Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This will be a brief entry but I cannot resist saying good-bye to a very special person on the SHSU campus. Normally my entries are not directed just to students and faculty, but I feel compelled to celebrate the career of Dr. Alice Fisher, Chair of the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Sam Houston State University. Alice became my mentor as I stunbled through my first year as a department chair and remained my go-to person through the next two years. Now she is taking a well-deserved retirement. There were tons of wonderful things said by colleagues, both in the video we prepared for her and in person, but I just want to add one more fond farewell. I have never worked with a more generous, positive person. Her example has been a motivator for countless students and colleagues. One of the last comments shared at her reception today was from a member of her faculty. He said..."In all these years, Alice has NEVER DISAPPOINTED ME." That comment is what I think makes this worth publishing to a wider audience. What a thing to be able to say about someone, especially someone who has had

a position of leadership. It is too late for me to earn such an accolade, but I will continue to remember her example as long as I continue teaching, and indeed beyond that. And remember Alice, I DO have your cell phone number!
PS That's Alice on the right with our new Department Chair, Dr. Holly Weimar, on the left.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Three Cheers for Higher Education

It's that time of year again...students and educators at all levels are gearing up for the 2011-12 school year. If your local school has not started already, it will likely have its first class day tomorrow, at least in Texas. SHSU starts a week earlier than some universities, but the startup is looming for all of us. Yesterday I went to Freshman Convocation at Sam Houston State University. The coliseum was crowded with students, faculty, and parents. There was a bit of pomp and circumstance with faculty in regalia and a formal beginning to the event. Then we heard from our university president, and the student body president, and ended up with the Alma Mater. The band was there with usual exuberance. It was a beautiful (if sweltering) evening with supper served for all afterward. I enjoy this kickoff event every year even though our department only serves graduate students. It's a great time of coming together to share our loyalty to, as our previous President Gaertner used to say, "this grand old university."

As I was sitting in the audience, I could not help thinking of Western Governor's University which touts a 2 1/2 year bachelor's degree for $15,000. This school has recently received a lot of attention in Texas due to "Governor" Rick Perry's endorsement. It allows students to work at their own pace and use "life experience" as part of their studies. I wonder about that. When I showed up in Waco for my freshman year at Baylor, I had precious little life experience to prepare me for anything other than being a highschooler who worked for her daddy on Saturdays and during summer vacations. I worry about what these students will NOT get, both in and out of the classroom. One strength of colleges like WGU is said to be that they will allow "non-traditional" students to get educations. Maybe so but I know that SHSU has a great track record in this arena as well. I am proud of the fact that over 70% of our graduates are the first in their families to receive bachelor's degrees. In addition to campus life, I cannot help suspecting that actual instruction will get short shrift also. Students will not have much contact with their professors, who will teach large (think triple digit) online classes. An article I read last week shared the fact that grading of work has been contracted out also. So the student cannot meet or converse with his instruction (yes I know there will be videos and audio presentation) and will not benefit from that person's insights for grading. And of course THAT means that assignments are likely to be the type that can be machine graded. Yes I know almost any subject can be taught online. Our MLS is online but we do also offer face-to-face instruction resulting in hybrid courses. Studies show this is a great model.

I think our newly minted Bearkats will benefit from their time on this beautiful, friendly, and historic campus. And I applaud their families for supporting them as they work toward their goals. I worry about an anti-education, especially higher ed, strain that is showing up in our state. I hope we have this problem worst of all states because I would hate to think anybody else was worse off than we are. I will comment further on this concern in a future entry. But rest assured, your state universities are not ivory-towered academic theme parks with slacker intellectuals who bask in their offices and call that "research."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am...Just the Facts.

This is a serious posting, but I want to start with something that will make you laugh out loud. Many readers are surely too young to remember the classic TV show Dragnet. I did not see the movie that came out several years ago but there is no one who could play Sgt. Friday like Jack Webb. Stop what you are doing and view this skit with Jack Webb and Johnny Carson. Oh and, it doesn't matter if you never even heard of the show. Just do yourself a favor and go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pWBJiW0Xpo

Now for the serious part...Today a student contacted one of our professors with a concern about our program. A friend told her that the Sam Houston State Department of Library Science was not accredited and that she would never get a job with our degree. This friend had attended another program in our state. I sincerely believe the friend was trying to be helpful and was passing on what she had been told. But it is not true and needs to be refuted. To that end I would like to share several points:

1. SHSU has the correct ALA (American Library Association) accreditation for our program. We are rated exemplary, and our program is used as a model, by AASL (American Association of School Librarians). AASL is a subsidiary of ALA. This is the entity that accredits single-purpose programs like ours that prepare school librarians. So we ARE accredited by ALA for that purpose.
2. We are also rated exemplary by NCATE, National Council for Accreditation of Teachers of Education, a rigorous process that extends accreditation to American Colleges of Education.
3. Our program is highly regarded by Human Resources personnel across Texas. I often get calls for recommendations for jobs from administrators in all parts of the state, including districts with other programs in or near their own cities. Even in these hard times we have placed a number of graduates in new jobs for the coming school year.
4. Our graduates are extremely well known nationally and internationally. Several that come to mind immediately are former students of mine, Naomi Bates, Teresa Schauer, and Analine Johnson. Other grads are district library coordinators, like Ric Hasenyager, and Brenda Huston. I should add I only named a few who instantly came to mind, but are representative of many other distinguished graduates. We have graduates serving on state and national library association committees, which obviously would not happen if they were not qualified.
5. Our faculty is highly regarded across the state, nationally, and internationally. I would send you to search in particular for the long-standing faculty members: Dr. Teri Lesesne, Dr. Rosemary Chance, Dr. Joanna Fountain, and myself.
6. Our program is thriving. We graduated 94 brand new school librarians this August and have an enrollment of around 300 students. We are also the longest running library science program in Texas, having been founded in 1929.

Yes, I am biased but I also want to be honest. I think true representation is an ethical imperative and would never misrepresent our program or anyone else's. If someone wants to be a public or academic librarian, I truthfully tell him/her that one of the three general MLS programs in our state might be a better choice. I send students to UT Austin, UNT Denton, and TWU, also in Denton. I really believe that Sam Houston State University's Department of Library Science is an exemplary program. But don't believe me...believe the accrediting agencies.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Newswordy gives a vocabulary word from that day's news, It gives the definition and then the quotation where it was used, the context of the news story, and other quotations using the word. This is a great twofer for teachers and librarians: current events and vocabulary in a nifty mashup!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

WOW, Double WOW, and OH BOY!

I just spent a delightful 30 minutes exploring some sites with amazing photography. The start was a link that was on a page where I was really looking for something else. It pointed me to something called 31 Pictures at a site called Inspiredology. There I learned that 31 Pictures is an annual contest held by National Geographic with 31 winners. Here is the site I found and get ready to say WOW!

I couldn't help but notice that these shots were from 2009 so I went looking for--and found--2010 winners at this site and prompted me to say WOW AGAIN:

I did not find a 2011 collection so surmise it has not been concluded yet. But I was then curious about the host site, called Inspiredology. So I backtracked to its site and now have a whole raft of OTHER pages to explore by this creative design company. The link is self-evident but here it is anyway: http://inspiredology.com/

The ways these pictures and pages could be used with students are only limited by your imagination. I know I would have loved something like this when I was in the classroom teaching creative writing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love this Lovely Site

I really love to learn from my students. This site was shared as part of my Internet for School Librarians site. And to think she is practically my neighbor! Gail Lovely is an IT teacher and presenter, and her site is Lovely Learning. It is a very nice collection of resources for educational technology. Title: Lovely Learning of course!