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Wednesday
Mar012006

Totally divorced from reality?

This response to my blog entry "Why librarians should be in charge of educational technology" summarizes feelings I hear a lot:

I think that the person you describe should be determined by the characteristics not the job title. If a person has all of the characteristics you describe, they are perfect for implementing technology.

There are unfortunately, some librarians who are so difficult to work with and short sighted that they will not implement a new technology until it was written about in their favorite library journal five years a go.

I agree with your characteristics but not necessarily the job title assigned with those characteristics. I'm sure in your school, it is you. However, in my school it wouldn't be.

Quite a few people had a similar response - "You sure aren't describing MY librarian as a potential tech partner!" I hear this a lot when talking to teachers and administrators. Obviously my experiences and perceptions of school librarians aren't the same as others. Am I totally divorced from reality?

 The librarians I work with are probably among the most competent, caring, progressive, and tech-savvy people I know. Granted, I DOlibrarian.jpg only work with the ones in my district (who I have helped hired), the ones who attend my workshops, and ones who I meet and work with in my professional organizations. The creme de la creme of the library field, perhaps? I can honestly say that most of the librarians I know are, well, hot!

So here is my question: Is the library field, more than any other, divided between the  competent and incompetent? It's not like if I said, "My dentist is really good since he uses anesthetic" that people would respond, "Yeah, well maybe your dentist does, but ours still gives you a slug of whiskey and pulls the tooth with a rusty pair of pliers." Or if I said, "My account files my taxes online," you'd say, "My accountant? He doesn't even own a computer!"

So why do I think "competence" when I think "librarian" and the rest of the world thinks I'm insane?

Tuesday
Feb282006

Should schools provide students e-mail accounts?

netgen2.jpgI received this e-mail from a district parent yesterday:

 I was a little concerned when I noticed our 5th grade daughter remotely accessing her school email from home.  Possibly I overlooked any information that informed us that she would have an email account.  Could you provide that information to me again.  Also could you briefly describe any threats to our home network and what is being done on the district side to keep her safe.

After verfying that was indeed a "real" parent, I responded:

We have been giving Mankato students e-mail address since about 1997. While accounts are established for them when they enroll as kindergarteners, they do not gain access until a teacher or librarian “activates” the account by giving them a password and showing them how to access the account. These e-mails are on our own internal mail sever and students access them through a web-based interface. Their e-mail username and password also give them access to their online storage space in the district.

 

We have given students e-mail addresses for a number of reasons:
1. E-mail is taught as an essential skill. E-mail use and safety is formally taught at 5th grade and reinforced in 8th grade in our library media curriculum. We have based our IL and Tech curriculum on the Minnesota Educational Media Organization’s  Information Literacy and Technology Standards (base on the ISTE NETS Standards) that read:
II. Technology use
Standard: The student will select and use the appropriate technology for educational and personal goals.
Use communication programs/devices such as phones, fax, email, instant messaging, video teleconference, synchronous and asynchronous communication tools.

2.      E-mail is used to communicate with teachers and peers. Students are encouraged to use e-mail to communicate for educational purposes with both their teachers and peers.
3. E-mail used to access experts. We recognize and value human experts as a vital information source for research assignments and projects. E-mail can be an effective and efficient means of contacting such experts.

We believe it is better for the school to give students e-mail accounts over which we have some control (monitoring, search of stored e-mail, ability to disable and change accounts) rather than ask students to use commercial accounts such as yahoo or gmail over which we have no control at all. This also gives us a chance to teach the safe and appropriate use of e-mail.

In terms of threats to one’s home network, there would be same risk than if your children were using a commercial e-mail account and they opened attachments that contain viruses or similar programs. We do filter at the firewall most attachments with extensions known to carry viruses (except those enabled through macros within Office documents.)

In terms of informing parents about student e-mail accounts, we could be doing a better job and I will be discussing this with our library media specialists how this happens at each building. I appreciate your bringing it to my attention.

If interested, I am looking for a parent for our district’s library/technology advisory committee and would be pleased to have you join us. We meet 4 afternoons per school year to work on policies, goal setting, and budgeting for the district.

All the very best and I hope this answers your questions. Feel free to give me a call if you’d like to discuss this further.

 

The irony is that very few students use their school e-mail address after about 6th grade, prefering their personal (and unregulated) accounts. 

Does our district need to revist the wisdom giving e-mail addresses to students? 

How does your school handle student e-mail accounts? Why or why don't you provide them? Has anyone used gaggle.net?  

Friday
Feb242006

In the Forbidden City

beijing.jpgBit of a slow connection here at the Holiday Inn Lido in Beijing, so this will not be long.

The only thing about Beijing that has not changed since I was last here nearly 20 years ago are Tianamen Square (same long lines for Mao's tomb) and the Forbidden City which is still breathtaking. Beijing is huge, cold, traffic congested (mule carts and bicyles share the roads), still poor, and utterly fascinating. Also darned cold.

 

Having fun working with the dedicated staff and students at the International School of Beijing.  Hammered out the beginnings of an Essential Agreement on how every teacher will approach research yesterday. Hope to be able to share it soon.

isb.jpg

School entrance. Beautiful place, inside and out.