books, tech, lessons from a librarian

Category: EDTC6104

Unexpected Treasures: a tale of fine arts, Google smarts, and lawn darts

oil painting of aspen treesOne of my guilty pleasures is watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS. There’s something oddly satisfying about making completely uneducated guesses about an item’s monetary value only to find out moments later unsatisfyingly how uneducated you really are. The most disappointing for me has always been hearing just how out of my price range the artwork is. Beautiful little pastel? $4,000. An effortless little pencil sketch? Better insure it for $10,000. Then along comes an oil painting… Yeah, $100,000 sounds about right. My hopes of someday filling my home with the work of master artists are clearly not based in reality. But while my story is nowhere near as interesting as some of the Roadshow guests, and my find will certainly not fund my childrens’ college funds, at least once in my life years ago I was at the right place at the right time.

It was a little junk shop in Sequim, WA (long-since shuttered, unfortunately)… As my wife and I wandered the meandering hallways of the rundown little house-turned-store, we looked through boxes and shelves for a hidden treasure. It was our lucky day. First it was a little Texas Ware splatter patterned bowl, still in use in our kitchen to this day. Next, a complete set of lawn darts in their original box. Still kicking myself over not buying that one, though in hindsight, it’s probably for the best that my three boys don’t have weighted spears to throw at each other. (Good Lord! Who ever thought those were a good idea for kids?!) And then, there, mixed in with a pile of velvet Elvises and terrible faded seaside prints, was a gorgeous oil painting of an aspen stand. It didn’t matter that the frame was a little dinged up (still is) or that the painting was a little dirty (still is). It was clearly the work of skilled artist and his deft touch shone through the grime.

When I get ready to walk out the door each morning, I’m greeted by the scene of sunlit aspen. I think back fondly to that day when my wife and I spent $50 more than we had on a painting that had no business being in a junk shop, and I’m thankful for finding treasures in unexpected places.

ISTE Coaching Standard 3. Digital age learning environments
Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

If you’ve been a teacher for more than three days, you are probably up to your elbows in Scholastic Reading Club flyers. I’m always trying to find ways to avoid tossing the extras directly into the recycle bin, and this past year I finally came up with an idea for a project.

Scholastic book club flyers

SBA testing was looming (though not as much as the giant pile of Scholastic newsprint next to my desk) and students were losing patience with our endless figurative language cramming for test review (it’s pronounced “hyperbole” not “hyper-bowl”). In a moment of clarity, I created a Google Classroom for each of my fifth grade classrooms. Next I recorded a quick video introducing my lesson idea, similar to this one:

screengrab of youtube video

I created a Google Sheet (a completely new tool to my students) to act as a template for a partnered activity.

Google Sheets spreadsheetFinally, I compiled manila folders for each group, filled with Scholastic book order forms and a booklet of genre posters to assist with the task at hand. The task? Each pair of students had a $150 budget to “spend” on books for their classroom library. The only catch: the books had to be found in the Scholastic flyers and they had to buy at least two books from each of the listed genres (the same as the genre posters that had been on display in their classroom all year).

My fear? That things would go horribly wrong, horribly quick. (The fear was not assuaged by the fact I was being observed during this unit by my administrator). In reality, it proved to be one of the most dynamic and effective periods of learning I’ve been a party to. Kids worked collaboratively together and those that didn’t also had a chance to evaluate themselves and their partner at the end of the project by submitting a Google Form. I came away convinced that taking a risk and managing an activity outside of my comfort zone was not the easy way, but it was the right way.

My next step is finding ways to encourage my teacher-librarian colleagues to explore using Google Classroom in their library teaching spaces. I’ve submitted my proposal to the district for a 90-minute workshop to be held on our next district-directed Learning Improvement Day. My goal is to find ways to encourage my peers to create “effective digital age learning environments”. So what does that even look like? It’s my hope that my proposed workshop can serve as an example of the work of The Gates Foundation and the related work of Soine & Lumpe.

Google Classroom presentation page

I chose 90 minutes, as a 50 minute session would result in far more frustrated questions than satisfying answers (not that that’s always a bad thing, but it is an unsustainable model for professional development).  Though the workshop will be 90 minutes long, the need for additional training and collaboration time will extend into Learning Improvement Fridays, too.  

Active & Engaged Learning
The extended time frame will allow for use of Socrative http://www.socrative.com/, an online assessment tool, collaborative work, and extended peer discussion. The workshop setting is built around teachers participating as students in Google Classroom to gain a better understanding of both sides of the technology.

Content Knowledge Needs
I’m always looking for ways to extend my library lessons beyond my walls and into the classrooms. The focus of this workshop is encouraging the use of Google Classroom. Classroom, in and of itself, is not a curricular content piece, but it is an absolutely fabulous delivery agent. Math, science, reading, writing… Any subject can be addressed through its use.

Teachers’ Needs
This workshop is intended to directly meet the needs of my peers. We need job-alike instruction. We need chances to brainstorm and collaborate around planning curricular units. We need time and support to explore new instructional tools, with a critical eye watching over us to provide assistance and help us avoid trouble. 90 minutes won’t be nearly enough time, but it’s a start.

Promoting Collaborative Participation
Though it would be tempting to write it off as merely a Substitution tool, the lowest-level of the SAMR model, don’t forget that Classroom was designed to allow for communication and collaboration in all steps of the lesson process. Students can comment on each other’s work, teachers can comment and provide feedback in real time. My proposed workshop follows a similar model, encouraging collaboration through Classroom and conversation during our session, and by utilizing Google Hangouts for follow-up virtual sessions.

Like my beloved junk store painting, teaching is an art. The work of a master teacher is immediately evident (though unfortunately, not as highly valued as an oil painting), and it is my hope that I can collaborate with my fellow librarians to hone my craft, and to create opportunities for our students’ new works to shine. There was treasure hiding in a pile of Scholastic flyers; treasure in a throwaway idea that didn’t quite make it to the trash. Be on the lookout for unexpected treasures in the least expected moments and places. And also for flying lawn darts. Those things are crazy unsafe! And be thankful for those discovered treasures, no matter how small. 


The Gates Foundation. (n.d.). Teachers know best: Teachers’ views on professional development. Retrieved from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/learning/teacher_views_on_pd/

Johnson, K. (2016, June 28). 5 things teachers want from PD, and how coaching and collaboration can deliver them — if implementation improves. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves

Lewis, V. (2015, October 25). Why most professional development stinks — and how you can make it better. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-25-why-most-professional-development-stinks-and-how-you-can-make-it-better

Soine, K.M. & Lumpe, A. (2014). Measuring characteristics of teacher professional development. Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development. DOI: 10.1080/13664530.2014.911775

Learned Helplessness Attacks!

Alien spacecraft over a panicking city

Learned helplessness: a behavior often seen when an individual believes they have no control over the outcome of a situation, regardless of the reality of their perceived control. “The motivational effect of learned helplessness is often seen in the classroom. Students who repeatedly fail may conclude that they are incapable of improving their performance, and this attribution keeps them from trying to succeed, which results in increased helplessness, continued failure, loss of self-esteem and other social consequences.” (“Learned helplessness” – Wikipedia) “What’s the point of trying?” is often thought or spoken.

ISTE Coaching Standard 3 [Digital age learning environments] calls on “technology coaches [to] create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.” Much easier said than done, to be sure. Anyone who has spent even a moment teaching knows the last phrase is the kicker: all students. A few students? Most could do that with little trouble. Most students? Tougher, but still doable with a little hard work and luck. But all students? Now throw technology into the mix and the odds of success begin to seem less likely than predicting the winning PowerBall numbers… twice. Now add in a mindset of learned helplessness, wherein students predict failure and don’t even try. What are those odds of success now? Without a balanced and mindful approach, slim to none.

Let’s take a look at the photo from the beginning of this post. We’re looking at a city square and an alien craft is hovering overhead. How would you react in a similar situation? Looking at the image metaphorically, our teaching spaces are the city square: they’re filled with learners of all shapes, sizes, interests, ages, experiences, backgrounds. The alien craft hovering overhead is the technology or project we’re bringing into our teaching space. How will we respond? How will our students or peers respond? Much depends on our approach. There are clues in the image as to the kind of responses we may likely see in our students and colleagues:

boy running away in fearReaction #1: Run Away!!!

“This is not happening. Not now, not ever. I refuse to take part in this. I’ve seen this movie. I see what’s going down, and I have no interest in participating. I’m outta here!” This is someone who’s been there, done that. There would seem to be no reasoning with them. They know what they need to do, and that’s to remove themselves from the current reality. They’re a survivor, but they’re taking their skills with them when they opt out of the situation at hand. This is a learned helplessness response. Good luck teaching them when they’ve already fled.

man looking over his shoulder in fear

Reaction #2: Frozen in Fear

“What is going on? I am powerless. Should I leave? What is this? I should go. No, I’m not going to run away because what good would it do?” This poor guy is dropping a handful of papers that up until this moment seemed very important to him. His productivity has ground to a halt as he stands motionless, stuck between tasks. Many staff or students may feel this way when confronting a difficult task or a new technology. Fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. Doing nothing is not the answer, though it is also often a learned helplessness response. Teaching someone with such a frozen by fear of failure is not an easy task.

by pointing up into the sky

Reaction #3: Childlike Wonder

“Hey! Look at that cool thing up there!” This child shows no fear, pointing in delight at the unknown events happening above him. The adult next to him seems to be ready to grab hold of the oblivious kid’s hand. The child doesn’t know what the adult knows, nor does the child realize what he doesn’t know. A giant alien spacecraft is overhead… it’s okay (and probably wise) to feel a little fear or trepidation. The absence of fear can result in blindly proceeding into unsafe situations. “There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.” Aeschylus Childlike wonder is a beautiful thing, but a sense of wonder does not mean you have to be dependent and oblivious.

couple standing together looking into sky

Reaction #4: Athletic stance

“Let’s do this.” They’re in this together. Based on their physical reactions there looks to be fear involved. They could easily have begun running away by now, but their stance shows they’re ready to adapt and adjust and respond to the situation. (I like to think this is how I would react, though to be honest, I would probably be taking the car from the frozen guy and racing out of town. I’d at least offer him a ride, if he was quick about it.)

Of these four responses, the balanced approach in #4 is how I would hope to react and how I would want my students and staff to react, whether it be in emergency situations like an inevitable alien attack or during a normal run-of-the-mill classroom activity. There’s no panic, no giving up, a willingness to use the skills they have without truly knowing the obstacles or outcome, a decision to stand together to take on the challenges at hand. So how do we get there in the face of learned helplessness in those around us? Let’s take a look at two of the more popular trends from the last couple of years: growth mind-set and grit.

Growth Mind-set

Having a growth mind-set vs. a fixed mind-set is one topic thrown around a lot as a panacea for reaching even the most jaded learners. The terms were coined by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. in her work at Stanford University. In summary, those with a fixed mind-set see intelligence as largely a predetermined and static commodity, while those with a growth mind-set believe that intelligence can be developed. Focusing on a growth mind-set is said to help students reach their true potential as they feel more empowered and committed. The idea is presented elegantly in this Nigel Holmes infographic:

growth vs. fixed mindset chart

You’ve probably seen ‘Pinterest’y bulletin boards like this one:

change your words, change your mindset

But a beautiful bulletin board like this can do truly more harm than good. Posting these messages on the wall will seldom change a child’s heart. What kid will walk by this in the hallway, pause, and think to himself: “By golly, I just need to change my words. Instead of ‘I can’t read’, I’m going to train my brain in reading. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Thanks, bulletin board from Pinterest.” (The irony of a message about not being able to read being printed and posted on a bulletin board is not to be missed.)

To clarify my “more harm than good” assessment, a project like the mind-set bulletin board can give a false sense of accomplishment. I imagine the staff meeting conversation: “Are we focused on growth mindsets around here?” “Well, we’ve got that amazing bulletin board by the lunch room.” “Great, keep it up! Now, let’s talk about the latest state testing results.” Nothing was accomplished more than artistically covering a hallway wall with uplifting messages. The bulletin board message itself is a great idea. We should absolutely work towards helping those around us reach their true potential. But is that bulletin board in your hallway reflective of the work being done in your school? Truly focusing on developing a growth mind-set requires a massive mindshift from many students, staff, and parents alike. A bulletin board alone doesn’t cut it. Dweck herself admits that shifting thinking like this cannot be oversimplified: “Changing mind-sets is not like surgery,” [Dweck] says. “You can’t simply remove the fixed mind-set and replace it with the growth mind-set.” (Krakovsky, 2007) Recently Dweck revisited her work and how it’s been applied in the educational world. “In many quarters, a growth mind-set had become the right thing to have, the right way to think. It was as though educators were faced with a choice: Are you an enlightened person who fosters students’ well-being? Or are you an unenlightened person, with a fixed mindset, who undermines them? So, of course, many claimed the growth-mindset identity. But the path to a growth mind-set is a journey, not a proclamation.” (Dweck, 2015)


Fostering a culture of grit is another popular movement in education and business alike. “Grit”, coined by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth, is the idea that an individual exhibits “perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress. The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina. Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” (Duckworth, 2007)  This infographic by Sylvia Duckworth (no relation) summarizes the idea that success is achieved through an often messy combination of failure, sacrifice, hard work, and dedication:

iceberg illusion infographic

So What Now?

Back to “digital age learning environments” for all learners and thinking back to the impending alien attack, how do we prepare for all of varied responses? 

Edutopia has some great resources on the topics and here are just a few:

5 Steps to Foster Grit in the Classroom by Andrew Miller
Avoiding “Learned Helplessness” by Andrew Miller
Developing a Growth Mindset in Teachers and Staff by Keith Heggart
True Grit: The Best Measure of Success and How to Teach It by Vicki Davis

Are we training our students and staff how to properly respond when faced with unexpected obstacles? Should we focus on grit or on growth mind-set? There really isn’t a single approach that will snuff out learned helplessness. A multi-pronged approach is needed. What works for one learner or colleague may totally fail with another. Luckily there are some common threads throughout these and other educational theories, and I’ll highlight three: (1) Trust, (2) Communication, and (3) Patience.


When there is a culture of trust, people are willing to try and even to fail. Allowing for failure is an underutilized and powerful teaching tool. Creating trust means being vulnerable. When the learner knows they’re not alone, great things can happen. When there is trust, there is honesty.


Open communication is based on honesty and self-awareness. When you need help, be honest about those needs. When sacrifice is needed, be honest about that, too. Ongoing reflection and revision will help learners to find their voice. Allowing for feedback throughout the process will allow for growth in your teaching as well. Honest feedback is more powerful than feel-good feedback. End-of-unit feedback can help you spot holes in instruction or in learning. Talk about grit and growth mind-set, and about how learning is hard work. Find others in the community who are willing to visit and share their experiences (great opportunity for a Skype/Hangout visit), to show that learning is not just a school-thing.


These types of culture change and mind shifts take time and lots of it. Like Dweck said, this isn’t an operation. It’s often said that teaching is an art. Well, art is messy. “Rules” in art are made to be broken. Embracing differences in the artists and their work is what makes art so powerful and cross-cultural. Creativity is an innate human ability, and reminding learners of that ability will take effort, and effort takes time.

So there you have it. Take a little growth mind-set, mix it with trust, communication, and patience, and then grind it up with a little grit…  And you, too, will be ready for an alien invasion. And for teaching how to write a persuasive essay. And for teaching kids how to read. And for helping a colleague overcome their fear of technology. But mostly, keep an eye out for those aliens.


Barr, R. D., & Gibson, E. L. (2015). Sowing seeds of hope. Educational Leadership, 72(9), 22-27.

Davis, V. (2015, July 28). True grit: The best measure of success and how to teach it | Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/true-grit-measure-teach-success-vicki-davis

Desautels, L. (2014, June 11). Emotions are contagious | Edutopia [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/emotions-are-contagious-lori-desautels

Duckworth, A.L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M.D., & Kelly, D.R. (2007). “Grit: Perseverance and passion for long-term goals”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92 (6), p. 1087. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/dQkkf

Dweck, C. (2015, September 22). Carol Dweck revisits the ‘growth mind-set’ – Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html

Gerstein, J. (2014, August 29). The educator with a growth mindset: A professional development workshop | User Generated Education [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-educator-with-a-growth-mindset-a-staff-workshop/

The Hechinger Report. (2016, April 18). Grit under attack in education circles | US News. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-04-18/grit-under-attack-in-education-circles

Heggart, K. (2015, February 3). Developing a growth mindset in teachers and staff | Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/developing-growth-mindset-teachers-and-staff

Hicks, K. (2015, March 17). Why creativity in the classroom matters more than ever | Edudemic. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/creativity-in-the-classroom/

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE standards for coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Krakovsky, M. (2007, March/April). The effort effect | Stanford Magazine. Retrieved from https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=32124

Maats, H., & O’Brien, K. (2014, March 20). Teaching students to embrace mistakes | Edutopia [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teaching-students-to-embrace-mistakes-hunter-maats-katie-obrien

Miller, A. (2014, January 7). 5 steps to foster grit in the classroom | Edutopia [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/foster-grit-in-classroom-andrew-miller

Miller, A. (2015, May 11). Avoiding “learned helplessness” | Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/avoiding-learned-helplessness-andrew-miller

Tough, P. (2016, June). How to teach students grit – The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/how-kids-really-succeed/480744/

Wood, C. J. (1991). Are Students and School Personnel Learning to be Helpless-Oriented or Resourceful-Oriented? Part 1: Focus on Students. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 2(1), 15-48. doi:10.1207/s1532768xjepc0201_2

Wood, C. J. (1992). Are Students and School Personnel Taught to Be Helpless-Oriented or Resourceful-Oriented? Part 2: Focus on School Personnel. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 3(4), 317-355. doi:10.1207/s1532768xjepc0304_3


“Childhood’s End” concept art by Neal Adams  http://goo.gl/nnl4lT

“Two Mindsets” by Nigel Holmes  http://goo.gl/FhtDRc

“Growth Mindset bulletin board” by RoomMomSpot  http://goo.gl/eWXJl1

“The Iceberg Illusion” by Sylvia Duckworth  https://goo.gl/aJap3U

Finding & Sharing eResources: Where do we begin?

Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it© Justin Haney 2016 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

“Work smarter, not harder.”

There are few combinations of words that will raise hackles more quickly among teachers than the command to “work smarter”, as if we had never considered the idea. The problem is there’s more than a sliver of truth in that infamous business credo.  We as educators are working harder than ever before to overcome ever greater obstacles.  A mindshift is needed.  “Work smarter” is a loaded phrase that should be put to pasture for a bit.  Instead of “smarter”, though, the word we should focus on is “sharing”.  

Many teachers, myself included, are reluctant to share the work that we do. The easiest way to work “smarter” is to share our work.  When a quality resource is found, it makes no sense to hoard it.  If a system or structure is in place to share resources, teachers will use it.  The difficulties begin to arise quickly, though.  Who controls the sharing process?  Who approves the electronic resources?  What’s the best way to share?  And, as with any processes that are put in place, is it sustainable?

ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Digital age learning environments

Technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.

B – Maintain and manage a variety of digital tools and resources for teacher and student use in technology-rich learning environments

F – Collaborate with teachers and administrators to select and evaluate digital tools and resources that enhance teaching and learning and are compatible with the school technology infrastructure

Guiding Question

What effective systems and structures do school districts have in place to manage recommendations for websites, apps, technology tools?  

Historically my school has had no solid plan for dealing with apps and digital resources.  When it comes time to find e-resources to use, teachers are on their own.  Different curricular areas have sporadically created lists of recommended websites, with little sharing of said lists.  The lists become less effective over time as links become dead or because more effective sites and resources are not added.  With that said, what I’m really concerned with is the process and not specific products and sites: how to share resources within the district and beyond, what processes are in place to recommend and share, are FERPA/COPPA/etc. taken into consideration, and what recommendations to make to our district technology administrators?  

share© Justin Haney 2016 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

So How Hard Can It Be?

School District of Osceola County, FL: Software or Web Tools Selection  I’m beginning with this site as an example of what I fear these processes can lead to.  There is a lengthy multiple-step process involved, with several pages of notes required at each step.  Committee meetings to approve/deny resources are monthly, so timeliness could often be an issue.  Approved sites and resources are shared alphabetically in a .pdf file, with no search functionality.  Teachers are concerned about losing autonomy of their classroom instruction and this district’s process seems like exactly what many educators fear.  Also, it’s astounding to think of the amount of time and effort invested into this process when there are only 13 sites/resources on the “Denied” list.  More astounding is the fact that this oldest items on the “Approved” list were reviewed more than ten years ago, meaning little more than 1 resource is denied each year, on average.  My gut tells me that many sites and resources are being used without approval, with staff choosing to bypass the cumbersome process, though I could certainly be incorrect in my assumption.  If the process becomes too much work, staff will find an easier way.

On the other end of the spectrum is Denver Public Schools’ amazingly polished and extensive Academic Technology Menu.  My primary fear is how sustainable would a resource like Denver’s be? I can’t even imagine how much work it was to create this elegant site.  And if it’s primarily the work of one or two gifted individuals, would it fall into disrepair when those individuals inevitably move on?  

Is There a Happy Medium?

Michael Gorman wrote two interesting blog posts in November 2015 on the topic of vetting Internet resources: 10 Ideas to Consider Before Using an Internet Resource and Vetting Web 2.0 Educational Tools.  I appreciate Gorman’s approach as I feel it would be a great place to start this conversation with my staff.  He doesn’t provide forms to mindlessly check boxes and fill-in dots, but rather, he first encourages us to pause and focus.  His list of ten ideas in the first post covers a wide range of topics that are often overlooked in the process of finding the right electronic resources.  For example: 1) Read and understand your school district’s AUP or RUP;  4) Check to see if there is already a district approved tool that does the same thing; and 7) Incorporate good digital citizenship at all levels.

Guilford County Schools of Greensboro, NC have an interesting process in place for approving apps for use in their district. Guilford County Schools: Elementary App Approval Process  Of particular note in this district’s process, I appreciated the first step which requires that educators self-evaluate a resource using a rubric. Crowdsourcing work like this saves time and resources, and it also requires that educators self-reflect on their instruction.  I was unable to find a shared list of approved resources, though.

Englewood High School in Englewood, CO, does a nice job of explaining the reasoning behind having an approval process in place.  Technology Resources / App Approval Process The approval process begins with a one page document, with simple questions to consider and respond to.  The language is clear and the process encourages conversation with the building principal.  Approved apps are listed in an accessible Google Doc with informative summaries.

Concerns/Questions/Next Steps

Student privacy issues are seldom mentioned in the policies I’ve found (though it is on Gorman’s list:  9) Become familiar with CIPA, COPPA, and FERPA).  Education on the issue could be an effective first step towards bringing it more to the forefront of educators’ thinking.  Valerie Strauss’s The Washington Post article “The Astonishing Amount of Data Being Collected About Your Children” provides some interested fodder for conversation with staff and parents alike.

The toughest question may be, where do we start?  I don’t think the answer is a complicated form or a fancy website, as they would never be fully utilized without a deeper understanding of the “why”.  Instead, a conversation framed around Gorman’s 10 ideas could lay the groundwork for a strong foundation of sharing knowledge and resources.  We’re already working hard.  Now it’s time to share our work with those around us.  I’m committing to more intentionality in my sharing with colleagues this year. When we as educators find a high quality resource that meets a curricular need, it would be foolish to keep it to ourselves.  Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.  

What you create; What the world sees; where they intersect is Your impact© Justin Haney 2016 (CC BY-NC 4.0)    inspired by James Clear’s illustration on http://jamesclear.com/vivian-maier


Denver Public Schools. (n.d.). Academic technology solutions menu. Retrieved August 6, 2016, from https://atm.dpsk12.org/

Englewood High School. (n.d.). Technology resources – App approval process. Retrieved August 6, 2016, from http://www.englewoodschools.net/Page/4142

Gorman, M. (2015, November 4). 10 ideas to consider before using an internet resource: the web in the classroom, part 1 [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/blogentry/9948

Gorman, M. (2015, November 17). Vetting web 2.0 educational tools: the web in the classroom, part 2 [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.techlearning.com/blogentry/10002

Guilford County Schools. (n.d.). Elementary app approval process. Retrieved August 6, 2016, from www.gcsnc.com/pages/gcsnc/Departments/804180865931116562/Resourcfes_Page_Documents/Elementary_App_Approval_Proces

International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE standards for coaches. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

Johnson, K. (2016, March 15). Resources to help you choose the digital tools your classroom needs. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-03-15-resources-to-help-you-choose-the-digital-tools-your-classroom-needs

School District of Osceola County. (n.d.). Software or web tools selection. Retrieved August 7, 2016, from http://www.osceolaschools.net/departments/media_and_instructional_technology_/software_or_web_tools_selection/

Strauss, V. (2015, November 12). The astonishing amount of data being collected about your children – The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/12/the-astonishing-amount-of-data-being-collected-about-your-children/

Professional Development: Small Steps & Giant Leaps

space craft

Spaceship: image by Justin Haney

NASA and Mars Exploration

On July 20, 2016, US scientists celebrated the 40th anniversary of reaching the surface of Mars with Viking I.  Forty years later, a new generation of scientists and engineers are up to their elbows in development and planning for an even bigger vision.  NASA has plans to have astronauts orbiting Mars by 2033, with a further goal of astronaut boots on the ground by the end of the 2030s.  In seventeen years, I may be able to turn on my VR device and see what astronauts are seeing when they take those first steps on the Red Planet. In less than twenty years, scientists will (hopefully) have taken the necessary steps to ensure safe passage for humans on a 225 million km voyage.  By the time my kids have graduated from college, astronauts will be be playing Pokemon GO on Mars.  And all because of a mix of careful planning, a willingness to fail, and taking first steps…

Educators & Professional Development: Disconnected

As educators, we know there is hard work to be done if we want our teaching to help our students today and tomorrow reach further heights than ever before.  Like those early NASA scientists, our future success will depend on our work today.  There is a profound need for professional development for the K-12 librarians in my school district, and especially at the K-5 level, as many of our elementary librarians have not pursued a library media endorsement for their teaching certificate.  So how can we improve the quality of our teaching?  What form(s) of professional development will work for a district-wide K-12 librarian team? Is there a particular model of staff learning and instruction that will be effective, sustainable, and promote collaboration?  Teachers are encouraged to be lifelong learners.  Professional development can take on many different forms.  Traditionally the model for many librarians has been to attend whatever trainings are taking place for classroom teachers. In the recent past we’ve successfully lobbied for librarian-specific offerings, but those in-service days are so few and far between that, by necessity, often those sessions act as a general “catch-up” time.  

My goal for this year is to help with the development and implementation of a sustainable and effective K-12 library professional development model for our district’s librarians.  So what does that mean? What would that look like?  First, let’s take a look at what’s not working…


chart retrieved from page 5 of “Teachers Know Best” report at http://www.teachersknowbest.org/  (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Karen Johnson distills from the Gates Foundation’s findings five things that educators are searching for in their professional development.  “Death by PowerPoint” is all-too-real for many teachers.  Instead, we’re longing for “professional learning opportunities that are: 1) Relevant; 2) Interactive; 3) Delivered by someone who understands their experience; 4) Sustained over time; and 5) Treats teachers like professionals.” (Johnson, 2016) https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-06-28-5-things-teachers-want-from-pd-and-how-coaching-and-collaboration-can-deliver-them-if-implementation-improves

Professional Development: Path to Success

Think about it…  What if early NASA scientists had sat idly by, watching other countries take the lead…? If they had opted out of exploration and innovation because the risks were too great…?  If they had chosen to stay within their comfort zone and not test the limits of physics and engineering…?  Our astronauts would be like landlocked tourists, crossing the country in RVs with nerdy science bumper stickers, rather than taking those first amazingly red and dusty steps millions of miles away.  A leap of faith is required before we can achieve our goals.  As of yet, there is not a Star Trek transporter that allows for near-instantaneous travel between two ports.  If we want to explore new and distant worlds, we’ve got to do the hard work to get there.  We’ve got to plan, test, collect data, revise, collaborate, innovate.

And so it is for the team of fellow teacher-librarians in my district.  If we want to achieve great things with our teaching, and we want our students and staff to reach even further, it’s time to take the first small steps towards changing our professional development model.  This year I’m committing and looking forward to exploring the development of a librarian-focused EdCamp in the Pacific Northwest region.  I know that organizing and hosting an EdCamp won’t fill all of the gaps in our professional development needs.  Thinking back to NASA’s Mars vision, they didn’t just strap a few astronauts into a rocket and hope for the best.  Instead scientists started with small unmanned probes, monitored, evaluated, adapted.  They collaborated.  They created.  And they’re not satisfied with what they’ve achieved.  I strongly feel that a librarian-focused EdCamp could be an important piece of the professional development puzzle for myself and my teacher-librarian colleagues for years to come, and I’m excited to start this journey.  A few small steps, and then a giant leap into EdCamps!

So What’s an EdCamp?

Kristen Swanson, one of the founders of the EdCamp movement, summarizes the format of the unconference model, a model that is growing exponentially in popularity with educators throughout the nation and beyond.

An EdCamp is…

  • Free: Edcamps should be free to all attendees. This helps ensure that all different types of teachers and educational stakeholders can attend.
  • Non-commercial and with a vendor-free presence: Edcamps should be about learning, not selling. Educators should feel free to express their ideas without being swayed or influenced by sales pitches for educational books or technology.
  • Hosted by any organization or individual: Anyone should be able to host an Edcamp. School districts, educational stakeholders and teams of teachers can host Edcamps.
  • Made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event: Edcamps should not have pre-scheduled presentations. During the morning of the event, the schedule should be created in conjunction with everyone there. Sessions will be spontaneous, interactive and responsive to participants’ needs.
  • Events where anyone who attends can be a presenter: Anyone who attends an Edcamp should be eligible to present. All teachers and educational stakeholders are professionals worthy of sharing their expertise in a collaborative setting.
  • Reliant on the “law of two feet” which encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs: As anyone can host a session, it is critical that participants are encouraged to actively self-select the best content and sessions. Edcampers should leave sessions that do not meet their needs. This provides a uniquely effective way of “weeding out” sessions that are not based on appropriate research or not delivered in an engaging format.  (Swanson, 2016) http://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-edcamp-kristen-swanson

EdCamps: More Information

The best way to learn more about EdCamps is to attend one.  Here are three upcoming Pacific Northwest EdCamp events that I would encourage you to attend, as well as a link to the national EdCamp Foundation website for even more information.

Tech EdCamp Wenatchee (Wenatchee, WA) 8/16/16  https://sites.google.com/a/wenatcheeschools.org/techedcamp/

EdCamp Lake Stevens (Lake Stevens, WA) 8/25/16  https://sites.google.com/a/lkstevens.wednet.edu/edcamplssd/home

EdCamp Edmonds (Edmonds, WA) 11/19/16  https://sites.google.com/a/edmonds.wednet.edu/edcampedmonds/website-builder

Further EdCamp information:  http://www.edcamp.org/

List of Resources (for further information on EdCamps & Professional Development)


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