Ever After Box, four months in

photo of unboxed Ever After Happy Birthday Box

I subscribed to the Ever After Box in early January, having always been interested in the idea of subscription box, but in search of something that I would actually like every time.

Of course, if I had just googled “romance subscription box” I might have discovered it a little sooner. I might have even known it existed, but hadn’t decided to actually try it out until they announced their one-year anniversary box.

Because we all know what I really need is a regular source of books coming in every month.

But I tried out the first box, which included a couple books that I wouldn’t burn and some adorable little extras. There was a romance reading journal that I’d love to try out someday. Because I’m also good at maintaining journaling habits. (I’m not.)

photo of unboxed Ever After Happy Birthday Box
Image c/o Ever After Box

 

I still haven’t read any of those books, but I decided, hey I like it, I’ll just go ahead and get the three month subscription.

I skipped the March box, which was the shapeshifter box (and now I’m sort of regretting it because I have found a recent renewed interest in shifters), so in addition to the Happy Birthday box, I have also gotten the Fairy Tale box, the Librarians in Love box, and the Badass and Beautiful box, which I thought would involve more romances featuring superheroes, I’ll be honest.

But at least I got this cute little thing:

photo of Jess wearing a Wonder Woman bracelet
I might have put this on immediately after pulling it out of the box.

I like this box. I really do. Ever After Box, LLC is also run by women of color, which is another thing I really like about it. But the boxes don’t always reflect the company’s diversity, and three of the boxes have all included one book I currently own, with the fourth including one I’d already read.

But I really like this box and want to support my lady authors of color.

I guess I could just buy their books?

I have a while yet to continue being torn, until it really comes down to when I need to make a decision. The next box is one I was thinking of suspending anyway (Cowboys), so maybe I’ll do that and keep an eye out.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for an update on my reading life (and a million excuses for why I haven’t been writing as much!)

RDL Week 3 Part 2: Digital Literacy in “Digital Natives”

How do our evolving definitions of digital literacy change or remain the same as a result of our exposure to the varying thoughts offered about digital natives?

The concept of a digital native is interesting, but I’m glad it’s evolved over the past decade and a half. The idea of a “native” anything being completely fluent in something right out of the gate is kind of amusing if we look at it from any other point of view. In the United States, we can say that anyone born here or brought here as a young child is probably a native English speaker. Yet many of us don’t have a full grasp of the language until well into our teen years. I once substituted for a “Spanish for Native Speakers” class in the high school where I formerly worked, and these students had to really learn to read and write in a language they grew up speaking, without all the idioms and potential misuses of the language that happens in regional family vernacular.

With that in mind, my initial definition of digital literacy, “an ever changing consideration of sociocultural understanding regarding technologies and the uses of those technologies across an individual person or larger group’s life and experiences,” can probably still stand. In our various readings the idea of a Digital Native has not completely been debunked; it’s true that there are now multiple generations in which the use of technology and its outputs is nothing unfamiliar. But these digital natives are not automatically digitally literate, and they need to be aware that they are not. It can’t really be said better than Apostolos Koutropoulos summarizes at the end of “Digital Natives: Ten Years After”:

Learners don’t know what they don’t know, but if they come to the table from a position of superiority, like they are better than the so-called immigrants, they lose an opportunity to learn something that they don’t know that they don’t know, something that may be beneficial to them.

No matter what generation you were born in, the concept of digital literacy must remain the same. The definition that I produced at the beginning of this course supports the concept that digital literacy is fluid, depending on an individual’s circumstances and understanding—and that includes their age and socioeconomic status.

RDL Week 3: Leaving a Legacy

Our first assignment this week was to watch a TEDx by Alan November, a teacher from the Northeast:

We were then asked to consider the following questions:

What resources can we use to duplicate what November describes (e.g., transforming an existing space into a space that becomes a launching point for community-changing endeavors grounded in strong digital literacy skills)?

What are we (and can we) be doing to encourage our learners to use digital literacy skills in ways that “leave a legacy” (i.e., something that the learners can continue to own and share long after the formal learning opportunities conclude)?

What can we do in defining and fostering digital literacy to support work that has an identifiable purpose that is meaningful to our colleagues and our learners?

Let’s start with question 1: What resources can we use to transform existing spaces into a launching point for community-changing endeavors grounded in strong digital literacy skills?

In our case, the obvious answer is the library website. There are countless options for producing content that doesn’t take advanced skills, but that can also be linked to other spaces. This space is already available to our staff, but many are hesitant to use it beyond the simplest features. One-on-one and group learning opportunities, alongside the go-ahead to do what they want could probably go a long way towards bringing more of our staff to an advanced point of digital literacy.

One of the issues with formal learning as a whole is that it is done in limited space and time with limited staff. One thing that we try to do, but don’t always successfully complete, is having staff walk away with something complete that they learned how to create in that session. I can once again use the example of teaching staff to use the library website: when showing them content creation, is there time for them to make a list or review a book? If so, great! But if we’ve run out of time, that falls to the wayside. The best part of formal training and guided learning is the part where everyone in the room makes it through a search or a creation and walks away ready to do more. We need to be able to provide them with that part of the formal learning structure, even if it means taking out something in the guided, demo part of the instruction.

There are other ways we can ensure our learners “leave a legacy”, or feel they have purpose: make them the teachers. Give them projects that involve those digital literacy skills. Give them spaces that allow them to share and grow at the same time, and the time to learn and use them. Sure, we might have “train the trainer” models set in place for certain skills that need to be learned, but how often do we follow up on that learning?

As November says, peer exchange is really important. While it might be a little different with library staff than with sixth graders, the idea that people will give time to be sure their peers understand something is crucial. How do we foster this within my system, without it becoming yet again about who sits at the table alone vs. who has a mess of peers to consult? That’s a project to figure out right there. But one place to start is to be that peer, and to provide opportunities for those without more digitially literate peers to help them grow, whether synchronously or asynchronously.

In this course alone, the best thing to do is retain. Use what we have, and make it grow to the best of our abilities. Those of us working outside of the ecourses site already have spaces that can be used to exchange thoughts and ideas after this course is done; maybe we need a central space to continue the discussion.

There are a lot of great ideas that have come out. What do we do with them and how do we get them moving within the groups we’re most hoping to affect? Sadly, there are no one dollar barber shops in my future, but the web is open wide with possibilities.

RDL Week 1: Diving Into the Digital Literacy Pool

In my other life, I am a living, breathing librarian. I’m taking an ALA eCourse called Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users. Here is where I will post a few responses and other “extended learning” assignments over the next month.

~~~

A condition, not a threshold.

On this particular day of the year, one can’t help but think of Doug Belshaw’s consideration of cultural literacy as it comes to digital literacies. “May the Fourth be with you” is definitely a meme that some understand and some don’t. Are those people “digitally illiterate”? Of course not. But they are conditionally out of the know for a particularly large moment in time.

It had been a while since I looked at the American Library Association’s official definition of Digital Literacy: “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” On the other hand, Belshaw is more into the idea of digital literacies: plural, context dependent, and socially negotiated. These two ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive, as the former definition is more of a lofty pedagogy-style learning goal while the latter idea has more of a basis in action/reaction. Taking the idea that “those who will be most successful are those who embrace new ideas and adapt fluidly to new situations”, it’s good to think about how to get people to that openness, or at least thinking about finding it.

The most important thing to know is that digital literacies change over time. And we have to keep up with them, and change with them if necessary.

At my library, I am directly involved in developing an effective learning culture within the organization as well as building core technology competencies and the learning/training/staff development opportunities that go with those competencies. These things are all related, and can be supported by the ideas presented in this first week of digital literacy understanding. Belshaw’s concept of taking a person’s interests, and using them to guide their intrinsic motivation to become whatever version of digitally literate we consider to be the best one can definitely be utilized in those situations. But at the end of the day, our hope is that those interests are simply to learn more, as a learning organization, so that we can adapt as our customers do.

There’s lots to think upon here, including the vocabulary that can be used, definitions to latch to, and practices to consider taking up. As we move forward, I hope to come to a clearer understanding of how that might look for my library’s staff and our customers.  

RDL Week 2: What Others Have Developed

In my other life, I am a living, breathing librarian. I’m taking an ALA eCourse called Rethinking Digital Literacy to Serve Library Staff and Users. Here is where I will post a few responses and other “extended learning” assignments over the next month.

This week, we began by watching this video:

Upon finishing, we were asked to reflect on the following question:

What specific, identifiable digital skills and tools are they developing and using?

Here are a few that I can come up with after an initial viewing of the video and reflection:

Skills

  • web design
  • video design
  • wiki design
  • newspaper layout
  • broadcast recording
  • internet searching
  • web 2.0 media
  • social media

Tools

  • video conferencing
  • video recording
  • SMART boards
  • video design software
  • layout and publishing software and hardware

These are just initial reflections on one viewing. Do you see any others?

EDIT: I was looking through some work-related presentations and realized that there were key skills I neglected to mention, which are also part of digital literacy: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, project planning, creativity, curiosity, and initiative.

LWIMusic (Cause Reading Sucked)

Like really sucked. I had to read a book for a paid review that I wanted to murder by the time I finished it. Maybe not to the point of burning a book (I…might have done that once) but I spent the whole week trying to get through it, and then taking the bitterness and making it into real words. *Shrug*

I started a bunch of books the week before last and didn’t get through them, so maybe this week will involve a little of that (though I have another book to read for the same publication, so who knows). I just tried reading Speak Gigantular for the fourth time (and even then, I was only on the third story) and gave up. It’s going back to the library.

SO yeah, all kinds of book woes.

Instead, let’s talk about music!

I mean, this was one of my tweets last week:

We had our first rehearsal for March’s show last week, and the theme is Page to Stage. It’s gonna be hella fun, even if I’m not in most of the show (since I’m also rehearsing with two different choruses—the second was just because they’re doing Faure’s requiem and I can’t live if I know there’s a group performing it and I’m not in it).

So anyway, getting our music for that rehearsal spurred me to do a back-to-back watching of A Very Potter Musical and A Very Potter Sequel. It got too late to watch A Very Potter Senior Year. I love StarKid so much, even though (ahem) I had never watched either of these and still haven’t seen Senior Year. I’d heard plenty of the music, of course, since more than half of our cast is very big on HP.

Not familiar with this magic morsel of marvelousness? Here’s the opening number of the original:

 

(Turn on autoplay in youtube to watch the whole thing!)

Meanwhile, anytime I drive my husband’s car, I listen to the Broadway station on the preset page he made for me. They played one of Josh Groban’s songs from The Great Comet (AKA Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) and it was REALLY GOOD. I mean, I love Josh’s voice, but I remember his acting chops of long ago. Just from listening to this one song, I could tell they’ve improved. (Also, I’m really glad he’s not singing weird pseudo pop anymore.) I can’t wait to see the show.

 

Another thing I’ve been doing this week? Discovering deep cuts in my iTunes. It’s like meeting a friend for the first time. Like, I say I love Imelda May, and I have all of her albums, but I tend to mostly listen to Tribal. But “End of the World” from her first album came on while I had iTunes on shuffle, and I fell in love. I didn’t play it on repeat like I have been known to do, but…you know, there’s still time.

 

Other rediscoveries included David Bisbal’s “Digale,” which. Goddamn.

 

But, you know, I have 4,500 items in my iTunes library, so it’s no surprise there are things I might have only listened to once (like right now it’s playing “General Zod” from Man of Steel because hubs auto buys Zimmer soundtracks and I tend to steal them). I’ll do more to not skip things that I should know at least a little.

This is already getting long but there’s one more thing that happened this week: They announced two of the people cast in the live-action Lion King. I’m happy to hear they got James Earl Jones back, but the casting of both him and Childish (ugh, really) means something very significant: this is going to be more of the cartoon than the Broadway show. And that sucks a lot. Not that I don’t love the animated feature, but the musical is so much more grand, and lush, and…well. African.

Lebo M., an exile from South America, helped write some of The Lion King (the chants, mostly) and then became pretty much the man in charge of turning a relatively musically flat cartoon into a 2.5 hour stageplay. He extended “Circle of Life”, wrote some amazing chants and choral pieces, and helped Tim Rice and Friends work on the solo songs that bring depth to the characters and breadth to the story. Songs like “They Live/He Lives In You” and “Shadowlands” and (sobbing) “Endless Night.” (Keep in mind, the musical version was written after Apartheid was dismantled and all of that Zulu music is joyous AF.)  The Lion King is still running on Broadway (it opened in 1997) and has been on multiple national tours. So yeah, there are people who couldn’t get to New York who have been able to see it, but it still doesn’t have the reach that putting it to film could. The fact that neither of the announced actors has the singing chops necessary to do the additional music provided them in the stageplay indicates that Disney is not going that route.

/endrant

What have you been reading and listening to? I think I need to do another Romeo and Juliet adventure to clear my head before I try anything new.

LWIBooks: Eh. (February 14, 2017)

Last week wasn’t much of a book week for me. I mean, I read stuff, but I didn’t finish a lot. Combination of having a ton of things to do in the evenings and just being exhausted. But Nevertheless…

Yeah.

Books Completed

29496435Here We Are, by Kelly Jensen et al. This fabulous essay/art/poetry/etc collection was fantastic and everyone should read it. Everyone.

Joyride vol 1by Jackson Lanzing et al. Eh. I finished reading it. I don’t think I’m intrigued enough to keep up with it.

You Can’t Touch My Hair (And Other Things I Still Have to Explain), by Phoebe Robinson. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. Phoebe Robinson has that capability to toe the line between hilarious AF and Serious Shit magnificently. I listened to it, which is definitely the best way to consume this book, but I also have a paper ARC and I will cherish it for the rest of my days (if I loan it to you, you had better give it TF back).

The Perfect Play, by Jaci Burton. Goddamn. I finally finished this book, and made the mistake of reading the excerpt from the next one…and now I have to go spend a couple hundred dollars on all of the books in this series. It’s that good. Also, goddamn. They have so much sex. Take a couple breaks, folks.

Books Started

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. This book has been killing my soul and I can only consume it a bit at a time.

And yeah, that’s it.

I’ve got some *super secret book reading* to do this week, but maybe I’ll finish THUG and get something else on my TBR completed.

Still haven’t started Hidden Figures yet…