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EdTech Update





BFTP: Are good teachers also good librarians?

f your boss is seen as a librarian, she becomes a resource, not a limit. If you view the people you work with as coaches, and your job as a platform, it can transform what you do each day, starting right now. "My boss won't let me," doesn't deserve to be in your vocabulary. Seth Godin Moving Beyond Teachers and Bosses

Godin sees teachers as limiters, not enablers:

We train kids to deal with teachers in a certain way: Find out what they want, and do that, just barely, because there are other things to work on. Figure out how to say back exactly what they want to hear, with the least amount of effort, and you are a 'good student.'

He says we form the same relationship with our bosses when they act as teachers.


Do classroom teachers need to start performing more like librarians? I've thought so for a long time. Fifteen years ago, when the Internet was just starting to be used by students in our schools, I watched as some boys looked up information about the Ebola virus at the Center for Disease Control using a library computer. To me, the ramifications were astounding.

When those boys returned to their classroom, they were suddenly the content experts on this topic, not Ms Anderson, the teacher. If Ms Anderson had always viewed herself as the content expert and dispenser of that content, she was in for a rude awakening. 

But if she sees herself as a process, rather than content, expert, Ms Anderson still has a valuable place in the information age. When those boys came back from the library, she needed to be able to ask questions like: 

  • Where did you get your information?
  • How do you know if the information is reliable?
  • Is the information important for others to know?
  • If so, how will you communicate this information?
  • And how will you know you've done a good job?

The teacher is asking the same kinds of question, performing in the same kind of role as the librarian.

With an increasing number of students carrying Internet-connected devices, they don't even have to leave their seats to be "content experts." This shift from content to process expert is accelerating, not diminishing.

And librarians ought to be helping teachers make the transition. 

Good librarians have always also been good teachers. Are good teachers also good librarians?

Original post April 7, 2011


12 reasons why e-books are inevitable

Heathorn, RJ 1980 Learn with Book.In: Hills, Phillip J., ed. The Future of the Printed Word. Greenwood Press.
 "A new aid to rapid - almost magical - learning has made its appearance. Indications are that if it catches on all the electronic gadgets will be so much junk. The new device is known as Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge. The makers generally call it by its initials, BOOK.
Many advantages are claimed over the old-style learning and teaching aids on which most people are brought up nowadays. It has no wires, no electric circuit to break down, No connection is needed to an electricity power point. It is made entirely without mechanical parts to go wrong or need replacement …" via Stephen Krashen in e-mail to AASL Forum

The resisters are plentiful. Scattered research on comprehension is worrisome. Pricing and compatibility and copy protection are problematic. But the future of books, textbooks, and other educational resources is digital, especially in schools, and here are a dozen reasons why...

  1. E-books do not get lost or stolen or damaged.
  2. E-books can be updated, revised, corrected.
  3. E-books can be accessed at any time from any place.
  4. E-books do not require physical storage space or labor for shelving.
  5. E-books have assistive/adaptive features for readers including built-in dictionaries, text-to-speech, translations, font-size adjustments, etc.
  6. E-books do not stigmatize readers by having covers that may indicate reading abilities or tastes.
  7. E-books are transportable and always on hand if read on tablets, phones, and other devices that people seem to always have with them.
  8. E-books can be supplemented with multi-media resources like video and sound and animations that help illustrate and explain concepts.
  9. E-books and digital resources can be easily curated and linked to courses and lessons in learning management systems helping differentiate instruction.
  10. E-book highlights and notes can be easily created, found, and exported.
  11. E-book completion can be tracked, recorded and analyzed.
  12. E-books mean never running out of something to read.

I suspect when the automobile was introduced, horse lovers compiled a good number of reasons why these noisy, slow, unreliable, gas-dependent, road-dependent, and uncomfortable machines would never replace Ned and Nellie. History is on the side of e-books. Get over it.

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Overcoming the crab mentality in education

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, is a way of thinking best described by the phrase, "if I can't have it, neither can you." The metaphor refers to a bucket or pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress. Wikipedia

The topic of educators exhibiting "crabs in a bucket" syndrome was raised at a meeting the other day. Do teachers keep other teachers from shining out of "envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings" - or, I would add, the culture of a building, district, or profession?

Personally, I have rarely experienced this, but perhaps it is because the only teachers I get to know are the ones who don't allow the other teachers to keep them from achieving. These are the true district leaders - those who go above and beyond by directing activities with students or other staff members outside the classroom; those who serve on district leadership committees (in technology, especially); those who are unafraid to help their building administrators set goals, plan initiatives, and face criticism for wanting to move others outside their comfort zones. Those willing to speak to me, to speak out, on behalf of their students and fellow teachers. The crabs at the bottom of the bucket, I guess I just don't see very often since they are, well, at the bottom of the bucket, invisible.

Outside the district I also encounter very little crab mentality, not because it doesn't exist, but because those with whom I interact - the bloggers, the tweeters, the article writers, the conference speakers, the professional association leaders - are those who will not be held down. These are practitioners of their crafts - classroom teachers, librarians, building and district administrators, technologists - who share and provoke and envision and challenge me. And provide me the courage to escape my own bucket now and then.

I am very happy to report that I have seen new teacher-leaders informally rise in our district. We have brave souls who are creating the kinds of help sheets and guides for our new student information system that the company that produces the code itself cannot or will not provide - those written from the POV of the classroom teacher IN OUR DISTRICT. Similar initiatives are starting for our learning management system, developing a teacher-led support team to improve the ability for all classroom teachers to use the LMS well.

Schools can no longer afford, if they ever could, the crab mentality among staff members. Perhaps technology intitiatives' real worth lies not in the power of the technology, the power of bringing people together to use the technology well.