vlogs: DollFaceBarbie

I know very little about video blogs (vlogs) and I want this to change. The only vlogger I have spent time with is DollFaceBarbieTM, a 23 year old androgynous model from L.A. who is the “first gay Barbie on the internet” (naturally I heard about him from a student via Facebook). Only the vlogging medium can do justice to what DollFaceBarbie presents to the world. How else could subscribers see his baby hair techniques (264,810 views) and hear the twangy cadence of his voice? No audio on blogs, no visual on podcasts. (Some vloggers who also write embed videos into blogs; others, like DollFaceBarbie, prefer creating a YouTube channel.)

DollFaceBarbie has 34,679 subscribers–pretty good for a “niche market.” One of my favorite posts is “Being Gay……My Story/Advice,” (fast-forward a bit if you don’t want a fashion rundown first) (95,373 views).

Please, readers, if you know of any other phenomenal vloggers, please share. I would love to use vlogs in a new media class to discuss online self-representation, self-publishing, and ethics (for instance, the ethics of the “haul video” phenomenon).

barbieboy vlog link

How can school librarians use RSS feeds?

To give teachers free, full-text access to their favorite professional journals.

Through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, MA residents have free (and password-free) access to a wide variety of Gale databases.* I recently went to the Gale Academic Search Premier database > Browse Publications page, and found that this database carries the full text of School Library Journal, Booklist, and Library Journal. From each journal’s page, I got a RSS Feed URL that sends all full text articles from this professional journal to my feed reader. Now I don’t need a subscription, nor do I have to remember to visit a library to browse these journals. Beautiful! (and props to Amy Short, who taught me how to do this)

This could be a fabulous in-service training that a librarian could do with teachers in each subject area. Librarians would simply need to find out first which professional (and/or student-interest) journals are available through Gale for each subject area.

*If your computer is within MA state borders, go to the Mass Libraries website and press the “search” button under the heading “Search Our Library Resources.” This brings you to the Gale Power Search. To switch databases, click on “Change Databases” at the top left of the page.

How can school librarians use blogs? For polling.

I want to explore using a blog as a polling tool: to gather information from students and teachers about reading, research, and new media–what they read/use, why they like it, and what they would recommend to others. I would write a weekly question, such as What’s the best book you’ve read recently? What website(s) do you visit to get your news? What’s your favorite mobile app? Fun, simple weekly polls can be used to create/deepen relationships amongst students and adults at school, and the data from responses can be used for collection development and instructional ideas. Blogs would keep all of the responses organized in one spot and easily browsable for all visitors to the site. The polls would be categorized and archived.

What’s the best platform for polling? Undecided.

Using a library Facebook page would be easiest, because in my experience, most students and teachers already have Facebook accounts, and this means they could simply “like” my page and get my poll questions that way. They wouldn’t need to navigate to a separate website or blog to post (though this could mean increased traffic to my library site). Unfortunately, Facebook is blocked on Boston Public School computers, so they would have to participate outside of school time (or “illegally” via their smartphones). Twitter polls are a possibility too, though, like Facebook, comments are unmoderated. (With Facebook, comments can be removed. With Twitter, they can only be blocked as spam, and then the user is blocked forever . . .?)

For whole school participation, a blog would work better than a free PollEverywhere account, which limits its polls to 30 respondents (However, Poll Everywhere allows for anonymous comments, which means that sensitive or confidential questions can be asked. Anonymity is not possible on blogs, Facebook, or Twitter, unless people create an anonymous profile.)

Blogs that allow video comments are helpful for students who have writing disabilities or express themselves more effectively through speaking (Edublogs allows video comments in its Pro package; WordPress does not offer this feature).

Should educational blogs have moderated comments?

Yes: because comments should not be off-topic, inappropriate, offensive, hateful, or profanity-ridden. However, this means the blog administrator is required to monitor all comments frequently, or else risk not approving and posting the appropriate comments and thus stifling/slowing down the conversation.

No: because students need to learn how to write and publish responsibly for a wide, authentic, online audience. A school culture should be created in which off-topic, inappropriate, offensive, hateful, or profanity-ridden comments are not accepted by peers and the offensive poster is seen as ridiculous (and thus naturally “shamed” into changing his/her behavior). In this case, inappropriate comments can be deleted by a blog administrator as they come up.

Weeding gems: the 300s

capitalism vs socialism
communes usa

yes, those are toothbrushes.

testing Gale database link

gale academic one file icon Click here to search this database. . .no password needed (within MA).

Perfect Chemistry: my first teen romance

Perfect Chemistry
Simone Elkeles, 2009

Synopsis: Senior year has begun. Brittany is a seemingly perfect, white cheerleader from an upper class neighborhood in the North Side of Chicago. Alex Fuentes is a hot, tattooed mexicano gang member from the South Side who is assigned to be Brittany’s partner in chemistry class. Fuentes accepts a bet that he can have sex with Brittany by Thanksgiving, but they end up falling in love. Alex learns that Brittany’s life is not as perfect as it seems, and Brittany tries to get Alex out of the Bloods and into college.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it is full of stereotypes. The main plot arc sees Brittany “saving” Alex–a tired trope that makes me queasy (The white chemistry teacher is also a major inspiration for Alex, as in the movie Dangerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer). Also, the white girl’s struggles seem to pale in comparison to the latino boy’s, and aren’t given nearly as much detail as the plot unfolds. Brittany’s secrets have to do with an overly-anxious mother and a sister with cerebral palsy, whereas Alex’s sectrets have to do with keeping up his gang status, keeping his younger brothers from entering the Bloods, and mourning the death of his father. Alex’s family is portrayed in the typical way, particularly during a wedding scene–their poverty can’t stop them from being close-knit and happy. The minor latino/a characters and the Spanish phrases peppered throughout the text seem awkward and unnatural. The epilogue is syrupy sweet and unrealistic. Are stereotypical character portrayals and trite happy endings just par for the course in any romance novel?

Yet, the main characters are also likeable. Elkeles does a nice job of getting underneath the “fronts” each character obsessively presents to the world: Brittany must date the football captain, get all “A”s, and wear just the right designer clothes, and Alex must put on a tough, machismo exterior that keeps people away and makes it appear that he does not care about school. So the stereotypes do begin to dissolve a bit as the plot deepens. And the falling in love of Alex and Brittany is gradual, spirited, playful, and fun to read. The sex scenes are somewhat realistic and tastefully written.

This book enjoys major circulation amongst students of color–including many boys–at Brighton High School. This may have a lot to do with the alternating chapter format–Brittney and Alex each narrate 50% of the book. Since a readable romance novel that appeals to both sexes in an urban school is very rare, I’d give it a thumbs up.