and the necessary expertise is available, term-paper writers just need a
• View voluntary reading as a waste
of time. Strict adherence to basal
readers and skill-building software
results in acceptable scores on standardized tests, so administration
is reluctant to mess with success.
Developing a desire to read and
learn isn’t part of the district’s
• Are content to provide only text-book- and test-driven instruction.
Given the number of standards in
state-mandated curricula and test-based accountability requirements,
staff have no time for in-depth
study, problem-based teaching, or
authentic assessment—all pedago-gies enhanced by a quality library
that combines print and digital resources with a librarian who knows
how to use them. In schools where a
In schools where a single textbook meets teacher needs,
a library will go unused anyway.
single textbook meets teacher needs,
a library will go unused anyway.
• Are unconcerned about providing
quality information sources to staff
and students. Administrators feel
that edited sources of information
are unnecessary when “everything
is free on the Internet.” Questions
of information reliability and authority are deemed irrelevant.
• Believe students and staff can locate
information without assistance. Citing students’ ability to do a Google
search, teachers dismiss the need for
more sophisticated strategies and
tools. Kids can always change their
topics if they don’t find what they
need with Google.
• Believe differentiated instruction
is just babying the slackers. Providing materials at a variety of levels in
multiple formats to meet the needs
of learners with divergent abilities,
interests, and learning styles is a
low priority. One book, one reading
level, and one POV is good enough!
Don’t waste the taxpayers’ money
putting 21st-century libraries in 20th-
century schools. Small classroom
book collections that supplement the
reading series and a word-processing
lab with access to Google are all that
such schools require.
Of course, I would not send my
own children to such a school, but I
guess it’s the differences that make a
Doug Johnson is the director of media and
technology for the Mankato (Minnesota) Public
Schools and the author of four books, columns
and articles in more than 40 books and periodicals, and the Blue Skunk Blog.
passage about Mars. He re-read the
words to me. Then I said, “OK, Mark,
close your eyes and try to make a
mind-movie about what you just read.
Now, tell me what you see.” He looked
up at me with his eyes still closed and
blurted, “I see black!”
If we’d had just one functioning
computer, connected to the entire world—and in this case, to the
universe—in that classroom, within
literally a minute Mark would have
attained multimodal comprehension.
Sure, we had a big library upstairs, but
I couldn’t leave the rest of my class
to take Mark on a Mars quest. So the
librarian sat, probably alone, in her
Some might cry, “But what about
curling up with a good book?” I’ll respond to this with two more stories:
Years ago, my 3-year-old niece loved
to sleep with her books scattered
around her. I explained to her worried
mother that she wasn’t curling up with
The mode of delivery means nothing as long as there’s
comprehension in the mind toward which those words are directed.
books; she was curling up with the
characters in them. Now I’m teaching
my own son to read. On my laptop
and with a digital camera, I’ve created
several age-appropriate digital books
for him. And just two weeks ago, it
warmed my father/teacher heart when
he insisted on sleeping with his arm
around that laptop.
I read Hamlet 20 years ago, as an
undergraduate at the University of
Virginia. About all I remembered
from the play was the “Words, words,
words” quote, but with five minutes
of digitally assisted research, I was
well on my way toward writing this,
with the world at my fingertips. Did
you think I remembered the context
of that quote on my own? I’m not that
smart, but that’s exactly the democratization of information that Mark and
I needed so desperately that day in
Harlem. With it, we’ve all got a fighting chance.
Now, as a graduate fellow in the
Curry Center for Technology and
Teacher Education, I’m thrilled beyond words that Virginia’s Curry
School is leading the trend toward
digitization by eliminating its physical library nearly in its entirety. With
Google digitizing 50,000 volumes,
and with so much physical and virtual
space now available, our creativity is
our only limit.
Keith Mastrion was the 1998 National Teacher
of the Year. His “The Way I See It #181” quote
recently appeared on 5 million Starbuck’s venti
cups in North America. He’s currently pursuing
a doctorate in instructional technology.
November 2009 | Learning & Leading with Technology 9