1997 Inquiry Cohort
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
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 http://www.tnellen.com/school/tp.html 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
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, http://www.houston.isd.tenet.edu/ has made technology a priority and publishes a newsletter, interConnect, http://www.houston.isd.tenet.edu/~iconnect/intcont.html 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
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
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
to Ted Nellen
Seeking Cybrarians @ MCI Cybrarian of the Year