Digital Natives

Many teachers and teacher-librarians hate this phrase. I have to say – I am joining the ranks. It’s an excuse to throw up our hands and back away from technology. The kids know it all. They are the natives. We poor old folks – the digital immigrants – have nothing to offer them. Baloney. Where would this country be without the rich culture and inventiveness of immigrants? But – that’s another whole post…. Anyway – this video…(read more)

Safe Social Networking For Schools? + Exciting Project

Apologies to regular LM_NET readers. This is a repeat of a question I just posted on LM_NET. If anyone reading this has some ideas for me – I would be most appreciative. We have a great project going on in our library right now. 4 teams of kids are designing the “School of Tomorrow”. The ultimate goal is to identify the best way for students to learn, and then create proposals for change to happen in our own school. It is a competitive project. Each team will…(read more)

Web 2.0 is not a passing fad

One of our teachers shared this post with me: Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education I have always been interested in Web 2.0 and I “get” the relevance and importance of web 2.0 to education – at least I THOUGHT I did. But this post made me realize that web 2.0 is not simply a collection of tools and it is not a passing fad. It is the new way that we will operate in a “flat world.”  Education can’t ignore this.

I was particularly struck by this part of the post, with it’s implications for educators in general and librarians in particular:

Help Build the New Playbook. You may think that you don’t have anything to teach the generation of students who seem so tech-savvy, but they really, really need you. For centuries we have had to teach students how to seek out information – now we have to teach them how to sort from an overabundance of information. We’ve spent the last ten years teaching students how to protect themselves from inappropriate content – now we have to teach them to create appropriate content.  They may be “digital natives,” but their knowledge is surface level, and they desperately need training in real thinking skills. More than any other generation, they live lives that are largely separated from the adults around them, talking and texting on cell phones, and connecting online. We may be afraid to enter that world, but enter it we must, for they often swim in uncharted waters without the benefit of adult guidance. To do so we may need to change our conceptions of teaching, and better now than later.

We hope our upcoming Academic Challenge Event will help pull our school into the 21st century.  I am sure that unblocking Web 2.0 tools will be at least one of the issues students will focus on as they study and make recommendations about how to design school for the future.

Let The World In

I haven’t decided what I think about the privacy issues, etc. involved in the videos Doug Johnson links to in today’s post 21st Century Upton Sinclairs.

I do know that I feel sorry for both the teachers AND the students in the videos. I also wonder about the context of the videos. What IS actually going on? I feel particularly sad about the 2nd video. Is that teacher still working full time? She appears to be well past retirement age. Is she working because she can’t afford not to? Perhaps there is no health insurance for retirees in her district. Or is she a substitute who must work to supplement her social security, pay for medical bills etc.? I am always shocked when I hear our kids talking and realize that many of them regard old people as objects of derision. When did that happen? Don’t they have grandparents that they love?

Teachers need help and support. There needs to be a culture of respect built in the school, and that respect must go both ways – student to teacher AND teacher to student. Something is wrong in these schools. I know administrators are not 100% to blame. The whole school community (parents, students, teachers and administrators) needs to come together to make schools comfortable and safe places for students to learn and teachers to teach.

I did read one of the comments in Leader Talk which said “I think probably all of these classes would be just ecstatic about project based anything”. Our school has always been involved to a point in project based learning – but the projects don’t always have strong real-world relevance. It is that relevance, plus the elements of competition and collaboration, and the infusion of the digital tools kids love, that resonate and spur kids on to think creatively and really learn.

Our kids are good kids. Our teachers are good teachers. Our kids and teachers like and respect each other. But we need more relevant projects to get students to step out of their comfort zone and really THINK. That is why our 21st Century Learning committee is planning another REAL WORLD PROJECT. The challenge will be for students to design the way they want to learn. We are hoping to get 48 kids more engaged than ever. Those 48 kids will be a mix of abilities and grade levels. Teachers will act as coaches. I will be a neutral facilitator, there to act as a resource for all 4 teams of students. We hope that it will be as exciting as last year’s project. More so – since it is a subject near and dear to their hearts, AND they will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the Board of Education with hope of implementation of at least some of their ideas.

Most of all, I hope that we can eventually move this type of thinking beyond a once-a-year project, and infuse it throughout the school. The 1-teacher, 1-class, door-shut model should come to an end. It is not how people learn best – and it is certainly not how most people work in the real world.

And dare I say it? If some of those teachers had stepped away from their classrooms and collaborated with their librarian on a project – perhaps the kids would not act like prisoners? Teachers don’t have to do it alone. There is not just safety in numbers – there are exciting learning activities that can happen by collaborating with your librarian and your other colleagues.

Don’t shut the door. Let the world in.

Courage & Hope

I’ve been thinking about courage for the past few years. Reading Palmer Parker’s Book “The Courage to Teach” got me started. That book made me realize that during most of my career as a librarian, I never really had the courage to actually know my students … and allow them to know me. Somehow I had fooled myself that teaching research skills to students was more important. I’ve been meaning to do a “courage” posting for awhile now.

2 days ago, Doug Johnson asked “Are hope and inspiration our missing ingredients in educational change? Seems like we have the work part nailed!” I say “AMEN!” to that.
Today, Doug started his post with the words “Hope didn’t do it”, and goes on to tell us how the bill mandating school librarians in every MN school did not make it. At the end, Doug says:

I am sadder than I thought I would be. I knew this would be an uphill battle. I wasn’t even sure we should have taken this on, given its odds of passage. But yesterday convinced me that is a necessary fight and we can’t surrender. As the Blues Brothers would put it, our profession needs to be on “a mission from God.”

I too am discouraged. Does no one else understand our “Mission from God”?

Maybe some of Parker Palmer’s words will provide a much needed infusion of hope and courage:

…..good teaching sometimes goes unvalued by academic institutions, by the students for whom it is done, and even by those teachers who do it. Many of us “lose heart” in teaching. How shall we recover the courage that good teaching requires? …. In its original meaning, a “professor” was not someone with esoteric knowledge and technique. Instead, the word referred to a person able to make a profession of faith in the midst of a dangerous world. All good teachers, I believe, have access to this confidence. It comes not from the ego but from a soul-deep sense of being at home in the world despite its dangers. This is the authority by which good teachers teach. This is the gift they pass on to their students. Only when we take heart as professors can we “give heart” to our students – and that, finally, is what good teaching is all about.

From “Good Teaching: A Matter of Living the Mystery” by Parker J. Palmer

So Doug ….Keep the faith. Keep hope alive. Courage!!