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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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Help sweep up the budget dust

Money will buy a pretty good dog, but it won't buy the wag of its tail.
                                                                               - Josh Billings

As counterintuitive as it sounds, the end of the school year is a good time to ask for money. Your principal just may have some budget dust that s/he needs help spending.

Budget dust is made up of those small amounts of "emergency" funds we all keep in our accounts through the school year. A wise policy. But as all good bureaucrats know, any budget that is not completely spent in a given year faces the real possibility of being reduced the next. So eventually even emergency funds need to be used.

Most schools' fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30. That means any purchases coming from a particular year's budget need to be paid for prior to June 30. Sooooo, you may have an administrator looking for positive ways to expend the remainder of some budgets. Can you provide a list of needed items, a rationale for each, and guaranteed speedy acquisition? Things like:

  • digital camera
  • locally puchased high interest books
  • a document camera
  • a Netbook for check out
  • a new check out scanner
  • a stock of projector lamps

You get the idea. Small, targeted, needed. Ask.

Doesn't being helpful feel good?


I am one of the few sick people who sort of enjoy doing budgeting and then writing and speaking about it.

My fixation came when as a building librarian one of my book orders was once rejected by the school's business office because of a "lack of funds" in the library account. Happily, I have always kept my own set of spending records. Using these and working with the business mangager, we found a bunch of PE equipment had been, ahem, accidentally coded to my library account. Lesson learned about accurate record keeping.

Anywho, if you are interested, some oldie, but moldie articles/columns on library and technology budgeting...


Research: Smaller tasks, more often

Brain research shows that permanent learning only takes place when research activities are assigned frequently enough that students can exercise and develop the essential skills of critical reading, writing, higher-order thinking, and presenting ideas and opinions with a purpose.

Brain research also shows that these activities must be related to student interests about their world and provide the opportunity for them to develop their own “reasoned opinions” based on researched facts and expert opinions. This desired learning is impossible to do for all students when schools depend on the “term paper” as their only research strategy.

A recent study of Social Studies teachers indicates that the age of the term paper is rapidly disappearing and being replaced by shorter and more frequent types of mini-research. Education Week – November 20, 2002.

We too often think of information problem-solving in the context of huge projects or term papers, when most of us in both our work and personal lives use information problem-solving skills everyday. How can we give our student’s everyday practice with information literacy skills? Some suggestions are below.

  1. Use the Internet to check the weather forecast and make a recommendation about dress for the next day.
  2. Search and report an interesting fact about the author of the next story being read by the class.
  3. Email students in another class to ask their opinions on a discussion topic.
  4. Recommend a movie or television show to watch the coming weekend.
  5. Find two science articles that relate to the current science unit. Evaluate the credibility of the sources of information.
  6. Locate a place from a current news headline on an online map resource like <>.
  7. Recommend a book to a classmate based on other books that classmate has read using the school’s library catalog or an Internet source.
  8. Update the class webpage with interesting facts from units studied and links to related information on the web.
  9. Estimate the number of calories and fat grams in the meal served in the cafeteria that day.
  10. Find a “quote of the day” on a specific topic and use a graphics program to illustrate and print it out. (from Everyday Problem-Solving, Sept 2002)

My sense is that most teachers could easily create a "information task of the day" type activitity - or the librarian could supply one to the entire school for the daily bulletin. We don't rely on big "reading" projects or "math" projects or "writing" projects to teach these essential skills. Why do we rely on big "research" projects to teach those essential skills?

Think small. Think more often. Think real life questions.