Sunday, January 18, 2009

Manifestos and Mash-Ups

"Welcome to my Libratory . . ."

I imagine posting this picture of Einstein on my school library door, with a speech balloon stating “Welcome to my Libratory.” From now on, thanks to Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto for the 21st Century Librarian– that is exactly how I will view my library space –“a physical space that is about way more than books.” I think I've always felt that way - that the library could be more than an encyclopaedia repository. It had the potential to be a place for students and staff to centre themselves, to unwind, to lose themselves in a narrative similar to, or completely unlike their own. A place to think, read, get inspired, breath, and cry if they needed too. Now, with the web 2.0 thoughts engaging my senses, I realize school libraries also have the potential to connect students with the world in ways unimagined even 10 years ago.

I began this weeks readings with Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto – and I must say There’s nothing like a well written, and well contemplated manifesto to make a person hold their head up high – "this is what I do - I AM a school librarian!" While I write this, I could flip the same coin, there’s nothing like a well written, and well contemplated manifesto to make a person want to put their head in the sand, and forget they ever saw it - "there's too much, I don't know where to start". What am I – a 21st century, forward-thinking, innovative librarian, or an ostrich?

A manifesto has power – and thankfully Joyce Valenza uses that power for good instead of evil! The fact that she welcomed changes to her manifesto via her wiki, made it clear that this was a vision for all of us to hold onto. A dream we all could share. I actually took a moment to look up the word "manifesto" (as I’ve previously associated it with Hitler, and other extremist views) on, and found two meanings:

1. “a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.”
2. “A public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions, especially of a political nature.”

So, Joyce Valenza created a public declaration of objectives for teacher librarians and presented them in a political format. Why? Perhaps because many of us feel our positions are tenuous - we are trying to convince school boards and school administrators that teacher-librarians are relevant and necessary in a digital world. With such a manifesto, we can show them a vision of what a school library can be, provided we have open access to Web 2.0 tools, and forward –thinking staff willing to take the leap into the digital landscape.

A few ideas that struck me from the manifesto include:
"You welcome media production—podcasting, video editing. You welcome
telecommunications events and group gathering for planning and research and
social networking.”

While the technologies are important, the simple words "you welcome" stand out for me. You welcome the changing needs of your staff and students. People are welcome to use the space for a myriad of needs.

"You “[k]now that one-to-one laptop classrooms will change your teaching
logistics. You realize you will often have to teach in a partner teacher’s
classroom. You will teach virtually. You will be available across the school
via email and chat."

While I think we could reach the needs of our students and classrooms quite simply by using e-mail, I have to wonder how many librarians share their e-mail with students, or chat with them on-line? I think this is a grey area for many of us - facebook friending is frowned upon, but e-mail is okay? I found myself asking - what is right? I have to think of the greater good - the educational needs of the students - and not fall into the trap of being afraid to use the technology the students are comfortable with.

"Don’t stop at “no.” . . . You fight for the rights of students to
have and use the tools they need. This is an equity issue. This is an
intellectual freedom issue."

I know last year I did stop at no. I was able to collaborate and create projects that I hoped were engaging and meaningful for students, staff, and myself. But, everything I did, I wondered, how would this look on-line? What if we could blog this? Wouldn't it be wonderful to get feedback from the world?

Stepping away from the manifesto, I find my thoughts reverting back mostly to Kathy Sanford's article Videogames in the Library? What is the World Coming To? Sanford's use of a 2003 quotation from Gunther Kress is quite interesting to me.

"dominance of writing [is] being replaced by the dominance of the
image; the dominance of the medium of the book [is shifting] to the
dominance of the medium of the screen" (p.2)

Some might argue that by today's information standards, what was written about digital technology in 2003 is already ancient history. I might argue that these shifts have already been replaced in my own world. Almost all of my non-fiction reading is done on-line. I read the world through images on Flickr, and likewise represent my family to the world in images. (Whether or not the world is watching remains to be seen!)

Sanford's notion that videogames belong in libraries goes against traditional notions of a library collection, yet when I look back at my own experience as an educator, computer games were embraced almost immediately for young learners. We had CD Rom games for Magic School bus, Franklin, and Math Blasters, etc. Most of the games had some element to support the curriculum. All of them were geared toward young learners in Kindergarten to Grade 3. As long as the games were educational, and engaged young children in learning the basics of reading, writing, math and science, video games were promoted. Once children grew up, games on computers were pushed aside for more academic pursuits. Funny how we can easily accept that young children learn through play, yet we don't make that claim so easily for older elementary students, and almost never for teens.

"As educators and educational researchers look more closely at new
technologies, we recognize that learning has become different; engagement
with videogames supports new types of learning, learning that is
multi-faceted, complex, non-linear, and fast paced. " (p.5)

While I understand that learning occurs while playing video games, it remains a platform I am not completely comfortable with (for myself). Gaming is something I am not likely to do on my own, so, how do I engage with my students learning when I haven't the foggiest notion what they are doing? What would Professor Sanford say? She mentions that:

"it is critical to ensure that appropriate funds are directed to library
services and up-to-date resources in order to best support student (and teacher)
learning about new technologies, new literacies, and new learning." (p5)

But the question remains, do I have to learn how to be a gamer, in order to fully appreciate student learning? I wonder if my own reticence in this area mirrors the concern of other educators. . . and even as I wonder this, I know the answer. It's been in the back of my mind all along, and the video Did You Know 4, created by Howie DiBlasi reminded me:

"We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist. . .
Using technologies that haven't been invented. . .
In order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."

I know that if I am to do my job properly, I have to have an open mind. I have to be able to think critically, and engage in the discourse. I have to mash-up my own manifesto, and make sure that I don't put my head in the sand.

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