Cross-posted at School Library Journal
The one thing that I have seen over the years that hasn't changed is that when students come into the library media center today....just like 40 years ago, they still want a friendly face, a helping hand, and the path of least resistance. I wonder where it all all be in another 10 years.
(Arthur Kevorkian, in an email to me and Doug Johnson)
I believe Arthur is absolutely right about those things that never change. But his email also caused me to look back at my day yesterday and recognize how much my days really have changed. And how much I can't even imagine going back.
In addition to the smile and the hand--which I find I now offer both on- and offline--my days look so different than they did even three years ago.
And had I the ability to transport the Joyce from three years ago into her school library of just yesterday, she would have been mightily confused by what business as usual looks like now. (Another reason for this reflection were the responses Doug Johnson received in his Blue Skunk blog (opens in new tab)to our SLJ piece:Things That Keep Us Up at Night. More on that in a minute.)
First, my day:
Some things are constant. I woke up and got dressed in my usual confused way, happy to find an outfit that didn't quite match. (I work on creative mismatching each morning.) Then I ventured downstairs.
I checked our library Google Doc calendar to make sure I knew who was coming in during the day.
Then I checked email. My Diigo groups come through again in my alerts. As usual, I had at least five amazing resources to immediately share with our teachers via email and at least ten more to add to a variety of wiki and PageFlake pathfinders during the course of the day. Because I was running a bit early, I got some of that done while watching the weather before I left for school.
Once I opened the library and greeted the early birds, I checked my Twitter network for news and mentions and to see if I needed to respond to anything critical. Of course, I found more to add to my Pathfinders and a new search tool to add to my search tools page. I also discovered a few webinars I wanted to attend and posts I needed to read.
I checked on the GoogleDocs script that was updated last night by students in the our Theater II class. The class generously volunteered to help me (and actually star in) my K12Online keynote. This collaborative process has been an incredible learning experience and my students are delighted that their performance, and the learning they share, will this time have global audience. Our film production kids are also beginning to jump onboard. They are waiting for the final script and will begin storyboarding the video. In fact, I just sent their teacher a new Google storyboarding template I discovered this morning on Twitter. (Much more on this in a later post!)
Eighth grade social studies students visited to continue work on their wiki museums of world history. I shared strategies for creating tables and introduced Glogster.edu as a tool to organize their pages and make them more interactive. The students are using Wikispaces for Teachers to host their museums. they are searching for images and artifacts in our databases and on Creative Commons portals, and they are using NoodleBib to document and annotate their gallery exhibits. Their online annotations ask them to reflect on the course's essential question regarding the social, economical, and political impacts of people and events on history. Based on their growing historical knowledge of the periods they are studying, they are beginning to compose letters written by historical figures and conducting You are There-type interviews. We're hoping to film some of their interviews using our Flip cameras and store them somewhere in the cloud--either on our library Flickr account or on our video Ning before embedding them in the wiki museums.
I checked in with three classes of our seniors who are making progress and the projects they are all maintaining and organizing in wikis. Last week, we introduced ways to embed media and RSS feeds into those research containers. Their wikis are now filled with (mostly) relevant feeds, podcasts, pdfs, and video. Because wikis make the process more transparent and interactive, we can easily monitor the students' progress and avoid research disasters.
I began removing remnants of last year's book (The Soloist) from our OneBookOneSpringfieldNing, and started to populate it with content relating the our upcoming discussions on The Glass Castle. Casey, my assistant, is using PaperbackSwap to exchange extra underprocessed copies of The Soloist for needed new titles.
I checked in with another group of eighth graders creating Animoto (opens in new tab) trailers for their summer reads and yet another eighth grade class using VoiceThread to describe the ways medieval castles functioned. The teacher was having a problem because the last version of Adobe Flash player was not loaded on his laptops. We are working to resolve that.
My last period senior volunteer, Caroline, completed our genre Wordles for Mystery and Romance, and began work on an Animoto (opens in new tab) video focusing on our school's core values. We will post that video on our Virtual Library. Last week, Caroline helped me create our new HealthPageflake.
Our meeting relating to Middle States goals relied on a Google Doc again as a collaborative writing tool. And I planned the next Skype (opens in new tab) meeting of my AASL Technology Subcommittee using Doodle.
After dinner, the seminar in Second Life I was hoping to attend was postponed. I watched Glee instead.
That's what my typical work day looks like. Much of it was filled with energy and excitement and play and discovery and yes, a certain degree of joy.
And now let's shift gears and return to the responses to Things That Keep Us Up at Night (opens in new tab) on Doug's blog.
Doug reprinted the comments of Beth (opens in new tab), who likely represented the feelings of many. Beth points to the one-sidedness of our argument:
Of course, those of us who have PLNs are likely going to be moving along in the same mindset - we engage in conversations on twitter and elsewhere with people who believe, more or less, in social media. Again, we only hear one side of the argument.
Yes, there are people in our profession who resist change. This is true in all of education. But outside of our blogging-tweeting-2.0 professional circles are librarians who are concerned about things like basic internet access, aging collections, fixed scheduling and no paraprofessional support. In my district, our high schools often have over 3000 students with two librarians. Test scores dictate instruction. Money to travel to conferences no longer exists. Filtering reigns. In many cases, the librarians are advocating for the immediate issues at hand: Basic access to information. Flexible scheduling. Updated resources. They may face administrators who don't support them, teachers with no time to collaborate, and few obvious opportunities to develop whatever a PLN is.
In the end, we need to know what is going on with everyone. What barriers do they face as information professionals: material, professional or otherwise? Many librarians are not given autonomy. We operate within a system that has many many problems that affect our practice. I think if we created opportunities for librarians to share these stories we might better understand why they do what they do. I think we still have to listen to the "yeah, buts" - but that can't be the end of the conversation. We can't dismiss them, but instead open a dialogue and try to strategize through it with everyone's input. Then the transformation of the profession continues with more buy in than we have now, we hope.
Our brand really can't be social media. It can't be databases. It can't be 2.0. Not only will these things fade away, they exclude large parts of our profession from participation. I'd rather adopt our brand as "cultivating curiosity." That will stand the test of time. And it's something we can all gather around the table and talk about pushing toward.
So, excoriate or sympathize with our colleagues who do not push the professional envelope? Were Joyce and I too harsh, too out of touch with the "real" world of libraries? (Do remember Joyce is a practicing library media specialist and I am practicing library/technology director.) Do we owe an apology to those who struggle in silence? How can we give a voice to those who choose not to network?
Interesting comments, Beth, and I am guessing you speak for more folks than you realize. Thank you for writing.
But would you write the same eloqent defense of dentists who continue to practice their craft as though it were 1975?
And my response?
I get it. I get the challenges. I've fixed or left situations where I couldn't work or contribute or grow. (In this economy fixing seems to be a wiser approach than leaving.) I have never walked into a position where things worked. I made the change I wanted to see and sometimes it was a very challenging effort.
But in my experience of 33 years I've learned that you either stare at barriers or you work towards removing them. You focus on the obstacles or the opportunities.
And I see many of these new free tools as the very solutions we've been waiting for--as ways to approach issues of equity, and aging collections, streamlining procedures, and limited budgets for professional development.
And as for opportunities for librarians to share these stories, there has been no better time. Join a Ning, start a blog, comment on someone elses, SHARE!
Am I pointing fingers? Yes.
And I don't want to apologize. And I want my colleagues to lead, not complain.
Should everyone drink the Twitter Kool-Aid? Do our choices have to have the brand names Twitter or Web 2.0?
No. But my personal feeling is that everyone should find some way, some very immediate and real-time way, to network. Don't wait for the professional journal to be published or the workshop to be organized and published. Build a PLN today. It will change everything. Choose it right. Learn to leverage it and it will absolutely improve your practice.
Things are really happening fast. In my mind, librarians who opt out of new information technologies and new ways to tell stories, opt out of their jobs and opt out of their responsibilities to learners. It may not be Twitter tomorrow, but it is likely to be something even better.
This 2.0 stuff is not part of some educational bandwagon that will be replaced by another bandwagon next year.
These improvements in the information and communications landscapes reach way beyond our little K12 worlds and change the way the world does business. We cannot ignore them. Our world is driven by the transfer and sharing of information.
What about those who cannot network?
Face it, you may not be able to clock these hours. You may have to do your learning and planning at home on your own time. There are so many webinars and online conferences and blogs and feeds to help you learn. (I'll do a post on that subject very soon!)
If you are going to ever make the case for these tools as an intellectual freedom issue, you must know your way around them yourself first.
Can everyone be a first adopter?
So pick just a few things to learn this semester. If I had to create a short list, I'd learn about widgets and RSS feeds for research and professional development, and I'd be using wikis and GoogleDocs as collaboration and publishing tools. (Although I am sure there are at least 100 different approaches to where to start.)
Sorry. I won't apologize for believing that this shift is profound and universal and that our response is urgent. I won't apologize for believing that librarians can and should lead.