book "good," and by golly that's just fine, after all, I like being me and if you were me too, it just wouldn't be as much fun!

20 April 2011

Annotated Pathfinder--Home Safety

***NOTE: I offered my blog as a place for some of my classmates to post their pathfinders. So far, only one has taken up the charge. Below is her pathfinder. Her name is Lisa Justis. I have made no alterations to her pathfinder, as this is solely her project and I believe we are all entitled to our own work in this arena. I hope some people can find it helpful! Thank you Lisa for the information and for your willingness to share.

Justis Bibliography Pathfinder

Part 1: Basics
This pathfinder is intended for adults who are seeking information on improving the safety, comfort and accessibility of their homes.  The works cited focus primarily on the needs of the elderly, but those of any age facing a disability or who wish to plan for future needs may find this information useful. 

Part 2: Written Resources
Altman, A. (2002). Elderhouse: Planning Your Best Home Ever, White River Junction, Vermont, Chelsea Green Publishing Co.
232 pages, index, bibliography, black and white illustrations

This is a practical guide for creating convenient and sustainable living spaces which promote independence and peace of mind.  The first section of the book helps readers recognize and correct safety and accessibility problems within their own homes.  Some of these problems, such as narrow hallways or awkward bathroom layouts require renovations.  Others can be easily corrected with minor rearrangements or better lighting.  Quick tips and alerts to frequently overlooked hazards are featured in sidebars and boxes.

The second part of the book helps readers decide if “downsizing” makes more social and economic sense than renovating their current home.  Several options are explored, from moving to already “senior friendly” surroundings to rehabbing smaller buildings, or even converting a large home to apartments for income and companionship.  Case histories of people who made those choices are featured.

Part three focuses on creating a vision for one’s new and improved space, be it a major renovation of a new place or simply a practical redecoration of an existing one.  Advice is given on using space efficiently, choosing furniture and finishes, and working with professionals to help make these plans a reality.

Kruger, B., Stewart, N. and Davidson, M. (2010) Knack Universal Design: A Step by Step Guide to Modifying Your Home for Comfortable, Accessible Living, USA, Knack Publishing

265 pages, glossary, index, resource guide, full color photography

This book is an excellent introduction and principle resource for updating an existing home to compensate for aging or other impairments.  Over 400 detailed photographs give clear illustrations of what problems exist in many houses, and how even small changes like moving rugs or replacing door handles can help people remain independent. 

Each chapter addresses a particular room or aspect of home living, including landscaping, flooring, kitchens and baths, cleaning and storage, coping with stairs and deciding what security systems might be good investments.  A wide range of solutions to various problems are offered.  Many are simple “do it yourself” projects, and guidance is offered for asking the right questions to builders and designers about more elaborate fixes.

Of particular interest is the resource list.  Suppliers of  materials large and small which help promote safety and self-reliance are suggested, from manufacturers of kitchen utensils with safety grips to companies selling stair lifts and bathtubs with built in seats.  Links to websites related to “aging in place” are included also.

Brown, S. (2007), Universal Design and Me, Inside MS, 25(4), p.43-44 retrieved from Academic Search Premier

2 pages, 2 color photos
The author, who has multiple sclerosis, introduces readers to her own apartment in St Louis, MO.  The building she lives in is looked to as a model for incorporating “Universal Design” into multi-family dwellings not only to accommodate “handicapped” people, but because it can be aesthetically pleasing and makes life easier for anyone.  The philosophy of universal design is about maximizing the utility of a space for people of a broad range of sizes and abilities without sacrificing style.  Design should be flexible enough to be modified to suit changing needs.  For example, the kitchen sink has a removable baseboard to accommodate a wheelchair.

 Brown feels that many of the features that make her apartment easier to live in would hardly be noticed by most visitors because they are incorporated seamlessly into the tasteful décor.  Details like the low height of light switches and the use of lever latches instead of door knobs don’t look odd if used consistently, and they make it possible for Brown to enjoy her home.  Everyone loves her wood floors and the contrasting colored stripe along the edges of her countertop.  Does it matter they were chosen so people with poor vision and wheelchairs or walkers would be safe and comfortable?

Perry, J. (1999), Love Those Designer Grab Bars, in U.S. News and World Report, 6/28/99, 126(25), p.82, retrieved from Academic Search Premier

1 page, 1 color photograph
This article takes on the myths that houses which will accommodate the needs of elderly and disabled people are expensive, institutionally ugly, and will suffer from poor resale value.  It focuses on the experiences of a North Carolina couple in their 40s who built a beautiful home which will suit them for many years to come.  It did not cost appreciably more than a “conventional” house to build.  Adding “Universal Design” elements to existing homes during remodeling projects is not significantly more expensive than any other remodeling project either.

As the “baby boomers” age, housing that they like and can remain independent in will increase in demand.  Also, many of who don’t “need” help with accessibility at the present time still appreciate the style and ease of use that comes with well thought out plans for aging or disability.  The choices this couple made in designing their home will both increase its equity and allow them to enjoy their dignity and independence longer than they otherwise might.

Riley II, C.A. (1999), Someone’s in the Kitchen, WE Magazine, 3(5) p.64-70
6 pages, 9 color photos
The kitchen is the heart of the home.  It can also be one of the most dangerous and frustrating places for people with physical disabilities.  This article features design elements and products which have made kitchens safer and more convenient over the years.  Some of those things might seem strange, like the sinks and cabinets that can be raised and lowered with electric motors, while others are so familiar we cease to notice them.  Single lever water faucets, pistol shaped spray nozzles on hoses, and food processors were all originally developed in response to the needs of people with disabilities.

Mainstream manufacturers like General Electric, Black and Decker, and OXO have recognized the appeal of “Universal Design”, and are incorporating it into many of their products.   Small details like big colorful buttons, self-opening doors, and ergonomic handles are “neat” to most of us; they are essential to safety and independence for some.  Expect many of these products and design features to become as familiar as that faucet.

Part 3: Online Resources

American Association of Retired Persons,
As one would expect, AARP provides a great deal of advice for seniors wanting to update their living arrangements.  Their resources include a webcast from a webinar on Universal Design and free booklets on home improvements.  There are also articles on many aspects of safe and comfortable senior living ranging from elder-friendly landscaping, de-cluttering, repurposing rooms for comfort and utility, to sharing space with adult children.  AARP also has guidelines for finding reputable designers and contractors for larger projects.

Of particular interest are the checklists of simple modifications one can make to compensate for particular problems.  Poor hand and arm strength, balance and coordination issues, trouble bending, limited reach, wheelchair use or difficulty standing, visual impairment, and hearing loss are all addressed.  The solutions presented are practical, inexpensive, and require no more skill or tools than are required to change a door handle.  Even small improvements can have big impacts on livability.

The Center for Universal Design,
The Center for Universal Design is based in North Carolina State University’s College of Design.  It was established in 1991 to promote the principles of “Universal Design” by educating designers, builders, and the general public about the benefits of buildings that work well for a wide range of people rather than for some mythical “average” person.  Of particular interest is the certification program whereby buildings can be rated for their accessibility much as they are for energy use.  Developers can take advantage of gold, silver, or bronze classifications to help attract buyers interested in homes that will accommodate them as they age.

For people planning to build a new home, the center sells “Universal Design” house plans in several different models.  It also gives contractors and homeowners instructions on how to install some less than familiar features such as barrier free showers and elevated toilets.  Links are available to help people find contractors with experience building barrier free homes.

East Metro Seniors for Independent Living,
A Practical Guide to Universal Home Design” was developed in 2002 in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Human Services.  This 17 page checklist helps users evaluate the accessibility factors of houses and apartments.  Most of our dwellings were designed for an “average” person—that is a fit, healthy, male of average height.  That doesn’t describe very many people, but most of us have gotten used to making do in spaces that weren’t designed for us.  People with different levels of mobility or vision can’t always cope with “one size fits all” housing.
Each area of a home or apartment is addressed individually, from front entrance to bedroom.  Minimum space requirements for each are spelled out, along with specific suggestions for things like flooring materials, lighting, and the placement of electrical outlets.  High priority recommendations are marked “Essential”, while the niceties are listed under “Worth Considering”.  People with limited resources and an immediate need to make their living spaces safer and more accessible will find many items marked with a star.  These greatly enhance quality of life without big expenses or renovations.

Lifease, Inc.,

Lifease was founded about 10 years ago with the goal of helping elderly or disabled people live independently in their own homes by connecting them with ideas, products and services designed to address their specific needs.  The company also provides training and educational resources to occupational therapists and others who work with the disabled and the elderly, increasing their awareness of all the options available to assist their clients.

The key to their customer service program is their “LivAbility” survey.  Clients answer detailed questions about their abilities and limitations, their current living arrangements, and their most desired outcomes.  Lifease then sends them a list of specific products and recommendations that best fit their specific needs.  The “LivAbility” survey is free for the residents of the Minneapolis/St.Paul Metro Area.  Those living elsewhere must pay a $19 fee by credit card for the service.  Information on products which help support independent living can be viewed on the website without taking the survey.

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
The National Resource Center and Home Modification is headquartered in the University of Southern California’s Andrus Gerontology Center.  They provide training and certification to builders and designers and act as a clearinghouse of information on resources for home modification .  It provides a comprehensive list of links to agencies involved in all aspects of making homes safer and more comfortable for older or disabled people.  This includes agencies which may provide grants or other funding for specific projects.

The site also hosts an extensive library of full text articles on universal design and adapting living environments to suit individual needs.  There is a video library featuring discussions of the topic and project examples too. 

Some products which are useful in modifying a home to accommodate changing needs are difficult to find.  You can’t buy a stairlift or kitchen cutlery designed for one handed people just anywhere.  One of the best features of this site is its extensive list of suppliers who sell many such useful products.  Some people who need them might never have known they existed otherwise!

Part 4: Summary
I chose this particular topic because I thought it was useful and timely.  I know several families who are in the midst of lifestyle changes related to the deteriorating abilities of an elderly member.  Helping people to keep as much independence as they safely can for as long as possible seems like a good idea to me.

Though I used my access to USM’s library resources I double checked to make sure the items I found were also available through my public library’s database. A Google “advanced search” yielded one item that I would have looked at anyway (AARP), and a big pile of dreck.

The one frustration I had with finding sources is that so many articles and websites on this topic said exactly the same thing.  Many were also so short that I couldn’t give a 150 word annotation of them without putting myself at risk of committing plagiarism. I guess that’s a symptom of info-abuse, we like the one quick answer so much it keeps getting spewed out over and over again.

19 April 2011

The Gift

The Gift (Book 2 Chiveis Trilogy)
By: Bryan M. Litfin
Genre: Dystopian Fiction/Christian Fiction
Grade Level: 10 and up
Pages: 411 (Advance Proof copy)

***First a couple of things. I have never read the first book in this series. I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers. Second, I really tried hard to go into reading this book without any bias on my part. You see, I'm not a fan of Christian Fiction.  Largely in part because I don't think there is a single Christian Fiction book that sounded interesting or that was any good at all.  That being said, I wanted to read this one because it was a Dystopian fiction novel, and I'm a real fan of that, so I figured what the heck, let's see if this author let the Christian part take over or not.

Teofil and Anastasia are in exile. Exiled from their homeland of Chiveis due to their belief in Deu, the one true God/Creator.  They find themselves at first with Scout Soldiers of Ulmbartia. While in the wilderness, Ana is nearly killed by a wolf and a subsequent infection. Upon making it out of the wilderness, Teo and Ana are thrust into the perilous world of Ulmbartian society. Beautiful and exotic, Ana is taken deep within the aristocracy, and is tempted and perverted in her desperate desire to belong. Teo, forced to the lowest ranks of society, must try to keep Ana safe while she moves farther and farther away from him. Ana hits rock bottom, and in so doing, finds her God again and Teo. Together they must fight off many enemies, all in the search of the New Testament and a greater understanding of their God.

I found the story compelling. The entire book is quite a roller coaster of emotion and I spent most of the time wanting to slap Ana upside the head, but that had more to do with the love story than the religious one. It is an interesting world that Liftin has created, full of hate and deceit. The Christian aspect, I think has more to do with what real love can do for a world like that, than anything else. The theology does not take over the story, which I really appreciated. The characters are compelling. All in all, I would have to say, thank you for a Christian fiction book that didn't make me yak!! 

07 April 2011

March 2011 Reading

Wow it's already the second week in April and I only just realized I forgot to post March numbers.  It's nice being busy, but it does make personal tasks a bit more difficult.  I did actually blog everything I read this month though so that's a nice improvement.  As such, only titles and numbers here, but as always, I am very happy to answer any questions you might have about anything I read.  Happy Reading all!!

Uglies          425
Pretties        370
Specials       372
Extras         417
   By: Scott Westerfeld

The Clockwork Angel     479
   By: Cassandra Clare

Along with a whole slew of journal articles and textbook pages, which I will cover at the end of the semester.

Total for March 2011: 2061
Total for 2011: 6583

Thirst No. 3

The Eternal Dawn: Thirst No. 3 by Christopher Pike
Grade Level: 6-12 (language may be a bit harsh for some younger readers)
Pages: 478

Sita has lived for more than five thousand years.  She is the last vampire. In her loneliness, she reaches out to Teri, who is one of her human descendants.  However, Sita's life is never quiet, and caring about others only ever puts them in severe danger.  Torn between two destructive entities--the Telar and the IIC, Sita will fight for her life, and this time, she very well might loose.

I read Christopher Pike out of nostalgia, not out of any great literary talent.  The story is compelling but there are times when the language itself just doesn't work, I think that's the best way to put it anyway.  The dialog has a tendency to get jerky.  However, I enjoy a vampire story any day and the mix of vampire with Hindi legends makes for a fun story.  There is swearing in the book and some minor sexual innuendos, and as such due to the audience around me, I did place the book in an older age range. This doesn't personally bother me and I would let younger ones read it if they desired.  The actual reading level is more around grade level 3-4.

06 April 2011

Annotated Pathfinder--World Cultures, Grades K-2

***Note: This is an assignment for my Reference class.  I am pursuing my Master's Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Southern Mississippi.  We were asked to put together a pathfinder on a topic of our choosing and publish it online.  Publishing on my public blog qualified and that is why it is here.  I hope that someone out there may find it useful.  It was a fun and interesting assignment.  The topic I chose was World Cultures with the target audience being Kindergarten through 2nd Grade. Why I chose the topic is touched on below.  

Annotated Bibliography Pathfinder--World Cultures

Part 1: Basics

a.   Target audience is Kindergarten through 2nd grade, or 5 to 8 year olds.  The environment is an Expeditionary Learning Academy (http://elschools.org/) and Venture Academy (www.venturelearning.org) specifically, located in Marriott-Slaterville, UT.  The school is a public charter school.  In this case, the compilation is for a specific expedition being undertaken by the K-2 pod.  That expedition is entitled: Around the World.

b.   There expedition covers a wide range of cultures and traditions, pulling from multiple topics in the hope of beginning to understand the people and environments of other countries.  The intended purpose of this expedition is, in learning about other countries and other peoples; we can better understand ourselves and our own world.  The purpose of this pathfinder is to compile a list, to touch on all or most parts of the world discussed during the expedition, and to focus those resources, as ones that would be fun and easy to use with those just learning to read and avid readers alike.  It is vital to note, that although due diligence is placed in finding resources that can be used by those who cannot read, those that are just beginning to read, and those that are grade level or above readers, this grouping of abilities covers a vast range.  As such, the online resources may be more suitable for the younger grades, since some resources will actually read to the kids or provide videos and provide for interactive learning games.  The print materials, will be more suitable for those that can read (1-2 grade), but the pictures could provide some focus for the younger group.  It is also vital to note, that during the process of finding these resources, most of them were rated for ages 7-12, while that is on the upper end of the range desired, after looking through the resources themselves, they can easily be adapted to younger students.  Also, at this particular school—Venture Academy—many of the children in 1-2 grade read at or above their reading level, and therefore, many of them can handle pieces that are slightly more challenging. It is the teacher’s responsibility to assist the students in becoming familiar with the resources and to initiate their use within the classroom itself; hopefully, with the help of the librarian. Some of the resources found contained teacher resources embedded within them.  Others, like the CIA World Factbook, would be more useful in this situation for the teacher than the students.

Part 2: Written Resources

  1. Reference Books

1.    A Life Like Mine

DK/UNICEF. (2002). A life like mine. New York: DK Pub.

Written and published by DK publishing in association with UNICEF.  “A Life Like Mine” is arranged encyclopedia style and discusses the world in terms of what we all need to lead a healthy and happy life.  These needs were set out by The Convention on the Rights of the child. This resource explores the lives of children around the world to discover how the convention and world governments are striving to provide those things for children around the world, like food, water, and somewhere to live. The book is divided into four major sections: Survival, Development, Protection, and Participation.  Within each section more general categories are discussed along with highlights of individuals and their lives and family. It is a diverse resource that could be cultivated for specific topics or read front to back. With many photographs, this resource is ideal for those who have yet to learn how to read as well as those who do. It is 127 pages long and includes both a table of contents and an index.

2.    People Around the World

Mason, A. (2002). People around the world. New York: Kingfisher.

“People Around the World” takes you on an exciting journey through every continent on this earth. One gets to meet people, especially children from the familiar to the mysterious.  The book is written encyclopedia style with a table of contents and an index. You begin your journey in the Artic and Subarctic moving on to Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia and the Pacific. Special sections are devoted to clothing, traditions, ceremonies, religions, languages, education, food, and employment. Bright, colored photographs dot every page, and as such will help with the younger audience.  The text is more suitable for a little older audience however, and so would be ideal for those reading above grade level. There is something for every subject as well, geography, science, social studies, and language arts. There are pages with maps and basic statistics for the areas covered, making this an ideal reference source. It is 256 pages long.

3.    Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia

DK. (2010). DK children's illustrated encyclopedia. New York, NY: DK Pub.

The DK Children’s Illustrated Encyclopedia is a general encyclopedia for children.  It does not only cover world cultures, although countries and contents are included.  It holds over 1,000 internet links to homework or schoolwork help web sites, which is a tremendous addition.  There are more than 3,000 photographs, maps, and illustrations throughout the encyclopedia.  The way images break up the words makes the encyclopedia vibrant, exciting, and easy to read.  It covers both the past and the present.  The encyclopedia contains a table of contents and indexes both on text and pictures throughout the book.  It is contained in one volume 600 pages long.  Maps, pictures, and basic statistics are given for all the countries discussed.  One can also access the book online via http://www.cie.dkonline.com/. On the website, one can access videos as well as text which are ideally suited for the younger children.

  1. Magazines


Cobblestone & Cricket. (n.d.). Faces: World Cultures. Peterborough, NH: Cobblestone Publishing.

Faces” is a children’s magazine that allows young readers to learn how people in other countries and regions live.  The goal is to nurture appreciation of world traditions and to help young people to think from new viewpoints. According to their website, which can be consulted for ordering information and a view of a sample magazine, “topics each year include national and ethnic groups, global issues, a biography of an international figure, and an up-close look at a region of the U.S.”  The articles are geared toward 7-10 year olds, but the photographs are bright and vivid which would appeal to a younger audience.  Maps and time-lines help to view the world on a global perspective.  Folktales included help the children to experience the culture in a fun way.  Faces is published once a month, and is the only children’s magazine devoted to world cultures that can be found at the local public library here in Weber County, Utah. For ordering information, the website is: http://www.cobblestonepub.com/magazine/FAC/.


Kids Discover: World History. (n.d.). New York (N.Y.): Kids Discover.

“Kids Discover”, has numerous subtitles, however, this particular grouping of magazines are under their themed collections.  Kids Discover: World History specifically focuses on the world around us.  Its concentration is on historical sites around the world.  The magazine is directed toward ages 7-12, but its vibrant artwork and pictures could appeal even to a younger audience. It is published on a monthly schedule and each edition is devoted to one broad nonfiction topic of the social or natural sciences.  This particular magazine offers multiple teacher resources as well, in the form of lesson guides and vocabulary packets for the class.  One is able to buy the magazine in classroom packets as well.  Kids Discover also has titles that are solely for “emergent readers” which display content at a lower reading level than the rest of their magazines. The magazines are sold in themed sets as well, which is ideal for this particular topic, since the World History packet covers ancient civilization the world over.  Titles in this particular series include: Ancient Greece, 7 Wonders, Ancient Egypt, Samurai, Incas, Maya, Knights and Castles, World War I, Marco Polo, Mesopotamia, Pyramids, World War II, Middle Ages, Roman Empire, Ancient China, Industrial Revolution, Ancient Persia, African Kingdoms, Aztecs, and Ancient India. Ordering information as well as sample magazines can be found on their website, along with interactive games: http://www.kidsdiscover.com/aspx/pDetail.aspx?EntityGUID=c1a1efc7-2bc8-4af8-a963-1d9418cdb283&Page=16.
Description: http://www.kidsdiscover.com/images/blank.gif


Skipping Stones Magazine. (n.d.). Eugene, OR: Skipping Stones.

“Skipping Stones” is an “international multicultural magazine.” They accept articles and artwork from around the world and in many languages written by youth.  All non-English articles are accompanied by English translation. There are usually one or two short articles directed towards parents and teachers, but the bulk of the magazine is solely dedicated to children and young adults. The magazine typically includes poems, stories, articles, photos and artwork from many regions of our world, i.e. Native American folktales, art by children in India, cartoons from China. The September-October issue contains Youth Honor Awards, which celebrate outstanding works submitted by youth around the world in several genres—art, poetry, fiction. The May-August edition, hosts the Annual Book Awards, which are recommendations of 25 outstanding multicultural books, teacher resources, and nature books. The magazine is published five times during the school year. More information on this magazine can be found on their website, along with ordering information, and sample magazines. Skipping Stones is now entering its 23rd year of publishing.  The website is: http://www.skippingstones.org/.

Part 3: Online Resources

1.    National Geographic Kids and National Geographic Little Kids

National Geographic Society. (n.d.). Kids' Games, Animals, Photos, Stories, and More -- National Geographic Kids. Retrieved April 05, 2011, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/

National Geographic Society. (n.d.). National Geographic Little Kids. Main Blog - National Geographic Kids Blogs. Retrieved April 05, 2011, from http://kidsblogs.nationalgeographic.com/littlekids/

The National Geographic Kids is found both online and in print magazine form.  The magazine is printed monthly and can be found at the Weber County Library.  However, the online version can be perused for free. It is not the exact same thing as the magazine however.  The online version for one as its medium dictates is far more interactive.  Children can play various games, visit countries and learn about them via postcard type media. There are photographs, videos and maps. They even have “weird but true facts” and most kids just eat that up. The site also includes a section for The National Geographic for Little Kids. This particular feature is geared toward preschool and kindergarteners while the Kids site is more for the numbered grades. The Little Kids site allows younger children to learn from Toot and Puddle and Mama Mirabelle as they explore the world around them.  They can print out coloring pages or simply watch a video or play games. The site is both a Webby and a Parent’s Choice Award winner.

2.    CIA World Factbook

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (n.d.). CIA - The World Factbook. Welcome to the CIA Web Site — Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved April 05, 2011, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
The CIA World Factbook is a reference resource generally designed for grades 5 and up.  As such, it is a bit hefty for this particular age group. It is, however, ideally suited as a teacher’s reference in learning about world cultures.  The Factbook is compiled by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency utilizing census data from around the world.  Each section includes the flag, maps, and pictures that can be enlarged and printed if needs be.  Information is broken down into the following categories: introduction, geography, people, government, economy, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues.  The information provided in given in mainly general statistical data, like the census forms, and is only as current as the census predictions.  Everything can be printed out, for easy hands on reference. It is ideally suited for information for reports, oral or written, and provides an authoritative reference resource.

3.    The International Children’s Digital Library

ICDL - International Children's Digital Library. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2011, from http://en.childrenslibrary.org/

ICDL stands for the International Children’s Digital Library.  The language barrier is one of the greatest barriers in public education in the U.S. today.  Although it is important to learn to function within the language of English while at school, in so doing, many children loose a piece of their heritage. ICDL’s primary goal is to “build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world.”  The Library strives to represent all cultures so that no matter where you may live, you still have access to the richness of your culture’s stories.  This library is a wealth of other cultures that can be explored via the written world.  Most books are easily translated into English for those who wish to read a story from another culture.  Stories can be found by age level or genre. ICDL even has an app for the IPhone or IPad, so that you can read stories on the go. 

4.    The Internet Public Library’s Culture Quest World Tour

Culture Quest World Tour. (n.d.). Ipl2: Information You Can Trust. Retrieved April 05, 2011, from http://www.ipl.org/div/cquest/

The Culture Quest World Tour is found via the children’s resources at the Internet Public Library; as such it is free to access via the above link or through Weber County Public Library’s premium sites for children.  You are invited to explore the world with Ophelia Owl and Parsifal Penguin.  Parsifal is from Antarctica and as such has never experienced culture; he wishes to become a world citizen and with Ophelia Owl and your help, he hopes to do just that. Ophelia knows her stuff; after all she is a Library Owl and has read all the books in Fowlerville Public Library.  Now you too can benefit from her knowledge and Parsifal’s appetite to learn more. Kids get to sample food from around the world, play games, attend museums, arts and crafts, stories, and attend festivals the world over.  Just follow the links and “take a trip to. . . Africa: Ghana, Kenya; South Africa; Antarctica; Asia & The Far East: China, Japan, Singapore; Australia; Europe: France, Greece, Russia, Spain, The United Kingdom; The Middle East: Egypt, Israel; North America: Canada, Mexico, USA; South & Central America: Brazil.

5.    The Fin, Fur, and Feather Bureau of Investigation

FFFBI Home. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2011, from http://www.fffbi.com/

FFFBI stands for the “Fin, Fur, and Feather Bureau of Investigation.  Primarily targeted toward ages 8-13 years old, it uses stories and humor to help kids learn about cultures around the world.  The primary goal is to build cultural literacy in children.   Children become investigators or field agents, and go on crime-fighting adventures around the world.  They cover a wide range of subjects, including math, science, music, and history. This entertaining and fun adventure is especially designed with children with attention difficulties; the goal was to provide children with ADHD with a learning environment that would improve their focus, organizational, and learning behaviors.  Each game strives to teach skills and strategies while encouraging children to engage in increasingly more difficult jobs.  Although a learning game, the spy theme helps to make the games both educational and humorous. The site was developed with help from a Department of Education grant.  The site is free by following the link above or can be accesses through Weber County Library’s premium sites for children.

Part 4: Summary

The choice for the topic and the age range chosen, were chosen because I honestly wanted to help my child to engage in her current expedition more. She is absolutely enthralled with learning about other cultures, and I wanted to be able to help both her and her teacher to provide the students with fun and engaging resources on their topic. As a Title 1 school, Venture Academy is not blessed with great funding.  The computers in the school are so ancient, dinosaurs probably used them.  As such, online resources are not only, generally, not used, they are not even understood.  No effort is made to discover these tools and to exploit them. I fear a valuable resource and educational tool is going untapped.

     Generally finding material wasn’t so difficult.  Finding age appropriate material, well, that was slightly more difficult.  World Cultures is quite the weighty topic for Kindergarteners, and as such, resources around this topic are generally geared toward 7 and up.  However, especially with the online resources, these can be easily adapted to younger age groups.  Also, there are no journals that are directed toward children and as such, I chose to place magazine in that category. 

04 April 2011

Why Group Projects Don't Work

First off, this is a totally biased post, simply because I absolutely hate group projects.  Why you may wonder?  Because in 32 years of life, I have only had one group project that was put together so that everyone had an equal distribution of work.

Let's face it.  When a teacher or a professor gives out a group project, how does it usually go?  You get a topic, some basic instructions, and then you have to figure out how to distribute the work amongst the group.  What inevitably happens?  One or a few of the group does all the work, one or two don't do anything.  Then you get a "group" grade regardless of the quality of individual work or individual effort.  A group project, as it is normally put together, simply is not fair.  It is not graded on how well you all worked together or how well you were able to assign certain tasks, simply the end product, which is normally done by a small portion of the group.

The one that worked--it still sucked, but at least everyone had something specific they were suppose to do, assigned by the professor NOT each group member.  We were to each review two books and together help those reviews to be ready to send to a review board.  Why it still sucked? Because everyone had different ideas of what makes a review good and none of them turned out to be what the professor thought.  Why it worked? The teacher assigned specific parts for each group member, and although we received a group grade, we also received individual grades on our parts.

I understand the premise behind group projects--its suppose to teach us how to work together.  But let's face it, it's not working.  I don't care what grade you are in.  You have the ones that do all the work because they don't want to get a bad grade, you have the ones that don't care and so let everyone else do the work, you have the ones that sit back because they have no idea what to do, and so on and so on.  So please!!!! Teachers and professors, if you are going to insist on group projects, you have to have ones that are clearly defined.  Ones in which rules and guidelines are clearly and completely spelled out, where each person has a particular task to complete, and it is their job to get that section done--if they don't, they pay the consequences, not the group.  Of course, that can cause problems, since if they choose not to do their part, the project is actually incomplete.  Oh what a quandary!!  Solution--cut it out with the stupid group projects!! I've never met a single person who actually enjoys them.

Now, if there are those out there who do enjoy them, could you let me in on the secret? Why do you like group projects? Or do you totally agree? Why do you hate them then?