On Being a “Traditional” Librarian

16/12/2013 § 6 Comments

For the past few months, in addition to being a full time student, I’ve also been working as a librarian at an elementary school.  The other day, I was talking to a friend about my job, and she excitedly asked me, “Do you read stories to the children?! I used to LOVE when librarians would read me stories!”

This tiny comment made me irrationally angry, and in my head, I started ranting: librarianship is about SO MUCH MORE than books and storytime.  Librarians do so many different things, from archives to digitization to information literacy-why don’t people realize this?!

But then I stopped to think for a moment, and I wondered WHY, exactly, I was getting so angry.  Yes, I wish more people understood the variety of different roles librarians can play, and didn’t picture librarians as people who sat behind a desk reading all day.  And yes, there are a variety of amazing nontraditional roles out their for librarians to pursue.  But at the end of the day, I’m glad I spend my days helping students get excited about reading.  I’m happy to be a “traditional” librarian. « Read the rest of this entry »

Technology in Education: Too Much or Not Enough?

11/11/2013 § 18 Comments

My first interaction with a computer was in my second grade public school classroom. Each day we had a set rotation where students either spent the afternoon reading a book, writing in a journal, or playing in the “computer lab.” The latter rotation section was a favorite because a handful of us were able to, nay required to, play games on this device most of us probably did not have access to outside the classroom. I cannot recall the specific programs available on the computers, but remember thinking we were so lucky to not have to do “school stuff” for a couple hours like everyone else.

That was 1996, fast-forward 17 years and think of how far technology has advanced! Schools are no longer lucky just to have a couple green screen computers, yet some have a whole room of flat screen computers, tablets in the classroom, or personal laptops for every student. Even libraries have jumped on board by offering access to public computers, free wi-fi and makerspaces. But how has this influx of technology changed how our youth learn? Has technology become a great addition or a mere distraction in an education setting?

students today

“Students Today” via ransomtech, flickr CC

Currently I volunteer at an elementary school library and with a teen makerspace where technology is a common connection. The majority of my time at both locations is spent helping students with something as simple as logging into a computer to more complex activities like using the UP! 3D printer. While I always leave each site even more energized about working with youth, I have to wonder if increasing technology in the classroom is actually increasing learning opportunities. In the end my answer is always the same, “Definitely yes… if done correctly.”

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Common Core State Standards and the School Librarian

11/10/2012 § 7 Comments

A major focus of one of my School Media Studies classes this semester has been how the implementation of the Common Core State Standards will affect the role of the school librarian. As one of my classmates aptly pointed out, the Common Core State Standards are a way for school librarians to demonstrate their indispensable work in a  school and to take on a leadership role in implementing these new standards. In other words, in a time when fewer and fewer school library positions exist,  leading the charge when it comes the Common Core State Standards proves to our schools how important and necessary we are. « Read the rest of this entry »

Accelerated Reader: Instigator of Readicide

06/03/2012 § 21 Comments

AR book labels

Image from Victoria Leon at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com

Let me start off by saying, I am NOT attending Library School to become a Library Media Specialist. My knowledge on the topic of Accelerated Reader and other reading management systems is something that I have only begun to explore. I’d like to thank fellow Hacker, Britt Foster and my cohort at Pratt SILS Camille Baker for sharing their AR resources and viewpoints with me.

I wanted to write a post on this topic ever since I visited my sister’s classroom in California. Back in August 2011, I was helping her prep her classroom for the first day of school. Out of the various tasks that I was given, one of them was to sort the books from her library into baskets. Upon inspecting the books, I noticed that each book was labeled with a sticker that had a number attached at the spine. I asked her, “What’s this number mean?” it certainly wasn’t a Dewey number. She briefly introduced me to what is known as Accelerated Reader. This introduction incited my curiosity as well as questions like how is reading by a number level limit the reading choices of students? Does reading to reach a number of points change the choices that students are making in what they choose to read? Is this in every school across America? The following is some of my findings.

Accelerated Reader (AR) is a reading management program that a product of Renaissance Learning, it’s designed to track students reading activity.  The software that accompanied with AR provides computerized diagnostic tests to determine students reading levels, lists of books that correspond to their reading levels, book quizzes, as well as a data management system for teachers to use to keep track of students reading progress. The way AR works, is first, students take a diagnostic test to determine their Zone of Proximal Development, upon attaining their ZPD, student are to start reading books that fall in their book level (BL), and are to increment their book levels by reading books and taking book quizzes that test their reading comprehension of said book. Based on their performance of the book quizzes students receive points. The more a student reads and passes book quizzes the higher their reading level will be and the more points they will accumulate. The fact that points are awarded for passing a book quiz is to serve as a motivation for more reading. The collection of points can lead students to receive awards such as recognition at a school assembly, toys, gift certificates or even a pizza party.

Now, what’s “Readicide”? And what does it have to do with AR? Readicide is a new term I discovered in while learning about AR, it was coined by a English high school teacher and author, Kelly Gallagher. He defines readicide as “the systematic killing of love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools”. Let’s look at some of the various criticisms that exist for AR, and how such criticisms lead me to believe that AR is a contributor to readicide rather than the solution.

One of the primary criticisms of AR that make it such a controversial subject is what it does to student’s exploration of books and how it limits their recreational reading because students are limited to a list of books that fall in their book level. In my experience that’s what I enjoyed the most, having the autonomy to choose what books I wanted to read, to not have to adhere to a list or a book level. That freedom that I have to choose from across genres is what made reading engaging to me. That doesn’t happen with AR, rather than students having the choice of what they want to read students are choosing books according to what’s dictated by their book level, and only choosing books according to how many points the book is worth. When teachers or schools encourage children to read for points, and to strive to reach X points by the end of the year, term, semester, etc. for X reward this alters a students book choice tremendously. This essay I found in the New York Times written by Susan Straight, sums up the problem, she says, “the passion and serendipity of choosing a book at the library based on the subject or the cover of the first page is nearly gone, as well as the excitement of reading a book simply for pleasure.” That fun that used to be in browsing, noting intriguing titles, favorite authors, cover art, is stripped down to “how many points is the book worth?”

The next critique of AR which is the content of the book quizzes that children are required to take and pass in order to move up book levels. Most of the book quizzes, are based on the students memory recall of the book they have read. The questions are shallow, and don’t require the critical skills that students should be mastering. My fellow hacker, Britt Foster, who happened to be young enough to have had AR in her school had the following to say about book quizzes “The ability to remember detail has nothing to do with critical thinking, analysis, and, especially for elementary students, their developmental level.”

Another concern that involves both School Libraries and Public Libraries, is whether or not a students’ rights to privacy is being compromised. When books are labeled and shelved according to BL, classmates can now see what BL the student is reading at. There aren’t just privacy issues to deal with, but there is also the issue of how a children’s library collection should be organized. Should Public Libraries and School Libraries be labeling their books according to book level?  In my local library I saw that books were now being labeled with BL, and it saddens me to think what books are being missed when schools have adopted AR.

Lastly, I should say that  the way that AR is implemented, is completely unique and depends upon the school and the teacher. Not all schools across the country are using it, there are other reading management systems. What I have found astounding, is that as school continue to use such programs, or begin to adopt them, there has been no conclusive data or research that can conclusively point to AR as a main factor in children’s reading success. I hope that the readers who are in Library School for a Library Media Specialization or who are current Teacher Librarians, or Public Children’s Librarians share their thoughts on Accelerated Reader and reading management systems in general. Would you agree that AR is an instigator or Readicide? Have you been a witness to success stories of students who have used AR? What positive aspects are there to having AR in schools?

A Well-Kept Secret: How to Become an International School Librarian

03/10/2011 § 23 Comments

As my fellow Hacker Zack Frazier pointed out in his most recent entry, many library school students experience considerable anxiety about their job prospects upon graduation. We all know (maybe too well) how tight the job market in North America is. That’s why, whenever a classmate expresses an interest in school librarianship or working abroad, I ask if they have considered international schools.

I have to preface this primer by admitting that I have never worked as a librarian at an international school. However, I did work from July 2008 until June 2011 as an English Literature teacher at Gyeonggi Suwon International School in Suwon, South Korea. So I can comment on the hiring process, work environment, salary, and benefits, which are similar for both positions. It continues to amaze me that the international school circuit, which provides incredible employment opportunities across the world, continues to be such a well-kept secret. Nobody ever told me about it; in fact I stumbled across it quite by accident. So I’d like to share information with you about how to get in the loop.

The campus of Gyeonggi Suwon International School, where I worked from 2008-2011

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