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

 

STEM: Opportunities and Challenges

robotsA foot in the door, a seat at the table-either way you describe it, school librarians have to be proactive in cultivating instructional collaboration within STEM classrooms in their schools. This month, BACC bloggers and guest (Sue Kowalski) have highlighted successful ways to meld the mission of the school library program with a new emphasis on science through inquiry based, experiential learning and innovative thinking.  “Think-Create-Share-Growth” morphs into “Think, explore, design, build, create.”  As Karla Collins said, current buzzwords sometimes seem like new packaging for what we have always known to be good teaching that is best for students.   The STEM, STEAM, STREAM movement in education is the perfect entry point for partnering with our professional science teachers, and sharing their enthusiasm and curiosity about the wonder and mystery of the physical and natural world we live in.  Our learners are and will be the problem solvers of today and tomorrow. As educators in the science classroom and in the library, we can work together to provide opportunities, challenges, and resources to set them on that path to the future.

In The Collection Development Program in Schools, Marcia Mardis examines the commonalities between the mutually reinforcing roles of STEM teachers and school librarians, based on National Science Teaching Standards (2006) and Empowering Learners (2009).  The potential for cooperation and collaboration is not always appreciated or understood for several reasons, and we have to recognize the barriers that prevent successful science teacher-school librarian collaborations.  Mardis elaborates on previous research that identifies those barriers, and some issues may seem familiar as we address our own school learning spaces and our own comfort zone with science topics.   Barriers include the perception by science teachers that the library resources for science topics are old and limited, and that librarians do not seem fluent in science and mathematics topics.  School librarians point to a lack of access to STEM professional development opportunities with science educators, or to be welcomed as members of curriculum committees, or to be unable to collaborate beyond the library due to staffing restraints and schedules.  Another barrier is that resources for STEM education in professional reading for school librarians are limited. (227)

Overcoming STEM Collaboration Barriers:

Begin with a self assessment-

Comfort with science topics:

  • Am I curious about the physical and natural world, and engineering and mathematics,  or do I feel unprepared as a STEM expert?
  • Have I explored the science standards that drive the science curriculum in my school?  NGSS or other state standards?
  • How do I collaborate with science or math teachers in my school or district? What has been successful? What are the challenges or obstacles to collaboration?
  • Can I have knowledgeable conversations with science teachers about implementing the standards in their classrooms?
  • Have I taken any professional development science related courses, workshops, or attended conferences for or with science teachers?
  • How can I make improvement to my practice to include STEM learning?

Collection Development and Curation of Resources-Physical and Virtual:

  • Is the school library collection current and representative of the science curriculum?
  • Are the resources varied in reading levels and available in a multiple formats to meet the needs of diverse learners?
  • Are there databases or electronic resources that provide 24/7 access to information anywhere, anytime?
  • Is there a procedure for accessing information from other libraries or experts in the field?
  • Do learners have opportunities to ask for assistance with inquiry projects?

Library Learning Space:

  • Is the library learning space arranged to accommodate varied group and individual inquiry or innovative projects for STEM?
  • Is there an area designated for innovation and experimentation?
  • Are there materials, technology tools, and applications that allow for experimentation, innovative thinking, and creation?
  • How does the library media professional or staff provide guidance for learners within STEM curricular units or interests?

More Successful Examples of STEM Collaboration-from New England and beyond:

A foot in the door, a seat at the STEM table:

  • Science professional learning teams in Vermont include school librarians at the leadership level. In 2013 the Vermont State Board of Education adopted the Next Generation Science Standards to guide science instruction in the state.  Science Assessment Coordinators for K-5 and 6-12 at the Vermont Agency of Education developed a multiyear plan to gradually incorporate the standards into curriculum and instruction.  Professional learning teams were recruited to plan for and facilitate professional development for science teaching and learning in the state. Members of the two teams represent classroom teachers, principals, science coaches, technology integrationists, university professors, curriculum directors, and school librarians.  During the past two years the teams have been meeting and unpacking the new standards, and learning about instructional strategies that enable inquiry based, active learning, that taps into scientific phenomena and innovative problem solving.  Members have brought new knowledge and ideas back to the local districts to encourage and support teachers in the field.  Denise Wentz, school librarian at Allen Brook School in Williston, Vermont, a member of the K-5 team, shared the progress of the group with members of the Vermont School Library Association in November, 2015.  Here is an  overview that she provided as an update so that school librarians can be participants in their own schools.         Librarians Role in the NGSS: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1qnLp7NL-Y2OnfiN8sgReTlBzy7fneBz_L_kddb4oi0Q/edit?usp=sharing

STEM Resources:

  • Meanwhile, Vermont school librarians, Linda McSweeney and Meg Allison curated a list of resources that supported the NGSS, and presented those resources at the Vermont Science Teachers Annual Conference, and also at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference in 2013.  Here is the website that they developed, and it remains very comprehensive. https://sites.google.com/site/vslascienceresources/

Other STEM Excitement:

 

Works Cited:

Mardis, Marcia. The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts and Practices, 6th edition. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited, 2016.

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

Online School Librarian Education: Increasing Interactivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

ApprenNet logo used with permission

Models for PL and CBE in Practice

Reaching for SuccessA View from Northern New England

Right now, I am posting from Old England (London) where I am visiting family and trying to find spring flowers and green grass. I have deserted New England, which is still waiting for snow to melt and to turn the mud into something that indicates that spring has arrived-and not just on the calendar.

Last week I explored the changes that are on the horizon in school systems across the nation, and this week I will share some of what’s happening in Northern New England with a different take on collaboration.

New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont are in various stages of implementing competency based education policies that have been adopted recently. New Hampshire (2005) has led the way, Maine (2012) is close behind, and Vermont (2013) is catching up. What these states have in common, besides snow and ornery natures, is a reverence for self-determination.

Competency based education has been defined at the state level (a bit differently within each state), but the framework for implementation is being developed at the district and school level. Instead of top down, it is happening bottom up. The state education agencies are providing resources to help districts develop implementation plans. The three states are collaborating to explore best practices and to provide professional development so that educators can learn from one another. The progress is faster in some places than others, but there are shining examples for possibilities to improve educational experiences for now and next gen students. The League of Innovative Schools is one of the opportunities for professional development across the region.

Find out more here: “Innovative Schools turning Around Lives in New England,” http://www.centralmaine.com/2013/05/20/innovative-schools-turning-lives-around_2013-05-21/

If you are interested, here are a few snapshots of what’s happening around the northern NE states

New Hampshire: PACE-Performance Assessment of Competency Education

Maine: Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan to Put Education First

Vermont: Act 77: Flexible Pathways

One School’s Journey

Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School (Mt. Abe) in Bristol, Vermont has been headed down the personalization path for the past ten years.  In order to keep high school students in school and to make learning relevant for those who were at risk of dropping out, educators developed a program, “Personal Pathways to Graduation.”  It has been one of the choices that high school students can make as an alternative to the traditional course based track for graduation. Other high schools have developed similar models to meet the varied goals and needs of diverse students.

In the personalized learning program, students set goals and makes plans that are meaningful for their future. They take selected regular academic classes combined with apprenticeship opportunities. Some may take online courses or enroll in college classes, and go to other schools for classes.  There are about 23 full time students in the program and up to 50-70 others, who cycle in and out part time.  Two full time coaches lead participants and keep them on track in school, and also in outside school learning experiences.

Now, with the Act 77 timeline, all 7-12 schools in Vermont should have a system in place by 2017 that reflects the Flexible Pathways Initiative. The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (home of Mt. Abe) is in the process of formulating plans, and providing professional development for educators that is modeled on the personal pathways program success.

Mt. Abe has an innovation team that has been offering professional development and training in personalized learning pedagogies for district educators,  and has been helping set up record keeping systems and portfolios for students and teachers to coordinate progress. Students move toward mastery of knowledge and skills within areas of competency, rather than to take a course and get a grade.   The personal pathways program is now a model for changing the traditional path to graduation that incorporates personalized learning opportunities for all students. It is a paradigm shift that will not happen overnight, so there is ongoing support for teachers to adopt and adapt.

Lauren Parren, the Innovation Coach for the school district, heads up the Instructional Coaching Services Team. The team includes other content specialists and consultants, and is located in a flexible learning space within the school learning commons area. The team works one on one or with small groups of teachers and students, or can embed in the classroom to encourage and model best practices in personalized learning. They have a very busy schedule.

Laura Mina, the high school library media specialist, is one of the team consultants. Her role is central to the work of the team, as the expert on information services.  She has been renovating the library learning space for the past few years, and has a powerful virtual library that uses LibGuides as an organizational tool.  https://sites.google.com/a/mtabevt.org/library/

Laura has compiled various resources and pathfinders for both teachers and students who are involved in creating personalized learning plans or developing curriculum. She is available for just in time teaching and learning, or for more formal classes, workshops, or other training opportunities.

If you would like to learn more about the progress for personal pathways at Mt. Abe, follow Lauren’s blog or join her, Barbara Bray, John Parker, Jon Tanner, Kathleen McClaskey, and Pat Lusher who will be speaking at the ISTE Conference on June 29 and July, 2015.

Off to do some sightseeing-Cheerio!

Image: Microsoft Clipart

 

On the Horizon

ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU

This month, Judi and Lucy have highlighted some ways that school libraries and teacher librarians have continued to provide resources and instruction that support the variability of all learners in a diverse school community. At the heart of our mission is the concept of equitable access to information and the freedom to read a range of literature in many formats. Another part of the vision for library service is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for active learning for contemporary learners to “Think-Create-Share and Grow.”

On a personal level, teacher librarians get to know learners’ individual reading tastes, interests, strengths, and challenges in a setting other than the classroom. Often, we have a longer view of student growth over time because the school library space is a constant from year to year. We develop relationships with students that extend through their time in elementary, middle, or high school as we see their talents and personalities evolve. I always found that to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.

As Lucy has said, “to remain effective and relevant, we must constantly update our skills and keep up with the movements and trends affecting our practice.” Now there is a new/old opportunity on the horizon for teacher librarians in the emerging field of personalized learning, and we should be ready to collaborate with our teaching colleagues in a shift from teacher centered learning to student centered learning that has the potential to change teaching practice now and in the future.

Emerging technologies and new pedagogies focused on learners and learning have already brought about tremendous change in the traditional classroom, and there is more to come.

What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is a term that is used to describe many approaches to customizing instruction in the field of education. The term is used in multiple ways to describe an approach to learning that gives students voice and choice in their own learning. When learning is personalized, teachers help students set goals based on their interests, knowledge, and skills. As “guides on the side,” teachers help them to develop learning plans to achieve the goals, and monitor progress. The objective is for students to master competencies and demonstrate evidence of learning through performance. Self-assessment and reflection are integral to student success in mastering learning. Gradually, students will be able to take responsibility for their own learning and chart their own pathways for the future.

Personalization of learning, personal learning plans, and performance portfolios will impact the way that students will be using classroom and library learning spaces, and how teachers and teacher librarians interact with students. Students will be trained to set personal goals, and to develop a system for designing what, why, and how they learn.  Teachers will become coaches, and provide instruction as needed, and how this will impact the traditional way that schools and curricula are designed is in transition.

Why should teacher librarians be at the PL table?

When you look at Standards for 21st Century Learners (AASL 2007), the dispositions and competencies in the document align with concepts for personalized learning. These are the standards that teacher librarians use to guide their daily practice in designing learning for students. Along with Common Core State Standards, or other state standards as frameworks to guide curriculum, teacher librarians collaborate with colleagues to create meaningful and engaging performance tasks that provide authentic learning opportunities. Teacher librarians are already in the business of partnering with students in their inquiry, problem, project, and place-based learning assignments, so personalized learning is an extension of their professional practice.

Across the nation, there are 41 states and the District of Columbia that are in various stages of exploring, developing, or implementing competency based education policies that are driven by personalized learning for students. The state legislation or education rules already in effect or being proposed provide “flexible pathways” for determining graduation requirements from high school. Instead of using the Carnegie Unit (time), there can be alternative ways to evaluate performance through mastery of competencies, and local school districts are charged with developing systems for tracking individual performance, and mastery. This is a major paradigm shift in educational delivery models, as well as a change in school culture. There is lot to talk about, and teacher librarians should be part of the conversation, too.

How can I learn more about personalized learning?

There are journals, websites, and professional texts that are excellent resources for gaining understanding about the concepts and challenges for shifting the way we approach teaching and learning for our increasingly diverse learners in an age of information and ubiquitous technology.

Here some recommendations that you can share with your colleagues to get the discussion rolling:

  •  Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Make Learning Personal. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2015. Website: http://www.personalizelearning.com/
  • John H. Clarke. Personalized Learning: Student-Designed Pathways to High School Graduation. Thousand Oaks, CA: 2013.
  •  Allison Zmuda, Greg Curtis, and Diane Ullman. Learning Personalized-The Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2015.
  • Competency Works website:
  1.  State Policy Resources http://competencyworks.pbworks.com/w/page/67261821/State%20Policy%20Resources
  2. A Snapshot of Competency Education Policy Across the United States http://www.competencyworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/inacol_competency_snapshot_oct_2013.pdf

It’s time to get personal!

 Next week-A look at models for PL in practice.

Image:

http://www.birdclipart.com/bird_clipart_images/ocean_sunset_with_sailboat_and_seagulls_as_the_sun_sinks_beneath_the_horizon_0515-0909-2920-5913_SMU.jpg

 

Looking Forward

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

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

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

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

Options for innovative planning in the classroom and the future:

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

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


References:

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

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

Happy holidays from your friends here at the BACC Blog!

family ties

Today’s Can Do Attitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wildlife quiltFamily Ties at Founders School

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

Images: Collection of Judith Kaplan

 

Innovation-Disruptive or Sustainable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References:

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

Image: Classroom Clipart.com

Online Professional Development: A Key to Adult Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright-free Image from Morguefile.com