Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Beautiful Example


Hyman, S. C. (2014). Planning and creating a library learning commons. Teacher Librarian, 41(3), 16-21.

This is a beautiful article; I am fighting the urge to copy it verbatim for my Vision assignment. Shannon Hyman details her district’s process of building a LEED-Certified Elementary School and creating a Learning Commons with great deliberateness. Intentionality, beauty, literacy, and connection run through this process and presumably the space itself. Hyman writes that “planning a center of teaching and learning means restructuring existing notions about libraries as storage spaces and constructing a vision of the space as a scaffold to support both formal and informal learning experiences simultaneously.” (Hyman, 2014, p.16). She offers specific examples of seating choices, marine-grade fabrics, foldable tables; she also shows clearly how students use the space and how this use is purposeful, readily adaptable to different learning purposes, and aligned with the school’s goals. This purposeful alignment shows in her statement that planning followed the 

“AASL Standards for the 21st-century Learner in Action (2009) and our school's inaugural initiatives, which include the precepts that learning is cooperative, empowering, active, and meaningful. Our planning team knows intuitively that in order to maintain the integrity of this vision and create a culture of readers, we must tend to the space, the furnishings, the collection, and most of all the people. We make every decision based on three distinct priorities-people, flexibility, and durability-knowing that the core of our learning community requires a learning commons. Our LLC is not a storage place for books and equipment with limited accessibility. Students are greeted with a series of posters that remind them that in this space we think deeply, speak gently, read widely, and work hard.” (Hyman, 2014, p. 17)”

Hyman goes on to describe the power of collaboration and the primacy of literacy in an elementary school library; she posits the Learning Commons as the center of a story that radiates through the school and offers a beautiful quotation by Mem Fox about how literacy sharing is collaborative in nature.  Love of story and careful attention to children’s needs—as evidenced by clear planning and ergonomically designed gliders, tables, and stools—make this library one I’d love to see in person.  She clearly explains the multiple roles that the LLC plays, saying that though its design, “our LLC is a curious balance of two worlds: cozy, restful spaces for overly stimulated minds and roomy areas that activate wonder, the exchange of ideas, and exploration” (Hyman, 2014, p. 21). I highly recommend this article. 

Google in Court


Herold, B. (2014, March 13). Google under fire for data-mining student email messages. Education Week Online. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/13/26google.h33.html

I work at a “Google Apps for Education” school. I use Google Documents with students and colleagues every day; I use Gmail all of the time. In that regard, I am biting the hand that feeds me. However, any school using Google’s suite of apps ought to pay close attention to this article, which carefully delineates the case against Google heard this spring in Federal court. Quite honestly, it also explains the numerous spam emails my seventh eighth grade students receive through their school Gmail accounts. It’s a powerful reminder of the adage, “when you’re receiving a free service, you are not the customer.”
Herold delineates the suit brought by nine different plaintiffs against Google; Google admits to data-mining student email messages for marketing purposes. Google also created profiles using this data for the purpose of targeted marketing. Data mining potentially violates Federal laws prohibiting unwarranted wiretaps; at issue is whether Google’s admission that it “scans” student emails for targeted advertising violates this law. Herold offers examples of how districts and universities are responding, as even schools that opt out of advertising are subject to Google’s scanning of all correspondence. Notably, he cited the University of Alaska’s “Google mail FAQ’s” publication that alerts students to the fact that keyword scanning will be used.
This article provides essential background not only for school and district staff members, but also for students who are either Gmail users or involved in any kind of digital citizenship education. 

Academic Paper on Communication Commons in Academic Libraries


Browndorf, M. (2014). Student library ownership and building the communicative commons.  Journal of Library Administration, 54:2, 77-93, doi:10.1080/01930826.2014.903364

This recent scholarly paper is a must-read. Browndorf argues powerfully that prioritizing student participation within the library may be the best preparation for participation in the wider cultural commons post-graduation.” (Browndorf, M. 2014) She reviews existing literature, citing Birdsall’s 2010 “Communicative Commons” model as a means for connecting college students to a wider cultural commons and to more engaged communication. She moves on to cite Beagle’s knowledge commons (2006) as a model to which school and academic libraries can affordably aspire. Browndorf’s proposed transformations are deliberately student-centered and cost-effective: while her article is not a showcase of beautiful furniture, she focuses on how academic libraries can create a powerful shift in purpose through student engagement.
Browndorf sets up her proposed suggestions after thoroughly reviewing the origins of the use of the term “commons,” going back historically to shared grazing areas. She cites Hardin’s 1968 “Tragedy of the Commons,” in which no one takes responsibility for shared resources, resulting in their demise. She then moves though a psychological literature review regarding the positive impact of student ownership on student engagement and learning. Make no mistake: this is an academic paper. However, I can see that a teacher librarian may need to submit this to a district superintendent or wary board of trustees in order to gain support for a Learning Commons model.
Finally, Browndorf’s recommendations are sound: she proposes student advisory committees and councils as ways to create and assess learning commons models; she also recommends student creation and implementation of library orientation services, noting student-designed library web apps. This article offers a solid idea in conventional-enough packaging; it’s a good read and a potentially useful advocacy tool.

Excerpt from Howard Gardner's New Book of Educational Technology


Barseghian, T. (2014, January 27). How can we maximize the potential of learning apps? KQED Mind/Shift. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/01/how-can-we-maximize-the-potential-of-learning-apps/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+kqed%2FnHAK+%28MindShift%29

I generally find the Mind/Shift Blog to be full of ideas that are both rich and practical; this post was ne exception. I follow Howard Gardner’s work closely—he is best known for his work on Multiple Intelligences and currently works at Harvard’s Project Zero, an incredible educational organization.  His most recent book—co authored with Katie Davis—is titled The App Generation: How Today’s Youth Navigate Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in a Digital World.  I read two reviews earlier this winter in which the reviewers found Gardner’s tone a little preachy and vague, pitting “youth” against “adults” and creating a false dichotomy between a generation reliant on electronic devices and a generation accustomed to communicating differently. Surprised that Gardner would draw such a sharp distinction, I hesitated to rush to put the book on hold at my public library. However, after reading the excerpt Tina Barghasian selected, I may go back and read the book, but slwoly0- and with an eye to my 75-year-old father’s increasing tech-savviness.
In the excerpt reprinted, Gardner and Davis warn against the majority of educational apps that they say serve an outdated model of “factory-style” automation, rapidly and sleekly delivering digestible educational content with a rewards system that they compare to behaviorist B.F. Skinner’s. However, they also point to the promise of emerging web 2.0 technologies as far richer and more engaging. They claim that “as we transition from web 1.0 to web 2.0 and beyond, there is no reason anymore simply to respond to stimuli fashioned by others, no matter how scintillating and inviting they may be. Rather, any person in possession of a smart device can begin to sketch, publish, take notes, network, create works of reflection, art, science — in short, each person can be his or her own creator of knowledge.” (Gardner and Davis, 2013). They use Scratch as an example of a potentially wonderful app for fostering ingenuity and engagement, yet also warn that, like a hammer, even an engaging app can be misused—in this case, for hacking. This excerpt concludes with a reminder that mindful, attentive adults need to be attending to children’s engaged learning rather than offering mindless consumption in the name of education. The authors choose a Sesame Street word finding app as an example of a tool that could potentially be a path to greater engagement with words in the world for young children, or a mere electronic babysitter.
I was hooked—again—by Gardner’s thinking and will be reading the whole book this summer. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Librarians as Professional Developers


Abilock, D., Fontichiaro, K., and Harada, V., eds. (2012). Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.  ISBN 978-1-61069-041-6. 390 pages.

This book combines the visionary and the day-to-day in schools, offering advice to teacher librarians that is at once inspiring and practical. Full of big ideas and practical recommendations, it is a must-read for Teacher Librarians; arguably, it is a must-own.  The editors draw upon their considerable experience and expertise in school libraries and, more importantly, in school communities to position teacher librarians as crucial to quality professional development since they directly impact all stakeholders within a school.
The editors do an especially good job of explaining common pitfalls and the realities of the needs of adult learners.  They focus on communication basics, underlining the importance of strong interpersonal skills. In exactly the same way these skills are critical in reference interviews, they are equally if not more important in teacher librarians’ conversations with faculty and administrators within a school.  They extend a metaphor of a garden and show specific and varied examples of how teacher librarians have used a wide set of entry points and instructional tools in order to further not only professional development, but school-wide learning.  I found the case studies to be the most helpful part of this book, as best practices models are key for any teacher librarian, whether new or experienced. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Transforming a drab library

Gilcreast, J. (2014). FROM DRAB TO FAB. Knowledge Quest, 42(4), 38-43.

Jessica Gilcreast is a librarian in New Hampshire. In this recounting, she describes the years-long process of transforming a library both physically (furniture, layout) and spiritually, transforming the culture of the school to recognize the value of a library (complete with librarian).

Breaking it down to a year-by-year description with the incremental goals, Gilcreast reveals creative problem solving techniques (grant-writing, advocating to the PTA) combined with an ambitious agenda to transform her library.


Librarians who work in or have worked in inner-city schools will recognize the institutional neglect combined with the students who deserve more – and get it from Ms. Gilcreast.

--Jono Jones