Sunday, November 29, 2015

Follett update

Follett sponsored a  lunch for school librarians at the AASL conference and provided an interesting update on their world.  Since the majority of school libraries (including mine) use Follett, it seems worth sharing what they're up to, including:

  • Follett has caught on that we're all genrefying our collections and is in the process of creating a support system to provide help with cataloging, icons for book spines and signage, signage, etc.  They are currently conducting a national survey of school librarians (you may have received their link) and look for more to come soon.  
  • Follett also has a $200K Challenge that very few school librarians apply for.  They are seeking librarians to share stories of how their school library impacts their school positively, and there is serious money up for grabs.  Read about this here.
  • They also shared a new product called Light Box, which is a sort of extreme e-book with embedded links, videos, etc.  It was fairly impressive and a good value at $40 for a school subscription for multiple users:
  • They are redesigning the interface for their Destiny circulation software.  They plan to integrate with Overdrive, Mackin and to provide lessons related to content.  They plan to launch this over the summer of 2016.
  • They discussed parent access to their children's library records--causing some unhappy murmurs at my table--this is something to watch forl
  • They also are now collecting data from Destiny checkouts across the US each month and publishing a list of the top 10 (and top 50) books checked out by students each month.  I checked it out and cannot say it differed wildly from the top 10 books checked out in my school.

Guided inquiry and collaboration—four takes in one day

My great serendipity on Saturday was selecting three sessions that linked in interesting ways to get me thinking hard about how to collaborate better with teachers and introduce more elements of guided inquiry into my practice. 
I started the day with David Loertscher, who shaped my initial ideas about the possibilities of a school library and continues to do so.  His most recent research, conducted with a professor at the Uof Toronto, demonstrates an astonishing increase in student learning when teachers and librarians collaborate and co-teach.  Carol Gordon presented in the afternoon, and confirmed Loertscher’s by showing some exciting work going on when a librarian working in collaboration with a teacher in New Jersey got exponentially better results than she’d had the year before when she taught research projects alone in a weekly fixed schedule.
Loertscher and Gordon both explained that after FIFTY years, it was clear that fixed schedule elementary programs were unlikely to go away.  So they are now looking at a “fixed and” model as Loertscher put it.  They both had an interesting take on how to solve the problem.
Loertscher recommended employing robust MakerSpaces during fixed sessions with classes.  He showed examples of both traditional MakerSpaces stocked with legos, MakeyMakey, little bits, etc. and (I LOVED THIS) virtual MakerSpaces with links to tools such as Google Draw that allowed kids to create in an open-ended environment.  Once this is set up and kids are taught to come in and engage and work independently with these models, a second class could be using the library for research AND THE LIBRARIAN HAS FREED UP TIME TO CO-TEACH!  Interesting idea with some caveats around management—but definitely worth thinking about.  Notes are here.
Gordon’s approach (which she’s just done beautifully with a teacher and librarian and has a great project to show) involves taking a teacher-library team and having them work in an asynchronous fashion on a joint project using a tool such as Edmoto (and Google docs/folders would work) to share materials and information about progress on projects.  Gordon’s idea is that the librarian basically works to coach the teacher on the research process and helps with materials selection.  The teacher then works to roll out research between library visits, and when students go for weekly “library time” they do more research with the librarian.  The teacher also helps the librarian gain knowledge of content and content-directed questions.  Using Edmoto and a clear and flexible calendar, her team seamlessly collaborated and discussed student work, looked to roll out new learning with responsibility assigned to teacher or librarian (depending on who was where when) and the result was a beautiful project on the Civil War done with a true guided imagery approach.  My notes are here.
To round things out, Laura D’Elia, Jenny Lussier, and Melissa Stewart all provided insight into aspects of adding more guided inquiry elements into teaching, including:
·        Preparing very young students for research with I wonder moments, ability to do exploration with realia and books, and open-ended discussions—Jenny does this very well
·        Looking carefully at wordless books and books with minimal text to get students to notice details and examine visual images carefully (Melissa Stewart has great practical suggestions—my notes are here)

·        Setting up a standardized guided inquiry online toolbox for students with the research steps carefully identified and explained and links to places where students can save work for each step of the process.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Primary Sources in Primary Grades

When we think of using primary sources,  I would guess that most of us assume that's in the realm of middle school and high school research. However, Tom Bober, a teacher in residence at the Library of Congress, set out to challenge that assumption.

We began by talking about primary sources - what are they, defining different types of sources as primary or secondary. Next, he shared some great resources that people (especially at the elementary level), might not be aware of, mainly from the LOC.

Among the resources offered are:
Primary Source sets, which include detailed teacher guides to go with each set
A wonderful primary source analysis tool that guides students through the process
Idea Books/Resources for teachers 
Chronicling America, historic newspapers through 1922
Student Discovery Sets
Lesson plans 

There were also resources from the World Digital Library and the Internet Archive .

In terms of using primary sources with the youngest students, he recommended using images, because they're easy for kids to relate to, they help personalize history, and they don't require any reading skills. Students should work in collaborative partnerships to analyze images to deepen their understanding and learn from each other, which I loved. He suggested that whenever possible, link to the original source and have this analysis be done online so that students can zoom in on the image, but with really young students, he puts the image up on the SmartBoard/ActivBoard and then uses the annotate tool to record their questions and observations.

What was really eye-opening for me is that the use of primary source images doesn't have to relate just to social studies. He described giving students a picture (that we got) of students at a Thanksgiving parade in 1911, which was used as a jumping off point to talk about their own Thanksgivings. With 5th graders studying Black History Month, students looked at the image of Ruby Bridges being walked out of school by the marshals, and it helped them respond to it on a deeply personal level. Another assignment, done with either 4th or 5th graders, saw the traditional "write as though you were on Columbus' ship" assignment replaced with a comparative analysis of Columbus' diary entries with later depictions of his arrival. They even used primary sources to teach students about the planets - students were given historic images of the solar system and asked to examine the pictures to see if they could discern the meaning of the words geocentric and heliocentric. They then had to justify their conclusions by referring back to their image.

It was a great presentation that has left me filled with ideas about how to inject primary sources into the elementary library. 

Innovative Research for Elementary Students

Librarians with ELL focus gave lots of concrete ideas about how to roll out research with young students.  They broke out the research process and provided several practical, easy-to-implement ideas that are included in the google doc notes attached here.

Some BIG take aways:
  • Use multimodal ways to connect with ELL (and all) students including visual images, discussion and movement to help students understand
  • Breakdown tasks, model, practice and gradual release is essential
  • Embed minilessons into research projects to ensure authentic understanding
  • Research always needs an authentic purpose and it can be high tech or low tech

My favorite pieces:
  • Always end every student research checklist with "I can share what I learned"
  • Great links to tools I've not seen before
  • Wonderful rethinking of rubrics and citations for small people

Hacking the Organization

Joyce Valenza led a VERY late night session devoted to looking critically at AASL as an organization for school librarians--addressing big issues around equity and access, recruitment of diverse voices, and most importantly--how do we make ourselves cooler (think YALSA, think ISTE). In a room packed with AASL past-presidents and regional leaders and a good sprinkling of people who'd never been to a national conference, the group dug in and tackled a range of specific topics--concluding after midnight with a slew of suggestions for positive change, including:
  •  Committee work--making it easier to understand what committees do, the time commitment required, and making it easier for new members to join committees
  • Thinking about how to fund conference attendance for members who are not funded through schools or state organizations, and to look at holding some virtual conferences on "off-years" when the large national conference is not in session
  • Recruiting more widely to increase the number of school librarians from under-represented groups, and perhaps to target teacher organizations as a means to explain what we do and how you get here
  • Setting up informal places to meet and hold discussions within the conference; asking conference attendees about their learning goals before they come
  • Providing guidance for newbies who want to present, such as providing exemplary proposals to examine
  • Becoming more techie!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

AASL education evolution..Heidi Hayes Jacobs

Heidi Hayes Jacobs challenges us to be the school R&D providers..looking at educating kids for the future. We need to think hard about learning spaces, connectivity, excellent pedagogy. We need to rethink how we group kids and teachers. We need to make learning more engaging and contemporary, while holding on to important classical teaching techniques (think Socrates) and strong, interesting content. Some great ideas....grade 1 community helper unit goes into the community and asks people in the neighborhood what sort of help they need and how children can help; grade 7 nutrition unit looks at and reacts to the documentary Food Inc. in a unit called "Food Fight." She compared looking at websites and apps as analogous to our approach to reviewing and selecting books. Just as we curate our book collections, we need to curate and tag good online resources and teach students to do this. Study quality film and media production to help students see how this impacts what they see and how it can lead to bias. She shared some incredibly compelling, but easily produced student videos created by elementary students to make the point that our laptops are free, powerful production studios that we need to be using to help our students share what they know both in school and beyond as they make their mark in our ever-more-connected world. Plan to set aside several hours to explore the resources on her website.