Who Killed the Curiosity? : Wherein We Meet Johnny

The librarian noticed the sullen dark-haired first-grader still wandering the shelves minutes before the bell would sound.

“Johnny, can I help you find a book?”


“What do you want to read today?”


“What do you want to know more about?”


“What kinds of things do you do when you go home?”

“Play World of Warcraft.  That’s all I do.”

At this the librarian began to scratch her head, desperately thinking of items  in a primary school library that could compete with the excitement and strategy of killing your mortal enemy.  She was, also, biting her tongue to suppress her instinctive disapproval at the development of blood-lust in 6-year-olds.

“Is there anything you have been learning about at school that interests you?”

“Once there was a book about this cool car, a Lamborghini.”

“Hmm… I believe that one is out right now, but the Maserati book was returned today”

One look inside and Johnny was smiling.  It was a good moment.  Johnny didn’t smile much at school.

Johnny is a real student (name changed of course)  He really does play adult video games with his mother in the evenings.  This is his passion.  He is not interested in school and does not find joy in learning things that will be tested on the state-mandated skills tests in a couple of years.   He is very familiar with the principal’s office.

There are a lot of “Johnnys.”  Even in the lower grades, students do not necessarily come to school bursting with the stereotypical innocent joy and curiosity of early childhood.   Exposure to adult themes in our changing society, busy parents with no time to indulge the passions of childhood and the deprivations of poverty are some of the factors that shape young minds before they come into our classrooms.

As educators, we often teach lessons as we would have liked them when we were young.   We try to sugar-coat learning with duckies and bunnies and plan themes around happy holidays.   We plan educational experiences around who we wish our children were and not who they are.  Johnny is not a “duckie and bunny” sort of child.

A couple of days before Johnny wandered into the library this week,  I had the privilege of participating in a Twitter discussion with the title #learningdispositions .    A number of educators were determining  strategies for teaching children the learning attitudes and skills to enable them to be successful 21st Century learners.  As the discussion progressed, joy, passion and curiosity became focal points.  Several participants were concerned that externally motivated compliance and “playing school” with meaningless assignments took away the joy, passion and curiosity of students. Others pointed out how authentic project-based learning with choices provided for more engaged learners.

My question is how do we apply this to Johnny?    How do we help Johnny find the joy of learning as Pam Moran describes it in her post If Reading’s Not the Goal, Could It Be Joy? .  Is there a Johnny you can reach out to this week?  Perhaps you can find a way to mentor a student the way  Paula White took time to encourage the passion for technology in  her 5th grade student in Passionate Learning.  When the days are long and stressful this week, will we be modeling our joy, passion and curiosity for our students?


Chapter 5: The Tale of Three Wikis (Wherein We Go Wiki-hunting)

 Once upon a time a middle-aged librarian, woke up lost in cyberspace. She was adrift in a sea of information and needed a little organization. Organization  being part of compulsive librarianship — she set about looking for the best way to do this. Perhaps what she needed was her own wiki. That way she could share her endeavor with others.

She had tried contributing to a wiki before. It was  confusing. Did the creators intend for users to sdd text, create a page or add to  the discussion thread?  The text editor was kind of like a word processor, but more limited and the results often looked “messy”  She wasn’t sure she actually like wikis.Maybe she just needed a wiki “just right” for her.

  So the  intrepid librarian decided to go on a wiki service hunt.  She wanted her wiki site to have the following features:

  1. It would be free.
  2. It would be easy to edit.
  3. It would look neat and professional.
  4. It would be flexible.
  5. It would be “educator friendly”

She was inspired by some wikis that other people had created. 

She had three wiki services in her sights.  PbWorks (PBwiki at that time),  Wetpaint, and Wikispaces.

She stopped by Wetpaint first because it seemed to have more “fun features.”  It did not have the look of the old confusing wikis she didn’t like.  It did have very prominent advertising on its free version.  But the discussion threads were really cool and the themes were bright and inviting.  There was advertising saying educators could get free sites with no advertising.  She signed up and created a wiki called The Library Toolbox. But, then she realized that a free educational version was hard to obtain for an elementary educator.  These accounts were only for teachers working with students over 13 who could legally have there own accounts with WetPaint.  The ads were very prominent, as well.  They were full-color.   They flashed and moved.  It would not be a good site to share links with the teachers at her school.  It cost $19.95 per month to have the ads removed.  Once the wiki had been created, it could not be deleted.  Also, though it could be renamed, the URL would reflect the original name.  This was not the most  friendly policy for someone experimenting. 

Next, she visited Wikispaces.  Free personal wikis here, also, contained advertising.  However, these ads were discrete little text ads.  These could be turned off for a mere $5 per month or $50 per year. Also, ad-free wikis for K-12 educational use were free.  Wikis could easily be renamed and deleted.  She signed up for one of these.  There were several themes to choose from. She had a vision for how she would like the page to look, but soon found she had trouble getting lists to appear as “neat” as she wanted.  Sometimes, it was difficult to position inserted objects where she intended them to be.

Finally she checked out PBworks.   She found limited flexibility in the layout of her wiki or “collaborative workspace.”  However, the text editor was slightly more intuitive to her than the one at Wikispaces.  She could insert objects easily here, also.  (She did discover that no wiki allows you to move objects around like a MS Word document.)  There were no ads on a small, personal wiki with 100 or fewer users.  This could be used as a class wiki, also.  A special classroom wiki package with additional benefits was available for $100.  PBWorks pages, always had a clean, neat appearance,  The to-do lists and side-bar options were very appealing, as well.  The librarian chose this site for a personal workspace to house links, create to-do lists and experiment. 

So, now our curious and sometimes befuddled  librarian  had three wiki accounts on different services.  If the PBworks site was to be the home-base she desired, what would she do with the other two accounts?  The Wetpaint site could not be deleted or have its URL changed.   But it was flashy and invited membership and discussion more than the other two sites.  She turned it into a public site to invite other librarians to share experiences and examples in using web 2.0 tools in their libraries.  She kept the original name of all three of her wiki experiments The Library Toolbox. She would love to have you join this site.  The August topic of discussion is wikis.  Please share your wiki stories with others.

The Wikispaces site she renamed the Edison Wishwiki.  She attempted to create a collaborative environment for her school learning community to share requests and suggestions for learning resources needed in her library media center.  She, also, wanted all of her book requests on-line.  She had been trying to banish all little lost sticky notes from her professional life.  Though, our ever hopeful librarian was short on collaborators, during the past school year, the site improved her personal organization immensely!  The addition of a Google form will make it simpler to add requests for those shy about “joining” the wiki this fall. 

The PBworks wiki, The DJProject, became a bit neglected..  It was easier to simply bookmark links in Diigo or add them to her school website than go back to her original plan.  She is still in awe of Kelly Hines and Donna Baumbach in their abilities to organize and share  links with others.  Perhaps she should update her to-do list today.  She finally completed this blog post.  

The librarian  enjoyed her adventure with the three wikis,  learned more than she thought possible. and  developed three very different, useful websites.  Have you gone wiki-hunting yet ?

Chapter 1: Wherein we begin a new adventure…


         Once upon a time this middle-aged librarian, somewhat smug in my use of Microsoft Office, email and general web-surfing,  watched  my hairdresser (only slightly younger than myself )  checking Facebook while listening to Pandora on her iPhone.  Facebook???  Wasn’t that what kids used to say inane and sometimes obscene things to each other when they should be doing their homework?  It seemed I was in the dark ages of internet technology.  Unbeknownst to me, all of the other people my age were now checking their Facebook accounts for pics of the grandchildren.  Marooned all day in a primary school library with no students over the age of 8, I thought “twittering” was what kindergarten students did when they saw a display of new books.

           It was clear that action was needed!  So, on an icy bad weather day in February, I created my own Web 2.0 in- service.  Armed with a timid Facebook page and a Twitter account (well I might want to “sound off” at CNN) I dipped my cold big toe into the rushing stream of  information.  Over a month later,  I still have pictures of icicles and 0 friends on my Facebook page.  The Twitter experiment was another story.

Honestly, I tried it out of idle curiosity.  It was only a little recreational use at first.  Then I found the librarians twittering ALA meetings.  Next I found school librarians with blogs and wiki pages of student projects.  Finally, I dared to search for elementary teachers.  My tentative trickle of information had grown into a river of links, ideas and collaborative endeavors.  Is this the road  to becoming an information junkie?

           Now, at the end of my precious spring break; the taxes aren’t finished, the floor needs vacuming, and only half of the laundry is done.  However, my mind is buzzing with new ideas.  I have opened a Google Reader account, set up a blog site, and started a wiki.  Join me if you dare.  My little experiment is evolving into a plan of action!!!