Why School Libraries are More Important Than Ever

Kids today have it easy.

Aside from not having to walk 2 miles (uphill) each way to school through waist deep snow, they have the Internet to provide a rich source of knowledge and information, and don't have to rely on the school library to get this information.

Source: MS Office Imagebank
Back in the palaeolithic age when I went to high school, the school library served 2 useful functions... It was a place where you could hang out with your friends (as long as you had a book in front of you and didn't actually make any noise - an extremely difficult task for a goofy adolescent boy), and it held a collection of books (usually 2 per course) that you needed to actually do your assignments.  These were special books that could not leave the premises, so it was always a competition to get your hands on them during your study period, or you may have to actually come in after school -- a fate worse than death to a teenager.

You could always tell when a class received a new assignment when a small horde of students descended on the shelves, each hoping to be one of the two people that actually got a book.  The smart kids actually came in early and moved the books far away from where Mr. Dewey (of the infamous Decimal system) said it should be. While the other kids were frantically looking in the Canadian History section, they calmly walked over to the Biography section and retrieved the treasured tome.

But all of this is foreign to kids today. There is no need to fight over books since everything you need is on the Internet.

Are school libraries even needed today?


Who Gets to Pick the Technology?

It's 3 am.

A critical component in your IT infrastructure breaks. (It NEVER breaks during office hours).

Who gets out of bed to drive in and fix it?

Photo Credit: Michael O'Connell, Oakville, ON
I'll give you a hint.

It's not me.


Rocks in the river

While I have been known to do some high risk activities (like introducing significant change into an organization) there are some activities for which I choose to do vicariously through other people.

White water kayaking is high on that list.

Image: MS Office Imagebank
Now if you are someone who likes to put on a skin tight wet-suit, then squeeze yourself into a Kleenex-thin fiberglass shell that has a particularly annoying habit of preferring an inverted position, and then put said shell at the mercy of a raging river full of bus sized objects, then good for you. But not me.

That's not to say that I don't admire the athletic prowess and skill required. Or that we can't learn a leadership lesson.


The Missing Link in Educational Technology

Contrary to popular belief, effective implementation of educational technology (or EdTech for short) actually has very little to do with technology.

The problem is, we keep acting like it does... and it will be our demise.

Charles Darwin Image: MS Office Imagebank
In my career I've had the blessing (or the curse) to have worked in implementing technology in a number of industries from consulting, to commercial software development, to telecommunications, to transportation, to manufacturing, to universities, to large colleges, and medical schools. All of this has culminated in my latest mission - to define and execute the model to support the delivery of an education experience that equips our students to be successful in this world we are sending them into upon graduation.

Let me reach back into my curriculum vitae and pull out my medical school experience, for I feel it is here that we can draw some learnings for the model we need in the educational sector.


What are you fighting for?

What are you fighting for?

It is most appropriate today to ask this question.  In Canada, today is the day we remember the commitment and sacrifice of those who serve our country in times of peace and war. While we may have differing viewpoints on the value or necessity of war and conflict, we can all be thankful that there are those willing to serve on our behalf.

When I was a kid in grade school, instead of the lock-down drill that is unfortunately so necessary in today's world, we used to have nuclear alert tests, where on signal all of us children immediately ducked under our desks. (I really have to wonder what that desk was made of, that would protect a child from the effects of a nuclear blast.)

We were in the 'Cold War', and technology and science were going to help us keep our country safe from the perceived enemy. We needed to put a man on the moon first, we needed to have a strong healthy economy so we could show the world how much better democracy was for its citizens.

We all had a common enemy.

It kept us focused.


Putting Tech in Today's Classroom

Let me start this post from two quotes from Dr. John Medina's book Brain Rules:

At the end of the introduction, he writes,
If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom (p. 5).”

Near the end of the final chapter, he writes:
"If you could step back in time to one of the first real Western-style universities, say, the University of Bologna, and visit its biology labs, you would laugh out loud. I would join you. By today’s standards, biological science in the 11th century was a joke… But if you went down the hall and peered inside Bologna’s standard lecture room, you wouldn’t feel as if you were in a museum. You would feel at home. There is a lectern for the teacher to hold forth, surrounded by chairs where students absorb whatever is being held forth. Minus perhaps an overhead or two, it looks remarkably similar to today's classrooms. Could it be time for a change? (p 278)"

The book itself is a fascinating read, and as a brain researcher, Dr. Medina draws on the lessons learned by studying the behaviour of this most fascinating of the bits and pieces in our bodies, particularly where it applies to learning and remembering.

Dr. Medina's research has shown that the traditional classroom design, very much in use today, is probably one of the most inefficient environments for learning.  We learn best when we can move around, when we can focus, when we are well rested, when things are presented visually.

Even if you aren't in education, this is a fascinating read.


You Can't Cover Your Butt with a Flagpole

If you ask my wife, I have two emotional speeds... On. And off.

Now keep in mind that emotions are much different than passions - If you've ever been buttonholed by me talking about the exciting things going on in technology leadership you will know I'm pretty passionate.

But in the emotional arena, I would have to agree with my wife. For the most part, there isn't much that fazes me. I can generally overlook a number of things to focus on the objective.

On rare occasion I do get irked.

I know I shouldn't, but I do.

There is one type of behavior that finds, then "pushes my button" repeatedly.