Transformation vs. Reform

For the past two decades, there has been a movement across the nation to “reform” education. The drumbeat of standards and accountability has dominated discussions about improving educational experiences for all children.  The term reform itself has a value laden connotation.  Think “reform” school…  Reform from the top down-identify the problem and fix it.  Instead, think about the term “transformation.”  It has a more positive connotation-a movement from one status to another through innovation.  Transformation comes from the inside out, in response to situations and experiences.


Meanwhile, as a culture, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift from an industrial to a technological age, and the transformation continues to redefine everything we have known. New norms are evolving in the business, political, cultural, and educational worlds.  We are a work in progress, as usual-exciting times!


What does this have to do with collaboration?


Collaboration skills are the key for transformation to an educational system for personalized learning, not only for students, but for educators, administrators, and other community stakeholders.  How do we learn and use those skills, and how do we teach our students to value and incorporate the contributions of all? How do we create environments and spaces that encourage creativity and collaboration for all learners? How does technology enhance the learning experience?


These big ideas were explored by the keynote speakers at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont on May 16-17, 2013.  Jointly sponsored by Vita-Learn and the Vermont School Library Association, the annual conference showcases exemplary practices of statewide educators and invites national experts to address contemporary issues in education.   Last week Ira David Socol, Pam Moran, and Steve Hargadorn spent several days visiting Vermont and sharing their expertise with attendees at the conference.  Ira, an educational consultant and historian is currently working in the Albemarle County School District in Virginia where Pam is the superintendent.  They are leading transformation through a collaborative model with educators in the local schools, and they shared their ideas and progress in encouraging innovation that focuses on personalized learning.  Digital technology tools are integrated across the curriculum to enhance deep learning, collaboration, and engagement.  Take a look at the videos for the Iridescent Classroom on Ira’s web site to get a glimpse of their work together. He also has a terrific overview of the history of education that contextualizes where we are today.  Lots of resources there to explore, so take a look!

Steve Hargadorn, of Classroom 2.0, and Library 2.0, presented an overview of the process of how technology is changing our culture, and how that change will impact education in the future.  Real educational transformation will come about with the evolution of the culture, so stay tuned.    He shared many examples of how the cultural shift is happening due to the impact of social media and technology applications. Here is a link to his slides DynamicLandscapes2013Hargadon that demonstrate the shifting sands of the 21st Century. As I said before-exciting times ahead…

Once again, I was struck by aha moments, as I listened and learned.  As educational leaders in our schools, teacher librarians are pivotal in the transformation process embedded in collaboration.  As Steve Hargadorn said, “Be ready to unleash energy and potential through participation, creation, sharing, and engagement.”

Are you ready?


Dynamic Landscapes Conference 2013. Web site.  Retrieved from

Classroom 2.0. (2013). Web site. Retrieved from

Hargadon, Steve. (2013).  Education,Technology, Social Media, and You.  Web log. Retrieved from

Hargadon, Steve. (2013). Educational Network is the Learning Revolution: Future of Education. Dynamic Landscapes Keynote address, May 17, 2013. (PDF).

Library 2.0 (2013). Website. Retrieved from

Moran, Pam. (2013). Superintendent’s Blog: Albemarle County Schools. Web log. Retrieved from

Socal, Ira David. (2013). Challenging the Systems. Web site. Retrieved from

Microsoft Clipart: Crystal ball.





Global Collaboration: CiSSL International Research Symposium


A few weeks ago I attended the Third International Research Symposium at Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CiSSL) in New Brunswick, NJ . The theme this year was Digital Youth, Inquiry, and the Future of the School Library … Research to Practice.

The focus question was: How can schools prepare to deliver a 21st century education for digital youth?

I always like to sit at a table with people I don’t know when I go to these types of conferences or workshops so that I meet new and exciting school librarians. I have met some of my now dearest friends and favorite co-collaborators that way. And the same was true for this event! I sat at a table with some wonderful school librarians and school library coordinators from Maryland, Virginia, and Washington. I experienced two full days of engaging and energized learning with this group. We brainstormed as a group on what we think schools should be doing to address the needs of today’s learners. Then we listened to a variety of speakers that included international guests, practitioners, and academics speak on their views, experiences, and research in this area.

Another focus of the conference was also to celebrate 10 years of CiSSL and 30 years of Dr. Carol Collier Kuhlthau’s research centering on the Information Search Process and Guided Inquiry.  Guided Inquiry serves as a framework that can give learners a foundation for developing deep knowledge and understanding. It was inspiring to hear Dr. Kuhlthau speak on how she developed the Information Search Process from observing real world students and their information needs and seeking processes. Also her daughter Leslie, who is also her co-author, spoke about bringing in the teacher’s point of view to this process and how they developed the Guided Inquiry Design book. Practitioners from across the globe including England, Sweden, and Australia shared how they were using the guided inquiry framework and new technologies to address the information needs of digital learners and learning in a variety of environments.

It was great to see the element of collaboration in each of these presentations – how school librarians and teachers were working together to create deeper learning experiences for kids. It was refreshing to see and hear about these experiences and to experience some good professional collaboration myself. I often find that I learn just as much from my colleagues through informal chatting as I do the formal presenters. It was a treat to get to talk with and share ideas with school librarians from across the globe. As we enter the summer, be sure to think about yourself and your own professional growth – what do you have planned to expand your thinking and grow your network?

Cultivating A Garden of Collaboration

We’ve had a cold spring, but finally the ground is warming up.  As the sun set last night, my husband and I put in a small garden: tomatoes, squash, okra, eggplant, and melon plants and some bean seeds.  Overnight we had some welcome rain and the corn in the farmer’s field behind our house appears to have grown a foot.  Another farmer nearby has planted a field of potatoes, and my husband chuckles when he remembers the first time I dug up potatoes.  I thought I had found buried treasure as right below the ordinary surface of the garden, I uncovered these rounded jewels.  A garden provides these small surprises almost daily.  I will eagerly watch that row of bean seeds for the delight of those first, green leaves.  I believe we put in a garden as much for these small daily gifts as for the vegetables we hope to harvest.

Where I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a “culture of collaboration,” I have found the same sort of delight in planning with other professionals.  There’s the same sense of putting your hands in the dirt and coming up with nuggets of great ideas that will nourish the learning of our students.  Or, planting seeds of lesson ideas and walking into a classroom several days later to discover they have sprouted into student projects on walls and desks.  Or, receiving an unexpected rain of support from an administrator, who recognizes the importance of collaboration and allows it to grow in unexpected ways.

Often, I believe it’s the small gifts that cultivate and sustain a collaborative culture.  When we meet face-to-face, there is the chocolate on the table, the family photographs someone shares from their phone, or the humorous classroom anecdote shared by a teacher. It’s quite simply the laughter, the raised eyebrows, and the sharing of a time and a space.

Many of my collaborations today take place online.  It’s exciting to meet with colleagues around the country or in Australia.  We share documents in GoogleDocs or Dropbox.  But I often find myself wondering online, “where’s the chocolate?” or “what small gifts might I offer to sustain this relationship?”  Because ultimately, while the collaboration is task-oriented, it’s the relationships that provide the rich soil, sunlight, and rain needed to nourish and grow that work. Relationships provide the medium for collaboration.  They are the heart and the chocolate, and we need to find the small ways to nourish those relationships whether it’s face-to-face or online.

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Reading and Making Connections at the Core

One of the findings of “Creating 21st-Century Learners: A Report on Pennsylvania’s Public School Libraries” is this: “The overall findings fit with research we’ve seen in other states–access to a full-time, certified school librarian significantly impacts students achievement in reading.”

In my PSLA Conference ’13 keynote, Leadership Begins with a Bag of Chocolates, I shared the image above to show the connections among inquiry, coteaching, technology, and reading. Reading is, to my way of thinking, at the core of our mission as school librarians. Reading proficiency is surely at the core of the Common Core State Standards.

Traditionally, school librarians have considered themselves educators who promote a love of reading rather than as coteachers of reading comprehension strategies. If we take the results of the PA School Library Project to heart, we should consider the school librarian’s potential to impact reading proficiency through integrating reading strategies into our cotaught inquiry units of study. Integrating technology, inquiry, and reading through coteaching


Moreillon, Judi. “Reading-Inquiry-Technology-Coteaching Connections.” Digital Image. From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon.

PA School Library Project. 2012. “Creating 21st-Century Learners: A Report on Pennsylvania’s Public School Libraries.” PA School Library Project.

Collaboration Is Key to Student Achievement

The past weekend I had the pleasure of sharing a keynote and concurrent session with members of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA). Like many other educators around the country, Pennsylvania school librarians are wrestling with their place in the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

PSLA is a vibrant professional association. They have/are a strong advocacy team/membership committed to maximizing the impact of their 2012 school libraries study. This is one of the findings “Creating 21st-Century Learners: A Report on Pennsylvania’s Public School Libraries:”

“The librarian collaborates closely with classroom teachers in every subject area to teach students everything from making sense of the information they gather to collaborating with other students to create new knowledge” (PA School Library Project 2012).

Classroom-library collaboration can be challenging; it can also be so rewarding in terms of improved student learning outcomes. (And besides, it is more fun to teach together rather than alone!) The time is now for school librarians who serve as collaborators to coteach with classroom teachers to improve instruction and to do the hard work of co-implementing best practices in teaching and learning.

Bravo to PSLA for their commitment to making a positive impact on student learning!


Moreillon, Judi. “Collaboration.” Digital Image. From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon.

PA School Library Project. 2012. “Creating 21st-Century Learners: A Report on Pennsylvania’s Public School Libraries.” PA School Library Project.