Friday, December 12, 2008

The year in ed

I wanted to cap off this year's blogging with a good activity. So I decided to use Wesley Fryer's prompt to read the posts nominated for Most Influential of 2008 in the EduBlog Awards.

Chris of BetchaBlog posted on the New Digital Divide. Just more anecdotal proof that the education field is suffering from the same (digital?) malaise as the library field:

I think what often shocks me the most about teachers who don’t take technology very seriously, is just how far behind they really are. They don’t have any idea just how out of touch they are with the kids they teach each day… kids who in most cases are far too polite to say anything about their teachers’ lack of technology understanding. But trust me, they know who you are…

Some of the classic excuses for why some teachers don’t integrate technology might include the following… how many have you heard before?

  • “Im retiring in a couple of years anyway” (yes, but your students are not)
  • “I’m too old to learn this stuff”
  • “I’m too busy, I don’t have the time”
  • “I have too much content to get through” (this one is usually followed by “you just don’t know what it’s like”… ah, yes, I do.)
  • “I don’t really like computers” (you don’t have to like them, you just have to use them)
  • “I just don’t understand technology” (as though they think no one has noticed that yet)
Chris goes on to say he's most scared about the growing chasm between the "information-wills" and the "information-will-nots." I hear that! Honestly, this has nothing to do with age - I meet just as many younger folks who use these excuses as older ones.

Reading all the nominated posts was a pleasure - it was great to hear diverse voices in the field from all around the world! The international nature of online education dialogue is really what will help change the nature of "doing school" in the 21st century. It's not going to be just one school or one state/province/district or even one country - I now truly believe that the education revolution is going to be driven from a global perspective. Is there even any other? Thomas Friedman only said what was obvious: the world is flat, and we affect each other more than ever on a daily basis.

I can only hope that holds true and that this magnificent online educational community will grow, keep learning, and use their voice to speak for true change and authentic learning experiences for students the world over. This movement is more important than ever: if we're all too busy and cannot make the time to do the important work of our day, what sort of example will we set for youth?

Friday, October 17, 2008

The New Ownership

Today I read two very interesting items:

1) CC Learn reports that

the University of Michigan Library has adopted CC licensing for all of its own content. Any work that is produced by the library itself, and to which the University of Michigan holds the copyrights, will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial license (CC BY-NC).
2) Scott McLeod is blogging on his attempt to convince ISTE that they should ask their conference presenters to apply a CC license to their presentations for the benefit of the larger K-12 .edu community.

It really seems that a larger awareness of Creative Commons, at least among the .edu technorati, is brewing.  Instead of trying to protect and hide intellectual work behind the total wall of traditional copyright, the new conversation looks like it will revolve around how others should be permitted to use that intellectual work.  

This is a significant shift in the traditional ownership concept.  While U of M is purposefully moving forward in a unified direction with their CC licensing, the other side of the coin is seen in the vigorous discussion among the ISTE folks.  I also believe that this is shedding light on the changing nature of conferences in general.

While meeting in person is incredibly powerful and energizing, technology is making it more and more possible to participate in conferences (while not actually attending).  And the possibility of this is awesome, as it promises to break down distance and other barriers to learning.  However, not all conferences might be as open-minded as ISTE.  You want to get a good return on your investment when putting on a conference, and I can see other organizations afraid to even consider asking presenters to release their intellectual work freely.  To some, this may be seen as devaluing the conference experience and letting people "get all the benefits of attending for free!"  

Dedicated conference-goers know that's not the case.  Attending in person has a power that few other experiences can match.  However, restricting ideas to small groups of only a few does nothing to encourage the free flow of innovation.  If we really want to effect change within our professions, we have to think about throwing the doors wide open to see what happens.  

...and, for a whole other spin on this same topic, check out Will Richardson's post on Larry Lessig's new book, Remix.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

she got her head in the clouds (sharada sharada)

Ok, so the song isn't about cloud computing - but it's close :)

I'm glad I waited to blog on this, because I bumped into a great new book on this very topic. The Big Switch : Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr is fascinating. Carr interweaves history with present-day computing by describing the first switch (from dynamos to electric utilities) alongside the second switch (from local hard drives to computing power in the cloud). Just as electric utilities proved to transform business and life in general, so will this trend towards large computing clusters accessible via the "cloud."

For example, check out Amazon S3. This concept promises to unleash computing power to the masses previously only accessible to large corporations. By eliminating investment in hardware and turning storage and processing into a pay-to-play model, anyone with a good idea and a little code can make their digital dreams a reality.

But unlike the electric utility, we are now trading intellectual property. What will Google, or Amazon, or Apple, or MS DO with your data? Will it be protected? Is your data safe? Should a business, for example, risk exposing customer data to the cloud? The ethics of cloud computing are a compelling reason for people to tread this new water carefully. Electricity is value-neutral. Data is not.

So the price may be right, but the true cost of maintaining off-site machinery is (currently) muddled in this electronic age. This may well be the new frontier: web 3.0, where your storage choice can be a game-changer.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

NEKLS Tech Day reflections

If a small business owner comes in the door needing resources, web 2.0 tools may very well be the information that makes the difference for them.
(attribution needed; comment if you can remember who said it!)

This was one of the great revelations of NEKLS Tech Day! I feel as though we are all talking about instinctively knowing that these wonderful webby tools and new technological abilities can help our patrons, but in many ways we have to be prepared to draw lines and make connections for them. We need a broad knowledge of different topics, but also of the tools that harness and enhance knowledge for users. Y'know, power to the patron and all :)

I don't believe that we so-called "techie" librarians are really techie in the sense that we have some supernatural knowledge or abilities. I think you can consider yourself techie if you try to keep up with the flow of information evolution, if you try to tread water in this rapidly unfolding world of data storage, retrieval, and creation.

And that was the best part of tech day - getting to commune with other librarians who are trying to do this same thing. Sharon Moreland did a great job making the day possible, as did all the presenters :) Oh, and if you happened to be in my presentation and still want to hear the audio from the videos I've linked to them here.

Happy tech, y'all. I hope we can keep up the good work treading water together :)

P.S. I nearly forgot! The other awesome topic we covered was cloud computing... it nearly needs a post of its own so I will save that for later this month.

Monday, July 21, 2008

the long hot summer

While Scott McLeod notes that global changes are necessary for our American schools to break out of the old mold, our friends across the pond in England are also considering broad, sweeping edu-reform.

Via Schoolgate from the Times Online comes this report from the IPPR: Thursday's Child. A quote from the exec summary:

Besides this plan for a more continuous school year, they also indicate an intense discussion of the role socioeconomic disadvantages play in school readiness and motivation - I'd like to read the whole report one day! (It's behind a pay wall.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Copyrights (& wrongs)

It's been a busy two months since my last post... besides ALA and some much-enjoyed vacation time, everything seems to have piled up! Off to the right you will see myself and Cory Doctorow, happy to meet briefly at a Tor event in Anaheim. I told him how rad we all found his new YA novel, Little Brother, and he was glad to hear it.

When I got home, I got my new issue of Knowledge Quest in the mail and read with interest the article called "Copyright and Portfolios" by Rebecca Butler. I found the ethical questions of the subject fascinating. It concerns electronic portfolios of graduating seniors where the students have used copyrighted materials such as music and film clips: fair use or infringement? Butler concurs that yes, it's fair use as long as the students were using said clips for public school curriculum and used them to "realize their specific learning objectives." She cites some sources (this was the only online one, sorry) and goes on to say that such "class-generated portfolios" can be used to demonstrate expertise in applications for jobs or higher ed. Butler adds that you should inform students that the portfolios should not be used for profit ("[don't] sell any of the pieces [...] or use them in a paid presentation.")

I was worried after reading this, because a quick scan of the article seems reassuring... if your students have "added entire popular songs to their projects, as well as large clips from movie CDs, DVDs, and videos" then maybe everything is just a-ok and kosher. It takes a close reading of this brief article and a little deep thought to conclude that A) you might need to do more research into fair use before you let students create portfolios with such egregious "sampling" (the last time I checked using a work in its entirety is not sampling) and B) you'll need to figure out how to break it to your students that a more-than-passing understanding of copyright may be the most important "technological skill" thy could have in the 21st century.

While I think it's imperative that students (and citizens) have the right to fair use of copyrighted intellectual work (especially in the cases of criticism and parody), I believe that it may be encouraging intellectual laziness to reach for the latest Coldplay song and pop it in as the musical backdrop to a PowerPoint report. Sure, it's popular culture; sure, it's handy; sure, it's easier in the short run than searching for music where the creators have given explicit permission for its use. I maintain that in the long run, using apparatuses such as Creative Commons can serve to build students' appreciation and understanding of copyright so that they may gradually build up to the use of commercially copyrighted works with full knowledge of the risks and benefits. By making the due consideration of copyright and fair use integral to the construction of such electronic portfolios, we can equip students with skills that they can put to good use in the workplace and/or academia.


Rebecca P. Butler. (2008). Copyright and Portfolios. Knowledge Quest, 36(5), 74.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"It's the death of education, but the dawn of learning"

From Scott McLeod, via David Warlick:

"They will be doing work that calls on:
artistic abilities
abilities of synthesis
understanding [of] context
working in teams
the ability to be multidisciplinary, multilingual, multicultural..."

"So the coin of the realm is not memorizing the facts that they're going to need to know for the rest of their lives, the coin of the realm will be:

do you know how to find information?
do you know how to validate it?
do you know how to synthesize it?
do you know how to leverage it
do you know how to communicate it?
do you know how to collaborate with it?
do you know how to problem solve with it?

That's the new 21st century set of literacies, and it looks a lot different than the model that most of us were raised on."

And, predictably, I most noted the portion where the woman talks about student-centered learning, and "doing school" moves to the periphery - where school as a place is just one of the many places where students can engage in learning. Libraries and museums were mentioned, as was the community and home (and online!). This notion fundamentally challenges the idea of segregating youth in neatly labeled buildings for 8 hours a day, and creates the opportunity for more authentic learning experiences. "Just-in-time" learning will trump the traditional model of "just-in-case" learning.

My question is: we've been talking about this new and necessary way of educational thinking for quite a while now... what needs to be done to make the vision take hold? What could we do in our communities to take charge and create change? If this really is "the dawn of learning," what we need is a compass that points east and a map that will get us there.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Conversations about education

This article from today's NYT is thought-provoking, but I find the commentary a richer food for thought.

The conversation we are really having is about what kind of society we live in, and what we want to do about it. What would it really look like to truly close the "achievement gap"? Are we asking schools to solve all of our socio-economic problems? Is that possible?

— Eli Rector, Palm Desert, CA

I share the sentiments in other comments - esp. the one where these hand-wringing articles about the state of education today are characterized as jeremiads - but I think Eli's comment is right on the mark. Obviously, when we talk about education we're not just talking about books and kids and test scores. We're talking about our shared common experience as citizens, a loaded concept that transcends any dictionary definition of education and enters into sociocultural commentary.

I am not finished reading all (100+!) comments on this article. But I think it will be time well spent to hear some of these voices. Our education, our selves? Absolutely.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Public Library Association conference 2008

I am in the process of transferring all my notes from Word to the blog (adding links, etc.). Some of my favorites:

Programs I spoke at/organized were:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

PM session: library catalogs and OPACs

I am "live wiki'ng" the PM session on library catalogs here.

First session of library camp - Marketing, Outreach, Public Relations, & other stuff

First topic - staff buy-in. Faculty at a university assume they know everything about the library and tune library staff out. Would like to see them assign more library use. Public libraries would like teachers to let them know what assignments are in advance so that appropriate materials can be located.

Question - ultimate goal is to reach students, but is not happening through faculty. Would like to do more branding on webpages so that they can become aware of what is available to use at the library. Want to reach more non-users.

Bringing digital natives to the website can be hard but pays off.

JoCo Library site comes up as a favorite - looking at the literary map of KC.

So much content - but not all can be on the front page. How to boil down content and create intuitive paths??!

Instant messaging on a university website - looking at branding of the "ask a librarian" logo

Orientation and other presentations to students - difficult to capture attention of tired frosh.

Talking about using names - make sure that the students' name and the librarians' name are used in transactions.

Talking logos- trying to rebrand means rehauling all library materials, library vehicles, getting staff to throw out old forms and bookmarks, powerpoints left over from 1994.

Getting management to make people accountable - write branding into ppls. performance plans. David says "just do it!"

External marketing requires internal marketing - make the plan palatable and important to staff so that the buy-in occurs as part of the process. Convince staff that this is saving them time to provide them with logos, templates, and other tools that will help them do their job better.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Another TED talk and thoughts on cross-pollination for results

Besides education, one of my other favorite subjects is urban design. Strange, I know, for someone who has never lived in a major urban area until now. But in 1997, our university invited Howard Kunstler to talk about new urbanism and I began to recognize and put a name to the malaise that we suffered in our town... the issues that we faced living so far from work and school, the blandness of our neighborhoods, our lack of sidewalks. He got booed, I'm sorry to say, but this member of the audience was riveted.

So why am I talking about urban design on this blog, which mostly focuses on my professional thoughts about education? Well, I think they are all completely interrelated. Let's cross-pollinate: urban/suburban design, education, and transportation... stay with me, and I'll take you there.

Our public library is a medium-sized system with 13 (soon to be 14 branches) in far-flung suburbs all over a county that is a member of the metropolitan Kansas City area. We're talking about our future in a new strategic plan, and the same old same old is coming up: how to market ourselves, how to position our branches for maximum impact, how to drive traffic, and most importantly how to help our patrons get the information they need to improve their quality of life. But we are a non-profit focused on life-long learning, affiliated with county government, and all these things seem to be insurmountable challenges... for example, where do we get the money for well-situated buildings and advertising when we can barely fund the materials collection?

One thing is for certain - we may not choose to (or be able to) support our current way of life for much longer. We see the craving for urban amenities in our suburban area and can't make them happen because of zoning, a lack of funds, and a fractured ecosystem of separate cities and townships all determined to hold on to what makes them unique (which is not necessarily bad, but presents serious obstacles to cooperative work).

In order to really innovate in ways that make us sustainable in the long term, I envision working outside our boundaries and partnering with a different agency: the county bus system. Our buses have limited routes and almost no bus shelters along routes (riders are instructed to just wait anywhere along the route to be picked up, which is inefficient, dangerous, and causes unnecessary exposure to the elements). People are often very far from these routes, causing bus riders to face potential walks up to a mile or more at both or either end of the ride. It's just not a really great system as it currently stands. For example, I don't ride the bus because I would have to walk nearly a mile to my workplace from the point where I would disembark. Showing up to work sweaty in the summer and totally frozen in the winter is highly unappealing.

We should partner with our bus system to accomplish several of these tasks. FIRST: buses should stop at every library in the county - period. We should be bus stops to encourage people to use our resources, visit us regularly, and we can provide an appropriate place for riders to wait in out of the elements.

SECOND: the buses could assist in carrying our courier loads. If we were part of the bus system, we wouldn't need separate courier vans taking trips only to deliver books... we'd be delivering patrons too! We might also be able to provide materials faster with several courier trips a day instead of only once or twice around the circuit.

THIRD: The best part of the deal might include co-branding of the buses so that the library name and message is tooling all around the county and being seen everywhere.

FOURTH: Our involvement with transportation would provide an important bargaining chip when obtaining land for new and expanded buildings - bus stops need to be front and center on major roads, so we could use that leverage in maintaining our physical presence in the community.

FIFTH: Eventually, we should merge with existing school bus companies to provide expanded routes and additional stops so that a single system could serve multiple groups of people in a more efficient way. It would provide additional flexibility for teachers to take students to use the public library during the school day for more differentiated instruction - we have resources and programs that complement both remedial and advanced learning plans, and could develop more in concert with one another with improved physical access.

We have the opportunity to take concrete steps towards a more cohesive (sub)urban design, and as a library we could help knit things together in a logical way by combining existing systems. This idea still needs refinement, but it's what came to mind as I was thinking about our library as part of the bigger picture. It's so easy just to think about what we need and want, but if we can combine our mission with that of other agencies we might be able to create something bigger than ourselves: the first steps towards more unity in our larger community. Maybe these sorts of connections create community 2.0 :) Our "systems," as Jaime Lerner says, should not compete with one another. They should make sense on a human scale to improve our lives, with thoughtful design and an eye on the future.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Long time no blog!

Topics I hope to cover before the end of February:

  • More edublogging resources
  • What we've discovered about the XOs
  • Our upcoming Library UnConference
  • A partnership with public television, school districts, and the NEA's Big Read
So hang tight and steer your feeds this way... it's a whole new year ahead!