You’re Not a Luddite if You’re Not Jumping on a Bandwagon

Kristin Fontichiaro had, as always, an interesting and thought-provoking post last month on the School Library Monthly blog (link below).  She fears being a so-called Luddite because she is hesitating in embracing e-readers.

Okay, first of all, just to get this out of the way, the real Luddites hated technology in general.  Particularly machines that might cost people jobs.  Now I know, I know–there are those who think everything will go to electronic books, there will be no more paper books and libraries and librarians will be obsolete.  That is a big bunch of hoo-ha and it’s also not the point of this post.  Plenty has been written on that.

So I’m assuming the wonderful Ms. Fontichiaro was mis-using “Luddite” to mean someone who is afraid or otherwise reluctant to embrace a new technology.

I also think this idea is not true.  Just because you are not an early adopter doesn’t mean you’re a Luddite (in either sense).  Now, to be fair, Empowering Learners urges us to become exactly that: early adopters.  But I think there is a range to that idea.  I don’t remember where but I remember reading a funny essay about regular vs. hybrid & electric cars.  The writer went off on early adopters saying that the newer technology cars weren’t worth the premium ect., etc.  But then he went off on the slackers who remained with the status quo and kept buying gas guzzlers.  He ended by pointing out how we need both groups.  If we didn’t have the early adopters then things would never change and there wouldn’t be enough innovation at a fast enough rate.  But we also need the “regular” car-buyers to stick with the tried-and-true (and hopefully steadily improving) technology to fund the companies so they can afford to innovate.

I think the same thing is true with the ever-growing list of advances in technology for school libraries.  It’s definitely in our best interest to remain current.  I always try to disabuse my colleagues who try to label me a “techie.”  No, I don’t know how to fix your printer.  I just try to stay current.  But staying current does not mean you have to embrace everything.  You don’t want to end up with the “Ready, fire, aim!” syndrome Doug Johnson often mentions at the Blue Skunk blog.  It’s good to remain both open-minded yet skeptical and make sure this new thing or website or whatever fits your population.

But staying current doesn’t mean we have to embrace every single thing that comes down the pike.  E-books may make perfect sense to some populations.  There are school librarians (most notably, our own Buffy Hamilton) piloting the use of these in high school settings where they may or may not make sense in the long run.  Without pioneers like Buffy, we’d never know. The rest of us just need to keep up with what’s out there and see what’s working and what we might need at our schools.  We also need to be ready when a new technology becomes more standardized so we’re informed and ready when it becomes part of a district-wide retrofit.

E-books are a long way from being of use in most elementary schools, but perhaps your population has good reasons for piloting the use of something like an iPad.   Interactive whiteboards are cool, but they’re not for everyone.  Maybe your library would benefit more from a document camera and projector.  Perhaps you prefer to use a wiki or other collaborative site rather than use social bookmarking.  Not using a certain technology does not a Luddite make.  That’s called collection management and being a good steward of public funds.

I think that’s the key.  Don’t adopt a technology just because you saw it at a conference or someone sent you and article and it looks cool (“Ready, fire, aim!”).  See what you and your school’s needs are first, work with your committee, then see if there is any technology or resources that fit that need.  Do your research, but don’t be afraid to slowly try something new.

I look forward to your comments!


Jim Randolph

Partee Elementary Library

Snellville, GA


Econfused about Ebooks” by Kristin Fontichiaro

Before we take the ebook plunge” and “iEd” by Doug Johnson


Posted on November 12, 2010, in Best practice, Debate, Ideas, Reflection, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Jim, I’d add that with the adoption or trial of any library program or policy, the essential question should always be, “How will “x” impact student and/or teacher learning?”. You are absolutely right that a policy or tool that is perfect for one age group may not be ideal for another at that given point in time although we should be open to considering that those needs can and do change.

    Whether you are holding off an adopting a certain practice or technology or taking the plunge, I think it is also important to be open and transparent about the decision making process so that we can share our wisdom and thinking and create larger conversations for learning within our profession.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful post.


  1. Pingback: Appreciation Shown « Georgia Library Media Association

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