No Need to Read This

A blog poem

Thousands of posts, millions of voices
sharing thoughts and tips
the important
and the tiny glimpses into tidbits of life

Everyone participates

Everyone has a voice

Everyone is someone and (perhaps) everyone is nobody
I’m Nobody, Who Are You” (Emily Dickinson)

She hid her poems in dresser drawers- not caring who might read them.

May we write what we write

not to market ourselves
not to “go viral”
not to even care who reads
but because

it must be said.

Embedding Content within Content, Hyperlinked to Content to be Curated

Today is Digital Learning Day and I am whirling through tecnology tools and formats (alongside physical resources) in my school library as I seek best practices for teaching digital literacy in what has become “participatory culture”.

My 4th graders are studying poetry and I am teaching them to share through our library blog. I want them to understand the importance of striving for meaningful content, not just posting and tweeting nonstop. Digital citizenship requires us to be responsible for both our consumption and production of information. I sometimes think that because we are so excited about all the cool “Web 2.0” applications that allow us to produce and share online, we forget to emphasize revision and reflection.

Buried deep beneath the clutter, four or five hyperlinked clicks away, is there some really important meaningful content of high quality or aesthetic appeal? For years, I have empasized process over product in education because all learning, like life, is a process. Now, in the digital age (as content floods my screens nonstop), I am realizing there has to be balance between process and product. At some point, the author or the artist must say “here is what I have done.” The goal is to say something worthwhile.

My “So Called” Lives (Physical and Virtual) Gangnam Style

We all now live both physical and virtual lives.  If you don’t agree, take a look at how close your digital device is at this moment.  We are networking, connected, and always online. This evolution of networked culture has challenged me to be both a physical world librarian and a virtual world librarian.

Within this past month, I was coincidentally (I am not sure if that is the right word when you realize how pop culture inspired this post) asked to edit a Gangnam Style video in both worlds.

As a school librarian, I was asked to edit a video showing student engagement.  The popular Gangnam Style dance parody was embraced by everyone from kindergarten to our principal, pictured dancing in my library loft.


Just a few days later, as a virtual world librarian leading an exhibit tour to the Museum of Virtual Media, I was asked to edit another Gangnam Style dance- this time with avatars from around the globe. One of the tour guides, from Argentina, gave the participants a dance animation for the closing festivities. The exhibit was built by the University of Washington’s Certificate in Virtual Worlds Class of 2012 and features the evolution of media from ancient cave paintings, through radio & movies, into the future. Being asked to produce a video by two completely different patron communities fascinated me.

We all hear every day, as educators and librarians, about how we now live in a participatory culture. Spending time editing such diverse groups, in both physical and virtual worlds, made participatory culture clear to me in a way that I had never before experienced. Learning theorists, like Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey, proposed that learning is social in nature nearly a century ago, way before digital culture took hold. Witnessing this human desire to be part of a social experience through the global phenomenon of a popular dance video illustrated a new frontier in constructivist learning.

Disposable Media and Intellectual Junk Food

Smart phones and mobile devices, equipped with high quality cameras and global networking, have made unlimited transfer of the documentation of our daily lives quotidian (a new word I picked up from Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman). I wonder, dear reader, if you are beginning to feel (as I am) that you have seen enough photos of day-to-day life to last a lifetime. Various entrees, potty training, new shoes, and cute animals may be interesting to those involved, but become meaningless with exponential increase.

I see a trend toward disposable media, such as the Snapchat app.  The raw, unrevised information uploaded every second could be described as “intellectual junk food” which does little to nourish our minds.


Bruce Sterling, media futurist and design geek, predicts that augmented reality may soon congest the world with 3D spam (geolocative information trash) (Coleman, p.153). AR may have purpose for historical documentation, both personal and global; however, some people view the mixed reality heading our way as a kind of “reality hack” that blurs boundaries.  An example, is a ghostly overlay of the twin towers created by Wikitude.  The towers, through augmented reality, may be interpreted as an historical and symbolic icon.  Yet, advertisements and a barrage of 3D images may soon compete with historical data, current events, and personal user-generated content.


How are we preparing ourselves for the “X-reality” evolution described by Coleman(p.65)?  Currently, educators and librarians are gathering strategies to prepare 21st century learners for information literacy in unforeseen territory.  The young adult fascination for the “zombie apocalypse” may have some interesting symbolic interpretation!  Get ready…who knows what lies in our future. As we navigate the information sea of chaos, each individual becomes responsible for information intake.


Choose wisely-  both your sources of information and your personal network.


Welcome New Year: Garden or Garbage Dump

Welcome 2013

I’ve always enjoyed the metaphor of a library as a garden. The librarian tends the garden by planting and weeding. In Texas, the CREW method (continuous review, evaluation and weeding) proposes an ongoing way to promote a healthy library which Ranganathan defined as a “living organism”.

The Internet may be viewed with a similar metaphor and may certainly be defined as a “living organism”. However, there is no weeding method for maintaining the health of the Internet and one might compare it to a tangled forest of overgrowth or a continually growing monstrosity. Rather than a garden, the web seems more like a garbage dump with treasure buried under mounds of rubbish. Of course, there are reliable databases and sites, such as the Internet Public Library, but how many people go beyond the first page of Google hits or beyond Youtube for how-to’s on just about anything? Close-enough is sufficient and convenience trumps quality, authority, and reliability. With thousands of images at our fingertips, who really cares where they came from (other than librarians and a scholars)?

Beautiful Trash
My son and I once glimpsed something truly stunning outside the window of the parlor car on a train: a junkyard filled with cars, each with the hood up. The sun was shining at a angle that made the cars sparkle in many colors and we thought it looked like a garden. There is beauty everywhere- there are poems hidden under leaves and in my purse. Who am I to question where and how anyone finds what they seek? I suppose, a career in information science for over 20 years allows me just a bit of knowledge on the subject; yet I keep referring in my blog to the “toppling of the information hierarchy”. My professional role has been to help others find the best quality in information resources in any location or format (whether in a garden or a garbage dump?).

Thrift Store

Thrift Store creative commons photo

The Old and the New

As a thrift store shopper, I understand that the “old” can sometimes be the “new”. I have found lovely clothes and treasures hidden in thrift shops. Often the newer articles are cheaply constructed and not worth the cost. Instead of comparing the Internet to a garbage dump, perhaps a better metaphor is a giant thrift store full of treasures mingled with crazy crafts and user-generated gadgetry.

Currently, I am reading Hello Avatar: the Rise of the Networked Generation by Beth Coleman. The book discusses how we are witnessing the moment of crossover into pervasive media technologies (p. 41). Ubiquitous computing has arrived and we can choose to perceive the change as frightening (Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together) or investigate ways to adapt to the three C’s: communication, community, and collaboration (p.23).

A gardener can work alone among the flora and the weeds; but we need each other to uncover the buried treasure (physical, virtual, digital, and augmented) in the gigantic tangled cyberworld in which we now live.

Hey Webmaster, Tie Your Shoes

Emerging technology trends (often called Web 2.0 for educators) can sometimes be overwhelming to teachers. For example, my Assistant Principal has been working with me in the library to share new tech tools with teachers at a “lunch and learn” session. Teachers bring lunch to the library and my Principal covers recess duty. That shows commitment to teachers learning technology!

MOOCs & Intimidating New Trends
Last week, I shared my recent exploration of a MOOC (massively open online course) with a group of kindergarten teachers. MOOCs are mostly used for higher education, but the Anne Frank MOOC, which takes place online as well is in a virtual world, is designed for middle school learners and is a great example of how education is changing. I felt kindergarten teachers should be aware of where students are headed. When one kindergarten teacher saw the virtual world avatars, she became overwhelmed and stated in exasperation, “WHO has time for that?”

She paused, looking as though she might cry, and then said, “We need to be teaching our kids the basics.”

Then she said something that really made me stop in my tracks. She asked, “Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?”
I completely understood her frustration with keeping up with technology. I was reminded of the popular essay “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulgham. For the rest of the day, this idea and the overwhelmed expression of the kindergarten teacher, whose face usually appears patient and calm, kept coming to mind. I felt a need to answer her question, not directly to her because the session had other technology tips that were useful and applicable to kindergarten and she left feeling a sense of accomplishment. I needed to answer her questions for my own peace of mind.

1. WHO has time for that?
Who has time to keep up with all of the educational technology trends, applications, upgrades, and online tools as they rapidly change? After several years of trying, I often say that nobody could keep up with them all. The only way we can utilize them is through personal and professional networks. I could stay up all night every night and never conquer all the new apps, online sites, user-generated content tools, and sharing sites. But that does not mean that I don’t need to be aware of them. I think it is important to make time for the networking with the goal of awareness of education on the other side of the digital revolution. Building a “go-to” network of other educators has become crucial.

2.Why should I teach a kindergartener to build a website when he can’t tie his shoes?

Have you watched a kindergartener lately? Any 5 year old can pick up an iPad and use it and I see toddlers every day in the mall, at a restaurant, or with parents after school, using digital devices. The world has changed since the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” essay. What has changed our world? Everyone’s world? A kindergartener’s world?

digital life

In Defense of Virtual Worlds

A colleague sent an email expressing concern over posts criticizing librarians for “still being involved in Second Life“.

I replied by email and she suggested I share.

I wrote:

“The ability to “fly” in virtual worlds? That’s nothing! A generation of video gamers now considers gaming a literary genre (and many are cinematic and well-researched). Virtual worlds are not video games- but this evolution of literacy changes everything. The argument that the majority of mainstream culture uses Facebook is ridiculous. The majority of mainstream culture also values convenience over quality, triviality over authority or accuracy, and self-absorbed “packaging” of our personal lives over anything meaningful.

This conversation is not about Second Life, but about virtual worlds….and they are not going away. My physical library is only half of what I do. We all have both physical and virtual lives (after the digital revolution and the toppling of the information hierarchy). The question is whether to spend my virtual life in a flat, narcissistic, space where popular culture and cute photos are streamed nonstop or seek out interesting, intelligent people on a global scale who can help me move toward a better future for this post-physical world. You all understand that…..and that is enough for me.”

Yes, I also read Roy Tennant’s blogpost when ALA closed an island in Second Life. I did not reply, mainly out of respect for this esteemed colleague. I have credited Roy Tennant as the first library professional that I heard state that in our information world today, “convenience trumps quality”. His statement was a turning point for me. I began to see a different kind of information-seeking behavior in my physical library. I began to actively explore digital literacy and changing formats.

I understand that SL is not the “be all end all” of education or libraries. Virtual worlds are just one piece of information literacy. I am humbled by the amazing colleagues I have worked with in virtual worlds and I am proud of the huge amount of effort it took to earn a PhD on the topic (not to boast because I understand I am just one small person contributing one tiny piece of the research on the future of information literacy). I have worked very hard to understand how to separate my “personal” perspective from my professional contribution to my field. My experience includes organizing five virtual world exhibits, numerous presentations, discussions, learning machinima, and networking on a global scale. I could not have accomplished any of those experiences in my physical library- even through using webinars and other distance learning tools (of which I am familiar). Second Life is only one company, which happened to provide a great array of tools for early adopters of virtual worlds. Having explored many other virtual worlds, for many other purposes (business, military, medicine, and so on), I certainly am not attached to one in particular. Slamming Second Life is not offensive to me, but putting down librarians?! Whew…don’t get me started.

For more information on my dissertation topic, I will be presenting an overview on Nov. 18th in Second Life. For information on other virtual worlds, contact me. Meanwhile, I return to my awesome physical library where I struggle to teach critical inquiry to students who want to play apps and interact on mobile devices.

Libraries, Librarians, Literacy- the L Words

“It may be that the great age of libraries is waning, but I am here to tell you that the great age of librarians is just beginning. It’s up to you to decide if you want to be a part of it.” ~T. Scott Plutchak

I have used this quote perhaps more than any other over the past five years when writing or speaking about the future of education and information. As the digital revolution changes education and society, physical libraries and physical books are no longer at the top of the information hierarchy. My role, however, is as relevant as it was in the days of “books” and I am beginning to think it may be even more critical. Information literacy includes so much more than reading and writing.

Plutchak, T. Scott. 2007. The Librarian: Fantastic Adventures in the Digital World. Serials, 20(2), 87-91.

Global Information Literacy: a Panel Discussion

Organizing a panel of speakers, experts in information literacy, around the global was an exciting challenge for me and I feel honored to have worked with them. On Oct. 21, 2012, five countries were represented on a panel in the virtual world of Second Life: the UK, Poland, Chile, Greece, and the USA. Hearing that we all share the same problems (changing formats, nomenclature, and revolutionary changes) was amazing and the colleagiality made us feel that it truly is a “small world”.

My Greek colleague, Stylianos, captured the event on livestream.

The panel was jointly sponsored by the ALA Association of College and Research Librarians Virtual World Interest Group and the Center for Information Literacy Research. Over 20 people attended in the virtual world ( as well as those who viewed the livestream). Attending the live presentation provided a sense of global connectivity because many of us were using instant chat, text chat, and snapping photographs (which can be viewed in an Animoto video).

In Praise of My Teacher Colleagues as They “Change”

Quit bashing teachers! Quit saying “it is time for a change in education.”

My teachers are awesome…..Enough said!

If it is time for change– Go ahead and change. I already have. So have my students. So has our world.

I work with an amazing group of educators. Every day I see how much they care for students. They go above and beyond expectations by listening to each student, providing materials and projects, laughing with them and crying with them. As a school librarian, I am fortunate to see everyone and I can say firmly, from personal observation, my school has amazing, outstanding teachers. Yet, we hear in the news “we need better teachers” and “education needs to change”.

Education has always been full of change. But now there is something even more radical than changing pedagogies.

What’s the big change?

The change is us. All of us. Society is now driven by user-generated content instead of content created by experts in various fields. We now create our own content. We now are prosumers (both producers and consumers of content).

What do I mean by that?

We can be journalists by blogging (blogs are more popular today than newspapers). We can be film-makers (upload it to YouTube). We can be content curators (Scoop-it). We can be artists and musicians (there’s an app for that! Have you tried garage band or Voiceband?). We can each be a librarian (Pinterest? or tons of other curation sites?) But wait– is intellectual property still relevant? Is there a problem when we all think what we create is simply wonderful? Is there a problem when we follow those with similar interests and beliefs and never challenge our opinions by bouncing them off the perspectives of others?

If you are still reading along, and the odds are you are not because most blog posts are short (average of 12 seconds on each page hit by a user), you may be confused when I call this radical change “the toppling of the information hierarchy”. We are witnessing a moment in time that is as important as the invention of the Gutenberg press. This toppled hierarchy of information means we can no longer teach the students skills for learning in the old hierarchy. How do we teach them survival skills in (what I refer to as) the sea of online chaos?
Having considered this topic for a few years, perhaps I can share a few tips for teachers.

1. Care for your students. Wow! That is still top priority and that is what I am fortunate to see every day. This genuine love for students and love of learning is more important than the following points. Yet, I encourage you to read on for survival of the online tsunami.

2. Strive to promote 21st century information literacy. What you learned in your academic career no longer applies. The new literacy (transliteracy- if you want to think in a new way) includes physical, virtual, and augmented content. Information literacy is now an ongoing personal responsibility instead of a skills-based checklist. YOU must decide who to learn from (who to follow online in the new hierarchy) as an educator and as a digital citizen living through the digital revolution. As a teacher, you must also instill that personal responsibility in your students. Digital citizenship is as important as physical manners, some may argue even more so as it impacts a much greater community.

3. Balance the pendulum. What is that? Balance has always been important, since education began. But now we must balance the physical with the virtual– tradition with innovation– teamwork with individuality — privacy with free speech –personal voice with crowd-sourcing — and the list goes on.

4. Do not be afraid. Some will cry, “What is this world coming to?” and some will say, “I wish we could go back to the way it was.” Don’t listen. Go back to point 2 and seek out those people who can help you learn 21st century information literacy skills, whether in person or across the globe (I have learned from many virtual colleagues). Then, reread point 3 and take a deep breath as you balance your steps on this amazing journey we call human life. Each one of us breathing, growing, and learning. Rather than fear the future, I choose to be hopeful and joyful. Dare I mention what gives me hope and joy? Dare I risk someone reading this to the final last word that nullifies all fear and all bullet points in any educator’s presentation on the latest Web 2.0 platform?