Reflections on “Improve Society” thread in Atlas

I really found the discussion on how the policy changed in terms of teachers analyzing media and education information (Lankes, 2011, pp.118-119), to be interesting from a teacher’s perspective.  I remember how when when I first started taking coursework for elementary education (early 2003) we discussed ERIC as being a major database for finding great lesson plans and I was amazed at how many were available.  And then the conversation about it died down, so much so that when I was actually out in the work force, teaching math to a variety of elementary grade levels and working with a variety of classroom teachers (late 2004 – 2006), I don’t remember anyone mentioning it.  I became curious about the current state of the AskERIC website, so I searched some different topics (http://www.eduref.org/Virtual/Lessons/index.shtml) like nutrition and art, at the Pre-K level and found that the lessons were posted in 2003 or earlier (several dated back to 1997).  Finally I found a little more background on what had happened – I had noticed that the header on the top of the page was not called ERIC, but was referred to as “the Educator’s Reference Desk”  (I had noticed when I googled AskERIC I had been redirected to this site).  It explained how in 1993, the Information Institute of Syracuse was the first to place a search interface to ERIC on the web.  Despite its popularity, the United States Department of Education closed all ERIC clearinghouses and AskERIC on December 31, 2003 and started reorganizing ERIC.  So the Informational Institute of Syracuse moved the search engine for lesson plans to the Educator’s Reference Desk site (http://www.eduref.org/Eric/).  At the end of this page there was a link to the ERIC site at www.eric.ed.gov.  So I looked at that too, and found that in its current state the ERIC website contains documents from the last several years,  but they are mainly all scholarly articles, and if you do find something that resembles a lesson plan it is usually an abstract from a lesson that was in a periodical and you have to link to another site if you want the full text or purchase a back issue of the periodical from the publisher.  So the ERIC site is no longer helpful for finding quick lesson plans if your an elementary teacher whose class is studying nutrition, for example.  I would recommend the Educator’s Reference Desk instead.  It is disappointing that ERIC no longer exists in the capacity it used to.

I could relate to the point Lankes made about undergrad students using Wikipedia as a starting point (Lankes, 2011, p.120).  During our preparation for group presentations for IST 601: Information & Information Environments we discussed how we sometimes using Wikipedia or Google or Google Scholar when we are starting a more broad search, and even though they are not the most scholarly or academic of databases, they often give you ideas of other sources you can look at.

In terms of innovation, the ideas Lankes proposed for managers to foster innovation (Lankes, 2011, p.128) reminded me a lot of the ideas endorsed by Robert Sutton in the article, “The Weird Rules of Creativity” (Sutton, 2001).  It was fresh in my mind from discussing it in our IST 601 class.  For instance, both Lankes and Sutton advocate creating a safe environment for risk, giving the staff time to play, and rewarding failure as well as success.  I am glad that I currently work in an environment that allow for experimentation and risk and does not penalize minor failures when they are an attempt at something new.  For instance, in late June, the development coordinator and I tried holding a comedy event as a fundraiser for my organization.  We didn’t make a profit, because not many people showed up and we were charged for microphones we didn’t end up using (which was totally my fault, due to a miscommunication with the performers).  It could have definitely been viewed as a failure. But the people who came had a great time, the board thanked me for helping to organize it, and it gave us ideas of how we might change the venue, the format of the show, and how we advertised if we were to do another comedy event.

Also, I was glad that Lankes briefly discussed diversity in terms of it helping librarians to facilitate conversations (Lankes, 2011, p. 124).  I feel diversity, be it culture, religion, language, or any number of other determinants, helps broaden our perspective of the world.  During my junior year at Wellesley College, my first education course was Issues in Multicultural Education, taught by the dynamic professor Veronica Darer.  In the class we had a truly diverse group of students, who came from dramatically different backgrounds of ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation.   The conversations we had in that class were what I found most valuable – they were an eye-opening experience – students shouted and cried in that class on a fairly regular basis as they expressed how their background had profoundly affected their educational experiences.  That course shook me to the core, each class was emotionally draining, yet it was probably my favorite course during my undergrad years.  It shaped how I will view education, especially in terms of multiculturalism, for the rest of my life, and it shaped who I became as a teacher and how I taught.

References

The Educator’s Reference Desk. (n.d.)  http://www.eduref.org/Eric and http://www.eduref.org/Virtual/Lessons/index.shtml.  Retrieved on July 17, 2011.

Education Resources Information Center.  (n.d.) http://www.eric.ed.gov/.  Retrieved on July 17, 2011.

Lankes, R.D. (2011).  The Atlas of new librarianship.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Sutton, R.I. (2001).  The weird rules of creativity.  Harvard Business Review, 79 (8), 94.


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