Teachers as Learners

Behind in my reading as I come up for air from my Book Fair week…

On Sept. 3, David Warlick posted a rant about teachers and their adoption of technology, and his post generated 18 comments to date–obviously a topic that is on a lot of minds, including mine!

I’ve read enough of Warlick’s work to know that he is a huge teacher advocate and that he has the highest respect for people in this noble profession. He’s obviously heard enough excuses though! And I must say that I am with him! We will lose our “in” with students if we don’t figure out a way to teach them in ways that are relevant in their world. I see that worrisome glaze over some of our kids eyes at younger and younger ages. It used to be the high school kids that had to “power down” to come to school–now it’s our elementary aged kids!

I am a librarian in a district that has benefited from wonderful edtech leadership–every classroom teacher in my building, plus the reading specialist and librarian (me) have at least 4 computers in their room, their own starboard, LCD projector, Einstruction kits, access to a computer lab! Professional development for technology is ubiquitous, with Atomic Learning provided for our use, district-based after-school technology classes, campus based technology workshops, and edtech team available to us to model lessons, and more! This is the piece that so many districts leave out, and yet my district has made it almost unavoidable to have professional development opportunities available. And still we have numerous teachers that choose not to learn any more than they are forced to. Campus technology workshops are poorly attended–only the people that get paid to attend are there, even though they’re filled with wonderful, useful ideas! Administrators sometimes come, most times do not.

More than a few times, teachers have stated to me that professional development & technology training should be on school time, not personal time. The overriding perception is that “in the “real” (business) world, people are paid to be trained, but the poor teachers have to do it all on their own time. By and large this is not true, from my observation of friends and family members not in education! There are workshops, trainings, professional journals, conventions, etc. all to be paid for and taken advantage of off-the-clock. That’s what professionals do! That’s what learning and growing people do! Shouldn’t we teachers, of all people, embrace and personify the life-learner model?

The debate on this topic in the edublogosphere has simply been a rant because this is a topic that frustrates all of us so much. There aren’t any answers, I guess. The people that won’t go to professional training on their own time certainly aren’t reading these blogs! It does make me feel less of an oddball to hear of other people who feel the same way I do though! It helps me to focus on the teachers who do want to learn something new. I’ll just hang out with them!

Week 6 Thing #15

What does Library 2.0 mean?
In my view, libraries have always had a 2.0 bent, because the ideal library program considers the patron’s needs first. The overriding consideration in a good library program has always been maximizing access to information–isn’t that a core idea at the heart of Web 2.0/School2.0/Library2.0?

I do believe though that in an information rich environment such as today’s, libraries must continually search for ways to remain relevant to their patrons. We know we’re the ideal resource people to help students/teachers with:

  • location of authoritative resources
  • resource evaluation
  • reader’s advisory
  • new and promising trends in education, etc.

However, I do not think we always market ourselves to our communities effectively. Web 2.0 tools can facilitate our efforts.

Of the articles/blogposts that we read for this exercise, I found Rick Anderson’s Away from the “icebergs” to be the one that I kept thinking about. His assertion that we can no longer maintain a “just in case” collection fits right in with Warlick’s idea that schools must change because information is ubiquitous in the digital age–the info itself is no longer “precious.” We are no longer the gatekeepers to knowledge, so we have to establish what we are going to be.

Our services must be accessible–at least in some form– around the clock, or our patrons will look elsewhere to get their needs met. Our millennials have come to expect that! Anderson’s third point is that patrons must know about and know how to use our resources, and I think this is the point that librarians in my district (including me) must really concentrate on. We are wildly lucky to have a variety of resources in my district, including research databases, unitedstreaming, teachingbooks.net, online encyclopediae and more! We know about them and how to access them–it’s a constant challenge to keep our teachers/students aware! Web 2.0 tools can help!

Week 7 Thing #17

For this Thing, we looked over the California 2.0 Curriculum Connections wiki, which is an excellent resource pulling together all of the tools and ideas we’ve encountered in SLL2.0–plus lots more! We will need to revisit this as we work with the librarians in my district.

To complete this Thing, I posted an idea on the wiki–in the section on Wikis , I added Idea #31.

BTW, Thank You CSLA, not only for creating this program & all its supportive resources, but also for freely sharing it with those of us who are not even members of your organization! I’m in Texas! You’ve provided a wonderful example of Web 2.0 spirit!

Week 6 Thing #14

Technorati Profile

Claiming my feed (although I thought I’d already done this…)

Week 5 Thing #11

I explored several of the Web 2.0 Award Winners . Many of them are tools that I already use–some daily and some periodically. Here are my thoughts about some of them.

Favorite tool for student and teacher use:
Picnik is my favorite new find! I’ve been using it for about a month now whenever I need to edit photos. It is free and does not require an account. All the basic photo editing tools are there: crop, rotate, exposure correction, red eye correction, etc. These are all the tools that students need on a routine basis, and again, it’s FREE!

Favorite tool for teacher use mainly:
Del.icio.us : I’ve used this social bookmarking tool for about 6 months and I love it. I can bookmark a site, access my bookmarks from anywhere, look at others’ bookmarks to give me suggestions for other sites to peruse, and the tagging feature makes it all very easily searchable. Very cool. My bookmarks on del.icious are here .

Favorite tool that is potentially blocked by the district:
GoogleDocs! Providing this tool is not disabled by the IT guys at school, which it may be, I can see this being very useful for students as they work on projects together. The problem that I see is that in order to use this tool, students would have to set up a google account, and that would be a problem. To have them set up any kind of email that is not controlled by the district would be viewed as a problem even with our older elementary students. So I suspect we will not be able to utilize it in our district.
However
if we were able to use it,
the old worry about students being unable to collaborate because not all of them have access to the same software at school/at home goes right out the window with online collaboration tools like GoogleDocs. Currently in my building, we have a problem between the MS Office versions in the labs as opposed to the versions on the 4 student computers in each classroom. For simple word processing/spreadsheet work, GoogleDocs would solve the problem for free. Potentially great news for school districts that do not have the funds (or maybe the interested leadership) to update software regularly.Very powerful.

Favorite Cool Tool Just Because:
Colorblender is the coolest tool! It gives you color schemes that are pleasing to the eye when you choose one main color. RGB values are given, so you could use the information in almost any application. It would be great for students to use as they create products–anything, from powerpoint presentations to brochures or games! They could choose color schemes that are aesthetically pleasing. Very cool.

Other Cool Stuff:
City Guides/Reviews: Yelp has lots of reviews–I found a new coffee bar not far from my house that I’m going to check out!


Week #3, Things 5, 6 & 7

I’ve been a member of Flickr for quite a while, although I haven’t uploaded any pics of my own yet. I joined because my nephew has an acct where he posts pics of his family, and I subscribe to his RSS feed so I know when they have new photos of his 4-yr-old up! (She‘s quite darling, btw).

While I can think of myriad creative ways that Flickr might be used in the classroom, in large part I think this discussion is moot in that I can not see local school districts in my very conservative area of Texas allowing students access to this type of site. Ever. Concern over inappropriate pictures and discussions is just too great for my district to take that “chance,” in my opinion. In fact, in many a workshop, we have been reminded that anything posted or saved for viewing by the public on our network should be “appropriate for even the youngest of our students” to view. Since we have 4 year olds in our PK programs, I suppose that means that even high school students’ work should be appropriate for 4 year olds if it is to be published on our network or on the Internet in some way. Ludicrous.

So. Flickr is out for our schools, I should think–even if it is a tool that our students enjoy and find creative (and even appropriate) uses for. I do think it’s worth our time as educators and 21st century learners to learn about such technologies–they’re cool and useful! I don’t see us having the opportunity to use them in the schools so that we have an opportunity to take advantage of those “teachable moments” and guide our students in using them–within the curriculum–safely and ethically.

As for 3rd party mashups, the guy who maintains FD’s Flickr Toys has a really interesting blog as well, where he blogs about his family as well as his work designing software. Some of his blogs about being a dad are quite touching. He is a very talented photographer as well–his flickr page & blog are worth a look!

Week 2 Thing#3

I’ve created my avatar! What fun that was! I had to search for how to export from Yahoo–but I found it right away. Cool!

Week 1 Thing #2 Life Long Learning & Habits

I’ve joined the Blogosphere! Wow!

I’ve been reading blogs and listening to podcasts consistently since last summer when I attended David Warlick’s session Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century at ALA. What a thought-provoking session that was! While I had been interested in various educational podcasts before that time, I hadn’t really read many blogs, and wasn’t sure that all of this was just cool technology or if it was really relevant to our world of education. Mr. Warlick tied up all the reasons for me that these web2.0 tools are important pieces of the information landscape for our students–and for all of us!

Easiest Habit for me–utilizing my own learning “toolbox.”
I regularly use all sorts of media to try to keep myself current–professional books & journals, web sites, research databases, blogs, podcasts, etc.

Most Difficult Habit for me–Viewing problems as challenges
A wise principal once told me, in talking about a personnel problem that we had going on our school, that in her view, no one was “wrong” for our staff. She said that when she has personnel issues, she looks at how she can change the situation rather than the person. How can she get the goal accomplished while utilizing all her staff to their best abilities. That was a perfect reminder to me of how I should think. I try to remember that concept, but I sometimes slip into the “problem” mode rather than the “challenge” mode!

Another difficult Habit for me is to start with the end in mind. I sometimes tend to have too vague an idea of the outcome I’m looking for. I have to make a conscious effort to think in detailed terms.

Lifelong Learning–that’s what it’s all about!

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