Javier Leiva – Blog


Wildfires in Oregon

When I write this post, there are 38 active wildfires in Oregon, and around 900,000 acres have disappeared under the fire in the last three days. A considerable part of the Cascade Range is burning down.

Source: Oregon Military Department

Last Sunday, we hiked the Tamolitch Trail to the Blue Pool. I assume all that area is gone now. We drove by the Santiam Pass: gone. Some weeks ago, we went to Salem and crossed the beautiful Detroit. The town is not there anymore. More than half a million people are in evacuation zones, which is more than 10% of the Oregon population (around 10% of that total were already evacuated). Awful.

The numbers are devastating, but I didn’t understand the burned acres’ magnitude, so I thought I’d convert it to square km: 3,642.17. That makes 60.35 km (37.5 miles) for each side of the square. Then, as I still know Catalonia a lot better than Oregon, I decided to check what 3.642.17 sq km would look in that area. Here is the result:

I can’t imagine all that area burned down. Every single tree and structure, gone. From Barcelona to Vic to almost Solsona to some point between Igualada and Valls. However, this is what is happening in Oregon (and it will keep going until… I don’t know).

In Bend, we are well so far. We had a lot of smoke on Monday, and the forecast says it will be back even worse tomorrow and for the rest of the weekend. But for now, no fires. I am keeping my fingers crossed so that doesn’t change.

FIRST Lego League Challenge

It’s starting to look like I am going to lead a FIRST Lego League team this fall. I have experience with activities about robotics, but I have never been part of any FLL challenge, so I thought I’d start by gathering some resources to put myself in context.

What I am mostly interested in are experiences and practical information than I can apply when the time comes: how the sessions with the kids are, what details I need to consider, the main mistakes to avoid, and so on. I know the general information about the program because I attended some ORTOP webinars in July.

The Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program (ORTOP) is recognized as Oregon’s longest running continuum of K-12th grade STEM focused, robotics programs. ORTOP is a trusted non-profit, with more than 18 years of experience implementing and showing successful impact over all FIRST programs in Oregon.  To accomplish its statewide non-profit mission, ORTOP partners with FIRST, an internationally recognized educational foundation as it distributes coach, teacher, and team training programs, hosts tournaments and provides funding support to the most disadvantaged and under-resourced communities and need. These programs are FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics Competition.

There are some resources that have already helped me so far. The first of them is a blog post written by Ruth Ferland: My Experience Starting a FIRST LEGO League Jr. Team. Ruth has been leading teams for the last couple of years. She explains her experience and shares several links to resources that are going to help me a lot.

Another useful resource is the Youtube channel LEGO Robotics Mr. Hino. Mr. Hino has ten years of experience coaching FLL teams, and some of his videos are relevant for what I am looking for at the moment (some others will for sure help me later).

Also, I have started to take a look at the FIRST Curriculum for Educators. The resources are divided by age, and I see it connects the topic with the NGSS standards. I still need to look further into that one.

It’s just three resources that are helping me know where to start and how to move forward from there. We’ll see where all of it takes the team that I will hopefully be part of very soon.

Focusing on What Gets Us Moving

I delivered three STEAM programs this summer: Robots and Drones, Forensic Science, and Space Science. They took a lot of preparation, and they went great with the kids, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied because I did not follow the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) when setting them up. This is from the NGSS website:

There are three distinct and equally important dimensions to learning science. These dimensions are combined to form each standard—or performance expectation—and each dimension works with the other two to help students build a cohesive understanding of science over time.

I didn’t follow the standards because I was not familiar enough with them, and didn’t have a lot of time available before the summer. I thought I’d go with my experience, and I would work on it after the programs and before preparing the next ones.

That after came today. This evening I had a consulting session with Tiffany, from the Portland Metro STEM Partnership and Stem Beyond Schools. It was a short session, but it changed my approach to NGSS completely. She sent me the appendix F of the standards and told me to focus on this list of eight practices:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

The more practices an activity meets, the most you are complying with the standards. From there, she told me, you will be able to go further until you completely master NGSS.

I have started to review the delivered activities with that approach, and it turns out I have been quite compliant with the standards without being aware of it (that experience, not so bad it seems). The best part: now I know how to keep improving until all my activities meet most of the practices.

Too often, the issues seem more complicated than they are. We tend to look at the whole thing, which looks unfathomable, instead of focusing on smaller actionable parts that get us moving. I am usually pretty good at adopting a practical approach, and often I help other people overcome this issue, but it happened to me this time. Fortunately, there it was Tiffany to show me the way.

When the Blog Was My Learning Tool

I discovered The Bottom Line in Clinical Outreach: Stepping out of the Library (Journal of Hospital Librarianship, 20;2, 133-145). From its About page:

It documents clinical questions from Internal Medicine’s resident reports and faculty-led case conferences […]

The mission of The Bottom Line is to support the educational activities of the residents by directing them to evidence and background information in response to questions raised during the reports and case conferences.

I believe it is a good library product: it provides answers to clinical questions, but it also keeps a record of them that can be shared and recovered later (by the same people, or by others looking for the same topics).

But that is not the only reason I liked bumping into The Bottom Line. The other one is that it reminds me of how blogs helped me 14 and more years ago when I attended presentations. I took notes while listening to the presenters, later enriched those notes with my thoughts and additional resources, and tried to make sense to all of it by creating new content. That was undoubtedly an excellent learning method.

But then, Twitter came, and most of us allowed it to drag us to the world of the ephemeral. I like how TMO puts it on Offline Journal Thoughts (or, “On (My) Writing”):

[…] I discovered Twitter. And that’s where a lot of my thoughts, and ideas, and emotions, and everything else ended up for over a decade. Mid-2009 to September 2019. Wasted, as far as I am concerned.

Twitter is useful in many ways, and waste may be excessive, but I feel pretty identified with what that quote conveys. It makes me miss that time, for sure, and I wish I could recover to some extent that activity that was so great to reflect and learn. I don’t know; this text might be a shy attempt at it.

Increasing Awareness about the Medical Library and Building its Reputation

I am re-reading Elizabeth Burns’ book Being a solo librarian in healthcare: pivoting for 21st Century healthcare information delivery. She talks about how librarians need to be proactive to make better contributions and be more useful, and I connect this idea with the thought that proactivity is also one of the best ways to be noticed. Because not everybody at a health system or a hospital knows there is a library available (when there is) and what can it do for them. They are not to blame: it’s the librarian’s job to be noticed and make ourselves useful (or even better: essential).

When I think about it, the expressions increasing awareness and building reputation come to my mind. Let me use another four words to explain my thoughts (alphabetical order):

  • Networking
  • Proactivity
  • Reliability
  • Velocity

Medical librarians need to anticipate to caregivers’ needs as a way to help, but also to show them skills they may not expect, but from which they can benefit a lot [proactivity]. We need to do that with regular patrons, but we should also be continually looking for new opportunities to make ourselves known and be perceived as an asset. That means stepping out of the library and taking an active part in events, committees, and other situations [networking + proactivity].

If all that is done, requests will come: literature searches, training, article requests, or others. We will have been noticed. Now, it will be time to build trust by answering these requests in a fast and satisfactory way. Maybe we won’t have all the answers, but we should provide the best possible solution to every need, and promptly [reliability + velocity].