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Friday
Oct202017

Snack reading

Snacking - especially on foods high in sugar, salt, and fats (you know, the stuff that actually tastes good) - we are told is not good for our physical health. I believe it. I only have to look at a doughnut and I put on a pound.

But what about "snack reading?" Here are just few of the short articles I was lured into nibbling on just yesterday:

 oh, and

This does not count the product ads, funny cat videos, or moronic replies to Facebook posts that lure me away from reading anything of substance. And to be fair, I read the comics, Dear Abby, and other useless stuff in the newspaper.

Although I have read or listened to 34 actual books so far this year, I can't help feel that my snack reading is no more intellectually healthy than snack eating. So everytime I read a "Top Ten Reasons..." my IQ slips just a little more. Too bad it's a national epidemic.

I pity our kids who may never know a time in which snack reading was not in easy reach.

Tuesday
Oct172017

Makerspaces and libraries: READY, FIRE, AIM

 

At a recent meeting, a school library professor expressed her concern to me about the profession's enthusiasm for putting makerspaces into school libraries. While she personally saw the value of the kinds of learning opportunities makerspaces are supposed to offer, she asked:

If school administrators see the makerspace as a trivial extra, might that association be applied to the library as a whole?

It's a good question and one all of us need to be asking. 

Unfortunately when a sexy innovation like makerspaces makes its appearance on the education stage, too many schools take the READY, FIRE, AIM approach to planning. My friend Joyce Valenza called out this problem in a recent blog post "Makerspaces: On Scanning the Road & Gently Easing the Brakes" (October 3, 2017). She asks:

Making is important. Informal learning is important. Tinkering is important. Connected learning is important. STEAM is important. Invention is important. Access is important. Project-based learning, problem-based learning and constructionism are important. Student choice and creativity are important.

But should a formal makerspace need to be a part of every school library?  

And she wonders if makerspace planning in schools always takes in the specific needs, goals, and resources of the building in which the makerspace is being placed (and worries that good programming in the library might be eliminated by makerspace real estate.)

In her EdSurge article "What Should I Buy For My New Makerspace?, Laura Fleming writes:

Every makerspace needs to have its own unique vision, and that vision should be written down in the form of a mission statement. That statement will help you convey to others what your makerspace is trying to achieve and to help people better understand your space, but it will also help you be able to better select products that are appropriate and meaningful to your particular makerspace.

She then articulates a 5 step framework for selecting the right products for the makerspace. (If I can quibble, I would change selecting "product" to selecting "activity." Product implies that makerspaces must only contain commercial equipment.)

Riffing on Joyce and Laura, here are some questions I might ask when implementing a makerspace in a school:

  1. Has my school articulated the "why" for its makerspace? Do teachers, administrators, and parents understand the purpose behind creating this very different learning enviroment? Is it in alignment with the school's mission?
  2. Is there a suitable location for the makerspace? Is the space being considered currently being used for a valuable purpose? Can the makerspace be portable?
  3. How will the efficacy of the makerspace be evaluated? 
  4. How will the makerspace support curricular outcomes?
  5. Who has responsibility for managing the makerspace, selecting activities, scheduling the space, maintaining the equipment, supervising the activities?
  6. How can it be assured all students have access to the learning experiences afforded by the makerspace? Will only identified students or students with teacher who are enthusiastic about the philosophy behind making get to use the space?
  7. Who will determine whether the true spirit of making - creativity, problem-solving, self-direction, etc - is being nurtured? Who will monitor to make sure the 3D printer is not being used as an expensive photocopier or the graphics program just a digital coloring book or the programming devices not just a exercise in following instructions?

Great results are nearly always the result of good planning and hard work. Interesting correlation. Resources - money, time, energy, space, PD - are too scarce to waste on a half-baked trend that does not benefit kids.

Saturday
Oct142017

BFTP: The blessing of (school) work

Ora et labora - Pray and labor. St. Benedict

 

Non-Sequiter, September 1, 2012

I'm not sure why "work" has such a negative connotation in U.S. society. Perhaps it is a residual sentiment from times when most "work" was physical - dirty, dangerous, and exhausting.

I've thought a great deal about "work" and its place in my life  - how it has defined me, shaped me, and rewarded me. While it has not always been true all the time about every job I've had, I have generally been blessed with work that gives me pleasure and my life meaning. My son-in-law's sermon lone week talked about St. Benedict and his observation that work and prayer can be one and the same. And that "work" is not the same as employment. I would agree.

When unemployment rates are too high, when job opportunities seem to be lacking, and when people seem to be unable to advance at their place of work or in their careers, the problem is too often framed as simply economic. And while it's absolutely true that everyone ought to be able to put a roof over one's head, purchase healthy food for one's table and give one's family decent medical care and an education, we focus far too much on the monetary rewards of work rather than the psychological rewards. The real tragedy of a lack of work is when people can't find joy in life and form a positive view of themselves. It's not really about taxpayers needing to fund welfare or unemployment payments. People without meaningful work are living a diminished life.

Everyone should take pleasure and find meaning in their work. 

This includes students and their school "work." Whether in class or out of class, any task a teacher gives needs to be given thoughtfully, mindful of how its successful completion defines, shapes, and rewards the student's sense of him or herself. Why should students not look forward to school work as much as many adults look forward to going to work?

It's the challenges, the problems, the obstacles, and the work (see cartoon above), that make life pleasurable. Think about it as your "work" week begins again tomorrow.

Original post September 3, 2012