Monday, August 17, 2009

I find it hard to believe that as I write this I am but hours away from finishing the summer semester. It seems it was just yesterday that I posted my first LIS 725 commentary to my blog.

It's hard not to reflect on all I have learned this summer semester. It's almost overwhelming when I include my leadership class in addition to my curriculum class. But one thing flowed consistently between both classes--I learned as much from my colleagues as I did from my instructors. I am grateful for this opportunity. Real world experience adds much to theory, and only in this stage of a grad program could I be surrounded by so much.

Wrapping up my interdisciplinary unit, I've had time to reflect on that experience as well. With the teacher blood that runs through me, I loved nearly every minute of creating this unit. If only I could fill all my days in the same way! I enjoy working through the details in my mind of how the children will process my instruction, what sort of obstacles we'll face, how excited they will be at their own learning. It was a great "gear-up" as I head back to my media center, anxious for the new beginning this school year will bring. Until then, I'll enjoy my precious 3 days of just being the mom of two excited middle schoolers. Farewell summer and welcome fall!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Copyright Law

In developing a workshop this week on copyright in schools, the various aspects have consumed my thoughts. It is my dream to have every staff member at my school be completely literate in copyright law; however, I can count only on a handful knowing some very basics. This is very hard for me. I stand back, each school day, and watch as teacher after teacher violates the law, mostly with photocopying. I am hoping that the workshop I have prepared will give them the resources they need to help alleviate this problem.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Learning Communities and the Library

As much as I have heard the term "learning community" used in my school, and even used it myself, I can't say I have really given deep thought to a definition. In my mind, a learning community was something I was a part of when my largest goal in my school setting was to contribute to the whole education of every child in my building. The community was the staff--everyone in the building does something to benefit children--as well as the parents, the members of the residential community, and the students themselves. We come together as one group, a community, for the overarching goal of learning. It's what we do, who we are. I feel I have a pretty good grasp of the concept.

So why was I stricken by reading about the role of libraries in learning communities? I have more or less studied this in every class I have taken over the last nearly-two years. But something was there for me in a way I didn't see it before. Maybe it was the simple definition of a learning community as "a 'whole picture' approach to education (Stripling and Hughes-Hassell, 190)." Perhaps it was seeing how I teach laid out as "an array of pedagogical approaches (190)."

I think, though, I gleaned most from the text's reference to Information Power's Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning. In the text, the standards were broken into their three groups and put into terms of how the Library media specialist in a learning community approaches these standards. It seems most often we are fed lists of standards--for our profession, for our students, for a combination of both--but the lists are abstract and seemingly out of context. Tying learning communities and media specialists together with the info lit standards felt very validating, and it gave me something I was looking for in trying to inform those in my learning community "what I do."

I started visualizing these bulleted points (Stripling and Hughes-Hassell, 192-194) assembled in one space, taped down on my desk, serving as a reminder to me and as an "a-ha!" for those I work with. This isn't something I have found in any of the other lists, texts, or ALA documents before now. Funny, after so much discussion, so many readings, I finally find a way to show my community "what I do." Now if only I can clarify for them how I do it! Hmmmmm.....

Works Cited
Stripling, Barbara K., and Sandra Hughes-Hassell. Curriculum Connections Through the Library. Westport, Connecticut: Libraries Unlimited, 2003.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

ISTE Classrooms of the Future

Perhaps it's the library student in me, or maybe it's the teacher side, but something always draws me to anything written or spoken about classrooms of the future. This lecture by Holly Jobe and Robin Clausen as presented on "ISTE Vision" detailed the project that Pennsylvania's schools have been involved in for the last three years. In short, this project, which was a $200 million initiative funded by the governor in 2006, aimed to change the teacher/student relationship by getting the teacher out from in front of the class and making students more responsible for their learning in order to better prepare students for the work place of the 21st century. Through increased computer access, coaching, and professional development, the schools involved were becoming more constructivist and authentic. The focus was on high schools and involved 543 schools in 453 districts.

One means to reach the goal of this project was a 1:1 student to computer ratio. This was only partially realized in that 143,000 laptops were purchased, but students were not given laptops to use at home. Further, all classrooms were outfitted as "smart" rooms and included interactive white boards, projectors, printers, scanners, etc.

An outside research company was brought in to collect data, and much of this data was presented in the lecture. One of the more important findings concluded, based on evaluation categories of teacher activities, student activities, technology use, teacher and student attitudes, and knowledge and skill development, that teachers were lecturing less and spending more time with students. The lessons and activities were more meaningful than fill-in-the-blank worksheets and formulaic reports, and students were demonstrating deeper levels of understanding through more authentic activities.

My experience with increased technology in classrooms and adequate professional development in using the resources has been a higher level of student engagement and, thus, higher levels of achievement. There is much talk of how we need to do more as teachers to stimulate our learners than our teachers needed to do when we were kids because kids are more "wired" now than in times past. Our students are often using the computer, texting on their phones, and listening to their iPods simultaneously, so it is not stimulating to sit and watch someone speak. We have a responsibility as educators to reach our learners, to "change with the times," and adjust our teaching styles to fit our students. Outfitting classrooms with the tools to do so is an incredible start.

The largest, most important component of the project in Pennsylvania and an often missing piece of "smart" classrooms in my school district is the professional development that must come with teaching with technology. Simply giving teachers the equipment is not enough. Nor is it enough to know how to use a laptop and a projector. As Holly Jobe mentioned in her presentation, she observed a teacher who had given her students a research project to do on their laptops; but the question of the assignment was little more than "How much can you tell me about the country you're researching?" Further teacher training yielded a project where students were given more options in their research such as comparing the culture of their chosen country to America's culture. I agree wholeheartedly that without effective professional development, technology in the classroom is little more than a dust-collecting toy.

We may be a ways off from transforming our entire country's classrooms into "smart," authentic, constructivist learning centers. The cost for such an undertaking would be astronomical. But the project's success in Pennsylvania gives me hope that we're moving in the right direction. With new teachers being "raised" with integrated technology, and more districts investing in building-wide and classroom equipment, we may yet see our students demonstrate what we know they are more than capable of as we dive deeper into this 21st century.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Curriculum Mapping

Curriculum mapping is a phrase I heard tossed around in my school setting, but I never had a thorough understanding of what it specifically included. I realize there is no one box the every school or district fits into, but the information in chapters 5 & 6 of Curriculum Connections did a nice job of laying out the options clearly. I am both visual and linear, and, as such, I rely on grids and other similar organizers to keep me focused and on-task. The maps presented did much to help me fully grasp the concept of curriculum mapping.

The benefits of curriculum mapping in a school are immense. One of the greatest liabilities I see in my school is the lack of articulation between grade levels. Clear maps for each subject in each grade could eliminate needless re-teaching of certain content areas (mainly science), and all that class time could then be spent more productively exploring new material.

Maps also benefit grade level teams, their students, and the students' families. By mapping each subject for the entire school year, a teacher has a clearer direction where he or she is going and how long must be spent in getting there. This is especially useful to a new teacher or a teacher new to a grade level.

Students benefit when there is a clearer goal. Teachers can make "targets" known, and students can feel certain what is expected of them. Further, parents need to also have a strong sense of what is expected of their students. Curriculum maps consistent across the grade level are useful for parents of twins or parents who communicate with parents of students in other classrooms. The consistent timelines and expectations are necessary for parents to stay involved with their children's work.

But what does this mapping have to do with us as media specialists in school libraries? A lot! One particular facet that I appreciate is how we can work our library standards in with what is being taught in each grade level. We have planning of our own to do, and without knowing the destination, how can we possibly know the best route! School-wide curriculum mapping directly benefits us as it allows us to create our own maps. With each of our standards in mind and the timeline of what is being taught in the classroom for an entire school year, we can plan our lessons for the year and ensure that we teach all skills we are responsible for. The absence of grade level maps leaves us guessing as to what is being taught when and creating extra work in already-tight schedules by trying to reach busy teachers.

Maps should be dynamic and reflective; such maps could be very useful from year to year. If we take the time to make notes following our lessons of what worked well, what didn't work well, and what should be changed for next time, we will save ourselves countless hours of trying to reinvent the wheel. Further, if we allow ourselves to be open to new ideas teachers and administrators bring to us, as well as changes in the standards and curriculum, we will better benefit each of our students each day. We will not have to sit back and wait for our map to be devastatingly outdated and needing an overhaul, leaving our students in the dust in the interim. We will be able to put in fewer hours of re-mapping, and our students never get left behind.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I-SAIL: Illinois Standards Aligned Instruction for Libraries

After our first class meeting, I found myself fascinated with a topic that, I am almost embarrassed to admit, was new to me. As a former classroom teacher and a GSLIS student at the end of the program, I am no stranger to learning standards. I was not aware, however, of the incredible I-SAIL document that has recently been completed. To find AASL standards and Illinois state standards all aligned in one tool is such a boon to all Media Specialists.

The purpose of this document, according to I-SAIL, is "to empower, educate, and encourage school library media specialists to utilize this tool to teach Information Literacy Skills to their students; therefore preparing the students for college and an information fluent society" (p. 4). How far we've come in this field when there finally exists a document that truly defines what we do!

As I looked more closely at I-SAIL, I found the four I-SAIL standards intriguing. Not coincidentally, all four center on information. The first three standards use the verbs "access," "evaluate," and "use" as they relate to information. The last one appears to be more rooted in traditional library values as it begins with "appreciates literature;" but upon closer reading, the standard further states that a student "appreciates literature and other creative expressions of information and pursues information related to personal intersts and aesthetic growth" (I-SAIL, p. 5). The message we are clearly being sent is that everything we do centers wholly on information. I-SAIL does a fine job of really boiling that down.

The implications of this document are great for me. I finally feel I have something tangible and user-friendly that I can present to both my building administrators and my classroom teachers. For the two years that our elementary school has been open where I have served as Media Specialist, I feel that the staff has never really had a grasp of what exactly I do or should be doing nor how they can utilize my services to best serve their students. With the help of I-SAIL, I can now confidently approach my staff and begin to truly collaborate to meet the learning needs of every student in my school.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Global Warming

This webliography has been prepared for use by school librarians servicing students in grades 7-12. Youth who comprise “the green generation” are drawn to anything “Earth” centered, whether it is the recycling symbol on a t-shirt or hat, a notebook made from recycled Oreo packages, or the opportunity to talk about what we should be doing to “save the earth.” The purpose or this webliography is to provide an overview of a hot topic and allow students to form their own opinions on the state of our planet. Included are a number of resources designed to help youth become more active in conservation and recycling.

Climate Change. March 25, 2009. (accessed March 31, 2009).

The website for the Environmental Protection Agency, and this page in particular, is filled with information on the various aspects of global warming. It begins with a basic overview and is broken up into sections including Science, U. S. Climate Policy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health and Environmental Effects, and What You Can Do. Each of these sections contains two or three paragraphs providing scientific information in everyday language.

EPA has created this page to provide information to American citizens of most any age. The careful use of non-technical verbiage makes it easily accessible for middle and high school students doing research or looking to gain a wider knowledge base on a high-interest topic. The layout is devoid of graphics or animations, which many may say could turn away this student audience; however, I feel that such an approach adds credibility to the agency and allows the topic to be treated more seriously by students. It also allows this page to be a resource for an adult audience who, conversely, may turn away from a resource screaming with graphics. If a teacher or student found it useful or more interesting to explore a graphic-rich site, there is a link from this Climate Change page to a kids’ site that is geared toward a slightly younger audience.

The EPA is the leader of the United States’ environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts. Their mission is to “protect human health and the environment,” and, according to their website, “since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.” The authority of the EPA is highly respected, and this website represents many of their goals and ideals very well.

David, Laurie and Cambria Gordon. The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming. New York: Scholastic, 2007.

From the first glimpse of this book, the appeal will be strong among our intended audience. The cover shows the neck-down view of a teenage girl sitting in grass, holding what appears to be the Earth in her hands. I think this sends an important statement and will draw students in immediately. The book’s large, square shape is accessible, and the authors’ audience is likely upper elementary to middle school children. The arrangement of the text is appealing in its side boxes with sub-topics, familiar graphical references (including pizza, SpongeBob, surfers, etc.), and the multiple fonts/colors used to highlight and draw the eye to various sections or statements. The illustrations are large and colorful, and they support the text well. The content of this book is broken into four sections which are focused on the science of global warming, the effects of global warming on weather systems, its impact on plant and animal life, and what kids, their parents, and friends can do to counter the negative effects of global warming.

Author Laurie David is a global warming activist and producer of a number of documentaries, including An Inconvenient Truth. Co-author Cambria Gordon is a writer and environmental activist. The strength of the authority lies in the extensive list of acknowledgments and source notes which include scientists in America and Great Britain, the EPA, Green Peace, research journals, university researchers, and more.

This book in the hands of middle and high school students will give its readers a strong overview of a high-interest topic. It will keep them engaged while serving as an educational tool. Most readers will feel empowered to make a difference and will likely explore further after reaching the end of the final chapter. Further reading suggestions and a list of interesting web sites are included to keep readers interested and motivated. This one is an easy sell to most any gen-green student. They’re easy to spot: just look for the t-shirt with the recycling logo!

David, Laurie. The Solution is You. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Books, 2006.

In contrast to her Down-to-Earth Guide, Laurie David’s Solution is small, compact, and devoid of visuals. This “Activist’s Guide” is written in prose and is an inspiring work for “eco kids.” Written at a higher level, this book will appeal to the teens who want to cut to the chase and just take in the facts, ones who are too distracted by colors and graphics to enjoy Down-to-Earth. There is a fair amount of overlap in the scientific content as the subject is the same and is written by the same author. However, the differences in book formats make this as necessary in a collection as the other. Further, this book contains a great deal of “activist” perspective not found in the previously mentioned book and will give a great deal of “food for thought” to gen-green.

Spanning just 48 pages of text, this book is a fast read for most middle and high school students. The resource list found in the back is extensive and includes books, DVD’s, web sites, and environmental groups with contact information.

In addition to the previously listed authority of the author and her consultants, this book contains a great deal of commentary from respected politicians and pop culture icons that teens will be drawn to. It is the perfect companion to Down-to-Earth, and it is a necessary component of any YA global warming collection.

De Rothschild, David. The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook: 77 Essential Skills to Stop Climat Change--or Live Through it. United Kingdom: Butler and Tanner, Ltd., 2007

This book, as the title suggests, is less about the scientific aspects of global warming and more about what we can do to combat it. The sub-title will be the grabber for your students as everyone wants what’s-in-it-for-me information. This compact handbook is graphic-rich, but don’t let it full you: the content is mature. Suggestions such as “Convince a Skeptic” and “Adopt a Glacier” will not be fully realized by a younger audience; thus, it becomes clear quickly that this visual book is truly written for the older teenage audience.

Like Down-to-Earth, this book will appeal to the visual student. The layout of the text is largely broken up by colored boxes, and many sections include process lists, question and answer boxes, labeled diagrams, or step-by step how-to illustrations. No photographs are included, and all are illustrated in a similar style and color scheme.

The author, David De Rothschild, is the founder of Adventure Ecology. According to the book, this organization is a “youth movement that provides an inspirational platform for change, community, and action on global warming.” The influence of this concept is obvious as you read through its pages, and the youth readers will soak up its suggestions like the sun.

Gore, Al. An Inconvenient Truth: the Crisis of Global Warming. New York: Penguin Group. 2006.

This youth adaptation of the adult bestseller will serve as an excellent tool of information, intrigue, and awareness for its middle and high school readers. The language is clear and not excessively scientific, so students will find it readable. The book is divided into fourteen moderate-length chapters, all of which contain numerous, large, full-color photographs, charts, and diagrams. These will appeal to the visual learners as well as those who prefer rich text.

The credits for this book are too numerous to count. Gore cites scientists, researchers, and organizations across the globe for their contributions to his book. Gore, himself, is a Harvard grad whose eyes were opened to the problem of global warming back in 1968. He mentions in his introduction that in his “twenty-four years in government and now as a private citizen, [he has] always worked to alert people to the dangers of global warming and help figure out how to stop it.”

Not only will students devour Gore’s teen-appropriate adaptation, but teachers will find it useful as a classroom tool. There are a number of curricular ties to the book’s content, and sections of the available DVD may be shown as a means to break down more complex information. No middle or high school library should be without this powerful learning resource.

Climate Change. March 25, 2009. (accessed March 31, 2009).
David, Laurie and Cambria Gordon. The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming. New York: Scholastic, 2007.
David, Laurie. The Solution is You. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Books, 2006.
De Rothschild, David. The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook. United Kingdom: Butler and Tanner, Ltd., 2007.
Gore, Al. An inconvenient truth: the crisis of global warming. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.