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.
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Posted by lpearle on 18 December 2013
For those about to go on Break, some things to explore and/or ponder.
Books, Reading, Etc..
- FlipGrid looks like an amazing tool for both reader-to-reader advisory and in class collaboration for online learning. (via)
- Are you Sleepless in Cyberspace? Maybe this vacation is a good time to try to rethink things.
- Doug ponders Age, Energy, Privacy and Morals – I’m a little more concerned about privacy (perhaps because of my age) than he is… it’s interesting to note that many of my students don’t think about it, but when you start talking about the lack they get very concerned.
- For those of my friends traveling, some tips on how to get through the airport fast. Bon voyage!
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Posted by lpearle on 16 December 2013
A couple of weeks ago I gave The Infinite Moment of Us a three-star review, in part because “The starts and stops of the relationship felt real, and Myracle has a real ear for the language real teens use.”
Then one of my hard-core readers borrowed it and completely disagreed: she felt (strongly) that the language was not authentic, that the teens didn’t resemble anyone she (or her friends) knew. Wren seemed one-dimensional, and the relationship just didn’t work for her.
I’ve often wondered about the difference between my reading a book as an adult, with an ever-growing distance between me and my teen self, and an actual teen’s experience of that book. Several books that have seen much critical love – being added to the curriculum or as all-school reads – from adults but from the intended audience’s point-of-view they’re complete flops with characters they don’t relate to and a message they feel stifled by. These are readers who know that books like Gossip Girl or those by Sarah Dessen aren’t real or meant to be “good” books but they’re enjoyable reads anyway. And they don’t expect those characters to be real, or relatable in the same way that the characters in this book are supposed to be.
How many others have had similar experiences? Or have recognized themselves in a character, only to realize that the author is closer to them in age than to the proposed age group – and that what they’re responding to is from a teen perspective some decades old? It’s making me question many of my recent reads, and whether I am, in fact, buying the right books for this library.
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Posted by lpearle on 29 August 2013
Classes are starting – is it June yet?
No, seriously, it’s fine. There’s still a lot of tweeking of the collection that needs to be done, books still to be processed, stuff to be updated and all that, but we’ll manage to do all that around the classes coming in for research and people coming in to find great reads and spend time in our library doing personal research, studying, etc. The buildings and people are more familiar and routine is starting to creep in.
It’s always interesting exploring new school cultures. I’ve worked with schools who had an (unwritten) dress code of Laura Ashley and/or cashmere twinsets and pearls and those with written dress codes mandating jacket and tie for the men; I’ve seen hippie unshaven legs/underarm and braless on some colleagues and dress casual on others in the same faculty group. Meals are also interesting: do the faculty eat with students? is there a faculty-only table? or do the faculty grab something and eat in their classrooms? Some schools have free meals for faculty, others subsidize the food and still others have the faculty pay full price. What you call your teacher also varies, from the Quaker school “everyone uses first names” to one school who loudly touted the number of PhDs on the faculty by insisting they go by “Dr.”
How seriously the school takes itself is also always interesting to see. Some have a very casual attitude, some hammer home Tradition and History, some do a mixture of both. I’ve spoken to schools who find any opportunity to tout their age (“oldest school for girls in the country”, “oldest continuously operating school in the country”, “oldest co-ed boarding school in the state”) or their athletic prowess (“xx consecutive wins in [sport]” or “xx state championships in the past xx years”) or their facilities (brand new? historic register? the same classrooms frequented by [VIP names]).
When you’ve been at more than one school, having experienced more than one way of doing things, it can be amusing and confusing to start in on a new way of doing them. In many ways, it’s more difficult to switch from one style of dress, address and culture to another than it is to go from Mac to PC or tablet. The good news is that all those new students are making the transition with you.
Enjoy the journey.
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Posted by lpearle on 27 August 2013
Over the past year I’ve taken classes towards a certificate in eLearning and Online Teaching. The most interesting thing has been seeing different approaches to being an online teacher – each of my teachers has had different interaction techniques, different ways of posting and making the material available, different rubrics for in-class discussion and (obviously) different strengths. Sometimes the class didn’t meet my expectations, sometimes it exceeded it.
Here’s the thing that puzzled me the most: in two classes that were not about instructional design, we were asked to create a module and essentially do instructional design. And for each of those classes, we were asked to essentially make every part adhere to what Bloom’s Taxonomy refers to as Higher Order Thinking Skills. The problem for me was twofold, one of which I’ll talk about later in this post, and this one: Lower Order Thinking Skills, like reading and writing and absorbing material were being devalued. In order for any student to really apply HOTS, they need to use LOTS first. I’ve seen students struggle with analyzing and synthesizing material while doing research because they don’t have time to completely understand the material. This is part of what the Common Core is expected to correct, that we’ll be graduating students who have plenty of HOTS and can apply them in any situation. Not so sure this is going to be the case, because in our rush to implement, we’re neglecting LOTS. And that the design of a module should solely focus on the HOTS? Problematic.
The other problem I have have is that if the class is about assessment, then what we should have focused on in designing a module was the assessment piece: why weren’t we concentrating on rubrics? modeling a good final product? authentic assessment over recitation of facts and quizzes? self-assessment for both teacher and student? why chose one form of assessment over another? etc.. And if the class is on communication/collaboration, then let’s spend our time working on how to, within a created unit, pose leading questions and direct the conversation, what the best collaborative tools for that module are and why (and why other tools won’t/don’t work for that module), etc.. That’s not to say we didn’t cover some of those, but on those two courses creating modules that emphasized HOTS made me think about how confused students must be when we focus on something that seems irrelevant but is perhaps mandated by the state, district or department chair.
My big takeaways were to encourage teachers to include time for absorbing the material and applying it, and to create assignments/assessments that make sense in the context of the class.
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Posted by lpearle on 13 August 2013
Last week I dove into doing inventory – in many ways, my least favorite library activity (my aching back and shoulders! my dusty hands!) , but also in many ways my favorite library activity as it’s a great opportunity to look at the shelves and see where there are gaps, problems, areas that could be moved, etc..
As always, learning a new collection means taking a step back from what you knew about your old collection: comparisons only work if you’re comparing discrete sections, not overall. So when I see few books on [topic] on the shelves, and fondly remember all the work done to bring the old collection’s books on that topic to a great level, I can’t assume it’s because the new collection is lacking, it may be the curriculum is that different and many books on [topic] aren’t needed. And the reverse also applies. Meeting with the different departments and learning from them what they need from the library, and what their ideal collection would be (given unlimited funds and shelf space) is going to be a critical component of my next few months.
Of course, DDC doesn’t help. I saw books on AIDS in three places: 362.1, 614.5 and 616.9. Books on Tennessee Williams are in 809, 812, 813 and 818. If my goal is to make it easier for students to find books, that’s not helping!
In the fiction section, obviously, comparisons can be made. It’s always interesting to scan the shelves to see what’s popular, what’s gathering dust and what’s unique to that library. It’s also always interesting to see what’s appropriate in one school may not be appropriate in another. A few years ago I spoke with a school that did not want books like Junie B. Jones on the shelves because it promoted disobedience to adults. At another, even though the English department requested Sandman, the decision was that graphic novels weren’t “literary enough” (despite Persepolis and Maus being used in the curriculum). One well-meaning teen organized a large donation to school libraries, but didn’t know enough to weed Fear of Flying from the ages 10-18 boxes, which made me wonder how many younger librarians would know about that book! What I have noticed, in working with the various schools, is that few of the librarians actually read YA books. One librarian I worked with castigated me for not reading “serious” books (I do, but I also read genre fiction, non-fiction, YA fiction, and ABC books – it’s really helpful when you’re doing reader’s advisory!).
If there’s a series “missing”, does it mean that students didn’t respond and it’s been weeded, or that no one thought to buy the books to begin with? If there’s a lot of a specific type of book, is that because it’s a beloved author/genre, or due to a donation from a departing student/faculty member? Again, working with the students will help me better fill in the gaps and create a really great pleasure reading collection.
More to follow…
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Posted by lpearle on 23 July 2013
What is it that makes us call certain books “summer reads” (or “beach reads”)? Is it that they’re books that we can get lost in? or books that we don’t mind falling asleep or being interrupted while reading? Or perhaps it’s a lighter subject matter? Why don’t we have “winter reads”?
Anyway, over the past few weeks several former students (one graduated in ’98, another in ’11) have asked for summer reading recommendations. I suggested Fifth Business… Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore… Espedair Street…. Wicked Lovely… and And On the Eighth Day. Quite a range, isn’t it? The trick is to match the book to the reader, right? Those books so match their readers and I’ve heard a few comments back, mostly of the “loving this!” variety. It’s not just students, either: my mother, my aunt, friends and friends-on-behalf-of-their-children have asked for recommendations. I’m not assuming that they don’t have access to great librarians who can do Reader’s Advisory – this is more about our connection and them knowing that I know them.
One of the problems I have with required summer reading is that often it’s not personalized. It’s “improving” or something similar – the idea that people should read for the fun of reading, to keep in the habit of just engaging with text of some sort (could be a graphic novel!) is for some reason not what schools want. Let’s be honest, once you’re out of an academic environment, close reading the way English departments want is not something you do. And seriously, who does close reading of a murder mystery? I know some people who always do close reading, who analyze the text the way a surgeon analyzes an MRI prior to cutting the patient. But the rest of us? So why not promote personalized reading that the reader enjoys – fiction, non-fiction, graphic novel, whatever – and have them really relax?
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