Digital Learning Instructional Partnerships

Podcast Episode 6: Digital Learning Interview with Amy Soma and Louis Lauer

Initiating, developing, and sustaining instructional partnerships for digital learning is a win-win-win proposition for future ready learning. School librarians can be leaders in developing shared digital learning values, vocabulary, instructional practices, and expectations.

Collaborating educators have knowledge of students’ home and school access to digital resources and technology tools. This may be particularly important for school librarians who are well-aware of students’ school-based access but may lack knowledge of students’ home and community access. However, access alone is not enough to ensure that students are able to maximize the promised benefits digital information, devices, and tools.

In a 2016 survey, Victoria Rideout and Vikki Katz found that “the quality of families’ Internet connections, and the kinds and capabilities of devices they can access, have considerable consequences for parents and children” (7). Through collaboration, educators must deepen their knowledge and understanding of students’ opportunities to learn digitally. They must create a school- and community-based context in which digital learning can achieve its promise.

Shared Values
While access to technology resources is a prerequisite for digital learning, shared values are just as important. Educators who have similar teaching experiences working with students in their neighborhood schools are perfectly positioned to think, plan, and teach together to meet students’ needs. During collaborative planning, astute school librarians will be mindful of how their colleagues’ values and their own align and when those values are misaligned. During the coplanning process, collaborators may nudge each other to expand students’ choice and voice when it comes to digital tools.

When educators read and share research and practitioner articles focused on technology tools integration, they can collectively strategize the most effective approaches to engaging students in digital learning. Wrestling with questions such as the ones that follow posed by Dr. Maryanne Wolf can lead instructional partners or whole school teaching teams to think and rethink how to successfully frame digital learning.

“Will the early-developing cognitive components of the reading circuit be altered by digital media before, while, and after children learn to read? In particular, what will happen to the development of their attention, memory, and background knowledge—processes known to be affected in adults by multitasking, rapidity, and distraction?” (Wolf 2018, 107).

“What are the specific developmental relationships among continuous partial attention, working memory, and the formation and the deployment of deep-reading processes in children?” (Wolf 2018, 117).

Shared Vocabulary
When educators have shared vocabulary for instruction in any content area or for use in any process, such as inquiry learning, students benefit. The glossary in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership is an important aspect of the book. While all readers may not agree 100% with my definitions, they offer a starting place for discussion and clarification.

The International Literacy Association (ILA) offers an online literacy glossary. “New literacies” is one important term related to digital learning that educators may discuss and tweak.

New literacies. A term used to signal a shift from literacy to literacies, especially in relation to how people view texts as being situated in different contexts that in turn support different kinds of reading and writing. New, not in the sense of a replacement metaphor, but new in the sense that social, economic, cultural, intellectual, and institutional changes are continually at work. This term is preferred over 21st-century literacies. (See also 21st-century literacy(ies)) [Rev., 10/2018]

Collaborating for digital learning does require an understanding of how students view, read, learn with, and write digital texts.  For me, ILA’s definition is especially useful because it notes the term “new” relates to  contexts for literacy learning rather than a replacement for traditional literacies.

Shared Contexts
Students and adults today have become habituated to ever faster access to information and multitasking. We also communicate more frequently in briefer units of thought; Twitter and email are examples. “90% of youth say they are multitasking when they are reading online; only 1% multitask when reading in print” (Wolf 2018, 114).

Faster access to information does not necessarily result in faster knowledge acquisition. Modeling slower and deeper engagement with texts helps students see the benefits of taking time. In addition, relevant learning experiences can help students remain engaged, develop intrinsic motivation, and persist when learning is challenging. With two or more coteachers monitoring student learning, educators can more easily identify students who have lost their momentum or lost their way and need guidance to get back on track.

Instructional Practices
What school librarians have traditionally termed information literacy are what Dr. Wolf calls “pragmatic tools” for online reading. School librarians are adept and experienced at teaching students how to select and use search engines and databases. We help students be deliberate when choosing search terms and evaluating search results. We model and give them repeated opportunities to practice determining perspective and bias and to dig deep in order to recognize misinformation, propaganda, and lies. Taking these strategies to media sources, further expands students’ ability to be astute users of data, ideas, and information.

Separating truth from fiction takes time for both youth and adults. Applying information and media literacy strategies and approaching texts with alternately open and skeptical minds will require practice. The International Society for Technology in Education has published a number of resources to support school librarians in teaching information/media literacy, most recently Fact versus Fiction: Teaching Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News (LaGarde and Hudgins 2018).

The Challenge
School librarians must focus on access first and address the gaps. The future ready librarian also “invests strategically in digital resources,” “cultivates community partnerships,” and “leads beyond the library” (Future Ready Librarians).  School librarians can take a leadership role in writing grants to obtain funding for technologies that address equity of access. Building digital age capacity through forming partnerships with public librarians and other community-based organizations is important in order to provide digital networks that are essential to students’ success. School librarians must join with others in advocating for students’ access to tools and devices in their homes and communities as well as in their schools.

Through leadership, we can help our schools develop shared values, vocabulary, instructional practices, and expectations for student learning with digital information and tools in order to address this challenge: “technology increasingly provides easy access to answers, but if we focus only on the answers and not on the thinking, questioning, and solving, we deny students powerful learning experiences. Perhaps even more significant, we fail to develop the new literacies that will empower them to solve complex problems and be lifelong learners” (Martin 2018, 22).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How would you describe the technology environment, including equity of access, in your school, district, or community?
  2. In what kinds of conversations have you engaged with colleagues related to shared values, practices, and challenges with technology tools use and integration?

Works Cited

Future Ready Librarians Framework: Empowering Leadership for School Librarians through Innovative Professional Practice. https://tinyurl.com/frlflyer

LaGarde, Jennifer, and Darren Hudgins. 2018. Fact versus Fiction: Teaching Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Martin, Katie. 2018. “Learning in a Changing World: What It Means to be a Literacy Learning—and Teacher—in the 21st Century.” Literacy Today 36 (3): 21-23.

Rideout, Victoria, and Vikki S. Katz. 2016. “Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families.” Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. ERIC ED574416.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Questioning for Deeper Learning

Questioning strategies are the focus of this chapter.  The Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework puts student-led questioning at the heart of inquiry learning (see Chapter 3 and the November blog posts beginning with “School-Wide Inquiry Learning.” In the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the GID, educators and students frontload their learning so that the questions they pursuit are deeper and more personally meaningful than their off-the-tops-of-their-heads questions might have been.

Figure 5.3 (page 81) shows the questioning strategies spotlighted in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership. All of these questioning strategies can be used effective in the GID Framework: Question-Formulation Technique, Question-Answer Relationships, Question the Author, Text-Dependent Questioning, and Socratic Questioning. Chapter 5 includes descriptions of each of these strategies and provides references for those seeking more information about each one.

Essential Questions
Coteachers can develop essential questions to frame an inquiry. These questions describe big ideas for which individual students or groups of students can drill down deeper into one or more aspects of these big ideas to find their most pressing genuine question(s). Educators’ abilities to think in terms of big ideas that connect required standards and students’ interests can capitalize on these questions during the Open, Immerse, and Explore phases of the Guided Inquiry Design (GID) Framework.

Still, it is important that students have the opportunity and responsibility to take the educators’ essential questions in student-initiated directions. Supporting students as they dig deeper into the sub-questions that shape responses to the complex overarching essential questions is teacherly work. Through conferencing in the Identify phase of the GID, educators can push students’ thinking and help them find the “third space” between curriculum and students’ authentic interests (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 17).

Questioning Develops Analytical Skills
“Only if we continuously work to develop and use our complex analogical and inferential skills will the neural networks underlying them sustain our capacity to be thoughtful, critical analysts of knowledge, rather than passive consumers of information” (Wolf 2018, 62). This idea that analyzing information and situations and drawing inferences help us think critically and ask better questions rings true to me.

For example, the Right Question Institute applies the skills of thoughtful questioning and listening to their vision for “microdemocracy.” In this context, thoughtful (and respectful) questioning can help people engage in decision-making conversations and participate more fully with governmental and public institutions whose decisions impact their lives.

If I were in charge of the world, students would be in school today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. They would be focusing the entire day on studying and asking questioning about Dr. King’s legacy. They would be thinking together about human rights and planning or taking action to further his dream–our dream…

Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questions
Figure 5.1 in Chapter 5 may be especially helpful to school librarians who are developing their practice as inquiry framers and skillful questioners. Cross-discipline questions can relate to the purpose for reading or the reader’s background knowledge on the topic. The figure offers discipline-specific questions for these content areas: arts and language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, and technology

All of these questions and questioning strategies can support student reflection and double back to two essential questions for inquiry learning:

  1. Why is/was this question meaningful to me?
  2. What will I do with the data, information, and knowledge I gain/gained from this inquiry?

If educators’ goal is to ensure that students are self-reflective thinkers and learners have long-lasting connections to their learning and who put their knowledge to use, then these two questions can be used at the beginning as well as at the culmination of any inquiry learning cycle.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Which “new” questioning strategy/ies can you add to the mix, and how will you share it/them with colleagues and students?
  2. What cross-discipline or discipline-specific questions would you add to Figure 5.1?

Works Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2015. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century, 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Brain Reading in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Coteaching Comprehension Strategies During Inquiry Learning

As you likely know, the references to coteaching reading comprehension strategies in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership are summaries based on my previously published professional books focused on this topic.

In those books, I focus on seven reading comprehension strategies that can be applied to all texts and across all content areas: activating or building background knowledge, using sensory images, making predictions or drawing inferences, questioning, determining main ideas (or importance), using fix-up options (to gain or regain comprehension), and synthesizing. All of these strategies can and should be applied to both print and digital texts. For educators who want more information, lesson/unit plans, and graphic organizers and assessment tools to support instruction in teaching/coteaching comprehension, I highly recommend these books.

Coteaching During Inquiry
Coteaching reading comprehension strategies during inquiry learning is a way for school librarians to position their work at the center of their school’s academic program. “Many of us see our role as fostering the enjoyment and appreciation of literature in all genres and information in all formats—but we have stopped short of taking part in actual reading instruction. Helping youth become capable readers is the goal of every school. Improving students’ reading achievement and improving teachers’ reading instruction are critical concerns of all school principals. If we are to position ourselves at the center of our schools’ literacy programs, then we must become leaders in reading instruction” (Moreillon 2008, 27).

Inquiry learning offers an authentic opportunity for school librarians and classroom teachers to coteach reading comprehension strategies. During inquiry, coteachers model using think-alouds to demonstrate to students how to approach unfamiliar or difficult text. They show that two (or more) people will bring different background knowledge to reading a text and apply different strategies to wrestle with meaning making. Coteachers model the behaviors of lifelong learners.

Difficult Texts
When students are seeking information to answer their questions, they will invariably interact with texts that are above their proficient reading level. At these points during inquiry learning, students will need to be able to reach into their reading strategy toolkits to select and apply the best tool(s) for the comprehension challenge. Educator and peer modeling are essential to making visible what is often invisible to striving and struggling readers. Understanding reading as problem solving helps strengthen students’ ability to think critically and make meaning from texts.

Students need scaffolds and frameworks to support them as they develop complete reading comprehension toolkits. Graphic organizers and elementary bookmarks and secondary bookmarks such as these found in Chapter 2 in my reading comprehension book resources can help give students the reminders they need to be effective comprehension problem solvers. Developing a set of initial questions to ask when approaching unfamiliar text is another way to support effective reading and information seeking. (See page 64 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

In order to wrestle with difficult texts and engage in deep reading, readers must employ comprehension strategies (see seven strategies listed above). Deep reading takes time. “The quality of how we read any sentence or text depends, however, on the choices we make with the time we allocate to the processes of deep reading, regardless of the medium” (Wolf 2018, 37).

Disposition: Persistence
When we are modeling, it is important for educators demonstrate persistence with difficult texts. In their book Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms (1999), Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko, and Hurwitz offer a strategy that I have used since reading their book almost twenty years ago. Ask students to bring in texts for which adults will be challenged to make meaning. Examples could be rap or other song lyrics, video games, technology, or other manuals, or any text for which students have expertise or experience and educators don’t. Using think-alouds, educators demonstrate that they must reach into their reading strategy toolkits to make sense of the text. Students then have the opportunity to assess the educator’s understanding and meaning making process (56).

Regardless of our age, background experiences, and reading proficiency, all readers will bump up against difficult texts. In order to read deeply, all readers will need to show persistence in solving comprehension challenges. Students will also run into other roadblocks in their information-seeking process; they can lose momentum or threaten to give up all together. Activating and applying the disposition persistence during inquiry learning is essential. Practicing persistence is important to being successful in life as well as in schooling.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Do the administrators and faculty colleagues with whom you serve view school librarians as reading comprehension teachers?
  2. If they do, how can you capitalize on this leadership opportunity? If they don’t, how can you change this perception?

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2007. Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2008. “Position Yourself at the Center by Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies.” Teacher Librarian, 35 (5), 27-34.

_____. 2012. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

_____. 2013. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA.

Schoenbach, Ruth, Cynthia Greenleaf, Christine Cziko, and Lori Hurwitz. 1999. Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, Maryanne. 2018. Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. New York: Harper.

Diverse, Creative Expressions of Learning

In addition to advocating for learning experiences that involve stimulating students’ creativity, engaging them in experimentation, and activating their creativity (see last week’s blog post), coplanning and coteaching inquiry learning are also ways to increase students’ opportunities for diverse final products. If our message to students is that all roads lead to the same outcome, many will not see the relevance of their learning experiences to their lives. They will not experience learning as a complex activity that results in diverse creative expressions of learning. Too many will disengage or simply be lost or derailed along the way.

Supporting Classroom Teachers and Specialists
During coplanning, classroom teachers and specialists may express reservations about students taking curriculum into individual or unexpected pathways. Secondary educators, in particular, who may be responsible for learning outcomes for 75 middle school or as many as 150 high school students may shudder to think that they alone will be responsible for guiding and assessing students’ learning.

School librarians who coplan, coimplement, AND coassess student learning outcomes can ease classroom teachers’ and specialists’ concerns about giving students “free rein” to explore in many different directions and in producing many different final products. Collaboration can also ensure that educators create flexible assessment tools that accurately reflect students’ achievement in terms of learning objectives as well as their creativity.

Supporting Students
Two (or more) educators working as a team can better monitor and guide individual student’s learning as well as small group work. Inquiry circles as described in the guided inquiry require check-ins from educators (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2015, 32–36). It is through check-ins that educators push students’ thinking, offer resource support, identify stumbling blocks, and opportunities for reteaching specific subskills to the students who need them to move forward.

One of my all-time favorite teaching memories involved working with a second-grade teacher (in the late 1990s) who structured her classroom around inquiry. Students identified areas of interest, pitched their ideas to the class, and formed small groups to pursue meaningful questions. As their school librarian, I often worked with more or more groups as they sought information through the library’s resources.

One of the questions for the “frog and other amphibians” group was about dissecting frogs to learn more about their body parts and functions. I helped the group contact a biology professor at the University of Arizona. The students posed their questions to him and organized a field trip to his lab where he led them in dissecting and learning about frogs. I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying them on their adventure. Years later, two students from that group remembered that learning experience as one of the most powerful in their elementary education.

The Underlying Message
Learning is complex and expressions of knowledge can (and should?) be unique. When classmates share their learning processes and final products, students (and educators) should be amazed at the divergent thinking and variety of expressions of learning. When students are given the opportunity to pursue learning that is personally meaningful, use resources they have discovered on their own, selected and employed tools that helped them meet their individual (or their group’s) goals for sharing, they are enacting the skills and dispositions of lifelong learners.

Inquiry Learning = Preparation for Life!

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What strategies have you used for supporting students’ diverse creative expressions of their learning?
  2. Describe the assessment tools you have used to guide students’ learning while giving them opportunities to express their learning in diverse and creative ways?

Work Cited

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2015. Guided Inquiry: Learning in the 21st Century. 2nd ed. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

 

 

Classroom-Library Coplanning

Through coplanning, school librarians and classroom teachers engage in reciprocal mentorship. They learn with and from one another during the planning process. As they negotiate learning objectives, they identify alignment and connections between classroom curriculum, state and national standards, and literacies, including information literacy skills. They approach their collaborative work as equal partners who share responsibility for gathering resources and materials, developing and analyzing formative and summative assessments, modeling strategies, and guiding students through the learning process.

Coplanning Forms
I have found that coplanning forms can be quite useful in guiding school librarians and classroom teachers through the collaborative planning process. These forms help educators apply the Understanding by Design (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) as they plan with the end in mind. From objectives to assessments and all of the components in between, forms help educators cover all the bases.

Elementary Collaborative Planning Forms

Secondary Collaborative Planning Forms

Coteachers will identify various subskills such as notemaking that students will need to learn, review, and practice. They may create graphic organizers to scaffold student learning. These scaffolds guide students and help educators identify areas of mastery and areas where students need more instruction, guidance, and practice. These formative assessments as well as summative assessments that measure student achievement at the end of the learning event are important to prepare in advance or prepare with students so that students’ path to success is supported and clear from the beginning.

Responsibilities in Coteaching
Educators’ roles during direct instruction will likely need to be discussed in advance of lesson implementation, especially if one or the other educator is new to coteaching. When school librarians coteach, they may be engaged in direct instruction alongside classroom teachers. One or the other may take the lead in teaching specific subskills.

Direct instruction involves educators in sharing information and modeling strategies and tasks to help students learn and meet learning targets. When two educators coteach during direct instruction, they can authentically demonstrate various pathways for thinking using think-alouds. They can model collaboration, communication, discussion, debate, and other skills. For example, if educators are coteaching/teaching questioning strategies, notemaking skills, website/information evaluation, ethical use of information/citation, and more, they may take different roles such as question poser and responder or note identifier and recorder.

Both educators will monitor student practice and conduct inquiry/reading/writing conferences with individual students or small groups. Lowering the student-to-educator ratio offers coteachers the opportunity to interact with more students and offers students more individualized interventions.

Co-Assessment Responsibilities
Direct instruction is followed by formative assessments that help school librarians collect and analyze data on students’ progress as well as on the effectiveness of their teaching. Two or more educators look for gaps in comprehension and reteach individuals, small groups, or whole classrooms of students, if necessary. They also use summative assessments to measure students’ overall achievement in terms of the learning objectives and the overall success of the unit of instruction.

As equal partners in planning and implementing instruction, school librarians must be equal partners in assessment.

Engaging Relevant Learning Opportunities
In my experience, coteachers inspire and energize each other’s instructional planning and teaching. They bounce ideas off one another. They may push each other to take calculated risks to stretch their teaching and students’ learning. During instruction, they may take a playful attitude and demonstrate that wondering, puzzling, and problem solving is fun. They model communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity in an authentic context.

School librarians have an important role to play in guiding the planning and teaching process toward involving relevant questions, challenging problems, exciting resources and tools, and increased opportunities student-led learning.

Coplanning with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to influence curriculum as well as instructional practices. This is leadership work. Misti Werle, school librarian supervisor in Bismarck, North Dakota, and I created a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” matrix. School librarians and classroom teachers in her district are using it to co-assess and chart their understanding of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration. Their goal is to increase classroom-library coteaching in their district.

You can access the matrix as a Web Extra or find it on page 28 in the book.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your role in recording ideas and decisions made during coplanning?
  2. Why should school librarians share their coplanning activities with their administrators?

Reference

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Literacy is Political

lit_is_political_sizedThomas Jefferson famously said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” An informed citizenry must be able to deeply comprehend information in all formats and engage in critical thought and well-reasoned civic decision-making.

Before the 2016 election, there were a number of comments on the distribution lists and blogs to which I subscribe related to educators maintaining an “apolitical” stance.  In some classrooms and libraries across the country, educators downplayed local, state, and national campaigns in order to avoid confronting “political” issues in schools.

What are the unintended consequences when learners do not wrestle with the political life of our nation in the supportive environment of their classrooms and libraries? How can students and educators practice civil discourse and learn to listen to and share divergent perspectives if political issues are not discussed in schools?

While an individual school can be considered a system, each one is not a “closed” system. All public schools function within a larger system—a school district with procedures, curricula, and policies. School districts must respond and work within even larger systems—state and federal bureaucracies and mandates. What happens in the society at-large affects each of these systems.

It is, therefore, in my view, important for school-age children and youth to have the opportunity to intelligently and respectfully discuss political issues—not just in high schools and not just in civics or social studies classes.

What does “apolitical” mean in a fake news and post-truth world? When political candidates of all stripes and their supporters tell outright lies, mess with the “facts,” or distort the truth, how can educators guide students in an open, respectful dialogue that touches on sensitive topics, including social justice issues? When post-election emotions are running high while results are still coming in or being questioned, what is an educator’s role in responding to these teachable moments?

Quotes from the Field
On December 2nd, the PBS Newshour published an article in their “Teachers’ Lounge” column called “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results” In the article, the reporter Victoria Pasquantonio includes quotes from civics, social studies, English language arts, and world history teachers from across the country. I believe this article and the quotes are important reading for all educators who want to help students unpack the recent election cycle.

Like Ricky House, 7th-grade civics teacher, in Arlington, Virginia, who is quoted in the article, I would never tell students how to vote nor would I use my influence to tell students what to think about a political issue. On the other hand, I have not and would not hesitate to discuss election issues, such as specific policy platforms, marketing techniques, political activism, voting processes, voter ID laws, the process or effectiveness of polling, the Electoral College, and the popular vote. Some of these discussions could lead to social justice or injustice issues thus providing students with opportunities to think about policies, laws, and the Constitution and how they might be changed or interpreted for the betterment of society.

As librarians, we are charged with providing physical and intellectual access to information. We are committed to making sure that students are able to use literacy skills to think critically and apply critical thinking as informed citizens. As Ricky House says, we want our students to be equipped to “go out and use what (we’ve) taught them to change the world.”  And yes, there are many who would consider that goal “political.”

Resource
The National Institute for Civil Discourse is a non-partisan center for advocacy, research and policy. To support civil discourse during the last election cycle, they offered a program for high schools called “Text, Talk, Vote.”  School librarians and classroom teachers who are teaching digital literacy through social media may want to adapt this program.

Tips for School Librarians Who Coteach Controversial Issues
When coteaching controversial issues:

  1. Form instructional partnerships with trustworthy colleagues.
  2. Consider coteaching with educators who do not share your perspective and respectfully use your divergent thinking as a resource for learning.
  3. While coteaching, collaborative partners can provide each other with a bias-check before, during, and after instruction.
  4. Model civil discourse and guide students’ practice of civil discourse when discussing controversial issues.

Work Cited
Pasquantonio, Victoria. “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results,” PBS Newshour, 2 Dec. 2016, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/teachers-lounge-reaction-election-continues/

Image: Copyright-free Clip Art from Discovery Education

Flexible Scheduling = Time for Learning

flick-gator_cheerleadersDuring the SLC Connection “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th, several participants asked questions about library scheduling. Some of us stayed online after the hour to talk a bit more about scheduling for classroom-library collaboration.

This has long been a tension for school librarians, particularly those who serve in elementary schools. Without a flexible schedule is it difficult to collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists and provide students with deeper learning opportunities.

In fact, a week later during Leslie Maniotes’ “Guided Inquiry Design in Action” Webinar on October 27th, Leslie noted the importance of classroom-library collaboration and stressed the inquiry phases needed before students formulate their questions: open, immerse, and explore. Thorough preparation for successful inquiry learning takes time.

In my experience, inquiry phases should occur over a reasonably short period so that students’ passions are engaged. This helps them become self-motivated as they begin their inquiry and supports them in making a commitment to their learning. Fixed library schedules were school librarians are working with students at one set time each week, usually for 30 to 50 minutes, simply does not lend itself to classroom-library collaboration for guided inquiry.

Roger Grape, school librarian at Blackshear Elementary in Austin, Texas, created at a digital advocacy story to promote flexible schedules: “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” In his Animoto video, Roger notes that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) promotes flexibly scheduled school libraries as a best practice.

“Classes must be flexibly scheduled into the library on an as needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with the guidance of the teacher who is the subject specialist, and the librarian who is the information process specialist” (AASL). See the entire AASL Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.

As Roger says, “You need the best from every member of your team” (Grape). Librarians with flexibly scheduled libraries have the opportunity to serve students and teachers at the point of need. They have the opportunity to engage students and collaborate with teachers to guide deeper learning.

As I suggested in the “Coteaching” Webinar, school librarians can find a friend on the faculty, or one who teaches an age-level or in a discipline in which you have a particular strength, or approach a colleague who has expertise you lack and form a collaborative relationship. If you are working in a fixed schedule, ask that person to “give up” her/his planning time in order to coplan and coteach and build a case with administrators and colleagues for the efficacy of classroom-library collaboration supported by flexible scheduling.

Side note: If you are attending the Arizona Library Association Conference in Tucson this week, please considering participating in my session: Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories. You, too, can make an effective advocacy video like Roger’s; his has over 800 views!

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “Position Statement on Flexible Scheduling.” American Library Association. 17 July 2014, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/flex-sched.

Breeze, Chris. “Flick-Gator Cheerleaders.” Wikipedia: Cheerleading, 25 Jan. 2009, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheerleading#/media/File:Flick-Gator_Cheerleaders.jpg.

Grape, Roger. “Bendy, Twisty, Flexible Scheduling!” YouTube.com. 20 Mar. 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWo3FWmQVhM

Planning 4 Assessment

03_advanced_students_3h_sizedWe did not have the opportunity to address some of the questions asked during the “Classroom Library Coteaching 4 Student Success” Webinar held on October 13th. For the next few BACC posts, I will share my experience and perspective on some of those unanswered and sometimes thorny questions.

Several participants asked questions about assessment. One participant from Virginia asked about informal assessments. Another from Fort Mill noted that she does not “give grades” in “library class.” Other participants who were not school librarians noted that they were pleased to be “reminded” of the benefits of coteaching with their school librarians. I inferred that they were including joint assessment as one of those benefits.

In my experience, sharing responsibility for assessments can be one of a school librarian’s calling cards—a way to introduce a coteaching benefit that many classroom teachers and specialists will respond to positively. Designing, gathering, and analyzing formative assessment data collected before, during, or after a lesson or unit of instruction is an essential activity for all educators.

When educators coplan for assessment, they can practice articulating a rationale for the lesson or unit of instruction. In “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline,” Bradley A. Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling suggest that coherent instruction helps educators test and refine hypotheses about effective teaching and learning. In their article, they provide a series of questions that can help educators self-assess their lessons. One example is this: “What evidence did we collect during and after the lesson to help us evaluate student progress and study the relationship between teaching and learning” (26).

One of the critical skills for 21st-century school librarians engaged in collaborative lesson planning is being able to align standards and to codevelop learning experiences with student outcomes in mind. Many school districts across the country have focused professional development on Understanding by Design (UbD) as codified by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. In short: When educators plan, they begin by specifying what they want students to know and to be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit of instruction. Educators also determine how they will measure student learning outcomes at the beginning of the planning process.

Codeveloping anticipation guides, exit slips, graphic organizers, checklists, rubrics, and other assessment and student self-assessment tools is an excellent strategy for creating the context/expectation for shared responsibility for assessment. With this level of collaboration, most educators will feel comfortable with each other’s assessments of student work. However, one excellent strategy to help ensure inter-rater reliability is to coassess a few “anchor papers/products” that demonstrate various levels of mastery. Then both educators will know when they see an exemplary product, an average one, and/or a “needs more work” example. They will also learn when their instruction supported individual student’s learning and when it did not.

When you coplan in the role of a school librarian, keeping the focus on outcomes helps position your collaborative work and the role of the school library program at the center of academic achievement. This is essential to the value others place on your work, especially principals who are charged with the role of instructional leaders. When we plan appropriately for instruction, coteach, and coasssess lessons, we experience job-embedded professional develop and provide the same for our colleagues. We also serve as co-instructional leaders with our principals.

The bottom line: Educators must assess student learning outcomes in order to measure their teaching effectiveness. Let’s keep on improving our instruction by coplanning for assessment and sharing responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of our teaching.

BACC readers can link to the archive on edWeb.net. Resources for the Webinar on my presentations wiki.

Work Cited

Ermeling, Bradley A., and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling. “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline.” Educational Leadership, vol. 74, no. 2, 2016, pp. 22-26.

Image Caption: Fifth-grade students completing a graphic organizer for the Advanced Building Background Knowledge lesson in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA, 2013).

Collaborative Lesson Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s keep on improving our instruction through coteaching.

Work Cited

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

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

Instructional Role of the School Librarian

moreillon_coteaching_imageIn August, 2016, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) posted the “Instructional Role of the School Librarian” position statement online.

According to the statement, “As educators and instructional partners school librarians are critical to teaching and learning in the school community” (“Position Statements”).

It is through my thirteen-year experience as a school librarian and twenty-one years as a school librarian educator that I know this is true. I have served at and observed the practice of school librarians at all three instructional levels. When school librarians serve “as leaders in literacy and technology, school librarians are perfectly positioned to instruct every student in the school community through both traditional and blended learning” (“Position Statements”), they can be essential contributors to students’ well-rounded education.

My experience tells me, and research supports it (Moreillon), that the most effective way for school librarians to serve as leaders in their schools is through collaborative instructional partnerships with classroom teachers and specialists. Working with the classroom teacher and through classroom curriculum ensures that the school librarian’s instruction has the potential to positively impact the learning needs of all students while it meets classroom teachers’ and school administrators’ objectives.

This is an open invitation to school librarians, classroom teachers and specialists, school administrators, parents, and anyone interested in education to participate in my upcoming Webinar “Classroom-Library Coteaching 4 Student Success.” It will be held on Thursday, October 13th at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

You can read about it on the School Library Connection Blog or register at edWeb.net.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Coteaching: A Strategic Evidence-based Practice for Collaborating School Librarians.” School Library Connection, vol.1, no. 6, 2016, pp. 48-50. http://tinyurl.com/slcblog100716

“Position Statements: Instructional Role of the School Librarian,” American Association of School Librarians. 6 Aug. 2016, http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements

Image Caption: Teacher Kathi Stalzer and school librarian Debra LaPlante, Saints Simon and Jude Cathedral School, Phoenix, Arizona, coteaching a strategy lesson with 4th-grade students