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Friday
Aug172007

Play money

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Your humble blogster navigating the Big Kahuna Rapids on the Snake River. Look for brown hat.

I've always wondered a little about Daniel Pink's 5th "Conceptual Age Skill" from his book A Whole New Mind (about which I've written before a couple times):

5. Not just seriousness, but also PLAY.

How can serious educators consider "play" to be an important 21st century skill?

That was until when visiting Jackson, Wyoming, it dawned on me that there is serious money to be made in "play."

Jackson is the gateway to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and the white-water section of the Snake River, and has two major ski resorts. As a result, this little town of about 8000 souls finds 4 million people visiting it each year. At any one time, about 80% are sitting in the 50' RVs that are towing an SUV right in the middle of a two lane park road pointing and staring at a (sometimes imaginary) moose. Those 4 million people bring wallets stuffed with cash and credit cards.

Jackson's retail establishment seems to be divided equally among sporting good stores, art galleries, restaurants, and white water rafting companies. Many of the tourists here seem to have taken the bear's survival strategy to heart and continuously gorge for the coming long winter. I suspect many could hibernate for a couple years and still come away with a few extra pounds. Whatever your brand of play - shopping, skiing, bicycling, rafting, hiking, eating - a Jackson merchant is near.

Can a person who does not understand the nature of play provide it to others? I'm doubtful.

PS. A big thanks to Janice Segerstrom, tech director for Teton District #1 Schools, who organized the librarian workshops and the tech/ELL conference at which I spoke and gave me an excuse to come to this beautiful part of the world. And proved to be an excellent host!

Gotta go. Time to eat! 

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Play - a 21st century skill

Wednesday
Aug082007

Making time for reflection and other take-aways

It's not a big secret that workshop presenters themselves learn more about their topic each time they give a workshop - from the participants. My day-and-a-half spent this week with the lively school librarians at the SLMS Leadership Retreat at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, got me seriously thinking about several things from the workshop on assessment, planning, and reporting.

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workforcegraph.jpg The graph at the left is one I often use to stress the need for paying extra attention to what we might call today's "C and D" kids who need "A & B" skills. (The source of the graph is in this old column.) The idea led Jacquie Henry of Wanderings blog fame to  write me (posted here with permission) and blog.

I have been concerned for MANY years about the "C&D kids in and A&B world".  Our school definitely is not successful with them.  Yet they are my favorite kids.  Many of them "hang out" in my library.  They frequently ask me for help - but it is so often "too little, too late".  Many of them are readers and thinkers.  They just don't care about school.  I often feel as if i have failed them.  I KNOW our school and NCLB are failing them.  I am haunted by one of my favorite students who SHOULD have graduated this year.  I really thought he WOULD graduate.  But he did not.  I do not know what will happen to him.  I had a sign up in the library that said "Read.  It's hard to think on an empty brain."  I watched Nick read that sign last year and watched his face darken.  He said - "That sign isn't true.  I don't read and I think a LOT."  I said - "But Nick - you DO read.  I see you here all the time on web sites about cars, and also playing games.  You read all the time.  You're brain is full of good ideas."   Still - I know he was discouraged.  I hope he finds his way and that my school can find a way to help the Nicks of the world......

Wow. I hope every librarian takes Jacquie's words to heart and remembers just how important caring librarians are to so many kids for whom they may be the only supportive thing about the school. 

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A lively discussion about the library media center's response to classroom book collections, led to Chris Harris writing about thinking "outside the box about taking over ownership of classroom libraries" on his Infomancy blog. He picked up some great comments there too.

Also, thanks to Chris for his fantastic participation in the Clapping Institute activity. You ever need somebody to set the bar on role-playing, Chris is your man! 

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covmat.jpgFinally, the graph at the left is my adaptation of Steven Covey's time management matrix in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I use it in workshops when talking about creating long-term change. None of the things people need to do to create change are very difficult. But what is difficult is finding the time to do them - planning, reporting, assessing, relationship building, etc.

Covey would say the only way to make more time for Quadrant II activities - those that lead to long-term change and a reduction of Quadrant I tasks - is to find Quadrant III and Quadrant IV activities to eliminate. (Like reading this blog!)

So far, this the only time management strategy I've found that makes much sense. Try listing the Quadrant III and IV things you do. Yes, you have them. Everyone does. Now trying cutting back on them and use the time for the important, but not urgent, tasks. Seems I've been fussing about this for over 10 years now.

One of the librarians commented during the workshop, "Shouldn't reflection be considered a Quadrant II activity?" Absolutely. And I think most bloggers would agree that this informal writing is simply reflection made visible. Oh, blogging as a reflective activity also helps solve this problem:

whenithinks.jpg 

Re-read The Seven Habits. I do each time I teach a library administration class (it makes a great textbook) and gain from each re-reading.

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Thanks again, library media specialists of New York. You are a wonderful group!

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The Blue Skunk will be on vacation and doing workshops in the Jackson, Wyoming, area all next week. Posts only if and when I get the time. If you don't hear from me again, assume I died with a smile on face while whitewater rafting the Snake or taking a photo of something large and feral.

Saturday
Aug042007

Just feeling ornery

Rainy day and just feeling ornery.

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From "The Other Side of Plagiarism"... 

Here I am! Lil’ Debbie, a senior at Big Kahuna High. I may be a little over-committed. I’m taking a full load of college-prep courses; I’m on the varsity surfing team; I’m president of the Future Teachers of America Club; I’m class treasurer; and I do volunteer work on the weekends, including teaching Sunday school to little blind children in their native Hmong language. Oh yeah, I work at Mickey D’s a few hours a week because I have these unreasonable parents who expect me to pay for my car insurance, save for college, and even buy my own tongue studs. Plus there is this really cute guy in my AP Trig class on whom I’d sure like to get a better angle.

So I come home Thursday night at seven, tired from a rugged surfing practice session and I’ve got about 4 hours before I need to crash. I have some choices about how to use this time. Let’s see I can…

  • Spend hours researching and paraphrasing to write this paper assigned by Mr. Fuddy-Duddy on the causes of the Crimean War. (Wasn’t this like way back with Vietnam and Desert Storm?)
  • Work on the assignments in my other 5 classes which are way more interesting and valuable.
  • Revise my lesson for FTA on “How to Say the Pledge of Allegiance in a Really, Really Heartfelt Way.”
  • Give that cute guy in Trig a call to see if he can explain the difference between a sine and cosine to me.
  • Fill in at work for my best friend who needs the night of to help her mother who is just came home from the hospital.

One time at lunch, my g-friends and I were discussing some websites that let a person, just download term papers. Just log on, search, download and reformat. On some sites I can even say how good a writer I am so the paper doesn’t look too good for my writing abilities. I’m thinking this “short cut” on Fuddy-Duddy’s paper would allow me to do some things that actually, like, have meaning and value?

I know I do a better job on things that have relevance and when I know why they are important.