Sunday, February 28, 2010

365 Project: February

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy" -William Blake

We've had an atypical winter this year, with lighter snowfall, higher temperatures, and, for those in school, fewer Snow Days.

Since I've retired, my "photos of the day" no longer include images of students and classrooms. I now have the opportunity to explore nature a bit more and spend time examining local communities with, I hope, a keener eye.

Most viewed this month was Plowed Dirt Road, Adirondacks. My husband Tim's paintings are always popular, and deservedly so

Surprisingly, coming in second was Oh, Canada!

Followed closely by the nostalgic Country Store

I tried a "time warp" layering in Dreaming of Summer

And experimented with tiltshift for Red Building

My best macro shot was Fluff

Overall personal favorite has to be For My Valentine

You can see a slideshow of the 28 February photos here or view all of my 2010 photos to date here.

The three groups to which I contribute are 2010/365, EdTech 365/2010, and Project 365.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Technology Department

Technology standards in New York State are included in the MST grouping:

According to the NYS Education Department,
"Historically, the subject area of technology education evolved from the subject area called industrial arts; as a result of the Futuring Project, a name change occurred in the mid 1980’s to what we now call technology education.

Although technology education programs offer students many opportunities to apply their mathematics and science skills, programs at the high school level offer additional opportunities to explore technology-related careers under the Career and Technical Education umbrella. At the intermediate level technology education is a required unit of study to be completed by the end of 8th grade"

New York regulation 100.4 stipulates:

"Except as otherwise provided herein, all students shall be provided instruction designed to enable them to achieve, by the end of grade eight, State intermediate learning standards through...library and information skills, the equivalent of one period per week in grade seven and eight."


"In public schools, library and information skills shall be taught by library media specialists and classroom teachers to ensure coordination and integration of library instruction with classroom instruction."

So my question is: exactly what constitutes the membership of the technology department that my home district is thanking?

Does the message refer to the certified technology teacher, who guides sixth graders through a ten-week 21st Century Technology Skills course? The middle school librarian, who instructs students in "library and information skills"? The classroom teachers, at all levels, who infuse technology in their lesson plans? The administrator who is Director of Technology?

Shouldn't ALL teachers be technology teachers?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Resources and Links

Now that I'm actively creating new presentations and archiving older ones, I've decided to make these and related items available in a central location.

I hope you'll stop by and take a look at Resources and Links.

"The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others." -John Locke

Monday, February 15, 2010

So You're Going to a Conference!

You've gotten the O.K. to attend. What can you do to make the experience a great one?
(companion piece to So You Want to Attend a Conference)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

So You Want to Attend a Conference

You’ve just learned about a wonderful conference. You feel that it offers opportunity for professional - and personal - growth. How do you convince your supervisor of the value of this opportunity?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not Something Ready Made

In the "things I never would have known without my PLN on Twitter" category:

"By Tibetan tradition, today (new year's eve) is house-cleaning day..."

Along with the rest of the western world, I celebrated New Year's Eve more than a month ago. Since then, I've made progress on some, but by no means all, of my goals for 2010.

So after I do a bit of cleaning and tidying up in my physical space, I think I'll take a few minutes to reflect, adjust, refine, refocus.

"With the realization of ones own potential and self-confidence in ones ability, one can build a better world. According to my own experience, self-confidence is very important. That sort of confidence is not a blind one; it is an awareness of ones own potential. On that basis, human beings can transform themselves by increasing the good qualities and reducing the negative qualities...

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. -Dalai Lama

"Ganden Gompa Tibet" by reurinkjan

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Library Advocacy

Jim Johnson, SCLA's Legislative Liaison and the former director of the South Carolina State Library, discusses ways that school, public, and academic libraries can use a "multi-pronged" approach to publicize services and gain support for their facilities and programs.

SCLA Conversations - Jim Johnson from SC Library Association on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Library as Leviathan

The meaning of the word "leviathan" has evolved from "sea monster" to "Satan" to "whale." In Scott Westerfeld's YA novel, the Leviathan is a genetically altered "beastie" that is combination flying ship and ecosystem.

While reading Westerfeld's imaginative work, it occurred to me that school libraries could be viewed as the latter sort of leviathan.

In the story, an alternate WWI is taking place, pitting "Darwinists," who are the creators of fantastical animal variants, against "Clankers," who rely on mechanized vehicles of war. When the airship Leviathan is under deadly attack, the infusion of scavenged machinery not only provides needed power, but also results in unexpected changes in the living organism. In order to survive and thrive, the creature must incorporate technology into its living body.

Our school libraries have a traditional identity and integrity. But they can't remain static and stagnant. The information society and participatory librarianship demand something else of both the program and its professionals. We need an evolution, not a revolution.

We need a Leviathan.

"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." -Paulo Freire

"leviathan" by Stephen Howard

Welcome to the Jungle

Education Week has just made available online a timely article about the shifting role of school librarians and the evolving purpose of libraries.

The dual title says it all: School Libraries Seek Relevance Through Virtual Access; Librarians' Roles Shifting to Address the Demand for Quality Online Content.

As Cassandra Barnett, the president of the Chicago-based American Association of School Librarians and the school library media specialist for the 2,000-student Fayetteville High School in Arkansas, points out,

"Gone are the days when a library was essentially a warehouse of books...We have really burst out of our walls, and we’re a part of everything in the school now, which I’m not sure was always the case."

Yet even as school libraries work to expand their scope and purpose, budget issues on the local, state, and Federal levels threaten to severely curtain services. Hours of operation, level of staffing, and print and online resources all depend on funding that is increasingly tight.

Why do schools need professional teacher/librarians?

Doug Johnson, director of media and technology for the 7,000-student Mankato school system in Minnesota, explains it this way:

"We’ve gone from being a guide in an information desert to a guide in an information jungle," he said. "Instead of having to seek out information, students and teachers are now inundated with it... and it is the librarian’s role to teach them how to judge the 'good resources from the bad resources.'"

Information literacy, the ability to identify, locate, evaluate, and share needed information is “no longer an optional literacy,” said Buffy Hamilton, the media specialist at the 1,500-student Creekview High School in Canton, Ga. “It’s a literacy and a form of cultural capital that I think you have to have in order to fully participate in today’s society.”

Carolyn Foote, the district librarian who works at the 2,500-student Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, speaks of the expansion of services to include not only research, but production

“Students are producing all sorts of products—YouTube videos, PowerPoint presentations, online slideshows, podcasts—and so as librarians, we need to have the skills to work with all those different formats and help students learn how to produce in those formats,” she said.

Continuing this train of thought, Joyce Kasman Valenza, library information specialist for Springfield Township High in Pennsylvania, adds

"...libraries are no longer 'grocery stores' where students can go to pick up ingredients, but 'kitchens,' where they have the resources necessary to create a finished product."

While some might question the need for a physical library, given the pervasiveness of Internet connectivity, advocates say there is still a need for such a space, operating under the guidance of a teacher/librarian:

"Providing students with a space where they can gather, share ideas, and learn is what we try to do,” Ms. Hamilton added, “to be at the heart of learning, both formal and informal.”

"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books...A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas." -Norman Cousins

"Welcome to the jungle" by neeZhom

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Necessities of Life

"What a school thinks about its library is a measure of what it thinks about education." -Harold Howe, former US Commissioner of Education

The Spokane Moms are three women who became
grassroots activists in order to save their school libraries. Recently, they asked teacher/librarians to add videos to a "Tapestry of Effective Practice."

Here is my contribution, an Animoto titled "Reading in the Elementary Library." Enjoy these images of children having fun during their weekly visit to the library.

"A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life." -Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Unbearable Repartee

"Silence is the unbearable repartee." -Gilbert K. Chesterton

Yesterday, I engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation with Bill Ferriter that I initiated as a response to his posting, "All Hail the Mighty Media Specialist."

Bill was voicing his frustration with an educational system that increasingly judges his value via standardized test scores. He was angry that "As soon as our test scores come back, I stand alone under the lens. It's my practice that is questioned and my performance that is judged."

He continues,
"As the teacher of a tested subject, I hate the 'we're a team' rhetoric that surrounds schools in an era of coercive accountability...'We' becomes 'you' pretty darn quick when the numbers are off. 'Our work' becomes 'your work' every time when 'improvement' is needed...Is that resentment healthy? Nope. But it's real...and I'll bet you I'm not the only teacher who feels this way."

I thought both his posting and the ensuing dialogue was valuable because it raised the dual issues of standardized testing and teacher accountability...with the added question of how the teacher/librarian fits into the school community.

Unfortunately, Bill decided to pull the original posting. In its place, he has written
"Alright Already, I Surrender", with no comments allowed. In his explanation for this decision, he tell us that

"I...spent the past nine hours dealing with emotional responses. People expressed surprise at my unwillingness to be a team player. They questioned my intentions. They thought my comments were hurtful and unproductive.

For those of you who had the chance to read my post, I hope it challenged you to think differently. It was intended to spark reflection and to give you some insight into what it is like to be a reading teacher in a tested world----and I hope that it helped you to recognize that 'teamwork' feels a whole lot different when the members of the team are not judged equally.

As long as that message came across to one or two of you, then today's drama may have been worth it."

If you truly wanted people to "think differently" Bill, you would have continued the discussion, not cut it off. You raised some important issues, things that teacher/librarians need to consider. I wasn't looking for drama, just some purposeful interaction.

No one benefits from a closed conversation.

Related posts:
A Vital Instrument
A Thousand Small Gestures
A Partnership and Collaboration

"Silence" by boskizzi

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Partnership and Collaboration

Reality check time: strange as it may seem, not everyone is on the teacher/librarian bandwagon.

In his recent posting, All Hail the Mighty Media Specialist, blogger Bill Ferriter begins with a disclaimer
"During the course of my sixteen year teaching career, I’ve worked with a ton of GREAT media specialists...I also believe that media specialists can play an important role in any school community. When they’re skilled, they teach students to manage information fluently and how to judge the reliability of sources...Finally, they often find ways to help teachers integrate media literacy skills into their required curriculum and do the heavy lifting on shared projects that are at once motivating and essential for students."

But then he goes on to say
"I'm also tired of the lofty rhetoric that media specialist and their professional organizations tend to sling...I get the sense that many media specialists believe that they are the 'lead readers' in any school and that the success or failure of any reading program depends primarily on the work done in the media center...I’m bothered any time that my own role as a reading advocate and expert is pushed aside. After all, I’m the one that is being held accountable for reading performance in our schools."

It's unfortunate that Bill seems to regard this as a sort of competition, that he feels teacher/librarians are trying to usurp his role or cast aspersions on his expertise.

It all goes back to branding. Until our profession has a clearly identifiable, universally recognized set of descriptors, this type of push back from subject area experts can be expected.

Teacher/librarians need to be recognized as generalists rather than specialists. Our scope should be cross-curricular, inclusive, with a dual focus on literature and information technology.

We don't want to be set above you, Bill, we want to work along side you and be your partners in education.

"It is not only one person's work, it's really a partnership and collaboration during all these years." -Christo

"Big Picture" by Auntie P

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Thousand Small Gestures

"You're just anybody without your identity." - Grenville Main, DNA Design

On Monday, February 1, 69 participants joined a webinar about libraries and librarianship, "What is in a name? A discussion about identity and vision."

Some of us have continued the conversation via email and are now considering what we feel to be a key issue, branding.

According to marketing consultant and social media marketing strategist Laura Lake, "branding" (the image of a product in the market)
"is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition, but it is about getting your prospects to see you as the only one that provides a solution to their problem"
A good brand results in a recognizable product that appeals to consumers on both a practical and emotional level. The images it evokes elicit product loyalty and customer commitment.

In this time of fiscal uncertainty, when school districts are being forced to make difficult budget choices, it is vitally important that libraries have a "brand," a unique identity that conveys the mission and scope of the services both the program and its guiding force, the teacher/librarian, represent.

If school administrators, and the community at large, visualize libraries as a place and librarians as clerks, storytime entertainers, and babysitters, then they will be more likely to feel comfortable scaling back or even eliminating funding in that area.

We need to market our school libraries, emphasize the services we deliver, remind the public of the impact we have on student learning.

But, more than that, teacher/librarians must constantly look for ways to expand and promote what they are accomplishing.

There is an increasing emphasis on teacher development: offer to provide training for staff members on emerging technology with classroom applications. Actively seek out teachers and suggest ideas for collaborative units that incorporate essential information skills. Be sure that student projects are prominently displayed in the library media center, preferably at times when community members will be able to see and appreciate them. Make yourself available for committees and extra-curricular activities. Regularly attend board of education meetings to explain how your school library is a vital, contributing part of children's educational experience.

Fight the perception that people with a laptop and Internet connection can be their own librarian. Demonstrate your value. Make the library brand a dynamic one. Then go out and market it.

"A brand is a living entity - and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures" - Michael Eisner

"Iconic Brand Alphabet" by scbr

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Vital Instrument

I am a teacher/librarian. That is how I identify myself, define myself. Although I have retired from daily teaching duties, I remain interested in, and involved with, education issues.

It is no secret that our economy continues to operate in crisis mode. Difficult decisions are being made regarding taxes and budgets. Faced with declining aid monies and rising costs, school districts are being forced to cut programs and reduce staffing.

The Ohio Research Study, conducted in 2002-2003 by Dr. Ross J. Todd and Dr. Carol C. Kuhlthau, looked at 39 effective school libraries across Ohio. 99.44% of the sample (13,050 students) indicated that the school library and its services, including roles of school librarians, have helped them in some way, regardless of how much, with their learning.

In 2007-2008 by Dr. Ruth V. Small's The Impact of New York's School Libraries on Student Achievement and Motivation: Phase I, detailed how the learning and literacy support, instructional collaboration, technology use, and service to students with special needs provided by certified elementary library media specialists positively impacted student achievement.

By definition, teacher/librarians are not considered "highly qualified" because they don't teach a "core" subject. I would suggest that a strong, vibrant literacy and information technology program is THE core subject, since it impacts every curricular area. A library professional should be the common denominator in a school, delivering a unifying skill set, speaking a universal language, interacting with every student and staff member.

Whether helping a student select appropriate recreational reading material, guiding a class through a research project, or assisting a colleague with a technology-infused lesson, the teacher/librarian is involved with learners.

Our president and the governor of my state (along with numerous other governors) have proposed cutting direct aid to school libraries. Read the eloquent postings by Buffy Hamilton and Cathy Nelson. Consider the studies I've cited and other research regarding the link between libraries and learning.

Make your voice heard
, in defense of our libraries.

"The school library functions as a vital instrument in the educational process, not as a separate entity isolated from the total school program, but involved in the teaching and learning process." -International Association of School Librarianship

"poster child for library appreciation - _MG_2671" by sean dreilinger

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My EduCon

"At SLA, learning is not just something that happens from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm, but a continuous process that expands beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet of our lives.
-Science Leadership Academy, Mission and Vision

Each person brings to an event his/her own prior knowledge, expectations, and level of commitment.

Each person then departs having undergone a unique experience.

During MY EduCon, I particularly enjoyed Sylvia Martinez's exploration of Tinkering Towards Technology Fluency and the Alec Couros/Dean Shareski conversation about technology innovations in teacher education.

Sylvia suggested that schools provide time for tinkering: an opportunity for unstructured exploration and creative risk-taking. To the well-known Sustained Silent Reading, she would add a period of Sustained Noisy Tinkering...for both students and teachers...where trying something new, that may very well "fail," is celebrated rather than censured.

Alec and Dean described their interactions with pre-service teachers. This led to an exchange of ideas about being a transparent, reflective practitioner and reiteration of the importance of becoming a member of communities "connected by passion."

Both of these sessions deepened my understanding of, and extended my thinking about, innovation and the nature of learning.

Falling Down the "Alice Project" Rabbit Hole was valuable to me for a different reason: it beautifully modeled the ideal of students and teachers in a mutually-enriching educational activity. Listening to Benedikt and Mike articulate their classroom experiences, watching them maintain their composure in front of a large group of interested adults, was an impressive demonstration of what young people can achieve when given the chance. Whether or not their blog postings were consistently of the highest caliber, these teens have obviously learned how to effectively collaborate, create, and communicate...all those skills we label "21st century."

I enjoyed the informal lunchtime Encienda, where presenters had 5 minutes each to share an idea via 20 slides (which automatically advanced every 15 seconds). It was a good object lesson in how to compress and refine information, then enhance it with attention-grabbing images, while communicating effectively with your audience.

Above all, the most important aspect of EduCon (or any other conference) for me was the opportunity to connect personally with people: some old friends, some new, equally valued, equally valuable.

I'm still processing my EduCon experience. Next year I plan on returning to Philadelphia, to continue my learning journey. I hope will join me there.

You can see a slideshow of my Philadelphia/EduCon photos here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

365 Project: January

"No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam." -Charles Lamb

I continue into 2010 with new commitment to familiar themes: family, friends, nature, learning. From the Polar Plunge on New Year's Day to the conversations at EduCon, January presented me with opportunities to explore, examine, and experiment.

Another Journey, already begun.

Most viewed photo was "Neilson Farmhouse: Two View
s 1/05/10" which combines one of my photographs with an original oil painting by my husband, Tim

Favorite outdoors shot, "New Year's Day, Lake George, NY 1/01/10"

Sentimental favorite, "Wildflowers in Winter 1/12/10" (a book of photographs published by my daughter)

You can see a slideshow of the 31 January photos here.

The three groups to which I contribute are 2010/365, EdTech 365/2010, and Project 365.

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning." -T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding