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

Classroom-Library Collaboration for STEM Learning

bulls_eyeOne way that school librarians are responding to STEM/STEAM/STREAM is to house makerspaces in the physical space of the library. Involving students in hands-on opportunities to practice the creativity and critical thinking that can lead to innovation is a timely goal. In fact, and however, school librarians who have been effectively integrating technology tools into teaching and learning have been providing students many of these opportunities for decades.

The difference with today’s makerspace movement seems to be the emphasis on the types of tools students use in their making plus a greater emphasis on experimentation/trial and error rather than on creating final products to demonstrate learning. Some makerspaces operate in isolation from the classroom curriculum and could be described as “free play” centers that are neither constrained nor bounded by curriculum. These spaces may be facilitated by the school librarian working in isolation. Other makerspaces are integrated into the published curriculum and may be facilitated by a team of educators that includes the school librarian.

In Texas, Robin Stout, district-level Media Services and Emerging Technologies Supervisor (@BeanStout), Jody Rentfro, Emerging Technologies Specialist (@J_O_D_Y_R)  and Leah Mann, Library Media Services Instructional Specialist (@LMannTxLib), are spear-heading an initiative in Lewisville Independent School District (#LISDlib). LISD school librarians are piloting a Mobile Transformation Lab that moves beyond traditional “making” to address STEM/STEAM through collaborative lessons based on content area standards and district curriculum.

The team partners with campus librarians, classroom teachers and members of the curriculum department in collaborative planning meetings. The group examines the essential questions for the curriculum topic and decides which technologies from the Mobile Transformation Lab will best support the learning. Jody and Leah bring the agreed-upon resources to campus and co-teach lessons with campus staff for an entire day. They also participate in planning extension or follow-up lessons with the campus group.

You can see this process in action here:
http://goo.gl/znnvyn
http://goo.gl/wtjf8L

The Library Media Services and Emerging Technologies department offers an ever-growing repository of lessons from this project and tools to support librarians as they implement STEAMlabs with their students: http://hs.moodle.lisd.net/course/view.php?id=1010

This initiative has the potential to position school librarians as co-leaders in STEM/STEAM/STREAM learning. With an emphasis on collaborative classroom-library lesson plans, school librarians can achieve the hands-on creativity and critical thinking goals of makerspaces while school library programs remain at the center of their schools’ academic programs.

This is a makerspace strategy that is a win for students, classroom teachers, and school librarians, too.

Copyright-free Image by pippalou accessed from the Morguefile <http://bit.ly/1ccKDO1>.

Diving into the Pool

DSCN0102Perhaps instead of a pool as the operative metaphor for jumping into blogging, the image should be a rocket launching into the blogosphere. Take your pick. Either way, joining the blog parade is an adventure, and according to our favorite love/hate resource, Wikipedia, “a new blog is being created every second of every minute of every hour of every day.” (Keen, 2008) There are many kinds of blogs populating the airwaves-or electromagnetic waves, and communication and interaction through digital writing, illustration, and reading have expanded our vision of publishing.  We all have the means to be producers of information in a Web 3.0 world.

For school librarians, blogs have dual purposes in our practice, as Judi and Karla have already shown.  Judi shared examples of award winning blogs created by school librarians to showcase and promote learning in their physical and virtual library spaces.  The combination of creative design, vivid images, and engaging text are the hallmarks of an opportunity to deliver information to school communities and beyond, in a personal way. We all can learn from these models for effective communication that highlight evidence of an active, engaged school library program.

Karla shared how blogs, and other social media are an important contribution to her professional learning as part of her PLN.  She recommended ways to get started following bloggers who are writing and sharing information about topics and issues that are critical for professional school librarianship.

School librarians depend on multiple sources of information to remain current. Along with the standard print publications, many publishers are featuring blogs on their websites to increase exposure to ideas and information in an immediate way.  School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, Booklist Reader, VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) have bloggers who are on top of current trends.

Interactivity in Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, has generated a fire hose of  information, and that includes bloggers of all descriptions.  When you want just a sip of the information waters, you can control your own PLN.  Try setting up an RSS feed through sites like Feedly, and Feedspot, or a number of others.  You can link your favorite blogs, websites, or other social media sites to the account, and you will have only one spot to visit to catch up on your reading.  Most blogs allow readers to subscribe to the blog through email, so that you can get notices from the blogger when a new post has been published. That works well, unless there are multiple posts each day, then you may find your email overflowing!

 For those of you who would like to venture into starting a blog for your school library, or to set up a forum to connect with other professionals to discuss contemporary issues, take some time to establish your own criteria and purpose for publishing your own work.  View multiple blogs to see which ones are exemplars that you would want to emulate. Both Judi and Karla suggested a few places to begin your search.  This should not be an impulse decision, but one for consideration and reflection.  Commitment to ongoing and timely publishing is a key to successful blogging, along with nurturing and tending the links and topics.
Explore several blog platforms before you choose one to jump into.  Blog platforms have tutorials, and templates that will help you get going, but the primary focus should be on the clarity of the purpose for your work.  Why is a blog important to your school library program? Who is your audience? Why do you want to connect with other interested professionals?  How will you maintain the content of the blog?  How will you use the blog as a bridge to other social media sites?

Jump start to blogging: Dear Blogger-a blog about blogging…

Do you have a favorite platform to share? Talk to us….

Take the plunge!

 

Links to websites:

School Library Journal: http://www.slj.com/

Knowledge Quest: http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/

Booklist Reader:http://www.booklistreader.com/

VOYA: http://www.voyamagazine.com/topics/evoya/

Feedly: https://feedly.com/i/welcome

Feedspot: http://www.feedspot.com/

Dear Blogger: http://www.dearblogger.org/blogger-or-wordpress-better

 References:

Keen, Andrew (2008). The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture. New York: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. Web. 24 Jan. 2016 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog>

 Image:

Judy Kaplan Collection

 

 

AASL15: Navigating Transitional Times

compass-rose-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-2054So many choices, so little time!  Traveling to attend an AASL Conference is always an adventure for intrepid travelers who come from all over the US and other countries, too. For those who make it a priority every two years, the anticipation builds for the events that cater to school librarians who talk the talk, and walk the walk.  And so AASL 2015 in Columbus, Ohio gave us an overabundance of special moments to treasure, and opportunities to talk shop and to gravitate to new and exciting ideas.

The concurrent sessions once again offered many choices on themes that resonate in the transitional times in which we live-hence the theme of the conference-e-experience education evolution.  Since the other co-bloggers this month have featured several stellar sessions, I will add a couple more to the list of takeaways that have enriched my teacher librarian toolbox.  I will include some links to share with you.  Some of the sessions have handouts that are available through the AASL eCOLLAB.  If you are a member of AASL, you can access that list and see which ones are available for you to download-a good reason to become a member.  Even if you could not attend, you may find some gems that you can use in your own practice.  Take a look!   Some of the sessions were recorded and will be available for registrants sometime soon.  Even if you are not a member of AASL, check out the link and look for complimentary information that is there for anyone to access.

Student Data and Privacy

In the session, “Help Me Figure This Out!” (Saturday, Nov. 7), the presenters addressed several ethical dilemmas around social media policies, (Karla mentioned this last week), copyright and fair use, and student data and privacy.  We live in a data driven world, and we have to be vigilant about data that is collected on our students, and in extension ourselves.

Digital footprints lead everywhere and we can’t be ostriches.  Educators, administrators, and parents have to be informed about access to student information that is collected by the learning management systems and technology platforms that are used in our school districts.  Often, technology applications allow for data mining, and school leaders and individual educators have to read the fine print carefully when they agree to use or purchase a platform or application for student use.

There is a constant drumroll for new apps and many are terrific educational tools, but we have to model evaluation of sources in real time! Fortunately there are organizations and leaders who are there to guide the discussion.  Annalisa Keuler, one of the presenters at this session and a school librarian from Alabama, raised an awareness of this hot topic issue, and curated resources to help.

Believe it or not, we can make a difference if educators demand that we will only use web resources and platforms that pledge not to mine student data.  Let us make sure to support vendors and companies that have signed onto the Student Privacy Pledge.  Take a look at the list of vendors-who is missing from the list? Those who sign it are legally bound to the commitments in the Pledge, and it can be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and State Attorneys General.

If you want to use an new technology tool for education in your school, read the fine print, and if the company or vendor is not on the list, contact them and encourage them to sign this pledge and you will happily use their resources.   Check with your administrators and technology directors and see if they have a data governance policy for the district. If not, raise the issue for the safety of your students. Student privacy is a huge problem in these transitional times.

Collection Development

As libraries transition from traditional models to new active learning spaces, teacher librarians have ongoing dilemmas and angst about collection development for materials in multiple formats, and digital and virtual information.  What should we do with all the stuff???

There were several choices for sessions that tackled how library collections are evolving, and the session led by Michelle Luhtala, Brenda Boyer, Shannon Miller, and Joyce Valenza focused on the connection between curriculum, collection and curation, and instruction.  “Transforming Libraries in Transitional Times” (Friday, Nov. 6),  was jam packed with ideas and application tools to transform the development of appropriate resources that support learning in physical and virtual spaces.  As they moved through their ideas very quickly in the hour long time slot, it was almost TMI. I am so glad that the presenters provided access to the slideshow so that I can absorb the amount of information they shared at a more leisure pace. Here is a link to the slides, that even without their lively narration, can offer tools and ideas that can be useful.  I plan to incorporate some of the information into a course I am teaching next semester.  Great professional development for me, and you, too-Yay!

If you would like to have an idea about other sessions and outtakes led by these presenters and others, be sure to take a look at Joyce Valenza’s Neverending Story Blog that has highlights from #AASL15.

“Knowledge not shared remains unknown.”  Grabenstein, 2013

As November closes, and the holiday season quickly approaches, BACC bloggers wish you all a safe and and happy Thanksgiving!


Works Cited:

Abilock, Debbie, Helen Adams, Annalisa Keuler, Jole Seroff, and Dee Venuto. “Help Me Figure This Out! Thorny & Thought-Provoking Ethical Dilemmas for School Librarians.” AASL Conference 2015. Ohio, Columbus. 7 Nov. 2015. Presentation. <http://libraryschool.libguidescms.com/content.php?pid=675677&sid=5672334>

“AASL ECOLLAB.” AASL ECOLLAB. American Association of School Librarians., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/ecollab>.

Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.  New York: Random House, 2013.

Luhtala, Michelle, Brenda Boyer, Shannon Miller,  and Joyce Valenza. “Transforming Libraries in Transitional Times.” AASL Conference 2015. Ohio, Columbus. 6 Nov. 2015. Presentation. <https://docs.google.com/presentation /d/1fJKL03hRXNK85NozVbk2wdZrVmbG2w45rf3kUFU2G6A/edit#slide=id.p.>

“Signatories – Currently 202.” Pledge to Parents Students. Student Privacy Pledge, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://studentprivacypledge.org/?page_id=22>.

Valenza, Joyce. “My #AASL15 Story.” Web log post. NeverEndingSearch. 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015. <http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2015/11/09/aasl15-my-story/>.

Image:

Compass Rose: http://mt-st.rfclipart.com/image/big/ee-b7-aa/compass-rose-Download-Royalty-free-Vector-File-EPS-2054.jpg

 

 

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

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