Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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History repeats itself

Posted by lpearle on 3 February 2020

The consternation and fear over the 2019-nCoV virus (I know that “Spanish Flu” is politically incorrect these days, but can we all agree that this new thing needs a snappier name) has been interesting for me to watch for two major reasons – two major intellectual reasons, that is. I’m immunocompromised so emotionally I’m not interested, I’m terrified.

The first thing I’ve been looking at are a couple of my elists, where there’s been talk about how to deliver an academic program should a school be closed or quarantined. Several learned techies have weighed in, referencing their online learning management systems and the ability to have webinar/online meetings, etc.. Reading this reminded me of something I’ve posted before, about the NEIT conference in 2007:

This type of quarantine/closing would only last a couple of months at most – what’s the harm in letting students have a vacation? why not let them play and enjoy, rather than forcing them to “do school”?

It was nice to read this comment

And when I’m sequestered in my apartment with my four year-old, who also cannot attend his NYC Pre-K, I am supposed to continue working as if everything is normal? Does the need for “delivering our product” as educators/technologist supersede our schools’ ask to operate in a healthy manner during a pandemic?

I would argue that technology does not save us from our selves. 

reaffirming what my group said 12 years ago, and confirming what I’ve been thinking as I’ve read these threads.

The second thought has been about what I would call the Best Research Lesson. Ever. One of my go-to phrases is that research is for life, not just the particular academic class torturing you with a project. Back in 2007, I taught research skills to the Middle School using Alice Yucht’s FLIP-IT method.

Sadly, much of that class was taught in isolation from any research the students were doing and, when it had been linked, only half the class got instruction. Still, I persisted. Then the 2007 H1N1 virus appeared. And voila, I had a great lesson plan. I arrived in class telling students that I’d just had a phone call from my mother – she could be a little nervous about things, and given that one niece had been in the area of Mexico where the virus started and was now under quarantine and that a school 12 miles away was closing for two weeks, shouldn’t I also be staying home? (I didn’t make any of that up, btw) So we, as a class, we’re going to focus on what we really needed to know about this virus, locate as accurate information as we could and interpret what we learned. The final presentation would be one of two things:

  1. I would call my mother, explaining that I was a [then] fortysomething librarian who had researched this and was in no danger, or
  2. My mother would write a note to the Head of School excusing me from work while the virus was a problem.

Reader, the students loved the assignment. They immediately got the connection between Research and Real Life.

And here we are, twelve years later, having the same discussions. I’m not belittling the concerns, but source evaluation is a lifelong skill and this is a great moment in which to drive that message home.

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