Yet Another ISTE Reflection from the Radical Center…

So why am I posting so many reflections on this year’s ISTE in Denver. The best answer I can come up with is my iPad. That’s not entirely true. It probably has much more to do with how I was taking notes on my iPad, using mind mapping software (see Taking Nots on the iPad).  I started with SimpleMind, but migrated over to MindPad because I was constantly having to rearrange the nodes into a layout that made sense.  This was not necessarily a bad thing, because it gave me something to do during lulls in the presentation.  But I ended out using MindPad.

Since the conference, I’ve taken another look at iThoughtsHD and although its interface is a little less smooth, it has more functionality and exports to a slew of other applications and in a number of ways, including WiFi.

The practical affect for me is that I have a set of distinct notes organized logically, that take me back to the presentation rooms rooms and in front of the speakers.  This is preferable to the hodgepodge of notes written down on a note pad, either analog or digital, requiring careful interpretation later on.  To the right are my notes for Doug Johnson’s presentation, exported to my MacBook Pro via WiFi and imported into XMind.

Of course ISTE (formerly known as NECC) is a place where smart people go to learn.  But it is also the place were we go to care about their own ideas.  There are proclamations, exaltations, disagreements, confusion, support for some approaches and recrimination of others.  People are made to feel good and made to feel bad because of what they think and sometimes because of how they’ve spent their money.  Interactive White Boards are an obvious current example, as many (myself included) are weary of the technology because of its evident support and potential perpetuation of teacher-centered classrooms.

And then comes Doug Johnson’s Change from the Radical Center.  Author of the Blue Skunk Blog (one of my favorites) and a range of books for teachers and librarians, Doug brings a practical and mature approach to modernizing our schools, classrooms, and libraries.  In his online handouts, Johnson writes…

While polarized views of reading methodologies, filtering, DRM, Open Source, copyright/copyleft, constructivism, e- books, computer labs, fixed schedules, Mac/PC/Linux, and the One Laptop Per Child project all make for entertaining reading and a raised blood pressure, radical stances rarely create educational change or impact educational institutions enough to change kids’ chances of success.

With his Minnesota humor (and no mention of Ollie), Doug compellingly suggests ten principals to follow to cut through the passions of heart-felt beliefs to approaches that may succeed in affecting positive change in our classrooms and libraries.  You can read them all here.  I’m going to comment on just a few.

I had to reach all the way back to NECC 2007 to find this picture of Doug

One of the first cut through much of the controversial proclamations made in the presentation rooms and during hall and lounge conversations that I witnessed and participated in.  He suggests that we “Adopt an ‘and’ not ‘or’ mindset.”  I feel pretty strongly that every student should be walking into their classrooms with computers under their arms.  I’m increasingly convinced of the power of focused backchanneling during presentations (lectures) and conversations.  But this does not mean that students should have their laptops out every minute of the school day, chatting with each other about what the teacher or a classmate is saying.  There is room for laptops open and for laptops closed.  There is room for lower end Netbooks for the lion’s share of the learning work, and a garden of high-end work stations in the media center for video productions and data visualization.

Johnson also advocated that we look for the truth and value in all of our perspectives and practices.  Because someone says or promotes something that appears objectionable to me our you, doesn’t mean that it is all worthy of objection.  Find the value and work with that.

Another one that resonated with me was being comfortable saying, “I don’t know.”  I think this is important, because it embraces the fact that we are all learning.  When I give myself permission to say, “I don’t know,” then I’m give those around me comfort with what they do not yet know — but will learn.

The one that I continue to struggle with was, “Understand that the elephant can only be eaten one bite at a time.”  First of all, I’m not to keen on eating elephant.  It probably does not taste like chicken.  But I fear that the luxury of “small steps” is more than we can afford.  I don’t know if our children have the time for their educators to take their time in adopting more contemporary approaches to teaching.  How many more years are we going to excuse ourselves as immigrants?

How many more students are going to graduate, perfectly prepared for the 1950s?

Why Libraries?

One of the things I enjoy most about what I do is searching Flickr for CC photographs related to my writing. (( Mason, Randi. “TerryMoore’s Librarian Sketch.” Flickr. 15 Sep 2006. 15 May 2009 <>. ))
Anyone who knows a good librarian, knows about militancy. (( Puckett, Jason (JassModeus). “Librarian Tattoo.” Flickr. 15 Sep 2006. 1 Aug 2008 <>. ))
I understand the need for these rules, but this shouldn’t be the first or last thing that patrons see when using a library. (( Dombrowski, Quinn. “Librarian Rules.” Flickr. 15 Sep 2006. 26 Mar 2008 <>. ))
Librarians being librarians.  I wish I knew who that blue guy was. (( Metitieri, Fabio. “Second Life, Librarians Meeting.” Flickr. 15 Aug 2008. 15 May 2009 <>. ))
In searching for library images on Flickr, I discovered that some people have some pretty interesting fantacies about librarians. 😉

A few days ago, that Blue Skunk dude, Doug Johnson, published a blog post resulting from a conversation he was involved in with the fellow leadership of his school district.  The question at hand was, “How can middle school and high school library programs and facilities be improved to support student learning and achieve the ISB Vision for Learning?”  However, through the course of the conversation, the question morphed into, “Does a school need a library when information can be accessed from the classroom using Internet connected laptops?”

Well I can think of no one, NO ONE, whom I would rather be sitting in the presence of such a question.  If this statment puzzles or intrigues you then just google [“Doug Johnson” librar].  Johnson also offered up a list of published articles he has written about the essential need for libraries today.  Go to his blog post (The Essential Question?) to see this list — and bookmark the articles.

Part of his blog entry was a request for answers.

The new question is uncomfortable, messy, and incredibly important and not restricted by any means to one particular school. It is one to which all library people need a clear and compelling answer.

Then he closed with,

Do you have a good response? What part does a facility play in a ubiquitous information environment? How does the librarian’s role change? How do we assess our impact if physical visits become less frequent?

This blog post — which you are reading now — comes under the category of, “I spent so much time and energy writing that comment that I have to put it someplace else as well.”  So here’s how I answered Doug’s question. (Italicized text was added for this article)


I think that this is one of the most interesting questions in education today, “Why do we need libraries (or librarians) when virtually all of the information we need on a daily basis is only a mouse-click away?”

I ask the question a lot, and the answers often seem to fall into two categories.  The first is about books and their special place in our culture.  Why?  The answers frequently seem to be personal (I like the feel and smell).  The second reason is about librarians.  We need librarians to teach students how to be critical users of information — and much more.

Frankly, I do not believe that either reason will fly in the face of budget cuts and an increasingly information-ubiquitous landscape.

That said, I also do not believe that there has ever been a more exciting time to be a librarian.  Reinvention thrills me.

The traditional vision of the library portrays a place, where you go to consume content, to find information, read information, and sometimes to check it out.  Certainly many, if not most, libraries have extended beyond this limited function.  Yet the vision continues to be the same.

As you know, I talk about literacy a lot, and try to tie it to the old and recognized structure of the 3Rs.  I think it’s a good place to start, because it is about accessing, working, and expressing information (reading, arithmetic, & writing).  It seems that if the library could come to be seen as a place for all three…

  • Find, access, understand, critically evaluate the appropriate information for your goal;
  • Add value to the information by utilizing tools of analysis, translation, manipulation, and visualization of information;
  • Compelling express ideas through the appropriate combinations of text, sound, images, video, animation; and
  • Accomplish these things socially, collaboratively, and joyously.

…if the library might come to be seen more as a workshop where information isn’t so much a product, as it is a raw material (a “Kinkos for kids,” if you will), then it may remain not only viable, but an essential institution.

That’s my 2¢ Worth.

Again, go read Dougs post to see many other responses.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Some Quotes from Doug Johnson’s Presentation

Doug JohnsonI’m at a leadership conference in rural Pennsylvania.  The audience is school and district administrators from the three counties served by the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20.  My main address is at 11:00.  But until then, I am sitting in a presentation by one of my main influences, Doug Johnson.  So during this period, I am just going to jot down some quotes from Doug that strike a chord with me.

“In Mankato, MN, I have more choices for how I educate my children than food restaurants.”

“No body buys a quarter-inch drill bit because they need a quarter-inch drill bit.”

“You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too much bandwidth!”

“Our face to the community is not long just the appearance of our buildings and lawns.”

Johnson just said that the data-driven decision making is not fulfilling its potential because our professional culture does not value data.  This reminds me of a conversation I had with a central office person in Houston.  She said that she showed her child how she was now able to access data about students and schools to help her provide here services.  She said that her daughter responded, “Why wouldn’t you do that?”

Technorati Tags: