Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freedom to Fail

A few weekends ago I got back to my car after a trip and found it dead. After jumping all the hurdles that this caused including buying jumper cables, figuring out how to use them, dealing with being in a dark parking garage, getting the car alarm to shut off, I finally got the car in working order again. As I drove, I realized that I had left a light on inside the car. My mistake was the cause of all that hassle! And I felt horrible about it.

This got me thinking about failure. I don't deal with it well. I'm a bit of a perfectionist which may be my nature, but this tendency was probably exacerbated by my experiences in school. The emphasis, at least in my experience, was always to cram things in my brain or create fantastic projects with the aim of earning an A. Watching students where I teach now, for the lion's share of them, that seems to be their M.O. as well.

However, when I think about how I learn most meaningfully and how I learn for my own personal growth, usually it is trial and error. When I'm interested in something I like to play with it to figure out what works and what doesn't. When I get stuck I seek out expertise, whether it is takes the form of another person or information in one of its many forms that will help me.

How do we shift what we do in schools to move from the culture of perfect to a culture of experimentation when we learn it's ok to fail on the way to breakthroughs? How can I transform my thinking to reflect this in my teaching? How can I help design experiences to make this happen for the students and staff with whom I work?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

ISLMA Conference

I just returned from the annual ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association) Conference: Futures Begin by Embracing Change. It's an event I look forward to each year, as it is a great chance to connect with other school librarians and get re-energized.

The keynote speaker, Stephanie Vance, talked about advocacy and working more effectively with elected officials to advocate for libraries. She was really engaging! Some of the tips included the importance of personalized contact and requesting specific action when contacting elected officials.

I attended a session about using art within the library as a way to build literacy. Having just been awarded a local grant to have a temporary art exhibit in the library this spring it helped spark a lot of ideas. And there certainly were some creative ideas shared in the session led by Patti Foerster from Vaughn Occupational High School.

I attended a couple best new books sessions when I heard book talks for hot YA and middle school titles led by Michael Cart and Sally Walker. I heard about the use of iPods in the library, collaborations for student projects using multimedia and web 2.0 tools, and using picture books in middle schools. I attended a reception for alums of the GSLIS program at Dominican. Most valuable of all was the chance to network with other school librarians from around the state.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Migrating to a new management system

My district is in the process of migrating to a new automation system. Although we've been working on this since March of last school year, things have kind of come together all at once. We are doing a series of trainings this week to get on board with the new system.

I'm excited about the new possibilities that the system should afford us. I hope it will have more opportunities for user interaction. It will certainly be more graphically appealing than our current system. A huge benefit is that results will now have a book cover image. That will make a big difference for our users. Our current system has pretty awful catalog search results and will no longer be upgraded due to being bought by a competitor.

I've got my fingers crossed for a smooth transition and a relatively small learning curve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Self-Directed Learning

My district has announced a new initiative for this school year which I'm really excited about! We've used the Illinois Applications of Learning as a way to guide the effort to develop 21st Century Skills. The Applications of Learning are:
  • Communicating
  • Working on Teams
  • Solving Problems
  • Using Technology
  • Making Connections
This year there has been another component added, Self-Directed Learning. The district has decided to encourage self-directed learning in both the students and the faculty. I'm super excited about this. It gives us, the faculty, the opportunity and responsibility to direct our own professional development.

We each will design our own learning project for the year. During our institute times we will have the opportunity to use part of that time to work on our learning projects, rather than participating in the usual blanket professional development. It was an attempt at one-size-fits-all training that really meet the needs of very few.

I have colleagues that are starting books clubs - some to focus on reading young adult literature, some to explore areas within their subject areas. People have the option of working in small groups or individually.

I'm excited by this opportunity but (big surprise here!) am having a difficult time narrowing down my focus. I think I am going to work on a project that can work in conjunction with my dissertation. Exploring student interaction with information in virtual environments is an area which will help me grow as a professional and will help me develop a library program that better serves students.

I'll keep updating this blog with my progress. Kudos to the administration of my district for having the vision for practicing what they preach. This is an exciting opportunity and gives me support within my district for what I do as a professional anyway, continuing to find ways to grow and challenge myself.

Monday, July 27, 2009

ISAIL: Get on board

I attended a session about ISAIL, Illinois Standards Aligned Instruction for Libraries, hosted by ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association) recently. I've been to a couple sessions about ISAIL to date. The project is really picking up steam and is a fabulous effort to coordinate school library objectives, goals, and benchmarks with ISBE content standards, AASL standards, and NETS standards. The document is in an easy-to-use format.

What really excited me this time around is the push for creating a mISAIL component, where schools can individualize ISAIL to meet their needs. As I am reworking the library standards documents for my school, I look forward to using mISAIL to help me do this. Down the road there is also going to be a wISAIL component where people will have a chance to collaborate and share.

I'm proud of the effort that ISLMA members have put into this project to date. This work is really help blazing a trail in the country. If you haven't seen this project yet, do check out the ISAIL wiki. All the ISAIL documentation uses Creative Commons licensing and sharing is encouraged!

More than just talking to yourself: Power of Self-Talk, Think-Aloud, and Talk-Aloud

I was reminded the other day of the impact that hearing someone talk through a process aloud as they are doing it can have in teaching and learning.

After getting a haircut, the stylist took the teachable moment and talked through the steps she was using as she styled my hair. I really appreciated that. Seeing her doing the steps and hearing her talk about what she was doing and why, really made the information stick in my brain. I gained some new insight and could replicate and adjust accordingly.

I lead a lot of sessions with students attempting to teach them how to do research and use information. I need to remember to share my mental process as I am searching even if it does feel silly. Most of the important stuff when a search is being conducted and the results are being evaluated is happening in the head of the searcher! If we don't model for our students what we think before we click and type, we are missing a huge teaching opportunity. Thanks, Sophia, for the powerful demonstration and for helping to remind me of a really critical technique.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Grant Writing Session

During our class five meeting, our focus was on Grant Writing for School Libraries. We went through a problem solving model in order to develop a grant program idea. We followed this up with a mock-up of key parts of a grant application for the project idea that we chose as the way to best solve the problem (building literacy, particularly in students who are English language learners) we identified in our mock school.

Below is part of our brainstorming for possible solutions that could lead to a grant project:

Here is the the outline of moving our project idea into a grant proposal:

Research is Recursive

I was reading the chapter, "Modeling Recursion in Research Process Instruction" by Sandy L. Guild, and suddenly a light bulb in my head turned on. I know modeling of my thought process is important when demonstrating searching. But I realized that even though I know research is a recursive process and that I talk about it as a cyclical process, often times when I am working with students I present it in stages. The idea that it is linear probably causes a disconnect and additional frustration for students.
I really liked the way Guild connected this idea of teaching recursive thinking and laying it over the process models of information seeking. I appreciated having that aha moment! The short chapter gave me plenty of food for thought and helpful examples. I hope to incorporate these ideas in my teaching and work with students more formally in the fall.

Work Cited
Guild, S. L. (2003). Modeling Recursion in Research Process Instruction. In B.K. Stripling & S. Hughes- Hassell (Eds.), Curriculum connections through the library (pp. 141-155). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Monday, July 13, 2009

AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner & Permissions to Use

I have been following with interest the postings that Chris Harris has been doing on his Informancy Blog about AASL restricting the use of the standards for the 21st Century Learner. Harris is raising several questions including pushing for the idea of adopting Creative Commons licensing or looking for some other alternative to allow those in the field to actually use the language within the standards in teaching situations and in discussions within the school library field.

This is surprising as it was a member-created effort and supposedly incorporated lots of input from school librarians. I'm curious about how this will play out. What do you think?