Reclaiming Conversation, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, I have read many professional books. This is the sixth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order. I published Part 1 of Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age last week.

In relationship to children, Turkle writes this: “If children don’t learn how to listen, to stand up for themselves and negotiate with others in classrooms or at family dinner, when will they learn the give-and take that is necessary for good relationships or, for that matter, for the debate of citizens in a democracy?” (14).

“In these new silences at meals and at playtime, caretakers are not modeling the skills of relationship, which are the same as the skills for conversation. These are above all empathic skills: You attend to the feelings of others; you signal that you will try to understand them” (27).

Response: When I lived in Denton, Texas, I regularly walked in a park where I would see children playing. I often observed their parents and caregivers using their phones (instead of watching their kids or playing with them). Recently, my husband and I were having dinner in a restaurant where at the next table each member of a family of four was occupied with an individual device before, during, and after their meal. (The children were about six and nine.)

I have been in meetings where people are using their phones and may or may not be listening to the conversation. Or they may be using their laptops and checking their email—sometimes under the guise of making meeting notes. It may or may not be intentional rudeness but most meeting facilitators and people who speak for items on the agenda feel disrespected by not having their colleagues’ full attention.

Turkle makes a strong case for conversation as the primary way we build empathy for others. As a book person, I believe that reading about other people’s lives has been a large part of my empathy building. Still, in face-to-face conversations with relatives and friends looking into their eyes, reading their faces and body language, that’s when I really understand what they are feeling. The same can be said for students in our classes and the colleagues with whom we work.

Response: I have felt that disrespect. For me, it leads to a lack of trust in the person who cannot be “in” the conversation. I also believe this is one of the challenges in teaching 100% online. Students want to feel their instructors understand them, especially when they are having a problem. However, many would rather text or email than talk on the phone. Emotions are simply not communicated as clearly and misunderstandings can and do result.

Turkle notes that some young people avoid difficult conversations at all costs. They will not even have phone conversations but would rather text where they can be assured of time to clearly organize their thoughts, edit, and avoid “too much emotional stuff.”

Turkle says that in face-to-face conversations it is often when “we hesitate, or stutter, or fall silent, that we reveal ourselves most to each other” (23). Slowing down the conversation in this way makes some people feel anxious, or bored. Some feel so uncomfortable they will turn to their phones and check out of the conversation.

Response: Since reading this book, I have become more sensitized to my own feelings during the “silences” and “pauses” in conversations and during transitions from one activity to another. I have found myself reaching for my phone while waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line at the market. I am catching myself more often and making a conscious decision about whether or not I want/need to consult my phone. Several times when I have opted out of connecting via tech, I have had an epiphany about an idea that’s be stuck in my head. I have even had pleasant conversations with the strangers sitting next to me or standing in line behind me.

Turkle writes: “Until a machine replaces the man (who scans your groceries), surely he summons in us the recognition and respect you how a person. Sharing a few words at the checkout may make this man feel that in his job, this job that could be done by a machine, he is still seen as a human being” (346).

Response: Turkle has given me another reason not to use the self-checkout machines. I have avoided them because they represent the loss of jobs. I will continue to avoid them and make an effort to engage in even a brief conversation with the person doing this work.

Turkle claims her argument is not anti-technology. Rather it is pro-conversation. She invites us on a journey “to better understand what conversation accomplishes and how technology can get in its way” (25). She charges us to become different kinds of consumers of technology and compares this to the ways many people have become more discerning and knowledgeable consumers of food.

In terms of understanding, Turkle posits three wishes our mobile devices grant to us:
1. “That we will always be heard;
2. That we can put our attention wherever we want it to be, and;
3. That we never have to be alone” (26).

Response: Questions we might ask ourselves related to these three wishes:
1. Who do we want to “hear” us? And why?
2. What amount of control can we give up in order to put our attention on things not of our choosing that need our attention? Can we do that even when it’s “inconvenient”?
3. What could we gain by spending time alone with our thoughts—in daydreaming or self-reflection?

As Turkle says people are resilient. We can change. We can pay more attention, listen more carefully, and respond to one another with empathy. We can do that by reclaiming the value of talking with one another face to face. We can do that by consciously deciding when to pay attention to people and when to pay attention to our machines. And we can model and practice this with youth, colleagues, friends, and family.

Turkle ends the book this way: “This is our nick of time and our line to toe; to acknowledge the unintended consequences of technology to which we are vulnerable, to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make the corrections. And to remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships, of conversations artless, risky, and face-to-face” (362).

Is summertime a time to start reclaiming conversation? It is for me. I hope it is for you, too.

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

Additional Books by Sherry Turkle
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Reclaiming Conversation, Part 1

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

Sherry Turkle’s most recent book is definitely thought-provoking and timely for me. I recently returned from the American Library Association Conference in Chicago where I met with colleagues from across the country and a reunion in Kalamazoo, Michigan with long-time friends. During that week, I enjoyed face-to-face conversations and late into the night confessions with people I usually communicate with via email and social media. I experienced the deep sense of connection and empathy Sherry Turkle’s research suggests may be missing for many of us who spend most of our time using technology to mediate our “conversations” with others.

To be transparent, I am a long-time reader (and follower) of Turkle’s work. I have read two of her previous titles (cited below) and have watched her TED Talks (“Alone Together” and “Connected, but Alone?”) I highly recommend everything she has written but Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age offered me the most powerful prompts for reflection related to how technology has affected my life and the lives of my family, friends, and colleagues.

Turkle, an MIT professor, studies the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. As with her previous titles, this book is filled with research, anecdotes, and testimonials (and confessions) from individuals and focus groups who have shared with her their experiences with technology. There is no way to adequately summarize this work. Instead, I am sharing a few quotes from the book followed by my responses and connections to my own relationship with technology. I am doing this is two parts–this week and next.

Disclosure: I own a smartphone. I do not use it to its full capacity in terms of apps and the like, but I do listen to audiobooks and music on my phone, send and receive calls and text messages, follow and post to my social media accounts, and use my phone to search for information and directions while traveling. I use my laptop more than my phone. I am a writer. I taught graduate students exclusively online for seven years; my laptop made that possible. My laptop (not my phone) is my life.

In this book, Sherry Turkle makes a compelling case for conversation. She writes: “We are being silenced by our technologies—in a way, ‘cured of talking.’ These silences—often in the presence of our children—have led to a crisis of empathy that has diminished us at home, at work, and in public life. I’ve said that the remedy, most simply, is a talking cure” (9).

Turkle says “recent research shows that people are uncomfortable if left alone with their thoughts” (10). Many “always connected” youth call this space “boredom” and avoid it at all costs. They also find that face-to-face conversations contain “uncomfortable” moments of silence or long pauses when someone is thinking. Some say they must fight the urge to glance down at their phones while waiting for another person to think and speak.

Turkle shares a new strategy some young people have developed to combat that urge. Some groups of young adults play “phone tower” when they go out to dinner. All the phones—left on—are stacked in the middle of the table. The first person whose phone rings AND they reach for it and respond has to pick up the dinner tab. It seems they could simply turn off their phones—but I guess not if they are “addicted” to them and would feel desperate if disconnected.

A new norm Turkle described is the “rule of three.” When a group of four or more people are having a conversation, at least three of them have to be verbally interacting and making eye contact. When those criteria are met, the others are free to look at and use their phones to text, find and present new images or information—always being mindful of their commitment to be one of the three when needed.

Response: I do not have that kind of attachment to my phone or the need to feel always connected. These and others of Turkle’s anecdotes were new to me. I believe they are true, but I had some trouble relating them to my own life.

Response: I remember my surprise ten or so years ago when I learned that a respected colleague (20 years younger) slept with her phone. My phone and I are not that intimate. My daughter and my friends are often dismayed when I do not respond to texts within a “reasonable” time period. (Sometimes I do not respond for a whole day!)

Turkle points out how often she notices parents and babysitters interacting with their phones rather than with the children in their care. Many young children have stopped expecting to have their parents’ full attention. Some parents who ban their children’s phones at the dinner table are still texting or taking calls because they “have to” conduct business 24/7.

Turkle notes that even the mere presence of a phone on the table sets up the expectation that the conversation will be interrupted—an excuse to keep it light rather than of more consequence. She calls this “the flight from conversation” and compares it to climate change. Most of us know it’s true but too many of us don’t think of it as a pressing problem.

As a parent, spouse, educator, and storyteller, I believe this is true: “Eye contact is the most powerful path to human connection” (36). I can believe this loss of connection could result in a decline in empathy. With the large and looming challenges we need to confront in our country and in our interconnected global community, a lack of empathy for “others” is, to me, a very troubling loss.

Next week, I will post the second part of this reflective review.

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

Additional Books by Sherry Turkle
Turkle, Sherry. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Technology Stewardship

This week is Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Tech Week (March 5 – 11, 2017).  Just as Digital Learning Day is a snapshot of what should be happening in school libraries every day so are the learning activities that are being spotlighted this week.

One thing that continually surprises me is that some people, new and practicing school librarians included, think that engaging students and supporting classroom teachers with Web-based resources and technology-infused learning experiences is something new in our profession. It’s not!

Ever since the Internet entered schools, effective school librarians and progressive school libraries have been at the center of providing digital resources and services (in addition to reading instruction and literature-focused events and activities).

New technology tools were a central feature in the school libraries where I served in the 1990s. Like many school librarian colleagues, I wrote grants to fund increasing technology tool access through the school library program. Also, similar to many colleagues, I convinced my principals that the central location of the library as the hub of learning in our schools was the appropriate place to provide equal access to all students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

In 1992, our elementary school library was the first in the district to have a stand-alone and dedicated CD-ROM computer station. In 1994, I secured grant funding at another elementary school library in another district in order to provide the most “sophisticated” access to CD-ROM reference resources using a then “cutting-edge” server tower. In the summer of 1994, I facilitated a two-week summer technology camp for first through fifth-grade students to utilize the new software (HyperStudio) we had purchased for the library with grant funds. Fourth-, and fifth-grade students mentored first-, second-, and third-grade students and co-created exciting multimedia projects that would serve as samples for classroom teachers and other students during the following school year.

In 1995, our school library facilitated the first student-designed elementary school website in Arizona. In 2000, when I served at another Tucson Unified School District elementary school, our school library website earned an Arizona Technology in Education Award (AzTEA) for the Best School Website; at that time, ours was the only site in the entire state designed, created, and managed by students.

While I took a leadership role in all of these technology-centered initiatives, I most certainly did not do them alone.

Business partners provided grant funding for soft- and hardware. The computer lab teacher I worked with in 1994 taught me most of what he knew about educational technology. He helped me select HyperStudio and an adaptor that transferred the computer screen to the TV screen; these tools literally transformed students’ learning and students’ and educators’ presentations. In 1995, a master’s in library science student intern taught me how to use website software and a bit about .html code; together we facilitated third-grade students’ design of our school’s site. Building on that experience in 1998 at a different elementary school, I formed a website advisory committee comprised of fourth-grade students, classroom teachers, a parent, and our principal and together we planned our school library website. Our goal was to put students in charge of the site. In 2000, we earned the AzTEA award mentioned above.

All of these experiences taught me that collaboration and co-learning are essential in effectively integrating new technology tools into teaching and learning. Learning from and working with more proficient peers gave me the skills I needed and the confidence to take risks. I believe my own willingness to experiment helped classroom teacher colleagues stretch themselves and take risks alongside me. Being an adult learner myself, I was sensitive to their needs and characteristics as adult learners.

Even more than the particular tool or project, it was my role as an instructional partner that helped us effectively integrate technology tools and instructional strategies into our shared curriculum. It was through coplanning and coteaching that I was able to serve as a change agent and helped diffuse technology and other innovations throughout our learning community.

Technology stewardship has long been a responsibility of school librarians, and through classroom-library collaboration school librarians are positioned to serve as technology stewards who facilitate learning with technology in a future ready learning environment.

Image created using Microsoft PowerPoint

School Librarians and Digital Learning

Digital Learning Day 2017 (#DLDay) will be held this Thursday, February 23rd. School librarians from across the U.S. will be participating and showcasing the digital learning that’s happening in their schools. This annual event was mentioned in last week’s “Future Ready Librarians: What’s Not to Love?” Webinar.

On Digital Learning Day (DLD), the Alliance for Excellent Education is sponsoring a free Webinar: Digital Learning Day 2017: “The Value of a Connected Classroom.” You can sign up on their site.

On the DLD homepage, there are four highlights listed from the 2016 event:
1.    Digital Equity and Access
2.    Digital Equity and Leadership
3.    Digital Equity and College and Career
4.    Digital Equity and Instructional Quality

School librarians especially appreciate the consistent focus on digital equity. School libraries are one place on school campuses where all students should be able to gain access to the digital tools and resources they need to be successful.

Several data points in National Education Association’s just-released “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report” suggest that our nation’s schools have not yet achieved equity.

I include Arizona’s data because I was a long-time Arizona school librarian and school librarian educator; I currently live in this state.

In her article “Teacher-librarians as Champions of Digital Equity,” Dr. Carol Gordon makes a case for recognizing that “information education” is an essential aspect of digital equity. Citing two researchers’ list of the expertise school librarians offer students and colleagues, she notes: “Teacher-librarians play an important role in each of these areas: connectivity, content, content creation, technological support, and research on digital technology and learning. However, the role of teacher-librarians in information education, which should be at the top of this list, is not there” (Gordon 2016). (Emphasis added)

Digital Learning Day offers a snapshot of every day of the school year. This year, I will be looking for the ways Future Ready Librarians are forming instructional partnerships that ensure that students are effective users of ideas and information and proficient in knowledge creation as they appropriate digital tools and devices to meet their learning and presentation needs – all year long.

Works Cited

Gordon, Carol. “Teacher-Librarians as Champions of Digital Equity.” SLAV, vol. 14, no. 1, 2016, www.slav.vic.edu.au/synergy/volume-14-number-1-2016/research-into-practice/607-teacher-librarians-as-champions-of-digital-equity.html. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.

Tuck, Kathy, D. and Dwight R. Holmes. “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report,” 2016, NEA.org, http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/Trends%20in%20School%20Library%20Media%20Centers%20Full%20Report.pdf. Accessed 17 Feb. 2017.

Word Cloud Created at Wordle.net

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

Banned Websites Awareness Day 9/28/16

bwad-2016_webbadgeLibrarians across the U.S. will be recognizing “Banned Websites Awareness Day” (BWAD) on 9/28/16. Working toward unrestricted access to information and resources should be one of librarians’ top priorities. Choice in checkout helps students (yes, even kinders) practice a lifelong learning strategy. Internet filtering and blocked Web sites and social media are an on-going challenge in many schools and libraries.

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in April, 2001, in order to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. Just as school library policies can minimize the frequency of book challenges, policies can also mitigate complaints regarding Web-based information.

According to CIPA:
“Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
◾Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
◾The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
◾Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
◾Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
◾Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them” (FCC).

While protecting children and youth from obscene and harmful information is essential, overly restrictive filtering software may prevent young people from accessing information that is important to their health, wellness, and intellectual growth. School librarians, in particular, may frequently be in the position of advocating for a particular educational website to be unblocked. The wise school librarian makes friends with the IT department and helps to educate administrators about the importance of students having opportunities to practice digital citizenship.

If students are to become responsible, informed digital citizens, they must be given guidance as they develop skills to evaluate information. They must learn to use social media venues in an environment in which they are accountable for their communications. School librarians in collaboration with classroom teachers can provide youth with learning experiences so they can explore, evaluate, and responsibly use Web-based information and tools.

As AASL notes, “Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information” (BWAD Background).

What are you doing in your school to recognize BWAD?

 

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

American Association of School Librarians. “Banned Websites Awareness Day Background.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad/background. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” FCC.org. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Image courtesy of AASL

TASL Talks

TASL_color_borderA number of state-level school librarian associations host blogs to share information with their membership and to promote the work of their members. The Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL) publishes such a blog and pushes it out to members and prospective members via a statewide distribution list as well as through social media channels.

TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU is managed by the TxASL Legislative and Advocacy Committee with “the goal of forwarding to TASL membership and school librarians across Texas useful information about school library advocacy.”

Three members of the committee, Dorcas Hand (@handdtx), Becky Calzada (@becalzada), and Susi Grissom (@SusiGrissom), facilitate the blog. In addition to their own posts, they invite and support other TASL members in posting to the blog.

Last week’s post was by Amy Marquez (@Amy_DZ1), school librarian at Marcia R. Garza Elementary in Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District in San Juan, Texas. Amy shared how a “living history museum” project responded to a request from her principal and met the needs of students. When Amy’s principal mentioned the idea of 3rd through 5th-grade students dressing up as historical figures for Halloween, Amy expanded on this idea to include students conducting research using an online database. Amy accomplished the “living history museum” project in a 30-minute per week fixed-schedule environment.

Crowdsourcing a blog is one way to ensure that fresh ideas are shared and new voices are heard. Bravo to the TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU leadership for making this resource effective and a constant source of professional development for TASL members and others.

TASL logo used with permission

School Library Blogs

This month, the Building a Culture of Collaboration (BACC) co-bloggers are sharing information about school library and librarian blogs. Each of us will spotlight various blogs and bloggers and share why we think these sites are useful resources for school librarians.

Edublog-Awards-1mb7e9dEach year, Edublogs-hosted blogs in various categories are nominated for the “eddies.” (Note: BACC is hosted by Edublogs.) “The purpose of the Edublog awards is to promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media. The best aspects include that it creates a fabulous resource for educators to use for ideas on how social media is used in different contexts, with a range of different learners. It introduces us all to new sites that we might not have found if not for the awards process.”

Congratulations to Katie Dolan and Kathy Counterman, two Texas school librarians, whose sites earned #15eddies in the “best library blog” category.

Katie Dolan is the school librarian at James Randolph Elementary (JRE) School library in the Katie Independent School District. Katie and her library program earned the top award for the best library blog. Edna Mae Fielder Elementary School Librarian Kathy Counterman, also from Katy ISD, earned the third-place best library blog award.

School librarians use their library blogs for many purposes, including promoting books, reading, and literacy events, publishing student work as well as educators’ lessons, and interacting with students, classroom teachers, administrators, parents, and the community at-large. School librarians can analyze the content of these two bloggers’ sites to get ideas to implement in their own teaching, to lively up their own library blogs, or to get ideas for starting a school library blog in 2016.

#15eddies graphic used with permission

The School Librarian’s Digital Tool Box

School Librarians sitting at tables working on their computers

Hello Everyone! I am glad to be back on the blog. I’d like to thank my amazing colleague, Dr. Stephanie Jones, for blogging while I was visiting school libraries in Northwest Brazil. I look forward to sharing more about that experience with you all at a later date.

Like Judi, Stephanie and I also presented a half-day workshop at this year’s AASL 2015 Conference: Three Must-Have Tools for the School Librarian’s Digital Leadership Toolbox. Also like Judi, I too firmly believe in the importance of the school librarian’s role as instructional partner. As instructional partners, school librarians are responsible for becoming familiar with a broader amount of curriculum – not just the content itself, but how this content is taught vertically throughout the different grade levels. Any school librarian will tell you that this is a humongous undertaking!

It is important that we harness tools that help us to keep abreast of resources that can help improve our instructional partnering capabilities. This is what “smooshing” together Weebly, Twitter and Rebelmouse is all about. Combined, these tools help school librarians create a visually organized and categorized collection of instructional materials, feeds, professional development opportunities, community groups etc. and etc.

The best part is that these tools provide tangible evidence of a school librarian’s instructional planning process – a necessary step in explaining and advocating for this vital role to administrators, classroom teachers, students and parents.

Please visit the Hackpad of Resources we created to learn more! Simply x-out of the login box. There is no need to set up an account to explore the links we shared.

 

Celebrating Literacy-Globally and Locally

The walls of the OrchardDSCN0706 School Library Media Center faded away last week as young learners from South Burlington, Vermont met with friends in several elementary schools across the country via Skype and Google Hangout. As participants in the Global Read Aloud project, readers throughout the United States and beyond read and discuss books both synchronously and asynchronously for six weeks beginning in October. Educators who jump into the Global Read Aloud are encouraged to find creative ways to incorporate the joys of shared reading both locally and globally.

Through the GRA website and wiki, teachers and librarians can collaborate with each other and their classrooms through Twitter, Edmodo, Skype, Kidblog, and other social media sites. The project began in 2010 with a Wisconsin educator, Pernille Ripp, who envisioned a read aloud that would connect kids and books beyond the classroom. The program has grown exponentially, from 150 in 2010 to over 300,000 student participants from over 60 countries in 2014.  The GRA 2015 has kicked off with four middle grade titles for discussion this year, and an author study for the picture book crowd.

GRA in Action at Orchard

At Orchard School, the library media specialist, Donna Sullivan-Macdonald also wears the tech integrationist hat, and the school library program is an active hub of learning and literacy that connects the school to the world beyond. The Global Read Aloud Project is high on Donna’s list of real world connections.  She has participated in the GRA since 2011 with one class of fifth graders, and this year the project includes all twenty classes, kindergarten through fifth grade. Each class is paired with a class in another state, and the students have had fun getting to know one another through Mystery Skypes, Google Hangouts, sharing Padlets, writing and responding to blog posts, tweeting, taking surveys, and exchanging emails. To get a flavor of how the connections work, Donna tells about using the 2015 GRA with some of her students:

“For the Amy Krause Rosenthal picture book author study, kindergarten and first graders heard the first book in the project, Chopsticks, and then learned to use the tool. We’re now creating a shared book of pictures of students eating with chopsticks with some new friends in the state of Georgia.”

When I visited last week, Donna read another book by Rosenthal, It’s Not Fair, to a class of second graders, and explored concepts about fairness and taking turns by arranging for two activities for the class.  The object was to make sure that all had equal time for the activities. Fifteen minutes before the end of the class time, the students got together via Hangout with their buddy class in Indiana to discuss the book and ideas about fairness.  It was amazing to see the Orchard students actually having an interactive discussion with kids miles and miles away.

DSCN0732

Local Connections

Connecting reading to the world is not limited to just the Global Read Aloud at Orchard School.  Another ongoing project is a Food Drive that has been inspired by Katherine Applegate’s newest book, Crenshaw. The author of The One and Only Ivan has provided much food for thought for her reading fans. The topic of homelessness is sensitively addressed, and readers can make connections with real world problems and can learn to make a difference.  The publisher has launched a program #crenshawfooddrive that invites independent bookstores to raise awareness about childhood hunger based on ideas from Applegate’s book.  Crenshaw is imaginary. Childhood hunger isn’t. Help us feed families in need. http://www.mackidsbooks.com/crenshaw/fooddrive.html

In August, Donna contacted Phoenix Books in Burlington and suggested that they could work as partners to contribute to the food drive for the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.

Donna explains how Crenshaw sparked a study of childhood hunger at Orchard School:

“The fifth grade teachers read Crenshaw as their first read aloud this school year. In the library, we researched childhood hunger and presented this information on posters, created in both in the makerspace and on the computer. Students also created a slide show on childhood hunger and ran a whole school morning meeting introducing the food drive to the school. There were speakers from both Phoenix Books and the Chittenden Food Shelf. No teachers spoke. It was student driven. Heading into the final week, we’re at 819 items donated!

Back to Crenshaw, many 2nd through 4th grade teachers have since read the book to their classes. I have used Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s message about random acts of kindness in my discussions with K-3 students who are reading her books.

On Friday, after reporting final totals to the school at morning meeting, one fifth grade class will load all of our donations on a bus and we’ll head to the food shelf for a tour and a weighing of all the donated food.

It’s heartwarming to witness the kindness and empathy shown by  young children through participation in this project.

Although not formally a part of GRA, the food drive has fit in nicely.”DSCN0699

For Donna, and the many other talented teacher librarians and educators in our schools, celebrating literacy is an everyday joy that is embedded within the fabric of a culture of collaboration that makes a school a vibrant and caring place for our students and our colleagues.

Thank you Donna for sharing your enthusiasm and energy, and thank you to your students who are making a difference locally and globally!

Resources:

Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw. New York: Harpercollins, 2015.

Kaplan, Judith. “Donna Sullivan-Macdonald.“ Personal Interview and email correspondence. 20 Oct. 2015.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/dsmacdonald

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-macdonald/35/723/416

Orchard School Library Media Center, 2 Baldwin Ave. So. Burlington, VT 05403 Web. Oct. 25, 2015.<http://library.sbsd.orchard.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?gid=771938>.

Ripp, Pernille. “Home.” GlobalReadAloud. Wikispaces, 2015. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. <http://globalreadaloud.wikispaces.com/>.

 Images:  Judy Kaplan Collection