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EdTech Update





To print or not to print

While I admit that I am excited about e-books and their possibilities both as an educator and individual reader, I find myself a print addict.  Anything more than a couple pages long that I need to read with care goes to the printer. I shudder at the thought of trying to read anything of substance on a PDA or, worse, a cell phone screen. I've not purchased a Kindle. My dresser is stacked with - gasp - a dozen or more hardbacks and paperbacks. Amazon, Barnes & Noble and printer cartridge manufacturers all love me.

Am I a latent Luddite?

hamlet.jpgProbably, but Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper Is Eternal (2007) 74 pages by William Powers, Media Critic for the National Journal, helped me understand a little better why many of us still cling to hardcopy books, magazines, newspapers, and printouts of digital content. It's a fascinating, uh, "paper."

One of the more interesting sections describes the early  impact the printing press had on hand-written manuscripts. Handwriting, according to historians became even more widespread and important after Gutenberg. He uses this as an lesson, writing: "We have seen that new technologies do not necessarily eliminate old ones, at least not as quickly or predictably as is often assumed. However, when new modes of communication arrive, they do often change the role played by existing media." (p.26) and argues that "paper's work has been shifting away from storage and toward communication." Communication being the end user experience of actually reading.

Power's describes a Sellen and Harper study that ascribes to paper four "affordances" - inherent characteristics that make it particularly useful, especially for concentrated study:

  • Tangibility (Our hands can do some of the work our brain does in navigation.)
  • Spatial flexibility (We can spread out paper limitlessly, not confined by the size of a monitor)
  • Tailorability (We can easily mark up printed documents.)
  • Manipulability (We can put one page beside another for easy comparison.)

He concludes, "within a multi-tasking context, printed documents make it easier to focus on each specific task."

There are two other characteristics of paper that Power describes that resonated with me.

The first is that is is immutable. "Unlike a Web page that can be changed in the blink of an eye, a paper document implies a certain commitment to the content it carries." (p. 49) This summarizes my concerns over Wikipedia - not that the information it contains may be inaccurate. But that it may be accurate today and inaccurate 10 seconds later. (And frightens me to think how easy it would be today for Orwell's Big Brother to finish his task of revising all of history.) This may also explain why I take a good deal more time and care writing an 800 word magazine column than a longer blog entry - no going back to "re-write" the column.

The second characteristic is that paper is a selective medium. "A hard-copy document can only hold only as much information as will fit on its pages, and it cannot link to other sources except by verbal reference. ... the immensity of the digital trove also makes it inscrutable, unwieldy, and, at times, overwhelming." Power quotes Brown and Dugid in The Social Life of Information: has become increasingly clear that libraries are less 'collections.' than useful selections that gain usefulness from what they exclude as much as what they hold." If that is not the best argument for excellent collection development strategies in school libraries, I don't know what is.

Anyway, Hamlet's Blackberry is well worth taking the time to read. I suggest you print it out and do so.


Two, two, two memes in one

Some are born learners, some achieve learning, and others have learning thrust upon 'em. - The Blue Skunk


I've been tagged for two memes. The first comes from Amy Bowllen at School Library Journal. Her meme is 5 Things I Wish I Learned In School. (I am running late on answering this one!)

  1. I would have benefited from a year-long course in Philosophy. I've still never taken one and seem to only have picked up bits and pieces of schools of thought. Seems like it would have made a nice framework on which to hang one's observations through life. I have a copy of Sophie's World and have been meaning to get to it.
  2. I wish I'd had a class in simple home repairs - how to fix a toilet, how to hang a picture, how to paint a wall. I've managed to learn these things (or most of them), but the experience was never pretty.
  3. In college (especially grad school), we were so encouraged to develop our "leadership potential" that management skills were neglected. This one needs its own blog entry.
  4. I'd have like to have learned how to argue dispassionately, how to supervise others humanely and effectively, and how to give bad news without feeling guilty. All human relation skills, I suppose.
  5. It would have been nice to have someone sit me down and tell me that most of life is comedy, not tragedy. That the vast majority of things we worry about never happen - or if they do, they are seldom world-ending.

The second meme comes from Miguel Guhlin at Around the Corner. His is the Professional Development Meme. (link no longer working). What's on one's "Learning To-Do" list for this summer. (Miguel even lists assessments to show how he will prove he has accomplished his. Good grief. I bet he was the kid who always read all the assignments and raised the curve.) This is summer and I'm keeping my list short... 

1. Figure out how to naturalize as much of the yard as possible without offending the aesthetic sensibilities of the LWW. Less mowing, greater drought tolerance, kinder wildlife habitat, better lake water quality - and a lawn that looks like weeds. This will be a challenge...

2. Scale Mt. Bookpile (as LazyGal calls it). Here's what's stacked on my dresser:

  • Influencer (Patterson, et al.) Signed up for McLeod's online book club.
  • Brain Rules (Medina) Watched the video preview. Does that count?bookpile.jpg
  • Daemon (Zeraus) Sci-fi recommended by Wired.
  • feed (Anderson) Sci-fi recommended by Jeff Utecht.
  • Canoeing with the Cree (Sevareid) Classic trip of two boys' river trip through MN to Hudson Bay.
  • Distant Fires (Anderson) A more recent re-creation of Sevareid's adventure.
  • how (Siedman) Behavior is more important than ever in a wired world. Dang it.
  • Don't Make Me Think (Krug) Web-page design.
  • A Gravestone Made of Wheat (Weaver) Been reading one of this MN author's short stories each evening and really enjoying them. Title story basis of movie Sweet Land.
  • Dirty White Boys (Hunter) Hunter is THE best adventure/suspense writer going. This is one of the very few of his books I've not read.
  • Hunter's Moon (White) Reminisent of Travis McGee.

OK, that's nearly one book a week. Fat chance getting this accomplished!


3. Explore new ways to learn at NECC. I am deliberately going to try some new offerings at the San Antonio conference, especially those things being organized by the EdubloggerCon folks. While I am sure I will get to plenty of "sessions," I'll be seeking some less structured learning opportunities as well.

Of course work goes on as well all summer - 60+ more "smart" classroom installations, implementation of a new student information system, distribution of new computers and training for 120+ teachers, writing policies and procedures for some testing/datamining activities, etc.

I'm looking forward to fall - when I can get a little rest. 

I am tagging these folks for either or both memes. I'm picking on a few people I enjoy reading and I wish would write more often...

Nancy Willard (

Steven Maher (

Artichoke (

Tim Wilson (

Jane Hyde ( 

Rob Rubis (


Mixed messages


Inspired by an e-mail received this morning... I love Motivator