National Geographic launches new community: “GeoEducators”

Image from National Geographic GeoEducators Community webpage As someone who really likes working with kids and knows how exciting and challenging it can be to present STEAM programs, I just found out about a great resource to share. If you’re someone who works with kids (librarian, educator, community center staff, etc.), or if you know someone who is, National Geographic has launched a new online community  – GeoEducators – to help you present awesome lessons/programs that make learning exciting.

Crowdsourcing is its key facet…connect with others, share ideas, and work together to create great programs.

GeoEducator homepage:

Sign up for GeoEducator updates:

You can join the GeoEducator Community, but understand that it requires an Edmodo account, which you can only get if you’re a parent, student, or teacher.* But even if you can’t go that route, you can find great K-12 Teaching Resources Here:

* I will be asking whether certified librarians are allowed to register.




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Coursera – high-quality online CE courses…and they’re FREE!

While serving on the Washington Library Association’s Marketing & Communication Committee, my task — because the subject is something I’m very passionate about — was writing articles in the WLA’s eConnections newsletter about continuing education opportunities for library staff and for library customers. I informed readers about very library-staff-specific resources like WebJunction and  Tech Soup for Libraries, to resources for staff as well as for staff to recommend to customers: Open Culture (“the best free cultural & educational media on the web”); Virtual University (information design instruction); and Udacity (where you can learn to build your own search engine – how cool is that?!?)

coursera tagline



As I mentioned it’s a passion, so I continue to be on the lookout for CE resources. I don’t recall exactly when, although I believe it was early last summer, I found another wonderful resources for those of us who never want to stop feeling that thrill that comes with learning/mastering something new: Coursera. In case your hyperlink isn’t working today, I’ll provide the website so that you can write it down: And I apologize for not writing about it sooner.

Taught by professors at top universities, the current offering of 633 MOOCs run the gamut from Arts & Education to Engineering & Computer Science. I’m currently enrolled in Massively Multivariable Open Online Calculus Course. At first glance it seems beyond my ken, since it’s been quite a while since I took linear algebra…but I’ve always wanted to master calculus, at least the basics, so well see how it goes 🙂 You don’t know if you don’t try! If I fail, I’ll know where I need to start from so that I can take it again.

In April I hope to begin Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life, then in June I’ll be exploring Internet History, Technology, and Security…what is the Internet? How was it created? How does it work? How do we secure communications on the Internet? (I should know by August 🙂 )

The Coursera courses are all free. However, for a fee you can follow the “Specialization” path, proving you’ve mastered the material of several courses on a single topic. Great for those of us who want to show potential employers we’re ready for challenges…and they probably look really cool framed. My ultimate goal is earning the Data Science specialization —- looking at all the specialization possibilities, what’s yours?



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“The Time Keeper” by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom's Time Keeper book coverMy friend Lola recommended reading Mitch Albom’s Time Keeper, and since she doesn’t usually say, “Hey, you’ve got to read this” about books, I listened. (Her last recommendation was John Saul’s “Second Child”, a nicely creepy tale.)

Because someone has already written a succinct and spot-on synopsis at, I will unashamedly quote them:

In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time. The inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.

The book does moves back and forth between the past and the present, as well as among the stories of the three different characters – Dor (aka “Father Time”), Sarah (a teen), and Victor (an octogenarian) — so just a head’s up if that device is a turn-off for you. At times I wanted to shake some sense into Sarah, and I usually thought Victor a jerk, but when an author makes me feel something about characters, I’m a happy reader.

It’s a quick read, and although not overtly Christian, “The Time Keeper” seemed like an allegory to explain Ecclesiastes 3. However, if you’re not religious, I don’t think you’d find this book off-puttingly preachy.


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For those of you who want to incorporate vitality to your social media with visual content – here are 55 free templates!

Lovely Birdy spray paint art

Spray paint art, “Lovely Birdy” by Jocey K. Retrieved from fotopedia on 3/26/14. See bottom of post for link about the piece.


We know we’re visual animals, and according to this August 2013 article from Inbound Marketing written by Pamela Vaughan:

And in social media? Visuals pretty much make or break your presence. In fact, photos on Facebook generate 53% more Likes, 104% more comments, and 84% more clickt-hroughs than the average post.

I certainly have several current projects going on: keeping up with this blog on a regular basis; learning American Sign Language*; building up my confidence as a budding polymer clay artist; and, most importantly, finding a full-time information professional position (yes, I accept cold calls from potential employers!), so even though I love learning new things, I wondered “do I really need to put something else on my to-do list?”

Then I realized that adding visual flair to my social media posts might garner more attention from those potential employers. Or maybe knowing how to use one of these tools will make a great interview talking point. If neither of those potentialities comes true, I’ll at least have taught myself how to use some heretofore unknown tools. Best of all, I can share these cool tool finds with others.

HubSpot’s above-mentioned article provides excellent sources, and a quick click on the link will get you everything you need to learn how to add high-quality visual panache to your social media sites.

The photo has nothing to do with the article – I just really liked the piece. To learn more about what inspired the artist, Jocey K:

* is a great free resource for learning ASL

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Explore Arduino!

Explore Arduino! My experience in creating a successful program series teaching hands-on physical computing to teens

Sparkfun Inventors Kit version 3.1

Last year I had the pleasure of serving as an Interim Teen Librarian. In addition to numerous school visit presentations covering Booktalks, discussing the library’s Teen Summer Reading Program, and helping to increase Information Literacy, one of my favorite projects was creating a four-part Arduino program series for teens.

When asked in June 2013 to create the Arduino Program series for an upcoming autumn teen program, I had never even heard the word. I had access to a Strategic Initiative proposal crafted by the prior teen librarian which I joined with hours of personal research. Result: I learned that Arduino is all about physical computing. Okay, since I have taken computer programming courses and like things technical, I understand how Arduino and the Arduino computing language work together. But how do I then take that knowledge and create a successful teen program about physical computing where they will have fun while learning a technical skill? That required asking the following questions:

  • what aspects should be explored?
  • what is the best way to communicate those aspects?
  • how do you create an effective & successful series & then measure outcome?

Upon collaborating with a computer programmer and a physical-computing lab manager, we discovered the best route would be Sparkfun’s Inventor’s Kits (SIK), a comprehensive kit with an excellent SIK Guide that steps users through 15 “circuits” (breadboards built with components like LEDs, potentiometers’, resistors, etc. + code). After successfully completing these circuits, user should have the basics for building almost any Arduino project found on the web: holiday light displays, lighted textiles, robotic drum kits, etc.

I discovered that teens liked the SIKs because of the incredible physicality offered: within the span of an afternoon, hands-on-work resulted in flashing lights, audible music, and customizable LCD screen displays. (Well, customizable within the span of 16 characters.) Consisting of a series of four separate sessions, the original time for a single session was planned to be about 1.25 hours (+ cleanup). However, the draw of the kits kept the teens riveted for two solid hours each session.

The unexpected and very exciting part of the whole series for me was how well the teens used the Integrated Developers Environment, which is the tool used to create/edit programming code: they were able to read, understand, and interact with the IDE well enough to craft personalized outcomes. For example, changing musical tones and making the LCD screen read, “Help, I’m in a box!” instead of the kit’s prescribed “Hello World” display. (In addition to the Sparkfun kits, computer access is required, as Arduino is a computer-based program.)

The most time-intensive part of this program is troubleshooting. When a circuit doesn’t work you must figure out if that LED is in backwards or if it’s just bad. Is the circuit complete, or is there a wire in a wrong spot? I like figuring out puzzles, so I found this part enjoyable.

On the last day when asked if four programs was enough, attendees gave alternate numbers of five, seven, and ‘ongoing’. Five of the teens who came to several programs were in the following week asking if the kits were available for drop-in sessions – that they liked it enough to seek it out afterwards was exceptionally gratifying.

The Sparkfun Arduino kits were definitely a successful way to approach this subject, and a program series that I think can be adopted by anyone interested…with one caveat: you need someone present who likes troubleshooting why things aren’t working.


Sparkfun’s Inventor’s Kit for Arduino v3.1:

Arduino official site:

 Note: I used SIK version 3.0; SIK version 3.1 includes an added mini screwdriver for securing the RedBoard to the baseplate and replaces the red breadboard with a white one. A fantastic replacement, as it was hard to read the numbers on the translucent red-colored board.


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Gramercy Tavern cookbook – elegant food in your own home

Gramercy Tavern cookbook coverThe Gramercy Tavern Cookbook by Michael Anthony

(Pub date Oct 29, 2013; ISBN 9780307888334.)

I routinely scour the “recently added” section on my local library website because I’m always on the lookout for new cookbook additions…when I saw “The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook”, of course I had to see what it was. Not living in New York and not being keen on traveling overmuch, I’ve never been there and don’t recall hearing about it, so I wasn’t sure quite what to expect – I just know that pub food is usually wonderful.

I just sat and paged through the book: thank you Michael Anthony! While I try not to attach the verb “love” to non-living things, I think I might very well be in love with this book. Its size and glorious photos present as a coffee table book, but page after page of recipes show up that are exciting, elegant, and eminently executable for the advanced home cook. Our household tries to eat Paleo and definitely gluten-free, and I’ve found many dishes that seem to fit into that lifestyle with only some tweaking…others need no tweaking at all because of how focused this book is on fresh vegetables and meat prepared to ensure you get their full flavor. The book is divided by season so you’re getting the proper recipes for what will be at your local farmer’s market or stand. The book is also replete with tips to improve your cooking skills. He even lets you in on how he chooses names for his dishes.

Like the spiky-haired chef Anne Burrell promises during her Food Network program, “You don’t have to be a restaurant chef to cook like one.” Yay! You do need more than basic cooking skills to stay away from being frustrated, in my opinion.

Items that I look forward to making:


Chicken soup with Spring Vegetables — yes, a chicken soup recipe – because the broth recipe, made from roasted chicken wings, ginger, and other aromatics, sounds heavenly

Pickled shallots and Pickled Rhubarb  — and Michael generously provide tips for the best flavorings for different vegetables/roots

Duo of Braised and Roasted Beef  — two times the beef in a dish? Happy dance.

Chocolate Pudding served with Salted Caramel Sauce and Caramelized Brioche Croutons — will have to forgo the croutons, but will definitely spend my bi-weekly sugary dessert allowance on this

Summer (there are several tomato & eggplant recipes, but I don’t do well with nightshade veggies – for those of you who aren’t nightshade intolerant, the dishes sound and look AMAZING)

Chilled Corn Soup – no, corn isn’t usually considered paleo-friendly, but this is something I would make as a treat

Marinated Arctic Char and Cucumber Broth — if you’ve ever had cucumber water, you know how good this is going to be

Lemon Verbena Granite with Blueberry Sorbet — he admits the dessert looks plain, but the flavors pop. I believe him and can’t wait for our verbena to start growing again


Mushroom Lasagna — another eat-only-a-few-times dish since it has dairy; will make with home made gluten-free pasta sheets, of course

Sea Scallops with Grapes and Verjus — so delicate and pretty-looking

Lobster with Fennel Sauce and Salsify — herbs, leeks, fennel flavor the cooking liquid. Yum.


Country Terrine — I always feel like I imagine eating in a Paris countryside would feel when I eat terrine at a restaurant…imagine making my own 🙂

Duck Confit — because I’ve always wanted to try it

Bacon Broth — really!?! How did I NOT know this existed? (I really need to read Theresa Gilliam’s “Bacon 24/7”  cookbook again)

If you want to see Gramercy Tavern’s current menu (the website is a lovely as their book):


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OverDrive is bringing you some fresh help

OverDrive is bringing you some fresh help. For those of you who use Overdrive for your eBook needs, check out the new help site.

As a Librarian, I will say that Overdrive Help is awesome – I’m always impressed by their timely responses to user queries.

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Two Paleo Books with Great Recipes

Nom Nom Paleo book cover PracticalPaleo

Whether you’re someone who is looking to reverse autoimmune disorder, wanting to lose weight, or wanting to see what the latest trend is in nutrition/diet, the Paleo diet is what people are following.

From all the different articles, blogs, and books I’ve perused, “Paleo” simply means eating unprocessed foods – no refined sugars, no dairy, no refined starches.  Instead, you eat animal proteins…and lots of them…vegetables, unrefined fats like olive oil and coconut oil (extra virgin coconut oil is a beautiful thing IMHO) and — in moderation — nuts and fruits.

I’m not a medical professional, so don’t take these reviews as promoting a lifestyle. Of course, even among the experts there seems to be disagreement.

Because I want to lose about 10 pounds and because I like meat — I’m so happy that grilling season is once again here! — I thought I’d give this way of eating a try. Turns out that it’s really agreeing with me. I was a sweet-tea-aholic, but so far I don’t feel deprived while keeping a 90% paleo diet (I like a certain brand of Mexican chocolate that contains sugar – I figure one triangle per day is okay).

The following two books have been great in providing meals that are delicious and keep you sated for hours. The bone broth (considered a superfood for its gut-healing abilities) in both books was great. Other than that recipe, the books are fairly different. One is geared more towards kid-friendly, the other is more exotic in its flavorings.

Practical Paleo cover Practical Paleo: a Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle is great because it gives alternatives if you need to stay away from nightshade items or FODMAP foods and also has pull-out sheets to take along to the grocery store. Diane Sanfillippo (BS, NC) provides a plethora of great information about healthy foods, what gluten really “is”, supportive nutrients for a variety of conditions, and she has made it easier to know what exactly to eat by crafting several different 30-day meal plans depending on your goal: Weight Loss, Heart Health,  Digestive Health, Neurological Health, etc. The Bone Broth was yummy, my homemade Probiotic Cabbage and Ginger Sauerkraut is lacto-fermenting as I type, and the Lemony Lamb Dolmas and Asian Orange Pan-Seared Scallops are on my “must-try” list. Diane’s website:

Nom Nom Paleo book coverNom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans, by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong, is wonderful in providing an Asian flavor profile to paleo foods. The Walnut Prawns are fantastic, as are the Quick-Pickled Carrot Strings, and I look forward to trying the Fiona’s Green Chicken, redolent with cilantro, mint, basil, and lime. I will admit that my husband liked the almond scones much more than I did, but no cookbook is ever going to hit 100%. The author gives a great prologue about her switch to Paleo (she decided to do so on a cruise – all that food!) and gives a great list of foundation recipes…and her cartoons are really cute. Michelle’s website — more great recipes:

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Get Free Training with Microsoft Virtual Academy

If you live in Washington state, chances are that your community library has a great resource if you want to learn how to use Microsoft Products (Windows, SharePoint, SQL Server, etc.): Microsoft IT Academy.

You can enroll in high-quality courses that will prepare you for certification exams…for free (as far as I understand the service, public libraries will offer the courses, but won’t be offering the certification testing.

If you just want to become more solid in your understanding of fundamental technology skills and aren’t interested in certification, that’s fine, too. With how much satisfaction I receive from taking on new technological challenges, I know that learning is its own reward.

To read more about the partnership between with Washington State Library and Microsoft:

I’ve also seen news that Hawaii also offers this service at public libraries.

To learn more about Microsoft IT Academy:


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Great Tutorial on how to embellish with liquid clay + Ranger alcohol ink

Because I’m an Information Professional, I appreciate when someone creates a high-quality user instruction tutorial, whatever the topic. If it can show me how to do something, I will store it away in memory and [hopefully remember to] bring it out when someone has need of it.

I’m a new polymer clay artist, and so I really appreciate this great tutorial that shows a simple method for achieving a really cool effect. Google Translate* can help you if you want the instructions translated into English, but Nathalie’s pictures are enough for understanding the steps. The best thing about this tutorial? If you click on a picture in the tutorial, you’ll get an enlarged photo so that you can really see what’s going on. Priceless for newbies like me who really need to see what’s happening :-)!

Silver Dot Pendant

* Keep in mind that the GT clipboard isn’t very large – if you copy to much at one go, it won’t be able to translate the passage.

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