Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the seventh in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

On June 12, 2017, I attended an ASCD Webinar presented by authors Eric C. Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray. (If you missed it, I highly recommend the webinar archive.) Their presentation was centered on their hot-off-the-presses book Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. After the webinar, I preordered a copy of their book and read it as I was completing my own manuscript.

This book focuses on creating a culture of innovation and leading change. In reviewing their table of contents, I found so many parallels between their book and mine that I was, at first, reluctant to read it… until after I had submitted my manuscript. However, my curiosity won out. And I am glad it did. Reading their work at the 11th hour in my process gave me an opportunity to further develop my thinking, reflect, and include some quotes from their book in mine.

In Learning Transformed, Sheninger and Murray identify “eight keys for intentional design.” They are:
1. Leadership and school culture lay the foundation.
2. The learning experience must be redesigned and made personal.
3. Decisions must be grounded in evidence and driven by Return on Instruction.
4. Learning spaces must become learner-centered.
5. Professional learning must be relevant, engaging, ongoing, and made personal.
6. Technology must be leveraged and used as an accelerant for student learning.
7. Community collaboration and engagement must be woven into the fabric of a school’s culture.
8. Schools that transform learning are built to last as financial, political, and pedagogical sustainability ensure long-term success (24-27).

I could not agree more about the importance of leadership and culture in creating the context for educational transformation. I believe future-ready librarians are positioned to be leaders and culture-builders in their schools.

For those of us in the school library profession, “inquiry” is the process that we promote for redesigning learner-centered/personalized learning. Sheninger and Murray offer thoughtful strategies for leaders to make student agency a reality in their schools. Among them are standards-aligned learning activities and assessments, student mastery of selecting the right tool for the task, portfolios as authentic assessments, student involvement in rule making, and participation in feedback loops—choice and voice (76-77).

Decision-making based on evidence also resonates with school librarians who develop library programs using evidence-based practice. One term that Sheninger and Murray use with which I was previously unfamiliar was Return on Instruction (ROI). They used this term in relationship to the funds and time spent on the latest technology tools and devices and ROI, evidence of improved student learning outcomes.

I found the parallel between ROI and Return on Investment an important one. School librarians who serve as technology stewards evaluate and field-test digital resources and tools based on sound pedagogical practices and learning goals can be leaders in their schools in ensuring a positive ROI. School librarians also provide formal professional development and job-embedded personalized learning for colleagues through coplanning and coteaching.

School librarians who have developed a learning commons model in their school libraries may be particularly interested in the chapter entitled “Designing Learner-Centered Spaces.” I suspect they will echo the authors’ contention that flexible spaces that “provide areas for movement, and promote collaboration and inquiry” (25) are needed if students are to explore creativity and reach for innovation.

As a reader, I found the format friendly, quotes thoughtful, and examples from the field compelling. I suspect many readers will compare their teaching and learning environments to those described in the book. It would be important to find as many similar assets with these sites and explore how your own school could further expand its areas of strength.

As an author, I was impressed by the endorsements Sheninger and Murray received for this book. Sir Ken Robinson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Daniel H. Pink, Robert Marzano, Michael Fullan, and many more education thought leaders have high praise for Learning Transformed.

If you are in a formal or informal leadership position in your school or district (e.g. future-ready librarians and school library supervisors), then you will want to read this book and discuss it with the decision-makers in your school and district.

Work Cited
Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2017.

May Musings About Telling Our Stories

little chromebooks that can be moved around and 2 rocking chairsAs I look at topics that the BACC co-bloggers have addressed in the past few months, I see an overarching theme that has emerged, and it is a theme that reveals the morphing nature of our profession.  All libraries-academic, public, private, and school are transforming and adapting services and resources for information and digital age learners in today’s world.  Successful libraries are led by dynamic, creative professional librarians who have a vision for the future, and are willing to advocate for the value of libraries in their individual communities or institutions.

In a democratic society, libraries provide intellectual and social clearinghouses for citizens to learn and grow. Librarians continue to curate collections and to respond to a user’s individual and unique information and literacy needs.  Since Benjamin Franklin envisioned the public library in Philadelphia, equitable access to information has remained the mission of libraries as educational institutions for all citizens.   That mission is even more important in contemporary society, with the digital divide that continues to separate the haves and have-nots.

Those of us who have discovered librarianship know this is an exciting and dynamic profession for the future, and we want to share the good news and attract like minded folks to join our ranks.  How do we dispel old fashioned notions about libraries and the role of the librarian? How do we get the word out?  Who are the movers and shakers we need to target to promote library programs and to expand the profession?

For libraries to continue to be relevant and accessible for learners, we have to tell our users’  stories and our stories, too.  We have to show how transformed library learning spaces are impacting our communities.  We have to counter old fashioned ideas about libraries of the past with fresh visions of the present and future.  We also have to answer the question, “Why do we need libraries, since we have the internet, and everyone has a smartphone?”  That question will not go away…

Earlier in the month, Judi Moreillon highlighted examples for spreading the word to pre-service administrators and pre-service teachers in graduate programs who are pursuing educational careers in schools. Fortunately, the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians provide many resources to help tell our story.  The AASL Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Teachers (2016) that Judi shared in her post, “can help to educate future principals and teachers about the significant role that quality library programs can play in student learning. The resources can also be shared with practicing principals and teachers, who would benefit from learning more about the impact that a quality school library program can have on their schools.” (2)

Of the varied and comprehensive resources in the toolkit, I would like to focus on two excellent advocacy tools for practicing school librarians to share with administrators and classroom colleagues. Now that “new rules” have been established in the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2015 (ESSA-Every Student Succeeds Act), school librarians have to maximize opportunities to share the impact of school library programs on transformational learning for digital age students, so let’s be active participants in future educational directions.

Ideas from the toolkit:

Why do we still need libraries?

As you walk the walk and talk the talk, share this article by Ann Martin and Kathleen Roberts. Start a conversation about digital learning….

Martin, Ann M. and Kathleen R. Roberts. January/February 2015. “Digital Native ≠ Digital Literacy.” Principal Magazine, 94 (3): 18-21. http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/MartinRoberts_JF15.pdf  (accessed May 25, 2016)

This article in the magazine of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) explains that although today’s K -12 students typically show confidence and familiarity with digital tools, there still exists the need for professional instructional guidance from school librarians in evaluating information, navigating online spaces with safety and civility, and learning productive use of online tools and spaces.

Capstone Projects and Student Learning

Many schools have implemented capstone projects to demonstrate proficiency based learning.  Do you have capstone projects in our school?  What is the role of the school librarian in providing guidance and support for passion projects and community based learning projects?   What individual interests are supported in relevant library resources? How are school librarians actively involved as facilitators for student inquiry and proficiency?  Use this informative report to spark ideas with principals and co-teaching colleagues.

“AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report, May 2014.” http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf  (accessed May 25, 2016)

This preliminary report on the implementation of student-centered Senior/Capstone Projects explores the many ways in which school librarians can be involved in such projects. In addition, it offers links to multiple resources in the United States, including exemplars of school librarian leadership and classroom teacher collaboration. View the related Position Statement on the Role of the School Librarian in Senior/Capstone Projects.

Planning Ahead:

As you look forward to summer months and plans for a new school year in the fall, take time to reflect on ways to continue to tell your school library stories through the lens of the learner, and the lens of all the wonderful folks who work for successful learning in a school community. Be part of the story!

 

Works Cited:

AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report.  ALA.org. May 2014. Web. 25 May 2106. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf>.

Educators of School Librarians Section. “Preservice Toolkit for Principals and Teachers.” ALA.org. Mar. 2016. Web. 25 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/toolkits/PreserviceEducators_Toolkit_FINAL_2016-03-17.pdf>.

Martin, Ann M. and Kathleen R. Roberts. January/February 2015. “Digital Native ≠ Digital Literacy.” Principal Magazine, 94 (3): 18-21. Web. 25 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/MartinRoberts_JF15.pdf>.

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

 

School Library Research and Conference Events

This month the BACC cobloggers will share information related to the Treasure Mountain Research Retreat #22: “Start a Revolution in the Learning Commons” and the American Association of School Librarians’ National Conference and Exhibition: “Experience, Education, Evolution.” Both events will be held this week in Columbus, Ohio.

treasure_mountainThe Treasure Mountain (TM) Research Retreat is a gathering of school library researchers and practitioners. The first TM was held in 1989 In Park City, UT at the base of Treasure Mountain in conjunction with the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City (hence the photograph). The group has met since then, usually in conjunction with AASL national conferences. This week’s meeting is the 22nd TM and is being organized by Drs. David Loertscher and Blanche Woolls. You can read more about the meeting from the TM history tab.

Researchers submit papers to be included in the retreat proceedings, serve on panels and discuss their work in table groups. This year, I am presenting a paper called “The Learning Commons: A Strategic Opportunity for School Librarians.” In the paper, I discuss literature and research related to three trends in school librarianship: the learning commons (LM) model, evidence-based practice (EBP), and coteaching. To support this work, I have created an infographic to show how these three can lead to school librarian leadership.

The TM experience often involves collecting data and conducting real-time research. Drs. David Loertscher, Ross Todd, and Joyce Valenza are asking practicing school librarians who have established a LC model in the school library to respond to a brief questionnaire.

The 22nd TM will be the last one that Dr. Loertscher will sponsor. I suspect this important activity for school librarian researchers, educators, and practitioners will continue in another form in the future.

On Thursday, I will share a bit about the preconference workshop I am facilitating at the AASL conference.

BACC readers can learn more about the Learning Commons model by following #LearningCommons on Twitter and the AASL Conference at #aasl15.

Treasure Mountain Logo used with permission

Co-Assessing Collaborative Work

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Successful instructional partnerships are bread and butter roles for the teacher librarian in educational communities. Classroom teachers and other specialists who partner with TL’s find that everyone works better, and works smarter. This month BACC bloggers have been providing ideas that support collaborative practices for co-teaching and learning.  True collaborative relationships are developed with time and experience, and involve teaching partners who co-plan instruction, co-teach, and co-assess students together in an active learning model. Judi, Lucy, and Karla have highlighted key pieces for each component in collaborative partnerships that contribute to a win/win for both educators and students.

In order to work closely with another educator, teacher librarians have to build confidence and trust with a partner. As Judi said, co-planning involves knowledge and skills in pedagogy and content standards by both partners. Combining expertise and taking responsibility for sharing tasks for delivering instruction and assessment means that you have to be able to talk the talk and walk the walk.  If the process is to be a partnership, not a dual track distribution of who does what,  partners need to build opportunities for self reflection and communication into the collaborative model of teaching.  Critical thinking and creativity abound when teaching partners share ideas and insights from different perspectives.

Reflection and Communication While the Co-teaching Plan is in Progress:

Time is at a premium for co-planning and co-assessing, and often these tasks are done on the fly outside the class time through shared documents and folders, IM, Skype, email, or a learning management system interface such as Edmodo or Moodle. Face to face synchronous sessions should be a priority, too, and built into the schedule for both partners.  During the implementation phase of the co-teaching plan, partners set up a framework to check in and assess the daily/weekly progress or challenges of the students, and the learning plan.  The framework can include a process for students to keep track of their work in blogs, in online discussions, Google documents, forms, and so on. Open accessibility to student work allows communication between teacher and students in a continuous feedback loop, or to ask/answer student questions.  Responsibility for responding and tracking students can be divided between the partners, but there also needs to be a process for continuous conversations about  adjustments to lesson plans and learning activities based on the variability of students on the road to achieving learning outcomes. Sometimes the road that has been laid out needs to take some unexpected turns. That is what makes the co-teaching so organic and interesting. No need to wait until the planned activities are completed before co-teachers review the plan.

If our expectation is for students to be metacognitive and reflective in their learning, educators should be mindful of that in their collaborative teaching, also.

During the year, I have been following Buffy Hamilton’s excellent blog posts (Unquiet Librarian, 2015) that demonstrate reflection about co-teaching that highlight the dynamics of her work with colleagues in a high school.  I have mentioned her blog before, but it continues to be a source of inspiration.  Take a minute to read this post that shows that partnerships can include teachers and students, too. It is clear that the communication between the partners is continuous and thoughtful, and leads to changing ideas. You will want to retrace many of her other posts, too.

Post Instruction Review and Reflection:

Once the co-teaching plan has been completed, it is equally important for partners to take time to reflect together on the process and the success/and or challenges that were encountered along the way.  Once again, time is always an issue, so partners need to make sure to have some face to face conversations and analysis about the evidence that has been collected to show that students were able (or not) to transfer their understanding and demonstrate knowledge and skills.  This is an important piece of evidence based practice for both teaching partners.  The collaborative work should be documented and shared with administrators and other stakeholders, and will lay the groundwork for repeating the curriculum unit another time, or to begin to build another collaborative experience.

Key ideas to assess with a critical stance:

  • Process/Learning Plan-what was successful? What didn’t work? What misconceptions became evident? What adjustments should be included?
  • Product-Was the performance task authentic and did it demonstrate student learning? Are there changes that need to be made?
  • Student reflection and feedback-How did the students respond to the process and the learning?  What are their suggestions for improving the learning plan?
  • Communication-How effective was the communication between partners?
  • Individual reflection-Impact on my own teaching and learning

Once you find your teaching partners, they will want to join the party, too.  Tell us about your adventures in co-teaching-it’s all the rage!

Works Cited:

Hamilton, Buffy. “Bridge to Presearch and Growing Student Understandings: Connect, Extend, Challenge.” Unquiet Librarian. Weblog. March 4, 2015. Accessed June 24, 2015. https://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/bridge-to-presearch-and-growing-student-understandings-connect-extend-challenge/

Photo:

Judy Kaplan Collection

 

 

Capture the Joy of Learning

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Advocacy should be a cause for celebration-viewed, not as a chore, but as a daily attitude described by Lucy Santos Green earlier this month. Advocacy is the narrative of the wonders of learning that happen every day in the school library learning space. The quiet moments of getting lost in a book, the boisterous interaction over a shared game or makerspace creation, the intentional researcher discovering a treasure trove of information, or the hum of conversation about ideas and opinions. This is the day to day evidence of the purpose for “the third place,” the library space where the all learners-students and adults- are welcome to access a variety of resources for pleasure and knowledge in a safe supportive environment. (Johnson, 2011)

Inquiry is encouraged and no question is “dumb.” It’s a space for collaborating, doing,  and connecting physically and virtually. It’s local and global.  It belongs to its users. They can tell the story in so many effective ways.  Teacher librarians are master facilitators, spinning the plates.  We  have to nurture our storytellers, and give them opportunities to shine a light on their learning through blogs, websites, videos, newsletters, interviews, podcasts, spotlights on projects and process, awesome reading and writing.  They can deliver an authentic message that has power beyond our words. We just have to provide the venues.

Here’s an example from a young student in Harpswell, Maine:

Once we begin to think of advocacy as a total immersion activity, and not a once a year special event, we can begin to focus on the sustained impact of school libraries and programs in an educational community. If we think about advocacy as collecting the stories, (and not so much about “data/evidence,” even though that is the essence of it), we flip the narrative. Sharing the stories through a social media platform, such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or a blog, can be a snapshot into the school library world. Keep a camera handy, and set aside a few minutes to upload and highlight the joys of learning that happen from week to week. Involve the students and teachers, and give them a chance to tell the stories.

Heidi Huestis, teacher librarian at Charlotte Central School in Charlotte, Vermont has a lively blog that is aimed at the home and  school connection, and she encourages students and families to talk about what goes on in the school library in a weekly blog post. Take a look at some of her recent “stories” for inspiration. BooksLiveOn: https://booksliveon.wordpress.com/

How do you tell your stories?

References:

Huestis, H. (2015). BooksLiveOn. Weblog. < https://booksliveon.wordpress.com/>

Johnson, D. (2011). School libraries as a third place.  Doug Johnson: Writing Speaking and Consulting on School Library and Technology Issues. Web. <http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/school-libraries-as-a-third-place.html>

Koch, L. (2014) Bury Me in the Learning Commons. Video. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFtpYH0KIQY>

 Image:

Judy Kaplan Collection

 

Leadership in Technology Integration

As many know, Wednesday, February 6, 2013 is the second annual Digital Learning Day. Educators from around the country will be sharing and celebrating effective strategies for integrating technology tools into 21st-century learning and teaching.

In light of this national conversation, I would like to recommend a research article by our co-blogger Melissa P. Johnston: “School Librarians as Technology Integration Leaders: Enablers and Barriers to Leadership Enactment.”

In the conclusion of her study report, Dr. Johnston summarizes the enablers and the barriers to technology integration identified by the participants in her study who were teacher leaders and school librarians:

Enablers for all participants:

  • supportive principal,
  • opportunities for a leadership role and responsibilities,
  • the desire to make a difference for students and teachers,
  • professional development opportunities,
  • and a sense of obligation to get involved.

Barriers:

  • time,
  • exclusion from a leadership role and responsibilities,
  • lack of funding,
  • and inadequate staffing.

Enablers unique to school librarians included:

  • support from professional organizations,
  • support from district library administrators,
  • serving in a dual role as school librarian and technology specialist,
  • and technology expertise.

Barriers identified by school librarians included:

  • competitive relationships with instructional technologists,
  • lack of support at the district level from a library administrator,
  • and lack of technology expertise (Johnston, 2012, p. 27).

In light of this research, educators can use Digital Learning Day to rededicate ourselves to working collaboratively with each other and with professional organizations to create dynamic learning opportunities for students that effectively integrate 21st-century tools. Let’s break down the barriers and shore up the enablers for the benefit of learners!

References

Johnston, M. P. (2012). School librarians as technology integration leaders: Enablers and barriers to leadership enactment. School Library Research, 15(1). Retrieved from www.ala.org/aasl/slr.

Word Cloud created at Tagxedo.com

Evidence-based Instructional Partnerships

As a card-carrying instructional partner, I am always on the trail of research to support my experience. I have served as an elementary, junior high, and high school librarian. I have been a 5th-grade classroom teacher, a literacy coach, and district-level mentor for school librarian colleagues. My experience has shown me that instructional partnerships have great potential to improve students’ learning and educators’ teaching. I know I am a much better teacher as a result of learning side by side with my peers.

Still, in this age of accountability when “anecdotal” evidence is too often dismissed, it is important for educators to read research and learn from studies in the fields of education, library science, and technology to deepen their understanding of the potential, process, and impact of instructional partnerships. Ross Todd describes this cycle of research and practice, practice and research in this way

“Research informing practice and practice informing research is a fundamental cycle in any sustainable profession” (Todd, 2007, p. 64).

In that pursuit, I have been reading publications related to Phase Two of the New Jersey Study conducted by Ross Todd, Carol Gordon, and La-Ling Lu. According to the results, in collaborative culture schools the instructional partner role of the school librarian is highly respected and prized by administrators and fellow educators because of the school librarian’s positive impact on student learning outcomes and “cost-effective, hands-on professional development [for educators] through the cooperative design of learning experiences that integrate information and technology” (Todd, Gordon, & Lu, 2012, p. 26).

When educators coteach and coassess student learning outcomes, we learn from our peers through job-embedded professional development practiced in our daily teaching practice. On a wiki page for a TWU SLIS course Librarians as Instructional Partners, I have posted a series of videotaped testimonials from K-12 classroom teachers and an elementary principal regarding the positive impact of instructional partnerships between school librarians and classroom teachers. You will need a TeacherTube account in order to access them: http://ls5443.wikispaces.com/Collab_Testimonials

What are your experiences with instructional partnerships? How does your experience align with the results of the Phase 2 of the New Jersey Study? Are there colleagues and administrators in your building who could provide powerful testimonials regarding instructional partnerships?

References

Todd, R. (2007). Evidence-based practice in school libraries: From advocacy to action. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. H. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (57-78). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Todd, R. J., Gordon, C. A., & Lu, Y. (2011). One common goal: Student learning. Report of findings and recommendations of the New Jersey library survey, phase 2. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries. Retrieved from http://cissl.rutgers.edu/images/stories/docs/njasl_phase%20_2_final.pdf