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EdTech Update





Gonzo or Reflective?

I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say. Flannery O’Connor

In a recent comment to this blog, Dennis Conner wrote: “Doug, kudos on the Blue Skunk. I enjoy reading pages with voice and personality…and your pages do all that and more. Is Gonzo Librarianship a genre? A quick glance at your blogroll seems to say yes.”

Thanks, Dennis. I think.

To tell the truth, I had go look up what “gonzo” actually meant. My main reference is the strange blue bird with the crooked beak on the Muppet Show. And of course, Hunter S. Thompson’s writing of which I’ve read little.

So a quick search found a definition in that most suspect of all sources, Wikipedia: Gonzo is a style of reportage, film making, or any form of multimedia production in which the reporter, filmmaker or creator is intrinsically enmeshed with the subject action (rather than being a passive observer). (September 20, 2005)

Given writer Thompson’s flamboyant lifestyle, I find the label uncomfortable as a shy and retiring Minnesotan. I’m not saying we in the north don’t have Thompson’s urges and tastes, it’s just that we are less forthcoming about them and feel guilty, rather than proud, when made public.

I’d hope that “reflective practitioner” is a better term for my writing perspective. While I deeply admire and even envy the theorists and visionaries in the fields of both librarianship and technology, I also am rather proud that I am working “where the rubber meets the road” – where theory actually gets put into practice as the media and technology director for a pretty average school district.

Writing about one’s experiences is one of the best means of active reflection (is that an oxymoron?) I often think of O’Conner’s quote that begins this entry. The physical act of writing forces one to clarify, summarize, prioritize and defend those thoughts that fly about the brain like wild birds in an aviary.

One area where we as practitioners need to be more reflective is in our collaborative efforts. My article Proactivity and Reflection: Tools to Improve Collaborative Experiences, Minnesota Media, 2004 explores this idea and offers an activity that may facilitate reflection.

Academic research articles frustrate me. I suppose they are a necessary evil. But if the researcher would simply add a short statement at the end of any study called “Applications for Practice,” the lives of all of us working with real kids and teachers would be made much simpler. Start the reflection for us.

I encourage everyone on a daily basis to jot down some thoughts about how the day went and why. Hey, share your thoughts with others as well through your own blog or articles. I’m sure I’d enjoy reading them and the more “gonzo” the better!

What things do you do that make you more reflective?

“We’re on a Mission from God”

Whether you take the Blues Brothers’ movie line figuratively or literally (small g or large G), your have to admire people who seem to be driven by a higher cause. That’s why I like Stephen Krashen’s work. You just get the feeling that he thinks about nothing but getting kids to read by reading - joyfully and with the help of libraries. And he will keep writing letters to the editor of various newspapers and journals until everyone in education sees the light.

His book, The Power of Reading, 2nd ed., is a must read for all school librarians and anyone else in education librarians can get to read it. (My review which appeared on KQWeb.) Through extensive research, he builds an excellent case for how Free Voluntary Reading improves both reading ability and desire and why libraries are vital to supporting FVR efforts.

But if you want to really want to see Krashen in action, sign up for the mailing list on his website. He shares all his “letters to the editor” pummeling the educational establishment for their benighted views of reading instruction. Lively reading and he must write four or five of these things a week.

I hope all educators are on a “mission from god” when it comes to their work. I hope we are less about technology or math or reading and more about ending poverty, bringing about social justice, and giving kids fulfilling lives. I know the test scores loom large, but it’s really about the changing the world. If we aren’t about that, we ought to all get jobs in industrial adhesive sales or something.

What’s your “mission from God?”


IMSA’s 21st Century Information Fluency Model – Take a Look

I get requests to look at quite a few websites related to libraries, technology and information literacy skills, and I usually at least take a grudging peek at them. But once in a while, I find one that’s worth sharing with others. The The 21st Century Information Fluency Project (21CIF), developed by Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (headed by a long-time colleague, David Barr) is one of those sites.

While information literacy/fluency models are fairly abundant, the 21CIF strategy focuses on using digital information sources and the unique skills it takes to locate and evaluate them. The site contains “Wizard Tools” designed to help the student (or I supposed struggling adult – like me) tackle each step of the process, tutorials, lesson plans and “tips.” Kudos to the web designer for a clean, easily-navigated, and appealing user interface.

IMSA also is offering a wide range of free training events including online classes and webinars, alas, only for Illinois educators.

Here’s my thought: AASL’s ICONnect effort to offer online courses for its members seems to be languishing. Do I sense there might be a way to for AASL and IMSA to work together to take some of these training materials nationwide?

I know I could use the training!
1 Comment »
Doug, kudos on the Blue Skunk. I enjoy reading pages with voice and personality…and your pages do all that and more. Is Gonzo Librarianship a genre? A quick glance at your blogroll seems to say yes.

Thanks too for your efforts to spread the word about our project. We’ve been building tools, creating curriculum, doing workshops, and teaching online classes for the past four years. It was time to rebuild the website to make it easier for the casual visitor to find the goodies. (It’s ironic that so few web visitors actually use the search box on the home page.) Traffic is up, the redesign seems to be cooking. It’s a bright new fall…8)

Most recently we’ve been talking about where our work fits in the landscape of research skills. We’re definitely digital. You take a long thoughtful stop after hitting the Big6 and we’ll be there. Our attention is split between the close up work of promoting library media’s place in all this by delivering workshops, online classes and webinars, and the new effort to reach a national audience of educators with our website and information fluency tools.

It’s tough to get folks’ attention. (By the way, we’re ready to open the doors on our webinars & online classes for tipping point folks from other states. We’d like to package our content for online delivery around the county. Iconnect sounds like a great idea.)

We’re working to detail the ksd’s of the ‘info fluent student’ (that has a ring to it) with a new document that describes student core competencies for search, evaluating, and ethically using digital information. (

All this is foundation work that we count on when we’re making more light hearted learning exeperiences like the search challenges. The first one is online at: . We’ve got a half dozen more in the chute. We’re hoping these flash based pieces capture the elusive attention of educators already bombarded with info.

Thanks for the help Doug! Everyone on the team appreciates it.

(It’s a 21st century trick that I can work full time in Illinois and still live in the Sierra Nevadas.

Comment by Dennis O'Connor — September 19, 2005 @ 10:26 am