Sunday, October 28, 2012

Article response - How to Know What Students Know

Crompton, Marc

Himmele, W., & Himmele, P. (2012). How to know what students know. Educational Leadership, 70(1), 58-62.

Assessment has become a fuzzy term of late.  "Back in the good old days" we cared about what students knew from a purely content perspective.  We measured this easily on instruments that produced "right" and "wrong" answers.  It was beautiful.  We could generate multiple choice tests that we could run through a scantron machine and have three classes marked and percentages calculated in under five minutes.  We could be at the pub in record time. 

Things aren't as clear any more.  We care about things like process and recognize that students aren't all the same.  Some of them express themselves differently and this has little or no correlation to how much "stuff" they actually know.  Himmele and Himmele introduce four techniques for engaging higher-order thinking, ensuring higher participation levels and getting to the root of what students actually know.  They talk about the Chalkboard Splash, the Debate Team Carousel, Picture Notes, and a strategy involving the placement of plastic animals on meaningful passages in a picture book.  While many of these strategies were aimed at elementary aged students, most could be modified easily to fit high school students as well.  Each strategy got students working individually and together in the same process, to pre-assess their own knowledge or feelings on an issue and to build on the ideas of others.  Most of the strategies involved producing something on the way to building that understanding.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of this article on assessment is the complete lack of discussion of grades.  This is a discussion of assessing students knowledge not evaluating, or placing value on, their progress.  With a portfolio of good assessment, a clear picture can be generated of where a student stands in relation to the expected outcomes of a particular course without tests or other "we'd better generate some marks before the end of term" type activities. 

I have a feeling that, if more people ascribe to this point of view, we won't be getting to the pub quite as quickly.  It's simply not as quick and easy to generate a mark with portfolios. But that might be OK, because we'll be having a more enjoyable and meaningful time in class.  We might not want to leave!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Study in Contrasts – My trip to the Johnstons Heights Secondary Learning Commons

Crompton, Marc

(cross-posted on Adventures in Libraryland)

I’m spending a fair amount of time thinking about the physical Learning Commons space these days.  This has led to some great conversations and the beginning of a few visits to local schools that have adopted the Learning Commons model.  It seems that more and more school districts are liking what they hear from the Learning Commons camp and are putting their money where their mouths are in terms of funding renovations, technology upgrades and re-furnishing.  One such school is Johnston Heights Secondary in Surrey, BC.
The path toward a Learning Commons was very quick at this school.  Under the direction of a district initiative to support a number of transitions, Michelle Hall applied for grants to rebuild her space.  Hall has a Teacher Librarian background but has been a Home-Ec teacher at Johnston Heights for a number of years.  When the previous TL announced her retirement last year, Hall was eager to get back in to the Library.  She spent a good portion of her year, reading, visiting and writing grants to put together her vision of what the Learning Commons should be.
The previous incarnation of the space held fast to the traditional model of the school library.  It was filled with shelves and filing cabinets.  There was an extensive set of filing cabinets housing a thorough collection of newspaper and magazine clippings.  Talking was “discouraged” and access to the library was by appointment with the librarian.  There are some wonderful floor to ceiling windows in the space that were blocked by filing cabinets and shelves.

The new vision is much more open and flexible.  It is a welcoming space where students often remind adult supervisors that this is a Learning Commons, not a Library and we’re allowed to talk.  The space is often filled with students, some who are there to work, and others are there because it is a welcoming environment that encourages reading and collaboration.  The circulation desk, that once took a large portion of the centre of the space is now along the back wall of the room freeing up space for comfy chairs and, soon, a coffee table.  Graphic novels and YA lit are within arms reach of this area.

Tables are now light and interlock in a multitude of ways.  Chairs are on wheels.  While there are natural areas for these furnishings to default into, they can be reconfigured instantly for any number of uses.  There are two presentation areas being built in opposite corners of the room.  One seems to be a more traditional space with a projector and whiteboard along with seating for an audience.  The other is planned to be more of a large computer monitor and whiteboard pairing near a number of the computer stations.  The windows have been cleared so the space is now a visible hub of the school that is seen from the front doors and two parallel hallways running up the sides of the room.  The windows also allow for some indirect natural light to filter into the room.

Books are still important in this space.  While there is a clear move toward digital resources and technologically enhanced manners of knowledge construction, there is still a recognition that there is a valued place for physical books.  The reference section has been significantly weeded and what remained has been integrated into the rest of the collection.  A number of the bookshelves were removed, but others have been kept.  Spaces have been created using the fixed shelving, and, where possible, mobile shelves have been used.
One of the issues of this spaces is common with the one that I work in.  That is that there is very little natural acoustic division.  It is very difficult for 2 presentations to occur simultaneously.  If a particularly energetic collaborative project is under way, it can be difficult for others to read quietly or cram for that last period test.  The shelves can help with this in this space as they act as dividers.  There are some adjacent rooms that offer opportunities for quiet work.  One is currently doubling as a media production lab with green screen and lighting.  Another is currently used by another department but is likely to become available in the near future.  As much as we encourage lively group work, it is also important to remember the needs of all users of the Learning Commons space and plan for quiet, individual use as well.

My take-aways from this visit relate to how much impact a physical design change can affect use and attitudes toward the space.  The descriptions of the silent, controlled environment that existed 6 months ago compared to what exists now are like day and night.  These descriptions did not just come from the TL but also from others who use the space.  There is a pride in the space that permeates the school.  When I signed in at the front desk I was told proudly that “we don’t have a library, we have a Learning Commons.”  While my school’s space is not as strict as what has been described in Johnston Height’s previous space, I do look forward to seeing and hearing the reaction to the new space when we enact the changes that we hope to.

Ideas that I want to pursue as I move forward based, in part, on this visit, include getting as much feedback from the community as possible as we build the ideas around the space.  While, if we were to use a Wikipedia analogy of if they build it, they will use it, doesn’t entirely translate here.  I’m not sure that I want a Grade 8 Architecture class actually building a space for public use!  But the more involved the users and current non-users are involved in influencing the design of the space, the more ownership they will feel and he more use they will get out of it.  The situation at Johnston Heights didn’t allow for much input and collaboration in the planning stages.  I wonder if things would have been done any differently had that process been able to happen.  I love that members of various departments got involved in the physical work of moving books and furniture to make room for the new.  I’m sure that there was more than one instance of “I didn’t know that we had that!” and a few ideas interjected along the way.  What a great way to get folks to feel a part of their learning space!
I’m also very conscious of the need for dedicated spaces for certain activities (media production lab, small group presentations, silent study).  As much as we want flexibility, there are certain things that need to be fixed to be able to function well.  A sound-proof room doesn’t usually work well if the walls are movable.  Living in an earthquake-prone zone, we have to take into consideration that some shelving needs to be bolted down or attached to a wall.  Often the need for flexibility needs to be balanced with other considerations that demand that we fix things in place.  This is where we have to be creative in our use of space and use what needs to be fixed in prudent ways, and find creative ways to stay as flexible as possible.

I’m really appreciative of the time that Michelle Hall spent with me at Johnston Heights today.  She has a lot of great things going on and it is great to spend some time exploring ideas that are important to us both.  I would encourage you to explore her blog and Flickr stream to see the transition in action.  The blog is also becoming a central focal point for her programme in general and it is great to see how the students are interacting with the new way of doing things.  Thank You, Michelle!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Calgary Document Discussion Forum

Add comments including quotes from the Calgary Document to participate in a class discussion in our blog.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Space Matters: Designing a High-School Library for Learning

Student Name:
Duff, Marina

Bibliographic Citation: 
Nelson, B. and McConachie, L. Space matters: designing a high school library for learning.  Educational Facility Planner (Online), 44 (1), 21-24.

Descriptive Summary:
I found this article while searching for ideas about school libraries. It clearly presents five design elements and considerations for school libraries that embrace 21st century students. First, one must value creating learning spaces more than book storage when designing the library. Second, the space must be flexible and adaptable for different teaching styles, learning styles, and groupings. Third, the library collection development policy must be closely aligned with what student patrons need and use. Fourth, the digital collection is just as important as the print collection and should be updated and promoted heavily. Fifth, all students of all backgrounds should feel welcome, safe, and inspired in the library space. Overall, the library must be able to serve many purposes from "social hub" to study hall. One should be able to work on homework alone or work on a group project collaboratively. The lighting, acoustics, air circulation, and bookshelf & seating arrangement must allow for proper supervision yet also make students feel free and independent.

This article shared how designing a school library is really more about the students' academic and social needs and less about book storage and beauty. The library needs to attract all types of learners so that they feel welcome, safe, and "inspired" in the space whether they are alone or in a group. Moreover, everything from the seating to the books should be chosen with careful consideration and using an authentic community analysis. Flexibility seems to be the key in accomplishing the task of creating a space that can appeal to different people, situations, and technological advances. This article has made me re-evaluate these five elements as they exist in my own library. Though there are some design elements that are not flexible, there are still plenty of items that are moveable such as the table and chair arrangement, book displays, and computer & laptop set up. I think the big idea here is to design and re-design one's library in ways that put the students' need first, and I think it is never too late to shake things up.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Meeting Students Where They Are: Enhancing the Library's Physical and Virtual Presence at High Point University

Shared by Julianne McCall-Bramley
Pace, M.  (2010). Meeting Students Where They Are: Enhancing the Library’s Physical and Virtual Presence at High Point University.  North Carolina Libraries (Online), 68 (2), 15-17.

I came across the article about High Point University and wanted to share it.  When the university had an opportunity to create a satellite library in order to manage the overcrowding at the campus’s main library, they utilized blueprints for a learning commons as well as a virtual learning commons.  Although they do have some basic reference books and popular titles available at this library, it is mostly a place for online research and studying.  It is a large area with lots of seating and a librarian is on duty to assist students.  What is interesting about this library is the fact that they decided to “embed academics” into student life and recreation by placing the learning commons in a non-academic building.  This means that the learning commons is in a building that also has several options for dining & entertainment, such as a bakery and a movie theater, just to name a few.   They also expressed that the investment was quite manageable since they only needed staff, furniture, and some technology.  This library is open 24/7.

I did some further research to see if there was anything current posted about the success of this commons and the only thing that I was able to find were several job postings for “evening librarians.”  At the end of the article there was a discussion about some of the challenges to providing chat references and it seems that the university was looking into several options for improving that service.

And here’s High Point’s official press release from 2009.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Discussion - Learning Commons as Athletic Space

Crompton, Marc
(cross-posted from Adventures in Libraryland)

One of the advantages of a long commute is that you do have plenty of time to think.  It struck me on the drive in this morning that the model of the Learning Commons proposed by David Loertscher, et al is not that different than walking into your typical school gym.  A gym, is about activity and flexibility.  Very few schools that I know of (likely no schools) have the resources to have a different gym design specifically for a particular sport.  One or two gyms have be able to accommodate basketball, floor hockey, volleyball, badminton and who knows how many more sports.  Often, the space is also an assembly and performance space.  The lines on the floor overlap and are colour-coded for different functions.  The space has to be ready for just about any use.  The one thing that the typical gym lacks is the equipment to play those sports.  These are usually housed in a separate, often locked, room.
The library, is the equipment room.  We usually have security gates controlling access to the resources.  It is all about storage.  The difference is, that we would never expect the basketball team to hold a practice, much less a game, in the equipment room, yet we do this daily in the library.  OK, the school library has never been that small and locked down.  There's always been room to sit and read, study and work.  But the emphasis has been on the resources, not the activity.  With a Learning Commons, we've moved out into the gym.  This space is about the work being done, not about the storage of resources.  The difference is that we've kept the storage room doors wide open.  In fact, we've removed the walls to the storage room and made it part of the gym space.  We now have the flexibility to carry out any number of tasks from individual quiet reading, to group study and even performance or other displays of expertise and knowledge.  The "game" is knowledge building.  We have layers of colour-coded lines on the floor and are ready to accommodate any activity related to the game and the tools to play that game - books, computers, maps, tables, presentation space... - are in the room and ready to go.
In the gym, we primarily exercise the body.  In the Learning Commons, we primarily exercise the brain.


(post by Allyson Bogie)

This is beautiful. Exquisite, to my eyes. The polar opposite of my hideous library website.

Okay, hideous is an overstatement and my apologies to Charlotte Gonzales. It's not her fault--the site already existed before she came on board. But seriously. Beauty, personified. How do I make my site simple and functional like this?

There's plenty of information, even though it looks sparse. Each white bar pulls down (click the link above to see the actual template).

Sure wish I knew more web design...doh!

One thing Schmidt talks about in the article introducing this template is what to do about the information below the fold (ie what you would have to scroll down to see). Here are his rules on that:
1. Get ride of it.
2. Go to rule 1.

Here's the website for the Walter Read Middle School library. I think they're doing something pretty similar to the image below.

Next step: How to fix my library's VLC...stat!

Schmidt, A. (2012, September 18). Starting with simplicity. [web log post]. Retrieved from  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dewey Decimal and the Dodo Bird?

Crompton, Marc

Kaplan, T. B., Dolloff, A. K., Giffard, S., & Still-Schiff, J. (2012). Are Dewey's Days Numbered? School Library Journal, 58(10), 24-28.

(This is cross-posted in Adventures in Libraryland)

I just finished reading Are Dewey's Days Numbered in the current issue of School Library Journal and I have to say that I'm conflicted about the idea of tossing out Melvil with yesterday's garbage.  I love the fact that people are challenging the old guard.  Let's face it, Melvil was a bit of a quack and certainly was a product of his particular times and geographical location.  It should be no surprise to anyone reading this that the 19th century, Euro-centric perspective has significant implications in areas like religion and technology.  But I wonder if the underpinnings of the system are bad enough to warrant chucking the whole thing.

The beauty of any system is that it is a system.  It is something that all agree to ascribe to so that one can walk into any situation in the world and know what is going on.  Dewey Decimal, at my last check, was still THE most widely used classification system in the world.  The fact that my students, having learned DDC, can walk into a library in France and know where things are, without even knowing the language, has huge value.  I feel for the poor kids leaving these schools who have chucked Dewey.  They'll go down the street to their public library and be lost, or have to learn the system anyway.

We are dealing with a system that is designed to organize physical objects.  There are serious limitations to organizing physical objects, the primary one being that no object can be in two places at the same time.  (Weinberger goes into this in great depth in Everything is Miscellaneous.)  We get around this, by developing a system that places like items together.  The problem is that we have to determine in what way these objects are alike.  Items are alike in different ways and we have to figure out what ways are most important to us.  This allows us to be able to browse a section of a library and see "all" of the books that are similar, next to each other.  But what is important to one browser is not to another.  No system is going to be able to group items together that will address all browsers needs.
This is where the catalogue comes in.  Catalogues allow us to describe items in a way that we can regroup items.  In today's world, this is done in virtual space using computers.  If we follow Weinberger, what we could do is throw everything into one giant pile and let users categorize them in ways that are meaningful to them.  We can tag items, put them in folders, rate them, and sort them in any way that makes sense to us, as long as we have some way of retrieving the item quickly and easily.  In this kind of world, we could simply number every book by the order that they were acquired and go to the shelf to get them once we've done our browsing in the catalogue.  The reality is that some folks, myself included, love to scan shelves of books and an arbitrary organization scheme like this does nothing to help browsing.

So, here we have an elementary school in New York that has devised their own system to aid browsers.  They have re-categorized all of the books in a way that makes sense to them.  Well, it makes sense to them now.  I suspect that, in ten years, they'll be looking at all of this again and questioning why certain sections exist and why particular books are put on specific shelves.  But, for now, it works.  They are rejoicing because circulation has gone through the roof.  I have to wonder how much of that has to do with the new organization system itself and how much of that is because it is new and everything is in a different place.  How many times have you moved and "discovered" that old book or recording that you'd forgotten that it exists.  There is currently a newness to the old stuff.  I'm sure that some of this rise in circulation has to do with the system itself.  It was developed in a collaborative manner with current users of the resources.  It makes sense to these people at this time.

I agree that Dewey is old and has many flaws, but I don't think that we're at a point where we should be throwing it out.  I even wonder how much energy should be put into thinking about revising a system used to organized physical books.  As much as I love the physical media, technology is slowly digitizing our libraries.  At some point, all of our resources become digital and then we CAN have a single resource in multiple places at the same time.  The Dewey Decimal systems dies a natural death because it is a system used to organizing items that we are no longer using.  Until that time, DDC is as good as anything else we have.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.  And I don't think that it's broke.


Kaplan, T. B., Dolloff, A. K., Giffard, S., & Still-Schiff, J. (2012). Are Dewey's Days Numbered? School Library Journal, 58(10), 24-28.
Weinberger, D. (2007). Everything is miscellaneous: The power of the new digital disorder. New York, NY: Times Books.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our online presences & PLEs

by Allyson Bogie

In my mind, the PLE has a few components. One of these components is keeping track of your information sources. For example, a big part of my PLE is my Google Reader. Anytime I find a blog that I would like to read regularly, I add it to my reader. Then, I check my reader most days. I have different folders--friends/family, local, and professional/LIS. This is a significant source of information for me. I have also started using Twitter as a significant information source, and I'm noticing that it's rapidly getting used more and more, in so many different ways. I'm excited to be reading Twitter--and now I want to start producing content.

All of this relates to a blog post that I read on a cool block called Hack Library School that's in my Google reader. It's a blog maintained by library school students, and a lot of the entries really relate to my experiences and interests in SLIS and librarianship in general.

The blog post of mention is called "Online Presents, a.k.a. You 2.0" (Pho, 2011, February 2). Pho stresses the importance of having a Google-able online presence, and says this is something that she has spent some time discussing in library school. Certain things should be kept private (most likely your FB page) but you should also be aware of what is public--it can be surprising. In this vein, it's probably a good idea to "google" your name once in awhile. One comment that came up on the blog was that if at least one (or more) other people have your name, it can be problematic. People agreed that if this is the case, you have to try even harder to establish your online presence, so that if someone searches your name on Google they will recognize that your online presence is that of a librarian/librarian candidate with your name.

So my question to all of you is, how do you establish an online presence? What type of online presence do you have? Whose online presence do you admire? And when do you Google search someone? For what purpose?

Pho, C. "Online presence, a.k.a. you 2.0." (2011, February 2). Blog post. Accessed at

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Discussion: "Learning Commons?" in transition

Crompton, Marc

My school is in the midst of the creation of a long-term building plan.  While I don't yet know what these really means in terms of completion date and design, I was excited when the discussion turned again to the Learning Commons this weekend!

The firm that we are working with in the design phase is Fielding Nair International.  These people have impressed me deeply in their initial visits to the school.  The emphasis of Fielding Nair was on education, not on architecture.  We talked curriculum and scheduling rather than glitzy finishings or building code.  It was in this context that I was very interested when I was presented with a collection of documents relating to a current project that the firm is working on at Magnificat High School in Rocky River, Ohio.  They have just completed Phase I of a 2 phase project to establish the school's new Surround Learning Center.  The Surround Learning concept seems to parallel the Learning Commons concept that we are discussing in class.  The principal idea in both is the idea that the 21st century school library needs to be a constructivist space.  It is not a repository of books as much as it is a collaborative space to build knowledge.  Here are some pictures of the the space as it started and as it is now.

 The original entry to the Library.

Redesigned entry.

 The new space with skylight.

"Sushi Tables"

Likely the most valuable piece of documentation of this project is the blog that was maintained through the course of the design and construction phase.  Originally written by one of the designers at Fielding Nair, James Seaman, and followed by an incoming Senior at Magnificat, the blog documents the process from initial inception to completion of phase I.  Some of the initial posts look very familiar to me as they mirror the process that I was involved in at my school, although our school is looking at a much bigger, full school project.

Also of value are a newspaper article and letter from the principal of Magnificat outlining the ideas behind the renovation and the initial reactions by the students, staff and greater community.  Unfortunately, I can't seem to figure out how to upload pdfs to the blog!  If you can help, I will add them to this post.  You might also be interested in the school web site's take on the project.

Library Design

Crompton, Marc

Sullivan, M. (2011, April 1). Divine Design: How to create the 21st-century school library of your dreams. Divine Design: How to Create the 21st-century School Library of Your Dreams. Retrieved October 14, 2012, from

I know that I've read this before.  Not sure if it was in 250 or when it was first published in print.  Either way, it doesn't matter, it's a good piece to stimulate thinking about the design of the Learning Commons' physical space.  Sullivan, who works in sales with a library furnishing company, presents 5 design considerations for anyone who is looking at renewing their space.  Concepts such as flexibility of space and tech-friendly thinking are some that we've discussed in our own class discussions already.  Interesting are thoughts about the "Starbucks" feel of some library spaces.  Sullivan cautions that we should think about the long-term use of these spaces and compares them to the relationship of the living room to a kitchen in most homes.  The kitchen is where folks spread out at a table, coffee at their side to get work done.  While a living room is comfortable and often the most "beautiful" room of the house, it is not usually conducive to productivity.  There is a fear of spilling on the expensive furniture and tables are not at convenient heights.

I also reflect on the bookstore model that she discusses for the library.  This is not a new idea, but is is popular.  I wonder, though, how effective it is.  Bookstores are built for selling books.  They decide which books they want you to buy and display them in prominent ways.  Libraries are, primarily, designed to allow learners to find information quickly and easily.  I know that when I have to find a biography in my local bookstore, it can take forever.  Dewey decimal is getting a bad rep these days.  While it is far from a perfect system, it does allow an organization that makes it easy to walk to a shelf and quickly determine if the book you need is in and what other books on the same topic are available.  Every try to find a specific book on a "bargain table?" 

I also find the seven resources at the end of the article and the comments (with some posts from our very own Dr. Loertscher) to be particularly valuable.  Off to explore some of those now!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Lies Often Stick Better Than Truth

Fischman, John (October 5, 2012). Why lies often stick better than the truth. The Chronicle of Higher Education, LIX(6), p. A3.
submitted by Kathryn Whitehouse

Lies and misinformation are a sad artifact of our political process and much of our news sources. Opinions are given the same weight as facts, and even ideas that have been debunked as fraudulent, such as President Obama’s birth certificate as forged, and the alleged link between vaccines and onset of autism, continue to have traction. Fischman asks, “why do we like our slanted information and outright lies so much?” Because rejecting them is hard work, and it is easier to slot evidence into ideas we already hold.

So what has any of this to do with school libraries? Students may bring their own incorrect ideas to the library and approach their academics with an inadequate skill set or with baked-in information that is contrary to what they are willing to learn. Worse, their parents may come charging angrily into the library with misguided ideas on what types of books are unacceptable in your library and demand their removal. What can you do?

Colleen M. Siefert of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor explains the only way to persuade people to let go of erroneous information is to provide a plausible alternative (hopefully the truth). Alas, the recipient needs to be open to changes of view and willing to work through the process. And does anyone like to admit to being incorrect?

But in the absence of all that, this article provides a truly useful nugget of advice when communicating with patrons in the thrall of erroneous information. Here it is: Do not repeat the erroneous information back to the patron as you are discussing it. You run the risk of making the association even stronger in that patron’s memory.

So instead of saying, “It is not true that the Harry Potter series promotes satanism” you might say instead, “the Harry Potter series is filled with themes from folk tales and fairy tales, from Greek legends as well as from contemporary fantasy. Traces of Harry Potter can be found in hundreds of classic and award winning books also in this library. Our young readers are a lot smarter than some of us give them credit for, and they enjoy books that entertain them.” And instead of saying, “Our collection of GLBT fiction is not about promoting deviant lifestyles” you might say, “We are proud of our small collection of GLBT titles. Furthermore, these titles enjoy great support from the student body. GLBT youth are substantially more vulnerable to bullying and abuse, and are more likely to commit suicide. These books are all about providing information to GLBT youth and their friends so they can be safe, healthier, happier, and less alone.”

Or something like that. I’m sure you can devise something more clever. So use those diplomacy skills and bust some lies today!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Reflections on the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner

Crompton, Marc

American Library Association. (2010). Position Statement on the Common Core College- and Career-Readiness Standards [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved October 10, 2012, from

I feel kind of awkward posting on a required reading like this, but it strikes me that this document is worth discussing.  It is, by far, the most dense of our course readings and I think that there is a lot to consider here.  I couldn't help but thinking, as I re-read it, that this is like a masterwork of art in that every time I come back to it, I get something different.  I may bring different experiences and ideas to reflect in it, but I come out with something unique each time.

The first thing that hits me about the AASL standards are the four key elements: Skills, Dispositions in Action, Responsibilities, and Self-Assessment Strategies.  This is not a document about teaching; this is a document about learning.  It puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the learners.  It doesn't talk about curriculum in terms of what we need to teach; it talks about the kind of person that the learners strive to become.  I would venture to say - and this is not stated in the document - that this applies to ALL learners in the school community, regardless of age or position.

This emphasis on the learner allows those in coaching positions (traditionally, the teachers) to see the students for who they are in order to help them grow to where they should be.  This is an individualistic approach.  It does not say that students need to be collaborative.  It says that one of a learner's responsibilities is to "Solicit and respect diverse perspectives while searching for information, collaborating with others, and participating as a member of the community" and that they "Assess [their] own ability to work with others in a group setting by evaluating varied roles, leadership, and demonstrations of respect for other viewpoints."  While the end point is the same, we recognize that learners arrive at different times and take different paths. 

Finally, it puts the library/media centre/learning commons square in the middle of learning.  Not by forcing it there as some documents seem to, but by simply recognizing that there is no better place in the school to learn than at this physical and virtual hub.  I think that it is easy in this day and age of digitization for us to fear for our personal futures and cling to the past.  We get defensive about our roles and talk a little too desperately about how things "should" be.  If we simply recognize how things are and that the learning commons is the natural centre of any learning community, there is no advocacy, there is only statement of fact.  I read each point in this document thinking about how else learners develop these skills, dispositions, responsibilities and strategies.  It is true that many are supported in a variety of places in a learning community, but there is no place in the school that addresses them all and I would venture to say that there are many (most?) that are addressed best in the learning commons.

This is a logical document to be developed by the AASL but it is one that should be adopted by schools, not just libraries.  Libraries then are the ideal place in the learning community to foster these ideals and drive their development.

Today marks the second anniversary of the release of this document.  I hope that it has been well circulated and adopted throughout the educational community.

OK, there's my two cents worth.  What do YOU think?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

iPads for Everyone: How a small library program became a runaway hit and reached more than 4,100 kids and teachers.

McCall-Bramley, Julianne

Foote, Carolyn (2012, October 2). iPads for Everyone: How a small library program became a runaway hit and reached more than 4,100 kids and teachers. Retrieved October 7, 2012, from The Digital Shift:

While spending a lot of time investigating and thinking about what kind of content to put on the Experimental Learning page of my group’s VLC, I came across this interesting article from School Library Journal via The Digital Shift. The VLC that my group is working on is for a school that is currently utilizing a one on one iPad program for the middle school aged kids (grades 6-8). This consists of approximately 90 ipads (30 per grade). Since the VLC we are developing is for one of my partner’s schools, I personally haven’t had the opportunity to see how this program works. My partner did mention that she knows that the students are using the iPad right now in order to access their textbooks as well as eBooks. I hope that this is just the beginning.   As a new iPad owner, I have only just begun to understand and utilize the many, many bells and whistles that accompany this technology. This librarian, Carolyn Foote, started this revolution two years ago with only 6 iPads and the ratio has now grown to become a 1:1. Foote walks readers through her program and all of the various roads that she traveled to evolve and find her role in this revolution. She piloted and experimented and is still working to define the iPad use.  She also recognizes that this will be a continuous cycle of growth as students needs' change, classrooms change, and technology changes. I really needed to share this since after reading it, I felt that it was applicable to our existing goals of creating, promoting, and utilizing VLCs in our schools. Foote's beginnings were small and grew by leaps and bounds because of her dedication and determination. She is an inspiration!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lowering the voting age: Children’s choice awards are a great way to get kids excited about reading

Von Drasek, Lisa (2012). Lowering the voting age: Children’s choice awards are a great way to get kids excited about reading School Library Journal, 58(5), 38-40.
submitted by Kathryn Whitehouse
    Some years ago, I performed a volunteer project of creating and administering a California Young Reader Medal contest. I read the nominated picture books to each classroom over a 5 week period-- one book per visit. At the sixth week I passed out ballots. I created paper ballots with color thumbnails of the book covers and I verbally described each book to remind the kids of the story. I collected their votes, tallied them, and announced a winner. It was a fun project for me, and an engaging project for the kids.

    Von Drasek repeats this experiment every year for her New York City elementary students, and has never found the experience to be anything less than impactful. Students are thrilled to be consulted for their opinions, bring enlightened discernment to their deliberations, and take ownership of the process. They eagerly await the award announcement to see if their choices matched the award results. But Von Draske sees an even bigger payoff in how these events support the Common Core by encouraging critical thinking. Van Drasek also finds these events an obvious avenue of collaboration with teachers as they use the both the content of these nominee titles ( for language arts and social studies connections) and the voting process (for math and graphing connections) for deep curriculum support. She also finds teachers appreciate working with newer quality titles as a pleasant break from older titles, and are invigorated by their students’ intense engagement. Many states offer young readers’ choice awards (including California). But schools could easily customize an event to support their curriculum and examine nominees from Caldecott, Newbery, Geisel, Belpre, or Coretta Scott King.   

If I were to repeat my previous project and had only one day to accomplish this activity, I would consider something different. I would employ as many readers as classrooms. Each reader would visit each classroom to read his or her book. In an hour, a classroom would have had four visitors and have had four nominee books read aloud. The students would then vote using a Google forms survey instead of paper slips. This could be done on the teacher’s lap top one at a time, or with laptops in the classroom. The survey results would already be collected and ready for sharing. On a practical level, it would be done one grade at a time. 

But I much prefer Van Drasek’s less hurried approach for its ability to impart varied and significant curriculum connections over a longer time period, and for its ability to sustain young readers’ interest.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

New York State assessment rubric for teacher librarian

Donna Curley-Izzo

Dr. L posted this link in a class email and suggested someone post it here as a topic of discussion, maybe not right now but when we get to assessment.

However I would like to post a comment right now. From what I have been reading, 21st century learning is moving away from lengthy lists of discrete descriptors and instead, focuses on deep understanding of broad concepts and essential skills. In my opinion this rubric is the opposite of 21st century learning is supposed to be. It is too wordy and rather intimidating. I am wondering who will be evaluating the teacher librarian. It certainly can't be one administrator since it would take multiple observations and examination of a tremendous amount of data to assess each of the descriptors.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Using Twitter to build a personal learning network

Teri Lesesne gave an excellent presentation at KidLitCon 2012 about using Twitter to build a professional learning network. Teri pulled together so much of what I've experienced over the past year with Twitter.
Teri Lesesne (@ProfessorNana on Twitter),  often known as "the Goddess of YA", is a professor of children’s and YA literature at Sam Houston University.  Teri was inspiring, informative and funny as she shared how social media, and Twitter in particular, has enriched her professional life. At its essence, Twitter is about connecting people who share common interests and enabling quick, meaningful conversations. Through her extensive network, Lesesne is able to reach out to teachers, school librarians, authors, publishers, editors and more to learn about children’s books. These are educated stakeholders who share information, experience and advice on an informal, collegial manner.
Twitter continues to grow at astounding rates, attracting its largest demographic from women and from people ages 22-55 years old. Its usage has doubled within the last twelve months. With more limits on professional development funds, it is essential that we invest time and effort in developing our professional network in ways that don’t rely on attending conferences.

 Lesesne recommends finding a few trusted voices, following their conversations and exploring who they’re talking with. John Schumacher (@MrSchuReads), Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks), Paul Hankins (@PaulWHankins) and Katherine Sokolowski (@katsok) all are excellent choices for teachers and school librarians. Start by listening to their conversations and exploring links they share, but then try jumping in and adding your perspective.

 Finally, Lesesne recommended checking out a regular Twitter chat such as #titletalk. Titletalk is a monthly chat hosted by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, held on the last Sunday of every month at 8pm Eastern time. Each month, teachers and librarians from across the US (and beyond) gather on Twitter to share their favorite children's books. Just last weekend, the Titletalk focused on book talking as a way to recommend books (archive available here). One great way to follow a Twitter chat such as this is using the website TweetChat.

 Check out more of Lesesne's excellent points through her SlideShare presentation. Follow her on Twitter (@ProfessorNana) - she shares a wealth of information. And stop by her blog (Professor Nana) to get great reading recommendations.

 I really enjoy using Twitter to connect with librarians, teachers and children's book lovers. It's a wonderful resource for when I'm trying to think of new titles to share with kids. And the best is connecting with others who are just as excited about sharing books. Come say hi to me on Twitter if you get a chance - I'm @MaryAnnScheuer.

Lesesne, T. (2012). "Don't Be a Twit: Building a PLN using social networks." Talk delivered at KidLitCon. Slides available on SlideShare at