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Wednesday
May142008

Library design advice from the ancients

I went to library school back when God's dog was still a puppy. But there were remarkable teachers even as long as 30 years ago. Mildred Laughlin, at the time a professor at the University of Iowa, taught most of the school library classes including administration and management. ("Leadership" was not the Holy Grail it is today.) Dr. Laughlin's course included a unit on school library facility design and her advice holds up.

This blog post and the next 6 briefly explore the basic school library design principals, as I remember them, from that long ago class...  

des1.jpg 

Monday
May122008

The beauty of disconnectedness - Ken Rodoff

 It's better to do something than to do nothing. Clay Shirky

I just loved this mini-rant left by Ken Rodoff (The Why of It All blog) to my post about Twitter last week:

Twitter is a thing. Just another thing.

Twitter use may represent a less-than-dedicated employee, but at home isn't it less of a time-suck than, oh, say, SL [Second Life]?

What I find most confusing is how people can dedicate so much time AFTER work hours,ATrant.jpg HOME! to SL, UStream, WeStream?

Am I the only one with kids? Am I the only one trying to have a F2F with my spouse (I mean, a lot of people sure do love the F2Fs, you'd think they practice them in their homes)? Am I the only one watching Lost? Hell's Kitchen? The Office? Please don't answer those last three...I'm well aware I live, at times, a less than esoteric existence...but I'm watching them with my wife, and we're even talking about them.

And what about reading? When's anyone getting that done?

All I know is that this soporific soul of mine needs / craves / begs for sleep. Begs for balance. Begs for an all-inclusive life, but every time I add one thing, I've jettisoned another.

Take the origin of this comment:

  1. Log on to Twitter
  2. Click on Darren Draper
  3. Click on the link to his blog
  4. Click on his 'hey, read this' little blue widget
  5. Read your post
  6. Think about your point
  7. Read the comments (okay, only two...wanna guess?)
  8. Type my comment

Total time so far (Verizon Fios Internet...just thought you should know): 12 minutes.

So, what did I lose over these past 12 minutes:

  1. The washer to dryer exchange that my load of darks so desperately craves.
  2. Making lunch for work tomorrow.
  3. Cleaning something in this house...anything in this house (myself included).
  4. A chance to talk with my wife as all 4 of my children sleep.
  5. A peregrination.
  6. The top of the 9th inning of the Red Sox - Twins game.
  7. The beauty of disconnectedness

And it's #7 here that irks me most of all because it's the constant addition of things that makes me realize how much I had in the first place.

When I think about Twitter I'm ashamed of myself. When I check Feedburner I'm mortified at who I've become. When I think about what I should blog about I near tears.

All of the aforementioned make me realize I've neglected my children, my wife, and in its purest form, my life.

Maybe I'll blog about it.

Advertise it on Twitter.

And see if my Technorati rank goes up.

Really now, just as Twitter asks: what are we doing?

Thanks, Ken. Your thoughts echo mine so closely it is almost eerie! (However I had to look up peregrination. Good word!) 

How we spend our leisure (or at least non-work time) is an interesting question. I was intrigued by Clay Shirky's observation*:

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would've come off the whole enterprise, I'd say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened--rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time.


And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.

He continues:

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

Like Ken, I wonder if I spend too much time online at the expense of other activities. A friend observed that replying to each comment left on my blog:

... a personal comment just to say "thanks" [for leaving a comment] makes me wonder if the blogger actually has a life!

Well, I think I have a life. It doesn't include watching much TV, playing golf, or doing as much volunteer work as I should.  While Ken and I both have four kids, the LWW and I are empty nesters. (Whew!) So can we gauge by the amount of time we spend on line if we need to "get a life?"

 

Subjectively, we could place all our leisure time activities on scale. The low end might be watching Gilligan's Island re-runs (preferably while drinking a beer, wearing sweats, and in a prone position) and on the high end might be tutoring disadvantaged children, comforting lepers, or coaching one's daughter's hockey team. (I believe the last two also qualify one for cannonization.)

 

Blog writing, commenting, responding to comments is, I suppose, akin to pretending to be an elf. But if feels productive rather than consumptive and is one hell of a lot more entertaining than 95% of television programming.

 

I guess I would even Twitter before I would watch Desperate Housewives.

 

Are some uses of leisure time better than others?

 *Thanks to Tim Lauer for pointing out this video and transcription.

 

Monday
May122008

Philosophy in bricks and mortar

dmmedia.jpg

Entrance to the Dakota Meadows Middle School Media Center 

Buildings reflect the values of those who design them. They are, so to speak, philosophy made visible in bricks and mortar.

When the Mankato Schools built its last new building, Dakota Meadows Middle School, in the early 90s, the project team was led by a remarkable educator - principal Jane Schuck. Thanks to her vision, the school had two overriding design principles - the "middle school concept" and "technology-infusion," Those principles are visible yet today in the building's design and program. It remains, in my experience, still the most innovative school building in Minnesota.

What principles will be on display in our new elementary building? I know two, for sure. First, this will be a "green" building. In selling the referendum, we promised that we would work for LEED certification, making sure the project is as environmentally friendly and energy efficient as possible. I am excited about this. Second, there will be increased attention paid to safety. For the first time in our district, the building design process will need to consider things like "lock downs." One of the most remarked-upon ideas from our recent visit to other schools was a entry door configuration that required all visitors to pass through the school office before gaining access to the rest of the building. Sigh...

But what about the educational philosophy behind our new building? Cowed by AYP and other NCLB threats, will our entire building be designed "to raise standardized test scores," as one of the team has already suggested? If so, what would a building like that look like?

From current practices, there seem to be many things the building would not need:

  • a gymnasium, art room, music room
  • certainly no playgrounds
  • probably no library media center
  • science classrooms only if science scores start to "count" on state tests
  • no stages, no auditoriums, no large group venues of any kind
  • no technology beyond computers for drill and practice in math and reading and, of course, testing

Probably small, cube-shaped classrooms with straight rows of desks all facing the front of the room would be just the ticket for extended reading and math "practice." (No thinking outside the box, for heaven's sake.) Lots of space for special education. Minimal distractions. Maximum efficiency of movement for less time off the tasks of direct reading and math instruction.

Until citizens in a single voice stand up and shout, "Being educated is about more than doing well on tests!"  test-performance-schools that both educators and kids will detest will be built.

What would your "high-test" school look like? 

 _______________________

Update May 13 - just released from our DO:

blgguideprin.jpg 

 Nary a word about test scores.