Reclaiming Conversation, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the sixth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order. I published Part 1 of Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age last week.

In relationship to children, Turkle writes this: “If children don’t learn how to listen, to stand up for themselves and negotiate with others in classrooms or at family dinner, when will they learn the give-and take that is necessary for good relationships or, for that matter, for the debate of citizens in a democracy?” (14).

“In these new silences at meals and at playtime, caretakers are not modeling the skills of relationship, which are the same as the skills for conversation. These are above all empathic skills: You attend to the feelings of others; you signal that you will try to understand them” (27).

Response: When I lived in Denton, Texas, I regularly walked in a park where I would see children playing. I often observed their parents and caregivers using their phones (instead of watching their kids or playing with them). Recently, my husband and I were having dinner in a restaurant where at the next table each member of a family of four was occupied with an individual device before, during, and after their meal. (The children were about six and nine.)

I have been in meetings where people are using their phones and may or may not be listening to the conversation. Or they may be using their laptops and checking their email—sometimes under the guise of making meeting notes. It may or may not be intentional rudeness but most meeting facilitators and people who speak for items on the agenda feel disrespected by not having their colleagues’ full attention.

Turkle makes a strong case for conversation as the primary way we build empathy for others. As a book person, I believe that reading about other people’s lives has been a large part of my empathy building. Still, in face-to-face conversations with relatives and friends looking into their eyes, reading their faces and body language, that’s when I really understand what they are feeling. The same can be said for students in our classes and the colleagues with whom we work.

Response: I have felt that disrespect. For me, it leads to a lack of trust in the person who cannot be “in” the conversation. I also believe this is one of the challenges in teaching 100% online. Students want to feel their instructors understand them, especially when they are having a problem. However, many would rather text or email than talk on the phone. Emotions are simply not communicated as clearly and misunderstandings can and do result.

Turkle notes that some young people avoid difficult conversations at all costs. They will not even have phone conversations but would rather text where they can be assured of time to clearly organize their thoughts, edit, and avoid “too much emotional stuff.”

Turkle says that in face-to-face conversations it is often when “we hesitate, or stutter, or fall silent, that we reveal ourselves most to each other” (23). Slowing down the conversation in this way makes some people feel anxious, or bored. Some feel so uncomfortable they will turn to their phones and check out of the conversation.

Response: Since reading this book, I have become more sensitized to my own feelings during the “silences” and “pauses” in conversations and during transitions from one activity to another. I have found myself reaching for my phone while waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at the market. I am catching myself more often and making a conscious decision about whether or not I want/need to consult my phone. Several times when I have opted out of connecting via tech, I have had an epiphany about an idea that’s be stuck in my head. I have even had pleasant conversations with the strangers sitting next to me or standing in line behind me.

Turkle writes: “Until a machine replaces the man (who scans your groceries), surely he summons in us the recognition and respect you how a person. Sharing a few words at the checkout may make this man feel that in his job, this job that could be done by a machine, he is still seen as a human being” (346).

Response: Turkle has given me another reason not to use the self-checkout machines. I have avoided them because they represent the loss of jobs. I will continue to avoid them and make an effort to engage in even a brief conversation with the person doing this work.

Turkle claims her argument is not anti-technology. Rather it is pro-conversation. She invites us on a journey “to better understand what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in its way” (25). She charges us to become different kinds of consumers of technology and compares this to the ways many people have become more discerning and knowledgeable consumers of food.

In terms of understanding, Turkle posits three wishes our mobile devices grant to us:
1. “That we will always be heard;
2. That we can put our attention wherever we want it to be, and;
3. That we never have to be alone” (26).

Response: Questions we might ask ourselves related to these three wishes:
1. Who do we want to “hear” us? And why?
2. What amount of control can we give up in order to put our attention on things not of our choosing that need our attention? Can we do that even when it’s “inconvenient”?
3. What could we gain by spending time alone with our thoughts—in daydreaming or self-reflection?

As Turkle says people are resilient. We can change. We can pay more attention, listen more carefully, and respond to one another with empathy. We can do that by reclaiming the value of talking with one another face to face. We can do that by consciously deciding when to pay attention to people and when to pay attention to our machines. And we can model and practice this with youth, colleagues, friends, and family.

Turkle ends the book this way: “This is our nick of time and our line to tow; to acknowledge the unintended consequences of technology to which we are vulnerable, to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make the corrections. And to remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations artless, risky, and face-to-face” (362).

Is summertime a time to start reclaiming conversation? It is for me. I hope it is for you, too.

Work Cited
Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Additional Books by Sherry Turkle
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Reclaiming Conversation, Part 1

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the sixth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Sherry Turkle’s most recent book is definitely thought-provoking and timely for me. I recently returned from the American Library Association Conference in Chicago where I met with colleagues from across the country and a reunion in Kalamazoo, Michigan with long-time friends. During that week, I enjoyed face-to-face conversations and late into the night confessions with people I usually communicate with via email and social media. I experienced the deep sense of connection and empathy Sherry Turkle’s research suggests may be missing for many of us who spend most of our time using technology to mediate our “conversations” with others.

To be transparent, I am a long-time reader (and follower) of Turkle’s work. I have read two of her previous titles (cited below) and have watched her TED Talks (“Alone Together” and “Connected, but Alone?”) I highly recommend everything she has written but Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age offered me the most powerful prompts for reflection related to how technology has affected my life and the lives of my family, friends, and colleagues.

Turkle, an MIT professor, studies the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. As with her previous titles, this book is filled with research, anecdotes, and testimonials (and confessions) from individuals and focus groups who have shared with her their experiences with technology. There is no way to adequately summarize this work. Instead, I am sharing a few quotes from the book followed by my responses and connections to my own relationship with technology. I am doing this is two parts–this week and next.

Disclosure: I own a smartphone. I do not use it to its full capacity in terms of apps and the like, but I do listen to audiobooks and music on my phone, send and receive calls and text messages, follow and post to my social media accounts, and use my phone to search for information and directions while traveling. I use my laptop more than my phone. I am a writer. I taught graduate students exclusively online for seven years; my laptop made that possible. My laptop (not my phone) is my life.

In this book, Sherry Turkle makes a compelling case for conversation. She writes: “We are being silenced by our technologies—in a way, ‘cured of talking.’ These silences—often in the presence of our children—have led to a crisis of empathy that has diminished us at home, at work, and in public life. I’ve said that the remedy, most simply, is a talking cure” (9).

Turkle says “recent research shows that people are uncomfortable if left alone with their thoughts” (10). Many “always connected” youth call this space “boredom” and avoid it at all costs. They also find that face-to-face conversations contain “uncomfortable” moments of silence or long pauses when someone is thinking. Some say they must fight the urge to glance down at their phones while waiting for another person to think and speak.

Turkle shares a new strategy some young people have developed to combat that urge. Some groups of young adults play “phone tower” when they go out to dinner. All the phones—left on—are stacked in the middle of the table. The first person whose phone rings AND they reach for it and respond has to pick up the dinner tab. It seems they could simply turn off their phones—but I guess not if they are “addicted” to them and would feel desperate if disconnected.

A new norm Turkle described is the “rule of three.” When a group of four or more people are having a conversation, at least three of them have to be verbally interacting and making eye contact. When those criteria are met, the others are free to look at and use their phones to text, find and present new images or information—always being mindful of their commitment to be one of the three when needed.

Response: I do not have that kind of attachment to my phone or the need to feel always connected. These and others of Turkle’s anecdotes were new to me. I believe they are true, but I had some trouble relating them to my own life.

Response: I remember my surprise ten or so years ago when I learned that a respected colleague (20 years younger) slept with her phone. My phone and I are not that intimate. My daughter and my friends are often dismayed when I do not respond to texts within a “reasonable” time period. (Sometimes I do not respond for a whole day!)

Turkle points out how often she notices parents and babysitters interacting with their phones rather than with the children in their care. Many young children have stopped expecting to have their parents’ full attention. Some parents who ban their children’s phones at the dinner table are still texting or taking calls because they “have to” conduct business 24/7.

Turkle notes that even the mere presence of a phone on the table sets up the expectation that the conversation will be interrupted—an excuse to keep it light rather than of more consequence. She calls this “the flight from conversation” and compares it to climate change. Most of us know it’s true but too many of us don’t think of it as a pressing problem.

As a parent, spouse, educator, and storyteller, I believe this is true: “Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection” (36). I can believe this loss of connection could result in a decline in empathy. With the large and looming challenges we need to confront in our country and in our interconnected global community, a lack of empathy for “others” is, to me, a very troubling loss.

Next week, I will post the second part of this reflective review.

Work Cited
Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Additional Books by Sherry Turkle
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Educators Chat about Making Notes

Dedication: To the Moderators and Participants in #txlchat and #cvtechtalk

As a now “retired” educator and an advocate, I made a pledge to myself to spread the word about the expertise of school librarians in non-school library circles. I believe that school librarians’ potential to positively impact student learning outcomes has not yet been fully realized. Sharing and showing how school librarians can lead through building instructional partnerships with classroom teachers has long been my raison d’être.

Last week, I stumbled upon the #cvtechtalk. Coincidentally, they were talking about “notetaking” – one of my all-time favorite topics. I share this experience here because one of the on-going issues in school librarianship advocacy is that other educators do not know what we can do to support their teaching and help their students learn effective information literacy strategies.

Even though I arrived when participants were on question #4 of their 8-question chat, I jumped in:

CactusWoman: A.4 Let’s call it “notemaking” rather than “taking.” “Making” implies Ss questions/connections/own ideas count! #cvtechtalk just dropped in

I got some likes, retweets, and replies and decided to stay. (This is my personal measure of whether or not a chat group is “listening” and learning from one another or simply broadcasting. See the dedication below.)

I followed up with:
CactusWoman: A4 #FutureReadyLibs #schoollibrarians r trained in notemaking skills > Classroom-library collaboration 2 teach essential skill #cvtechtalk

Then a reply/question about students using Twitter for notemaking:
CactusWoman: A5 Yes! @_____ I 2 use Twitter 4 notemaking when involved w/webinars/conference presentations, etc. have not tried w/6-12 Ss #cvtechtalk

(Note that should have been *w/8-12 Ss* – Twitter “suggests” participants should be 13 and up.)

CactusWoman: A6 When Ss compare notes they may c that one person’s “main ideas” do not match the others’ > convers abt determining importance #cvtechtalk

Since this was a “tech” group, they shared many electronic tools for notemaking. When one person noted she had read somewhere that hand-written notes were more effective, I shared a research-based article about the possible differences between handwritten and electronic notes in terms of student learning.

CactusWoman: A6 My concern copy/paste/highlight does not = learning: Article about notemaking by hand vs computer: … #cvtechtalk

According to my report, the article was accessed (read?) by several #cvtechtalk chat participants. (Like all librarians, I enjoy sharing research/knowledge that can make a difference in educators’ practice and in students’ learning/people’s lives.)

CactusWoman: A.7 Creativity bcomes more important w/what Ss DO w/notes: What do notes mean 2 Ss? Does info inspire creative response/action? #cvtechtalk

The final question was perfect and one that I believe all Twitter chat groups should adopt. “Based on tonight’s talk, how will you empower students in note-taking?” (or whatever the topic).

CactusWoman: A.8 Encourage Ts #schoollibrarians collaborate 2 teach Ss notemaking strategies (reading comp) & create/do something meaningful #cvtechtalk

One person posted this:
A8 Will start #notemaking w/ Ss asap! Can’t handle guilt after these great ideas! Will intro #Sketchnoting & bulleting key ideas #cvtechtalk …


CactusWoman: Gr8t ideas on notemaking 2nite 5/10 when I dropped in on #cvtechtalk #FutureReadyLibs #txlchat #tlchat >opportunities 4 classroom-lib collab

It was interesting to me that many educators noted they would NOT model notemaking strategies for students and were “anti-direct instruction” for this skill.

As someone who connects notemaking with the reading comprehension strategy of determining main ideas, I believe that is a mistake. In my experience, if students are not taught several strategies from which they can choose or use as models to develop their own strategies, they will opt for copying/highlighting everything. They will not pass the information through their own background knowledge and purpose for reading and make their own connections, write down their questions, and their own ideas related to what they are reading. (Notemaking strategies include Cornell notes, deletion-substitution, trash ‘n treasure, and more…)

I created a Storify archive of the chat’s final question for my review and for yours if you are interested.

I know I will drop in on #cvtechtalk again when I can on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Pacific (?). They are an active, caring, and sharing group of educators. I appreciate what I learned from listening and participating in their chat.

If you are a school librarian who is participating in non-school librarian chats, I hope you will add a comment to this post. Readers may appreciate knowing what you perceive as the benefits or drawbacks of those professional learning experiences.

Dedication: This post is “dedicated” to #txlchat. This chat’s home base is in Texas, but more and more school librarians from across the country are joining in. In 2014-2015, I had the opportunity to conduct a research study of #txlchat. Thanks to #txlchat moderators and participants, I was welcomed into their learning space and learned about the norms and benefits of their chat culture. I continue to connect and learn with #txlchat whenever I can get online on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Central. Y’all are invited, too!

Twitter Chats

What does a Sonoran Desert tortoise have to do with a twitter chat? Thanks to Aesop, tortoises have a reputation for being “slow but steady.” Online professional development (PD), particularly a “slow Twitter chat” may result in the slow and steady progress we all want to experience in our personal learning networks (PLNs).

Online PD is a trend that meets the test of aligning with library and my personal values. The Web allows near and distant colleagues to get together in real time or asynchronously. We can share our questions and challenges, successes and missteps. We can interact with others with particular areas of expertise. We can respond to shared readings and current events. In short, we collaborate to expand our knowledge and improve our individual and collective practice.

Twitter has become a go-to PD platform for many state-level, university-based, and independent groups of school librarians. Through regular contact with one another, participants in these chats “learn from one another, develop shared meanings through exchanging ideas and information, and enculturate one another into the ever-evolving profession of school librarianship” (65).

Developing a strong PLN is one important way to stay current in the field and freshly energized in our practice.

In the 2014-2015 school year, I had the pleasure of being a participant observer studying the #txlchat. This Twitter chat meets during the academic year on Tuesdays from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Central Time. Members post using the hashtag throughout the week as well. I set out to learn about the #txlchat culture and the value participants place on this online PD experience.

The #txlchat cofounders and core group members have created a “democratic” context for the chat. They are committed to ensuring that participants’ voices are heard. Everyone I interviewed and those who responded to the survey noted the benefits they receive from learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and experience with the group. “@debramarshall summed up her experience this way: ‘I am a better librarian because of Twitter’” (68).

Chats can also be an excellent way to get out a message and share resources. The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation is currently exploring the use of Twitter chats to promote school-public library collaboration and the toolkit we created.

Currently, I am participating in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Supervisors Section (SPVS) book discussion. We are using the #aaslspvschat to discuss the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. SPVS Chair Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) is posting questions for our consideration over a five-week period.

This is my first experience with an intentional “Twitter slow chat” and my first experience with a total focus on a shared book reading. I think the slow chat format will help us take time respond to the moderator’s questions, savor each other’s tweets, reply to one another, and reflect on our discussion throughout the course of the slow chat.

Whether or not you’re a school librarian supervisor, check out the hashtag and check in to note how the discussion is progressing. This “slow chat” may be a model for a book study or other conversations with your PLN.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self-Regulated Professional Development Online.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, 2016, pp. 64–69.

Image credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon

Beyond the Choir


Are we just preaching to the choir?  Collaboration, co-teaching, information and digital literacy, technology integration, deep Web… ideas we have explored from month to month here in the BaCC Blog. Social media provides an opportunity to reach audiences who have similar interests, but it also opens opportunities to connect with folks who may not know what they don’t know.  For those of us who have been immersed in the education world, specifically from a library POV, we tend to communicate in terms and concepts that make sense to us, but maybe not to others.   Dare I say that we are a bit insular…  and maybe we need to rethink how we can frame our conversations in real world vocabulary that demystifies the work we do.

This epiphany moment occurred to me as I was collaborating with a group of school, public, and academic librarians who were grappling with the wording of a proclamation to send to the governor of Vermont to sign about Information Literacy Awareness Month in October. The NFIL (National Forum on Information Literacy) is organizing and encouraging all states to join the parade and focus on information literacy as a critical component for lifelong learning and digital citizenship.  We know that this is true, but in the general public, who has information literacy on the radar?  And what the heck is digital citizenship?

As we struggled with the wordsmithing, we realized that we could not assume that our target audience (everyone in the state) had any idea what we were talking about.  So we went back to square one-a definition of information literacy, and we articulated it in commonsense language-what it is and what allows learners to do.  Of course, we added how libraries were  involved as physical and virtual spaces for promoting information literacy, too. Speak plainly-this is how we can move the needle on a common understanding of the big ideas that all citizens can embrace and support.

Not only do we have to define our terms and concepts, but we have to show and model what we mean.  That’s another strong suit for social media platforms such as flickr, googlesites, Pinterest, Scoopit!, Twitter, YouTube, and so many others. In Vermont, we want to show examples of information and digital literacy in action, so the Vermont Department of Libraries is curating a site that will showcase what is happening in schools and libraries throughout the state as a public awareness campaign. Instagram @your library! What is happening in your state?

October is also Connected Educator Month-for several years running. “Helping Educators Survive in a Connected World,” is the tag line.  Here is another opportunity to connect with an expanded choir, if you have not discovered this valuable resource already.  What is a connected educator, you might ask? How can you be a connected educator, if you are not already? Are you talking the connected educator talk and walking the connected educator walk? Check out the website to learn more.  Organizations that support the ideas and goals of the Connected Educator crowd source professional development  ideas and best practices for connected learning across all content areas and the world. There’s an impressive list of contributors and supporters from a range of organizations-both business and professional. (I was surprised to note the absence of AASL, though.)  Each day during the month of October there are opportunities to network and participate with others who are finding new ways to embrace the potential for technology innovations to impact personal learning and teaching.  Spend some time exploring the website and especially the Connected Educator Starter Kit (free pdf download).   Here is a forum to find people and experiences that will expand your own toolbox of ideas, and opportunities to lend your voice from the library media world.

October is a time for choir practice in a connected world. What shall we sing about today? Loud and strong!


Connected Educators. Website.

National Forum on Information Literacy. Website.

Image: Microsoft ClipArt




Reaching Across the Blogosphere

handreachThere was a discussion this week on the AASL Forum regarding an Edudemic blog post “10 Ways to Promote Your Classroom Library” by educator Jeff Dunn.  Librarian Paige Jaeger posted a response “Building Bridges: Collection to Classroom” on her Library Door blog and launched the Forum conversation.

This exchange prompted me to think about how classroom teachers and school librarians often travel in different social media and professional development worlds. Reaching across the blogosphere is especially critical for school librarians simply because there are fewer of us and our collective voices simply cannot make as large an impact as those of classroom teachers.

In the spirit of reaching out, I emailed Jeff and copied the AASL Forum list. I hope classroom teachers and school librarians will break down some of the silos in the blogosphere and share information and ideas that further build collaboration among educators. The following is my email to Jeff:

Dear Jeff Dunn,

Your post about classroom libraries prompted a discussion on a listserv forum for the American Association of School Librarians. Thank you!

I appreciate your thoughtful ideas about promoting literature in the classroom and hope that in schools across the country school librarians are also using all of these strategies (and more) to promote reading in their schools.

In his book Around the Reading Workshop in 180 Days, Frank Serafini notes that at least 100 books per child is the benchmark of a well-stocked classroom library (37). He recommends 2,500 – 3,000 resources at all reading levels in all genres.

Wow! I don’t know many teachers who have the financial resources or the physical space to provide that amount of reading material in their classrooms for their students.

However, a well-stocked school library facilitated by an effective school librarian can meet students’ and teachers’ resource needs. School librarians – along with classroom teachers – can contribute to developing the exciting strategies for engaging students with literature and learning that you propose.

Yes! to classroom libraries! Yes! Yes! to school libraries. Yes! Yes! Yes! to classroom teachers and school librarians who collaborate to help youth access fresh and exciting reading material and develop the skills and strategies they need to become lifelong readers and learners.



Hand Reach Photo by Pennywise from

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



STEM + Inquiry=Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended reading:

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

Edutopia website has a couple of related blog posts:

Youtube videos that present examples of authentic science inquiry:

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


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

Calling All Citizen Scientists!

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



Burns, Loree Griffin (2012). Citizen scientists. NY: Square Fish.

Brunsell, Eric. (2010). A primer on citizen science.  Edutopia (2010, Oct.13). Weblog.  Retrieved from:  .

Common core Initiative: English Language Arts:  Science and Technical Standards (2011). Website.  Retrieved from: .

Digital fishing on citizen science cruise. (2012, Sep. 25)  Newport Beach, CA: Crystal Cove Alliance. Video.  Retrieved from:

Next Generation Science Standards. (2013). Website.  Retrieved from:

Phillips, Mark. (2013, April 17). Teaching and the environmental crisis: resources and models. Edutopia . Weblog.  Retrieved from:

Scientific American: Citizen Science. Website.  Retrieved from:

Scistarter. Website.  Retrieved from:

Technology creates Citizen Scientists. (2012, Aug. 16) California Academy of Science.  Video.  Retrieved from:

This thing called science part 6: Citizen science.  (2013, May 23). TechNyouvids. Video.  Retrieved from:

Microsift clipart.








Transformation vs. Reform

For the past two decades, there has been a movement across the nation to “reform” education. The drumbeat of standards and accountability has dominated discussions about improving educational experiences for all children.  The term reform itself has a value laden connotation.  Think “reform” school…  Reform from the top down-identify the problem and fix it.  Instead, think about the term “transformation.”  It has a more positive connotation-a movement from one status to another through innovation.  Transformation comes from the inside out, in response to situations and experiences.


Meanwhile, as a culture, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift from an industrial to a technological age, and the transformation continues to redefine everything we have known. New norms are evolving in the business, political, cultural, and educational worlds.  We are a work in progress, as usual-exciting times!


What does this have to do with collaboration?


Collaboration skills are the key for transformation to an educational system for personalized learning, not only for students, but for educators, administrators, and other community stakeholders.  How do we learn and use those skills, and how do we teach our students to value and incorporate the contributions of all? How do we create environments and spaces that encourage creativity and collaboration for all learners? How does technology enhance the learning experience?


These big ideas were explored by the keynote speakers at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont on May 16-17, 2013.  Jointly sponsored by Vita-Learn and the Vermont School Library Association, the annual conference showcases exemplary practices of statewide educators and invites national experts to address contemporary issues in education.   Last week Ira David Socol, Pam Moran, and Steve Hargadorn spent several days visiting Vermont and sharing their expertise with attendees at the conference.  Ira, an educational consultant and historian is currently working in the Albemarle County School District in Virginia where Pam is the superintendent.  They are leading transformation through a collaborative model with educators in the local schools, and they shared their ideas and progress in encouraging innovation that focuses on personalized learning.  Digital technology tools are integrated across the curriculum to enhance deep learning, collaboration, and engagement.  Take a look at the videos for the Iridescent Classroom on Ira’s web site to get a glimpse of their work together. He also has a terrific overview of the history of education that contextualizes where we are today.  Lots of resources there to explore, so take a look!

Steve Hargadorn, of Classroom 2.0, and Library 2.0, presented an overview of the process of how technology is changing our culture, and how that change will impact education in the future.  Real educational transformation will come about with the evolution of the culture, so stay tuned.    He shared many examples of how the cultural shift is happening due to the impact of social media and technology applications. Here is a link to his slides DynamicLandscapes2013Hargadon that demonstrate the shifting sands of the 21st Century. As I said before-exciting times ahead…

Once again, I was struck by aha moments, as I listened and learned.  As educational leaders in our schools, teacher librarians are pivotal in the transformation process embedded in collaboration.  As Steve Hargadorn said, “Be ready to unleash energy and potential through participation, creation, sharing, and engagement.”

Are you ready?


Dynamic Landscapes Conference 2013. Web site.  Retrieved from

Classroom 2.0. (2013). Web site. Retrieved from

Hargadon, Steve. (2013).  Education,Technology, Social Media, and You.  Web log. Retrieved from

Hargadon, Steve. (2013). Educational Network is the Learning Revolution: Future of Education. Dynamic Landscapes Keynote address, May 17, 2013. (PDF).

Library 2.0 (2013). Website. Retrieved from

Moran, Pam. (2013). Superintendent’s Blog: Albemarle County Schools. Web log. Retrieved from

Socal, Ira David. (2013). Challenging the Systems. Web site. Retrieved from

Microsoft Clipart: Crystal ball.





Notes from AASL Fall Forum


By reviewing the readings and joining the Ning, I felt pretty prepared to attend the AASL Fall Forum 2012 on Transliteracy, in Greenville, South Carolina.  While I was excited about aspects of participatory culture, I had real concerns about the print centric emphasis of the Common Core Standards, so I was especially interested in learning about how other educators were integrating cross media platforms as vehicles for learning.

The presenters, Henry Jenkins, Kristin Fontichiaro, and Barbara Jansen provided a whirlwind tour of the intersection of informal and formal learning through the possibilities and challenges of school environments.  Throughout the intensive sessions, various models of collaboration were evident.

Henry, Kristin, and Barbara modeled a constant organic collaboration, as they shared, explored, and extended each others’ work and ideas.  Instead of three separate tracks, they were able to integrate and connect ideas through conversations with each other and with the participants to present a holistic view of transmedia and learning.  Henry’s closing remarks were inspiring as he made connections to the democratic power of social media.

Collaboration across time and space took place in several satellite sites.  Folks in Pennsylvania, Texas, and California, were connected through a live video conference feed during the sessions.  Participants at those sites could ask questions that were relayed to the presenters who then responded to all.  The time difference with California, meant that the site tuned in a bit later on Saturday, but they had access to the information presented through social media networking.

During the sessions, each presenter encouraged discussion by asking probing questions, and allowing time for groups at all the sites to explore and reflect on ideas.   Using Google docs, Today’s Meet, and the Ning, participants collaborated and shared conversations electronically.  Those links are available are available through the Ning that is open to all who are interested.

My brain was on overload for two days, as the presenters and participants demonstrated multiple paths for thinking about teaching and learning.  It was great to network with folks from other states who shared their successes and frustrations that sounded a lot like my own experiences.  One woman who was in an elementary school in Georgia had 750 students in her school. Fortunately, she had flex time and a clerk.   Another participant from Maine supervised paraprofessionals in several schools in a district.  Some who worked in private schools were unencumbered with constraints in public schools- lots to think and talk about. The Common Core was a major buzz everywhere.

One of the participants, Linda Dougherty, created a Pinterest Board of links that were tweeted during the conference.  Things went so fast, I could not keep up, so it might give you a flavor of what was covered. Have a look! Jennifer Tazerouti also shared lots of links in her Auntie Librarian Blog.

My takeaways:

Henry Jenkins, and the research and work that he does at USC and the Innovative Lab, informed us of the endless possibilities of connecting youth with media in informal learning.  He showed many examples of the PLAY projects that connect popular culture to learning. Given the opportunities to analyze traditional literature such as Moby Dick through a meaningful cultural lens, incarcerated youth revealed understandings and interpretations about the overarching themes in Melville’s work.  They were able to relate and produce performances that were powerful and insightful, but reflected in their own gang culture.  I have a greater appreciation about how twitter, youtube, and other social media can drive ideas and movements very quickly through the world. Jenkins feels that libraries are important incubators for advancing the democratization of learning.  He cited the public library in Chicago for its programs for youth after school.  Another project that is in the works will be of interest to school librarians.  He is working with author/illustrator David Wiesner to create a transmedia production for Flotsam (2006), with interactive components, links to oceanographic studies, and other creative options for sharing the book through multiple lenses.  I was thinking that would be great to connect it with an information text such as Loree Burn’s, Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion. (2007)

Kristin Fonticihiaro, who has unlimited energy and in depth understanding of the pedagogy of learning, gave us some background on the emergence of the term transliteracy.  She asked us to think about how this concept is different from what we have been doing all along.   The digital networked environment has changed that way that people read and interact with information, and we need to think about effective ways to integrate this understanding into how and what we teach in the context of  the text oriented environment of the Common Core Standards.  Kristin presented the contrast between informal learning as described by Henry Jenkins, and what happens in schools, where there are barriers to access to the internet, as well as, curriculum guidelines and high stakes tests.

She also focused on assessment, instructional design, and expectations for effective student work in learning with technology.   She shared examples of students’ work to look for evidence of learning.  Take a look at the videos and see if you can tell what the students have really learned (synthesized), and also what value the format of the report adds to the learning.

Barbara Jansen, School Librarian and author from Austin, Texas, filled in at the last minute for another speaker who could not make it.  She was a treasure trove of ideas and examples for designing lessons and units that incorporated authentic challenges for students.  Here is a link to the wiki that she set up for her speech, and also her virtual library.  Look at the integrated assignments page, and the menu for pages that define and clarify research strategies-a model for all to take away.

Thank you to all involved in putting together a rewarding and informational experience. Barbara Jansen, coincidentally was the chairperson of the committee that organized this event, and special hats off to her for her excellent and seamless contributions to the conference at a moment’s notice.

As a participant, I came away with the feeling that there is still so much to learn about bridging the participatory gap for all our students.  The folks at this conference seem have a handle on it, but as school librarians in practice, the only way we will make a difference is to be part of the conversation in our own district and school communities-think leading from the middle through collaboration.  We have to have to share ideas that we learn from others who are traveling the same path, so let’s get going!

Nuff said!

Some resources mentioned above:

Burns, Loree. (2007).  Tracking trash: flotsam, jetsam and the science of ocean motion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Jenkins, Henry et al. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st Century. Chicago: MacArthur Foundation (white paper).

Wiesner, David. (2006). Flotsam. Boston: Clarion Books.







Collaboration Beyond the Walls, Redux!

As I was planning my next post to this blog, I happened to see Melissa’s recent entry about the need for powerful community partnerships, and realized that I had been scooped!  I would like to say something about great minds, but that would be a bit pretentious.   Instead, I will share a fabulous example of a working partnership of school and community librarians here in the far northern reaches of New England.

Winter is long and cold in Vermont, and curling up with a good book is a favorite past time for many, but by March we get a little cranky, and we need something to keep us going until spring (usually late April).  Basketball (NCAA) is also a big topic of conversation in March, so school librarians and teachers from adjacent districts, as well as local public librarians, collaborated to develop a community based reading discussion for middle schoolers called DCF March Madness.  

How it came about…

Kim Musante, library media specialist, and Katie Rose, sixth grade language arts teacher at Essex Middle School (Essex, VT) have been collaborating for a couple of years to bring a new dimension to literature circles by incorporating social media through the use of wikis. Whodunit??? Mystery Partners  is designed to have students in two separate classes enjoy sharing a good read. The mystery theme is promoted and book talked by Kim and Katie for several titles.  Once they make a choice, students are paired up secretly to read a mystery book together, not knowing the identity of the other person. They read and participate in discussions within a wiki, and then at the end of the unit celebration, the mystery partners reveal themselves through masks they make about the book.  The activity is structured to meet standards for literacy and has created enthusiasm for books and reading. It appeals to readers across the spectrum of abilities with opportunities to share ideas in a safe environment. Students who might not speak up in class may share comments within the wiki.  Once the process is modeled, students can take ownership and create other experiences using the format.

And then…

Kim was networking with school librarians in monthly meetings for Essex Town School District and Chittenden Central Supervisory Union, and she shared information about her collaboration with Katie.  Melanie Cote, LMS at Albert D. Lawton Middle School (Essex Jct., VT) picked up on the idea and asked if there might be a way to collaborate between schools.  They began meeting in January, and several planning sessions ensued. The two youth public librarians were invited to join, as they also serviced the same students in after school activities. Caitlin Corliss from the Essex Free Library and Kat Redniss from Brownell Library volunteered to be book group advisors in the schools.  Not deterred by physical distances or spaces, this dynamic group came up with a way to create literature circles that would meet face to face and online to read and discuss some of the books on the 2011-12 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book List. It took place in the doldrums of March and proved to be an exciting program for all involved.

Welcome to March Madness:  How it worked…

DCF March Madness is based on a statewide reading program, and the objective is to get students to read and to generate excitement about some fine new books.   The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award is a state award that is chosen each year by Vermont students in grades 4-8. The books are selected by a committee of school and public librarians.  Since 1957, the program has been publicized and promoted both in school and public libraries to encourage reading of quality children’s literature.  The vote is held in April and the winning author is invited to Vermont to receive the award before an audience of young readers. Check the website for more information and past winners.

At Essex Middle School, Kim and Katie presented five of the titles that would be offered for reading to a class of sixth graders.  At Lawton School, Melanie and Bill Burrell, a sixth grade teacher did the same.  During the month, the groups met three times a week during reader’s workshop in the language arts class time. Caitlin participated with students at Essex Middle School, and Kat went to the Lawton School. Each group had an adult advisor, but the students decided the pace of the reading and posted comments and answers to the question prompts.  Within the wiki, social etiquette was introduced as a norm for discourse, along with standards for formal written English and GUM.   Students who read the books at the separate schools posted comments within the folder for the book on the community wiki.  Students used first names in their posts.  To initiate another level of excitement and competition, each group was considered a team, and the team would get a score each week based on the quality of their responses to the prompts, and the “brackets” aka rubrics were posted on a brackets page for each school. Points could be earned or deducted for being prepared, participating orally and online, and using proper written language. The team could view its weekly progress.  As a culminating task, each group at the individual schools had to produce a 30 second commercial for the book using a flip camera.


The final book discussion was a joint meeting at Essex Middle School. Students from Lawton were bussed in for the morning, and the two groups and their advisors met face to face for the first time in the school media center.  After getting to know one another, they had a chance to share their videos.  A group feedback session allowed students to voice their opinions about the process and to offer some great suggestions for the next time.

Success breeds success, one step at a time, and this example of a collaboration that began between one school librarian and one teacher has extrapolated beyond the walls of the school and into cyberspace.

Books on the 2011-12 DCF list featured in this program included:

Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Mind. Atheneum. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-7170-2. Considered by many to be mentally retarded, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

Gibbs, Stuart. Belly Up. S & S. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-8731-4. Twelve-year-old Teddy investigates when a popular Texas zoo’s star attraction–Henry the hippopotamus–is murdered.

Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody. The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt. Dial. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8037-3303-9. On her first day of boarding school, a thirteen-year-old girl who feels boring and invisible decides to change her personality to match her unusual name.

Lupica, Mike. Hero. Philomel. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-399-25283-9. Fourteen-year-old Zach learns he has the same special abilities as his father, who was the President’s globe-trotting troubleshooter until “the Bads” killed him, and now Zach must decide whether to use his powers in the same way at the risk of his own life.

O’Connor, Barbara. The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. FSG. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-374-36850-0. After Owen captures an enormous bullfrog, names it Tooley Graham, then has to release it, he and two friends try to use a small submarine that fell from a passing train to search for Tooley in the Carter, Georgia, pond it came from, while avoiding nosy neighbor Viola.