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Saturday
Apr182015

Library dollars on staffing or furniture? Guest post by Connie Williams

Connie Williams, a National Board Certified Teacher Librarian from Petaluma (CA) High School and school library leader, left a wonderful response to an article* that I share with her related to the librarian's role in 1:1 computing programs. I asked if she would consider allowing me to share her thoughts on the Blue Skunk and she graciously agreed...


Thank you for inviting me to ponder this topic on your blog. I’ve been reading many articles like yours about the changes needed in today’s libraries and I’m pleased to see that more of these articles are appearing in the journals that administrators read – and are striking a chord with them.

Administrators reading these articles find much to love: vibrant learning spaces where students investigate, and “make”, and collaborate.  What I find missing in these articles is that no one mentions that it is adequate staffing—a library “team”—that makes it all work.

Rather than turning to information professionals to assist in the dialog of pedagogical change, far too many administrators are dismissing them or reducing / eliminating library clerical staff.

In libraries where clerical staff is missing, singleton librarians are spending far more time conducting day-to-day clerical tasks to the detriment of instruction. In schools without a librarian on staff, students do not have access to the instruction a librarian brings – and the library becomes a beautiful space that cannot realize all the things they could be with the kind of staffing that brings readers advisory, digital citizenship instruction, third space learning environment, development of project based learning activities and dynamic teacher collaboration.

Staffing, money, teacher buy-in and administrative support are the backbone of any good 21st Century library. Real change comes from planning what the library space, program, and resources should look like to support these new technologies. Buy-in from classroom teachers should include readiness to participate in learning new ways to teach that incorporates a wide variety of activities and pedagogical shifts. Lastly, setting priorities are a must. There’s not a lot of money out there and the majority of spending appears to go towards devices with the idea that free apps will satisfy the research needs of our students.

What the library looks like, and how it operates should come about organically as part of a school culture that wants to create a particular environment that matches the goals of the school and take into account the many teachers and staff members it takes to sustain it well. My “21st Century library” might look very different from yours, but the goals are the same: ensuring that kids are effective users and creators of information and ideas. Knowing that they will come to the library to use it as an educational ‘third space’ is an important piece of the physical library.

If we want beautiful furniture, it will cost money. If we want kids who use their iPADs or Chromebooks for work as well as they do for play, it will require assignments that compel and tools that support. If we want them to be able to identify their information needs, locate the resources, evaluate them critically, use the information well, and create something interesting to present to others, then they need a librarian.

And that librarian needs to be part of a library - and teacher - team. Staffing beats beautiful furniture any day.

Actually though…really. I’d like both.

* “Why Do I Still Need a Library When I Have One in My Pocket?: The Teacher-Librarian’s Role in 1:1/BYOD Learning Environments. (with Jennifer LaGarde), Teacher-Librarian, June 2014

Tuesday
Apr072015

Is it fear?

On NPR recently, a comment was made that "politicians' only goal is to stay in office" (or something to that effect). It made me wonder if that may not be the goal of many educators as well - to simply maintain the position they hold regardless of circumstances.

A workshop today concluded with Clint Smith's old but powerful TEDTalk, The Danger of Silence:

Smith's words that resonate for me are "We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't. Silence is the residue of fear."

Why is not every educator speaking out against the idiocy of over testing? Why is not every eductor blogging about funding inequities? Why is every educator not demanding differentiation in instruction? Why is every educator not loudly questioning unfair teacher evaluation practices?

Is it fear?

Why do so many of us only speak in the utmost politically correct terms? Why do we so rarely express an opinion or present an alternative point of view? Is it really so awful making our principal, superintendent, school board a little pissed?

Why do so many educators, surely recognizing the injustices and inequities and politicization of education, remain silent?

Is it because our primary job has become keeping our job?

Is it fear?

Monday
Apr062015

BFTP: Impermanence

Between jet lag, work, holidays, and sheer laziness, the blog's been neglected. And it's spring which always sends me, as an educator, into a downward spiral of doubt about my career choices. Wouldn't the life of a long-haul truck driver or industrial chemical salesman really be far more rewarding? Ah, well, to brighter days ahead.

Of Sophocles 123 plays, only seven have survived.

The melting snow this weekend led to thoughts of the transience of life. This morning's walk showed shrinking drifts uncovering a winter's worth of detritus -  beer cans, cigarette butts and disintegrating prophylactics (making me somewhat wistful for a misspent youth that seemed only few short years ago). Doing my taxes yesterday emphasized the fleeting nature of income. Watching the Oscar previews reminded me of how damn old some actors are getting with a lot of white in a lot of beards.

Karl Fisch's concern about links to students work being lost after their Google Apps for Education accounts are deleted started me thinking a little more about the seeming impermanence of digital data, information, and knowledge. When the link is broken to an electronic resource, too often it seems like the resource itself is gone.

One of the reasons I've switched from using .pdf files to a wiki for providing support materials for my workshops is the ease with which "link rot" can be pruned. Website locations change, some disappear completely, and new materials are always be available. Anything I've not updated in the last six months needs at least a few changes.

The internal content and value of websites change without notice as well. My concern about Wikipedia has always been not that it may be inaccurate, but that it may be accurate now and inaccurate five minutes from now.

Perhaps it is my old mindset that makes this a concern greater than it needs to be. I know with my own work, I am definitely a "belts and suspenders" kind of guy. I pay for a commercial website for both my wiki and this blog, believing it will be more attentive to security and data integrity. I have an external drive on my desk I back up to and I use DropBox and GoogleDrive for all my files. I throw the best of my photos out on SmugMug.

And I've kept the hard copy of every magazine and book and newsletter in which one of my articles or columns has appeared over the past 20 years or so. That's a lot of tubs 'o print. When I next move, it will all get recycled.

Yet, I can't help but think that even this silly blog post may have a better chance of survival than Sophocles plays. Might the sheer number of digital copies of today's information make it less likely to be lost over time?

Just how ironic is that? With apologies to the great Greek playwrite:

You citizens of Thebes,
How insecure is human fortune knowledge!
Chance shall overthrow the great
And raise the lowly.
Nothing is firm either for confidence or despair.

_______________

Bob left this great poem as a comment to the original post:

With apologies to Shelley:

Techymandias

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two shiny and powerless laptops
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered USB lies, whose cap,
And cracked plug, and sneer of old folders,
Tell that its user well those documents read
Which don’t survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that used them, and the CPU that fed;
And on the side these words appear:
“My name is Techymandias, king of info:
Look upon my storage, you Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing inside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal tech wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I love my readers.

Original post March 7, 2010