Initial thoughts

There was a lot to take in in this first readings for the course, but it was all very interesting and a lot of it got me even more excited for a future in librarianship.

Let’s start with the reading from How People Learn. Quite a bit of this clicked with me, both from prior experience and what I have been learning so far in my journey to become a school librarian. A great deal of my K-12 education was spent in the kinds of classes where teachers had to focus on breadth of topics instead of depth of knowledge on one concept. I really enjoyed school and did very well, but we didn’t do a lot of the deep concept building that is mentioned in the text as something to strive for. I can definitely see that in things like physics, where we did some coverage of the concepts but focused a lot of our time on the equations needed to solve for specific values. The parts of the text dealing with instruction to master instead of memorize made me think of the kinds of things I have been learning about the Common Core State Standards and the promises that have been made about how students will be evaluated. In my youth media class, we discussed how the goal is to have computer-based testing that can be taken by a student any time in the year in which the content of the test is covered, so that they can master it. The testing software is supposed to be “smart” so that it can ask a question many ways to give a student more chances to understand. I’m not sure how this will be implemented or when it would be possible to have this kind of testing for all students, but the ideas behind it line up with this first chapter of HPL. If there is a way to pull this off, it could allow educators to focus on depth instead of breadth and give students many ways to succeed. It’s definitely one of those things that remains to be seen.

With regards to the chapter on novice versus expert learning, I could again connect this to my experiences in school. We didn’t really get a lot of expert examples in K-12, though I do think I had several teachers that acted more as experts than “accomplished novices” who remember what it is like to be just starting a base of knowledge. In college, I feel like I’ve gotten more expert examples and been taught by more “accomplished novices,” especially since a lot of my professors were themselves scholars who were conducting their own research in the field and so could probably identify with what we were going through. I think SI 502 also had a similar feel, in that we all know Dr. Chuck knows a ton about Python and computer programming but he really tried to present it to us in a way that we could absorb a lot of it while trying to structure it in the way an expert would. I think this is important for me to get used to as a future educator. It makes me think of teaching crochet during Michigan Makers and how much I have learned about teaching through that. I’m trying to show newbies how to do something that I have been working on for years (I’m the expert in this situation, though I’d think of myself as an accomplished novice). At first I thought about what I was showing the middle schoolers in term of how it made sense to me (like how I make a slip knot and how I can just crochet a circle without any sort of pattern), but I’m really starting to look at how my students are seeing what I’m doing and how it makes no sense to them. I’m far from perfect, but I think this experience is giving me a lot of tools I will need in the future to help students build up their knowledge and become experts in their own right.

Thinking about the profession after doing these readings was exciting and yet it made me a little nervous. Looking at the ALA’s core competencies, it’s a lot to pick up in two years. Some things like management and cataloging have specific courses here at UMSI, and some of the stuff on the list has come up in the classroom, at my job, and at Michigan Makers. However, the sheer number of things on the list made me anxious. There are 8 categories, so that means I have to pick up two a semester. Of course I know that’s not how it works, but the thought crossed my mind. I think that I’m either learning a lot of it now and I don’t realize it or it’s coming down the road. Though the Core Competencies got me worrying, my attitude changed when I watched Josh’s speech. It helped me think yet again about why I’m in this profession: to help people. I absolutely love that Josh’s life was changed so much by the library in his younger years and that he is now able to help people in the same way. His stories brought tears to my eyes. I especially loved the quote from the director about the library being meant to create a better community and Josh’s definition of a library as a place where people can be free. It is astounding to me how much a place like a library can mean to people, especially those in dire situations. People see the library as an inclusive place, and I need to carry on this tradition. When I interact with like-minded people or hear people like Josh speak, I get even more fired up to take this path and work somewhere that I already feel like I belong.

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3 thoughts on “Initial thoughts

  1. This was really exciting to read (and made me more than a little wistful for my days being in 624!). The thinking that JH’s speech evoked in you was what I was hoping it would do … he’s able to articulate what libraries mean to him on both a personal and a professional level. For him, it’s freedom. For others, democracy, and for you … that’s what grad school and PEP and stuff are for … to help you not only articulate it but make it happen. So nice to have you in a class and not just in MM this term!

  2. I’m interested to hear more about the “any time” computerized testing in the year in which content is covered that you learned about in your youth media class. It kind of sounds like the active learning model being implemented to the medical school curriculum at the University of Michigan. Students will be able to take exams on the respective units (anatomy, respiratory system, reproduction, etc.) when they feel they have mastery of the material and are ready to take the exam. This means that some students will complete what has traditionally been 2 years of course work in 1 or spread it out to 3 if they are doing a dual degree with their MD.

    I like this model in medical school. It is one of the only professions, including law and dentistry and other health care professions, where you have to memorize material in a rote manner. You need to know the hip bone is connected to the neck bone! However, I am unsure how this model will play out in a preK-12 school setting. How does a K-5 student know they have mastered the material? How do you measure mastery of concepts, which is how I guess I perceive much of the focus of grade school learning? I do think the mode for testing content is appropriate, these children are the digital generation! I just wonder about the creation and design of the testing materials.

    I believe you are in the school media program. Is your job at a school library? Are you already doing student-teaching? Do you have a teaching background? Just curious to learn more about you and your perspective!

    • I’m going to answer your questions in reverse because I’ll get the easy stuff out of the way. I am in the SLM program as well as LIS. I don’t have a teaching background (my Bachelor’s degree is in children’s literature and drama for the young). I don’t work in a school library at the moment – I actually work in the Hatcher and Shapiro libraries at the reference desk. I’m also a part of Michigan Makers, so that is where I’m getting some relevant experience with the kids at Ypsilanti Community Middle School. I won’t student teach until next winter. I actually was pretty unsure about school library media until I started getting involved in Michigan Makers and visited a couple school libraries; even though I don’t have much experience working in education or libraries, I am really getting the feeling that this is the place for me!

      Moving on to the testing stuff, the “any time” testing for CCSS is something that my instructor in youth media said, but I don’t have another source verifying that. I definitely want to look into it more. And I agree with you that mastery is especially hard to judge at a young age. There are a lot of differing opinions on the Common Core and its potential to be effective, and I think that is one of the big questions – how do you score mastery on an exam? And there are still a lot of doubts as to whether the type of test they are trying to create is even possible, with the “smart” questions. And while the computer testing is a great idea, I don’t know if enough schools are equipped with the technology for students to take these tests. Anyway, it’s a lot of stuff that is up in the air, which makes me wonder if they’re going to be able to roll these tests out next school year like they want to. Again, I need to look into it more for specifics, but those are all just my general observations.

      Really interesting to hear about the medical school testing! I didn’t know anything about it. It really does make sense, and like you were pointing out, it does seem easier to judge mastery in medical students than in 7-year-olds.

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