Monthly Archives: August 2013

The AASL School Libraries Count! “National Longitudinal Survey of School Library Programs”

Reports like the AASL’s School Libraries Count! would be a great deal easier to understand if I reading numbers came more naturally to me. The most helpful parts were the written explanations, although I’m not entirely sure how a decrease of over $1000 in expenditures is merely “a slight down tick but not significant” (12). Statistics never were my strong suit.

I was somewhat surprised by how little downward change there was overall. Although $1000 seems like a lot of money to me, most of the categories really did seem fairly stable over the five years included. Most of the change I did notice was positive, such as an increase in being able to access the library services from non-library computers. I expected more decreases, though perhaps funding cuts were not widely applicable enough to affect the 2012 data. Of course, my expectations are based primarily on my experiences and knowledge of my home region, the South. I would be interested to see a comparison of the regions to one another, as well as a state-by-state comparison.

One of the most eye-catching sections of the report was what materials are actually in the library, the number of books and computers in particular. The average copyright on health and medical books go a flinch from me. 1996 seems rather out-of-date for such books, considering how quickly the “knowledge” in this field seems to change (8). Other areas would also be of interest. In the two public elementary schools I am familiar with, for instance, the age of the entire collection varies. One collection, while it contained some older books, was clearly undergoing constant updates. The other seemed rather aged. Both of these schools are Title I, although the non-financial demographics are very different. I would be curious to see a collection comparison­. The number of books in different areas and their copyright averages would be a place to start.

Overall, however, this report did not strike me as particularly helpful to school media specialists unless they were going to use it to back up a request for more funding (ex. if a school is far behind other schools in the region in the number of computers). Administrators and lawmakers might find it helpful in examining how their school/region compares to others (especially by comparing the individual reports to the full report). The apparent stability (or growth) in school libraries is encouraging. Otherwise, the report seems more “interesting” than “useful.”

Perhaps someone else might see more uses for this report?

American Library Association. School Libraries Count!: National Longitudinal Survey of School Library Programs. Rep. American Library Association, 2012. Web. 31 Aug. 2013.

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Transliteracy and Storytelling

Transliteracy: “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media…” (Thomas et al.)

The art of storytelling fascinates me. The wordcraft of the writer, the stagecraft of playwrights, the complexities of film, the deftness of a visual artist, the memory and vocal modulation of oral storytellers.

But there’s a “new” kind of storytelling occurring on the web, besides community efforts at fiction writing. There is the re-telling of old stories.

Enter The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. This multimodal retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice employed YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr, giving voice to multiple characters (including, but not excluded to, Lizzie herself, Charlotte, and Lydia). The spin-off, Sanditon went even further, encouraging viewers of the YouTube videos to role-play via Twitter and their own YouTube videos, filling out the fictional town of Sanditon with “real” citizens. As testament to its brilliance, LBD won a 2013 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. LBD not only translated Pride and Prejudice into the modern world, it did so through Internet-based transliteracy.

I wonder how many LBD viewers have never read P&P. There were certainly such viewers present. So what makes LBD so much more entertaining than its progenitor that even non-readers will follow it? Maybe that transliterate storytelling makes for better stories?

Or maybe “we” just expect transliterate storytelling. The Internet generation (those of us who have been raised with technology like television, computers and video games readily available) is used to transliterate entertainment. Movies give us both visual and aural stimulation. Video games give us both of those, plus interaction. LBD and similar Internet storytelling make the stories multimodal and interactive (although with potentially less effort than a video game. Since you have to “beat the game” to move to the next part of the story in video games).

So how does a school media specialist, employing transliteracy, re-interest her (or his) students in books? One final example of Internet storytelling raises a fascinating possibility.

Pottermore. The official Harry Potter website which offers interactive scenes that go along with the book chapters, as well as opportunities to be a fictional Hogwarts student. Join a house, discover your wand, brew potions, and duel. All of these, and at the same time make friends with other HP fans from around the world. In a sense, it immerses users in the world of Harry Potter. Unlike LBD, however, Rowling intends the site to function alongside the books, encouraging site users to move through the scenes as they read the novels.

Most picture books and novels don’t have such a website (they are becoming more common though­– John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice has a similar, though less complex site). But perhaps the school media specialist can guide students in interacting with their reading. When a story takes place in another country, find that country on GoogleMaps and explore it. If the author describes an unknown plant or animal, find a picture. Older students (perhaps younger students, to a lesser extent) could create playlists that go along with favorite novels. Using Internet resources to supplement hard-copy books offers a wide range of possibilities in storytelling and retelling.

Come to think of it, transliterate storytelling along these lines would actually be a “learning experience” as well as entertainment. And that relates rather well to my essential question.

Thomas, Sue, et al. “Transliteracy: Crossing Divides.” First Monday 12, no. 12 (December 3, 2007).

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My Essential Question for 635

How can school media personnel facilitate students’ personal growth and the development of lifelong learning through the incorporation of technologies in the media center?

Classroom learning is great. No really. It has its uses in teaching students en masse various skills and information they need to function in society.  The incorporation of various technology (computers, tablets, etc.) into the traditional classroom adds yet another dimension to the learning.

However…

Traditional classrooms can only do so much. They can teach information (history, geography, science, and others) and skills (reading, writing, mathematics, scientific methodology, and study skills).  But class size, rigid standards of what must be taught, and crunched time limit even the best teachers as they encourage their students to learn. What about the student who wants to know more about X, but is too shy to ask in front of the class? Or the student whose reading level is ahead (or behind) the rest of the class, and is bored (or frustrated) with the assigned readings?

In steps the media center. The key word being media. This is where traditional classroom learning meets the world.

The most immediately distinguishable learning source in the media center is, of course, the book collection. From nonfiction to fiction, picture books to reference books, and everything else in between, books are key learning sites. The nonfiction books and reference books are obvious– to find out more about snakes, check out a snake book. Fiction and picture books are less obvious. After all, they’re just “make-believe,” right? Wrong. For this reader at least, historical fiction taught me a great deal more about European (or American, or whatever other areas historical fiction covers) than the history textbooks. And the beauty of it was that, as a child, I had no idea I was “learning” about Victorian England. I thought I was just having fun.

Learning moves (or should move) beyond “information” though, and “made up” books are sites of such learning. Fiction teaches us about ourselves and others. Telling a child to stop teasing his friend because “it hurts his feelings” lacks the power of a story telling what happened to the hurt friend because of the teasing. The idea that WWII devastated Germany “too” (and not just Britain or the surrounding countries) comes alive in The Book Thief as readers follow Liesel’s journey from a reasonably happy foster-child to utter devastation. This isn’t “fact-finding.” This is something deeper, much harder to define, and it’s a kind of learning that extends beyond standardized tests into our interaction with other people.

But I did point out the term media for a reason. Although books are (arguably) one type of technology, there are others, and the media center is a repository for those as well. Computer stations in the library can do a lot more than just look up books. They can provide learning programs like Quest Atlantis that foster critical thinking and problem-solving. Media center specialists/coordinators can also use computers to augment traditional classroom learning (for instance, if students are learning about maps in their classroom, demonstrate Google Maps and allow students to explore it on media center computers). The media center can also guide students in learning how to research topics using computers­– where to go for information, how to tell if information is legitimate, etc.

All of the above hinges on one particular point: learning should not be confined to the traditional classroom. Memorizing information or the steps to get a result are a part of learning (it’s hard to analyze why WWII happened if one does not know the events leading up to it), but memorization is not the end of learning. To really prepare students for their emergence into the “real world,” students need to be able to teach themselves, whether that involves gathering information or analyzing it. The media center, by providing resources and the time to learn to utilize them, can guide students in learning how to learn.

Finally, the media center has more freedom for student direction. Students can choose which topics to pursue, and they can pursue them at their own pace. For a student who feels left behind (or is chafing to move ahead), the media center can provide an environment where learning is less frustrating, and more “fun,” and therefore something students will want to continue outside of the school environment.

The genesis of this question actually occurred in an Educational Psychology class during my undergraduate. Although our textbook (listed below because the ideas on computer use that I discussed came largely from it) focused on “traditional” classrooms, my professor encouraged applying its principles and ideas to whatever field of study we intended to follow. Although that class and textbook suggested some “answers” for my essential question, it certainly wasn’t a “complete” answer, and I look forward to further exploring it.

Snowman, Jack, Rick McCown, and Robert Biehler. Psychology Applied to Teaching. 13th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2012. Print.

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