Friday, March 30, 2012

Annotated Bibliography

Without any context whatsoever, here are the articles I chose to read.

Storts-Brinks, Karyn. "Censorship Online: One School Librarian's Journey To Provide Access To LGBT Resources." Knowledge Quest 39.1 (2010): 22-28. OmniFile Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson). Web. 29 Mar. 2012.
Kar Karyn Storts-Brinks, a School Librarian in the Knox County, Tennessee school district, recounts her battle against CIPA-mandated filters that restricted student access to information. Storts-Brinks battle eventually required an ACLU backed lawsuit against the Knox County, Tennessee school district, where it was found the district was limiting access to LGBT and pro gay marriage information while allowing access to sites that provided anti-gay information.

Willard, Nancy. "Teach Them To Swim." Knowledge Quest 39.1 (2010): 54-61. OmniFile Full Text Select (H.W. Wilson). Web. 29 Mar. 2012
THe world of infomation has changed drastically with the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies, but those who are administering access are using fear-based tactics that fail to recognize the unique environment of a school, which must balance safety with authentic learning experiences. Willard equates Web 2.0 policies with a swimming pool, they should be "as safe as possible, while recognizing that there will always be risks and ensuring that students have the ability to effectively learn how to 'swim'." Willard provides several tips on how to structure school libraries to better exemplify ways that schools can safely incorporate new technologies.

On an unrelated note, it's good to know how to read HTML, because Google Docs decided it wanted to indent -40 pixels and randomly change font sizes.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Intellectually Free

I always have this idea that I'll post before Thursday night, but then I don't. No really good reasons, other than life being ridiculously busy right now. Can I take a second to say that the weather is a filthy tease and has ruined my mood this week? Anyway...this week we're talking about intellectual freedom, copyright issues, and all the loveliness that is our new world of information.

It's a sticky issue trying to balance the needs of students, teachers, administrators, and local and federal governmental regulations. As librarians, we should be tied to the ethical standards of the ALA, which dictate that a librarian's job is to provide eqitable access to materials. As teachers within our current education system, we are bound by laws and regulations that limit access to protect students before they have learned to protect themselves. Where do we even start?

Helen R. Adams, in Intellectual Freedom: Leadership to Preserve Minors' Rights in School Library Media Programs, outlines the important factors that school librarians need to pay attention to to effectively manage protect students' rights:

Have a Selection Policy

Have a selection policy that is approved by administrators and the school board. I see this as CYA, but also it provides you with a plan if you are challenged. The selection policy outlines the schools mission, their goals, how they select material, and how to handle complaints. By outlining our

Handle Challenges

Know how you'll handle challenges to books in your library. This should also be in the selection policy, as a natural byproduct of selecting materials you will need to know how to handle the situation if someone objects to what you pick. The selection policy will show them why something was selected for the library, if that's not enough, then you can take them to a challenge. Challenges are tricky, they should  have a set method, and a set review board. The review should be done with bipartisan forces, preferably ones that don't have a vested interest in the library. Sometimes all a parent wants to do is complain, in which case you should listen to them in their entirety. When they're done, explain your policy, ask them if they want to go any further.

Fight for Access

Ensure access to online resources. This is the hardest part, with the passage of the Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA), "which requires schools and libraries that receive specified federal funds to use filters to block visual depictions of child pornography, obscenity, and material 'harmful to children'." It's crazy that this act, passed in 2000, is still dictating how we interact online. The librarian of course has to abide by it, but they can encourage less restrictive filtering.
When I was student teaching previously, the students were doing a report on WWI technologies, but they couldn't access any website because it was deemed violent. As a librarian, you can help encourage less restrictive filters, fight for overrides, and help identify websites that shouldn't be blocked.

Protect Privacy

I've always taken privacy seriously, because building a relationship of trust means that you don't go blabbing someone's business around. But it also means you protect your students information, such as their check out history, their personal details, and you don't share that with other students, faculty, or administrators. This is especially important in sensitive matters. For example, what if a student is struggling with their sexuality and they check out a book to read to help them better understand what they're going through. If you wantonly share this information, or talk about their book loudly, or share their book selection with their parents, they are less likely to come to your library in the future. Students should feel comfortable enough that they can explore things without fear of retribution or punishment. If you've selected materials properly, than anything they can find in the library will be acceptable for them to check out.

Be an Advocate and Leader

It goes back to everything we've talked about previously. Be an advocate for the library, but also for protecting the intellectual freedom of the school. If you create a program that exemplifies intellectual freedom and open access to information, then hopefully others will follow. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Who are our peers?

Imagine from
Isn't that the cutest little school house ever? It reminds me of the really old schools that were built around the time of the Depression (when public schooling really picked up). Old schools have rich histories, but they're old, which means there are some really great things, and some not so great things. The library we visited on Friday was a major change from what we might expect in a "modern" library. For example, there are large windows covering the entire wall, big window panes bring in lots of light (and I'm sure ruin heating and cooling bills, sorry, my family is full of contractors). It's long and narrow, but you can see most of it from the door. There is a back corner that you have to walk around to see, which I'm sure would be more of a concern if this were a middle or high school. The lesson we watched was one of those times when you know they're teaching because they have been assigned to, but they haven't necessarily had the time to collaborate or make a really effective lesson. I spent most of the time helping one student in particular, she was clearly capable of using the laptop, but wouldn't focus unless you were there prodding her along. It was fun to be at an elementary school for a bit, but further engrained in me the value of flexible scheduling.

Our discussion focused on MAME and who comprises our professional network (our peers) in the world of school libraries. For the sake of being on a public blog, I'm just going to say we had a very frank discussion about how we felt. I agree that our peers are those in our class, the newer wave of school librarians who, I think, are riding the tide of education reform and the AASL standards for 21st century learners. People of my generation and just a bit younger are frustrated with the state of the world, and with the state of education. I've had countless conversations with friends from high school who have worried about sending their kids to public schools because educational standards are just not cutting it. My own personal feelings reflect this as well, we are not providing the kind of education our students need! This is why I'm in the field of education though, because we can make it better. What we can't do is jump the gun and expect it all to be fixed overnight.

So, let me be honest, I think conferences as they were are dying, and they should. They should give way to a richer learning experience, with workshops and hands-on. The educational experiences we want for our students should be what we have for ourselves. Yes, MAME this time did incorporate that, but was that only because we (meaning Kristin) made sure that's what we had? I guess the bottom line is (for this argument and for education and the world in general) that the world is changing, we can either acknowledge that and do our best to work through it, or we can be like the man who turned his back on the Tsunami.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Purchasing power!

I meant to do this one before the MAME one, oops.

I missed 2/3rds of class on Friday (there was a district media specialists meeting). So I only got to see the part about purchasing technology. I've always been suspicious of smartboards, ever since my Junior year of high school (11 years ago, weird) and my Biotechnology class got one. We never really used it for anything other than getting online, and it was really nothing more than a projected image on a whiteboard.  When I was doing my student teaching, I was at a school where every room had a projector, a wired sound system, and a laptop computer for teachers to use. The difference between the two was that I could do so much more, and faster, on the second option. Also, I'm a fan of flexibility. A smartboard is stuck in one room, with one user, the others can be moved and changed to your heart's content and your classrooms' needs.

This takes me to thoughts on pricing and quality. I've always been told that you pay for what you get, so I'm ultimately suspicious when we go for the lowest priced computer or component, because we want to get more. Sure, we may get 30 computers, but who's to say they'll continue to work in the long run? Or will be compatible? Or will have the service to back them up? Ultimately, I think spending slightly more, for a brand-name or well-tested computer is a better long-term investment, especially for a school library where they're going to have the crap beaten out of them.

All in all, my thoughts on purchasing are "man this is hard". But, it's also necessary, so we need to constantly be keeping up with prices and technology change, for that day in April when the principal has $5,000 in their slush fund that needs to be spent.


I'm endlessly amused by myself, clearly.

Having taken the Videogames Learning and School Design class with Barry Fishman, I really enjoyed this refresher on how to more gamefully approach learning. Something that has always resonated with me since that class was the idea that the difference between the South Korean education model and the US education model is motivation. So, the main gist of why we should gamify our learning system is because it helps to build this inherent motivation.

I look at my own personal experiences with gaming. When I was an unconventional Junior in my undergrad (meaning I was 23 at the time), I made the mistake of buying an Xbox and Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. Mistake because I spent more time playing the game than doing my homework (hence my C+ in Utah History), but it's a perfect example of how motivated I was to play this game. It wasn't just because it was fun. It was because every time I played something new happened. And once I "won" the game, I could go back and play again, this time completing the missions with 100% success (meaning I couldn't be seen by anyone, so a lot of patience required). If my Utah History class had been more engrossing and exciting, maybe I would have been just as engrossed.

This also made me think of Jane McGonigal and how gaming can change the world. If we take that feeling of win we get in the gaming world and implement it into our everyday lives or problems. (I'll post her video at the bottom).

Next we moved to Scvngr, an augmented reality game (meaning it's a game based in the real world, with artificial challenges). I am very impressed with the idea of Scvngr, but I'm less impressed with the execution. For example, I created my own Trek, with challenges that needed to be completed in a linear fashion, but when I went to the application on someone's iPhone, it wasn't in the same order. Definitely something that needs to be worked out. 

Liz Kolb's presentation on cell phones blew my mind. Right now I"m working in a district whre they're very much encouraging "bring your own device" (byod) out of necessity. Having previously read Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology (which should be a required read for all prospective teachers), there is a time coming when we (as educators) are going to be forced to shift our ideas of technology and how it is used in education. So, instead of making it too hard on ourselves, we should start now with small steps, such as using cell phones within the classroom to facilitate polling (instant feedback/assessment!). Then you can move on. It's about deciding what is the appropriate level of technology to increase learning. 

Overall, the networking and professional nature of the MAME conference was interesting. To see who were are supposed to be working with in the future, and what the current level of understanding/knowledge is of professional practices in school libraries. A very worthwhile undertaking and well worth my Saturday (although I did follow up with a pedicure, it had been a long week).

As promised, Jane McGonigal 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I might digress...

Can I talk for a minute about funding? I was reading an article about a local school district who is trying to pass a bond to upgrade their facilities and technology. It's been 14 years since they've had any major changes. Computers are running on Windows XP (which doesn't support a lot of newer programs). Wireless is practically non-existent. Wired ports in classrooms only work part of the time. Detractors to the bond have been posting signs and talking to the local newspaper about the "sneaky" tax that the school district is trying to pass. Furthermore, the same detractors are supporting legislation at the state level that would make all special elections be done in November of even years only.

This means that if any budgetary need arises, they would have to wait to get it passed. Think about school districts. If they vote in November 2012, and it passes, the money could come through during the summer, so any changes wouldn't be able to be implemented until almost a year after the bond passes.

Worse, what if it doesn't pass? Then you have to wait another two years to try again, and really you'd be waiting at least 3 years until the money even made it to the classrooms.

If you had a middle school with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, they could go their entire middle school life without any upgrades.

It also muddles up elections, because if everything is being voted on in November, people are naturally going to start picking and choosing. I don't mind looking at one bond issue in May, another in November, but when you put them all together, that's a lot of money.

My solution? It's complicated. I for one think there is too much red tape in some places, but there's not enough red tape in other places . It all goes back to balance, you have to balance the needs of the community with the needs of the school, and the emerging technology needs of the students. But, while we're figuring out what we want to invest in our future leaders, our future leaders are passing through life without the tools and skills they need to actually succeed?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Professionally developed

My post titles are entirely for me, you realize this, I'm sure. For example, last week, the "I love technology" title was entirely because I wanted to sing this song inside my head for the whole week.

When I think Professional Development (PD), the first thing that comes to mind is a room of teachers, dozing off as a psychologist or superintendent drones on about the need to improve scores on reading grades, with no real clear direction in how to do that. Janice Gilmore-See starts out on the same thought train in Staff Development--Teacher-librarians as Leaders. Why is this what we see? Probably because, for far too long, this has been the case. Librarians can help lead the way by demonstrating a more effective way of doing PD and putting themselves as leaders in the field of learning needs.

One of the most difficult things I see is knowing how to identify PD needs, but after reading Conducting Effective Staff Development Workshops, I feel better prepared to tackle PD the next time around.  For example, the PD I taught a couple of weeks ago was part of an ongoing series on Google Apps. The school district recently decided to go with Google Education apps (out of necessity, their computer systems can no longer handle Microsoft Office, nor can their budgets). Teachers are eager to understand the new programs and how they can more effectively use them in their classrooms. What about schools where the needs aren't as apparent? How do you find a need, perhaps when the teachers don't even realize it's a need? You can do this by surveying staff, informally asking, observing, or speaking with school administrators. Daily interactions with co-workers and an objective eye can go a long way to helping identify where a need might be.

Getting teachers to come to your PD is a whole other story. In my case, the teachers had signed up for this at the beginning of the year, knowing they would be attending 3 sessions. Sometimes you might need to market your skills, with fliers, websites, email announcements, and getting other staff members to talk up your skills. Don't be surprised if you're giving workshops to practically empty rooms, it takes time to develop the relationship where teachers will take time off their busy schedule to learn from you.  Youth feels like a burden and an advantage. A burden because teachers might not trust you (I'm a lot closer to the age of their students than they may be), an advantage because the youth know their technologies (at least that's the assumption). Plan, promote, and be patient.

Once you get them to the PD, I see it very much like you were teaching a lesson to students, only the audience is taller (and sometimes more talkative). Do a pre-lesson assessment, have an agenda, let them know what your goals are, demonstrate, use guided practice, have plenty of time for them to work on their own, evaluate, and follow up.

Taking this to the next level, use the collaboration skills that we've talked about previously. This was demonstrated most effectively in  Teachers and Librarians Collaborate in Lesson Study by Linda Bilyou. Learning needs to be contextualized to be effective, PD is learning, so contextualize it! Help develop a unit of study, it will teaching new skills while also creating useful classroom materials.

One of my favorite ideas comes from the idea of a maker space. Give teachers a safe environment to test new things, no plan, no expectations. Tools to use, and someone there to help them if they want it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The appropriate output for the appropriate input

Class this week really got to my problems with the use of technology in education: are we using technology because it enhances the lesson, or are we using it because it's new. I especially get passionate when we talk about the fact that in the real world, those types of Glogster pages and crappy Powerpoints are acceptable. Sure, the business world accepts them now, when not everyone knows better and the person in charge is impressed that you even tried to begin with. I think this is why I always felt technologically savvier than most, because I knew how to find a missing file, or connect the laptop to the computer properly. But in an increasingly competitive world, our last-minute, minimal crap won't work.

Now, that being said, we can't reinvent the wheel overnight, and we can't change the face of educational technology by ourselves. But, are we going to stand back and approve of something when we know that the students (and the teachers for that matter) of capable of better? I say no, because I don't accept that as the future of the world that I want to live in.

So, how do we change, when there is clearly a line between who has the technology, who has the access, and those who have nothing at all? I certainly think that things such as Raspberry Pi are a step in the right direction. Sure, it's not a sexy computer, I mean it's little more than a motherboard with some input ports on it, but it's affordable for those schools and students who have nothing, having anything is a step in the right direction.
I also think that rethinking our understanding of how learning and technology should be integrated is key. It's not about developing specific skills, anyone can follow a list of directions, it's about developing an understanding of the content. Not what buttons to click, but why we should or shouldn't click those buttons. It's not about not copying and pasting because we'll get a bad score, but not copying and pasting because we're infringing on the intellectual property of someone else.

So, where do we go from here? I suggest educating yourself, then sharing your knowledge. It reminds me of the poem by Shel Silverstein Melinda Mae How do you eat a whale (influence and change how technology is taught)? One bite at a time (one person/class at a time). Hopefully it doesn't take 89 years, like it took Melinda Mae

Friday, March 9, 2012

Elevator Speechifying "Learning that Lasts"

The assignment: Create an elevator speech based on one of the essays in School Libraries: What's Now, What's Next, What's Yet to Come
The essay: Learning that Lasts by Jennifer Stanbro
The situation: A principal, who you've sent your resume to, bumps into you on the elevator at a local parking garage.
Principal: Oh, hey, I was just looking over your resume.
Me: Yes, I'm glad I attached a picture, that way you know me.
Principal Yes, that definitely makes it easier. It's serendipitous that I ran into you because I had a question that I'd like to ask in an informal interview environment.
Me: Awesome, go for it.
Principal: Well, I was looking over your experience and noticed that it's not necessarily in the teaching field, so I was wondering what you thought you could bring to our school.
Me: Well, I feel that learning doesn't necessarily happen only in a school environment. In fact, I fervently believe that learning should expand beyond those four walls and be within the students real lives and experiences. So, no I didn't necessarily work within a school environment, but I've worked with people and feel that learning can take place within whatever environment I'm in.
Principal: I definitely agree. How would you take those experiences and implement them within a classroom setting?
Me: Well, I would start by learning the culture of the school, how people work, how the students work with their teachers and the administration? What's important to parents, the surrounding community. I think that culture builds the person and we can't go in and expect students to learn if we don't understand that culture. I also think that it takes us being authentic within our environment. Being ourselves, but also being a leader and a thinker, someone that students and teachers can look up to. Yes, I may not have been a leader in a school, but within my jobs and work experience I have been a leader, setting standards, excelling at where I was (my mom always said, bloom where you are planted).
Principal: Well, this is my floor, I really appreciate the clarification you've given me, you'll be hearing from us soon.
Me: Thanks!

I love technology...

Seriously. I love technology. I love that I can be curled up all snuggly in Michigan (lovely wind blowing outside) and be talking with someone on the other side of the world. I love that I can write and finish a book using only Google Docs and chat features. I love that I can help students make videos that they can show to the entire school, in less than one hour! I love the feeling I get when someone I'm working with realizes that there is a much easier way to do things, which frees up their time and energy for something else they want/need to work on.
I haven't always loved technology. It was overwhelming when initially starting grad school. I'm in a program with computer scientists, human computer informatics, information architecture and retrieval, people who get excited about cody jqueries (whatever those are) and know what Perl is. I, on the other hand, who had always fancied myself quite the techie, felt totally out of the loop. I remember sitting in my first Networked Computing class, listening to the professor talk about Python (the coding language, not the Flying Circus, although they are related) and showing us what we would be working on. "What was I thinking?" the question that constantly runs through my head at grad school. I'm an impostor, surely they know I can't learn this stuff. If I, as a fairly techie grad student, feel this way. I wonder how the middle-aged, experienced teacher feels? Or the lower class student who might not have access to technology anywhere but school? Why are we so terrified or apprehensive about these technologies? They have supposedly been designed to make our lives easier, so why are they making it so complicated?
The answer is simple. We have been trying to use our outdated method of understanding the world, one that is based in solid, ascertainable facts that can be verified via a trusted book, where facts are somewhat outdated because we have to wait for the book to be published, and fact and opinions are easily distinguishable. Except, we don't live in that world anymore. We live in a 24-hour news cycle, internet accessible, mobile technology savvy, world where our old way of understanding the world just doesn't cut it anymore. It's time for an epistemological change. We need to change the way we understand the way information and technology works.
What does this have to do with our readings? Well, everything. We, as school librarians, have the bedrock of the AASL standards for 21st century learners, which is perfectly aligned with the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS), both of which aren't about specific technologies we use, it's about teaching students how to think and distinguish for themselves. That's the first step in changing our understanding, not limiting ourselves, because who knows what will come down the pipeline next.
The second step, as taken from Pride and Prejudice and Technology Leadership, is to realize that our jobs, as school librarians, is to act as the mediator, which is a tough position. We have to advocate new technologies, but also do what the school/teachers/administrators want. Our role requires constant innovation, but a light touch.
The final step, also taken from Pride and Prejudice and Technology Leadership (and from any other reading you do in Library school), is to keep learning! Keep growing, trying new things, demonstrating inquiry and curiosity to your teachers, students, administrators, and community. Sure, you might fail (no one can predict the future one hundred percent of the time. But if you don't try new things or take a risk occasionally, then you'll never be able to win.