Sunday, September 21, 2014

What's Your #Jenniferism?

This summer at the ISTE Librarians Network Breakfast, Jennifer LaGarde caused the air to be sucked out of the room when she said during her keynote, in a room filled with librarians, that the Dewey Decimal System is not a life skill and that librarians shouldn't  spend valuable instructional time teaching it.

If you are not a librarian you are probably thinking, "What's the Dewey Decimal System?"  much to the chagrin of your Elementary, Middle and High School librarians who spent countless hours and volumes of worksheets teaching you the Dewey Decimal System.

If you are a librarian, the Holy Grail of all things library has just been relegated to a side note, thus, the massive loss of air in the room that morning.

I agreed with Jennifer's statement.  Way back in 1997 when I first moved from the classroom to the library I was annoyed at many of the things I was taught in "library school" and expected to "teach" in the library.  Have you ever seen those awful worksheets where kids have to draw a line to show where the book goes on the shelf?  How B O R I N G!

I determined back in 1997 that the library I organized would be a break from the rigors of the classroom, a place to talk, play games, help and learn. The library would be an oasis in the middle of worksheets, homework and tests.

At the elementary level, in the library I ran, students rotated to activities in centers that included a game center, book center, music center, video center, research center (which NEVER used a worksheet), etc.  There were always carefully planned "lessons" in each center disguised as fun.  The center that students loved the most was the Library Helper Center.  Starting in the 2nd grade students in this center worked behind the circulation desk.  They checked books in, checked books out and put the books back on the shelf.  Because all the other children were working on their center activities I was able to work with the Library Helpers, teaching them how to put the books on the shelves correctly so that the books would be easy to find.  MUCH better than a worksheet because the skill wasn't taught out of context and they could see why having the books in a certain order was helpful.  

The library as oasis continued to be my theme as I moved to the high school level.  My concentration was to teach for relevance as well as give students a place to relax, regroup, socialize, and recharge (themselves & their devices) before heading back out into the world of academia.

This year I started a new job as an Instructional Technology Facilitator.  It feels strange to not be in a library, but I am loving every day.  This past Friday, I pulled a Jennifer!  While teaching a group of English teachers how to use Google Classroom and Google Drive I mentioned that students could use Google Templates to pull up an MLA formatted Google Document, thus eliminating the headache of trying to format their own paper.  When confronted that students needed to know how to format MLA style on their own, I caused the air to be sucked out of the room when I replied that spending countless hours teaching students how to format their research papers/essays to MLA format was a waste of valuable instructional time and NOT a life skill.  The content and knowledge shown within the paper is the life skill that teachers should be focusing on.

This philosophy also applies to works cited.  Students no longer need to learn the excruciating, complicated, confusing foreign language of works cited.  Sites like EasyBib, Citation Machine, etc will make sure all your periods, commas, spaces, etc are in the right place.  What is the life skill learned with works cited?  Is it knowing when to use a comma, a period, indentation, underlined, italicized, etc?  OR is it knowing the importance of giving attribution to a source used in the paper?

Don't even get me started on the Reader's Guide To Periodical Literature!

My challenge to you this week is to take a hard look at yourself and your teaching practices.  Is there something you are teaching that is antiquated, unnecessary and NOT a life skill?  

Once you discover your Jenniferisms please share them on the Padlet below:

My dear friend Elissa Malespina created this great Infograph  about being a rebel in the library. Tweet us at #Jenniferism or add to the Padlet above to share ways you are a REBEL LIBRARIAN!

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