Online Professional Development: A Key to Adult Learning

mouse_keyThis month the Building a Culture of Collaboration bloggers will share their ideas and experiences related to innovation. This week, I will be sharing two examples of virtual professional development.

Library 2.014 was the 4th-annual virtual conference hosted by the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information; this year it was held in real time on October 8th and 9th. Presenters from around the world shared their work in this free global forum. Attendees could have participated on the actual conference days or view recordings and YouTube video archives after the event.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Library Journal webcast  entitled “Participatory, Continuous, Connected: Top Trends from Library 2.014,” moderated by Michael Stephens, SJSU assistant professor. I was most interested in learning about the top trends identified during this year’s conference. In the webcast, Samantha Adams Becker talked about emerging digital communication formats; Ayyoub Ajmi described one academic library’s experiences using Google Glass; and Susan Hildreth shared do-it-yourself (DIY) learning opportunities that are taking hold in libraries and museums.

Dr. Stephens framed the 3-part webcast with this concept: “Library of Classroom.” He and the speakers challenged librarians to conceive or reconceive of the libraries as physical and virtual continuous experiential learning spaces. This concept aligns perfectly with my philosophy and experience of school libraries.

Ms. Becker shared highlights from the NMC (New Media Consortium) Horizon Report – Library Edition 2014. (These reports are targeted to different constituencies; you may be interested in the K-12 Edition as well.) Ms. Becker talked about removing books to make space in libraries for face-to-face social gatherings and group learning. The Texas Woman’s University Pioneer Center, located in the Blagg-Huey Library on the Denton campus, is a great example of that concept.

Ms. Becker shared a collaboration between Wikipedia and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), which librarians may be especially interested in exploring further. She also talked about embeddable technologies—planted under the skin. An implantable GPS is already being tested. The youth in my community will be delighted to learn that implantable ear buds are not a pipedream!!!

These were just some of the innovations and trends Ms. Becker shared from the Horizon Report. Check it out!

On Thursday, I will share some of the innovations Susan Hildreth, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, talked about and what Texas school librarians are doing with the concept of badging. Please tune in again.

Copyright-free Image from Morguefile.com

People Create Change

Deep_Change_cropEdSurge is an organization that connects “the emerging community of edtech entrepreneurs and educators.” They recently published a graphic called “How Teachers Are Learning: Professional Development Remix.”

The graphic shows “old school” professional development, including all-day workshops, observations, and professional learning communities. (Personally, I wish they hadn’t included PLCs in the old school model…)  In their new model, technology tools provide linkages to personalized professional development that meets the “just-in-time” needs of adult learners (teachers).

Lest we lose sight of the importance of the whole school culture, I believe this new model must be placed alongside an article published on EdSurge in April by Ben Wilkoff: “People Create Change Not Products.” Ben Wilkoff, who is the Director of Personalized Professional Learning for the Denver Public Schools, reminds us that it is the “people implementing tools that make or break it [professional development].”

I couldn’t agree more and encourage everyone to read his article. I know that while I have learned a great deal through technology tools, I have learned the most from coplanning and coteaching with colleagues in the same room, at the same time, working through challenges and sharing successes with real students in real time.

Technology-facilitated learning has a starring role in 21st-century education, but it can keep preK-12 students isolated from one another and educators isolated from colleagues. An individual learner, child or adult, simply cannot make the lasting changes we want to see in education and in the world that a collective of students or educators can.

If you believe that building a culture of collaboration can support people in making change, consider Ben Wilkoff’s current manifesto for professional development as you plan for the new school year:
•    Community over Content
•    Friends over Features
•    Conversation over Credit
•    People over Products

Works Cited

Edsurge. “How Teachers Are Learning: Professional Development Remix.” Edsurge. Web. 7 Aug. 2014. <https://www.edsurge.com/guide/how-teachers-are-learning-professional-development-remix>.

Quinn, Robert E. Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996. Print. (Image created with Microsoft PowerPoint)

Wilkoff, Ben. “People Create Change Not Products.” 16 Apr. 2014. EdSurge. Web. 7 Aug. 2014. <https://www.edsurge.com/n/2014-04-16-people-create-change-not-products>.

Summer “Time”

Tropical beach scene on a sunny day in Oahu, Hawaii

As a teacher or teacher librarian, how often have you heard, “Oh you are so lucky, you have the summer off!”?  Of course those are the folks who are on the outside looking in. Those of us in the trenches know otherwise.  Summer time is just a different wavelength for many in the field of education.  In fact, most teachers I have known, are juggling family time, recreational adventures, and personal professional learning in the few weeks between the wrap up for one school year in May or June, and the preparation for another that may start in the first weeks of August.  The idea that educators are basking in a long summer hiatus is a pipe dream.

Even in the reboot and recharge mode, teachers are thinking ahead to the challenges of a new set of students, and how to meet their individual needs. Time without required meetings, committees, and assessments is time to reflect on the big picture. What has been successful and what needs improvement?  That kind of time is precious during the crush of the school schedule, and summer provides an opportunity for R and R-and collaboration.  As teacher librarians we have to make those connections with our colleagues.

In a recent AASL Blog, Brooke Ahrens asks, “When is the best time?”  In her post, Let’s Get Together Thursday, (June 12, 2014)  she shares the experience of working with colleagues in her district in curriculum and program planning just after classes ended for the year.  As she says, working together beyond the constraints of standards and grades was refreshing, but mental fatigue influenced their progress. She wonders if August would be better, but realizes that time is problematic also.  Collaboration and input are important, but what are some possible alternatives to make it happen?

During my years as a teacher librarian, I found that July was a great month for collaborating informally with my colleagues.  I would sneak into school early a couple of mornings a week to get my book orders in, unpack books and supplies, or revamp a section of the collection. More often than not, a teacher friend would pop in to say hello. Then the conversation would segue to the upcoming school year and what the teacher wanted to accomplish, and how I could help. Without the pressure of a packed schedule, we could tease out projects that we could plan ahead.   Asynchronous collaboration through Google and other social media applications make planning that much easier now.

My school district offered summer incentives for curriculum planning, and I often participated as a resource person in science, social studies, and language arts.  College credit for curriculum work was available for participants. Laptops or other new devices were provided  for developing curriculum units integrating technology.  Stipends were offered for teacher leaders who trained others in a train the trainer model.  When I signed on to take part, I often found that other teachers saw me as a true colleague, and I felt part of the team. I understood their challenges, and they understood mine because we had a chance to have deep discussions and share expertise.  In mid summer, when most of the teachers had a few weeks to unwind, we found mental energy to be creative and innovative.  That energy and planning carried us through during the implementation of our ideas in the next school year and beyond.

So, in July, take advantage of the summer mind of your colleagues. It may be the best time for initiating collaboration.  Join a district summer work group if it is available. They usually only work for a week or so. See if any of your colleagues are lurking in their classrooms when you are at school, too.  Laugh, chat, and make a plan.  Send out some ideas for new books or resources via email, or your blog or website. Stay in touch through Twitter and Facebook.  Find a new application that you can share.  Screencast a tutorial or find one on YouTube.  Cultivate your garden of ideas and invite your friends to the harvest.

 

Happy summer!  And don’t forget your recreational reading!

 

References:

Ahrens, Brooke. (2014, June 12).  Let’s Get Together Thursday-What is the Best Time?  AASL Blog. (weblog) http://www.aasl.ala.org/aaslblog/?p=4688

Image: Microsoft ClipArt

 

 

Collaboration in the News, Part II

school_new_collaborative_culturesEarlier this week, I quoted literacy educator Regie Routman from an International Reading Association publication. I mentioned that the National Council of Teachers (NCTE) and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) are also calling for collaborative school cultures.

In this week’s NCTE’s InBox: News, Views, and Ideas You Can Use email blast kicked off the week’s communication with a link to the National Center for Literacy Education Survey and this information:

“77% of Educators Surveyed: Literacy Is Not Just the Responsibility of English Teachers. This is the #1 finding in a survey of 10,000 educators from all roles, grade levels, and subject areas, who agreed that literacy is one of the most important parts of their job.”

School librarians who have developed strategies for coteaching reading comprehension and other literacy skills can help colleagues at all grade levels and in all disciplines hone effective instruction in literacy. Meeting teachers’ self-identified needs can firmly establish the school librarian’s role in the academic program of the school.

When ASCD selected their “Best of 2012-2013” articles from the publication Educational Leadership, Rick DuFour and Mike Mattos’s article “How Do Principals Really Improve Schools?” made the cut. As long-time award-winning principals and researchers, DuFour and Mattos combine their testimonials and research when they attest that the most powerful strategy for focusing on learning is creating “the collaborative culture and collective responsibility of a professional learning community (PLC).”

These are the questions they pose for PLC team members:
• What knowledge, skills, and dispositions should all students acquire as a result of the unit we’re about to teach?
• How much time will we devote to this unit?
• How will we gather evidence of student learning throughout the unit in our classrooms and at its conclusion as a team?
• How can we use this evidence of learning to improve our individual practice and our team’s collective capacity to help students learn, to intervene for students unable to demonstrate proficiency, and to enrich the learning for students (DuFour & Mattos, 2013, p. 38).

School librarians who are skilled at instructional design and evidence-based practice are positioned to be leaders on PLCs. When your principal calls for team leaders for this year’s PLCs, will you be one of the leaders at the table?

References

DuFour, R., & Mattos, M. (2013). How do principals really improve schools? Educational Leadership, 70(7), 34-40.

NCTE. (2013). NCTE InBox: News, Views, and Ideas You Can Use. September 4, 2013.

Newspaper Clipping Created at Fodey.com

Leadership and Collaboration

1301014184_3786e4d2b8_mducks

As co-teachers and instructional partners, school librarians focus on collaborative opportunities with individual or teams of educators within a school community.  Many school districts have been providing professional development for educators by establishing Professional Learning Communities (PLC).   The PLC is a vehicle for collaborative planning and decision making that focuses on improving student learning.  To be successful participants, educators need training to understand the process for and commitment to collaboration that builds the collective capacity of a school system.  An effective PLC can change attitudes and transform teaching and learning in a powerful way.

School librarians are positioned to take leadership roles in PLCs, and should advocate for a place at the table.  Having honed a variety of collaboration skills of various levels, school librarians are familiar with setting goals, timelines, assessments, formulating projects, and are adept at analyzing data.  There are many configurations for PLC teams, and the school librarian should have a pivotal role in content areas.  Unfortunately, in many districts, the PLC teams may not integrate the school librarian into content or grade level groups.  Many times the PLCs are set to meet during the scheduled time for a class visit to the library/media center when the librarian is expected to supervise the class.  That prevents meaningful participation, and limits the expertise and knowledge that the librarian can share with the group.

Stepping into a leadership role means that the school librarian needs to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve.  Find out what is happening in your district or school.  What are the initiatives?  What are the goals for educators and student learning?  What curriculum changes are proposed?  Be ready to explain to administrators, teachers, parents, community members, and students how the school library program and resources will benefit the transformation of learning.  You are the expert, the information specialist, and can facilitate learning for all stakeholders.

If you want to realize your own capacity as an educational leader, I recommend two readings that have influenced my thinking recently.  One was an article in May/June 2013 issue of Knowledge Quest, “The Make-Good Mission.”  Michael Edson, the Smithsonian’s director of web and new media strategy, talks about the possibilities for the school library as a place for meeting the challenges of “scope, scale, and speed” presented by information in present day.  We simply can’t continue to do things the way we have done them in the past.  Organizations have to change from within, not top down.  We all have the capacity to contribute, not just receive information.

Change from within is one of the messages also in Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement (DuFour and Marzano, 2011).  Two leaders in organizational systems and education explore how change and transformation can come about using the collective expertise of all stakeholders.  DuFour shares how PLC teams that are created and supported by district administrators and principals, can bring about improvements in student learning.  The training and support is imperative to make a successful outcome for all.  Collaboration skills have to be learned and the authors offer a blueprint.  Marzano clarifies how to establish what is important for students to learn and how to assess their learning.

At the AASL Conference in November 2013,  there will be sessions that focus on leadership roles and require specific collaboration skills.  Come to conference and gather more ideas to add to your leadership/advocacy tool kit!

Resources:

DuFour, Richard and Robert Marzano. 2011. Leaders of learning: How district, school, and classroom leaders improve student achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Edson, Michael.  2013. The Make-good mission: Evaluating and embracing new possibilities for discovery and innovation in school libraries.  Knowledge Quest 41 (5): 12-18.

Photo: Microsoft clipart

 

Cross Pollination of Ideas and Understandings

Spring is finally emerging here in the North Country, and the bees are buzzing, birds are singing. Melissa’s post last week about encouraging partnerships with public and other libraries had me thinking about collaboration as a cross pollination of ideas and understandings. When school librarians have a chance to meet and work with others in the field whose overall mission is the same, but different according to parameters of their workplaces, the benefits move both ways.

Earlier in the year, I was invited to present at the New England Association of Independent School Librarians at their annual meeting on April 12, 2013. While I was excited to take on the task, I realized that I really had limited first-hand knowledge of independent schools, and I was eager to learn more. My background includes many years in the public school system and in a public university, so I did a bit of digging to understand my audience. What I found is that there is a range of independent schools for students of all ages, from those that are focused on college prep, to those that provide a niche environment for learning depending on the interests and abilities of the student. While independent schools are governed by a board of trustees, some are combinations of private/public schools, some are based on religious or organizational affiliation, and many are funded exclusively by tuition, donors, and endowments. They include day schools and boarding schools and are not for profit, and are not encumbered or constrained by public school regulations.

Libraries are an important part of the school experience in independent schools, and are often extolled as indicators of the quality of the school. The National Association of Independent Schools has established Guidelines of Professional Practice for Librarians, and there are many regional independent school library organizations.  There is a separate section within the American Association for School Librarians (AASL) for Independent Schools (ISS), and therefore, independent school librarians have access to professional networks that meet their particular concerns, which are not so different than those of public school librarians.

The April NEAISL meeting was held at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont, and attendees came from across New England and upper New York State, in spite of the snow, sleet and freezing rain that is typical of early spring in Vermont.  Susan Ballard, AASL President, was the keynote speaker who suggested ways to advocate for school libraries through marketing or branding, a topic that resonates with all school librarians.  Throughout the day, in formal sessions and informal discussion, I listened for the common themes that connected independent school librarians. Enthusiastic about their work and their schools, they voiced familiar concerns about:

  • Effective technology integration
  • Engaging digital native students in learning
  • Advocacy
  • Changing space needs for libraries-learning commons
  • Diversity or lack of diversity in student populations
  • Collaboration with other faculty
  • Students with special needs or ELL
  • AP courses-yes or no
  • College research ready

While I did not hear very much about Common Core Standards, I must admit, it was a relief not to have that on the table.  As I listened and learned from independent school librarians, I realized more than ever, that dedication to library service for students and staff is the common denominator for all of us in the profession.  No matter where we work,   in urban or rural areas, in large or small public or independent schools, we are all committed to our mission, and we have a lot to share. I want to thank Merlyn Miller, Library Director at Burr and Burton for the opportunity to share, listen, and learn with such a diverse group of professional school librarians.

In order to take advantage of cross pollination of understandings, I urge you to seek out your fellow school librarians to compare notes and ideas. If you are in a public school, plan to visit a local independent school.  If you are in an independent school, locate a nearby public school.  There is a lot to learn from different perspectives, and enjoy your visit!

References:

American Association of School Librarians Independent Schools Section. Online. http://www.ala.org/aasl/aboutaasl/aaslcommunity/aaslsections/iss/iss .

Conference program for New England Association of Independent School Librarians. Online. https://sites.google.com/a/burrburton.org/new-england-association-of-independent-school-librarians-conference-2013/conference-program.

Guidelines of professional practice for school librarians. National Association of Independent Schools. Online. http://www.nais.org/Series/Pages/NAIS-Guidelines-of-Professional-Practice-for-Librarians.aspx. .

Hand, D. Independent school libraries: Perspectives on excellence. (2010). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

National Association of Independent Schools. Online. http://www.nais.org/Articles/Pages/About-NAIS.aspx?src=utility.

Cross Pollination of Ideas and Understandings

Spring is finally emerging here in the North Country, and the bees are buzzing, birds are singing. Melissa’s post last week about encouraging partnerships with public and other libraries had me thinking about collaboration as a cross pollination of ideas and understandings. When school librarians have a chance to meet and work with others in the field whose overall mission is the same, but different according to parameters of their workplaces, the benefits move both ways.

Earlier in the year, I was invited to present at the New England Association of Independent School Librarians at their annual meeting on April 12, 2013. While I was excited to take on the task, I realized that I really had limited first-hand knowledge of independent schools, and I was eager to learn more. My background includes many years in the public school system and in a public university, so I did a bit of digging to understand my audience. What I found is that there is a range of independent schools for students of all ages, from those that are focused on college prep, to those that provide a niche environment for learning depending on the interests and abilities of the student. While independent schools are governed by a board of trustees, some are combinations of private/public schools, some are based on religious or organizational affiliation, and many are funded exclusively by tuition, donors, and endowments. They include day schools and boarding schools and are not for profit, and are not encumbered or constrained by public school regulations.

Libraries are an important part of the school experience in independent schools, and are often extolled as indicators of the quality of the school. The National Association of Independent Schools has established Guidelines of Professional Practice for Librarians, and there are many regional independent school library organizations.  There is a separate section within the American Association for School Librarians (AASL) for Independent Schools (ISS), and therefore, independent school librarians have access to professional networks that meet their particular concerns, which are not so different than those of public school librarians.

The April NEAISL meeting was held at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vermont, and attendees came from across New England and upper New York State, in spite of the snow, sleet and freezing rain that is typical of early spring in Vermont.  Susan Ballard, AASL President, was the keynote speaker who suggested ways to advocate for school libraries through marketing or branding, a topic that resonates with all school librarians.  Throughout the day, in formal sessions and informal discussion, I listened for the common themes that connected independent school librarians. Enthusiastic about their work and their schools, they voiced familiar concerns about:

  • Effective technology integration
  • Engaging digital native students in learning
  • Advocacy
  • Changing space needs for libraries-learning commons
  • Diversity or lack of diversity in student populations
  • Collaboration with other faculty
  • Students with special needs or ELL
  • AP courses-yes or no
  • College research ready

While I did not hear very much about Common Core Standards, I must admit, it was a relief not to have that on the table.  As I listened and learned from independent school librarians, I realized more than ever, that dedication to library service for students and staff is the common denominator for all of us in the profession.  No matter where we work,   in urban or rural areas, in large or small public or independent schools, we are all committed to our mission, and we have a lot to share. I want to thank Merlyn Miller, Library Director at Burr and Burton for the opportunity to share, listen, and learn with such a diverse group of professional school librarians.

In order to take advantage of cross pollination of understandings, I urge you to seek out your fellow school librarians to compare notes and ideas. If you are in a public school, plan to visit a local independent school.  If you are in an independent school, locate a nearby public school.  There is a lot to learn from different perspectives, and enjoy your visit!

References:

American Association of School Librarians Independent Schools Section. Online. http://www.ala.org/aasl/aboutaasl/aaslcommunity/aaslsections/iss/iss .

Conference program for New England Association of Independent School Librarians. Online. https://sites.google.com/a/burrburton.org/new-england-association-of-independent-school-librarians-conference-2013/conference-program.

Guidelines of professional practice for school librarians. National Association of Independent Schools. Online. http://www.nais.org/Series/Pages/NAIS-Guidelines-of-Professional-Practice-for-Librarians.aspx. .

Hand, D. Independent school libraries: Perspectives on excellence. (2010). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

National Association of Independent Schools. Online. http://www.nais.org/Articles/Pages/About-NAIS.aspx?src=utility.

School Structures that Support Collaborative Cultures, Part 2

Shared collaborative planning time is another school structure that supports educators in building and sustaining a culture of collaboration. In schools and districts where administrators recognize this as an essential component of effective instruction, grade-level, classroom-library, and interdisciplinary collaboration is more likely to be practiced and lead to positive results in terms of improvements in student learning and educator proficiency.

The National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) is a coalition of education associations, policy organizations, and foundations united to support schools in elevating literacy learning. The American Association of School Librarians is a partner organization. NCLE conducted a national survey of educators in all roles, at all grade levels, and in all subject areas to find out more about what is actually happening in schools. (Note: This report was funded by the Ball Foundation.)

Today, the Literacy in Learning Exchange released the findings: “NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning.”

The report states that although “working together is working smarter, schools are not structured to facilitate educators working together.” It also noted that “effective collaboration needs systemic support.”

Here’s a recommendation that all educational decision-makers should note: “Embed the collaboration of educators in the school day. This is critical for deep student learning and is a necessary prerequisite to the success of other school reforms.

Schools can start by instituting shared planning time during the school day and focus on collaborative job-embedded professional development. The recommendations would go a long way to building the necessary school structures to help make professional learning communities successful. I encourage every educator to make time to read this report.

Works Cited

Innovations Lightbulb. Digital image. HHS.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/innovationfellows/index.html

National Center for Literacy Education. “NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning.” Retrieved from http://www.literacyinlearningexchange.org/remodeling