Tuesday, 23 June 2015

To cite or not to cite... there is no question

Citation Styles

No, I'm not talking about the format of your parking ticket.

If you've written a research paper for a class (see this series of blog posts on how to make it more palatable--even, dare I say it, fun) then you know you have to include acknowledgements of the resources you used when formulating your arguments.  These are called citations and there are several ways to note them.

The thing is, I have never heard a student jump up, click their heels and yell, "Yay!  I'm writing my bibliography; I love figuring out where all those commas go.  I just love punctuation!" (if you are a student who has done this, please send a video and I will feature you!)

Even though many of us consider this an onerous step in the research process, it's important.  It's good practice.  Oh, wait... IT'S THE LAW!

So, I am going to do the mom-thing and tell you the "why" (as an instructor/teacher/parent I like to have an answer for this question in everything.  If I can't explain or defend the purpose of a requested action, then maybe I need to rethink the necessity).

In no particular order:

Do you know how annoying it is when a friend repeats your best joke to someone else and they all think your friend is awesome?  Even though it was your joke in the first place?  Well, that's the same thing as using ideas or information from a resource without giving credit to who said it first.  You can take credit for gathering and using the brilliant idea but not for the idea itself.
     The official term for this kind of thing is: "intellectual property" and not respecting it is an offense which can result in jail time or, more likely, a substantial fine in the real world and can get you a failing grade, failed course, or even failed college career in school. Another word about disregarding the rights of intellectual property is "plagiarism".  Easy and advisable to avoid.

Have you ever played the game Telephone? The more people the message has filtered through adds to the hilarity of the final outcome. [As an aside, there is a drawing version of this and it is also hilariously fun] But how do you know where it went wrong?  Was there one drastic turning point or a gradual series of misunderstandings? This is where recording all the resources you used in developing your paper is important.  Just like Hansel and Gretel needed breadcrumbs to find their way back home, readers and teachers need to be able to follow your information to make sure it's accurate.  Things can be taken out of context or a different meaning might be assigned to a particular phrase, citing your resources is a way to ensure accuracy.

What makes a scientific hypothesis into a theory into a law? The simplified version is that the results can and have been repeated over and over again with little to no variation of the outcome. If you drop a ball, it falls down.  If you drop it from a greater height, it does the same thing. If you drop it from a lesser height or throw it up first, it will always fall downward and end up in the same place.  So if you and three other people can follow the same path of resources and come up with the same conclusion, you know you're on to something that is reliable and firm.

As I mentioned before, there are several standardized style formats and most institutions and/or teachers have their preferences.  Rather than trying to detail each of these right now, I'll leave it to the experts and offer you some good resource sites to take a look at:

I have no connection whatsoever with this university but I came across their writing lab resource and it is fantastic! The kind of place that makes this type of resource available for everyone is one I would love to work with if I had the chance.
Purdue OWL

Again, this is another one I stumbled across but is very helpful.  You pick your citation style, plug in the information and it gives you the formatted citation.
Citation Machine

These are both free resources, if you have any others to share or if you use one that you have purchased, please feel free to share that information!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Chocolate peanut butter cookies

I am a big fan of peanut butter.  I also like chocolate (dark chocolate is my favorite).  And Reese's peanut butter cups are one of my favorite candies along with Reece's Pieces.  So, when I had a craving for cookies and I wasn't sure if I wanted chocolate or peanut butter, I decided I didn't have to choose and did both!

I took two basic recipes, made them separately and just put them together to bake.  Voila, easy chocolate peanut butter cookies! The two recipes are Chocolate Crinkles and classic Peanut Butter Cookies.

Now, as you can see from the pictures, I am not a consummate food/recipe blogger but you get the picture.  I am also not much of a perfectionist when it comes to my baked goods--they taste just as good funny-looking as not.

I offer pictures of this process, only to encourage those who may be hesitant to try something new not as an example of awesome process blogging.  You don't need to have a "Pinterest-worthy" final product to explore your own creativity and have a good time!

This is where I patted the outer layer of chocolate into vague rectangles.  I had to make them wide enough to wrap around the peanut butter dough that was going to go down the center.

After adding the peanut butter log (crazy play-dough fun) and wrapping the chocolate around like a sweet burrito (you can see I didn't do it quite wide enough since it's not completely encased), then I sliced the dough log.

Here they are all done; they spread quite a bit but tasted great!
I encourage you to try something new and have some fun! Make this into a family project and enjoy the messy process together.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Book Review--Listful Thinking

Confessions of a scatter-brain!

In some circles (not my family) I have the reputation of being organized and on top of things. Whether or not it is completely true is irrelevant, the important thing to know is that it's not natural.

Not that it's unnatural as in bad, just that there are habits I have adopted to help me keep track of important things in life.  I will admit it is often something of a cycle, where I'll be on top of things for quite awhile and then something throws me off my stride and I scramble a bit until I get back to place where I can regroup.  But since I have found techniques that work for me, it's relatively easy to get myself back into the swing of things.

That's what this book can help with.  Listful Thinking by Paula Rizzo explores one of the more powerful tools of organization: lists.  There are dozens of types and styles of lists that you can make and she explores varying formats from notebooks to Post-Its to computer programs.  Understanding the importance of making a list, learning the types that work for your lifestyle and refining how you use them are all addressed in this short, non-threatening book about organizing your life.

Rizzo doesn't urge you to start out by completely overhauling the way you do things or making fundamental changes to your personality; she emphasizes the strengths of each kind of list and introduces ways for you to start using them to streamline your tasks and schedule. She also gives you permission to try and discard the different methods to find one that works for you.  Interspersed throughout the informational narrative are tidbits about famous/successful list-makers as well as reports on studies about memory and the human tendency to want to finish a task.

From sticky notes to digital interfaces, Rizzo offers lots of options and encouragement to find a productive system that works for you to get yourself thinking listfully.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Encouraging Audiobooks

Audiobook Appreciation Month!

If you haven't discovered the joy of listening to a book, you are missing out!

Ever get irritated with ads on the radio having to search out stations on a trip?  Listen to a book on CD and you don't have to worry about it!

Enjoy bits of a story during your work commute.

Entertain yourself while doing housework.

Don't restrict your view of "reading" to just 15 minutes a night before you go to bed.

OK, lecture over (kind of).

So, I have the distinct pleasure of being one of the reference librarians in charge of the displays at the Alamogordo Public Library.  We have been having a good time putting together some collection focal points.  Since I can't be in the classroom right now, I try to consider some of these displays my "one-shot" educational stops.

This  month is Audiobook Appreciation month and we wanted to spread the word about the awesomeness of "talking books". But how in the world were we going to be able to do that?

Audiobooks come in different formats; CDs, MP3 disks, digital downloads and Playaways.

My brain child was to make a giant Playaway and headphones to display. So it would look like a giant-sized version of this:
A Playaway is a self-contained book; essentially a simple MP3 player with just the book loaded on it.  Easy to use and lighweight! 

The Playaway itself was easy; just cut a Xerox paper box at an angle and glue on the lid; paint it and add printed-out buttons and a book cover.

The thing that gave me the most difficulty was constructing giant headphones.  I checked Google and Pinterest and couldn't find anything so I struck out on my own.  I ended up using Styrofoam plates and bowls, crepe paper, bendable steel wire and felt.  Plus a lot of glue! So, here is my series of steps for making giant headphones to go with our big Playaway.

Here are most of the supplies; not pictured is the paint and craft glue and felt. I used two big plates, one small plate and a bowl for each side of the headphones.

Here I'm poking holes for the speaker portion of the headphones and painting the pieces. After they were dry, I glued a small hole-poked plate to the inside of a large plate for each side.

For the cushioned area, I glued strips of crepe paper together and then glued them to the perimeter of the plate.

I made a wire frame for the over-the-head part and wrapped it with felt. Then I glued it between the two large plates. and flipped the rest of the crepe paper over the edges and glued on the bowl.

I found an old, defunct set of earbuds and cut the wire free to glue to the headphones to lead to the Playaway.
Voila!  Giant headphones and a Playaway to encourage audiobook listening/reading. Give it a try!
Here I am showing you the size :)