The digital divide

This morning when I was researching Pokemon Go, it was amazing to see that there have been approximately 47,000,000 news articles written about the online phenomenon in the last eleven days, since its limited release (initially in the United States, New Zealand and Australia on July 6 and from July 14 in the United Kingdom and Germany. Probably more countries have been added while I write this). What was even more incredible is that about 500,000 articles were added in the twenty minutes between the time I first searched for Pokemon Go and getting around to beginning this post.

Initially, the term ‘digital divide‘ was used to describe those who had access to ICT and those who did not. However, in the last few days I’m hearing much more about the people who are connected with ICT, mainly for work purposes, and their stunned reaction to the millions of people who are seemingly addicted to hunting and catching all those cute little Pokemons. Stories abound from people hiring Uber drivers to chauffeur them around to Pokemon hotspots, to paying someone else to chase Pokemons for them. I’m thinking that there’s a new digital divide happening before our eyes and morphing every day; those who play Pokemon Go and those who don’t. People who understand the phenomenon are cashing in on the sensation, driving foot traffic to retail stores, using it as a real estate selling point and theme parks holding events specifically for the initiated.

But what does this all mean for my interest groups, schools and libraries? It seems like a number of libraries have been quick to react, which is not surprising, knowing how connected libraries are to technology and user experiences these days. The State Library of New South Wales has a one-stop page for everything you need to know about the game, while the Boroondara Libraries in Melbourne have information on the whereabouts of some of the elusive little creatures. The School Library Journal has a great page with everything an information professional needs to know.

However, I’m still not sure how schools will react to this sensation, apart from banning adult gamers from accessing school grounds during school hours. I would love to hear in the comments how anyone plans to use the game in schools and how they might sell it to those in power who don’t play. Will the digital divide in your school disadvantage your students? This conversation between Joachim Cohen and Jared Wilkins gives an example as to how Pokemon Go, or the concepts behind it, might be used in schools.

Librarians in popular culture – Monsters’ University

In one iteration of my thesis, I was researching the way in which the role of the librarian is portrayed in popular culture. I’d seen references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ghostbusters, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns to name just a few. However, one day when I had nothing better to do (oh yeah), I watched Monsters’ University, the prequel to Monsters Inc. I was surprised to discover that there was a librarian portrayed, but had not seen any reference to it amongst the academic or popular culture writings on librarians.

So this little bonus vignette caught my eye as multi award winning Pixar Films can do some interesting stuff. However, my fantasy was then completely shattered as the worn out and age-old stereotype of the librarian was wheeled out, yet again. Have a look at the library scene for yourself.

That’s right, the stereotypical unattractive female librarian, who in this case isn’t a dragon or a witch, but a monster, only exists to fling students out of the library if they dare make a noise. Her depiction by Pixar demonstrates the laziness of filmmakers who use such stereotypes for a shortcut to laughs.

Rethinking remembering?

Remembering is the lowest of the lower order thinking skills.

Remembering is the lowest of the lower order thinking skills.

Over the last few years, the role of remembering has been downgraded in education in favour of consulting Google, our phone contacts list or personal leaning networks accessed via social media.

While I don’t condone the practice of requiring students to regurgitate facts for the sole purpose of passing examinations, the act of remembering is important to humans in a number of ways.

There are jobs that require a good deal of memory. Imagine a neurosurgeon pausing surgery to locate a patient’s spinal cord using Wikipedia. Or a bus driver consulting Google maps mid-route. Or a paramedic seeking instructions on resuscitation. And our ability to remember who we are and the names of our loved ones is central to our sense of identity.

There is evidence to suggest that an excellent memory is linked to a larger hippocampus, an area of the brain that governs remembering. One study showed that London cab drivers, who have to remember 25,000 streets in a 10 kilometre radius have larger than normal hippocampi. The research proved that brain training can enlarge the hippocampus.

These days, there’s very little literal need to exercise. We have cars, remote controls and smart phones. But we know that exercise is good for our health and wellbeing. We no longer literally need to remember the phone numbers of our friends or even our passwords, but perhaps the act of remembering is as good for our brain as exercise is for our body. The study referred to above demonstrates that remembering can enhance our brain’s plasticity.

There are certainly numerous excellent creative ways to learn in the 21st century. It’s the focus on, and the way we retain knowledge that I think needs revisiting. After all, who would have thought that the lowest of lower order thinking skills could have such a positive impact on brains?

How to survive your PhD and Mindfulness MOOCs

It’s been a while since I completed a MOOC (the previous one was on Gamification). However this week, two new MOOCs have come to my attention and I’ve enrolled in both of them. The first one I discovered was Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Performance, hosted by Dr Craig Hassed and Dr Richard Chambers from Monash University. It begins on 14 September. The second one, which begins today, is How to Survive your PhD, run by ANU’s Dr Inger Mewburn. It’s not just for PhD students, but anyone doing a research degree, or friends and family of the student completing (or trying to!) the research degree.

It’s terrific that free online learning is available to anyone interested on via your desktop or mobile device. These highly respected educators have developed wonderful resources to support people. I intend to take advantage of these courses and will report back upon completion.

 

Library visit – St Martin of Tours Primary School

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to visit other school libraries. It’s energising and invigorating to learn how other teacher librarians organise and promote their libraries. And there’s nothing like actually seeing a physical library space to help envisage the way in which learning and teaching occurs within that space.

And what better than to combine a library visit with a catch up with a long time friend and the opportunity to meet, IRL, an online friend from way back?

So it was thanks to Kim Yeomans, who organised a meet up with Louise Brooks and a library visit to St Martin of Tours Primary School. I had been fortunate enough to visit Kim’s library on two occasions previously, but an active and passionate teacher librarian such as Kim is constantly changing and improving everything about the library and what it offer to students, so another visit was more than welcome. To finally meet Louise was brilliant, she is such a wonderful educator and supportive person.

So here are some pictures of Kim’s wonderful library and the work she has done to make it the heart of her school.

 

Inspiration for young readers

Inspiration for young readers

Ideas for students struggling to find the right book

Ideas for students struggling to find the right book

Hooking children into reading

Hooking children into reading

 

A challenge for students

A challenge for students

A great way to get students involved in the library

A great way to get students involved in the library

A cute place for 'sick' books

A cute place for ‘sick’ books

A simple, yet effective message

A simple, yet effective message

Fun and attractive signage

Fun and attractive signage

 

The story chair

The story chair

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What a beautiful library

What a beautiful library

Encouraging readers

Encouraging readers

 

The benefits of failure

For some reason, I only came across the 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech by J.K. Rowling a short time ago. While watching it yesterday (I had read the transcript earlier this year, but had not watched the video until yesterday) I found many ideas resonated with me and with my educational philosophy. Lately as a profession, we have been promoting the idea that failure is okay and even worthwhile. J.K. Rowling builds on this idea explaining that failure actually enabled her to write the Harry Potter stories and become the successful person she is today. If you haven’t seen the video, I encourage you to view it. It’s 20 minutes well spent.

The Library of Alexandria at your fingertips

Recently The Age published an article entitled Technology pushes teacher student relationships into new territory. It was an interesting read, but didn’t go far enough in my opinion. The quote from Andrew Douch saying

Everybody’s got access to the Library of Alexandria at their fingertips. We can take the conversation up a whole other level,” he said. “Students will be able to supply better and more recent answers than the teacher can, which is exciting and threatening maybe for some teachers.

is true. However, what was not mentioned in the article is the need for students (and teachers) to verify the validity of the information at their fingertips. This is what librarians did (and still do) when selecting books to be placed in the library collection. Librarians also do this when curating and developing Libguides, YouTube playlists or other resources that point to valid information online. This video from QUT Library helps show students how to validate what’s available online.