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EdTech Update





Head for the (career) edge


David Leonhardt in a recent NYT Op-ed colum Do not double-major writes:

But the reality is that many students who double-major aren’t doing it out of intellectual curiosity. The number of double majors has soared in recent years mostly because students see it as a way to add one more credential to their résumé. What’s even better than one major? Two majors!

Except that it’s not. Most students would learn more by creatively mastering a single major — and leaving themselves time to take classes in multiple other fields. “Double majoring,” as Jacqueline Sanchez, a Wellesley College student, wrote in a recent op-ed for her campus paper, “ultimately prevents students from exploring many different disciplines.”

Unfortunately, double majoring is just one part of a credentials arms race among teenagers and college students. This arms race exacerbates inequality, because it can make upper-middle-class students seem more accomplished than working-class and poor students. And the arms race is also unpleasant and counterproductive for many of the well-off students. They’re loading up on extracurricular activities, Advanced Placement courses and college majors, rather than exploring, going deep into one or two areas and learning what they really enjoy.

David, I'd like to suggest another way of looking at the "double major" - it may be vital for anyone wanting to stand out in a competitive job environment.

Much to me my delight, my brilliant grandson Paul is considering majoring in both engineering and Chinese. He and I both think that this will set him apart and make him a more valuable asset to any engineering firm that does business with China and its fast growing economic influence.

Way back in the early 1990s, William Bridges wrote an influencial book called Surviving Corporate Transition. In it he recommended:

Head for the edge. “The people who work along the interface between the organization and its external environment are the sources of all the information that is needed to survive in this rapidly changing world.”

Expertise in two areas that may overlap on a daily basis is a real asset in many enviroments. A good reason for a double-major.

Of course, there are certainly poor reasons for double majoring, as Mr. Leonhardt points out. But I hope Paul stays with his plan of "double expertise." 


A prediction come true - sadly

In The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected, Nellie Bowles writes:

It wasn’t long ago that the worry was that rich students would have access to the internet earlier, gaining tech skills and creating a digital divide. Schools ask students to do homework online, while only about two-thirds of people in the U.S. have broadband internet service. But now, as Silicon Valley’s parents increasingly panic over the impact screens have on their children and move toward screen-free lifestyles, worries over a new digital divide are rising. It could happen that the children of poorer and middle-class parents will be raised by screens, while the children of Silicon Valley’s elite will be going back to wooden toys and the luxury of human interaction.

I am glad the mass media is becoming increasingly aware of how schools (and families) treat the children of affluence and the children of poverty when it comes to educational technology use.

Remembering an old article from the early 90s, I wrote a blog post When tech is a cheap substitute, Blue Skunk blog, June 1, 2015. It included:


The 1990 Technology & Learning article above tries to predict the future of educational technology. One memorable call-out was this one by Tom Snyder:

Hmmm, the poor kids will have computers and the rich kids will have human teachers? ...

As I see more and more "tier 2" and "tier 3" interventions becoming digital, it's pretty easy to detect how some kids will be receiving instruction via technology while other kids get human teachers. In the long run silicon is cheap; people are expensive. Putting kids in front of computer screens in lieu of putting them with human, caring, and skillful "warmware" is a tragedy. When tech is a cheap substitute, Blue Skunk blog, June 1, 2105.

How we use technology in schools varies widely, of course. It can be used for enrichment, for fostering the C's of Creativity, Communications, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking, for personalizing subjects and activities to make them more relevant to our students. I hope every child gets both empowering uses of technology and plenty of human interaction as well - not just those from well-to-do families.


BFTP: Librarians - collaborate to lead

80% of success is just showing up. 
                                             Woody Allen

The booklet School Library Research Summarized (Kachel, Mansfield University, 2013) analyzes 20 years of the impact of school library programs on student achievement. In summary:

... it has been shown that incremental increases in the following [library program attributes] can result in incremental gains in student learning:

  • increased hours of access for both individual student visits and group visits by classes; 
  • larger collections of print and electronic resources with access at school and from home; 
  • up-to-date technology with connectivity to databases and automated collections; 
  • instruction implemented in collaboration with teachers that is integrated with classroom curriculum and allows students to learn and practice 21st century skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication of ideas and information; 
  • increased student usage of school library services; 
  • higher total library expenditures; and 
  • leadership activities by the librarian in providing professional development for teachers, serving on key committees, and meeting regularly with the principal. [emphasis mine] 

While collaboration with individual teachers is important to a successful library program, collaboration with school leaders and membership on school leadership teams is critical - and too few building librarians recognize this. Librarians tend to focus on working with individual teachers, rather than the entities who give those teachers their direction.


Not only does working with other leaders help librarians stay informed about their building's and district's goals and priorities, it also gives them a voice in helping create those goals and priorities - allowing librarians to lead. As the old saying goes, if you aren't at the table, you are probably on the menu.

Given the division in philosophies about how to best teach reading, how to best measure student "achievement," what priorities should be given to higher order thinking skills and creativity; and, indeed, even what the purpose of education itself should be, no conscientious educator can remain mute - or simply grumble to peers.

Librarians, you can and should be serving on at least one, if not more, of these teams (in addition to meeting regularly with your building principal):

  • Building/site leadership team
  • Curriculum teams
  • Assessment committees
  • Strategic planning initiatives
  • Technology advisory committees
  • New facility planning task forces
  • Parent-teacher organization
  • Accreditation/program review teams

By virtue of training and experience, we in the library profession hold unique and valuable insights into the way children learn, what creates a positive school climate, and what students need to know and be able to do to be successful adults. As Woody remarks above, just showing up gets one a long way. But I would advise that the final 20% consists of being persuasive when participating on committees, teams, and task forces. This means having research, expert opinion, and studies to back up one's views and values. Know the research that supports voluntary free reading; understand why creativity and higher order thinking skills, not just test-taking skills, are critical to student success; and know what studies show make an impactful library program.

In a climate in which children's futures are being sold for political points or few dollars of extra profits by educational corporations, to remain silent is unprofessional, even unethical.

Show up. Speak up. Collaborate. Lead. Librarians, make this your goal for this school year - and every year thereafter.

See also "Starting Off on the Right Foot"

Original post Aug 14 2013  A column based on this post can be found here.