Digital Literacy = Leadership Opportunity

While it is essential for school librarian leaders to stay abreast of new developments in our own field, it is also important to read the journals and magazines our administrators and classroom teacher colleagues read as well. I belong to the International Literacy Association (ILA), in large part, so I can receive their magazine Literacy Today. (In December, 2017, I wrote about the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Educational Leadership issue titled “Lifting School Leadership.”

The November/December issue of Literacy Today was titled “Critical Literacy in a Digital World.” The articles in this issue were written by English language arts (ELA) and other classroom teachers, reading specialists, literacy professors and doctoral students, and could have as easily been written by school librarians. In order to access this issue, you must be an ILA member.

From my perspective, school librarian leaders could benefit from reading every article in the issue. Here are three of the articles: “More than Bits and Bytes: Digital Literacies On, Behind, and Beyond the Screen” (Aguilera 2017, 12-13), “Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Using a Process Writing Model to Enhance Integrity in the Classroom” (Moorman and Pennell 2017, 14-15), and the cover story: “Assessing News Literacy in the 21st Century: A Year After the Election that Blurred Lines” (Jacobson 2017, 18-22). These are my comments on these three.

Earl Aguilera is a doctoral candidate and former high school ELA teacher and K-12 reading specialist. He poses these questions: “How often do we consider how search engines match us to certain results and hide us from others? How are websites, apps, and games built to accomplish different purposes? And how can these understandings empower us to remix digital tools for our own purposes?” (Aguilera 2017, 13). These are precisely the types of questions school librarians who teach digital literacy, including the ethical use of information, bring to the classroom-library collaboration table. We are taught to be aware of and teach these aspects of digital literacy while many classroom teachers are not.

In his article, Aguilera provided a resource with which I was previously unfamiliar. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to “defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation. The website includes links to timely articles that can inform educators and students alike. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom could partner with this organization to increase librarians’ clout.

Whether or not your school uses tools such as Turnitin.com, the challenges of teaching students (and colleagues) various aspects of plagiarism is an on-going activity for school librarians. In their article, Professor Gary Moorman and doctoral student Ashley Pennell from Appalachian State University write this: “We strongly believe the root of today’s plagiarism problem is the lack of consistent and effective writing instruction and the failure of schools to create an environment that encourages students to write to learn” (2017, 15).

School librarians can step up their literacy leadership by honing their expertise in writing instruction and coteaching with classroom teachers in order to give students opportunities to learn strategies to help them avoid plagiarism, including making notes in their own words. In the conclusion of this article, the authors write when students have the opportunity to talk about and learn about plagiarism “both students and teachers come to acknowledge that writing is a powerful learning process, that original work is valued, and that plagiarism in unnecessary” (2017, 15). I agree.

The cover article by education writer and editor Linda Jacobson may be of particular interest to school librarians. Jacobson writes “In some schools, librarians take the lead on teaching news literacy, while in other schools, the lessons are integrated into social studies or English classes” (Jacobson 2017, 20). While we can be excited about this mention of the vital work of school librarians, this is not an either-or situation. To be effective, school librarians are coteaching these strategies and therefore “library lessons” are integrated into the content areas.

In the article, Jacobson highlights a tool with which I was unfamiliar. Checkology® is a virtual classroom designed to help students tell the difference between fact and fiction. The site features 12 core lessons and is free during the 2017-2018 school year so now is the time to check it out!

Perhaps most exciting of all since school librarians are rarely mentioned in Literacy Today, Jacobson spotlights the work of Charlottesville K-8 school librarian Sarah FitzHenry who serves at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. FitzHenry developed a news literacy course in collaboration with computer science coordinator Kim Wilkens. They use misleading images extensively in their course. Thank you to Linda Jacobson for including the work of a school librarian in her article.

Jacobson also cites the work of Dr. Renee Hobbs, professor of communications studies at the University of Rhode Island. “The changes occurring in the media sector, with new apps, games, platforms, and genres rapidly emerging, have contributed to the instability of meaning of the concept of media literacy and added to the measurement challenges” (Jacobson 2017, 20.) Dr. Hobbs notes that performance-based assessments for media literacy are the most effective because they can “capture dimensions of media literacy competencies using tasks that are highly similar to everyday practices of analyzing and creating media in the real world” (22).

School librarians have limitless opportunities to serve as instructional leaders in their schools.  We would all agree that students need to learn to navigate the “messy information environment” and practice using and creating media effectively. Readers of this blog might also agree that school librarians have a timely and critical leadership opportunity when it comes to digital/media/news/information literacy!

Note: The results of ILA’s annual international “What’s Hot in Literacy 2018” appears in the January/February issue of Literacy Today. It’s no surprise that “digital literacy” is the #1 hot topic.

References

Aguilera, Earl. 2017. “More than Bits and Bytes: Digital Literacies On, Behind, and Beyond the Screen.” Literacy Today 35 (3):12-13.

Jacobson, Linda. 2017. “Assessing News Literacy in the 21st Century: A Year After the Election that Blurred Lines.” Literacy Today 35 (3):18-22.

Moorman, Gary, and Ashley Pennell. 2017. “Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Using a Process Writing Model to Enhance Integrity in the Classroom. Literacy Today 35 (3):14-15.

Image Credit: Magazine Jacket Courtesy of ILA

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 2

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development

“A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other” (Sinek, Mead, and Docker 2017, 104).

Professional learning embedded in the everyday practice of educators is an effective way to transform teaching and learning. In this model, school librarians can serve as professional learning leaders. They enact this role in a number of ways: through providing formal staff development; by serving as a member or team leader in one or more professional learning communities (PLCs); and through classroom-library collaboration, which involves trusting colleagues in coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing learning outcomes.

While all of these contributions to professional learning are important, collaboration for instruction gives school librarians the optimum opportunity to learn with and from their colleagues. Coteaching is personalized learning for educators. It is aligned with adult learning theory that puts educators in the driver’s seat—controlling the content and context of their learning while they solve self-identified instructional problems.

Planning for instruction is teacherly work. It requires connecting curricula with students’ interests and motivation and making learning experiences relevant. It involves determining goals, objectives, and assessments. It includes identifying compelling resources and effective instructional strategies. Through the hands-on implementation of coplanned lessons or units, educators monitor student learning and the success or areas for improvement in their instruction.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A Rationale for Coteaching as Effective Job-Embedded Professional Development;
2. A Description of Classroom-Library Coteaching Approaches;
3. A Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships Matrix;
4. An Explanation and Application of the Diffusion of Innovations Model:
5. A Coplanning and Coteaching Self-assessment Instrument.

Coteaching offers educators the opportunity to hone their craft while teaching “actual students in real time, with the taught curriculum, available resources and tools, and within the supports and constraints of their particular learning environments” (Moreillon 2012b, 142). School librarians add value when they co-collect evidence (student learning outcomes data) to demonstrate the effectiveness of their teaching in terms of what is important to colleagues and administrators. Data points the way toward continuous instructional improvement. Coteaching also creates the opportunity for school librarians to co-lead in a culture of adult as well as student learning in their schools.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2012. “Job-embedded Professional Development: An Orchard of Opportunity.” In Growing Schools: School Librarians as Professional Developers, edited by Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Violet Harada, 141-156. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. 2017. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Advocating for Authenticity and Diversity in Children’s Picturebooks

If I were in charge of this holiday, all U.S. students be would studying the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of social justice. They would be reading, discussing, marching, or otherwise working in their communities to bring about positive change.

Students and classroom teachers would also have access to diverse library collections – and most especially school library collections – that provide students with books and resources that represent the diversity of human experience. Since most librarians do not have the opportunity to actually read the print resources they select before they purchase them, they must rely on published book reviews. This means that children’s and young adult book reviewers are mediators between readers and their literature.

During the month of December, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library children’s librarian who reviews children’s and young adult literature for two well-known review sources. Mary Margaret and I are advocates for diversity and live in a community where Latinx students and families are the majority in the largest school district. We walk and talk most weekend mornings and have often shared our concerns and frustrations with the content, quality, and quantity of books that reflect Latinx culture.

To formalize our blog interview conversation, we created a framework for evaluating the cultural components during our discussions. We adapted our framework from Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors by Maria José Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman and WOWLit’s “Evaluating Literature for Authenticity.”

Publication Practices
1. Who are the author, illustrator, and/or translator?
2. What are their backgrounds?
3. Who was the original publisher?

Authenticity in the Story
1. From whose perspective is the text written?
2. Are characters, plot, and setting authentic, or are stereotypes presented?
3. What do the review sources say, and how have cultural “insiders” responded to this text?

Authenticity in Visual Elements
1. How does the illustrator’s background or research influence the visual elements in this book?
2. What meanings are communicated through the images?
3. Do the visual elements authentically and accurately portray cultural information?

Authenticity in Sociopolitical and Historical Context
1. What kind of first-hand experience or research informs the text?
2. What current or historical factors shape the story or information in the text?
3. How are current or historical power relations reflected in the text?

We posted once each week in December on the WOW Currents blog. The links below lead to each week’s post. With each link, I have shared a comment and my biggest takeaway(s) or remaining question(s) from that week’s post.

Part 1: Goals and Process for Children’s Book Reviews
In the introductory post on December 4, 2017, Mary Margaret shared her background, how she got started as a children’s literature book reviewer, and her reviewing process. In reading this post, you will note that it was from giving a book review editor critical feedback on a particular review that resulted in Mary Margaret being invited to review for that source. She answered a call for reviewers for the other source for which she reviews.

For the most part, Mary Margaret reviews children’s picturebooks and Spanish language or Spanish/English bilingual books. She constructs book reviews in three parts: 1. the story or information, 2. illustrations for visual incongruities or strengths, and 3. cultural components of the book with her recommendation. She believes it’s her job to “to find any negative, inauthentic or inaccurate elements and point them out in (her) review.” Mary Margaret’s cultural insider knowledge for Mexican themed books gives her  a distinct advantage when reviewing Latinx themed books.

Part 1: Further Questions
1. When librarians read book reviews, do we notice whether or not cultural information is included in the review?

2. Do we consider or question the reviewer’s knowledge in terms of assessing cultural authenticity in the work?

Part 2: Publication Practices
In this post, Mary Margaret provides one very clear example of a book in which the author’s and illustrator’s cultural knowledge (or research) was lacking. In her review, she justified her “not recommended” rating with specifics from the story and the illustrations. She also shared information about the importance of language and translation in relationship to authenticity.

Part 2: Takeaway
This was my takeaway from her responses in this post: “Even though I am culturally competent in both Mexican culture and Spanish language as spoken in (parts of) Mexico and the U.S., I would not be a competent translator for a story situated in Cuban or Puerto Rican culture. It is not appropriate to assume that anyone who is fluent in both English and Spanish can effectively translate any story into the other language.”

Part 3: Authentic Picturebook Stories
Mary Margaret offers three recommendations for determining cultural authenticity. These are her suggestions for librarians/reviewers who are cultural outsiders:
1.     If there is humor in the story. Mary Margaret asks herself: “Am I laughing at or laughing with the character?”
2.     In addition to characterization and language use, she examines the plot. She asks: “Who has agency and power in this story? Does succeeding or failing, winning or losing, have any connection to a stereotype about which I am aware?”
3.     Is the story setting authentic?

Part 3: Takeaway
Mary Margaret’s question about publishing Mexican themed picturebooks is this: “’While a rural setting with a poor family may be ‘appropriate’ for historical fiction, I often wonder, ‘Where are the books with middle class Mexican children and families playing video games, using cell phones and flying to the U.S. to visit Disneyland?’”

Part 4: Authentic Picturebook Illustrations
Since Mary Margaret’s responses to authenticity in story were comprehensive, we decided to carry over the conversation about picturebook illustrations to week four (and did not have the opportunity to explore sociopolitical and historical authenticity on the WOW Currents blog). This post about authenticity in illustration is packed with information that cultural outsiders may find especially illuminating.

Since many errors in illustration are not caught by art editors, it seems that librarians will want to consult cultural insiders about authenticity in picturebook visuals. For many that may be after the fact of purchase. Still, books published with errors can be used in classroom-library lessons as examples for what not to do.

Part 4: Takeaways
Mary Margaret identified several author-illustrators whose work is culturally authentic and shows congruity between story and illustration.

Adriana M. Garcia, illustrator of Xelena González’s book All Around Us (Cinco Puntos, 2017). The story honors traditions while steeped in a contemporary setting.

Yuyi Morales’s magical realism illustrations are perfectly aligned with Laura Lacámara’s story Floating on Mama’s Song (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010).

Duncan Tonatiuh’s Mixtex illustration style provides the perfect blend of contemporary and historical elements in Salsa: Un poema para docinar/Salsa: A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta (Groundwood, 2015).

Continuing the Conversation

The information in this interview will be part of an article for publication that includes responses to a survey I conducted in which twenty-six children’s and young adult book reviewers participated. I will also share both the survey and this interview at the Texas Library Association Conference on April 4th in my session titled “Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature.”

And please mark your calendars. On Tuesday, January 23rd at 1:00 p.m. Central, AASL and Scholastic Books are offering a free, one-hour webinar titled: Mirror, Mirror, Who Do You See in Your Books? Reaching Diverse Readers. Read about it and consider arranging your schedule so you can participate.

References

Botelho, Maria José, and Masha Kabakow Rudman. 2009. Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children’s Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors. New York: Routledge.

WOWLit.org. “Evaluating Literature for Authenticity.” http://wowlit.org/links/evaluating-global-literature/evaluating-literature-for-authenticity

Image Credits:
Collage created at Befunky.com
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Candidate for AASL President, 2019-2020

Last Friday, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced the 2018 candidates for AASL President-Elect.

As quoted in the announcement, “I am honored to be invited to run for the position of AASL President-Elect. If elected, I will conscientiously facilitate the work of our professional association and serve with passion and purpose to ensure a leadership role for school librarians and libraries in the literacy ecosystem of today and tomorrow.”

AASL has been my professional home since I started my Master’s degree program way back in 19XX. 😉 I was well schooled in the critical importance of our national organizations ALA and AASL as essential to the effectiveness and success of my own practice of librarianship. Our associations continue to give us a national voice while they support our efforts for continual growth and development at the building and district levels as well.

I am in the process of constructing my campaign wiki. While putting together information for the Bio page, I reflected on some of the most empowered opportunities I have had to serve our national associations. After nearly three decades of involvement, I have served in many capacities and reaped many benefits. These are just a few of the highlights.

•  Serving as an elementary school librarian during the exciting years of the National Library Power Project set my course as a collaborating educator committed to building effective classroom-library instructional partnerships (1993-1997).

•  I had the amazing opportunity to serve on AASL’s @your library® Committee from 2002-2004. Through this experience, I developed an understanding of advocacy and made lifelong librarian colleagues and friends across the country.

•  In 2008-2009, I served as the chair of AASL School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force. We created a toolkit and drafted the Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading that was adopted by the AASL Board and was included in Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs (AASL 2009).

•  I served on the 2009-2010 Pura Belpré Book Award Committee, a year during which our committee had only 36 titles to consider. This experience solidified my commitment to diversity in library collections and in advocating for increasing diversity in children’s and young adult literature publishing.

•  Throughout my career, I’ve had many opportunities to collaborate with outstanding public library children and teen librarians. I am pleased to be a current member of AASL’s Interdivisional School-Public Library Cooperation Committee. Representatives from AASL, ALSC, and YALSA serve on the committee. We have created a soon-to-be-published toolkit that demonstrates and support collaboration among librarians who serve young people.

Clearly, serving on AASL and ALSC committees has been a rich source of professional learning for me.

2018 School Libraries Resolution
As noted in last week’s post, I made this resolution for 2018:

In 2018, I resolve to marshal a sense of urgency to support empowered school librarians and strengthen school librarianship by growing and sharing my passion, experience, knowledge, skills, and service to maximize our leadership and help our profession reach its capacity to transform teaching and learning in our schools.

I actually wrote this resolution before accepting the invitation to stand for the position of AASL President-Elect. If it’s possible to be even more committed to this resolution, I am!

AASL announced all of the candidates who are running for the Executive Board and other association positions in 2018. Please learn about all of the candidates and exercise your right to vote as a member of the only national association for school librarians.

Thank you.

 

2018 Resolution Message

In December, Carl Harvey, Topic Center Editor for School Library Connection (SLC), asked SLC Advisory Board members and SLC authors to share our “2018 resolutions for school libraries.” In response to Carl’s request, I decided to use my “WHY” (Sinek 2009, 2017), the 27-9-3 messaging strategy, and Angela Duckworth’s definition of “grit” to craft a 2018 resolution for my role in and contribution to the school library profession.

My WHY
At the Lilead Project meeting held just before the AASL Conference, I worked with Elissa Moritz to further refine my “WHY.” (See my previous posts about Simon Sinek’s work.) After sharing five professional stories with Elissa, she helped me clarify my purpose as it relates to my professional work. This is a revision of what we crafted together:

My purpose is to use my school librarianship experience, knowledge, skills, and service to share my passion and sense of urgency for the joy and power of school librarians to maximize teaching and learning in their schools through building partnerships.

Yes, it’s a bit wordy but it covers all the bases… It also implies several of my strengths from the Gallup StrengthsFinder activity we engaged in to prepare for the Lilead meeting. For me, it summarizes more than twenty-five years of commitment to our profession.

My 27-9-3 Message
At the Lilead Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, last June, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org reminded us of or taught us a messaging strategy called “27-9-3.” This is a way to hone your message to twenty-seven words that can be spoken in 9 seconds—a message that includes just three main points.

You can read about this strategy on an advocacy planning site called Power Prism: Developing Your Persuasive Message: “The 27-9-3 Rule.”  (This page includes a downloadable graphic organizer.) Patrick Sweeny also has an article on it on the DEMCO Ideas and Inspiration Blog: “Library Advocacy, Part 2: Creating an Effective Message.”

This is my 27-9-3 message to school librarians.

Empowered school librarians:
1. maximize the impact of their teaching, expertise, and library resources;
2. by building connections, partnerships, and capacity;
3. on their joyful leadership journey.

Grit
For those of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset,” Angela Duckworth’s work with the concept of “grit” may be an additional way to view learning, teaching, and success. Dr. Duckworth’s research grew out of a reoccurring theme in her own upbringing. Her father was known to tell young Angela and her siblings: “You know, you’re no genius!” (Duckworth 2016, xiii).

Although “no genius” in her father’s eyes, it was Dr. Duckworth’s great honor to be awarded a 2013 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. Her research centered on the relationships among talent, grit (the combination of interest/passion/purpose and perseverance), and success. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). You can access her “grit scale” on the Web site.


2018 Resolution

Combining my “WHY,” my 27-9-3 message, and my take on “grit,” I shared this resolution for my work with and for school libraries in 2018:

In 2018, I resolve to marshal a sense of urgency to support empowered school librarians and strengthen school librarianship by growing and sharing my passion, experience, knowledge, skills, and service to maximize our leadership and help our profession reach its capacity to transform teaching and learning in our schools.

Thank you for asking, Carl.

Thank you especially to the Lilead Project and Fellows and John Chrastka for supporting my professional learning in 2017. I am looking forward to continuing our learning journey in 2018.

Wishing all the best to the school librarians across the country and around the world who are doing critical work with administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families every day…

I invite you to share your #schoollibrarianleadership resolution in the comments below.

All the best in 2018,
Judi

References
Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Sinek, Simon. 2009. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. 2017. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin.

Image Credit: Wordle.net