Friday, July 18, 2014

Let's emphasize information acquisition across formats and platforms

In this more digital world, where people can ingest information through a variety of different media, reading is still emphasized in K-12 schools.  Educators want to create book readers; however, we should be helping students access and learn from information that is provided to them through videos, audio files, etc.  Not everyone will have reading - and by that I mean book reading - as their preferred information acquisition method.

2014 School Library Summit in Albany, NY
School Library Summit
At the 2014 School Library Summit in Albany, NY earlier this month, Dr. Donna DeSiato, superintendent of the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District, said that our schools are stuck in the industrial age.  Consider how we organize our classroom, our lessons, and our assessments.  When I look at how we are teaching reading, I see this too.  Rather than considering the variations in our students, in how they want to acquire information, we make them all do it the same way.  You must read books and you must enjoy it.

Prior to the Summit, I learned a new phrase, Accountable Independent Reading (AIR).
Accountable Independent Reading is based on the belief that most young people today do not read for pleasure enough and also need to work on the skills that sustained reading brings (focused attention, stamina, thoughtful analysis, and also personal satisfaction) that are skills that are needed across the academic curricula. The practice is firmly rooted in the new Common Core State Standards. (source)
Would it be interesting - and more realistic - if schools also spent time on helping students learn how to acquire information through other means?  Imagine learning how to read web pages and not just skim them?  How about learning through audio files and understanding what the listen for?

Which brings me to a definition that I found in the edTPA Library Specialist Assessment Handbook (9/2013) for library literacies (emphasis added).  Library literacies are:
The ability to read, listen to, view find, understand, synthesize, evaluate, and apply information gathering across formats and platforms, including, but not limited to, information literacy, digital literacy, media literacy, textual literacy, and visual literacy.
Would we be doing our students - and their future - a service by emphasizing all media more equally, and not just the hardcopy or digital book?   Would it be good if we did more than just gave lip service to the other formats and platforms?  I believe the answer is "yes" to both questions.  So then here is the challenge...let's actually make that change!  Yes, books are important...and so is every other format.  Let's use all of the formats and teach our students to do the same. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Some people are amateurs & some are pros

Question - What is the difference between an amateur and a professional? Hold onto your answer for a few moments, while I tell you a story.

In May, I had lunch with Steve Borek, who is a friend and coach, and who works with entrepreneurs.  Steve and I had a lot of catching up to do, including talking about what was fueling our drives to succeed.  It was during this conversation that Steve mentioned the book Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield.  Pressfield has had a career as a successful fiction writer and has added to his success with a couple of non-fiction books.  Turning Pro is a follow-up to his book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. While I hadn't read The War of Art, Steve Borek's description of Turning Pro had me intrigued and I decided to read the book, while traveling to and attending the SLA Annual Conference.

The word "amateur" comes from the Latin word "to love".  An amateur is doing what she loves.  The fact that the person loves it is a good thing, because that passion can create drive and ambition.  However, just because the person loves the activity does not mean that the person does it well.  In fact, we generally do consider that the difference between an amateur and a professional.

One definition of the word professional is "a person who is expert at his or her work." In order to be an expert, a professional has received training to ensure that her work is done well.  That training could have been through workshops, courses, or even on the job.  Generally a professional is well paid because it is believed that the person indeed knows how to do the work better than someone who is an amateur. It is believed that the professional will bring special knowledge and abilities to whatever the work is.  It is also believed that the professional will persevere, even when the work get tough. 

By the way, what did you think the difference between an amateur and a professional were?  More importantly, which one are you?  

When someone moves from being an amateur to a professional, that person turns pro.  It is a phrase that I associate more readily with athletes, like those basketball players who were recently selected in the NBA draft.  They have left their amateur lives behind and are now heading into the pros.  But really, what does turning pro mean?

Pressfield describes both amateurs and professionals - and the act of moving from one to another - by telling stories about himself and others.  For him, an amateur is stuck.  Fear of what lies ahead may be inhibiting the person.  The person may also be stuck because she is comfortable with the way things are, and turning pro would mean real work and could be uncomfortable.  And everything distracts the amateur.

When a person turns pro, the work becomes a true practice.  The work has focus.  It is done with intention.  It is a habit.  And by doing the work, the professional continues to improve how the work will be done.  For Pressfield, this act of turning pro is a difference of mindset.  The mind of a professional is resolute.

Reading the book, people came to mind, who struggle in their work.  Yes, they are employed.  Yes, the are doing what they love. Yet they haven't quite risen to the level of expected proficiency.  Look you know someone like this?  The person has the best of intention, but is still an amateur.  The mindset of being a pro - and the resolve to be a pro - is not there.

If you think a pro is someone with a desk job, then you would be wrong.  There are mechanics, factory workers, and migrant workers that are all professionals.  (One of Pressfield's best stories is about a migrant worker.)  There are many waitresses and bartenders that are professionals.  Conversely, there are consultants, office workers, and the like who are amateurs.  They have plans that would lead them to the life of a professional, and they will implement those plans tomorrow (a day that never comes).

Every once in a while, I read a book that I want to recommend to the world.  The E-Myth Revisited, Six Thinking Hats, and How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day are books like that...and so is Turning Pro.  Pressfield has written  Turning Pro using very short chapters and lots of stories.  He doesn't come right out and say "do this".  Instead he teaches through his stories, which I find much more thought provoking.  It is a book that could be a very quick read, yet reading it slowly allows you to think about it all and how to apply it to your own life.

If I've inspired you to read Turning Pro, it is available in hardcopy and as an ebook.  And remember that your library might even have a copy that you can borrow!

Yes, the links above for the books will take to Amazon.  If you follow the link, then happen to purchase something, I'll get a very small commission.  The commissions allow me to occasionally purchase a book or some music.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

LIbrary of Congress Recommended Anolog and Digital Format Specifications

As the web site says:
Recommended Format Specifications are hierarchies of the physical and technical characteristics of creative formats, both analog and digital, which will best meet the needs of all concerned, maximizing the chances for survival and continued accessibility of creative content well into the future. 
The specifications seek to provide a framework within which creative works should have the flexibility to grow and develop, and also help ensure that these creative works be accessible and authentic into the future.
The Library of Congress identified six basic areas of creative output: Textual Works and Musical Compositions; Still Image Works; Audio Works; Moving Image Works; Software and Electronic Gaming and Learning; and Datasets/Databases. Technical teams worked to identify recommended formats for each category and to establish hierarchies of format preferences.  The Library is committed to reviewing these specifications on an annual basis.

The Library of Congress noted that:
The specifications which the Library is now publishing do not replace or supersede the Best Edition Statement, which provides guidance to publishers and creators in fulfilling their obligations with regard to the registration or deposit of their works under the terms of the Copyright Law. Instead, it seeks to complement that work, building upon the knowledge gained from working with the Best Edition Statement and providing a broader set of recommendations, aimed at providing guidance and clarity in a creative world, which is both rich with potential and rife with pitfalls, and afforded numerous competing options for information format or container.
The specifications are available at:
This is an excellent resources, which I hope many organizations will rely on.  The layout of the document and the level of detail included makes it easy for anyone to use, from students to digitization managers.  I encourage you to spread the word about its existence.