I was delighted to learn about Fish4Info this evening:

a next generation library portal that seeks to make the library catalog a socially engaging destination by integrating web 2.0 technology with the catalog. From book reviews, to forums, comments and tags; fish4info makes the library website an interactive social community.

Created in Drupal and available free as an open source project, Fish4Info looks to have some of the features I wrote about in the ITM post “A Quest for NetFlix Plus Functionality for Books – for Young Readers!” recently and we discussed on Teaching Teaching Teachers last week. (I’m guessing that since we had so much trouble with the connection that night, the archived conversation may not be posted and published.) Fish4Info permits users to rate books and write reviews, but it is not clear if it includes the “artificial intellience-like” alogrithm (similar to NetFlix) which I contend we need for young readers inside and outside our schools. As an open-source project, of course, it will likely be greeted with suspicion and doubt by many school IT departments. Perhaps companies like Remote Learner will offer commercial support for Fish4Info at some point, like they do for Moodle, and thereby reduce the implementation risks for school district leaders wanting to embrace open source learning and content management systems like these?

I learned about Fish4Info thanks to Evelyn Freeman’s post “Notes from ALA: The ‘Amazonization’ of the Library Catalog” on the Educational Technology and Library Media Services blog of Oakland Schools in Waterford, Michigan. I found this post via mksouden’s tweet from two weeks ago. I wanted to leave a comment on this post, but unfortunately the Oakland schools’ WordPress MU installation is configured to NOT allow outsiders to comment and register for an account. How irritating! Although it is annoying to NOT be able to leave a comment on a blog, it is GREAT to see the Oakland, Michigan, school system embracing blogging. I wish we’d see more school leaders here in Oklahoma do the same.

In the somewhat random and often fortuitous way hyperlinked learning leads in new beneficial and unexpected directions, after visiting the Oakland Schools’ website I linked to their ten minute video of Dr. Mike Schmoker discussing the implications of Dr. Robert Marzano’s research for school administrators in a session titled “Getting Results: The Essential Elements of Improvement.” Mike emphasizes (as does Marzano) that emphasizing “what gets taught and how it gets taught” is one of the most important things school administrators can do on a regular basis to constructively transform and influence learning experiences and outcomes for both teachers and students. He exhorts principals to walk around in classrooms, take notes on what is taught and how it’s taught, and gather this data for subsequent reflection, analysis, and action. I had not heard of Schmoker previously or his book “RESULTS NOW: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning.” I’m glad this video was shared on the Oakland PS website. I commend the district for utilizing web-video, but it would be much more effective as well as potentially impactful (from a viral standpoint) if this video was posted to TeacherTube or YouTube and then embedded on the district’s website. At least the video WAS shared online…..

Researchers and professional development gurus like Marzano and Schmoker are very successful in getting the ears and attention of school administrators, but I chafe under the impression that for the most part they advocate methods to simply more effectively deliver the same traditional curriculum to students in only slightly modified ways and formats. I heard Marzno last summer at our state leadership conference share a keynote entitled “The New Era of Comprehensive School Reform: Three Critical Interventions for Effective District/School Reform” but I was under-whelmed. Marzo does point out the ridiculousness of trying to teach and deliver a curriculum that is a mile wide and an inch deep, remarking how research indicates we’d have to have a K-22 school system instead of a K-12 system to address all the mandated content area standards with the depth and breadth they require for mastery. Neither Marzano or Schmoker appear to be true “educational revolutionaries,” based on my current understanding of their ideas, however. They do advocate a reduction in the number of mandated standards for teachers and students, but they do not go far enough. We DO need comprehensive school reform, but rather than simply reducing the number of standards I think we need a much more simplified but focused approach along the lines of Ted Sizer’s “Habits of Mind.” I agree with Marzo’s emphasis on formative assessments, and much of what he advocates for in “Classroom Instruction That Works” — including wider use of non-linguistic representation, as explained by Judy Beaver of the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. I still see both these educational administration thought-leaders as essentially advocates for an uninspiring and merely “tweaked’ educational status quo, however, rather than the reinvented learning landscape which we desperately need.

Am I off-base with this perception?

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3 Responses to Fish4Info, Mike Schmoker, Robert Marzo, and School Change

  1. You are right on target. Until we move from making technical changes to truly adaptive changes, we will continue to see even the great thinkers like Marzano just move the fur iture around instead of rebuilding the rooms. As educators we are the ones that continue to make decisions based on economics a rather than how students learn. For example-computer labs. We put all the computers in a room down the hall and have had difficulty getting into students hands ever since. Until teachers are able to see what’s in it for them-and administrators are truly leading change–the road to realizing the learning environment you envision will be uphill. You are a model for being the change we want to see!

  2. Judy Hauser says:

    Hi Wesley – I’m curious about something – I am the person who is working on the Oakland Schools WordPress MU blog(S). We are still in the beginning stages of implementation and we haven’t figured everything out just yet. I agree with you that anyone should be able to post to a blog but we have some issues to irong out at this time. You indicated that you could not post to our blog yet you did – I am wondering how you were able to post. Thank you!

  3. Judy Hauser says:

    Wesley – Sorry, I meant to say that anyone should be able to post a comment to a blog. You indicated that you could not leave a comment on our blog yet you did. How did you do that? I appreciate your input. Thank you.

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