Technology Stewardship

This week is Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Tech Week (March 5 – 11, 2017).  Just as Digital Learning Day is a snapshot of what should be happening in school libraries every day so are the learning activities that are being spotlighted this week.

One thing that continually surprises me is that some people, new and practicing school librarians included, think that engaging students and supporting classroom teachers with Web-based resources and technology-infused learning experiences is something new in our profession. It’s not!

Ever since the Internet entered schools, effective school librarians and progressive school libraries have been at the center of providing digital resources and services (in addition to reading instruction and literature-focused events and activities).

New technology tools were a central feature in the school libraries where I served in the 1990s. Like many school librarian colleagues, I wrote grants to fund increasing technology tool access through the school library program. Also, similar to many colleagues, I convinced my principals that the central location of the library as the hub of learning in our schools was the appropriate place to provide equal access to all students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

In 1992, our elementary school library was the first in the district to have a stand-alone and dedicated CD-ROM computer station. In 1994, I secured grant funding at another elementary school library in another district in order to provide the most “sophisticated” access to CD-ROM reference resources using a then “cutting-edge” server tower. In the summer of 1994, I facilitated a two-week summer technology camp for first through fifth-grade students to utilize the new software (HyperStudio) we had purchased for the library with grant funds. Fourth-, and fifth-grade students mentored first-, second-, and third-grade students and co-created exciting multimedia projects that would serve as samples for classroom teachers and other students during the following school year.

In 1995, our school library facilitated the first student-designed elementary school website in Arizona. In 2000, when I served at another Tucson Unified School District elementary school, our school library website earned an Arizona Technology in Education Award (AzTEA) for the Best School Website; at that time, ours was the only site in the entire state designed, created, and managed by students.

While I took a leadership role in all of these technology-centered initiatives, I most certainly did not do them alone.

Business partners provided grant funding for soft- and hardware. The computer lab teacher I worked with in 1994 taught me most of what he knew about educational technology. He helped me select HyperStudio and an adaptor that transferred the computer screen to the TV screen; these tools literally transformed students’ learning and students’ and educators’ presentations. In 1995, a master’s in library science student intern taught me how to use website software and a bit about .html code; together we facilitated third-grade students’ design of our school’s site. Building on that experience in 1998 at a different elementary school, I formed a website advisory committee comprised of fourth-grade students, classroom teachers, a parent, and our principal and together we planned our school library website. Our goal was to put students in charge of the site. In 2000, we earned the AzTEA award mentioned above.

All of these experiences taught me that collaboration and co-learning are essential in effectively integrating new technology tools into teaching and learning. Learning from and working with more proficient peers gave me the skills I needed and the confidence to take risks. I believe my own willingness to experiment helped classroom teacher colleagues stretch themselves and take risks alongside me. Being an adult learner myself, I was sensitive to their needs and characteristics as adult learners.

Even more than the particular tool or project, it was my role as an instructional partner that helped us effectively integrate technology tools and instructional strategies into our shared curriculum. It was through coplanning and coteaching that I was able to serve as a change agent and helped diffuse technology and other innovations throughout our learning community.

Technology stewardship has long been a responsibility of school librarians, and through classroom-library collaboration school librarians are positioned to serve as technology stewards who facilitate learning with technology in a future ready learning environment.

Image created using Microsoft PowerPoint

Seeking Online Professional Development: #txlchat

This month the BACC co-bloggers will share snippets of our research in school librarianship and preservice school librarian education. One of our goals is to provide practicing school librarians (SLs) with research-based evidence for how they prioritize their teaching and other professional activities. Another is to spotlight how the co-bloggers prepare preservice SLs for their future leadership roles in their school libraries.

logoSLs must make a commitment to lifelong learning. The changing educational environments in which we work require it. Whether we lead by integrating new resources, tools, or instructional strategies into our teaching or respond proactively to new required curriculum initiatives, effective SLs are called to be leaders in change and to model continuous learning for students and faculty alike.

In order to stay at the forefront, many SLs are making a regular practice of engaging in online professional development (PD). Webinars and social media groups for networking and learning are growing resources, particularly for librarians who serve in districts without district-level supervisors who organize PD for their cadre of professionals. Twitter chat groups are one such venue for self-regulated PD.

In the last academic year, I had the opportunity and pleasure of studying a Texas-focused school librarian Twitter group. The #txlchat meets on Tuesday evenings from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. CT during the school year. The chat founders, @sharongullett, @_MichelleCooper, and @EdneyLib, and selected core group members actively supported my research by participating in virtual interviews regarding the importance of this PD and networking venue in their professional lives. Twenty-five #txlchat participants completed an online survey and shared their experiences of learning and connecting with this group of job-alike colleagues.

Thanks to the founders’ commitment to archiving the weekly #txlchats on a Weebly site, I had access to data from forty-five chats—from the very first chat in April 2013 through February 24th, 2015 (the last chat included in my study).

This is just a glimpse of what I learned. During the period of my study, 111 Texas librarians and 121 librarians, authors, and others from out of state participated in the chats. It was not surprising that the most frequent chat topic during the period of my study was technology. Thirteen of the 45 chats I reviewed (29%) focused on using technology tools in the library program. Connecting on Skype, being a “connected” librarian, and social media marketing were among the chat topics with the greatest number of participants, tweets, and retweets.

I learned that #txlchat members have a strong sense of belonging. The founders and core group members who rotate moderator responsibilities are committed to making sure all participants’ voices are heard and valued. Everyone involved expressed pride in their participation–both in learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and expertise with the group. My complete study report will appear in the next issue of School Libraries Worldwide. See citation below.

As you consider how you will access PD opportunities in the coming school year, I hope you will consider Twitter as a possible venue. Everyone is invited to participate on Tuesday, September 1st in the first #txlchat of the 2015-2016 school year. Check it out on Twitter at #txlchat.

Coming soon: Moreillon, Judi. “#schoollibrarians Tweet for Professional Development: A Netnographic Case Study of #txlchat.” School Libraries Worldwide 34.3 (2015).

#txlchat logo used with permission

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.    (

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 ,Instagram, and Google+

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.


Olofson, Mark. “Monster Physics and the importance of careful consideration.” Innovation: Education. (Weblog) Nov. 22, 2014

Image: Classroom

Collaboration and Mentoring-Take 2

Be the change you wish to see in the world…

Mohandas Gandhi

Barbara Stripling, President Elect of ALA, was the keynote speaker at a recent Massachusetts School Library Association Conference (March 2- 4, 2013). As a mentor, she encouraged those attending to “be the change,”  to make a difference by changing  one life at a time, and helping students raise their own dreams, skills, and dispositions of inquiry. Weaving the themes of collaborative relationships, decision making, and problem solving, she shared a vision of a vibrant model for student centered learning in 21st Century schools.  Her passion and commitment to the field of librarianship and education is both inspirational and challenging. How can we live up to this ideal?  I guess we just have to work harder at what we do best, so that we can be the change, too.

Two colleagues and I traveled from Vermont to Sturbridge, Massachusetts to participate in a three day event that allowed us to rub shoulders with Barbara Stripling, Richard Byrne, Pam Berger, and a host of authors, including Jack Gantos.  We were excited to meet and talk to our compatriots from another New England state to compare notes about school library issues.  We were also meeting some of our Twitter friends for the first time face to face.  Sitting in a large conference room, it was amusing to overhear people saying, “So there you are!  It’s so wonderful to meet you in person after getting to know you through your blog or Twitter.”  Having a chance to sit down and chat with the presenters between sessions, or during lunch and dinner provided a personal experience that you don’t have every day.

As in other sections of the country, in New England and the Northeast, there are opportunities within reasonable driving distances for collaboration and mentoring at regional/state school library conferences and meetings.  Many teacher librarians can’t afford to go to national conferences very often, or at all.  Some have no financial support from their districts for professional development other that what is provided at the local level.  State professional organizations play an important role in bringing national speakers and showcasing best practices within the field to a gathering of folks who come to share ideas, connections, and to make or renew friendships.   PLNs now put practitioners in touch with others throughout the nation, and also provide connections within a geographical area, too.  Social media and Twitter feeds allow everyone to communicate and collaborate across time and space.  There are so many different ways to mentor and be mentored, in our fast paced world, but face to face collaboration is still a very powerful way to connect the dots.

Having returned from the conference with many new ideas and new relationships, I am already putting plans into action that will affect my teaching and learning.  Coincidentally, once again, the current issue of Knowledge Quest : Mentoring Through Partnerships continues to look at collaboration, and the role of professional organizations is seen as a venue for mentoring.   Melissa Johnston shares her conclusions from some research about technology leadership in Knowledge Quest  (2013, 38), “Not only do professional organizations provide support for school librarians through relationships with other school librarians, but this research finds that professional growth opportunities from  professional organization activities such as conferences and publications serve as enablers as well.”  From my own experience, I can’t agree more!  And as a final note, when I was doing a school visit last week, I went into the school library, and there  inscribed on the wall was a familiar message: Be the change you wish to see in the world.  I felt as if I had come full circle.


Barbara Stripling elected ALA president (2011). School Library Journal (May 4, 2012)

Johnston, M.P. (2013). The importance of professional organizations and mentoring for leadership. Knowledge Quest 41(4).

Massachusetts School Library Association Conference: Lead & Learn (2013).

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.