Online School Librarian Education: Increasing Interactivity

ApprenNet_logoAs more and more preservice school librarians (SLs) engage in library and information science (LIS) course work online, it is important for LIS educators to consider how the online environment affects pedagogy. While educators may focus on what is lost when moving learning from the face-to-face classroom to exclusively virtual settings, the fact is online learning is here to stay. Graduate students, in particular, who may be employed full-time and have a variety of personal commitments demand the freedom to access their education from the comfort of their own homes and at the most convenient hours or days of the week for their busy schedules.

There are other benefits to online SL graduate students. They will enter the school library having had the experience of learning online. They will be prepared to collaboratively plan with classroom teachers using a wide variety of information and communication technology tools (ICTs). They will also bring their online learning experience to their understanding of how to teach students online—when they are asked to do so. (Yes! That day is coming if it hasn’t already arrived at your pre-K-12 school.)

As a preservice SL educator, I am committed to providing graduate students with opportunities to use and experiment with many different types of ICTs. These are some of questions I ask when selecting a menu of tools for LIS students’ use: Does the tool help me meet the learning objectives I have set for a particular assignment? How can the tool be used collaboratively? Does the tool increase students’ opportunities to learn with and from each other? Does the tech tool help learners experience some of the benefits of the face-to-face classroom, such as voice, facial expression, and body language? How interactive is the tool?

ApprenNet.com is one tool that meets all of these criteria. Developed specifically for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), students in the courses I teach (maximum enrollment of twenty-five) have benefited greatly from using this tool. (We have been using this tool each semester since the spring of 2014.) ApprenNet exercises are comprised of four parts: a video challenge and student video response, peer review (including a rubric and a narrative assessment), an expert response, and feedback from the expert and classmates, including a ranking of the top five rated video responses to the challenge.

This coming fall in a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners,” preservice SLs will engage in three different ApprenNet exercises. After conducting research regarding coteaching, they will use research-based evidence to convince a non-collaborative classroom teacher of the benefits of this teaching method. The second exercise will be a job interview with a principal. The third exercise will involve a requirement from a district-level supervisor that the SL share a lesson/unit plan in which she will make a measurable positive impact on student learning outcomes.

Last spring, I published an article in TechTrends focused on my effort to increase interactivity in my courses. “Developing ‘hands-on’ experiences in the online learning environment may help more learners enjoy learning, learn more, and remain committed to engaging in course content and completing their degrees… It seems that new tools that can be used to enhance learning and support teaching are developed daily. As we experiment with these tools, I believe that keeping our focus on interactivity that motivates and engages students in learning with and from each other in the online classroom is a worthwhile pursuit” (Moreillon 46).

Since authoring that article, I have continued to integrate this tool into my teaching and to collect survey data from LIS students who have used this tool for learning. I will be presenting a lighting round talk, “Using A Video-enhanced Tool to Increase Interactivity in the Online Learning Environment” as part of the Innovative Pedagogies Special Interest Group panel at the Association for Library and Information Science Education conference in Boston in January, 2016.

To learn more, check out the ApprenNet tool by reviewing the videos on their “How It Works” Web page.

Note: Flipgrid is a less sophisticated tool geared to preK-12 education.

References

Moreillon, Judi. “Increasing Interactivity In The Online Learning Environment: Using Digital Tools To Support Students In Socially Constructed Meaning-Making.” TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning 59.3 (2015): 41-47.

ApprenNet logo used with permission

Why I do what I do…

johndewey100748

 

TOM (Theme of the month)

Why do I do what I do? Why a teacher? Why a librarian?

When I asked myself these questions, I realized that learning has engaged my mind and my heart forever. Learning is about ideas and connections that help me understand or question the world around me. Learning is a never ending journey, a yellow brick road into the future. Learning is an adventure into known and unknown worlds and can be safe or risky. Learning can be solitary or social.   Learning happens through multiple experiences in many places, with many people, and many opportunities. Learning is personal and leads to self actualization and a life well lived. Learning is FUN!

These are my core beliefs and I believe that everyone, no matter age or circumstance is entitled to pursue his or her interests that lead to learning, and as teachers and teacher librarians, we are responsible for providing supportive environments, resources, and spaces to allow that to happen.  Even more so now for learners in today’s changing world.

We are at the proverbial tipping point between “school” as we have have known it in the past two centuries, and the “school” of the future.  The purpose of education is a hot topic in the ongoing debate about reform in America’s schools, and it is being played out on the national and local level. We have moved from the agricultural and industrial ages to the information age, and the future is still unclear.  Technological change is rapid, but educational change is reactive and slow. Innovation is applauded, but standards and accountability through high stakes testing are often counterproductive. As a society, we have multiple visions for the future of education.  The process will continue to unfold.

Meanwhile, educators focus on learning and learners-just doing the job, day to day.

In spite of the uncertainties, teachers and teacher librarians build their skills as professional educators. Advances in pedagogy and neuroscience provide new resources for rethinking the ways we teach and learn. There is an art and craft of teaching that is embedded in an understanding of how learners access, interpret, and act on information and ideas.  Each learner processes ideas according to prior knowledge, experiences, and personal interests and goals. Teachers develop a range of skills and tools to meet the learners where they are and to help move them along in their learning journey. It is an art to be able to create a community in a learning space, be it the classroom or the school library. It is a craft to be able to enable the individual learners to see themselves as capable learners following their passions, asking thoughtful questions, thinking critically, and sharing their ideas with a wider audience.

The art and craft of teaching develops over time, and is a process that is iterative and expansive.  It requires a commitment to continuous reassessment of teaching goals and practices. Collaborative planning, discussion, and teaching encourage educator and student success in a learning community.  Teachers can model the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills, and this can have a lasting impact on how schools engage learners in classrooms and school libraries.

Throughout my career as a teacher librarian, and now as a library educator, I have been  committed to sharing my vision of learning with preservice and practicing teacher librarians and educators.  As we move to the future, we have to embrace change thoughtfully and with a critical stance, and to keep our focus on why we all are here-for those young people who come through the school doors each day-ready or not to learn.  How can we help them find their passions and pursue meaningful learning journeys?

 

Image:

“John Dewey.” BrainyQuote.com. Xplore Inc, 2015. 22 February 2015. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johndewey100748.html

 

Setting the Bar: Reflections on Why I Teach

kid_jump_cropI set the bar high for myself and for the graduate student candidates I teach because the stakes are so high for our preK-12 students and teachers. As educators we understand that all children deserve a first-class education—an opportunity to learn, grow, and achieve the most they can in order to live healthy, productive, and satisfying lives. Classroom teachers and specialists also deserve a coteacher with whom to navigate the ever-changing requirements for their work and ever-increasing needs of our shared students. The school librarian can be that educator—that coteacher.

Last week, I attended the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Conference. This year’s theme was: “Mirrors and Windows: Reflecting on Social Justice and Re-Imagining Library Science Education.” The term “social justice” is related to the fair distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges in a society. People who enact the principles of social justice work to ensure that all individuals have opportunities to contribute to society and receive the full benefits of societal membership.

Social justice is a thread that is woven into the professional values of librarians. Concepts such as “equal access,” “diversity,” and “inclusion” are central tenets of librarianship. School librarians have the opportunity and responsibility to help educate ALL young people, particularly those who are members of social, cultural, and racial subgroups.

Teaching for social justice reflects an essential purpose of teaching in a democratic society and involves advocacy for social change (Sleeter and Grant). With an ever-increasing number of children and youth living in poverty, without healthcare, and/or who are homeless, the need for activism to address inequities is also ever-increasing. Literacy education and access to information are pathways for underserved young people and families to improve their life circumstances.

I believe that all educators, and school librarians in particular, who understand the power of literacy and knowledge can become activists who have a calling to work toward removing societal barriers and inequities. That is why I set the bar high for myself and for the graduate students I teach. Together, with passion, compassion, knowledge, and understanding, we can advance equality and democracy and help our nation’s youth empower themselves through literacy.

Works Cited
DeduloPhotos. “DSC_0042.JPG.” Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 02 February 2015. <http://mrg.bz/ziIMjB>.

Sleeter, Christine. E., and Carl A. Grant. Making Choices for Multicultural Education: Five Approaches to Race, Class, and Gender. 6th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Elevator Speech: Reflections on What I Teach

ElevatorThis month the BACC co-bloggers will reflect on the “what” and the “why” of our roles as educators of future school librarians.

Any educator at any level can benefit from reflecting on what and why she or he teaches. Last Saturday, I participated in the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Leadership Meeting at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. One of the activities we engaged in during the meeting was writing elevator speeches. Over the years, I have written many of these speeches from the perspective of a practicing school librarian…

But before last weekend and although I have been teaching at the university level for two decades (!), I had not written an elevator speech from the perspective of a school librarian educator. Although it is a work-in-progress, I share it here as a starting point for a discussion of the purpose of library science graduate education.

I, Judi Moreillon, prepare future school librarians to be 21st-century literacy experts and leaders who coteach with classroom teachers to help children and youth from all backgrounds and with various abilities to become critical, creative thinkers and lifelong learners who contribute to and thrive in a global society.

In my role as a school librarian educator, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside enthusiastic graduate students. These educators have chosen to expand their classroom teacher toolkits to add the knowledge and skills of school librarians to their repertoires—including the information-seeking process, reading comprehension strategies, and digital tools for motivating, learning, and creating new knowledge. School librarian candidates learn to design instruction and teach these skills and strategies as coteachers along with classroom teachers and specialists.

Over the course of their graduate program, these librarian candidates learn to embrace a global view of the school learning community and have the opportunity to consider their potential to serve as leaders in their schools. Using professional standards and guidelines I aspire to enculturate school librarians into a profession or community of practice (Wenger 1998). To that end, I also model professional practice to show candidates how to serve.

Works Cited

d3designs. “pb210160.jpg.” Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 01 Feb. 2015. <http://mrg.bz/iqhhRc>.

Wenger, Etienne. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.