Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thing 28: Tech Trends and Scanning the Horizon

As referenced in your introduction to this assignment, the idea of what comes next does sort of fill me with a bit of dread.  On the one hand, I do find some of these tools and trends very exciting and helpful, but to be perfectly honest, I don't feel that I can keep up with everything that seems to be churning out at a break-neck pace, and that makes me feel inferior to some of my more trendy colleagues.

We had a similar assignment in Track 1 called "Future Trends" which I completed in 2011.  I just re-read my post for that assignment and I think I was correct about a lot of my predictions thus far. 

As for how technology is changing Libraries today (and tomorrow), well, it looks like the clear trend is to continue to move away from print resources and traditional research and move towards electronic resources, exploration and discovery, and student engagement and interaction both locally and globally.  I can certainly see the benefits of this move, but I also mourn for the loss of the archetypal Library, too.  I thought it was almost sad to read in Luba Vangelova's article how Joan Ackroyd created this celebrated "Learning Commons" in her Library, but that she still included a small room where students could come and read quietly a few periods each day.

Joyce Valenza concurs with this move in her article where she identifies crucial trends in Libraries as including unblocking social media, using Google and Skype to connect students, educators, and the global community, and turning Libraries into "Maker Spaces" where patrons can move beyond information retrieval to contextual problem solving and creation.

The one article that gave me pause, though, was the 2015 State of America's Library report.  This report claims that by college, students are not prepared for research; they have difficulty "coming up with keywords", "sorting through irrelevant search results", "identifying and selecting sources", and "integrating writing styles from different sources".  My, my... aren't those all skills traditionally taught through traditional research?

So how does all of this tie together to what I personally see on the horizon?  Well, having steeped myself in all of the Common Core shifts and frameworks, it seems obvious that the task of teaching basic research skills is now falling to the classroom teachers themselves, and I am not all together sure they are up for the challenge.  The Common Core implies that teachers should collaborate with the LMS to teach these skills in context, but in reality, that depends entirely upon the school's collegial climate, the availability of common planning and teaching time, and the staffing of the Library (or Media Center, or Learning Commons, or whatever you want to call that amorphous space these days).  And hasn't that been the quandary all along - with or without all the glitzy bells and whistles of technology?

So colleges want students who have developed critical thinking skills who are comfortable using a variety of information sources that they can not only analyze and synthesize, but that they can also evaluate and  distinguish between, and at the same time, we're supposed to be turning our Libraries into interactive learning centers where students can fully engage in their own learning through problem solving and collaboration.  Hey, wait?  Isn't that Inquiry???  And aren't Librarians supposed to be the leaders in Inquiry learning??

Okay, so here's my final prediction for what's on the horizon.  So forget the traditional Library, but hire the Librarian.  It doesn't matter if you place the Librarian in a tiny office of if you give them some tricked out glorified "Learning Common" to preside over.  The key is to schedule this Librarian to work 1-1 with the teachers to develop, design, implement, and assess student work that aligns with the Common Core and that follows the Inquiry process.  Do not make collaboration optional; make it a requirement and make the time necessary for it to happen.  Get rid of "Library" as a "special" where it is release time for teachers - or if you want to keep it - hire an aide or clerk to handle story reading and book exchange.  That boat has sailed, and according to current data, we have to let go of that notion of a "Library".  If it's not dead, it's dying.  And how sad is that?  Am I the only one saddened at the thought of bombarding our children with unappealing leveled readers and not sharing author studies?  But who cares?  Apparently you don't need an advanced degree to do those arcane things.   The only viable future for Librarians seems to be through the harnessing of technology and in the role of collaborator. So keep your eyes on that horizon, friends, or you may find yourselves out of a job.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Thing 27: Creaza

What a fun day I've had exploring a web tool new to me called, Creaza .  This tool is designed for educators to share with students to host multimedia projects and assignments.  I created an assignment where students would have to make a book talk that they wrote and recorded using a simple 8 layer sound mixer.  Creaza supplies a wealth of audio files you can use including music snippets and sound effects.  You can also upload or record your own files, too.

It was pretty neat learning how to build the layers and then adjust the sound volume for each layer to enhance the recording.  I did a demo of this project for the book, A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck (one of my favorites!!).  Below is a transcript of the book talk I recorded:

"Our story begins in the summer of 1929 – just before the great stock market crash – and the even greater depression that rocked the United States for a decade.  The world was terrorized by the likes of Al Capone and other notorious gangsters and life was pretty exciting in a big city like Chicago.  That’s the summer that Joey and Mary Alice were sent off to their Grandma Dowdle’s for the month of August – the first of 7 such memorable summer visits.  Coming from the bedlam and excitement of Chicago to this tiny, rural Illinois town where one can’t even find indoor plumbing, Joey and Mary Alice are faced with the task of surviving what they suspect will be boredom, but what in reality are the adventures of a lifetime!  With each August visit, Joey & Mary Alice begin to discover the remarkable woman that is their grandmother.  They help her take on the Cowgill boys, feed hungry hobos desperate for work, save her friend from foreclosure, and win the day at the county fair.  Far from a sleepy town, they find themselves transported each August to a world filled with its own unique characters and troubles that in actuality, is not so different from their own home.  Common threads like the Depression weave together to create an unforgettable image of 1930’s America.  So grab a copy of Richard Peck’s, “A Long way From Chicago” and discover for yourself what it was like growing up in this tumultuous period of American history.

And here is a link to my project:A Long Way From Chicago

Pretty fun, eh?