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EdTech Update





BFTP: A day of ordinary (library) miracles

This poster that appeared in Teacher-Librarian magazine back in 2005. Visit the webpage for a listing of many "miracles" that other readers contributed. The hoary original "A Day of Ordinary Miracles" (copied below) can easily be found with a simple Google Search. 

A Day of Ordinary Miracles

I wish you a day of ordinary miracles.
A fresh pot of coffee you didn't make yourself.
An unexpected phone call from an old friend.
Green stoplights on your way to work or shop.
I wish you a day of little things to rejoice in.
The fastest line at the grocery store.
A good sing along song on the radio.
Your keys right where you look.
I wish you a day of happiness and perfection.
I wish you little bite-size pieces of perfection that give you the funny feeling that God is smiling on you. 
                                              - Anonymous

Yes, that crash you heard was your coffee cup hitting the floor. It’s not often this old cynic admits to reading such saccharine stuff as the small blessing above, let alone shares it. But yes, it is still me.

Thing is, I don't know anyone in education that doesn't appreciate these small miracles. Thankfully they occur in libraries perhaps more than anywhere else in schools. So here is my list ....

I wish you a day of ordinary (library) miracles and little things to rejoice in…

Eight hands that go up to request the title you’ve just book talked.
A computer that goes for an entire day without crashing.
A less-than-successful baking experiment taken to the teachers lounge, eaten before 10 am.
A child asking for another book “just like this one.”
Finding a "app" that saves you time.
Watching a student successfully use the newest database to find needed information. 
A parking spot close to the school door.
The principal saying a sincere thank-you.
An unexpected larger amount on your paycheck or a smaller amount on your mortgage payment.
A new book just published by your favorite author.
A student who is actually concerned about the quality of his work.
A dozen doughnuts as “thanks” for service above and beyond the call.
A quick and pleasant response from a technician.
Kids who want to help you.
A teacher saying out loud in the lounge how much she uses the online tool you showed her. 
A human voice on the phone when you expected a recording.
A student who wants to become a librarian when she grows up.
A chance to show a tech-tip to a teacher who thinks you are a “guru.”
A library with windows and sunbeams in the winter.
A request to use the library for a meeting because “it is the most pleasant room in the school.”
A smile of accomplishment from a student who shows you how to do something on your smartphone.
A quickly-answered reference question asked by a teacher.
A library aid you like and who likes you.
A call from a parent thanking you for the information on your webpage.
A student so absorbed in a book, he doesn’t hear the bell ring.
A call from a parent about a lost book found while cleaning.
A student who wants to hold your hand.
Students who give genuine praise to each other.

What strikes me as I read this list of “ordinary” miracles, is how we, ourselves, often make them happen. It is by treating others well that good is returned to us.

Any additions you'd like to make???

Original post April 9, 2012


The art of saying "no"

Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.
Winston Churchill

The school library profession does not lack new job responsibilities. Everything from updating the school website to inventorying classroom instructional materials to managing student devices to teaching online learning resources, new tasks are often given to the librarian.

The difficult question then remains - just what has to leave our days in order for new "duties as assigned" to be slipped in. Or should we be better at saying no to new job responsibilities?

Before practicing saying no, we must take a good long look at the task we are being asked to perform. Taking on jobs nobody else can or is willing to do is a pretty good job retention strategy. If you take on the job of say, updating the school webpage and few other unpleasant tasks, when the principal needs to choose between cutting your position and the music teacher, she might reason "If I cut the librarian, I will need to find someone else to update the webpage. I will cut the music teacher instead." And remember my motto:

So let's say you've factored in the advisability of saying yes to the new task and you really don't see how you can accomplish one more thing. Here are some things I try to remember to do when I feel I must say no:

  • Start with "Anything is possible." Our right rejection of requests quickly earns you the reputation of a reactionary. "He's never tries anything new!" By starting the conversation with "anything is possible," the one doing the requesting knows that your eventual decision was not a foregone conclusion. And who knows, the discussion might change your "no" to an enthusiastic "yes."
  • Suggest an alternative. Often the need is legitimate. But the proposed solution is not practical. You can get a reputation as a problem-solver by helping the person in need solve his/her problem even when you can't support the original solution.
  • I ask for a priority judgement. "Sure, I can teach students how to use the new learning management system as a part of my information literacy curriculum. However I only meet with students for six hours and here are the current outcomes. Would you help me determine which ones I need to eliminate in order to accommodate the new lessons?" If doing a new thing results in something else going undone, a full understanding of the trade-off is essential.
  • I express regret. I have problems with people who say no with great glee. It's a cheap form showing power and that power usually tends to be petty. Real power comes from making things happen, not keeping them from happening.

I had practice over the past couple weeks practicing the fine art of saying no. Regretfully, I had to turn down a speaking engagement in Hawaii (no vacation days uncommitted in my 2017-18 calendar already) and to contribute to a YA podcast (not my area of expertise). At the day job, I regularly must tell others "no" due to a lack of time, money, or necessity. And sometimes just because the suggested project is not real smart. And the worst job of all is telling someone who applied for a job that another candidate was chosen. I really hate saying no to hopeful people.

But it doesn't hurt quite so much if I can do it well.



It's about keeping users, not IT, happy

Last week, my friend Tim Stahmer, reacted to Microsoft's announced Windows 10S in a post called Keeping IT Happy. Windows 10S is supposed to help simplify the management of Windows devices in an educational setting, offering an experience similar to ChromeOS. Tim's take: primary reason why technology in the classroom is so screwed up: many, if not most, schools and districts make purchasing decisions based on what will make IT happy.

IT wants devices that make their jobs easier, something that is easy to clone, lock down, and control. From a central, remote location, please. The needs and wants of teachers are secondary. And students? Well, we rarely ask them about anything to do with what goes into their education anyway, so their opinion doesn’t count.

First Tim, you should know by now that it is impossible to make IT happy. Get over it.

But I would look at the value such a system has from another teacher/student-centric perspective.

First, tech that is simple and fast to manage works more reliably, and reliability might be of more value than customizability for the bulk of our staff and students. Where do we really want our users to spend their time - in the OS or a command line futzing around or using productivity and communication tools to get things accomplished?

Second, the fewer dollars we need to spend on tech staff to manage devices, the more dollars from our zero-sum tech budgets we can spend on user hardware, software, subscriptions, PD, etc. Any economies I realize through efficient management of technology with only minor compromises in end-user "freedoms" of unproved value, I will take.

As IT director I do my best to find solutions that make as many people happy as possible, including my overworked IT staff, my hardworking teachers, and my curious, demanding students (and parents and the business office and the school board and...) It is tough pleasing everyone.

So yeah, we in IT do like solutions that make our job easier. But not necessarily because we are lazy  control freaks. Some of are educators as well.