Annotating off the leash

For the final annotation that I was required to do for my course this semester, we were asked to reflect on HOW we chose our topic.

For me, my topic on MOOCs came from some reflection on some course materials assigned this week, plus trends I’ve noticed in the last few years. I’ve heard some talk about MOOCs “threatening universities’ hold on higher education,” although it seems like most everyone agrees on that one that universities aren’t going anywhere. After I watched the Jesse Stommel video/cruised his website on hybrid pedagogy, I got thinking about MOOCs a little more and got curious on what is being said about MOOCs in K-12.

I had a couple other ideas, like “playful learning” and teaching coding (even for kids), but I landed on MOOCs because I thought it was most related to Information Literacy and could complement what we’ve already talked about. Not necessarily a lack, but an extension!

I liked the freedom of sharing articles of our choice (mostly because I LOVE sharing articles–this is my primary use of Twitter, after all), but to be honest, the process of writing annotations doesn’t feel especially useful to me anymore. Four out of the five of the library science courses I’ve taken have included a significant annotation requirement. Obviously, annotations are a VITAL skill for librarians-in-training, but I feel like I get the point. (It’s sort of like being asked to do group project after group project–I get it, we’ll have to collaborate in the real world. But actually, I’m already not bad at it in the real world.) It’s just getting a little old–not that my fatigue with these exercises will prevent me from busting it the next time I’m assigned one. I always do.

I think searching for annotations is good for your information literacy skills, but also your reference/online search skills. With both of those areas, the main way to improve anyway is with practice!

Annotation: EdCamps as a solution for teacher PD

PD (Mostly) Sucks. Is EdCamp The Solution? (n.d.). TeachThought. Retrieved November 24, 2013, from http://www.teachthought.com/learning/pd-mostly-sucks-edcamp-solution/

This article suggests EdCamps as an alternative approach to the professional development that many educators have come to dread. The idea is to provide a blank slate of time slots and locations on a board and then ask the professionals on your staff to organize themselves into sessions based on what they are interested in sharing, presenting, discussing and exploring. It seems to me to be a bit optimistic, logistically, to expect the entire staff of a school, which might number over 100 people, to gather around a whiteboard, and negotiate their interests. However, the author does present several variations on how an EdCamp-style professional development day might work and references a Learni.st board with even more ideas. The important part is that staff are engaged and have ownership over what they are learning—this is the kind of learning that we expect teachers to facilitate for our students, so it makes sense to offer the same opportunity for teachers’ own learning.

A new librarian’s collaborative dilemma

I’ve learned that it’s usually much easier to walk into a mess than to be the next act following a rockstar. (Sometimes, this also applies to dating.) Any improvements you make will typically be well-received. However, sometimes people lower their expectations and get used to your role as a non-effective one.

This week in my information literacy course, we were faced with cases of hypothetical librarians, struggling to create collaborative relationships in their libraries. The hypothetical middle school librarian approached a seemingly friendly colleague and offered to work with him on a research project to integrate some information literacy skills. He shot her down and questioned her ability to help him with social studies. The librarian’s predecessor probably never worked like this with teachers and they probably were pretty used to taking care of themselves. I would also suspect that the former librarian didn’t play well with others in general. When faced with a disheartening rejection like this one, it is pretty tempting to back off. She could try and re-phrase her offer, possibly starting small by offering a simple mini-lesson with his class about using a database in the computer lab that he feels more comfortable in. He may not bite though, since he has already blown her off.

Another thing to try is to simply offer her services to another teacher (and if she stuck with the Social Studies department, the endorsement would be more likely to sell her first rejector on it later.) Sometimes, teachers are grumpy or have a hidden grudge that you might not be able to predict. A silly example, but last year, I tried to organize a moral-boosting lunch treat in my building, hosted by teachers with March birthdays. I didn’t get a lot of response after my email, so I decided to check in personally with the silent parties before ditching the idea. I checked in with Mrs. B and she shot me down so cruelly that I walked out of there with a trembling lip. (I mean, really, asking her to bring in a bag of shredded cheese apparently was out-of-line. But she didn’t have time to have lunch, she said.) I almost gave up, but checked in with another science teacher next door to her whose response was, “Yes! What do you want me to bring? How can I help?”

My point is, you just never know “who’s in” or “who’s out.” Baby steps. Building a culture isn’t always easy.

My suggestion for the school librarian’s plan of action:

  1. Make a menu of quick mini-lesson or push-in instructional ideas that teachers could use her for… email it out and make some small cardstock/ laminated bookmarks/magnets that she could stuff in teacher mailboxes so they’ll have it around and think of her sometime. She’ll have to start small to build a culture.
  2. Try again with the nay-saying social studies teacher, but don’t expect him to bite until she has a track record. Approach other teachers in the social studies department personally with the above mentioned menu of services.
  3. Try attending a middle school team meeting a few times and just listen. She might get some ideas on what teachers are struggling with and find ways to help. Showing up regularly would build trust and credibility.

Annotation: Collaboration

Immroth, B., & Lukenbill, W. (2007). Teacher-School Library Media Specialists Collaboration through Social Marketing Strategies: An Information Behavior Study. School Library Media Research, 101-16. Retrieved October 6, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume10/immroth_teacherslmscollaboration

This study examined how social marketing strategies can be a tool for fostering collaborative relationships in schools between teacher-librarians, content teachers and student librarians (i.e. practicum school librarian graduate students). The study is thoroughly documented and reflects its validity as exploratory research, but I was most interested in the strategies the librarians tried. By using the concept of social marketing, which aims to benefit the audience and society instead of the marketer, and the Attention Interest Desire Action (AIDA) model, the researchers were able to give a common framework for their participants to pursue this type of collaboration. Though written as an academic research article, its application of the AIDA model could be potentially more useful to practitioners seeking to improve their collaborative efforts than a simple list of tips—like eating lunch with other teachers in the teacher’s lounge or sharing names of new DVDs with targeted teachers.

Skype vs. Adobe Connect

Well, it’s a new semester and this week, I had my first class for “Introduction to Reference Services.” My instructor is a Canadian and she apparently ran into a delay with her Visa, so she couldn’t make it in for our first class. (You know, I’m not really surprised. When I needed my Visa to Canada, I nearly ran into the same thing–though I didn’t get delayed. Our relationship with our neighbors to the north is kinda weird when it comes to Immigration and Customs.)

Anyway, she opted to Skype in to teach us this time. I’ve used Skype socially before, but never in an instructional setting. On the contrary, my instructor for my summer course used Adobe Connect when we had guest lecturers or even virtual office-hours.

Long story short, the Skype experience proved to be almost painful. The connection seemed to time out now and then and her sound would garble on us or just freeze up. It seemed worse when she used video, but even without it, it was rough. I think the longest we went without her having to “call us back” was maybe 15 minutes. When I walked in the classroom, they were trying to get it to screen-share so that she could control her PowerPoint. No luck. We ended up putting the slideshow on our side and one of us students had to work the slideshow from our end. Talk about Band-Aids. Not her fault, obviously, and probably a perfect storm of several factors, but still a pain.

It kind of reminded me of the first time I ever used the Internet to make a phone call back in 2000. Lord knows what the tool was called, but there were weird delays and garbles and it was much more pleasant to just use a real phone and a calling card. We’ve come a long way, baby! Go figure, now we have Voice Over IP phones, which are pretty much the best of both (if you want a landline, that is).

My experience with Adobe Connect almost always went swimmingly. Our guests seemed to have few problems getting set up, with the exception of one whose audio had to be Frankensteined together with a cell phone (I think because of a mic problem on the speaker’s end). Regardless, it was always clear and we didn’t have reconnect over and over. There was even the option for a side-channel chat that multiple users could text chat with in real time. Pretty sure it’s not free like Skype though.

I realize this is a rudimentary, quick and dirty review and maybe I have my rose-colored glasses on, but I just wanted to give a big thumbs-up to Adobe Connect for instructional purposes and virtual presenters. Skype fell on its head for us this week.

Join the [Book] Club.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been doing a common reading program since the 2009-2010 school year, when they featured Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. In 2010-2011, they read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and in 2011-2012, Enrique’s Journey. To be honest, even though I’ve been in Madison since 2007, I’ve never had anything to do with it. I love Michael Pollan’s work, but didn’t read that one. I read a preview chapter on my Kindle of Henrietta Lacks, but never followed up. I did read Enrique’s Journey, but after the fact this August, and it came on my radar independently.

This year, they are reading Radioactive by Lauren Redniss. Now that I am more officially attached to the university through library school, I was given a copy through my course this semester. We are using it for a couple course activities, from examining the sources/archives of the research to investigating grants supporting community reading programs such as this one.

For the record, I read it a few weeks ago and it was DELIGHTFUL. Marie and Pierre Curie were incredible and I wish that I had been exposed to more of their life history earlier. The book was a sort of graphic novel and the art was pretty neat. The cyanotypes made the pages look almost transparent and well, the cover glowed in the dark. So cool. I wasn’t able to attend the presentation by Lauren Redniss when she was on campus the other day, but there are lots of other activities all year long that might be interesting.

Sometimes, my church organizes a book group that I participate in. I’ve read books with them about the saints, Ignatian Spirituality and the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul. Always lively discussions, but often too much material in too short a meeting period. The last book they did only met twice (half the book each time) and let’s just say that I only had enough time to read about a third–but I went anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about book clubs and my direct experience with them. What is the appeal? You see, when you CHOOSE to read something and it turns out to be interesting (for the positive or the negative), I think it’s human nature to want to discuss what you’ve learned. While books invoke the imagination within, I think it’s even better to let the ideas out.

I want to start my own.

The idea came up over the summer while I was in a teacher inservice to start some book clubs with the high school kids at the school I work at. It would be so simple, so fun, so perfect. Even my ESL students, who mostly aren’t the greatest or motivated readers [in English], have expressed interest when I’ve told them about how people sometimes go to book clubs and talk about what they’re reading. If they’d be tempted to participate, I KNOW there are avid readers who would also be game.

Ideally, we would do it during the lunch periods (we have three) so that the kids who are hyper-involved with clubs and sports and part0time jobs could participate. If we selected three books, and each book had a group that met during each lunch, we would need 9 staff members to host the groups. Weekly would probably be too frequent and monthly too spread out to keep people engaged, so I think every other week would be best.

I stopped by the local public library to talk to the children’s librarian there. Once we get this rolling, I’m hoping she’ll be a good resource for book selection or even securing copies of the books. There is another English teacher and the school librarian that I work with who’ve expressed interest in making this happen, so I think there is a good chance that it will!

And for the love of reading, getting more kids to read for fun is a very good thing.

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.

PLCs

I have been reflecting on professional development opportunities for collaboration… what’s known in my K-12 world as “professional learning communities,” aka PLCs. It’s funny to me that, unless professionals are given regular opportunities to learn and grow directly with their immediate colleagues, when they are turned loose on something like a convention, they seem to be less likely to cut the proverbial cord and go try something new on their own that they are interested in without a friend. Work friends at a convention together often choose to attend seminars based on each other and only secondarily on their interests. If you never get to see your work friend socially because you are both busting it trying to get the work done, the first chance that you get to take a breath will be to catch up with each other. Might be social, might be work gossip, might be work business. Nonetheless, it’s probably not collaboration time where new ideas can be shared and grown.

Now if there was an incentive to go out there and learn something truly innovative and share it in a creative way, maybe more people wouldn’t fall into the habits I just described. (I recently heard of a TED video about Google, maybe, providing something called a “Fed-Ex day” that inspired just this. I need to find and watch it!)…

Yes, I know that we all as professionals need to be intrinsically motivated to be life-long learners. And for the most part I am. But I’m also a realist who has worked with enough slackers to know that the slackers can stifle the excitement of those who want to learn and share.