Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where the rubber meets the road

In addition to, or partially in correlation with, my courseload, I am attempting to keep up with current library literature, including blogs of librarians in the trenches. In her blog, Wanderings, Jacquie Henry recently discussed difficulties with Website evaluation in cases when decisions are not clear-cut. She commented, "I am not working in a theoretical world. I am living right here in high school - where the rubber meets the road."

Her quote has stuck with me as I have dealt with issues in our library and as I discuss theoretical issues with other students and professors in my coursework. Our theories and ideals are great and worthy but is it fair to judge them without the temperance of real world application? More importantly, and with stronger motivation, how can we adapt our real world situations to meet the goals described by our theories and ideals?

This week we have discussed "Creativity - Copyright & Web 2.0" in class. Two particular issues come to mind from our discussions. In both, the theory makes complete and total sense and seems as though no other possible alternative could exist and yet, the reality is that students and teachers are not always receptive to our suggestions and teaching. It is this challenge that we must work to overcome.

Discussing creative uses and applications available on the Web including podcasting with Audacity, ability to create historic narrative videos through Primary Access, create photo or video, audio logs on VoiceThread, and more, the educational theories are easy to grasp. The reality, though, is the need to sell these technologies to our teachers in order for our students to realize the benefits. Much like a sporting event or theater ticket, the enjoyment is not accessed until the ticket is spent, or in this case, until the technology is used! To be successful we have to learn to market these technologies to teachers who may be receptive.

Coupled with our discussion about creativity was a discussion about copyright law and digital images. The legal alternative when creating content to be published is to use images in the public domain and to give credit to the creative individual or organization. We discussed the many ways to acquire images from government websites and through Creative Commons. In theory, this is a wonderful solution. In reality, the frustration is the difficulty of using multiple search databases to find government and Creative Commons images compared to the relative ease of image availability on the Web as a whole. To be successful, we have to teach students about the hazards of copyright law violation, how to use the tools available to find copyright free images, and how to avoid plagiarism through proper image citation.

It is important that we do our best, "where the rubber meets the road," to stay true to our ideals. It is just as important that we stay flexible and stay real regarding situations and the world around us. But, within that "real" framework, we must constantly strive to find ways to bridge the gap back to the theories and principles that guide us. These theories and principles tend to be not only legal and ethical, but also a solid foundation for the argument in favor of librarians in our schools - a critical issue as our governor threatens to cut school and library budgets yet again - a topic for another post . . .

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