Adult Learners in the Learning Commons

Indian ElephantOne of the resources that I learned about at the 19th Treasure Mountain Research Retreat “The Learner in the Learning Commons” was a video: “Connected Learning: Hands-On, Learner-Focused, Life-Long.” The idea of helping learners learn how to learn, to be flexible and adaptable, to address real-world problems made a strong connection for me with the engagements school librarians and classroom teachers can design with an inquiry learning model.

In the video, members of the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub (DML Research Hub) speak eloquently about how educators are asking the wrong question. Rather than asking “what do we want students to learn?” we could/should be asking “what experience do we want students to have?” (Connie Yowell, Director of Education, MacArthur Foundation).

For me, Dr. Yowell’s question is the essential question around which inquiry learning educators/facilitators develop student learning engagements. In an inquiry framework, outcomes are not the “facts” noted in the standards, but the processes that are also indicated in the standards such as developing a research plan, asking meaningful questions, identifying resources, and so on. These transferrable standards encompass the very processes that lead learners to active engagement with the ultimate goal of learning how to learn.

As inquiry guides, educators begin by motivating students and immersing them in content before students pose authentic and personally meaningful questions. Inquiry educators help learners identify resources, including mentors who can support their learning, sift and sort through information, construct and present new knowledge, and reflect on their learning process throughout the experience.

As long as we have a place called “school” with adults called “educators” who guide students’ learning, it’s my opinion that we must address the learning needs of educators. For me, our challenge in education is to take action to improve the practices of the “Adult Learners in the Learning Commons: The Elephant in the Room.” (Hence I published a paper with that title in the Treasure Mountain Research Retreat Proceedings.)

As Dr. Hay notes and I concur, school librarians are perfectly positioned to be facilitators of adult learning (while they themselves improve their own practices in the process). This culture of collaboration is essential for more engaged and meaningful student learning as well as for improving instructional practices and ensuring the sustainability of the school librarian profession.

Note: The DML Research Hub is concerned with an “equitable, participatory, and effective ecosystem of learning keyed to the digital and networked era. We are a collective of researchers, practitioners, and policyshifters analyzing the impact of the Internet and digital media on education, politics, and youth culture. The hub is part of the University of California’s systemwide Humanities Research Institute and is supported by the MacArthur Foundation” (quoted from their Web site).

To stimulate your thinking about the possibilities for education transformation, I recommend all of the videos found on the DML Research Hub Vimeo channel.


Askew, Nic. 2012. Connected Learning: Hands-On, Learner-Focused, Life-Long. Vimeo video, Posted by DML Research Hub.

Elephant image accessed from Microsoft Clipart

The iCentre: Australia School Libraries “Learning Commons” Concept

iCentre_iii_cropAt the 19th Treasure Mountain Research Retreat “The Learner in the Learning Commons” held in Hartford, Connecticut last month, keynoter Dr. Lyn Hay presented “An Anatomy of an iCentre.” Dr. Hay who teaches at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia has long held the belief that school libraries must be the information-technology hub of learning and that school librarians must provide curriculum leadership and bring all of the school/library stakeholders together in a collective, collaborative effort to transform teaching and learning. In the digital age, the iCentre model is a path toward sustainability for school libraries. These are my take-aways from Dr. Hay’s talk.

The leadership in the iCentre is shared among the librarian, IT faculty, curriculum coordinators, and more. Together, they have a shared commitment to bringing the technology that people use outside of the school walls and integrate it into school-based learning. Dr. Hay calls this “digital normalization.” (See The School Evolutionary Stages: The Concept of Global School Evolution blog.)

“The form the school library takes reflects the function” (Hay). Dr. Hay described the three “i’s” in the iCentre: information, immersion, and innovation. In the physical and virtual spaces of the library, school librarians teach individual learners as well as small groups and whole classes. They coteach with teachers to facilitate the iCentre’s information-technology convergence through the large flexible space and fluid design of the physical library.

If principals and architects bring a “bricks and mortar approach” to the library space redesign, it is essential that school librarians help them see the necessity of breaking out of traditional school library models. The role of the librarian should be of a leader who helps “fuse the work” of teaching and learning across the curriculum. School librarians must be key information, technology and learning leaders who combine their work with their colleagues’ efforts and reconcile various approaches to inquiry across the disciplines.

With a commitment to service, a core value of librarianship, school librarians can change library stakeholders’ expectations for their role. iCentre leaders can provide a strategic and operational framework for integrated learning that motivates and guides a whole school agenda. As such, the iCentre becomes an “innovation machine” in which students, teachers, specialists (including technology integrationists) see their roles blending and building in order to transform learning and teaching.

What impressed me most about Dr. Hay’s presentation was her focus on the adult learner leaders in the iCentre. Without the collaborative and innovative efforts of the schools’ adults, students will not have access to on-going transformative learning experiences. Check out Lyn Hay’s blog: Students Learning through School Libraries

Image created by Judi Moreillon in Microsoft Word with Scramble Font


worldThe collective capacity of a group of like-minded folks is amazing.  In past posts, we have spoken about the benefits of belonging to professional organizations, at both the national and local levels, and I would like to share how the Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) has been responding to a situation that emerged recently.  Members of the organization are working together to make a difference and bring about change in a positive manner.  In a way, these actions have been a wake up call for all of us to understand the need for ongoing advocacy for school library programs.

A little background:

Since 2000, the Vermont State Statutes that define School Quality Standards have included language that describe staffing and school library resources. Throughout the state, school districts hired school librarians and supported school libraries as a result of the legislation. At the time that these standards were established, there was a school library media consultant at the Vermont Department of Education.  During reorganization in the early 2000’s, the position was eliminated.  Administrators and school librarians had guidelines, but no one to consult for questions that concerned school library programs.  The Vermont State Librarian who oversees public libraries took schools under her umbrella, and provided many resources that have continued to be helpful, and we have been fortunate to have that commitment and support.


In October 2012, a committee was formed by the Vermont Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education to revise the School Quality Standards to update changes in educational policy that reflect current goals and practice-now called Education Quality Standards.   The members of the committee worked diligently for months to describe an educational system that meets the needs of today’s learners in Vermont.  School leadership, professional learning, curriculum and instruction, collaboration, and personalization of learning are detailed in the document, but with no one at the table to explain the school library program and its impact on all of these  topics, language about school libraries and the role of school librarians was eliminated from the document.

Enter VSLA.  While the process was unfolding, a group of members worked together on suggested language that could be included in the document, and submitted it to the committee.  When the final document was approved by the committee, there was still no direct mention of school library programs or staffing.  The next step is for the State Board of Education to review and prepare the document for legislative action. Meanwhile, the executive board of VSLA appointed a group (of volunteers) to advocate for our proposed language.  In a meeting with the Secretary of Education, we have been assured that there was no intent to leave out school libraries, and that appropriate language would be included in the next phase. We are continuing to use this opportunity to raise awareness about how school library programs contribute to transforming learning in schools.

As a group of volunteers who have busy work and family lives, we have added another role-full time advocates for what are passionate about. The trick is to remain positive, upbeat, and to collaborate with our stakeholders.  We want our students, parents, colleagues, and administrators to think about aspects of the school library program that improve their lives.  We are encouraging them to share their thoughts with the State Board of Education through comments at public hearings, email, and letters during the month of October.  This is all happening on the fly as we develop a strategy for advocacy as a group. What we realize now is that this is a continuous process, not just for VSLA, but for each and every teacher librarian in every school, every day.

What we have learned is that collaboration for advocacy is more important than ever.  In Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), the various roles of the school librarian have been updated to reflect the changing landscape of education in today’s world.  Leadership is a mantle that we may not willingly take on as teacher librarians, but one which we all need to embrace, and when we work towards common goals, and speak with a unified voice, change can happen.

Next week: Resources for Advocacy-Collaborating to Build the Plan


Empowering Learners.  Chicago: ALA/AASL, 2009.

Microsoft Clipart

Collaboration in the News, Part I

achieving_common_scoresAs an educator and researcher focused on school librarianship, I need to stay abreast of the topics and issues classroom teachers and administrators are thinking about in order to engage in professional conversations with my colleagues. This helps me position my library work in the larger educational arena. In addition to librarian organization membership, I have maintained my memberships and read the publications of educational organizations, including the International Reading Association (IRA), National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). I am especially pleased that all three of these organizations have turned their attention to the importance of the collaborative cultures in which the most effective teachers teach and successful students learn.

In the June/July issue of Reading Today: Informed Content for Literacy Professionals, an IRA publication, long-time literacy educator Regie Routman authored an article entitled “To Raise Achievement, Let’s Celebrate Teachers Before We Evaluate Them.” In Common Core State Standards states and any district in which teacher evaluation is being discussed, the entire article is a must-read for today’s educators, principals, and district-level administrators.

However, there was one sentence that jumped off the page at me, and I must share it here: “In my forty-five years of teaching, coaching, and leading, I have never seen increased and sustained literacy achievement without a collaborative, knowledgeable, and trusting school-wide culture” (p. 10).

In my own experience serving as a classroom teacher or a librarian at three different instructional levels, in eight different schools, in four different school districts, in two different states, I totally concur. What happens in individual classrooms and libraries is affected by the school culture in which they thrive and grow or struggle and wither. Michael Fullan calls this “collective capacity.” In his book All Systems Go: The Change Imperative for Whole School Reform, Fullan notes that “collective capacity generates the emotional commitment and the technical expertise that no amount of individual capacity working alone can come close to matching” (p. xiii).

As you begin the new school year, what are your thoughts about the collective capacity in your school learning culture? What strengths do you see? What actions will you take for improvement?


Fullan, M. (2010). All systems go: The change imperative for whole school reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Routman, R. (2013). To raise achievement, let’s celebrate teachers before we evaluate them. Reading Today, 30(6), 10-12.


Building a Culture of Caring

ReadyAndWaitingForYou_Cover_Web_sizedI am reading 2013 AASA National Superintendent of the Year Mark A. Edwards’ book Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement (2014) which I received courtesy of the publisher at last week’s ALA Conference in Chicago. With Dr. Edwards’ leadership, Mooresville (NC) Graded School District educators and staff have embraced a “culture of caring” to guarantee that all members of the district, young people and adults alike, experience a loving community that works hard to ensure their success.

In his book, Dr. Edwards lists several factors that contribute to the cultural conditions for caring:

  • A commitment to every individual;
  • Committed leadership at all levels;
  • Communication of caring expectations in meetings and professional goals;
  • Ongoing appreciation of individuals and teams;
  • Involvement of every employee in the mission of learning;
  • Management of negative elements;
  • Participatory decision making at all levels to ensure buy-in;
  • And laughter and fun as cultural norms (29-30).

One aspect of this culture is honoring teachers. In a day and age when educators are frequently identified as “the problem” in education and blamed for the low achievement that can result from poverty and other factors, it is encouraging to know there are enlightened administrators who are honoring teachers’ work daily and show care and concern for their well-being as well as expecting positive results in terms of student learning.

While reading this section of Dr. Edwards’ book, I cannot help but make the connection to our soon-to-be released children’s picture book Ready and Waiting for You (Moreillon/Stock, Eerdmans, 2013). I dedicated this book to the “caring educators around the world who joyfully open the doors to learning” for children. Just as every individual in the Mooresville Graded School District experiences the socio-emotional and cognitive conditions for success, illustrator Catherine Stock and I hope that every child entering kindergarten or every young child moving to a new school will be welcomed into the world of schooling by caring educators. Our book will be available in August.

You can view Eerdmans’ book trailer for Ready and Waiting for You at:


Edwards, Mark A. 2014. Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement. Boston: Pearson.

Moreillon, Judi. 2013. Ready and Waiting for You. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Building a Culture of “All In!!!”

Yesterday at the AASL President’s Program speaker 2013 AASA National Superintendent of the Year Mark A. Edwards from Mooresville (NC) Graded School District spoke eloquently on the role that school culture and vision play in his district’s successful technology “conversion.”  While he described the investment Mooresville is making by leasing computers for every student, faculty, and staff member in the district, he focused on the idea of “all in!!!” as much or more than the tools themselves.

Although I have not yet read his book, Every Child, Every Day: A Digital Conversion Model for Student Achievement, Dr. Edwards clearly outlined a school culture context in which everyone is invested in and committed to providing students with the most engaging, collaborative, real-world learning experiences that lead to student (and educator) success.

Dr. Edwards talked about six ingredients in the Mooresville initiative. It was compelling to note that only two of them were directly related to technology: 21st-century tools and rich and intensive data used by students, teachers, and parents to guide and monitor learning.

The other four ingredients were: building the culture, building capacity through ongoing professional development, “all in!!!,” and ubiquitous leadership. (It is no surprise that Dr. Edwards is now writing a book about distributive leadership.) What should strike all educators, and maybe school librarians in particular, is that everyone has a leadership role in this model, which supports the culture of collaboration in the school.

Said Dr. Edwards: “Every school librarian in Mooresville represents leadership that is central to successful student learning.”

Thank you for an excellent talk, Dr. Edwards, and for spreading your vision far and wide across the country. You have the eyes and ears of other educational leaders. We look forward to hearing more about the success in Mooresville.


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.





Reeling in the Reluctant Fish

Several weeks ago, Sue Kimmel blogged about working with reluctant teachers, the ones who are not coming to the collaboration table.  She offered some ideas for making sure that students in those classrooms still had school library learning opportunities in different settings.  I would like to explore ways to reel some of those reluctant fish into collaborative relationships.

First, cast the line with some intriguing bait:

From my experience, many teachers who are reluctant collaborators are often leery of new ideas or trends.  They may not want to jump on the latest bandwagon, or to take a risk in looking foolish in front of colleagues or students.  Mostly, they like to play it safe, not venture into the unknown.  Respect that view, be generous, and don’t give up.  Cultivate a person to person relationship.  Watch, listen, and ask probing, but friendly questions about what’s happening in their classrooms.  Tease out the challenges that they have encountered around curriculum units, or student engagement.  Ask to visit or help out in the classroom.  Listen to students who come in from those classes with projects that have been assigned.  Get the big picture, and just wait.

Get acquainted with any school reform initiatives, or curriculum revisions that might impact that teacher.  Implementation of Common Core Standards and the new testing format are certainly hot topics right now.  Be part of that conversation, and immerse yourself in the documents, so that you understand the implications for the educational community. Embrace emerging technologies. Have some hotlinks in your PLN for other standards, too-AASL, ISTE, and so on.

Gather up a few “lures,” such as online resources, web 2.0 apps, blogs, rss feeds, and best practices in pedagogy and brain-based learning.  Fill your tackle box with information about Universal Design for Learning, flipped classroom, backward design, differentiated instruction, inquiry based learning, and so on.

Be ready with one small lure to offer that reluctant teacher, when you have the conversation that opens an opportunity to take the first step.

I know, I know… you don’t have time or patience to wait for that fish to bite, but as long as you have the line out, and the fish is circling, you may get a big one in the end!

Caught one!

In years past, I had a fish, oops, I mean colleague, who was in a self-contained classroom, and I tried to extend a collaborative hand without a lot of success.  Then, the administration required every teacher to collaborate in a team to develop and co-teach a standards based unit.  Since this person was not part of a team, she had to team up with someone.  Guess who she chose?  Needless to say, it was the beginning of a creative and stimulating collaboration that benefited both of us and the students in her classroom.  Our collaboration continued to grow throughout the years, and we had so much fun! (BTW-that’s not me in the photo.  All photos from Microsoft Clipart)

More hooks:

Looking for other entry points for collaboration?  Be sure to check out the Teacher Resource pages within Debbie Abilock’s fabulous NoodleTools website.  There are wonderful ideas and links to web tools and resources.  Every school needs to have this resource for information literacy.  Some of the material is gratis, but the advanced product is well worth the cost.


NoodleTools Curriculum Collaboration Toolkit.  NoodleTools, 2007. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <>

New Year’s Resolution: Deep Learning through School Library Programs

In a recent post to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Forum, Dr. David Loertscher pointed us to a Mindshift blog post by Tina Barseghian. Her piece focused on measuring deeper learning.

In the Mindshift blog post, Dr. James Pellegrino defined deeper learning as a way to learn processes that transfer and make knowledge useful in new situations. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at the Stanford and advocate for education reform, is also cited in Barseghian’s post. Darling-Hammond states that deeper learning involves problem solving in collaboration with others: “Collaboration is a skill not a deficit.”

On the AASL Forum, David asked how school librarians are shifting their practices, particularly in Common Core State Standards learning experiences, “to concentrate on deeper learning rather than the old superficial factual knowledge acquisition that has been commonplace.” He also asked what school library educators are doing to teach this shift in preservice preparation courses. To answer David’s questions, I would like share my New Year’s resolutions.

I will continue to work with the school, public, and academic librarians in Denton, Texas as we inquire about how to best support young people in our community in developing lifelong literacy skills through deep learning. As a first step in the 2012-2013 academic year, the Denton Inquiry 4 Lifelong Learning team is facilitating a year-long book study of Drs. Carol Kuhlthau, Leslie Maniotes, and Ann Caspari’s book Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Your School (Libraries Unlimited, 2012).

In my work as a school librarian educator, I will continue to push the preservice candidates with whom I am privileged to learn toward facilitating inquiry learning and technology integration through classroom-library instructional partnerships that position librarians as leaders in “deeper learning” reform efforts in their schools.

Whenever the opportunity arises, I will write letters to the editors of the newspapers in my communities to inform readers of the potential of professional school librarians to positively impact 21st-century students’ learning and teachers’ teaching.

And I will continue to coproduce this blog with my colleagues Drs. Sue Kimmel, Melissa P. Johnston, and Judy Kaplan to share news and views to further conversations with our preservice librarian candidates and practicing librarians regarding our role in building cultures of collaboration in our schools.

As a practicing school librarian or school librarian educator, how will you resolve to improve the practice of our profession in 2013?


Barseghian, Tina. (2012, Sept. 13). How do we define and measure deeper learning? Mindshift Blog. 31 Dec. 2012.

Word Cloud.


The Role of Tempered Radicals in a Culture of Collaboration

I have really been encouraged by Judi’s posts regarding what pre-service principals saw as the benefits to students and the benefits to educators of the school librarian as a collaborative partner with teachers.  I was particularly struck by the observation that lessons co-planned, co-taught, and co-assessed with the school librarian “pushed instruction to a higher level” and provided the kinds of targeted, formative assessment essential to an evidence-based practice.  The school librarian holds a pivotal position in a school’s learning culture. He or she works within the school structure to nudge instruction, assessment, and ultimately student learning to a higher quality. This type of “embedded professional development” works at a subtle, but powerful level to fundamentally change the culture of a school into a learning community.
School librarians serve in a role that might be characterized as that of “tempered radicals,” a phrase introduced by Stephanie Meyerson (2001)and recently revisited by Peter DeWitt in an Education Week blog post entitled “Education needs more tempered radicals.” Tempered radicals are those who work within the system to create small but potentially pervasive changes to the system.  Working within the system, they retain their legitimacy as an insider, yet introduce difference and provoke learning.  As Dewitt suggests:

Tempered radicals are those educators on the inside who make subtle changes every day. Whether it’s the way they educate students (i.e. seamlessly using technology, parent communication, grading, etc.) or how they make changes to a building through shared decision making and listening to the needs of their stakeholders. Perhaps it is a principal who gives their teachers more autonomy or someone who sends out researched based articles on instruction and discusses them at faculty meetings so they can make changes in instructional practices.

Sound familiar?  School librarians are in an ideal position to serve as tempered radicals since they are recognized as members of the school staff by teachers and administrators, yet their work allows them to be in spaces of influence throughout the school as they plan with classroom teachers, converse with administrators and parents, and interact daily with students.  Meyerson suggests a tempered radical “brings an entirely new set of perspectives, asks different questions, and might pose different solutions to problems” (p.17).  School librarians are tempered radicals who create a climate of inquiry for administrators and teachers to “bounce ideas off of” leading toward an “evidence-based practice” focused on student learning.
Schools should be learning organizations where all members of the community value and engage in continuous learning.  School librarians embedded in the fabric of the community as they co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess instruction and learning are essential catalysts for the kinds of inquiry into practice that lead the learning of both educators and those they educate.  Inquiry offers a tempered approach to change because it raises essential questions and invites others to join in an exploration of answers.  It’s invitational, tempered, and relational. Collaboration and inquiry are essential partners in school reform and the goal of becoming a learning culture.


DeWitt, Peter (Dec. 13, 2012).  Education needs more tempered radicals [web log post]. Retrieved from

Meyerson, Stephanie (2001).  Tempered radicals: How people use difference to inspire change at work.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.