Celebrating school libraries today!

Screen Shot 2018-10-21 at 3.36.19 PM

 

I am the Head of the Library and Learning Commons at my secondary school, and that means I work 4/6 in the library, 1/6 in a EWC 4C/4U classroom, and 1/6 in a fully online ENG4C class.  I have held this role since 2010 with variations on which classes I teach.  So my year as the school librarian is divided between

a) making sure that the library has a culture reflecting the learning commons philosophy b) advocating for the use of technology in the classroom and helping students and staff do this and

c) making sure that students and staff are using everything that is available to them for inquiry-based research.

As Head of the Library and Learning Commons, I additionally go to every staff and department head meeting and I am the Literacy Lead for our school planning all interventions for our standardized literacy test in grade 10.  As you can imagine, this work keeps me hopping!

2 of our foundational documents are:

Together for Learning http://www.togetherforlearning.ca/t4l-vision-document/

Canadian School Libraries Leading Learning http://llsop.canadianschoollibraries.ca/

If you’re new to the learning commons shift, then you’ll find both really interesting.  If you’re already shifting your school culture to include learning commons then jump to Leading Learning, because I talk to my principal all the time using this sort of rubric to say “This is where we are and this is where we need to get to”.

The Manitoba School Library Association is PHENOMENAL) and is really pushing boundaries in your province.  Tomorrow is National School Library Day in Manitoba Canada and Manitoba’s provincial parliament will be reading a bilingual address about the importance of school libraries for student success.  Oh that we could make this happen nationwide.

A smaller ask then….

Would you please have a conversation or write a letter to someone with power and/or influence to make sure that the work and necessity of school libraries is valued and recognized?  Across Canada we need to have equitable staffing and per-pupil budgeting models in all publicly funded schools.  We need to have diverse print and digital resources available for all staff and students.  We need to recognize that the literacy work of school library staff is foundational for student success.  We need to have school libraries open during and beyond school hours to allow for the messiness of robust inquiry-based projects.

I am so thankful for my devoted library teaching partner and my wonderful library technician.  I am so thankful for a principal and a school board that recognizes the value of this work.  Celebrate with me! To school libraries across Canada!

Our library learning commons annual report

There is nothing like ending the school year on a high. My friend and colleague Lisa Unger diligently spends time each year to collate the work that we’ve done that may seem invisible but all together looks outstanding!

How does Lisa make this annual report?  She began by returning to one of our guiding documents:  Leading Learning   As you will notice, the document is laid out like a giant rubric so that you can rank your own work on how well you’re doing.  When our new principal began last year, I went through each of the look-fors and told him where I thought we were at and what work needed to still be accomplished.  The first slide of the slideshow shows a tag cloud that Lisa created based on the primary ideas that drive our LLC goals.

Lisa then harvested any tweet from our Library Learning Commons Twitter account @ODSSLLC, combined that with our annual goals, and tried to showcase what we do.  Once you’ve collated your evidence of your impact on student success, all you need it to have its desired effect is some uninterrupted time with your principal.  Our principal gave us 45 minutes and lots of positive feedback for us.  As Lisa showed off the slideshow and talked about the goals of each event and its success, I took notes on what our principal’s ideas were.  I may have interjected once or twice in my enthusiasm for how well this was all going.  Of course as we were talking, we also realized how much invisible work there is that we didn’t take pictures of including our smorgasbord-style staff meeting where we had 12 concurrent sessions on improving staff and student well-being and relationships.

Thanks to the success of our annual library report in conversation with our new principal, we have put a bow on the end of the year and more importantly, we’ve reflected together on what we’ll take forward into the next school year.

In search of a flattened taxonomy for tech integration

When I PD (yes, as a verb), I look for things that will push me out of my comfort zone: new venues, new people and new ideas. I asked to present at the OSSTF Educational Technology conference this week as it was described as trying to reach teachers who were reluctant to use technology in their classrooms. I hoped to meet people who didn’t even own cellphones, and I did! I had the dreaded last spot of the day to present in.  I say ‘dreaded’ because I am deadly in the last spot.  By the time the last spot rolls around I have everyone else’s presentations in my head, I’m second guessing what I have to say and, let’s face it, I’m tired.  In this case though, I was also unsure of my audience.  How do you get reluctant people to buy in to your message?  I decided to present the idea of How to become Comfortable with being Uncomfortable.

Earlier in the day, I participated in a session run by Amanda Anderson as she talked about classroom technology that she uses to help her ELL students to accelerate their language learning.  Her fifth slide was this one:

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 9.06.10 PM

Amanda stopped me thinking about anything else for the rest of the week with her statement that we need to stop aiming to integrate technology in learning and instead created blended learning situations. I really like Amanda’s definition, and was even more appreciative when I saw her beautiful reference to this article as a blended learning starting point. Later the same day, presenting finally, I felt the earth shift as one of the godfathers of educational technology in Ontario rolled his eyes when I mentioned the SAMR model to my audience of reluctant technology users.  I’ve relied on both TPACK and SAMR for years now to explain that models of technology use are real but imperfect because we still haven’t achieved those elusive 21st century competencies (now to be re-branded as Global Competencies in Ontario).  I’m not married to the idea of SAMR but I refer to it as a rubric for improving the task in which technology is used.  I am particularly fond of the S in SAMR as I try to only resort to Substitution when the wifi goes down.

Why is everything in education either a ladder, a pyramid or a target?  Do we not know any other 2-D shapes? I see the complexity of the issue of integrating technology effectively into learning as more of a sphere.  The Canadian School Libraries Association said it really well in its 2014 document Leading Learning: “The learning commons promotes personalization, inquiry, and the integration of technology through the implementation of innovative curricular design and assessment.”  The 3D-ness of the sphere allows us to reiterate the process over and over again rather than to climb a ladder or hit a target or move up the levels of a pyramid.  In my job as teacher-librarian, I maintain and advocate for the use of technology for improved collaboration, communication and creativity inside the building, and into the community.  Often then I am using the C’s as another handy way to encourage the use of technology in schools.

My favourite abbreviated model though actually comes from the TV Show Silicon Valley: SOMOLO.  This is how I ended my presentation.  If we can make learning with technology more social (C for collaboration and Vygotzky would be proud); mobile (using the tech in student pockets as well as the board-approved device) and local (authentic, relevant and real in the user’s life), then we’re making huge gains.  With SOMOLO, I think our pedagogy and integration of technology will improve, perhaps to even become seamlessly blended in learning.

Woefully, I think about 100 people of the 150 had left by the time the last spot arrived, and my audience sat all the way at the back of a cavernous room.  Thank goodness for the wireless mouse. Looking back at that moment, I think the uncomfortable-ness I was experiencing, was just what I needed to push me to put my thoughts down here.

PS: In revisiting this idea with @dougpete, he gave me a whack of articles which (like any good teacher-librarian) I have curated into a Flipboard all about questioning the purpose of SAMR for your use:

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Best BITs: My brag book of student voice

Each year I apply and receive a Speak Up grant which allows a mighty group of student editors to create a magazine of student creative work…usually art and creative writing. We’ve just finished our final editing of the year and I think it looks marvelous: https://odsspaperandink.com/

ODSS Paper & Ink is featured in the Canadian Library Association’s Standards for School Library Practice visionary document called Leading Learning.

Our humble project is described as leading the way for others as an example of the “LLC [Library Learning Commons] is an active participatory learning centre modelling and celebrating collaborative knowledge building, play, innovation and creativity.”

Now I’m not the one who came up with the idea…that happened 8 years ago. But when I joined the team of staff supervisors, I suggested we save money and take it online. I would love for it to be fluid and dynamic, which it is somewhat…..but it’s not the holodeck on Star Trek, you know? I try not to interfere too much with the decisions that students make but it hasn’t yet taken on a life of it’s own. It still exists because I hound students to edit and submit and submit and edit. Meanwhile Mizuko Ito works for the MacArthur Foundation of Chicago who attract young voices like this one:

In our Book Club: “Participatory Culture in a Networked Era” Mimi Ito takes the idea of student voice to a whole new level and she argues that we need to allow students to design these online places themselves, from the ground up. We need to allow them to fail as a natural consequence for creative risk-taking…and I really get that. But is the world of education as we see it ready for that? I don’t think that it is. I’m not sure my students would want that. To some degree I think they like that I badger them and push them to step outside of their comfort zones, and that I always give them recognition when they achieve something. It’s the carrot and stick approach again…so is it really student voice? Well is it?

Looking forward to your comments.