Civic Education with Kidizenship

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John DeweyI believe that civic education has never been more important than it is today. In January just before President Biden was inaugurated, the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson’s daily newspaper) asked readers to submit what they expect for the next four years. My letter to the editor was published in the Star on January 20, 2021:

Civic Education Expectations for the Next Four Years

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John Dewey

Many educators across the U.S. are reconsidering how to teach civic education in our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. It is clear that youth and adults alike need:

  • to hear an unambiguous message about the critical importance of voting in a participatory democracy and a clear understanding of the electoral process;
  • to know the provisions of the First Amendment and be able to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech;
  • to know how to engage in civil dialogue and learn to have respectful conversations about controversial topics; and
  • to learn multiple ways to positively and nonviolently enact change in classrooms, schools, and communities.

It is my fervent hope that civic education for youth and adults alike will lead to a national electoral process that honors the votes of all citizens and is characterized by confidence and trust in our democratic process.

Kidizenship
You might imagine that I was thrilled to learn shortly thereafter about a new (to me) civic education organization called Kidizenship.  Kidizenship was founded by Vanderbilt University professor and Bloomberg columnist, Amanda Little.

From a grades 5-12 perspective, I especially appreciate their motto: “You may be too young to vote, but your voice is powerful. We want to hear it. Enter a contest, Show us YOUR America.”

Designed for tweens and teens, Kidizenship is a non-partisan, non-profit media platform for youth to share their voices beyond the classroom. The combination of civics education with creative self-expression and community action is especially powerful.

Speech Contests
Kidizenship is using social media to promote and share their contests. Their latest nationwide creative civics contest invites 8- to 18-year-olds to compose and perform a 2-to 3-minute presidential speech. For the “Make Your Speech” contest, young people are asked to step into the Oval Office and take on the responsibility of serving as President of the United States. They are to tell their constituents about their vision and values for our country and what they will accomplish in the next 4 years.

The contest is co-hosted by YMCA Youth and Government programs nationwide and will be judged by actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Obama White House speechwriter Jon Favreau, Representative Will Hurd of Texas, and civic leader Baratunde Thurston. The deadline for submitting speeches is April 16th.

This contest will be judged in two age categories 8-12 and 13-18. There are cash prizes for first-, second-, and third-place winners.

Classroom-Library Collaboration Opportunity
Classroom teachers (civics, ELA, history, social studies, and more) and school librarians can collaborate to plan and implement a mini-research (or inquiry if you have more time) and writing series of lesson plans to support students in developing, recording, and submitting their speeches. The connections between classroom curriculum standards and a host of digital and information literacy standards is limitless. Plus the open-ended nature of the project supports student voice and choice.

Research could include listening to and analyzing presidential speeches in terms of the vision and values they represent. Here are two of many possibilities.

  • The American Rhetoric Speech Bank has a searchable database that includes many U.S. presidents’ speeches—both recordings and transcripts.
  • The Library of Congress has recordings of historical presidential speeches with an accompanying lesson plan.

Writing, Presenting, and Recording

  • Students could collectively brainstorm and discuss their visions for the country as well as the values on which their visions are founded.
  • As they are composing their speeches, students’ peers and both educators can offer writing conferences to help speechwriters hone their ideas and fine-tune their speeches.
  • In small groups, students can present their speeches orally to classmates and seek feedback before polishing, video capturing, and submitting their speeches.

And if you are ambitious, you could organize your own local contest to complement the one sponsored by Kidizenship.

I look forward to hearing the speeches of the winners and following Kidizenship’s future opportunities to expand civic education beyond the classroom, the library, and out into the community.

Educators Chat about Making Notes

Dedication: To the Moderators and Participants in #txlchat and #cvtechtalk

As a now “retired” educator and an advocate, I made a pledge to myself to spread the word about the expertise of school librarians in non-school library circles. I believe that school librarians’ potential to positively impact student learning outcomes has not yet been fully realized. Sharing and showing how school librarians can lead through building instructional partnerships with classroom teachers has long been my raison d’être.

Last week, I stumbled upon the #cvtechtalk. Coincidentally, they were talking about “notetaking” – one of my all-time favorite topics. I share this experience here because one of the on-going issues in school librarianship advocacy is that other educators do not know what we can do to support their teaching and help their students learn effective information literacy strategies.

Even though I arrived when participants were on question #4 of their 8-question chat, I jumped in:

CactusWoman: A.4 Let’s call it “notemaking” rather than “taking.” “Making” implies Ss questions/connections/own ideas count! #cvtechtalk just dropped in

I got some likes, retweets, and replies and decided to stay. (This is my personal measure of whether or not a chat group is “listening” and learning from one another or simply broadcasting. See the dedication below.)

I followed up with:
CactusWoman: A4 #FutureReadyLibs #schoollibrarians r trained in notemaking skills > Classroom-library collaboration 2 teach essential skill #cvtechtalk

Then a reply/question about students using Twitter for notemaking:
CactusWoman: A5 Yes! @_____ I 2 use Twitter 4 notemaking when involved w/webinars/conference presentations, etc. have not tried w/6-12 Ss #cvtechtalk

(Note that should have been *w/8-12 Ss* – Twitter “suggests” participants should be 13 and up.)

Then:
CactusWoman: A6 When Ss compare notes they may c that one person’s “main ideas” do not match the others’ > convers abt determining importance #cvtechtalk

Since this was a “tech” group, they shared many electronic tools for notemaking. When one person noted she had read somewhere that hand-written notes were more effective, I shared a research-based article about the possible differences between handwritten and electronic notes in terms of student learning.

CactusWoman: A6 My concern copy/paste/highlight does not = learning: Article about notemaking by hand vs computer: http://www.npr.org/2016/04/17/474525392/attention-students-put-your-laptops-away … #cvtechtalk

According to my Paper.li report, the article was accessed (read?) by several #cvtechtalk chat participants. (Like all librarians, I enjoy sharing research/knowledge that can make a difference in educators’ practice and in students’ learning/people’s lives.)

CactusWoman: A.7 Creativity bcomes more important w/what Ss DO w/notes: What do notes mean 2 Ss? Does info inspire creative response/action? #cvtechtalk

The final question was perfect and one that I believe all Twitter chat groups should adopt. “Based on tonight’s talk, how will you empower students in note-taking?” (or whatever the topic).

CactusWoman: A.8 Encourage Ts #schoollibrarians collaborate 2 teach Ss notemaking strategies (reading comp) & create/do something meaningful #cvtechtalk

One person posted this:
A8 Will start #notemaking w/ Ss asap! Can’t handle guilt after these great ideas! Will intro #Sketchnoting & bulleting key ideas #cvtechtalk https://twitter.com/techcoachjuarez/status/862500760981983232 …

Cha-ching!

CactusWoman: Gr8t ideas on notemaking 2nite 5/10 when I dropped in on #cvtechtalk #FutureReadyLibs #txlchat #tlchat >opportunities 4 classroom-lib collab

It was interesting to me that many educators noted they would NOT model notemaking strategies for students and were “anti-direct instruction” for this skill.

As someone who connects notemaking with the reading comprehension strategy of determining main ideas, I believe that is a mistake. In my experience, if students are not taught several strategies from which they can choose or use as models to develop their own strategies, they will opt for copying/highlighting everything. They will not pass the information through their own background knowledge and purpose for reading and make their own connections, write down their questions, and their own ideas related to what they are reading. (Notemaking strategies include Cornell notes, deletion-substitution, trash ‘n treasure, and more…)

I created a Storify archive of the chat’s final question for my review and for yours if you are interested.

I know I will drop in on #cvtechtalk again when I can on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Pacific (?). They are an active, caring, and sharing group of educators. I appreciate what I learned from listening and participating in their chat.

If you are a school librarian who is participating in non-school librarian chats, I hope you will add a comment to this post. Readers may appreciate knowing what you perceive as the benefits or drawbacks of those professional learning experiences.

Dedication: This post is “dedicated” to #txlchat. This chat’s home base is in Texas, but more and more school librarians from across the country are joining in. In 2014-2015, I had the opportunity to conduct a research study of #txlchat. Thanks to #txlchat moderators and participants, I was welcomed into their learning space and learned about the norms and benefits of their chat culture. I continue to connect and learn with #txlchat whenever I can get online on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Central. Y’all are invited, too!

#AASL Social Media Superstars

As part of School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians sponsored a “Social Media Superstars Recognition Program.” The goal of the inaugural program was to acknowledge “the role social media plays in school library promotion” and to recognize “school library professionals who enrich the profession and its work on behalf of students by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, dialog and inspiration widely via a variety of social media channels” (Habley).

The Social Media Recognition Task Force announced three finalists in seven categories:

1. Sensational Student Voice
2. Advocacy Ambassador
3. Tech Troubadour
4. Program Pioneer
5. Curriculum Champion
6. Leadership Luminary
7. Social Justice Defender

The Task Force will review the comments made in support of the finalists and announce the overall Superstar in each category on Thursday, April 27th at 6:00 p.m. Central.

I was honored to be nominated in the Leadership Luminary category along with Jonathan Werner and Joyce Valenza.

I have followed Jonathan on Twitter for several years. He frequently shares his involvement with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). In addition to the outstanding teaching and learning in his own school library, Jonathan fills me in on the activities of an organization to which I do not belong. It is vital for our profession to be well represented in highly influential technology and education organizations like ISTE. I especially appreciate Jonathan’s commitment to making sure school librarians are at the table when educational technology is being discussed and exemplary practices are being shared.

There is no doubt in my mind that Joyce deserves the Superstar designation in this category. For over a decade, Joyce’s Neverending Search blog has been a go-to source for so many (everyone?) in the school librarian profession. Joyce generously shares her thinking about issues and practices related to teaching and learning in school libraries. She also writes for a wide audience about her own learning and application of technology tools and digital resources. Joyce’s influence extends far beyond the school librarian community. Her expertise is recognized nationally and internationally. Her blog’s placement on the School Library Journal site ensures her expansive reach. For many school administrators, educational leaders and decision-makers “Joyce Valenza” is synonymous with “extraordinary school librarian.” Joyce shines a positively luminous light on our profession. She is most deserving of this recognition.

As a “Leadership Luminary” nominee, it was informative to me that by far this category received the fewest comments. I believe that members of the profession who commented understood the specificity of the other six categories. Perhaps it was more straight-forward for them to note how finalists in other categories influenced their practice. I suspect that for many the “Leadership Luminary” category lacked that clarity.

To my way of thinking, all of the Social Media Superstars finalists are leaders. In fact, there are many, many additional school librarian leaders who use social media to “enrich the profession and its work on behalf of students by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, dialog and inspiration widely via a variety of social media channels” (Habley).

As the subtitle of Hilda Weisburg’s Leading for Librarians book proclaims: “There is no other option!”

Through their work, which they promote via social media, these social media superstars have positively influenced their colleagues’ practice of school librarianship. They have promoted our profession and educated others on the essential work that school librarians do every day.

In his 2009 Ted Talk, Simon Sinek said this: “We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves.”

This recognition program has helped me identify school librarians whose work was not as well known to me as it should have been. I look forward to following and continuing to learn from all of the finalists.

Thank you for your passion and dynamic contributions that promote our profession and help us all grow more knowledgeable and become more recognized for our vital work.

Works Cited

Habley, Jen. “AASL Social Media Superstar Finalists Announced!” Knowledge Quest, American Association of School Librarians, 22 Mar. 2017, knowledgequest.aasl.org/superstar-finalists/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2017.

Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Ted Talk. Ted.com. Sept. 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image Credit: Super Librarian by Becca
Used with permission (and with apologies to the men who serve admirably in our profession)

P.S. If AASL and the Social Media Recognition Task Force are seeking feedback on this inaugural program, I would ask them to consider that all of the Superstars in the other six categories are leaders and that the “Leadership Luminary” category may not be necessary in the next round.