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EdTech Update





Preservation and Innovation

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in the Association of Independent School Librarians' conference held last week at the Metairie Park Country Day School just outside New Orleans. Thanks to Chris Young and his team, the conference was well-organized and had a wonderful variety of breakout and poster sessions.

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The location of the conference - the beautiful old 14 acre campus of Country Day - made me reflect on school libraries and education perhaps even more than the sessions themselves. The conference theme was Preservation and Innovation and seeing kids using laptops but sitting outside lovely old buildings and in a dining hall with cane bottomed chairs symbolized this important duality.

For most of my 40 year career, I have pushed and pushed and pushed school librarians to innovate - to embrace technology, to increase their role as teacher, to become the digital resource gurus in their schools. And librarians have embraced the challenge. "Media centers" have become bright places filled with computers and strange plastic chairs and movable shelves where kids and adults come to create as well as consume information. And those are good things.

On reflection, perhaps I should have spent more time encouraging the profession to "preserve" the best of our programs and resources as well. Can a case be made for print books, wooden furniture, soft lighting, upholstered seating in quiet nooks? Do we need librarians who select and catalog and offer readers' advisory? Can our traditional roles of intellectual freedom fighters, intellectual property experts, and kiddie lit gurus help meet the needs of even progressive schools?

The lovely old campus and the library of this private school made me wistful for some attributes of the libraries from my youth. And the students at the school did not seem ill-served.

The next blog post will be re-examination/update of my 12/13 Point Library Media Checklist for School Principals. My visit to Metairie may inform that revision.


BFTP: Being techno-frugal

So now I know - it has been about 5 years that I have somehow survived without a landline telephone or cable television. One advantage of keeping a blog - it helps you remember when things happened! Post below was published January 29, 2012.

Most people can't be easily lumped into either the "spendthrift" or "cheapskate" categories. We seek a cost/benefit ratio that makes some degree of sense - at least to us. And most of us are so tight we squeak about some expenditures and pour money down rat holes when it comes to others.

While I don't mind spending money on travel, grandchildren, personal technologies, or college tuition, I will not pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine or more than $100 for a pair of shoes. I buy generic cans of green beans and tomato soup or none at all, and my car is, well, not a Lexus. I'd rather go to an Olive Garden or Dennys than a fancy restaurant any day. Lights left on in unoccupied rooms drive me nuts. But what I really hate paying for are services that I don't use.

Yesterday morning in a fit of frugality, I cancelled our home telephone landline and cable television. In 2008 this bundled package of telephone, cable, and Internet cost $90 a month, but MediaCom's most recent "loyalty package" for the same services is $130 a month, going up to $150 a month the next year, with the two-year contract mandatory. Internet by itself costs about $45 a month. 

The thing is everyone in my family has a cell phones that works just fine. We watch less than two hours a television a week and what we do watch (The Daily Show) can be viewed online. I was spending about $1200 (120 bottles of wine!) a year on services I just didn't use.

Maybe it is the winter doldrums, but I seemed to encounter non-sensical "values" all week. I've already blogged about Apple's "inexpensive" e-textbooks. I took a poor Barnes & Noble education representative to task on Friday about how their Nooks (like Amazon's Kindles) won't read each other's e-book formats (Would I buy a DVD player at Target that only plays movies I buy from Target?) and how the cost of e-books has been steadily rising instead of falling. I denied another request to add text messaging to the school's cellphone accounts. I'm a little surprised that three spirits didn't interrupt my sleep last night. 

Maybe it's that I'm working both on my book's budget chapter and on our district's technology budget right now, so I'm just thinking about funding a lot. 

Frugality has gotten a lot of attention when it comes to personal expenditures in these tough economic times. Why hasn't frugality been a topic in library and technology circles as well?

End of rant.


Directing our anger

I just followed a fellow through security at the Minneapolis airport. He looked to be in his mid-50s, but seems to have never flown before. Despite being in the TSA-Pre approved line, he struggled removing his wallet, phone, and keys from his pants pockets. He had trouble putting his bag on the belt. He was admonished for reaching into the scanner before his bag was completely through. The process that takes experienced air travelers about 30 seconds seemed to take him five minutes. And I was forced to wait.

I may have some virtues, but patience is not one of them. My thoughts toward the gentlemen ahead of me were not kind. But then my anger changed direction and I started asking myself why I could not be automatically compassionate instead of peeved and frustrated. There are plenty of things I would do in ways that would drive others insane. Yet I would expect understanding.

The philosophers tell us that about the only thing in the world we can control is our reaction to things we cannot control. Political news today is a great test of one's ability to do this. If nothing else, this election has given me a lot of practice working very diligently to see if I can understand the POV of those who wish to cut health care, funding for the arts, and the provision of food those who are homebound, yet spend millions to provide a billionaire and his family security for weekend trips and his family overseas business trips. It's tough.

Patience, empathy, the drive for self-improvement - are all critical for both educators and technicians. But perhaps if we are aware of the importance of those assets, there may be hope for us yet.