Reflections on Professional Learning – Part 1

reflectionLast Thursday and Friday I attended the annual Arizona Library Association Conference. This year it was held in Tucson at a hotel in the shadow of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. As reflection is an important (and some would say essential) aspect of learning, I am taking this opportunity to share my take-aways from the conference sessions I attended.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

The opening keynote on Thursday, November 3rd, with Miguel Figueroa from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries was inspiring for me. In his talk titled “Signals for the Libraries of the Future,” Miguel spotlighted several trends and noted that we can “see” what will happen in the future by monitoring changes that are happening today. He quoted founder of the World Future Society Edward Cornish: “Foresight is fundamentally about the study of change.”

I am not a student of futurist thinkers and found this information thoughtful and thought-provoking. In his talk, Mr. Figueroa recommended two specific book titles: Anticipate the World You Want: Learning for Alternative Futures by Marsha Lynne Rhea and The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman. I believe Miguel’s futurist work brings an essential perspective and critical information to our profession. (I also think he has an incredibly exciting job!)

Emily Plagman, project manager for the Public Library Association’s Project Outcome, presented a session titled “The Power of Performance.” While I was most likely the only school librarianship-focused person in the room, I was impressed by PLA’s effort to collect comparable survey data from public library systems across the U.S. I believe that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) could explore this idea as part of the new standards and guidelines implementation effort. (I was also reminded that when a program doesn’t at first look like a “perfect fit” for my interests, I can gain a great deal by learning and thinking “across the aisle.”)

At the Teacher Library Division (TLD) meeting, Leslie Preddy, the immediate past-president of AASL, shared the many ways our national organization supports our profession. Leslie pointed us to the AASL toolkits, including the most recent “Resource Guide for Underserved Student Populations.” She noted sample posts from the fresh and vibrant Knowledge Quest blog and reminded us that school librarians can sign up to have announcements of new blog posts pushed to our email inboxes.

Leslie also reminded us that AASL has been providing leadership and professional learning for school librarians for 65 years! You can donate to the 65th Anniversary Campaign and you can add a Twibbon to your social media profile photo(s). I hope you will join me in supporting and promoting this campaign.

After Leslie’s presentation, several of us talked about school librarians and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We wondered how the TLD might maximize the benefit of an AASL-facilitated workshop. As Arizona educators, we should be part of the state’s ESSA plan and position our work as essential to preparing future ready students and supporting classroom teachers’ teaching.

After lunch, I attended a session by Dan Messer called “Transforming Your Perspective: The Beauty of Generalists in Library Technology.” Dan’s own experience as a creative, innovative generalist connected with my perspective on the potential of school librarians to contribute broadly in their learning communities. School librarians may know a great deal about teaching information literacy or guiding inquiry learning but we have to know a little about many things in order to manage our libraries and effectively coteach across the grade levels and disciplines. (In 2010, when the AASL Board officially dropped the “school library media specialist” term, I venture to say that no one was happier than I was!) Check out Dan’s blog “Cyberpunk Librarian” blog.

At the end of the first day of the conference, I participated in a hands-on, minds-on workshop with Mr. Figueroa: “From Futuring to Innovation.” I was fortunate to have the opportunity to think with three Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) school librarians (see next week’s post) and a college-level librarian from the University of Phoenix. Our task was to explore societal trends through the lens of library values and develop an event/program that would reflect that trend and our library values, and appeal to patrons.

What may have surprised some who heard our group’s report was that SUSD is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! The trend our group’s event addressed was “unplugged.” (This made me think about Future Ready Librarians and how the “unplugged” trend could align with that initiative.)

Next week, I will share more thoughts on Mr. Figueroa’s suggestion that we “push on trends with our #library values” and reflections on the second day of the conference.

Side note: I tweeted at #AzLA2016 throughout the conference. Tweeting is one way I document my learning during a professional development opportunity. Reviewing my tweets supported my reflection as well.

Image Credit
From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

Collaborative Lesson Planning

Cameron_collabplanning2The theme of the October issue of Educational Leadership is “Powerful Lesson Planning.” I especially appreciate the article by Michelle Bauml, associate professor in early childhood education at Texas Christian University: “The Promise of Collaboration.” She writes “effective collaboration is generally characterized by shared goals, good communication and equitable contributions by all participants” (60). She goes on to stress that collaboration doesn’t “automatically yield effective lessons.”

Applying the principles of effective lesson design is essential. Effective educators base instruction on assessment data. They collect evidence of student learning during and after the lesson. They also use observations and these data to inform the instruction in process and future instruction. These principles can support educators as they work together to codesign effective lessons in which learning objectives, tasks, and assessments are aligned.

Dr. Bauml notes, “Just as students don’t automatically know how to work in groups, teachers can’t be expected to magically make collaboration work” (60). This is where school librarians’ experiences as instructional partners can be particularly valuable in the school learning community. When school librarians develop their expertise by working with individual faculty members and teaching teams, they can serve as effective collaboration guides.

Coimplementing coplanned lessons was missing from the article because even after coplanning many classroom teachers do not have the opportunity to coteach those lessons. When two classroom teachers coteach, they must find a space large enough to accommodate doubling the class size. And they miss out of one of the important benefits of coteaching, namely lowering the student-to-educator ratio.

When classroom teachers coteach with the school librarian, they can truly experience job-embedded professional development. They can learn with and from each other in real time, make adjustments to instruction informed by two (or more educators), and comonitor students’ guided practice. Then when they follow up by coassessing student learning, they both bring their first-hand knowledge of what happened during the instructional intervention.

Coplanning, coimplementation, and coassessing student learning and the instructional itself may be the best form of professional development for all educators.

Dr. Bauml cites instructional specialists, paraprofessionals, school administrators, and special education teachers as possible collaborative planners with individual, pairs, or groups of classroom teachers (59). While I trust all school librarians aspire to be seen as “instructional specialists,” I will praise the day when more articles are published in education journals in which school librarians are specifically mentioned as collaborative instructional partners.

And to build on that vision, thank you to 230 school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, university faculty, and others interested in education who attended my Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” on Thursday, October 13th. If you were among the almost 800 who signed up and were unable to attend, you can link to the archive on edWeb.net.

You can also access resources from this SLC @theForeFront Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Let’s keep on improving our instruction through coteaching.

 

Work Cited

Bauml, Michelle. “The Promise of Collaboration.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 58-62.

Image Caption: Former school librarian now school librarian supervisor Stacy Cameron, an ELA teacher, and technology integration specialist coplanning (Used with permission)

Educating Preservice Principals and Classroom Teachers

This month the BACC co-bloggers are sharing their thoughts about the “Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Teachers” recently released by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).

what-every-preservice-teacher-should-know-about-working-with-the-school-librarian-1-638The Educators of School Librarians Section (ESLS) of AASL developed this toolkit to help practicing and preservice school librarians and school librarian educators talk with our constituent groups about how school librarians help library stakeholders reach their goals. The opening line frames the toolkit in terms of the interdependence of all members of the school learning community: “There is no question that the success of school library programs depends upon the support of the principal and the school librarian’s ability to collaborate with teachers” (2).

AASL charges school librarians with serving their schools in five roles: leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator. There are many challenges inherent in educating preservice principals and classroom teachers regarding the capacity of state-certified school librarians to serve in these roles and improve teaching and learning in their schools. These challenges include the sad fact that too many schools lack a professional school librarian on the faculty and preservice principals and classroom teachers may not have had first-hand experience of working with a dynamic school librarian.

In my role as a school librarian educator, I have had two exceptional opportunities to speak with preservice principals and classroom teachers. Thanks to Teresa Starrett, my Texas Woman’s University colleague in Educational Leadership, I have had the opportunity to speak with future principals enrolled in a course called Professional Development and Supervision in Education. I have posted resources online for a 60- or 90-minute agenda: “What Every Principal Should Know about Evaluating a School Library Program and a School Librarian.” The resources include a one-page assessment based on the school librarian’s five AASL roles.

In 2013-2014, along with TWU colleague Jennifer Richey and Denton-area educators, I had the opportunity to provide two three-and-half hour workshops for a total of 163 preK-12 preservice teachers. At the time of “What Every Preservice Teacher Candidate Should Know about Working with the School Librarian,” they were conducting their student teaching. This links to a Slideshare of the opening session in which Becky McKee and I demonstrated collaborative planning. I published an article in Teacher Librarian magazine about the research study based on these workshops.

These presentations had two things in common. In both, our goal was to change the preservice principals’ and classroom teachers’ paradigm of teaching as a solo activity. We also included a role play of a classroom teacher and school librarian coplanning a unit of instruction in both. This helped the participants see the benefits of coplanning to students, classroom teachers, school librarians, and to principals, too.

Educators of preservice school librarians and preservice classroom teachers and principals “should make concerted efforts to demonstrate the value of classroom-library collaboration for instruction during preservice teachers’ (and principals’) preparation programs. Still, it is up to practicing school librarians to reach out to student teachers and make sure that mentor teachers are given extra attention while they are guiding the student teaching experience” (16). It is also up to those in the field who are providing exemplary practice to show their principals the school librarian’s capacity to contribute to the school’s academic program.

The “Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Classroom Teachers” provides multiple resources for thinking, discussing, and presenting the roles of school librarians in student learning: articles, blogs, books, brochures and infographics, posters, reports, research, and videos.

Thank you to the ESLS committee members who curated all of these materials and put them together in one easily accessible place.

Works Cited

Educators of School Librarians Section. “Preservice Toolkit for Principals and Teachers.” ALA.org. Mar. 2016. Web. 5 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/toolkits/PreserviceEducators_Toolkit_FINAL_2016-03-17.pdf>.

Moreillon, Judi. “Making the Classroom-Library Connection.” Teacher Librarian 43.3 (2016): 8-18.

Moreillon, Judi and Becky McKee. “What Every Preservice Teacher Should Know about Working with the School Librarian.” Slideshare.com. 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 5 May 2016. <http://www.slideshare.net/jmoreillon/what-every-preserviceteacher0314>.

Classroom-Library Collaboration for STEM Learning

bulls_eyeOne way that school librarians are responding to STEM/STEAM/STREAM is to house makerspaces in the physical space of the library. Involving students in hands-on opportunities to practice the creativity and critical thinking that can lead to innovation is a timely goal. In fact, and however, school librarians who have been effectively integrating technology tools into teaching and learning have been providing students many of these opportunities for decades.

The difference with today’s makerspace movement seems to be the emphasis on the types of tools students use in their making plus a greater emphasis on experimentation/trial and error rather than on creating final products to demonstrate learning. Some makerspaces operate in isolation from the classroom curriculum and could be described as “free play” centers that are neither constrained nor bounded by curriculum. These spaces may be facilitated by the school librarian working in isolation. Other makerspaces are integrated into the published curriculum and may be facilitated by a team of educators that includes the school librarian.

In Texas, Robin Stout, district-level Media Services and Emerging Technologies Supervisor (@BeanStout), Jody Rentfro, Emerging Technologies Specialist (@J_O_D_Y_R)  and Leah Mann, Library Media Services Instructional Specialist (@LMannTxLib), are spear-heading an initiative in Lewisville Independent School District (#LISDlib). LISD school librarians are piloting a Mobile Transformation Lab that moves beyond traditional “making” to address STEM/STEAM through collaborative lessons based on content area standards and district curriculum.

The team partners with campus librarians, classroom teachers and members of the curriculum department in collaborative planning meetings. The group examines the essential questions for the curriculum topic and decides which technologies from the Mobile Transformation Lab will best support the learning. Jody and Leah bring the agreed-upon resources to campus and co-teach lessons with campus staff for an entire day. They also participate in planning extension or follow-up lessons with the campus group.

You can see this process in action here:
http://goo.gl/znnvyn
http://goo.gl/wtjf8L

The Library Media Services and Emerging Technologies department offers an ever-growing repository of lessons from this project and tools to support librarians as they implement STEAMlabs with their students: http://hs.moodle.lisd.net/course/view.php?id=1010

This initiative has the potential to position school librarians as co-leaders in STEM/STEAM/STREAM learning. With an emphasis on collaborative classroom-library lesson plans, school librarians can achieve the hands-on creativity and critical thinking goals of makerspaces while school library programs remain at the center of their schools’ academic programs.

This is a makerspace strategy that is a win for students, classroom teachers, and school librarians, too.

Copyright-free Image by pippalou accessed from the Morguefile <http://bit.ly/1ccKDO1>.

Diving into the Pool

DSCN0102Perhaps instead of a pool as the operative metaphor for jumping into blogging, the image should be a rocket launching into the blogosphere. Take your pick. Either way, joining the blog parade is an adventure, and according to our favorite love/hate resource, Wikipedia, “a new blog is being created every second of every minute of every hour of every day.” (Keen, 2008) There are many kinds of blogs populating the airwaves-or electromagnetic waves, and communication and interaction through digital writing, illustration, and reading have expanded our vision of publishing.  We all have the means to be producers of information in a Web 3.0 world.

For school librarians, blogs have dual purposes in our practice, as Judi and Karla have already shown.  Judi shared examples of award winning blogs created by school librarians to showcase and promote learning in their physical and virtual library spaces.  The combination of creative design, vivid images, and engaging text are the hallmarks of an opportunity to deliver information to school communities and beyond, in a personal way. We all can learn from these models for effective communication that highlight evidence of an active, engaged school library program.

Karla shared how blogs, and other social media are an important contribution to her professional learning as part of her PLN.  She recommended ways to get started following bloggers who are writing and sharing information about topics and issues that are critical for professional school librarianship.

School librarians depend on multiple sources of information to remain current. Along with the standard print publications, many publishers are featuring blogs on their websites to increase exposure to ideas and information in an immediate way.  School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, Booklist Reader, VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) have bloggers who are on top of current trends.

Interactivity in Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, has generated a fire hose of  information, and that includes bloggers of all descriptions.  When you want just a sip of the information waters, you can control your own PLN.  Try setting up an RSS feed through sites like Feedly, and Feedspot, or a number of others.  You can link your favorite blogs, websites, or other social media sites to the account, and you will have only one spot to visit to catch up on your reading.  Most blogs allow readers to subscribe to the blog through email, so that you can get notices from the blogger when a new post has been published. That works well, unless there are multiple posts each day, then you may find your email overflowing!

 For those of you who would like to venture into starting a blog for your school library, or to set up a forum to connect with other professionals to discuss contemporary issues, take some time to establish your own criteria and purpose for publishing your own work.  View multiple blogs to see which ones are exemplars that you would want to emulate. Both Judi and Karla suggested a few places to begin your search.  This should not be an impulse decision, but one for consideration and reflection.  Commitment to ongoing and timely publishing is a key to successful blogging, along with nurturing and tending the links and topics.
Explore several blog platforms before you choose one to jump into.  Blog platforms have tutorials, and templates that will help you get going, but the primary focus should be on the clarity of the purpose for your work.  Why is a blog important to your school library program? Who is your audience? Why do you want to connect with other interested professionals?  How will you maintain the content of the blog?  How will you use the blog as a bridge to other social media sites?

Jump start to blogging: Dear Blogger-a blog about blogging…

Do you have a favorite platform to share? Talk to us….

Take the plunge!

 

Links to websites:

School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/

Knowledge Quest: http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/

Booklist Reader:http://www.booklistreader.com/

VOYA: http://www.voyamagazine.com/topics/evoya/

Feedly: https://feedly.com/i/welcome

Feedspot: http://www.feedspot.com/

Dear Blogger: http://www.dearblogger.org/blogger-or-wordpress-better

 References:

Keen, Andrew (2008). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. New York: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Web. 24 Jan. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog>

 Image:

Judy Kaplan Collection

 

 

TASL Talks

TASL_color_borderA number of state-level school librarian associations host blogs to share information with their membership and to promote the work of their members. The Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL) publishes such a blog and pushes it out to members and prospective members via a statewide distribution list as well as through social media channels.

TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU is managed by the TxASL Legislative and Advocacy Committee with “the goal of forwarding to TASL membership and school librarians across Texas useful information about school library advocacy.”

Three members of the committee, Dorcas Hand (@handdtx), Becky Calzada (@becalzada), and Susi Grissom (@SusiGrissom), facilitate the blog. In addition to their own posts, they invite and support other TASL members in posting to the blog.

Last week’s post was by Amy Marquez (@Amy_DZ1), school librarian at Marcia R. Garza Elementary in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District in San Juan, Texas. Amy shared how a “living history museum” project responded to a request from her principal and met the needs of students. When Amy’s principal mentioned the idea of 3rd through 5th-grade students dressing up as historical figures for Halloween, Amy expanded on this idea to include students conducting research using an online database. Amy accomplished the “living history museum” project in a 30-minute per week fixed-schedule environment.

Crowdsourcing a blog is one way to ensure that fresh ideas are shared and new voices are heard. Bravo to the TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU leadership for making this resource effective and a constant source of professional development for TASL members and others.

TASL logo used with permission

AASL15: Navigating Transitional Times

compass-rose-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-2054So many choices, so little time!  Traveling to attend an AASL Conference is always an adventure for intrepid travelers who come from all over the US and other countries, too. For those who make it a priority every two years, the anticipation builds for the events that cater to school librarians who talk the talk, and walk the walk.  And so AASL 2015 in Columbus, Ohio gave us an overabundance of special moments to treasure, and opportunities to talk shop and to gravitate to new and exciting ideas.

The concurrent sessions once again offered many choices on themes that resonate in the transitional times in which we live-hence the theme of the conference-e-experience education evolution.  Since the other co-bloggers this month have featured several stellar sessions, I will add a couple more to the list of takeaways that have enriched my teacher librarian toolbox.  I will include some links to share with you.  Some of the sessions have handouts that are available through the AASL eCOLLAB.  If you are a member of AASL, you can access that list and see which ones are available for you to download-a good reason to become a member.  Even if you could not attend, you may find some gems that you can use in your own practice.  Take a look!   Some of the sessions were recorded and will be available for registrants sometime soon.  Even if you are not a member of AASL, check out the link and look for complimentary information that is there for anyone to access.

Student Data and Privacy

In the session, “Help Me Figure This Out!” (Saturday, Nov. 7), the presenters addressed several ethical dilemmas around social media policies, (Karla mentioned this last week), copyright and fair use, and student data and privacy.  We live in a data driven world, and we have to be vigilant about data that is collected on our students, and in extension ourselves.

Digital footprints lead everywhere and we can’t be ostriches.  Educators, administrators, and parents have to be informed about access to student information that is collected by the learning management systems and technology platforms that are used in our school districts.  Often, technology applications allow for data mining, and school leaders and individual educators have to read the fine print carefully when they agree to use or purchase a platform or application for student use.

There is a constant drumroll for new apps and many are terrific educational tools, but we have to model evaluation of sources in real time! Fortunately there are organizations and leaders who are there to guide the discussion.  Annalisa Keuler, one of the presenters at this session and a school librarian from Alabama, raised an awareness of this hot topic issue, and curated resources to help.

Believe it or not, we can make a difference if educators demand that we will only use web resources and platforms that pledge not to mine student data.  Let us make sure to support vendors and companies that have signed onto the Student Privacy Pledge.  Take a look at the list of vendors-who is missing from the list? Those who sign it are legally bound to the commitments in the Pledge, and it can be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General.

If you want to use an new technology tool for education in your school, read the fine print, and if the company or vendor is not on the list, contact them and encourage them to sign this pledge and you will happily use their resources.   Check with your administrators and technology directors and see if they have a data governance policy for the district. If not, raise the issue for the safety of your students. Student privacy is a huge problem in these transitional times.

Collection Development

As libraries transition from traditional models to new active learning spaces, teacher librarians have ongoing dilemmas and angst about collection development for materials in multiple formats, and digital and virtual information.  What should we do with all the stuff???

There were several choices for sessions that tackled how library collections are evolving, and the session led by Michelle Luhtala, Brenda Boyer, Shannon Miller, and Joyce Valenza focused on the connection between curriculum, collection and curation, and instruction.  “Transforming Libraries in Transitional Times” (Friday, Nov. 6),  was jam packed with ideas and application tools to transform the development of appropriate resources that support learning in physical and virtual spaces.  As they moved through their ideas very quickly in the hour long time slot, it was almost TMI. I am so glad that the presenters provided access to the slideshow so that I can absorb the amount of information they shared at a more leisure pace. Here is a link to the slides, that even without their lively narration, can offer tools and ideas that can be useful.  I plan to incorporate some of the information into a course I am teaching next semester.  Great professional development for me, and you, too-Yay!

If you would like to have an idea about other sessions and outtakes led by these presenters and others, be sure to take a look at Joyce Valenza’s Neverending Story Blog that has highlights from #AASL15.

“Knowledge not shared remains unknown.”  Grabenstein, 2013

As November closes, and the holiday season quickly approaches, BACC bloggers wish you all a safe and and happy Thanksgiving!


Works Cited:

Abilock, Debbie, Helen Adams, Annalisa Keuler, Jole Seroff, and Dee Venuto. “Help Me Figure This Out! Thorny & Thought-Provoking Ethical Dilemmas for School Librarians.” AASL Conference 2015. Ohio, Columbus. 7 Nov. 2015. Presentation. <http://libraryschool.libguidescms.com/content.php?pid=675677&sid=5672334>

“AASL ECOLLAB.” AASL ECOLLAB. American Association of School Librarians., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/ecollab>.

Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.  New York: Random House, 2013.

Luhtala, Michelle, Brenda Boyer, Shannon Miller,  and Joyce Valenza. “Transforming Libraries in Transitional Times.” AASL Conference 2015. Ohio, Columbus. 6 Nov. 2015. Presentation. <https://docs.google.com/presentation /d/1fJKL03hRXNK85NozVbk2wdZrVmbG2w45rf3kUFU2G6A/edit#slide=id.p.>

“Signatories – Currently 202.” Pledge to Parents Students. Student Privacy Pledge, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://studentprivacypledge.org/?page_id=22>.

Valenza, Joyce. “My #AASL15 Story.” Web log post. NeverEndingSearch. 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2015/11/09/aasl15-my-story/>.

Image:

Compass Rose: http://mt-st.rfclipart.com/image/big/ee-b7-aa/compass-rose-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-2054.jpg

 

 

Trending Now: Professional Learning

collaborationLast week, I presented some suggestions for teacher librarians who set goals for providing appropriate PD opportunities within a school community or district.  As you begin to frame your goals, you may want to access some techniques and strategies for best practice in professional learning for adult learners, and I would like to share some timely resources that might influence your planning.

Find out about instructional coaching:

Professional learning has become a job embedded practice in many school districts across the nation, and many teacher librarians have stepped into professional development roles, either intentionally, or by serendipity, on a “just in time” basis. To be successful, it helps to understand the overarching goal for PD in your school, and to work within the model. The trend in PD is away from the “sit and git” inservice days to personalizing professional learning for teachers through instructional coaches, and teacher driven collaborative and reflective practice.  There may be instructional coaches in your school and district, and you may be able to work with them in assisting with personalized professional learning with members of the faculty.  Sometimes, instructional coaches are experts in content or curricula, such as literacy, math, or science. Sometimes their focus is on pedagogy or technology integration, or all of the above, depending on the particular educators’ professional learning interests. Before you reach out to instructional coaches, take some time to find out about concepts and models for instructional coaching, so that you can “talk the talk and walk the walk.”

Recently on the Edutopia Blog, Schools That Work, there have been some posts about the instructional coaching model in the Albermarle County (VA) School District.  The Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Pam Moran, has garnered national attention for providing leadership for innovation and change in the district to the benefit of the students and the teachers.

 Here’s the link that shows what is happening in Albermarle County Schools. There’s a list of links to videos and information about several topics that are of interest to teacher librarians, and a couple are highlighted below.

Visit the Albermarle County School District website to learn more about the instructional coaching model: https://www2.k12albemarle.org/dept/instruction/instructional-coaching/Pages/default.aspx

Find out what has worked for others:

My second recommendation for exploring successful models for professional development practice is Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. (2012)  Even though it was published three years ago-my where did those three years go-it remains a go to resource for teacher librarians.  Not only is it packed with useful ideas, it is entertaining reading! Edited by Debbie Abilock, Kristin Fontichario, and Violet Harada, it is a must have for your shelves, if you don’t have it already. Many of the contributors to the book are leaders in the field of school librarianship, including  BACC co-blogger, Judi Moreillon, who has written a chapter on customized professional development.

According to Kristin Fontichario, in a article published in School Library Monthly (2013):

For nearly two years Debbie Abilock, Violet Harada, and I have worked with approximately a dozen librarians, classroom educators, and administrators to document their unique professional development stories… the book’s contributors showed us that professional development can be effective in multiple school cultures, in multiple modalities for delivery, with librarians of different personalities and preferences, and in various curriculum areas and foci (2013, 47).

 Here’s a link to the publisher’s information about the book:

http://www.abc-clio.com/LibrariesUnlimited/product.aspx?pc=A3723P

Order it soon for your own professional learning!  Do you have more recommendations to share?

 

Works Cited:

Abilock, Debbie, Kristin Fontichario, and Violet Harada, eds. Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. Libraries Unlimited, 2012. http://www.abc-clio.com/LibrariesUnlimited/product.aspx?pc=A3723P

 Edutopia: Schools That Work Case Study. “Innovation and Risk Taking Across a District.” Web Log. http://www.edutopia.org/school/albemarle-county-public-schools. 28 Sept. 2015.

 Fontichario, Kristin. “Librarians As Professional Developers.” School Library Monthly 29.8 (2013): 47-48. Library Literature & Information Science Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

 

Embrace Your PD Role

hatsTeacher librarians wear many hats, and some hats cross many roles listed in a job description. In our daily school library hustle and bustle, we may not think of ourselves as professional developers for our colleagues, but indeed we wear that hat in many ways.   This is not a radical new idea, but merely a recognition that providing access to new information, new literature, new technology,  and new pedagogy for teachers in our schools, has always been part of our mission, and is based in a collaborative model. As Ken Haycock has said, teacher librarians lead from the middle, not from a position of power, but through social influence. (2010, 2)

So let’s take a minute to focus on the myriad ways we interact to share access to information and ideas with our teaching colleagues, and to be intentional about improving and expanding our PD offerings. As you begin your new school year, set a goal to incorporate your PD hat into your other roles.  Be sure to share that goal with your administrator, so s/he will be able to see that you wear a PD hat!

This month BACC bloggers have opened up a discussion about reaching out to our colleagues with PD opportunities-the why and how.  Judi emphasized the necessity for building personal and professional relationships as a foundation for credible PD, and she shared the experience of  Becky McKee, a District Librarian in Texas.  Both Judi and Karla spoke about the curriculum connections that are at the heart of our work with our colleagues.  That’s our ticket into the game!  Karla introduced a metaphor for the teacher librarian as a  lighthouse, a beacon to guide our fellow educators to new professional learning. Karla suggested multiple access points to provide PD.  Both have shared many excellent ideas, all with the aim of collaborating for student success in our schools.

Goal setting for integrating PD through collaboration

Step 1: Self Assess: Think about your daily, weekly, monthly schedule-as an instructional partner, curriculum specialist, technology integrationist, educational leader, and teacher.  Ask yourself:

  • What do I know about the various school improvement initiatives in my school district? How does my SLP support both student and teacher success? How can I help?
  • How do I know what teachers need to help improve student learning in the various content areas?  How do I/can I find out? Do I wait for them to come to me, or do I approach them with a new idea about teaching and learning, or new resources? How do I build relationships?
  • What do I do well?  What activities have worked well for sharing meaningful professional development opportunities? One to one, small group, team, PLC, PLN, or CoP? Face to face, online learning management system? Virtual library website resources? Where do I look for new PD ideas?
  • What are some new (or underused) curricular resources in the library collection that meet the initiatives in the district? What is the best way to introduce them? How will I engage teachers who are in their silos?  How can I make the learning interactive? How can I provide a feedback loop? How can I make it fun? How can I be the guide on the side?
  • How can I model new technology applications and ways to integrate 21st Century skills (critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration) for both educators and students? How can I provide meaningful connections to their interests and passions?

Step 2: Make plan to try something new.  Gather resources, outline a framework and timeline for your activity.  Provide for continuous feedback to monitor success.  Design the activity with individual choice and engagement in mind. Learning should be fun! Give it a go!

Step 3: Evaluate and reflect on strengths and challenges. Make adaptations for the next time.  Encourage others to share and reflect.  Hand out badges or rewards-recognize effort and results. Take photos, and share through social media!

Work cited:

Haycock, Ken. “Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change.” Ed. Sharon Coatney. The Many Faces of School Library Leadership. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited, 2010. 1-12. Print.

Image:  Judy Kaplan Collection

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Surveys-Tools for Inquiry

surevy imageAs teacher librarians we eat, live, breathe inquiry.  Inquiry is our bread and butter, and accessing, evaluating, and producing information has been at the core of our teaching and learning. We teach strategies and skills for lifelong inquiry, not just to answer questions on a test. So, how do we use what we know about research and inquiry to solve the issues/dilemmas that we encounter in our professional library lives? How can we enhance our pedagogy and educational goals using inquiry skills?  How can we crowd source our collective knowledge to identify and find solutions to challenges in the field, either locally or globally?  How can we adapt action research and design thinking to solve problems?

How can we incorporate surveys into this process?

Surveys are excellent tools to gather evidence for inquiry and professional practice in educational communities. They are also prevalent in our everyday lives, too.   You probably are asked to participate in many marketing and interest surveys, but find them bothersome and annoying. A teacher librarian can develop and use surveys in multiple ways-with students, colleagues, administrators, parents, community members, and so on.  So, when we develop surveys for students or colleagues,  it is important to design and target the survey to a specific topic, and to make it succinct and relevant to avoid the annoyance factor!

Surveys are instruments that can be used with many audiences, and a well designed survey can provide information that can be mined for factual and anecdotal data. It takes time and practice to develop a tool that will be both simple and complex that can tease out responses that will reveal insights into a topic of inquiry. Surveys are easy to create online and when the participants respond,  the results are displayed instantly in several visual formats.   Surveys can be informal or formal, detailed, or open ended for engagement and commentary.  They can be incorporated into academic research, or used as sounding boards for ideas within action research and design thinking. They can be used for pre-assessment for instruction, so that the instruction can be tailored and targeted to individuals. They can be used as part of an evaluation and reflection process, too, or as an end assessment. Altogether, feedback from surveys can help guide your practice as an instructional leader, co-teacher, administrator, and collaborator.

Tips for designing surveys for newbies:

Try out a free online survey service. Look for features that are available that you might want to have as results. Look at the format for developing the survey. There may be templates and sample questions to follow. An important feature is to have a visual representation of the data-usually in a chart or breakdown of percentages, or spreadsheet displays.  Some platforms charge a fee for bells and whistles. Stick with a free one, until you perfect your techniques, and then decide if you want to upgrade, or find a new venue.

Suggested programs:


Keep it simple:

  • Decide on a focus and audience for your survey. What is the purpose? You will want to share this with your participants, so that they will see that it matters, and will want to respond!
  • Brainstorm the key essential ideas for feedback. What outcomes are you looking for?  How will you word your questions so that they are clear and concise?
  • Keep your survey to under ten questions!  That is a challenge for many who want lots of detail.
  • Your first question should give you demographic information about the participants, and contact information so that you can follow up with them, if needed.
  • Draft your remaining questions using several different choices that will present the key ideas you want to ask about. You could use a multiple choice questions with “one” preference, or multiple choices with “more than one” preference.  You can allow for comments for those who want to add additional information.
  • The last question should be open ended to allow for other ideas that you did not anticipate.

Here are a few ideas for effective use of surveys:

In the past few years, I have come to depend on surveys to inform my teaching and professional practice. Some of the surveys have been internal, while others have been an integral part of research and the basis for reports or publication. I really want to know what my students and colleagues are thinking, and I appreciate the time and effort that a person puts into my inquiry.

Blended Learning and Online Instruction;

At the beginning of the semester, I send out a pre-course survey to students to ask about their comfort with technology and to evaluate their skill levels with certain platforms and applications that will be used during the course. I also ask about their familiarity with topics that are covered in the syllabus. I can then see who might need extra assistance and who else might be an “expert” to assist others. I can adjust some assignments and projects.  A final reflection asks them to identify key learning events or challenges, and suggestions for course improvement.

Program Evaluation:

Periodically, a survey is conducted to get feedback on the delivery model and content for the school library media sequence of courses at the University of Vermont.  The feedback is instrumental at looking at changes that will improve the delivery of the program, as we move forward and provide theoretical and practical practice for the 21st Century.

The most recent surveys were analyzed by Linda Brew and Judith Kaplan (2012) in “ A Program-based Approach to Developing and Implementing Blended Instruction: The University of Vermont School Library Media Studies Sequence.”

A new survey will be completed in 2016.

Professional organizations:

The Vermont School Library Association has been focused on advocacy within the state. As a research challenge, the professional concerns committee has been conducting surveys within the membership to determine the “state of school libraries” in 2014 and 2015. Last year the committee conducted a survey that targeted job descriptions and evaluations of teacher librarians (library media specialists), and this year the survey addressed staffing and budgeting issues. In 2015, we added a new incentive to participants-a lottery for a $100 gift certificate for library books. Over 57% of our members participated!  We have reported out the results and implications of the surveys  at our annual conference in May. We are using the survey results as an organization, to look at trends and at establish goals for advocacy statewide.

Do you use surveys in your practice?  Let us know what you recommend!

References:

Brew, Linda and Judith Kaplan. (2012) “A Program-based Approach to Developing and Implementing Blended Instruction: The University of Vermont School Library Media Studies Sequence.” Chapter 9 in Blended Learning Environments for Adults: Evaluations and Frameworks, by Panagiotes Anastasiades, Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2012. N. pag. Print

Image:

Collection of Judith Kaplan