By Elizabeth Wroten
On 06, Feb 2017 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Forgive me, but I’m about to get a little passionate about kids and education. We recently had an author come visit our library (shout out to Bruce Hale, he was awesome and we have a lot of budding author/illustrators thanks to him!). He was really great with the kids and had lots of interaction with the audience and at one point asked what some of the kids in the audience wanted to be “when they grow up”. It’s a pretty traditional and mundane question and we got the range of answers: vet, doctor, lawyer, engineer, architect. But we also got a couple YouTube stars. That led to a couple chuckles and a lot of eye rolling from teachers.
I had forgotten that I had heard a rant about this a few months back. I cannot, for the life of me, remember where or who was ranting or anything beyond a collective hand wringing over “kids these days”. But I think we need to stop wringing our hands over this particular phenomenon and need to step up to harness this interest. (I have a lot of choice expletives about getting off kids backs when it comes to things adults deem unworthy, but I’ll spare you that rant for now.)
For starters, “YouTube star” is a pretty nebulous concept, especially for these kids. Why don’t we roll our eyes at lawyer? I mean for a third grader what the hell does being a lawyer mean? Nothing more or less than a YouTube star. It has very little meaning to them. Except it YouTube star DOES mean these kids want to be content creators. We love to spout off about how we’re teaching kids skills for jobs we can’t even imagine. One thing I think we can know about their futures is that they will need to be content creators. Be that writing, report making, building, or scientific research. They will be creating content of one kind or another. So all those potential YouTube stars have a head start over their peers in that they already want to be doing what they probably will be doing.
Instead of rolling our eyes, we need to be harnessing these kids’ energies and interests and showing them how to bring their ideas into the world. Teach them to record themselves, make podcasts, write scripts, sing, play instruments, draw and animate, and make technology a tool (e.g. stop fucking wringing your hands over kids using technology). Teach them to make things and sell them on Etsy. Help them find what they are good at and enjoy and then help them put it out there into the world. Encourage them to be creative. Certainly if you have a makerspace, this is where it comes in and plays a HUGE role in our children’s education. But even if you don’t, that’s okay. Providing them with the support and a few materials is better than all the eye rolling and hand wringing I see going on right now.
As a fairly creative kid I made all kinds of crap. From voice recordings on an old-ass tape recorder we had, to scripts for a TV show I performed in a box, to fully illustrated picture books, to weird “inventions” out of leftover foam, and comic books. I even sold them to my friends and family so I could go to the drugstore after school and buy comic books, candy, and makeup. There is no reason any of those projects couldn’t be updated with modern technology and put online. And no reason why we shouldn’t be encouraging our children to use their creative skills to make a few extra bucks to pay for fun little things. Why should be discourage our kids from doing these kinds of things? Because a few crusty, technology-phobic teachers think kids shouldn’t want to make money or create videos?
YouTube star is probably not a realistic life goal for most of our students, but let’s not lose sight of what these kids are really telling us. Instead of throwing up your hands, help them form that interest into something they can be proud of, even if that involves wacky videos posted to their YouTube channel.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 16, Sep 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I just want to talk briefly about how much I dislike the term digital native. Especially when it refers to teens and tweens, which in my experience it almost always does. While kids are often more computer savvy than, say, their grandparents, I think the term is very misleading and problematic.
For starters many kids are now children of people who grew up with computers. Meaning their parents watched as computers became more widely available and then more prevalent. They watched as the Internet became more widely available and more prevalent. They logged on with their dial-up modem and continually upgraded their Internet connection. These people used computers in school, they used them in college, and they now use them everyday in the workplace. They tend to be computer savvy. Even the older generation (young Boomers) use(d) computers in the workplace with regularity. These people may not have been playing with iPads at two, but I often find them to have a much better understanding of how computers and computer-related things work. They remember having to hook up the dial-up modem so they have a little better grasp on how the Internet gets to their computer than the kid who just opens the laptop and automatically has Wi-Fi.
The problem with calling someone a digital native is that is lulls us into thinking they know what they’re doing on the computer (or tablet or phone). However, in my experience, it looks like they know what their doing when in reality, they are just very good at making it look like they know what they’re doing. I’ll use two examples to illustrate this. When the sophomores I worked with wrote their research papers they were asked to have a hanging indent at the beginning of each paragraph. A lot of them just hit “tab” at the beginning of the paragraph which worked well enough. Others would hit the space bar until the first word was in approximately the right place. The problem with both of these was that when the formatting changed above the paragraph or they added something, the paragraph could/would not be aligned correctly anymore and sometimes the tab was not placed in the correct place. Without actually looking at how they had done the formatting you would never know that they had done it incorrectly. And they assumed they knew how to do the hanging indent even though most of them had never heard of it and didn’t bother to look up or ask how to create one. Another time a student was asked to double space an essay. Instead of using the line spacing she hit “enter” at the end of every line. It looked correct, looked like she knew what she was doing, but of course any time she added more text, the formatting went wonky.
This ties into the debate about the abysmal research skills of students. There are issues with taking the first result, thinking research should be as fast and easy as a simple Google search, and not knowing where to look for good information. I think it’s a problem to assume they know what their doing in research, but I think that by calling them digital natives we partially make the assumption that they know what they’re doing because it sure looks like they do and they’re a digital native. (I’m not accusing librarians here, although I’m sure we’re all guilty of it at some point. I know I have been.)
I think the term also ignores a good slice of the population that doesn’t have access to a computer or an Internet connection. I know it is sometimes hard to believe that we all don’t have 24/7 access to Google, but there are plenty of people who don’t. I think librarians are often very aware of this fact because these people come into our libraries to use the computers and the Internet. So by grouping all teens and tweens into that mix we lump in those kids who really are not using computers and technology very often. It’s a problem to assume they will know what to do and they may be afraid to ask for help knowing we think they are digital natives.
Just a short rant. I just dislike the term and I actually think I’m seeing it less, although I could be wrong about that.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 20, May 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
A few weeks ago I talked about how staying home with my daughter is, much to my surprise, making me a better librarian. I have also talked about how my parenting philosophies have crossed over into my professional philosophies. I have since realized another crossover between my parenting and my career.
Now, I have virtually no experience with babies and very young children. I was terrified when they wanted to send me home from the hospital with no manual for my daughter. To calm myself down I did the next best thing, I read. I read a lot. I read books and websites and just about anything I could about parenting. After a few weeks with my daughter, I realized that my instincts and common sense were enough to get me started.
I also realized I could rely on all the literature I had read, instead of choosing one method or approach. There was a lot of trial and error as we figured out things like sleeping arrangements, feeding, weaning, sleeping, schedules and the like, but I was learning what suited our personalities and our family values in terms of parenting techniques. And that in turn made it easier for me to find ideas for what to do when my daughter cried in the middle of the night or how I wanted to go about introducing solid foods.
It may not be a new or particularly original idea, but I think it’s really important to realize that knowing your culture is applicable to libraries. Just as I needed to discover our family culture, it is essential to learn the institutional culture in order to know what kind of tools and programs will work. I love to look around at ideas for library activities and services, but that doesn’t mean every good idea I come across will work for whatever library I find myself in. I can pick and choose activities, services, and technologies or adapt them to fit the culture I find myself in. The whole messy parenting process taught me this.
I think I should note that none of this is meant to imply culture can’t or shouldn’t change. I think changing the culture of an institution can be extremely necessary and important, but knowing the culture will help you implement programs and innovations much more successfully. It can also be immensely helpful when beginning to work toward changing the culture itself.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 13, May 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I talked briefly in an earlier post about my research into parenting philosophies that had led me to ecuational philosophies, which in turn led me to begin thinking about how I want to teach in the library. I was reading the CUE journal a few weeks back and these connections occurred to me again. I was struck by this quote from one of the feature articles by Ferdi Serim:
“In reflecting back on two or three decades in which the rallying cry was ‘integrating technology into the classroom,’ I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to call the contest. We didn’t win. But the opportunity to learn from failures is how we progress. The classrooms we were trying to integrate into were still ‘stand and deliver, lecture driven, knowledge transmission’ environments. In too many classroom the lecture now shines on a whiteboard.”
So many people think technology is going to be a silver bullet. If you put technology in the classroom all students will be engaged and learning and they will all ace the test. But if you want students engaged in the learning process, technology alone is not going to do this. Technology is a fantastic tool, but it is only a tool.
The issue of On Cue and the article were focused specifically on blended learning and I take Serim’s point in regards to it, but I don’t think the issue is limited to blended learning. One of the biggest failures in (American) education, in my opinion, has been it’s failure to innovate and change on a pedagogical level. Or at least it took a wrong turn and focused on the wrong pedagogy. Like Serim says, classrooms are still lecture based. This is the transmission model of education in which people belive there is a body of knowledge that must be taught to students (and then tested to ensure they have learned it) and I really disagree with strict transmission.
I think educators need to accept the idea that students have valuable contributions to be made to the classroom and to content. One of the reasons blended learning really appeals to me is because it encourages using a variety of ways to interact with information and curriculum. I think it also encourages a mix of transmission and discovery. You engage everyone (or should) and have the flexibility to meet students where they are and teach them in a way that works best for them. It also creates a much more autonomous classroom where the teacher can be both a resource and a facilitator of learning. They help the student gain knowledge through exploration rather than exclusively giving it to them. I think that takes some of the pressure off the teacher, too. It’s okay to say you don’t know and that you will find out together. I suppose in theory this could happen in a traditional classroom, but I have yet to see it.
I realize this isn’t necessarily a library issue, but I do think as central learning hubs, school libraries are well situated to make shifts in their pedagogy and in their programs. They can then serve as evangelists of sorts and even help with integration of new ideas into the classroom. I also think blended learning doesn’t necessarily have to focus on technology. To me it’s so much more than any one physical piece (like an iPad or a laptop), it’s about pedagogical change. Libraries are already champions of knowledge and content creation. They are already facilitators of knowledge. They are already resources for knowledge. It seems a natural step into pedagogical shift and blended learning.
I know none of these ideas are new and I’ve even talked about them here before, but I guess this article really made me realize how important I find it. Apparently CUE really gets my feelings about education and how it needs to innovate.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 26, Apr 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Over the past couple months I’ve come across several blog posts that deal with the rights of the patron and of learners. I thought aggregated they made for interesting reading.
- This is a post from Designing Better Libraries about the rights of a patron as pertains to quality of service and experience. They seem obvious, but aren’t. I would add to it this post from Agnostic, Maybe in which Andy talks about there truly not being a stupid question. I think this is important to remember, especially in school libraries, as discouraging students and patrons from asking questions, or simply instilling a fear of asking questions, can be incredibly detrimental to the purpose or mission of the library (or classroom).
- This isn’t exactly a list of rights, but it is something students should expect to get from their education/library. From Blue Skunk Blog, a list of six skills, broken down into what they entail, that all students should have by the time they graduate EIGHTH grade. Doug Johnson broke them down into separate posts so here are links to them:
- Finally, a Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age. I haven’t gotten all the way through this one yet, but I think it’s important for there to be quality standards for digital learning. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 22, Apr 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Almost a year ago now I went with my husband to Common Sense Media to help them create a toolkit for implementing a 1:1 computer program for schools. One of the other educators said something that was completely unrelated, but stuck with me. He said that he wished people would stop using the term “cyberbullying”. I didn’t think much of it at the time, except that you could wish that for any number of terms that become buzzwords. Then the other day my husband came home and told me about a bullying issue that the school where he works was having. This is, of course, just one incident in a long list of bullying incidents that go on at schools across the nation, but it rankled me because the school was attaching the term “cyberbullying” to it and were wanting my husband, the technology director, to respond. Suddenly Ed’s comment came screaming back to me and I couldn’t help invoking his name and wish as my husband and I discussed the issue.
Now, sometimes I like terms like this because they help articulate what it is you are thinking or doing. Things like “transliteracy” or “digital literacy”. Sure, they may not actually be new ideas or new concepts. It is possible and probable that these things have been around for ages, we’re just suddenly naming them and talking about them more. But when it comes time to explain what you do or want to do, especially with someone who is not a librarian, having a succinct and clear way of labeling something can be really helpful. On the other hand, I don’t like labels because they get over used or become buzzwords. And when that happens I think it can detract from their importance and make people take the concept less seriously or treat it like a fad. For a good articulation of why using terms as buzzwords is a bad idea see here.
But “cyberbullying” is a totally different problem. It’s a misnomer. I am a huge proponent of calling spades, spades. Cyberbullying is bullying. By adding “cyber” onto bullying it lulls people into thinking it’s a problem with the technology and not the people involved with it. Social media and the Internet DO NOT make anyone bully someone else. Let me repeat, social media is NOT the problem. It does make bullying easier and maybe even more tempting because discovery is so much more difficult. But Facebook is not twisting people’s arms and forcing them to post mean or inappropriate comments.
Parents are already scared of technology. They don’t need the added fear that the computer (or Internet or Facebook or Twitter) is also making their child into a monster. Bullying, on- and offline, is a parenting issue. Which is not to say that the parent is making their child into a monster. Kids, even adults, are prone to teasing and picking on others. Some of this stuff is going to happen.
I think by calling it cyberbullying, you also relinquish some measure of control. Parents (and educators, too!) are already frightened and feel powerless when it comes to their children and technology. By blaming social media you just affirm their impotence. By calling it cyberbullying you also relinquish some degree of culpability. Not only do they feel like they have no control, parents and educators give themselves a pass on dealing with the issue head on. They just block the website and hope it takes awhile before their kids find another one. Or worse, naively assume that they won’t find another site. And that’s why we need to stop calling it anything but bullying, plain and simple.
In terms of the incident that happened the other day at school, the school handled it very well. They spoke to the kids about making good choices both on and offline. They also informed the parents that it was an ongoing, team effort between the parents and school to raise respectable people.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 19, Apr 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
I recently came across a few things that I thought would be pretty cool integrations of technology. The first was this projector app for your smartphone. It projects an image into a storybook that actually interacts with whatever is on the page. Watch the video, it’s short and very neat. Just one more thing you could keep up your sleeve to enliven storytime from time to time.
The second isn’t really a gadget per se, but it sounds interesting. From Turnitin, a rubric that helps students evaluate online resources. “Turnitin worked closely with educators to design The Source Educational Evaluation Rubric (SEER), which is built on five criteria: Authority, Educational Value, Intent, Originality, and Quality.” I haven’t had a chance to see how it works, but I am all for anything that will help students evaluate their sources. They are terrible at doing that.
Finally, via Walking Paper, the Escondido Library is offering Pop Up Podcast which is a space that: “…provide[s] a fun, creative environment for teens to engage with audio recording technology and explore their own self-expression and presentation skills.” I thought this was a very clever idea. Although they have a more elaborate set up I think that a lot of libraries could do something similar with some very simple equipment.
I recently came across a post on The Digital Shift about the book sharing website GoodReads. I was very surprised by this quote:
“You may not have heard much about Goodreads, and the public at large hardly knows it exists, but this site has a devoted following among book lovers.”
Really? I guess I know what they say about assuming. I just really thought librarians at least were aware of the site. I highly suggest reading the post, it does a great job of making the case for signing up for the service.
Personally I’ve been on it for just shy of two years and find it invaluable. Originally I began by using for readers advisory; as a way to catalog all the books I had read. I am able to give my review or thoughts on the book and place it in any number of “shelves”. I tend to group my books by genre, but because the “shelves” are flexible I can place one book on several.
I quickly discovered that it was also a great way to do some digging about whether it was worth reading a book or not. As much as I want to read every book I read a review for, it’s not possible. By reading through a mix of reviews (e.g. good, bad, and middle of the road), I find it much easier to make the call on whether or not to add it to my to-read list.
I also recently transfered over my Amazon wishlist (which was really just a bunch of titles I wanted to read) and revamped my lists of books to read. Again the flexible “shelves” were very helpful in creating these lists. I had kind of started out only tracking my YA read and to-read lists, but now I have everything from parenting titles, to personal non fiction selections, to YA on there.
If you haven’t already checked it out I suggest hopping over there and signing up. You may find it to be really helpful. You can also check out my profile and lists if you want to see how I’ve been using it.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 21, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I hopped on the eBook bandwagon about five years ago when I purchased my first Sony eReader. I was curious about the technology and had a lot of free time to read (i.e. no kids), so packing fewer books in my purse was very appealing. I was a little irked that the books weren’t cheaper than their print counterparts since I was funding the reader too. But who was I kidding? I was going to buy the books regardless. What was a few more dollars to pay for the reader.
Now my family has that old Sony, several iPads, and a Nook. Not to mention the Nook app on our iPhones. (Hey, my husband is a technology director.) As much as I enjoy reading the occasional novel (mostly YA) on it, I haven’t been super impressed with eBooks.
The technology has improved drastically since I bought that Sony. But to me, most eBooks aren’t any different than what Gutenberg was turning out on his press. The problem with this is is, eBooks are technology. They aren’t bound (ha!) to the physical page. They can and should engage you in a different way.
I remember when the magazine Project came out on the iPad. (See here for a video walk through from Tech Crunch.) That to me was a huge step in the right direction for what eBooks should be doing. It utilized some of the many things that made the iPad unique- touch, animations, sound, color display, etc. Now many eReaders have the same features, so use them!
I remained unimpressed, until the other day when I downloaded the Charlie Brown Christmas app as well as Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. Both were books for my daughter. It suddenly dawned on me that children’s eBooks have actually been quite innovative in an attempt to engage those squirmy little beasts. We have Pat the Bunny, Pete, and Nighty Night on our iPad and all of those books make use of the broad range of iPad/eReader features.
I would like to note, at this point, that my daughter has an enormous personal collection (we’re talking hundreds strong) of print children’s books. I don’t think eBooks for children will replace beautiful copies of their most beloved books (although…if I have to read Happy Hippo, Angry Duck one more time…), but I think it’s really wonderful to see that someone out there in the land of publishing is thinking about more than just scanning the print version of a book. I would like to see this for textbooks, non fiction books, and even fiction novels. How about special features like on DVDs, like author interviews, different versions of the cover, interactive drawings (I’m thinking of you Leviathan!), etc. So, let’s start thinking outside the bound book.
My husband sent over this article to me. I’ve been using Instagram to take pictures for my other two blogs, so I was glad for the heads up. I personally don’t like the sounds of this, but I’m interested to see how it plays out. Was it a poor wording choice on Instagram’s part (I sort of doubt it) or is it really meant to leave the option for exploiting its users open?
In the meantime, I have switched over to using Eyeem. There are other app options for those of you who are concerned. I believe the above article mentions Hipstamatic, too. If Instagram doesn’t change the wording by the time the new changes go into effect on January 16th I will be deleting my account just to be on the safe side. I don’t really take fantastic pictures, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of in any case.