Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Attention Deficit Disor – Hey! Is that a pony?

Posted by lpearle on 26 February 2013

The other day I was chatting with two friends who were colleagues at a school.  This school has, over the past few years, undertaken a few really impressive initiatives, ones that really have a meaningful effect on the students there at the time, and an impact on the community around the school not to mention a potential impact on the world at large.  The sad thing is that none of those initiatives have stuck; a program would be done once, then dropped.  Both teachers expressed sorrow at this, and wondered about the newest set of initiative – would they become part of the larger world? would they last long enough to really change students, the alumni community, the outside community, etc. or would they, too, briefly blaze in the school’s life and then fizzle out?

Since that conversation I’ve thought about my practice as a librarian.  I remembered shortly before the change from MLA 6 to MLA 7, and intiuting that the fact of where you accessed a database (via school, public library, etc.) didn’t matter and would be dropped from the citation format.  One of the other librarians at the school disagreed, strenuously (although several places had already dropped it in their guides, anticipating the Official Change).  When we taught students how to do citations, it became a bone of contention and confusion, with students not understanding that the format was fluid (remember underlining book titles?) and would change – and then, of course, there were other changes that we had to incorporate in the middle of the school year.

It also made me think about how we approach technology tools with our students.  It’s one thing to say “you want to blog? here are several platforms you might want to chose from, with their pros and cons”, it’s another to say “we’re using [platform]” in September and change it a few months later because something better came along.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep up, but constantly changing tools and platforms and places for them to find information can lead to confusion and reluctance to continually learn something Neat! New! simply because it’s there.

When I see people jumping from tool to tool, program idea to program idea, initiative to initiative I start to wonder why.  Is it truly because the new is that much better than the old? Is it because the old didn’t work, so change is necessary? Or is it because we’ve been told that technology has such a rapid refresh cycle that we must (MUST!) keep up and change along with it.  I don’t see students or teachers doing that as much as I see librarians… come to think of it, I don’t see anyone (as a group) doing that. Nor do I see any imperative for doing so.

So while I may play with new tools, don’t expect me to trumpet my adopting them until I’ve got a good reason to switch from the old.

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