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Wednesday
Feb132008

Even librarians reading less?

My professorial friend Mary Ann Bell sent an urgent notice out on both her blog and to LM_Net not long ago urging librarians to read Thomas Washington's editorial "Kids Reading Less and So Am I" that appeared in the February 9th Washington Post. In the piece, this school librarian reflects:

Who isn't having trouble concentrating [on reading] these days? Who doesn't find it nearly impossible to stick with a 450-page novel? I've come down with the same virus as the kids — the very group I criticize for ignoring the library's "new arrivals" book display.

I felt the same thing as blog reading became a habit and opined that I was reading differently in my column The Decline of Reading in October of 2006. As long ago as 1994, Birkerts in his book The Gutenberg Elegies complained that electronics was dooming reading and Professor Naomi Baron in a Los Angles Times opinion piece “Killing the written word by snippets” (Nov 28, 2005) bemoaned:

Will effortless random access [to snippets of books made available through Google Book Search] erode our collective respect for writing as a logical, linear process? Such respect matters because it undergirds modern education, which is premised on thought, evidence and analysis rather than memorization and dogma. Reading successive pages and chapters teaches us how to follow a sustained line of reasoning.

What looks like may be another nail in the coffin of sustained reading can be found in an observation in the British Library and JISC's study, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future. (All educators, not just librarians, should read ciber.jpgthis very interesting and well-done report.) Although the purpose of the study was to study the information habits of the "Google" generation, it also reported:

While we have highlighted differences amongst scholarly communities in this paper it would be a mistake to believe that it is only students’ information seeking that has been fundamentally shaped by massive digital choice, unbelievable (24/7) access to scholarly material, disintermediation, and hugely powerful and influential search engines.  The same has happened to professors, lecturers and practitioners.  Everyone exhibits a bouncing / flicking behaviour, which sees them searching horizontally rather than vertically.  Power browsing and viewing is the norm for all.

So young and old alike are changing their reading/research habits, perhaps as a technique to survive the information avalanche, the data tsunami, the ... well, supply your own natural disaster metaphor here.

To degree, my adult readers, do exhibit some of these behaviors outlined in the British Library's report?

The main characteristics of digital information seeking behaviour  in virtual libraries are:

  • Horizontal information seeking A form of skimming activity, where people view just one
    or two pages from an academic site and then `bounce’ out, perhaps never to return. ...
  • Navigation  People in virtual libraries spend a lot of time simply finding their way around: in fact they spend as much time finding their bearings as actually viewing what they find. 
  • Viewers  The average times that users spend on e-book and e-journal sites are very short: typically four and eight
    minutes respectively.  It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense, ....  It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense. 
  • Squirreling behaviour Academic users have strong consumer instincts and research shows that they will squirrel away content in the form of downloads, especially when there are free offers.  ... there is no evidence as to the extent to which these downloads are actually read. 
  • Diverse information seekers Log analysis reveals that user behaviour is very diverse...:  One size does not fit all.
    Checking information seekers  Users assess authority and trust for themselves in a matter of seconds by dipping and cross-checking across different sites and by relying on favoured brands (e.g. Google).

Are you becoming more like the students you teach?  (Heaven help you, middle school teachers!) Without the ability or inclination to "to follow a sustained line of reasoning" is civilization going to hell in a hand basket? Or are we all just learning to snow plow through the knowledge blizzard?

 

Wednesday
Feb132008

Beginning Rubric 2 - File Management

This a continuation of the 2008 revision of the CODE77 rubrics - Basic level. An introduction is here.

II.     File management (1994)
Level 1    I do not save any documents I create using the computer.
Level 2    I save documents I’ve created but I cannot chose where they are saved. I do not back-up my files.
Level 3    I have a filing system for organizing my files, and can locate files quickly and reliably. I back-up my files to floppy disk or other storage device on a regular basis.
Level 4    I regularly run a disk-optimizer on my hard drive, and use a back-up program to make copies of my files on a weekly basis. I have a system for archiving files which I do not need on a regular basis to conserve my computer’s hard drive space.

II. File management (NETS I.A., I.B.) (2002)
Level 1    I do not save any documents I create using the computer.
Level 2    I save documents I’ve created but often have difficulty finding them. I do not store duplicates of my files on disks or servers for back-up purposes.
Level 3    I have a filing system for organizing my files, and can locate files quickly and reliably in folders and subfolders. I back-up my files to disk, file server, or Internet storage site on a regular basis. I use the district’s networked file storage server when provided so I can access my files from any computer, including my home computer. I save my files with the appropriate extension (.txt, ..jpg, doc, cwk, etc.) to facilitate cross-platform use.
Level 4    I regularly run a disk-optimizer on my hard drive, and use a back-up program to make copies of my files on a weekly basis. I have a system for archiving files which I do not need on a regular basis to conserve my computer’s hard drive space.

II. File management (NETS ?) (2008)
Level 1    I do not save any documents I create using the computer.
Level 2    I save documents I’ve created but often have difficulty finding them. I store duplicates of my files on disks, servers or flash memory for back-up purposes on an irregular basis.
Level 3    I have a filing system for organizing my files, and can locate files quickly and reliably in folders and subfolders. I can use the search command in my operating system (Indexer or Spotlight) to locate a file by name, type or content. I back-up my files to writable CD or DVD disks, separate hard drive, network file server, or Internet storage site on a regular basis. I use local network or Internet file storage server when provided so I can access my files from any computer, including my home computer. I save my files with the appropriate extension (.txt, ..jpg, doc, cwk, etc.) to facilitate cross-platform use. I can use a potable flash drive to transport my files.
Level 4    I regularly run a disk-optimizer on my hard drive, and use an automated back-up program to make copies of my files on a regular schedule. I have a system for archiving files which I do not need on a regular basis to conserve my computer’s hard drive space. I keep my back up files in physical locations that are at a distance.

Other file management tasks? Next up: III Time management and organization 

Tuesday
Feb122008

Blessing in disguise

The Gods have two ways of dealing harshly with us – the first is to deny us our dreams,
and the second is to grant them. Oscar Wilde

gocomp.jpg
Image source

With no small degree of amusement I read Patrick Welsh's editorial in the washingtonpost.com - A School That's Too High on Gizmo (Sun, Feb 10, 2008). Schaudenfruede, I believe the experience is called.

Welsh complains that teacher morale in his high school in Alexandria, VA, "is the lowest and cynicism the highest" he has seen. Why? There has been a top-down implementation of new technologies like fixed LCD projectors, hand-held devices to use with the the LCDs and school-issued student laptops. (All stuff many, even most, of my teachers would kill to have.)

Welsh's teachers seem to be expected to use this equipment for instruction whether it fit their teaching styles or not. It doesn't sound like teachers were given a voice in the selection or implementation of the technology. Looks like a lot of one-size-fits all kind of thinking. Or as my dad would've said, "These are people with more money than sense." It seems to me the teachers have a right to complain.

It's unlikely such an article would be written by one of my disrict's teachers. But that's less to do with my magnificent leadership and planning skills and more to do with our schools' finances. Our district rarely has the funds to implement any technology in one swell foop. And that is probably a blessing in disguise. Teacher computers, interactive whiteboards, mounted LCD projectors, audio enhancements systems, portable labs and classroom mini-labs have all been phased-in over time. Teachers need to submit thoughtful proposals to obtain most of this equipment and it is on the basis of these proposals that we usually determine who gets the gizmos first. (An early example is here.)

Hmmm, giving tech to teachers who actually want it - what a concept!

Now we do have some technology requirements of all teachers. Everyone is expected to:

  • Take attendance and lunch count online.
  • Submit grades online and keep them up-to-date and accessible to parents via the web.
  • Complete electronic progress reports, report cards and IEP forms.
  • Read bulletins and announcements sent via email.
  • Have a basic online presence with contact information for parents.

Pretty basic, managerial kinds of things - nothing that would dictate how or what teachers teach.

There is, however, an interesting discussion going on - should all teachers be required to teach an identified set of information and technology literacy skills in their classes at the secondary level. Doing so, I expect, would necessitate teachers also using the technology as well. The other discussion we continue to have is what constitutes a minimum web presence. Is just contact information enough or should teachers be required to make other information available as well - classroom support materials, forms, etc.? So we will also be askeing whether teachers can opt out of using  classroom voice enhancement systems that seem to be helping a lot of kids hear and understand verbal instruction?

Nobody much likes being told what to do. No teacher likes his/her professionalism questioned. But nobody wants to see our students not get the IT/IL skills they need to survive because teachers opt out of teaching them. And all parents who wish to be partners in their children's educational experience ought to have the right to access the materials that will help them be effective partners. And it seems the use of audio enhancement systems is a no-brainer - at least to me. (To date we have few of these and they've all been requested by teachers.)

Where's the balance? What should be optional and what should be required? How does your school keep from being "too high on gizmos"?