Hey, did I mention I got into Drake?

I’m entering Drake University’s Education Leadership doctoral program!  I start in August.

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Here was my essay:

My name is Christine Sturgeon.  I am a teacher librarian and serve as the current president of the Iowa Association of School Librarians.  In that position, I have become aware of the great shortage of teacher librarians that exists in our state and nation.  I have also learned of the even greater shortage of professors of school librarianship.  This shortage, if not corrected, is a travesty for our children because teacher librarians create programs that engage entire school communities which elevate the learning experience of all (from the “Vision for Iowa’s School Libraries,” available online here).  I want to be a professor of school librarianship, and Drake’s Leadership program will open the door to that possibility.

I am a lifelong learner.  It took me some time for that to  be the case on paper:  21 years to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, with another 18 months to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Library Science.  Even before that, though, I was continually learning and challenging myself.  Since my graduation, I remain an example of lifelong learning to my family, my colleagues, and my wide personal learning network that I have nurtured by attending conferences, serving on boards, and networking on Twitter.

I believe my references have attested to my abilities and vision for education.  At Manson Northwest Webster Schools, where I am in my fourth year as a teacher librarian, I have transformed the school library from a staid place of tradition to a vibrant community of learning inside and outside the school walls.  I have successfully led the change of the physical space at both the elementary and secondary levels.  But more than that, I have shown by example how the library can change lives.  Some examples include creating the first “1,000 Books Before Kindergarten” program in a school in the state [that I know of!] leading the international student program at the high school, teaching Genius Hour and Genre Reading, facilitating VREP, introducing computer coding at the elementary level, winning grants, doing video production weekly with sixth grade students, and soon, creating and overseeing makerspaces at both the elementary and secondary buildings.

I love being a teacher librarian.  No day is identical, and in so many ways, I am able to write my own job description.  Yet I know I can reach more Iowa students by teaching other teacher librarians.  I already do that in some capacity as IASL president, but I know I can have a greater impact as a college professor.  It is your program that will make that possible.

Thank you very much.

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No more a dropout!

I know something about dropping out.  Now, I didn’t drop out of high school, but I dropped out of

The University of Iowa (to get married, 1989)

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Brigham Young University (sort of a lame distance learning program, ~1999)

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Austin Peay State University (to move back to Iowa, 2004)

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Then I did the University of Iowa again (distance learning), did some general requirements at Western Iowa Tech Community College, back to the University of Iowa for a TAG endorsement, and then actually started graduating!

University of Northern Iowa (BA, Elementary Education, 2009)

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the University of Missouri (MA, Information Science and Learning Technology, Emphasis in Library of Science, 2011)

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Oh and reading endorsements from Morningside College, too.

But, with my long history of going to school, I couldn’t stop at that, could I?

Luckily, my graduation coincided with the MOOC movement.  MOOC (pronounced “mook”) standards for Massive Open Online Courseware.  I first heard about MIT’s Open Courseware, where they were putting course materials for hundreds of classes online.  I had quite a list of courses I wanted to take:  How to Learn (Almost) Anything, Designing Your Life, and Kitchen Chemistry.

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Doesn’t that picture make you want to take Kitchen Chemistry, too?

The problem was, I had no motivation to take any of these.  I wanted to take them, but it was more like I wanted to want to take them.  Because if I really wanted to take them, wouldn’t I just, like, TAKE THEM?  (Sort of like exercising for me, alas.)

Then, Coursera came along!  It solved so much of the problems that I had with MIT’s Open Courseware.  They both had quality instructors and materials, but Coursera was in real time.  There’s a whole community of people – in some cases, over 100,000 (Yes, one hundred thousand) taking a class at once!  It wasn’t that there were people who knew me and encouraged me to stick with the class (what I could’ve used in my earlier iterations as a college student), but just knowing there were other people right now doing the same material I was, it made a difference.  But bigger than that were the assessments – quizzes!  Even, I kid you not, papers.  (How do you grade papers with 100,000 students?  You don’t.  You let the students do it for you.  Crowd sourcing.  Genius.)  Deadlines are what made me finally succeed, go figure.

So, I’ve started many classes with Coursera and got a lot out of all of them – Think Again:  How to Reason and Argue (Duke University), Introduction to Computer Science (Stanford University), Greek and Roman Mythology (University of Pennsylvania)  Internet, History, and Technology (University of Michigan) (Well, except for Introduction to Logic – that was waaaaay over my head.)  Some of those I intend to finish (Internet History – due in a week!) or retake when offered again.

But I finally did finish one!  No longer am I a MOOC dropout!  Today I finished – after the regular deadline but before the hard deadline, so I still qualify for a certification of completition – The Camera Never Lies with Emmett Sullivan from the University of London.  It was an excellent class.  It was only six weeks, but I feel I learned a lot about how the camera can lie, through our manipulation of its output.  It’s really been a thought-provoking topic.  And actually, I like that it doesn’t align perfectly with my job description.  That itself demonstrates I’m really a life-long learner.

I feel like I’m graduating all over again!

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Of course, there’s always another course up ahead.  Next week, I start Learn to Program: The Fundamentals with a librarian friend, and Think Again: How to Reason and Argue is being offered again.  Then there’s Creativity, Innovation, and Change, and Accountable Talk:  Conversations that Work, and Comic Books and Graphic Novels, and . . . (See their full list here.  Udacity and EdX also offer MOOCs.)

What are you going to take?

Lifelong learning

There’s so many things I want to do, the type of person I want to be.  All I have to do is remind myself of my New Year’s Resolutions less than a month ago:

  • Lose 30 pounds (diet, exercise, no caffeine)
  • Educate myself  (Coursera, reading, crafting)
  • Freer from debt

. . . and, it’s not yet February and have little to show for it.  I can say I haven’t had any caffeine, so there’s that.

But I do think I’m getting somewhere with the “educating myself” goal.  Right now, I’m involved in a class with David Loertscher about creating a virtual learning commons, an Advanced Power Searching class with Google, and next week I start a Coursera class in philosophy (just because) and a face-to-face class with my local AEA.

One I’m really excited about – and why you might be here (to read my intro) is an ed tech massive open online course – #etmooc.  I’ve before wondered why librarians don’t take the idea of MOOCs like Coursera for themselves.  We could have classes on what librarians need to know about RDA, how to repair books, or how to transition to the bookstore model.

So about me – it took me 21 years to graduate with my bachelor’s degree, and 18 months to get my master’s.  I don’t know if I am capitalizing and punctuating those words correctly, and that bothers me.  I start lots of projects and finish some.  I’m a K-12 librarian in a rural school district which is the best job in the world, and also have the “technology integrationist” moniker in my job description, so that’s why I’m here at #etmooc.

I think it’s important as a teacher librarian that my students and coworkers see me always trying to better myself.  Especially in a small district, we absolutely have to reach out to educate ourselves.  There’s a lot I’m doing well, but there are many ways I need to improve . . . but I am always trying to learn more.

What are you doing to keep learning?

thinker“Le Penseur.”  Retrieved online from the Library of Congress.