Friday, December 13, 2013

Dayton, David

"How 'Flipped' Classrooms are Turning the Traditional School Day Upside-Down"

I just saw this in my Google news feed a few days back -- Newshour did a brief bit on flipped classrooms, interviewing principals and teachers involved in the process and highlighting some of the benefits.  The comments section on the page had me thinking, though -- some folks were drawing connections between this model and the traditional university seminar model, while others raised the question of motivation on the part of the students at home.

The only thing that disturbed me is that the presentation seemed to imply that there is an either/or situation here -- either a classroom consists of teachers lecturing in front of the class, and the class practices at home, OR the class reads/watches the lecture at home, then practices in class.  Logically, though, a well-designed classroom learning environment should have both direct instruction (the lecture) and teacher-assisted practice of skills (guided and independent practice).

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writing Text Adventures in the Classroom

Dayton, David

McCall, J. (2011). Student-designed text-based simulation games for learning history: A practical approach to using Inform 7 in the history classroom. Retrieved from

McCall makes the case that as games are engaging, they can serve as fruitful too in the world of education. However, McCall doesn't call for playing games – he calls for having students create games. Students used Inform 7 (a natural language text adventure scripting program) to create simple simulations of the ancient Roman world. Students had to work in groups to create a world framework, then expand upon it using their knowledge (and research) of the ancient Roman world. McCall notes that higher-level thinking skills were necessary for world development, as students had to determine how people of the period would act, what was possible, and what interactions were logical between the player and the people of ancient Rome. Students delved deeper into history by creating a textual simulation of it – students examined and attempted to understand history because it became meaningful to them in the creation of the games.

McCall's proposal is a rather good one – it appears that it took his high school history class, spent 2.5 class sessions (50 minutes each) teaching the scripting language and about three sessions with students working on the simulations. Engagement was very high (10 out of 60 even went on to develop additional simulations on their own), and the team aspect of the lesson appeared to have worked well. I'd like to try using Inform 7 with my middle school students at some point, although I'm not sure I can set aside the appropriate amount of time to properly teach the Inform 7 language. However, if the result in a greater appreciation of the subject matter, it would seem very well worth it – especially as this simulation can be extended to other time periods and subjects throughout the course of the year, potentially taking the place of other measures of assessment.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The New School Library

Abarbanel, E., Davis, S., Hand, D., & Wittmer, M. (2013). The new school library. Independent School, 72(4), 68-74.

In the article by Abarbanel Davis, Hand & Wittmer discuss what a new school library might look like and what role the school librarian would have in the learning commons at a school.  Their working definition of a Learning Commons is “a term that refers to a mixed-use space for research, study, collaboration, and global connection.” The authors also mention the concept of Makerspace where the library is focused on production such as using digital cameras and photo manipulation software (p. 70).  When transitioning a school library to becoming a learning commons there needs to be thought in how the school wants to use the space and setting up the infrastructure to support the technology.

The article also discusses the role of the librarian serving as a bridge between the information desired and the student who is searching for that information. No longer are librarians gatekeepers of volumes of books but facilitators that share tools to not only access information but also analyze it for credibility and reliability. The librarian is also not just doing a read-aloud to younger students but supporting literacy at different levels through planned activities with teachers.  School librarians are collaborating with teachers and working closely with teachers relating to curriculum.  Also mentioned is good libraries are not just quiet places of academic research but also students working together using technology as a tool to learning in different ways and accessing information.

There was a chart that impressed me on page 73 entitled “What’s Hot & What’s Not”. 
  The overall message given of this chart was what libraries are and will be vs. the old paradigm of a library.  This proved to be eye-opening for me since I am working in the old paradigm and am looking forward about changing my school library. Finding like minds and the time is difficult.  The big question for me is forming a team of people that that can guide this paradigm shift to a learning commons.

This article was a review of information I have come across before but at the same time was thought provoking in getting me to think about what my role is now at my school and what role I strive to have.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Difference Between the Ideal and the Reality of Tech in our Schools

Rene Hohls

Gates, Zuckerberg Pour Money Into School Connectivity Plan
"The recipient of those investments, EducationSuperHighway, will use the money to help train schools to use and manage broadband connections while cutting down on costs.... Most recently, the organization joined with Gates' foundation to lead $4 million in seed funding for Panorama Education, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company which creates and analyzes surveys for K-12 schools." So who is the real beneficiary of this philanthropy? That is a question we all should consider. Does the benefit to students justify the benefit to the investors and the future return on that investment that they are counting on. These non-profits will not "profit" by way of cash or financial gain in this transaction; the real profit will come from the positioning that will result and the increased leverage as these companies lobby the Federal Government for faster broadband across the country and easier and cheaper access to it.

Regardless of the financial in's and out's of bringing real technology solutions and infrastructure to our schools, two particularly chilling points come to light as a result of the research done in preparation for Gates' and Zuckerberg's seed money:

From the blog post:
   1)  Based on information it has gathered through partnerships with 26 state departments of education, the organization's research found that more than 70 percent of public schools lack the bandwidth required for digital learning.
   2)  While interest in 1-to-1 student-to-digital-device programs and other digital-learning efforts continues to grow, education technology experts estimate that 40 million students lack sufficient broadband access in their schools.

Doubling the FCC E-rate program funding (currently at $2.4 billion) is another option for increasing the connectivity in our nation's schools, but this funding is discretionary for school sites with little oversight and few standardized guidelines for universal tech spending. Schools spend it in what ever way they believe will work best at their school site - the opposite of good connectivity planning. The essence of the Local Control Funding Formula is one of the biggest pitfalls for student outcomes.

So while we have looked at the ideal of amazing possibilities of technology in the library and the limitless roles of the school librarian and physical and virtual learning commons that can be the heart of learning within a school, the reality is that for 70% of schools in the U.S. having a well-appointed school library and a well-trained and valued librarian ready to meet students where they are and help them find the resource that will open the doors of their mind may be the real ideal for right now.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Teachable Moments for Digital Citizenship

Rene Hohls

A Visual Guide To Teaching Students Digital Citizenship Skills

From Edudemic - Connecting Education and Technology
By Katie Lepi on November 23, 2013

This is just a quick little tidbit on Digital Citizenship. Using a fabulous infographic from Mary White, it illustrates the importance of teachable moments for modeling digital citizenship skills for students. By putting these skills into the context of real classroom and and everyday life experiences, digital citizenship becomes a usable and relevant skills rather than an abstract concept that sounds good but is often taught with no direct link to students' lives and experiences.

I do love my infographics and I especially love the approach here:



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Rethinking Innovation - An Infographic from Mia MacMeekin

Rene Hohls
Mia is the master of the infographic - she can visually organize and illustrate a tremendous amount of information in some of the most well-crafted infographics available for use with teachers for PD or with students in the classroom. I love her creative and innovative focus - and she and I share a professional inspiration in Sir Ken Robinson who so succinctly puts our educational system into focus.
What do you think?


And for those of you who have not met
Sir Ken Robinson.....

here is a brief introduction to his brilliant mind and some of his controversial ideas about education reform:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Neil Gaiman's Reading Agency Speech

Sarah Crouch

Gaiman, N. (2013). Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. The Guardian. Retrieved from

A friend recently shared this speech with me, and I had to share it with you guys. Neil Gaiman gave the Reading Agency annual lecture on October 14, and his main thesis was that libraries and reading fiction are essential to a bright future. After admitting his bias towards reading and writing, Gaiman goes on to explain that childhood illiteracy has been shown to correlate with criminality. He posits that the only way to get kids to read is to show them that it is fun. And that means not restricting the types of books that they read. Gaiman says that fiction is a “gateway drug to reading,” fosters empathy, and inspires innovation.

He then waxes eloquent about the benefits of the library, and I love it. I’ve included my two favorite quotes below:

“I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.”


“A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It's a community space. It's a place of safety, a haven from the world. It's a place with librarians in it. What the libraries of the future will be like is something we should be imagining now.”

Take the time to read the article or watch the video. It’s well worth your time.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tips for Designing Learning Spaces

Libbe, Phyllis
Johnson, C. (2010, December). Open the windows: Design new spaces for learning.
       Learning & Leading with Technology.

This article speaks to educators in designing learning spaces. Although it speaks broadly about classroom design, we teacher librarians can take the advice offered here when considering transforming our library media centers to a more open physical learning commons. There is so much in this article that aligns with the PLC design we are learning about and striving for. Here are some examples that seem easily doable to me:
  • Give students places to exhibit their work as if it were in a public gallery, then invite the public to come in and have a look . . . [the author suggests displaying in a public area, but interestingly never mentions the school library].
  • Most school environments, especially the furniture, are designed to limit students’ physical movement . . . take into account the needs of growing bodies . . . Give students furniture that lets them twist and lean safely. The movement will increase their ability to concentrate [furniture consideration is high on the list in the school library media transformation].
  • Creating a learning space that’s safe and comfortable to navigate in socked or slippered feet offers an opportunity to use a physical act--the taking off of shoes--as mental preparation for learning [I admit, this is odd to me, but we are seeing a lot of it in contemporary library design].
  • Increasing daylight in classrooms has been shown to cut down on absenteeism and improve test scores [it has been repeatedly recommended in other library design articles to have good lighting, both artificially and naturally].
  • Injecting a learning space with playfulness and humor creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere [isn’t one of our transformation goals--to create a space for play?].
  • Make sure a classroom has the capacity to link into learning opportunities beyond its four walls--even beyond Earth itself [this addresses access to the internet and being global].
  • The rate of technological advancement is increasing exponentially. When designing schools, don’t let today’s reality limit tomorrow’s possibilities [this addresses our need as teacher librarians to be forward thinkers prepared for changes by keeping up through daily practice of reading].

Johnson (2010) speaks of the transformation we seek when he says, “It’s time to envision a new model of learning where students, teachers, and the community can take advantage of the wide range of emerging technological tools in spaces that foster creativity and collaboration in a safe and secure environment” (p 15). Speaking of being a forward thinker; this article was written over three years ago.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Edmodo: A Great Tool for School Librarians

Edmoto: A great tool for school librarians. (2013). School Library Monthly, 29(8). Retrieved from:

Edmodo is a great way for librarians to being their school library into the 21st century. It takes us from the basic one-way school library website with the typical research tools, links to databases and pathfinders, and lists of books for suggested reading, to school librarians interacting with their students in and out of the library. It also provides a way to collaborate with and reach teachers that may not use the library otherwise. Perfect for a virtual learning commons!

Web Tools

Tim Lubic

A wikipage full of great webtools and ideas for using them.