After spending several weeks with the pandemic as muse, this topic and the article a friend found today is so so relevant!
Here is my paper:
Breaking Barriers, Restructuring the Educational Infrastructure Within a Social Technological Librarianship Framework
Recently Delaware held their student National History Day competition, with Breaking Barriers as a theme. In thinking on this topic, it was not obvious which barriers could and would be broken, when advocating for the position of a certified Library Media Specialist in every school. Despite the misconceptions by many that certified school Library Media Specialists hold a non-essential role in learning institutions, the current pandemic crisis has revealed the need for this position all along. With the advent of Coronavirus in 2020, fissures in the health infrastructure have become obvious in trying to deal with a pandemic largely impossible to predict the effects of its impact. One of the secondary issues that has emerged has been strengths and weaknesses in the educational system infrastructure across the United States. It can be argued that the immediate need for online instruction on such a large scale has brought into focus just how essential the role of a certified Library Media Specialist is. At the same time, excuses, opportunities, and infractions wear away individuals’ technology rights erode away in such an emergency for information. Who best to prepare a future designated for technology than certified School Library Media Specialist who have the ability to interact with students on a daily basis, and help guide their needs from various disciplines through technological and digital citizenship responsibilities that will promote the future of the country?
In viewing school districts where certified School Librarian Media Specialists are utilized, the resources and transition to online instruction is a smoother process, and the role of a certified school librarian media specialist serves as an avenue to inform, protect, and diversify interests into all disciplines, on behalf of the student and educator. Eben Moglin, Director-Counsel and Chairman of Software Freedom Law Center, stated we (society) need to put the question back into people’s minds, referring to sparking a questioning public in place of a constantly accepting and unaware public. As Public Librarian Donna Carter verified, “We need to encourage people to be questioning sponges so that they can see how everything is connected using the virtual as a tool to feed and inspire the reality.” Certified school Library Media Specialists do this every day, and often it is easy to take for granted the resources needed until a crisis in fact takes place. The opportunity to open a public’s eyes to tenets of a growing technological world can be broken down through the resource of a school Library Media Specialist, and the time to address these needs in education is now. The issues that often overlooked due to a lack of awareness are those most pertinent to a technological future and are able to be tackled by a certified School Library Media Specialist.
“As with so many areas of our lives, the virus is forcing us to confront difficult questions about our priorities… So, might the public be willing to trade one kind of freedom – the right to privacy – for another – the right to leave their homes and return to work? As with so many areas of our lives, the virus is forcing us to confront difficult questions about our priorities” (Rory Cellan-Jones). The choice to have tracing via cell phones to ensure social distancing is certainly a topic that is controversial and has become a talking point now more than ever, similar to patron’s public records being protected under in libraries. The State of Delaware’s Code Title 29. of the State Government § 10002 provides for the privacy of patron’s library records, and with the justification for various governmental access to user’s information, the certified Library Media Specialist is more than ever a physical firewall of protection; a simple example of priavy protected and yet the privacy at stake in a larger sense grows every day. Delving into research and information to provide the education and awareness of these rights that extend beyond the walls of the library, during a pandemic as well as in non-pandemic times, privacy is compromised without awareness.
It seems that teachers, due to mandated testing, have a weakened ability to think “out of the box” from being handed curriculum that lists questions, desired answers that resemble cookie cutter learning. This also is parallel to individuals relying on local providers for connectivity if the only provider has been the dominant voice to supposedly provide the privacy needed. Students can’t learn to think outside of the box because the test is the box, the holy grail. They learn that there is only one right answer. Don’t think for yourself. The same parallel relates to Eben Moglin’s challenged too put the question back in people’s minds. We need opportunities for alternatives, freedom to not be “boxed in” by the giants of technological service, but giants of choice in technological service and be aware of how privacy is compromised. Educational systems need to be as flexible as the choices available, as the ability to gain awareness of privacy when using fast resources like Zoom in today’s urgent and fast food society of technology. Certainly in this time it is a good sign as Madeline Will’s article points out, “For now, in states where the decision has been left up to the districts, principals are trying to support their teachers the best they can.” It is difficult to gauge the amount of privacy being sacrificed and protected in a time of immediate need. However, it must also be more widely known that the certified Library Media Specialist has been trained for moments of need.
It seems difficult to imagine educators and/or administrators having the time available to be aware of all changes in these regulations as well as time to disseminate rights to those immediately affected as developments occur. Looking to a post-pandemic future, how and to what extent will future generations be educated on the privacy rights created to combat coronavirus, as well as those protections kept in place that could violate potential infractions on crossing the line of prevention and freedom infractions? Additionally, options for personal servers, personal cloud storage that does not have to rely on big companies, and the inability to have alternatives to choose from, all require educating patrons. Introducing students to potential forums where ideas are not just presented, but allowing students to be an active participant, is a step higher in Maslow’s hierarchy of learning. There is no more legitimate advocate to do so than the certified school Library Media Specialist.
In reading Paul Kilduff-Taylor’s article “Playing With Toys While People are Dying”, obviously a comparable scenario formed in my mind related to the current pandemic. Communities of learners have changed drastically, with so many attempts to reach out to address concerns of engaging learners in an online format. Similar to gaming, the struggle is real when it comes to creating a meaningful reason for students to attend online courses when education as we know it, as well as expectations, are being created seemingly on the fly in an unprecedented time.
Also referred to in Kilduff-Taylor’s article, the opportunity of using gaming to bring individuals together is present. It is quite possible and desiring to use the needs of addressing summer slide (not Spring, Summer, and Fall slide) in student’s regression of education, and being much more critical of strategies that will create internal meaning to draw students to an online forum to want to peak their interest in continuing their education remotely. Reaching out to include special needs, disability obstacles, and even easily distracted students through gaming and interactive programming to tie education to those very areas of interest seems quite a feasible approach and could be used to draw in individuals to a new perspective of what education can look like. It would seem building gaming communities also has the capability of building new types of learning communities online. While many rely on libraries as their only source of internet access, when public libraries close down due to such a pandemic, it is quite essential for individuals to be able to access the library online, as certified Library Media Specialist have been working on alongside public librarians, long before an impending pandemic.
In the current pandemic, the Library Media Specialist has the ability to serve as liason, negotiator, and mediator of all things involving a balance of resources, tools, and sifting through those appropriate for specific end results. Time is a new commodity that is weighed much more now than pre pandemic times, and having the ability of a certified Library Media Specialist to help provide tools to maximize personal time, research time, and planning time, for both faculty and students, now is more essential than ever as Kilduff-Taylor mentions:
I think the issue is mostly about time. Preserving valuable personal time for thought and direct action; actively deciding how to use money instead of just automatically allowing it to flow towards convenience or luxury; spending more time with your family or as part of a community; perhaps even taking a concerted period away from games to work on something of greater social importance: these are all possibilities for many of us. Indeed, I’ve seen many developers do these things in recent months. That doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself body-and-soul at one project temporarily, or be dedicated, but it does mean that — at some point — you need perspective.
Being able to rely on an academic resourced facilitator such as a certified Library Media Specialist to help steer through COUNTLESS links, applications, resources being added every second, is truly an essential element to a new era of online and technological education. Filtering, discernment, and contemplation are needed amid a crisis and when pressure to acquire access immediately to avoid being left behind is a key pressure. Choosing crucial and non-overwhelming levels of resources/tools to preserve new learning communities such as RSS, Snapchat, and Tik Tok are just scratching the surface of what at first seems appealing, but in the long run might have detrimental effects. These mediums as alluded to by Mehan Garber, have introduced themselves in a new reality of less social gathering off line than online. It is ironic during the current pandemic, a true cognitive surplus might be occurring due to limited opportunities to do much else. “Cognitive Surplus, in other words — the book, and the concept it’s named for — pivots on paradox: The more abundant our media, the less specific value we’ll place on it, and, therefore, the more generally valuable it will become (Garber).
As new gathering locations in a social isolation period, the challenge is to reinforce technology as a path to renewed opportunities and possibilities, and not a crutch is ever developing. By being proactive in tackling these issues and providing insights into these trends before classrooms feel these changes, the certified Librarian Media Specialist serves as a lighthouse providing foresight and solutions in creating and stabilizing existing learning strategies in a pandemic area.
Obviously, wanting to be a part of a continuing online education system is not the sole issue, the percentage of individuals that do not lack access, budgeting to cover basic needs before worrying about online expectations is just as real a dilemma. Building a healthy community relies on advocates that can research the positives, the negatives, and offer alternatives to the seemingly best offers that might not be the most beneficial in the long run. It is vital now more than ever, individuals have a path to receiving the best education interface, not necessarily the most popular provider or only alternative seemingly present. Who else to best serve in this capacity, to serve an ever-growing population of digital residents in need.
“This is a big problem – tech was meant to be the great equalizer but access gaps to both devices and connectivity are huge and the media companies that hold de facto monopolies are a big part of it
“Agreed. We live in rural Sussex County. Our only choice is Wifi via a big provider. Two weeks into the stay at home order, X*X*X*X* increase our Wifi speed. Last week, they throttled it. We can, of course, pay another $60 a month for greater speed. I plan to shop around for better deals and then reach out to X*X*X*X*
We are on X*X*X*X* – they provide services free or low cost to those experiencing hardship but the fine print is that they only do that if you’ve never ever been a customer of theirs. I do have an X*X cellular plan. They upped my bill by $40 this months for no real reason except that they can
We don’t have access to X*X*X*X* out here on the farm.
I just found it intriguing that for two weeks our internet speed was super.
We can see a cell phone tower a mile from our farm.
I’m pretty sure at this point that it’s a matter of money with X*X*X*X*. . I will switch to another company if I am not satisfied with their response” (Esham, GearUp).
The above is a conversation between just two parents of students in a local school district, that are dealing with the needs for their students, both at college and high school. If anything, the current pandemic has allowed an opportunity for the weaknesses in education to be revealed, and a need for them to be addressed. As the largest providers are stepping forward to offer temporary fixes for internet access, the question lingers in the realm of what long-term solutions will be provided? Prior to only dominant companies being available to offer services in remote areas, often alternatives were non-existent or not known at all.
“About 19 million Americans still don’t have access to broadband internet, which the Federal Communication Commission defines as offering a minimum of 25 megabits per second download speeds and 3mbps upload speeds. Those who do have broadband access often find it’s too expensive, unreliable, or has prohibitive data caps that make it unusable for modern needs” (Rogers).
The true trap fall is, without a guide to lead individuals in making the best possible choice in light of the fewest possible alternatives, access if often impossible. Certified Library Media Specialists represent and can advocate for the community, both in school and when it comes to education, informed decisions, organization, and implementation of ideas that can benefit individuals as well as many at large.
Stereotypes recently held regarding the role of a school Librarian Media Specialist surfaced to reality with the need of immediate resources needed on behalf of educators in a crisis period, as well as the transparency of issues that affect technology and education on a daily basis. Issues such as privacy, appropriate resources for appropriate disciplines, and security issues continue to surface today as educators finding themselves in districts without school librarians, faced to tackle these issues and more amid a staggering list of to do’s related to student welfare. “Between 2009 and 2016, more than 9,000 full-time equivalent school library positions were eliminated in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s about a 15 percent reduction in the country’s total number of school librarian positions (Golden). Inefficiency without certified School Librarian Media Specialists has become more visible on an educational platform, and unlike years of advocacy for the value and necessity of certified school librarian media specialist in schools, it has taken a single year crisis for this value to be realized amid many categories of concern that face education in the technological age.
Issues worthy of attention and discussion but usually swept under the public educational platform are that of intellectual freedom, data collection, social media impacts, and anonymity, many of the freedoms protected lost or abused due to the lack of time or education give to make beneficial decisions about. All of these focus areas are important to the growth of a technological rich, well-educated society. Eben Moglimn was correct when he stated “Legends are future about the story we do not know yet, when the world is a screen, we need to train people to ask the questions.” The question is who will be left in an educational setting that has become our home, do that will advocate like the certified Library Media Specialist unless deemed essential?
Carter, Donna. Personal Interview. 27 May 2020.
“Eben Moglen on Facebook, Google and Government Surveillance.” YouTube, yasssunews
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and the link !