Notes from AASL Fall Forum


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My takeaways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuff said!

Some resources mentioned above:

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

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

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







Collaboration Beyond the Walls, Redux!

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

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

How it came about…

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

And then…

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

Welcome to March Madness:  How it worked…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Collaboration Beyond the School Walls

As I was reading through my email this past week I was extremely interested to see a report entitle Building a Bridge to Literacy for African-American Male Youth: A Call to Action for the Library Community from the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the School of Library and Information Science at North Carolina Central University.

This report offers recommendations for addressing the achievement gap for African-American Males in this country and serves as a call to action for libraries of all types.

What resonated with me was the call for collaboration between school libraries, public libraries, and other community organizations. I frequently read and hear about the lack of collaboration between school libraries and public libraries. Yet, just as this report discusses, think of the powerful partnerships that can be formed that can benefit all students, not just those at risk.

In times of budget cuts collections have suffered and sometimes the cultural representation that should be present in a collection is not. This presents an opportunity to work with your public library – they may have resources that you don’t have and when you pool your resources together you can offer more to your students. This report describes the enabling texts that are needed to reach out to African American males. Working on building collections that include these type of materials could be a joint effort initiative between the school librarian and the public librarian.

When I opened a new school library I found the public library to be a great partner. After meeting with teachers and learning the curriculum I could keep up with what topics were coming up and then work with the local public librarian to help me gather and borrow materials to support these curricular areas. Then in return I worked with them to develop and promote various programs to support and benefit students.

Also mentioned in this report is collaboration with community organizations and partners to offer experiences to your students. This report talks of working with different civic organizations to foster community relations and provide real-world authentic learning experiences. This may be working with like-minded organizations to set up programs that can foster literacy engagement out in the community for those students who may not always be able to get to the library.

I think all too often we as school librarians solely focus on collaborating with teachers and some times forget about other possible partnerships. I believe these types of collaborations that go beyond the school walls benefit and provide valuable support for all students.

More from North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference

An outstanding session I attended at NCSLMA was Track It: Documenting Instructional Impact developed by Gerry Solomon, Donna Shannon and Karen Gavigan from the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science.  An outline of their presentation can be found in their wiki   In their session they presented numerous resources to assist school librarians as they use documentation to inform practice, demonstrate impact, and advocate for school libraries.  Links to these resources are collected in the wiki.  A similar presentation is on the program for the American Library Association Annual Conference in 2013.  The wiki is a gold mine for school librarians to use to collect data about their impact on student learning.


Take a look at the wiki page for forms

to find several related to collaboration.  The Collaboration Log/Checklist from Koechlin/Zwaan (2003) struck me for its ease of use with an ability to quickly circle the type of collaboration and the time frame.   As we have discussed in this blog, time is often identified as a barrier to collaboration. Maintaining a log such as this one will allow a school librarian to quickly note even the briefest (0-5 minute) hallway or parking lot conversation.  Over time, these encounters may establish a pattern of collaboration that might otherwise be overlooked.  Are there some teachers who seem to prefer this type of collaboration? Do these encounters lead to lessons or other activities?  Are they follow-up to more formal meetings? Or do they serve as preparation in advance of longer conversations?  Over time these collaboration logs might demonstrate an ongoing and cumulative collaborative relationship that might otherwise be lost.   I’m reminded of how some budgeting plans stress documenting even your smallest expenses because frequently these add up to become a significant drain on your budget.  In a similar way small savings may accumulate and earn interest over time.  The small conversations school librarians have with teachers will also add up and earn interest over time.  Here’s a way to collect and study that data.

Carolina’s On My Mind – Queries for School Librarians

I’m on a road trip that began with the North Carolina School Library Media Association’s Annual Conference in Winston-Salem.  Buffy Hamilton gave an inspirational keynote address where she asked the audience to question what we learned in library school, even as recently as five years ago, in light of new shifts in education toward what has been described by Jenkins et al (2006) as a more participatory culture. As I listened to Buffy, I found myself returning to the excellent query presented by Judi last week regarding what school librarians would do differently if we considered teachers to be our target clientele.  In my work collaborating with teachers, I often wondered about this same question. School librarians bring an entirely new set of resources to the table when teachers are planning classroom instruction both in terms of the kinds of media we are able to identify, select, and share and the Standards for the 21st Century Learner that focus not only on skills, but on dispositions, social responsibility and self-assessment.  These resources may provoke teachers to consider different ways to deliver and engage students in instruction and assessment. Buffy Hamilton also called on school librarians to “become a part of the instructional design conversation” with teachers providing a focus that is inquiry-based, participatory, and promoting a sense of wonder and delight for learners. We need more research in the field that explores Judi’s question about the indirect impact of school librarian collaboration with teachers on student learning.  Such research might track the conversations and resources introduced by the school librarian during collaboration into the classroom to see how they are taken up by teachers and then by students.

Buffy Hamilton also spoke about an educational “ecosystem” and many of her remarks focused on the direct relationship of the school librarian to students and student learning.  What happens when we think of the school librarian as a coach and mentor to students? We have the means to connect directly with students, to embed ourselves in classroom instruction and to create “makerspaces” in our libraries where students come to work directly with us and the resources of the library to create their own products and new knowledge. In these terms I began to think of the direct relationships school librarians have with students and their families. School librarians are in a position to develop relationships with students that overflow the classroom, that transcend an academic year by following students as they progress through the grade levels, and grow to include siblings, cousins, parents, and grandparents.  The school librarian has a unique perspective on the trajectory of students beyond a single classroom or grade level.  This knowledge and understanding also cycles into our collaborative work with teachers.

As Buffy Hamilton suggested, we function in an educational ecosystem.  Everything we do is connected to everything else.  We have a unique position in the educational ecosystem that provides us with a wider view of student learning and multiple avenues to impact student learning. I think Judi’s question is a great one: As a school librarian how would you organize your time differently if classroom teachers were your primary clientele?  We should embrace it as a query that leads us to reflect deeply on the work we do with teachers and our impact on professional development and the ways a culture of collaboration might be nurtured with teachers.  Perhaps the question could be asked and pondered in terms of each of our stakeholders.  What would happen if we considered families as our primary clientele? Administrators? The community? Perhaps it’s not so important which stakeholder we choose to focus on, but that we find ways to track that impact back to student learning. Because, as I was reminded in another excellent session I attended, we should align everything we do in the school library with the mission of our school and no doubt the mission of each school includes some language about the education of the students in that school.  Ultimately that is our bottom line; there are probably multiple paths toward that mission and working as instructional partners with teachers is clearly one of the more fruitful paths we could choose.   Where do you see yourself making an impact on the educational ecosystem in your school?  What are the many ways you might track your work with various stakeholders back to student learning?  Consider each in turn as a query without quick answers, but reflective questions to ponder as you evaluate the choices you make regarding the use of your resources of time, space, and materials.  Think of it as self-assessment for school librarians.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture:  Media education for the 21st century. Chicago: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Library 2.012 Conference – Free, Online Professional Development Opportunity

The Library 2.012 Conference, a free virtual professional development opportunity, will be held this week from today October 3rd through Friday, October 5th. Check it out at:

Many school librarians are involved in presenting sessions. So check out the schedule in your time zone.

On Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Central Time, TWU doctoral student Ruth Nicole Hall and I will be presenting a session.

Telling Your Advocacy Story with Digital Tools
In this session, we will discuss the importance of harnessing the power of software and Web 2.0 tools to reach school library stakeholders to make a case for the central role of school librarians is creating vibrant literacy learning communities in their schools. Using digital stories to deliver advocacy messages is an effective and efficient way to reach out to classroom teachers, school administrators, K-12 students, and their families.

We will share several examples and will use a digital advocacy story focused on coteaching and targeted to classroom teachers and principals as our primary example.

We hope many Building a Culture of Collaboration Blog readers will attend the conference.

See you online!

Question: Whom Do School Librarians Serve?

When answering this question Dr. Ken Haycock wrote: “Most [librarians] would answer students, yet the primary clientele is terms of power, impact, and effect would be teachers” (Haycock, 2010, p. 3).

I think this is a question that many school librarians may want to consider more carefully. Yes, we are teachers and as teachers, our bottom line is student learning. However, we are teachers plus. As librarians, our position requires us to collaborate with every classroom teacher and specialist in our building.

If you are a school librarian, how would you organize your time differently if classroom teachers were your primary clientele?

Note: The Library 2.012 Conference, a free virtual professional development opportunity, will be held this week from October 3rd – 5th. Check it out at:


Haycock, K. (2010). Leadership from the middle: Building influence for change. In S. Coatney (Ed.), The many faces of school library leadership (1-12). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.