Monday, December 10, 2007

Week 7, Thing #17, Sandbox

Wow! This is really easy to use. Things have really come a long way from the days (not so long ago) when "they" wanted you to learn html just to post a web page. Tools are definitely more user friendly now.

There are so many ways to use wikis that I don't know where to start the list. Book reviews, class assignments, library procedures, lesson plans--these are just a few ideas to start with. There were some great curriculum connection ideas in the California Curriculum Connections wiki. Just reading it inspires you to pick one idea and start there. It is more empowering than the feeling of being overwhelmed that I have experienced some other weeks. For some reason, these seem doable. Maybe it is because the ideas come from others in the trenches.

That said, I would still like to learn how to create and manage a wiki. I guess I'll have to figure that one out.

Week 7, Thing #16, Wikis

Ah, finally we get to wikis. Of course, I've had experience with kids using wikipedia--who hasn't?--but I have been looking forward to exploring the many different ways people use wikis in the school and library worlds.

It doesn't take long to start thinking of ways to use wikis. In the library, book reviews seem to be a common use. I can see y students wanting to do this to recommend the books they love. In the classroom, some teachers use it for group projects. They are a good tool to use to build a virtual community of people around any common interest. Some teachers seem use them as guides and resources for their students. In our school, teachers use their web pages for this. Is the advantage of using a wiki that students can interact with it? That didn't seem to be built into some of these pages.

I especially liked some of the other uses for wikis that I discovered. I had never thought of putting our procedures manual in a format like this. Yet, doing so would make it both accessible and easy to update. I loved the collection of library best practices. Just think--if you needed to guide a group through developing a selection process or a challenged book policy, here are excellent resources already gathered for you to use. The same thing applies with lesson plans. I know I usually have to search for ideas and lesson plans for teaching library skills and reading genres. There are a million lesson plan sites, but most of them have few or no resources for us. A wiki where we could look for and share ideas would be great! I can also see how doing a wiki for an event like the CSLA convention would be great. It goes beyond merely posting information on a website because you can use it to build an interactive community.

The one thing I didn't learn from this exploration is how to start my own wiki. What is the best software to use? How do you keep track of contributions and edit it? I know those features should be built in, but I'd like to see how it works. I know there are also issues with what the district filtering software will allow. I think it is worth pursuing the answers to these questions, though, because this format seems so useful in so many ways. I will be looking into just how to use it.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Week 6, Thing 15, Part 2

As I went about my work today, the ideas I had read about for this assignment were still rattling around in my head. I realized that I had focused my comments on the changes that libraries will be going through in the next few years. I really had not touched on the issue of how web 2.0 technologies will impact the student and how that will be integrated into the library's mission. And so....a second post to address this side of the issue.

When you come down to it, the place where web 2.0 technologies can have their biggest impact on education is in the area of student engagement. What these tools are creating, and the question they are calling, is the means for students to be actively engaged in their own learning. The model of the lecturing teacher and the silent student is going away. Students want to be involved in creating their own meaning in their education. They don't want to sit and listen to someone; they want to be active participants. Web 2.0 technologies give them the opportunity to take what they have learned, process it in an interactive way and demonstrate that learning in a multitude of ways. Not only can libraries be leaders in helping students to find the information they need to participate in this process, they should be equipped to allow students to interact with that information and produce a variety of products to show that learning. The focus in learning shifts from memorizing known facts to learning facts, then thinking about those facts in creative ways in order to construct new meaning. This is the kind of thinking that will be called for in the 21st century workplace. It is important that libraries be part of bringing this kind of learning into today's classrooms.

One last thought about accepting learning produced with web 2.0 technologies. I do not think that teachers should accept sloppy work. Kids generally like using these technologies, but that doesn't mean that they should just be able to throw anything together and have it accepted by the teacher. The same kinds of standards and expectations for judging work quality should still be in place for these kind of assignments. It is the job of the teacher to articulate the expectations and acceptable standards, just as they do with other projects. Just letting kids play around on the computer is not a learning outcome. Web 2.0 technologies should not be an excuse for sloppy teaching practice. Rather, they should enhance the regular expectations by expanding the ways that learning can be expressed.

Likewise, web 2.0 technologies can expand the way kids interact with reading for pleasure in the library. The library can be a place where kids share ideas, thoughts and feelings about what they have read. Web 2.0 technologies can provide the platform for doing this. Again, student engagement is the key goal. I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks of the tutorial because I think some of the upcoming tools may be useful in this way.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week 6, Thing #15, Future of Libraries

These articles are interesting perspectives on the future of libraries. I like to read this kind of stuff because I think it is all too easy to get busy in our own spaces and not put up our heads and notice what is going on in the outside world. With the web, that world is getting really big and the danger of being left behind and considered irrelevant is very large. I may not use all the ideas that I read about, but keeping my own knowledge of what is out there current is a necessity.

There were several themes in these articles that are important ideas for any 21st century library. One is that the role of being a gatekeeper of information, the guardian of knowledge and the collector of books is going away. This may not be true in special libraries whose purpose is to collect and preserve certain items, but it certainly is in school libraries. I find I chose to emphasize use of the resources of the library over worrying about keeping things where they belong and limiting use of those resources. I agree with Anderson when he says that it is not about teaching skills as much as it is about working to remove barriers to student access to information. As user interface becomes simpler, patrons really don't need to understand how something works. They just need to be encouraged to use it.

Another area that is being revolutionized is service. The old style of library was you come into my space, use my resources the way I allowed you to and followed my rules. Now, patrons want access to information and, increasingly, I am interested in giving it to them in the space and form they want it in. For instance, I love the idea of giving them access to the collections of the nearly public and other school libraries. I like shifting to the idea of having a 24/7 web presence to help with homework and questions after hours. Although school libraries do have the advantage of having a 'captive' patron base (the teacher brings the class, so they have to be there), I have to be sure that the service I give them is so useful that they think to come back on their own the next time. Service is the top item I offer to the teaching staff as well. I try to have enough knowledge about different sources of information that when they need something, they ask me and I not only get what they ask for, but show them some other way of getting or using that information. Like us, teachers are busy in their classrooms and are not always aware of new ways of finding or using information. I try to teach new things to the adults as well as the students.

Finally, I liked the article by Schultz discussing the evolution of libraries from collections to service centers and finally to experiences. I believe she has captured where we are going. It is not that we will totally leave all of our old functions behind. I still want to be the place where kids come to ask me for book recommendations and discuss what they are reading with each other (although I agree with Anderson that the goal of having the definitive print collection is passe). But the library has evolved into a service based place and we are definitely experimenting with becoming an experience. The web 2.0 tools will give us ways to extend this into cyberspace. I want to do both--give kids a place to find and use ideas virtually and in real time, face to face. Community gathered is still an essential part of the human experience and I hope the library will find a way to facilitate that need for our school.