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Sunday
Jul062008

Rationale or rationalization?

rationale: an underlying reason
rationalization: an excuse or more attractive explanation

Two related, but different words. Two situations to which my reasons may fall into either category.

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The first came during the SIGMS Forum at NECC, when the panel was asked if the goal of "saving library jobs" was self-serving. On the surface it certainly appears so. But I personally don't look at it that way.

rational.gifThe library media special has some unique roles in a school - the promotion of independent reading and love of reading; the teaching of critical research and information evaluation skills; and the promotion of intellectual freedom and provision of a diversity of ideas and options that cannot be found in textbooks.  While I would not argue for the retention of any one librarian, I can certainly argue for the retention of the position, just as I would argue for not eliminating art, music, PE, math, science, or any other position that offers children a unique learning experience.

The second situation comes as a response to a comment left on the Blue Skunk to a "take-away" listed Wednesday that read:  Best simple idea: If you want to get teachers using online resources with kids, cut their Xerox budgets. Dan replied:

"Best Simple Idea" oughtta be retitled "Best Indication That [Whoever Pitched That One] Is Too Far Removed From Classroom Teaching For [His/Her] Own Good."

Likelier than this cheerful migration online, which the author envisions, is a lot of grumbling, ending if and only if the administration accedes funds.

I mean, carrots over sticks. Every time, right?

LC gave some support for the idea:

I like your best "simple idea." It's super environmentally friendly. If teachers that have the access to online education still use paper to teach their students, I think they need to be seriously reprimanded, maybe even put in jail for a day. Well, OK, maybe that's a bit on the harsh side, but in the spirit of educational progress, I think teachers must find reasons to use the internet and software for educational purposes. Think outside the box. On the internet, you can reverse your work almost always, and do it instantaneously without damaging the environment. On paper, you can scribble over it or erase it, but eventually you will have to ask for another sheet of paper. Webpages provide a heck of a lot more info than sheet pages. The return from purchasing internet programs and software will be noticeable within the first day you use it. It's a worthy investment.

Well, it really wasn't my idea, but it deserves some consideration.  In every school I've worked at, funding is a zero-sum game. In other words, there is a finite amount that can be spent on all programs, and by spending on one thing, you have less to spend in other areas. And vice versa.

So, if we can use technology to decrease the amount of money spent on printing, paper, toner, and time spent copying, that frees up additional funds for lower class sizes, better materials, extra-curriculars, etc. One inherent advantage of placing stuff online is that doing so is virtually free.

Tom Landry once described leadership as "getting people to do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they want to achieve." This is that sort of leadership whether the carrot or stick approach is used.

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But back to my original question. Are my responses rationales or rationalizations?  To me a primary difference is that rationales are made prior to forming an opinion, whereas rationalizations often occur after the opinion has been formed - and publicly stated.

I have to admit, both of my reasons may be more rationalizations than rationales.

Did I ever mention I am not a quick thinker?

Saturday
Jul052008

A second Thanksgiving Day

 curmudgeon: An ill tempered (and frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions - wiktionary

A not uncommon response when asking a Minnesotan how things are going is, "Oh, could be worse." Effusive, we're not.

The "could-be-worse" philosophy is one I personally need to remember more often. 

The LWW and I are spending a few days unwinding by visiting the beautiful Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio. It's been a busy summer and a few days of getting up late, reading and touring are welcome. Yesterday, July 4th, we took the whole day visiting President Lyndon Johnson's ranch and hometown of Johnson City.

While most of us remember Johnson as the "Vietnam War" president with chants of "LBJ, LBJ, how many babies did you kill today," I was struck by his efforts to create his 'the Great Society." It was under Johnson that effective civil rights legislation was passed. Medicare and Medicaid was enacted during his term. Money poured into schools with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Thanks to Lady Bird, the environmental movement got started, and he added substantially to the National Parks domain. LBJ signed into law funding for the start of public broadcast. Any NPR listeners out there? 

Johnson was motivated by the experiences of his own childhood. He grew up poor, worked his way through college, and remained in close contact with his Hill Country neighbors and empathized with the disadvantaged. He was described as the last great "rural liberal."

 Anyway, something about LBJ and the 4th of July made me question my curmudgeonly stance on so many issues:

  • I complain about aching knees when getting up in the morning when thousands of our veterans have no knees to ache.
  • I grouse about my steak being over-cooked when I eat more in a week that others do in a month.
  • I fuss about the seat pitch on airplanes when I can fly across the country in hours, safely.
  • I moan about my grandsons living too far from home when they are healthy, smart and loving.
  • I steam about a lack of funding for technology in schools when education in this country for both boys and girls is universal.
  • I grumble about taxes, gas prices, and my 401K's performance when I am blessed with a job I love that allows me comforts unknown to 99% of the rest of the world.
  • I despise the politics in this country yet I recognize that I live in a society in which its citizens enjoy more freedom and safety than during any place or time in history.

usflag2.jpgWhen it comes right down to it, what do I really have to complain about?  Perhaps we need two Thanksgiving Days in the US. Just as a reminder that many, many, many of us do indeed lead charmed lives.

Could be worse.

Wednesday
Jul022008

Notes from NECC 2

Last day of the the Great Lovefest to All Things That Go Beep, or as sometime referred to, NECC. It seems like it's been a whirlwind with little time for reflection, but I want to jot down a few take-a ways before they fly away.

Most badly needed conference technology
A device that makes sure name badges are always hanging so the name is showing. I liked it better before lanyards. Or when my ability to link names and faces was better. 

Best simple idea
If you want to get teachers using online resources with kids, cut their Xerox budgets.

Intriguing thought
Brazillain schools are not directly providing Internet connectivity. Instead each student gets wireless (via cell phone) access for $6 a month. Hmmmm, personal computing/communication devices and personal networks. What WILL schools be spending tech dollars on? How will we control the little darlin's activities online? What will my job as tech director be? Too cool.

Biggest personal doubt
I've long argued for combined AASL/NETS student standards. But does a diversity of standards from which to pick and choose make for better state/local standards?

Blown away by
2.5 Librarian Anita Beaman's demonstration of how novels can be supported, extended and interacted with online. (Slideshow here.) I guess I knew a lot of this, but seeing it all in a few minutes was amazing.

Discovered too late
Free coffee in the presenters' room. Rats.

Person who best lives up to his online persona
It was a genuine pleasure to meet Miguel Guhlin for the first time in person. I knew from his writing he he would be funny and brilliant, but he is also a genuinely nice man. And far more shy than I would have imagined. Supper last night with him, Scott McLeod, Cathy Jo Nelson, Wes Fryer, and the LWW was a conference highlight. (He was taking, not in, this picture.)

Best new gizmo
Didn't see any must have's. But then I spent very little time in the vendor area this conference.

Most informative session
Cheryl Lemke from the Metri Group shared tons of research and implications about technology's impact on education. I can' wait to dig into her promised support materials. That I am sure I will blog about later.

Nod to mortality
The most exciting voices in the field coming from people the age of my children. Sigh...

Most abused session format
The panel. As both perp and victim of several panels this conference, I am convinced there need to be some guidelines. Too many talking heads pontificating ad hoc, ad nauseum, off-topic. There must be a better way. Ideas? I need to think more about this.

Best new session format
The mini-session at the Edublogger area. I spent a very enjoyable and informative hour visiting with just a handful of other tech directors talking about problems and solutions. (Including one of my favorite bloggers, Tim Stahmer of Assorted Stuff.)

New personal requirement
If a session presenter hasn't gotten to a point in the first 10 minutes, I walk. Am I applying the same attention triage that I apply to blog reading now to conference sessions?

Must read book
Suriwiki's Wisdom of Crowds. But several good ones mentioned in the Librarans 2.5 panel too, including Change the Way You See Yourself.

Biggest tease
"You're blog entries are too long."

That being said...

Thanks to everyone from whom I learned at length or in brief. It is indeed exciting and humbling to be a co-learner.