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:

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:

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.

 Edutopia: Schools That Work Case Study. “Innovation and Risk Taking Across a District.” Web Log. 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






Tools to Add to Your Lighthouse

On Monday I shared some tips for ways you can “be the lighthouse” for the teachers – be there at their point of need to guide them to the correct resources. Today I would like to share some of my favorite tools that you might want to have on hand for just the right lightoolbox-mdthouse moment. Some are new, others have been around for a while but might be new to you.
Online Interactive/Collaborative Spaces
These tools would be great to show in a faculty meeting since all can benefit from them. Open your professional development time by having the teachers work together to add to an interactive space. Have them brainstorm right on the space about ways they might use one of these tools: – This features of this tool keep growing. You can create your own board, use a template, import files, web links, videos, images…the list goes on. There is a ton of flexibility with RealTimeBoard. – I love this one, maybe because the name is great! Who doesn’t want to create something called a “Popplet?” This is a great tool for even the youngest students. You can create linked brainstorming maps with Popplet and add images, text, videos, etc. – This is another simple collaboration tool that is used by many teachers. Simply drag and drop files right onto your wall. Or double-click anywhere on the wall to upload images, audio, video, or other types of files. Share your wall to allow others to join in the fun.
State-Sponsored Reference Resources
Databases, etc. – Many states provide online reference sources to school students at no cost to the schools or students. In Virginia, is sponsored by the Library of Virginia and provides access to eBooks and databases that are specific to various grade levels. Check with your state library or Department of Education to find out what might be available in your state.
State Encyclopedias –  Does your state have an online encyclopedia specific to information related to your state? In North Carolina, for example, it is called NCpedia and can be accessed directly from the website or through the State Library of North Carolina
Research Help –  With Diigo, you can organize web links, outline, highlight, and annotate. This site is filled with helpful research tools and also includes a Google Chrome extension to make it easy to use the tools.
Citation creation tools –  There are so many out there now, and all have different features. A few I have used with students include:
With any of these, I always have student double-check the citations once they are created. It is not uncommon to use a citation generator but still need to fix the capitalization, and the generators do not usually fix typos by the student.
For many more great websites and app ideas, check out the annual lists by the American Association of School Librarians: ;
What are your favorite online tools to share with teachers? Add them in the Comments below.

Be the lighthouse

A few years ago I conducted a research study looking at the resources used by high school teachers (See link below). I wanted to know about teachers’ understandings of library resources and how they used the resources in their instruction. One of the findings from this study that has stuck with me is that teachers are spending a lot of their own time finding the perfect resources to use in instruction. It seems that few are using the textbook as more than a supplementary resource and they are searching many different sources for additional resources. This is where the school librarian can and should step in. The librarian should be that source for good information beyond the textbook and beyond what is found in the print library collection.

lighthouse-585944_1280 There are many great resources available online that are free for teachers, but they need to know about them and they need to know at the point of need. Just like a lighthouse guides boats to safe harbor, we need to be there when the teachers need us, when they are searching in the dark for the perfect resources. We know the most effective way to teach library skills to students is when they need to use the skill, and the same is true for teachers. They are more likely to use a resource if it directly relates to the curriculum that is being planned and taught right now.

A few tips to get you to them at the point of need:

  • Regularly attend grade level or department meetings. (If your schedule does not allow you to attend the meetings, ask the lead teacher to share meeting minutes so you are kept in the loop.) Find out which units are coming up soon and go to the meeting with a couple of resources that directly relate to the upcoming units.
    • Follow up with an email that gives direct links to the resources. Offer a prize (small candy, etc) to anyone who shares with you how they used the resource with their students.
    • Offer to co-teach a lesson using the resource. This will take the pressure off the teacher since you will be there to share the new resource with the students.
  • Share general tools and resources with the entire faculty. Ask for a 5-minute spot at the beginning of each faculty meeting to share one or two new resources.
    • Use this time for sharing general resources and productivity tips. Make sure there is something that would be helpful to everyone.
    • Make it fun and interactive. For example, use Poll Everywhere to have all teachers vote on the treat you will provide in the library one day the following week. Give them a chance to share quick ideas of how the tool can be used in their classroom. You get to show them the tool, they get to use it, and they come into the library the next week for a special treat.
  • Know the curriculum. Nothing goes further than knowing what the teachers are teaching. Take the time to make a curriculum chart for the whole school, not just the core classes. What is being taught in the elective courses? What skills do they cover in PE? As the librarian, you can see the big picture and the connections across disciplines.
    • Make room on your chart to write in new resources as you find them. It is easy to lose track of all of the new apps and resources, so make a note. Then share them with the teachers when you know they will need them.

Get ready to be the lighthouse and guide the teachers to the resources when they need them.

On Thursday I will share some great free resources and tools that I have found recently that will help you extend your reach beyond the library walls.


Collins, K. B. (2012). Resource provisions of a high school library collection. School Library Research, 15. Retrieved from:

Lighthouse picture from Pixabay, in public domain.

Reaching Out to the ELA-R Department

ELAR_LibraryI asked Becky McKee, District Librarian, Mabank ISD, to share more details about a brief mention she posted to the Texas Library Connection distribution list about her initial efforts to reach out to teachers in a district where she is new this year. She has given me permission to share what she did when she had five minutes to talk with middle/junior high school (JHS) English language arts and reading (ELA-R) teachers where they were participating in another meeting.

First, Becky gave each teacher a copy of the “You Might Need a Librarian If” handout. (See BACC post from Monday, August 31st.) She followed that up with giving way four prizes. The first prize was a fancy spiral notebook to the first ELA-R teacher who could tell her about something that she/he wrote over the summer. Then she talked about the importance of students seeing adults compose. She volunteered to help develop some short opportunities for writing.

Next, she gave away a 2015 Texas Lone Star Reading List to the first teacher who volunteered to talk about a young adult novel she/he read over the summer. Then Becky talked about the importance of students seeing adults read, and previewed a Lone Star Contest that she plans to implement for JHS teachers.

Then she gave away a poster that said: “Today is a great day to learn something new” to the first person who could tell her something new they’d learned during the in-service that week. (Becky noted that her principal was lingering in the area and really liked this; she smiled when Becky asked the question. This was strategic on Becky’s part.)

Finally, Becky gave away a bag of snack mix to the person who had the closest birthday to hers. In this way, all of the teachers knew a little more about Becky, and Becky knew at least one other person’s birthday.

Becky reported that later that day she had a productive conversation with the JHS ELA-R department head about some writing ideas and a reading teacher followed her suggestion about a specific title for her remedial reading class and asked Becky to order a class set of the book.

Assessment: Success!

Get your school year off to a positive start. Reach out. Be warm, friendly, and ready to serve.

Thank you again to Becky for allowing me to share her marketing strategies and her success! You can reach Becky on Twitter @bsmartr_educatr or

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