Deep End

My school district starts after Labor Day, so this week has all been about getting the rooms ready, plus three days of professional development and inservice. As the librarian and IT person, the latter position for which I am only somewhat suited to fill, I was running around these past two days (not three because the other teachers didn’t know who I was) trying to get computers working and printers printing. Fortunately, most of the issues were things I could fix, with a couple of exceptions. However, I did get a couple of requests to move computers around, which I am not happy about. After all, that could be done by the teachers themselves.

I still have some lesson planning to do and seating arrangements to make. I even received permission from the Library Dept. to implement various Web 2.0 tools into my curriculum.

I’m a little overwhelmed and feeling breathless, but I can’t wait for this new year to start. I’m more excited about starting out this year than I have been even as a regular classroom teacher.

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My Clinical Experience, part 1

My first clinical experience started two days ago. I wasn’t sure what to expect, mostly because I came in at the tail end of the first summer session and will be staying through the second summer session. Unsurprisingly, working in a school library during the summer session is vastly different compared to working in a school library during the regular school year. At least, that is what it seems like to me, whose only experience in a school library is from observations, rather than experience. For one, the pace is much slower during the summer. While there are classes utilizing the library space, the teachers do not really need the librarian there as an instructional partner because they need to get through their materials in a compressed amount of time.

However, on Thursday, July 7, I had the opportunity to go into an Information Processing class with Helen Dukhan, another intern, in order to talk about databases with the students. I only learned about the database instruction the day before so I did not have that much time to prepare a detailed lesson plan. However, since we were only going to be in there for a short period of time, creating an extensive lesson would have been unnecessary. We introduced databases to the students and showed them how to access the databases along with the passwords from the school home page. Helen and I chose four databases, two each, to highlight to the students, as well. Though a few of the students knew what databases were, most of them have never used one before. In the thank you letters we received (a follow-up assignment), the students expressed how they had wished they had known about the databases earlier as this would have saved them some extra work and time.

Giving this database lesson made me think about high school. Though it has only been a little over 10 years since I graduated from high school, the changes that have occurred in education have been tremendous. Then, the only real Internet browser that was available was Netscape. When we wanted to find information, we had to use reference books and use card catalogs with actual cards. Today, students have the option of using any multitude of Internet browsers, including Opera, Firefox, or Google Chrome. Students can (and do) search for information using Google or Wikipedia. However, it soon became apparent that the students did not realize that they were actually putting in more effort for inferior data. Though I cannot be sure if the students were serious when they wrote that they wish they had known about databases, I am glad that I had the opportunity to present this lesson to this class because this experience emphasizes the difference between perceived skill levels and actual skill level.

There is a big fuss about these so-called digital natives, but there is a disconnect between what teachers think their students know and what students actually know. Teaching students basic database search skills in elementary and continuously reinforcing those skills all the way throughout high school will create students who are truly information literate and prepared for college. While these students have had access to computers and the Internet for most of their lives, they still do not know how to access the best information and the best data.

I consider myself a good student, but even when I went to college and had to write my first research paper, I was stumped. This was the first time I had to use databases, but with some (a lot) of trial and error, I was able to figure out these resources. But this was back when the Internet was still new. Today, there is no reason why students should still be clueless when they go to college. Considering how much money is spent on purchasing the rights to use these databases, it is a shame that more students are not using them.

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Storify and storytelling

In my paper about educational technology, I mentioned Storify as a great classroom tool. After watching the president’s speech last night, I decided to create a story of my own and pulled in various news items, images, and even tweets. The tool is simple to use. Items from the web can be accessed easily via the actual website; however, twitter doesn’t load properly if there are too many people trying to access it at once, like last night. Occasionally, I looked through my own RSS reader and copied links from there to Storify because I didn’t like the options that showed up on the Google News app on Storify. Regardless, I can see this tool being used in class as a way for students to create stories that make sense of the events that are happening in the world by giving them some context.

[View the story “10 years” on Storify]

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Technology in the 21st century classroom

One of the major issues facing education is how technology can be used in the classroom in a way that is effective to teaching, learning, and assessment. The National Education Technology Plan was created by the Department of Education in order to address these issues.
Once schools have decided on the best way to approach technology, they must take a proactive stance, rather than a reactive one. It is more common for schools to take punitive measures when it comes to digital and social media tools, which are actually ineffective and deleterious to learning. In order to prevent this, school districts must create not only an acceptable use policy, but also a social media policy that directly addresses these issues.
Using the National Education Technology Plan as a guideline, the paper discusses how technology can be used effectively in a 21st century classroom by suggesting various digital tools for each area and practical applications for each. The rest of the paper discusses the three common barriers that prevent schools from properly utilizing technology tools.

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Collaboration

Often, we’re afraid to collaborate with one another because we’re afraid. We afraid of not having time to get our own work done. We’re afraid that our ideas won’t be accepted. We’re afraid that the other individual(s) may not be prepared.
Take the risk anyway. You may be amazed at what develops.

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The (Digital) Natives are Restless

Technology is often underused in education where most often the Power Point presentation is considered to be the epitome of high-tech. For some reason, seasoned educators scoff at social media and other digital tools as effective ways of reaching out to our students. At the same time, these educators do not consider technology in ways that could help them become better collaborators and teachers. Those of us in education have been aware for some time that we are in the season of change. Not only must we deal with the economics of the times and politics, but we also must face the issue that the way that our students learn today is vastly different from the way we used to learn before. Educators are trained to be reflective practitioners and the best ones generally do spend time reflecting on their practice. Therefore, they are cognizant of their students’ strengths and weaknesses. Even the media tells us that more children are venturing online. Knowing what we know, why are educators reluctant to face the future and persist in sticking with the past?

Barriers

Using John Palfrey’s book, Born Digital, as the basis for my paper, I am going to address three issues that I believe affect how technology is (or is not) implemented in education.

  1. Budget
  2. We can’t deny that technology costs money and there is very little money available right now. There may be many schools and school districts that are eager to implement new databases, purchase new computers, but just simply lack the funds to do so. In this section, I will discuss and suggest some cheap options for schools and individual teachers. The following are just a couple examples of resources that will be included.

    • How to Use QR Codes in the Classroom is one way of implementing cheap technology.
    • YouTube: Create Easy Digital Storytelling is a way for students to create digital stories without needing any expensive equipment.
    • Open Yale Courses is a program that is offered through Yale University. Though this is not a resource site, per se, with worksheets and suggested activities, teachers who have gifted students will appreciate the content of the lectures which range from Astronomy to Sociology.
  3. Fear
  4. What usually prevents us from trying new things is because we are afraid of either change or the thing itself. Despite its prevalence, technology is a somewhat frightening entity for many individuals, probably because the rate at which it changes and renews itself is completely mind-boggling. That leaves us with two options: go off-grid or embrace. As educators, we must always choose the latter option. The following are some ways that timid educators can get their feet wet before they dive right in.

    • ReadWriteWeb is a website that often reviews upcoming technology, both hardware and software (physical devices and programs/apps). Though this is a bit tech-heavy, it is worth culling the posts as some great gems can be found. For example, can’t attend any major conferences this year? Visit Lanyrd and track the ones you want. There are additional resources available on the site from previous conferences in the form of audio clips, videos, and slides. This is one of the sites highlighted by ReadWriteWeb recently.
    • Tumblr has a strong education community with its own featured #Education tag. Though it’s better to be a Tumblr user and actively participate, membership is not necessary since a user can just search by tag. How effective is this? The three resources suggested in the previous section are from my Tumblr feed.
    • The Horizon Report from the EduCause Conference is a great resource for librarians and educators who are interested in preparing for the future of educational technology. For those who are a bit timid and nervous about the rapid changes, this is a great way to get ahead of the game, so to speak.
  5. Lack of discernment
  6. I asked a friend if she ever felt that her school wanted her to use technology without giving her instruction on how to use it or even why she should use it. Her response was, “Yes, and sometimes they don’t give us proper training. We are just supposed to figure it out” (Google Chat, April 17, 2011). When I asked her how she felt, she answered, “Well… with the smartboard, there was really solid training, but with other online software, it [was] only like a one day training, and then we are suppose to figure it out after that. It makes me feel very insecure about using technology”. I found her response very informative; however, I hope to find some more documentation or anecdotal evidence about how overeager acceptance of every new piece of technology or educational software is deleterious to the effective implementation of technology in the classroom.

Social Media

  1. Social Media Policy for School Districts
    Schools usually tend to treat student use of social media with draconian and often reactive measures that are generally ineffective. Rather than punish students (and teachers) who use Facebook or YouTube in school, administrators should draft a policy that is not punitive but informative.
  2. Bishop Lynch High School’s social media policy is a great example of how a school can both protect the students’ and teachers’ rights to use these common technology tools without sacrificing their responsibilities. I will break down what makes this an effective policy and discuss how this can impact student learning.

Collaboration
Among educators, collaboration is one of those ideas that gets tossed around so much that it just becomes another word that has lost its meaning. While this is unfortunate, this does not mean that educators should not collaborate. However, collaboration is something that can be done on a much grander scale and is not really limited to the physical building.

  1. Local
  2. From my experience, teachers who did not collaborate often did so because they did not have the time, not because they did not want to meet. This section will look at how technology can help teachers use their time effectively and still work with one another.

  3. Global
  4. Collaboration is not limited to just the one school. Thanks to technology, such as Skype in the Classroom, educators can share ideas with one another without having to meet.

Working Bibliography

Braun, Linda W. “Playing Keep Up with Emergent Technologies.” VOYA. Aug. 2005. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. http://www.voya.com/2010/03/30tag-team-tech-archives.

Horton, Mark. “Education 2.0 – Social Networking and Education.” The Future of Work. 2 Nov. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. blog.socialcast.com/education-2-0-social-networking-and-education

Lauby, Sharlyn. “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy.” €“Mashable. 2 June 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts

Palfrey, John G., and Urs Gasser. Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York: Basic, 2008.

Richtel, Matt. “Growing Up Digital.” The New York Times Upfront: the Newsmagazine for Teens 31 Jan. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/upfront/features/index.asp?article=f013111_digital

Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians.” VOYA. Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. www.voya.com/2010/09/15/tag-team-tech-october-2010

Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “You Know You’re a Twenty-First-Century Teacher-Librarian If….” VOYA. Oct. 2006. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. www.voya.com/2010/03/30/tag-team-tech-archives

Watters, Audrey. “Study Finds the Internet Makes Youth More Engaged Citizens.” ReadWriteWeb. 24 Feb. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. www.readwriteweb.com/archives/study_finds_the_internet_makes_youth_more_engaged.php

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Nerding (and Geeking) Out at the Library of Congress

Though I had lived in Maryland for a couple of years and visited most of the museums in the Smithsonian complex, I have never actually visited the Library of Congress. Yesterday, I decided to take advantage of the relatively nice weather to remedy that situation. While I knew that the Library of Congress has a strong online presence, I didn’t know that it was utilizing interactive technology in order to make their collections and exhibits much more accessible to all library visitors.
One of the first things that visitors see (aside from the security) is the information desk with an interactive display that shows users where all of the major exhibits are. Users can pick up a “passport” and then register it by putting the end with the bar code into the reader and then registering (or not–I accidentally added another item into my digital dossier by registering). Users are also given the option of then adding to their “collections” via the internet.

(I apologize for the quality of the images and videos.  It’s hard to take pictures and record video when one is technically not supposed to be doing either.)

If you’ve never been to the Library of Congress, it’s a good idea to see what is on exhibit in order to have a plan.  I was at the Thomas Jefferson Building and, compared to one of the Smithsonian museums, it’s not actually that large, so it’s not hard to see the exhibits in one day.

As per the Library of Congress’ posted requests to refrain from photography, I did not take any pictures or videos of the exhibits, but I do have some artifacts of the technology.  Of all the exhibits and interactive displays, the two that really stood out for me were in the Creating the United States and Exploring the Early Americas exhibits.

Creating the United States

The interactive display has a lot of movement, which attracts any user who is standing near it.  The simplicity of use combined with minimal instructions makes this a very user-friendly experience.

This display shows the Declaration of Independence as it was originally written.  However, due to handwriting, age of paper, deterioration of the ink, and copying to a digital format, it is difficult to make out the actual text.  Because this is incomprehensible, it is boring for the average visitor and/or student on a field trip.  What is the Library of Congress to do?

Why, translate it, of course!

Using the touch screen interface, users can choose one of the pre-selected sections (these are highlighted) and read the original words, along with any revisions and cuts that did not make it in the final draft.  This “translation” makes the document more accessible to any user who is interested in this display.

Thoma Jefferson’s personal library is also on display in the same wing, but I didn’t take any pictures because I a.) wanted to respect the wishes of the staff and b.) there were too many people around.  I was impressed by the breadth and depth of his collection and I was struck by just how much an individual’s personal library can tell you about the individual.  Viewing his collection reminded me of something President Kennedy said at a speech honoring Nobel Prize winners, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Exploring Early America

The history of early America is no doubt very exciting and interesting.  This is due, no doubt, to the total awesomeness of the pirates who roamed the Spanish Main, with or without official letters of marque.  One of the interactive displays is a digital copy of a Danish (?) text, a veritable who’s who of American piracy.

The layout of the display is almost similar to that of an e-reader in that the pages can be flipped, albeit by touching the next arrow.  The “toolbar” on the right-hand side displays all the options that are available, including a translation feature that translates from Dutch (?) to English.

I regret that I didn’t take any pictures of the gorgeous architecture inside the building.  However, I made up for my oversight by taking a picture of beautiful mosaic of Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Wisdom (and my favorite of all ancient goddesses).

If you’re ever in the DC area and have a few hours, I highly recommend making a stop at the Library of Congress.  It’s not just something that librarians and library students can enjoy, but the stunning architecture, the wonderful exhibits and displays make the Thomas Jefferson Building a fantastic place for anyone to visit.

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