On the Road

Most of the time, the traveling that I do is tedious, stressful, and humiliating (you often feel like cattle being herded into and out of airplanes).  But this is a very interesting trip.  First, Brenda traveled with me on the first leg, flying up to New York, and then the train to New Haven, Connecticut for a professional development institute in a nearby district.  Brenda spent the day bumming around in New Haven, a very pretty and pedestrian town. 

Rock 'n' Roll Then we trained back down to New York, where we had dinner with my brother, and “took in a show.”  Called “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” it was supposed to have been fun.  Instead it was a serious and long play about decedents in Communist Czechoslovakia and loud rock music.  We loved it.

Brenda and I split at the airport the next morning, and I’m in Denver now, getting ready to do a serious of workshops with JeffCo Schools.  I’ve worked for them before, a great bunch of folks, who were very early with tablet PCs.  There is excitement here with a district that is oriented to the future and their momentum is building.  I’ll be here for two days, which, those of you who do this know, is a luxury.  I can actually move in to a hotel room.

Friday night I get to mark off one, from my list of states I’ve not worked in — Alaska.  I’m barely there for 24 hours, and most of it will be dark.  But I’ll technically be there.  In Alaska, I’ll be delivering a keynote for their School Boards Association, which will be a distinct honor.  Alaska has a 1:1 program going on — and it was initiated by, promoted, championed, and supported by the School Boards Association.  I’ll likely be writing more about my brief experience there.

Finally, there’ll be a long flight to Columbus, Ohio for their Library Media conference, which will be a fabulous way to finish this trip.  Fabulous?  I guess New York hasn’t worn off yet.

Nothing else new, except that it was refreshing to see a full theater for that play on Tuesday night.  It was people, community, coming together to pay attention to real people, in person, practicing their craft.  I think that we need this!

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Playing with Culture

I watched a lot of television when I was growing up.  It was the golden age of TV, when we told our stories in new ways, broadcasting them as culture to wide ranging communities.  I spent much of my childhood playing these stories.  I would watch Errol Flynn play Robin Hood on our Zenith black and white, and then go directly to my fathers woodworking shop in the basement to find scrap wood and nails fashion it into a sword.  I’d spend hours pretending to be the bandit knight of Sherwood Forest — playing the story, playing with my culture.

My son didn’t get very much sleep this past weekend.  After capturing video of his former high school’s marching band performance at a football game, he spent all of Friday night cutting and editing the video and mixing in short video and audio clips from The 300, a recent motion picture about the Battle of Thermopylae.  He then showed his quite impressive video to the band and later to band parents, to their overwhelming glee.

Now I know that this is not a new conversation.  But I wonder about the fact that playing Robin Hood in the yards of my neighborhood broke no laws and caused no offense.  However, my son did exceed the provisions of copyright law and fair use.  Two questions occur.  Is there a difference, really, between his experience at playing with his culture through his video editor and my experience with scrap lumber?  ..And, do we have a right to play with our cultures regardless of the technological contexts of our times?

Now I’m all for intellectual property.  I should have the right to demand compensation for the information products that I produce, including giving me credit or paying a financial fee.  Yet, is there any good reason to prevent people from playing with their culture — even if our culture is often generated by the corporate entertainment industry?

On a slightly different note, eSchoolNews published an article (‘Fair use’ confusion threatens media literacy) a few days ago about the overly constraining guidelines that many educators use to determine their rights to use copyrighted content for instructional use.  Yet they did not share a definative and comprehensive guide for teaches to use today.  Does anyone know of a current fair use guideline?

Another Amazing Video about Teaching and Learning…

Still from VideoThis came to my attention from John Moranski, a school librarian from Auburn High School and Middle School in Auburn, Illinois. It seems that Michael Wesch is at it again, with his Introduction to Cultural Anthropology students at Kansas State University.  Please forgive me if you all already know about this video, but when I finally get a chance, these days, to actually feed from my aggregator, I feel a bit like Rip Van Winkle

The piece is called, “A Vision of Students Today,” and features a very large class of college students, sharing short notes about their personal and education learning experiences, and the vast gap that exists between the one that they have created (one that many of us remain ignorant of) and the one that we inflict on them.

Of special interest is the blog that Wesch is running, that I was, until today, unaware of.  It’s called Digital Ethnography and there is a single blog entry that includes the transcript from the video and also background information.  An excellent watch and another likely intro to more professional development institutes. 

Thanks Michael!

Practicing the Habits of Literacy

Lego Researchers...At the Illinois School Library Media Association conference last week, a librarian walked up to me, after the keynote, and asked about online databases.  “What’s the future of databases?”  “They’re expensive, should we be investing in them?” 

Of course, I can’t predict the future of databases.  I do not know enough about them to characterize their value.  I don’t use them, myself.  I said something like this, but without the benefit of reflection…

If you send students to an online database to learn about political conflicts of the 1950s or genetic research, then your young scholars will learn what you intend them to learn (predictable learning) and you will be integrating technology into the process.  But the problem with this scenario is that the technology will change.  The technology skills will change.  ..and I suspect that even what we know about genetics and even the political struggles of the last century will change, perhaps even more so than we might imagine.

But if students are asked to research on a liberally open and reasonably safe Internet, to evaluate and validate what they learn, to apply it to other findings, sift and select and then express what they’ve learned, to be responsible for what they learn, then you’re integrating something into the lesson that will not change — Literacy Habits.  Even literacy skills will change.  But the habits won’t.

It seems to me that the important action today is for teachers to include in their professional practice the elements of contemporary literacy habit.  They should not avoid, but rely far less on textbooks, online databases, and other packaged information sources, and far more on the real-world information landscape so that they can walk into their classrooms and say,

“Here’s how I found this information and this is why I think it is relevant and important.  I mixed it with this information because when considered together, they indicate this.  And I cooked it with this editing software to express it in this way and enhance its value.”

The first thing we educators have to do to integrate literacy habits into our classrooms is to practice literacy habits as teachers and as master learners.

Beale, Scott. “Microsoft Research TechFest 2007.” Laughing Squid’s Photostream. 7 Mar 2007. 4 Nov 2007 <http://flickr.com/photos/laughingsquid/413379066/>.

A Metaphor I Dare Not Use…

The talk at the Illinois School Library Media Association conference, last night, seemed to go well.  Much was working against me.  I’m much more of a morning person, and I’d already done two presentations.  I ate a full dinner at the banquet, but rejected the birthday cake (ISLMA’s 20th birthday).  The sugar crash that was certain to happen in the audience about 20 minutes into the address also concerned me.  But all indications were that it went well.

During the afternoon, I saw the metaphor for school libraries that I’d been looking for become revealed.  I watched a presentation by Anne O’Malley (New Trier High School),  Carolyn Roys (Lake Park High School), and Penny Swartz (Niles West High School) deliver a breakout session called Print vs Online in the Library.  The session was not so much about the difference and preference of print versus online, as much as it was about the qualities of each and how they can and should be integrated into the work of learning.

The best thing about this presentation was that there were three media specialists who were sharing their experiences from three high schools, and what I saw in their work was that they were viruses.  It’s not really such an appealing image for librarians.  But it’s perfect for today’s schools that are operating in an atmosphere of information, information that’s participatory, infinitely connectible, and abundant.  These librarians were infecting their schools with the desire to evolve.

You Know When…

You now when we’re living in an information society, when people come to a Halloween party dressed as a YouTube video.

The following is just me thinking out loud!  Please feel free to continue the thoughts.

I’ve not yet read through all of the comments from yesterday’s post about Web 2.0 and libraries, and I’m leaving the best for last, Shifted Librarian’s (Jenny Levine) notes from NeverEndingSearh author Joyce Valenza’s presentation at an April 2007 conference.

What I’m leaning toward, though, is to leave the hub alone.  It’s a useful metaphor to describe the library.  However, what keeps circling my head,  like hungry buzzards, is the idea that if we are preparing our children for a future that we can not describe, an unpredictable future, then perhaps preparing them for roads, paths, or rails is not the way to go.  Perhaps we need to think less about equipping our students with wheels, and, instead, equip them with wings.

A wing is more refined and more sublime.  It cares much more about shape, weight, and size, because it carries its hosts in multiple dimensions.  However, anything that flies, must navigate.  It’s environment is richer, with far more possibilities and opportunities.  ..And navigating the air is far more complex — and far more interesting.

Many of us, even some teachers, seem unaware that we are swimming in information — or flying in information, to continue my visual.  One of the great things about my MacBook is the distance it seems to reach for wireless routers — sometimes 20 or more sitting in one spot. The thing is that teachers should be teaching from the air.  Students should be learning from the air.  When we educate within the air that we’re preparing children for, then navigation becomes part of the instruction, “I found this information in this way.  This is how I decided that it was valuable.  I mixed it with this other information to add this value.” 

To navigate, you need landmarks, borders, anchors, and access to pilot logs.  I think this is what the library and the librarian becomes — and a whole lot more.

Again, this is just me thinking out loud.  Please continue the thoughts.

Web 2.0 to Library 2.0

I’ve been up since 1:30 AM and I don’t know why — except that Holiday Inn beds aren’t as good as Marriott beds.  So the next time your surgeon says something about staying in a Holiday Inn Express, get up and walk away.

Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking at the Illinois School Library Media Association conference and I don’t want to just roll off a standard keynote address.  Although I often speak at school library media conferences, I usually do not speak specifically to management, functions, and vision for libraries.  I’m probably not qualified.  Usually I stick to the “Here’s how information is changing…” line.  But I may do it differently tomorrow. 

I have two questions for the librarian readers out there:

  1. I remember, years ago, that libraries were compared to the hub of a wheel, and the wheel was the school.  Actually, an areal view of the junior high school I attended would have looked just like that.  Is this as visual that is still used to talk about school library media centers?
  2. In one short paragraph, what does Web 2.0 mean to the school library?

Your comments will be appreciated, and perhaps even included in the online handouts…