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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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EdTech Update





Small schools - no libraries?

From Library a chapter in school's past by Alex Katz, a staff writer for Inside the Bay Area:

OAKLAND — If students at Castlemont High School want to check out "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" or find books on Polynesian culture, they'd better have a bus pass or some good walking shoes.

That's because Castlemont is the only major high school in the city without a school library — the closest public library is about 14 blocks away at the Eastmont Town Center.

It has been that way for going on two years, since the large high school on MacArthur Boulevard was split into three smaller, specialized schools in an attempt to raise attendance and improve student-teacher relationships.


The trend is to small, folks. Let's face it. And that's not all bad, but it does pose some serious concerns about how good library service can be provided when there is no economy of scale. A full-time librarian in a school of 100 students takes a much larger percentage of the budget that a full-time librarian in a school of 500 or 1,000 kids. The cost of a good print collection is the same whether shared by 75 or 750 kids.

One place where small tends to be rule is in the charter school movement. And ironically, I don't know any charter schools that have school libraries, even when "project-based learning" is the focus.

Part time librarians might be the answer to providing library services in smaller schools. A combination classroom teacher/librarian might be another solution. (This is how I started my library career as a half time English teacher and half time librarian in a junior high school of 150 students. A marvelous job.) Might a professional librarian serve multiple small schools, each with good clerical staff? Might a school contract for library services with the public library or an entrepreneurial library professional?

Should students in small schools have access to good library resources, including a professional librarian? As Stephen Krashen in a message to LM_Net puts it:

Castlemont High's students could certainly use more access to books and the services of a credentialled librarian: Fewer than 14% scored at the proficient level or higher on the CST language arts test last year, well below the [California] state average (about 40%) of a state known for low reading scores.

How have the small schools you know provided library service - or have they? If the trend is to small, how do we adapt?


Great set of standards

Barbara Stripling, Director of Library Services for the New York City School Library System, is amazing. Take a look at the work she and her team have done on her district's INFORMATION FLUENCY CONTINUUM

The attached document provides a framework for the instructional aspects of a library program. The framework is based on three standards that form the basis for the skills and strategiesessential for students to become independent readers and learners:
Standard 1: Using Inquiry to Build Understanding
Standard 2: Pursuing Personal and Aesthetic Growth
Standard 3: Demonstrating Social Responsibility

Barbara has my vote for heading the next revision of the AASL's Information Power.

In response to an earlier blog entry,
What Gets Tested, Gets Taught, Todd asks:

Wait, wait! Don't you think you have that backwards? You're putting the test BEFORE the content? Shouldn't you test what you have taught, not teach what you will test? So we're to teach to the test because we'd just screw things up otherwise?
Todd, let's hope that the test makers base their work on standards, So in a manner of speaking, yes, if you are teaching to the standards, you are also teaching to the test. At least with articulated standards, whether one likes them or not, you know what your students are expected to know and you to teach. The bigger questions is: who should be writing standards? teachers? politicians? academics? future employers?




If this blog entry looks different, it's because I am trying out a trial version of Ecto. So far, not so good...


And now for a completely gratuitous graphic of Middle Jefferson Lake, Fall 2005, to see how Ecto handles graphics...


winter is coming-1.jpg

A real teacher speaks out

bookcover.jpgThe "Pine Room" is in the basement of the building where my technology office is located. A few high school teachers still choose to eat lunch there, in that dark, badly-furnished dump that was once the teachers' smoking lounge. What the Pine Room lacks in ambiance, however, it more than makes up for in conversation. This is where the important political and educational issues of the day are soundly discussed and debated by long-time teachers who care deeply about kids and school. Dennis Fermoyle would feel right at home there.

Fermoyle, a 30+ year veteran high school teacher and coach, sent me his new book In the Trenches: A Teacher's Defense of Public Education, and I took the time to read it yesterday afternoon. I'm glad I did. His voice, speaking for the practicing classroom teacher, is one that is too seldom heard in the debates about public education. In clear, informal language, Fermoyle pretty much "says it like it is."

Students perform poorly not because schools don't care about them but, in the great majority of cases, because students don't care themselves.

Many of us who work in public education might fall over in a faint if our critics ever showed that they recognized how important parenting is to the effectiveness of schools. Our society needs to understand that, no matter how good a school is, it needs competent parents as partners in oder to give a child the best chance to get the education he or she deserves.

...the important thing is how the student who is said to have a disability approaches his education. Once again, the key is usually the attitude of the parents. If the parents view the disability as an obstacle to be overcome rather than as an excuse  to be used when convenient, and if they assume the school has the best interest of the student at heart, the chance that the student will make a good effort and be successful are high.

My biggest concern for homeschooling, as far as motivated students are concerned, is not what they are missing out on, but what our schools are missing out on by not having them with us. We need those kids!

Fermoyle's sympathies are with the students who are negatively impacted by the students who are disruptive and apathetic.  One change he proposes (and I agree with) is that education should be treated as an opportunity rather than a right.

Our public schools would be safer places and test scores would soar if, rather than saying to students, "You have the right to an education." we said, "We will give you the opportunity to gain an education, but you will be required to make an honest effort and to follow some reasonable rules so we can make that happen." 

If you are a consultant, a supervisor or a parent/citizen/legislator who is truly concerned about the effectiveness of our public schools, you should read this book as an antidote to every goofy ivory tower educational change theory currently floating about. If you are a classroom teacher, you should read this book and lobby for the fundamental changes Fermoyle suggests.

I'm leaving my copy as a gift to those dedicated teachers in the Pine Room.