Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Six degrees…

Posted by lpearle on 6 March 2014

My life is incredibly crazy right now and I’ve been neglecting things like this blog – right now we’re on Spring Break at work and I’m hoping to not only catch up but get ahead!  Fingers crossed, etc..

If you ask some of my friends, they’ll tell you that I know everyone.  It’s not completely true, but I do have odd connections to people that may make it seem as though I know everyone.  And when I say “odd connections” I mean odd.  Example? My first après-college job was at the New London Barn Playhouse, a job I got in part because their Marketing Manager was an alumna of Emma Willard (my alma mater years later); I worked in the box office with Richard Lederer‘s first wife, DeeDee.  Now, I can’t claim to know him but there is a connection!

Several years ago I got an e-mail that could easily have been spam, but something told me to open it instead of automatically sending it to trash.  It was from Karen, my BFF when we were in grammar school (grades 3-7, after which she moved).  It’s been great having her back in my life!  Anyway, a few days ago she wrote to tell me that she’d been reading Grace Lin‘s The Ugly Vegetables to her second grade class and realized, from reading the biographical information, that Grace’s parents had bought Karen’s house from her parents: in  other words, Grace grew up in a house I knew very well, one easy to walk/bike to from my parent’s house, and quite possibly in Karen’s bedroom. Connection!!

I’ve hung out with Joyce Valenza on occasion and know Gwyneth Jones, and follow both on twitter.  A few months ago I saw a response to harbeckc on one of their feeds and thought, “hmmm… how many Charity Harbeck’s can there be in this world? Surely this is the one I went to school with, doing gymnastics before school and hanging out in the art room during lunch with?”  Sure enough, it was that Charity Harbeck.

So, when I posted how cool the connection between my BFF and Grace Lin was, Charity responded… which led to a fun three-way chat about former teachers and whom we might know in common.  Charity turned this into a great blog post about standardized testing, but I’m way shallower than that!  Again, it’s all about connection.

My point isn’t how wonderful I am (although I do have an Erdos number, thanks to my father, and I know someone who is good friends with Kevin Bacon, and I worked with a guy who sat on Stalin’s lap so… I am pretty wonderful) but that it’s these odd connections that weave us into a great web.  You may not be able to leverage those connections all the time, but you can sometimes.  And “leverage” doesn’t always mean “exploit”.  It more often means making even more connections, making for more interesting discussions with students or leading to deeper understanding of someone/something, making it not just dry information for them to remember and regurgitate when necessary.

What are your Six Degrees moments?

Posted in Life Related | Leave a Comment »

#YALSA and the badging program – #ALAMW14

Posted by lpearle on 3 February 2014

Linda Braun made it clear – this is a work in progress: testers are needed.  Just go to yalsabadges.ala.org

So what do we need to know beyond that?  Badges are a serious learning process, more about the learning than about the badge.  These are tied in to YALSA’s Core Competencies, with the idea that they will help people get the skills they need to be successful.  The following are about YALSA’s badges (my thoughts on this and some badging takeaways will follow):

  • These badges are “crowdsourced” – once someone has completed the work, it becomes open to the public, who can then comment and either approve (“thumbs up”) or disapprove (“thumbs down”) for their work.  In other words, earning the badge is contingent not only on completing the various steps and requirements but on peer approval of the work you’ve done.
  • The exact number of thumbs up is unknown, it’s based on an algorithm.  There is the danger of someone doing the work and then waiting… and waiting… and waiting… for approval.  Community buy-in is critical, as is community participation.
  • The system is (as of right now) a Pass/Fail system, so you could be 100% on several steps but still not “badge worthy”; once you do get approval, you cannot lose it.
  • Badges can be exported to Mozilla’s Backpack, which will enable people to show a variety of professional development badges as part of their online portfolio/resume.
  • Obtaining badges demonstrating competency is gaining acceptance in the military and at colleges.  They demonstrate actual skills, much more clearly than a grade on a test does.

They are still working on the badges, with only three available right now.  The format for each is Overview -> Goals -> Technology Requirements -> Steps (what you need to do) -> Rubric and screencasts on how to do things like set up a Google Form are included.  An online forum may be set up so that those working towards their badge can communicate with others in the same position as well as with people either already badged or those who are experts/mentors.  Notifications for new content need to be created so that people don’t have to log in daily (and see nothing there).

Linda stressed that this is a soft opening, reminding us that Gmail was in beta for five years (but YALSA’s working on a faster timeframe than Google).  She also recognized that there is work to be done on providing administrators and supervisors with information on the rigor required and the skills learned, so that people recognize this as a credential.

So, my thoughts about these badges specifically:

  • The skills skew heavily to the public librarians and their needs; school librarians might not be able to see a need or value to the work needed to complete a badge.  School librarians have the NBPTS for Library Media/Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood and AASL’s NSLPY Award to help them focus their programs and skills. YALSA is going to have to make a really strong case for the school librarian contingent to make this a valuable professional development tool.
  • There’s a w whiff of “checking in” here, like Foursquare or Get Glue.  This may skew the process towards younger librarians, or those who want to become a librarian, while those in the middle or further in their careers will not see them as necessary.
  • Many school librarians are required to get CEU’s and without getting state buy-in to make a badge the equivalent of a certain number of hours of learning, again, there won’t be as much buy-in from school librarians.  Some states won’t accept CEUs from outside their state, again limiting the desirability of this program.
  • While I understand why YALSA feels the need to provide interesting ways to provide professional development tools, particularly those that allow for self-paced, reflective learning, this feels as though YALSA is trying to be LITA Jr.  Perhaps a partnership with LITA to create badges for all ALA members would work better?
  • At Midwinter, the Board approved the creation of a badge for Literary Evaluation.  One supposes that this is so that the President-Elect has better information when considering appointments to the various selection and awards committees – but murmurs I’ve heard are fears that this won’t be objective, that people “on the outs” with YALSA’s Board or VIPs won’t get fair treatment even if they have the badge.
  • The badge that was used as an example, Leadership and Professionalism, struck me as problematic on two levels.  The first was that there are suggestions of library and related twitter feeds to follow – granted, I didn’t ask how that list could be updated by people, but I suspect that newbies might only follow the ones already listed and thus lead to a privileged echo chamber while interesting, outsider voices go unheard.  The second was that once the badge is earned, what mechanism is in place to ensure that the badgee(?) continues to keep up with this newfound PLN?  Maybe I’m jaded from working with students who tend to forget things quickly after the test, but…

On the other hand, the idea of badging is one that has interested me for a while.  I love the idea of creating skills-based badges so that students can demonstrate their ability to do things like cite a source, find information in our catalog or a database, and format a paper.  Teachers planning to do a research paper could mandate that the students complete certain badges by a specific time so that they (and the librarians) know what, if anything, is needed in the way of instruction on basic skills.  There were several things mentioned in this session that were very helpful as I think about how best to create a badging program:

  • Make the look of the badge simple – not childlike, just simple
  • Beware of complexity (perhaps break up a larger piece into smaller elements) and the time it will take (boredom or frustration can prevent completion
  • Start small, figuring out what’s most important/needed now and then build
  • The LMS needs to be really, really robust (YALSA is using Drupal) and that you have lots of tech support and training on how to use it
  • Test, test, test and retest
  • Ask the community experts how to assess the “win” and provide peer review

I’ve done one badge on information literacy and it was time-consuming and kludgy.  Not to mention the fact that there were two questions I got right but were marked wrong by the system (luckily I took screenshots of the “wrong” answers and successfully got the grade changed). I can only imagine the work it must take to keep them up-to-date and smooth-running so that students don’t have technoangst on top of everything else!

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Maker/Create/Collaborativespace pre-conference – #RUSA #ALAMW14

Posted by lpearle on 31 January 2014

I was fortunate to get off the waiting list for the RUSA MARS/RSS pre-conference and see what public and academic librarians think about the maker/create/collaborate space trend.

The overwhelming message was the “maker/createspace” was not just about 3D and Audino, it was anything that isn’t reference or readers advisory.  You don’t need to be a coder to be a creator, you can be a knitter, calligrapher or a rubber stamper (or another type of creator).  This is a message that we need to remember as we create our spaces: it’s about the creation, not the tools.  At bottom, doesn’t “maker” meet our mission as librarians, helping people explore their passions?  In schools especially we’re supposed to help students create new things with the knowledge they acquire – and a maker/create/collaborative space does just that.  Thinking about the space is a great way to start the strategic planning process, too, as it will involve people from different constituencies.

One important thing is to not be a closed shop: be open to all platforms (iOS, WinTel, Chrome, Lynix) and allow people to use all those during the programs.  A diversity of experience and resources can spark really interesting ideas.  It’s also critical to remember that not everyone can afford the tools necessary (it’s also important not to go broke providing for people using the space – finding that happy medium can be difficult).

How should you start? Ask the community what they want, and what they can bring to the space.  Consider an Idea Studio (a la Warwick PL). NCSU’s Hunt Library has a 270o Visualization and Teaching Lab (home of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Website).

Final words: balance what the users really do want and need with what they’re told they want and need (by the media, the library administration, etc.).  It’s a difficult process, and an on-going one, but very worth it.

Other pearls of wisdom:

  • outside funding, but BYOP[roject] is also good
  • Facebook and Twitter are great sources of ideas for what other libraries are doing – see how you can re-purpose their ideas
  • helping people with digital curation is as much “maker” as it is “archivist”
  • consider putting large windows in the space, so people outside can see what’s inside and get inspired
  • students like whiteboards, flexible seating and furnishings

Resources:

Posted in Conferences, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Not as smart as I look…

Posted by lpearle on 29 January 2014

For a variety of reasons, people seem to think I’m smarter than the average bear.  Maybe it’s because I come from an academic family, or because I skipped first grade (betcha didn’t know people did that!), or because I went to a private school and then a liberal arts college.  Or because I know a lot of esoteric minutiae and can pop out facts at bizarre moments – and sometimes when necessary, like playing as part of a trivia team.  And I do wear glasses…

Then I look at blog posts or speak with friends about professional things and realize that I’m not as thoughtful a person as they are, or as capable of expressing my thoughts in the coherent manner they do.  My love of books and ability to discuss them with students doesn’t translate into the analytical, considered words they can use with ease.  Whatever the reason, the inner stuff doesn’t come out as articulately from me as it does from others.

And then there’s the reading.  I think I read a lot, but at the recent RUSA Awards event it became clear that, well, clearly I’d been reading totally different stuff. Not that it really should matter, of course, but somehow, sometimes it does.

So am I smart, dumb or somewhere in between? More important, does it matter?

Posted in Musings | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 January 2014

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Stuff

  • We did a Before I Die wall in October… what about using Padlet all year long for similar things?
  • I’ve always been a huge fan of Cornell notes (even before I knew what they were) and now there’s Classmint for digital versions.  A “must play with” for me!

Etc.

More data links (via) – to compliment the Data Driven post

Posted in Books, Links, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

I’m looking through you… or maybe not

Posted by lpearle on 20 January 2014

“Transparency” is one of those terms that’s tossed around a whole lot these days, particularly when it comes to governance.  There’s a lot to be said for it, and most of all when a governing body makes some sort of change.  As Karen says in her brilliant take on ALA’s new Code of Conduct, some quiet calls and conversations could have gone a long way towards buy-in, even if the process didn’t seem to be transparent.  So perhaps we should add “common courtesy and sense” to “transparency” as ideals?

What follows may – or may not – apply to a few situations that have bubbled up in my worlds recently.  What I mean is, some of the things below happened longer ago than one might think but could also be taken for current events.  In every case, transparency and what Quakers call plain dealing were sorely missing.

  • In a hiring situation, opinions are solicited from a variety of members of the community – yet it’s clear that the final decision takes none of those opinions into account.
  • Management asked the office manager how to deal with an employee who clearly had addiction issues and then ignored that advice, continuing to give advances on salary and time off; the office manager was reprimanded for “attitude” when making the recommendation to stop both.
  • Someone working for a number of years on a professional publication was told – via e-mail – that their “contract” was not being renewed, while another person was given the courtesy of a conversation (they weren’t working on the same publication but knew each other).
  • Changes in organizational direction and focus are opened for “discussion” but that discussion will not lead to anything other than what the management wants the organization to do, damn the constituencies – full speed ahead!

Does any of that sound familiar?  Believe it or not, some those happened over twenty years ago.  Yet, as Wendy’s blog post points out, nothing’s changed except the names and places.  And I’m seeing it in more than just her example. Primarily, it seems to me, we have a failure to communicate.   Management needs to communicate what the agenda really is (“give me permission to keep this employee on” or “I only want to hear love for this new initiative”) rather than allowing people to give advice that is, ultimately, not going to be taken.

Another communication failure?  When, for some reason, management feels that the organization needs to shift focus or direction and the rest of us don’t.  I’ve been on both sides of that and it’s never easy.  Some times it’s because plans change – suddenly.  Trust me, nothing makes you shift direction and focus faster than having your place of work burn down.   The methodology around rebuilding the program and collection might have made for an interesting conversation but sometimes it’s just easier to say “here’s what we’re doing and how”.   What I’m seeing in a few areas is change not born of crisis but of disconnect, disconnect between management and the people on the ground, working hard at making the organization’s work happen.  What the people want is ignored, or discarded, by those in charge.  Why?  Because.  Because they can, because they have another agenda, and just because they don’t have to care about what the others want.

Just look at politicians who promise something and fail to deliver.  Of course there’s a reason (usually either they had no real power to have made that promise, or they weren’t fully informed about the situation and implications).  But is it ever explained by that person?  Did President Bush ever say, “yeah, about that No New Taxes pledge… well, here’s why there actually are going to be some”?  No.

It’s demoralizing.  It’s annoying.  Even worse, it’s treating the people without whom the organization won’t function at all as children.

As one of the many, not one of the elite, it’s difficult to know what to do to ameliorate things.  I know people who are planning to voice their opinion(s) Loudly.  Some already have, and yet… nothing changes.  Is the solution to start a new organization (that’s happened before)?  Can one work from within so that we, the people, have more say and the them, the management, is more transparent about why and how?

Thoughts to ponder as I (and you) prepare for ALA Midwinter, and the many conversations about transparency (or lack thereof) within that organization.

Posted in Ethics, Musings, Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

The missing piece

Posted by lpearle on 8 January 2014

Just after my school went on Winter Break I headed off to my former school (easier to see everyone in one place!).  They, like several schools I know, are struggling with the question of going 1:1 with some device, as well as the question of if they do, what device should it be?  Since my school is nearly 1:1 (they did a slow phase-in, and by next year it’ll be 1:1 with iPads for all grades) some of my former colleagues asked my opinion and for my reaction to what I’m seeing now.  Some of my answer was informed by serving on the Professional Development Committee and hearing departmental responses…

Here’s the thing: yes, using the iPad can be helpful.  There are drawbacks, like thinking about privacy issues (do the apps track student use? what information is being collected and share without our knowledge?) and whether you’re being forced to change a text that works really well but isn’t available digitally  for one that might not work as well but is available digitally, and how to distribute apps/resources to a large number of people.  There are pluses, like lightening the load for students in terms of textbooks.  Cost is another issue, especially if you’re asking parents to pay for an iPad when they’ve just bought a new laptop for their child, let alone replacement/upgrade costs.  Etc.

I don’t need to cover all that here, because others have done it better earlier.  For me, the biggest challenge, the biggest “missing” has been teacher training.  It’s more than merely rethinking classroom management, keeping students engaged in class despite having a machine linking them to the world “outside”.  It’s completely redoing your pedagogy and revamping lesson plans: how does this homework assignment look if we’re using digital resources in class?  should the class “flip” and if so, how?  what multimedia resources should be integrated to best make use of the new tool?  It’s also about training teachers to help students use the new tool: if it’s an iPad, how are they taking notes (using a keyboard? with NotesPlus or Penultimate or ??)? how are they organizing their digital notebooks? how do they access your downloadables and do they really need to print them out? And finally, who is making the decisions, the tech people (deciding what they think will work best) or the teachers (which may mean more work for tech support, but would lead to better teacher experience).

The departments at school all have different approaches, with only one truly embracing the possibilities the iPad presents.  Another department is using it, but the teachers are struggling with all of the above.  Still another seems to be refusing to really use it, staying with “tried and true” for now.  Training would help – having the teacher who really rocks a specific app or process work with those who can see some way to use it but don’t know how to get started.  More than a mere introduction at the start of the year would help (Genius Hours for teachers, anyone?), and when a major application changes (as NotesPlus did just as school started) then PDO time is not just nice, it’s a necessity.

All too often I’ve seen this rollout done poorly: tech department, plus the administration, decides what device and which applications without teacher input.  Teachers don’t get the training or time to effectively integrate the new tools into their curriculum, just a mandate that This Is The Way Things Will Be and are hesitant (or resentful).  Students sense that the teachers haven’t fully embraced the tools and don’t try, either.  Result? Failure.

I’m hoping that we can change and improve what’s going on at my school, and that my experience can help others heading down that road.  Stay tuned as we move forward, finding the missing.  And, as always, if you have thoughts and suggestions, the comments are open!

Posted in Musings, Pedagogy, Privacy, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Where does the money go?

Posted by lpearle on 6 January 2014

In November I had to prepare my AY15 budget. Yes, you read that correctly: November 2013.  The budget won’t be finalized for several months yet, but it was an instructive exercize to consider what I’d be spending the school’s money on from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.  What was the proper amount for print resources (books and periodicals)?  Which databases were we going to keep?  Could I build in some fudge money so if a great new database came along we’d have the ability to purchase it in AY15, not AY16?

One line item gave me real pause: the professional training/conferences line.  A number of years ago, Doug wrote a great post about his expectations for presenters. Now, in my nearly two decades of doing this school librarian thing, I’ve only had real support for my conference going for eight of those years and even then I was careful to only have the school pay for registration, transportation (if I didn’t drive) and the hotel, plus shipping of books/materials back to school – meals and other stuff were on me.  In part it’s because I didn’t want to take advantage, but in part it’s because I truly believe that having some skin in the game is important.  So as I prepared my budget, I thought about the upcoming year’s conferences and which I might want to attend.  It’s not like I’m starved for choice: ALA Annual and Midwinter, YALSA’s Literature Symposium, AASL’s Fall Forum, SLJ’s Leadership Summit, NECC, NCTE/ALAN, NYSAIS’ NEIT Conference and many more.  The question for me is, “which experience will give my school (and me) the biggest bang for our bucks?”

The Little Professor has a post about attending MLA that I think has great application for ALA (and divisions).  While some may argue that 3000 (AASL13) vs 25000 (ALA Annual, average) is manageable, the question about the types of presentations arises.  I like to stray outside the box, seeing what other divisions are up to and learning from them because there’s often a lot I can apply to my situation.   The Literature Symposium vs NCTE/ALAN is another conundrum, because they’re very different experiences.  As I work more with training teachers and students on technology, would missing ALA Annual in favor of NECC be the better choice (although here, again, there’s a scale issue)?

So many questions to answer, and in November 2013 I have no idea what the answer was going to be come registration time in late 2014.  Where will you be putting your money?

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

My year in reading

Posted by lpearle on 2 January 2014

This year saw some major changes in my life (new job, new town/state, new house) take away from my time reading, so rather than a book a day, it was a book every 1.12 days (325 completed).  In 2012 I spent a lot of time reading YA Nonfiction for YALSA, while in 2013 I started with three months of First Novel reading while I worked with the Center for Fiction (which sponsors the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize);  several reviews have appeared on the Adult Books 4 Teens blog, and I’ve got three books to review for them on my nightstand. My GoodReads followers list keeps growing, which is very flattering! It’s been great being in a school with excited readers, and my “Books So New They Haven’t Even Been Published” rack is very popular.

While I’m looking forward to several upcoming books, I’m looking back fondly on the following (note: no book read for the F-D prize appears here; those books remain unrated):

Here’s to a book-filled 2014!

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 December 2013

Now that I’m tidying up from a year-end reading binge, it’s time to clear out some of my saved links on Twitter and in my RSS feed.  Lucky you!

Books, Reading, Etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

Posted in Collection Development, Links, Pedagogy, Privacy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

 
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