The Future of the Library Space

Libraries as I Centres

Two years ago Michael Hough published an article entitled Libraries as I Centres-Helping Students Face the Future”.  In the article he outlined 3 points in particular concerning the future of what was traditionally referred to as the library;

  1. Librarians need to actively promote their role as Chief Information Officer and influence the leadership of the school.
  2. Libraries need to evolve into I Centres that have knowledge based resources essential to modern learning.
  3. The iCentre will need to provide students and staff with a “one stop shop” for all resources and technology.

Concerning the second point of I Centres providing knowledge based resources essential to modern learning; I think this point is very true. Sad to say,  In our secondary library the books on the shelves in the nonfiction section our usage statistics allow me to say serve basically as a veneer to create an ambience of studying.  Most of such nonfiction information students acquire online with the most up to date resources, and the library is a room used for wireless.

The first point of librarians needing to promote their role as chief information officer is a lofty ideal. Teachers themselves are expected to be more and more tech savvy, and to compete with curriculum directors, assistant principals, and technology trainers for being the head of all school information, this point may prove challenging with the politics of many a school administration. The temperaments of many traditional librarians may not make them the ideal candidates in this endeavor.

Even the librarian as technology trainer seems to be fading somewhat as teachers themselves are expected to be more and more tech savvy. Concerning the future of school librarians, I see my coworkers in other international schools often going in one of two directions. First, many have become responsible for inventories and managing of the materials, more of a resource management position. The other direction is librarians becoming more and more of an extra teacher in the classroom, very much stressing the teacher librarian role, and more so as a teacher.

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Laptops…close but far away

Laptops in Class

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A big challenge I’m finding and am continually working to get the knack of is how much time to allot to many of the in class exercises. This is particularly a challenge when it coincides with the many needs to differentiate with lots of the classes wherein I assist. How to pace the block period is an adjustment to continually make as many of the technology tools are new and I try to gauge if the work given is to easy or to hard for each student.

On his blog Dean Groom writes in 23 things about laptops in the classroom  stated in point #2 “work avoidance just went digital” so true. In this regard some habits or excuses of students will perpetually be the same regardless of the medium.  I’ve learned from experience to head this one off at the pass and state clearly at the beginning of the unit that concerning assignments students are responsible for their technology to work. “My computer crashed” or “my file from home is not transferring to my computer here” are for the most part not acceptable excuses. Students are responsible for their technology to work. Dean also mentioned something akin to what one of the teachers also echoed at the Irving Independent School, it a given that it’s best to continue to move around the class to be able to see what students are doing and to ensure they are staying on task.

A preamble to my final point of laptop classroom management——- There is a lesson I learned, almost a method of survival from when beginning substitute teaching on Liberty St. in my hometown Cincinnati in 1991. It came upon entering a period of a 1 hour block and being given little preparation time with the lesson.  I had to go in that classroom with confidence otherwise the kids would “eat me for breakfast”.  Confident classroom management there was imperative otherwise the situation could run rampant.  All teachers learn to project a confidence. The lives of the young students at St. Francis Serpah were in numerous ways very different from where I am now, yet certain dynamics are the same.  As the teacher/ classroom manager I still have to enter with confidence, not just as an act, but to truly believe I am in charge and have many tools to help the students. Otherwise, they’ll sense a lack of self-assurance, smell blood and attempt to show the teacher up.

This all comes into play as technology as enters the scene. After a brief intro to a lesson, perhaps a short lecture or class discussion—–I sense a profound change in the energy of the room once we open our laptops—almost as if the energy or a certain presence goes out of the room as young learners connect and relate to something in the cloud.  Once this energy dissipates from our group presence I’ve found it hard to bring it back during the same period.  I keep all the laptop activities until the end of the class period.  Save the discussions or presentations for the beginning of class.

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Connectivism Makes Good Librarianship More Important Than Ever

Connectivism

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As a result of all the tremendous new social networking tools available, connectivism asserts that learning will be (and is already in many cases) a process of students

conglomerating a diverse network of many social ties and information resources made possible via technology. After students are given the proper skills they will read, watch, blog, and create their own personal learning network on a subject. Class time may be a time when students are given the skills needed and then sent to the task. The traditional teacher standing in front of a class and lecturing will be gone, replaced by this time of being given the tools to gather information on their own.

As important as these tools of connectivism are, these modern apparatuses are not as important as the connections, the relationships that are made possible by them. As George Siemens succinctly put it in his conclusion when writing on elearnspace concerning this subject, “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.”

Our classes being taken now in the COETAIL program are a great example of such connectivism. Instead of being given a host of traditional research articles to read, then at the end of the semester turning in a research paper, we are asking to use RSS feeds, twitter, other blogs etc. to discover information on various subjects, then to blog upon it. The blog writings online are available for all to see, and by commenting upon other learner’s blogs we are then capable to create our own personal learning networks. This model provided tremendous potential to come in contact and cultivate relationship with those involved in fields we are most interested in.

I’m our school’s librarian, and at its fundamental level librarianship is concerned with information management. Therefore, if connectivism is pursued in schools the librarian’s job skills become more important than ever. As John Lang, the “lone wolf librarian” posts on his blog, within the connectivism mode the teacher becomes the one who aids student’s in managing the social networks they create. The teacher instructs students how to access and evaluate the information they find online to ensure its credibility. The teacher shows students how to set up these networks. What a valuable skill!

This ability to recognize and access authoritative resources, is this not the traditional role of the librarian? Heading into the future our librarian jobs will be more secure if we return to the traditional skills of our position and apply these skills to modern social networks. Connectivism will provide librarians with a lot more work to do

Personally I’m a bit reassured knowing that while librarian positions are being cut throughout school districts throughout the United States, over the past 3 years in my position I’ve become incrementally busier. What school wouldn’t find it valuable to have on staff a person who is adept at helping students manage continual new and morphing networks of information? If I’m becoming busier and in more demand from the teachers it’s a sign in my work I may be on the right track.

Connectivism comes into play throughout the various grade levels. In particular though I find connectivist skills paramount in assisting our 11th/12th graders in writing their IB extended essays. In reading the criteria by which the essays will be graded, many call for original or primary resources. Currently we have a 12th grader writing his essay on the visual arts, and the IB manual strongly stresses of course not just a rehash of secondary resources but original information. The subject of the essay was totem poles of the native Americans in the pacific northwest. We did not have many books in our limited overseas library on this particular subject, but after going on to youtube.com was able to retrieve a documentary from a college in the Pacific Northwest of USA/Canada which included an interview with a totem pole artist. Once acquiring the artists name was able to go onto facebook and locate him, and after procuring his email address made contact with him and was able to assist the student in arranging an online interview with the artist.

Another student had as her extended essay topic robotic cars, after doing her initial research she sent an email to one of the engineers working on this project at Google, and he provided her with a response. The answers in this email provided her with tremendous, exciting primary research for her extended essay. Most people love sharing or being asked about their knowledge and with modern social networking it is all available. Connectivism is the name put on a concept of learning and information management  that is very exciting for librarians.

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An Invitable Tide….and a Teacher’s Presence

Flipped Classroom
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I’ve heard some teachers flippantly comment that with so much retrievable information at our fingertips, heading into the 21st century the school library is an outmoded, seemingly irrelevant holdover. For sure, even within the past 5 years I’ve seen remarkable changes in how our library space is used. Teachers formerly required at least one book source for a research project, yet in some classes even the monograph condition is bypassed completely. There have been a few afternoons in particular, I can sense with some diminishing numbers present in our library space that something is going on—– some kind of switch. Classes when they do come in, I ask, “How can I help?” At times, “Oh, don’t worry, we’re fine….”  is the teacher’s somewhat sardonic and distant reply. It makes me nervous as a librarian and I know the library in order to survive is going to have to find creative ways to respond. Librarians have to find new ways to continue to be a relevant part of the school mix.

Yet, if librarians are a little nervous about the future, so too should be classroom teachers with this imminent tide of the flipped classroom. Already, if a high school student cannot grasp some of the difficult concepts in physics or advanced math, there are innumerable places they may turn online to find someone who can skillfully explain the concepts in a coherent manner. The school library some say is a holdover from times past? How about 5 years hence some classroom teachers? MIT OpenCourseWare and Physics Central are just 2 of the many places students may go to find someone online to explain the lesson more clearly.  

The flipped classroom, the process wherein students watch lectures at home or on the bus via some video tool online, thereby opening up classroom time for other learning activities—–this is here to stay and will only grow. Along with this movement Dan Pink on his blog states what I see as a very real truth “…..it is going to have a massive impact on teaching and learning in K-12 schools. Educators who don’t anticipate this change and work to ride the way will be subsumed by it, I fear. ”  

So true, so we all restructure our library and class time, making it more useful is the task.

So how does the flipped classroom look in the classes I work with? First, a very brief preamble concerning what I see as the emerging role of school librarians. From the various conferences attended am seeing the librarian’s role going in one of two directions. First, librarian’s morphing much more so into resource managers. When listening to a lot of the duties of my coworkers, I’m hearing of huge projects of inventory managing, textbooks, etc. Secondly, librarians much more are becoming another teacher helping and assisting in the classroom. Accentuating the teacher/librarian role, becoming more of an extra teacher is the way my position is going in order to survive at my school. Particularly with the technology trainer I am spending more time in the classroom and at times teaching whole units.

So, in the classes in units I teach am at the beginning stages of the flipped classroom. An example may be, currently am teaching a unit of Wikipedia, and one of our classes is working on designing the school Wikipedia page (all sorts of skills listed in our library curriculum come into play while creating a Wikipedia page).

I’m saying am at the beginning stage of the flipped classroom for in the intro when covering the History of Wikipedia I simply found a video that covers this information and, after posting it on my blog——I did show it in class for it was brief, yet in the future with the flipped class I may just assign it as something to watch at home and then use the class time to discuss instead of watching.

Getting the materials, videos and presentations etc. to explain the concepts is the first stage , yet the next stage is knowing how to effectively utilize the time in class that is then opened up since a 30, 40 minute lecture may not be necessary. I am thinking in this second stage, how to clarify the lesson even more and evoke out of students the relevance to their particular context will be part of the gift a teacher’s presence will bring.

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Does the Tail Wag the Dog?

Tail Wagging the Dog?

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Tail Wagging the Dog?

Towards the end of 2011 am thinking it’s a given… to serve 21st century learners well it’s imperative to integrate into the classroom setting all the tools and gifts technology has to offer.  Yet, an apt analogy of effective use of technology in the classroom may be comparable to handing teachers a strong, huge sword.  Such a powerful tool as technology must be utilized competently and skillfully!

Too many times have I both been guilty myself as well as seeing and hearing in the computer lab adjacent to my librarian’s office instructors turning students loose with a tool without having a firm grip or even a working understanding  of the tool themselves. Granted, many tools are new and there’s a learning curve for all of us, yet I am talking about degrees. If the lesson tips too much towards getting caught in the glamour, say veneer of the tool and not returning to the backward design of what is to be learned in the unit, it does not serve education well. The tail of technology wags the dog of the backward design. Jeff Utecht touched upon this in his article Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom referring to it with an apt description, edutainment. 

A personal experience of my own fresh in my mind from last semester can be used to make this point. During course 3 during one of the weeks we were asked to look at the wiki Cogdogro  that outlined many new innovative technological tools that described many ways to tell a story.  I was excited about many of the tools, and in lieu of a journal post or a brief written book review collaborated with a 4th grade teacher to utilize One True Media to create a short book trailer for a book checked out of the library. 

There are different types of learners, visual, audio, those who learn by doing…in our exercise learners are able to utilize images and sounds to visually represent what the book meant to them, yes? Well, that was our ideal. How their projects turned out and if what we did met the stated goal of reviewing and displaying comprehension of the book, I don’t know how effectively we utilized the tool. During the library session while many students worked on their brief one true media trailers I heard a lot of “wows” and “oh, cools” suggesting they were enjoying the process, yet if our exercise met our goal of displaying an understanding of the books they read is another matter. My point—-new technology tools are great and offer so much yet let’s focus on the learning and not the glamour.

Following my experience with One True Media, I am interested in having a library session based upon an idea heard from another librarian. With perhaps 4th or 5th grade wherein the students all go to Corkboard and type in a favorite book, then run the results through  Wordle to make word clouds to post around the library. Yet, I don’t want the young learners, a few rascals posting inappropriate things, etc. to take away from the adventure, so I will bypass the activity as of now, although it’s a good one.

I read Jeff Utecht’s comments on some possible ways of gaging the use of technology in Evaluating Technology Use in the Classroom on the Thinking Stick . The four steps he outlines on what evaluators could use during evaluation process are helpful in ascertaining where I am in the integration of technology. New technology always makes use of the forms that came before it. The locomotive was at first referred to as “The Iron Horse” and the model T in appearance is reminiscent of the buggies two decades earlier pulled by horses.

The three stages Utecht outlines I understand fully, yet to get t at 4th level of creating new and different learning experiences, what’s required here is thinking with completely new paradigms. How these new learning experiences will look and how well they serve education will be very interesting to see.

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Best Educational Disposition & Collaboration

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The performance task for the first week of course 4 asks us to explore the question, “Who’s job is it to teach the NETs standards to students, and how do we ensure they are being met in an integrated model?”

As a school librarian whose job effectiveness depends upon how adept one may be in incorporating the library program into other teacher’s classrooms and curriculums, am feeling that I bring a lot of experience and awareness of the challenges of arriving at such an integrated model.

It’s difficult to surmise one sweeping blanket statement answering the question of whose task such an integrated model is. The question is comparable to…whose job is it to provide quality education? So much is contingent on the context, personalities, school history of collaboration, etc.   All depends on the classroom teachers, how adept the technology teacher or librarian is in navigating the constantly morphing world of new information sources, technological literacy, and adapting that to the curriculum and staff turnover situation. How the computer, librarian and curriculum teachers collaborate together are all factors unique to each context.

For my part, in my particular work situation of a PreK-12 librarian I find it essential to continually network with teachers by making myself aware of what units they have coming up and ensuring that I may get in at the unit planning level, having a say in infusing technology and information literacy skills at the backward design discussion level and bringing tools and skills that will help them in planning.

Having spoken my piece, there are places to turn to for guidance on effective integration of the NETS and AASL standards. As the school librarian, an excellent place to start may be the curriculum director Greg Curtis at ISB Beijing, who has written standards thatBlended ICT and Library Standards(2). At ISB there also was a team entitled ISB21 that outlined a vision and philosophy on how to work together. I use these both as overall guiding philosophies, subsequently merging these ideals with my practical everyday context in order to come in touch with my personal vision of the integrated model.

Also, I agree with the notion Warlick outlines in his post What Difference Might One “S” Make? of “application” en lieu of of “applications” when it comes to computers being integrated into the curriculum:

So I’ve been thinking that instead of Computer Applications, our students should be learning Computer Application.  One letter’s difference, a dropped “S,” but a world of difference when it comes to curriculum.  Computer Applications implies (to me) a specific list of software tools that students will be taught to use…Instead, I would suggest that students simply learn to apply computers to solve problems or accomplish goals.  It really doesn’t matter if they are covering all of the tools, or even if each student is mastering all of the same tools.  Students would simply learn how computers can help them do interesting things, and then gain the skills and confidence required to teach themselves, with the guidance of their teachers, the applications to make it happen.

 

Walick is speaking of an overall disposition towards technology. I am finding this same principle to be true in information literacy and library skills as well. Some of the fundamental techniques of how to search for information will become true if we can work towards how to help students think about searching, and how to concretize their information needs.

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Viewing Photographs with a Discerning Eye

The purpose of the NPPA Lesson Plan on photos from the NPPA was to enable students to deconstruct the different techniques and devices photographers and media specialist may use to tell a story. If they learned how to interpret non verbal photos, they may then have the faculties to interpret other non print media.  

A main dimension of any sort of literacy whether it be text, media or photography is the ability to interpret.The video included in this weeks materials Questioning VideoFilmAdvertising & PropagandaDeconstructing Media Messages mentions being aware of the “devices” used in any type of medium. The more familiar we are with the devices used, the more we can get behind the ideas the authors are attempting to construct.

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A Story of Global Warming

YouTube Preview ImageA Story of Global Warming

After viewing the wiki 50+ Web 2.0 WaystoTellaStory, to create my story I used the tool One True Media created a login, and then proceeded to create a story relevant to our context here in Thailand particularly this weekend, flooding.

Ok— the steps in creating my story. As we learned in other parts this course from presentation zen, it is best to start analog, have an idea of what it is one wants to say, jot some notes down on a piece of paper, and then go to the computer.

I received notes of concern from friends inCleveland,Ohiowhere I lived for 8 years. Several mentioned the record setting precipitation taking place on the other side of the world as well. I attempted to link the reality or record setting rainfalls across the globe together in my story.

Using about 8 slides, and as a point of cohesion I recalled watching the film “An Inconvenient Truth” five years ago wherein Al Gore mentioned one of the results of global warming and increased CO2 in the atmosphere is increased rainfall. I wanted to link these concepts together and also leave on a positive note, how we all together can work together in order to solve problems.

I went to creative commons and found photos that suggested the themes I was looking for. Numerous photographs were available of flooding inThailandand lots of rain in Cleveland. There were also stills of the film from 2006, and finally images of investigation and working together.

It didn’t take long to find the images and compile then, then to coalesce them on One True Media was not so difficult the website made it quite easy. My biggest challenge since I did not want to pay for the upgrade was how to make the presentation as simple as possible. Also, how to post became an issue, I put it on my twitter account.

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The Effectiveness of Persuasive Images

At least until recently, I’ve always considered myself a textual learner. I had over the course of time learned to read, or more or less scan books and journal articles throughout my personal academic career. Culminating in a Master’s degree earned in 2006 virtually all of the grading I received was based on the ability to read texts and write a traditional research paper.

As a result of this conditioning I believed at this stage of my life I was most strongly a text learner, but this morning I encountered 2 of the readings/materials for week 3. Both PresentationZenanOverview  and WhatisGoodPowerPointDesign has a similar message of how to more persuasively present ideas in presentations.  Yet I found this morning when Mark Helmke summarizes several of the main points from Reynolds book, these messages given in visual form resonated with me much more that the text from the article.

Both pieces conveyed a few similar points. A particularly salient point was to “keep it simple”. Keep it simple yet not simplistic. Both also made the point of knowing your audience and what may be relevant to them—-the way I interpreted this was not to simply download a lot of slides off the internet and present them out of context in our situation. I see this happen all the time.

I found in the text of WhatisGoodPowerPointDesign that I would read over several of the points the first time and would have to go back and re-read, whereas with the youtube presentation, which employed good slides the information would register much more quickly.

The materials for this week made me reflect on how even with the ideas I present in class they are not through completely. One aspect of ineffective .PPT presentations is being unaware or unwise in how to use the tool.

The two PPT presentations here came from a Unit I collaborated on with a high school class on newspaper writing. Here is the How to Write a Newpaper Articleand the How to Write a Newpaper Article Revisionwherein I attempted to make the message more concrete with the new found lessons learned concerning visual literacy. This was a presentation having to be given on rather quick notice on how to write a newspaper articles, and originally in the 8 slides it was simply my notes put up on the screen.

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Importance of Visual Literacy

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As the school K-12 librarian, I collaborate with many  teachers at all grade levels on a variety of projects & units. For most of my career a huge aspect of research has always been the skill to sift through a plethora of information in order to find materials that would be most authoritative and beneficial to the task at hand.

Up until the COETAIL course I always considered the most serious research to be sifting through documents, journal articles, and books. This is still a huge part of research in the upper grades and in preparation and participation in the IB program. So much in our upper grades in terms of research is still predominantly geared towards reading and writing, as the extended essay is the culmantion of many parts of research skills taugh.

Yet, with several of the courses last year I came in touch with the reality that media literacy, the skill in  being able to discern and assess visual images is equally an important facility developed. Just as in research there is literally millions of books and articles to wade through, so too in visual images there is a tremendous amount of materials to find and work with.

In our writing assignments at ISE we utilize MLA format in order to give credit where credit is due. One of the lessons last year and a video posted by Jeff Utecht on how to go to Creative Commons on citing an image from a blod has also been helpful. Also, I ask students in their .ppt presentations to do as was mentioned at EARCOS last year and cite the source at the bottom of each screen.

I am reminded of the importance of Media literacy also this first week as the article VisualLiteracyandtheClassroom posted by Johns Hopkins  University by Erin Reisland spoke of the onslaught of advertising that students will incur, any sort of help given to students to discern the images with which they will be inundated would be valuable indeed.

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