Reclaiming Conversation, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the sixth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order. I published Part 1 of Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age last week.

In relationship to children, Turkle writes this: “If children don’t learn how to listen, to stand up for themselves and negotiate with others in classrooms or at family dinner, when will they learn the give-and take that is necessary for good relationships or, for that matter, for the debate of citizens in a democracy?” (14).

“In these new silences at meals and at playtime, caretakers are not modeling the skills of relationship, which are the same as the skills for conversation. These are above all empathic skills: You attend to the feelings of others; you signal that you will try to understand them” (27).

Response: When I lived in Denton, Texas, I regularly walked in a park where I would see children playing. I often observed their parents and caregivers using their phones (instead of watching their kids or playing with them). Recently, my husband and I were having dinner in a restaurant where at the next table each member of a family of four was occupied with an individual device before, during, and after their meal. (The children were about six and nine.)

I have been in meetings where people are using their phones and may or may not be listening to the conversation. Or they may be using their laptops and checking their email—sometimes under the guise of making meeting notes. It may or may not be intentional rudeness but most meeting facilitators and people who speak for items on the agenda feel disrespected by not having their colleagues’ full attention.

Turkle makes a strong case for conversation as the primary way we build empathy for others. As a book person, I believe that reading about other people’s lives has been a large part of my empathy building. Still, in face-to-face conversations with relatives and friends looking into their eyes, reading their faces and body language, that’s when I really understand what they are feeling. The same can be said for students in our classes and the colleagues with whom we work.

Response: I have felt that disrespect. For me, it leads to a lack of trust in the person who cannot be “in” the conversation. I also believe this is one of the challenges in teaching 100% online. Students want to feel their instructors understand them, especially when they are having a problem. However, many would rather text or email than talk on the phone. Emotions are simply not communicated as clearly and misunderstandings can and do result.

Turkle notes that some young people avoid difficult conversations at all costs. They will not even have phone conversations but would rather text where they can be assured of time to clearly organize their thoughts, edit, and avoid “too much emotional stuff.”

Turkle says that in face-to-face conversations it is often when “we hesitate, or stutter, or fall silent, that we reveal ourselves most to each other” (23). Slowing down the conversation in this way makes some people feel anxious, or bored. Some feel so uncomfortable they will turn to their phones and check out of the conversation.

Response: Since reading this book, I have become more sensitized to my own feelings during the “silences” and “pauses” in conversations and during transitions from one activity to another. I have found myself reaching for my phone while waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at the market. I am catching myself more often and making a conscious decision about whether or not I want/need to consult my phone. Several times when I have opted out of connecting via tech, I have had an epiphany about an idea that’s be stuck in my head. I have even had pleasant conversations with the strangers sitting next to me or standing in line behind me.

Turkle writes: “Until a machine replaces the man (who scans your groceries), surely he summons in us the recognition and respect you how a person. Sharing a few words at the checkout may make this man feel that in his job, this job that could be done by a machine, he is still seen as a human being” (346).

Response: Turkle has given me another reason not to use the self-checkout machines. I have avoided them because they represent the loss of jobs. I will continue to avoid them and make an effort to engage in even a brief conversation with the person doing this work.

Turkle claims her argument is not anti-technology. Rather it is pro-conversation. She invites us on a journey “to better understand what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in its way” (25). She charges us to become different kinds of consumers of technology and compares this to the ways many people have become more discerning and knowledgeable consumers of food.

In terms of understanding, Turkle posits three wishes our mobile devices grant to us:
1. “That we will always be heard;
2. That we can put our attention wherever we want it to be, and;
3. That we never have to be alone” (26).

Response: Questions we might ask ourselves related to these three wishes:
1. Who do we want to “hear” us? And why?
2. What amount of control can we give up in order to put our attention on things not of our choosing that need our attention? Can we do that even when it’s “inconvenient”?
3. What could we gain by spending time alone with our thoughts—in daydreaming or self-reflection?

As Turkle says people are resilient. We can change. We can pay more attention, listen more carefully, and respond to one another with empathy. We can do that by reclaiming the value of talking with one another face to face. We can do that by consciously deciding when to pay attention to people and when to pay attention to our machines. And we can model and practice this with youth, colleagues, friends, and family.

Turkle ends the book this way: “This is our nick of time and our line to tow; to acknowledge the unintended consequences of technology to which we are vulnerable, to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make the corrections. And to remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations artless, risky, and face-to-face” (362).

Is summertime a time to start reclaiming conversation? It is for me. I hope it is for you, too.

Work Cited
Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Additional Books by Sherry Turkle
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Reclaiming Conversation, Part 1

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the sixth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Sherry Turkle’s most recent book is definitely thought-provoking and timely for me. I recently returned from the American Library Association Conference in Chicago where I met with colleagues from across the country and a reunion in Kalamazoo, Michigan with long-time friends. During that week, I enjoyed face-to-face conversations and late into the night confessions with people I usually communicate with via email and social media. I experienced the deep sense of connection and empathy Sherry Turkle’s research suggests may be missing for many of us who spend most of our time using technology to mediate our “conversations” with others.

To be transparent, I am a long-time reader (and follower) of Turkle’s work. I have read two of her previous titles (cited below) and have watched her TED Talks (“Alone Together” and “Connected, but Alone?”) I highly recommend everything she has written but Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age offered me the most powerful prompts for reflection related to how technology has affected my life and the lives of my family, friends, and colleagues.

Turkle, an MIT professor, studies the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. As with her previous titles, this book is filled with research, anecdotes, and testimonials (and confessions) from individuals and focus groups who have shared with her their experiences with technology. There is no way to adequately summarize this work. Instead, I am sharing a few quotes from the book followed by my responses and connections to my own relationship with technology. I am doing this is two parts–this week and next.

Disclosure: I own a smartphone. I do not use it to its full capacity in terms of apps and the like, but I do listen to audiobooks and music on my phone, send and receive calls and text messages, follow and post to my social media accounts, and use my phone to search for information and directions while traveling. I use my laptop more than my phone. I am a writer. I taught graduate students exclusively online for seven years; my laptop made that possible. My laptop (not my phone) is my life.

In this book, Sherry Turkle makes a compelling case for conversation. She writes: “We are being silenced by our technologies—in a way, ‘cured of talking.’ These silences—often in the presence of our children—have led to a crisis of empathy that has diminished us at home, at work, and in public life. I’ve said that the remedy, most simply, is a talking cure” (9).

Turkle says “recent research shows that people are uncomfortable if left alone with their thoughts” (10). Many “always connected” youth call this space “boredom” and avoid it at all costs. They also find that face-to-face conversations contain “uncomfortable” moments of silence or long pauses when someone is thinking. Some say they must fight the urge to glance down at their phones while waiting for another person to think and speak.

Turkle shares a new strategy some young people have developed to combat that urge. Some groups of young adults play “phone tower” when they go out to dinner. All the phones—left on—are stacked in the middle of the table. The first person whose phone rings AND they reach for it and respond has to pick up the dinner tab. It seems they could simply turn off their phones—but I guess not if they are “addicted” to them and would feel desperate if disconnected.

A new norm Turkle described is the “rule of three.” When a group of four or more people are having a conversation, at least three of them have to be verbally interacting and making eye contact. When those criteria are met, the others are free to look at and use their phones to text, find and present new images or information—always being mindful of their commitment to be one of the three when needed.

Response: I do not have that kind of attachment to my phone or the need to feel always connected. These and others of Turkle’s anecdotes were new to me. I believe they are true, but I had some trouble relating them to my own life.

Response: I remember my surprise ten or so years ago when I learned that a respected colleague (20 years younger) slept with her phone. My phone and I are not that intimate. My daughter and my friends are often dismayed when I do not respond to texts within a “reasonable” time period. (Sometimes I do not respond for a whole day!)

Turkle points out how often she notices parents and babysitters interacting with their phones rather than with the children in their care. Many young children have stopped expecting to have their parents’ full attention. Some parents who ban their children’s phones at the dinner table are still texting or taking calls because they “have to” conduct business 24/7.

Turkle notes that even the mere presence of a phone on the table sets up the expectation that the conversation will be interrupted—an excuse to keep it light rather than of more consequence. She calls this “the flight from conversation” and compares it to climate change. Most of us know it’s true but too many of us don’t think of it as a pressing problem.

As a parent, spouse, educator, and storyteller, I believe this is true: “Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection” (36). I can believe this loss of connection could result in a decline in empathy. With the large and looming challenges we need to confront in our country and in our interconnected global community, a lack of empathy for “others” is, to me, a very troubling loss.

Next week, I will post the second part of this reflective review.

Work Cited
Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Additional Books by Sherry Turkle
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Educators Chat about Making Notes

Dedication: To the Moderators and Participants in #txlchat and #cvtechtalk

As a now “retired” educator and an advocate, I made a pledge to myself to spread the word about the expertise of school librarians in non-school library circles. I believe that school librarians’ potential to positively impact student learning outcomes has not yet been fully realized. Sharing and showing how school librarians can lead through building instructional partnerships with classroom teachers has long been my raison d’être.

Last week, I stumbled upon the #cvtechtalk. Coincidentally, they were talking about “notetaking” – one of my all-time favorite topics. I share this experience here because one of the on-going issues in school librarianship advocacy is that other educators do not know what we can do to support their teaching and help their students learn effective information literacy strategies.

Even though I arrived when participants were on question #4 of their 8-question chat, I jumped in:

CactusWoman: A.4 Let’s call it “notemaking” rather than “taking.” “Making” implies Ss questions/connections/own ideas count! #cvtechtalk just dropped in

I got some likes, retweets, and replies and decided to stay. (This is my personal measure of whether or not a chat group is “listening” and learning from one another or simply broadcasting. See the dedication below.)

I followed up with:
CactusWoman: A4 #FutureReadyLibs #schoollibrarians r trained in notemaking skills > Classroom-library collaboration 2 teach essential skill #cvtechtalk

Then a reply/question about students using Twitter for notemaking:
CactusWoman: A5 Yes! @_____ I 2 use Twitter 4 notemaking when involved w/webinars/conference presentations, etc. have not tried w/6-12 Ss #cvtechtalk

(Note that should have been *w/8-12 Ss* – Twitter “suggests” participants should be 13 and up.)

Then:
CactusWoman: A6 When Ss compare notes they may c that one person’s “main ideas” do not match the others’ > convers abt determining importance #cvtechtalk

Since this was a “tech” group, they shared many electronic tools for notemaking. When one person noted she had read somewhere that hand-written notes were more effective, I shared a research-based article about the possible differences between handwritten and electronic notes in terms of student learning.

CactusWoman: A6 My concern copy/paste/highlight does not = learning: Article about notemaking by hand vs computer: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away … #cvtechtalk

According to my Paper.li report, the article was accessed (read?) by several #cvtechtalk chat participants. (Like all librarians, I enjoy sharing research/knowledge that can make a difference in educators’ practice and in students’ learning/people’s lives.)

CactusWoman: A.7 Creativity bcomes more important w/what Ss DO w/notes: What do notes mean 2 Ss? Does info inspire creative response/action? #cvtechtalk

The final question was perfect and one that I believe all Twitter chat groups should adopt. “Based on tonight’s talk, how will you empower students in note-taking?” (or whatever the topic).

CactusWoman: A.8 Encourage Ts #schoollibrarians collaborate 2 teach Ss notemaking strategies (reading comp) & create/do something meaningful #cvtechtalk

One person posted this:
A8 Will start #notemaking w/ Ss asap! Can’t handle guilt after these great ideas! Will intro #Sketchnoting & bulleting key ideas #cvtechtalk https://twitter.com/techcoachjuarez/status/862500760981983232 …

Cha-ching!

CactusWoman: Gr8t ideas on notemaking 2nite 5/10 when I dropped in on #cvtechtalk #FutureReadyLibs #txlchat #tlchat >opportunities 4 classroom-lib collab

It was interesting to me that many educators noted they would NOT model notemaking strategies for students and were “anti-direct instruction” for this skill.

As someone who connects notemaking with the reading comprehension strategy of determining main ideas, I believe that is a mistake. In my experience, if students are not taught several strategies from which they can choose or use as models to develop their own strategies, they will opt for copying/highlighting everything. They will not pass the information through their own background knowledge and purpose for reading and make their own connections, write down their questions, and their own ideas related to what they are reading. (Notemaking strategies include Cornell notes, deletion-substitution, trash ‘n treasure, and more…)

I created a Storify archive of the chat’s final question for my review and for yours if you are interested.

I know I will drop in on #cvtechtalk again when I can on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Pacific (?). They are an active, caring, and sharing group of educators. I appreciate what I learned from listening and participating in their chat.

If you are a school librarian who is participating in non-school librarian chats, I hope you will add a comment to this post. Readers may appreciate knowing what you perceive as the benefits or drawbacks of those professional learning experiences.

Dedication: This post is “dedicated” to #txlchat. This chat’s home base is in Texas, but more and more school librarians from across the country are joining in. In 2014-2015, I had the opportunity to conduct a research study of #txlchat. Thanks to #txlchat moderators and participants, I was welcomed into their learning space and learned about the norms and benefits of their chat culture. I continue to connect and learn with #txlchat whenever I can get online on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Central. Y’all are invited, too!

#AASL Social Media Superstars

As part of School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians sponsored a “Social Media Superstars Recognition Program.” The goal of the inaugural program was to acknowledge “the role social media plays in school library promotion” and to recognize “school library professionals who enrich the profession and its work on behalf of students by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, dialog and inspiration widely via a variety of social media channels” (Habley).

The Social Media Recognition Task Force announced three finalists in seven categories:

1. Sensational Student Voice
2. Advocacy Ambassador
3. Tech Troubadour
4. Program Pioneer
5. Curriculum Champion
6. Leadership Luminary
7. Social Justice Defender

The Task Force will review the comments made in support of the finalists and announce the overall Superstar in each category on Thursday, April 27th at 6:00 p.m. Central.

I was honored to be nominated in the Leadership Luminary category along with Jonathan Werner and Joyce Valenza.

I have followed Jonathan on Twitter for several years. He frequently shares his involvement with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). In addition to the outstanding teaching and learning in his own school library, Jonathan fills me in on the activities of an organization to which I do not belong. It is vital for our profession to be well represented in highly influential technology and education organizations like ISTE. I especially appreciate Jonathan’s commitment to making sure school librarians are at the table when educational technology is being discussed and exemplary practices are being shared.

There is no doubt in my mind that Joyce deserves the Superstar designation in this category. For over a decade, Joyce’s Neverending Search blog has been a go-to source for so many (everyone?) in the school librarian profession. Joyce generously shares her thinking about issues and practices related to teaching and learning in school libraries. She also writes for a wide audience about her own learning and application of technology tools and digital resources. Joyce’s influence extends far beyond the school librarian community. Her expertise is recognized nationally and internationally. Her blog’s placement on the School Library Journal site ensures her expansive reach. For many school administrators, educational leaders and decision-makers “Joyce Valenza” is synonymous with “extraordinary school librarian.” Joyce shines a positively luminous light on our profession. She is most deserving of this recognition.

As a “Leadership Luminary” nominee, it was informative to me that by far this category received the fewest comments. I believe that members of the profession who commented understood the specificity of the other six categories. Perhaps it was more straight-forward for them to note how finalists in other categories influenced their practice. I suspect that for many the “Leadership Luminary” category lacked that clarity.

To my way of thinking, all of the Social Media Superstars finalists are leaders. In fact, there are many, many additional school librarian leaders who use social media to “enrich the profession and its work on behalf of students by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, dialog and inspiration widely via a variety of social media channels” (Habley).

As the subtitle of Hilda Weisburg’s Leading for Librarians book proclaims: “There is no other option!”

Through their work, which they promote via social media, these social media superstars have positively influenced their colleagues’ practice of school librarianship. They have promoted our profession and educated others on the essential work that school librarians do every day.

In his 2009 Ted Talk, Simon Sinek said this: “We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves.”

This recognition program has helped me identify school librarians whose work was not as well known to me as it should have been. I look forward to following and continuing to learn from all of the finalists.

Thank you for your passion and dynamic contributions that promote our profession and help us all grow more knowledgeable and become more recognized for our vital work.

Works Cited

Habley, Jen. “AASL Social Media Superstar Finalists Announced!” Knowledge Quest, American Association of School Librarians, 22 Mar. 2017, knowledgequest.aasl.org/superstar-finalists/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2017.

Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Ted Talk. Ted.com. Sept. 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image Credit: Super Librarian by Becca
Used with permission (and with apologies to the men who serve admirably in our profession)

P.S. If AASL and the Social Media Recognition Task Force are seeking feedback on this inaugural program, I would ask them to consider that all of the Superstars in the other six categories are leaders and that the “Leadership Luminary” category may not be necessary in the next round.

Diving into the Pool

DSCN0102Perhaps instead of a pool as the operative metaphor for jumping into blogging, the image should be a rocket launching into the blogosphere. Take your pick. Either way, joining the blog parade is an adventure, and according to our favorite love/hate resource, Wikipedia, “a new blog is being created every second of every minute of every hour of every day.” (Keen, 2008) There are many kinds of blogs populating the airwaves-or electromagnetic waves, and communication and interaction through digital writing, illustration, and reading have expanded our vision of publishing.  We all have the means to be producers of information in a Web 3.0 world.

For school librarians, blogs have dual purposes in our practice, as Judi and Karla have already shown.  Judi shared examples of award winning blogs created by school librarians to showcase and promote learning in their physical and virtual library spaces.  The combination of creative design, vivid images, and engaging text are the hallmarks of an opportunity to deliver information to school communities and beyond, in a personal way. We all can learn from these models for effective communication that highlight evidence of an active, engaged school library program.

Karla shared how blogs, and other social media are an important contribution to her professional learning as part of her PLN.  She recommended ways to get started following bloggers who are writing and sharing information about topics and issues that are critical for professional school librarianship.

School librarians depend on multiple sources of information to remain current. Along with the standard print publications, many publishers are featuring blogs on their websites to increase exposure to ideas and information in an immediate way.  School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, Booklist Reader, VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) have bloggers who are on top of current trends.

Interactivity in Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, has generated a fire hose of  information, and that includes bloggers of all descriptions.  When you want just a sip of the information waters, you can control your own PLN.  Try setting up an RSS feed through sites like Feedly, and Feedspot, or a number of others.  You can link your favorite blogs, websites, or other social media sites to the account, and you will have only one spot to visit to catch up on your reading.  Most blogs allow readers to subscribe to the blog through email, so that you can get notices from the blogger when a new post has been published. That works well, unless there are multiple posts each day, then you may find your email overflowing!

 For those of you who would like to venture into starting a blog for your school library, or to set up a forum to connect with other professionals to discuss contemporary issues, take some time to establish your own criteria and purpose for publishing your own work.  View multiple blogs to see which ones are exemplars that you would want to emulate. Both Judi and Karla suggested a few places to begin your search.  This should not be an impulse decision, but one for consideration and reflection.  Commitment to ongoing and timely publishing is a key to successful blogging, along with nurturing and tending the links and topics.
Explore several blog platforms before you choose one to jump into.  Blog platforms have tutorials, and templates that will help you get going, but the primary focus should be on the clarity of the purpose for your work.  Why is a blog important to your school library program? Who is your audience? Why do you want to connect with other interested professionals?  How will you maintain the content of the blog?  How will you use the blog as a bridge to other social media sites?

Jump start to blogging: Dear Blogger-a blog about blogging…

Do you have a favorite platform to share? Talk to us….

Take the plunge!

 

Links to websites:

School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/

Knowledge Quest: http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/

Booklist Reader:http://www.booklistreader.com/

VOYA: http://www.voyamagazine.com/topics/evoya/

Feedly: https://feedly.com/i/welcome

Feedspot: http://www.feedspot.com/

Dear Blogger: http://www.dearblogger.org/blogger-or-wordpress-better

 References:

Keen, Andrew (2008). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. New York: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Web. 24 Jan. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog>

 Image:

Judy Kaplan Collection