Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Library Lady

I just got asked if people like me, a ‘library lady’ were actually teachers, did we get paid the same, was everyone in the library a teacher?

This was a kid in my home group! Talking to younger kids I’d taught math and science to last year.
I wonder what is going through their heads some times.

I suspect what they want to know is who can get them in the most trouble and who they can push their luck with. I told them that we were teachers and paid as teachers. He wanted to know if everyone in the library was a teacher. I told him no, some of them are like the office ladies and just as grumpy!

I also got my first bit of gum today in my little bin. Remember Itty Bitty Bins from the 80’s? It’s a cute blue one with a capacity of about 500mLs. I reckon I can fill it with used gum before the end of the year. How gross is that!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Things that annoy me: A rant!

I like to think of ways to make things better rather than just complain...

Something like elluminate can be used as it has been by the department of ed in Victoria to run online tutorials with voice and typed messaging available, speakers notes can be annotated by the speaker and live questions answered with all of it being recorded for those unable to be here. Check out some of the previous free recordings here.

This would be of more assistance than the useless forums that are not moderated or led by the tutor/lecturers. They have been from the start a place for anxious fretting and whinging, with little discussion of actual topics. When a student mentioned this in one forum the response was inadequate. Just like in a face to face tutorial, conversations need to be kept on track and an idea given of what the teacher is thinking – that means that essays are not such a case of ‘guess what the teacher is thinking’ and that the teachers need to be online in these forums more often, directing not just answering questions.

The requirement to set up a blog rather than being required to post to forums suggests that those running the courses couldn’t put in the time to manage the forums if students really used them for their correct purpose. The worried posts about blogs suggest that the course is pitched to older teachers wanting a change of ‘career’ for the last 10 years of their teaching life, who have to learn the farce that is ‘web 2.0’ from scratch**. People who can be fooled that a podcast and a forum are high tech and giving you better teaching. Same stuff, different bucket.

Ah, essays... first we are being ripped off by having to hand in assignments before the 13 weeks of study is over. I guess this is convenient for the lecturers and markers but highly unfair as there is very little turn around time between one assignment and the next. If the response to your first essay is inadequate and then the lecturers do not respond to that, how much time does it give you to get back on track and do a good enough job on the next one to pass? I’ll let you know when they get back to me! My friend doing the same course has waited over a week now for a response to her questions (our marks were 2 points different) and the lecturer has repeatedly said they will call and haven’t. We have busy lives too and think it would be respectful to actually schedule a time and make it happen.

Just for an example here are a couple of pics...
One is an essay that I wrote for my dip ed. It wasn’t very good – being a pass grade only subject I didn’t care a whole lot – but look at the level of feedback! Yes a little excessive but plenty of help to improve in a distance ed subject where you don’t have direct contact with the lecturer. The second is what I got back on an essay where I passed by 0.5 of a mark! I got a general response on the front page that included “Use readings and text” Text being double underlined. I would have got a bad mark in anything I did in undergrad study if I had not gone further than the text and readings. To then find inside that nothing is commented on except punctuation and referencing gives me very little to understand where I am getting it wrong. I'd expect that on a 80+% assignment.

I just don’t get it.
In my ‘scholarly paper’ for the other subject I failed miserably. The comments tell me all the things I should have done – that they were expecting but these related to the rubric not the question. I have always answered the question, am I supposed to write to the marking instead. Apparently. The phrase I found really galling was “At this level of study...”. At a masters level course I would expect to go beyond the readings and text not to regurgitate what is in them (as appears to be needed to pass), to take one aspect and expand on it. At this level is a ridiculous statement to make when there are different requirements for any course one does. These should be articulated not left to the expectation that it is understood – “at this level”. Specifically because what the marker was commenting on was ownership and voice used. I have other post grad papers that have been marked down for the very thing they think is expected “At this level”! Do things change so much at a Masters?

In reading what was expected the real question they should have asked was

Is your school (or the school you know*) an information literate school community? How could you as a librarian make it one?

This would give the opportunity to define and then have an opinion using your voice and give a range of problems and ways to solve them. Focusing on one problem as the question asked has led my marker to believe that I do not know the difference between information literacy and information technology skills. I disagree with that but if the marker doesn’t like the focus of your one problem, you are stuffed.

I also thought the comment that I didn’t “...demonstrate and understanding of the unique skills that the teacher librarian has to contribute...” was a bit rich considering at this point in time I do not believe that TLs have “unique” skills. I haven’t seen anything in my readings or practice that suggest that there aren’t others in the school who can do the same. The difference is the position we are in to deliver, organise, and see the big picture of what is going on with the school’s information needs. It comes past you every day. The conversations you have with frustrated teachers at the circulation desk, the rushed requests, the books tubs created, the classes that come in to the library, their wants, needs and how the teachers are using the library, the reasons why students are sent to the library in class time – all give us in the library a view of how and why both teachers and students are using the library and the information within it. Unique skills? Nup. [This has also been an interesting thread on oztl_net called what we teach and what we do]

The one good thing I got out of that essay was an introduction to Diigo – a social bookmarking site. I am trying to starting it with a year 9 class doing research on social issues important to them as it will give an opportunity to discuss the value of the sites they are using and the use of information from the internet – something that is sorely lacking in most research assignments set. In bookmarking they have to use the URL of the page. I know that sounds simple, but last year I had year 9s giving me science research with www.google.com and www.yahoo.com as references! If only I could get them some time in a computer room to teach it – I may try using a projector to teach it and see if they’ll do some at home then discuss postings to the site after...

Yep, I spent the time since the last post writing this thinking if I got it out, perhaps I could find the focus to continue with my uni work. I’ll post, turn off the computer and probably do something other than read n write.

Ah well, it’s hard to go on without answers.

*because this is entry level TL, but incredibly biased to teachers working in libraries already...** I wonder if that is because the NSW government is giving the uni lots of money to give their teachers a basic grounding in what they should be doing and make sure they pass by making it colour by numbers (or write to marking criteria, never mind the question).


...are a nocturnal toad. Hidden in the DDC 21!

I had an interesting time working with a lib tech to find the right spot in the Dewey for a series of DVDs on the history of NASA. She asked... do they go in Space engineering – yes, space science – yes, space exploration – yes, space flight – yes, and so on until Spadefoots. They sounded cool! So I whacked it in google (like anyone around my age or younger would do) and it turns out they are toads. Anyhow we put it in a general space type spot in the applied sciences of the 600s*. We were getting close to this decision when the Bear came up to see what we were up to and we found the spot and she agreed. This is what being a librarian is about, getting the resources in the spot that most people will be able to find them in, making them accessible. The Bear can tell you what Dewey area you want without looking it up (a surprisingly large amount of people who don’t know me in the school seem to think I can do this too – not yet) but the Shadow can’t even catalogue and won’t check the work done by the techs.

What kind of librarian do I want to be? I want to be able to do the important stuff, the things the Shadow seems incapable of. She has been a TL for 4 years, meaning modern training has made her TL without much L! At the other campus library the TL was librarian first including experience in a business library. She and the Bear are the people who think like I do, logically with an eye to the users needs, not what we think they should do. They are the librarian I want to be. Considering the current difficulties I am having with the distance ed uni course (will post again when not so red hot and angry) I am thinking of doing a local Info Tech Grad Dip, to learn the important bits of being a librarian.

It’s nearly 12. I’ve taken a day off work to do uni stuff but my mind is still roaring with unanswered questions with no response from the uni. Grrr.

*I have forgotten exactly where we decided to put it in in the end, but remember it ended in .4, So what have I done googled Dewey decimal and gone for the wiki page rather than the official DDC site. Wiki was more helpful in the end.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Woo Hoo!

Most blog posts in 3 YEARS!

Don't reckon I'll reach the heights of 2006 with over 92 though...
Although it's only May...

Procrastinating... II

These have been collected from various word documents, often labelled ‘blog bits’, which are truncated thoughts or starts of blog posts I intended to make. They would have each been much longer if I didn’t have to work... didn’t get distracted by students and teachers... wasn’t worried about losing myself in the land of blog again... actually felt like turning my computer on again once I got home...

I could have started another blog using a program that allows me choose the date of the entry and backdated them all so I look as regular as prunes for brekkie, but one day I want to write a really professional blog. This is a personal blog because a lot of my reflections contain a large amount of whinge and whine (or perhaps more honestly, bitch and moan). I have to learn to cut that out before I can put my name and school to it!
So here they are...

Yesterday I had a conversation that included something I’d read for uni. It’s good to feel that despite me not having done much yet, it had already proved useful (and with any luck will be a motivator to do more…).

The conversation was with a teacher of technology and our head librarian-resource manager-all round good guy (brain says Mama Bear... so maybe henceforth just the Bear) about the misinformation kids get from things like Ask Yahoo!

We have odd purchasing habits. We buy things from booksellers, and completely ad hoc as the requested by students or teachers or recommended by random staff at major booksellers such as Dymocks. The person doing this buying will buy (or not, in the case of The Watchmen) based on their recommendations on their weekend shopping trip and then the money is gone, often to doubles of books we already have. The state library put out a list of books that teens may like if they enjoyed Twilight. The Bear and I discussed the list, themes, links and found which we had in our collection. The Shadow came back with something the sales person had told her was the book “you had to read next after Twilight”. Yep, it was on the list and we already had it and a request from a student to buy the sequels. There has got to be a better way of doing things. There are better ways of doing things but how do we make them happen here?
I read the proper way, I work with a very experienced librarian who knows the right way but is as new to this library as me and one person’s habits to change. So I handball. It’s the Bear’s problem as leader of this ship not mine.

Working on using Diigo with a couple of classes doing research. I am trying to get the hang of it so I can guide teachers who are a little technophobic... technobackward? Techno... I need a term for when teachers just don’t have time to explore the new technologies that are out there. So I guess that’s part of being a Librarian in a school.

Too much to do. I want to re do the library website, but the time I have gets eaten by the little things that constantly need doing in a library. To paraphrase Basil Faulty, this Library would run a lot better without the students (or more probably the teachers). I want, at least my wide reading classes to do some digital reading. But they are not “my” classes and I have to find a teacher not only willing to give it a go but happy to say when? not someday.

Bear taught me about manipulating the database of the library catalogue to tell me what I wanted to know. I thought there must be an easier way, but apparently no longer with the beast that is BiblioTech. It also showed me more of what she does when she checks the cataloguing done by the technicians. Too much to explain succinctly, but it were good. I can see how some things that may seem fiddly or unimportant in cataloguing can actually make life much easier later on. I am not sure that I will learn that sort of practical management of resources in this course, but sometimes it helps me to ask the right questions of the bear to find out what I really need to know.

During book club one of the students told me that she was stressed because the chemist wouldn’t give her the morning after pill without her parents knowing (because of the side effects) and her Mum would kill her, but she wanted to do the responsible thing and deal with in now, not in a month... Her teacher in the next period noticed and moved to deal with the issue. I spoke to her this morning in the Library and things are being sorted. Her Dad was ok about it and mum never needs to know. ...and I was worried I wouldn’t get to know the kids the same way as in the classroom.

Finally got around to reading the comments on my first assignment, just to check there was nothing wrong with the bit I needed to reuse for the next one. I can accept constructive criticism, and accept that I didn’t really understand what was required but the comments on my references I think were a little unfair. The uni recommends and encourages use of EndNote, which is pretty simple to get the right bits in the right feilds. EndNote puts out a reference that the marker doesn’t think is correct – who is right? I’d put my money on EndNote. I also got marked down for providing the list of required/recommended resources in the appendix as the Victorian Government supplied them to me. If they don’t provide complete references, especially for websites, how am I to give the correct ones!?! The reason you provide a date of access is to deal with changes to online information that is not adequately archived. If the government does not give correct references I cannot be sure that I am truly using the same site information as they were. So am I supposed to give something that is not true? Riddle me that!

...and! They mark you down for not referencing the text and readings. How backwards is that! In everything else I’ve done you’d get marked down for relying on the background material and not looking further afield. The fact that you have done the required reading should be obvious from the way you approach the subject (having been useful/powerful enough to influence) and not require direct quotes and references. I guess I have to do it differently to pass this!

Ran another year 9 wide reading class today on reading the net. The kids didn’t get it, couldn’t see the purpose and couldn’t settle. Period 6. My ratbag homegroup. Am going to try the same thing with 2 year 10 classes (1 sports academy) over at the east in the next month – yep, I am lucky enough to be able to override the booking system to get myself computer access eventually! It will be interesting to compare them. Working the data in excel is not simple – it doesn’t like qualitative stuff and I haven’t got time to think of a way to rewrite the survey.

Going to a conference (half day on a Saturday !) next week on reading online, hope to get some good ideas even if I have to be there at 0830! Grrr.

Now I'm up to date and off to bed.