Library-Powered Students

Our_Library_Hands_Raised_crop_sizedAs my piece of the May 19th Building a Culture of Collaboration Webinar, I will share and invite you to share the many ways school librarians can collaborate to support powerful student learning in our schools. As a former school librarian at every instructional level, I have served in schools with as few as three hundred students and as many as eighteen hundred. Regardless, I always made relationships with students a top priority in my work in the place we called “our” library.

Student library aides, drop-in students, before school, lunchtime, and after school “regulars” may respond to the library’s welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Student clubs, formal or informal, may choose library spaces for their meetings. School librarians have the opportunity to reach out to the students who frequent the library to build caring and supportive relationships with them.

Through coteaching with classroom teachers, we can show caring and support in other ways. We can advocate for real-world, relevant research and inquiry learning, for thoughtfully integrating technology tools and devices, for student choice in reading and topic selection. When we coplan, coimplement, and coassess student learning, we have a great deal to contribute to student success.

I invite BACC readers and Webinar attendees to conduct an environmental scan of the physical and virtual spaces of their school libraries. Here are some questions to consider:

1. What would a member of your community who hadn’t been in a school library in years see when she/he walks through the door or happens upon your school library Web site?

2. Where is student input reflected in various learning and social spaces in the library or on the library Web site?

3. Where is student learning evidenced in the library? Are final projects on display or linked to the Web site?

4. Are students participating in reader’s advisory by contributing book talks and trailers that are on display or accessible to schoolmates via QR codes, the library catalog, or the Web?

Bring your self-assessment to the Webinar on May 19th. Learn what others may be doing to build a culture of collaboration in their schools through their work with students.

Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer.” 7 Sept. 2008. Flickr. 29 Apr. 2015. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493/>.

School Librarians Are Connectors

collaboration_sizedThis month the BACC co-bloggers are previewing our upcoming (May 19th) Texas Library Association Webinar. See the end of this post for information. Along with our guest blogger, Melissa Johnston, each of us will be previewing our piece of the collaboration puzzle in our May blog posts. BACC co-blogger Karla Collins will offer the final contribution this month with a post-Webinar wrap-up.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Difference, notes that “connectors” have the “ability to span many different worlds,” which may be a “function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy” (47). Thanks to our big picture view of our school learning communities, school librarians are positioned to be connectors. (And hopefully we embody at least some, if not all, of the dispositions Gladwell associates with connectors.)

When we are engaged in building a culture of collaboration in our school learning communities, we determine the best ways to meet the needs of each of our library stakeholders. Through communication and collaboration and to use a construction metaphor, we build relationships that can help cement the foundation of a culture of learners—young and older—who strive to make school a joyful, relevant, and effective learning environment for all.

On Thursday, I will introduce collaboration with students as one of the pillars necessary for building a culture of collaboration.

Webinar Information:
May 19, 2-3pm Central Time: Building a Culture of Collaboration (Collaboration Series) – FREE
How can you increase collaboration in your school learning community? Building a Culture of Collaboration at Edublogs co-bloggers will share strategies for reaching out and developing collaborative relationships with four library stakeholder groups: administrators (Judy Kaplan), classroom teachers and specialists (Melissa Johnston), students (Judi Moreillon), and families and community members (Lucy Santos Green). Bring your commitment to building partnerships, your experiences, your ideas and your questions to the conversation.

Register at https://join.onstreammedia.com/register/80146595/register_for_culture

All Webinars will be recorded. A link to the recording will be sent to all registrants (i.e. you may want to register even if you know you cannot attend the live event). All Webinars will carry Continuing Education credit.

Works Cited

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Difference. New York: Little, Brown, 2000. Print.

Maxwell, Scott. “Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept.” 2007. Flickr.com. Web. 25 April 2015 <https://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137737248/>.

On the Horizon

ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU

This month, Judi and Lucy have highlighted some ways that school libraries and teacher librarians have continued to provide resources and instruction that support the variability of all learners in a diverse school community. At the heart of our mission is the concept of equitable access to information and the freedom to read a range of literature in many formats. Another part of the vision for library service is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for active learning for contemporary learners to “Think-Create-Share and Grow.”

On a personal level, teacher librarians get to know learners’ individual reading tastes, interests, strengths, and challenges in a setting other than the classroom. Often, we have a longer view of student growth over time because the school library space is a constant from year to year. We develop relationships with students that extend through their time in elementary, middle, or high school as we see their talents and personalities evolve. I always found that to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

As Lucy has said, “to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly update our skills and keep up with the movements and trends affecting our practice.” Now there is a new/old opportunity on the horizon for teacher librarians in the emerging field of personalized learning, and we should be ready to collaborate with our teaching colleagues in a shift from teacher centered learning to student centered learning that has the potential to change teaching practice now and in the future.

Emerging technologies and new pedagogies focused on learners and learning have already brought about tremendous change in the traditional classroom, and there is more to come.

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is a term that is used to describe many approaches to customizing instruction in the field of education. The term is used in multiple ways to describe an approach to learning that gives students voice and choice in their own learning. When learning is personalized, teachers help students set goals based on their interests, knowledge, and skills. As “guides on the side,” teachers help them to develop learning plans to achieve the goals, and monitor progress. The objective is for students to master competencies and demonstrate evidence of learning through performance. Self-assessment and reflection are integral to student success in mastering learning. Gradually, students will be able to take responsibility for their own learning and chart their own pathways for the future.

Personalization of learning, personal learning plans, and performance portfolios will impact the way that students will be using classroom and library learning spaces, and how teachers and teacher librarians interact with students. Students will be trained to set personal goals, and to develop a system for designing what, why, and how they learn.  Teachers will become coaches, and provide instruction as needed, and how this will impact the traditional way that schools and curricula are designed is in transition.

Why should teacher librarians be at the PL table?

When you look at Standards for 21st Century Learners (AASL 2007), the dispositions and competencies in the document align with concepts for personalized learning. These are the standards that teacher librarians use to guide their daily practice in designing learning for students. Along with Common Core State Standards, or other state standards as frameworks to guide curriculum, teacher librarians collaborate with colleagues to create meaningful and engaging performance tasks that provide authentic learning opportunities. Teacher librarians are already in the business of partnering with students in their inquiry, problem, project, and place-based learning assignments, so personalized learning is an extension of their professional practice.

Across the nation, there are 41 states and the District of Columbia that are in various stages of exploring, developing, or implementing competency based education policies that are driven by personalized learning for students. The state legislation or education rules already in effect or being proposed provide “flexible pathways” for determining graduation requirements from high school. Instead of using the Carnegie Unit (time), there can be alternative ways to evaluate performance through mastery of competencies, and local school districts are charged with developing systems for tracking individual performance, and mastery. This is a major paradigm shift in educational delivery models, as well as a change in school culture. There is lot to talk about, and teacher librarians should be part of the conversation, too.

How can I learn more about personalized learning?

There are journals, websites, and professional texts that are excellent resources for gaining understanding about the concepts and challenges for shifting the way we approach teaching and learning for our increasingly diverse learners in an age of information and ubiquitous technology.

Here some recommendations that you can share with your colleagues to get the discussion rolling:

  •  Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Make Learning Personal. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2015. Website: http://www.personalizelearning.com/
  • John H. Clarke. Personalized Learning: Student-Designed Pathways to High School Graduation. Thousand Oaks, CA: 2013.
  •  Allison Zmuda, Greg Curtis, and Diane Ullman. Learning Personalized-The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2015.
  • Competency Works website:
  1.  State Policy Resources http://competencyworks.pbworks.com/w/page/67261821/State%20Policy%20Resources
  2. A Snapshot of Competency Education Policy Across the United States http://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/inacol_competency_snapshot_oct_2013.pdf

It’s time to get personal!

 Next week-A look at models for PL in practice.

Image:

http://www.birdclipart.com/bird_clipart_images/ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU.jpg

 

School Library Advisory Committees: The Key = 4 Cs

key2What are the keys to an effective school library advisory committee? I propose these: Communication-Connection-Commitment-Collaboration.

Communication:
If classroom teachers have not had positive input into school library collection decision-making, then they may refer to the library collection as the property of the librarian. When a classroom teacher tells students to be careful with “Ms. Jones’s books” (the librarian’s books), the wise school librarian will make it clear that the library collection belongs to all of the library stakeholders: students, teachers, administrators, and families.

Once collective ownership is established, the librarian can invite classroom teacher colleagues to join the school library advisory committee in order to participate in decision-making regarding library purchases and initiatives, such as grant writing and literacy events.

Connection:
The wise school librarian will ensure that the resources of the library are aligned with the curricular needs of classroom teachers and students. While the Common Core State Standards may make this a library goal in many states, the school library has always been charged with providing resources and technology tools to support teaching and learning the required curriculum.

Commitment:
In most schools, the school library advisory committee will meet during before or after school hours. It will be important for the school librarian to honor the extra commitment it will take for classroom teachers to participate in developing the library collection as a shared resource for the school community. Likewise, the school librarian’s commitment to shared decision-making must be genuine and clear to all advisory committee members.

Collaboration:
One of the most outstanding benefits of a library advisory committee is increased collaborative teaching between classroom teachers and school librarians. When advisory committee members have shared responsibility for selecting resources, they will have a shared commitment to using those resources for standards-based instruction. While classroom-library collaboration ensures that valuable resources will be integrated into instruction, it can also improve educators’ teaching and students’ learning.

School library advisory committees that achieve the four keys, communication-connection-commitment-collaboration = win-win-win-win for all library stakeholders.

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

 

School Libraries – Reinvented?

shooting_starThe BACC bloggers are experimenting with exploring a shared topic each month. We will share various perspectives and points of view.

This month we are looking at school libraries as compared with classroom libraries and book rooms and the impact of leveled reading on library resources. Overarching question: If a school librarian’s goal is to strengthen her/his relationships with classroom-bound teachers, what roles might the library collection play in supporting teachers’ teaching and students’ learning?

While I was pleased that the eSchool News noted their #1 Top Story of 2014 was “Libraries, reinvented,” I must take exception with the reasons they cited in this article. According to eSchool News: “With libraries serving as many schools’ central hubs, it’s only natural that they would intersect with many of the other top trends on our list—by setting up maker spaces, letting students explore coding, and helping to increase student access to the internet after school hours.”

Providing students with “trending extras” such as makerspace and coding opportunities does not capture the most meaningful contributions school libraries make to learning and teaching. These two examples should not be restricted to the library environment and would be most effective if integrated into a total-school program. School libraries that are open for after school hours have always provided students with access to whatever resources they need; this is not new and should not be news.

In my opinion, school libraries first and foremost contribute resources and the expertise of the school librarian (not necessarily in that order). While library resources and school librarians’ skills have changed, these contributions have been consistent — at least for the quarter of a century I have been involved in school librarianship.

According to literacy educator Frank Serafini, at least 100 books per child should be the goal for a well-stocked classroom library and recommends that classroom libraries contain 2,500 – 3,000 books in all genres and at all reading levels (37). While I applaud classroom teachers that write grants, raise funds, and use their own financial resources to provide students with classroom libraries, my experience tells me that a classroom collection cannot compare with a well-developed and managed library collection.

A school librarian who aligns the library collection with the curriculum and provides independent reading selections for students can provide a wider selection of books and resources in all genres and more support for readers at all reading levels. Involving classroom teachers in reviewing, recommending, and purchasing resources for the library is one way for the school librarian to strengthen her/his relationships with classroom teachers. This can be done formally with a Library Advisory Committee or informally with individual teachers and grade-level teams.

Reference

Serafini, Frank. Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days: A Month-by-Month Guide to Effective Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006.

Word cloud created at Tagxedo.com

Happy holidays from your friends here at the BACC Blog!

family ties

Today’s Can Do Attitude

Across the country, the story about education financing is a variation on a theme.  Since the recession, budgets for public schooling have been on a downward spiral in most communities.  The reasons are multifaceted and many, but the bottom line is that fewer dollars are stretched, and stretched again to cover the challenges of teaching and learning in today’s schools.  Education is expensive and labor intensive, and dedicated teachers are working harder than ever to assure that young learners have opportunities to reach their potential.  During December my co-bloggers have been sharing the good news about how creative educators and teacher librarians have been maximizing scarce resources through collaboration on many fronts.

Judi highlighted ways that schools and public libraries can work together to bring richer service and resources to their common patrons, as well as to partner with non-profits in community service learning. Lucy had some exciting ideas about the benefits of sharing HUMAN resources, in essence, people to people collaborations that are meaningful and create community bonds. Melissa gave insight about ways that Open Education Resources (OER) can provide cost effective materials and access to information that reduces financial outlays.

Some key takeaways from their postings are that creativity, ingenuity, and resilience go hand in hand in problem solving, and working on common goals with other community members is a win for all.

Well, it also does help to have money for programs and resources for learners. The traditional sources- PTAs, book fairs, cake sales-you get the picture- have  provided  reserve funds, but there are other potential sources to tap, too.  There are foundations, and charitable organizations locally and statewide that are willing to fund programs and provide resources that enhance their mission within the community. It may be that there are folks in your school district who write grants, and you should talk with them, first. Many schools don’t have someone on staff, so grab your can do attitude and jump in.  It does take a bit of investigation to ferret out the possibilities and then to find a partner or collaborator who will work on a plan to apply for a grant or a donation.

When seeking funds for active learning projects, from a well known foundation or a local business organization, you have to prepare an action plan with a detailed description of goals, outlines of activities, needed resources, expenses and evaluation. Successful plans have an innovative twist and involve connecting student learners or school with the local or global community for a mutually beneficial purpose. While grant writing may not be listed in your job description, action planning should be essential to move your school library program forward. The process for identifying a problem or gap, and coming up with creative ways to transform learning in your school or district really depends on a clear understanding of the unique mission of your program, data collection and articulation, and how to work within a collaborative team.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities to access ideas for grant writing and action planning success, and also clearinghouse information for possible foundations and businesses.  Look no further than social media for crowdsourced ideas. Try a search using Livebinders, Pinterest, Scoopit! or any of your other favorites.

Here’s a couple that I have found to be quite comprehensive:

Sources for grants (Here are a few that are national, but you can find ones particular to your state or local community, also):

wildlife quiltFamily Ties at Founders School

In my own experience, a cross-disciplinary group of teachers-classroom, art, music, library, tech integrationist- collaborated on a three year project that transformed standards based learning units and curriculum.  As we developed our plan, we incorporated many community resources and applied for funds through grants and direct donations to bring visual and performing artists to the school, museum visits, and funds to self publish a series of student writings.  It was a major success within the community, because staff, students, parents, businesses, local cultural organizations, and  media outlets became united in a school wide theme titled “Family Ties.”  The images included here are from one of the  three self published books.  The collaboration team worked creatively and diligently to connect content curriculum, arts programs, and community resources to make learning exciting and meaningful for all students.  The culture of collaboration was in high gear, and the results were amazing-and lots of fun, too!

Images: Collection of Judith Kaplan

 

Resource Sharing for Manpower

Hello everyone! Before delving into my first blog post, I would like to thank Judi Moreillon, Melissa Johnston and Judy Kaplan for inviting me to be a part of “Building a Culture of Collaboration”. I have followed this blog and shared it with students and future school librarians for quite some time now, and I am honored to be a part of this project.

I first became a school librarian (without a library clerk) at a middle school located in a large urban district. Due to the district’s size and centralized format, our students benefited from a giant inter-library loan system, plenty of connections with the city public library system, and nearby universities. Consequently, I did not think about resource sharing in terms of books or materials. I thought of it in terms of manpower. How could one person implement all of the instructional partnerships, programs, and academic support systems that I dreamed of implementing? Resources and experiences I knew our students, many of whom were economically disadvantaged, desperately needed? I quickly realized that HUMAN “resource sharing” had to become a part of my library program in big way. Over the years, my library program shared HUMAN resources with neighborhood churches that adopted our school (helping to shelve and check out books); Paws Across Texas – a wonderful organization that brought in therapy dogs and volunteers to help struggling readers on a weekly basis, and local businesses that provided incentives and rewards (many times at no cost) for student reading achievement. These folks helped extend my time and ability to focus on collaborating with teachers for student achievement.

Years later, I moved to a middle school in a small, rural town. HUMAN resource-sharing became more important than ever! There I partnered with the local radio station that broadcast a show from the school library helping to boost family attendance at library literacy nights. The local newspaper regularly agreed to run short notices on the new books and materials we received to help promote the school library’s resources. There is no doubt in my mind that HUMAN “resource sharing” significantly amplified my ability to provide a stronger school library program, and consequently, a higher level of collaboration with teachers, students and parents. My program developed a reputation for being able to network with “out-of-the-box” resources. A science teacher and I connected with a northern university to study the phases of the moon. A language arts teacher and I established a partnership with a Native American reservation that resulted in several years of cultural exchange and rich book study experiences for her 6th graders.

Now, there are even more opportunities for HUMAN resource sharing! Science museums with educational outreach programs, virtual project based learning communities that can connect your students with real-world, authentic issues, after school coding clubs, even a thriving HUMAN resource sharing example spearheaded by the mayor of Nashville! The possibilities for HUMAN resource sharing are mind-boggling (and extremely exciting). When thinking about ways to HUMAN resource share, consider how you can enrich the partnerships you are fostering with classroom teachers. What HUMAN resource can you connect them to? Can you Skype in an expert? Can you involve a community member such as a medical professional or local business owner as a part of your guided inquiry team? Are there untapped HUMAN resources in your area that could provide an authentic audience for student projects? I encourage you to consider HUMAN resource sharing as a way to enrich your school library program, expand the expertise and resources you can offer teachers when collaborating, and maximize your impact on student learning.

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, C. (2010). Guided inquiry: School libraries in the 21st century. School Libraries Worldwide16(1), 17-28.

Resource Sharing with Non-profit Agencies

icon_teamAssets-based community development is a way of thinking about how libraries can embed their work within their community rather than waiting for the community to walk through their doors. School librarians who consistently reach outside the walls of the library to integrate resources found in the community can increase the real-world relevance of their cotaught lessons. They can go the extra step to build collaborative partnerships that take the literacy learning expertise of the school librarian and resources of the school library program out into the community.

Situating their inquiry in the real world of their community can increase students’ motivation and help ensure that the questions they ask are authentic, real-world questions. This can also help learners identify a target audience that will actually care about their findings. Engaging in this level of “professional” work may be most important for high school students who are considering their workforce and educational options after graduation.

With ubiquitous Web-based information, students (most?) often search for non-print resources when conducting inquiry projects. Non-profit and governmental agencies that publish online information can be a rich source of data for students, particularly secondary students who seek to learn more about their communities as they pursue topics of personal interest. School librarians can assist students and teachers by connecting them with resources in the community with which they are unfamiliar.

For example, in a course in human geography, high school students may be asked to explore various aspects of their community. Non-profit agencies such as chapters of the United Way regularly gather data on demographics, income levels and economic opportunities, education attainment, physical and mental health, and other aspects of their immediate community. School librarians can create pathfinders to support students’ learning as they learn more about the community in which their inquiry questions are situated.

Here is a sample pathfinder I created for the Denton (Texas) Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning project: http://tinyurl.com/di4ll-9-resources. It includes links to data from the Denton Chapter of the United Way as well as “Engage Denton,” an online community forum, and nationwide resources that collect data on U.S. communities.

Depending on students’ inquiry questions, all types of community agencies may be able to provide information. A school librarian who has connections in the community may help individual or small groups of students connect to experts and data that may not otherwise be known or available to them. In the process, community agencies learn more about the learning in which students are engaged. This knowledge can lead to stronger connections, collaborative projects, and can also build school library advocates.

As David Lankes argues, “it is time for a new librarianship, one centered on learning and knowledge, not on books and materials, where the community is the collection, and we spend much more time in connection development instead of collection development” (9). Bringing the resources of the community into students’ learning and students’ learning into the community are places to begin “connection development.”

Works Cited

Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning. Sept. 2012. Wikispaces. Web. 04 Dec. 2014 <http://dentoninquiry4lifelonglearning.wikispaces.com>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.

Image Credit: Prawny. “Icons-icon-team.jpg.” Morguefile. Web 01 Dec. 2014 <http://mrg.bz/EtES83>.

Resource Sharing with Non-school Libraries

public_library_sizedWhen budgets are tight and curriculum is in constant flux, school librarians can be hard-pressed to purchase and provide all of the resources students and teachers need to be successful. In most school districts, school librarians practice interlibrary loan with their colleagues. This can be problematic. For example, when districts follow a pacing calendar that requires, for example, that all fifth-grade students will be conducting U.S. state studies at the same time of the year, district resources will be in short supply. School librarians who serve with classroom teachers who engage students in student-initiated inquiry projects can also find it difficult to meet all of the information needs of individual learners.

The wise school librarian will have strong relationships with public or academic librarians in the community. Being on a first-name basis with these colleagues can increase a school librarian’s success at filling the gaps in the school library collection on an as-needed basis. For print resources, interlibrary loan with institutions outside the school district can increase students’ and teachers’ access. In addition, knowing the electronic resources available to students who hold public or academic library cards can help the school librarian and collaborating classroom teachers expand the options for learners.

Some academic, public, and special libraries have specialized resources that can support student learning. Archives, history, and genealogy collections, more and more of them digitized, can be treasure troves for student inquirers. Encouraging youth to take advantage of these resources helps build broader literacy support for their learning. Students will be familiar with the resources available from other libraries and may be more likely to use them once they no longer have access to a school library.

Non-school libraries may have unique resources that can help students explore local interest topics. For example, the Denton (Texas) Public Library produces a TV show called “Library Larry’s Big Day.” In addition to being aired on a local station, episodes are available on YouTube. School librarians and collaborating classroom teachers can guide students to access the videos which include visits to the Denton Community Market, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, and other locations of local interest.

The more school librarians work with librarians who serve in other types of libraries the greater our chances of creating a lifelong literacy pathway for preK-12 students. Resource sharing can lead to collaborative activities that further strengthen literacy in our shared communities. If our mission is to serve the information needs of students, school librarians can make connections and build relationships with other library institutions to support learning today and pave the way for future learning for children and youth.

Works Cited

Denton Public Library. Library Larry’s Big Day. CityofDenton.com. Web. 01 Dec. 2014. <http://tinyurl.com/dentonllbd>.

Image Credit: Emily Fowler Branch, Denton (Texas) Public Library, by Judi Moreillon

Innovation-Disruptive or Sustainable?

surfer_riding_wave_34Are you riding a wave of innovation in your school, or are you caught in the curl and drowning in the surf?  In today’s world, innovation is a buzzword that appears universally across topics and disciplines, and the field of education is no exception. Melissa shared a definition of innovation in her post earlier in November, and encouraged readers to embrace emerging technologies to enhance innovative thinking in STEM curriculum. Judi looked at innovative delivery of professional development for educators in her posts.  Advances in technology have opened the possibilities for unleashing new ways to rethink teaching and learning, and this is a good thing!  The not so good thing is the lack of time and support for professionals to incorporate these possibilities into their pedagogy. In order to bring about meaningful change that will benefit students, educators have come to realize that collaboration is a critical component that enables sustainable innovation.

Sustainable change does not happen overnight.  Educators learn from each other and are connected across the hallway, the town, the globe. Ideas need to be pondered and discussed, tools need to be sampled, lessons designed and differentiated- all with the goal of engaging students in deeper learning.  Educators also learn from students, especially by allowing them to follow their passions and interests.  Innovative learners are curious, flexible, and open to taking risks and making mistakes.  It’s hard work, but fun.  The rewards are in student success and lighting the fires of learning for both teachers and learners.

School districts implementing new initiatives don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but can tailor local plans for sustainable change by examining existing programs that have a track record of innovation for learning.  The best models promote teacher leadership and a culture of collaboration to solve identified problems and impediments to student success.  Administrators, educators, parents, and community members are all stakeholders together.

In Vermont, middle schools have an opportunity to partner with the Tarrant Institute for Innovation in Education at the University of Vermont.  Funded in part through a generous grant from the Tarrant Foundation, experienced educational leaders provide:

  • A variety of services to help schools make the transition to engaging, technology-rich teaching and learning.
  • In exchange for their substantial commitment to a new vision for teaching and learning, we offer our partner schools intensive professional development, leadership preparation and planning, and small grants for innovative technologies — all free of charge.
  • To the broader community, we conduct extensive research, evaluation, dissemination and outreach.    (http://www.uvm.edu/tiie/)

Since 2006, the partnership has grown and evolved as a model for bringing systemic change in middle school education. A variety of Vermont schools, from large inner city urban to small rural schools have taken advantage of the opportunity to develop a new vision of education within their communities.  The learning has gone both ways-from the professional development facilitators to the partner schools, and back from teacher partners and students who embrace and run with the innovations.  The leaders of the project have shared ideas and challenges in a series of articles and by presenting at local and national conferences.  Take a close look at the website to see samples of student work, and to follow the blog.  A recent blog post features the mindset of one of the Tarrant educators, Mark Olofson. Check out his reflection on the reiterative process of analyzing a new app as a classroom option for learning. It gives us a glimpse at innovative problem solving, and is very refreshing.  Even the experts question themselves and can revise their ideas!

As our educational system evolves from a 20th Century factory model, to a system that personalizes learning for students in the information age, new ideas, technologies, processes, and learning theories will continue to bring about changes to the physical and virtual frameworks of schools in the future.

Do you have some suggestions for innovative schools that you would like to share?

Social media is great way to follow the progress of innovation at many schools.  You can follow The Tarrant Institute happenings by using the Twitter hashtag @innovativeEd, Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/innovative.ed ,Instagram http://instagram.com/innovativeEducation, and Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/105653617605343762368/posts

Next month, I will report on the impact of innovations from partner school participants, and look at the challenges and benefits as they continue to move towards sustainable, renewable  change.

References:

Olofson, Mark. “Monster Physics and the importance of careful consideration.” Innovation: Education. (Weblog) Nov. 22, 2014 http://tiie.w3.uvm.edu/blog/monster-physics-importance-careful-consideration/

Image: Classroom Clipart.com