Apologies for the half-finished post that made its way up on the internet. Ah, the start of a new academic year!
Motivation is a fickle friend. I started this post about a month ago and have let it sit as new and more fun tools and trends passed through my mind. Such is the way of things. But as I sit here hunkered down as the winds of Irene keep beating at my window, I am motivated by the threat of losing power to finish this post. I am also motivated by looking at the week ahead and knowing what my schedule holds. I find motivation when I’m forced, oftentimes. While I am very intrinsically motivated as a human being, I find myself having difficulty closing if I do not have a deadline, or an impending natural disaster. Motivation is a tough issue to negotiate and wrestle, but in his TED talk, Daniel Pink gives a great summary of motivation, motivators, and expectations.
While playing tourist this weekend, I passed one of the city’s larger libraries and peeking in, saw the sight that inspired this post. The wind had picked up and a sunny day had turned grey, blustery and chilly, decidedly unsummery. Just inside the sliding glass doors of the library entrance and past the check-out machines, however, was a little piece of summer. Patches of astroturf lay on the library’s linoleum floor, beneath brightly coloured garden umbrellas. Folding plastic chairs and small tables stacked with books were arranged around the space.
And unlike in the other study and work spaces scattered throughout the library, every chair in this little oasis was occupied. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, my mom, sibs, spouses, and assorted offspring all reunited for the first time in a long time. Seven years to be exact. Somehow, we all managed to negotiate the time off and navigate shuttles, airports, customs, rental cars, and driving on the left side of the road to arrive safely in one (beach) place to celebrate my mother’s 75th birthday. (Full disclosure, I have a weakness for movies that come out around Thanksgiving and depict families in full dysfunctional swing. Mmmm – some recognition there? ) We had a wonderful, grand time as they say in Newfoundland – some glorious highs, a few predictable lows, but mostly enjoying ordinary, everyday moments spent catching up on each other’s lives.
We’re a family of readers, so book swaps are inevitable when we get together. I was just finishing “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese. It came out of my backpack a bit rumpled and a lot dog-eared, but my brother laid claim to it immediately. My mom was unpacking in the next room, so she re-gifted her copy of “Annabel” by Kathleen Winter. I finished the first that evening and relished the second over the course of the week; on the beach in early morning, late at night, and in quiet moments above the family fray.
We are about to kick off the new academic year and I will be doing a session at TA training here at Lehigh to orient new graduate students and TAs to the different technologies to utilize in and out of the classroom. It will be the first time doing an edtech-specific presentation for students, so I have been going through my favorite tools to figure out what to share with them and what they hopefully will share with their students. While I’ve been working through this PowerPoint (yeah, PowerPoint, what are you going to say about it?), I have been thinking a lot about the tool delicious and how underutilized it is.
As an educator of global studies and education, I see collaboration as an essential feature to hearing different voices, learning new resources, and establishing best practices within an emerging, but essential, field of study. For my own work, I love to use delicious as both an organizational tool to get resources to students and as a way to share resources that I find with colleagues. I have found other education professionals with similar interests, and by following their finds, it has given me a richer set of resources to read. Beyond that, my hope is that the resources I share would be helpful to another global citizenship/education professional.
Sometimes I am asked why I became a librarian. When asked by aspiring librarians, I feel obliged to have a good answer, something lofty and noble; I could say I chose to become a librarian to serve the public, but like many of my classmates at library school, early on I was apprehensive about interacting with the sometimes frustrating and vexing members of the general public and thought I might prefer to be a cataloguer, working alone in an office.
When asked by curious friends, I feel obliged to be humorous instead, maybe claiming that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Some days it is difficult to remember why I made this choice; these are usually the occasions when the everyday frustrations have piled up to the point where they are towering and overwhelming and hinder my ability to see the best parts of the job. The reason I wanted to become a librarian is easy to overlook when I am weighed down by the mundane, chasing down missing copies of periodicals or erasing pencil markings from a recently-returned book.
The most honest explanation for why I became a librarian happens to be the reason I am contributing to this blog: I love learning, research, aggregating information and sharing what I have learned. I love encountering new ideas and facts, but it is an incomplete joy if I cannot share these with others. I want to share that clever line from the latest book I’m reading or the interesting fact I have learned while assisting a user with research. The basic attraction for me is that, in order to help people, in order to do my job, I need to learn at least a little bit; I must learn in order to assist. How can I tell someone where to find the restroom if I don’t first take a tour of the facility? How can I help someone learn to use a particular search engine or database if I don’t experiment with it myself? How can I assemble a bibliography of journal articles on tar sands if I don’t first learn what tar sands are? I might not have the opportunity or the impetus to become an expert in all fields of use to library patrons, but I have the chance to dabble and expand my own knowledge base while helping others do the same.
Given the recent political theater (as one friend termed it) over raising the debt-ceiling it may not be surprising that The Save Our Schools (SOS) rally in Washington at the end of July garnered relatively little attention nation-wide. That’s a shame on many levels.
The SOS platform includes equitable funding for all public school communities, teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and curriculum developed for and by local school communities. Makes sense, right? While few could argue against these guiding principles, many can and do argue vociferously against the fourth plank in their platform – an end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation.
On average, at least once per week, a library patron asks me about electronic resources, generally looking for access to full-text commercial databases such as those available through ProQuest and EBSCO or log-in information to use archives for individual online journals.
After working in much larger and better funded libraries, I was accustomed to having online full-text databases as a matter of course. Staff members have similar expectations, based on their experiences as educators and students or staff at larger international organizations. When I first started receiving this query, I felt compelled to be apologetic and self-effacing — I’m terribly sorry, I would say. I understand this is very inconvenient — as though I were entirely responsible, through some error or misjudgement, for this oversight or absence. I felt sheepish and embarrassed by the fact that our institution could not provide access to materials that could support the work of staff because I had always assumed these resources were indispensable and assured. With the experience and confidence I gained over the past year, my response has changed. While I do still apologize, if only to be polite, I quickly explain why we do not have these resources (no budget) and then give more attention to the alternatives.
My new tactic? “No electronic resources? No problem.”
My post on Cliffort Stoll’s book, Cuckoo’s Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage, started me off on a “Clifford” tangent. I realized that three Cliffords, all related, in my mind at least, to reading, books, early literacy, the Internet, Red stuff (yes, the KGB was paying the hackers Stoll tracked) and libraries, are worth writing about.
The first Clifford of course is Stoll who went on after Cuckoo’s Egg to write cautionary tales about over dependence on technology including Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway. Doing something else just now reading about scholarly publishing in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, I fell upon the “Editor’s Gloss: Silicon Snake Oil and Branding” the editor refers to Stoll’s point of view when she explores digital publishing worries from the 1990’s. How publishing has changed since 1997!
When I teach, and when I talk with colleagues about quality of work by students in our courses and classrooms, I have a strong conviction that you need to find a way to instill media literacy and a sense of what are respectable sources for information. Regardless of the age of student – whether it is a professional pursuing an advanced degree or a first year student – there exists a need to orient students with what is and is not acceptable to cite in scholarly writing. We sometimes take for granted what are sources of reputable information, and far from trying to make a political statement about how journalistic sources are oriented, there is a deeper concern when the internet is such readily available, and exploitable, resource. The following post is an overview of my experience with the teaching and using of reliable sources, and how to work with your scholars to make sure they are using the best resources available to them.
Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach a course on instructional leadership to a small cohort of aspiring principals in a neighboring urban school district. Given carte blanche to revamp the existing syllabus, I added a Random Act of Kindness assignment.
You might be wondering what kindness and randomness have to do with today’s urban school principal’s concerns. Given the relentless pressure to improve standardized test scores and meet Annual Yearly Progress goals, cultivating kindness and compassion might seem secondary to setting direction and high expectations, dissecting data, and driving for results. At least it seemed so to me, my reviewers, and even some of my students. But I’m nothing if not persistent and ultimately, stubbornly decided to give it a try. The assignment stayed in the syllabus.