Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Creating effective presentations

posted by Mary Ann Scheuer - cross-posted at Research and Reflections

I've been working hard on developing a strong presentation for my Vision Project for a school library. My first step was thinking deeply about how I shape and share my vision. But the next step is about how I present those ideas. I want to make my presentation dynamic and impactful. I know I want to avoid a lengthy Power Point presentation, but what are some key points for an effective presentation?

Gwyneth Jones, aka The Daring Librarian, has a great presentation called "How to be a Presentation Ninja".  SlideShare is an excellent tool to use, both to save and share your own presentations but also to follow other outstanding librarians. Here is Gwyneth's presentation

How to be a Presentation Ninja from gwyneth jones

I also have taken a lot of inspiration from Joyce Valenza, both in terms of the content she shares and the way she puts together effective, clear slides. Here is a recent presentation she shared on SlideShare called "Five Forward."

Fiveforward from joycevalenza

Here's another presentation I love from Joyce Valenza, called New Rules.

Newrules from joycevalenza

Some of my takeaways from these presentations:
  • Use strong visuals. Capture people's attention with pictures.
  • Use Creative Commons images from Flickr and cite your sources.
  • Consider purchasing a dynamic image from iStock Photo.
  • Use words sparingly to focus attention.
  • Use dynamic, bold fonts.
  • Add clear, streamlined text to images.
  • Share your presentations. Spread the word beyond the initial audience.
I've started working on my Vision Project, developing a Prezi: Creating Dynamic School Libraries. If anyone has the time to take a look and share their comments, I'd love that. One of the things that I so admire about Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones are that they share their ideas openly and freely.

Thanks, Mary Ann

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Starting the Journey of Building a Learning Commons

--> Wong, Mary

White, B. (2011). Towards a learning commons: my journey; your journey. Teacher Librarian, 38(3), 27-30.

The author shares about his "shifts in direction or signposts" as he describes the transformation of his school library towards a learning commons.  As a teacher librarian at the beginning of my journey, I found these signposts to be helpful guides in seeing what changes and challenges to expect throughout the process.  The five signposts the author goes into detail are: explore a new vision, transform your own expertise, transform your library's physical and virtual spaces, change your role with teachers, and disregard any sign that says you have arrived at your destination.  One particular question the author posed that stood out for me was whether or not teachers consider us indispensible and at the center of teaching and learning.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A critical eye on the teaching infographic

Dr. Loertscher just sent out this link to an infographic about what makes a great teacher.

I read over it and it has some great ideas. The information about the number of teachers increasing was noteworthy, and the the strategies running along the right-hand side are important to think about:
-adjust teaching strategies and lesson plans to cater to their student's needs
-identify ambitious goals to improve the effectiveness of their teaching
-encourage family participation in their programs and advocate learning opportunities outside of school
-focus on student learning & increasing the value of class time
-treat standardized tests as a target for students, not as a metric for lesson plan development

Yep, these are some of the very important qualities that make up a good teacher. Some others are missing:
-the ability to collaborate with colleagues to increase student achievement
-respecting and embracing the many types of diversity found in our classrooms
-choosing to engage with professional development to continuously improve our practice

There are so many others, and obviously this is just a small infographic (although a very wordy one--I don't think it's very good).

There are also some very problematic ideas on here. I am not comfortable with these actions being promoted as qualities of a great teacher--in fact, the national teacher of the year. These type of expectations set up teachers for burning out and leaving the profession. In parentheses I wrote what I have personally seen as the impact of some of these actions.
-giving up lunch periods to help students (not having a break at work and ending up stressed and hungry)
-ensuring that every student has a ride (allowing students to depend on you, rather than helping them find a sustainable way to get to and from school)
-doing her students' laundry when their clothes have been dirty for some time (I've only seen this go on at the gym...but how do you get a kid to give you their dirty clothes?)
-working more than 20 hours per week outside the classroom (not having decompression time, putting a family and friends on hold)
-spending $2,000 to $3,000 on students (giving up potential retirement savings and stressing about money)

I was under pressure from my school and other organizations to sacrifice extraordinary amounts of time, money, and energy for my students. I did it for four years, but then I recognized that it was not sustainable for me. I'm grateful to still be in education as a teacher librarian, and to have time to spend with my family and relaxing. I feel very strongly that we should not be encouraging new teachers to continue working in this type of way. I would rather see someone develop more slowly as a teacher, but make a commitment to it as a career. The things that Ms. Mielwocki does are exactly what leaves classrooms with new teachers year after year after year.

I've chosen to support new teachers in the past and this year I am training to be a new teacher mentor with the Beginning Teacher Support and Advise (BTSA) program. I won't sit by and watch wonderful teachers burn out year after year.

What do you think?


Posted by Allyson Bogie

Retrieved from

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The New VLCs and district-wide plans for content management

Sinclair, Kimberly

Kirkland, A.B.  (2009).  The school library learning commons: Are we “virtually” there?  School Libraries in Canada, 27, 28-30.  Retrieved from slic/
            In this article, Kirkland begins by examining the evolution of the traditional school library from a passive space, serving as a book depository/“study hall” into a proactive, collaborative space that is the central social and academic hub of the entire learning community. The virtual learning commons (“VLC”) represents the ultimate extension of the modern library space, designed to maximize accessibility and flexibility, so as to accommodate all manner of instructional learning experiences. Kirkland explains how Professor Loertscher, one of the foremost proponents of the evolving learning commons, distinguishes between the new VLC and the traditional library website by highlighting the interactive, collaborative nature of the former, as made possible through the use of Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis, shared documents, and blogs.

            Beyond merely providing the defining characteristics of the VLC, Kirkland also offers a few key guidelines to increase the efficacy and appeal of the website for users. By examining the search habits of users, it becomes clear that users rely upon the satisficing—that is, the principle of exerting the least amount of effort—to accept results that are the most easily attained, although they may not be the most useful or of highest quality. Knowing this, VLC designers should make every effort to make quality information as easily accessible as possible, in addition to ensuring that the audio/visual format users encounter is attractive, interactive, and simple to navigate. As Kirkland notes, although the VLC is emerging as the school library’s “frontline” encounter for users, most schools have yet to establish a significant online presence; there are solutions school districts can take to remedy burdening school librarians with the sole responsibility of designing and managing web the website and its content, however. The plan proposed by Kirkland involves school districts organizing collaboratively built library websites supported through a district-wide content management system: the district pushes relevant just-in-time information to all school sites, while teacher librarians at each site have the ability to create more specific, school related content. Meanwhile, school librarians across the district will divide the responsibility of designing information literacy instruction, to be shared across the board, in an ongoing, collaborative process.

            The model described by Kirkland represents the most balanced approach to dividing responsibilities and resources across a school district that I have come across to date, which maintains continuity between in-district schools while still allowing individual learning community cultures to customize content and features, as desired. After years of most school districts advocating a “do what you will” attitude which places full control—and full responsibility—on the shoulders of individual school librarians, rather than establishing a template and distributing the weight of accountability evenly amongst the primary stakeholders. I suppose this isn’t surprising since the importance of the virtual learning commons has only relatively recently been recognized as having the significance it’s currently being recognized as holding; however, I know that it’s going to take more research and time for this method to unfold, and the results of its practice to be recorded and analyzed, so I can’t just blindly rejoice that this plan is “the” plan…in the meantime, however, it still represents the best most promising strategy I’ve come across to date. I am definitely interested in learning more about what the concrete, discrete implementations of this design actually look like though, and am going to keep searching for other articles about this same topic. 

History of American public libraries, pre-2008 economic downturn: remembering the positive

Sinclair, Kimberly

Michie, J. S., & Holton, B. A.  (2005).  America's public school libraries: 1953–2000. Retrieved from
            This report presents a collection of data about school libraries in the United States, drawn from over twenty-five reports and surveys, spanning the latter half of the 20th Century; in particular, it reveals an overall increase in public support of funding school libraries—namely in terms of increasing the number of libraries in schools across the nation and increasing the average amount of money and resources allocated per individual student. Upon first reflection, this statistic seems to fly in the face of everything I have seen and read about downsizing and defunding school libraries; how can this be true? According to the data, the percentage of school libraries per public school increased 23% between 1953 and 2000, in spite of the fact that the total number of public schools actually decreased during this same time span, as a result of budgetary limitations (NCES, 2005, p.2). Additionally, during the final year of the 20th Century, more than 75% of public schools could boast having a dedicated teacher librarian, compared to less than 50% nearly fifty years earlier. The data compiled in this publication states that book allocations per student significantly increased while the amount of money allocated per student more than doubled, from $6 to $15 per student, over the fifty-year span. If I weren’t seeing the numbers for myself, I would be hard pressed to believe that federal funding for public school libraries actually increased from 4.5 percent in the 1950’s to 7.3 % at the end of the 20th Century.  
            In trying to synthesize the patterns of increased financial support of school libraries with the staff cut-backs that I have witnessed all along the West Coast the past several years, I am reminded that my perceived lack of public/governmental support of school libraries is the result of anecdotal experiences and newspaper articles about policies in Oregon and California (i.e. localized vs. national, like the data in this report) and relegated to the trends of the past five to ten years, which lie outside of the years covered in this report. It is encouraging to recall that, for several decades, the public has increasingly supported funding school libraries by improving both the quantity and quality of school library services across the U.S., and that many recent reductions to staff and resources in this area directly stem from the current economic depression, rather than a widespread disdain for the value of school libraries across the board.  On the other hand, realizing that library services are among the top services within a school to be cut during financial hardship is an important reminder that, for many people, school libraries are perceived as dispensable “luxuries” and/or are outdated in lieu of emerging digital technologies. And it is against this perception that we, as current and emerging teacher librarians must proactively combat, to ensure that a “temporary” fix for dealing with a depressed economy doesn’t turn into the new normal, which persists even after economic conditions have improved. School librarians and staff are challenged with having to prove the worth and relevancy of the learning commons in today’s educational system, which makes learning how to do this through projects—such as developing the Virtual Learning Commons and creating Personal Learning Environments—all the more exciting and significant.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Passion and vision as a school librarian

posted by Mary Ann Scheuer

As we are working on our vision for our school libraries, I wanted to share two videos about passion, teaching and learning. I read these on Joyce Valenza's blog, NeverEndingSearch, in her post "What Librarians Make".

Taylor Mali is a slam poet who first wrote this poem, "What Teachers Make", in response to a question posed at a dinner party. It is fierce, funny and inspiring.

Joyce Valenza was prompted to write "What Librarians Make" in response to a proposal by Dr. Mark Bernstein to make schools more efficient by eliminating teacher librarians. The implication is that school libraries are antiquated and unnecessary in the world of Google-provided information at our fingertips.

Across California, school libraries have been underfunded, understaffed and eliminated completely. Joyce's poem inspires me every time I am feeling stymied by the system. Her vision is dynamic, driving and uplifting.

Head over to her post to see her full vision in writing. You might also enjoy reading her Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians

Safety on the Internet--from 4th graders!!

This is a great blog post from Shannon Miller, the librarian at Van Meter school. Her fourth graders created Animoto "videos" about Internet safety, addressing password issues, talking to strangers, the age requirement for Facebook, and being careful of what you say online. It's great to see that young kids are learning these things and then sharing them in interesting and creative ways. This is a great inspiration and certainly a fun use for Animoto. I am curious about what led up to this in terms of teaching the information, what it means, and how to use Animoto.

Miller, S. (2012, Nov. 20). No title. Retrieved from

post by Allyson Bogie

Toward a Learning Commons: Where Learners are Central by P. Harland

 posted by Julianne McCall-Bramley

Harland, P.  (2011).  Toward a Learning Commons: Where Learners are Central.  Teacher Librarian, 38 (4), 32-36.

This article focuses on changing the traditional library model. This particular school realizes that they need to redefine their current library to meet the needs of the school and its students. They know they must prepare students for a certain type of learning the learning of the future, so they decide to get rid of what's old and not being used and welcome the new. The new space or learning commons must reflect the types of technologies that students utilize. This school district had help from a professor from Plymouth State University who has been involved in creating Learning Commons areas in other schools.  With all the changes that they made, they have succeeded in making their space learner centered and incorporating all kinds of new technology into this new learning. They felt they had succeeded when a group of visitors came in and felt that their space looked like an “information mall” since there were kids everywhere and everyone was working, learning, and doing something different, and most importantly: utilizing all areas of the library.

Grant Writing

posted by Julianne McCall-Bramley

A great article that I found about grant writing:

Abshire, S.  (2002).  Grant Writing Made Easy.  School Library Journal, 48 (2), 38-39.

My summary of the article:

In Grant Writing Made Easy (2002), Sheryl Abshire outlines how to go about writing a grant in very specific and helpful ways.

First and foremost, the grant writer must make sure that their school district has an updated technology plan.  It is also helpful to collaborate with district technology employees in order to define the needs of the district, and specifically the school library.  Once that is completed then the following should be done:

·         Identify grants to fund your ideas

·         Find a way for your proposal to stand out

·         Follow the organization’s guidelines EXACTLY (whatever the application tells you to do, follow it!)

·         Do not exceed one page-Why? Keep it short and sweet-all of your information should be succinct and to the point.  If it is too long and wordy, readers may lost interest

·         Do not use too many large words that can be considered educational jargon.  This will muddle your points!

·         Letter of intent should include: Introduction to the proposal, explanation of how the grant money will be used.

·         Sell your ideas-don’t be shy. 

·         Use firm wording that expresses your confidence with your plan.

·         Be specific with ideas and not general or vague

·         Provide realistic objectives

·         Provide concrete ideas on how this grant will impact and improve learning within your school.

Abshire also recommended calling the organization that is offering the grant and speaking with someone in order to discuss the details of your objectives, and this also gives you a contact person that you can use when addressing your application. Make yourself and your school a person, not an application number! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Research Reflections Roundtable

Inquiry, Formative Assessment and Student Learning Communities: Research Reflections Roundtable - The Unquiet Librarian - April 23, 2012

In this post, Buffy Hamilton, a.k.a. The Unquiet Librarian shares her experience with a Research Reflections Roundtable - a forum where students could share their experiences (good and bad) with their ongoing research project.  This face to face venue allowed students and teachers to get helpful feedback about the learning process and construct ways to deal with issues the students faced. As stated in the title, the roundtable created a good blend of inquiry, formative assessment and learning communities.  Definitely worth a read.

Physical Learning Commons - York University

York University Learning Commons

The link above will take you to an article about the York University Learning Commons.  Some of the pictures are spectacular.  Yes, the budget was $1.9 million but there are still some pretty good ideas for a physical learning commons.  I particularly like the semi-enclosed booths and I've heard of High School libraries that use booths in their libraries.  The glass enclosed classrooms are nice too.  I'm not sure what purpose the steps serve, they don't look too comfortable to me, though they seem to be well inhabited.  Anyway, I thought the photos were worth a look.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Acquiring admin support for school libraries

Sinclair, Kimberly

Shannon, D. M.  (2012).  Perceptions of school library programs and school librarians: Perspectives of supportive school administrators.  Teacher Librarian, 39, 17-22. Retrieved from
Article Summary:
            Previously, studies examining the school principals’ perceptions of the impact and role of school librarians and library programs sampled principals within a particular state or region; Shannon, however, became interested in the opinions of principals who had already been identified by school librarians as supporting the library/librarian’s role in staff and student engagement and performance. Since increased collaboration between school librarians and other school staff constitutes a vital step in transforming traditional school libraries into school-wide, collaborative learning commons, it makes sense that increased support from principals should begin with identifying common traits of supportive dynamics already in place. The main goals of the study included: identifying the source of principals’ awareness surrounding school libraries, determining what principals should be taught about the library’s role—and how to better support their school’s library/librarian—while undergoing administrative credential preparation, and, lastly, to identify available avenues for school librarians to cultivate greater administrative support.
            Aside from having a personal affinity for libraries, the study revealed that principals develop their perceptions about the school library a number of ways: through feedback from other staff about the librarian’s role and educational impact; by keeping abreast of educational research on the subject of school libraries, acquired through professional journals and conferences; from serving on school technology committees and, not surprisingly, by gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for information literacy in general, as accomplished by direct collaboration with the school librarian. Although principals receive some training on administering school libraries during the course of the credential preparation courses, Shannon identified two areas of this training as having the greatest potential for increasing principals’ awareness of/support for school libraries: preparation on how to facilitate collaboration between the school librarian and other instructional staff, and how to identify/hire highly qualified school librarians. By having an awareness of these two aspects, principals learn that they can best support school libraries by, inversely, hiring library staff keen on and adept at collaborative teaching, promoting a collaborative work environment in general, emphasizing the value of the librarian’s role to instructional staff in particular, and publicly recognizing gains achieved through successful collaboration.
            While the majority of the article focuses on what administrators can do to better support school libraries, Shannon concludes by summarizing what the study has to say about what librarians can do on their end to court their principals’ endorsement. For one, Shannon advises school librarians to consistently meet and dialogue with administrators about shared vision statement, goals, and objectives for the library/learning commons; this promotes mutual buy-in by assuring that everyone is on the same page, and reassures administrators that the librarian is taking concrete, observable, measurable steps towards achieving these shared goals. Additionally, school librarians can legitimize their requests by presenting the administration with a detailed budget request for the school year—and it certainly doesn’t hurt to provide long-term budget requests and timelines dedicated to the school’s strategic plan. Finally, Shannon points out that principals are more likely to support the school library staff and its programs when the school librarian undertakes ongoing assessments aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of policies and programs over time. 

            While this article yields many insights into producing a crop of emerging administrators whom are dedicated to proactively advocating for school library programs, it has less to offer in the way of advice for school librarians seeking to curry support among incumbent, less “library enlightened” administrative/staff, which I would hope to see more of. Yes, Shannon does identify several very practical tactics, such as proposing budget requests and meeting regularly with administrators to discuss goals and objectives, but what about when librarians are dealing with administrators entrenched in outdated perspectives—or who simply feel their hands are tied and have abandoned attempts to reinvigorate/revamp the school library in lieu of budget cuts—who are unwilling to meet with school librarians to discuss what they view as a moot point? When the best recommendation is to start from the top (administratively, that is) and gain support from the top, down, what can be done when the “top” is wholly unresponsive?