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EdTech Update





What expertise do we lose without school librarians?

As a school librarian at a small K-12 district in Illinois, Angela K. is at the center of a battle of extremes in educational technology and student privacy.

On one side, her district is careful and privacy-conscious when it comes to technology, with key administrators who take extreme caution with ID numbers, logins, and any other potentially identifying information required to use online services. On the other side, the district has enough technology “cheerleaders” driving adoption forward that now students as young as second grade are using Google’s G Suite for Education.

In search of a middle ground that serves students, Angela is asking hard, fundamental questions. “We can use technology to do this, but should we? Is it giving us the same results as something non-technological?” Angela asked. “We need to see the big picture. How do we take advantage of these tools while keeping information private and being aware of what we might be giving away?”

School librarians are uniquely positioned to navigate this middle ground and advocate for privacy, both within the school library itself and in larger school- or district-wide conversations about technology. Often, school librarians are the only staff members trained as educators, privacy specialists, and technologists, bringing not only the skills but a professional mandate to lead their communities in digital privacy and intellectual freedom. On top of that, librarians have trusted relationships across the student privacy stakeholder chain, from working directly with students to training teachers to negotiating with technology vendors.

A School Librarian Caught in the Middle of Student Privacy Extremes  DeepLinks Blog, Electronic Freedom Foundation, February 8, 2017

Gennie Gebhart does a fantastic job of describing the role of the school librarian in helping educators understand and follow best practices on student privacy issues. (Please, please, please read the whole article - one of the most informed pieces on the issues of student privacy I've read in quite a while.)

Hopefully, your school librarian plays a role like Angela K's in your school. I also hope your librarian is the go-to person on issues related to:

  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Digital Literacy (finding and evaluating information sources)
  • Intellectual Property/Copyright/Fair Use
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Free Voluntary Reading
  • Digital Conversion
  • Social Networking
  • Personalization of Educational Resources and Materials
  • Performance-based Assessment

If you do not have a librarian (or worse yet, have librarian who has refused to evolve along with technology and educational practices), who is the "go-to" person in your building when questions on these topics arise, when new educational resources and practices are considered, when policies and guidelines are written? Who in your school sees the big picture of technology adoption?

Who is your school's guide through the digital jungle?


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To have influence, show up

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. Tom Landry

My friend Jen Hegna from Byron MN, in her Grin and Bear IT blog writes about what she is learning about influence. She discusses a book study on Influencer: the New Science of Leading Change that she is doing with her class on instructional leadership. Based on her summary of the book, I just bought the Kindle and audio versions. (Damn, Amazon gets a lot of my paycheck!)

So I am going to return the favor, Jen, and suggest another book on the same topic that has had a big impact on my thoughts about getting others to do stuff they don't necessarily want to do (per Landry's quote above): Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. First published in 1984 and revised a few time since, Influence to me is still the bible on the topic.

Calling them "weapons of influence," Cialdini devotes chapters to reciprocation, commitment, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. The book address influence not through the lens of education, but draws examples from everyday life (Why do charities often give you a gift before you even commit to a donation? - The rule of reciprocity - human nature says that we feel compelled to return the favor when given a gift.) Highly readable and quite useful.

One of the "likeability" strategies he suggests is to always attend happy events - awards programs, building openings, any sort of celebration. Even if you have played absolutely no role in the event, go anyway. When others see you repeatedly at happy events, they will subconsciously associate you with happiness, and you will therefore be more likeable.

My experience is that all influence is personal and individual.

All change starts with a single person.

Up your influence game.


BFTP: Walk. Just walk.

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
                                                          Friedrich Nietzsche

Walking is man's best medicine.

And they discovered something very interesting: when it comes to walking, most of the ant's thinking and decision-making is not in its brain at all. It's distributed. It's in its legs.
                                                  Kevin Kelly

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.
                                                                        Steven Wright

I've been either walking or jogging for 45-60 minutes at least four to five times a week for 35 years. It's no great sacrifice - just a long cherished habit - one of the few that I have that are actually healthy. When once asked for "secrets of success," my number one secret was to "take a walk."

Walking seems to have come into its own lately. For example: 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

These are some ways I make the most of my walking time. YMMV.

1. Walk during the day. I have the opportunity to walk at lunch time. I've often wondered if my time might be better spent socializing with teachers in the district in a lunchroom, but I've decided that my time spent alone with my own thoughts is as or more beneficial. A mid-day break clears the mind and loosens up problems somehow.

2. Walk alone. On occasion I walk with others and enjoy the experience, but 99% of the time I walk by myself, at my own pace and where I want to go. It's hard to think when you are either talking or listening to somebody else. My sense is that the world would greatly improved were everyone to spend 30 minutes a day simply reflecting.

3. Walk outdoors, preferably in a natural setting. Treadmills don't do it for me. Avoiding traffic and exhaust fumes isn't much fun either. Look for a park or nature area to take your walk. (I wear a blaze orange vest when walking through a city nature area that allows bow hunting of deer during the fall.)

4. Walk in every weather. A warm coat, hat (with earflaps) and gloves are all you need here in Minnesota to walk all winter long. Oh, I add ice grips to my shoes in the winter too. A rain jacket in the office works the rest of the year.

5. Walk, don't stroll. I don't speed walk. I don't walk with weights. I don't stop every five minutes to do jumping jacks. My regular walk looks odd enough as it is. But I do walk purposely fast enough to get the heart rate and breathing going a little faster. Throw in a few hills if you have them. Walk like you mean it.

6. Walk without a sound track. I can't concentrate when listening to music and I can't focus at all if there is a narrative playing. It's nice to hear the birds, the wind, and the horns of vehicles bearing down you anyway. And just how do people keep those damn ear buds in?

7. Walk a variety of routes. I have four circuits, each of about three to four miles mapped out from my office. (If you are used to walking a circuit in a certain direction, try reversing course sometime - it's a whole new world.) If I have a meeting I can walk to and back from, I do.

8. Walk on the weekends and walk on vacation. Make your days off work as pleasurable as possible by walking. Weekends are a good time to head to a park to walk - or snowshoe, cross-country ski or bicycle for a little variety. Books of walking tours are available for most cities and walking (or hiking) vactions are the best. You'll never want to see a country from the windows of a tour bus again once you've seen it while walking or biking.

9. Walk for your mental health as much as your physical health. No matter how busy, no matter how uninspired, no matter how lousy the weather*, I always am glad when I get back that I walked. My problems are often solved, new ideas hatched, and my mood improved. Or maybe I should say, walk for your family's and co-workers' sakes.

10. Walk how you want to walk. Ignore any of this advice. Just walk.

Note: Since posting this 5 years ago, I have started using MapMyWalk to track how far and how long I walk. I find it motivational. I have also joined MeetUp walking group excursions a few times a month. I find going with groups like this make it more likeky that I will walk faster and farther than I would normally.

 Original post January 1, 2012