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Thursday
Jul242008

Blame the user

When three people call you an ass, put on a bridle. Spanish proverb

I will be running close to the edge of my "Complain globally, praise locally" blogging guidelines in this post . But I am pretty angry.

Our state's Library Services Department wanted to collect data on school library programs using an online survey tool. Great!

We need a good set of data. We don't know for certain how many libraries, librarians, resources or computers we have in our fair state's schools - and whether those numbers are increasing or decreasing. It was embarrassing during legislative testimony to be asked for school library data and to not have such numbers available. The lack did not help our case.

So the intent itself was outstanding.

But the execution was terrible. Irrelevant questions, confusing questions, unreadable formatting, unreasonable tech requirements, malfunctioning website, and just an incredibly daunting length were all "features" of this survey. But school librarians in 42% of schools bravely made the attempt - including our district. Many of us tried working the department to make the survey more useful and meaningful - work with seemed to have been simply ignored.

But this is what put me over: a scolding letter from the department saying...

Please note that of the 383 respondents, only 80 reports were correctly answered. Every library has a dictionary because of the importance of understating the meaning of a word. It’s equally important to understand the intent of the question to obtain comparable data.

So let me understand this... Of the 42% of surveys completed, only 21% of those were completed "correctly?" That is a rate of less than 9% of possible survey returns that the state deems as "correct."

Uh, might the problem be with the survey and not with the 91% of us who either didn't complete the survey or got it wrong?

Creating a good survey is a task best left to professionals, not well-meaning amateurs. The validity of the data requires it.

There is a larger issue here as well: When any of us don't get the response we were anticipating (amount of use of a new resource, attendance at an in-service, number of readers or responses to our blog, etc.), it's very easy to "blame the user." Maybe we should be looking at what we are offering instead.

Good intentions do not make up for incompetence.

Original image source: www.bryantnielson.com/

Tuesday
Jul222008

Messin' with my blog's style

My blog/web host provider, Squarespace, has updated its software to a new version. For a few days, the looks may be as odd as the content...


Sunday
Jul202008

Problems and paradise

I'm  thinking of this little story taken from a Twighlight Zone episode that Ray Kurzweil shares in his book The Age of Spiritual Machines as I look forward to the start of school this year...

While robbing a pawnbroker's shop, Valentine [a small time hoodlum] is shot and killed by a policeman. When he awakens, he is met by his afterlife guide, Pip. Pip explains that will provide Valentine with anything he wants. Valentine is suspicious, but he asks for and receives a million dollars and a beautiful girl. He then goes on a gambling spree, winning at the roulette table, at the slot machines, and later at pool. He is also surrounded by beautiful women, who shower him with attention.
Eventually Valentine tires of the gambling, the winning, and the beautiful women. He tells Pip that it is boring to win all the time and that he doesn't belong in Heaven. He begs Pip to take him to "the Other Place." With a malicious gleam in his eye, Pip replies, "This is the Other Place." [Episode synopsis adapted from Marc Scott Zicree, The Twilight Zone Companion.]

We are implementing a new student information system. We are restructuring staff development in technology. We are installing 60+ new "Smart Classrooms." We are having an increased push for the use of our data mining system. We are implementing a new strategic plan for the district. We will be planning our new elementary school building.

LOTS of opportunity for challenges, problem-solving and probably conflict-resolution.

I need to be mindful that challenges are blessings to those of us who are easily bored.