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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: Late September

On 25, Sep 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

Since I have been plowing through all these novels lately I haven’t made much of an effort to read anything online. Now that I’m reading a bit less, though, I have come across a few articles I thought I would share here (both for others and to help me remember to refer back to them!).

First up is a blog post from Meredith Farkas about how important it is to understand where errors are coming from. I could not agree more with this and think it’s applicable to all levels of education and across all subjects. When I first started out after college I began tutoring and I had one student that was really struggling with math. She was trying to do pre-algebra and it just wasn’t clicking for her. She was bright and I was baffled. It took me awhile but I finally realized, based on some mistakes she made, that she didn’t have any basic math skills (like fourth and fifth grade math) or any understanding of how numbers worked. As soon as I discovered that, we went back and covered the basics. I even stopped working on her pre-algebra with her to get her up to speed, except to limp through her homework. After a few weeks and before we had even finished her crash course in basics she was already better understanding the harder mathematical concepts. That was a turning point for me. I realized how important it was not to just see that students make errors, but what those errors can tell you about gaps in their learning and understanding.

Last Friday I was listening to Science Friday and they had on some guests talking about science fairs. Personally I wish we did a lot more with science in our schools, but for those self-motivated enough these science fairs sounded amazing. One comment that was made that really stuck with me, though, was that working on science projects is a good way for kids to learn about failure. I think our current system of testing kids like crazy really doesn’t value failure and what it can teach us. It makes kids see failure as something to be afraid of and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Apparently David Truss also had failure on the brain, because I came across this post from his blog two days later. It’s short but has some great thoughts.

And I guess I’ll get on the Banned Books band wagon. I came across this post from Teen Librarian Toolbox about changing the discussion of banned books. It reminded me of one of my classes in library school. I can’t remember which one, but the professor gave us some tips for dealing with upset patrons that might object to a material in the library. The very first thing she told us to ask (after apologizing that they were offended) was, what was it you were looking for when you found this and can I help you locate what you were looking for? That always sounded to me like changing the subject to avoid conflict, but in light of this post from TLT I realized it can be more about redirecting the conversation and not validating their complaint. Not sure how I would actually handle this situation IRL, espeically if a patron was irate, but it’s definitely something to chew on.

Okay that’s it for the time being. I may have more in the next few weeks, but in the mean time enjoy the reviews. I have ton of them to write still!

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In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up

On 17, Dec 2012 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

Here is a collection of links (with comments, because it wouldn’t be complete with out my blatherings) of various things that I have been reading online over the past few days. They are all things I have found interesting and pertinent.

Oops, I did it again: Forbes article on the war over eBooks. I know I’m fed up with hearing about eBooks, but they are important. I know I don’t have experience as a purchaser of eBooks for libraries, but I can certainly see and understand how problematic it is. I do tend to agree that we need a new model for purchasing them and I also agree that the status quo (and the stalemate) are not doing anyone any good.

I would also like to add that, I wish book publishers would also stop thinking about eBooks as physical books. Let’s not have a legacy culture in eBooks, with pricing or with format. The technology we have now and will have can open up the book experience.  (Upcoming post about how I think children’s eBooks are busting out of the mould).

Yes, just yes: Oh how I want to have a drink with these ladies. I also want to start up a Sacramento chapter of their book club. Any takers? This blog is now added to my reader.

Timely: I thought this was a timely article given the post I wrote a few days ago to the Octagon. I’m not sure Facebook in schools can really be considered intellectual freedom, but if you begin encroaching on one thing it’s easier to get to the next. I would rather err on the side of caution. Personally. I also know there are a lot of reasons for not.

Brain Pickings: Okay, I subscribe to this weekly email. They review books and talk about stuff. Existential, brainy, think-y stuff. Sometimes I skim it, sometimes I read it top to bottom. It is always thought provoking and I love it. Found this particular article reviewing a book about how to talk about books you’ve never read. I think, as the skill is described, it is a skill all librarians need to have and need to continually fine tune. There (sadly) isn’t enough time to read everything, but we need to sell it and we need to be able to place it in a framework (as the book/article suggests). Take some time with this little piece. I think it will resonate with librarians.


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In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Open Letter to the Octagon

On 13, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

The high school students of the school where I worked recently decried the Internet filtering policies, claiming they are censorship. I’m glad they are not ignorant of the issue, but the article made some pretty frivolous points. Disclosure: the tech department of the school consists of one person who is also my husband. Read the article here. Below is my response to them.

Dear Students of the Sacramento Country Day School High School,

I know you don’t know me much beyond being the quiet girl in the library or Tom’s wife, but I want you to know I am someone who thinks a lot about censorship. I’m a librarian.

Admittedly that sounds trite, but it isn’t. In fact librarians are often the only ones who stick up for those being denied access and for those being censored. Our professional organization, the American Library Association, has an entire division devoted to dealing with censorship. They often face down committees, administrators, patrons, parents, and even their peers. It’s not fun; it’s not glamorous; we don’t win adoration or fans, but it needs to be done.

I applaud you for being concerned enough to confront the filtering problem. The best thing you can do to fight censorship is to stay informed and keep others informed in turn. I personally believe that filtering the Internet on campus is not ideal. However, as someone adamantly against all forms of censorship, I take issue with your argument.

The sites you are really upset about, especially those mentioned in your article, are filtered for the simple fact that they don’t currently support the mission of the school. You don’t have access to Facebook on school computers for the same reason you can’t watch TV during class- it’s distracting and detracts from the educational atmosphere. The sites are not blocked because Tom or Mr. Repsher or Mr. Wells or anyone else on campus find them personally offensive or morally reprehensible.

Being enraged that you have to wait to go home to log onto Facebook to post the latest gossip or read the SparkNote about The Scarlett Letter in an attempt to fool Dr. Bell into believing you did last night’s homework, does not make the internet filtering censorship. School owned machines and school operated networks may be filtered, but you have other avenues for accessing the content.

Most of you have smart phones, which I am sure you have used to access Facebook and YouTube while on campus. I watched you do it while sitting at my desk in the library. Most of you have Internet access at home which you also use to access filtered content after school hours. I have seen your comments through our mutual friends on Facebook. You all have access to the public library.

But, the most important and easiest access you have is through Tom. If you have a legitimate reason for needing a site to be unblocked, permanently or temporarily, you can request that the block be removed. He is very open to discussion and reasonable requests. I know because I went to him with requests to unblock various sites while working in the library.

I believe the best solution is for you to open a respectful and honest discussion with the administration in which you make a case for taking down the filter. Demonstrating that you can responsibly use these sites will also help- that means no more sneaking Facebook during class time or watching cat videos when you should be watching math lectures. Also, splashing black bars across the school paper and baiting the administration with sensitive terms like censorship only makes them defensive and reactionary. This needs to be a dialog not a power struggle.

I highly suggest looking into how China restricts and monitors its Internet. Or how the Arab regimes and dictatorships shut down access to the Internet in an effort to contain the Arab Spring. Or Iran’s fraught relationship with social and print media. Or how libraries sometimes choose not to purchase controversial and sensitive materials for fear of conflict. Censorship affects everyone no matter how far from or close to home it is. You, the next generation, need to ensure equitable and open access for everyone. Basing your argument for a freer Internet experience on campus in the culture of fighting censorship will only make your point stronger.

You are all extremely bright and capable students. I hope you will continue to stay engaged with and vigilant for censorship in all its forms.

“We change people through conversation, not censorship.” Jay-Z

–Tibby Wroten



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