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EdTech Update





The Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program

I am looking forward to giving both my sessions at this week’s AASL conference in Pittsburgh, but especially the one on Friday – “Getting the Most from Your Fixed Library Program.” My guess is that anyone who attends this session will be coming to see if my horns, hooves, and long, spiky tail are actually visible.

I was nearly excommunicated from AASL when I wrote a column for School Library Journal a couple years back that heretically suggested there were actually some virtues of fixed (regularly scheduled) library programs. (You can read the column, a good paper by then grad student Christine Hurley, and lots of reactions here.)

For this talk, I’ve been reworking a pro/con session called “Mud Wrestling in the Swamp of Fixed/Flex Access” I gave last fall in North Carolina with my friend and respected colleague professor Gail Dickinson who is from around those parts somewhere. In way of introduction she said, “Doug not only pokes at the sacred cows of the library profession, but actually leads them into the public square and commits indecent acts with them.” Now that’s my kind of intro!

Anyway, the point of this workshop is to give practicing library media specialists some pointers on improving their library programs regardless of whether they are “fixed” or “flexed.” So I’ve been thinking about the very MOST important things one can do to improve any program.

I’d really like to have a whole 10 Commandments (there is a precedent), but so far I can only think up three. Just as well since I am having a tough time getting that burning bush lit anyway. Here they are, the Three Commandments of a Successful Library Program:

1. Thou shall develop shared ownership of the library and all it contains.
2. Thou shall have written annual goals tied directly to school and curriculum goals and bend all thy efforts toward achieving them.
3. Thou shall take thy light out from under thy damn bushel and share with others all the wonders thou performs.

Pretty good, huh? What do you think Old Testament prophet pays nowadays?

I’ll keep working on the other seven commandments (and get some new charcoal lighter fluid), but in the meantime, send me your commandments.

Hope to see lots of folks in Pittsburgh. I’m making sure my hooves are well polished.


Revisiting Pink and “Conceptual Age” Skills

A Saturday Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. The original post from October 4, 2005.

In my August 22, 2005 blog entry, I did a short review of Daniel Pink’s new book A Whole New Mind in which he lists six right brain “senses” he believes successful workers in a post-information age economy will need to have.

Pink’s “senses” (DESIGN, STORY, SYMPHONY, EMPATHY, PLAY, and MEANING) were on my mind this weekend when working on a “serious” paper for the National Library Board of Singapore conference*. The topic is “The Knowledge Worker Redux” and it was a great chance to reflect on what skills our students need to successfully compete in a global economy.

First, I am going to be bold and add a seventh “sense” of my own to Mr. Pink’s list:

7. Not just knowledge, but also LEARNING. Unless a person develops both the ability and the desire to continue to learn new skills, to be open to new ideas, and to be ready to change practices in the face of new technologies, economic forces, and societal demands, he or she will not be able to successfully compete in a global economy.

In the age of educational accountability, we seem to be gearing all our instructional efforts to helping students master left-brain skills, since that is what tests usually measure. But to what extent do we and should we also be developing design sense, storytelling abilities, the ability to synthesis information, empathy, the use of humor, and the ability to detect the importance of the information learned? How do we create true “life-long learners?” What emphases, using Pink’s model, might schools and libraries wish to cultivate in the “conceptual age” worker?


  • Offer art classes and activities
  • Assess not just content, but appearance of student work
  • Teach visual literacy


  • Ask for student writing in the narrative voice.
  • Teach speaking skills.
  • Use storytelling as a part of teaching.
  • Give students opportunities to both hear and tell stories.
  • Honor digital storytelling as an important communication format.


  • Design classroom projects that cross disciplines.
  • Ask for the application of skills and concepts to genuine problems.
  • Use inductive learning strategies (learning by doing).


  • Emphasize reading literature about people from other cultures and socio-economic groups.
  • Give students service learning and volunteer opportunities or requirements.
  • Give students the opportunity to take part as an actor in theater productions.
  • Design group projects.


  • Teach with games, including computer/online games.
  • Teach with simulations.
  • Offer a variety of athletics and physical education classes.
  • Offer participatory music classes.
  • Teach through riddles and jokes, and encourage students to tell them.


  • Offer classes in comparative religion, myth and legend.
  • Teach ethical behaviors as a part of every project.
  • Asking for writings to include statements of personal values.


  • Teach processes, not facts.
  • Allow students to research areas of personal interest (and tolerate a diversity of interests).
  • Give students the ability to learn in non-traditional ways (online, early enrollment in college, apprenticeships).
  • Make available clubs and organizations for students to join in which students learn non-academic skills.
  • Provide access to a wide range of information sources.

Our society and educational system sadly sees many of the opportunities listed above which develop “conceptual age” skills as “extras” – frills that are often the first to be cut in times of tight budgets. It’s tragically ironic that we are doing a disservice to our students as future workers and citizens by doing so.

Other “conceptual age” skills? Other things schools should be doing to help kids practice those that Pink enumerates?

*The paper went on to appear as an article in Teacher-Librarian magazine.


Stray Sunday Thoughts

Every once in a while you time your weekends right. Yesterday was a glorious fall day, and I spent it cleaning the house, doing laundry, mowing the lawn (Hey, grass, it’s fall already, stop growing!), and finishing two books from the comfort of the porch. Today, cool and cloudy, is get down to business day – writing a “serious” paper for an upcoming conference in Singapore, sharpening my presentations for the AASL conference in Pittsburg, and continuing to edit the program for the MEMO conference. Weekends, you got to love them.

Weekend blogging should be free from the normal restraints of professionalism. So just a few random thoughts…

1. You have to love the power of satire. If you’ve not seen the Pastafarian website, take a look. The creator of the site is asking that schools give equal time in their science curriculum to his church’s belief that the world was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster and that global warming can be directly correlated to the decline in the number of pirates (graph included). A worthy descendant to Swift and his A Modest Proposal.

2. Another very funny, very irreverent satirist is Bill Maher, and I just finished his book New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer. I would caution that most of his thoughts are not terribly polite, and if you have a particular fondness for the Catholic Church, George Bush or mass media celebrities, you will not care for much of what he opines. But for the rest of us, he’s just about as funny as it gets. Oh, I’d probably not buy this for my school library.

3. As a guy gets older, he spends more time reflecting on what he has and hasn’t done with his life. The number of condom dispensers one finds in gas station men’s rooms has increasingly upset me. I see these machines and wonder why I’ve never had the sort of love life that’s required a fast lurch to SuperAmerica and a desperate fumble for quarters. Sometimes it just seems that everyone in the world must be leading a much more spontaneous life that you are.

4. I am now about 40 pages into Ray Kurzweil’s latest book The Singularity is Near, an optimistic tome about the time humanity and machinery evolve into a single piece of work – supposedly just after technology gets smart enough to start inventing itself. I’m sorry, Ray, this stuff still scares me silly. I keep thinking of the evil Core from Dan Simmon’s Hyperion/Endymion series. Compassion from a computer program seems about as likely as compassion from… well, there is no need to get political here.

5. My cousin Dave was once found in the attic eating mothballs. After having his stomach pumped, his mom asked him why he ate them since they couldn’t have tasted very good. His reply, “I thought they were marshmallows and I’d get to a good one sooner or later.” I think about Cousin Dave’s philosophy now and again when I’ve spent too much time waiting for a book or movie “to get good.” Life’s too short to wait for anything to “get good.”

That’s it. Off to write about “The Knowledge Worker Redux” – whatever that means. Happy weekend.