January’s bulletin board

IMG_20140130_132226

For January I made a display of the best books of 2013. I pulled the titles from the New York Times Book Review, NPR’s staff picks, and Amazon’s list of the best books of the year. I wanted a mix of fiction and non-fiction and I kept it to adult titles, no YA (Eleanor & Park straddles the line in my opinion).

Digital Literacy Corps aka Librarians

I got this in my library school listserv, and I want to amplify the message:

It’s been a heated 24 hours since Matt Richtel’s loaded New York Times article “Wasting Time is New Divide in the Digital Era” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/us/new-digital-divide-seen-in-wasting-time-online.html?_r=2&hpw) and public and school librarians have answered back in a big way. The FCC’s proposed $200 million initiative to develop a digital literacy corps- “hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”

There are a great number of issues with this statement, and in the presentation of evidence in this article. Namely, the digital literacy corps already exists (they’re called librarians), and moreover they’ve been doing the job amid record high numbers of information needs that coincide with record lows in budget cuts and imploded programs. These funds could easily be reallocated to offset the deficit in promised funds in LSTA and IALA (for more information please visit http://www.districtdispatch.org/), but the more chilling issue is an old problem: people clearly don’t know what librarians do.

Emphasis mine. Friends, if you don’t know how to use the internet, your computer, smartphone, e-reader, or even your tv, I can guarantee you that someone at your public library can help you learn. We love to help. Let me repeat that: WE LOVE TO HELP. And despite the stereotype of starchy old ladies with horn-rim glasses, we are usually some of the most tech-savvy people out there. We’re like IT guys, except we aren’t snobby about our mastery of technology.

Do consider sending an email to the FCC asking them to support funding libraries instead of creating an entirely new program to foster digital literacy. Public and school libraries already have the knowledge, talent, and infrastructure needed to get this off the ground.

Fran Bullington, a school librarian who writes at Informania has already put together a sample letter:
To: Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman (Julius.Genachowski@fcc.gov)

I just read the NY Times May 30, 2012 article entitled “Wasting Time is New Digital Divide in Digital Era.”  As an educator, I realize the importance of information and digital literacy.  As a school librarian, I have been trained to teach information literacy skills.  I collaborate with classroom teachers to teach lessons in which I incorporate these skills.

However, the recession has had an enormous impact on school libraries.  Many programs have been completely cut; others are being run by volunteers rather than a certified school librarian; and other programs have lost their assistants, whose job of handling routine procedures freed the school librarian to plan with teachers.

I noticed that the FCC is considering “a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”

Although I applaud the intent of teaching digital literacy skills to our students, I question the expenditure of these funds.  Why not instead funnel these funds into school library programs to allow trained, certified professionals to teach the skills?

I look forward to hearing from you on this vital issue.

 

Thanks to Rebecca Oxley (@LibrariansFTW) for sending the email that started it all.

What’s new in the world of eBooks?

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/29/153900929/libraries-grapple-with-the-downside-of-e-books

NPR had a segment on Morning Edition today about libraries and their struggles to provide ebooks to patrons. It’s a nice summation of the issue.

If you want to go deeper: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/f8ac9caa#/f8ac9caa/1 the American Library Association just published a report on the state of ebooks and other digital content in libraries today.

Google Searching Help

Here’s a secret about librarians: we use Google just as much, if not more than you do. Yes, our most frequent remark is that libraries and librarians can’t be replaced by Google (and that’s true!), but we love Google and use it all the time.

However.

Google loves to tinker with their search engine. Last year they purged MANY Google Labs features that they claim have been incorporated into their regular products (although I’m still bitter about Google Uncle Sam, an amazing product that has not been fully replicated, not even by search.usa.gov). But even more, they love to tinker with where they hide the extra goodies and tips about their products (and librarians love extra goodies and knowing all the search shortcuts).

With that in mind, here is where the best search help currently resides: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/

And they just launched a new website for educators. El Goog calls it “search education,” librarians call it information literacy. And to my surprise and delight, it is a very useful resource: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/searcheducation/index.html

The lesson plans are glossy and nice enough, but the real gems are the live trainings. They are thorough and helpful even to people like me who think they know everything already. And there are a lot of them. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I’m eager to see more.

Happy Searching!

Using technology to teach civics to young adults

The Problem

Civics – the study or science of the priveleges and obligations of citizens (Dictionary.com)

Civics used to be one of the cornerstones of the American curriculum. However, teaching of the subject has waned in recent decades due to emphasis on achievement in reading, math, and science, and it is now taught (if at all) along with history and government, or only emphasizes community service. This has led to the widespread disinterest and disenfranchisement of younger people, who generally do not vote or participate in government or the political process.

Civics proficiency – NEAP 2006 Civics Report Card

Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government, a minimal requirement for understanding America’s constitutional system. in a test done by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

However, the 2008 election saw a significant change in participation by the 18-29 year old demographic.

Pew: Young Voters in the 2008 election

See also this dynamic chart of 2008 election results from the New York Times

What could cause this change?

I propose that it is because the candidates embraced the internet and mobile technologies to an extent previously unseen. This allowed young people to feel more connected and involved in the candidates and the campaign, and encouraged greater voter turnout than before.

Pew: Liberal Dems top conservative Reps in donations, activism

Therefore, it seems obvious that to involve young people in the political process, technology must be used to appeal to them. (Skip to 0.30 for the meat of the video)

What does this mean for the School Library Media Specialist?

Look for software, websites, or new technologies that allow voters, especially young people to feel more connected to politicians. Work with teachers to integrate them into their lesson plans. The earlier that students begin to feel that politics is relevant and interesting, the more likely they will be to vote later.

Possible Scenario

A high school social studies teacher is working on the Maryland State Voluntary Curriculum Government Political Systems Goal 1, and specifically wants help from the SLMS finding tools to promote voting and interest and involvement in the political process.

Solutions

First, introduce the topic by showing students this Facebook newsfeed parody of Obama’s first 100 days in office

Activity Technologies Multiple Intelligence(s) NETS-S
Students conduct a poll, either through Survey Monkey or on the ground data collecting. Then they will organize the results into a chart in Excel and give a short presentation to the class explaining their results.
  • Survey Monkey
  • Excel
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic
  • Logical-Mathematic
  • Visual
  • Interpersonal
1d, 2b, 3d, 4a, 4b, 5 and 6
Students follow a politician’s or government agency’s activities for a month using Twitter, Facebook, and websites.

Then analyze a speech or news release in Wordle or Inspiration, finding the main themes and political spin.

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Wordle
  • Inspiration
  • Interpersonal
  • Linguistic
  • Visual
2a, 3b, 5b
Students have a choice of writing a paper or creating an xTimeline on the history of a political movement.
  • Word
  • xTimeline
  • Linguistic
  • Visual
  • Logical-Mathematical
2b, 3, 4, 6a, 6b
Students use the Gallup Poll website to study public opinion (Scheuerell, 2008).
  • Gallup Poll
  • Logical-Mathematic
  • Interpersonal
1d, 2c, 4c

Studies and Research

Teaching Tools and Technologies

Adapted from my final project for a school library media class at the University of Maryland, College Park, 2009.