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Who speaks for Intellectual Freedom in schools?

Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. ALA
Who in your school understands and values the concept of Intellectual Freedom (IF)? What percent of teachers and students could define it and argue either for or against its main principle?

With the loss of school librarians, I fear what I suspect are the already low numbers of educators who understand and value intellectual freedom will fall. I have no faith that programs that train network and computer support people will address this issue. Are college degree programs in educational technology addressing IF? (I really don't know.) A quick search of the ISTE website provided no hits on the topic.

AASL has long been trying to promote IF. Helen Adams, an active advocate and retired school librarian from Wisconsin, writes "... while I was chairperson, the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee created an IF brochure in 2008 and revised it in 2010. ... parts are out of date, but it could be repurposed."

Description from the AASL website:
Brochure created by the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee available for download, duplication, and distribution. It describes why intellectual freedom is important in a school library program, the difference between selection and censorship, what to do before a challenge occurs, where to obtain assistance during a challenge, why schools filter and how it affects students intellectual freedom, and how the ALA Code of Ethics affects school librarians.

As I see school librarian positions being replaced or rebranded as "digital learning specialists" or "technology integration coaches," I worry about three real very real losses. The first is that teachers and students will lose a source of information and leadership on powerful reading improvement strategies focused on individualization of reading materials and personal interests. The second is that staff and students will no longer have access to experts who can teach information literacy skills.

But most of all I worry that the sole proponents of intellectual freedom for both students and staff will be eliminated. 

There has never been a more critical time to understand and support intellectual freedom. The news media is highly politicized on both the left and the right. Technology allows us to select and read only the articles and columns that support our own opinions. Critical thinking takes a back seat to "basic skills" in many students' classrooms.

I hope ALA re-writes its brochure to address:
  • Internet filtering issues as much as it does materials in print format
  • freedom of expression of opinion, not just freedom of access
  • enlarging the target audience to include all educators, not just librarians, and
  • ALA working with other professional organizations in its efforts to promote IF. 
Thanks to Helen and all hard-working proponents of IF. I am worried you have your work cut out for you.

BFTP: These horses are out of the barn

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. - Arthur Schopenhauer

There are some educational "truths" that we can't change, even if we wanted to. These educational technology resources, annoyances, and conditions are here to stay despite some educators denial, resistance and fast grip on the status quo. The sooner educators, especially tech directors and administrators, accept that these things are a permanent part of the educational landscape, the sooner attention will be paid to using them positively and productively.

Here is my short list of things that just are not going to go away...

  • Cellphones/Smartphones in schools
  • Student-owned netbooks, laptops, tablets in schools and their distracting qualities
  • Deficiencies in Internet filters
  • Web 2.0 tools - wikis, blog, Nings, Flickr, Delicious, etc...
  • Wikipedia
  • GoogleSearch
  • Term paper mills
  • Filter work-arounds for the social media app du jour
  • YouTube
  • Tasteless websites loved by middle school students
  • Gaming in education
  • Demand/expectation for public wi-fi access by students, staff and visitors
  • E-books, especially e-textbooks
  • Music downloading
  • Open source software
  • Texting short hand
  • Off site applications and hosting - ASPs and cloud computing
  • Computerized testing
  • Budget inadequacies, budget scrutiny, budget justifications
  • Online classes and online schools

These horses are gone, boys and girls, and there's no putting them back in the barn.

Get over it.

Figure out ways to saddle the horse and ride it.

Original post November 23, 2009


The 4 Es of tech workshops

There is an old story told about the King of Mars who sent a scout in his flying saucer to find out about American schools. When the scout returned, he reported that these "schools" were the strangest places. It was where young people gathered to watch old people work.

Just finished two days of workshops for the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong. And despite feeling my head was in a bag of cotton all day because of jet lag, I really enjoyed the experience. And judging from comments and tweets, the participants did as well. At least some of them.

I have been giving workshops at conference for probably 20 years or more. I've thought about what separates those that motivate, inspire, and give participant practical value - and those that don't. Some of my reflections are in this old article: Top Ten Secrets for a Successful Workshop Library Media Connection, October 2006. And I stand by all 10 of my "secrets."

I am not a big fan of conference sessions that show "the top 50 sites/apps/devices in 50 minutes." I know they are popular but so are beer and potato chips. I am not terribly sure they are very good for the professional. What I find is that most teachers* would prefer to learn a few simple tools and actually have time to learn to practice with them and discuss how they might be used in the classroom. My recipe is in the graphic below:

Using some comments I received at Jeff Utech's fantastic Learning2.014 conference in Addis Abeba last September, I changed up the order of my creativity workshop. In the session I alway ask the participants to do a simple activity (make a poster, an Animoto movie, etc.) which shows creativity. I moved the activity to the beginning of the workshop instead of at the end. That way we have a recent frame of reference when discussing the challenges of both the student and the teacher when it comes to being creative - especially evaluation. It worked much better, thank you.

The only downside I see is that as a product of an education in which I as the student usually watched the teacher work, I feel incredibly lazy during work time. Yes, I circulate, answer questions, do technical trouble-shooting, etc., but I can't help wonder if I am actually earning my money. I'll do my best to get over it.

*For some reason I tend lose old guys and administrators at break when there is a lot of hands on time.