Saturday, April 12, 2014

When you're an island...

With whom do you network?

When I first became a librarian, I was part of a district with 19 school libraries.  The librarians met monthly with the district coordinator, who planned the time so that she covered business for the first half and then left the second half of the meetings for us to ask questions and share ideas.  Pat Johnson was a genius with this planning, as it resulted in many things being approached in a unified manner across the district without her having to issue orders, and some really amazing ideas were shared in these meetings.  She also met with the new librarians once a month to ensure we were familiar with selection/deselection, copyright, cataloging and those other things the veterans took for granted.  I am so grateful for all of those meetings and all that I learned.

The next district I worked in had one certified librarian working in a library---- me.  There were a couple of other librarians in administrative positions, but I had no colleagues with whom to discuss district policies and procedures, best practices, or simply run an idea pasy.  Listservs like LM_Net and the monthly regional meetings for coordinators became my lifeline.

And now I am the lone librarian at an international school in a foreign country.  I had to relearn everything... from ordering to copyright rules to who to network with.  LM_Net and the TLA groups continue to provide support, but I found there are situations unique to international schools that require the experience and expertise of other international school librarians, such as resources for cataloging books in Portuguese or where to buy book tape!

Recently I received an email from Chris Hayes, a fellow member of the AGIS (Association of German International Schools) Librarians Group.  Chris organized a virtual round table for the librarians using Google Hangouts.  You can watch our discussion on YouTube.



The video starts after our introductions with me sharing ways I promote the library.  Following me are other librarians from around the country, speaking on topics such as primary and secondary curriculum and ways to promote reading in the secondary grades.

I urge you to find ways to connect with others - join associations, attend conferences, add to listserv discussions, or organize a hangout like Chris did.  We have so much to learn from one another!

Monday, April 7, 2014

What is a Library?

I'm well into the second week of my AASL online course, and I now have to begin planning a unit using what I have learned thus far.  Fortunately, I was given a relevant, exciting idea by the grade 2 teachers who recently requested I tie library instruction into their current unit of inquiry "Communities are organised based on the needs and wants of people".  I am supposed to guide students in examining the roles libraries play in communities, perhaps looking at different libraries around the world.  

Immediately my thoughts jumped to making lists of wants and needs, watching the Biblioburro, learning about library arrangement, reading My Librarian is a Camel.... Yes, I was full of all kinds of activities.  I have to STOP this habit and think ... what is the big idea that I want students to carry with them?  

I've identified the Enduring Understanding (or big idea) as "Libraries are organized based on the needs and wants of their patrons" and our guiding questions are What does a library need? and What is the role of a library within a community?

I'm sure these will undergo some revision, but I have to start somewhere.

Unfortunately, I am just getting started writing the unit, and I am supposed to already start teaching... so I am already ignoring what I am learning about designing the end first and I jumped into the pre-assessment.   I figure it will make for some good reflection fodder.

This week I asked each grade 2 class to answer the question "What is a library?"

I tried this in small groups on sticky notes.  
I tried it with larger groups and half sheets of beautifully colored paper. 
And then I tried creating a mind map with a whole class on a flip chart.  

Each time I saw the same results.  

Hands-down, without fail, each class answered the question the same:
  A library is a place to check out books.  

A few students added, without prompting, it could be a quiet place to read.  


That was it.  

I really had to work to get anyone to look deeper, to think about other resources, to see other uses for the space.  I couldn't believe these children, who visit this fabulous, well-resourced facility, had such a limited definition.  But we have only just begun...

I've worked for administrators who operated under the same limited definition that a library was just a place to check out books.  No matter what I said or did, their views did not broaden.

But this time I'm armed with BIG IDEAS.  And I'm working with children who are used to thinking deeply.  They expect to have their understandings expand.

The idea of educating a new generation of thinkers on the full potential of a library is exhilarating.   Let's get started! 

Monday, March 31, 2014

What's the Big Idea?

Week one of my AASL online class "Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century School Librarian" focused on understanding big ideas and involved a little reflection upon my own teaching styles.

The first discussion opened with a question asking students to share if we tended to fall into the coverage trap or the activity trap.  Do we plan lessons to hit a number of objectives or standards, or do we do things that are fun or entertaining or seem worthwhile regardless of objectives?  Several of us stated that we start with the end in the mind, planning activities based on objectives, but I'm beginning to see that this is just the beginning.  Teaching by design is not just about establishing objectives and knowing what you want students to learn.  No.  It's bigger than that.  We have to go deeper.   We have to ask............

What's the BIG IDEA?

What are students going to take from this lesson (or unit) that they can use in 20 years?

My take on big ideas is that I can address them year after year with new resources and deeper thinking and never exhaust them.  If you haven't read the article I cited in my last post by Jean Donham, I urge you to do so...

By framing teaching and learning around big ideas, such as "Information can be organized in many ways", I can address sections of the library, shelf order, parts of a book, OPAC, databases, note-taking and more, always referring to our big idea so that students begin to make connections themselves, begin to think about how they organize their own information, begin to look for order in an unfamiliar system.  I'm looking forward to posting my big ideas where students can see them as they enter this space.

Another powerful - and challenging - aspect of thinking ahead 20 years is technology.  What can I teach today that will outlast the changes in technology that are occurring faster and faster?  What will students learn that will outlast desktop computers or a particular app?  This is where ethical use, strategic evaluation, and responsible sharing all come in to play.

All of this learning is going into a unit planner.  But first, it's time to understand more about understanding....