Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District

Episode 47 - The Age of Information: How SV is Keeping up with the Times with Mr. Mike Stebbins

October 04, 2021 Seneca Valley School District Season 2 Episode 47
Voices, a Podcast from the Seneca Valley School District
Episode 47 - The Age of Information: How SV is Keeping up with the Times with Mr. Mike Stebbins
Show Notes Transcript

The Age of Information: How SV is Keeping up with the Times with Mr. Mike Stebbins

Mr. Mike Stebbins, Seneca Valley Senior High School Library Teacher 

Mike Stebbins is in his 21st year at Seneca Valley.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and his teaching certificate from the University of Pittsburgh.  He earned a Master’s Degree is School Library and Information Technologies from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania.  Mike currently serves as the secondary library department chairperson for the district.


  • How to find reliable resources in this day of technology 
  • How to teach students to combat the world of misinformation
  • How much has the library changed because of technology
  • How social media influences the library
  • What parents and students would be surprised to know about the library today 


File Name: Voices E47 Mike Stebbins.mp3

File Length: 00:11:40

FULL TRANSCRIPT (with timecode)


00:00:02:27 - 00:00:10:06

Introduction: Welcome to Voices, a National Award-winning  podcast brought to you by the Seneca Valley School District. 


00:00:11:13 - 00:00:18:18

Jeff Krakoff: This is Jeff Krakoff today and with Mike Stebbins, who's a librarian at the secondary campus. Thanks for joining us today, Mike. 


00:00:19:09 - 00:00:20:04

Mike Stebbins: Thanks for having me. 


00:00:20:14 - 00:00:41:10

Jeff Krakoff: So I don't think any of us can look at our social media, look at the news. We're hearing all kinds of things true and false. So my big question for you today is how do you go about finding reliable sources and resources for information in this day of, you know, technology and news overload? 


00:00:42:11 - 00:01:13:04

Mike Stebbins: Well, you know, I think in the 11 years that I've been in this job, things have changed a lot. And, you know, we've kind of started off thinking about how are we going to help kids find sources for an academic assignment? And that's kind of altered now to the point where now I'm trying to teach kids the life skill of finding information; where can you find things that you can that trust? Some of the tips that all that I'll give is to look for things that you're reading online on a social feed or any any kind of a look for things that have a label on them. 


00:01:13:06 - 00:01:46:20

Mike Stebbins: Is it is it labeled as an as an opinion piece? So you know that that's not necessarily factual, but someone's opinion? I talk a lot about researching your sources. If you're reading something on a source, what do you know about that source? You can. You can type in the name author who is writing something for a web page, find out about them and see what kind of a bias that they may have in terms of other things that they have written. We also talk a lot about dates. Are you getting the most recent information that is available out there? 


00:01:48:27 - 00:02:06:07

Jeff Krakoff: OK, so it's interesting you talk about people who are they? What's their area of expertise, but how do you teach students to combat in specific this whole world of misinformation and fake news and fake sources out there? 


00:02:07:17 - 00:02:38:00

Mike Stebbins: Well, I think the first thing I try to tell, tell kids to do is really important to be a skeptic. You can't just believe everything you read, and I think this is something that may be. I mean, I'm 50, so I talk about with my mother who tends to read something, and she believes everything she may find online. So I try and teach the kids to not do that. Be a skeptic and look at everything with that, with that kind of an eye. As far as exact techniques one that I talk, I talk a lot about. 


00:02:38:02 - 00:03:20:06

Mike Stebbins: It's called cross-reading. So if you find information in one source, look that up again. Can you find the same information in more than one source? Right? And if you can, that's probably something that's not true, because if it's if it's something that is real and is a good fact, it's going to be found in more than one place. We also talk about vague vagueness. Vague wording is usually a key. So if you're if you're reading something that talks about, you know, recent studies show this, you know, something that's based on fact is going to talk about the study and give some specific information from that study, rather than just claiming information from a recent study. 


00:03:20:18 - 00:03:22:06

Mike Stebbins: If that if that makes sense. 


00:03:23:00 - 00:03:42:09

Jeff Krakoff: What about the whole idea of, you know, again, I see so many things where people are saying, Well, this happened or this was said about going to the direct source. Find a transcript. Find the original video because so much can be taken out of context. Or are there certain skills or things you would recommend for students to 


00:03:44:00 - 00:03:46:27

Jeff Krakoff: get beyond what's being posted by somebody, right? 


00:03:47:18 - 00:04:27:11

Mike Stebbins: Sure. I, you know, I think the main thing is if someone is using a vague term like that this this was said or so in sense of said, you know, you're just hearing that's like secondhand information and you need to find out where is that from and if and if that's a real thing, then the person saying that should be giving you factual information that came from this report or from this study. You know, for school work, we would have the kids site the actual study. But in everyday life, when you're just when you're just reading things, you still want to be able to read the factual information that comes from the study, not someone putting that study into their own words. 


00:04:27:21 - 00:04:46:09

Jeff Krakoff: Right now, Mike, you meant you brought up your age. I didn't ask you, but for you and me growing up, I think the whole idea of a library is very different than what a library looks like and acts like today because of technology. How much has the library changed at Seneca Valley over the years because of technology? 


00:04:46:25 - 00:05:20:12

Mike Stebbins: You know, I think if you haven't been in a library anywhere, whether it's at a school or in a local community, I don't think you can measure this. I mean, when I grew up, the I was in a very rural area. The the library came to us in a big van. But what but what we have today is we have a lot less books. You know, things have changed. So much of what we used to read in print is now found online. And I think that that's usually shocking to people. And I, you know, I just try to explain that most of the stuff we used to have in print, we just have access to on to online now. 


00:05:20:18 - 00:05:52:07

Mike Stebbins: So, you know, students are still doing a lot of the same work we have, but because it's online, the kids can have access to so much more. I like to tell them that, you know, whenever I was a student, we had access to this tiny little bit of information, whatever was in the room. That's what we could have. And because of because of internet access, now they have access to almost everything. So that's it. That's a big change. And, you know, really, really just one one more change is I think the users have also changed. The students are not like we were as students. 


00:05:52:15 - 00:06:05:24

Mike Stebbins: They come in, they want answers. Now they know that the answers out there, they can have it right now. They don't have to wait the way we did for a book to be loaned from a different school or something. That's kind of all a thing of the past now. 


00:06:06:06 - 00:06:22:03

Jeff Krakoff: OK. So since we've been forced to be remote during the COVID 19 pandemic, are there any lessons learned or practices because everybody had to access remotely that you think will continue onward, even though we're back in the school buildings? 


00:06:23:05 - 00:06:53:26

Mike Stebbins: Well, the one that really comes to mind, to me, is that I think a lot of the students learn to be much more self-reliant. You know, while they of course, they had access to their to their teachers, we had a lot of ways that for students and teachers to talk, you know, students tend to work at different times than their teachers. I would get a lot of messages from from kids late at night, 10 or 11 o'clock when I'm not checking for that, for that stuff anymore. So I may not get back to them until the morning. And by then, they've already figured it out. 


00:06:53:29 - 00:06:54:14

Jeff Krakoff: Yeah. 


00:06:54:16 - 00:07:05:23

Mike Stebbins: So I think that's that's a that's a big one to me, and I think it's a good change. You know, the kids are not they don't need me to find an answer for them. They're often able to just figure things out on their own. 


00:07:06:21 - 00:07:16:18

Jeff Krakoff: OK, makes sense. So let's talk just specifically about social media. What kind of influence has that had on the library and in your role? 


00:07:19:04 - 00:07:54:15

Mike Stebbins: Well. You know, as we're here talking today about misinformation and trying to find reliable sources for for information, I think this is one of the biggest issues in that arena. And I think if one were to study this topic, I think that would that would bear bear out there. You know, I talk a lot to the kids about where they're getting their everyday information, you know, and they're getting it from TIkTok and places like that. And I don't. It is. And I mean, believe me, I've actually spoken to tons of parents who who tell me about things that they saw on TikTok. 


00:07:54:17 - 00:08:29:02

Mike Stebbins: And you know, that's obviously at face is not a reliable source. But if you use some of the techniques I talked about before the cross-reading and try to find out who is putting this out there and who, who are they? There probably is a lot of really good information out there on TikTok, but there's also a lot of really bad information out there in those in those kinds of kinds of places. But if you use those, those skills that I try to try to teach the kids, I think you can probably glean some good, some good information from there. But what what it's done to me is it's kind of thrown up another barrier. 


00:08:29:14 - 00:09:05:15

Mike Stebbins: You know, where I may be helping students find and find information. They have conflicting information from a TikTok source, just as an example. You know, now they're confused about which one is correct and why. Which is where I can then step in and explain to them, Well, do you know who wrote this? Because we know who wrote this one and this person is an expert in this field. And this is from an ad in like an academic journal. So it's been edited and fact checked, and you have something from TikTok that some person recorded in 20 seconds, you know, so it's just it gives a different barrier that gives the kids for some reason tend to want to believe that. 


00:09:05:17 - 00:09:27:00

Mike Stebbins: And I think people in general want to believe this. And part part part of it just goes to, well, this is what I already think. And here's a here's a TikTok that's agreeing with me. So it must be right. And I think that's kind of a battle that we have with this whole idea of of information is just this idea that if if it confirms what I already believe, then it must be true. 


00:09:27:13 - 00:09:43:29

Jeff Krakoff: Right. And I think what's lost on a lot of us, even as adults, is the fact that social media is so efficient at delivering what they think you want to see you, person A has these beliefs. Person B has opposite beliefs, and their feeds are completely different, right? 


00:09:44:13 - 00:09:47:16

Mike Stebbins: Your phone knows more about you than any friend you have. 


00:09:47:20 - 00:09:58:27

Jeff Krakoff: Right, right. So one last question is, is there anything that students or parents would be surprised to know about the library as it stands today? 


00:09:59:28 - 00:10:32:21

Mike Stebbins: I think there's a lot people would be surprised about. You know, I think people in general have this and this antiquated view of the Library with an old librarian. It's a little shawl on shushing, shushing everybody. And it's really it's not like like that these days. We just did. We've been we've been remodeling each of the spaces and all in all, seven Seneca schools. I was the last space. It was just completed this summer and I don't know. It's a dynamic space. I've had student groups in there the whole week. They're talking, they're working to get they're working on on things as in small groups. 


00:10:32:29 - 00:11:04:25

Mike Stebbins: You can hear them talking and reasoning things out, working it out among themselves. Different from what we saw as students. And I also think people don't know how much information you can get from your library, either from me here at the school or any at any of our schools or at the local community spots. Whenever questions come up to me that I can't figure out, the first person I call is Leslie Pallotta, who is the director of the Library at Cranberry, and she always helps me out. 


00:11:04:27 - 00:11:21:06

Mike Stebbins: She can always find some answers. She has access to some things that maybe I don't. And it's great and anyone can do that. If you have a question about life and you can't find that answer. I would encourage everyone stop by one of your local community spots and the and the librarians there can absolutely help you out. 


00:11:21:24 - 00:11:33:01

Jeff Krakoff: That's great advice. So thank you for all this good information. Again, that's Mike Stebbins. Librarian at the secondary campus. Thanks for joining us and have a wonderful rest of your day. 


00:11:33:12 - 00:11:35:12

Mike Stebbins: You do the same, Jeff. Thank you very much. 


00:11:35:17 - 00:11:36:13

Jeff Krakoff: All right. Take care.