STEM + Inquiry=Collaboration

00439573Sue Kimmel posted recently about finding ways to connect and collaborate with teachers using the Common Core Math Standards and literacy. This week I want to encourage reaching out to make connections around science initiatives, too, by looking at citizen science.

Citizen scientists ignite a passion for science and inquiry through participation in authentic projects that actively make a difference in scientific knowledge on large and small scales.  With the current emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in many school districts across the nation, the citizen scientist collaborative model for collective inquiry, gathering and analyzing data, and problem solving can be used to generate enthusiasm and curiosity in science classrooms.

Here is an opportunity for teacher librarians to become acquainted with the Common Core ELA Science Standards 6-12, and the Next Generation Science Standards, and to bring some fresh ideas and resources for developing curriculum units with other classroom teachers.

As an instructional partner, and co-teacher, we have to continue to build our teaching toolkit with pedagogy and content knowledge.  For students to become citizen scientists in their schools and communities, teacher librarians and teachers collaborate to design meaningful learning opportunities that engage curious minds, require action and reflection, and help solve real world problems.     Or, you could also get your students interested in a citizen science club that could have a physical and virtual presence in your library media center!

What is “citizen science?” you might ask.  How does technology play role in the collective capacity of amateur scientists all over the world, or in your own community? How can you develop a unit of study that replicates or enjoins some of the authentic work that is done by citizen scientists?

Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling with both teachers and students:

Recommended reading:

  • Citizen Scientists by Loree Griffin Burns presents an approachable overview about the impact of citizen science for young people.  It’s a great introduction to some of the current projects around the world and shows how global citizenship is enhanced by making connections and contributions by individuals.  As an example of narrative non-fiction, is can also serve as a model for Common Core Reading and Writing Standards.

Edutopia website has a couple of related blog posts:

Youtube videos that present examples of authentic science inquiry:

  • “Digital Fishing on Citizen Science Cruise,” shares the educational program of the Crystal Cove Alliance in Newport Beach (CA) that immerses Students in the science of marine protected area management.http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=u6m2tqZMD3s
  • “Technology creates Citizen Scientists” relates the critical role that technology plays in allowing citizen scientists to help solve real world problems at local and global levels. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81hhecI0p5k

Websites:

  • “Scistarter: Science We Can Do Together” offers many projects and ideas for scientific inquiry and citizen scientists. http://www.scistarter.com/

Calling All Citizen Scientists!

I’m sure there are many opportunities in your local school and community for getting your student citizen scientists involved in helping to solve problems.  Catch the STEM wave that is a natural fit for your library program!

 

References:

Burns, Loree Griffin (2012). Citizen scientists. NY: Square Fish. http://us.macmillan.com/citizenscientists/LoreeGriffinBurns

Brunsell, Eric. (2010). A primer on citizen science.  Edutopia (2010, Oct.13). Weblog.  Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/citizen-science-eric-brunsell.  .

Common core Initiative: English Language Arts:  Science and Technical Standards (2011). Website.  Retrieved from: http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/9-10. .

Digital fishing on citizen science cruise. (2012, Sep. 25)  Newport Beach, CA: Crystal Cove Alliance. Video.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6m2tqZMD3s.

Next Generation Science Standards. (2013). Website.  Retrieved from: http://www.nextgenscience.org/.

Phillips, Mark. (2013, April 17). Teaching and the environmental crisis: resources and models. Edutopia . Weblog.  Retrieved from: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-environmental-crisis-resources-models-mark-phillips.

Scientific American: Citizen Science. Website.  Retrieved from:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/.

Scistarter. Website.  Retrieved from: http://www.scistarter.com/.

Technology creates Citizen Scientists. (2012, Aug. 16) California Academy of Science.  Video.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81hhecI0p5k.

This thing called science part 6: Citizen science.  (2013, May 23). TechNyouvids. Video.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6eN3Pll4U8.

Microsift clipart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Role of Tempered Radicals in a Culture of Collaboration

I have really been encouraged by Judi’s posts regarding what pre-service principals saw as the benefits to students and the benefits to educators of the school librarian as a collaborative partner with teachers.  I was particularly struck by the observation that lessons co-planned, co-taught, and co-assessed with the school librarian “pushed instruction to a higher level” and provided the kinds of targeted, formative assessment essential to an evidence-based practice.  The school librarian holds a pivotal position in a school’s learning culture. He or she works within the school structure to nudge instruction, assessment, and ultimately student learning to a higher quality. This type of “embedded professional development” works at a subtle, but powerful level to fundamentally change the culture of a school into a learning community.
School librarians serve in a role that might be characterized as that of “tempered radicals,” a phrase introduced by Stephanie Meyerson (2001)and recently revisited by Peter DeWitt in an Education Week blog post entitled “Education needs more tempered radicals.” Tempered radicals are those who work within the system to create small but potentially pervasive changes to the system.  Working within the system, they retain their legitimacy as an insider, yet introduce difference and provoke learning.  As Dewitt suggests:

Tempered radicals are those educators on the inside who make subtle changes every day. Whether it’s the way they educate students (i.e. seamlessly using technology, parent communication, grading, etc.) or how they make changes to a building through shared decision making and listening to the needs of their stakeholders. Perhaps it is a principal who gives their teachers more autonomy or someone who sends out researched based articles on instruction and discusses them at faculty meetings so they can make changes in instructional practices.

Sound familiar?  School librarians are in an ideal position to serve as tempered radicals since they are recognized as members of the school staff by teachers and administrators, yet their work allows them to be in spaces of influence throughout the school as they plan with classroom teachers, converse with administrators and parents, and interact daily with students.  Meyerson suggests a tempered radical “brings an entirely new set of perspectives, asks different questions, and might pose different solutions to problems” (p.17).  School librarians are tempered radicals who create a climate of inquiry for administrators and teachers to “bounce ideas off of” leading toward an “evidence-based practice” focused on student learning.
Schools should be learning organizations where all members of the community value and engage in continuous learning.  School librarians embedded in the fabric of the community as they co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess instruction and learning are essential catalysts for the kinds of inquiry into practice that lead the learning of both educators and those they educate.  Inquiry offers a tempered approach to change because it raises essential questions and invites others to join in an exploration of answers.  It’s invitational, tempered, and relational. Collaboration and inquiry are essential partners in school reform and the goal of becoming a learning culture.

References

DeWitt, Peter (Dec. 13, 2012).  Education needs more tempered radicals [web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/12/education_needs_more_tempered_radicals.html

Meyerson, Stephanie (2001).  Tempered radicals: How people use difference to inspire change at work.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Collaboration as Inquiry

October was a whirl of a month that ended with a mega storm that swept me off course for a couple of days. I finally feel like I have landed and have some time to pull together some of the big ideas I heard at the AASL Fall Forum, the Institute on Teaching and Mentoring and the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) Conference.   Audrey Church, Gail Dickinson, and Ann M. Martin gave the keynote address at VAASL on leadership.  Each provided an overview of their journey and cited theories that had inspired them.  Reference was made to Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that struck a theme tying together one of the big ideas related to collaboration that I have culled from all of these events: Seek first to understand and then to be understood. And a related correlate:  when someone else is speaking, are you really listening, or are you waiting for a turn to speak?

The Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, sponsored by The Compact for Faculty Diversity was an amazing gathering of minority doctoral students, mentors and faculty.  The purpose of the Institute is “to provide scholars with the skills necessary to succeed in graduate study and to prepare them for success as faculty members at colleges and universities.”  Several sessions were offered for faculty mentors, and in one: “The Internationalization of Mentoring as an Opportunity to Challenge Cultural Assumptions” the presenter, Stacy Blake-Beard, Associate Professor of Management at Simmons College made the remark that we should practice “inquiry not advocacy.”  Since inquiry and advocacy are two major buzzwords in school librarianship, I was struck by her meaning.  Dr. Blake-Beard was talking about cross-cultural understanding and I would argue that this is a productive way for school librarians to approach collaboration with teachers: as bridging the two cultures of the school library and the classroom. Diversity strengthens an organization because it provides for a much richer approach to problem solving and decision-making. Collaboration is different from cooperation because it doesn’t seek to smooth over our differences but rather to leverage these differences. This is particularly important when we are attempting to solve complex problems; and education is a complex problem.  As we struggle to create a “culture of collaboration” in our schools, we should first seek to understand (inquiry) rather than to be understood (advocacy).

Judy Kaplan has provided an outstanding overview of the packed AASL Fall Forum on Transliteracy.  One of the exercises that we did at our tables led by Barbara Jansen and Kristin Fontichiaro was to brainstorm possible questions that we might use in planning with teachers.  Jansen provided the example of asking teachers if they were concerned that a particular assignment might encourage students to copy and paste.  Asking this as a question invokes inquiry rather than advocacy, and provides a space for teachers to reflect on the purpose of their assignment and to possibly engage in a conversation about improving the assignment.  This question doesn’t require that the assignment be abandoned. It might be that the teachers and librarian would decide to front-load this assignment with explicit instructions about how to take notes, give attribution to sources, and synthesize. Or, the assignment might be altered to become more creative and to encourage students to develop a product that is unique and individual. The question asks everyone to pause and consider alternatives without passing judgment.

Jean Van Deusen (1996) found in her case study of a school librarian collaborating with teachers that the school librarian provided leadership as an “insider-outsider” and that she asked challenging and often naïve questions that provoked thoughtful reflection on practice.  As a practicing school librarian, I always took advantage of this position as an outsider to the classroom.  I could ask questions like “what does that look like in your classroom?” or “what does this standard mean for second graders?” or “how have you taught this before?”  Some questions led to deep discussions about student learning and assessment such as “What does this standard really mean?” “What do we want students to be able to do at the end of this lesson?” or “How will we know they have learned that?”  Other questions led to co-teaching or sharing the work of delivering instruction. “Could we do that better if there were two of us? “ “Suppose I take half of your class while you take the other and then we swap?”  “Would that be better with small groups?”  Sometimes questions helped to integrate instruction.  When teachers and I were trying to plan a lesson in science or social studies, I would often ask, “What skills are you going to be teaching in writing (reading, math)?  Often I could find a book or other resource that met objectives in two or more content areas.

“Inquiry not advocacy” also suggests that we carefully listen to the answers.  Inquiry is about more than asking good questions; it is about seeking understanding from diverse sources.  In collaboration with teachers, inquiry involves listening to teachers as they talk about the diverse needs of their students, the meaning of their curriculum, and the nature of their practice.  For brand new school librarians, or school librarians who have moved to a new school, this is good news.  You don’t have to have the answers and you aren’t expected to know how things are done in this teacher’s classroom or in this school.  You can ask the naïve questions and you can spend time listening and observing.  Those of you who have been in a school for several years can still take this position as new initiatives/standards/textbooks are adopted, as new teachers join the staff, and as every school year starts anew.  First, seek to understand rather than be understood.  It’s not only good inquiry, it’s good mentorship, and good leadership.