The Learning Librarian

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Twitter Adventures, Part 1 and 2

This might sound silly, but I was really excited that Twitter was one of the suggested technologies to explore for this blog project.

I’ll admit, I’ve actually been fairly anti-Twitter in the past. My thought process has always been, “if I have something to say, I’ll just say it on Facebook. Why would I need to say it twice?”

I tend to be extremely affected by the “information sickness” discussed in Marilyn Johnson’s “This Book is Overdue.” As much as I love new technology, it often overwhelms me. Information overload. Opportunity overload. I don’t want to blog on one website, give short thoughts on another, and post pictures on another. I want one site, one central location, where I can do everything. Who has time to check all of these various technologies every day while still eating, breathing, sleeping and tending to other life responsibilities? While I think technology is awesome, I also enjoy going outside.

Then, I realized famous people use Twitter. And I like famous people. So sue me.

I also realized that I just might have things to say that I’d like to say in Twitter’s quick-and-easy format. Things I might not necessarily want to share with my 785 Facebook friends. Things I might want to keep fairly anonymous, but public, if that makes any sense.

If you want specifics, I recently learned that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (More info: http://www.hsperson.com/ and/or http://denmarkguy.hubpages.com/hub/hsp) which generally means that I’m naturally wired to be more easily overwhelmed than others. It means a lot of other things, too. Things that have given me anxiety for years have finally been explained by learning more about this genetic trait, and I’m relieved, but I’m working on how to use it to my advantage in my career/life. And I want to share that with others. Just not necessarily people I know.

Before this assignment came along, I started thinking how now might be a good time to stop being so anti-Twitter for the aforementioned reason. Also, I thought it could be a great platform to post my ‘librarian’ thoughts and follow libraries, librarians and children’s authors I admire. So yesterday, I made an account: https://twitter.com/_AnxiouslyA_

Today, it’s been suspended for no apparent reason, and my Twitter adventure as we know it is over. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My excitement was palpable as I created my account. As a testament to my excitement, I was late for dinner with a friend because of it and I’m NEVER late for dinner, ever. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to set up and get started with. Twitter offered me suggestions on whom to follow, helpful hints for common problems, and brief tutorials on hashtags and retweets and anything else I could possibly want to know. Within minutes, I was following dozens of people, had tweeted a few times myself, and was basically addicted. Admittedly, I spent the better part of my Saturday night reading tweets, retweeting, finding more interesting people to follow, and reading all that I could about the website. The only thing I found confusing was when tweets came up on my home page from folks I hadn’t followed/had no idea who they were – but I discovered, these were tweets that had been retweeted by people I did follow. I’m not sure how I feel about that – while I think the idea of retweeting is great, I really only want to see words from the people I’m following – hence why I’m following them and not the complete strangers they follow.

After a night of dreams filled with little birdies and “@” symbols, I woke up this morning, logged on, and was met with a little yellow bar at the top of the page that read “Your account has been suspended. For more information, see Suspended Accounts.”

Insert minor (okay, major) panic attack here. Seriously? I just joined yesterday; how could I have done something wrong already? I had a thought this morning – how was I going to share it with the world? What would my 10 followers think?!

I immediately sent in a formal “help! What’s going on?” email and was relieved to get the following immediate response:

Hello,

We understand that you’re contesting an account suspension. Please be sure to read this entire email.

Twitter suspends accounts for a variety of reasons. Your account was suspended because it appears you may be managing a number of Twitter accounts. Creating serial or bulk accounts with overlapping uses is a violation of the Twitter Rules; as a result, all of the accounts created have been suspended pending more information being provided.

Please respond with the following information in only one ticket:

a) a list of the accounts that you have created and which of these you would like to have reinstated, andb) your planned use for the accounts.

The Twitter Rules can be found here: http://support.twitter.com/articles/18311

Thanks,

Twitter Support

I wrote back and told them that the only Twitter account I use is the one I JUST CREATED. (But I said that nicely. I think.) There is a chance I may have created an account years ago, just out of curiosity, that I never actually used. But c’mon – really?

After spending the morning researching account suspension, it seems I could be in trouble here. Many people have blog posts where they angrily discuss being suspended and having to wait upwards of 2 weeks to be reinstated. And even after receiving “woohoo, you’re back!” emails, said reinstatement doesn’t actually happen. This is kind of ridiculous. I bet it never happens to the famous people. Also, Twitter doesn’t seem to have a phone number for customer support. You simply have to email your request – and wait. And wait, and wait, and wait. I can’t believe I only started this last night and I’m this upset over it. I feel like a coffee addict who’s just been told from now on there is only decaf left in the world.

Last night, I was planning to blog about my Twitter experience in an extremely positive way. This is an AMAZING tool for students, I was going to tell you. I already started planning Future Library Lessons in my head. Students could set up a Twitter account and tweet thoughts of a particular character as they read a book, and the teacher/librarian could use that to monitor comprehension. They could tweet responses to blogs, articles, anything. They could respond to tweeted challenges by their librarians – questions like “who can find the best picture of a sunset?” or “if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?” They could tweet “classroom news” to their parents and communities. They could find differing opinions on a given topic and compare/contrast them by bringing in additional sources to prove/counter the points. The possibilities – I thought – were endless, and exciting. But now I’m not so sure. I would never ask students to put massive amounts of effort into a project that could be instantly taken away for no reason. I am conscientious to the core – a real rule-follower who would NEVER intentionally do something wrong. And the fact that my Twitter is now unavailable to me – and was taken away in such a harsh, quick way without even a warning- is both frustrating and disheartening. Granted, I was only up to 10 followers so far, but still – I put a lot of time into what I wrote, read and followed, and I was looking forward to the possibility of helping others like me in the process of self-discovery.

I still think Twitter is great in theory. When working properly, students would have access to all kinds of opinions and thoughts, and it would be a wonderful exercise for them in discerning fact from opinion. It would be the ultimate test of students’ ability to sort through all of the information available in order to select what is most valid and valuable. Students would be able to explore different points of view on various topics, and even the most reluctant readers would be engaged, as tweets are so quick and easy.

I end this post with a heavy heart and a brain full of brilliant, witty quips that will likely never be written. Not to be depressing or anything. But c’mon, Twitter – really? Also, ppppplllllleeeeeaaaasssseeeeee let me come back????

 

UPDATE!

After the disheartening reality that my new hobby was no more, I was disappointed. But then I had a sneaky, devious thought: I could create a new account under a different e-mail address. I am such a rebel it’s ridiculous.

I tossed the idea around for awhile before succumbing to it. After all, I didn’t want to get in trouble again. (I’m actually a terrible rebel.) But I just wanted to be on Twitter. Is that so wrong? Also, I visited the link Twitter sent me to check in on the progress of my “ticket” (aka complaint…) The link informed me that it was “closed”, but I hadn’t received any kind of email describing said closure. So while it was very much still open in my mind, the Twitter people didn’t seem to agree.

So, I made a new account, which can be found here: https://twitter.com/_AnxiousA_

I’m up to almost 90 followers! And I’m following librarians, teachers, children’s writers (and yes, celebrities. Can’t help myself.) So I really hope Twitter doesn’t kick me out again. I have good intentions, people. I’m really not some crazy spammer advertiser person.

The funny thing is that I finally did get an email back from a person when I least expected it, and it was only about 3 weeks after the initial problem. It said:

Hello,

Twitter has automated systems that find and remove multiple automated spam accounts in bulk. Unfortunately, it looks like your account got caught up in one of these spam groups by mistake.

I’ve restored your account; sorry for the inconvenience.

Please note that it may take an hour or so for your follower and following numbers to return to normal.

Confusing. I promptly deleted the account that the person had just restored, not wanting to get in trouble for the same “multiple account” crime that, this time, I would actually be guilty of.

I do appreciate that someone got back to me, and I guess three weeks isn’t so long to wait in the swing of things. But it would be nice if they had a customer service phone number you could call, like Comcast or Apple or any of those places that have frequent issues. I guess they’re not so concerned that a handful of people amongst millions might be dissatisfied, which makes sense from a business standpoint but isn’t so nice on a personal level. If I ran a big company, I would want everyone to be pleased with it and get their problems handled in a timely, efficient manner. But maybe that’s just me.

Since I’ve had more time now to explore Twitter, I can now confidently say that I think it’s a good resource for students, though I wouldn’t want them to get too emotionally invested in it. Many of the librarians and authors I follow post links to professional articles, book reviews and resources that would be extremely beneficial for students doing research projects. I also like how easy it is to connect with people – a student could easily reach out to a popular author and ask a question about his/her book. Students would also have access to the latest news and information. I would want my students to use it, but I wouldn’t want them to let it take over their lives. As I learned the hard way, being on Twitter is NOT worth being late to dinner.

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For this week’s reading response journal entry, I decided to take a look at the blog entitled A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy (http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/). The name of the blog appealed to me immediately; it is currently a cold, blustery day and those are three things I would be delighted to have. For now, though, I will settle for a water bottle, a computer and this blog. 🙂

After looking around the blog a little bit, it occurred to me: this lady looks familiar! Then I realized – I follow her on Twitter! (Don’t worry, dear reader, my Twitter Saga continuation will be part of next week’s blog entry. It is pretty exciting; make sure you stay tuned.) I have been following several librarians and teachers, and I recognized her face as the one behind many interesting Tweets I’ve followed. I hadn’t realized that she was also behind this blog – what a great discovery!

The purpose of the blog is to discuss and review YA books. Elizabeth Burns, the author, reviews YA novels and tells her readers the plot and “the good” about her selections. Readers can respond with their own thoughts and comments. She also has an “interviews” section where she prints her conversations with YA authors. I enjoyed reading several of these reviews and interviews; they are helpful to me as a future librarian and would undoubtedly be helpful for students looking for a good book or for more information about their favorite authors.

I noticed that she also posts articles that provide information and thoughts on current events/articles, like this one:http://blogs.slj.com/teacozy/2013/02/08/speak-up-already/. I really enjoyed this article. It discussed Ms. Burns’ reaction to an article she came across on Twitter in which the author argued that students should be graded on their class participation. However, Burns retorts, for students who are introverted and are naturally wired to think (a lot) before they share, this grading policy seems a bit daunting and unfair. I especially like the article because she provides several links to other blogs and websites that discuss the same issue. She provides links to articles that argue both sides of the debate, not just the one she agrees with. When looking at this particular piece, as well as others on the blog, I thought about how wonderful this would be for older students to learn that there is not always one right answer to everything. From an early age, students are usually taught that there IS an answer to their question, even if it isn’t readily accessible – it’s out there somewhere, we instruct them; go find it. But sometimes there truly are not clear-cut answers or even answers at all. People don’t know/agree on the meaning of life. People don’t know how to cure various diseases. And people definitely don’t agree on controversial issues (I guess that’s what makes them controversial!) I really respect how Burns models how to research both sides of a story, and I like how she models respect for the other side. She doesn’t badmouth the author of the article she’s disagreeing with; she doesn’t put down people who resonate with “the other side.” She also welcomes comments, encouraging conversation and thoughts from anyone who would like to speak up, regardless of their opinions. I think modeling is crucial for students of any age – if we would like to see a certain result, we need to demonstrate exactly what that result looks like. When I become a librarian, I know I would like to see students who are respectful, thoughtful and articulate when conducting research and reporting an opinion, and I would absolutely use this blog as an example.
 
PS – if your day needs a little amazingness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MQ25Z7XARy0
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Google Reader

When creating my Google Reader account (https://www.google.com/reader/view/?hl=en&tab=my&at=PEWFe5QnwAkUNX1yWQqL8w) I’ll admit that I was a little hesitant. Another reader? I thought, images of all the blogs/articles/books I regularly read cascading through my mind. Obviously, I enjoy reading (if I didn’t, this probably wouldn’t be the best profession to be going into) but thinking about adding more to my growing list of resources was not a particularly calming thought. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Google Reader makes it very easy to search for things you might like to subscribe to, and it keeps track of your subscriptions for you in the lower left corner. Within each topic you subscribe to, there are long lists of postings and discussions. I was surprised that Google Reader is more of a platform for discussion than I thought; I didn’t realize that people could respond to articles and contribute their own thoughts and ideas freely. I also really like the “Bundles” feature, where you are able to combine any of your subscriptions into one folder. Google Reader makes it easy to organize – whether you prefer things separate or all bundled (pun intended) together, it allows you to do as you please. It also lets you arrange the feed in many different ways: from oldest to newest, newest to oldest, or by “magic.” You can also read it in a different language, if you so choose. They really do think of everything.

While everything was easy to use and understand, I stand by my original “another reader?” question. I like Google Reader, I do, and I understand how many people appreciate its’ convenience, since you can easily check it while checking your e-mail. I am just struggling to figure out why it’s necessary when so many similar things already exist. What does it have that other resources don’t? (That’s rhetorical, but you’re welcome to answer if you’d like.) I’m not sure if I would use it with students because there is almost too much available information. I only subscribed to six feeds, and after returning to it after a weekend away, the articles and readings had piled up higher than I could ever believe, and I didn’t know where to start. I can only imagine what someone’s feed looks like when they’ve subscribed to ten, twenty, thirty feeds! Even though Google Reader breaks it down into categories and subcategories, etc etc, I think it would be challenging for students to weed through all the articles and responses in order to find what they’re looking for. While this would be a great exercise in Information Literacy, I’m wondering if it may end up being more frustrating than beneficial. I’m wondering who the authors of these postings really are. Yes, the writing is convincing, but there doesn’t seem to be any biographical information provided. We teach students to examine multiple sources and to not always accept the first answer they find as the correct one, but we need to facilitate this by steering them in the direction of the quality sources to examine. I think most of these contributors probably are reliable, but since I’m unfamiliar with them, I would be hesitant to relay them to my students without some further investigation. In teaching, I would probably refer my students to blogs or readers that respond to specific topics, or have them use Google Reader but only subscribe to one thing and explore it in-depth.

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When You Give a Pre-Schooler an iPad…

For my first reading analysis, I thought that looking at the School Library Journal would be a good place to start. I have never explored this journal before, and was pleased to discover a website chock-full of useful information (www.slj.com.) The user-friendly website truly provides everything I could ever imagine needing as a librarian: job postings, book reviews, lists of book award winners, curriculum, lesson plans, technology tools, and links to dozens and dozens of blogs and articles. After much exploring, I followed links and found myself at a very interesting article from the journal, which can be found at http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/05/k-12/etots-a-public-library-ipad-program-for-preschoolers/. Though I am not planning on teaching pre-school forever, I am currently interested in how everything I am learning about libraries (and the related topics of literacy and technology) can be implemented with younger students, and to what extent they should be utilized. Many people imagine middle or high school students when they think about students using technology, but it isn’t just them anymore. Just today, a 4-year-old in my class brought to school the iPad he got for his birthday, sparking a serious debate amongst the class.

“You’re not allowed to have an iPad; they’re only for grown-ups,” one child announced.

“No,” retorted another, “my sister has one and she’s 10.”

“I have one,” said a third student. “But I can only use it in the car.”

“I use mine all the time,” a fourth chimed in.

I tried to explain that every family is different. Just like we all have different rules that we follow at home, we all have different iPad rules, too. Some of us are allowed to have them and some aren’t. Some are allowed to play on them often, others aren’t. Already, at three/four years old, I see some children extremely proficient with technology, but I worry that they think the only purpose it has is for playing Angry Birds/related solely-for-entertainment games. The article I read, “ETots: a Public Library iPad Program for Preschoolers” tells the story of a librarian who decided to purchase iPads and incorporate them in storytime for one and two-year-olds and their caregivers. However, after noticing the children’s extremely short attention spans – and how her “silly, high-energy songs” did not fit in with the use of iPads – she decided to alter the program and invite three and four-year-olds instead. During her sessions, she reads a book to the children who follow along on their iPads. Then, they spend some time exploring educational apps. The author concludes by elaborating on her future plans. Not only will she continue her class (there is a waiting list to enroll for the once-a-month class), she is also planning programs that will allow six-to-eight-year-olds to write their own books on iPads and tweens go to on a Titanic Adventure. The opportunities, she says, are endless.

While I enjoyed this article, it did not go as in-depth as I would have liked. It paints a picture of a very well-run, creative program, but does not discuss the pros/cons of offering a class like this to such young children. However, I learned that educational iPad use with young children IS possible, and I could use this article to help convince colleagues who are wary. With all of the debate over iPads in general, it would be nice for students to all have the opportunity to see one up-close and learn more about ALL they can do (i.e., not just Angry Birds.) I would love to bring at least one in to my class and have a little mini-demonstration. That way, the students would be on more of an even playing field. Those who have never seen an iPad would be exposed, and those who use one all the time would learn some additional uses.

Returning to my discussion of the School Library Journal as a whole, I would like to say again what a phenomenal resource I think it is, and not just for me. There are literally articles on everything even remotely related to library, and I think students could easily access the information due to the clear format of the site. This could be an extremely reliable source for older students conducting research on a specific topic or looking for a variety of opinions. Because the Journal’s website offers links to dozens of blogs, students learning about information literacy have a wonderful opportunity to locate, investigate and process information. I like this Journal because it has something for everyone – parents, teachers, librarians, students, and communities as a whole. It is a great resource that everyone can share, thereby encouraging the discussion and teacher/student/parent/librarian collaboration that many librarians seek.

Also: I am on Google Reader! I’ve been curious about RSS Feeds for awhile, so I’m glad we’re required to subscribe. I’m here: http://www.google.com/reader/view/?hl=en&tab=wy&at=K2v1R-A825ncdDknsaG2lg#overview-page

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