Reflection on #ALAAC19

I think it’s important to reflect on any learning or teaching experience. The American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference (AC) is one of those professional development opportunities that compels us to do so. I appreciate ALA and conference participants who post to social media #alaac19 for making that easy. ALA provides a “Looking Back” page on the conference website and will be adding session recordings in four to six weeks. Presentation handouts are available via the conference mobile app.

Of course, meetings, obligations, and choices make it difficult to take full advantage of all ALA AC has to offer. Focusing on the glass half full, I want to share my stand-out experiences.

On Friday morning, my roommate Connie Champlin and I snagged same-day tickets to the must-visit National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian Museum. We spent most of our visit in the history section of the museum and only had a brief time to take in the culture section. The primary source documents, commentary, and interactive displays are moving and pull no punches. There were many African American children, teens, families, and groups touring the museum. There were numerous times when I wish I could have known how other visitors were responding to the exhibits. I wondered, especially, as I watched a young boy counting bodies in a drawing of a slave ship hold. By contrast in the culture section, Chuck Berry’s cherry red Caddy really shines! (I can’t help it; I grew up in the Motor City.)

Later that day, we met long-time friends and colleagues at the Holiday House reception. This year it was held at the National Press Club. Just being in the room was a reminder of the critical importance of the freedom of the press in sustaining our right to factual information about our government, including the activities of our representatives in Washington, our nation, and global society.

Friday night and Sunday morning, I represented the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association at the American Association of School Librarians’ Affiliate Assembly. These tweets sum up my understanding of the importance of the Affiliate Assembly.

Steven Yates @HeyLibraraman Jun 23
I remain in awe of @aasl’s Affiliate Assembly. A grassroots group coming together to make sure the @AASL board is informed on what’s happening at the state & local levels for school libraries & school librarians. Most of these amazing members are here on their own dime! #alaac19

And my retweet with comment: Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24
#aasl #schoollibrarians take a step up in your #schoollibrarianleadership and become active in your state and national organizations. Learn, network, and contribute to the betterment of our profession. #is445

I have been an active member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) since I started my Master’s work in 1990. (Let’s not do the math…) I have served on or chaired numerous committees and task forces as well as served two tenures on the AASL Affiliate Assembly (AA). The AA shares concerns from the field, recommends other organizations for commendations, and serves as a regional networking channel for state-level school librarian associations/divisions. I also am a member of the Educators of School Librarians Section and the Supervisors Section; I attended their meetings as well.

I highly encourage librarians to get involved in ALA and your chosen ALA division (s). You will learn more than you can imagine and meet and befriend countless lifelong colleagues.

Side note: The AASL President’s Program with author/speaker Matt de la Peña was inspiring. He told a bit of his life story, the male role models who influenced him, and his “secretive poet” beginnings that led him to his career as an author. Matt said this, “Books became my place to feel.” In a world where empathy is in short supply, Matt is paying in forward; his books help readers feel…

Attending the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) Celebration on Saturday evening was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I’m looking forward to reading my copy of Reading Dangerously: The Freedom to Read Foundation Marks 50 Years, with a powerful introduction by Neil Gaiman. Protecting First Amendment rights is the focus of the FTRF; these rights are core values of librarianship. As librarians serving in any location/position, we must stand with other organizations and lend our support for legal action that protects these rights. If you are not familiar with the FTRF, please learn more at: https://www.ftrf.org/page/About

Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24:
Wise and timely quotes from @halseanderson. In dark times, “we are all called to bring our light to the table” “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” @ALALibrary Freedom to Read 50th Anniversary Event. #is445 #YAlit #alaac19

Both speakers, Laurie Halse Anderson and Colson Whitehead, were inspired and hard-hitting. I admit I was unfamiliar with Colson Whitehead’s work. I am in queue at our pubic library for the audio CD of The Underground Railroad. (His latest, The Nickel Boys, is still on order.)

On Sunday, I received the Scholastic Library Publishing Award and attended the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet. I have a tradition of reserving a table and inviting friends to join me for an elegant evening to celebrate the award winners. Friends that they are, they made me pose with the award. In addition to being among friends and fellow/sister children’s literature lovers, this year’s program was delightfully diverse:

WeNeedDiverseBooks @diversebooks Jun 22
If you haven’t stopped by our #ALAAC19 booth yet, come visit us in Booth 813E for swag! We have signed advanced reading copies of THE HERO NEXT DOOR and more. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Public and school librarians should be aware of the activism of @diversebooks (https://diversebooks.org/) This organization is taking a public stand for diversity in children’s and young adult publishing. The Hero Next Door is a collection of middle grade short stories edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. (To learn more about the contributors to this collection, search Amazon.) Following @diversebooks and searching Twitter for #weneeddiversebooks are excellent ways to stay informed of this group’s activities.

Yes! We — children, teens, and those who care for and serve them — need diverse books. “Authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, and book review sources share in this responsibility. Working together, book publishing and book promotion stakeholders can ensure that the literature available to children and young adults is of the highest quality and worthy of all readers” (Moreillon 2019, 7).

The 2020 ALA Conference will be in Chicago. See you there?

Best,
Judi

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Does Cultural Competence Matter? Book Reviewers as Mediators of Children’s Literature.” Children and Libraries 17 (1): 3-8.

Next Steps

Dear Maximizing School Librarianship Readers and Blog Post Followers,

We/I have come to the conclusion of a ten-month cycle of book study blog posts to support my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) (ALA 2018). When I wrote the book, composing posts and podcasts related to each chapter in the book was a commitment I made to myself and to readers. I planned for blog posts by interspersing four pull quotes in each chapter. After the introductory posts, I have based each blog post on a pull quote. The content of the podcasts evolved beyond my own recordings to include interviews with selected school librarian leaders.

This photograph was taken at a California beach in May, 2019. The smaller footprints belong to my grandson who was fifteen months old at the time. The larger footprints belong to his dad, my son-in-law. This image came to me when I was walking with them on the beach and thinking about this final MSLL blog post. I knew I wanted to address “next steps” but it wasn’t until I saw their footprints that I realized how I could so.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Small First Steps
It has often been said that change agents should start small; that the best strategy to sustain long-term improvements is to take measured steps. When you come to the realization that it is time for you and the library program to move forward in a new direction, you are ready to begin a change process. Aligning your steps with the goals of your administrator, school, or district is the most effective way to make sure that your “library” goals will help others succeed. Remembering the charge to serve others serves school librarians well.

Having a plan helps you chart and measure your progress. Developing your plan with school library stakeholders is a wise choice. As a team, you may take two steps forward and one step back, but if you keep your goals in mind, you will always be able to see your reality in terms of forward progress (see Chapter 9: Figure 9.3: Your Plan and Reality.) When missteps and reversals happen, having a supportive team can give you encouragement and ideas for taking a new step and moving forward again.

Each step you take—with purpose—is one that leads to your goal. Your goal may be related to students’ or classroom teachers’ equitable access to the resources of the library and your expertise. Your goal may be a flexible schedule that offers students opportunities for deeper learning through the library program. Your goal may be increasing access to and the effective use of technology tools for learning and teaching. It may involve informal or formal professional development, or grant writing, or an advocacy campaign. Whatever your goal, each step along the way can get you closer to your desired outcome.

“Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap;
you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Crossing Chasms
Great leaps are possible. These steps require courage; they also require a community of support. Large-scale change in any school should be led or colead with the school principal. Again, aligning “great leaps” with initiatives underway at the site or district level gives “library initiatives” a leg up.

One leap that many elementary librarians have taken involves scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows for school librarians to reach their capacity as leaders, instructional partners, information specialists, and teachers. A flexible schedule based on classroom-library collaboration for instruction makes deeper learning for students possible. It also helps school librarians measure and document their impact on student learning outcomes. Without this evidence, school librarians’ value may not be recognized.

One leap that secondary librarians have taken involves classroom-library collaboration for instruction; it involves coteaching with classroom teachers in more than one subject-area department. Classroom teachers and school librarians plan for learning from an interdisciplinary perspective. “Each disciplinary perspective contributes specific concepts or findings as well as specific modes of thinking to shed light on a particular problem” (Wineburg and Grossman 2000, 27). This type of learning design mirrors they way people work and live outside of school (see also Chapter 5: Figure 5.1: Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questioning Matrix).

The “size” of your steps forward may be irrelevant. Their impact on teaching and learning depends on the culture and goals of the community you serve. Only you, along with library stakeholders, can decide if a step is a small one or a big one. Plan, take action, reflect, revise, and repeat in order to bring your vision into reality.

Advocacy and the School Librarian Leadership Blog
Each school librarian is the representative of the profession for the students, educators, administrators, families, and community members they serve. In your daily practice, you show others why a state-certified school librarian is an essential member of every school faculty. With your expertise and extensive literacies toolkit, you have the opportunity to fill a niche that would otherwise be lacking to the detriment of students, colleagues, and families.

The blog posts I have authored and the podcasts I have published to support a year-long book study are available and linked from the menu at the top of School Librarian Leadership. com. These resources will be available for future MSLL book readers. In many ways, for me, this feels like the end of an extra long teaching semester.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University, I often pulled out and posted this quote at the end of each semester. (It is one that I had hanging in our library office when I was a practicing school librarian.)

“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

In your role as a school librarian leader, I know you will build bridges/connections for learning with the students, colleagues, and families you serve. I know you will reach out into the wider community of librarians and library stakeholders to move our profession forward. The school librarian profession is in good hands with professionals such as you who are continuously developing their craft, deepening their knowledge, and growing their leadership.

I invite you to use the MSLL book study posts and podcasts in any way that supports your work. I also invite you to continue following this blog. My posts from June 10th on will be aligned with the courses I’m teaching, research, events, and issues related to effective professional school librarian leadership.

Thank you for reading and listening and most of all, for leading.

Work Cited

Wineburg, Sam, and Pam Grossman. Eds. 2000. Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Challenges to Implementation. New York: Teachers College Press.

An Effective Teaching Force

When marketing the expertise of the school librarian and services of the library program, it is imperative that we find out what our administrators, colleagues, students, families, and community want and need. While stakeholders may have numerous specific needs for resources and tools, there may be one thing everyone agrees upon.

Every school needs an effective teaching force.

An Effective Teaching Force
An effective teaching force contributes positively to school climate and embodies the school culture. Effective educators build positive, supportive relationships with students, colleagues, and families. They create a welcoming environment in their classrooms, libraries, and labs. They spread welcome in the hallways, at student performances, and athletic events. They are committed to creating a climate in which learners and learning can thrive. In such a school, the library is a “hospitable” space for learning, teaching, meeting, and simply hanging out.

Effective educators also have shared values and practices that create and sustain the school culture. Through open and honest communication, educators collaboratively reach, revisit, and revise agreements regarding the core teaching and learning practices based on shared values. They have contributed to and embody the school/school district’s vision, mission, and goals. They are team players who know it takes an entire village to raise joyful (and effective) readers, writers, and thinkers.

Educators Matter
According to the RAND Corporation organization, one of the least-biased research and reporting non-profits in the U.S., teachers matter.

  1. Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.
  2. Nonschool (sic) factors do influence student achievement, but they are largely outside a school’s control.
  3. Effective teachers are best identified by their performance, not by their background or experience.
  4. Effective teachers tend to stay effective even when they change schools (RAND).

In short, effective educators help level the playing field for students.

School librarians are about equity of access to the resources students and educators need for success. Equity, however, applies to intellectual as well as physical access. Getting a book or a resource into the hands of a student is an essential first step, but it does not ensure that reading and learning will follow. Students need the tools to make sense of text. They need comprehension strategies, opportunities to discuss their learning with peers and experts, and support in making connections to school-based learning and taking action in the world outside of school. Equity requires vigilance and continual instructional improvement.

Continuous Improvement, On-going Assessment
As the lead learner in a school, principals are deeply invested in and charged with elevating the instructional proficiency of classroom teachers, specialists, and other certified staff, including school librarians. To that end, school librarians can be principals’ partners in providing formal professional development and job-embedded informal PD that results in improved teaching and learning opportunities for students.

A focus on “development” suggests that learning is about change over time. “Viewing learning as a never-ending journey that students and educators undertake together keeps the focus on development (assessments) rather than on a final destination (evaluation)” (Moreillon 2018, 110). While students’ standardized test scores may occupy an overrated top slot in the hierarchy of evaluation, wise educators focus on the daily relationships they build with students; They focus on improving their ability to spark students’ curiosity and help them find their inner motivation to pursue learning. Wise educators focus on their own skill sets in order to improve the school-based learning lives of students. They focus on a continuous cycle of assessment, feedback, and improvement.

School librarians are partners with principals, classroom teachers, and specialist colleagues on a continuous improvement, on-going assessment journey. School librarians can commit to improving their own ability to learn and lead. This is how an effective teaching force is developed and sustained. In fact, that is precisely how school librarians achieve their capacity to influence and improve teaching and learning their school communities.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your commitment to supporting all of your colleagues in reaching their capacity?
  2. How do you frame your contribution to other educators’ learning (and your own instructional improvement) such that your principal and school community value the role you play in school improvement?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

RAND Education and Labor. nd. “Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers’ Impact on Student Achievement.” https://www.rand.org/education-and-labor/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/teachers-matter.html

School Librarian Evaluation

Episode 7: Assessment (Evidence-based Practice) Virtual Podcast Interview with Kelly MillerIf school librarians are to achieve their capacity as leaders in their schools, it is their charge to influence the practices of their colleagues. As noted in Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development, coteaching is an ideal context in which educators organically practice reciprocal mentorship. Coteachers learn with and from one another as they guide, monitor, and assess student learning outcomes.

If school librarians are to collect direct measures, “they must be proactive in creating the conditions in which they can collect, analyze, and use evidence of their impact on student learning” (Moreillon 2016, 30). In short, in order to maximize their leadership, school librarians must seek out instructional partnerships, and they must coplan, coteach, and coassess student learning outcomes.

And in the best of all possible worlds, school librarian evaluators would observe them and provide actionable feedback in the context of coteaching. I was fortunate in my career to have site-level administrators who, with the classroom teacher’s permission, observed me during cotaught lessons. In several cases, our pre-evaluation conferences were conducted with the other educator present. In all cases, the post-evaluation conferences were one-on-one conversations between my evaluators and me.

Readiness for Coteaching
Jennifer Sturge, the Teacher Specialist for School Libraries and Instructional Technology for Calvert County (MD) Public Schools published an article in the January/February issue of Knowledge Quest (KQ). In the article, Jen shares how she provided collaboration training to help classroom teachers and school librarians prepare for classroom-library coteaching. She also worked with administrators to help them overcome possible barriers to coteaching such as library scheduling, collaboration time, and library staffing.

Jen found that 83% of the classroom teachers she surveyed believed that collaborating with school librarians would benefit students. Of course, there were challenges along the way, but can-do collaborators found solutions to address them. As Jen notes at the end of her article, “I was hoping to succeed but was also prepared to fail. After all, how could this project take off without funding? Through the sheer determination of everyone who has recognized the benefits to students and worked along with way with me, we’re moving slowly but surely to a more collaborative approach in our elementary school libraries” (Sturge 2019, 31).

Evaluating Coplanning
Using a coplanning form is one way to assess you and your colleague’s readiness to coteach. In the January/February KQ article “Co-Planning and Co-Implementing Assessment and Evaluation for Inquiry Learning,” I provided sample planning forms that include standards, learning objectives, and student outcomes evaluation criteria (Moreillon 2019, 42-43).

Effective collaborative planning creates a framework for measurable student success; it addresses the Understanding by Design (UbD) approach (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) to planning instruction. School librarian evaluators will benefit from observing, participating in, or reviewing educators’ evidence of collaborative planning.

Evaluating Coteaching
Evidence-based practice (EBP) suggests that educators base their instruction on published research, apply research-based interventions in their practice, and measure the success of their efforts in terms of the targeted student outcomes. UbD and EBP are aligned and can assist educators in determining the effectiveness of their teaching.

In the same issue of KQ, the literacy coordinator for Bismarck Public Schools Misti Werle shared her leadership in implementing and evaluating instructional partnerships in her district. Writing along with middle school librarian Kat Berg and English language arts teacher Jenni Kramer, Misti shared a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” document that guided Bismarck school librarians in serving as equal instructional partners. The document assisted them in stretching their collaborative practices and helped them assess their progress as well (Berg, Kramer, and Werle 2019, 35).

Evaluating the Outcomes of Classroom-Library Collaboration
In her podcast interview, Kelly Miller, Coordinator of Library Media Services for Virginia Beach (VA) Public Schools, provides school librarians with a pathway to leadership through evidence-based practice. When school librarians collaborate with others to develop an action research project, they can demonstrate their professionalism, collect and analyze data, and document how they are improving teaching and learning in their schools.

This tweet was cited in a recent issue of ASCD’s Education Update: “Have a dream or vision and struggling to get there? If so, let go of perfection, bring as many people together as you can, and focus on continuous improvement rather than a destination point of ‘success’” (@PrincipalPaul 2019, 3). Collaborative relationships can be challenging. Codesigning and coimplementing an action research project can be imperfect at times and collaborators must be able to self-assess and regroup.

Just as educators help students strive for continuous development, wise administrators and school librarian supervisors support educators in continually improving their practice. Approaching school librarian evaluation as providing feedback for learning means that librarians will have the necessary guidance to move their practice forward. Success is in the journey rather than reaching some static target for “perfection.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Why is it essential for school librarians to have a different evaluation instrument than classroom teachers?
  2. Think of a time you had an effective coteaching experience. What would an evaluator have noticed during this teaching and learning event?

For Fun!
Effective classroom-library collaboration can flourish in a positive school climate and a collaborative school culture. Figure 7.4 in this chapter (also available as a free download) shows a possible way to involve one’s administrators and colleagues in suggesting criteria for assessing the school librarian’s effectiveness.

Works Cited

@PrincipalPaul. 2019. ASCD Education Update 61 (1): 3.

Berg, Kat, Jenni Kramer, and Misti Werle. 2019. “Implementing & Evaluating Instructional Partnerships.” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 32-38.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Co-Planning and Co-Implementing Assessment and Evaluation for Inquiry Learning,” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 40-47.

Sturge, Jennifer. 2019. “Assessing Readiness for School Library Collaboration.” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 24-31.

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

 

Differentiated Digital Professional Development

There is no doubt in my mind that when classroom teachers, specialists, and school librarians coteach they offer each other reciprocal mentorship; they learn with and from one another. In the context of digital learning, this results in differentiated digital professional development for all educators and improved outcomes for students.

Rose Else-Mitchell, who is currently the Chief Learning Officer at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, conducted a study in 2017 in which she found that 2/3rds of classroom teachers are using technology in instruction but feel they need more support and training (cited in Wolf 2018, 182). When educators are coplanning and coteaching as equal partners, their combined digital teaching and learning expertise enhances experiences and ensures that instructional innovations, including students’ use and mastery of technology resources and tools, are diffused throughout the learning environment.

Research Related to Adult Learning
Andragogy comprises principles of adult learning. As mentioned in the “Professional Development is Key” blog post last September, these principles should be adhered to in formal professional development as well as in informal coteaching/reciprocal mentoring. Adults learners:

  1. are self-directed and take responsibility for their own learning;
  2. have prior experiences that can be a positive or negative influence on learning;
  3. are motivated by an internal need to know;
  4. and have a problem-solving orientation to learning (Knowles 1990).

School librarians are wise to approach collaboration from the perspective of helping a colleague solve her/his instructional challenge. With regard to school librarians’ role as technology mentors, this can come from a place of sharing what we know, learning from what the other educator(s) knows, or taking a risk together to attempt something new in order to engage, motivate, or challenge students.

In my experience as a school librarian educator, I found many graduate students who were learning new technology tools felt supported by taking a risk with a university classmate or building-level colleague. Educators found that identifying resources and tools, troubleshooting tools with students in mind, and providing students with choices and a menu of resource and tool options can be more successful with two or more designer-facilitators of learning.

Exemplary Practice from the Field
Laura Long is the school library media specialist at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, North Carolina. In her January 10, 2019 Knowledge Quest blog post “The School Library, Makey, Makey, and Learning,” Laura shared an exemplary example.

Laura’s colleague Jamee P. Webb teaches English III (11th grade). This is how Laura describes Jamee, “She is a frequent collaborator with me in the school library, and she is a lifelong learner. It is fun to watch her discover new strategies, apps, and products that she can use with her students.” (This description says as much about Laura who wrote it as it does about Jamee.)

When Jamee earned a grant for “Makey, Makey STEM kits,” Laura, Jamee, and instructional technology facilitator Katherine Leatherman explored the Makey kits with Jamee’s classes. The two-day project culminated with student-created poetry using the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights as background information. (Please read Laura’s entire post.)

Also, on March 6, 2019, school librarian Harry Oslund from William J. Brennan High School in Northside ISD (Texas) and the school’s academic technology instructional support specialist Ryan Fontanella are offering a webinar titled “Using Makerspaces to Build Teacher/Librarian Collaboration” via AASL’s eCollab. I am excited to hear their presentation and learn how they are collaborating to maximize the impact of their school’s makerspace on students’ classroom-based learning. You can sign up here: http://www.ala.org/aasl/ecollab/makerspaces

Embracing Tasks Before Apps Mindset
When I read Laura’s post, I was reminded of an article that was written by Monica Burns (ClassTechTips.com) that appeared last September in the Association for Curriculum and Development’s Education Update. Dr. Burns offered four tips for keeping the focus on tasks rather than on the technology tools themselves. These tips support classroom-library coplanning and coteaching in the context of digital learning.

  1. Review curriculum goals.
  2. Reflect on creation opportunities.
  3. Take stock of student interest.
  4. Find your partner in technology (Burns 2018, 4-5).

Unfortunately, Dr. Burns didn’t mention school librarians as natural partners for classroom teachers when it comes to curating and integrating apps and other technology tools and devices into classroom instruction.

As Laura Long’s experience shows, when classroom teachers, school librarians, and technology instructional coaches pool their expertise and resources exciting, successful, and digitally rich learning experiences happen for students.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you currently practice technology-focused differentiated professional development with and for your colleagues?
  2. What ideas do you have for improving technology-focused differentiated professional development with and for your colleagues?

Works Cited

Burns, Monica. 2018. “Embracing a Tasks Before Apps Mindset.” ASCD: Education Update: 1, 4-5.

Knowles, Malcolm. 1990. The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. 4th ed. Houston: Gulf.

Long, Laura. 2019. “The School Library, Makey, Makey, and Learning.” Knowledge Quest Blog. https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/the-school-library-makey-makey-and-learning

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Digital Learning Instructional Partnerships

Podcast Episode 6: Digital Learning Interview with Amy Soma and Louis Lauer

Initiating, developing, and sustaining instructional partnerships for digital learning is a win-win-win proposition for future ready learning. School librarians can be leaders in developing shared digital learning values, vocabulary, instructional practices, and expectations.

Collaborating educators have knowledge of students’ home and school access to digital resources and technology tools. This may be particularly important for school librarians who are well-aware of students’ school-based access but may lack knowledge of students’ home and community access. However, access alone is not enough to ensure that students are able to maximize the promised benefits digital information, devices, and tools.

In a 2016 survey, Victoria Rideout and Vikki Katz found that “the quality of families’ Internet connections, and the kinds and capabilities of devices they can access, have considerable consequences for parents and children” (7). Through collaboration, educators must deepen their knowledge and understanding of students’ opportunities to learn digitally. They must create a school- and community-based context in which digital learning can achieve its promise.

Shared Values
While access to technology resources is a prerequisite for digital learning, shared values are just as important. Educators who have similar teaching experiences working with students in their neighborhood schools are perfectly positioned to think, plan, and teach together to meet students’ needs. During collaborative planning, astute school librarians will be mindful of how their colleagues’ values and their own align and when those values are misaligned. During the coplanning process, collaborators may nudge each other to expand students’ choice and voice when it comes to digital tools.

When educators read and share research and practitioner articles focused on technology tools integration, they can collectively strategize the most effective approaches to engaging students in digital learning. Wrestling with questions such as the ones that follow posed by Dr. Maryanne Wolf can lead instructional partners or whole school teaching teams to think and rethink how to successfully frame digital learning.

“Will the early-developing cognitive components of the reading circuit be altered by digital media before, while, and after children learn to read? In particular, what will happen to the development of their attention, memory, and background knowledge—processes known to be affected in adults by multitasking, rapidity, and distraction?” (Wolf 2018, 107).

“What are the specific developmental relationships among continuous partial attention, working memory, and the formation and the deployment of deep-reading processes in children?” (Wolf 2018, 117).

Shared Vocabulary
When educators have shared vocabulary for instruction in any content area or for use in any process, such as inquiry learning, students benefit. The glossary in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership is an important aspect of the book. While all readers may not agree 100% with my definitions, they offer a starting place for discussion and clarification.

The International Literacy Association (ILA) offers an online literacy glossary. “New literacies” is one important term related to digital learning that educators may discuss and tweak.

New literacies. A term used to signal a shift from literacy to literacies, especially in relation to how people view texts as being situated in different contexts that in turn support different kinds of reading and writing. New, not in the sense of a replacement metaphor, but new in the sense that social, economic, cultural, intellectual, and institutional changes are continually at work. This term is preferred over 21st-century literacies. (See also 21st-century literacy(ies)) [Rev., 10/2018]

Collaborating for digital learning does require an understanding of how students view, read, learn with, and write digital texts.  For me, ILA’s definition is especially useful because it notes the term “new” relates to  contexts for literacy learning rather than a replacement for traditional literacies.

Shared Contexts
Students and adults today have become habituated to ever faster access to information and multitasking. We also communicate more frequently in briefer units of thought; Twitter and email are examples. “90% of youth say they are multitasking when they are reading online; only 1% multitask when reading in print” (Wolf 2018, 114).

Faster access to information does not necessarily result in faster knowledge acquisition. Modeling slower and deeper engagement with texts helps students see the benefits of taking time. In addition, relevant learning experiences can help students remain engaged, develop intrinsic motivation, and persist when learning is challenging. With two or more coteachers monitoring student learning, educators can more easily identify students who have lost their momentum or lost their way and need guidance to get back on track.

Instructional Practices
What school librarians have traditionally termed information literacy are what Dr. Wolf calls “pragmatic tools” for online reading. School librarians are adept and experienced at teaching students how to select and use search engines and databases. We help students be deliberate when choosing search terms and evaluating search results. We model and give them repeated opportunities to practice determining perspective and bias and to dig deep in order to recognize misinformation, propaganda, and lies. Taking these strategies to media sources, further expands students’ ability to be astute users of data, ideas, and information.

Separating truth from fiction takes time for both youth and adults. Applying information and media literacy strategies and approaching texts with alternately open and skeptical minds will require practice. The International Society for Technology in Education has published a number of resources to support school librarians in teaching information/media literacy, most recently Fact versus Fiction: Teaching Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News (LaGarde and Hudgins 2018).

The Challenge
School librarians must focus on access first and address the gaps. The future ready librarian also “invests strategically in digital resources,” “cultivates community partnerships,” and “leads beyond the library” (Future Ready Librarians).  School librarians can take a leadership role in writing grants to obtain funding for technologies that address equity of access. Building digital age capacity through forming partnerships with public librarians and other community-based organizations is important in order to provide digital networks that are essential to students’ success. School librarians must join with others in advocating for students’ access to tools and devices in their homes and communities as well as in their schools.

Through leadership, we can help our schools develop shared values, vocabulary, instructional practices, and expectations for student learning with digital information and tools in order to address this challenge: “technology increasingly provides easy access to answers, but if we focus only on the answers and not on the thinking, questioning, and solving, we deny students powerful learning experiences. Perhaps even more significant, we fail to develop the new literacies that will empower them to solve complex problems and be lifelong learners” (Martin 2018, 22).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How would you describe the technology environment, including equity of access, in your school, district, or community?
  2. In what kinds of conversations have you engaged with colleagues related to shared values, practices, and challenges with technology tools use and integration?

Works Cited

Future Ready Librarians Framework: Empowering Leadership for School Librarians through Innovative Professional Practice. https://tinyurl.com/frlflyer

LaGarde, Jennifer, and Darren Hudgins. 2018. Fact versus Fiction: Teaching Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Martin, Katie. 2018. “Learning in a Changing World: What It Means to be a Literacy Learning—and Teacher—in the 21st Century.” Literacy Today 36 (3): 21-23.

Rideout, Victoria, and Vikki S. Katz. 2016. “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families.” Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. ERIC ED574416.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Deeper Learning Opportunities

The quote that frames the “Deeper Learning” chapter can serve as educators’ guidepost for inquiry, traditional literacies, and digital literacy as well. Right Question Institute leaders Dan Rothstein, Luz Santana, and Andrews P Minigan proclaim: “Having students create their own questions is a short-cut to deeper learning” (2015, 71). I agree… and I also agree with these authors that students need guides to help them dig deep to find their most personally meaningful questions that will motivate them to pursue answers, even when the going gets rough.

More than One Answer
For far too long, many K-12 students have experienced school as the place where educators ask the questions and students supply the answers (answers that educators already know). While this paradigm has been changing, factors that can set up barriers, such as an over-emphasis on standardized tests or students’ grade point averages, have been impeded change in many school environments.

Linda F. Nathan who wrote a book called The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School and contributed to the “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School” video, wrote this deceptively simple statement in a recent Educational Leadership article: “Problems can have more than one solution and questions can have more than one answer” (Nathan 2018-2019, 62).

For many students (and educators) that fact can be a welcome (or disconcerting) surprise. Student-led inquiry, fine arts projects, science experiments for which the outcome is truly unknown, various projects involving real-world data collection—these are some types of opportunities educators can design and guide in which students can experience more than one solution to self-generated questions—where they can experience deeper learning.

“Traditional” Deeper Learning Project
The “senior research project” has long been a staple of the high school curriculum. The goal of this project is to integrate skills (such as communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking), academic concepts from multiple disciplines, and data from the students’ courses into one summative project. In most cases, these projects are individual. Students may be “assigned” the project is a particular course, and it is then facilitated by that classroom teacher or another adult mentor.

School librarians are positioned to support students and classroom teachers as students pursue senior research projects. This may be accomplished on an individual basis, or classroom teachers may determine that small groups or entire classes of students need interventions. School librarians can collaborate with the teacher to provide interventions such as effective uses of databases, technology tools and resources, credible Web searching, bibliographic instruction, and more.

Genius Hour
In K-12 schools, Genius Hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions in order to capitalize on intrinsic motivation and encourage creativity.  It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. Although I am a firm believer in designing and organizing standards-based inquiry learning such that students ARE pursuing their passions, anecdotal data suggest that “genius hour” can be a win for students and their learning. The GeniusHour.com website provides professional development, resources, videos, suggested professional reading, and more.

Genius Hour is an idea adapted from Google. At one time, Google provided its engineers with “a genius hour” consisting of 20% of their work time during which they could pursue a pet project. In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, author Dan Pink also promotes the idea that passion projects are a way to tap into our motivation to learn and create. I appreciate Pink for this blog post, in which he describes an Innovation Day (2011) in a suburban Chicago classroom. All educators could design learning such that students experience such enthusiasm for learning every school day!

Academic Flex Time
Mark Dzula is the Director of Teaching and Learning Resources at The Webb Schools in Claremont, California. He is also a frequent contributor to the Knowledge Quest blog. In two recent posts, Mark described the learning experiences of students pursuing independent topics, questions, and knowledge during academic flex time.

AASL Standards and Multiple Literacies during Academic Flex Time (9/26/18)

Research, Information Literacy, and Independent Study (12/17/18)

Creating the Conditions
Educators create the conditions for deeper learning when they fully integrate learning and doing. “We diminish teaching and learning when we make students study history or biology or math or literature without consistently and simultaneously having them do the work of and as practitioners in the field” (Tomlinson 2018, 92). As emphasized in last week’s post, personally meaningful questions and time are two essential ingredients in empowered deeper learning. Hands-on, minds-on doing is another.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What kinds of deeper learning do students in your school experience?
  2. What kinds of deeper learning do educators in your school experience?

Works Cited

Nathan, Linda F. 2018-2019. “Hitting the Right Note.” Educational Leadership 76 (4); 62-67.

Rothstein, Dan, Luz Santana, and Andrews P Minigan. 2015. “Making Questions Flow.” Educational Leadership 73 (1): 70-75.

Tomlinson, Carol Ann. 2018-2019. “Sparking Students’ ‘Uncommon Genius:’ All Educators Can Learn Valuable Lessons from the Way the Arts Are Taught.” Educational Leadership 76 (4); 91-93.

Common Beliefs about Literacy Learning

Way back in 1999 when I was a doctoral student in the Department of Language, Reading, and Culture at the University of Arizona, I devoured a book about helping secondary students read for understanding. (This was a well-timed read because two years later I transferred from an elementary school librarian position to serve as the second librarian at a comprehensive high school.)

The quote that follows from that book has informed my beliefs about literacy practices.

“What is reading?

  1. Reading is not just a basic skill.
  2. Reading is problem solving.
  3. Fluent reading is not the same as decoding.
  4. Reading is situationally bounded.
  5. Proficient readers share some key characteristics” (Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz 1999, 17-19).

These beliefs have also informed my teaching and focus on teaching/coteaching reading comprehension strategies at all levels, from kindergarten through graduate school. When school librarians and classroom teachers codevelop common beliefs about literacy they will draw from many sources, including the beliefs that inform non-library associations’ understandings of literacy learning.

International Literacy Association
English language arts associations are where school librarians can begin their search for common beliefs. I am a long-time member of the International Literacy Association (ILA). Formerly the International Reading Association, ILA offers research-based position statements, white papers, research advisories, literacy leadership briefs, and reports reflecting the association’s perspective on current topics and trends.

As a member, I receive the bimonthly Literacy Today magazine. The “What’s Hot in Literacy Report” is an annual must-read! I recently read and found the “Exploring the 2017 NAEP Reading Results: Systemic Reforms Beat Simplistic Solutions” report very helpful in further developing my understanding of NAEP.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to publish on the ILA blog: “Closing the Gaps: School Librarians and the What’s Hot Report.” I appreciated this opportunity to reach out to the ILA online community. I would love to see more articles like this and more collaborative activities with ILA, particularly around their latest initiative: Children’s #RightstoRead

In my career, I have copresented at two ILA conferences. One was a day-long preconference workshop that included Nick Glass from TeachingBooks.net and children’s book authors talking about their work; my piece was to bring in the school librarian’s role in promoting literature and coteaching reading comprehension strategies. The other was a panel of school librarians and classroom teachers sharing their collaborative teaching.

National Council of Teachers of English
When I taught secondary students and YA literature at the university, I maintained my membership in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). NCTE also has a page of position statements on their website.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to work with NCTE colleagues to draft the “Resolution on Supporting School and Community Libraries.” Wouldn’t it get great to work with NCTE again to ask them to renew their pledge to support school libraries and the work of school librarians?

ILA and NCTE are partners on the Read Write Think website. Through my association with ILA, I published two collaborative classroom-library unit plans on the site. I appreciate these two organizations for their collaborative efforts.

Traditional Literacies in Other Content Areas
What do we know about non-English language arts associations’ core beliefs about literacy? Our librarian and classroom teacher colleagues are associated with educational initiatives and organizations that understand that traditional literacies are the foundation for their efforts. School librarians are wise to investigate the beliefs of Future Ready Schools and Librarians, International Society for Technology in Education, National Council for the Social Studies, National Science Teachers Association, and more.

An Effective Collaborative Strategy
In the best of all possible worlds, school librarians would all be rich enough and have the necessary time to join and be actively involved in the work of our school librarian associations and other literacy- and education-focused organizations. Whether or not we can participate in the activities of other organizations, we can learn from our colleagues who are members and who are up to date with the standards, positions papers, and initiatives of those organizations.

“Professional conversations about the vision of the excellent reader become the starting point for building the school-wide professional learning community, dedicated to achieving this vision for all students. From there, grade levels collaborate to build the staircase curriculum leading to the vision, with each grade level committing to specific student outcomes related to the vision” (International Literacy Association 2018, 8).

When we are working with colleagues to develop common beliefs about literacy, we must search for alignment with the values of all of these organizations. When we invest in collaborative conversations, listen to one another, and reach common understandings, we strengthen our school culture while improving our teaching. When all educators and administrators have common beliefs about literacy, school librarians can serve as effective coteachers who can best support students, educators, and administrators, and enlist the support of families in literacy learning as well.

Using common beliefs about literacy learning as a framework for classroom-library coplanning and coteaching works!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How do you stay up to date with common beliefs about literacy learning and teaching in all realms of education?
  2. How can you be a leader in codeveloping common beliefs about literacy in your school or district?

Work Cited

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Inquiry-Empowered Learning Culture

In the three previous Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning posts, I have shared ideas about developing a school-wide inquiry process, using inquiry learning as a way to engage students’ curiosity, experimentation, and creativity, and diverse creative expressions of learning. What would be the result if students, educators, and administrators enacted these three big ideas of inquiry learning?Shared Processes
A shared process provides a guaranteed, viable framework for student success. Students can master an information-seeking process and then adapt and expand upon it as they advance through grade levels and in various aspects of the curriculum. A common process leads to shared vocabulary and understandings that help every educator in the building communicate with and support all students in the building in achieving their learning goals.

A shared process can only be realized in a positive school climate and a collaborative learning culture. A framework that promotes in-depth learning will by necessity require changes in other aspects of the learning environment. Bell schedules may need to change. Student and educator responsibilities may need to change. Assessment and evaluation may need to change. Trusting relationships, professional respect, and the ability to navigate challenges and change are essential features of such a learning community.

Student-led Questioning and Diverse Expressions
Trust is also essential if educators support the agency of empowered students who guide their own learning process. Student-led questioning is one of the essential differences between inquiry and traditional research. When educators guide inquiry by providing students with sufficient background and helping them build connections between prior and new knowledge, they create a space in which students’ curiosity, experimentation, and creativity can thrive.

Trust is also necessary in an inquiry environment that supports students as creators. Educators who give up control and share power with students in the classroom and library provide an essential piece of the inquiry learning puzzle. They support students with menus of options or give students free rein to create new knowledge in diverse and unique ways. These expressions of learning are meaningful to students and cement their ownership in both the process and products of their discoveries.

School-wide Philosophy
Inquire is one of the shared foundations in the new AASL standards (2018). When students AND educators inquire, they practice a growth/innovator’s/inquiry mindset. They open their minds to new information, ideas, and perspectives. They use formative assessments to grow and develop as curious, creative, experimenting learners. Educators support students with timely, specific feedback to propel students forward on their learning journey, giving them encouragement to take missteps and to learn from them. The same is true for inquiring educators. They seek, give, and receive real-time feedback from one another through coteaching; they expect to be engaged as learners who are in a constant quest to improve instruction.

When a school or district adopts an inquiry learning framework they are also adopting a philosophy. If you haven’t yet tuned in or want to be inspired again, please listen to Priscille Dando’s podcast interview Episode 3: Inquiry Learning, in which she shares how school librarians are leading and guiding inquiry learning to achieve district goals for students and educators.

A Recipe for Inquiry Learning
Figure 3.1 on page 38 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership offers a “Recipe for Inquiry Learning.” It is “taken out of the book” of future ready educators and students. The ingredients are curiosity, connections, motivation, content knowledge, literacies, skills, and dispositions. The directions can be applied to any inquiry process, but all steps require sufficient time for maximum results. You can download the recipe from the ALA Editions Web Extras.

Inquiry learning is student ready/future ready learning. It is the pathway to helping students develop literacies, skills, and dispositions that will serve them throughout their lives.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What behaviors indicate to you that students and educators are empowered in your school?
  2. How can inquiry learning lead to empowerment for the entire school community?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Diverse, Creative Expressions of Learning

In addition to advocating for learning experiences that involve stimulating students’ creativity, engaging them in experimentation, and activating their creativity (see last week’s blog post), coplanning and coteaching inquiry learning are also ways to increase students’ opportunities for diverse final products. If our message to students is that all roads lead to the same outcome, many will not see the relevance of their learning experiences to their lives. They will not experience learning as a complex activity that results in diverse creative expressions of learning. Too many will disengage or simply be lost or derailed along the way.

Supporting Classroom Teachers and Specialists
During coplanning, classroom teachers and specialists may express reservations about students taking curriculum into individual or unexpected pathways. Secondary educators, in particular, who may be responsible for learning outcomes for 75 middle school or as many as 150 high school students may shudder to think that they alone will be responsible for guiding and assessing students’ learning.

School librarians who coplan, coimplement, AND coassess student learning outcomes can ease classroom teachers’ and specialists’ concerns about giving students “free rein” to explore in many different directions and in producing many different final products. Collaboration can also ensure that educators create flexible assessment tools that accurately reflect students’ achievement in terms of learning objectives as well as their creativity.

Supporting Students
Two (or more) educators working as a team can better monitor and guide individual student’s learning as well as small group work. Inquiry circles as described in the guided inquiry require check-ins from educators (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 32–36). It is through check-ins that educators push students’ thinking, offer resource support, identify stumbling blocks, and opportunities for reteaching specific subskills to the students who need them to move forward.

One of my all-time favorite teaching memories involved working with a second-grade teacher (in the late 1990s) who structured her classroom around inquiry. Students identified areas of interest, pitched their ideas to the class, and formed small groups to pursue meaningful questions. As their school librarian, I often worked with more or more groups as they sought information through the library’s resources.

One of the questions for the “frog and other amphibians” group was about dissecting frogs to learn more about their body parts and functions. I helped the group contact a biology professor at the University of Arizona. The students posed their questions to him and organized a field trip to his lab where he led them in dissecting and learning about frogs. I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying them on their adventure. Years later, two students from that group remembered that learning experience as one of the most powerful in their elementary education.

The Underlying Message
Learning is complex and expressions of knowledge can (and should?) be unique. When classmates share their learning processes and final products, students (and educators) should be amazed at the divergent thinking and variety of expressions of learning. When students are given the opportunity to pursue learning that is personally meaningful, use resources they have discovered on their own, selected and employed tools that helped them meet their individual (or their group’s) goals for sharing, they are enacting the skills and dispositions of lifelong learners.

Inquiry Learning = Preparation for Life!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What strategies have you used for supporting students’ diverse creative expressions of their learning?
  2. Describe the assessment tools you have used to guide students’ learning while giving them opportunities to express their learning in diverse and creative ways?

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2015. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.