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Monday
Mar202017

Does "tech skills for all" really mean all in your district?

Last month our district's Instructional Technology Coordinator planned a report that was given at a school board meeting on "coding." It went very well since students from multiple grade levels demonstrated both their skills and their enthusiasm for grade-appropriate coding activities and their teachers spoke to why the activities were both enjoyable and important for the students.

It was remarkable.

Wait, you say, I could (or have) prepared such reports myself. Our school teaches coding to students as well. I would bet nearly every school could find some students who code, so what makes this event remarkable?

What makes me proud is that every K-8 student in our district could have presented at that meeting. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of our Digital Learning Specialists at the elementary level and our exploratory classes at the middle school, all kids get to experience and practice coding in our school - not just those lucky enough to have a techno-savvy teacher.

All of our students also learn digital citizenship, experience makerspaces, access e-books through MyOnReader, and learn how to create Google Sheets, Docs, and Slides. And other techie stuff too.

Fifteen years ago I angered a lot of my fellow library professionals by writing a piece for School Library journal called Real Flexibility. The piece defended, gasp, fixed library programs - those in which all students went to the school library on a regular basis and were taught a library and technology skills curriculum by the library media specialist.

As technology skills grow in even greater importance to our students' academic, vocational, and social future, I will continue to stand by the need for every child to be taught such skills by a trained specialist - library media specialist or digital learning specialist or whatever you might call them. Too many classroom teacher can not or will not teach tech skills.

When your promotional material reads "technology skills for all students" does it really mean all - or just all those with teachers who enjoy technology?

Friday
Mar102017

The impending network apocalypse 

We need to shut down our data center for two weekdays this summer in order to do the wiring needed to put in a new generator.

Yes, it is the apocalypse.

Our computer network, of course, will not be available throughout the district. Nor will our VOIP phones. Or fire alarm and security systems. Or access to any system that requires verification such as our student information system or learning management system. All our Chromebooks which must be authenticated before use, regardless of network being used, will be bricks. Transportation and food service databases will not be accessible.

What has quickly become apparent is that school is in session ALL SUMMER LONG. PD and school-end record keeping start the week after school ends and kids start coming back the Wednesday of that  week for all sorts of summer programs. There is not a single two-day period in June, July, or August when someone in this district is not impacted by the loss of the network.

So in a short 20 years, our networks have moved from being curiosities that people had to be persuaded to use to mission-critical resources without which schools cannot function.

I have to say this sort of snuck up on me.

And I wonder what else is? (See Dilbert below.)

Sunday
Mar052017

BFTP: Do school librarians have "enduring values"?

From the introduction to The Indispensable Librarian

Do school librarians have "enduring values?"

Before you continue reading this book on managing an effective school library program, it's only fair to ask if libraries, library programs, and librarians will around long enough to make such a reading worth your time. Quite frankly, it's a difficult but extremely important question. And my answer is definitely yes…

If.

We already know we need to adapt to changes in technology. We already know we need to be more accountable about the impact of our programs. We already know that we will need to spend time on effective advocacy and developing broad ownership of the library program. We know that our physical facilities will evolve, our areas of expertise will change, the format of our collections will become more diverse, and our libraries’ services will be different each year.

So a second question then comes up: Will our libraries be so changed from what we now consider libraries will they still continue to be called libraries. And my answer is definitely yes…

If, we maintain the core values that will transcend the specifics of library programming.

Just as technology was starting to have a major impact on libraries, long-time academic librarian and past ALA president Michael Gorman identified these as enduring central or "core" values of librarianship (Gorman, 2000):

  1. Stewardship
  2. Service
  3. Intellectual Freedom
  4. Rationalism
  5. Literacy and learning
  6. Equity of access to recorded knowledge and information
  7. Privacy
  8. Democracy

Are these core values still held by practicing school librarians? Are there other common central beliefs that define us as librarians? When I describe my own professional core values as a librarian, I include:

  1. Every child should have access to as diverse number of opinions as possible and be allowed to drawn his or her own personal conclusions about the world. The library program’s primary educational role is teaching children to think, not simply to memorize or believe.
  2. Every child's interests, learning style and abilities should be respected. Skills are best taught in a personal context.
  3. Every child’s preference in information format should be respect, both as an information consumer and producer. Information in all formats should be treated equally.
  4. Every child’s privacy must be honored and protected. It is our role to help children protect their own privacy.
  5. The ability to find, evaluate, organize, synthesize and communicate information is a basic skill for every child.
  6. Reading skills are best developed through voluntary free reading on topics of personal interest to students. Students must be intrinsically motivated to read and to learn.
  7. Every child should have access to a place in a school where he or she is comfortable, valued, safe and can learn with other students.
  8. Every child is must be taught the skills and sensibilities of digital citizenship.
  9. The library’s primary function is to be of service to children – directly and through other educational programs. Our success is a reflection of how successful we make others.
  10. The skills taught and resources provided by the library program are critical to a free society. 

As some schools replace librarians with clerks or "technology integration specialists" - or no one at all, my greatest concern is that these values will be lost. Who will fight for information access for all students? Who will fight for intellectual freedom? Who will be concerned about the privacy rights of students and faculty? Who will insist that information literacy is right of every child? Yes, there are teachers who value these things, but for how many teachers, unlike librarians, are they their primary mission?

Now and in the future, the physical room, the title of the person running it, or the kinds of resources provided will not matter. I will know I am in a library when it is run by a librarian.

Gorman, Michael Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century, Chicago: American Library Association, 2000. Gorman

So readers, what values have I missed?

Original post January 7, 2012.