Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Gearing Up

Posted by lpearle on 28 September 2017

I’ve been diligently trying to update this blog regularly, and I intend to keep trying but wow!  School starts and that seems to take over my life despite my best efforts.  Between now and Thanksgiving, for example, I have two personal trips out of town, then two conferences (NELA and YALSA’s Literature Symposium).  Plus my Alex Award reading.  That’s outside of my work, which this year includes beginning to plan for a new library in addition to continuing to look at updating the collection, revamping our website, improving our Resource Guides, working with classes and all the “normal” stuff that librarians and Library Department Chairs do on a daily, monthly, annual basis.

So posting may be sporadic.  Just sayin’

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Posted in Conferences, Life Related, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Taking the initiative

Posted by lpearle on 26 September 2017

At the start of the school year, many Heads (of School, Division or Department) start to talk about the initiatives that will be undertaken in the upcoming year.  Some are mild, some are school changing.  Some are internal, some have a more external focus.  And over the years, I’ve watched, participated and developed a kind of cynicism about the process as a whole.  Whenever I hear words along the lines of “this year, we will…” I begin to wonder, “why? where is this leading? and what’s next?

NOTE: What follows is not about my school (only), it’s about the schools I’ve worked in and those my friends have worked in and schools I’ve been part of in some way.  Perhaps you’ll recognize your school in this, but there’s a good chance what you’re seeing isn’t about your school, it’s more universal!

Internal Initiatives can be anything from we’re restructuring the school (lines of communication, reporting structure, titles) to rethinking grading to changing the program to a technological change to… you name it.

  • I’ve seen schools jump on the technology bandwagon (“we went 1:1 iPad so we’d stand out” is not a good reason to embrace technology) without thinking through the implications: there’s a myth that students, being so-called digital natives, will know how to use the technology without training, and that teachers will somehow figure it out.  Rarely is there time for teachers to properly learn to play with the new tool/LMS/program to become familiar and comfortable with it before students begin to use it, and equally rarely is there a really thorough orientation that ensures that students can use it properly.
  • Changing the calendar or exam structure may seem like an easy thing to do, but there’s a whole educational piece that gets left out.  Moving from a January midterm/June final is a great idea (seriously, who wants to take a final exam, do poorly and be told “have a nice summer” immediately after?) but how do teachers figure out how to restructure their exams to reflect that change?  What assessments are truly necessary at the end of the year to ensure that someone moves up to the next level? And if that can be done in one or two class periods, why disrupt the entire school with an Exam Week?
  • Many schools, post-AP Exam period, give their seniors the opportunity to do some sort of Senior Project.  And why not?  I’ve never worked in a school where a senior in good standing has had to take a June final, and let’s face it, once APs are over they have no need pay attention.  Some schools graduate their seniors before giving a final, another good idea.  The Senior Project idea has, in some schools, morphed into an All School idea, call it January Term (as we did in college) or MayMester or whatever – a few weeks of a deep dive into something that could be a personal interest or an all school exploration or structured by grade level or whatever.  Honestly, I love the idea and can think of several projects I’d love to work with students on.  But… if you’re an English teacher, it’s easy to drop a text.  Not so easy if you’re teaching another subject where you’re expected to cover a certain amount of material (in 20+ years, I’ve never met a history teacher teaching the US History survey class that’s gotten to really teach current history, “current” being Reagan-2000, let alone this century).  Teachers may be given time to think about their projects and the new initiative, but the time to rethink their class? to determine how best to squeeze in or excise a tense, era, experiment or function?  Rarely happens.
  • Changing the grading from A-F to 0-4.0 or including comments, going from twice a year to four times, or something like that also requires training and thought.  I’ve seen teachers who simply cannot write personal comments about their students, preferring to cut-and-paste from a list of phrases.  I’ve seen teachers who do it well, really recognizing each students’ strengths and weaknesses.  More development and time training?  Never happens.  It’s maybe one meeting as a group in the start of the year, then perhaps the first set of comments is shared with a mentor.  Then… nothing.
  • Exploring the pedagogy, diversity and inclusion work, All Faculty Reads?  Again, great ideas.  But what’s next?  Once we’ve gone from Good to Great or learned about A Whole New Mind, what’s next?  Is it a one-year thing, or will we continue to do that work, revisiting what we learned over the previous year and figuring out how to change in the upcoming?

And then there are the External Initiatives:  rebranding the school.  getting rid of AP classes.  creating a symposium.  etc..  One school changed its reunion structure to include a lecture series that was supposed to be about empowerment – it was great, for a few years.  Like any series, though, it became stretched and then thin.  Then it disappeared without a word.  Next?  A Global Imitative that drew a lot of attention and Big Names.  One year and done.  No word about why it was dropped without a word if anything had come of it.  Here’s the problem: when you go that public, you invite attention.  And questions.

This isn’t to denigrate initiatives, internal or external.  It’s just… we’ve got a few going on at work, and friends have shared some that are going on at theirs.  Maybe I’m getting old, but in all my years of doing this, of being involved with schools (remember, I grew up in an academic family, so it’s been a lonnnnng time) it’s rare that I see them carried out to anything more than a bright flashy idea, or that teachers and students are given enough time to truly prepare and do it well.  Sometimes it’s difficult to take them seriously as a result.  And I want to!  I really do.  So please, inspire me.  Give me your tricks to get through the “this is a great idea” phase into the “wow, this really made a difference long term” phase.

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

And it begins

Posted by lpearle on 12 September 2017

After a mere two weeks of meetings and organizing, school started.  Convocation last Friday… all school photo tomorrow… classes and clubs and athletics and recess and all the other moving parts that go into a school year starting to move forward (note: only 46 class days until Thanksgiving Break, but who’s counting?).  And in the library, we’re ready.

Work done over the summer gave us a new classroom, made possible by combining our workroom and office space:

Our Adult Fiction section was moved slightly, adding more space for students to “hide” (it became a popular spot last year) and we’ve got lots of shelves for displaying New Fiction and other highlights.

 

This month: Immigrants Read Here.

We’ve got other displays, too:

Our Charlottesville Resource Guide has been updated, nearly 400 books have been added to the collection, we’re back to our regular opening hours, and – this is the best part – we’ve already started to have classes in!  The entire sixth grade came for a quick tour and book talk (plus checking out books), we’re working with two physics classes on how to use NoodleTools to cite sources and an English class is coming to do work on Hemingway that will inform their work this semester.  All within one week of school’s officially starting.

I’m feeling pretty good about the start of the school year.  Here’s hoping you are, too.

Posted in Books, School Libraries, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Minor Musings

Posted by lpearle on 5 September 2017

In December I bought myself a new laptop, and this summer I finally cleared out my old files and programs. Yes, I procrastinate. A lot. Anyway, prior to using Feedbin, I used RSS Owl (which is great, but lives on a machine not in the cloud). Some of these links have been stored there for, well… here they are anyway. Along with some new ones just because.

Books, Reading, etc.

  • Summer’s over Time to start planning next summer’s travel. Perhaps the Lake District? Or any of the trips you can find on BookTrails?

School Life

Tech Stuff

  • So cool: text “Send me [keyword, color or emoji]” to 572-51 and the SFMOMA will send you back a piece of art (I did this early one morning).
  • I’m always in favor of bringing art to everyone, and apparently the Met’s Open Access experiment is working!
  • If only I could use my own pens, I’d grab a Rhodia Bamboo Smart Folio.

Miscellany

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

Who knew?

Posted by lpearle on 31 August 2017

On Monday, we had Rosetta Lee come to do an all-day training (she’ll be back throughout the year) and she opened with a lot of identity work.  Which groups did we feel we fit into?  Which were social constructs and which were more concrete?  One piece of wisdom she shared was that she believes that there is a brief, 30 minute period when you’re 34 when you’re neither too old nor too young.  Clearly I missed my Goldilocks moment!

It got me thinking about an emoji teaching moment recently.  For years, friends and I would type {{{HUGS}}} in Twitter when appropriate.  And then emoji came and we still typed {{{HUGS}}} because 🤗 is clearly – oh, so very clearly – Jazz Hands.

You know:

 

Apparently, not so much.  According to Emojipedia, 🤗 is “Hugging Face”.

Who knew?

Now the question is, am I too old to change?  Or do I just not care and, as with so many old fogies, keep making this totes adorbs mistake?

 

Posted in Techno Geekiness | Leave a Comment »

Where Will I Learn Next?

Posted by lpearle on 28 August 2017

Now that I’ve (finally) had time to think about and digest my professional learning from last year, it’s time to turn my attention to this year. Yes, being in a school is weird thanks to the “new year” starting in July. I’m already in 2018 and officially it doesn’t start for another few months!

Anyway, here’s where I’m thinking of doing a little learning over the next twelve months: NELA, the YALSA Symposium, ALA Midwinter, NEAISL, ACRLNEC and ALA Annual. The lucky librarians on my staff will be attending AASL, ALAN, MSLA and AISL, plus NEAISL and NELA. Of course, there will be in-house learning, both formal and during our annual Faculty Forum. We’re hosting the fall CLA (local independent school librarians group) Meeting, and there are at least two other meetings later this year. Thanks to Booklist, there are book preview webinars. And earlier this month, SLJ’s TeenLive gave me a day of YA goodiness from the comfort of my living room (bonus: this was the summer I got my laptop hooked up to my tv, so I could watch these things on the Big Screen).

Where are you learning this year? What are you excited to explore and delve into? Share – inquiring minds want need to know.

Posted in Conferences | Leave a Comment »

The Art of Not Caring

Posted by lpearle on 24 August 2017

Many years ago as a newly minted school librarian I had the incredibly great fortune to work with and learn from an English teacher who’d been working in schools longer than I, a sort of informal mentor. The school we were at, Professional Children’s School, is a bit of a weird place, having been established over 100 years ago to provide an academic education for children already working in the arts (founding myth). It’s frequently confused with what was once Performing Arts and is now LaGuardia (aka “the Fame school”) or Professional Performing Arts, the NYC public version of PCS. Over the years, the school had become an amazingly diverse place, with a wide range of socioeconomics, religions, ethnicities, talents, learning styles and other things.

In order to make the academics work for students with professional lives, there is a program called Guided Study. Using email and other technologies, teachers and students can work together at a distance; when I was there, that was more difficult as email wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is now, but I did institute after hours reference sessions using AIM. If you were out on Guided Study, you got a two-week extension, starting on your return to class, for your assignments. Sweet, right? And without going into the stereotypes of which students were more (or less) driven, we all knew than when Student A was on GS, they’d come back to school pretty much on schedule and caught up while Student B would take longer than the permitted extension.

And that’s where my friend’s sage advice came in: I can’t care more than they do. If she assigned an essay on the role of the landscape and snow in Ethan Frome, Student A would come back with a nearly perfect rough draft, while Student B would still need to purchase a copy and figure out how to open the book. Some teachers – at PCS, at every other school I’ve worked in or heard about – would expend a lot of energy working with Student B, cajoling and nudging and bending over to help them “succeed”. Not this teacher. She cared… enough. If the student was willing to do the work, make appointments or stop by to talk and get advice, ask questions, etc., she was 100% with that student and bent over backwards to help. But if that student didn’t care, didn’t put forth any effort and worked the system’s loopholes, she found other ways to occupy her mind and time.

Over the years I’ve had students who are seriously lost doing research. If they ask me for help, I’m happy to do what I can, sharing resources and shortcuts. But I’ve also had students who have – quite literally – asked “will this topic get me an easy A?” (actually, it’s the paper, the finished product that will get grade, but hey, I’m just the librarian so maybe I’m wrong!) or otherwise made it clear that they wanted me to do the research work for them because it wasn’t their priority. And remembering that I can’t care more than they do, that if this isn’t a priority for them, it can’t be a priority for me, helps.

As the school year starts (today is Day One of New Faculty Orientation), and new research projects are discussed and my department begins to work with new students and teachers, I have to remind myself not to care more than they do. It’s not just students, it’s teachers: it may be my goal to have every student graduate with great research, analysis and information/data literacy skills. But if it isn’t my teacher/colleagues goal, too, I can’t care more than they do.

Posted in Musings, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Personal, not private

Posted by lpearle on 15 August 2017

Many years ago, when schools were just starting to think about email and giving faculty their own addresses, we were reminded that what happens on school “property” (digital or physical) belonged to the school – our searches, our emails, our content were theirs. It might have been personal, but it wasn’t private. Many people in the business world also learned this, particularly those in companies that employed people to read outgoing email to ensure that corporate secrets were safe. Some people made the mistake of forgetting this, much to the internet’s amusement.

So, here we are, years later and some people still think that just because they have an email or password, it’s personal. Not so fast. And just as I’m thinking about this (and the number of people I know who mix and mingle their work email and personal lives, along with the dangers of health tracking devices not being secure) along comes the 4TDL conference with two sessions on personal privacy! Talk about serendipity. The two sessions were led by Wendy Stephens and Jole Seroff.

Both covered similar areas but with a different focus. What follows is less commentary on their sessions (archived here and here) and more a round-up of the tools and tips, along with some other stuff I’ve been finding and saving over the past month or so.

Thoughts: We don’t know how our data is being used, even joining an elist or doing a search can be flagged/tagged/used against us; the big flashpoints are with healthcare (just look up a disease; Google’s flu map tracks where searches are coming from because why look it up if you’re not concerned?) and consumer information (watch ads follow you). Also, think about the ethics of privacy: if we’re all cloaking our data, if that becomes the norm, then those who need it (living in difficult areas, protestors, etc.) will not appear as being different. In other words, it’s a form of social justice!

Ways to protect yourself:

  • Delete your cookies after every browser session
  • Turn off your computer, don’t just log off
  • Use https:// everywhere
  • Consider not using Chrome/Firefox/IE, use Opera or a VPN; use StartPage or DuckDuckGo as search engines
  • Use a password manager and two-factor authentication when possible
  • Check your settings! “do not track” does nothing

Articles and Tools

A great follow-up to the session on Data Privacy of a few years ago. And something to wonder how to approach with our teens and faculty.

Posted in Conferences, Privacy | Leave a Comment »

Thinking About Plagiarism at #ALAAC17

Posted by lpearle on 10 August 2017

Just before creating this blog post, I read A Guide for Resisting Edtech: the Case against Turnitin which poses some interesting moral and ethical questions for us to ponder.

Courtney Lewis presented at ALA’s Annual Conference on international students and plagiarism. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a few years, because how we think about as plagiarism – or, as we call it at Milton, academic integrity – is not always how our students, particularly those from other areas of the world, think about it. Thanks to other commitments, this was the only learning session I was able to attend but I’m so glad I did! You can view her slides here.

First thing she mentioned, our concept of plagiarism is actually fuzzy as it doesn’t take info account collaboration, editing, academic co-authorship, programming languages, oral preaching traditions, journalism (especially today, with “sources close to…” rather than named people), political speeches, peer editing in class, authorship in the age of usernames and avatars and mash-ups. In other words, the playing field is constantly evolving.

As we all know, institutions are made up of people. People are messy. And that’s what drives policy. We need to do better.

Think about not only about the above, but also these impediments to students doing completely original work: short assignment times, Pass/Fail classes, poor study habits, the text as authority not us, inadequate practice, lectures are often hypocritical (when does the teacher cite their sources? almost never. plus, see handouts that are missing citation information), English is the language of occupation and colonialism. So there’s that. And let’s not mention the number of library resources that are helpfully highlighted (even lightly in pencil) by previous researchers.

Plus, in most Asian countries, social hierarchy by age is important, so it helps to know who is older and can help younger students understand all kinds of social and academic issues. It’s not just social, but in age is important in other ways: old is revered and seminal while new is less valuable. In former Soviet countries, corruption (and plagiarism could be considered a form of corruption, as is academic theft) is a huge problem and one people learn about early on. Faculty must be taught about social and cultural differences, which lead to an understanding of a way forward.

Here’s an idea, one that would take more time than teachers may want to allot to an assignment but… as students to summarize an article in 1-3 sentences. Then create a paragraph from those sentences. Then a paragraph with quotes. Then share it with classmates and watch them learn from each other what the critical information in the article is. Guaranteed: no two students will have the same quotes or interpretation.

Posted in Ethics, Student stuff | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The next level up: #ACRLNEC17

Posted by lpearle on 8 August 2017

Working in an independent school, particularly one usually considered an “elite college preparatory” school means extra pressure to be aware of what my students will be expected to do and know in their next educational institution. It makes sense to spend the day at the ACRLNEC conference because many of the colleges and universities represented will be where my students end up next.

Keynote: Bringing Down the Empire: Remaking Our Work, Our Libraries, Our Selves

What is the Empire in our world? The idea that libraries no longer matter. Now, how do we fight it?

  • Remake Our Work
    • as users change, we have to change, adapt and educate
    • is higher education worth it? or is training (internships, apprenticeships, etc.) better? there’s been a huge change since the 50s, with the current expectation being “of course you’ll go to college” – however, more hands-on, critical thinking tools are needed
    • digital literacy is important: faculty are finally embracing this and the role of librarians in teaching these skills. NOTE: First Year students need research skills and are coming with subpar skills and understandings.
    • the University of Oklahoma has a virtual reality lab – think about using VR as a tool for teaching language, archaeology, history, etc.
  • Remake Our Libraries
    • with all these changes, what you’re doing with your buildings: we are not just print warehouses, so we need to become an exciting destination.
    • think about this problem/conundrum and the pace of change because what works today probably won’t work in a few years – flexibility is critical
    • one idea: use BrightSpot to rethink space; another idea: create rooms for students to Skype/FaceTime with family, friends, potential employers (or colleges)
  • Remake Our Selves
    • managing is a team sport – we need to support training and opportunity to use new skills later (in other words, don’t train then stuff the skill in a drawer)
    • the 23Things idea (BYU turned it into a contest!)

So: what is a librarian? And what is our role in the academic institution of the 21st Century?

The next two sessions were interesting, but one was (again, as at NEAISL) on archives/digital initiatives and the other was not relevant, so we’ll skip those.

New Model for Library Orientation

We don’t really have a library orientation, but that’s something I’d like to try to create. My college library orientation was four days of one hour instruction in a lecture hall, followed by at “quiz” that took several hours (albeit made easier by all the others doing the same quiz and marking answers or sharing). Did I learn anything? Not really, but I’d been using that library for a few years thanks to my father’s being on faculty there and because my high school library used Library of Congress and was, like my employer, an elite college preparatory school. But… we have students coming to us from a variety of backgrounds and levels of preparation, and while the school can test for math and language skills they have no test for research or literacy skills for incoming students. An orientation might help them feel comfortable in the space, with us as learning partners, and with the resources inside.

  • Step One: get away from library jargon, passivity and lack of real need connection
    • the early days at school are overwhelming, and the library shouldn’t contribute to that stress
    • recognize that the library and resources won’t/can’t/shouldn’t compete with their first stop for information (Google and Wikipedia, duh)
  • Step Two: find a model that works for your institution
    • the presenters work at the UVM Medical School library, so they use the clinical care model that students will be using in their every day classes – it’s a format they’re familiar with, so it makes sense and it’s “special stuff” in their lives
    • what does this look like?
      • Need (what information is sought)
      • History of Need
      • Past Information History – social, previous education, family
      • Diagnosis of Needs
      • Review of Information Systems
  • Step Three: ask for feedback from students and teachers
    • does this make sense?
    • does it help?
    • will you remember it?

Other models? The Scientific Method, Literature Review, Annotated Bibliography, Pathfinder/LibGuide, SWOT, Design Thinking.

Other ideas? Consider using Instagram or other social media to post a Research Question of the Week or Information Resource of the Week.

Posted in Conferences, Professional organizations, School Libraries, Student stuff | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »