Blank gif
An Educator's Guide to Technology and the Web
Search Internet@Schools
Subscribe Today!

View Current Issue
View Past Issues

Stephen Abram, MLS is managing principal of Lighthouse Partners and an affiliate of Dysart and Jones Associates. He has been with Gale Cengage Learning, SirsiDynix, the SirsiDynix Institute,ProQuest, Micromedia, IHS,and Thomson. He is an SLA Fellow and the past president of the Ontario Library Association, SLA and the Canadian Library Association. In June 2003 he was awarded SLA’s John Cotton Dana Award. He received the AIIP Roger Summit Award in 2009 and Outstanding Teacher Award from the U of Toronto iSchool in 2010. He is the author of Out Front with Stephen Abram and Stephen’s Lighthouse blog.

Articles By Stephen Abram
In this issue, librarian, educator, and future-watcher Stephen Abram discusses a framework he sees as a brilliant filter with which to view the opportunities in technology and look for patterns aligned with teacher-librarians' real goals.
Posted 01 Dec 2017 / Nov/Dec 2017 Issue
Since change is the norm, and staying on top of things is obligatory, Stephen keeps watch! Here, he discusses some trends that continue from the past and some that are just entering our field of vision now. And he offers up "a highly personal list of the kinds of stuff [he finds] interesting to track."
Posted 01 May 2017 / May/June 2017 Issue
True to The Pipeline's mission, Stephen says it's time to look at what's in the pipeline for another year. This column scans the future horizon and predicts some of the juggernauts that will change the world, and not just those technologies that create a fad, without looking at the underlying trends.
Posted 01 Jan 2017 / Jan/Feb 2017 Issue
Says Stephen in this election season: "In today's political environment there is a fog of information. It tests everyone—adult and young adult alike—and our critical-thinking skills. Separating fact from opinion is hard enough. Combine that with public opinion polls, massive quoting of ‘statistics,' personal stories that elucidate and obfuscate, and everyone is overwhelmed by spin-doctoring run amok." But of course, librarians to the rescue!
Posted 01 Sep 2016 / Sep/Oct 2016 Issue
Librarians are "programmed" to serve the public, serve their patrons-all their patrons—and to make a difference in their communities. That's just who they are. So this month, Stephen recounts how librarians in his hometown community are reaching out to serve some brand-new patrons: refugees!
Posted 01 Mar 2016 / Mar/Apr 2016 Issue
Strategy, writes Stephen, is about goals and change—what we do to make the future different and better than today. But strategizing and implementing aren't easy. To smooth the way, this month Stephen provides tactics and ideas to help you develop and reach your strategic goals.
Posted 01 Nov 2015 / Nov/Dec 2015 Issue
This month Stephen writes about some technology that is just entering the pipeline and has the potential to change everything … yes, again ... in libraries, in schools, in retail, and in every community engagement space.
Posted 01 May 2015 / May/Jun 2015 Issue
Makerspaces: flashy trend or core to school libraries' mandate? Stephen asks the question, explores "making" in depth, and, unsurprisingly, urges you to support all types of spaces and the maker movement.
Posted 01 Jan 2015 / Jan/Feb 2015 Issue
Invoking the ALA's Declaration of the Right for School Libraries, Stephen discusses what leaders in the field have tried in order to influence the success of libraries for learners, then offers seven rules he believes will help librarians succeed on an even bigger scale.
Posted 01 Sep 2014 / Sep/Oct 2014 Issue
As with one-to-one computing, the BYOD and mobile movements have arrived, are being scrutinized, and are showing mixed results. Proponent Stephen Abram suggests why, in pithy form! And, of course, he points the way to success going forward.
Posted 01 Mar 2014 / Mar/Apr 2014 Issue
According to Stephen, we know that the world of work we're preparing our learners for is emerging as a quite different paradigm than the one we prepared for. What can we do now to prepare our lessons and school environments to build on a vision of a positive future?
Posted 06 Nov 2013 / Nov/Dec 2013 Issue
For Stephen, the "basic" web presence today for schools is ideally managed by school library staff but also led by a team that involves and seeks input from IT, curriculum leaders, teachers, and students. Check out his list showing the foundation of a good web presence for school libraries.
Posted 01 Sep 2013 / Sep/Oct 2013 Issue
As library and information science education evolves to meet the needs of a changing future, front row observer (and contributor and participant) Stephen offers some thoughts this month.
Posted 01 May 2013 / May/Jun 2013 Issue
What do the arts, literature, cooking, 3D printing, LEGO, libraries, and education have to do with each other? They can all be supported and encouraged by makerspaces aligned with library collections, programs, and services.
Posted 01 Mar 2013 / Mar/Apr 2013 Issue
Most of the attention for information literacy has been directed toward students. But in this column, Stephen explores two initiatives that focus instead on information literacy training in the workplace context through the use of semi-voluntary, self-paced elearning.
Posted 01 Jan 2013 / Jan/Feb 2013 Issue
The library in 2025 will be everywhere. Of course, libraries will have changed a lot and education (and teaching) will have changed even more.
Posted 01 Nov 2012 / Nov/Dec 2012 Issue
To be successful, everyone depends on the support and collaboration of talents and teams that expand our own success. This month, Stephen riffs on the need to harness new and emerging technologies to boost sharing and collaboration skills in our students.
Posted 01 Sep 2012 / Sep/Oct 2012 Issue
We need to encourage debates, pilots, and experiments in the learning space that are not couched in terms of black and white, but that focus on opportunities in the gray zone, according to Stephen (and many others).
Posted 01 May 2012 / May/Jun 2012 Issue
Stephen points out that the reading ecology is changing. Reading may be fundamental, but the way we use reading materials in teaching and libraries will necessarily change as that ecology does.
Posted 01 Mar 2012 / Mar/Apr 2012 Issue
There are huge opportunities to improve the learning experience with elearning. As elearning environments improve and evolve, we're discovering more and more about how to implement them at all levels of education. That said, there are some critical questions librarians need to ask about our role in the elearning space. Stephen posits a few he feels are essential to be concerned about.
Posted 01 Jan 2012 / Jan/Feb 2012 Issue
The textbook is evolving, to say the least. Stephen is excited by the opportunities this presents for educators. So this month's column explores the opportunity to enhance a learner's experience and success with next-generation textbooks.
Posted 01 Nov 2011 / Nov/Dec 2011 Issue
As you start the school year in this era of economic challenges, Stephen offers a range of strategies for partnering with your local public library.
Posted 01 Sep 2011 / Sep/Oct 2011 Issue
Stephen goes out on a limb to talk about stuff that's just plain exciting and not (yet) purely practical, with video links for all. Consider 3D printing, gesture computing, augmented reality, and more.
Posted 01 May 2011 / May/Jun 2011 Issue
The Google search religion is finally starting to be challenged, according to Stephen. Search engine spam and questionable results run the risk of ruining the usefulness of search engines. It's time to build credulity skills in learners and researchers about what's behind the results they get from these engines.
Posted 01 Mar 2011 / Mar/Apr 2011 Issue
Stephen has been to a bunch of large conferences in the past month that were focused on the school library and teacher librarians. At each, he witnessed librarians' passion as it overflowed into real tears, anger, and hand-wringing about the state of staffing, budgets, and resources for libraries. This month, he offers validation and, more important, hints and strategies for moving forward.
Posted 01 Jan 2011 / Jan/Feb 2011 Issue
In other columns this year, Stephen has explored the nature of the ebook in school libraries. But, he notes, he hasn't actually discussed the pros and cons of the print and electronic formats for books in general, nor focused on the classroom as opposed to the out-of-classroom library use of books. So that's what he covers in this issue, starting with a simple list of pros and cons.
Posted 01 Nov 2010 / Nov/Dec 2010 Issue
In this month's column, Stephen shows you some great initiatives, lead by librarians and educators, that attempt to help bring everyone up-to-date and up-to-speed on the latest in learning technologies and even create learning experiences for these technologies and concepts. What he finds exciting about these efforts, he notes, is that they're not just for librarians. They can be used by teachers of any stripe, subject, or experience level, as well as by administrators such as principals and superintendents.
Posted 01 Sep 2010 / Sep/Oct 2010 Issue
Last time, Stephen wrote about some of the issues facing us in the transition to a new and much more complicated ebook ecology, exploring our understanding of ebooks and how they differ from traditional books. In Part 2, he looks at emerging standards, legal issues, and what's in the pipeline for ebook devices, plus strategies for school libraries and their learners.
Posted 01 Jul 2010 / Jul/Aug 2010 Issue
The ebook juggernaut is moving along like a train with no brakes, and it's raising so many issues. For this month's Pipeline column, Stephen Abram thought it would be useful to put down his thoughts on the subject, how users and learners will need to adapt, and how libraries and schools may need to adapt as well.
Posted 01 May 2010 / May/Jun 2010 Issue
After reading an interesting Library Journal piece by Tom Peters entitled "The Future of Reading: As the Book Changes Form, the Library Must Champion Its Own Power Base—Readers," Stephen Abram is moved to ask, Is reading in jeopardy? Personally and professionally, he says, he really doubts it, but …
Posted 01 Mar 2010 / Mar/Apr 2010 Issue
We seem to be moving inexorably toward an infinitely more complex world where specialization is necessary because there's not enough time to be good at so many things. We're also seeing the demise of many jobs that had low barriers to entry. That is, they did not require too much education or experience. Our children are faced with fewer low-skill jobs and the need for higher levels of skill to be assured of a working wage that can support an individual or family at a standard of living better than or similar to that of their parents. Scary for parents and educators? Read Stephen Abram's thoughts!
Posted 01 Jan 2010 / Jan/Feb 2010 Issue
In the September/October 2009 issue of MMIS, having noted (with some surprise) that most of today’s crop of elementary school students were born in or after 2000, Stephen Abram launched into the first of a 2-part series of musings on what their world will be like in the near and not-so-near term. Check it out if you missed it. And now … here’s Part 2.
Posted 01 Nov 2009 / Nov/Dec 2009 Issue
It is not unlikely that the corpus of information that today's learners in grade four will encounter as adults will be doubling in minutes. That likelihood should provide pause for every educator. What is their world going to look like, and what are the skills, aptitudes, and competencies we need to be facilitating, teaching, and encouraging? Here, in Part 1 of a two-part series, are some thoughts on where things are and where they’re headed.
Posted 01 Sep 2009 / Sep/Oct 2009 Issue
In this month’s column Stephen highlights some thinking in his home province of Ontario. He is encouraged, he says, that some of the political leaders in the educational sector are trying to move beyond testing and actually into practicing 21st-century strategies. At the end of April 2009 the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) released a discussion paper titled “What If? Technology in the 21st Century Classroom”
Posted 01 Jul 2009 / Jul/Aug 2009 Issue
When he read the recent New York Times article “In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update,” featuring strategies of New York City school librarian Stephanie Rosalia, Stephen was moved this month to list a number of tricky web sites like the one that she uses to teach her kids information evaluation skills. Check out his list. It’ll make you laugh, or cry, or laugh ‘til you cry … but the sites comprise an eminently useful educational tool.
Posted 01 May 2009 / May/Jun 2009 Issue
There’s a sea change in how people around the world receive their news. Among other things, surveys show a strong increase in the role of internet news. When we think about our learners’ and our communities’ ability to receive and filter news on a local, national, and international scale, are we preparing them with the skills they need? Are we preparing our learners for the world that they will inevitably encounter? Stephen Abram weighs in on these questions in this month’s Pipeline.
Posted 01 Mar 2009 / Mar/Apr 2009 Issue
How well are you faring with getting your technology agenda endorsed and funded by your management team or district? Is everything going swimmingly? No one is trying to block useful applications such as YouTube or blogging? Your filters aren’t obstructing useful teaching technologies? … From his conversations with many K–12 folks, Stephen Abram believes that this is the management challenge of our times. And so he devotes this month’s column to tactics and strategies for talking about tech with management—those key stakeholders, such as principals, board members, trustees, administrators, and even parents.
Posted 01 Jan 2009 / Jan/Feb 2009 Issue
Much behavior in the teacher-librarian/media specialist community is too often driven by opinion and no data. And every class, every school, every library club, every community, is, or can be, different. However, when you are attempting to empower your learners to excel, it is incumbent on you to have an informed view of their technological bent. So Stephen Abram has devoted this month's column to providing you with a starting point for checking out where your students stand in the technological spectrum.
Posted 01 Nov 2008 / Nov/Dec 2008 Issue
Our traditional practice with books is not as scalable as we and our users might want. How do we get book recommendations to scale as well in libraries as Amazon does on the web, but still aimed at our age cohorts? Traditional practice offers a personal touch with a human being. That needs to continue, but we can extend that personal touch beyond the walls. Since we really care about books (and reading), we can use the new tools on the web to put our services on steroids.
Posted 01 Sep 2008 / Sep/Oct 2008 Issue
If there’s a refrain Stephen Abram hears too often, it’s that many of us feel it’s impossible to keep up and learn all this new stuff in technology and learning. So he has devoted this month’s column to a few sites that he finds useful to quickly orient himself to some of the Web 2.0 technologies. Even when he has already played with or experienced some of these tools, he says, he always learns something new from these sites.
Posted 01 Jul 2008 / Jul/Aug 2008 Issue
Storyboarding--the graphic organization of a story's arc using pictures or illustrations--is one of the great skills to learn. In a storyboard, the pictures are displayed visually in order to present the line of the story or the events you want to present. It's a powerful way to visualize and understand the ultimate experience of your story, whether it ends up in print, comic, game, or film format. And it is just made for learners of any age, as well as being a great skill for the marketplace. Want to learn more? Read Stephen Abram's Pipeline this month!
Posted 01 May 2008 / May/Jun 2008 Issue
On top of reading literacy and numeracy, civic literacy, and all the rest … now we're hearing that schools must expand the teaching of information literacy, computer literacy, media literacy, critical literacy, health literacy, technacy (yes, it's a word) and transliteracy (and yes, it's also a word!). And, they must do it all across the curricula. Enough already?? Well, despite the likelihood he'll encourage some slings and arrows, in this Pipeline column, Stephen Abram highlights an emerging, important, new literacy—online social literacy.
Posted 01 Mar 2008 / Mar/Apr 2008 Issue
Stephen Abram travels a lot. When he returned from several months of voyaging around the world in 2006, the internet looked the same as it had on his departure. The same could not be said upon his return from his fall 2007 travels, however. In this month's column, Abram recounts internet-related events from late last year that suggest things are changing ... a lot!
Posted 01 Jan 2008 / Jan/Feb 2008 Issue
There are many ways to teach information literacy—the formal classroom way, library visits, team and project-based methods, and more. No matter how you define "reference work" today, it likely involves the process of accessing print and electronic sources, understanding a variety of containers from books and videos to Web sites and serials, understanding how to ask questions of people in person and virtually through search engines … as well as questions of ourselves. It's more than just a research skill. True information literacy has emerged as one of the defining life skills of our century. Building citizens who can learn and inform themselves throughout their lives in a new century of predictable massive change is the Holy Grail of our era.
Posted 01 Nov 2007 / Nov/Dec 2007 Issue
Stephen Abram has no worries about great new ideas being developed throughout libraryland, but he is concerned that such ideas are not diffusing fast enough. In this Pipeline column, he ponders why this is and how the tendency can be combatted, and also offers a rich list of creative librarians' blogs and other resources that will help you speed that diffusion yourself.
Posted 01 Sep 2007 / Sep/Oct 2007 Issue
It is essential, says Stephen Abram, that we teach information literacy skills to our learners—and today, the younger the better. We are already getting good at teaching how to select great sources, directories, and indexes; full-text searching skills; advanced and introductory modes; and the evaluation of quality. We're getting better at warning our learners about the bad guys—the four horsemen of gambling, sex, stalkers, and racists—plus other bad guys in black hats. What do we need to focus on next? Stephen's column this month concerns some of the stuff he says we need to teach but are less comfortable with, mostly because it doesn't involve information so much as manipulation--advertising literacy and media literacy in the Web environment.
Posted 01 Jul 2007 / Jul/Aug 2007 Issue
You've likely heard the numbers. Conservative recent estimates describe Second Life as a pretty huge virtual ecology. More than 1.2 million people have created avatars in Second Life, and 1,525,670 unique people have logged into Second Life at least once. Of that number, 252,284 people have logged in more than 30 days after their account-creation date. The conservative monthly growth rate is about 23 percent. Twenty-three percent growth will mean 3 million in a year's time—a healthy number, but not hyperbolic growth. It can be managed, and we can see the effects and react—unlike other Web-based changes we've lived through. Stephen Abram finds this enormously engaging and interesting to a profession that thrives on being interested and making things interesting. Read on ...
Posted 01 May 2007 / May/Jun 2007 Issue
In the world of education, writes Stephen Abram in this month's Pipeline, "the best path is to start by asking ourselves a simple question: ‘What will [our students'] world look like?'" Walling tools and components of the Internet—which will be a part of their world—out of our schools doesn't sound to Stephen like following the best path. So, being an affirmative fellow, he offer a turnaround policy!
Posted 01 Mar 2007 / Mar/Apr 2007 Issue
Mindful of the safety and security issues surrounding social networking, Stephen Abram nontheless has plenty of good to say about the popular phenomenon. In this month's Pipeline, he talks about, and guides readers to resources about, positiveeducational uses of social networking.
Posted 01 Jan 2007 / Jan/Feb 2007 Issue
Stephen Abram offers more tricks to build information fluency in the second of his columns on the subject, this time offering teaching/learning ideas based on MySpace, Second Life, Teen Second Life, Activeworlds, OPAC or Web treasure hunts, and game show Web sites.
Posted 01 Nov 2006 / Nov/Dec 2006 Issue
As Stephen Abram writes, "The Internet has given us many new ways to provide learners with an environment that allows them to learn through discovery, play, collaboration, and just plain having fun." He elaborates, and give loads of examples, featuring YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Blogger, podcasting,, and more in this month's Pipeline.
Posted 01 Sep 2006 / Sep/Oct 2006 Issue
Always looking for relevance to the field in what's "now" and what's ahead, Stephen Abram notes this month that, in his view, "social networking personal Web sites are not a fad but a strong, long-term trend. Why do I think this? Fads don't evolve; trends do. These social creations on the Web are evolving quickly." Further, he writes, "The sites contain the seeds of changes that will reshape our world. Indeed, they're the next step in group work!" Read on!
Posted 01 Jul 2006 / July/Aug 2006 Issue
Stephen Abram has been following the Duke University experiment of providing iPods to all students ... and a lot more that's been going on with iPods in education. iPods represent, he asserts, a bellwether technology. In this column he discusses why and lays out a host of educational activities the technology lends itself to.
Posted 01 May 2006 / May/June 2006 Issue
Stephen Abram writes in this month's Pipeline, "While we may be seeing some learner resistance to traditional writing and creation activities, maybe we can increase their engagement in learning good writing, editing, and information literacy competencies by aligning some of the projects with a Web-based option." Among the options he discusses are social networking, blogs, wikis, and photo sharing.
Posted 01 Mar 2006 / Mar/Apr 2006 Issue
In thinking about phones, Stephen Abram asks, "So, what does it mean when I see a short video of a kid keyboarding over 40 words per minutes with his thumbs on his phone? What does it mean when I call 411 and get Silicon Sally, who is just a computer but asks me questions and (mostly) understands and answers? And what's this got to do with learners?" And then he gives some answers!
Posted 01 Jan 2006 / Jan/Feb 2006 Issue
Always peering ahead, Stephen Abram discusses e-paper and e-ink technology this month, including a "here and now" form of e-paper from Sony, in his Pipeline column.
Posted 01 Nov 2005 / Nov/Dec 2005 Issue
In recent months, there’s been a revolution in interactive technologies—both in their design and in their cost. In this month's Pipeline, Stephen Abram takes a look at some of them, laying out an area in the free Web playground where learning can happen. "The swings are IM," he says, "the teeter-totter is podcasting, the slide is Skype, and the merry-go-round is JYBE."
Posted 01 Sep 2005 / Sep/Oct 2005 Issue
Stephen Abram recounts several stories--under the headings "Tiny Gifts," "Tiny Libraries," and "Tiny Apps"--around the theme that small actions, or small technologies, can have a very large impact in the library and information world, and in the broader world as well.
Posted 01 Jul 2005 / Jul/Aug 2005 Issue
Recognize the need for information to solve problems and develop ideas; pose important questions; use a variety of information gathering strategies and research processes; locate relvant and appropriate information ... These are some information literacy benchmarks listed by the Canadian Association of School Libraries. "Seems simple enough ... But what does it really mean in grade 1? grade 3? grade 9?" asks Stephen Abram as he re-examines this all-important topic for educators in general and librarians in particular in light of 21st century realities.
Posted 01 May 2005 / May/Jun 2005 Issue
Can learning be achieved effectively by the standard measures, via e-learning, or through some blend of technological and classroom strategies? When added to the issues of the digital divide, you have a problem of gargantuan proportions. With effort, thought, and money, however, it is possible.
Posted 01 Mar 2005 / Mar/Apr 2005 Issue
We now have some pretty good track records on some new technologies that make access to information—both physical and intellectual access—simpler and, therefore, we hope, better. Hurdles to that access exist in both the physical and virtual worlds. Requiring a PC or specific browser to access information sets a hurdle in place in the virtual environment. Requiring information to be used within a library during specific hours is a hurdle of sorts too. Here are five key technologies that improve access in one way or another, or both.
Posted 01 Jan 2005 / Jan/Feb 2005 Issue
I have a theory. I think we have to prepare our students for the world they will encounter—not the one we suffered through. Sounds obvious, but so often we seem to forget. This came home to me in a recent experience that reminded me of my own school life.
Posted 01 Nov 2004 / Nov/Dec 2004 Issue
Blank gif