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EdTech Update





Give a teacher a computer

With apologies to author Laura Numeroff and illustrator Felicia Bond. The LWW brought home Mouse Cookies & More: Acookie.jpg Treasury this weekend and it started me thinking...

Give a teacher a computer

Give a teacher a computer,
    And he will want Internet access.

Give a teacher Internet access,
     And she'll most likely want an e-mail account.

Give a teacher e-mail,
    And he'll just want learning games and
more computers in her classroom. And tech support.

Give a teacher learning games,
    And she'll want streaming video.

Give a teacher videos,
    And he'll insist on an LCD projector permanently mounted in his classroom (with speakers).

Give a teacher a projector,
    And she'll ask for an interactive white board (and training and time for collaboration and resources to use with it).

Give a teacher an IWB,
    Then he wants a student response system, a wireless slate, and a document camera (and more support).

Give a teacher tech,
    And then she wants all her kids to have it too. And the skills to use it well.

We'll that's the theory anyway and it holds for lots of my teachers. I always find it amazing (and even a little frustrating) that some teachers can't get enough technology in their classrooms and give their kids enough experiences using it, while other teachers still grumble at even having to use anything more complicated than an overhead projector. And I don't think it breaks down neatly along generational lines. Perhaps those who are reluctant were frightened by a vacuum cleaner as small children.


As an aside, this comes from a travel advice column in this morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper when the author comments on the actions taken by a person whose hotel reservations were lost:

I think you handled this grievance pretty well. Call the hotel was an excellent idea, and so was following up with Expedia. But you should have pinged Hyatt again...

Pinged?  First time I've seen this geeky word move from technical to general use. According to WIkipedia, the fellow who wrote the first Ping program back in '83 took the term from the sound sonar makes and only later was the acronym "Packet InterNet Grouper" devised. More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

If you'll excuse me, I think I'll get the telephone and go ping my kids... 



For your weekend reading pleasure

"There is a growing body of research that documents the effect of a strong school library program on student achievement, and we need the data on staffing, size and age of collections, and budgets spent on resources to get a picture of a strong program that makes a difference for students." AASL President, Sara Kelly Johns.cat_reading_newspaper.jpg

The above quote comes from the eSchool News article School library research makes the case for more targeted support, September 18, 2007. The results aren't as interesting as the interpretation of the results of the first national survey on school library media programs. But I guess that is always the case... The article is worth reading, but the full report won't be released until AASL in October.

A few other recently published papers:

Do Our Students Measure Up? How to Define and Assess Student Technology Proficiency. Technology & Learning. Yes, it is basically a 25 page advertisement for's online assessment tool, but it raises some interesting questions about how to assess student tech proficiency. (Here is another approach to tech skill assessment.)

Reading Revisited: Evaluating the Usability of Digital Display Surfaces for Active Reading Tasks. Microsoft, October 2007. Sort of an oblique look at why paper is still the reading medium of choice. Cutting to the chase: Although digital systems have improved their support for active reading in the last ten years, there is still room for improvement. Yup. I was surprised digital ink (which does not require constant screen refreshes and is easier on the eyes) was not mentioned at all, and screen resolution was not considered much of a factor.

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2007. This annual study of college students and their use of technology now includes longitudinal data for the past 3 years. Any guesses about what the trend is? Something all instructors, K-whatever, might want to consider:

For better or worse, students put responsibility for the answer to the question "Does technology improve learning?" squarely on their instructors. Rarely do students attribute IT-related learning problems to their own technical limitations. If the student conclusions are correct, then optimizing technology effectiveness for learning is best focused on four areas:

  • developing instructor technology skills
  • training instructors on how to effectively integrate technology and pedagogy
  • improving the speed, reliability, and support of the institution's network and academic applications. especially course management systems; and
  • increasing instructor and administrator awareness about how their students differ in technology savvy and access to technology resources

Beyond the Basics: Achieving a Liberal Education for All Children. Thomas B Fordham Institute, July 2007. Chester E. Finn and Diane Ravitch have compiled an extensive set of essays on why we need to go beyond the 3r's and narrow technical training when considering the education our children and our society need. From Finn's introduction:

STEMs Without Flowers
Recent days have brought yet another challenge to liberal learning in the schools: well-meaning business leaders and policy makers,rightly concerned about America’s (and their states’) competitiveness and the dearth of highly skilled workers able to sustain tomorrow’s technology-driven economy, are pushing so-called STEM (Science,Technology,Engineering,and Mathematics) training.
STEM seeks to give students the skills needed to handle the technology-rich tools that undergird the modern economy.Understandably,leading proponents of STEM have included the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM),vividly aware ofthe difficulties that employers face in finding,hiring,and retaining such people.NAM reports,for example,that 90 percent of
America’s manufacturers now face shortages of skilled production employees such as machinists, operators,craft workers,distributors,and technicians.

Such problems are real.Yet those who see K-12 education as the solution to them are pointing America toward yet another curricular tightening and another round of unintended consequences. In the long run,America’s true competitive edge is not its technical prowess but its creativity, its imagination, its inventiveness, its people’s capacity to devise new solutions,to innovate, to invest new organizational as well as technological forms,and to eke productivity gains out of what others see as static situations.STEM cannot claim to inculcate such attributes any more than the basic-skills folks can. Indeed,too much STEM may mean too few leaves and flowers.If children are deprived ofthe rich content of American history,as well as the history ofo ther cultures, geography, the arts, languages, and literature,they will face unmanageable challenges on many fronts.

I have to admit I've not read the entire 192 page book, but it looks promising. I've been a Diane Ravitch fan since her book, The Language Police came out in 2003.

Finally, just a nod to Harrison and Killion's article "Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders" in this month's Educational Leadership. (Sorry only the abstract is available free online.)  They list and describe these things teachers as leaders do:

  1. Resource Provider
  2. Instructional Specialist
  3. Curriculum Specialist
  4. Classroom Supporter
  5. Learning Facilitator
  6. Mentor
  7. School Leader
  8. Data Coach
  9. Catalyst for Change
  10. Leaner

 What jumped out at me is that the authors describe what so many library media specialists ARE ALREADY DOING!

Cat reading image from Postmark Press

 What reports have caught your eye lately?



Criteria for evaluating games

zork1.jpgOn Septemeber 18, I send the following request to LM_Net:

Hi folks,

I have been looking (unsuccessfully) for a list of criteria one might use to
choose educational games for libraries and classrooms. Does anyone have any
kind of selection tool s/he can recommend?

Baring that, do any of you have an authoritative, non-commercial list of
educational games or game sites?

Thanks for any help you might give,


Below are the LM_Net responses, but first one very interesting paper I discovered (old news to most, I suppose) is Marc Prensky's 2005 article, Complexity Matters, where he differentiates between complex and simple games, arguing that adults (digital immigrants) have a negative opinion of games because we associate the idea of “game” with those of our own childhood – card and board games, recreational pursuits meant to pass a rainy afternoon. Prensky surmises: “Because of these formative game-playing experiences growing up, when today’s teacher (or parent or educator) hears the word game, their first reaction is: “trivial.” And they don’t want this “trivial” stuff to be part of their child's, or children's’ “serious” education. So they reject games out of hand as a serious learning tool.”

Instead, he argues, we should be thinking about “complex” games, those that take 10-100 hours to complete. These games require “a player to learn a wide variety of often new and difficult skills and strategies, and to master these skills and strategies by advancing through dozens of ever-harder “levels.” Doing this often requires both outside research and collaboration with others while playing.”

Complex game titles  include: Sim City, Civilization III, Rise of Nations, Age of Empires, Age of Kings, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Myst, Riven, EverQuest, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, all the Tycoon games, John Madden Football,  Medal of Honor, Full Spectrum Warrior, and America’s Army.

As an old Zork fan, I concur!  

Now the LM_Net responses: 


Hey, Doug, how are you?  Thanks for your interest!  I'm afraid the policy part of the gaming world is a peninsula to which my alleged gurudom does not extend.  We don't circulate games here, and we don't have any policies that cover our gaming events.  However, I've got three resources that might help you.
First is the Mario Brothers Memorial Public Library at  I personally take issue with the assertion that the Mario Brothers are dead and in need of memorialization, but if you go to their video games page, you'll find some links to sample selection criteria and other policy-like documents on the right side.  Note that this is Jami Schwarzwalder's personal page, not representative of an actual library's policies, but they are a good starting place and they look like what such documents would probably look like.
You should also check out , which has a pretty good page about collection development and criteria.
Also, you may want to talk to Beth Gallaway if you haven't already; she has given presentations about game collection development and would have better resources in this area.  Her blog is and you can reach her at .
Finally, if you are looking for some other people to talk to, check out the gaming section of the library success wiki at which has links to libraries that are circulating games that might be able to help you furhter.
Hope that helps!  Good luck with your article, and don't hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions I can help with.

Eli Neiburger is a library game tournament guru and author of the Library?! The Why, What, and How of Videogame Tournaments for All Ages. He kindly responded to a direct request for information. Using these links, I did find Becta, a UK IT firm that lists criteria for choosing games including age ratings, genres, technical requirements, costs and licensing along with some pragmatic qualities like being able to turn off the sound, having regular save features and allowing the user to create their own environments, levels and missions. 



I don't have a list of criteria for you, although I will probably be creating one soon (my dissertation topic may well end up having something to do with reading and educational games), but I do have a list of book-based games to share.  I did an article for Teacher Librarian for the April 2007 issue about card games, board games, and video games based on stories.  I've attached my chart for you.  It already needs to be updated, but if you're interested in story games, it will get you started anyway.

Have you checked Eli Neiburger's new book, the Library?, for selection criteria?  I haven't had time to read it yet, but I'm guessing it may have selection criteria, at least for public libraries.

Please post a hit if you find a good list--I am definitely interested as well.


Kelly Stern






Hi Doug, reviews games as well as movies "with kids in mind".

From their site:

Our Mission
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the media and entertainment lives of kids and families.

We exist because media and entertainment profoundly impact the social, emotional, and physical development of our nation's children. As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, we provide trustworthy information and tools, as well as an independent forum, so that families can have a choice and a voice about the media they consume.


Pamela B


I don't have a list, but I love to use the 24 Math game from Suntex and Scrabble.  I started Scrabble clubs in a couple of places with the School Scrabble set from Hasbro.  I've also used a lot of Yahtzee and Perudo/Liar's Dice/Pirates of the Caribbean dice (the creator, Rich Borg is a friend of my husband's) when I was running a resource classroom for special ed and ESOL students.

Cheryl Youse 


My rule of thumb is to go by the state frameworks.  If it (the game) is teaching a skill or concept that is in the frameworks and thereby required (and tested) then it's good enough for me.  I also like to choose games, especially library games (from Upstart/Highsmith) that make difficult concepts easier.  Library vocabulary is easier learned with Bingo - I call the definition and they look for the word - that me just repeating myself eternally!  If you are purchasing games for the teachers, I would advise caution.  What looks great isn't always the case...and even if it is, it doesn't mean they'll use it.  Our math curriculum comes with it's own games (Everyday Math) - and the program doesn't leave much time for supplemental activities.  If it's something they really want, poll our group (LM_NET) as to the effectiveness of the game.  Boxes are colorful and write-ups look great.  I've been fooled more than once!  Good luck!
Holly G


...Van Orden and Bishop's The Collection Program in Schools 3rd edition p159 gives general criteria for games that addresses general goals such as problem solving.

Janet Hilbun, PhD
Assistant Professor
School of Library and Information Studies
Texas Woman's University
Denton, TX


I would start with this site These are the California Learning Resource Network criteria for the state of California's teachers.  For information on computer games in education go to This article may have some information that you can use also

This is an article that defines six criteria for a specific type of game- educational simulation.  You may be able to use some of his thoughts to put your form together.

For reviews on educational games that are educational in view point go to and they have a review form that is given to teachers They use reviews from teachers, parents and kids.

Hope these help.

Linda De Vore 


I hope this helps some folks. Thanks as always to the brilliant people on LM_Net. Still best resource on the Internet!