Cleaning out my spam filter and saw this:
Posted by lpearle on 15 September 2014
In independent schools we talk about students and education, about how our mission (overall, not just the specific school mission) is all student-centered. We also talk about being college preparatory, trying to ensure our students will succeed (not just succeed, but excel) in their next academic experience.
So when I see schools issue technology mandates (iPad, laptop, whatever) I wonder about how student-centered that is. For some students – heck, for me! – reading on a device is not the best choice. I do my best, deepest reading in print, not to mention being able to find my notes easier, get back to an interesting passage quicker and flip between charts/maps/lists and text with more fluidity. When taking notes, it’s always better for me to scrawl paper/pen and then to type them up – the meaning really sinks in that way (and let’s not forget my Cornell notes obsession). Why should either be different for students?
But this isn’t just about a mandate, it’s about choice. When we tell students that a school is going 1:1 (laptops or tablets) are we allowing them to choose the technology tool that works best for them, or are we saying “we expect you to bring [vendor/specifications]“? And in our role as a college preparatory institution, have we surveyed the places our students will go next to see what they will be expected to use there? My hope is that we would do that before making any decisions, using College X’s entry-level curriculum, research expectations and technology tools as a baseline goal for all of our graduates. My fear is that few schools do that.
And then there’s the curriculum itself. Over the years I’ve spoken with many, many students about their current classes, their current class choices and their goals for the future. All too frequently I see art students told to take fewer art electives and to take an AP math or science course instead (colleges apparently love – LOVE! – those AP credits). The push for STEM credits and students is denuding schools of humanities and arts electives, forcing students who would truly excel as a historian or creative writer into AP Biology or something.
Back in the dark ages (aka late 1970s) when I was in high school, the curriculum was, to put it politely, eclectic. The requirements were 1 year of science, 3 years of math and foreign language, and something like 2 arts credits. History and English were combined into one department, Humanities, and I forget what the credit requirements there were. No AP classes, although students who wanted to take the exams could. As a result, I haven’t taken a lab science since 9th grade, and only grudgingly took calculus in college (NOTE: if you have to take a placement test and test into calculus without having taken pre-calc, do not accept that placement!). Instead of Chemistry, I took Philosophy. Instead of Biology, I took Acting. Etc.. When I got to college I was more than prepared not only for the rigors of the college experience (mixing living away from home with studying and hanging out with friends) but also for the freedom of choice allowed in choosing my courses.
Does telling students that they have to take AP this and that, fewer electives (limiting them to perhaps a senior year) and pursue a relatively rigid path help? I would argue not (as would the constructivist school). Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that we need a good underlying understanding of things and serious basic skills in math, science, grammar, etc.. But once we’re in high school, why force a school of round pegs into square holes? Another friend of mine, currently Head of Modern Languages at a school, in charge not only of running the department but also approving and researching foreign travel (student trips to China, Spain and France) and managing the departmental budget, stopped his math and science courses earlier than I did. Neither of us has suffered appreciably.
So here’s what I’m pondering: if our schools truly believe in being student-centered environments preparing those in our care for their next academic experience, why are we so afraid of student choice?
Posted by lpearle on 1 September 2014
(more from the vault – next month, fresher stuff!)
Books, Reading, Etc.
- New fodder for the annual “Read A Good Movie” display – hoping to also plan some great book-to-movie discussions.
- Great collection of booky news on Book Riot.
- Share these book related tumblrs with your students (maybe they’ll get inspired)
- Working in a high school you need to stay on top of the New Adult genre, right? Here’s a good start.
- I love fairy tale retellings. Stacked has a list I’m dying to tackle.
- Even though we don’t teach diagramming sentences any more, this set of famous first lines may interest students.
- As we talk to students at the beginning of the year, think about how we approach the digital footprint question. And then talk about adjusting their privacy settings.
- 5 Research-Based Tips for Providing Students with Meaningful Feedback – aka “something to remember when research season starts and I’m grading all those bibliographies!”
- Starting to think about how to create good tutorials for our students using the iPad (we’re a 1:1 school). This may help.
- We’re moving to Google mail (not Gmail) to make Google Drive access easier. I’m loving these tips on how to use Drive better!
- Do you teach these 5 Steps to Electronic Notetaking Success? I’m still looking for the perfect online Cornell method app.
- Interactive maps like this one can be replicated by our students for local history, right? What about virtual museums?
- Wondering what will be expected at the next level? ACRL is creating new a information literacy framework. I’ll be watching/learning.
- NAIS lists the 25 Factors Great Teachers Have in Common. Something to ponder as school starts.
- Hugely difficult even for adults: finding information you can trust. Hoping our students know we can help!
- Good advice: think beyond the platform.
Posted by lpearle on 28 August 2014
If you work in a school, you know that each year will bring changes – different students, different research needs, different teachers, surprising events, etc.. They’re the type of things you know are coming and yet can do very little to prepare. For me, there’s no dread involved, just a sense of fatalistic anticipation.
Sometimes, though, there are even bigger changes afoot. It may be a new job. Or new library coworkers/colleagues. Maybe you’ve got a new facility.
The other day I was having lunch with Katie Archambault at Emma Willard and she mentioned another change, one we don’t really talk about at conferences or help prepare people for: going from being a part of a library team to being a solo librarian. She’s right, we don’t often talk about that change. Nor do we talk about the change from being a solo librarian to being part of a team. Or being a part of a team to being the Team Leader. There’s lots out there on how to survive your first year at a school, but often that presupposes that you’re just new to that school, not filling a new role as well.
Porter’s is planning on hosting the 2014 New England Association of Independent School Librarians conference and this seems like a good conversation for us to have: what massive changes have you experienced? how have you survived? what advice do you have for others in your position? etc.. Go ahead. Let me know in the comments!
Posted by lpearle on 25 August 2014
One year ago this week I’d completed my first inventory of the collection and attended two days of New Faculty Orientation. Next stop, Opening Faculty Meetings. I remember staring around, looking at my new colleagues and wondering who was who and how I’d fit in. My boss introduced me, mentioning my 140-mile round-trip commute and a gasp went up from the others. I’ve never been gasped at before. It’s a little unsettling.
This year I (well, the library) hosted the New Faculty Orientation, and I did a little presentation on our Resource Guides. Almost all the summer books have been processed, the magazines are all checked in, the new furniture is on its way… Monday my partner in crime and I will drive 43 boxes of books to ThriftBooks and run some other errands while planning our upcoming year. And Tuesday all those new faculty will be introduced to the rest of us – my guess is that there will be no gasps involved!
During the NFO I had the opportunity to say hello to several colleagues and catch up a little. Two of them said the same thing, that it felt (to them) as though I’d been at Porter’s far longer, that this couldn’t be only my second year. It reminded me of my start at Hackley nine years ago, and how similar things were said about me there. One colleague told me that there were some faculty who wouldn’t be too friendly, on the theory that it was a waste of time to get to know the newbies before their third year (at least) because of turnover. Those unfriendly faculty? Some of my closest friends by the end of my first year.
Don’t ask me what I did, or didn’t do, to fit in. There are checklists and suggestions all over the web about what to do your first week/month/year at a new job (go search ‘em out yourself) but there’s nothing out there on how to fit in, how to make your new coworkers feel comfortable enough to call you colleague, or friend. At this time of year I wonder about the incoming “class” and hope their integration into the school makes them, and others, feel like they’ve been a part of the community for far longer.
Here’s to Academic 2015!
Posted by lpearle on 21 August 2014
In my last post, I mentioned that I hate shelving. The upside, besides nice, neat shelves with books that are findable is that it’s a great way to look at your collection, particularly if there’s a research project ongoing (inventory is another great tool, and if you’re not doing an annual inventory, shame on you!). The collections at three of the four schools I’ve worked at have been… neglected. There are many wonderful books on the shelves, or they would be wonderful if we were still in the 1980s (or an earlier decade).
At my last school, there were a number of books published in the late teens-early 20s of the last century. Now, that part of the collection should be an automatic “weed” right? Not so fast there! The 11th grade history class was entitled “The Twentieth Century World” and the initial focus is on the Treaty of Versailles, which essentially sets up the entire political world we now inhabit, and those books? They were written by people who were at the talks, crafting the treaty. So while in the 90s or 80s those may have seemed outdated, by the early 00s, they were primary source materials.
Weeding, it’s tricky!
I saw this tweet a while ago,
and immediately thought, “oh my! wouldn’t that be nice…” The reality is that in a school, you can’t be quite that draconian. You can do what we’re doing, which is replacing old versions of books like poetry – books we need, but are just so old the students don’t want to use them – and really evaluating the history and social sciences selections. We did a massive weed of the literary criticism (no longer used) and the science collection already, which dropped about 6,000 volumes from our shelves. My guess? We’ll probably weed another 3-4,000 this year. And we’re using Thrift Books to help ease the guilt of getting rid of some of these books.
Without doing shelving, I wouldn’t really be looking at the books that we have, comparing what’s being used for research and what’s still sitting there – too old, too decrepit or just too out-of-date. So there is an upside… maybe.
Posted by lpearle on 18 August 2014
Over the past 30 years I’ve had several “careers” (in the theatre, in finance, as an office manager or a project manager, and finally as an executive recruiter before starting the librarian gig) and worked in many different environments, from small 2-person offices to multi-branch companies. Every job I’ve had has been filled with things I’ve loved – beyond the paycheck and other benefits – and things I’ve hated. I’ve never had a job that’s been pure love, and sadly, I don’t expect to ever have one.
It’s one of the things I think we need to teach our students: that yes, absolutely, follow your passion. Do what makes you go to bed at night feeling fulfilled and at peace. But – and this is important – no job is going to be 100% of that. There will always be “lesser” days, and lesser tasks.
What I do now, for example, is a pretty good 80-20 mix. Sadly, the past few days have been more of that 20 because I hate filing. I hate shelving. I hate processing books. I hate them hate them hate them. There. I said it. But they’re all so very necessary if we’re to be ready for the opening of school (and by that I’m including tomorrow’s New Faculty Orientation meetings, taking place right in my library!). Even when I’ve had an assistant, shelving and filing have been things I’ve had to do. Oh: keeping track of statistics, like the number of questions we get asked daily or how used the databases are. Not as bad as filing, and miles better than shelving, but not a favorite. Yet, like a good doobie I’ve spent time this summer updating our spreadsheets in preparation for the new year. The stuff I love – working with students and colleagues, doing Reader’s Advisory, collaborating on projects and research – has been paused as everyone scatters for the summer.
Our academic dean is a big proponent of “flow” and working with faculty help them achieve it in their practice. In theory, that’s great. But in reality? I’m sure that grading papers/tests is an “unflow” moment for most of my colleagues. Necessary, but not why they got into teaching. Dealing with parents is probably another “unflow” moment. I could go on, but you get the point. And then there’s the question of the outside world interfering with the work world, for whatever reasons. That can turn any day that should be filled with “flow” into a day you’d rather not have.
A personal goal for me for this year is to create more concentrated time for the “unflow” work, getting it done promptly rather than putting it off and getting angsty about it. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can get that 80-20 to 85-15. What about you?
Posted by lpearle on 11 August 2014
Ok, to be honest, I almost titled this post “iRead” but I don’t want to jump on any bandwagons!
So, yes, I read. A lot. It’s one of my few real talents – reading, reading, reading. Since January I’ve read 180 books (well… started 180 books. some were so bad I couldn’t finish) in a variety of genres and for a variety of audiences. Format, on the other hand, was limited to print and ebook. Frankly, I prefer print but for ARC/ARE books, I’ll accept (grudgingly) the e version. When I left my last school, several friends banded together and bought me a Kindle, making it easier to get e books. At my current school I have an iPad (there’s a 1:1 program) but I never read on that.
Here’s the thing: there’s something wonderfully immersive about a print book. I open the book up… dive into the world the author has created (that’s true even for non-fiction books)… and woe betide any animal, human or feline, who disturbs me. When I’m reading on my Kindle, I don’t feel as immersed.
Last year I was given a copy of the recent Brown/Haverford/Trinity/a few other schools e-book survey. The results didn’t surprise me, but I suspect they surprised the administrators: students don’t want to go e: they prefer print for both research and pleasure reading (sorry, no link). The Chronicle reported something similar in 2013, and Publisher’s Weekly and the Financial Times did the same in 2014.
And in a completely unscientific survey of 100 students at Porter’s (nearly 1/3 of the student body), the girls said the same: give us print, please.
As mentioned earlier, we have a 1:1 program, with a mandate from the administration that if a textbook is available in e format, that’s what the students should buy. I’ve heard from some parents, and not a few students, that it works for them with math and science texts, but for their English books? Please, can we have print? Some are buying two versions, the e and the print, so that they can read in their preferred format and still comply with school requirements.
How has this affected our collection? We subscribe to Credo Reference and EBSCO’s Academic E-books, giving the students a wide range of books for research. They’re pretty heavily used, which is great because we certainly couldn’t keep that many books on hand! It’s also allowed us to remove older books from the collection, knowing that the information is covered in the online collection (and eliminating the “wow – this book might just fall apart in my hands” factor). But in terms of the fiction collection, we’re still going strong with print.
Last [academic] year I was a panelist for a conference discussion on ebooks. One of the other panelists uses Axis 360 at her school and has great success; part of that is because she has a co-ed population and it’s a great way to get sensitive books into the hands of readers (by “sensitive” I mean GLBTQCA* books, or books about health/emotional issues… and quite possibly “girl” books being read by boys). If I had that population, it might work better at Porter’s. The previous librarian subscribed to some Follett shelf books, and there are six Kindles with books loaded (we even borrowed the themed Kindle idea espoused by Courtney Lewis at Wyoming Seminary. They’re a hard sell here!
Still, as we move forward into AY15, we’ll be thinking more about this question and trying to see what combination works best with our students. Note: our students. As the previous paragraph illustrates, YMMV when introducing ebooks into your collection. Some schools just force them down students throats (Cushing Academy, I’m looking at you!) but to me, that feels wrong. Far better is to keep taking the pulse of the students, seeing what they want and what’s out there (devices, programs, availability, etc.).
How are you dealing with this issue/conundrum? And how do uRead?