The Learning Librarian

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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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First Blog!

Here I am, WordPress! The Learning Librarian, easily accessed at https://thelearninglibrarian23.wordpress.com/, is for my Introduction to School Librarianship class and will chronicle my weekly experiences with new technology. I am looking forward to learning about new tools I can use in the classroom and sharing my discoveries and reflections.

Creating this blog was fairly straight-forward; I have used this site in the past so I felt somewhat comfortable navigating it again. I like how there are so many options for themes and backgrounds. Even though it is winter as I write this, I chose a fall theme to remind me of warmer days! I also like that it is very user-friendly. It led me through a series of steps, such as selecting a title for my blog, that made sense and were easy to follow. My only complaint so far is that it seems challenging to find other blogs. It seems that you really have to know exactly what you’d like to read in order to find it – but I guess that’s an appropriate challenge for a future librarian!

I would like to explore the multitudes of other blogs on this website, and I plan to spend more time researching what kinds of blogs are most interesting to me. This will be a great resource for learning what librarians are doing and discussing.

I think blogs are a fantastic tool for both teachers and students to publish their thoughts about a variety of topics. I observed a 5th grade class yesterday where the students were working together to create one class blog. I have seen students create individual blogs in the past, but never one as an entire class. Both individual and group blogging can be beneficial. As I looked on, the students together selected a template, decided what the content of their blog would be, and assigned projects and roles. This type of collaboration not only encourages the successful creation of a blog, but also supports students working together as a team to accomplish a goal. At any age, this is a valuable skill to learn and frequently practice.

Academically, I believe blogs are extremely beneficial for students. Because of the “publishing” factor, students are motivated to make sure their writing is the best it can possibly be as they are likely to have an audience besides their parents and teachers. Blogs are a wonderful opportunity for students to synthesize information into one concrete piece that summarizes their findings. Similarly, following other blogs promotes reading skills as well as information literacy skills. In order to differentiate blogs that provide important, relevant information versus ones that don’t, students will need to know what information they are searching for and what kind of information they will accept. I am looking forward to further exploring blogs on my own and with students.

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