Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the fifth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is a must-read for anyone seeking to change the behaviors of a group of people. I also found this book helpful for thinking about changes in my personal and family life as well.

During the months of March and April, 2017, I had the pleasure of participating in a slow Twitter chat with the school library Supervisors’ Section (SPVS) of the American Association of School Librarians. Our hashtag was #aaslspvschat. Thank you especially to Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) for organizing the chat and posting the question prompts. Lori’s questions and chat participants’ responses furthered my thinking about Switch.

My experience: In every role I have held in education, I “worked” to change other educators’ thinking and behaviors. I served as a school librarian in six different schools at all three instructional levels. In each school there were administrators, educators, or parents who had no experience of the school librarian as an equal instructional partner with classroom teachers and specialists. As a district-level school librarian mentor, I was responsible for K-12 professional development for close to one hundred K-12 school librarians. As a literacy coach in an elementary school, I was charged with elevating the literacy teaching and learning practices in a high-needs school where a large number of students were English language learners. I also taught preservice school librarian graduate students for twenty-one years—many of whom were already serving in school libraries but did not come to coursework with a value for instructional partnerships—the professional hill on which I will die…

Connections to Switch: I literally have thousands of examples that affirm Heath and Heath’s statement: “For individuals’ behavior to change, you’ve got to influence not only their environment but their hearts and minds. The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently” (5).

In Switch, the authors offer a three-part process for helping people make behavioral changes. They describe these as “directing the Rider” (the rational mind), “motivating the Elephant” (the emotions), and “shaping the Path” (the environment). They note that each person has both a “rider” and an “elephant” side that leaders must consider and successfully reach in order to influence behavior. “If you want to change things, you’ve got to appeal to both. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the energy” (8).

Change agents are also responsible for ensuring that there are no obstacles in the path that would keep people from actualizing the desired change. Shaping the path can also involve helping people establish new habits and making the target outcomes contagious among group members.

In my experience, I have found this to be true: “When change efforts fail, it’s usually the Elephant’s fault, since the kinds of change we want typically involve short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs” (7). So much of what we are about in education requires the long view.

Heath and Heath offer this advice:
Direct the Rider: Provide crystal-clear directions.
Motivate the Elephant: Engage people’s emotional sides.
Shape the Path: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem (17-18).

One way to “direct the Rider” is to point out “bright spots.” These are examples of where the change is underway and working well. In my experience, to be effective, this type of sharing has to happen in a non-competitive, sharing faculty culture, or in what George Couros calls a culture with “competitive collaboration” where educators push one another to improve.

For example, if coteaching is the change we want to see, administrators can point to the classroom teacher-school librarian instructional partnerships that are “working.” They can share data that points to coplanning, coimplementing, and coassessing learning as the path to increased student motivation and improved learning outcomes. They can point out that coteaching educators are continually learning, less stressed, and are more fulfilled in their work.

The problem of teacher isolation has a long tradition in schools. School librarians who begin to break down the walls between classrooms and libraries by coteaching with just a few teachers may feel as though they are not doing enough… when in fact they are “shrinking the change.” They are also helping the administration to “engineer early successes” (141). These successes give hope which is “precious to a change effort. It’s Elephant fuel” (141).

By coteaching with a few willing partners, school librarians are helping to gradually move the faculty forward toward job-embedded professional development in a culture of collaboration—one educator, one grade level, one discipline department at a time. Administrators and their teaching partners should assure school librarians that “big problems (like teacher isolation) are rarely solved with commensurately big solutions. Instead, they are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions, sometimes over weeks, sometimes over decades” (44). In the example of building a culture of collaboration, hopefully not decades!!!

As noted I noted in the slow chat, my number one takeaway was from Switch was this:

Tweet: Change requires leader(s) 2 act differently 2 direct Rider/motivate Elephant/Shape path (all 3 required!) #aaslspvschat

Chip and Dan Heath have also coauthored Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (2007). I highly recommend both of these books for anyone exploring the change process in their professional or personal lives.

Work Cited

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. New York: Broadway Books, 2010.

The Innovator’s Mindset

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the third in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

I don’t remember when I first heard about George Couros. As soon as I did and before I read his book, I began reading his The Principal of Change blog, receiving his daily email blasts, and following him on Twitter (@gcouros).

One thing I especially admire about Couros is that he exemplifies an administrator/educator/leader who has a well-developed growth mindset. He shares his experiences—both his successes and missteps—and reflects on their significance in his learning. Couros is also able to communicate clearly and precisely. His mindset and his communication style pack a double punch…

…as does his book The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. On the paperback book cover, these keywords appear in red font: “innovator’s” (bold), “learning,” “talent,” and “creativity” (in an artistic font). With bolded and branded #InnovatorsMindset insets through the 232-page book, Couros’s book is a thoughtful, accessible book–one that school leaders will turn to again and again.

Couros makes a strong case for his premise: “There is a clear need for innovation in education” (4). He divides his book into three parts: a discussion of innovation, the foundation for a culture of innovation, and acting in an environment where change is possible. With a nod to Simon Sinek, George Couros clearly states his “why.” He believes “education’s why is to develop learners and leaders who will create a better present and future” (18). Couros goes on to define what he means in using the terms “learners” and “leaders.” All school stakeholders—young or more seasoned, students or educators—must inspire innovation both as learners and as leaders.

I use Couros’s definition for “innovation” in the book I am writing: “Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” I especially appreciate his emphasis on innovation as “a way of thinking” rather than a thing, task, or tool. An innovator’s mindset impacts school culture.

I part with Couros a bit on his assessment that “establishing an innovative culture doesn’t require transformation” (20). I do think it may very well take something “dramatic” in many school cultures that seek to “develop and sustain systems that support ‘optimal learning experience’” for all stakeholders. I wonder if small tweaks and nudges are enough to respond to the urgency for change that many educators, students, families, and community members feel.

Couros believes that it is “not that teachers don’t want to change, but they sometimes lack clear guidance and support to make the desired change” (47). I share this belief and it makes a strong connection for me with the book Switch: How to Make Change When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (to be reviewed later this summer on this blog). Educators, like students, require leaders who clear the path and model the change they expect to see.

Couros lists “8 characteristics of the innovator’s mindset” (pp. 48 – 58). He notes these characteristics can apply to everyone involved in education: empathetic, problem finders/solvers, risk takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient, and reflective. He also provides a similar set of characteristics for innovative leaders (pp. 88 – 90).

I am in total agreement with Couros (and Sinek whom he cites). We need to place a higher priority on the caring relationships within our schools/organizations. “The three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing” (68). This was also one of my take-aways from Timothy Walker’s book Teach Like Finland. The caring relationships among the people within an organization are everything. (Hence the title of this blog and the title of my forthcoming book.)

Couros discusses creating a vision, using technology as an accelerator, and effective professional development for educators. He includes “8 things to look for in today’s professional learning” and notes that “understanding the learning opportunities that we would like to create for our students begins by immersing ourselves in similar experiences” (185). I could not agree more!

Each chapter in Couros’s book ends with questions for discussion. His book and online resources provide a compelling book study selection for individuals and Professional Learning Communities. As Couros writes in his introduction, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing” (3).

If you’re someone who is open to change and don’t know where to start, begin by reading this book and then talk about it with your colleagues. It will inspire you!

Work Cited

Couros, George. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting, 2015.

Teach Like Finland, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the second in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Timothy D. Walker, author of Teach Like Finland, identified six strategies Finnish educators use to approach their work: seek flow, have a thicker skin, collaborate over coffee, welcome the experts, vacate on vacation, and don’t forget the joy. I wrote about the first three last week.

Welcome the Experts
Walker was not comfortable at first with welcoming colleagues or other experts into his classroom. After he visited other classrooms where he saw this modeled, he became a convert. Walker writes: “I found that the more I welcomed experts into my classroom, the more I began to view myself as a resource manager who could design great learning experiences for my class by tapping into talents outside my own” (183).

School librarians have a long tradition of inviting guests into the library. We regularly invite authors, illustrators, scientists, politicians, and local experts of all kinds to share via the library program. (And it’s important to remember that all educators may not be as comfortable with this practice.) The very best of these presentations are directly aligned with classroom curricula and are coplanned and cofacilitated with classroom teachers and specialists.

Two of the most successful expert presentations during my time at Sabino High School were visits by Arizona Daily Star editorial cartoonist David Fitzsimmons and our then Arizona State Representative Marian McClure. In both cases, I worked with the social studies classroom teachers to prepare students for their visits and to follow up afterward. Editorial cartoons became the topic for “questioning” reading comprehension strategy lessons. (See lesson 5-2 in Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact.) In addition to civics information, the connection with Representative McClure provided advocacy for school librarianship at the state legislature.

While school librarians are adept at bringing in outside experts, they may not be as experienced with using the human resources in the library and on campus. School staff and faculty have abundant expertise and talents to share. As school librarians build relationships in the school community, it is incumbent upon them to uncover the lights that are hiding under barrels in their own buildings—lights that could make a difference for students’ enthusiasm for curriculum-based learning as well as their pursuit of independent learning.

In a recent Knowledge Quest blog post titled “Library as Incubator,” Mark Dzula wrote about how he supported the school library paraprofessional aide in sharing her language and culture expertise with students during a weekly lunchtime drop-in Arabic program. Mark wrote: “She was motivated to share her love of the language to help expand students’ worldview and to overcome any social stigma that the students may have encountered in association with Arabic.” A dozen students attended and were very inspired in various ways to pursue more information about Arabic language and culture. With support from the World Language Department, one student is taking an independent study in Arabic with the library assistant next year.

Vacate on Vacation
According to Walker, Finnish teachers “literally” vacating during the summer. Shocking! This practice is in sharp contrast with the summer practices of most U.S. educators. In the summer, most teach summer school, work another job outside of education, or prepare for the next school year. (Some even time their pregnancies so they can give birth in the summer in order to return to the classroom in the fall.) Walker, who feels the “vacate on vacation” strategy is too extreme, says he prefers a hybrid approach. In the summer, he dedicates a “healthy chunk of time for disconnecting and a healthy chunk of time for professional development” (186).

The pace of life for most U.S. educators is intense during the academic year. Relaxing during the summer (and regularly throughout the school year) seems to be the healthiest choice. Making time in the summer for extended periods of reflection can be an excellent use of one’s “free” time. Interspersing professional books with other types of reading (adult novels, YA literature, and school curriculum-oriented reading) is one strategy some school librarians use to find balance. Extending conference attendance to include touring new parts of the country or visiting with friends and relatives is another way to combine professional learning with personal interests.

Some would suggest that regular technology holidays could also improve one’s ability to relax. In his book, Walker offers a summary of a study conducted by the Harvard Business School. The study involved two groups of consulting firm workers. One group worked 50+ hours per week. didn’t take vacation time and was always connected via their electronic devices. The other worked 40 hours per week, took vacations, and coordinated unconnected time with their coworkers so they could be disconnected without worry or guilt. The team that took time off reported higher job satisfaction, better work-life balance, increased learning, improved communication with their team, and were more efficient and productive in their work (187).

By “vacating” the always “on” culture for selected days, weekends, or even months might also prioritize engaging in enriching face-to-face interactions with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers. One thought-provoking book to consider on this subject is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. She proclaims: “It’s time to put technology in its place and reclaim conversation. That journey begins with a better understanding of what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in the way” (25).

Don’t Forget the Joy
This adage could be the overarching theme for Teach Like Finland. According to Walker, in 2016, Finnish comprehensive schools implemented the newest core curriculum, “where joy is being practiced as a learning concept” (189). When I read this, my U.S. educator mind sadly went directly to these questions: Is joy measurable? How will it be tested? (Ugh!)

There is a palpable feeling of excitement in a joyful learning environment. I once served as the school librarian in a truly “joyful” preK-5 school. Our school was led by a joyful principal whose most often heard phrase was “what a wonder!” With a positive school climate and a commitment to a culture of collaboration, faculty, staff, and families made our school a joyful place to be—every day of the academic year (and in summer programs, too).

Joy begins inside of each individual and from there can spread out to all members of our learning communities. Walker notes that prioritizing joy may not be easy for many U.S. educators but regardless of where he teaches, Timothy Walker commits to remembering and prioritizing joy. The last line in his book: “How about you?”

Note: This photograph of our seven-month-old puppy Pearl playing with her friend Vicka captures (for me) the pure spirit of joy. (Pearl is the poodle.) Every morning when we awake, she reminds us there is a truly joyful way to greet each day.

Works Cited

Dzula, Mark. “Library as Incubator.” Knowledge Quest Blog. 18 May 2017. http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/library-as-incubator/ Accessed 26 May 2017.

Moreillon, Judi. Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2012.

Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2015.

Walker, Timothy D. Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.

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 65th Anniversary

Last year, the American Association of School Librarians launched their 65th Anniversary Giving Campaign: “It’s in Our Hands: Celebrate the Past, Transform the Future.”

There are soooo many reasons to belong to the only national association dedicated to school librarians. There are also many reasons to participate as an active member who volunteers for committee service. Additionally, at this time in the history of our organization, there are reasons to accept the invitation to support the 65th anniversary giving campaign.

In their chapter entitled “Leadership and Your Professional School Library Association,” Connie Williams and Blanche Woolls offer nine reasons for joining professional organizations:

  1. Networking locally that begins with fellow librarians;
  2. Networking state-wide opens the door to leadership opportunities;
  3. Networking nationally allows opportunities to meet others from far afield;
  4. Improving your communication skills on an online listserv or other online communications group;
  5. Develops a greater number of professional friendships and a collegiality that builds year after year.
  6. Become a more active member by serving on a committee;
  7. Attend conferences to hear outstanding speakers and attend exciting and uplifting sessions and workshops;
  8. Provide a dais for members to tell smaller groups the good things that are going on in their schools and school libraries;
  9. Lobbying for school libraries to local, state, and national government officials (157-158).

All of these reasons may be important for individual school librarians at various points in their careers. At this time of year when school librarians and their advocates are often called into action, the importance of improving one’s communication skills cannot be undervalued. As Hilda Weisburg notes: “One of the unexpected benefits of serving at the state, and even more so on the national level, is what occurs to your vocabulary. You develop a fluency in talking about the value of school librarians and what a strong school library program brings to students, teachers, and the educational community as a whole” (143).

Our advocacy not only requires an articulate voice but collaboration with other library stakeholders as well. Elaborating on Forbes blogger Joe Folkman’s The Six Secrets of Successfully Assertive Leaders, Susan D. Ballard and Blanche Woolls wrote this in their recent Knowledge Quest Blog post Leadership–Assert Yourself! “Look for opportunities to collaborate as that is yet another area in which all school librarians need to step up their game in order to extend their participation in and influence on teaching and learning.”

As a donor to AASL’s 65th Anniversary Campaign, I was invited to give a testimonial.

“AASL has given me a ‘home’ for my passions: learning, literacy, literature, and libraries. I have never hesitated to re-up my membership—even when times were lean. AASL’s professional development opportunities have been worth every dime and every minute I have invested. Through participation, I experienced the benefits of membership. I have made lifelong friends. I have found guidance and support for leading through the library programs in the school communities I served. Along with fellow AASL members who understood my library life, I was able to develop as an educator. Together, we gave back to the Association. Happy 65th Anniversary, AASL! Thank you for being there for me, the librarians who came before me, and those who will follow.”

School Library Month is an optimum time to consider the importance of membership and participation in our national association. Link to the AASL 65th Anniversary page and make a donation to support AASL.

And proudly wear your AASL 65th Anniversary pin and Twibbon.

Works Cited

Ballard, Susan D., and Blanche Woolls. “Leadership — Assert Yourself!” Knowledge Quest Blog. 18 Apr. 2017, http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/leadership-assert-yourself/.

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

Williams, Connie, and Blanche Woolls. “Leadership and Your Professional School Library Association.” The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, Libraries Unlimited, 2017, pp. 157-169.

Image Credit: Twibbon provided by AASL

Twitter Chats

What does a Sonoran Desert tortoise have to do with a twitter chat? Thanks to Aesop, tortoises have a reputation for being “slow but steady.” Online professional development (PD), particularly a “slow Twitter chat” may result in the slow and steady progress we all want to experience in our personal learning networks (PLNs).

Online PD is a trend that meets the test of aligning with library and my personal values. The Web allows near and distant colleagues to get together in real time or asynchronously. We can share our questions and challenges, successes and missteps. We can interact with others with particular areas of expertise. We can respond to shared readings and current events. In short, we collaborate to expand our knowledge and improve our individual and collective practice.

Twitter has become a go-to PD platform for many state-level, university-based, and independent groups of school librarians. Through regular contact with one another, participants in these chats “learn from one another, develop shared meanings through exchanging ideas and information, and enculturate one another into the ever-evolving profession of school librarianship” (65).

Developing a strong PLN is one important way to stay current in the field and freshly energized in our practice.

In the 2014-2015 school year, I had the pleasure of being a participant observer studying the #txlchat. This Twitter chat meets during the academic year on Tuesdays from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Central Time. Members post using the hashtag throughout the week as well. I set out to learn about the #txlchat culture and the value participants place on this online PD experience.

The #txlchat cofounders and core group members have created a “democratic” context for the chat. They are committed to ensuring that participants’ voices are heard. Everyone I interviewed and those who responded to the survey noted the benefits they receive from learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and experience with the group. “@debramarshall summed up her experience this way: ‘I am a better librarian because of Twitter’” (68).

Chats can also be an excellent way to get out a message and share resources. The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation is currently exploring the use of Twitter chats to promote school-public library collaboration and the toolkit we created.

Currently, I am participating in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Supervisors Section (SPVS) book discussion. We are using the #aaslspvschat to discuss the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. SPVS Chair Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) is posting questions for our consideration over a five-week period.

This is my first experience with an intentional “Twitter slow chat” and my first experience with a total focus on a shared book reading. I think the slow chat format will help us take time respond to the moderator’s questions, savor each other’s tweets, reply to one another, and reflect on our discussion throughout the course of the slow chat.

Whether or not you’re a school librarian supervisor, check out the hashtag and check in to note how the discussion is progressing. This “slow chat” may be a model for a book study or other conversations with your PLN.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self-Regulated Professional Development Online.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, 2016, pp. 64–69.

Image credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon

Future Ready Librarians Build Instructional Partnerships

“Future ready” is catching fire. In the education landscape, “future ready” denotes students, educators, and school districts that are being effectively prepared or are preparing learners of today for the challenges of tomorrow. The emphasis on digital learning is at the core of this movement. Fortunately, many educational decision-makers are recognizing that school librarians and libraries are important components in future ready teaching and learning as the image from Follett’s Project Connect attests.

A growing number of school districts across the country are joining Future Ready Schools® (FRS). According the FRS About page, the FRS goal is “to help school districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by (1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while (2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize learning in the classroom.”

Launched in 2014 with the Future Ready Pledge, the Alliance for Excellence in Education has collected more than 3,100 school superintendents’ signatures. According to the Future Ready Web site, this means that the learning of 19.2 million students and their teachers’ teaching are being impacted by the framework for this initiative.

In June, 2016, FRS announced the Future Ready Librarians piece of their effort. (Note the links on this page to additional articles that spotlight the work of school librarians.) This movement toward the transformation of teaching and learning is inspiring many school librarians to self-assess their own future readiness and prepare themselves for partnering with administrators and teaching colleagues to implement the eight principles of the Future Ready Librarians (FRL) Framework.

For me, one of the most exciting FRL principles involves school librarians in building instructional partnerships in order to directly impact curriculum, instruction and assessment. The FRL “partners with educators to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation and the active use of technology.” (See the FRL Fact Sheet.)

The Future Ready Librarians Facebook Page is one source of professional development for school librarians. This is a closed group and participants must request access. Searching Twitter with the #futureready and #FutureReadyLibs hashtags are additional ways to be connected.

This groundswell of support for the role of FRL and school libraries should energize the school librarian community. It should prompt and inspire professional development. School librarian Michelle Luhtala, Vancouver Public Schools library administrator Mark Ray, and Sara Trettin from the U.S. Department of Education provided a FRL Webinar via edWeb last October. You can view the archive.

On February 14, the Alliance is hosting another Webinar focused on FRL: “What’s Not to Love?” This time, Shannon McClintock Miller will join Mark RAy and Sara Trettin. Check it out!

Image Courtesy of Follett’s Project Connect

Reflections on Professional Learning, Part 2

library_values_2This post is a continuation of last week’s reflection on my take-aways from the 2016 Arizona Library Association Conference.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

One of the reoccurring connections for me on the second day of the conference Friday, November 4th, was the importance of library values. This word cloud captures just some of the values embedded in the competencies for librarians as codified by our professional organizations: the American Library Association Core Competences, Association for Library Service to Children’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, ALA/AASL Standards for the Initial Preparation of School Librarians, and the Young Adult Library Services Association Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best.

Jessica Jupitus and Lori Easterwood provided the “Libraries Transform, But How?” opening keynote on Friday, November 4th.  When Jessica and Lori worked together a four-year goal of the Sacramento (CA) Public Library’s strategic plan was to increase positive public awareness about library services and increase participation in library programming. At the time, Jessica and Lori were young adults themselves. They used deliberately provocative titles, such as Punk Rock Aerobics and Heavy Metal Yoga, to attract 18 to 28-year-olds to programs. For me, their program connected to the library values of inclusion and diversity.

In my presentation “Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories,” I invited participants to reflect on their library values and connect their values with a program or service and an audience they would like to bring into the library. Participants used a graphic organizer to develop a meme, one-sentence theme, think about the needs of their target audience, and identify some free or low-cost Web 2.0 tools to create their stories. On the resource page for the presentation, I shared examples of school and public library digital promotions. After the session, I added an example that participant Claudine Randazzo shared with the group. The testimonials in the video on behalf of the Coconino County bookmobile tell the story of this service so well!

As always, I was inspired by the values in action of those who received awards at the AzLA service and author awards luncheon. Congratulations to TLD’s own Patty Jimenez for her Follett School Librarian of the Year Award. I believe that at least one award recipient embodied each of the values in the word cloud above.

Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) librarians Kate Street, Jennifer Flores, and Fran Stoler presented “Extreme Library Makeover: Making Spaces for Student Creation and Collaboration.”  They shared their journey in “creating a digital age library in a 1970s space.” Their Web page includes a timeline, floor plan (for Sunnyside High School), movable furniture, and flexible spaces. For me, their “Extreme Makeover” work connects with the library values of freedom of expression, empowerment, and literacies.

Some of the renovations included smart tables, mobile whiteboards, kiosks, “Nemo Trellis” (new to me) and more. Kate, who is the librarian at Sunnyside High School, reported that the library’s new sound studio has been the most successful aspect of their renovation in terms of student creativity and ownership. Fran, who is the Desert View High School librarian, noted that the positive attitude of the librarians, students, teachers, and administrators was as important in their renovation efforts as were the renovations themselves.

As noted in last week’s post, Sunnyside is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! Jennifer, who is the librarian at Los Amigos (Elementary) Tech Academy, shared some low-cost, low-tech strategies for library renovation, including painting walls and tables with whiteboard paint, board games, and freshly painted walls. Los Amigos uses a 50/50 model with students engaged with tech 50% of the time and interacting face to face (f2f) 50% of the time. Jennifer’s goal is to increase community involvement during the f2f time — to bring in the funds of knowledge in the community to mentor and teach the students.

As Miguel Figueroa noted, for librarians, a societal trend is simply “trendy” unless we view it through the lens of our library values. If we examine the signals in society that confirm a trend exists, we should then explore that trend to see if it aligns with our library values. When it does, librarians can work together to create library services and programs that will meet the current and future needs of our communities. Thoughtful librarians can take action to develop innovations that matter.

Every professional learning experience provides opportunities to meet new colleagues and to get to know long-time colleagues better.  At the TLD Mixer on Thursday night, I enjoyed the conversation with Jean Kilker, Patty Jimenez, Cindy Reyes, and Leslie Preddy. It was rewarding to connect with former University of Arizona graduate students and know they are doing great work in libraries across the state.

I left the conference hopeful for the future of librarianship. I know there is no shortage of work to ensure that our libraries continue to work with our community members to improve lives. I also know we can do it. Yes, we can!

Post-election comment: I believe it is especially critical that librarians rededicate ourselves to practicing and promoting the core values of our profession

Image Credit
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Reflections on Professional Learning – Part 1

reflectionLast Thursday and Friday I attended the annual Arizona Library Association Conference. This year it was held in Tucson at a hotel in the shadow of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. As reflection is an important (and some would say essential) aspect of learning, I am taking this opportunity to share my take-aways from the conference sessions I attended.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

The opening keynote on Thursday, November 3rd, with Miguel Figueroa from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries was inspiring for me. In his talk titled “Signals for the Libraries of the Future,” Miguel spotlighted several trends and noted that we can “see” what will happen in the future by monitoring changes that are happening today. He quoted founder of the World Future Society Edward Cornish: “Foresight is fundamentally about the study of change.”

I am not a student of futurist thinkers and found this information thoughtful and thought-provoking. In his talk, Mr. Figueroa recommended two specific book titles: Anticipate the World You Want: Learning for Alternative Futures by Marsha Lynne Rhea and The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman. I believe Miguel’s futurist work brings an essential perspective and critical information to our profession. (I also think he has an incredibly exciting job!)

Emily Plagman, project manager for the Public Library Association’s Project Outcome, presented a session titled “The Power of Performance.” While I was most likely the only school librarianship-focused person in the room, I was impressed by PLA’s effort to collect comparable survey data from public library systems across the U.S. I believe that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) could explore this idea as part of the new standards and guidelines implementation effort. (I was also reminded that when a program doesn’t at first look like a “perfect fit” for my interests, I can gain a great deal by learning and thinking “across the aisle.”)

At the Teacher Library Division (TLD) meeting, Leslie Preddy, the immediate past-president of AASL, shared the many ways our national organization supports our profession. Leslie pointed us to the AASL toolkits, including the most recent “Resource Guide for Underserved Student Populations.” She noted sample posts from the fresh and vibrant Knowledge Quest blog and reminded us that school librarians can sign up to have announcements of new blog posts pushed to our email inboxes.

Leslie also reminded us that AASL has been providing leadership and professional learning for school librarians for 65 years! You can donate to the 65th Anniversary Campaign and you can add a Twibbon to your social media profile photo(s). I hope you will join me in supporting and promoting this campaign.

After Leslie’s presentation, several of us talked about school librarians and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We wondered how the TLD might maximize the benefit of an AASL-facilitated workshop. As Arizona educators, we should be part of the state’s ESSA plan and position our work as essential to preparing future ready students and supporting classroom teachers’ teaching.

After lunch, I attended a session by Dan Messer called “Transforming Your Perspective: The Beauty of Generalists in Library Technology.” Dan’s own experience as a creative, innovative generalist connected with my perspective on the potential of school librarians to contribute broadly in their learning communities. School librarians may know a great deal about teaching information literacy or guiding inquiry learning but we have to know a little about many things in order to manage our libraries and effectively coteach across the grade levels and disciplines. (In 2010, when the AASL Board officially dropped the “school library media specialist” term, I venture to say that no one was happier than I was!) Check out Dan’s blog “Cyberpunk Librarian” blog.

At the end of the first day of the conference, I participated in a hands-on, minds-on workshop with Mr. Figueroa: “From Futuring to Innovation.” I was fortunate to have the opportunity to think with three Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) school librarians (see next week’s post) and a college-level librarian from the University of Phoenix. Our task was to explore societal trends through the lens of library values and develop an event/program that would reflect that trend and our library values, and appeal to patrons.

What may have surprised some who heard our group’s report was that SUSD is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! The trend our group’s event addressed was “unplugged.” (This made me think about Future Ready Librarians and how the “unplugged” trend could align with that initiative.)

Next week, I will share more thoughts on Mr. Figueroa’s suggestion that we “push on trends with our #library values” and reflections on the second day of the conference.

Side note: I tweeted at #AzLA2016 throughout the conference. Tweeting is one way I document my learning during a professional development opportunity. Reviewing my tweets supported my reflection as well.

Image Credit
From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

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).