I have to admit – at first I didn’t see what the big deal was about Cybraryman.
Okay, he has lots of links. That’s cool, I guess. Web curation takes some time and effort and I appreciated that. But there were still so many links! So many resources on each page! What made this different from all the other repositories of links out there?
As you know if you’re reading this and you know anything about Cybraryman, what makes the difference is Jerry. The teacher makes the difference.
I stand by my original impression that if you come to the Cybrary on your own, through its main page, you might be kind of overwhelmed. There are tons of topics, and subtopics, and sub-sub-topics, and dozens of links for each. The Cybrary is not necessarily a good resource for the casual browser.
But in our classrooms, when do we ever lay out all of the content about everything we’re going to teach the entire year, and allow students to just poke around? I doubt we’d engage many kids that way. Yeah, one or two things might be flashy and catch the eye, but curriculum needs context, and that’s one of the main roles of the teacher. Have you ever had the experience of reading a so-called “classic” book on your own and not enjoying it – but having the opposite experience when read with a teacher or a class? Teachers lend context, nuance, and guidance, and help us make sense of the world around us.
That brings me back to Cybraryman, also known as Jerry Blumengarten. I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting Jerry face-to-face once, at EdCamp Boston, but he’s a constant fixture in my Twitter feed. And what Jerry’s doing there is teaching.
You see, Jerry doesn’t just blindly promote the Cybrary at any old time, linking folks to the front page and telling them good luck from there. No, Jerry does what great teachers do – he listens.
You can tell he’s doing it by watching where he crops up during an #edchat or an #sschat. During a conversation about alternative models for professional development, he’ll link to the Cybrary’s EdCamp page. While #engchat is discussing the pros and cons of project-based learning, there’s Jerry with his projects page. If there’s buzz on Twitter around a big Apple announcement, Jerry will provide you with his iPads page.
Jerry listens, and he responds with resources. He lends context to conversations – talking about group work? Here’s a collaboration page. He puts his resources in context – here’s my page on differentiated instruction, since we’re talking about meeting individual student needs. He shares his own experiences and then provides external sources so that we can further explore based on our need and desire to learn.
We can learn some great lessons about teaching here. Students need to be directed toward the best resources the web has to offer. They need context, and the timing has to be right. We can show off flashy technology tools all we want, but without a meaningful situation in which to use them, we might as well not bother.
We can also all aspire to do more on Twitter and in online professional development networks. Let’s not limited ourselves to sharing, curating, and connecting – let’s teach one another.
So here’s a tip of my hat to you, Jerry, and thanks for teaching us all!