Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last Blog for LIS

When I got home last night my husband said, "It must feel good to be done." But I must confess, it doesn't feel like anything. I guess after 3 years I was expecting it to feel like some huge weight was lifted or some miraculous change took place but I have passed into the world of librarianship without so much as a pomp or a circumstance.

It probably didn't help that yesterday was my first official day of work for the year and it was a day from hell. My summer curriculum support order was screwed up and I had people complaining to me all day about union and schedule issues. It was just another day like any other. The fact that I earned a masters degree made no difference in my life or the rotation of the earth around the sun.

I guess I will just have to go make a difference in the way I use the degree. At least now when I sign librarian after my name for work I won't feel guilty anymore like I'm telling a lie. I really am the librarian now.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Internet Filters and Student Safety at School

Many of us work in district that have internet filters that greatly restrict student and or staff access to the internet. Either whole sites are blocked just because (ie..YouTube) or specific search words are blocked (breast). This has traditionally been done in the name of safety. To keep kids safe from themselves if you will. To keep them from accidentally finding questionable content that they were not looking for while searching for what they did need. I know as a staff member, this is frustrating. In the district where I work, there isn't tiered access so if it is blocked for one it is blocked for all. There are lots of things we as teachers would like access to for educational purposes that we can't get to without going through a million hoops.

In an article by Mary Ann Bell in MultiMedi & Internet @Schools in their January/February 2009 issue, she addresses this topic by saying the best way for us to create safes students on the internet is to loosen the filter restrictions at school. Here is the crux of her argument:

-If we have access we can teach kids about good sites vs. bad sites. If all kids ever use is filtered sites they come to rely on them and think that everything is filtered and don't learn how to search safe and smart. They never learn how to determine authority, tell bias in a site on their own or if a site is appropriate.

-Filters can underblock and overblock. Mary says that studies show that no filter is 100% effective. Students can and do get around them.

-Filters create a false sense of security. Teachers often operate under the assumption that students need little supervision because the filters are on. Best case is students unsupervised are off task and wasting time worst case is they are surfing something they shouldn't be.

-Campuses without override rights can't check on known threats. When a building staff can't override the filter to see what staff or students are concerned about in restricted spaces (like Myspace or Facebook) it impedes their ability to keep the student body and faculty safe.

Those are the problems as Mary sees them and she has a few recommendations to district to start correcting them:

-Filter override for campus personnel. At a minimum the principal, assistant principals, counselor, tech director, and librarian. Also any teachers that have gone through some internet training.

- Districts need to review and update their AUP and attitudes about filters. What was appropriate 7 years ago has less relevance now with the increase in technology and the push for tech in the classrooms.

-Educators need to be trained to be safe and smart internet users themselves and they must have the right to use this knowledge to enhance instruction with their students. They need to understand that they are to be the watchers of the internet when student use is involved, not the filter.

I agree with much of what Mary has to say. Our tech meetings last year in my district were full of just this kind of argument and debate. We have a new tech director this year and I will be interested to see if we have some of the restrictions lifted to allow us to have better access at least for the teacher if not for the students too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Legos at the Library

I was catching up on my journal reading this week and the July issue of SLJ has an interesting article on page 24 called "Block Party" that caught my eye. I am always trying to think of ways to add some after school and evening events to the library but frequently feel that they need to fall into the literacy category. The author of this article, Abbe Kebanoff, describes a Lego club that her library started for kids ages 3 to 14. While this is a public library I thought that this might have real potential for the school library too.

She said that the program started out as a contest for one day that turned into a monthly meeting club for kids to come and build for two hours one Sunday a month. They incorporate reading into the beginning of the time and work on a monthly theme. They have tracked the circulation stats and have a real increase in youth checkout on the weekends when this program runs.

They justify the program by pointing to research that shows that tactile and kinesthetic learning increase student understanding. Play paves the way for learning in other areas by increasing attention span, memory, creativity and language and vocabulary skills. The Legos in particular lay the foundation for logical mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning and problem solving.

This is an idea I would be willing to try and implement at my library. I'm wondering if others have tried it or something similar in the public schools. If so, how did it go? How often did you do it? How did you pitch it to administration? I think I would want to focus on the 2nd through 5th graders at my school. The age range in the article is a bit to much for me. I think I might do once a trimester to start. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Race to the Top

The 4 states out of the running are California, Wisconsin, Nevada and New York because they have laws that prohibit tying teacher pay to student performance. The Race to the Top money requires states to adopt national standards that:
-link teacher pay to student performance
- fire teachers regardless of tenure

So far, the unions are not dismissing the plan out of hand but they are saying that you can't tie a teacher's pay or status to one test. They would appear to be willing to work with this on some level but it has not been thought through very well yet as far as I can tell. Interestingly, I have a meeting with the union leadership on Thursday, I'll ask about it then.

Already Illinois and 6 other states have lifted restrictions on charter schools to be able to compete for the money. Here is one fear I have. Like many other things with this recent wave of government spending there is a knee jerk reaction in order to get legislation passed or to qualify for certain programs. There is a rush to get something done with little thought about the long term impact of the changes or the cost. Are the legislatures of the various states really thinking through the long term ramifications of the quick changes they are making without any guarantee that they will get any of the money from Obama's race? The money if they get it is a one time hit. Is it really worth the changes that they are putting in place for Illinois that will be permanent and long lasting? They are changing state policy because the federal government said so not because the people of Illinois said they want that change or because there is a group of Illinois citizens that are demanding change. Don't get me wrong, I have not fully examined the issues of charter schools and I don't claim to have a deep knowledge of their value or detriment for the educational system.

If we are going to make changes it the education system in Illinois (and I do agree that changes need to be made) they need to come from the citizens of the state through meaningful dialogue. The changes need to be what is best for the children of Illinois. What they need is not necessarily the same thing that students in Alabama or New Mexico need. Education is somewhat individualized and to think that we can have a blanket fix for 50 states is unrealistic. Top down decisions in education rarely work. You need to involve the people that work with kids on a daily basis to make effective change.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Winnetka Plan

I started reading this book called Winnetka, The History and Significance of an Educational Experiment. My mom went to school in Winnetka and graduated from New Trier in 1968 so she was a product of that educational system. I am always entreagued by her exceptional education. This book was written in 1963 and is currently out of print (but available through ILL). It is fascinating!!! It details how Winnetka was doing stuff that most district are just getting to now in the 1920's. They were the model and designers for much of the leading edge of educational change. It is a fabulous read. RtI? Individualized education? Inclusion? Collaboration? It was all there from an early start. If you have time to read it I highly recommend it. For a book that has lots of stats and some outdated formats, the model of how they did what they did and how they got teachers, parents and the community on board is remarkable.

Worth looking into.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Instructional Strategies

Our topic and readings this week have to do with instructional strategies and collaboration. The overall idea is that we need to make the connections with teachers in any way we can and we need to be willing to try various methods to reach our peers. What will work with some will not work with others. Having multiple tools to present to teachers and more importantly the ability to show how the tools will work for them is key to making the connections work. As I read chapter 9 on technology and chapter 11 on leadership I was so glad I went to the ISLMA workshop last week on web 2.0 and I-SAIL. both of those were direct ties to this topic.

As we all know, the I-SAIL document is all about collaboration and showing how library and classroom standards can be met in unison by the librarian and the classroom teacher. The second half of the day was a presentation by Erin and Katie Kirsch about their top 20 web 2.0 tools. Some of these we are already familiar with from Dominican but many were new to me or the way they were used or shown had new possibilities for me or my staff. I could see how these could be the in I needed to work on collaboration with some holdouts. Katie has this great blog she is starting for her staff based on the 23 things 2.0 model. It is a great idea I plan to start with my staff this year too.

Here is the link to the conference notes from last week.

Then click on the Summer 2009 Workshop tab on the left side toolbar.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Information Forensics Goes to School

For the virtual class, I watched the 1 hour session, Information Forensics Goes to School.  It was a presentation at the 2009 NECC conference by Carle Heine and Dennis O'Connor.  The focus of their talk was about searching and how students go about it.  The idea that todays students search differently than we older folks do and that their approach is limited.  They don't have a natural knack for it.  It needs to be taught.  We as educators need to focus on teaching this skill and reinforcing that they need to think about not just one way to search.  For every one search term they come up with there are at least 4 more they are missing (synonyms).  While I thought that the lecture or presentation was interesting and the two were entertaining, they kept my attention the seminar should have been longer to really get into what the presenters were trying to say.  If you went to their web site though you got some really great resources.  They had tutorials, lesson plans and materials that can be used by educators in the classroom with students middle school age and up.  This was the most useful part of the presentation.  I will definitely use those resources with my students this fall when I return to work.  I teach a research class to the middle school and searching, authenticating and citing are always things students struggle with.  This was a great resource I will use and share with my colleagues.