Monday, December 10, 2012

Higher Achievement

Loertscher, D. (2010). Bridging the Excellence Gap. Teacher Librarian.  37 (4).
Fong, Kevin

Bridging the Excellence Gap addresses the achievement problems of children since the implementation of No Child Left Behind. Although there has been progress in closing the achievement gap of lower performing students and their higher achieving brethren; this has come at the expense of more rigorous offerings to promote the academic excellence of all.
In response to No Child Left Behind it is imperative that we strive to push each student beyond their minimum levels of achievement so they may rise above the lower achievement standards of No Child Left Behind.

As teacher librarians it is time to return to addressing the individual need of each student and stop the needless teaching to the test mentality that has permeated education and has lowered achievement levels due to the narrowed focus of curricular offerings.
Ideas for the Development of a School or Public Library Virtual Learning Commons

Fong, Kevin

Journal Article
Henry, K., Lagos, A., & Berndt, F. (2012). Bridging the literacy gap between boys and girls: An  opportunity for the National Year of Reading 2012. The Australian Library Journal. 61(2), 143-150.

Complete Proposal

 Berndt, F., Henry, K. & Lagos, A. (n.d.). Book Quest; a reading adventure for boys. Retrieved from

 Video Trailer

Berndt, F., Henry, K. & Lagos, A. (n.d.). Book Quest; a reading adventure for boys trailer. Retrieved from

The article; Bridging the Literacy Gap between Boys and Girls presents not only an overview of  the issues of  literacy amongst boys but also a number of strategies to improve their literacy that culminates in the authors’ presentation of their suggested reading program for boys. Overall the article is too brief and does not fully express the complexities that encompass the low literacy levels of boys. With that being said; the article does accomplish its secondary purpose of providing an impetus for further thought on what needs to be done to improve the literacy levels amongst boys.
The authors' original program proposal; Book Quest: A Reading Adventure for Boys from which this article is based is a more appropriate expression of their research and thoughts on improving the literacy levels of boys which included  elements such as the use of technology to create book trailers, weekly gaming activities and participation in a reading advisory service for their peers that could be easily be implemented in the development of a school or public library VLC. In addition the authors produced a video trailer that both captures the imagination of the viewer and raises their curiosity about the program.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Evidence-Based Practice

Dallstream, Nadia

Bates, J., McClure, J., & Spinks, A. (2010). Making the Case for Evidence-Based Practice. Library Media Connection29(1), 24-27. Permalink:

This article discusses the need for assessment of school libraries. It also provides information on the type of data that can be collected and offers suggestions on how to collect it. The types of they collected include direct which was obtained through: collection statistics, accessibility data, usage statistics and collaborative instruction data. They also give reasons to and ways how to collect indirect data. Some of these ways include: pre and post tests and “ticket out the door” systems. It gives information on the data tracking tools that can easily be implemented like Promethean’s ActiVote System: and Survey Monkey: . They used the data collected to demonstrate to teachers the need for instruction, and then after the instruction and collaboration they collected more data and showed the student’s progress in this way. 

The authors also give examples of how their own instruction and lessons have improved due to student feedback and performance. In addition they have evaluated other data such as the state tests to identify learning gaps and have addressed those skills specifically and collected the data to support that their intervention has made all the difference.

This is definitely an article worth reading. The authors successfully make their case on why collecting data and evidence-based practice is so important. They also give some very easy and practical tips to follow.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Moving to a digital-only school library collection

Sinclair, Kimberly

Corbett, T.  (2011).  The changing role of the school librarian’s physical space.  School Library Monthly, 27, 5.  Retrieved from

         In this article, Corbett discusses the transformation of the physical library space at Cushing Academy, a private high school in Massachusetts, whose staff unanimously voted to focus on building a 21st Century Leadership curriculum—a decision equated with moving towards becoming “bookless,” as accomplished through three major phases:
o   Moving away from the traditional Integrated Library System toward a newer, better integrated software platform
o   Developing an improved acquisitions policy that capitalizes on the best aspects of digital content
o   Transforming the library's physical space into a collaborative work area for students and staff

            This radical decision was made after staff documented that, although the Cushing library previously maintained a collection very balanced between digital and physical resources, students significantly and consistently bypassed the print materials in favor of accessing the library’s computers and digital materials. While such a drastic shift initially strikes as sacrilegious to most librarians, Corbett reports that, to date, the Cushing library is experiencing a large degree of success since the transformation of its physical library space: database usage by students has increased exponentially, participation and circulation is thriving, and the library has developed an interactive website for the learning commons that appears to be effective and popular amongst users. He also adds that, with more than 175,000 copyrighted academic e-books and 1,000 popular reading titles recently added to the collection, the school’s circulation statistics prove that reading “long-form reading and digital resources are not mutually exclusive” of one another (Corbett, 2011). While the successes listed by Corbett are impressive, he does acknowledge that the school’s library continues to have room for improvement. Specific issues requiring further attention include: overcoming barriers to using copyrighted, subscription-based resources rather than the (simpler) default of free resources on the Internet; increasing student instruction regarding more vigorous selection/evaluation of digital information sources; and managing finances to guarantee there are a sufficient number of e-readers for all students available.
            Although I can readily acknowledge the benefits of e-readers and other digital resources in terms of space and 24/7 accessibility, I cannot help but think that a complete switch to these formats in place of physical materials, is rash, considering sufficient time has not elapsed since the widespread emergence of e-readers for researchers to gauge the long-term effects of primarily reading books on e-readers as opposed to print. I feel extremely old-fashioned even stating this doubt, but am simply being the devil’s advocate by pointing out the lack of evidence supporting such a drastic switch. While I have not come yet come across any hard evidence indicating that reading books primarily on e-readers has a detrimental effect, I have heard a little about some early studies that suggest e-readers may be a distraction, at least among younger students still acquiring reading fluency. In these instances, children tended to focus on the capabilities of the e-reader device itself, rather than on the content of the text, resulting in less information recall afterwards. However, the study (which, unfortunately, I have as yet been able to locate again!) admittedly only identified a correlation—rather than a causal relationship—between the presence of the e-readers and a decline in reading attention/factual recall; the negative correlation could be the result of various other causes. For example, the decline in attention could stem from the fact that the students with lower recall were already struggling readers who may have used the device as a distraction, resulting from an already-existing lack of engagement. Alternately, those students who focused more on the e-reader device than the text may have come from homes less technology-rich than the children who remained focused, such that their distraction resulted out of the e-reader being a much more novel and attractive device.
            In spite of any personal apprehension about chucking out a library’s entire print collection (although, to be fair: the Cushing Academy donated these materials to local schools and libraries, happily), I readily admit that this scenario represents a very intriguing experiment. And, as much as I mention there not being sufficient data to warrant a “e-reader only” approach to academic materials, I also understand that experiments such as this have to be taken in order for researchers to have data to analyze, so I am far from considering it a wholly negative model. However, I cannot help but think that, while relying wholly on digital materials may be economically feasible for a small, private high school setting such as Cushing Academy, this set-up still smacks as unrealistic for the average elementary school (where young readers are still learning how to wash their hands without prodding and how to handle materials responsibly) and/or public school library in a lower socio-economic neighborhood. In the latter scenario, a student may be able to repay the seven dollars needed to replace a lost chapter book, but can their family be expected to repay the hundred plus dollars to replace a lost or damaged Kindle? Until e-readers become far more affordable and much more durable than they currently are, it seems doubtful that moving to a digital only collection is an efficient—or even realistic—goal for the majority of public schools. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Using environmental psych. to make the physical LC more accessible (an older article that remains relevant!)

Sinclair, Kimberly

Doll, C. A.  (1992).  School library media centers: The human environmentSchool Library Media Quarterly, 20, 225–229. Retrieved from
            In this article, Doll examines the psychological needs, ranging from academic to social and personal, that the physical school media center fulfills for different students, in an effort to yield information that teacher librarians can use to make the learning commons a more welcoming, appealing space for students. Although written long before school media centers or libraries might be referred to as learning commons, this article remains relevant due to the fact that, although technology has changed dramatically during the decades in which it was written, human psychology and behavior regarding physical spaces in our culture remains more static; therefore, any revelations about psychological needs that the media center fulfills can be transferred to the learning commons today.

            Doll begins by reviewing the literature of research created by environmental psychologists, which identifies several factors influencing how individuals relate to and behave in physical settings: personal space, territoriality, the need for privacy, and a desire for variety. In the first instance, researchers noted that people tend to build and view surrounding personal spaces an extension of their personalities, therefore requiring varying distances between themselves in others, depending upon the relationship with others nearby and the context of the proximity to others. Based on this information, teacher librarians are advised to arrange library furniture such that students can maintain at least four feet distance between themselves and strangers in the common space, with reminders that teens’ personal space should be as respected by library staff as the staff would be of respecting adults’ personal space. In discussing territorial behaviors, researchers noted that humans tend to “claim” certain areas even when studying, based on where they sit at a table and how they arrange their personal belongings; in order to maximize limited space with these behaviors in mind, therefore, the author offers several suggestions (such as furnishing more small, round tables, rather than fewer/larger rectangular ones) for maximizing limited seating space, by balancing territorial behaviors with minimal personal space requirements. However, researchers point out that round tables will more readily attract and accommodate small groups of acquaintances (vs. strangers), so that librarians should use rounded tables with carrels to allow individuals more privacy and/or to denote that certain areas are quiet/study areas, as opposed to small group/quiet-discussion spaces.

            Additional notable observations, which were made by environmental psychologists and then adapted for teacher librarians’ use by the author, include:
o   Taking advantage of bookshelves, carrels, and portable panels to allow students to fulfill the need for private spaces
o   Ideally arranging the physical learning commons area to accommodate three levels of privacy/focus: 1) quiet spaces for focused activity, built for privacy and minimal audio-visual distractions; 2) spaces for light reading and quiet conversation, with soft background noise; and 3) spaces for students taking a break and/or engaging in lively social interactions, where people can enjoy snacks, listen to music, and walk around
o   Blues and greens in commons d├ęcor result in the most focused, pleasant student behaviors (although pains should be made to avoid the “institutional green” shade, which carries disagreeable associations)
o   Carpets help with environmental noise and appeal to younger teens and children in particular
o   Comfortable furniture should be flexible in arrangement, so that students can exercise some ownership in adapting the environment to enhance group learning

            In conclusion, Doll summarizes by reiterating the need for flexibility (on the librarian’s behalf) on one hand, and individualization for students’ needs, on the other. With so much subjectivity in the world, it’s refreshing to have some specific, objective recommendations that school librarians can take to anticipate and be more responsive to learners’ needs.

5 states increase class time

Class Time Increases In 5 States In Effort To Improve U.S. Public Education. (n.d.). Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

5 states:  Colorado, Chicago, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee are all increasing the time per day that a student is in class.
It's a  three year pilot program that's being tested in under performing schools in the state.
The purpose behind it would be to raise our global performance in Education since many other countries are in school for more hours per day or more days per year.

For me this struck a chord for this class--because I don't think it's about longer school days--it's about improve the school day we have.

If we could develop physical learning commons and virtual learning commons where students could work on projects that involved technology and problem solving skills--we would probably be giving our kids a better education.

If we could create big thinks and help our students develop their own ideas and find their own answers--we would be better off than just spending more time in a traditional classroom.  A few weeks ago-I took my students to the computer lab to do a big think that we were later going to put into a Google presentation together--only to find out--there's no computers in the school that will support a large group working on Google because our computers don't have enough memory for that.

Yesterday at a site council/department head meeting we talked about changing our cell phone policies and moving towards integrating technology into our curriculum and creating bench marks for our students.  If we could teach our kids 21st century skills--they'd learn more than just being in the traditional classroom.

The article mentions Japan which has less schooling than we do-but still outperforms us.  Japan is based more on Inquiry and has fewer standards to achieve each year--so that subjects could be studied in depth. We could start to move towards more inquiry if we have PLCs and VLCs.

What if we had a teacher librarian who actually taught and created collaboration? (My school doesn't have this--so I apologize to anyone who is a teaching librarian that I might have offended)  We could bring our kids further academically.

It's not about the hours in school--it's about how we use those hours.

Joint Libraries

I Found two shorter articles I thought I'd like to share....this is my first.

Rocking the Joint | American Libraries Magazine. (n.d.). American Libraries Magazine | The magazine of the American Library Association. Retrieved from

Joint libraries are a collaboration between an academic library and a public library.  Most often they are like the King Library that we are all familiar with and are between a college/university and a public library, but they are starting to become endeavors of high schools and public libraries as well.

I did some research on this for another class--and thought it might be of interest because it would completely change the physical learning commons...if a joint library was created.
First--could the physical learning commons be open the same hours of the public library--thus extending student access to materials on evenings and weekends.  Libraries handle this different ways--in some areas the academic area is closed when the school is closed--which would eliminate the benefit.
IF a teacher librarian and a young adult librarian could collaborate--a physical space could be created that would benefit both library systems.

Virtually, in some places, the high school benefits tremendously because the public library offers virtual subscriptions and has more technological equipment than the school has--possibly creating a better virtual learning environment.  More resources linked to the school page would make the school the center of learning again--which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...

Overview and History of the Learning Commons

Shared by Julianne McCall-Bramley
Permalink to the article:
Accardi, M.T., Cordova, M. & Leeder, K. (2010).  Reviewing the Library Learning Commons: History, Models, and Perspectives.  College & Undergraduate Libraries, 17(2/3), 310-329.

 I hit the jackpot with this article,  just wish that I had found it earlier in the semester.  This article contains an enormous wealth of information.  Here are just a few things it has to offer:

·         Depicts the Learning Commons as consistently evolving

·         Shows how the LC works to blend the traditional library with technology support and instruction.

·         Here’s the best part: Contains an annotated bibliography of articles that show the growth of the LC going all the way back to the 1980’s.

·         As the article become more recent (last 7-8 years), there is an abundance of ways to create LC space, how to evaluate the space & what happens within it, case studies, etc.

·         How an LC meets students’ needs

·         Of course, how the librarian must evolve along with the library!

This is a great starting point to understanding the Learning Commons and its growth throughout the years.  Excellent & comprehensive gathering of materials.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Technology as an impetus for improving education

Sinclair, Kimberly

Friesen, S.  (2011). Hands on vs. hands up: Technology enabled knowledge building in high school.  Canada Education.  Retrieved from

            Beginning with a disclaimer is not how you usually begin a one of these, but  I just wanted to add, up front that, although the message of this article doesn't contain any ground-breaking insights (or, at least, shouldn't, at this point in the course), it still inspired me by reaffirming that, in the end, you can blame the surrounding circumstances as to why modern education is challenging or, we as educators can vow to change the direction of teaching (from "teaching to the test" to collaborative and learner-centered) from the inside out, accepting no excuses. That said, please excuse my bit of soap boxing at the end, as I was getting worked up there; thanks!

           This article examines the nature of incorporating technology into instructional activities for high school students and endeavors to determine under what circumstances the use of technology proves most effective for student learning. The author notes that, although adolescents are overwhelmingly familiar interacting with technology for entertainment and recreational purposes, teenagers still need to be explicitly instructed on how to use these tools for the purpose of knowledge creation. Friesan advocates for two major take-aways educators should glean from this: first, that instruction must be designed so that it is of genuine interest to students, and, secondly, that digital technology is only a learning benefit when it adds something new, involving higher-order thinking tasks. In the first instance, instructors can work towards making learning more engaging to students by designing activities that incorporate elements of what students are most innately interested in: socialization and “play". In the second situation, teachers must ensure that the use of technology brings an added dimension of benefit to learning, since lower-order thinking activities that use technology present no advantage over ding the same activity without technology. Fortunately, both approaches can be addressed by incorporating many available Web 2.0 tools that, by their nature, encourage collaboration through social networking opportunities, use engaging audio-visual features, and readily facilitate higher-order thinking skills.

            Ultimately, the author concludes that high school instruction should be more about facilitating collaborative learning communities that draw from diverse strengths to actively construct knowledge and work towards common goals, and less about separate individuals memorizing pre-crafted, discrete packets of information. The largest obstacle to accomplishing this lies with renovating educators’ content delivery approach, so that instructional methods and tools coincide with the more Constructivist, collaborative learning methods previously described. Unfortunately, many of us in the education field have witnessed as, for years, school districts implement changes resulting in more teacher-lead “teach to the test” instruction, which stands sorely in opposition to the views championed in this article. The saving grace of this scenario, however, is the reminder of the immense impact that individual instructors continue to possess, since they are the ones on the “front lines” interacting daily with students. It seems that, although blame has been assigned—albeit perhaps rightfully—to state and federal funding cuts, lagging economic trends, and district administrators for many years, the bottom line is that the onus of reversing these trends lies with teachers, period. Rather than continuing to regret choices made beyond teachers’ control, educators must work to design and deliver instruction that is engaging and collaborative—and only after this has proven to result in improved learner outcomes will administrators and law makers pay attention and acknowledge the new direction that education demands.