Happy 2nd Anniversary from IL2009

I’m excited to celebrate 2 years of blogging here! I wanted a new place to collect library thoughts so began this blog at IL2007 in order to do just that. This has been a great space for me to explore the random library, education, and literature-related ideas that flow through my head. Sometimes I feel like I should have named this blog schooling.ME because that’s a more accurate way to describe it 🙂 Having a dedicated blog space has really helped me to think deeply about all the bits and scraps I read about in my RSS feeds, tweet about on Twitter, and text about with friends.

That said, there are even more issues (relatively speaking) this year at IL as compared to two years ago. I have been following the Twitter backchannel chat and trying to pull out the themes that seem to be dominating the conversation this year:

THANKS. First, thanks to all who attended our presentation yesterday, with @lorireed & @librarianbyday & myself (@erindowney). For the lady in the audience who wanted to learn more about RSS, I recommend my wiki at http://cyber64edu.wetpaint.com/page/aggregators%2Freaders and to follow up with http://tinyurl.com/2rf25c . Good luck and drop me an email if you’re not feeling it gel for you!

PART ONE from Bobbi Newman
PART TWO from me:

NOSTALGIA. Despite our love of all things shiny & techno, there was a lot of talk in the keynotes about the solitary experience of reading, the scent of paper, and the sensory cues that tune us into this alternate world of deep contemplation. Although we acknowledge that libraries provide a new and wonderful node of community convergence, walking the line between preserving that singular & personal experience with information and the collective experience with the same is proving difficult for us emotionally. (Imagine how this affects how our patrons see us!)

CONTROL. Directors and other decision-makers are no clearer, according to attendees, about the fact that controlling dialogue online is at best illusory and at worst dictatorial. Transparency and extension of professional trust is the sentiment of the day. The boat has sailed: Internet communication means that we’ve created a sort of uber-democracy where voices cannot be stifled, no matter how much we may not want to hear them. The new proactive approach to service is to constantly scan the conversation and to become a part of it in productive, positive, and meaningful ways. Not participating is no longer a viable option.

LEARNING. Folks have expressed in various forums that libraries are still doing something very well – being one of those places where true learning can take place and personal passion can be pursued. Traditional schooling and the idea of teaching is transforming mightily, and the attendees here seem to be of the opinion that creating life-long learners is a process happening outside traditional institutions of learning. But this means letting go of our egos and seeing ourselves as coaches or facilitators rather than “teachers,” and is a point of friction.

RADICAL CHANGE/BUREAUCRACY. This dichotomy is not working for people. Librarians need to be set free to experiment, to fail, to try and dabble and poke about in order to bring about the change that’s needed to keep up with our users. The world is moving very quickly, and we stand the chance to exponentially lose street cred & relevance. Red tape, delays, paperwork, and other things keep us lumbering along like the dinosaurs (and many see us this way). Flexible, nimble, and ephemeral teams are more relevant as an organizational structure for today’s library.

From my perspective, these were all topics we were talking about 2 years ago at IL2007 but today’s conversations are much more intense. Transformative change only occurs when we can get our home institutions on board and gain critical mass with our own coworkers. If IL2007 was “try something new,” IL2009 is “DO something NOW!”

I’m gonna tweet ur old-skool stuff!

One of the newest trends I’ve been following? Republishing older, public-domain works in installments online. This definitely proves that everything old can be new again! Ranging from the revered and famous to the unknown and pedestrian, people are rediscovering the pleasures of slowly getting a story in bite-sized chunks. Check them out below:

John Quincy Adams’ diary entries brought to you by the Massachusetts Historical Society:

Samuel Pepys can help you relive 1666 all over again:

Dracula is republished in real-time on this blog:

Tail-end of the Great Depression through the eyes of a girl in rural Illinois:

The Orwell Prize is republishing the writer’s diaries in blog form:

If you know of others, let me know and I will add them to this post.

Techy Talk via OPAL!

I gave a little talk today to folks from all over the world online! It was delivered via OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) and it’s still going strong – I’m definitely tuning in tomorrow for more awesome talks!

In these budget-crunching times, an online conference is a great way to network and learn without traveling and spending a lot of dough. I was pleased to talk about education, libraries, and technology… and pleased to see so many interested “faces” in the crowd!

Check it out at OPALescence (my page is here)! It’s FREE, it’s ONLINE, and it’s EASY. Things don’t get awesomer than that!!!

she got her head in the clouds (sharada sharada)

Ok, so the song isn’t about cloud computing – but it’s close 🙂

I’m glad I waited to blog on this, because I bumped into a great new book on this very topic. The Big Switch : Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr is fascinating. Carr interweaves history with present-day computing by describing the first switch (from dynamos to electric utilities) alongside the second switch (from local hard drives to computing power in the cloud). Just as electric utilities proved to transform business and life in general, so will this trend towards large computing clusters accessible via the “cloud.”

For example, check out Amazon S3. This concept promises to unleash computing power to the masses previously only accessible to large corporations. By eliminating investment in hardware and turning storage and processing into a pay-to-play model, anyone with a good idea and a little code can make their digital dreams a reality.

But unlike the electric utility, we are now trading intellectual property. What will Google, or Amazon, or Apple, or MS DO with your data? Will it be protected? Is your data safe? Should a business, for example, risk exposing customer data to the cloud? The ethics of cloud computing are a compelling reason for people to tread this new water carefully. Electricity is value-neutral. Data is not.

So the price may be right, but the true cost of maintaining off-site machinery is (currently) muddled in this electronic age. This may well be the new frontier: web 3.0, where your storage choice can be a game-changer.

Sherpas Help Teachers

An article from the Christian Science Monitor points out the rewards that teens and teachers in rural Maine get when giving (and getting) tech assistance. I liked the multimedia feature that accompanied the article. But one thing nags at me– they talk about how relieved the teachers are to get tech help and how the students benefit from sharing their knowledge, but I sincerely hope that this program isn’t replacing adequate professional development and training that teachers need to effectively implement technology in the classroom.

When I think back to my high school days in the mid 1990s, the district was bragging about having a computer in every room (for the teacher’s use, of course). But who were the ones actually using it? In many cases, students. There were several teachers who didn’t know how to do something as fundamental as retrieving files… I vividly recall demonstrating how to save a file to one teacher, who was just baffled by the whole process. I guess we were sherpas, too, in our own way. (Ah, the heady days of Windows 95, so radically different from 3.1!)

I guess I hoped that in 10 years, things would have changed fundamentally in the edtech world. Am I being pessimistic? Should I look at these new tech sherpas as an advancement, the next iteration of the teen tech support desk? Or should I be more skeptical of these glossy stories about how “cutting edge” teens seem to perennially be beside us older folks? (and holy cow, am I older folks now?!?)

This time, it’s academic

Wright State University is now providing students with sound-proof spaces for podcasting. This is clearly a trend to watch!

Sharing new tools

Today I tried to imagine how Rollyo could revolutionize our library practice. Here’s what I came up with:

Would you like an easier way to find county school information? Try my new Rollyo search! I took all our individual school websites and “rolled” them into one customized search: http://www.rollyo.com/erindowney/joco_schools/

This is but one of the awesome tools we learned about in the Internet@Schools sessions. I can see recommending this tool to patrons who need the “right” information rather than a Google search dump… especially for homework. Help kids pick a handful of trusted and authoritative sites, and they can roll their own search engine that gives them very specific results.

If we don’t like to rely on Google, now we have an alternative. Of course, this means adding an extra step and selecting sites in which we place authority. That means that we need to have a better sense of what’s out there to use on the web. And again, more librarian job security to the rescue 😉

Wesch’s video

Just in case any new readers haven’t seen Michael Wesch’s videos… this is his latest and greatest. He’s a winner on many counts: from KSU, awesome thinker, and all about information.

The Five Laws of Digital Education

I’m working on an article and a presentation based around web tools for classrooms… (Adapted from Ranganathan‘s 5 Laws of Library Science)

  1. The web is for use. Let your students make use of the incredible educational world that is out there! Don’t allow fear to eliminate the possibilities for digital learning.
  2. Every learner deserves access. And I’m not talking about the very limited surfing that you can do in a typical school… there is a fluency that must be gained for efficient and intelligent use of the internet, and students who have no or limited access at home are not gaining the skills they need to be successful as adults in a digital world. They are not “learning the language” of the web.
  3. Access benefits learners. Students who are exposed to a variety of sites will begin to develop a more sophisticated visual literacy than those of their peers who are left to surf alone. Educational guidance is needed to create responsible and empowered digital citizens of tomorrow. And when you give your students your trust to begin blogging and researching responsibly, you will help them to develop netiquette that can extend into their off-line lives, too.
  4. Expand the world of the learner. Why can’t your students correspond with their counterparts in the next town over? Or even a world away? Why on earth would you simply study China in a book when you could swap pictures of your hometowns with other kids your age in Bejing? Imagine students being able to contribute to a class project while at home, or on vacation. Imagine your students’ parents being able to contribute to a dialogue about their learning. Imagine fewer boundaries and more possibilities.
  5. The web is a growing organism (with our help). Don’t let the web grow without your students. Conversely, your students have a great chance to grow alongside it. Imagine replacing the mute and dusty pictures of students long graduated in your school’s gymnasium with living, breathing digital projects that expand year upon year. Or being able to log on ten or more years in the future to hear the voices of kids long past, to absorb their projects and passions, and to build on the ideas and exploration that they started. The future of digitally-based education depends on educators and students of today– so let’s get started!
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