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EdTech Update





The horse is out of the barn: cell phones

Not long ago signs similar to this were not uncommon in Minnesota schools:

But yesterday I noticed two very different signs related to cell phones in high schools in two different districts:


Can we safely conclude that the cell phone battle between educators and kids is over - and that the kids won? 

In 2009, I wrote a list of 20 technologies that many educators were trying to keep out of the schools:

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.

Cell phones were number one on my list of these "horses that were out of the barn."

This week I ran across a great article in Wired, "Demonized Smartohones Are Just Our Latest Technological Scapegoat" that reminded me that new technologies (including writing and the printing press) have always been met with dread warnings of the damage they will cause to civilization as we know it. 

Read any articles lately about how "technology addiction" is ruining the world? 


Is it the head or the heart that makes a good librarian?

My friend Jennifer LaGarde writes in On Lost Library Books and the #BestPartofMyDay

... I landed at a school where collecting fines and keeping kids from checking out books, if they owed money, was just part of what had always been done, and I eagerly played along. I worked hard, every year, to collect every last dime that was "owed" to the library, and in the process made a lot of kids feel like they weren't welcome or that they were somehow suspect. It took me several years to pluck up the courage to decide I needed a do-over and to reset my circulation policies, so that they were more closely aligned to my core mission of helping students develop rich and authentic reading lives.  

And guess what? The number of books I lost as a result was minimal. I didn't end the year with empty shelves. Here's what happened instead:
  • I developed relationships with kids who I would never have gotten to know before, because their debt to the library stood in the way. 
  • I changed the library from a place of punishment to one of possibility. 
  • I was able to get books in the hands of kids who would have had no reading material otherwise.
  • My circulation statistics went WAY up.
  • I retired from the role of book police and was promoted to the job of reading champion.
  • I slept better at night.
And, ironically, I discovered that for kids who did lose materials, positive relationships are a far better motivator than the threat of not getting their diploma or not being admitted to a school dance. When kids love you and know that you love them, there's very little they won't do in order to not let you down.

If I could have new (or old) librarians read no other advice, Jennifer's words above would be it.

One of the happiest trends in professional reading over the past few years has been the emphasis on the value of and need for personal connections to our students. Knowing someone cares about how well you do in school is a critical for most kids, and too often that concern does not come from the home. It has to come from someone in the school itself.

What I loved about Jennifer's recollection is that the "heart" approach to getting library materials back was more effective than the "head" approach of fines and threats.

I suspect the heart approach works for motivating most adults too. Do your co-workers and those you may supervise know that you care about them and their success? Something I know that I will be thinking about. Thanks, Jennifer.

Connected librarians: new book by an old friend

You can certainly suspect that a friend or colleague is smart, but sometimes it takes reading a book she has written to really know just how smart.

My friend and colleague, Nikki D. Robertson, has written an outstanding book for ISTE titled Connected Librarians: Tap Social Media to Enhance Professional Development and Student Learning. In this well-organized, fast read, Nikki shares her personal history of using social media as a professional, provides outstanding rationale for keeping social media sites unblocked in schools, and demonstrates great ways of dealing with social media misuse by kids. 

At the heart of the book, however, are very comprehensive and pragmatic examples of how a wide variety of social media tools can be used for learning by both educators and by students. Nikki knows and understands these tools and reveals a range of both tools and uses for them I had never dreamed of.  Concrete example lifted from real schools give this book genuine practical use.

I know it is pretty darned early in 2018, but I will go out on a limb here and say that if you only read one professional book this year, make it Connected Librarians.

If I have any criticism of the book it would be the title. This book should be read and used by tech integrationists, classroom teachers, and administrators, not just librarians!