Looking Forward

years-textClosing out the month of December and the year, most folks take an opportunity to make a few New Year’s resolutions.  For teachers and teacher librarians, it’s a time to recharge ideas and plans for 2015 that refocus on “The Heart of the Matter: Why I Teach.” (Alber, 2014)

This month, as the BACC bloggers offered ways to find partners and resources to stretch scarce financial funds, we have tried to highlight successful examples of mutually beneficial projects/ideas that go beyond school walls, and engage a wider community of learners. We know that there are amazing things happening in our schools across the country, and we would like to hear about them.  Perhaps you might leave us a reply, or a link to other creative and innovative programs or projects that could be shared.

As an educator, whether you are planning for your students, or pursuing a partnership with community members, you have to be able to articulate your vision for learning, and show that you are committed to the long haul.  Throwing the spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks is fine for cooking, but innovative ideas need to be nurtured to make them sustainable.  Collaboration with a partner, team, or co-teacher helps to clarify the purpose and process for transforming teaching and learning.  Trial and error are also part of the process for teachers and students in the quest for meaningful learning. Never give up!

When I read Rebecca Alber’s inspiring post (linked above) on Edutopia, I was reminded that teachers are creative, ingenious, and resilient problem solvers who enjoy a challenge, as well as their students. In addition to her list, I would summarize a few items as entry points for innovative planning that bridge traditional and transformative teaching and learning-and make it fun. These are not new ideas, but ones that seem to be trending in schools and beyond.

Options for innovative planning in the classroom and the future:

  • Flipping curriculum content through inquiry and technology integration. Using technology tools and applications for collaboration and personalized, self directed learning, not just another medium for pencil and paper tasks. Assessment for performance and knowledge, not recall.
  • Global thinking and awareness. Digital literacy is front and center to understanding differences in cultures and communities. Empathy is a habit of mind that comes from exposure to alternative points of view.
  • Social justice and personal responsibility through authentic learning opportunities. Communities thrive where all citizens, even the youngest have connections to the environment, the history, and the values shared by all.  Doing is learning and builds pride and a sense of worth.
  • Reflection and goal setting for students and educators. Mindfulness for empowering and engaging learners of all ages. Respecting individual differences and dreams. Multiple pathways for learning.

As you peck away at your New Year’s list, which ones will you choose to try out next year?


Alber, Rebecca. “The Heart of the Matter: Why I Teach.”  Edutopia, December 25, 2014. Weblog. <http://www.edutopia.org//blog/heart-matter-why-i-teach-rebecca-alber>

Image: Morguefile http://mrg.bz/OoxaYL

Flipping Collaboration for Professional Development

For this week, I’d like to offer some thoughts about Sue Kimmel’s challenge for flipping collaboration (post 9/9/12) in a different, but related model for professional development by and for teacher librarians.

“I would like to advocate that we look for ways to become more fluid and nimble in our approach to time and how we use it to co-plan, co-implement, and co-assess teaching and learning as we continue to ‘push everyone toward excellence (Loertscher, 2008)’.”

One of the guidelines in Empowering Learners (2009), concerns professional development designed to “sustain and increase knowledge and skills.” (43)  As teacher librarians, we strive to expand our understanding of best practice through various opportunities for professional development through courses, webinars, conferences, and so on.  In our schools, we provide learning experiences for our colleagues, as well as our students.

The time issue looms large for both participating in and providing for professional development.  Other than dedicated professional development days that are scheduled around administrative goals, there just aren’t enough hours in the school day for sustained, reflective, meaningful learning for any of us. How can we find a better way that will make a difference?

Web 2.0 tools and applications offer platforms for co-teaching and learning for students, as Sue mentioned, but let’s think about how we might use a 24/7 environment for providing a community space for teacher learning.  The purpose could be described as a place to read and reflect, take risks, model new technology applications, ask questions, discuss and debate, collaborate, and develop new resources for practice and personal learning networks.

Sounds like pie in the sky, but let’s take a look at Jennifer LaGarde’s blog (Adventures of Library Girl) as she describes how she uses Edmoto as platform for “Gamifying PD.”  When you look at the list of expectations and goals, you will see that she has combined face to face, online, and participatory activities-and it sounds engaging and fun.  And it’s available 24/7 whenever a participant logs on.

Blended learning is another way to describe participatory interaction that offers opportunities for face to face and online learning that are both individual and interactive.  A course/learning management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, Haiku and others, can provide a space for content, assessments, discussion boards, blogs and so on, that is available asynchronously.  Face to face sessions can be physical or virtual through webcasts or podcasts, both synchronously and asynchronously.

If you are interested in how blended learning works as a model for higher education, I recommend reading “Communities of Practice for Blended Learning: Toward an Integrated Model for LIS education.” (2010) I discovered this article when I was doing research for a chapter in a book about blended learning.  Joyce Yukawa of St. Catherine University in St. Paul describes blended learning within a graduate level LIS course.  She provides the rationale for combining appropriate technology to meet the needs of adult learners and to foster a social construct for learning. The emphasis is on learning by doing.  LIS students had to use the technology applications as they focused on library projects and assignments. The ideas presented here provide convincing reasons to think about ways to adapt school or district wide professional development to a blended learning environment.

At UVM, where I teach and learn from my students, blended learning has enhanced a cohort experience for everyone.  In school library media studies courses, students from across the state are able to participate in courses for licensure or professional development. In a small state such as ours, we are proud to have contributed to building a network of colleagues and friends who have become educational leaders in schools across Vermont, and access to 24/7 online learning has paved the way.

Collaboration is at the crux of participatory culture.  So let’s get on with it!

Judy Kaplan


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association


LaGarde, J. (2012, August 12). Game based PD for an epic win [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.librarygirl.net/ 2012/08/game-based-pd-for-epic-win.html


Yukawa, J. (2010). Communities of practice for blended learning: toward an integrated model for LIS education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 51: (2) 54-75.


Flipping Collaboration!

      I think I alarmed Judi when she first approached me about joining this blog by saying that I had been wondering lately if we were entering a “post-collaboration” era. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the work of co-planning, co-implementing, or co-assessing wasn’t as important, or perhaps even more critical than it ever was.  But I have the sense that we are in the midst of a shift from collaboration as a noun that implies a solid state of affairs toward something more fluid – more verb than noun.  I found the conversation that took place in the comments last week between Carol and Judi indicative of this state of the matter. As long as we treat collaboration as a solid block, we have to find a space and time where we can meet with our colleagues.  Judi’s response about finding time by utilizing Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and Googledocs that allow us to interact asynchronously suggests that school librarians might move more fluidly into those cracks that offer possibilities to work with colleagues when there seemingly is no time in our scheduled days to do so.

Collaboration has always been a difficult ideal for the school library profession, and the challenge of finding time has been identified as one of the barriers.  Maybe, it’s time we just removed the excuse of time as the barrier that prevents us from making the effort.  Taking the lead from the recent talk about flipping classroom instruction,  I have been wondering what it would mean to “flip” collaboration. In the mathematics classroom model, flipped instruction means that students get the instructional content on their own time perhaps by watching bite-sized video lectures that introduce the concepts, while class time is used to work through problems that in the past might have been given and graded as homework. Instead students do the work of manipulating and applying content under the guidance of the teacher who is able to coach them through problems. Joyce Valenza provides many examples of flipping instruction and suggests a role for the school librarian in assisting teachers and flipping library lessons in her blog, Neverending Search.

What would it mean to apply that concept to the current model of collaboration where we sit down with teachers before they teach in order to plan instruction together?  How could the planning take place asynchronously?  The school librarian could have access to what classroom teachers were planning and would be able to post links to resources and lesson ideas.  Both the librarian and teacher would have shared calendars so they could schedule lessons with each other.  And the actual practicing and application of collaborating might take place in the presence of students.  We might all be in the library together; we might all be in a teacher’s classroom together, OR we might use SKYPE, Google Hangout or similar conferencing technology to be together virtually.

And frankly, as I write this I realize that the ideal of collaboration as co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing that required us to sit down together to plan often failed to hit the mark on the latter two: co-teaching and co-assessing. What if we flipped this solid-state model of collaboration and exploited the tools that allow us to plan asynchronously and be together virtually during instruction? We might find that the real meaning and value of collaborating are in the performing together as co-teachers and being able to scaffold each other in the work of instruction.  We might find that several of those library lessons that we formerly planned collaboratively could become short bite-sized video tutorials for students to visit (and re-visit) as needed. The time we save there could be spent co-coaching with the classroom teacher as students practice and apply what they have learned. And in the work of coaching together, I suspect we would find that conversations about formative assessment would happen more naturally as part of the flow of shared experiences working with students.

I’m going to admit that I am trying to push my own thinking here.  I was fortunate as an elementary school librarian to have a flexible schedule with time allotted to plan with teachers.  But those blocks of planning time always felt like a luxury, and frankly, I often experienced a conflict because time spent planning was time taken away from working directly with students.  While I was working with one grade level, there were many more teachers and students from several other grade levels with whom I was NOT working.  And I still hear questions like those from Carol, “but what about those of us who don’t have the time in the schedule for collaboration?”  I just have the feeling that we can all find the time to collaborate, even if there isn’t time in our days for collaboration. Several years ago, David Loertscher said it was time for revolution, not evolution in school librarianship and agitated for us to Flip the Paradigm.  Loertscher envisioned:

When an assignment is given, everyone—teachers, librarians, students, and other specialists—can comment, coach, suggest, recommend, and discover together, and push everyone toward excellence. (School Library Journal, November, 2008).

I would like to advocate that we look for ways to “flip the paradigm” of collaboration and become more fluid and nimble in our approach to time and how we use it to co-plan, co-implement, and co-assess teaching and learning as we continue to “push everyone toward excellence”.