What is a library?

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My principal today asked me a really relevant question to recent discussions in the library community. He noticed that his public library was weeding heavily to make room for new meeting spaces. This troubled him because he saw the library weeding some of the authors he liked. (Also, he is a huge library supporter in the traditional sense.)

He asked me, “Why would the library need all these meeting spaces?”
I said, “In a community people are needing spaces to gather to work on projects, business matters, etc. that allows for collaboration?”
He said, “Well, that doesn’t sound like a library. . .it sounds like a community center,” he said.
“That’s what a library is. Where is the community center that you can meet in a neutral space and also have access to technology and information?” I said.
“Oh, we don’t have a community center like that.” he said.

My response: “But, you do have a library.”

Something I have been thinking about lately is how can we shed the image of information warehouse, and transform into participatory space for the community? I run into the traditional stereotype of libraries and librarians in the school setting. It still amazes me that even my staff is surprised that I am actually a teacher.  And, that I am not a shusher. Also, yes, we make things in our library, eat things, and talk about things other than books.

The library community is very in tune with the shifting focus of libraries. . .but how do we get the general public in harmony with the changing role of the library in the community? This large scope of a vision for the library industry needs to be a united effort between public, school, academic, and special libraries. Moreover, we need to think in terms of our commonalities, purposes within our communities and structures of our institutions. As we start coming to terms with our identity crisis as libraries and librarians. . .we can bring forth solid solutions that will propel the whole industry and the mass of the public with us.

Kudos to those libraries pushing the limits, but at the same time we need to be able to work with the libraries that are more traditional (and there should be traditional libraries!) to see how we can collaborate to highlight our strengths and specialties.Marrone, Melissa. “Announcing: The Shelby White & Leon Levy Information Commons at Brooklyn Public Library.” Library as Incubator Project. 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.

The Note-taking Struggle

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Note-taking is a skill that people use their whole life. I have seen a gap in what teachers expect students to do, and the skill set that students have. How many times have we just assumed that students are able to take notes? I created Note-Taking in Easy Steps. . .for those times that I am not given a lot of minutes in the classroom during research. I do, however, change the order of the steps and some of the wording depending on the project.

Teacher Enrichment Day–A New Look on PD

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Today I was lucky enough to get to take a professional day to go to Book Buzz at the Harold Washington Library.  But, as I was riding the train to the city with all kinds of commuters; a thought occurred to me. . .I’m out in the world!

I went to this event to learn about the best in upcoming Children’s Lit, and I did that, but so much more.  I found myself doing a lot of reflecting as an educator-librarian. It was a pleasant and contemplative experience to have a day that wasn’t a ‘day off'(which if you’re a parent is never really a day off), a day full of teacher professional development delivered in a school setting or attending a conference schlepping your coat and bag to sessions in a crowded convention center.

My visit to the Harold Washington Library allowed me to think about how a library is used by its members during the day. People were researching municipal literature, business materials, on computers, recreational reading and many other activities.  My thought was ‘how can I mirror this in the school setting?’ or ‘how can I make my school library reflective of the ‘real’ world?  How can my experience outside of the building be reflective in my teaching practice?

I am not going to recount the specific lessons I walked away with, but what if a teachers from other disciplines could take an enrichment day?  The science teacher could visit a science lab or museum.  Even if the topic was not specifically in their curriculum. . .what could they learn from this experience?  What if our literacy teachers could visit a book publishing company?  What career readiness could they gain for their students?

I found that a day of enrichment, away from my building was like pressing a reset button.  It was an important reminder that we do not prepare children for the next grade, but to be life long learners outside of our walls. harold-washington-library-center

Digital badges . . .future of intrinsic motivation?

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The digital badge trend in gaming, higher education, libraries and corporations seems to lend itself well to the concept of intrinsic motivation.  If you are in the K-8 education field, perhaps PBIS is a model at your school which rewards kids to do the right ‘thing’ to get a reward.  In the classroom, many of us have experienced kids who solely complete assignments or tasks for the grade.

Digital badges are a phenomenon because individuals are completing challenges for something that is not tangible.  Isn’t that such a gaming concept? When you complete a level, defeat a boss or whatever. . .you don’t win anything except for the satisfaction of completing the challenge.  Then why do we deal in extrinsic terms when it comes to education?

I am trying the concept of badges this year for reading in the library.  Because we are not 1:1, or have access to that many devices (and I also am not a gifted coder) I am giving the kids physical badges to build a little enthusiasm.  I would love to hear from other school librarians that are trying the same concept.  Baby steps. We are building a reading culture at our school, and I am starting to see that excitement building around reading.  Hopefully this year I will be busy making buttons!20book

What if we could structure K-8 education so that students could choose their own challenges, but still be accountable for the same standards as the rest of their grade level?  Hmmm.

Can we shift our moral compass using technology?

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Is Technology Shifting Our Moral Compass?

So this video from The Atlantic (linked above) tackles one of the most debated issues today. . .does technology change our morals?  Even though I don’t consider myself that old (yes, I did have Michael Jackson’s Thriller on vinyl), being a middle school teacher I hear myself saying; “kids these days. . .” 

Really? Isn’t that something that my grandmother used to say? But, I do notice a shift in how kids communicate, entertain themselves, and relate to the world. Technology use is what divides our generations.  While I facebook, tweet, email and text; I do this in a vastly different capacity from your average 13 year old. Most of my interactions are on a professional level and facebook is just to look at pictures of kids and animals and occasionally share an article. I don’t really think about who likes a picture or comments on it.  For a 13 year old, most of their friendships are maintained on social media, and just like the good old days it is still about who likes who, who looks good etc. . . . only now this teenage social hierarchy is on display for the world. There have always been jerks and humiliations in middle school. . .only now the devastation is for a mass audience.

Has our moral compass really changed because of technology? Or has technology made human nature more destructive?  

This school year I want to continue to affirm my student’s value, worth, potential for change and hope fo5431191060_bc9306562d_br the future USING technology.  So many inspiring stories are shared daily, friendships built, collaboration across the globe. We need to embrace all of the positive aspects that technology brings to our student’s lives, instead of criticizing an entire generation. . .let’s start highlighting all of their truimphs and accomplishments. . .and tackle the challenges of the future together. 

My first day with students is going to be spent taking “Us-ies” . . .let’s take the narcissistic selfie and create community within our classrooms. Our SEL theme for our middle school this year is “We are more alike than different.”  Technology is a connection between our students. Our first “Us-ie” is going to connect us to our library by making a statement that “we are here and we belong.”

Devices that know how we really feel?

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Devices that know how we really feel?

The concept of devices being able to read users’ moods would be an amazing tool for researchers.  Scientist and programmers could work hand in hand to  research and pinpoint what kinds of digital interactions trigger human emotions. As an educator, I started thinking  about being able to gauge student emotion levels as they engage and interact with instructional tools. Wow!

But one question remains in my mind, as consumers of technology interact with these sorts of devices that react to the user’s mood or emotion, how is this empowering human’s ability to self-regulate?  For example, say a 12 year old plays a video game that is responsive and never lets that child experience frustration. . .how is the child going to learn to regulate their own emotion? Should video games let users exhibit some levels of frustration? What level is healthy? 

I love these new discoveries of technology and science because I think it does open the doors to an ever-changing landscape, and also healthy debates of our own explorations of the human mind.

Bilton, Nick. “Devices That Know How We Really Feel.” Bits Devices That Know How We Really Feel Comments. The New York Times, 4 May 2014. Web. 10 May 2014.

Social Emotional Learning and 21st Century Learners

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Social Emotional Learning and 21st Century Learners

How can we facilitate a discussion with kids that promotes the positive use of social media, technology and digital citizenship? Especially without sounding like nagging adults. Schools should be encouraging the use of social media like learning opportunities to MODEL how our students. Do schools need to be 1:1 to do this?