Looking Forward

years-textClosing out the month of December and the year, most folks take an opportunity to make a few New Year’s resolutions.  For teachers and teacher librarians, it’s a time to recharge ideas and plans for 2015 that refocus on “The Heart of the Matter: Why I Teach.” (Alber, 2014)

This month, as the BACC bloggers offered ways to find partners and resources to stretch scarce financial funds, we have tried to highlight successful examples of mutually beneficial projects/ideas that go beyond school walls, and engage a wider community of learners. We know that there are amazing things happening in our schools across the country, and we would like to hear about them.  Perhaps you might leave us a reply, or a link to other creative and innovative programs or projects that could be shared.

As an educator, whether you are planning for your students, or pursuing a partnership with community members, you have to be able to articulate your vision for learning, and show that you are committed to the long haul.  Throwing the spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks is fine for cooking, but innovative ideas need to be nurtured to make them sustainable.  Collaboration with a partner, team, or co-teacher helps to clarify the purpose and process for transforming teaching and learning.  Trial and error are also part of the process for teachers and students in the quest for meaningful learning. Never give up!

When I read Rebecca Alber’s inspiring post (linked above) on Edutopia, I was reminded that teachers are creative, ingenious, and resilient problem solvers who enjoy a challenge, as well as their students. In addition to her list, I would summarize a few items as entry points for innovative planning that bridge traditional and transformative teaching and learning-and make it fun. These are not new ideas, but ones that seem to be trending in schools and beyond.

Options for innovative planning in the classroom and the future:

  • Flipping curriculum content through inquiry and technology integration. Using technology tools and applications for collaboration and personalized, self directed learning, not just another medium for pencil and paper tasks. Assessment for performance and knowledge, not recall.
  • Global thinking and awareness. Digital literacy is front and center to understanding differences in cultures and communities. Empathy is a habit of mind that comes from exposure to alternative points of view.
  • Social justice and personal responsibility through authentic learning opportunities. Communities thrive where all citizens, even the youngest have connections to the environment, the history, and the values shared by all.  Doing is learning and builds pride and a sense of worth.
  • Reflection and goal setting for students and educators. Mindfulness for empowering and engaging learners of all ages. Respecting individual differences and dreams. Multiple pathways for learning.

As you peck away at your New Year’s list, which ones will you choose to try out next year?


Alber, Rebecca. “The Heart of the Matter: Why I Teach.”  Edutopia, December 25, 2014. Weblog. <http://www.edutopia.org//blog/heart-matter-why-i-teach-rebecca-alber>

Image: Morguefile http://mrg.bz/OoxaYL

Happy holidays from your friends here at the BACC Blog!

family ties

Today’s Can Do Attitude

Across the country, the story about education financing is a variation on a theme.  Since the recession, budgets for public schooling have been on a downward spiral in most communities.  The reasons are multifaceted and many, but the bottom line is that fewer dollars are stretched, and stretched again to cover the challenges of teaching and learning in today’s schools.  Education is expensive and labor intensive, and dedicated teachers are working harder than ever to assure that young learners have opportunities to reach their potential.  During December my co-bloggers have been sharing the good news about how creative educators and teacher librarians have been maximizing scarce resources through collaboration on many fronts.

Judi highlighted ways that schools and public libraries can work together to bring richer service and resources to their common patrons, as well as to partner with non-profits in community service learning. Lucy had some exciting ideas about the benefits of sharing HUMAN resources, in essence, people to people collaborations that are meaningful and create community bonds. Melissa gave insight about ways that Open Education Resources (OER) can provide cost effective materials and access to information that reduces financial outlays.

Some key takeaways from their postings are that creativity, ingenuity, and resilience go hand in hand in problem solving, and working on common goals with other community members is a win for all.

Well, it also does help to have money for programs and resources for learners. The traditional sources- PTAs, book fairs, cake sales-you get the picture- have  provided  reserve funds, but there are other potential sources to tap, too.  There are foundations, and charitable organizations locally and statewide that are willing to fund programs and provide resources that enhance their mission within the community. It may be that there are folks in your school district who write grants, and you should talk with them, first. Many schools don’t have someone on staff, so grab your can do attitude and jump in.  It does take a bit of investigation to ferret out the possibilities and then to find a partner or collaborator who will work on a plan to apply for a grant or a donation.

When seeking funds for active learning projects, from a well known foundation or a local business organization, you have to prepare an action plan with a detailed description of goals, outlines of activities, needed resources, expenses and evaluation. Successful plans have an innovative twist and involve connecting student learners or school with the local or global community for a mutually beneficial purpose. While grant writing may not be listed in your job description, action planning should be essential to move your school library program forward. The process for identifying a problem or gap, and coming up with creative ways to transform learning in your school or district really depends on a clear understanding of the unique mission of your program, data collection and articulation, and how to work within a collaborative team.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities to access ideas for grant writing and action planning success, and also clearinghouse information for possible foundations and businesses.  Look no further than social media for crowdsourced ideas. Try a search using Livebinders, Pinterest, Scoopit! or any of your other favorites.

Here’s a couple that I have found to be quite comprehensive:

Sources for grants (Here are a few that are national, but you can find ones particular to your state or local community, also):

wildlife quiltFamily Ties at Founders School

In my own experience, a cross-disciplinary group of teachers-classroom, art, music, library, tech integrationist- collaborated on a three year project that transformed standards based learning units and curriculum.  As we developed our plan, we incorporated many community resources and applied for funds through grants and direct donations to bring visual and performing artists to the school, museum visits, and funds to self publish a series of student writings.  It was a major success within the community, because staff, students, parents, businesses, local cultural organizations, and  media outlets became united in a school wide theme titled “Family Ties.”  The images included here are from one of the  three self published books.  The collaboration team worked creatively and diligently to connect content curriculum, arts programs, and community resources to make learning exciting and meaningful for all students.  The culture of collaboration was in high gear, and the results were amazing-and lots of fun, too!

Images: Collection of Judith Kaplan


Innovation-Disruptive or Sustainable?

surfer_riding_wave_34Are you riding a wave of innovation in your school, or are you caught in the curl and drowning in the surf?  In today’s world, innovation is a buzzword that appears universally across topics and disciplines, and the field of education is no exception. Melissa shared a definition of innovation in her post earlier in November, and encouraged readers to embrace emerging technologies to enhance innovative thinking in STEM curriculum. Judi looked at innovative delivery of professional development for educators in her posts.  Advances in technology have opened the possibilities for unleashing new ways to rethink teaching and learning, and this is a good thing!  The not so good thing is the lack of time and support for professionals to incorporate these possibilities into their pedagogy. In order to bring about meaningful change that will benefit students, educators have come to realize that collaboration is a critical component that enables sustainable innovation.

Sustainable change does not happen overnight.  Educators learn from each other and are connected across the hallway, the town, the globe. Ideas need to be pondered and discussed, tools need to be sampled, lessons designed and differentiated- all with the goal of engaging students in deeper learning.  Educators also learn from students, especially by allowing them to follow their passions and interests.  Innovative learners are curious, flexible, and open to taking risks and making mistakes.  It’s hard work, but fun.  The rewards are in student success and lighting the fires of learning for both teachers and learners.

School districts implementing new initiatives don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but can tailor local plans for sustainable change by examining existing programs that have a track record of innovation for learning.  The best models promote teacher leadership and a culture of collaboration to solve identified problems and impediments to student success.  Administrators, educators, parents, and community members are all stakeholders together.

In Vermont, middle schools have an opportunity to partner with the Tarrant Institute for Innovation in Education at the University of Vermont.  Funded in part through a generous grant from the Tarrant Foundation, experienced educational leaders provide:

  • A variety of services to help schools make the transition to engaging, technology-rich teaching and learning.
  • In exchange for their substantial commitment to a new vision for teaching and learning, we offer our partner schools intensive professional development, leadership preparation and planning, and small grants for innovative technologies — all free of charge.
  • To the broader community, we conduct extensive research, evaluation, dissemination and outreach.    (http://www.uvm.edu/tiie/)

Since 2006, the partnership has grown and evolved as a model for bringing systemic change in middle school education. A variety of Vermont schools, from large inner city urban to small rural schools have taken advantage of the opportunity to develop a new vision of education within their communities.  The learning has gone both ways-from the professional development facilitators to the partner schools, and back from teacher partners and students who embrace and run with the innovations.  The leaders of the project have shared ideas and challenges in a series of articles and by presenting at local and national conferences.  Take a close look at the website to see samples of student work, and to follow the blog.  A recent blog post features the mindset of one of the Tarrant educators, Mark Olofson. Check out his reflection on the reiterative process of analyzing a new app as a classroom option for learning. It gives us a glimpse at innovative problem solving, and is very refreshing.  Even the experts question themselves and can revise their ideas!

As our educational system evolves from a 20th Century factory model, to a system that personalizes learning for students in the information age, new ideas, technologies, processes, and learning theories will continue to bring about changes to the physical and virtual frameworks of schools in the future.

Do you have some suggestions for innovative schools that you would like to share?

Social media is great way to follow the progress of innovation at many schools.  You can follow The Tarrant Institute happenings by using the Twitter hashtag @innovativeEd, Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/innovative.ed ,Instagram http://instagram.com/innovativeEducation, and Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/105653617605343762368/posts

Next month, I will report on the impact of innovations from partner school participants, and look at the challenges and benefits as they continue to move towards sustainable, renewable  change.


Olofson, Mark. “Monster Physics and the importance of careful consideration.” Innovation: Education. (Weblog) Nov. 22, 2014 http://tiie.w3.uvm.edu/blog/monster-physics-importance-careful-consideration/

Image: Classroom Clipart.com

Online Professional Development: A Key to Adult Learning

mouse_keyThis month the Building a Culture of Collaboration bloggers will share their ideas and experiences related to innovation. This week, I will be sharing two examples of virtual professional development.

Library 2.014 was the 4th-annual virtual conference hosted by the San José State University (SJSU) School of Information; this year it was held in real time on October 8th and 9th. Presenters from around the world shared their work in this free global forum. Attendees could have participated on the actual conference days or view recordings and YouTube video archives after the event.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Library Journal webcast  entitled “Participatory, Continuous, Connected: Top Trends from Library 2.014,” moderated by Michael Stephens, SJSU assistant professor. I was most interested in learning about the top trends identified during this year’s conference. In the webcast, Samantha Adams Becker talked about emerging digital communication formats; Ayyoub Ajmi described one academic library’s experiences using Google Glass; and Susan Hildreth shared do-it-yourself (DIY) learning opportunities that are taking hold in libraries and museums.

Dr. Stephens framed the 3-part webcast with this concept: “Library of Classroom.” He and the speakers challenged librarians to conceive or reconceive of the libraries as physical and virtual continuous experiential learning spaces. This concept aligns perfectly with my philosophy and experience of school libraries.

Ms. Becker shared highlights from the NMC (New Media Consortium) Horizon Report – Library Edition 2014. (These reports are targeted to different constituencies; you may be interested in the K-12 Edition as well.) Ms. Becker talked about removing books to make space in libraries for face-to-face social gatherings and group learning. The Texas Woman’s University Pioneer Center, located in the Blagg-Huey Library on the Denton campus, is a great example of that concept.

Ms. Becker shared a collaboration between Wikipedia and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), which librarians may be especially interested in exploring further. She also talked about embeddable technologies—planted under the skin. An implantable GPS is already being tested. The youth in my community will be delighted to learn that implantable ear buds are not a pipedream!!!

These were just some of the innovations and trends Ms. Becker shared from the Horizon Report. Check it out!

On Thursday, I will share some of the innovations Susan Hildreth, Director, Institute of Museum and Library Services, talked about and what Texas school librarians are doing with the concept of badging. Please tune in again.

Copyright-free Image from Morguefile.com