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Saturday
Sep082007

Department of Education Prevention

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry, he'll be a mile away--and barefoot. --  Sarah Jackson

walkamile.jpg
Inca Trail, 2006

A classroom teacher shares her frustration on her blog entry "The Start of the School Year" with the overly restrictive policies set at her district. (Thanks to Scott McLeod for the pointer to this one.)

Good technology policy-making is probably the most neglected area of technology planning and integration. I've explored it before at  A good policy for policies, Librarians Are From Venus; Technologists Are From Mars and informally in the Blue Skunk at When Techies Don't Get It. I've even done a session at NECC about the issue - complete with handouts!

And do people listen? Noooooooo!

To be truthful, developing good policies is an ongoing issue in our district as it is in all. Just this week our tech staff discussed whether to use our firewall to block iTunes Radio - a bandwidth-sucking resource of dubious educational value that requires us to open ports in our firewall. No good or easy answers here - but the decision will be eventually made by our district tech committee with information and insight provided by our IT folks. Sigh...

I did pass on "The Start of the School Year" to all of our techs and our district tech committee. Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind lists as a conceptual age skill:

4.    Not just logic, but also EMPATHY. “What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others.

Developing mutual empathy between techs and teachers may just be a career-long task. I could use more empathic abilities myself. 

How do you build empathy and good policies in your district? 

______________________________

Greetings from beautiful Eugene, Oregon where I am attending my pentultimate board meeting for ISTE. Up at 4AM (6AM Minnesota time). I'll get to watch the sun rise over the Willamette River. Question is: Will I still be awake at sunset? 

Friday
Sep072007

My next library catalog needs

card_cat.jpg

The Follett folks are always after me to upgrade our good old CircPlus/CircCat system to their (ominous-sounding) Destiny. I just can't get too excited about it. I think I will wait for at least some of these features in our next major upgrade:

  1. Federated searching of periodical databases, e-book collections, subject databases, encyclopedias, pre-selected web sources. (Think everything that Google doesn't cover.)
  2. Concordance searching Google Book Search or Amazon Search Inside the book) Search by phrase any book in the LOCAL collection.
  3. User defined tags (del.icio.us). For students and staff, of course. Think of the collection development possibiliites!)
  4. User reviews (Amazon). Think of the cred.
  5. Readers' Advisory service. (Amazon, Netflix) Students who checked out this book, also checked out... Based on your past reading history, we think you'll like...
  6. Ready-made citations (NoodleTools)
  7. User collection development (LibraryThing.) How I wish I had a list of all the books I've read in my lifetime!
  8. User networking tools (Ning, wikispaces) Collaboration on projects made simple.
  9. Seamless interface with student information system and data mining program. Allow searching and sorting by NCLB "student groups" to track circulation. Will SIF do this now???
  10. Patron privacy protection. Automatic deletion of patron and title links, but preserving the ability to look at trends and track student reading habits. Contradiction?
  11. Patron access to circ status. I want to log in to find out what stuff I have out.
  12. Free and remotely hosted. (Ad sponsored.) Not my favorite idea, but seems to be the web model.

OK, I have not done my homework here. I am sure there are newer circ/cat systems that do some (many?) of these things.

But my point is that our students are accustomed to having these tools and features on web sites they already use. If library resources are to remain relevant to them, shouldn't we offer these things as well?

I'd welcome your ideas of what your next circ/cat system should include. Or tell me where the features I'm dreaming about already exist in a commercial product for schools.

Wednesday
Sep052007

Why robots make the best students

Why robots make the best students
A riff on Kathy Sierra's Why Robots Are the Best Employees*

  1. They don't challenge the teacher's authority or subject expertise.
  2. They don't ask questions that may not have a right or wrong answer.
  3. They all learn in same way, at the same pace.
  4. They stay in their seats with eyes straight ahead.
  5. They don't go on vacations with their families during school time or skip school. Or come in late.
  6. They don't need to learn to work in cooperative groups. Or need social skills. Or need conflict resolution abilities.
  7. They don't need sex ed, multicultural ed, or P.E. The arts and literature are wasted on them. No field trips or fire drills. No need for hot lunch.robot7.jpg
  8. They never make the principal or teacher look bad (e.g. stupid, incompetent, clueless, etc.).
  9. They follow the school dress code and never swear.
  10. They have no strongly-held opinions or passions for which to fight.
  11. They always pass the state tests and always read above grade level.
  12. They are always willing to do the homework no matter how meaningless.
  13. They don't complain when you lecture or give worksheets. Endlessly.
  14. They can all use the same textbook and they are all always on the same chapter,
  15. They make a bell curve - always.
  16. They don't care what their classroom/library is like. Comfort and ambiance are not important.
  17. They don't expect to have the equipment they need.
  18. They don't need social services. Parent robots always come to conferences.
  19. They make good robot employees.

Jeff Utecht asks, "Why do teachers seem to be afraid of technology?" Dave Warlick rants about fearful teachers.

I agree that many teachers may be fearful - but it's not the technology that's frightening if you dig just a little deeper. It's what the technology gives kids access to and how it may change students and the classroom when information become ubiquitous. Were I a teacher, here is what I would be afraid of:

  • Kids who have more factual knowledge than I do (because of technology), thus supplanting me as the classroom sage.
  • Kids who insist on engaging learning experiences (since that is what they get using technology outside of class).
  • Kids who embrace ambiguity and creativity and personal passions (because they can find like-minded folks and information about those passions using technology).
  • Kids whose most important skills aren't measurable (practiced using technology) and will surpass me in power and income and prestige in only a few years after graduation.

For 12 years! I've separated those educators who shun ambiguity from those who embrace it. Technology exacerbates the gap. It's ambiguity we and the test makers don't much like. And more than a few politicians.

The challenges classroom teachers face today are unlike any the profession has previously tried to meet. Imagine being stuck in a plant designed to produce Model A Fords, but being expected to turn out custom designed high-performance aircraft with a 0% rejection rate.

I'd be fearful of a hell of a lot more than technology. 

Why Robots Are the Best Employees - Kathy Sierrra, Oct 2006

1) They don't challenge the status quo

2) They don't ask those uncomfortable questions

3) They're 100% obedient

4) They don't need "personal" days.

5)... because they don't have a personal life

6) They never make the boss look bad (e.g. stupid, incompetent, clueless, etc.)

7) They dress and talk the way you want them to

8) They have no strongly-held opinions

9) They have no passion, so they have nothing to "fight" for

10) They are always willing to do whatever it takes (insane hours, etc.)

11) They are the ultimate team players

12) They don't complain when you micromanage (tip: micromanaging is in fact one of the best ways to create a robot)

13) They don't care what their workspace is like, and don't complain if they don't have the equipment they need

14) They'll never threaten your job

15) They make perfect scapegoats

16) They get on well with zombies