Common Core Collaboration

A couple of weeks ago one of the featured articles in Education Week highlighted how the Common Core Standards are providing opportunities for school librarians to partner with teachers. This is something I have been continually preaching to my students for the past two years. I truly believe the Common Core Standards (CCS) provide an opportunity for school librarians to demonstrate that they are teachers and a valuable part of the educational process, and hopefully step up as instructional leaders in their schools. The inquiry-based learning that is central in the Common Core Standards is also at the foundation of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (AASL, 2007). The research process is integrated throughout the CSS and we as school librarians know a little something about this process! But are you making sure that the teachers in your school know this?

Yesterday as I opened my new issue of Knowledge Quest I was pleasantly surprised to see the editorial by the ever-current Buffy Hamilton (2012) discuss “how a participatory culture and learning [can] bolster implementation of the Common Core Standards” and the importance of reading and writing. The whole issue looks at innovative ways the school librarians can design learning experiences that not only engage students, but also address the CCS. What innovative ideas have you come up with to work with teachers to design innovative and meaningful learning experiences?

AASL has even created the Common Core Crosswalk, which presents a very useful quick reference tool on how the CCS and the AASL Standards mesh and the lessons in the AASL Lesson Plan Database also are aligned to the Common Core. Are you utilizing these resources to create standards based instruction?

The Education Week article goes a step further and says that the Common Core Standards are thrusting school librarians into an instructional leadership role. I disagree – I say they are providing us the opportunity and it is now up to each of us to step up into a leadership role. So the opportunity is there – what are you doing to take advantage of it? Are you stepping up?


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2007). Standards for the 21st-century learner. Chicago: American Library Association. Retrieved from aasl/aaslproftools/learningstandards/standards.cfm

Hamilton, B. (2012). Participatory culture in the school library. Knowledge Quest, 41(1), 6-7.

Flipping Collaboration for Professional Development

For this week, I’d like to offer some thoughts about Sue Kimmel’s challenge for flipping collaboration (post 9/9/12) in a different, but related model for professional development by and for teacher librarians.

“I would like to advocate that we look for ways to become more fluid and nimble in our approach to time and how we use it to co-plan, co-implement, and co-assess teaching and learning as we continue to ‘push everyone toward excellence (Loertscher, 2008)’.”

One of the guidelines in Empowering Learners (2009), concerns professional development designed to “sustain and increase knowledge and skills.” (43)  As teacher librarians, we strive to expand our understanding of best practice through various opportunities for professional development through courses, webinars, conferences, and so on.  In our schools, we provide learning experiences for our colleagues, as well as our students.

The time issue looms large for both participating in and providing for professional development.  Other than dedicated professional development days that are scheduled around administrative goals, there just aren’t enough hours in the school day for sustained, reflective, meaningful learning for any of us. How can we find a better way that will make a difference?

Web 2.0 tools and applications offer platforms for co-teaching and learning for students, as Sue mentioned, but let’s think about how we might use a 24/7 environment for providing a community space for teacher learning.  The purpose could be described as a place to read and reflect, take risks, model new technology applications, ask questions, discuss and debate, collaborate, and develop new resources for practice and personal learning networks.

Sounds like pie in the sky, but let’s take a look at Jennifer LaGarde’s blog (Adventures of Library Girl) as she describes how she uses Edmoto as platform for “Gamifying PD.”  When you look at the list of expectations and goals, you will see that she has combined face to face, online, and participatory activities-and it sounds engaging and fun.  And it’s available 24/7 whenever a participant logs on.

Blended learning is another way to describe participatory interaction that offers opportunities for face to face and online learning that are both individual and interactive.  A course/learning management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, Haiku and others, can provide a space for content, assessments, discussion boards, blogs and so on, that is available asynchronously.  Face to face sessions can be physical or virtual through webcasts or podcasts, both synchronously and asynchronously.

If you are interested in how blended learning works as a model for higher education, I recommend reading “Communities of Practice for Blended Learning: Toward an Integrated Model for LIS education.” (2010) I discovered this article when I was doing research for a chapter in a book about blended learning.  Joyce Yukawa of St. Catherine University in St. Paul describes blended learning within a graduate level LIS course.  She provides the rationale for combining appropriate technology to meet the needs of adult learners and to foster a social construct for learning. The emphasis is on learning by doing.  LIS students had to use the technology applications as they focused on library projects and assignments. The ideas presented here provide convincing reasons to think about ways to adapt school or district wide professional development to a blended learning environment.

At UVM, where I teach and learn from my students, blended learning has enhanced a cohort experience for everyone.  In school library media studies courses, students from across the state are able to participate in courses for licensure or professional development. In a small state such as ours, we are proud to have contributed to building a network of colleagues and friends who have become educational leaders in schools across Vermont, and access to 24/7 online learning has paved the way.

Collaboration is at the crux of participatory culture.  So let’s get on with it!

Judy Kaplan


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association


LaGarde, J. (2012, August 12). Game based PD for an epic win [Blog post]. Retrieved from 2012/08/game-based-pd-for-epic-win.html


Yukawa, J. (2010). Communities of practice for blended learning: toward an integrated model for LIS education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 51: (2) 54-75.


Collaboration: A Different Perspective

As I have been reading Judi and Sue’s posts I have been reminded of the students in my class and our class chats over the past couple of weeks. I am teaching a class on collaboration and instructional design to an eager group of future school librarians this semester.  Our early discussions have focused on: What is collaboration? Why collaboration? What does it look like now? Where do we see it going?  It has been very interesting to see the parallels between the blog posts and the perspectives of my students. I believe we can learn a great deal by considering these different perspectives.

After reading many articles on what collaboration is, as defined in the sense of the school librarian, and examining definitions from a variety of professionals in our field, from Montiel-Overall (2005), to Wallace and Husid (2011), and Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), my students came to class with more questions than answers. Their questions led to rich and thought-provoking discussions!

First I was amazed at how many of them had no idea about the concept of collaboration, and how we as school librarians fit into the instructional process through co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing teaching and learning. This was so surprising to me because for the most part they have all been teachers before coming into the program. It yet again makes me painfully aware of the lack of awareness for the school librarian’s role as a teacher and as an instructional partner by teachers. Yet, collaboration is one of those concepts that as we become practicing school librarians we understand what is meant when we say “I collaborate with teachers.” I think all too often we forget that others around us share this same perspective as the students in my class and really have no idea what we are talking about when we say this.

In her post Judi mentions the research from Todd, Gordon, and Lu (2011) that says “in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

But as my students pointed out, this is not the case in most of the schools where they currently work. So their question to me was what do you do when you find yourself in a school that doesn’t operate this way and does not recognize the value and the benefit of the school librarian as an instructional partner and teacher? Which is similar to what Judi asks at the end of her post on the article from Scholastic Administrator.

In our discussions we came to the consensus that first step towards collaboration is education.  So I pose the question: How can you, as the school librarian, educate teachers, administrators, students, and other stakeholders on what your role is in regards to being an instructional partner and a teacher?


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association

Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). Towards a theory of collaboration for teachers and librarians. School Library Media Research, 8. Retrieved from

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from

Wallace, V., & Husid, W. (2011). Collaborating for inquiry-base learning: School librarians and teachers partner for student achievement. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries

Flipping Collaboration!

      I think I alarmed Judi when she first approached me about joining this blog by saying that I had been wondering lately if we were entering a “post-collaboration” era. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the work of co-planning, co-implementing, or co-assessing wasn’t as important, or perhaps even more critical than it ever was.  But I have the sense that we are in the midst of a shift from collaboration as a noun that implies a solid state of affairs toward something more fluid – more verb than noun.  I found the conversation that took place in the comments last week between Carol and Judi indicative of this state of the matter. As long as we treat collaboration as a solid block, we have to find a space and time where we can meet with our colleagues.  Judi’s response about finding time by utilizing Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and Googledocs that allow us to interact asynchronously suggests that school librarians might move more fluidly into those cracks that offer possibilities to work with colleagues when there seemingly is no time in our scheduled days to do so.

Collaboration has always been a difficult ideal for the school library profession, and the challenge of finding time has been identified as one of the barriers.  Maybe, it’s time we just removed the excuse of time as the barrier that prevents us from making the effort.  Taking the lead from the recent talk about flipping classroom instruction,  I have been wondering what it would mean to “flip” collaboration. In the mathematics classroom model, flipped instruction means that students get the instructional content on their own time perhaps by watching bite-sized video lectures that introduce the concepts, while class time is used to work through problems that in the past might have been given and graded as homework. Instead students do the work of manipulating and applying content under the guidance of the teacher who is able to coach them through problems. Joyce Valenza provides many examples of flipping instruction and suggests a role for the school librarian in assisting teachers and flipping library lessons in her blog, Neverending Search.

What would it mean to apply that concept to the current model of collaboration where we sit down with teachers before they teach in order to plan instruction together?  How could the planning take place asynchronously?  The school librarian could have access to what classroom teachers were planning and would be able to post links to resources and lesson ideas.  Both the librarian and teacher would have shared calendars so they could schedule lessons with each other.  And the actual practicing and application of collaborating might take place in the presence of students.  We might all be in the library together; we might all be in a teacher’s classroom together, OR we might use SKYPE, Google Hangout or similar conferencing technology to be together virtually.

And frankly, as I write this I realize that the ideal of collaboration as co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing that required us to sit down together to plan often failed to hit the mark on the latter two: co-teaching and co-assessing. What if we flipped this solid-state model of collaboration and exploited the tools that allow us to plan asynchronously and be together virtually during instruction? We might find that the real meaning and value of collaborating are in the performing together as co-teachers and being able to scaffold each other in the work of instruction.  We might find that several of those library lessons that we formerly planned collaboratively could become short bite-sized video tutorials for students to visit (and re-visit) as needed. The time we save there could be spent co-coaching with the classroom teacher as students practice and apply what they have learned. And in the work of coaching together, I suspect we would find that conversations about formative assessment would happen more naturally as part of the flow of shared experiences working with students.

I’m going to admit that I am trying to push my own thinking here.  I was fortunate as an elementary school librarian to have a flexible schedule with time allotted to plan with teachers.  But those blocks of planning time always felt like a luxury, and frankly, I often experienced a conflict because time spent planning was time taken away from working directly with students.  While I was working with one grade level, there were many more teachers and students from several other grade levels with whom I was NOT working.  And I still hear questions like those from Carol, “but what about those of us who don’t have the time in the schedule for collaboration?”  I just have the feeling that we can all find the time to collaborate, even if there isn’t time in our days for collaboration. Several years ago, David Loertscher said it was time for revolution, not evolution in school librarianship and agitated for us to Flip the Paradigm.  Loertscher envisioned:

When an assignment is given, everyone—teachers, librarians, students, and other specialists—can comment, coach, suggest, recommend, and discover together, and push everyone toward excellence. (School Library Journal, November, 2008).

I would like to advocate that we look for ways to “flip the paradigm” of collaboration and become more fluid and nimble in our approach to time and how we use it to co-plan, co-implement, and co-assess teaching and learning as we continue to “push everyone toward excellence”.



“Are Librarians Still Important?”

Last week, The Scholastic Administrator Web site posted an article authored by Kate Rix, a freelance writer from San Francisco, entitled “Are Librarians Still Important?” The article gives examples of school librarians serving in the instructional partner and proclaims that credentialed school librarians can be “another instructional leader in the building and a go-to resource for the principal.”

What I especially appreciate about this article is that it is targeted to school administrators, and it is not written by a school librarian! While Scholastic can hardly be considered an unbiased source, it does help our profession tremendously when non-librarians advocate for the instructional partner and leadership roles of state-certified school librarians.

I have had the opportunity to speak to several preservice school administrator classes at Texas Woman’s University. These graduate students have been overwhelmingly positive about information related to the potential of school librarians to impact student learning outcomes and to facilitate job-embedded professional development as they work with teachers in instructional partnerships. These principals-to-be immediately see the value of having a co-instructional leader to help them meet their academic goals for their schools.

In the Scholastic Administrator article, former AASL president Ann Martin and current library director in the Henrico County School District notes it is up to librarians to show classroom teacher colleagues what is possible when teachers and librarians team up for instruction. Likewise, we must show principals as well and document the positive impact on achievement that results from coteaching.

How do you show others that instructional partnerships are win-win-win propositions for students, educators, and administrators?

Coteaching is Fun!

One of the important aspects of instructional partnerships that I think is not emphasized enough is this: coteaching is fun! Last spring, I was observing a preservice school librarian graduate student coteaching a lesson in an elementary school library. When the class was filing out of the library, the teacher turned to the graduate student and the practicing librarian and said, “I love hanging out with you.” Educators do get lonely when they are isolated from their adult peers.

Last March/April, American Association of School Librarians (AASL) President Susan Ballard and I co-guest edited the “Coteaching” issue of the Knowledge Quest Journal:

Along with several contributors to that issue, we presented a Webinar on “Coteaching” for AASL members. At the end of that program, I shared a 2.5-minute advocacy digital video I created as a sample for a TWU storytelling class: “Coteach: Step Out of the Box.”

I offer it here as a visual reminder that collaboration is worth the investment in time because coteaching is FUN!

Do you have a fun coteaching experience to share?

Evidence-based Instructional Partnerships

As a card-carrying instructional partner, I am always on the trail of research to support my experience. I have served as an elementary, junior high, and high school librarian. I have been a 5th-grade classroom teacher, a literacy coach, and district-level mentor for school librarian colleagues. My experience has shown me that instructional partnerships have great potential to improve students’ learning and educators’ teaching. I know I am a much better teacher as a result of learning side by side with my peers.

Still, in this age of accountability when “anecdotal” evidence is too often dismissed, it is important for educators to read research and learn from studies in the fields of education, library science, and technology to deepen their understanding of the potential, process, and impact of instructional partnerships. Ross Todd describes this cycle of research and practice, practice and research in this way

“Research informing practice and practice informing research is a fundamental cycle in any sustainable profession” (Todd, 2007, p. 64).

In that pursuit, I have been reading publications related to Phase Two of the New Jersey Study conducted by Ross Todd, Carol Gordon, and La-Ling Lu. According to the results, in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

When educators coteach and coassess student learning outcomes, we learn from our peers through job-embedded professional development practiced in our daily teaching practice. On a wiki page for a TWU SLIS course Librarians as Instructional Partners, I have posted a series of videotaped testimonials from K-12 classroom teachers and an elementary principal regarding the positive impact of instructional partnerships between school librarians and classroom teachers. You will need a TeacherTube account in order to access them:

What are your experiences with instructional partnerships? How does your experience align with the results of the Phase 2 of the New Jersey Study? Are there colleagues and administrators in your building who could provide powerful testimonials regarding instructional partnerships?


Todd, R. (2007). Evidence-based practice in school libraries: From advocacy to action. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (57-78). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from