Herding cats

Well, life before cell phones was like herding cats too. I am not one of those Luddites who romanticizes the age before we all had laptops and cell phones. As a person who sometimes gets lost while driving (despite the GPS) or doesn’t always plan for getting stuck in traffic, I’ve found that the ability to communicate on the fly has saved me from critically annoying my near and dear.

Back when I was an undergrad, we were still in Web 1.0. It seemed like we mainly used it for email and instant messaging. I was a student worker in the School of Education at Marquette University, mostly as an office assistant and sometimes as a library assistant. Basically, we did the work that the full-time secretaries/executive assistants/professors didn’t have time for. Sometimes there were stacks of projects waiting in our wire basket, and sometimes there were notes that said, “See me. –Susan”. Sometimes, projects got claimed by another student worker on a previous shift and the professor didn’t want to take the time to re-train another student worker.

So on the days where there weren’t projects in the basket, you would stalk Susan or whoever at their office door, trying to catch them between appointments or meetings or whatever. And when you caught them, they typically didn’t have time for the interruption and only gave you part of the instructions and then you were back again in 15 minutes for more stalking or with a question. Of course, someone that busy typically isn’t very warm toward being interrupted, but what choice did you have? If you sat at the student worker desk and did your own homework too long you’d get reprimanded for that too!

A few years later, I got myself into a similar predicament as I moonlighted as a Technology Secretary for a school district right before I started grad school the first time. I had a zillion projects going on at the same time and no real sense of what was priority. When my classes started up, they got me a sub until they found someone full-time to replace me and it was just like my student worker experience all over again. I’m sure my sub looked at me like I was the worst cat-herder she’d ever met.

The description of the University of Houston Digital Services Department’s use of Google Calendar and Blogger in R. Nicole Westbrook’s article, “Online Management System: Wielding Web 2.0 Tools to Collaboratively Manage and Track Projects” would have been a god-send to my office worker experience!

Rather than interrupting staff work to get a worker started on a project each time someone arrives for a shift, supervisors can create all assignments for a day at one time and respond to questions posted on the blog at their convenience. Creating blog posts in advance also benefits students. With pre-posted assignments, students can immediately read their assignment for the day without waiting for supervisors who might be returning late from a meeting or might not be in the office at all that day. Managers also have the freedom to create a large volume of posts as far in advance as is convenient. Therefore, when supervisors travel, they can create posts before leaving town and then monitor status posts and questions remotely so that progress on projects can continue in their absence.

What a nice use of digital tools to keep everyone busy and on-task and communicating! I really would’ve appreciated the opportunity to have a blog to post questions/progress on, instead of stalking a professor’s door. That is exactly what I was looking for back then.

Westbrook described one weakness of Google Calendar:

Unfortunately, Google Calendar does not currently have an archive or export feature and shifts are only stored for a finite period of time before they are purged from the calendar permanently. Although UHDS staff does not have an ideal solution to this problem as of yet, an effort is made to conduct project reviews in a timely manner in order to capture shift information elsewhere before it is unavailable.

While Google Calendar may not export or archive (I don’t think), I’ve never seen it purge. I can still look at the first event I entered into my own Google calendar on August 30, 2006. But then again, this does not guarantee permanence and there are plenty of Web 2.0 services that have been discontinued without much notice and there you are, without a back-up.

Of course, I realize that being impressed with the use of Google apps as a inter-office communication tool probably means that my programming chops are pretty much non-existent. Drupal and WordPress were not even on my radar until I took this class. The last time I dappled with HTML was with Microsoft FrontPage 2003 and it seems that we’ve moved far beyond that. I think I could [maybe] figure out this content management system (CMS) stuff, given I had a meaningful project to use it on and an up-to-date tech guide like Jones and Farrington’s Using WordPress as a library content management system(I seriously was not kissing up, Kyle. You just happen to be the co-author and my instructor.)

When you are faced with a problem like the University of Michigan Libraries’ website, as described in K. J. Varnum’s introduction to “Drupal in Libraries,” published in The Tech Set, 2012 (p. 2-3):

There was no standardization between the HTML parts of the site and the dynamically generated portions–not even within the static pages or dynamic pages. This was the result of having different developers and authors building their own pieces of the site, independently, over the course of almost two decades… From the user perspective, the library’s site had dozens of graphic identities for different parts of the library, many of which bore little resemblance to the homepage. Constituent libraries, service points, departments, and information pages had radically different designs. There was almost no consistent navigation across the site; many pages did not link to the main library page. Those that did used different logos or graphics, and the links were placed on different parts of the webpage. This complicated user interface made it very difficult for a site visitor to move from one library to another or from a library to a particular resource. The site was an exercise in frustration for our users and our staff… We arrived at this state of affairs much of you may have: by allowing the web to grow organically over years without finding the time or energy to bring it together.

it seems pretty obvious that there has to be a better way. These CMSs are the way to go. Go figure, another tech tool has found a slick improvement to a tedious process. The question is, is it better to continue herding cats yourself or do you employ the professional cat-herder? At least the cat-herder knows how to manage the chaos. However, some of us may be appointed to be the professional cat-herder ourselves someday, so it’s probably in our interest to starting putting on the cat-herder gear now (i.e. mess around with WordPress and Drupal, in this example.)

An Online Professional Learning Network for School Librarians

Goals Statements

My Online Professional Learning Network will help me to…

  • Connect with other school libraries that have similar needs and populations to serve
  • Pursue grant resources for technology implementation and collection development
  • Use the online LIS Professional Commons as an initiation to the library learning community since I am only a Special Student and am not officially admitted into an MLIS program yet
  • Develop my skills in outreach programming for at-risk learners, especially bilingual and reluctant readers
  • Engage in trend-spotting of up-and-coming digital tools and instructional technology strategies


Defined Scope

It is my goal to be a secondary (preferably high school) Library Media Specialist in Southern Wisconsin. I would like to work in a place that honors my technology skills but does not require that the majority of my professional time be spent fixing computer problems. I want to serve students and staff directly by meeting their media needs and increasing their information literacy skills. I also intend to keep my “eye to the sky” because I have a strong interest in working in public libraries if I ever decide to leave K-12 education.


Resource Network


School Librarianship

The Adventures of Library Girl

This blog features explorations of a lot of trends in school librarianship. The author, Jennifer LaGarde, has been honored as a Mover and Shaker of 2012 by Library Journal.


American Association of School Librarians @aasl

This website has information about issues, advocacy and continuing education for school librarians, plus an interesting section for school librarian students.


Association for Library Service to Children Listserves

I can use these listserves as a means to casually tap in to discussions between school librarians around the country.

This is a listserve for discussion of all matters regarding library service to children.

This is a discussion listserve about partnerships between public libraries and schools.

This is a listserve that discusses children’s collection management.


Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts

This blog by a Nationally Board Certified Teacher Librarian features posts about the integration of technology in authentic and ethical ways to increase student engagement.


The Daring Librarian

This award-winning blog by Gwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones shares lots of ideas and reflections for school librarians.


School Library Journal @sljournal

This is website by a respected journal provides online content of the print publication plus other news, features, and leadership tools for school librarians


Teacher-Librarian Twitter Feeds

  • #tlchat
  • #teacher-librarian

These are the primary hashtags teacher librarians are using to share interesting insights and links on Twitter.


A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet

This blog shares digital resources for school librarians and the teachers they serve. Especially unique is a collection of information on book repair, which seems to be vital knowledge for school libraries that coordinate textbook checkouts.


Teacher Librarian

This is the web-presence of a journal for school library professionals. Some parts of the site do not seem to get updated regularly, but the current issue is always available.


TL Virtual Café

This wikispace has webinars (upcoming and archived) and conversations about teacher-librarians and educational technology.



Grant Resources


This is an online charity specifically that schools and classrooms make requests for materials they need.


Grant Wrangler

Among other school subjects, this website lists grants for school libraries, literacy grants for schools, and reading grants for school librarians and media specialists.



This website is a crowdfunding platform where people who want to raise money can create online fundraisers to get the money that they need.


The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries

This foundation offers grants for school libraries to update, extend and diversify their collections.


Library Grants

Authors of the book, Winning Grants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians with Multimedia Tutorials and Grant Development Tools, Stephanie Gerding and Pam MacKellar offer a blog for librarians interested in grant opportunities.


Scholastic Library Grants

Scholastic keeps an online list of current and ongoing grant opportunities for school libraries, complete with links and deadlines.


Tech and Learning Grant Guru

Gary Carnow offers grant-writing advice and tips for people seeking grants in educational technology. They also link to a calendar for 2012-2013 of grants for education compiled by Dell and Intel. http://www.techlearning.com/portals/0/Dell_Grants_Calendar_2012-13.pdf


Wisconsin Humanities Council Grants

The Wisconsin Humanities Council offers grants and mini-grants to public humanities programs that encourage conversations, connections and reflections upon our world.



Initiation to Library Learning Community

Hack Library School @hacklibschool

This is a group blog that tries to redefine library school using the web as a collaborative space outside of any specific university or organization.


In the Library with the Lead Pipe @libraryleadpipe

This “peer-reviewed” blog offers essays from librarians, educators, administrators, library support staff, and community members to help improve our communities, our libraries, and our professional organizations.



This is an online forum for LIS students that offers discussion opportunities, resources for LIS studies and free subscriptions to Library Journal and School Library Journal upon graduation.


Librarian by Day @librarianbyday

This blog by Bobbi Newman has been honored by the Salem Press. She is interested in digital services, the digital divide and innovative new practices.


LISNews: That New Librarian Smell

This is collaborative blog devoted to current events and news in the world of Library and Information Science.


LIS Twitter Feeds

  • #LIS
  • #MLIS
  • #library
  • #librarian

These are popular hashtags being used on Twitter by the LIS community.


PLN Starter Kit

This resource guide hosted on LiveBinders is a crowdsourced collection of resources for connected librarians and educators who are looking to begin a Professional Learning Network. It especially highlights popular Twitter feeds and Blogs.


ResourceShelf ResourceBlog

This is a blog where librarians and researchers share the results of specific, sometimes unique, web searches for information and resources.


Connecting to At-Risk Readers

American Library Association Listserves

These listserves are ways for me to keep up with discussions about at-risk readers around the country.

This is listserve discusses how libraries are addressing the needs of teens who do not or cannot use the library because of socioeconomic, legal, educational, physical or other relevant factors.

This is a listserve is about serving non-English speakers in public libraries.


Children’s and YA Lit Twitter Feeds

  • #titletalk
  • #YAlit

There are a few hashtags being used on Twitter to recommend books for children and young adults.


Colorín Colorado @colorincolorado

This is a bilingual website for educators and families of English Language Learners that promotes reading and academic success. There is a specific section for librarians.


Go Big Read @GoBigRead

This is a local common reading program that seeks to engage students, faculty, staff and the entire community in an engaging way through online and live outlets.


Library of Congress for Parents and Educators

This website contains resources that help young people unlock the power of reading.


Read Wisconsin

This website is hosted by the Department of Public Instruction of Wisconsin to provide webinars, videos and other resources about reading for those serving diverse populations.


Wisconsin State Reading Association

This website offers advocacy ideas, resources and professional development that             addresses issues and trends in reading and language arts.


Tech Trendspotting

ChadKafka.com @chadkafka

Chad Kafka is a technology coach who trains educators and shares his ideas and presentations on his website.


EdGalaxy @edgalaxy_com

This blog compiles the latest technology, tools, toys and news for “teachers who want to work smarter.”


The Edublog Awards

This website gives annual awards through a pubic nomination and voting process on social media such as blogs, hashtags, wikis, podcasts and their educational applications. This is a great resource to see what has been popular and useful in instructional technology every year.



This is a website with articles featuring technology tools and trends by covering the leading edge of digital learning.


Free Technology for Teachers @rmbyrne

This daily blog by Richard Byrne delivers ideas and resources on instructional technology tools and social media applications.


iLearn Technology

This blog is written by a former schoolteacher named Kelly Tenkely who now consults on how technology can  meet students’ needs and engage them.


Libraries and Transliteracy
http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/ https://www.facebook.com/librariesandtransliteracy

This is a group blog and Facebook group that shares information on all types of literacies relevant to libraries (digital literacy, media literacy, information literacy, visual literacy, 21st century literacies, transliteracies, etc.)


Make Use Of

This is a website that features articles and reviews of websites, technologies and internet tips. It is also a great learning resource for unfamiliar digital tools.


Social Media Examiner @smexaminer

This is an online social media magazine that businesses (err… libraries) can use to guide their development of their social media presence.



Network Maintenance Plan

In order for my Online Professional Learning Network plan to be meaningful, I will be using tools such as Google Reader, Twitter and possibly Diigo to keep it organized and accessible to me. These tools are ones that are reasonable for me integrate into my daily routine at a minimal level of about five minutes a day. The key will be to make the maintenance of my OPLN to become a habit so that it remains meaningful to me. This way I can make minor additions or adjustments gradually whenever I discover new ideas or resources.

When I am admitted officially into an MLIS program, I will probably find that the goal statements of my OPLN will need to be tweaked once I have received official career and course advising as to what my plan and path through library school will be. This plan will also probably need a complete overhaul of goals and resources when and if I make a career move from ESL Teacher to School Library Media Specialist (and again if I decide to move to public libraries). At that point, my OPLN should reflect my needs in my precise professional role. This is a reasonable expectation at any career change point thereafter.

With great power, comes great responsibility

I play video games occasionally, but I am definitely not a gamer. I just don’t stay interested in them very long.  I don’t mind trying them sometimes, but most of them are a little too difficult for me. Back in the age of Super Mario Brothers 3, I wasn’t bad, but games are harder now–more buttons.

According to studies sited in Leonard Sax’s book, Boys Adrift (see his endnotes below) boys play video games 13 hours or more a week, while girls play about 5. While most adults I know don’t log those type of hours, I think the ratio is about right.

When I see those numbers, I start to worry a little bit about our kids. 13 hours seems like a lot to me! Man, if I had an extra 13 hours a week…

More and more researchers, like James Gee, are stepping to the plate to say, “Actually, video games are good. We should change schools to be more like video games.” Jane McGonigal goes as far to suggest that we should play MORE video games because we could solve a lot of problems if we used the thinking skills necessary for games in the real world.

I will concede that our education system could stand to learn a thing or two from the success and engagement that video games command. We can and should change our school system to incorporate the principles that have made video games so effective in engaging players in sometimes difficult and complex tasks. “If only kids concentrated on their Algebra homework as much as they do on Halo…” Fine, find a way, right?

The problem that I have with this is that the required change is 100% on the backs of the teachers and the policy-makers. We teachers are the ones who are supposed to make it more fun/engaging/relevant/customized/etc. Riiiiiiiiiight, like Constance Steinkuehler‘s description of the teen-aged boys with their hoodies in her program, even with the most engaging activity, if it smells like school, they’re “out.” Good luck getting any kind of spontaneous interest with quadratic equations, even if it is in a video game. It’s a nice theory, but a tall order to place on schools alone, especially when it’s likely to fail if students don’t buy in.

Constructivists teachers talk a lot about the importance of learners taking ownership of their learning. It’s true. The idea of digital badge systems revolutionizing instruction and assessment is more realistic than gaming doing it. Here’s why–if digital badge systems catch on, this is what they will do to education as we know it:

Students will be able to customize learning goals within the larger curricular framework, integrate continuing peer and faculty feedback about their progress toward achieving those goals, and tailor the way badges and the metadata within them are displayed to the outside world. Students won’t just earn badges—they’ll build them, in an act of continuous learning.

Why does this matter? To start, consider that the…framework was designed with great care and purpose, based on what experts, employers, professors, and students believe is most important for the world we live in today. (from Kevin Carey’s article, “A Future Full of Badges”)

Did you notice that the STUDENT was involved in the designing learning experience? Let me say that again, the STUDENT is a STAKEHOLDER. These pro-gamers can talk all they want about how video games are the answer, but they also neglect consider a few real problematic side-effects of the gaming movement: addiction, disengagement and violence, especially in boys.

An experienced, practicing medical doctor, Leonard Sax, calls the growing epidemic of unmotivated young boys and underachieving young men as “Boys Adrift.” In his book, he identifies seven factors that contribute to this phenomenon, with the second being video games.

Consider the effects of video-game on a young boy:

The defining characteristic of addiction, incidentally, is loss of control: the boy knows that he shouldn’t be spending so much time playing video games, he may not even want to play that much, but he just feels that he can’t help it. (Sax, 74)

Another consideration is what activities are displaced by playing video games. If your son is neglecting his friendships with non-gamer friends to spend more time playing video games, then he’s spending too much time playing video games. If he refuses to sit down to dinner with the family because he’s in the middle of a video game, then he needs some help from you getting his priorities straight. (Sax, 70)

In real life, you can’t just walk away from the havoc you create. In the world of video games, you can. (Sax, 68)

Of course not everyone who plays video games is effected these ways, but it’s a valid concern, given that we have a generation of young men who are outnumbered by girls in universities because more and more of them lack the good grades and motivation to pursue further education. Video games can get in the way.

So are we as libraries responsible for the well-being of the young adults in our communities or does the responsibility lie solely on their parents? Before we get all excited and decide that libraries are the place for gaming and it’s the next big thing for our programs, like Aaron Schmidt’s position on QR Codes in Libraries, we need to step back and think about our objectives and missions when we implement and encourage gaming. Gaming tournaments may be great programs that bring in teen users and provide a great social outlet, with some positive side effects like increased circulation and reading–but I believe we are also responsible for informed decisions. Video games have two sides: a fun, exciting side with potential and a dark underbelly.

I’ll leave you with one last piece that I really enjoyed from Sax’s book. He includes the following letter from a mother at the end of his chapter on video games (p. 75-76).

Dear Dr. Sax,

I read your article in the Washington Post. I’m not an expert, just a Mom. I have my own theory. I think video games are the main culprits in this phenomenon [of unmotivated boys]. I wish I had somehow shielded my son from such games or at least put a strict limit on them. When I see guys in their twenties who are totally unmotivated, mooching on someone else and lack any social skills that will benefit them in the workplace or in life, I’ve noticed a common thread: an obsession with video games.

Video games teach these boys that if you manipulate things a certain way, you will get an easy win. These boys have little interaction with people during the years when such interaction is crucial in developing the skills they need to handle themselves as an adult. They shut themselves off to the real world and get caught up in their fantasy worlds. After a while, they prefer their fantasies to the real world. In the real world, things are not so easy to control. They can’t rule with a joystick. In the real world they have to talk to people. They have to work.

That brings up another point. Laziness. A guy addicted to video games can waste hour after hour after hour without doing anything productive. Playing games is easy. Studying is hard. Taking care of daily chores is hard. Working on a real job is hard.

We parents are to blame for some of this because it started out as a way to entertain our kids. We justified it by saying they were developing their hand/eye coordination. They were home, we knew what they were doing, they were out of our hair and not causing trouble. Now they are in their twenties and we are scratching our heads wondering, “What’s their problem?”

I think if you were to research the growing popularity of video games and compare it to the growing number of young men living at home, you would find a parallel. I know that sounds simplistic, but sometimes the answers to complex questions are as plain as the nose on our face.

Cheryl M.
North Carolina


Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Katherine Buckley, “Study 3: Longitudinal study with elementary school students,” in the authors’ book Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 95-119. These authors conducted a study of 430 third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders from five different elementary schools (four public schools, one private school). The boys played video games, on average, 13.4 hours per week; the girls played on average 5.9 hours per week.

Douglas Gentile, Paul Lynch, Jennifer Ruh Linder, and David Walsh, “The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Hostility, Aggressive Behaviors, and School Performance,” journal of Adolescence, volume 27, pp. 5-22, 2004. These authors studied 607 eighth- and ninth-graders from four different schools (three public schools, one private school). The boys played video games, on average, thirteen hours per week, while the girls played on average five hours per week.

Duchess of the Kohl Center

My first experience with badges was through iPhone apps like Foursquare and Yelp. In fact, my first check in was February 20, 2011, which was probably about a week after I got my iPhone. I was at the Kohl Center for a Badger men’s basketball game. I can’t say I use the apps a lot, but I would have to say that I’ve checked in more than a few times at the Kohl Center… I like watching basketball, what can I say?

At one point last season (2011-2012), I was named “Duchess of the Kohl Center.” (I think I’ve checked in like 10 or 11 times.) The best badge ever, as far as I am concerned. I wish I had a t-shirt. Too bad being Duchess doesn’t give me the power to keep the old people who sit behind us from talking about colonics and stuff…

Anyway, I don’t think I still possess the title anymore because I think other people can steal them from you if you don’t keep checking in and I don’t go to the Kohl Center in the summer. Technically, it’s probably not even a badge either, but a mayorship or something. Whatever, though, I figure it’s like being President–they have to keep calling you “President” even after your term is up, right?

Needless to say, my experience with badges so far has been pretty silly. I knew a guy once whose mom made his Cub Scout Den change his baby brother’s diapers to earn their “Diaper Duty” badge (High-five to his mom!) At least that badge actually acknowledged a real accomplishment. My Foursquare badge “I’m on a boat” wasn’t exactly hard–I drove my car onto a ferry and then waited.

Deep down, we all like to show off our accomplishments. Badges on a sash, medals on a Varsity Letterman’s jacket, patches and pins on a military uniform. With the exception of the military honors though, these types of recognition mean nothing to job world. So when I read about badges as an alternative assessment tool, I was blown away. I’m sold. As it turns out, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have known what they were doing all along! Maybe that cooking badge you earned as a scout doesn’t seem like much, but I bet for an aspiring chef, it might be quite a big deal to earn a badge for making a perfect crème brulée with a torch. In fact, a crème brulée badge might be currency someday for jobs in a high-scale restaurant.

Standards-based assessment has been all the rage in K-12 public schools lately, especially with the Common Core Standards coming down the road. It’s a major paradigm shift for a lot of teachers to change their grading scales and philosophies from “points” to “competencies.” It’s not because teachers really believe that 84% actually reflects the amount of mastery a student has made–for a lot of teachers, it’s more a question of how to enter a competency into the computer gradebook and have it still spit out a B+. Unfortunately, it is still expected that we use GPAs as a factor in college admissions or scholarships. Sometimes, I’ve felt like it’s futile to even try to change to a standards-based assessment system when higher-ed is going to insist that we boil a kid’s learning back down to a percentage anyway.

UC-Davis sees things differently, however. This year, they won an award for their development of digital “open badges” in the Digital Media and Learning Competition supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mozilla.

Students will be able to customize learning goals within the larger curricular framework, integrate continuing peer and faculty feedback about their progress toward achieving those goals, and tailor the way badges and the metadata within them are displayed to the outside world. Students won’t just earn badges—they’ll build them, in an act of continuous learning. (Carey)

As Kevin Carey puts it in his article,  “A Future Full of Badges,” from the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing.” He’s right–years later, when you look back at a college transcript, that A- you earned in English 271 doesn’t say anything about you, what you learned or what you can do.

I started digging a little bit to find out more about how organizations can get involved and start implementing badges. Mozilla is really at the epicenter of the badges movement with their Open Badge Infrastructure, so that seemed like a logical place to start. It’s actually quite easy to create your virtual backpack as a learner who wants to start collecting and accepting badges. As someone who’s not very good at programming and customizing Open Source tools, like WordPress, the process of creating a badge seemed a bit over my head. I worry that unless I start working on that deficiency (Hey! Maybe there’s a badge out there I could earn…), I might not be very useful to a library as a tech-savvy young person after all.

Canton Public Library and Ann Arbor District Library‘s use of badges in their summer reading programs was incredible. (Thanks to Greg Landgraf for showcasing their programs in his article, “Summer Reading Levels Up!”) But again, I got to thinking, “Well, crap! Where on earth am I going to get the skill-set to help bring something like that to a library or school near me?!”

Librarygame is cool and seems to be ready-made (no skill-set necessary), but for something as experimental as the OBI movement, it seems a little risky to invest the money into quite yet–better to mess around with open source…

I continued my research though and came across a couple of points of light. BadgeStack is an open-source platform that organizations can use to launch a badge program. I actually think I can handle this one. I could at least play around with demo. I also ran into MouseSquad. It’s a 21st Century Skills Training system that prepares and supports students to establish their own technical support help desks in their schools. Basically, kids join and they can earn badges and receive the training they would need for a pretty meaningful project (all the while, they are stealthily being taught a bunch of information literacy!)

Now, this is something that I can advocate for–now! Standards-based assessment doesn’t look so daunting when it’s gamified. Yeah, yeah, there are arguments that gamification is really bad for motivation, but really, for a lot of students, once they hit high school, education is about playing the game and working the system. I like the idea of students pursuing their education by earning badges for achievements and skills that they deem valuable. Being Duchess of the Kohl Center might not be real useful, but Duchess of the Tech Support Desk could be!

We’ve got a bird problem

Yesterday, I got a proverbial bug up my hinder and decided to go check out the swallow’s nest that appeared this spring over the fresh-air intake vent for the furnace.

The vent has been clogged up with crud as of late too, so this is not a case of live and let live (the picture was taken after I cleaned it, btw). While I can calmly close the window in the wee hours of the morning when the swallows’ songs become ridiculously loud and I can no longer sleep, the vent cannot not stay clogged. As I was up there on the ladder, the entire swallow community rose up in anger and tried to dive-bomb me the entire time. Sort of made me want to knock the whole thing down, but I wasn’t sure this one contained eggs, like the “neighbor’s nest” did. (Can you see them peeking their little heads over the side?)

I climbed up there, thinking, “I can figure this out,” and discovered that I couldn’t tell if there were eggs inside, only infer, and what’s more, the crud built up on the vent was on the inside of the grate, so as I scraped/poked it off, it basically got sucked inside (yeah, I got yelled at on that one for not using the vacuum–lord only knows how I would’ve got the vacuum up there).

What does this have to do with libraries and digital tools, you ask? Well, quite simply, I just didn’t know how to handle it. This is how I feel about Twitter right now. Like the bird’s nest, I’ve had a presence there for awhile now. I actually have two accounts: @hennebe was created years ago when I thought Twitter would be used like status messages on facebook, just more succinct–and purely social; I created @MisGenes (if you speak Spanish, this “handle” is how I’m known among my Latino students–it’s a double-entendre and completely hilarious to me) for my teaching and then never did anything with it.

That brings up my first dilemma: What do I do about two accounts? I like both handles. I’ve used hennebe around the internet a lot, so it’s got that going for it, consistency-wise. That account is also more established with real-live connections I have with people I know, but who really have nothing to do with my professional life. I feel a little weird about moving on and tweeting about Library and possibly ESL stuff when this network of followers I have could care less. As for MisGenes, if I use it, I wouldn’t want to ditch the first established Twitter network I built, but really, who wants two accounts?

Basically, I can’t decide if I want to mix my professional and personal. I don’t know if I want to clutter my personal stuff with a zillion tweets by a professional LIS community and have to “shut the window” like I do with the neighborhood birds. Some people tweet 30 tweets a day (or so) and I may only be interested in one of those tweets here and there.

Then again, as Clay Shirky points out in Here Comes Everybody, even if I think the personal stuff is “among friends,” it’s really not, it’s out there and it just depends who’s listening.

The other problem is that I have simply never found a way to make Twitter work for me. I read what Donna Ekart says in her 2011 article, “Making Twitter work for you” (Computers in Libraries, 31(4). 34-35), and I think yeah, if I used hashtags more and did better searches, I could really take her advice. And then I get to Twitter, and I choke. I don’t know what hashtags to write or search for. And searching, yeah, who knows. I’ve been trying out HootSuiteTweetdeck and Seesmic and I almost feel worse.

Truthfully, I buy in to the value of the LIS Professional Commons. Kyle M. L. Jones and Michael Stephens sold me on it in ” The LIS professional commons and the online networked practitioner” in Defending professionalism: A resource for librarians, information specialists, knowledge managers, and archivists (pp. 151-161). When I am finally at the point where I can become a professional librarian, I want to be all of those things that they describe: connected and engaged, knowledgeable, skillful and innovated, full of potential for leadership. Michael Stephens says in his article, “Beyond the walled garden: LIS students in an era of participatory culture”:

It makes me happy to see students, especially those who have taken my classes, lauded in the professional networks for their contributions. When an author has commented on a student’s blog post or a notable library figure “retweets” a student’s Twitter post, these actions prove that everyone can be a part of the discussion. Value is present from all who participate. The notion that only professional librarians’ opinions matter, for example, loses strength as everyone contributes.

In my small little world of Southern Wisconsin, I just don’t know that many people here that would engage me at the level that the global LIS Professional Commons would. If that’s what I want, that’s where I will have to go. Only there can the newbie’s experience and insight be as highly respected. In real-life, it feels like you have to serve some time before you are allowed to jump right in and work for change.

To me, microblogging, a.k.a. Twittering, seems like a good link between real blogs. If you’re going to participate by consuming and sharing blogs, I would think it also makes sense to participate by writing them too. I had a VERY negative experience with blogs back in 2007 that involved a real-live confrontation and a lot of tears, so I’ve shied away from blogs, especially ones that aren’t like journals with pictures you’ve taken yourself. Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli point out in “Becoming a networked learner” in Personal Learning Networks (pp. 33-57): “So make sure what you share isn’t going to get you in trouble. You never know who will see it.” They continue to explain that while prudence is wise, it’s also a great opportunity to put yourself out there because “you never know who will see it”–there might be an opportunity waiting for you because of your participation.

During my years of hesitance, however, I’ve missed a few opportunities to learn about trends in blogging like WordPress. I feel like I’m late to the party. I also have no idea to get WordPress to do what I want it to do. I am stepping back into the light with both Twitter and blogs and hoping that things work out. I’m kind of tired of the birds crapping in my hair.

finding each other

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations by Clay Shirky for me was a lesson in economics and sociology. I know a little about sociology–well if taking one college class as an 18 year-old counts, but almost nothing about econ. While econ fascinates me to some degree, there are some things in life that are just best left to your financial advisor (or whoever else works/cares about that stuff). Truthfully, there was so much in this book that just made me think, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense!” that I’m really not sure how to tie it together at this point.

First of all, on the power of organizing in a Web 2.0 era, consider Evan Guttman and his StolenSidekick webpage. This was a guy who got fired up about an injustice and mobilized people to get his way. Our author poses the following question:

Do we also want a world where, whenever someone with this kind of leverage gets riled up, they can unilaterally reset the priorities of the local police department? (I wish I could cite the page number here, but I read from a Kindle so the best I can do is offer a location: 261)

When you think of it that way, suddenly the internet seems like a pawn of the well-connected and well-spoken to serve their own agendas. (Talk about the digital divide!) Now I can honestly say that I have thrown that kind of tantrum (maybe not of the caliber that involves millions of New Yorkers) and haven’t relented until I saw some action–my venue of choice has always been customer service phone calls–but I have never drawn in other people to support my cause, so it was novel for me to consider this. I thought it was a little ridiculous of the guy to go that far just to deliver a “spanking” to that Sasha character, but impressive none the less.

Then, I read the stories of the Catholic abuse scandals and the airline complaints and I really started thinking about how powerful it was for people who felt strongly about a cause to be able to find each other and unite. It wasn’t that the second incident in either of these cases was any less infuriating (the case in the 1990s versus the one in the 2000s), it was that, finally, for something that is truly serious, the malefactor couldn’t just depend on the odd adage, “This too shall pass.” It’s like in the past, people would be able to do enough damage control that as long as it was out of the papers, they were in the clear. Trent Lott’s comments about Mississippi’s voting history and Strom Thurmann are another example–the papers missed the first story and couldn’t publish “old news” when they picked up on it later. However, the internet community can buzz and buzz and buzz until a critical mass is reached and the world pays attention.

While I was troubled by the idea of the “Pro-Ana” girls using the YM message boards to unite (and then migrating to other online locations once YM shut them down), some people need to find “their own communities”:

Much of the way we talk about identity assumes it is a personal attitude, but society maintains control over the use of identity as an associational tool. A recovering addict would find it very risky to ask coworkers for help finding a support group, as might someone looking for the local gay community. Whether society offers or withholds this support, however, matters less with each passing year. (location 2525)

The marginalized (provided they have online access) have the opportunity to be a little less marginalized. I like that.

There’s another beauty to this. It’s not about hiding out and talking to other online hermits who don’t have any friends in the real world (I’m exaggerating here–for awhile, there was a fear of that). People still want to be with people:

In the developed world, the experience of the average twenty-five-year-old is one of substantial overlap between online and offline friends and colleagues. The overlap is so great, in fact, that both the word and the concept of “cyberspace” have fallen into disuse. The internet augments real-world social life rather than providing an alternative to it. Instead of becoming a separate cyberspace, out electronic networks are becoming deeply embedded in real life. (location 2421)


This is what the end of cyberspace looks like: the popularity of these Meetup groups suggests that meeting online isn’t enough and that after communicating with one another using these various services, the members become convinced that they share enough to want to get together in the real world. (location 2449)

Between Meetup groups, political actions and flash mobs (I still want to know how flash mobs coordinate dance numbers though. That seems bigger to me than a mass email…), with transformations this large due to social tools, we each have to consider our role and our participation level in it all. I’m starting to think that none of those levels matter too much, as long as we’re all still aware of our place in the world. (Is that too touchy-feely or cliche?)

What we really want

When I was in grad school the first time (2005-2007), I got my Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Man, I’ve got to find a better way to describe this period in my life… it was epic and I have lots of stories, but it’s just awkward now that I’m “going back for more” grad school torture.) I imagine this is pretty common knowledge in the library world, but in case you didn’t know, Illinois’ LIS program is consistently highly ranked (number one in 2009 by U.S. News and World Report). It also has the biggest public academic library in the country. It crossed my mind while I was at Illinois that maybe I should’ve been working on a MLIS instead of my MATESL, but hindsight’s 20/20. (I felt a little better when I discovered that Wisconsin is actually ranked just a little higher than Illinois for a specialty in School Library Media, which is my thing. On Wisconsin!)

Anyway, to get to the point, as a grad student with one of the premier academic libraries at my disposal, I wanted nothing more than to never set foot in the library at all. As I was reading Dempsey’s “Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity”, I kept thinking about how and what I used the library at the University of Illinois for.

Here were my uses:

  1. Digital reserves
  2. Online searches of academic databases of scholarly articles that I didn’t have access to outside of being a university student. (For the record, at the time, accessing the online academic article databases at Illinois was a major pain–it was really hard to remember how to “get in” and definitely not intuitive or teach-yourself. Even the librarians complained about how obtuse it was. I hope it has improved, because for my program there was no way around it.)
  3. Meeting in the physical library for group projects when we needed computer access and my TA office was awkward or crowded.
  4. The occasional hot beverage or snacks from the little coffee kiosks in the entrances while working on said group projects.

Never once did I enlist the services of a reference librarian for anything more useful than to point me to the whereabouts of whatever section of the library. Oh–I guess there were two semesters where I took my “Academic Writing for International Graduate Students” classes on a field trip there for a library tour and orientation by the reference librarian. If I needed a real book, I had the option of requesting it online and having it “routed” to me in a padded envelope and delivered directly to me to my TA mailbox/office. I think I did this twice.

I’m pretty sure that I was not alone in these feelings/habits, at least among my grad student friends. I wonder if grad student attitudes toward libraries have changed since 2007. I suspect that the perceived usefulness of an academic library to its users really depends on convenience.

On a side-note, I was really please that Dempsey mentioned marketing for libraries in his paper… in fact, in light of a scholarly conversation I had in class last week, I think I foresee a budding interest in this topic for me. I haven’t had any ah-ha! moments on the subject quite yet, but my antennas are up.