Instructional Technology: Approach with (Healthy) Caution

In his insightful speech to a 1998 world on the cusp of the explosion of the Tech Age, American philosopher Neil Postman presented his five basic ideas on the concept of technological change. Even though his talk is now nearly 20 years old, his ideas (warnings, really) still ring true for us who lead the charge of integrating technology into all areas of the curriculum...

{Click over to the American Associations of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog to read the original post}


Getting Started with 3D Printing

When the Makerspace movement began spreading a few years ago, I was one of those people who was under the misconception that you couldn’t call it a Makerspace if you didn’t have a 3D printer. At that point in time a 3D printer might as well have been the moon itself, and so I supposed that the whole Makerspace thing just wasn’t within my (or my students’) grasp...

{Catch the rest of this post at the American Association of School Librarians Knowledge Quest blog}

We have to stop pretending. #makeschoolbetter

I was tagged by Amanda Dykes in the #makeschooldifferent feed on Twitter. Amanda, tagged by someone else, lists five things that we are doing wrong in the education system as a whole. In the spirit of carrying the wave, here are my five:

make school different

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending:

-that school libraries don’t matter.

Across the nation, libraries are understaffed and underfunded. Print resources and digital resources are absolutely vital to providing students and teachers with what they need to teach and learn well, as are learning commons-style space utilization. As the one place in the school reaching every student, every teacher, every parent, school libraries should not just be adequately funded...they should be a priority.

-that good teaching equates following all the rules.

Generally speaking, this industry rewards those who stay in the safe boxes, please all the people, and follow all the pacing guides to the letter. Making a shift to recognizing and valuing true innovation (not using iPads for Accelerated Reader tests and calling that innovative) would empower teachers, bring life to classrooms, and make school a whole lot more fun.

-that poverty isn’t the single greatest barrier to success, any way you measure that.

All over the US, teachers are held personally responsible (through high stakes testing) for student achievement, without any consideration of the fact that many of those students bring with them into the classroom a culture of poverty. They are hungry, they have seen and experienced violence, they are in foster care, they are sick, they are neglected...yet teachers are faulted and sometimes punished when those kids don’t score in the upper quartiles of the latest and greatest standardized assessment. When those kids can’t think or build or interact well with others, simply because their minds are trapped in another world.

-that education isn’t very big business.

When a company packages and sells textbooks and test practice materials/software, and then they also package and sell the test (for we are talking MEGABUCKS), that is an issue. When companies court districts and promise the moon if you’ll pick their equipment, their textbook, their instructional materials, the kids are cheated. When we are distracted by all the shiny new techie toys without truly evaluating them with the eye of an educator, the kids are ripped off. Go to any educational conference and check out the vendor hall to see just how big a business that the world of education is.

-that the current model of standardized assessment and “continuous improvement” is actually working.

In reality, it’s counter-productive, trapping administrators and teachers and students into “plans” they don’t value or find exciting...checking boxes that don’t matter to, well, anyone...except for the next level of box-checkers. Thanks to the testing movement, fueled by No Child Left Behind, only reading and math are taught in most elementary schools. Social studies and science are an afterthought, until kids reach middle school and their teachers shake their heads in bewilderment that kids today just don’t know how to think.

How can we teach them how to think, when we aren’t doing very much of that ourselves?

We have to stop pretending.

Excellence in School Librarianship

This is a really powerful video (less than 5 minutes) compiling feedback from administrators of different schools located around the nation on the impact of school librarians. It was posted on the AASL forum yesterday and was created by Judi Moreillon, who is known for her advocacy of school librarians. This would be a fantastic resource to share with principals and other supervisors! 

*Personal side note, feel free to take or leave it: the only two aspects I really wish they had tweaked were the consistent reference to librarians in the feminine (as we all know we have some rockstar guybrarians in our midst!) and the emphasis on school librarians as the Most Important Person. We are each free to have our thoughts on this, but personally I don't think that touting ourselves as the most important members of our faculty is beneficial or accurate. We are equal partners with our teachers and administrators and students and support staff...we just have unique training that helps us fill some special roles!

Stretching the buck

Blogging Challenge for School Librarians, Day 20

Well, now, here we are on the final entry of this blogging challenge! What a great concept for promoting reflection and idea-sharing in our profession, and I would love to see this become an annual event. 

Budgets are tight. How do you make it stretch? Fundraisers, paperbacks, doing your own do you do it?

Budgets...such a hot topic for school libraries today. Public, academic, and other specialty libraries are doing just fine. Classrooms have had supply funds cut, but at least they still exist. Teacher salaries have been frozen for some time, but I don't even care about that. We're okay. Public school libraries are unfortunately the first to be cut from state and local budgets and are among the last to be restored.  

In Alabama we are hoping for our school library funds to be restored in the next fiscal year, which the legislature will be working on very soon. If you have a moment, it's time to contact your reps and encourage them to restore library funding. It's called Library "Enhancement" Funds, though that terminology is disturbing to our profession. School librarians know good and well that we depend on these funds to meet basic needs for our patrons (especially the changing curricular demands brought on by the College and Career Ready Standards), and that it is not the fluff insinuated by the term "Enhancement."

How am I making it? In my previous school I had access to a small bit of federal funds, as we were a Title I school. It did not meet all our needs but most certainly helped. My current school is in much more dire straits. No federal funding and very little local funds have resulted in a crumbling collection. In the past year I have sold concessions, all kinds of "grams," written grants, and written to city and state legislators with data from a collection analysis and pleas for help. I've looked into crowd sourcing options but have some personal hangups with the approval process and what happens to funds donated by your family/friends/parents/community if you don't meet your goal (long story short-they go to other fundraisers...which could be in another state). 

Book fair remains the most successful fundraiser, but even then we only bring in about $800. One cartridge for the library's laser printer costs 1/4 of that. Books (good ones, that will last) cost at least $20 each. That money goes quickly, to say the least. 

It's not a pretty picture, though it might explain why most of the books on my shelves could literally fall apart before I can get them checked out to a student. 

Moral of the story? Let your education and legislative leaders know that it is time to restore funds for school libraries in Alabama! 

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