Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finding the laws that govern us

Here is a snippet of a recent announcement from Google:

Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text
legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme
courts using Google Scholar. You can
find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned
Parenthood v. Casey
), or by topics (like desegregation)
or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar,
click on the "Legal opinions and journals" radio button, and try the query separate
but equal
. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many
of us in the U.S. such as Plessy
v. Ferguson
and Brown v.
Board of Education
, which explore the acceptablity of "separate but equal"
facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But
your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less
familiar with, but which have played an important role.

This looks like a useful feature.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Wife Wrote a Book

This blog doesn't usually touch on my personal life, but I just wanted to brag about my wife a little bit. After a few years of hard work and prayer, her first book has been published! A Dress for Anna, the memoir of our first adoption has been published by CSS Publishing, and is available through Amazon, as well. Deb hopes that the book inspires many people to look into adopting a child, and that it would also be an encouragement to anyone currently facing difficulties in their own adoption journeys.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I'm Not Using Google Chrome

Google ChromeImage by Matrixizationized via Flickr

As readers of my blog may have noticed, I'm a heavy Google user. I use Google as my primary search engine, I use GoogleDocs, Blogger, Gmail, GoogleVoice, etc., and I eagerly await an invitation to try out Wave. When Google Chrome was released, I immediately downloaded it and started using it exclusively for awhile. I have noticed that I'm using it less every day, though, so I thought I'd take a look at my usage patterns to see if I could identify the source of my discontent.

The first, and probably most important, thing I noticed was that I rely on a large number of Firefox extensions: Delicious, FireShot, Zotero, ScribeFire, WebNotes, Zemanta, Twitter Bar....My Firefox browser has become my Personal Learning Environment (PLE). At this point, Chrome offers very little of this functionality, although that may change.

Secondly, although Chrome loads much faster than Firefox, and renders pages faster, there are pages that don't load properly. Also, even though each tab operates in its own environment, the whole thing does crash on me occasionally, contrary to Google's claims for Chrome--more so than Firefox. This really interrupts my work flow.

I will point out that Chrome does load quickly. I also like the layout--the way it makes good use of the entire window. I'm also sure that Google will be adding tools and functionality, and that developers will probably release Chrome versions of my favorite tools. For now, however, I'll stick with Firefox.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

WXIX on Libraries and Rally

Fox19 's take on the library budget and rallies: http://www.fox19.com/global/Category.asp?C=151146&clipId=&topVideoCatNo=15048&topVideoCatNoB=109491&topVideoCatNoC=104760&topVideoCatNoD=141804&topVideoCatNoE=142722&autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=3896795

Video on Importance of Libraries

Here is a nicely done video on the importance of libraries. The embed feature was not working, so here is a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG6CtH3V8Us

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Call for Transparency in Ohio

The Ohio coast of Lake Erie.Image via Wikipedia

Friday morning, libraries across Ohio prepared for another busy day as a new generation of library users discovered the benefit of free libraries in the middle of a down economy. By Friday evening, those same libraries were scrambling to alert these new patrons that the pot of gold they had just discovered was in danger of being ripped away.

Public libraries in Ohio have been dealing with budget cuts since 2001, so news of more cuts was hardly a surprise. Many libraries had drawn up plans to deal with this year's reductions, as well as anticipated cuts for next year. Apparently, however, institutions that were told to expect cuts of up to 20% were shocked to find out that they were being asked to shoulder an excessive 50% cut in state funding. Libraries were blindsided by a process that, in today's communication utopia, should no longer be the norm.

How many of us are aware of the workings of the state budget? As numbers get shuffled, twisted, added, erased and manipulated, we go about our lives blissfully unaware of the impact of each day's maneuverings. When the budget gets tight, we sometimes find ourselves facing a day like Friday--a day none of us could have anticipated.

It shouldn't be this way, though. There are tools available to the state and the citizens of this state that should allow us to keep tabs on the budget process. Our governor and our legislators should be providing us with budgetary information on an ongoing basis. We should be able, through feeds and updates, to keep up with the difficulties our government faces in funding agencies and local governments. We should be able to follow the financial status of the issues that move us, inspire us, or even make us fume. The budgeting process should be an open conversation with the citizens of Ohio.

This isn't about putting down programs that we disapprove of. It's about finding inefficiencies, duplications and gaps. It's about tapping into the knowledge and expertise of Ohio's population to create a budget that better meets the needs of our citizens. It's about avoiding the chaos, uncertainty and despair that comes from a day like Friday. It's about respect for the citizens of Ohio.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

While Stressing the Need to Modernize Ohio's Education System, Ted Strickland Reverts to an Old School Concept of Centralized Education

In a Columbus Metropolitan Speech given on Monday, May 4, 2009, governor Ted Strickland referred to the need to reform education for the "21st century economy." However, in laying out his plans, Mr. Strickland reverted to an old fashioned way of thinking of the school as "place."

As advances in communication have allowed for instant access to some information, education has expanded beyond the classroom. For Ohio's citizens (of all ages) to have a national and competitive advantage, they need access to a breadth of information sources anytime and anyplace. While the internet is an invaluable tool for society, the closest thing we have to a true information infrastructure is our library system.

Schools have a certain role in every society, but while we place all of our hopes in one institution, the cultures which outpace our educational system emphasize the value of learning which extends beyond the school walls and into the library.

Here are some of governor Strickland's statements from May's speech:

To prosper in Ohio, we must <>.
Because the best answer, in fact, the only answer to the question is this: to prosper in Ohio, we must educate. Educate to the very best of our abilities.

Apparently educating to the best of our abilities includes reducing free access to information.

My brothers and sisters, Ohio’s Revival cannot be fueled by low expectations. A better day will not begin with us doing more of the same.

We will still be relying on the old centralized school system model--without the safety net of publicly accessible information.

It is my firm conviction that in order to revive Ohio we must provide the best, most progressive, most advanced educational opportunities for our children, and demand of them nothing short of excellence.

Without, of course, giving them the tools they need to achieve excellence.

Our commitment runs from birth to diploma, from job training to jobs.

Not, however, from school to home, or from Spring to Fall.

For our youngest learners, we are committed to developing a system of high quality services that focus on comprehensive development. We have expanded access to quality early childhood education programs for families and strengthened professional development and training for early childhood professionals.

While limiting families' access to supplementary reading material which would encourage a love of learning that goes beyond the classroom.

For college students and their families, we put a stop to a decade of annual 9 percent tuition hikes, and implemented the only two-year tuition freeze in the nation.

Reducing the funds made available to college libraries for research and inquiry. Ensuring that students will have to dig deeper into their pockets to acquire books required for their classes.

For adults in need of new job skills, we’ve brought job-training programs into the Department of Development and the Board of Regents as part of an ongoing commitment to focus training on areas of high job growth and high employer demand.

We will refuse them, however, public access to the computer terminals necessary for the poorest of these to fill out employment applications.

I believe the time has come to take an education system that in many respects is 200 years old and redesign it for modern students and the modern economy.

We will do this by pushing more money into the old system and removing the safety net provided by libraries.

But, my friends, in the days and decades ahead, a strong Ohio will require creative minds and innovative thinkers.
Each year, R&D Magazine hands out its “R&D 100 Awards” in honor of what they consider to be the year’s 100 most significant American innovations and inventions. These are the Academy Awards of economic creativity.
This year, Ohioans won 10 awards – second most among the 50 states.
That’s the future of Ohio –powered by well-educated innovators.

Where, exactly, will these innovators go to do their patent searches when the public library cuts those services due to budget shortages?

The Cleveland Clinic has spun off two dozen medical technology companies this decade.
That’s the future of Ohio –powered by well-educated entrepreneurs.

They can easily access the databases, books, forms, records and expertise they need at the libr---oops! Never mind.

But our students will not be ready to invent, design, solve problems, and lead companies if we can’t muster the courage and the foresight to provide them a 21st century education.

What exactly is a 21st century education, since it apparently doesn't involve the best information we can provide?

In the last “Program for International Student Assessment” – which measures students’ ability to solve problems and apply information – the U.S. finished behind the likes of Finland, China, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and even tiny Liechtenstein.
And what do those countries have in common? In economic growth, all rank well ahead of the United States.

Well, let me tell you. Better yet, let's ask Finland's Ministry of Education:

"Finland is known for its comprehensive library network, high user and lending rates and effective use of technology and information networks in libraries.

Municipal libraries, research libraries, specialist libraries and libraries at educational institutions form part of the national and international information service network. Both municipal and research libraries are open to all. Students use public and research libraries side by side.

In Finland the guiding principle in public libraries is to offer free access to cultural and information sources for everyone irrespective of their place of residence and financial standing. No fee is charged for either borrowing or the use of library collections at the library.

About 80% of Finns are regular library users. Finns visit a library 11 times a year on average. Each year a Finn takes out 19 books, discs or magazines on average. The library net sites register over 38 million visits a year. "

And finally, Ohio will have a school funding system that relies on research and evidence to determine the components of a thorough and efficient education. And we are committing to fund those components thereby assuring all Ohio students, no matter where they live, will have the educational opportunities that will allow them to succeed in the 21st century.

Frankly, I can't understand how any situation that involves removing educational opportunities can be considered efficient.

People call this an education plan, but quite frankly, this is a plan for Ohio’s economic revival.
Because a student who graduates from our schools will have been asked to think and draw conclusions, to not just memorize facts, but use and apply them.

Where will this student find "facts?" Are we to find them only in textbooks? Those are always unbiased, right? You could review textbooks over a hundred years and see how "facts" change. Although, that will be difficult to do if the libraries are gone.

We are moving forward even though the tax reforms passed four years ago, which I have supported, will reduce the general revenue fund by more than $4 billion during the next biennial budget.

I'm not even sure how to respond to this one.

If we let this moment pass…we will not only have failed our state, we will not only have demonstrated timidity in the face of challenge, we will have sinned against our children.

I think that goes for those of us who see the values in libraries, as well.

Ohio's Libraries in Danger

An open letter to Ted Strickland and Ohio's lawmakers,

It has come to my attention that you plan to cut public library funding in Ohio by over 50%. That would be a mistake. To do so would cripple the state's economic recovery. Free public libraries represent society's last chance at educating and empowering our most desperate citizens. They provide free opportunities for families, workers, entrepreneurs, students, and small businesses to move forward and contribute to the community.

Families across Ohio are relying on public libraries to get them through these hard times. As budgets tighten, they are able to seek enlightenment and entertainment for free at their public libraries.

Boomers who have had steady employment for years find themselves out of work, and are told when they apply for new jobs to apply online. Many of these people have felt no need to own computers or to have internet access. When they tell potential employers of their predicament, they are inevitably told to use computers at the library.

People seeking to further their education are relying on the library for GED materials and study guides. Teachers who find themselves without school libraries due to previous cuts are relying on public libraries to provide books for their students.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are using library resources for market research, grants, business plans and loan information.

Please do not hamstring the state's recovery by cutting the its best remaining resource for parents, educators, jobseekers and small business owners. Please do not cut library funding.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

PLE in the Works

My wife has asked me to help her in the creation of a research skills class for the homeschool co-op we participate in. I accepted, but the challenge has reminded me of how much I do is on the spur of the moment or off the top of my head. I decided it would be in my best interests to create a formal Personal Learning Environment (PLE). I will try to document my efforts over the next few weeks. I have a few articles and documents I have collected over the last two years and I will try to make those available here, either through links or references.

The first thing I have done, however, is to make sure that my Firefox browser is equipped with the latest versions of Zotero, Scribefire, FireShot, and Delicious plugins. Zotero allows me to capture web pages and journal articles, as well as the accompanying bibliographic information. Scribefire allows me to create blog entries on the fly without actually signing into my blog account. FireShot is an excellent screen capture utility. I can easily bookmark and tag items of interest with my del.icio.us plugin.

Zotero allowed me to create a short bibliography and paste it to my clipboard so I could drop it into this blog entry on Scribefire like this:

Bentley, Nancy. Don't be a copycat! : write a great report without plagiarizing. Berkeley Heights NJ: Enslow Elementary, 2008.

Gelb, Michael. Innovate like Edison : the success system of America's greatest inventor. New York N.Y.: Dutton, 2007.

Hunt, Andy. Your research project : how to manage it. London ;;New York NY: Routledge, 2005.

Newport, Cal. How to become a straight-A student : the unconventional strategies real college students use to score high while studying less. 1st ed. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

Sertillanges, A. The intellectual life, its spirit, conditions, methods, Westminster Md.: Newman Press, 1948.

Hopefully, everything else will go as smoothly.