Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lessons from Smokey and the Bandit

I will be the first to admit that my taste in movies is of the fast food variety.  

Smokey and the Bandit is one of my all-time favorites.  While it may not have won critical acclaim, I find  the wisdom in this film helpful in troubling times.  This is especially true in regard to our plight of disappearing school libraries.

Towards the end of the film, the Bandit tells Cledus, "l don't like  this any more than you do, but we ain't gonna make it, son. We're gonna hang it up."

Cledus is morally outraged.  "Negatory. Negatory.  We say we're doing a job, we're doing a job!"

There have been many times, especially in the last few school years, when many of us have felt like the Bandit.  We have done a remarkable job against incredible odds (without benefit of the black Trans Am), and we feel we just can't do anymore to help our profession.    When someone like the Bandit says it's time to hang it up, that no one knows we exist - or that our importance to the general education picture is ignored, how fortunate we are for the Cleduses of our profession who boldly proclaim that it's time to "introduce 'em to the boy!"  With that, the Bandit and the Snowman made it to the Fairgrounds in time and saved their hides.

We need more Cleduses, and I am urging all school librarians or friends of school libraries to be one.  I realize that because of our isolation within our schools we are often too intimidated to draw attention to ourselves.  But when all we library media specialists band together and tell our collective stories, our value and prestige will be difficult to ignore.

Be a Cledus.  Here's how:

  1. Never miss a chance to blow your own horn.  No one else will do it, because no one else has a clue what our jobs entail.  Talk information literacy standards and how you are helping your students be ethical and savvy users of information.
  2. Blog about your daily experiences.  And keep blogging.  Your blogs may be sporadic, but when you have something to say about a day in our profession, say it.  You may think no one cares: it could be that no one cares until you tell them what they need to care about. Blog.  And blog some more.
  3. Connect with other school librarians via Nings, Twitter, conferences and any other medium available.  Don't stop connecting.  We all have different challenges, even within the same counties, even within the same states.  We need to know what is happening with each other, so that hopefully we can all devise meaningful ways to help.
  4. Never miss a chance to impress your supervisor and his supervisors.  I recently was troubleshooting a laptop/tv setup for an administrators' meeting in the library.  Once I had everything connected, I said, "Oh, while you're here, let me tell you about the ebook bundles the PreK-5 librarians selected to support the Common Core."  
  5. Be recognizable by your school community.  I have a library Facebook page.  I use it to post about curriculum, as well as to advertise upcoming events.  
  6. Give back.  Seth Godin calls this generosity.  Doug Johnson calls it being indispensable   Whatever it is, give back to the community you serve in a professional capacity.  I have open library nights every Wednesday, where the parents are welcome to come in, read with their children and supervise their taking of Reading Counts quizzes.  Do I get paid for this?  Well, my parents generously support our two book fairs each year.  The least I can do is let them experience the library in action.  If I am ever involved in another staff cut situation, you can bet your last dollar I will have plenty of parents that come to my defense.
  7. Collaborate with teachers at least on a monthly basis.  Seek them out.  Go to them rather than expecting them to come to you.  Ask what you can do to help them meet their goals and standards.  Be willing to teach from their classrooms rather that relying on their classes to come to you.  Reach out!
  8. If you are faced with staff cuts, don't stand in front of the Board and cite the research.  The only people who care about the research are those who have money to spend.  If a school board wants to cut your job, they don't have that kind of money.  So, what should you do?  Tell them about how you use evidence-based practice in your school to contribute to student achievement.  Show them the data.  Get testimonials from parents. Show how your library actually saves the district money.  Stay positive and focused.
I challenge us all to be Cledus Snows.  Start by responding to this blog and contributing to (or challenging) the conversation.  There is no need to be shy.  We all have professional experiences to share.

Finally I will leave you with my personal pledge to advancing the prestige of the library media specialists in our state.


Monday, July 29, 2013

UnPublished Posts of the Past:Over My Head? Self-Doubt About My Latest Endeavor

Oh, Christine McVie, how you taunt me.

Ever since the 4th of July I have been periodically hearing her singing "Over My Head" in the  back of my mind.  While I have been a Fleetwood Mac fan since I discovered the 'white album' in 1975, I am finding this repetition somewhat annoying. Over the past few days, it has played with increasing frequency and intensity.

Call it nerves.  Here we are two weeks from the starting date for teachers, and I am nowhere near ready.  My summer reading goals were a complete failure; the lesson plans I had hoped to have completed by now are only partially done. I have been to the farm once --ONCE--this summer.

But I have been very busy, replacing my original goals with more spontaneous responses to professional development.  I have, somewhat accidentally, created and am moderating a Google+ Community to support candidates seeking National Board Teaching Certification in Library Media. This community will replace the Yahoo Group that so many library media specialists, including me, used to help achieve certification. Nationally. Oh, my word, what was I thinking!

My role in this group is accidental, in that I was did not start out with the intention of creating and moderating a group.  In response to the news that the Yahoo group would close due to the retirement of the Cynthia Wilson, the group owner/moderator, many people expressed interest in maintaining the group in some form.  On July 7 I suggested that this might be the time to move the group to another, more evolved forum.  Janet Clark suggested Google Hangouts, and while investigating that possibility, I discovered Google+ Communities.  I created a community called "Library NBCT Support" and referred it to the Yahoo group for comment.  By July 8 we had 17 members and Cynthia's blessing to move the files to our new community.  We are now up and running with 48 members and ready to help support new library NBCT candidates this coming school year.

I am thankful, very thankful, to the three people who have jumped in and contributed knowledge to this community: Kim Gunter from Florence, MS; Michael Brocato of Jefferson Parish, LA; and Missy Hinerman of Bridgeport, WV. These three epitomize the sharing that is trademark of the library profession. Without their input, this community would be nowhere near ready.  Of course, the creators and contributors to the Yahoo group- Cynthia Wilson, AnnMarie Pipkin and many more- deserve countless thanks for developing this vision of mentorship since it's inception in 2001.

I guess as I am writing this, the self-doubt is melting, knowing that this endeavor is supported by many NBCT library media specialists.  As Janet Clark said to me in one of our initial emails, "people will help, and we will learn together."  This is a true example of collaboration and mentorship.  I am looking forward to our first year.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Parent's Wishes for His Child's Teachers: Chris Kennedy at TEDxWestVan...

This is a wonderful TEDxTalk by a man in the unique position as a parent and a superintendent of schools. I hope you enjoy his insights.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Am NOT Achieving My Goals

I ran into a former student and her mother at the store yesterday.  It was very nice to see them and catch up.  When I asked Kristen how her first year of college went, she sheepishly hung her head and confessed that she had not done as well as she had wanted.

I assured that transitioning to college was an adjustment and that it was not unusual to have a less than stellar start.  

Then her mother said, "Ask her what she means by not doing as well as she had hoped!"  I looked at Kristen.

"I only had a 3.4," she admitted.  

"A 3.4!  That's nothing to be ashamed of!"  I told her.  I continued saying that there was more to life than studying and that she should, in essence, stop and smell the roses.

Later that evening I realized that the same advice applied to me.  

I began my summer vacation with a wild list of plans.  For starters, here is the list of resources I wanted to read and annotate:
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness [Kindle Edition]

Breaking Free [Kindle Edition]

Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life [Kindle Edition]

Cyber literacy : evaluating the reliability of data
Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs [Paperback] [2009] American Library Association.

The End Games [Kindle Edition]

Facebook House: Insider Tales of Mark Zuckerberg and His Empire's Tumultuous First Days

Goal Sticking: How to Go Beyond Goal Setting and Get on the Road to Success (Goal Sticking Series) [Kindle Edition]

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)[Kindle Edition]

The Myth of the Garage[Kindle Edition]

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty [Kindle Edition]

The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action
The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home (P.S.) [Kindle Edition]

Using Common Core Standards to Enhance Classroom Instruction & Assessment [Kindle Edition]
So far, I am on Empowering Learners.  

Next, consider my lesson planning goals:  By now I should have completed 10 lesson plans for kindergarten and first grades, and five for second grade.  So far: 10 for kindergarten and six for first.

According to my Google Tasks list, by the time the weekend is over I should have:
Nolan is quite a charmer.

  • displayed my Big6 posters
  • laminated construction paper for my Reading Counts markers
  • ordered digital duplicator supplies for the beginning of the school year
So why am I so far behind?  One word: Nolan.  Nolan is my adorable almost 10 week old grandson.  He is taking a lot of my time.  And I am taking my one advice and enjoying this.  On the rest, I will do what I can!


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why the New Header?

I recently changed the header photo on my blog from the stock photo of a beautiful beach to a photo I had taken at my farm circa 1980.  I think the change reflects how I have grown (and aged) over the last few years since this blog began.

When the picture was taken, I did not technically own the farm.  It was part of the estate my great-grandmother (Ida Knost Burgy) left to my grandmother (Cora Burgy Westbrook) and her siblings.  My grandmother died in 1957, passing her interest to my grandfather (Thomas Harry Westbrook), who in turn bequeathed his interest in the property to my father (Harry Clifton Westbrook) and uncle (Darrell Lynn Westbrook).  My grandmother's brother (Noah Burgy) passed in 1970, leaving his 1/3 interest with my grandmother's remaining sibling (Marie Burgy Matheny).  When Aunt Marie passed in 2002, my husband and I bought the interest from both Aunt Marie's and Uncle Darrell's heirs.

None of the names listed above are important to the reader.  To me, however, they are important in preserving a piece of the past as a wheelhouse to which I can return and center myself.  While the beach captured my imagination as a child and young adult, it left little for me to hold onto, aside from memories of vacations past.  The beach is wild and every changing.  My writing, planning and thinking when I was there was fanciful and based on dreams with no real foundation. The farm is solid and slow to change.  It is a place of peace and solitude.  I do my best writing, planning and reflecting there, seeded on the solid experiences of the past and nurtured by the thoughtful contemplation of the writings of others.

One of the most important admissions of learning is realizing that in the total scheme of things, one knows nothing.  In my beach days, I knew everything.  Today, in my farm days, I realize how little I know.  Today, I am much more receptive to the thoughts and experiences of others.

Ironically, none of the man-made items in this photo remain.  The house was consumed by fire in 1997.  The barn fell down years ago, and the garage and the smokehouse were demolished soon after we bought the property.  My first car, a 1971 Plymouth Valiant (aka Prince) expired in 1982, and my dogs, Tiny and Mabeline, died in the mid-80s.  

I still dream of all of these, the house and my dogs, the smokehouse and barn. I still maintain that Prince was a more rugged and maneuverable vehicle than most four-wheel drive trucks.  These are parts of my past that cannot (I hope and pray) be erased by time.

What keeps me focused is what remains: my husband (barely visible on the porch) and the land itself. Like  my reading, writing and reflecting on my practice as a teacher and a school library media specialist, they require commitment and nurturing, time and care.

That is fine by me.

A Backwards Review of the 100 Most Influential Education Blogs

On June 18 Onalytica released its six-month ranking of the 100 most influential education blogs. According to the post the 'influence factor' measures the impact of a blog, popularity measures how well the blog is know by other education bloggers. and over-influence is a measurement of how influential a blog is beyond its popularity. All of this is based on the number and quality of citations a blog receives.

Needless to say, I am unfamiliar with most of these blogs. During the next several weeks I will look at all the blogs in reverse order.  I want to see what I am missing!

If Michael Kaechele's blog is number 100, I can't wait to get to the top of the list.  In reviewing three month's worth of blogs I have uncovered many gems. For starters, following a link of the blog I found Sanderling, a mobile professional development site still currently in beta.  I am excited about the promise of this site, which will allow teachers to track their self-designed professional development.  It wpuld be more than wonderful if districts buy in to this concept and at least recognize the self-directed efforts of their employees.  Equally interesting was an overview of his school's professional development conference that brought in nationally prominent speakers.  I would love to see my district sponsor a conference like this!
It seems the blog is updated about once a week.  Consider me a subscriber!

Patrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning in the Burlington (MA) Public Schools.  Among other distinctions he serves as Senior Associate for EdTech Teacher.  

Judging from the content I viewed from early May, Larkin reposts and analyzes posts from other bloggers regularly.  This is great, because it initiates a conversation, analyzing the viewpoints of the writers from his own perspectives.  So far I can tell that he is quite aware and involved with teachers and students in his district.  I am impressed that he, an administrator, takes the time to write this blog.  Staying tuned. 

98. The Fischbowl

Karl Fisch, a math instructor/technology specialist from Colorado has been blogging for many years.  His writings often involve mathematics, understandably, but also address education as a whole.  In one post I read he  commented that he did not know whether to encourage or discourage a student who aspired to be a teacher. In another he described the curriculum map he had written to address Algebra I in the Common Core.  

In 2006 Fisch created the Did You Know/Shift Happens slideshow that most of us have seen at faculty meetings and professional development sessions.  The presentation that was originally used at one of his staff meetings went viral and has now been translated and adapted numerous times.

I think Fisch should be followed because of his reputation as a leader and because of his awesome, extensive Diigo bookmarks that he calls Karl Fisch's Public Library.  As I was reviewing the list I was caught up in links and spent at least an hour digressing from this post.  It was heaven.

97.  edcetera

According to the site's description "We blog about education trends and technology for everyone on the college campus, including administrators, educators and campus bookstore managers. Come for the most recent findings in higher ed, stay for the insight and expert analysis."

My immediate reaction was that this was not likely to be relevant to me, and I maintain that opinion.  With so many quality options to follow, reading this blog is not the best use of my time.  I can see some benefit of following this blog if one is a high school educator.  I saw some great links that my CTE friends might find interesting. There are many tools and ideas here that can be adapted and used at the secondary level.  

96.  Bud the Teacher

The subtitle of this blog is Inquiring and Reflection for Better Learning.  The first post I viewed was titled "What Socrates Would Call Wisdom."  Without going into further depth, I was hooked.

Bud Hunt has an impressive resume as an educator.  He left the language arts classroom six years ago to become the technology director in his Colorado school district.  He writes about classroom and personal life experiences and how they relate to education as a whole.  His beautifully written blog is reflective, inspiring and rooted in improving students' learning experiences.  

I am a new subscriber.

Moldovan, Andreea. "What Has Changed in the Top 100 Influential Education Blogs Ranking?" Blog. Onalytica, Ltd., 18 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013. .

Thursday, June 27, 2013

ADHD and Gadgets? An Interesting Look at Attention and Devices

A couple days ago I wrote that my daughter was often upset with me and her husband because of our attachment to our devices.  Today, I stumbled across a link that looks at device addiction and its relationship to ADHD.  I found the article worthy of discussion, and it has raised several questions for me.

According the article, when children are engaged with devices, it looks like they are paying attention - and they are -but the attention is different than that tradionally considered necessary for achievement in school.  Christopher Lucas, associate professor of child psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, notes that while attention associated with successful academic endeavors requires sustained focus in absence of rewards, games present on devices provide intermittent rewards in the form of wins.  

The brain's reaction to the wins is a release of the feel-good substance dopamine.  In other words,  a win produces the same effect as Ritalin.  Children with ADHD who are engaged with devices are in fact self-medicating without the need for pharmaceuticals.

There are many, like my daughter, who see this as a problem.  I agree devices can be addicting and over-engagement can lead to antisocial behavior.  The author notes that children become agitated when detached from their devices.  

Others find this effect to be a positive, if educators can use the apps to engage children in learning and virtual socialization behaviors.

There are two very good videos presented in this article.  It is recommended for reading and viewing.  This article is well-balanced and as I mentioned, thought-provoking.

Here are my questions:

What are the differences between engagement with devices and other media?  My husband has made fun of me for years for shutting everything else out when I was engaged in reading.  Is attachment to devices physiologically so different?  If a reader is engaged in the content and making connections, does this not produce a "win" response?  Or is it the release from the electronic stimulation what causes the dopamine release?

I remember watching television on September 11, 2001.  I was overwhelmed by the replaying of images, the interviews, and although I didn't notice at the time, the volume and the rapidity at which the images changed.  When I got home that evening I  flipped channels and came upon a panel discussion on PBS.  I immediately was overwhelmed by a calm and peace.  It was then that I noticed the discophany of the CNN broadcast.  I couldn't turn away from it, but I didn't notice the stimulation until way after the fact.  While this may seem like a digression from the main topic, I am wondering if it is engagement/disengagement that would cause the dopamine release, rather than the medium itself. I wonder if the amount of dopamine released is dependent on the stimulation provided by the medium.

Back to kids and their devices.  My philosophy is that if a kid who is predisposed to ADHD can self-medicate with his devices, perhaps we all (teachers,parents, medical professionals) should look into a therapeutic method of using these devices to educate and treat those with these tendencies.  If nothing else, it is worth a look.

Rock, Margaret. "A Nation of Kids With Gadgets and ADHD." Mobiledia. Mobiledia, 17 June 2013. Web. 27 June 2013. .

Monday, June 24, 2013

End of the Year Checklist and Reflections, Part I

The end of the year brings lots of stress before we actually get to experience the ultimate relief of summer.  For me the stress is not so much with keeping children engaged in lessons as it is to catch up on the "last minute" duties that will get the library in perfect shape for next year.  I need to run overdues, do inventory (usually a three week job) complete all forms as required by the administration, plan and attend staff development sessions to name a few.  Then I have the end of school social obligations: concerts, awards assemblies, fifth grade promotions, and our volunteer breakfast.  It is enough to make a librarian's head spin.

Added to this are a plethora of reflections that, with the exception of my annual report, are not required but are important to the growth and health of our library program. 

The first of these reflections was written by Steven Anderson in Blogging About the Web 2.0 Connected Classroom. In this blog he poses what he considers the most essential questions from the Principals Technology Leadership Assessment.  They follow:

To what extent do you compare and align your school technology plan with other plans such as your school improvement plan?

 I think this is a very simple question to answer. As required by the state, our technology plan is a component of our school  improvement plan.  Each item in the tech plan must align with and support a curriculum goal.  I am very proud that before our our plans were combined, our tech plans have always reflected our curricular goals.  

To what extent do you promote participation of your school’s stakeholders in the technology planning process of your school or district?  

While I no longer write the technology plan I am consulted frequently by our technology integration specialist.  I know she also works closely with our academic coach and with the county technology visionaries.  I would imagine that, like me, the other teachers are consulted, if only in regard to the number of work orders they submit.  

To what extent did you disseminate or model best practices in learning and teaching with technology to faculty and staff?  My approach has been to model acceptable use (and best use) of technology every chance I get.  For awhile I set up early morning sessions, but after a certain point attendance dropped off.  An effective technique to get the teachers to effectively use the resources our library provides is to  teach federated database searching to the students.  They, in turn, will model it for the teachers, When I asked a third grade teacher to bring her class to the library to finish their research projects, she was amazed at the children's use of OneSearch and the quality sources it was searching. She remarked that all teachers need training on this,, but agreed that all of our staff development time was monopolized by agendas set outside of our school.  Hopefully, with her backing, some changes will be made in our staff development schedule.

Two examples of marketing directly to teachers were very successful.  Classes used the library to take the Statewide Writing Assessment.  As the students were working I was able to describe the new Nexus 7 tablets that were bought out of library funds and to describe the audio and ebook apps I had installed.  At that time I set forth my vision for helping poorer readers enjoy texts on their level.  I proposed units of study to my fourth grade teachers, who agreed to act on the collaboration.
Another important "point of sale" was my end of year planning collaboration with the fourth grade team.  We planned at least PBL units that will incorporate higher level thinking skills and targeted uses of all types of technologies.  I showed the teachers how to set up their Destiny Quest accounts, how to create lists, do federated searches and create citation and bibliography lists.  After that, I briefly showed them Google Apps, referencing my class lesson site and collaborative editing of documents.  This was the most successful collaboration I have had since I worked on my National Board certification.

To what extent do you include the effective use of technology as a criterion for assessing the performance of faculty? 

Technology integration is required by the Office of Educational Performance Audits and is a component of our lesson plans.  However, this requirement lacks teeth except for the time our school is actually being audited.  The teachers' unions, one of which I am a member, have worked to minimize the actual requirements for lesson plans.  Therefore it remains at the discretion of the professional how much data is inserted into our plans.  I suspect teachers with fewer than five years experience are held more firmly to this requirement than tenured teachers no longer required to undergo annual performance reviews.  Since I believe in full professionalism (except when it comes to attire) my lesson plans include links to applicable technology.

To what extent do you participate in professional development activities meant to improve and expand your use of technology? 

In short?  All the time.  I mainly make use of webinars and Twitter feeds to gather information on technology and learning trends, but lately I have been incorporating RSS feeds from EbscoHost in my news feed.  Because others may not have the time to sift through the feeds, I post regularly to my Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as emailing appropriate people.  Recently I began a paper.li for WV Library Media Specialists.  In less than a week I have 13 subscribers.  Not too shabby

So what does all this mean for library services to my young patrons?   

So far, this is telling me what I am doing right.  It does not tell me how to improve.  That is where reflection comes in.  In the next few posts I will look at other checklists and develop a short-term and long-term plan to improve services.

Anderson, Steven. "Blogging About The Web 2.0 Connected Classroom." : 5 Leadership Questions To Finish (And Start) The School Year With. Web. 24 June 2013.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Poll: What Is Your Greatest Professional Develo... | Thinkfinity

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Teacher Librarians at the Heart of Student Learning

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leave Me to My Own Devices

My daughter is usually annoyed with me and her husband.  She claims that we can't have a conversation without consulting our phones several times. She is right.  I am addicted to my gadgets. 

This morning I was looking at my night stand and took stock of all the devices I had there.  This is ridiculous, I thought.  Then I began silently enumerating the advantages of each device.  Yes, I need each of them.

My favorite device is my HP Pavilion dv7 laptop with 17" display.  I love this laptop.  For one thing, it is big but portable.  I can see the screen.  The color contrast and battery life are good, and it has Beats audio.  The HDMI port allows me to project whatever I want on an HDMI TV.  I can display anything I want by only using one cable.  No projector, screen or smartboard necessary.

This laptop is not without a few drawbacks.  For some reason, I have needed the OS reinstalled twice and a hard drive replaced once.  The reinstallations were most likely necessitated by user error on my part.  No doubt one of the apps I downloaded caused conflict.  Nonetheless, being without my laptop for even a short period of time is inconvenient to say the least.

Another issue with the laptop is its size.  Yes, I love the 17" display, but the size does not lend itself to the easiest portability.  The format does not easily fit into any backpack or laptop case I own. When you're carrying this baby around town, you know it.

The second device on the night stand is a an HP 3125 notebook.  It sports lots of the advantages of its larger counterpart: Beats Audio and HDMI portability.  It is only weighs 3.5 lbs, three pounds less than dv7.  The drawbacks are that the tiny keyboard takes time to get used to, as does the .  11 inch display.  However, I am only vaguely aware of it's presence in my purse as I walk to and from a meeting.

Left:  HP 3125 is portable but not easy to see  Right: HP Pavilion dv7
The next device is my Kindle Fire HD.  I love it.   I love the predictive text.  Yes, I said it.  Normally I hate predictive text, but this text is smart.  If I type "I want to go" the predictive text autofills "to the."  It really gets me.  I like that the Kindle reader syncs with the Audible app.  

The display is gorgeous!  I don't normally see a huge difference between HD and regular displays, but this is an exception.  I downloaded an insect video in HD and connected it to my HDTV after a faculty meeting.  The teachers who saw the video were blown away by the vivid colors.  It was really gratifying to know that paying the extra for HD actually made a difference.

Another feature of the Fire that I love is the Kindle Free Time app.  This app allows me to set content for my granddaughter and other small people who might use my app. My 20 month-old granddaughter can turn on the Kindle and navigate to her videos.  I don't have to worry about her downloading apps or inappropriate content.

The fourth device is a Nexus tablet.  Why would I need a Nexus tablet when I have a Fire?  Well, the Nexus can run the MyOn books that my Kindle cannot. It is also thinner and lighter.  There are more apps available for this tablet than for my Fire.  But, this tablet is not HD and does not have Beats.  The audio is acceptable, but not outstanding.

I like using the tablets to play games and check Facebook and mail, but I am not much a fan of composing on it.  Fat little fingers with limited manual dexterity do not do well with little AMOLED keyboards.

The final device on the nightstand is my Samsung Aviator. I hate it.  I loved my first Samsung phones, but this one just doesn't have the RAM necessary to run all my apps.  It locks up and doesn't dial.  Then, after I have tried five times to complete a call, it launches five copies of the call.  I really want to chuck it.  However, I don't have to tolerate it much longer.  Today I am getting a new phone.  I can't wait to have a new toy!

I do love my devices.  What were you saying?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Do You Believe in Your Profession?

I am spending my Sunday afternoon checking out Web 2.0 accounts I had forgotten.  Trying to remember what email account I registered each under is a challenge in and of itself.  Thank goodness these tools can email me password resets so I don't have to remember those too!

One of the accounts I am revisiting is Evernote.  I plan to do a lot of reading and writing this summer, and I thought Evernote, with it's Chrome and Android apps, would be a good repository for my notes.  Once I logged in, I began going through my old notes to see if they are still relevant.  The first note, which I had labelled 'advocacy' caught my eye.  

The Four Myths of Self-Promotion by Kelly Watson was published in June 2010 by Forbes.  Aimed at the small businesswoman, the article encourages women to become their own advocates by negating the four top reasons not to self-promote.  Here is my Evernote synopsis from the article:

The Bitch Myth--"Self promotion will make me look arrogant."  There is a difference  in braggadocio and marketing strategy.  

The Princess Myth--"If I'm good enough, people will hear about it." Most people are too busy doing their own work to notice that of others.  This definitely includes those whose financial decisions could impact your future work. " Survival depends upon taking action to get noticed."

The Friends and Family Myth--"Others should talk about my accomplishments, not me." No can speak as knowledgeably about your work and your qualifications as you. "By delegating promotion to others, you're taking away your best opportunity to demonstrate your value."

The Martyr Myth--"You can't control what people think anyway." It's true that you only have one chance to make a good first impression, but you can build upon that reputation each day;  Let people see what you want them to see, and leave the rest of the stuff at home.

Bottom line: "The myths you believe often mask a deeper insecurity about the value you place on what you have to offer." If you don't fully believe in yourself, who will?
I believe these myths deserve great scrutiny by library media specialists.  Stereotypically, we are portrayed as shy, introverted and retiring.  This fits very few library media specialists I know, yet this is the perception that persists. So, against this handicap, I invite my media specialist friends to evaluate the degree to which they are defined by these myths.  I'll go first:

The Bitch Myth:  I don't find myself worrying much about being perceived as a bitch.  I think I am only touchy when on the defensive, a position I don't find myself in often.  I think by trying to be proactive with most projects, I am viewed as helpful, if not nice.  If people do perceive me a bitch, I would like to know why.  I may not change, but it would be helpful to understand the rationale.

The Princess Myth:   Cinderella, I am not.  If I were Cinderella, I would have been out of there the first time the evil stepsisters suggested I be their servant.  Still, I do hope that people think positively about my work.  The bottom line here, however, is that no one really knows what my work is.  The public only sees part of what I do.  This blog post, a small part of my attempt at library advocacy, is seen by very few and probably would not be viewed as an integral part of my professional responsibilities, although anything I can do for the profession is exceptionally important to me and hopefully, if my words have any influence,  will help ensure a library media presence in more places for many  years.  I cannot wait for folks to notice my impact when other agencies with more money are screaming for attention.

The Friends and Family Myth:  Okay, I buy into this just a little, because I know how much my friends and family support me.  Recently my daughter became offended when someone asked her if "her mother worked the same schedule teachers did."  Lora, bless her heart, righteously informed the person that her mother was a teacher, a National Board Certified Teacher at that!  I can't help but admit I was pleased.  Similarly when I was nominated for selection in our newspaper's 100 Most Influential one year, I honestly believe I got as far up as I did on the list because of my work with one of the editors children.

I do value the opinion of my family and friends, and my school families as well.  But again, most people do not know my job.  I need to market what I do so as not to be marginalized in any specific category.  When a parent asks, "Do you need to go to college to do your job, I am happy to tell them how much college I have had to do this job.  I explain to anyone who asks that you have to be a teacher first, and that librarianship is specialized training on top of that.  I don't mind letting people know other things I do to remain fresh.  As soon as I finish with this blog, I will use social media to tout its existence!

The Martyr Myth:  Please. Having gone through (and survived) as many RIF and transfer hearings as I have, I know better than to be silent.  I try to always be aware of my impact and to make everyone I work with understand that impact as well.  My work is too important to my students and teachers to be taken for granted or to be minimalized.  Remember that squeaky wheel that keeps getting the grease.  I am that squeaky wheel!

In conclusion, I advise all school library media specialists to keep themselves front and center in the conversation of our school communities.  What we do is important and with the implementation of Common Core State Standards, vitally important to our children and our schools.  Don't allow our profession to be minimalized.  Stand up and speak out!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What I Want To Do on My Summer Vacation.

I am very thankful to work in a wonderful job with wonderful coworkers, children and their families. Just like the kids, however, I can't wait for the official start of out summer vacation. I have many goals to accomplish.
First, of course, I want to spend some time at the farm.  Not only do I relax there, but the farm is where I do my best writing. Mostly I want to write really good lesson plans for all levels. I also want to keep up my blogs and wikis, writing about my summer reading. I want to blast Facebook and Twitter with relevant information about libraries, technology and summer reading.
And so, of course, I will be reading. My Kindle is full of fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  In have RSS feeds on Common Core and school libraries. I follow many leading library professionals whose works I follow on Twitterbs
BF I want to learn from these people and pass my learning on.
In between all this, I will need to work on library decorations for the upcoming school year.
And above all, I want to spend time with Eowyn, Carter and Nolan.
I think I needs bigger summer!
GH :-)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why I've Changed My Mind about "Library Skills" Instruction

Back in the day, I had vociferously argued that library skills instruction is child abuse, that being part of a "specials" or "planning period" rotation was a waste of my time.  Now I am begging my principal to "let" me be in the specials rotation for fourth grade everyday next year.

What's changed?

Lots of things.

Shift from Worksheet-Based Instruction to Project-Based Learning

One of the most exciting changes in education is the continuing emphasis on project-based, active learning where students will work on a project in which they will create real meaning.  This is immeasurably preferable to worksheets where students would perfect skills on using the library without actually using it.  How boring are guide words and alphabetizing to the third letter!  But how easily acquired are these skills when they are being used as a means to a learning goal! Students take their work much more seriously when they know their work will reach a public audience, and a public audience is a key component of project-based learning.

Emphasis on Higher Level Thinking Skills and Critical Meaning

Hand in hand with the shift to project-based learning is the emphasis on higher level thinking skills, collaborative learning and critical thinking skills.  Life skills such as planning time, public speaking and targeting an audience are also emphasized.   When a child utilizes these skills to achieve a learning goal, he not only conquers content but also becomes better prepared for life beyond school.

Availability of Resources

In the old days of "library skills" taught in isolation, children were asked to use print sources such as the Reader's Guide to direct them to resources that were more than often not available in the library.  A student wanting to find information on a topic of personal interest was often disappointed to learn that his favorite athlete did not have an article in the 20 year-old encyclopedia.  Hitting dead ends left students (and this teacher) hopelessly discouraged about the value of library skills.  

Compare the previous scenario with our present day situation.  Musty,       misfiled catalog cards that searched an outdated collection have been replaced by automated systems that permits federated searches of all available resources.   The availability of so many sources in full text, online resources is much more gratifying for students searching for  - and actually finding -information.  The increasing availability of laptops and other mobile devices has made information even more accessible.  Children are encouraged to seek information outside their school walls.  Librarians across the county are willing to share resources with children they do not know.

Need for Resource Evaluation and Ethical Use of Information

With the increased publication, interlibrary loan capabilities, and access to electronic media comes a new problem:  too much information.  Yes, students can find -readily- information on any topic, but not all information is equal in terms of quality. Children must learn to be critical users of information.  They need more and more assistance reading for a purpose and paraphrasing information.  They need help synthesizing information from all kinds of different media (transliteracy) into one cohesive package of understanding.

And finally, kids need to be ethical users of information.  They need to understand copyright use and limitations to avoid snafus in their personal and professional lives. Students will see their own works published online.  They will need to learn how to protect their own work as well as respect the rights of others.

I may regret this decision to push to be included in the skills rotation, but ultimately, I think it is important.  I want a balance of fixed vs. flexible scheduling, with the majority of time flexible.  But I need to step up my game.