Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Helen Adams - Thurs. Oct. 2 to Sat. Oct. 4, 2008

Helen Adams is currently teaching online courses for Mansfield University's (PA) School Library and Information Technologies program. Formerly Helen was a school librarian and technology coordinator in Wisconsin.

Helen is an advocate for school libraries and teacher librarians; a strong leader who is active at state, regional, and national levels. She is a frequent conference presenter and has authored a number of articles and textbooks on technology planning, Internet search tools, library automation, school library policy development, and privacy.
Her latest book Ensuring Intellectual Freedom and Access to Information in the School Library was released last month by Libraries Unlimited http://lu.com/showbook.cfm?isbn=9781591585398.


Her professional interests focus mainly on issues and ideas related to intellectual freedom, privacy in school library media programs, and Internet filtering. Learn more about Helen Adams at
http://eduscapes.com/sms/overview/adams.html.

22 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:51 PM

    Helen,

    I can't believe I get to be the first person to blog! It's great to meet you!

    In our elementary school, we have a library media specialist, a literacy coach, and a technology specialist. What are some ways you see these three separate teachers collaborating to ensure a successful overall program?

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    Thanks!
    Sandy

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  2. Anonymous8:40 AM

    Hi Sandy [a.k.a. "Early Bird"],

    Most of my library/technology experience was in a very small rural school district with about 800 students K-12. I am very interested to learn from you the job description of the "literacy coach" since our district did not have a faculty member with that designation.

    I would agree that all 3 staff members have an interest in promoting effective use of library resources, improving reading skills, and using technology to expand educational experiences.

    They could plan and work together on the implementation of the creation and implementation of an integrated information and technology skills curriculum K-12. They could support one another's efforts to provide staff development for faculty in such areas as the legal use of intellectual property, evaluation of web-based educational resources, and others. They can look at their respective budgets and determine where they may pool their resources to support common goals.

    Helen

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  3. Hi Helen.

    Thanks for blogging with us.

    First, what might be a silly issue. My school, like most, filters internet content. Actually, our filter does an excellent job. The filter at my wife's school blocks 75% of all sites (if, for example, someone's name is Dick and his name appears on the site...it's blocked). Anyway, we've had a lot of debate here about kids playing games on the internet. Last year, games were blocked. This year, they aren't. What's your opinion about this? It seems from the literature, including the aasl intellectual freedom brochure, that blocking games infringes on first amendment rights (although I'm not sure how playing games is covered by the first amendment but I'm sure my kids could figure out an explanation).

    Do you see this as similar to the idea that teaching kids to be responsible will result in young adults who *know* playing games during school is a waste of time? It seems to me that I'm not only teaching my kids English but I'm teaching them how to be mature and productive adults (since many of them are 18 and are, legally, adults). If we looked at it that way, what was blocked online would equate to those items that would be disruptive if a student mistakenly stumbled upon them.

    Thanks again-
    Brian Moline

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  4. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Brian,

    There have been numerous state laws (Illinois, California, Washington, and Missouri, etc.) passed to try to restrict minors from purchasing, renting, or using violent video games, for example, in an arcade, without parental permission. Video game associations have filed lawsuits and thus far have prevailed in court for use of games outside the classroom. Inside the classroom, however, educators can restrict materials based on “educational suitability.” You may want to take a look at Access for Children and Young Adults to Nonprint Materials: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights which includes computer games in its list of nonprint resources. (URL: http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/statementsif/interpretations/accesschildren.cfm)

    On the second part of your question, could you rephrase it a bit. I'm not sure I understand it well enough to answer.

    Helen

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  5. Thank you for pointing me toward the Library Bill of Rights. I had read the original but didn't look at the Nonprint Materials section yet (should have, admittedly).

    The second part of my question was meant to reflect what I read in one of your articles. That is, teaching responsibility in the library or the classroom so we don't have to worry so much about enforcing rules that we really shouldn't have to waste time worrying about. I believe the reference in the article was to returning materials that students had checked out. The two opposing philosophies seem to be adding more and more rules for kids to follow versus trying to build relationships and teach responsibility. I won't get started about parents and how ridiculous it is that states feel the need to pass laws regarding things that parents should be taking care of at home.

    In any case, you answered the question that more reflected the purpose of the blog and I appreciate the direction to the Nonprint information.

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  6. Anonymous12:29 PM

    Hello Helen! This is my 2nd year as a media specialist. I taught
    2nd grade for 17 years before making the switch into the media center! I absolutely LOVE my new job! My question for you is how to introduce using the Internet to elementary-aged children for research? I'm sure you have some wonderful ideas! I work with Kindergarten through 4th grade students. Thanks, in advance, for any tips you might share!
    ~Gracia Lane

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  7. Anonymous3:15 PM

    Hi Helen,
    Thank you for agreeing to blog with us. Stories are great teaching tools. Would you share a personal story related to intellectual freedom or privacy that will help us understand the impact these issues have on public education? I teach in an progressive urban school district. We have internet filters. I sometimes view them as an inconvenience but not a real hindrance to my work. We've discussed hypothetical privacy scenarios in class. I was wondering if you would share a story about how either of these issues have impacted your teaching or your students.
    Thanks for your guidance.
    Jennifer Sigler

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  8. Anonymous5:51 PM

    Hi Gracie,

    I had been a remedial reading teacher for 10 years before becoming a library media specialist and never regretted the move.

    To answer your question, I'm inserting a bit of text from my book Ensuring Intellectual Freedom and Access to Information in the School Library Media Program just published by Libraries Unlimited. This is from Chapter 7, "Intellectual Freedom and the Internet in Schools."

    "As with any instruction, we must pay attention to the development and maturation of students. Children under the age of 10 may lack the cognitive maturity to be able to understand the hierarchical nature of the search process. According to Lynne A. Jacobsen, “Children in second grade and above are expected to find information using electronic means. Children at this stage are just beginning to learn to read. As a result, they tend to rely more on visual and auditory information than on textual information. Young children (5 to 10 years old) are being forced to negotiate digital library interfaces that require complex typing and proper spelling and reading skills or that necessitate an understanding of abstract concepts or content knowledge beyond young children’s still-developing abilities. They are just beginning to enter the developmental stage where they can classify objects and understand hierarchical structure, so it is difficult for children to come up with subject headings and synonyms to use in constructing searches. ” [Lynne A. Jacobsen, “How Children Search,” in Cataloging Correctly for Kids: An Introduction to the Tools edited by Sheila S. Intner, Joanna F. Fountain, and Jane E. Gilchrist, 4th ed. (Chicago: American Library Association, 2006), 17.] Therefore, since younger students do not have the reading, spelling, and typing skills necessary for successful searching, they require significant adult assistance and coaching." [p. 162]

    Helen

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  9. Anonymous6:07 PM

    Jennifer,

    Here's a personal story about the challenges to books in our small, rural district. We usually think about challenges coming from outside the school, but the very first challenge in our district was brought by a first grade teacher fearing a book of ghost stories was too intense for younger students. The second and third challenges were filed by parents of preschool students and were also for elementary library books- The Stupids Die and another title with a naked penguin (can't remember the title). After the third elementary book challenge, our elementary/middle school library media specialist realized that parents whose first child was in school were hyper-sensitive to EVERYTHING- including library book choices for at home reading. She began attending preschool and kindergarten orientations for parents and talking about the library, its collection, and inviting parents to use the library with their children. This turned out to be a winning strategy and created a lot of good will toward the librarian and her program.

    Helen

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  10. Hi Helen,
    One of your responses to Early Bird, I mean Sandy, was that the SLMS and the Tech Specialist (or in my building the computer teacher) should work on integrating a tech/info lit skills curriculum. Can you give me some more guidance about that? Every day I fear that one of us will lose their job because students know how to use the library and they know how to use the computer. That's not what we should be there for. We each have flexible schedules. I want us to be relevant in the 21st century, which I'm learning about in these classes. How can I approach her?

    Thanks!

    Kathy

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  11. Anonymous7:05 PM

    Kathy,

    Each district in Wisconsin has an integrated information and technology literacy curriculum. The curriculum is not taught in isolation by a school library media specialist (LMS) or a computer teacher. Instead, the library media specialists and technology coordinator ensure that teachers have the skills and appropriate lesson plans needed to deliver the portion of the curriculum for their grade/subject area/ or course. In many cases, the LMS is co-teaching or working closely with the teachers.

    I am very intrigued by your opinion that one of you will lose your job because students know how to use the library and computers. It is my opinion that while students may think they know everything about searching the Internet, finding information in the library, and using computer software, I am POSITIVE there are still many lessons to be taught. For example, are your students able to evaluate and cite properly information found on the Internet? Do they know and practice ethical use of intellectual property of others (especially images, music, and videos downloaded from the Internet)?

    Why not have an honest face to face talk with the computer teacher. Lay out your concerns. Cooperatively compile a list of ways the two of you can support the instruction of the other to benefit your students.

    Helen

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  12. Jennifer11:56 AM

    Helen,

    As a former teacher, I have been in schools that have computer labs, computers in the classroom, or computers in the library. Some have a combination of these. If there is a combination of these, when a school media specialist is supposed to uphold the Library Bill of Rights and Intellectual Freedom, how do they make sure these are being upheld outside of the media center? Is there any control or is it once the student has left the media center there is no control on whether their rights are being infringed upon? If there are computers in the classroom, what is to say the teacher hasn't further limited the students accessibility to certain sites. For example, maybe the teacher has certain pathfinders on the classroom computer;therefore, the student doesn't have access on the classroom computer to information they may have been researching in the media center.

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  13. Anonymous2:43 PM

    Jennifer,

    The school library media specialist (SLMS) cannot singlehandedly uphold minors' rights to access information and other intellectual freedom concepts no matter where resources are found in the school - the classroom, the library, and/or the computer lab. Therefore, the SLMS needs to educate those who work in a school about minors' First Amendment rights and the principles of intellectual freedom. Most teachers and administrators are not likely to be familiar with the term "intellectual freedom", so I would advise talking about "access to information" representing various points of view and presented in various formats. The purpose- to educate our future citizens. This is a long term project and should continue throughout the year. For example, the SLMS could set up a display of books that have been challenged to celebrate Banned Books Week [This week!].

    Helen

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  14. Jamie B3:52 PM

    Hi Helen!

    I was just wondering, what are some of the biggest challenges you face when teaching online? Is it difficult to get to really know your students, or do you just go about it differently?

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  15. Anonymous7:24 PM

    Jamie,

    Effective communication and building a cohesive group of learners are two of the biggest challenges for any online instructor. Since I will likely never meet my students face to face, I must use strategies to help them get to know one another and feel comfortable with me in a very short time. One strategy is having them complete a profile and attach a digital photo. Another is to pay attention to the details students tell me about themselves and their situations. I read and comment on their posts, evaluate their assignments, and personally interact with them using this information. I also find myself a very active participant in the class's discussions-- guiding, coaxing, cajoling, and giving another perspective.

    The second biggest challenge is to communicate in a clear manner what is expected in assignments. Despite being extremely careful in how I word assignment requirements and rubrics, there are always questions. One of my best strategies is to have a Question Area where students post their questions, concerns, confusions, etc. I tell them that if one person has a question, likely others will as well. I answer the question in the Question Area, and everyone benefits.

    Surprisingly I have not found it hard to get to know students; and it may seem strange, but I go through a little "grieving period" when each class ends. I miss the daily contact and love hearing from former students.

    Helen

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  16. Jennifer10:16 PM

    Helen,
    I don't really know that much about Pathfinders. They seem like a good idea and an easy way for students to access needed information. It seems like a useful way for teachers or school media specialists to make a list of resources for a project. By creating a Pathfinder, though, aren't the SLMS or teacher infringing on the student's rights?

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  17. Dear Dr. Adams,

    I recently read several of your articles in School Library Media Activities Monthly and I was particularly fascinated by your article about privacy for young children. As the parent of a young child whose daughter just started in elementary school, it hadn't occurred to me that kids that age would need privacy at the media center. I think it's absolutely true, though. I can't imagine my daughter's teacher (who is very good) taking time to manage something like overdue library books in a way that preserves the students' privacy. It's so interesting to see how big kid and and adult issues apply to littler folk. My daughter absolutely cares about banned books. ("Why wouldn't anyone want to let a kid read Tango, Mommy?") Are you aware of any instances of smallish kids being aware of a book being challenged, and serving as their own advocates? What is an appropriate way for a media specialist to behave in that kind of situation? No one wants to make parents feel like their children are being used against them. I hope this isn't a stupid question, but what happens when a parent's values run counter to the values that the ALA holds dear?

    Thanks so much for blogging for us!

    Shellie

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  18. Anonymous8:42 AM

    Jennifer,

    When a teacher is using a textbook or assigning supplementary readings in a class, we do not think that the teacher is infringing on students' rights. If we take that analogy and apply it to using the Internet and subscription resources in an assignment, the teacher and/or LMS are simply providing the BEST resources for the student. Most assignments are open-ended enough to allow for some personal searching; however, using a Pathfinder focuses students' worktime on those resources already selected by the teacher/LMS. I see the use of pathfinders as giving guidance for the completion of an assignment, not as a restriction on students' rights.

    Helen

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  19. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Hi Shellie,

    I do not know of any specific instances where very young children have been aware of challenges to a favorite book and spoken for its retention. I remember, however, reading about one of the many challenges to Harry Potter books, and the school board reportedly received approximtely a 100 letters from children and families in support of the series.

    I agree that not every parent will be positively inclined toward every book in a school library. While ALA expects school library media specialists to resist censorship, it also recognizes the rights of parents to decide what their child(ren) read. Parents should have conversations with their children and help them understand their family's values. They should discuss if there are types of books they do not want their children to read- for example books on magic, witches, etc. Some parents try to involve LMS's in keeping their children from checking out the type of "undesired book." Some LMS's do this while others say they are unable to keep track of what parents ask that their children not be allowed to check out "x" type of books. This is a question with many shades of gray in its answer.

    To help you explore it more fully, I'm giving you the URL to the "What IF?" intellectual freedom question and answer service based at the Cooperative Childrens' Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Wisconsin in Madison. Any person may submit a question and receive a personal answer from the CCBC staff. The site's questions can be sorted by type of library. It's fascinating to read the questions related to school libraries.

    The URL below takes you directly to the question and its answer: "What if a parent requests that their child not be permitted to check out Harry Potter books and then the child brings one to the desk for check out? If we are truly respecting that child’s right to privacy, do we let them check the book out? When I posed this scenario to my husband, not a librarian but a parent, he said, “Of course not. The parent has the right to raise their child as they see fit. While you may not agree with them you should honor their request.” Luckily this has not happened in my library yet."

    http://www.education.wisc.edu/ccbc/freedom/whatif/archiveDetails.asp?idIFQuestions=70

    Helen

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  20. Dr. Adams,

    That is an amazing resource. I read the Q and A you recommended. The thing I like about the response is that it felt like the suggestions were things that I really could handle, even as a new media specialist.

    From reading that answer, it seems like one guiding principle is to try to solve the problem at your level, if possible, especially when there is specific question from a real parent. Is that right?

    Shellie

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  21. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Shellie,

    I agree that handling a request by a parent directly is preferable; however, there are things you need to know before you can do so. Do your district's policies support parent requests of this type? Is there a form for the parent to use to formalize his/her request? At least one district in Wisconsin follows this practice.

    After determining this information, use the hints in the What If? answer when talking to the parent.

    Helen

    P.S. I'm not really Dr. Adams, just Helen.

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  22. Thanks for the clarification, Helen! I'm a GA and I work with some people who are certainly "Dr." to me, so I start formal unless told otherwise. I appreciate your time!

    Shellie

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