Blog Listserv Assignment

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Blog Listserv Assignment

  1. 1. Caitlin BerganSunday, October 26, 2008Blog/Listserv AssignmentTo: My Supervisor I looked into the blog Blue Skunk written by Doug Johnson to evaluate itsusefulness as a resource for our library. Doug Johnson has extensive experience as ateacher and a school media specialist for a variety of ages, with skills highlightinginternational cooperation and technology. He is currently the Director of Media andTechnology for a school district in Minnesota. From his blog, you can access his moreprofessional website and information about his published works, which includes anumber of articles and four books. He mentions in his bio that he sees his blog as acompanion to his professional website and to his published works. He likes that it giveshim a place to explore ideas and get feedback before developing it for publishing, and away for people to communicate with him about his works. Aimed at school media specialists, Blue Skunk shares gems of information andexperience mixed with the everyday ramblings of a daily, or almost daily, blogger. Hisreaders have a range of experience level, though all do seem involved in the sphere ofschool libraries. Some of the comment posters have their own blogs, while others aremedia specialists at varying points in their careers. He spends several posts helping oranswering questions for people who are new to the job. He stresses openness, patience,and respect in dealing with children of all ages, and also emphasizes that a schoollibrarian should foremost be an advocate for the children they serve. He discusses bestpractice, problems with conducting real research, and issues of technology versustraditional teaching methods. But he also sidetracks with anecdotes about his travels andcomments about new technology he comes across. Much of the information is valuable,but to get a real appreciation of what is there, one would probably have to start at thebeginning of his extensive archives and read up until present. On October 6th, Doug’s posted about Facebook and why it is not banned from theschool district’s computers. It came up because the administrators at the district levelwanted to have a talk about it. He says that while he has little attachment to the site, hedoes not like the thought of banning any site on hearsay alone and thinks that contentneeds to be strongly considered before banning anything. He has links to information foreducators and other people who are not familiar with social networking sites to explainhow they work and why people use them. He also stresses the importance of teachingkids how to use social networking sites, and the internet in general, safely. Included aretwo short videos about cyber bullying and the fact that information put out on the webcould come back to haunt a child later. The comments posted had a range of good input on the subject. One posterdiscussed how they used the set up of Facebook for history projects, especially if the unitconcerned a range of important people and their relationships. The class would make“profiles,” “events,” and “groups” for all of the important figures and their causes, usinga setup they were familiar with to make connections between people, events, and ideas.Doug agrees later that these projects can work well – he has also heard that using thisformat to map book characters in literature classes can work well. Other posts agreed
  2. 2. with the need for free access and the need for kids to learn to make good decisions onweb use. One commenter got defensive – saying that most of them probably had littlecontrol over what was or was not blocked, as they relied on filter services that decidedwithout input from the schools what should or should not be blocked. Doug answers thisa little sharply – even in such cases, there is someone in the district that can curtail howmuch the filter company decides on their own and what is actually enforced. Doug fearsthat religious or political bias could eventually factor into a filter company’s criteria forblocking sites. One poster mentions that schools that only allow students on for“educational” purposes are kind of silly – if they can go to the school library and checkout a fiction free reading book or a book about a hobby, why shouldn’t they be able to getsimilar material off a school computer as well? I thought it was an excellent point. On October 13th and 14th he does an interesting pair of posts. He talks about howkids are said to satisfice, a fun linguistic construction from “suffice” and “satisfy.” Inother words, they find what will be minimally acceptable, instead of the best answer to aquestion. Doug notices that this is true, but a youth’s tendency to satisfice is directlyrelated to the personal importance of the question. He suggests that better questionswould lead to deeper thinking and a better estimation of a student’s true ability to findinformation. The commenters all agreed on this one – stressing choice and relevantproject design. I concede the point, students are going to look for something harder if they aremore interested in it, but we would need to change the entire world, not just the publicK-12 curriculum in order for that kind of project design to do any good for the student ifthat is all they are exposed to. College-level instructors do not care if a student is trulyinterested in their topic; a professor does not care if the student feels no personalrelevance in a research question and they will not hold their hand. The professional worlddoes not care if a person wants to do a report – it is do the report and get paid or find anew job. A boss is not going to change the focus of the report to make it more personallyappealing to an individual. Part of school is social preparation for life. To make it inhigher education and in any kind of worthwhile job, you have to be willing to spend a lotof time becoming familiar with information that you genuinely don’t care about. As muchas I want everyone to be able to feel that they succeed at school, this is also a factor.Choice is nice, but not all projects can, nor should be, the choice of the student.Sometimes there needs to be an ultimatum. Would first teaching students researchingskill on subjects they like be a good idea, before applying the same criteria to an assignedtopic? The answer to that is absolutely. But school is about learning, and that does notalways entail handholding and giving into what the student wants. I liked his second post on satisficing better. He suggests to people writing reports,especially required ones for the government that will never again see the light of day, hesuggests to calm down and satisfice as much as is appropriate. When the stakes arehigher, when money is on the line, then it is time to worry about specifics and to doserious research. But his advice is to focus on helping the kids, and if that means makingeducated guesses instead of spending hours gathering information for a report that no oneis going to read or investigate, then that is what should happen. That post had only onecomment, and that was a woman saying, you know what, you are right. The whole topicreminded me of something my high school chemistry teacher said. “People,” he said, “are
  3. 3. like electrons. They exist at the lowest energy level possible.” More people need to keepthat in mind, but especially educators. In general, I think this blog might be a good resource for an individual, if they arewilling to follow the blog and read the archives, but it would be impractical for anorganization to make too much use of it as it is haphazardly put together and not all of theposts are of equal relevance. I feel that his professional website and his books and articlesmight prove to be more useful, as he admits they contain some of the same informationand it is in a more organized form. I certainly would not discourage a colleague fromfollowing his blog and implementing some of his advice if seems like a good fit, but asresource for our institution, it lacks structure. From: Caitlin Bergan

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