Traditions in Education

With so many changes occurring in the educational world, I am wondering what are the traditions that we follow in education.

Scheduling, managing, grading/testing for advancement, subjects taught — these are traditionally the same or increased in some way to get the most out of what is intended.

Along the way, we have lost some things, too. Should we bring them back in a better way?

Technology, though, has altered the way education may be delivered and content interacted with.

Might we collectively brainstorm other ways to engage students? Technology need not be the only way that change comes. What traditions are worth keeping? What would be worth adding?

Are School Librarians Shapers and Movers?

Here is something to think about as I begin this New Year.

I have noticed more people out walking in my community this week. It might have something to do with the resolutions that they have made for the New Year. In our school libraries, are we creating displays that reflect healthy choices that might reflect some of the resolutions made? Or, are we reflecting our community in some other way, such as the upcoming presidential inauguration or MLK holiday?

School libraries enrich a community.

School librarians play a role in how the enrichment process takes place. In a way, they help to shape the community through selection, service, and in other roles that they perform daily. Interaction between the school library and the community allow for the best information to be available for the students who live within that community. This interaction will create trust between the school library and the community because communication exists between the two. At times, there may be disagreement but the school library will reveal their bias for providing more information and viewpoints rather than less; follow sound policies that have been established for the protection of all students; and reach an agreement with the community that will best serve it, with the understanding that change is always forthcoming.

Do school librarians have the ability to shape and move a community? Yes, but they should follow ethical standards set forth by the profession and proceed with care for their students and community by providing service that represents that community and not their own desires.

School Library Access & Authentication

How do your students access school library materials and databases? Are they using their private information to do so? How far does that information travel beyond the school’s physical walls?

[Note: I do no propose that I am an expert on how data and private information is stored about students. What I want to do is consider how it is collected, stored, and what may happen to it. I believe that if we do not think about this, then we are not doing our jobs as librarians.]

When students desire to access materials, the librarian identifies them in some manner. This is authentication. As school librarians are well aware, there are ethical issues surrounding the private information of students. How students are identified for authentication in a library management system requires careful consideration. If the library’s automation system is contained to that one campus, then the issue of protecting patrons’ information is not as wide and broad as it is for a school library with an integrated online automation system or a virtual library system. The latter systems create user clickstreams, research trails, and possible other stores of data that might be traceable back to an individual student.

What is required of the librarian is an understanding of how information is stored. Decisions should be made to limit the amount of information that is collected to be stored. This would include login information. Records over time should be kept confidential or scrubbed.

The American Library Association (ALA) has a Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records, Code of Ethics, and a model of a privacy policy to help with the privacy and security implications. When working with database vendors (secondary parties) and reading their privacy policies, one will find that their privacy policies may not protect students (patrons) as well as ALA recommends. If you are unsure about this, check out an e-book or audiobook provider’s privacy policy to see if they are tracking and profiling their users.

Overall, the goal should be to protect students’ private information. Consider how students access the OPAC, checkout materials, research, and how their information is stored as they go about accessing what the school library has to offer. Is their private information safe, or is it available to secondary and third parties where it may not be encrypted or traceable back to the individual?

White Teacher

In the classrooms that I have been in recently, it is apparent that as a white teacher, I represent the few white students in that school. Reading White Teacher by Vivian Gussin Paley helps me reflect.

Paley reminds me that it is easier to ignore a problem when I am uncomfortable because it may be an issue of race rather than thinking of it as a problem and handling it as a problem. Rather than recognize skin color because I am attempting to be color blind, I could create a larger problem. Also, a problem could be related to or thought of as a social/cultural issue as well.

Personally, I have found that mannerisms are different for people across the country regardless of skin color. Someone from Massachusetts will speak and possibly react somewhat differently to a situation than someone from Texas. Once we recognized and acknowledged the differences, we were able to work through them.

Paley presents several instances where she was reminded that she could solve problems with children of all colors and with children who have disabilities. She built upon her repertoire of successes. Several factors that helped were staff development for areas where she needed help; talking with colleagues with whom she had rapport; and reflection.

Common Themes of 2.0

I am attending the Internet@Schools West Conference and Internet Librarian 2008 Conference (Information Today) where the keynote speakers and the workshop presenters are sharing themes. These themes are crossing the boundaries of business and education. They are re-shaping the global society. Take a look at the following list to make a thoughtful decision for yourself if you are uncertain:

  • Blogs have the ability to be searched and mined for vital information, such as to provide answers and solutions
  • The “wisdom of crowds” has presence even if it is not always the correct strategy at the moment
  • The knowledge view is on “social;” i.e., knowledge sharing, where people participate, experts are located, ideas are debated and innovation is key.
  • We need less control over content in the way that content is defined or expressed so that the effort may be collaborative using 2.0, free shareware, that can be placed in a password, protected environment.
  • We should step back and ask, “How can I reach you?” and begin to reach out.
  • Have more forums for participation rather than complaint boxes.
  • Know that there are less people who are experienced in social networking and expect mistakes and to learn from them.

These themes are not new. They are becoming more of a lived reality that can become easily accessible if we allow and encourage them now. If we do not, someone else will. This is what i am hearing. Is this what you see?


This particular vlog by Howard Rheingold contains an entry on vernacular that really set the pace for why I will want to add professional vlogs to my “reading” list. With time limited as to how much I can actually spend on professional development, I must select carefully the materials that I am willing to devote my energies to for growth. Even though I am considering this vlog as part of my growth plan, I must not give up print. I have found that print materials, especially scholarly journals, add a richness and thickness to my personal development that other types of materials do not.


Recently, my students completed an assignment on Intellectual Freedom. Several of them focused on self-censorship as a form of censorship within schools that might limit a collection’s development to encompass a wide range of reading materials to meet the needs of all students of a school’s diverse population. A sound selection policy that has been set in place by the district based on the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights interpreted for the school library is most beneficial.

With professional reading, teachers and school librarians should be careful to not self-censor themselves by limiting their selections. Reading widely and broadly from professional, peer-reviewed sources is a good start. It is far too easy to go to the bookstore and pick up something that might be what we think we need without asking appropriate questions, such as, “Is this only someone’s opinion or has this person actually used this technique with students like the ones I have in my classroom?” We might gravitate to pieces written by people who appeal to us rather than people who have the answers. Also, we might steer away from research because it is not as appetizing to read as the narratives that we prefer. There might be other reasons for self-censoring that I am not including here, but I believe that the reader understands the point that I am making.

One way to avoid this is by taking charge of the reading that one wants to do by defining what one wants or needs to read. I have found that a plan helps. Action research, also known as teacher research, is very helpful in defining a problem and setting goals that lead to information seeking and problem solving skills with accountability. It seems to me that the United States is behind other countries in conducting this type of research that improves teaching and helps individuals answer their own questions in a professional manner.  However, I believe that teachers and school librarians are taking matters into their own hands and are moving into 2.0 without the help of an administrative task force to guide them. By doing so, they are in effect beginning to evaluate themselves, reflect, and seek out more appropriate sources without resulting to self-censorship.

The Importance of Pedagogy

Many things may slow us down or interfere with the importance of what we do. A good example is Hurricane Ike that disrupted class and left me without access to the Internet for a little over five days. (I did not have access to power or telephone or cell phone either, but felt the lack of the Internet more because it is part of my work.) When disruptions occur, especially those that are so minor that they may not even be noticed, they may take us off course nonetheless. For instance, I may set out with lesson plans that are grounded so thoroughly that I am sure that each and every one of my students will come out with knowledge that will fortify their futures, but one never attains perfection. Something always happens, and human nature being what it is, the course of the lesson is altered and away we go.

So, when I read David Truss’s blog entry “Wikis in the classroom,” I recognized the situation.

Been there. Done that. And here I pause to reflect again.

Professional Knowledge Contexts

We all work in professional knowledge contexts where we bring our personal practical knowledge. What happens in the knowledge contexts may shape our personal practical knowledge and change it in ways that we may not have thought or intended to happen.

I went back and reread a study that Craig (1995) wrote about knowledge communities where she documented such a case about a beginning teacher and his experiences. In his first year of teaching he felt overwhelmed by the number of activities in which he participated outside of his teaching. With Craig, he began speaking about wellness and his concern for his teaching because of the excessive amount of commitment and time that the activities required of him and his fellow colleagues. However, when the next year came around, he found himself supporting the activities and the leadership role that he had assumed in some of them.

His personal practical knowledge informed his thinking during his first year and continued to do so. However, the professional knowledge context shaped his thinking, too. Craig gives some reasons as to why this might have happened and possibly explains why teachers might find themselves on a treadmill (a term that her participant used in this study). Don’t be surprised by the study’s date: 1995! You might find that it is in some ways fresh reading.

Craig, C.J. (1995). Knowledge communities: A way of making sense of how beginning teachers come to know in their professional knowledge contexts. Curriculum Inquiry, 25(2), 151-175.

What our future holds?

On TED, Kevin Kelly talks about the next 5,000 days of the Internet. He provides some interesting food for thought about how our lives will revolve around one machine. Breaking down how this machine compares to the human brain as far as power and functioning, Kelly’s sci fi predictions appear to be just around the corner. Take a look and listen for yourself:

Happy viewing!