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Yohe on squishy standards

I was impressed with comments that Paula Yohe, Director Of Technology/Library Media Center for Dillon School District in South Carolina made on LM_Net in response to Sharon Grimes's post about AASL's new 21st Century Standards. I asked Paula if she would develop her comments into a "guest" blog entry and to my delight, I received this in yesterday's e-mail. Thanks, Paula! - Doug

It seems that those who wrote the new standards think that the old ones were already done --  I am still arguing with some folks about what should be being done with the old standards.

In my personal opinion -- the new standards from AASL and from ISTE give an easy out for not using them at all. No specifics. And why do I say that?

Let's take the ISTE Standards, then the profiles

Now what do they mean? What technology tools should they use?

I call these squishy --

If you are trying to use these to explain to people who don't have a clue, they would have no idea how to proceed or what to do.

Now look at the old ones Then the performance indicators

I agree the old standards needed to be updated -- but they were more specific.

I know that we need to integrate -- and make technology a more useful tool for students. But still alot of people who make the decisions do not see the use of the tools since alot don't use them but the kids do.

Now take the AASL Standards

Try explaining this one: Display emotional resilience by persisting in information searching despite challenges. Can most adults do this? And just how do you teach this and how does it fit in to other areas?

Demonstrate flexibility in the use of resources by adapting information strategies to each specific resource and by seeking additional resources when clear conclusions cannot be drawn. And just what resources do they mean?

Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.

I guess one of the questions we have to ask is who are these written for? Librarians? Administrators?

Reality is most media specialists can't "make" these standards, or any other standards, be adopted.

Any standards have to be easily understood and written so that the people who will use them understand what they are supposed to do and what they mean.

There are too many standards. If funding or test scores are not tied to any standards -- in most cases they will fall by the wayside.

Now go to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Then look at the Framework.

In my personal opinion these are clear and concise, give specific examples - and show how these are integrated into various subject areas

Look at these

I could go on -- but I was trying to answer explain what I meant by "squishy."
While I agree visionary is key, you have to have a base to hold up visionary. I don't seem to find a solid base in the new material.

With all due respect --  visionary is wonderful -- however - reality is – they have to be concrete -- for the majority of end users  and there has to be a reason to use them – and normally that means tied to testing and/or funding or you won't get most supt., administrators, principals or teachers to use them

I do not mean to sound negative -- but I am at the district office now -- and also am on several committees at the State level. By the time you do the “have to do” there aren’t even enough hours in the day to do all of the “have to do” let alone something like the AASL Standards that at best aren’t even clear to my fellow media specialists.

And unfortunately I have found this to be the case -- there are too many other things that do have concrete measures and consequences for using – and this is not just for these standards -- but for any other standards that are not tested or does not have funding tied to it. I personally can’t keep up with how many there are.

Someone on LM_NET wrote that media specialists should sit down and discuss these standards with administrators and formulate a plan. While the idea of sitting down with an administrator in a constructive atmosphere sounds wonderful – in reality in the vast majority of cases -- it isn't going to happen.

Does that sound negative -- perhaps so. But unfortunately you sometimes have to accept reality.

Now before someone sees that I am the Director of Technology and dismisses me as an ivory tower person.

I started working in school libraries in the 5th grade as a volunteer, the jr. high library, my part-time high school job was the in the public library, and my college job was in the college library in cataloging. I then spent 23 years as a building level media specialist and moved to the district office so that I could fight more for media specialists and the importance of their role,  but I have learned some hard lessons --

And unfortunately this discussion on standards is based on those lessons.

1. Building level administrators -- have too much to do. They are dealing with problems that the majority of faculty members have no idea about – meetings, phones calls, irate parents, upset teachers, budgets, broken equipment, upset teachers, test scores, new mandates from the federal government or state, test scores, attendance issues, discipline issues,  special education students, lunch problems, bus problems,  etc. Believe me -- go in and tell them you want to discuss these new standards -- then if they read them – do you actually think they will make sense to them?  That is not an insult to the building administrator – since so many of my fellow media specialists have indicated as much on LM_NET.

But a statement of fact -- any standards should be written so that anyone can understand what they mean – and what they are supposed to do... And I just don't think that is the case with these standards. If they did sit down and read them... The principal then will say -- are they tested? – is there any funding tied to this? Enough said --

2. District level administrators.

You can use pretty much the same list as above – but make it more global -- then add lawyers, NCLB reports, a whole variety of other paperwork that will make your head spin, and more.

Folks this is not to be negative or defeatist – but we have to accept reality and then try to move from there --

Take the standards and make them more readable for the end user. Find the standards that are being tested and see how you can fit these standards into them.

There are just too many standards out there – ISTE standards, Math standards, English standards, the list seems to go on -- and I think if I read one more set of "standards" I will scream. There are just too many things for everyone to do.

One question I always ask media specialists when I talk to them --

If a principal could only have one position – a technology coach, literacy coach, or a librarian -- which would your principal pick?

If it isn't the librarian -- find out why -- do you support teachers -- are you a leader in technology? What are you doing to promote literacy and get kids to read?

If you are the stumbling block -- you will be gone. Stop and think the next time you get angry that "your" standards are not being used - or when you won't let kids check out books because they owe a fine – (do you realize that's why some people have put in classroom libraries –they think the media specialists don't want kids to read -- they are too worried about fines) or I don't have time to help that teacher with that computer -- they should know how to use it...

If you want change -- sometimes you have to change.

My former principal used to say to me "Their perception is their reality and it is your job to change their reality." And he did not mean it in a negative fashion.  He meant that everyone has a different opinion of their reality and if you want change – you have to change their reality. They sure aren’t going to do it on their own.
I have used that premise for everything I do -- Think about it and as we hash these standards -- keep this thought in mind.

Do you want to create life-long lovers of libraries? or  Do you want library haters?

Food for thought……

Paula Yohe

I am sure Paula would enjoy reactions to this post!  


So just what SHOULD librarians be teaching?

"As I have argued in Reading Is Our Business (2006), for too long library media specialists have abdicated our rightful position as critical partners in the development of reading comprehension. As a result, funds are being diverted from school libraries to purchase classroom libraries, library media specialists are being replaced by instructional assistants and when certified librarians are employed, they are not viewed as instructional leaders or as full partners in the learning process." Sharon Grimes

"... our CORE, unique curriculum contribution is information literacy - defined as information problem-solving and involving the learning of information skills and understandings. It's the INFORMATION side that is uniquely ours. Among all educators, we are the ones uniquely responsible for ensuring that INFORMATION skills are learned by students." Mike Eisenberg (see response)

"What might some of the functions of the Virtual Librarian be? Network administrator certainly. Staff trainer in using e-mail, remote file storage, and Internet search engines. An electronic information evaluator and selector. A teacher who can develop information evaluation skills in her staff and students. Certainly webmaster for the library, if not the school. When information is transmitted to a class instead of the class being transmitted to the media center, where should the Virtual Librarian be working with students? Simply, everywhere – both physically and as a “cybrarian.”" - Doug Johnson 

Information literacy. Reading. Technology. Where should our primary teaching responsibilites lie if we are to both serve our students and make ourselves vital to our schools' programs? In the quotes above, two well-respected library gurus and one flake each offer different perspectives on the question.

Given the new student standards from AASL and ISTE, this might be good time to reflect on what our own programs look like  - and perhaps what they ought to look like.

I don't believe Ms Grimes, Dr. Eisenberg or I would suggest a library instructional program that is entirely IL, entirely reading or  entirely tech focused. All programs will contain some element of each skill set. But probably not in equal measures:


How and why might these proportions change?

Reading focus 


The diagram above shows what the skill emphasis looks like in many schools, especially at the elementary level, with reading being given a greater emphasis. With greater concern over basic reading abilities as measured by test scores, more library programs are adopting this model. The reading bubble will be larger in schools with a large percentage of students who are not testing at grade level.

My hope is that library media programs have intrinsic reading motivation and free volunteer reading as their core contributions to a school's reading program - not just more bodies doing basal readers, worksheets and the reading method du jour. By providing and promoting high interest materials at a variety of reading levels that meet a variety of developmental needs, we will create kids who not only can read by want to read.

Oh, I've alway argued that reading fiction that meets a student's development needs (aka Huck's "Books for Ages and Stages" work) is a form of information literacy. Kids get questions about themselves and their world answered vicariously through the actions of fictional characters.


Technology focus


An increasing number of schools seem to be emphasising technology as a focus of the librarian's instructional (and managerial) responsibility. I see this happening especially in schools where there is no separate "technology integration specialist" available to students and teachers. This is also more prevelant at the secondary level.

The key to this being a successful model is that the library media specialist is able to actually teach the application technology tools, not just the applications themselves (nor only be used as a technician). As suggested by the new ISTE Standard, two-thirds of which address information literacy or problem-solving, the technology and information literacy bubbles are increasingly overlapping - good educational technology use means using technology to solve problems, answer question and communicate the findings.

But it is the application of technology like the application of reading skills, that should be a primary element of the library media specialist's teaching responsibilities. 


Information literacy focus 


Personally I'd like this to be our model - that our programs acknowledge our roles as reading and tech teachers, but we empahsis the application of these skills in an IL model that helps solve real problems and answer genuine questions. Reading and technology, while important, are subsumed by our curriculum that actually ask for kids to put the those skills to use.

Where do ethics, highter-order thinking skills, group problem-solving, and all those "dispositions" like fit into this model? My sense is that the larger the information literacy bubble, the more opportunity library media specialists and teacher will have to address these areas both formally and informally within the context of the IL projects. Asking kids to do just do  traditional "research" does not give them practice using these "21st century" skills.

So which model best fits your school? In an e-mail discussing this question, Eiseberg writes: "it shouldn't be the librarian whom makes these types of choices.  There should be a building team - principal, key teachers, teacher-librarian - who determines each year the priorities of the library & info program ..." I would add to this even a formal library advisory committee can provide input into the goals and activities of your program.

The best library program is the one that best supports the needs and goals of its school. It doesn't get much simpler than that. 

So, OK, I sound a lot more confident of these ideas than I really am. What does your library curriculum model look like? Who determines it? Will it change because of the new standards? 





Students Face(book)ing suspension

Wizard of Id: The peasants are revolting.
King: They certainly are. - Johnny Hart

protester2.jpgStudents in the Minneapolis suburban community of Eden Prairie are facing disciplinary actions after their Facebook photos are sent to school officials. The Star-Tribune story is here. AP article here.

Interesting factoid from the AP story:

Eden Prairie High School has about 3,300 students, and Facebook lists about 2,800 members in its network for the school, including more than 500 from the current senior class. A spot check Wednesday showed some have posted dozens and even hundreds of pictures. However, most members use a privacy setting to limit access to their profiles to authorized users.

Johnson's three safety concerns of the social web from Rules for the Social Web, Threshold, Summer 2007:

  • Protecting children from predators.
  • Protecting children from each other (cyberbulling).
  • Protecting children from themselves.

If the figures from the article above are accurate, about 85% of Eden Prairie's students have an online presence. Are educators adequately addressing these concerns? What percentage of educators are aware of these concerns?

BTW, nice to see some school walkouts again. Takes me back to when my classmates and I walked out as high school students. But for us it was protesting a pro-Vietnam war legislator speaking at our high school during the late 60s.