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EdTech Update





Starting year 41 - a life in education

Today is the big opening celebration for teachers coming back to school. This is the start of my 41st year as an educator. My professional work history includes:

  • 1976-1978 (2 years) at Stuart-Menlo (IA) Schools -English, Speech, Drama, Journalism High School Classroom Teacher
  • 1978-1979 Grad School student at U of Iowa
  • 1979-1984 (5 years) West Branch (IA) Schools - Junior High Librarian, English and Reading Teacher
  • 1984-1989 (5 years) ARAMCO, Saudi Arabia - K-9 Librarian, Uhhailiyah and Abqaiq
  • 1989-1991 (2 years) St Peter (MN) Schools - 7-12 Librarian
  • 1991-2014 (23 years) Mankato (MN) Area Public Schools - Technology Director
  • 2014 - present (3 years) Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (MN) Public Schools - Technology Director

I have been incredibly fortunate. Each year has included a learning curve - some years steeper than others. Every year I have felt passionate about my work. At every job I there have been people with whom I have really enjoyed working. I've earned enough to keep the wolf from my door (although there have only been few years when I have not hasd to figure out how earn outside income). My work has not been so onerous that I could not spend time with my family and friends, travel, exercise, and read for pleasure. And blather on in my blog, articles, columns, and books.

Yet each year I have experienced discomfort at times - and caused discomfort in others. I have always managed to piss off my bosses now and again. I've agitated for kids and for libraries and for the good use of technology. Some nights I've gone home worried I would be fired; other nights I've gone home hoping I would be fired. Some nights I've gone home feeling I just might, might have made a difference to somebody, somewhere.

I hesitate recommending education as a choice of career to young people. The work of a classroom teacher has become more demanding, more challenging that it was 40 years ago. It doesn't pay worth a damn. And teachers seem to get less societal respect. But in the end, yes, I recommend a life in education.

I am not sure what more one could ask of a career. 

My school picture, circa 1976


BFTP: Entrepreneurial librarianship - 36 suggestions

ENTREPRENEUR: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise

INTRAPRENEUR: a corporate executive who develops new enterprises within the corporation

LIBARYPRENEUR: a librarian who actively searches for unfilled needs in his/her organization and assumes responsibility for meeting them, adding value to his/her position. The Blue Skunk

One of the terms that one heard a great deal at the 2012 ISTE conference was entrepreneurship. (What a horrible word to spell!) In education there seems to be no clear definition but when the term is applied to education, it is about private individuals or groups offering new, usually commercial, systems of learning - charter schools, for-profit schools, or online schools. Increasingly, however, I hear it being applied to individuals within traditional schools trying new educational approaches, as well. (More like intrapreneurship.) 

David Warlick in his blog post, ISTE Reflections, describes the educator-entrepreneur as:

  • Self-directed
  • Taking control of their time
  • Modeling their entrepreneurship for their students
  • Not making excuses
  • Taking responsibility

And, I might add, taking risks.

Good librarians have always been good educational entrepreneurs, looking for unmet needs and then meeting them, creating positions of value as they go. As professions transition to reflect the changes wrought by information technologies, this entrepreneurial disposition is critical. The librarians in our district have become webmasters, network managers, book fair organizers, online teaching materials selectors, volunteer coordinators, and PTO liaisons - none of which are traditionally "library" jobs, but all which are appreciated, necessary, and give added value to their positions. 

A week or so ago, I send a request to LM_Net for examples of "librarypreneurship" and I got a whole raft of excellent, often lengthy, responses. Below is my summarization and categorization of these replies. I did not list a lot of details nor jobs I see as part of librarians' expected duties.

Here are 36 ways real librarians are showing librarypreneurship:

Literature-related jobs

  1. Book fair organizer
  2. Reading tutor
  3. Building-wide reading contest and promotions organizer
  4. Book swap manager
  5. One book/one community program organizer
  6. Literacy night sponsor


  1. School webmaster
  2. Building based technology contact - answering software and technical questions, organizing, maintaining, creating, and disseminating "how-to" instruction sheets for various programs (Renaissance Learning,, Discovery Education,, Study Island)
  3. Technology trainer
  4. Flipped classroom and online class support provider
  5. Distance learning coordinator
  6. Videographer of school plays, school cultural events, and academic programs
  7. Technology policy committee member
  8. Tech fair host
  9. Skyping authorities facilitator

School-community-related jobs

  1. Building PTA liaison and/or officer
  2. Community marketing director
  3. School newsletter editor
  4. School news video program director
  5. Organizer of  information for parents and community about school's extracurricular offerings
  6. School blogger


  1. Career guidance support provider including "career of the month presentations"
  2. SAT prep in the library host - an ongoing after school event
  3. Advisory program homeroom teacher
  4. Special events/programs planner - campus-wide celebration organizer
  5. School grant writer
  6. Leadership representative for special area teachers
  7. Fall school picture day organizer
  8. School yearbook sponsor
  9. Field trip chaperone
  10. Van driver
  11. Chief Information Officer (CIO) to principal and staff providing professional development resources and training to the teachers
  12. Academic teams advisor
  13. Database expert for needed building record keeping functions
  14. Textbook manager
  15. Credit recovery teacher

I just sensed a huge shudder in the (library) force. "I am too busy already and you think I should take on MORE work? I know everyone is busy. But consider Thoreau's quote: It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about? For those whose jobs may be precarious (and whose isn't), I would say "yes" to any tasks that is valued by my organization, even if meant not doing a traditional library task (inventory? custom cataloging? ???)

Here's my goal: If my position is ever eliminated, I want the person who made that decision to really regret having done so. Not a nice sentiment, to be sure. If the work I am doing is important, I will be missed. Libraryprenuership will help me meet that goal.


Original post July 9, 2012


Selective over-generalization

At a recent service club meeting, the pre-meeting table conversation revolved around the press coverage given to police officers. One of my WASPish fellow members declared that it was but a tiny fraction of law enforcement officers who act inappropriately and that makes society unfairly believe that all of them perform badly. Heads nodded in agreement.

A bit later the talk turned to a YouTube video where a group of young men watched and recorded a man drowning rather than saving him.  "Typical "millennial generation' behavior," the same fellow who had just made the pronouncement about the police officers asserted. Again heads nodded.

Except mine.

I asked "Why would you not apply the same logic to kids that you just applied to police officers? Why do you think this was not just a few kids giving the rest of their generation a bad name?" And I added, "I can guarantee my grandsons - who are both Boy Scouts - would have done everything in their power to save a drowning person."

I didn't see many heads nod.

Over-generalizing, believing stereotypes, making "allness" statements - I know I am selectively guilty of such thinking myself. But doing so is especially dangerous in educational leadership.

 Image source