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EdTech Update





Can you picture your job description?

My friend and colleague Jane Prestebak, Director of Media and Instructional Technology for the Robbinsdale (MN) public schools, shared this visionary diagram at a recent meeting.

What is the current and near-future role of the library media specialist in schools?

I liked this diagram very much. Our roles continue to evolve and I believe the change will not just continue, but quicken.

The pressure on library supervisors and others who advocate for librarians in schools in our area comes from teachers, principals, and other administrators to replace librarians with tech integration specialists. And the pressure is understandable with the number of expensive technologies being placed in schools with "ready, fire, aim" planning too often the norm. In other words, we got the gizmos, but how do we make meaningful use of them? The focus being on the technology, not the whole life skills that the technology allows teachers to teach more effectively.

By putting or retaining a qualified and modern librarian in the role of "tech specialist," I believe teachers and students get a "two-fer." Not just a professional who understands technology, but advocates and teaches its most powerful use - as a tool to access, evaluate, process, communicate and evaluate information in multiple formats to solve problems and answer questions. But also an information freedom fighter, a children's and young adult reading specialist that can improve reading by putting the right books and materials in the right hands at the right time.

A few years ago, I created some diagrams that asked what a librarian should be teaching. These can still be found here:

My suggestion to Jane and others in creating job descriptions for current librarians is to call out how technology and digital information source expertise is needed, especially as schools begin to replace or supplement traditional (and increasingly ineffective) resources like text books and worksheets with learning management systems that need to be populated with carefully curated readings and meaningful activities to provide differentiated instruction.

Librarians, what does your "pictorial" job description currently look like? What should it look like? What skills are you teaching? What innovative instructional practices are you supporting?

Don't be replaced with a tech integration specialist. Please. You bring too many other essential skills and values to the school.


TeachingBooks gets author pronunciation guide

As Blue Skunk readers well know, I very rarely endorse any product. However, I make an exception for Nick Glass's TeachingBooks resource. Nick is a committed educator and he and his staff produce a product that gets  interested in books and reading. So when on the rare occasion he asks for help in spreading the word about something, I do what I can...

Hi Doug,

I'm excited to share that the Author Name Pronunciation Guide has just reached a milestone -- there are now 2,000 recordings of authors telling the story and correct pronunciation of their names!

Would you help share this news?

A press release is on my blog at -- highlighting some of the most played recordings.

Or freely explore to pick out one of your favorites to share.

I find it particularly fun that Tomie dePaola is the 2,000th recording added to this collection. How do you pronounce his name? "...paw-la," "...paa-oo-laa," "...pow-la," or something else? Hear Tomie say it at

How about Maya Angelou? Jon Scieszka? Yuyi Morales? and 1,996 more!

So fun!

This collection of authors and illustrators revealing the origins and pronunciations of their names is completely free and available for anyone to use, anytime. These audio recordings have been listened to almost half-a-million times since I launched it in 2007.

Thanks so much for considering sharing this exciting news. And please ask how I or can ever be of assistance with your work in this wonderful world of children's and young adult books and reading.



Hope this helps get the word out, Nick. Keep up the good work!


BFTP: Limits on lists and change

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press 3. 
Alice Kahn

I've been reading the instruction sheets for our new VOIP telephone system. I am a little worried. Some of the tasks require up to ten steps. Setting a speed dial number, for example.

My unscientifically-proven observation is that you lose between 5% and 10% of people for every step in required to complete a task. One step - 90+% will complete it. Two steps - 80% - 90% will complete it. Which means that for jobs requiring 10 steps or more, very few people will have the tenacity to accomplish them successfully.

My own internal dialog in working on lists of instructions goes something like...

  1. OK, step one. Where are my reading glasses?
  2. Step two. Going good! Get a beer.
  3. On to step four. Wait, did I skip step three?
  4. Up to step five. Damn, this isn't working. Oh, I did step two wrong. I have to go back.
  5. Step six already. This is completely unintelligible. English is obviously not this writer's first - or second language!
  6. Step seven. To hell with it.
  7. And step eight - give it to a kid who can do the task without looking at instructions at all.
  8. Optional step nine - complain about technology in general.
  9. Step ten - have another beer.

The same 5% - 10% theory seems to work with surveys as well. 90+% of people will complete a 1 question survey. More than 10 questions, well, who has that kind of time and patience?

There is a very interesting article in Fast Company about the relationship between the ability to change and exhaustion. Dan Heath (one of the Stickiness Brothers) writes:

You hear something a lot about change: People won’t change because they’re too lazy. Well, I’m here to stick up for the lazy people. In fact, I want to argue that what looks like laziness is actually exhaustion.

How complex can the technology tasks we ask our staff and students to master be? Are we finding the least complex tools available that will still let them do the job? What is the balance between power and complexity? (If GoogleDocs has even 80% of the functionality of Office, is that good enough for most students and staff?)

Or has the deluge of the new and work in keeping up simply exhausted all tenacity and perseverance from the modern learner?

Original post June 4, 2010