Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 27 August 2015

Books, Reading, Etc..

  • I’ve done something similar with Google Maps, but this?  The Obsessively Detailed Map is truly obsessively detailed.  Ideas for additional “value added content”? TSU has some great Immersive Experience ideas.
  • This might just be my new favorite book blog: Oh, the Books! (via)
  • The Book Riot Quarterly box might be a good way to get students excited about reading.  BookOpolis looks to be a good way to introduce younger students to online reviewing/reading communities.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera…

Most important: 120 days until Christmas.  Shop now. Avoid the rush.

Posted in Books, Links, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Je ne regrette rien… mostly

Posted by lpearle on 20 August 2015

This is the time of year when students start school, comparing schedules and teacher assignments.  Most don’t have any control over which teacher they have for various subjects – if you’re taking Freshman English or US History, you just get placed in a section and good luck to you.  Sometimes, though, you do have control and can either steer towards or away from a particular teacher (a few years ago, I had a rising senior who said that for English, he wanted “anyone but [teacher name]” and, luckily, his schedule worked out so that he did avoid that teacher).

When I was in high school, back in the day when the Emma Willard curriculum truly was more college prep than it is now: no AP classes, and a trimester schedule that allowed teachers and students to explore a niche topic for the 11(?) weeks.  For example, I took British Poetry and European Fiction and Modern Asian History while others took Government and Russian Literature and the Civil War Era.  With the exception of math and languages, we were in mixed grade classes based on interest rather than ability or grade.  Teacher chose whether they would assign grades or if the class would be Credit/No Credit, creating an egalitarian system that didn’t allow for a GPA or class ranking, because really, how do you assign a ranking to someone who took Economics and got “credit” vs. someone who took Spanish Dancing and got a B+?  It was perfect prep for the college experience, where you can take classes that are of interest and really explore your passion rather than taking AP classes to impress an admissions officer.

That was one aspect of the experience, and for me a great one.  The other aspect, one that shocks my current students, was that I could avoid classes I really didn’t want to take and so, I adhered to their graduation requirements and stopped taking science after 9th grade and only got to Algebra 2 and Trig in math.  Another friend, raised and educated in England, stopped both at age 13 and concentrated on languages and history.  Given our current lives, I’m not sure we missed out… most of the time.  I would like a greater basic knowledge of, say, chemistry or botany, but I am managing without it.  It wouldn’t hurt students today if they were allowed to have the type of educational experience I had, and it might create better students as they focus on what they really enjoy rather than adhering to an imposed curriculum.

At every school in which I’ve studied or worked there are iconic teachers.  Some achieve that status by pure longevity – a 4o+-year-career, for example.  Some achieve that by their demeanor in the classroom, connecting with students in incredible ways.  When I’ve gone back to Emma for reunions and talk with my friends, and meet people from other classes, we often talk about classes we took, teachers (and housemothers) we loved and those we avoided.  And that’s where the regrets come in: some times, because I was so busy pursuing my passions, I missed taking classes or having teachers who had conflicting classes.  It’s those times I think, “oh, if only I’d taking [class name/teacher name]” because the love my classmates have for that teacher or class is so intense.  I wish I could actually sing because the choir teacher was one of those icons… I regret never taking Chemistry or Latin because those teachers were icons.

My hope for my students is that they don’t have those regrets, but the reality is that the nature of education now is that they will simply because they aren’t allowed to go outside the norm, they must take an AP math and science course in their senior year (but can drop history to get even more STEM education).

Posted in Musings | Leave a Comment »

Watching the Watchman

Posted by lpearle on 6 August 2015

Many years ago, Harper Lee wrote a book she called Go Set A Watchman, submitted it to her publisher and hoped for the best.  The best was that the publisher liked parts of the book and recommended she go back and write another book about those parts, the parts when Jean Louise looked back on her childhood.  And thus was born To Kill A Mockingbird.

Years ago I heard Naomi Shihab Nye talk about her first publishing experience, when a poetry publisher told her that only seven lines of a much longer poem were “worthy”, thus forcing her to revise her poem. She talks the process of revision here in much the same way she did then:

 

See where this is going?

When the news came out that Ms. Lee had not destroyed the book but had kept it, and HarperCollins had the unedited, unpublishable first draft and was, in fact, publishing it, there were two reactions: one, why now? and two, what did Ms. Lee think?  After all, that’s the hope of all readers when a favorite author dies, that there will be more coming because there were manuscripts hidden.  Salinger must have written something amazing all those years he was in Vermont, right?  It’s like Tupac recording from the grave.  So the “why now” gets answered by “because now is when we found it” but the second question goes unanswered because no one can talk with the author unless they go through her lawyer, who swears that she’s happy about it all.

Maybe I was alone in this, but I never expected this to be a Great Read.  If anything, it was a first, very rough look at the story and out of all the dross, the gold of Mockingbird arose.  Many early readers and reviewers were shocked and dismayed to find that Atticus was a racist – it’s like finding out that Superman’s ability to leap tall buildings didn’t include the Empire State Buildings.  This despite some scholars bringing out this aspect of Atticus for years already.  Some refused to read it (my friend Chuck included).  And now a bookstore is offering refunds for those who didn’t quite understand what they were getting when they purchased the book. It could be worse: it could have looked like Finnegan’s Wake!

Mockingbird was not a required read for me (I read it on my own, not for a class), so I don’t hold it in the same reverential light as (perhaps) those who studied the book do.  My personal reading plans do not include reading Watchman. My professional collection development plans might include it, if (after conferring with the other librarians and our English teachers) they think it would add to our student’s understanding of the rewriting process and/or the themes in Mockingbird.  That seems to be the reasonable thing to do.

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 4 August 2015

It’s summer – a major move (personal and professional) is in process, so why not declutter a bit and share links and ideas I’ve been hoarding all school year?  Regular posts to resume by the end of August, I hope!

Books, Reading, etc.

School Life

Tech Stuff

Etcetera

Posted in Books, Links, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 30 July 2015

Books, Reading, Etc.

  • Why Does S Look Like F?” (how to read old-fashioned books – we might need this for handwriting, esp, cursive, soon!)
  • I played with this some, and now I’m wondering how to create a Best Books of the Summer app for school.

School Life

Tech Stuff

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

What are you doing with your summer?

Posted by lpearle on 24 July 2015

I’ve already posted my early-summer PD schedule and a few “if only…” options.  Then I read this on Twitter:

and Wendy posted about her Walden experience.

Both put me in mind of a friend (a librarian friend) who worked in a school that gave out summer sabbatical travel/learning grants.  No librarian had ever gotten one, because why do we need to travel/learn?  She applied and got a grant to learn to paint in Tuscany.  The rationale?  She was a very linear learner and thinker, not at all artistic.  Learning to paint would be out of her comfort zone.  Even more out of that comfort zone would be living and learning in a language she didn’t know.  Why was this important?  Because she was very comfortable (as I suspect most librarians are) doing research and speaking the language of information fluency/skills, etc..  Putting herself in those uncomfortable shoes would mean she could, for a few weeks, walk in her students’ steps as they began to learn the process of finding, evaluating and interpreting information while they did research.  She argued, convincingly, that her experience would make her more empathetic to them and help her be a better librarian.

I’ve never worked in a school that’s had that kind of program (or, if they did, I wasn’t eligible) but it’s something to consider for next year, even if it’s out of my own pocket (as Doug says, it’s good to have skin in the game).  Imagine how your program could change and improve if you did the same.

Posted in Conferences, Musings, Pedagogy | Leave a Comment »

What’s missing in this job description?

Posted by lpearle on 20 July 2015

NAIS has a very little-used elist for librarians (I guess we prefer AISL’s list, or local lists, or something run by ALA?).  Last week they asked for librarian’s help creating the perfect Director of Libraries job description, I’m guessing to go along with their Guidelines of Professional Practice for librarians.

Leaving aside the problematic use of “library media” (preferred term: library – see AASL’s thoughts on this), I’ve highlighted a few things I’m wondering about.  Before I respond, what do you think?  What would you add, or change, or delete? Some recent job descriptions I’ve seen have had really interesting ideas added – what thinking “outside the bun” would you add?

The Director of Library and Information Services/Librarian will:

  • Ensure that the library’s academic and technical resources advance the school’s educational program.
  • Collaborate with classroom teachers in the curriculum design process and assist them in delivering an integrated library media program. (jargon!  what does this even mean?)
  • Develop policies and programming that will establish standards for and definitions of information literacy and bolster support for library media services that contribute to an information-literate student body.
  • Develop, acquire, and maintain a collection of resources appropriate to the curriculum, the students, and the instructional strategies of the school’s faculty.  What about reading and learning for pleasure?
  • Collaborate with academic departments/discipline-specific coordinators on specific needs and growth opportunities.
  • Foster an environment of creativity and innovation.
  • Research and evaluate new and emerging information technologies.
  • Prepare and manage the library budget.
  • Evaluate and purchase technical equipment. (won’t this interfere with the Technology Department’s budget and workings?  shouldn’t this be “in conjunction with the Technology Department, or something similar?)
  • Maintain an attractive, dynamic, current, and well-stocked library conducive to reading, studying, and research.
  • Select, process, and make readily available traditional print resources, the Internet, electronic databases, video, audio, and film. (maybe just say “a variety of resources, including print and digital, as appropriate to the school’s needs)
  • Maintain a circulation system that ensures the prompt return of materials and their ready availability to other borrowers. (“ensures”?  not quite sure what that means.  also, “prompt return” implies no semester-long borrowing, reserve shelf materials or renewals)
  • Provide bibliographic and reference services for teachers and students.
  • Provide instruction for students in the use of library resources.
  • Promote the ethical use of information.
  • Empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, and knowledgeable researchers.
  • Instill a love of reading and learning in students and ensure their equitable access to information.
  • Participate in the recruitment, hiring, training, and supervision of other library professionals and volunteers.
  • Maintain regular contact with stakeholders through school publications and online media. (make sure you coordinate with the school’s communications department, A&D, etc.!)
  • Act as an advocate of the library, share expertise at faculty meetings, serve on academic committees, and take an active role in accreditation processes.
  • Network with local librarians, maintain active memberships in professional associations, and promote the school in the wider community.
  • Facilitate personal growth through professional development opportunities. (doesn’t this depend on the school supporting this? many librarians don’t make enough to do this all out-of-pocket)
  • Perform other duties as assigned by the head of school.

 

Other Duties

[Include any other duties that may be required of the position, such as coaching responsibilities, dorm duties, advising, or other specific duties. Be sure to include any job duties unique to the position such as work hours, travel, evening and weekend duties, public appearances, etc.]

 

Common Qualification Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree in Library Science, Information Studies, or a similar field
  • Additional degree in Education a plus (why? are the subject teachers asked not only for their Master’s but also an MEd?)
  • 5+ years of experience in library program management (so, how do new Directors get a start?)
  • Demonstrated experience in a supervisory role (see above)
  • Demonstrated success collaborating with faculty in all disciplines to enable/enhance student learning
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Exceptional organizational skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Committed to diversity
  • Passionate about working with and inspiring high school learners (what about those of us who work K-12? or in K-4, 5-8 or some other combination? why not just say “inspiring learners”?)

Posted in Professional organizations, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Not leaning: standing tall

Posted by lpearle on 14 July 2015

When I interviewed at Porter’s I was asked if I’d read That Book, the one where we were told to “lean in to [discomfort, opportunity, the struggle, whatever]” and I responded that I’d read excerpts, but not the whole thing.  My overall sense was one of dismay, that a book like that was so popular because when I was at an all-girl’s high school, that message was simply there – we knew we were strong, powerful, ambitious and capable and that we could do anything with our futures.  Anything.  Where did that message fail?  Or maybe… just maybe… it took being in a place where we were encouraged to be what I guess we can call  “leaners” that it never occurred to us to be anything else, but for those in less supportive places, well… perhaps they need to hear the message?

Last week I was back at Emma Willard for a Wonder Woman workshop led by Leadership + Design.  Imagine my sorrow at hearing That Book referenced several times.

My biggest problem is that “leaning” implies that either you’ll fall over or you have something supporting you.  What’s wrong with standing tall?  Why is “leaning” the action of choice?   Add to that the questions about exactly to whom the book is addressed, versus the numbers who are being told to embrace the message.  NPR does a good job on this, The Week has a good round-up of responses, and The Feminist Wire says what I want to say, only better.

“Leaning in” seems to be one of those catch phrases that won’t go away, but as much as we embrace the message do we really understand what was written?  Do we understand the limitations of the author’s message?  And how do we move forward to a place where we’re standing, not leaning?  That is the message I want my students to hear.

 

Posted in Life Related, Musings | Leave a Comment »

Help Yourself – personalized learning at #alaac15

Posted by lpearle on 9 July 2015

(another program that will be posted online – check here)

Many schools and libraries are starting to embrace personalized learning, blended learning, the flipped classroom or whatever new buzzword appears.  At the Online School for Girls, they’re talking about “competency-based instruction” that puts learners at the center, meeting their needs and goals (in other words, it’s not teacher or student driven, it’s learner driven).  This approach allows teachers to work smarter.

Projects are remapped to put the student learner at the center, allowing for deeper engagement with the materials :

  • what major competencies are desired?
  • what is the individual student profile (what type of learner are they? what do they already know?)
  • what “pathway options” are there to get the student to understand the material?
  • what operational elements need to be designed?

remember: the pathway is less important than the competencies

You can build units in your LMS – Haiku, Schoology, WhippleHill, LibGuides, Moodle, etc. – chunking competencies and building in the pathway options.

Personalized learning is data-driven: always assign what students are learning and circle back if necessary.  In other words, assess assess assess (not necessarily formal assessments!).

In order to do this, you need to think about the school climate and have conversations about pedagogy.  For this to work, creating a climate of personalized learning needs to be a strategic intention, with an evaluation of space and investment in infrastructure for what the student’s needs are. Does the school’s mission have learners at the center?

The next speaker was from SFPL, highlighting their new literacy and learning center, a place where all kinds of learning can take place.  They’ve relabeled their classroom the Learning Studio/Learning Theatre, giving it flexible furnishings that can be positions to best assist what the program is.

Other ideas:

  • develop a public instruction plan
  • create a collection of resources and programs
  • instructional materials and tools are important (use YouTube for a tutorial collection, create handouts as take-aways)

Most learners want hands-on help! Make that happen with drop-in classes, 1:1 tech help (20 min sessions), online course instruction and meet-ups.

Finally, we heard from VATech, which has created a program that stresses empowering students by partnering with faculty – to do this they’ve developed programs and tools.

Good place to start: check with the first year experience librarians at schools popular with students and build down from that

One thing they’ve created is an iPad tour of the library: auto-generated, outcome based tour (there are also auto-graded assessments).  They’re now thinking about beacons, QR codes and apps to provide the same opportunities.

It’s important to train the trainers: creating lesson plans and activities that teachers can use/drop-in to their classes.  Your role is that of coach/consultant, not teacher. Example? their Working with the Library toolkit. The anecdotal evidence is that this works, freeing the librarians to do 1:1 assistance.

VT has also created an Instructional Learning Community with the assumption that all librarians are learners.  It’s open to anyone who wants to talk about teaching and includes a Read/Lead group who read and discuss a book that deals with learning, pedagogy, schools, etc.

Tool to check out: EDpuzzle (allows students to insert questions they have about the video tutorials they’re watching)

 

Posted in Conferences, Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness, Work Stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Big Data and danah boyd at #alaac15

Posted by lpearle on 8 July 2015

danah boyd’s research and work has been fascinating to follow – this was less “It’s Complicated” and more “it’s problematic” (if you’re an ALA member, the presentation will probably be posted here). This marks a shift from watching how teens use social media towards the idea of big data (and metadata) as a whole; essentially, she takes issue with the idea that big data collection can somehow solve all of life’s questions – it can’t because tech is not neutral, it takes on the bias of the creators/manipulators.  She then went on to talk about three things:

Privacy

  • social media is a relief valve (boyd blames helicopter parents who give their children no down or alone time to just hang with friends – my problem with that is that these parents are my age, and we had plenty of this time and we managed to survive!)
  • as a result, public spaces are now networked online (check out Youth Radio)
  • privacy no longer means “control of information”  – it means “control of social situation” (agency is important); context is important and learned (another way to think about it is “code shifting“)
    • the skills to interpret context and how to navigate online social dynamics are emerging – adults and teens need to learn them
    • the big challenge is that real life requires constant code shifting, but online is soooooo different (esp. for teens) – check out the social stenography post danah did in 2010

Making Meaning of Data

  • some teens have learned to put random brand names into their email posts (esp. gmail) to provoke those brand ads that accompany “free” email
  • the lesson? who interprets, collects and provides data matters

Just because it’s a machine doesn’t mean there are no politics involved: there are usually more!

Networked Data

  • who has control? our usual models break down online (23andme gives your consent now and in the future for you and your family; LAPD’s “spit and acquit” program)
  • we now live in a world of predictions that can be used to discriminate (“legal” is another issue) and raises questions about fairness (equality, equity and economic)

So, where does Librarianship fit into all this?

  • ALA’s Core Values take these things into account
  • question license agreements, hours of access, technology equity – push for open access, push back against information lock-up
  • there’s a new literacy: data literacy – we need to educate our users about this

we tell students that Wikipedia is BAD, but why do we also say that Google is GOOD?

  • question everything: push levels of thinking, teach students to do this so they can see bias and better determine who to trust online
  • social responsibility: more of us (librarians) need to speak up!
  • privacy: we need to talk more and teach more about the cultural consequences of Big Data (the NSA is the tip of the iceberg)

There are three types of data collection (for more about some of this, see my post about Debbie and Kristin’s program at #alaac13:

  1. data by choice (eg., Fitbit)
  2. data by coercion (the LAPD)
  3. data by circumstance (using Facebook)
  • why is ALA so afraid to be local? we do a great job of taking national (and international) positions, but local? rarely.

This documentary was not mentioned during ms. boyd’s talk, but I highly recommend watching/showing Terms and Conditions May Apply.  Scary, provocative and perhaps a catalyst for change.

 

Posted in Conferences, Privacy, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

 
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