This past week has been all about too much. Too much at Stelly's Secondary library, too much illness and foreign vistors at home, too much yet unknown in this course. Not an auspicious beginning, but that's life. And of course, things are always connected in my world. So hang on gentle reader, let's see if I can make the connections clear to you.
At Stelly's this week marked the beginning of semester 2. In the library that means that all the textbooks we attempted to collect the week before (approximately 6000), had to be checked out to new users this week. It is a physically rigorous process that 3 people undertake. I spent the first 3 days in what I call 'the bookhole' --a small airless, windowless room stacked to the rafters with textbooks. The students file in pick up the books they need for this particular class, proceed to my circulation station, and then we (hopefully) checkout their barcoded texts. Sometimes a student has not yet returned his or her texts from the previous semester so they are not allowed to take out their new books. The intent of this delay is to encourage students to return their books so the next student can receive a text. (Students who haven't returned their books are often extremely creative storytellers).
The best part of this process is that I get to connect with every student in the school( around 1100). I get to know their names, something about the courses they are taking, and establish a new relationship or build onto a relationship that is already begun. I love this part! When there isn't a student standing in front of me, I schlepp textbooks onto shelves. This is physical work, but with all the adrenaline of this chaotic time pumping, it too, is kind of fun.
Everything else that I usually do doesn't happen for the entire week.
This work is not really 'teaching' work, but it is one of the things the Teacher Librarian does to remain visibly essential in the school. Textbooks are still a mainstay of the educational experience in high school---but that is changing. More and more classes have online components. Along with up to the minute information, online databases and other sources mean no textbooks for students to lose or damage---and to have to pay for. Educator and Web guru, Will Richardson, author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms writes about the California Open Source Textbook Project " COSTP is projected to augment the current K-12 textbook supply chain, be self-supporting within 18 months of starting up and save the State of California upwards of $200M+ per year for K-12 textbook allocation within five years".(COSTP 2005)Wow!
So while I was in the bookhole enjoying the irony of my situation, I was mulling over the things I've been learning about in this class---new technologies that offer students so much more than just a text. In particular I was thinking about FURL and del.icio.us, the social bookmarking sites we are to explore this week. How amazing it is for students to access 'the collaborative construction of knowledge' referred to by Will Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts.
Like the regulation 'digital immigrant' that educational theorist Marc Prensky describes, I spent most of my time reading about ways to use del.icio.us, Furl, Jots.com etc. to help me manage my information overload. And the overload is very real. Perhaps because of the challenging life circumstances this past week I feel darn close to giving up. At this point, I try to reconnect with the kind of learner I want to become---an adventurer who is able to give this a whirl knowing that by continuing to play with this stuff I will figure it out, if not now, sometime soon. I don't want to be that digital immigrant who turns around and heads home. I want to model for my own kids that I can reclaim my playful attitude, live with being less than perfect,(far less), and carry on.
Actually, once I can incorporate the use of the social bookmarking technologies into my practice, I will have something even more valuable than the ability to manage information. These tools will give me the ability to connect with other learners who have similar interests, and to benefit from their explorations and discoveries. Del.icio.us in particular, will help me make connections with what like-minded souls are reading.
At this point I've watched the recommended youtube video by Leelefever (Social bookmarking in Plain English) 3 times and read the whole of Richardson's book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts putting my highlighter into overdrive. I understand the process, though I'm still very clumsy at using it. I like the idea of becoming adept at using the folksonomy. The traditional taxonomies don't even seem to work that well for the trained professionals, I've noticed. Folksonomies will have their weaknesses, but the more people who contribute to them the more accurate they will become, (a la wikipedia).
Richardson describes using both FURL and Del.icio.us. Both are web-based, so they can be accessed from any computer. They are another development in cloud computing. I first heard about cloud computing while listening to Spark, a CBC show hosted by Norah Young. She interviewed Nicholas Carr about his new book, The Big Switch, "which is about the massive changes this move to what's called 'cloud computing' may have. For Carr, its effects go beyond the business of technology. Just as electrification changed North American life profoundly, the 'big switch' will change economics, culture, and society, raising questions about security, privacy and more."
I'm betting that the transformation of learning that will happen when we focus on connections between ideas, passions, and learners as opposed to the more traditional learning where a student works in isolation, is mind-boggling.
Alas, today I feel like a learner in isolation, banging my head against the digital wall.