Professional Book Review: The Age of Accelerations

For the month of January, I will be reviewing professional books. In December, 2019, I had the opportunity to read from my ever-tall stack of professional books. I am reviewing them this month in hopes that you may have read them and will make a comment, or you will be inspired to seek out these titles and read them (and then make a comment).

The Inspiration
I have long been a devotee of Thomas Friedman. I “found” Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, published in 2016, at just the right time and am so glad to have read it now when, like many of us, I need a bit of optimism. This New York Times bestseller earned additional recognition including the Wall Street Journal’s “10 Books to Read Now” (in 2016!) and one of Kirkus Reviews’ “Best Nonfiction Books of the Year.”

Friedman opens this book with the inspiration for the book’s title. While waiting for someone who was late in arriving for an appointment with him, Friedman had twenty minutes “to spare.” With nothing else on his calendar and not knowing when the person would actually arrive, he sat quietly with his thoughts. These moments of reflection were when he made connections among thoughts that had been on his mind… and the thrust of this book was born.

The Age of Accelerations
Friedman is spot on with his conclusion that in the “age of accelerations” very few, if any, of us can keep up with the rapid pace of change. In Friedman’s view, 2007, the year the iPhone was introduced, marked the beginning of this “age.” In the book, he elaborates on three accelerations that have, since then, stretched humankind beyond our limits:

  • Technology (Moore’s Law)
  • Globalization
  • Climate Change

When describing technology acceleration, Friedman makes the connection to Moore’s Law, which states that computer processing speeds double every two years. He also talks about the “Supernova,” better known to us as “the cloud.” And for better or worse, good or evil intent, Friedman notes the Supernova serves as amplifier of human behavior.

Global markets have changed the employment and economic landscape for people, businesses, and corporations around the globe. He cites many corporate thinkers in this book; this quote on the topic of globalization stood out to me: “Our institutions spend so much time working on how to optimize returns on financial capital. It is about time we started thinking more about how to optimize returns on human capital” (Auguste Copra, cited on page 238).

Mother Nature is Friedman’s personification for climate change and the loss of biodiversity. We have, very tragically, breached the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere (See 350.org) and cannot ignore the impact of human activity on our shared home. Friedman notes that there will be over 9 billion people on the planet by 2050 (when my grandson will be just twenty-eight-years old). Of that 9 billion, a growing number will be climate refugees. “Globally, 1 in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, the report said, it would be the world’s twenty-fourth biggest” (report from United Nations Refugee Agency in 2016).

K-12 Education Connections
Clearly, technology is a driving force in education today. With all of the benefits of the Supernova at their disposal, K-12 students and educators have many opportunities to positively influence their own future and the future of the plant. Friedman notes that successful youth (and adults) are those who take advantage of all the free and inexpensive tools and flows coming out of the Supernova.

As we all know, the current and future workforce will require continuous learning. “Mother Nature is the opposite of dogmatic—she is constantly agile, heterodox, hybrid, entrepreneurial, and experimental in her thinking” (303). School librarians could use this phrase to describe and self-asses our work with students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

I appreciate that Friedman discussed “ownership cultures” in the context of the teaching profession. In ownership cultures, people must first and foremost own their work and learning. He included this quote from Andreas Schleicher, who runs PISA exams: Successful schooling systems have a “high degree of professional autonomy for teachers… where teachers get to participate in shaping standards and curriculum, and have ample time for continuous professional development” (322). They are successful because they are engaged with the tools of their own craft, rather than serve like chefs whose only job is to reheat someone else’s cooking (322). Amen.

The Need to Pause, Build Empathy, and Re-connect
These three accelerations result in the imperative to exist (and thrive?) in a constant state of destabilization (35). This requires flexibility, adaptability, and necessitates reflection. While technology has made waiting obsolete, succeeding today requires patience—the patience to think and reflect. When you pause in the age of accelerations, you have the opportunity to reflect, rethink your assumptions, reimagine what is possible, reconnect with your most deeply held beliefs (Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, quoted on page 4).

Friedman discusses the need for members of our global society to build empathy—to be able to see the world through another person’s experience. He quotes a Talmudic staying: “What comes from the heart enters the heart.” (13) and notes that caring ignites caring; empathy ignites empathy (152). He also notes the need for human contact that includes face-to-face interaction.

He warns that: “In the age of accelerations, if a society doesn’t build floors under people, many will reach for a wall—no matter how self-defeating that would be” (153). Cultures must address people’s anxiety about the present and the future. We must offer one another a “home.”

I have always thought of libraries as “homes” for their communities—places where they have to take you in, places that are “family.” “It is so much easier to venture far—not just in distance but also in terms of your willingness to experiment, take risks, and reach out to the other—when you know you’re still tethered to a place called home, and to a real community” (452-453).

Work Cited

Friedman, Thomas L. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Banned Websites Awareness Day 9/28/16

bwad-2016_webbadgeLibrarians across the U.S. will be recognizing “Banned Websites Awareness Day” (BWAD) on 9/28/16. Working toward unrestricted access to information and resources should be one of librarians’ top priorities. Choice in checkout helps students (yes, even kinders) practice a lifelong learning strategy. Internet filtering and blocked Web sites and social media are an on-going challenge in many schools and libraries.

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in April, 2001, in order to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. Just as school library policies can minimize the frequency of book challenges, policies can also mitigate complaints regarding Web-based information.

According to CIPA:
“Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
◾Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
◾The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
◾Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
◾Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
◾Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them” (FCC).

While protecting children and youth from obscene and harmful information is essential, overly restrictive filtering software may prevent young people from accessing information that is important to their health, wellness, and intellectual growth. School librarians, in particular, may frequently be in the position of advocating for a particular educational website to be unblocked. The wise school librarian makes friends with the IT department and helps to educate administrators about the importance of students having opportunities to practice digital citizenship.

If students are to become responsible, informed digital citizens, they must be given guidance as they develop skills to evaluate information. They must learn to use social media venues in an environment in which they are accountable for their communications. School librarians in collaboration with classroom teachers can provide youth with learning experiences so they can explore, evaluate, and responsibly use Web-based information and tools.

As AASL notes, “Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information” (BWAD Background).

What are you doing in your school to recognize BWAD?

 

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

American Association of School Librarians. “Banned Websites Awareness Day Background.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad/background. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” FCC.org. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Image courtesy of AASL

Building Bridges, Weaving Threads

bridge

During the month of January, BCC bloggers have explored a variety of themes that reflect the ever changing role of the teacher librarian in the school community, but one consistent thread has emerged. The role of bridge builder and ombudsman for connecting all the stakeholders-administrators, classroom teachers, specialists, parents, community members, and students-is one that needs to be cultivated intentionally and with forethought.  I suggested a goal for reaching out to a new audience, not just preaching to the choir.  Judi wrote about breaking down the silos between professionals through the blogosphere with an upbeat response to promoting classroom and school libraries together.  Sue shared her own experiences as a bridge by providing library collections for classroom teachers, and Melissa honed in on advocacy as a means for building connections and partnerships between teacher librarians and stakeholders.  A key message from all of these ideas is the need to be proactive, and not reactive.

A good way to begin bridge building is to get out of the school library and into classrooms and other learning spaces in your school. Even if you are on a fixed schedule, make time to walk in others’ shoes, see challenges through others’ eyes.   Listen closely and observe what is happening. Be a detective. Take note of initiatives, demands on schedules, or problems that might impede learning that effect the whole school environment.   Find out what is on the principal’s hot list, because s/he is usually on the hot seat!  Then ask yourself, how can I be part of the bigger picture, and align the school library program with the wider school community?

Tracey Wong writes in the October 2013 issue of Library Media Connection, “I learned that building bridges is a way of life if you are passionate about your work.” (30)  Once at loggerheads with her principal, she was able to turn the relationship around by using five key points for building bridges learned in an advocacy class with Deb Kachel at Mansfield University.  She goes on to describe the five points and how they continue to guide and improve her school library program, as she grows professionally and personally as she collaborates with multiple stakeholders. The five key points for building bridges include building communication, community, relationships, partnerships, and resources.  To see how she flipped her thinking and became proactive, read the entire article!  It’s inspiring and presents a model to follow.

How do you build your bridges?

 

References:

Wong, Tracey. 2013. “Building Bridges.”  Library Media Connection 32 (2): 30-1.

 

Image: Microsoft Clipart

 

 

 

 

 

A Village for Summer Reading

DSCN0324Dreaming of summer vacation?  We all do, but summer break for some students may mean they will come back in the fall at a disadvantage.  When the final bell signals the end of the school year, teachers, school and public librarians, parents, community members, and administrators should have a plan in place to support readers during the two month hiatus.  Remember the adage, “it takes a village…” Collaboration between all these groups should promote access to reading materials even while school is not is session, and research shows that children benefit from having books in the home.  Richard Allington, reading researcher and consultant, is the co-author of a new book, Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Reading Gap (Teachers College and International Reading Association, 2013).  In a recent SLJ blog, Curriculum Connections, (Eames, June 4, 2013) Allington answers questions and offers ideas for making a difference, and shows how all the stakeholders can collaborate for student success.  Be sure to put this book on your summer reading list!

In order to ensure that all children have opportunities to maintain literacy skills and fluency, we may need to change our school policies about materials that are usually locked away during the summer, and to find other creative ways to make sure books get into the hands of those kids who need them most, even if we risk losing some resources.

This is a topic of conversation that surfaces in school library circles in late spring-early summer.  Here are some ideas that have appeared recently within a variety listservs, blogs, and twitter.

  • Students are allowed to check out a certain number of books for the summer, returning them in the fall.
  • Genres of books are loaned to the public library for summer circulation.
  • Promotion of public library spaces, programs, and collections. Students get public library cards before they leave for the summer.  Some classes visit local public library, are introduced to librarians and programs for youth.
  • Some school libraries are open to students, parents, teachers for self selection and self checkout when the building is open, even if the teacher librarian is not there.
  • Summer reading blogs/social media sites for students offer a virtual space for sharing ideas and thoughts about books and other materials.
  • Newsletters and suggested reading lists (print and electronic) inform students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members about summer reading.
  • Joint programs between school and public librarians are funded by grants.
  • Joint programs with local social support networks for children, such as Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YM/YWCAs, etc.
  • Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods, grocery stores, malls, etc.

And just for fun, here a couple of examples of what’s happening here in Vermont:

Beth Redford, school librarian at the Richmond (VT) Elementary School has a book bag program for all her students, K-4.  They are allowed to select ten books to take home for the summer.  Kids are really excited to participate.

Steve Madden, school librarian at the Camel’s Hump Middle School in Richmond, VT, has collaborated with the Vermont Department of Libraries and the Children’s Literacy Foundation, to write grants to construct and supply book collections for the Bolton Little Free Libraries.  Based on the Little Free Libraries in Wisconsin and elsewhere, book collections are set up in small enclosed bookcases in areas of Bolton, a town with no public library. Steve continues to refresh the collections that operate on the trust system.  His bike is set up for summer deliveries, too.  Little Free Libraries have sprouted up in lots of places in Vermont.  Is there one in your neighborhood? Would you like to start one?

What’s on your summer reading list?           

References:

Allington, R. and McGill-Franzen, A. (2013) Summer reading: Closing the rich/poor achievement gap. New York: Teachers College Press.

CLiF stocks little free libraries in Bolton, VT. (2012, July 3). Inspire kids! Children’s Literacy Foundation blog.  (Blog). Retrieved from  http://clifonline.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/clif-stocks-little-free-libraries-in-bolton-vt/

Eames, A. (2013, June 4)  Summer reading: closing the rich/poor achievement gap/ An educator responds to questions. Curriculum Connections  SLJ blog.  (Blog). Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2013/06/curriculum-connections/summer-reading-and-the-richpoor-achievement-gap-an-educator-responds-to-questions/

Kelley, Kevin. (2013, June 12). At Vermont’s little free libraries, books aren’t going away. Seven Days online. (Blog).  Retrieved from http://www.7dvt.com/2013vermonts-little-free-libraries-books-arent-going-away

Little Free Library website. (2013, June 24)  Retrieved from http://www.littlefreelibrary.org/

Redford, Beth. (2013, June 10) RES newsletter.  (Blog)  Retrieved from: http://reslibrarynews.blogspot.com/2013/06/summer-library-books-resvt-cesuvt-vted.html?spref=tw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collaboration: A Different Perspective

As I have been reading Judi and Sue’s posts I have been reminded of the students in my class and our class chats over the past couple of weeks. I am teaching a class on collaboration and instructional design to an eager group of future school librarians this semester.  Our early discussions have focused on: What is collaboration? Why collaboration? What does it look like now? Where do we see it going?  It has been very interesting to see the parallels between the blog posts and the perspectives of my students. I believe we can learn a great deal by considering these different perspectives.

After reading many articles on what collaboration is, as defined in the sense of the school librarian, and examining definitions from a variety of professionals in our field, from Montiel-Overall (2005), to Wallace and Husid (2011), and Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), my students came to class with more questions than answers. Their questions led to rich and thought-provoking discussions!

First I was amazed at how many of them had no idea about the concept of collaboration, and how we as school librarians fit into the instructional process through co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing teaching and learning. This was so surprising to me because for the most part they have all been teachers before coming into the program. It yet again makes me painfully aware of the lack of awareness for the school librarian’s role as a teacher and as an instructional partner by teachers. Yet, collaboration is one of those concepts that as we become practicing school librarians we understand what is meant when we say “I collaborate with teachers.” I think all too often we forget that others around us share this same perspective as the students in my class and really have no idea what we are talking about when we say this.

In her post Judi mentions the research from Todd, Gordon, and Lu (2011) that says “in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

But as my students pointed out, this is not the case in most of the schools where they currently work. So their question to me was what do you do when you find yourself in a school that doesn’t operate this way and does not recognize the value and the benefit of the school librarian as an instructional partner and teacher? Which is similar to what Judi asks at the end of her post on the article from Scholastic Administrator.

In our discussions we came to the consensus that first step towards collaboration is education.  So I pose the question: How can you, as the school librarian, educate teachers, administrators, students, and other stakeholders on what your role is in regards to being an instructional partner and a teacher?

References

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association

Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). Towards a theory of collaboration for teachers and librarians. School Library Media Research, 8. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume82005/theory

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/njasl_phase%20_2_final.pdf

Wallace, V., & Husid, W. (2011). Collaborating for inquiry-base learning: School librarians and teachers partner for student achievement. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries