Personal Vision: The Cybrarian

Policy Options Brief
My Personal Vision:
The Cybrarian

by Ted Nellen


1997 Inquiry Cohort
Teachers College
Instructor: Dr Craig Richards
May 16, 1997

On Becoming A Cybrarian

Five years from now is both a long time and a short time. Having to consider where I will be presents an interesting dilemma. This dilemma reminds me of my junior year in high school when I was sitting with the college advisor and we were discussing my options. He suggested that I should apply to some safe colleges (sure bets), some colleges I had an even chance of getting into, and some dream colleges in which I didn't have a chance of getting admittance. I followed his advice in making my college choices but instead ended up going into the Army. That was 1967 and here I am thirty years later faced with a similar situation. The differences now are that I am only making "dream" choices, I am older and wiser, and the military is not an option.

The Cybrarian

Five years from now I wish to be working as a Cybrarian. A Cybrarian is a person who integrates, infuses, and injects Internet technology into education. The Cybrarian is more than a computer technician, who maintains the hardware and software. The Cybrarian is more than a teacher who uses the Internet in the classroom. The Cybrarian is more than the Webmaster, who maintains a World-Wide Web presence. The Cybrarian is more than a librarian who knows the resources of the Internet. The Cybrarian is community oriented which means The Cybrarian helps families, businesses, and government integrate the Internet into the educational environment in a coordinated effort. The Cybrarian is all of these. The Cybrarain can maintain the hardware and software at a minimum level, is a teacher who has used the Internet in the classroom, and is an Internet resource gatherer and disseminator of information. The Cybrarian has a strong virtual support staff which means the staff can be with me wherever I go. The Cybrarian by nature is not an island, but instead a part of a web, interconnected. The word cybrarian means one to steers or governs, as it would be defined in Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition. It is derived from the Greek: cyber- to steer, govern and -arian one who belongs to, follows, believes in. The Cybrarian is a new addition to the school structure and is needed in today's education.

I entered teaching full time in 1974. I have taught in both public and private schools. I have taught grades 5-12. I am an English teacher. I used my first computer in an educational environment in 1984. I taught five eleventh grade English classes of 32 students each in a computer room with sixteen computers. I used word processing software and shareware software acquired from the Internet. I started using the Internet in 1984. In 1986, I was part of a project at City University of New York, CUNY, called "Global Communications." We were using email to communicate with schools in England, Austria, and Japan. In 1988, I upgraded my sixteen computers to a thirty- four computers Local Area Network, LAN. I continued to use the Internet on a limited basis, and downloaded shareware software. Each of my students in each of my classes had a computer. I became the Chapter One Coordinator which allowed me to demonstrate the power of the computer in improving reading and writing skills in a low end population. It also allowed me the opportunity to incorporate many teacher education ideas I had. They included team teaching and immersion into a computer classroom. Because each Chapter One class had 16 students per class, we were able to put two classes into the computer room. I was able to train many teachers because they would not be alone. Another element we started to use then was student interns. Students who knew how to use the computers became interns the next semester or year and assisted teachers and students in proper computer use. Throughout these years I learned a great deal about the hardware, software, and administration of LAN's. In 1994 we connected all of the computers in this computer classroom to the Internet. Today, 1997 we have eight classes a day in English, History, Foreign Language, and Deaf and Hard of Hearing using the Internet as their classroom. Each student in each class has an email address and an individual web page which contains the student's work. Maintaining an educational webpage goes beyond being a Webmaster, it requires the skills of a Cybrarian. A Cybrarian possesses pedagogical ideas, computer technology skills, practical teaching experience, a good knowledge of the Internet, and good ecological management skills.

Projecting this vision into the next century is not as far-fetched as one may imagine. To me it is obvious and necessary. One of the roles has already been completed when we created our technology plan which usually projects five years hence and is ecological by nature. How far I can push this vision onto communities either reluctant or cash poor is another matter. However, by introducing new ideas to eradicate reluctance and/or fiscal handicaps, my visions can be realized. So let's see where I plan to be in five years and beyond as a Cyrarian for The NYC Board of Education, Government Cybrarian at local, state, or federal level, and a University Professor of Cybrarian Education.

Cybrarian for NYC Board of Education

In the year 2001, I would like to be part of a city-wide effort within The New York City Board of Education to successfully implement Internet use in its schools. My offices would be at the Board of Education and my salary, by today's standards would be $90,000. My responsibilities would be to coordinate the necessary departments in supporting and maintaining the Internet in its schools. Because I am a workaholic, I would probably be overextended. I tend to lead by example, but because of the size of the task, I would also delegate responsibility. I am a team player, and tend to organize meetings to discuss a plan of attack. Consensus is important, because I hate to redo things. I can ad lib, but I don't like surprises from tangent groups that have worked autonomously from the main group. Communications among all parties is crucial. I feel good about this vision, but recognize it to be idealistic knowing the Board of Education as I do. The autonomy I would desire is not attainable in such a bureaucracy. It is unrealistic, but I still have hope. Today my job is like running in water up to my waist and I don't expect it to be much different in five years except the water may be higher than my waist.

Houston is the fifth largest school system in the country. It is a fraction the size of New York City. The Houston Independent School District, HISD, has made technology a priority and publishes a newsletter, interConnect, to keep its community informed and up-to-date on HISD's goings on. HISD is a model for me as I try to make this vision so in NYC. I would have to assemble a solid support crew and establish solid working relationships with companies which can provide support services to accomplish our goals. This is one of my strongest attributes. I have established solid connections in this community since I have been a member of it for so long. I have established a reputation, trained many teachers, created good links to powerful people in the right places, and have a working knowledge of the Board of Education bureaucracy. I have fostered positive working relationships with many people in the business world of NYC whom I would solicit for assistance. I have NYC networking as a strength which will keep me from drowning. Members of the support team would include technical people who can establish the Internet in the schools and train school members to maintain the system on their own. Much of the training would be of the students as well as the staff. Businesses would adopt schools. To help maintain social, political, and economic links to local businesses. I would create a working relationship between the school and the business. Students would be interns in the school and in the business. Mentoring programs would be established and those tax incentives associated with this aid would be an incentive for the business. As mentoring and volunteer efforts increase and improve, we will be tapping these sources of assistance to better our schools. Our staff would include grant writers so we can augment existing budgets and to assist schools in attaining individual funds to realize our goals. Other members of the team would be trainers to help assist teachers understand the use of the Internet in their classrooms.

The national trend towards the use of the Internet will certainly be one of the main forces to make this so. President Clinton and Education Czar Riley both encourage wiring schools and connecting them to the Internet, which is our mandate. Monies funnelled into school systems are looking for successful Internet programs. But on the down side is that the powers and decision makers are pretty ignorant to the Internet and rely on too many ill-advised people to make decisions. Another problem is that bureaucracies spend too much time and money on slow moving studies and poorly designed models. The biggest stumbling block in the NYC Board of Education is that the leaders prefer to maintain the status quo. Change is really slow in this system. Political connections and not merit are also a flaw with this system when it comes to action and appointments.

Government Cybrarian at local, state, or federal level

In the year 2001, I see myself coordinating the Internet efforts for a community. I would model these efforts along the lines of the Blacksburg, VA style. Virginia Tech took on the task of wiring its community. The concept is exciting. Another exciting community effort is the state of Kentucky called KETS I would like to coordinate the efforts of a community to wire its schools, businesses, residences, and government so that the community is truly a community. The purpose would be an educational benefit for all members of the community. I would expect to be working in the main government offices making, by today's standards, $125,000. My responsibilities would be to coordinate the town's utilities to provide the technical infrastructure necessary to wire the entire community. Further responsibilities would be to spearhead an educational program for the entire community which would make the technical infrastructure effective. I am a workaholic and lead by example. Delegating responsibility is not difficult, since I like to move on to other projects once one job is begun and established. I like to plan things out and then act. Shifting gears or changing direction is a team decision not an isolated process. Inter- communications is crucial. Turning over projects to others to maintain is not difficult for me. I feel very positive about this vision because I would be working in a community which has chosen to do this and doesn't feel compelled to do it. Today my job is like running in water up to my waist, but in five years I feel in would be like floating on a raft smoothly downstream and in ten years in a canoe as a passenger.

As The Cybrarian in this community, I would have a large support staff. The staff would be the community. I may be able to tap the established community I have garnered in NYC. But one of the advantages of moving into a new environment is a fresh start for everyone. All members would be affected and all members would be contributing in some way. Utilities would be providing the technology support. The government would be supplying the fiscal support. The schools would be providing the educational support. The businesses would be providing jobs and receiving revenue in return. Citizens would be receiving educational, service, and community benefits. The schools would be used all year round and for most of the day as education becomes more crucial for all of the communities citizens. Senior citizens would profit as becoming mentors for the students and the students in turn would be assisting the seniors in Internet training. Families would be better connected. Businesses could run more efficiently. Social information could be disseminated more effectively. Government could run a bit more efficiently. The wired community would be a better community.

How this vision would be established in the beginning is by luck. To find such an idyllic community would require luck. However, once it was found and the community decided to go for it, the rest would be relatively easy. A willing community is a resourceful community and success is nearly guaranteed. Certainly the national emphasis on family, volunteerism, and standards in education would be the initial impetus for such a project. The negative press that family values and the loss of educational standards and the lack of community become the negative forces to overcome.

This vision is truly ecological. It considers the environment: the community. It utilizes the resources of the community: the people. It recycles everything and it finds multiple uses for all resources. It is a happy vision of pure unadulterated optimism sprinkled with pure naivete. It is utopian.

University Professor of Cybrarian Education

In the year 2001, I will be teaching Cybrarian Education in a university's Education Department. By today's standards, I would be expecting to be making $100,000 or commensurate with the grants I am securing. My responsibilities would be to conduct research on the effect the Internet has on education. I would further be collecting data on current Cybrarian trends and methods and impart them upon our future Cybrarians. I would be providing an atmosphere of scholarly work and research that allows for innovation as well as creation of Cybrarian methods. Because I am a workaholic and lead by example, I should hope to provide a stimulating environment for the future Cybrarians. Working in on a team is inherent in the department structure. Coordination among colleagues is crucial for success. In a university environment, teaching assistants are a norm and I would utilize them to the max. The Internet and education have a long-standing relationship and support would be no problem. I have very strong feelings about this vision, because teaching colleges are realizing a real need for Cybrarians, an educational anomaly, in 21st Century education. Today I feel like I am running in water up to my waist, but in five years I feel I will be running in water up to by shins and in ten years in water barely covering my feet.

At the university level coordinating with colleagues and utilizing the infrastructure of the university are already established networking tools. Navigating about the social and political icebergs are inherent. Coordinating with the grant writers and the technological department will be crucial in maintaining our program.

Relying on the current trends in education to incorporate the Internet effectively in our schools, will ignite the creation of a program to train Cybrarians. Successful implementation of Cybrarian studies will fuel itself. The negative feelings of poor standards and a push to generate national standards the Internet will be a major force it realizing this goal. Guaranteeing that it is done ethically would be one of the major goals of Cybrarian Studies. Essentially in this vision, I plan to work with my network of K-12 wired teachers as a base for instructing the new Cybrarians.

The Cybrarian Vision

Idealism, naivete, and good intentions fuel these Cybrarian visions of a utopian educational system for the 21st Century. On the matter of external and internal environments, I find the distinction very fuzzy. My family will be my mainstay in this endeavour. It is a constant. Separating business from family has become important to me. Early in my career and early in a first marriage, I believed it to be crucial to include my family and found that I didn't have a family. Much of the external support in this endeavour is going to be from the Virtual Community, which means that no matter where I am, that community will be supportive. As it stands right now, I have been in contact with many educators around the world. I have met fewer than one percent of those with whom I work. I have a solid support staff, most of whom are virtual. Being able to tap so many so quickly and relatively effortlessly is a real strength. That they are not physically present could be a negative. However, I believe the positives far outweigh the negatives. In future jobs, I would be hosting conferences which would bring so many of us together. I would go to conferences. Team building is crucial to successful implementation of any plan. Planning before action will give a plan a better chance of succeeding. Consensus is necessary to accept a plan upon which to act and implement. Constant communications among all concerned is difficult to maintain but vital. The Internet makes communicationss easier. Projects fail because the folks involved have been divided by some force and ultimately destroyed. To destroy any project all one needs do is divide and conquer. Success is achieved by unity which comes from team work, communication, and consensus. In addition as part of my continued growth, I would need to see other education examples. The Virtual Community provides a new way of incorporating the internal and external environments. Because of the Internet, these two very distinct environments which were really separated, are now virtually overlapping.

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