books, tech, lessons from a librarian

Tag: collaboration

Who will take these notes with me? Combating Little Red Hen Syndrome

Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen’s “Who will help me make this bread?” familiar refrain can teach us a lot about collaboration with our peers. Let me set the stage…

The dreaded moment has arrived. You’re in a staff meeting. You’re sitting with a few colleagues at Table 2. You’ve been assigned to read and report on a portion of a chapter from a book you’ve never heard of until about 2 minutes ago. “Have someone in your group take notes so you can share out with the whole group when we reconvene.” And now no one in your group wants to make eye contact with each other. Suddenly a stray piece of fuzz on your pants is the most interesting thing in the world, as you think to yourself, “…Please don’t make me write. Please don’t pick me. Please don’t make me write…” After a few awkward moments, some sacrificial lamb of a teacher offers (or more likely, is offered up) to step into the role of “recorder”. The sad reality is that often “recorder” can be translated as “poor soul who got stuck with the unenviable job of listening to a conversation while simultaneously translating/condensing/transcribing”. The cherry on top? “Who’s sharing out from Table 2?” “…[awkward pause]…[pant fuzz has made a repeat appearance]…[slow realization that the “recorder” is the only one who can truly translate the list of ideas and now they need to share out]…I’ll do it,” you say reluctantly while trying to sound enthusiastic even though you’re still a little annoyed that you didn’t even truly take part in the conversation that you’re about to summarize.

The truth is, you likely aren’t mad at your peers for being put on the spot. Your frustration stems from the feeling of disconnect and missed opportunities for conversation and learning. Our students most likely feel the same way when stuck with learning opportunities that limit collaboration with their peers. As we educators continue to enforce these limitations, we’re also limiting opportunities for our students to develop the invaluable 3-Cs of 21st Century learning and information skills: Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, and Communication and Collaboration. So now what?…

G Suite application iconsG Suite to the rescue! Formerly known as Google Apps For Education (GAFE), G Suite (renamed in Oct. 2016) is the family of Google productivity tools, including Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Classroom, and more. The suite of tools is intact, so why the change in name? When it comes to Google, at times it feels the only constant is change. In 2014 Mark Howe, managing director for agency sales at Google, spoke to the value Google places on change: “We don’t go out to be a disruptive business, but we’re changing the rules all the time because the world is constantly changing… We’re all constantly thinking into the future, rather than thinking incrementally. If you’re only incremental then you’re falling behind immediately.” Howe said that last year Google made 1,100 changes to its search business. “You’ve got to be working fast – if not [the next big thing] will come from someone’s garage and take over. You have to keep running, you can’t slow down and be complacent. Complacency about change will be the death of companies.” (Barnes, 2014)  What can be a frustration for educators is actually a business strategy and way of life for the world of Google.

G Suite app store screen captureOne area where teachers can really struggle with G Suite products is keeping up with the constant churn these changes (frequently made with little or no warning). I recently overheard in a staff lounge: “Just when I get close to figuring out how to use Google Docs, then they go and change it again!” (I didn’t even broach the subject of the GAFE name change for fear of minds being blown!) So how to respond? Professional development is always an important step, though the constant change makes creating tutorials that are meaningful and lasting in their applicability a Herculean task. Luckily for us, earlier this year Google acquired Synergyse (https://portal.synergyse.com/), a company founded by a pair of ex-Google employees. Synergyse’s product consisted of interactive training modules and walkthroughs that were integrated into GAFE applications. Even more luckily for G Suite customers, the same training tools are now available through G Suite Training, a free Chrome add-on available on the Chrome Web Store: G Suite Training  

Watch for this rainbow question mark:  G Suite Training iconBy adding the tool to the Chrome browser, the G Suite Training icon then appears in the Chrome toolbar in all G Suite applications. At any point in any project, you can click on the icon and instantly explore training modules and information — the type of on-demand training and assistance that is necessary in the face of constant change.

The G Suite Training Center is also a great resource for novice users and power users alike: https://gsuite.google.com/learning-center/

G Suite Training Center

These are certainly not the only resources available to help teachers navigate through G Suite tools, but perhaps their greatest value lies in knowing that the training modules and information will adapt and change alongside the tools. There’s no sense in creating step-by-step tutorials that are out-of-date nearly as soon as you share them.

Throughout modern history, top secret development labs (at 3M, Dow/Corning, Lockheed/Martin, Boeing, and the like) have become famous for incubating dynamic and new ideas. Google’s development lab is known as “Google X,” and the pace of change there is staggering. Not only is success not guaranteed, but the failure rate is far higher than many teachers would be comfortable with… “This is the essence of Google X. When the leadership can fail in full view, ‘then it gives everyone permission to be more like that.’ Failure is not precisely the goal at Google X. But in many respects it is the means.” (Gertner, 2014)

So how do we combat the Little Red Hen Syndrome? How do we enable and empower teachers to work together on project development? On collaborative grading and revision? Unlike the beloved folktale, it’s seldom pure laziness on the part of our colleagues that drives our disinterest. Instead, we’ve all been burned too many times by inefficient processes and poor collaborative frameworks. Think back to that initial doomed staff meeting. Why didn’t anyone want to take notes? No one wanted to be stuck in that note-taking role and be removed from the conversation and the learning process. Instead, if the staff had been able to work on a collaborative Google Doc, they each could have recorded their responses, in their own words, in real-time. Just think of the opportunities for going beyond surface level “collaboration” and actually diving into working together collaboratively using G Suite tools. The opportunity to experience learning from the perspective of our students is invaluable. And if things didn’t work perfectly, perfect! We’re following Google’s lead to successfully fail our way towards growth. Though, to be honest, the sentiment sounds a great deal like a poem from 1840…

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,
If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try again;

Then your courage should appear,
For if you will persevere,
You will conquer, never fear
Try, try again;

Once or twice, though you should fail,
If you would at last prevail,
Try, try again;

If we strive, ’tis no disgrace
Though we do not win the race;
What should you do in the case?
Try, try again

If you find your task is hard,
Time will bring you your reward,
Try, try again

All that other folks can do,
Why, with patience, should not you?
Only keep this rule in view:
Try, try again.

Thomas H. Palmer (1782–1861)
printer, author, and educational reformer


Barnes, R. (2014, April 2). Google on disruption and looking over your shoulder to the guy in the garage. Retrieved from http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/1288538/google-disruption-looking-shoulder-guy-garage

Carey, J. (2014, July 18). 10 things teachers should know to do with Google Docs. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/10-things-every-teacher-know-google-docs/

Foltos, L. (2013). Enhancing learning by integrating technology. In Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.G Suite on YouTube. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleApps

Gertner, J. (2014, April 15). The truth about Google X: An exclusive look behind the secretive lab’s closed doors | Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3028156/united-states-of-innovation/the-google-x-factor

Google. (n.d.). G Suite Learning Center – All the training you need, in one place. Retrieved from https://gsuite.google.com/learning-center/

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

Lardinois, F. (2016, May 2). Google acquires Synergyse, an interactive training service for Google Apps | TechCrunch. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/02/google-acquires-synergyse-an-interactive-training-service-for-google-apps/

Palmer, T. H. (1840). … The teacher’s manual: being an exposition of an efficient and economical system of education suited to the wants of a free people | Internet Archive. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/teachersmanualbe00palm

Rochelle, J. (2016, October 4). Introducing G Suite for Education [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blog.google/topics/education/introducing-g-suite-education/

Teaching Channel. (n.d.). Fostering student collaboration with Google Docs [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/fostering-student-collaboration

The Little Red Hen
photo by: in pastel
https://www.flickr.com/photos/g-dzilla/5198225154 (CC BY 2.0)


ISTE Coaching Standards

ISTE-C Standard 1:   Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

Peer Coaching: Lessons from Business Leaders

Lessons From Business Leaders: What can educators learn from the private sector about a sustainable peer coaching model?

robert louis stevenson quoteThroughout these past three months I’ve been exploring and practicing the peer coaching model. My professor, Les Foltos, literally wrote the book on the topic. His book, Peer Coaching: Unlocking the Power of Collaboration (http://amzn.to/2g7WiW7) is a valuable introduction and instruction manual for implementing peer coaching on an individual and school-wide basis. All quarter long I’ve alternated between a sense of overwhelming encouragement and challenge as I’ve worked to implement the peer coaching model into my efforts with teachers and fellow librarians in my district, and I’ve personally struggled with doubts through these initial efforts. Is it worth the effort? Am I truly acting as a peer coach or am I falling into comfortable habits of enabling learned helplessness when it comes to technology integration in my colleagues’ teaching? And can I truly succeed in my efforts and sustain true peer coaching relationships with colleagues? Perhaps more importantly, can I extend and sustain the peer coaching model beyond my classroom walls?

My wife works for an aerospace company as a first line manager and often serves as a sounding board when I’m struggling with a concept or issue at work or when I’m just exploring ideas that are new to me. Her undergraduate degree was in elementary education, though she has spent nearly two decades in the business world so our conversations often bridge between the two worlds. I never cease to be amazed at how similar our worlds are (unfortunate salary disparity withstanding) and we often find answers across the divide of public and private sector. With that in mind, I spent the past few weeks exploring the concepts of peer coaching in the world of business with the hope of discovering practical and sustainable practices for maintaining system-wide peer coaching success. What I found was that strong leadership and shared vision are crucial elements to sustained peer coaching success, in business and in education alike, though the idea of a “strong” leader is often misunderstood and “sustainable” is highly dependent on individuals.

Every year Bill Gates commits to reading roughly one book a week. As a librarian, I can’t speak highly enough about how much I value real-world examples of lifelong readers like the Microsoft co-founder. For the past five years Mr. Gates has put out a twice-yearly “Best Books List” (https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books#All). This year’s list was announced yesterday and I was struck by his words regarding one of the books, The Myth of the Strong Leader by Archie Brown.

bill gates quote on leadershipGates: “Brown’s core argument is exactly what his title suggests: despite a worldwide fixation on strength as a positive quality, strong leaders—those who concentrate power and decision-making in their own hands—are not necessarily good leaders. On the contrary, Brown argues that the leaders who make the biggest difference in office, and change millions of lives for the better, are the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate—the ones who recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers.” (Gates, 2016)  

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman explored a similar idea in their research and shared their findings in the Harvard Business Review article “People Who Think They’re Great Coaches Often Aren’t”. They looked at nearly 4000 business leaders who self-identified as “coaches” and who were willing to self-assess and be openly assessed by their peers. What they found was 24% of coaches had a blind spot when it came to their coaching abilities. They saw themselves as successful, though their level of coaching success was in the bottom third of the rankings. In summary: “if you think you’re a good coach but you actually aren’t, this data suggests you may be a good deal worse than you imagined.” (Zenger and Folkman, 2016)

perception vs reality business leadership characteristics

The common thread that arose again and again was the idea of servant leadership. A timeless concept through relatively uncommon in leadership circles in the Western world, both in education and business alike. “Servant leadership is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid.’ By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Servant_leadership

Robert Greenleaf popularized the term “servant leadership” in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader,” and he went on to found what is now the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership https://www.greenleaf.org/. His work was instrumental in bringing the seemingly oxymoronic idea of a servant leader into the world of business management.

servant leadership guiding principles Bill Gates is often cited as an example of a successful servant leader, both in his time as founder and CEO of Microsoft and subsequently his charitable work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, has often shared about the value he places in servant leadership (New York Times 2015 Op-Ed). In announcing his upcoming retirement this week, Schultz shared the timing was right because of my confidence in the strategy, my confidence in the team, and my deep deep respect for Kevin Johnson as a servant leader.”

So what does all of this mean for educators? What lessons can we take from the business world? There is no shortcut to a sustained and successful peer coaching system-wide model. It takes great effort. Be patient. Our efforts today may not come to fruition until far down the road. Small steps now set the path for colleagues to follow. It’s a continual process of honest self-reflection and improvement. Open communication can remove many of the roadblocks to successful peer coaching relationships. Remember the coaches who self-assessed themselves as “great”… If you think you have all of the answers, you don’t.  And it requires strong leadership. Foltos writes: “Changing a school’s culture is something that coaches cannot do on their own…  The school needs formal leaders that are committed to defining and implementing a culture of collaboration focused on continuous improvement of teaching and learning.” (Foltos, 2013, pg. 180).  So there is no silver bullet, but the world of business can provide excellent real-world examples of the value of coaching and collaboration.


Gates, B. (2016, December 5). What makes a great leader? Retrieved from https://www.gatesnotes.com/Books/The-Myth-of-the-Strong-Leader

Crippen, C. (2010). Serve, teach, and lead: It’s all about relationships. InSight: A Journal of Scholarly Teaching, 5, 27-36. Retrieved from http://insightjournal.park.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/2-Serve-Teach-and-Lead-Its-All-About-Relationships.pdf ERIC Number: EJ902861

Foltos, L. (2015, February). Principals boost coaching’s impact. JSD | The Learning Forward Journal, 36(1), 48-51,61. Retrieved from https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/jsd-february-2015/principals-boost-coaching’s-impact.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Sustaining coaching and building capacity. In Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration.

Friedman, S. (2010, February 23). Honing your skills as a peer coach | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2010/02/honing-your-skills-as-a-peer-c

Friedman, S. (2015, March 13). How to get your team to coach each other | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/03/how-to-get-your-team-to-coach-each-other.html

Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. (n.d.). What is servant leadership? Retrieved from https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/#

Heskett, J. (2013, May 1). Why isn’t servant leadership more prevalent? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/05/01/why-isnt-servant-leadership-more-prevalent/#314983f94c36

Jewett, P., & MacPhee, D. (2012). Adding Collaborative Peer Coaching to Our Teaching Identities. The Reading Teacher, 66(2), 105-110. doi:10.1002/trtr.01089

Kanter, R. M. (2009, August 12). Change is hardest in the middle | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2009/08/change-is-hardest-in-the-middl

Mashihi, S., & Nowack, K. (2012, July 17). Clueless part 1: Three necessary conditions for initiating and sustaining successful behavior change. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/Learning-Executive-Blog/2012/07/Clueless-Part-1

Morgan, H. (n.d.). Howard J. Morgan resources. Retrieved from http://www.howardjmorgan.com/coaching.html

Schultz, H. (2015, August 6). Howard Schultz: America deserves a servant leader – The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/opinion/america-deserves-a-servant-leader.html

Spears, L. (n.d.). Ten principles of servant leadership | Butler.edu. Retrieved from https://www.butler.edu/volunteer/resources/ten-principles-servant-leadership

Zenger, J., & Folkman, J. (2016, June 23). People who think they’re great coaches often aren’t | Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/06/people-who-think-theyre-great-coaches-often-arent

ISTE-Coaching Standards


Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences

Standard 6: Content Knowledge and Professional Growth

  1. Engage in continuous learning to deepen professional knowledge, skills, and dispositions in organizational change and leadership, project management, and adult learning to improve professional practice
  2. Regularly evaluate and reflect on their professional practice and dispositions to improve and strengthen their ability to effectively model and facilitate technology-enhanced learning experiences

Generational Intelligence: VIC-20s and iPads and Peer Coaching

Commodore 1530 cassette deckIn 1982, I was seven years old, and I was typing away on a Commodore VIC-20 computer. In order to load programs onto its whopping 5 KB of onboard memory, I would press play on the attached cassette deck and wait. (Here’s an interesting YouTube video if you have an extra 15 minutes to spare and want to learn more about how these tapes worked https://youtu.be/_9SM9lG47Ew)  After a few minutes, I typed “RUN”, and I could start gaming. A couple of years later, we upgraded to a Commodore 64 computer and traded in the cassette deck for a disk drive. ‘LOAD “*” 8,1’ is still etched in my memory 30+ years later — the command line to load a program from the external 5 ¼” floppy drive.

In the 1980s I vividly remember spending every waking moment possible playing video games and experimenting with commands on those same early computers, and I also remember my mom lamenting how much time I was wasting when I could be playing outside with friends. (Of course, the fact we lived a country mile from anyone within a year of my age didn’t help matters, nor did the nonexistence of cell phones and the Internet). I remember the redneck fixes my brother and I schemed up to troubleshoot computer problems, mostly involving lots of stripped wires and aluminum foil. My favorite, though, was our fix for an overheating disk drive. An RV vent fan was rewired and repurposed to blow air through the drive housing. Our pre-MacGyver (he didn’t start until 1985) ingenuity meant that our gaming sessions with disks of games (downloaded by our city cousins from online BBSes and then traded during annual summer visits) could last much longer (further extending the brain rot, according to my mom).

In 2016, my seven year old has at his disposal an iPad, a Nintendo 2DS, a PC and a Mac, an xBox One, a WiiU, and many more electronic toys and tools.  He’s entering complex commands to modify online Minecraft worlds on his personal server, participating in Skype and Xbox Live party chat sessions while gaming with family and friends throughout the state, and all of this with an iPad nearby streaming YouTube videos or customized Pandora music stations.

When I experience the inevitable technology problems that arise each and every day, I find that my patience runs much deeper than my child and many of those around me at work. Using technology has never been “easy” though it has never lost its fun. When the floppy disk drive overheated, often a hour or two into a game (no cloud saves = start over at the beginning), it was frustrating but not paralyzingly so. Instead, it was more about figuring out how to make the new technology work again. There were no online tutorials, no YouTube walkthroughs, no Genius Bar. My parents didn’t offer assistance as they truly had no idea how to help. There was lots of troubleshooting and slight electrical shocks, but little assistance.

When the power goes out now, I scrounge up a few LED lanterns and relish the chance to play a board game or catch up on a long neglected book. When the lights flicker off, my son more closely resembles the title character from Suzanne Collins’ picture book, When Charlie McButton Lost Power, a fun little story about the depths of despair a little boy is dragged into during an extended (all-day-long!!) power outage.Charlie McButton breaks down

My son does not have the same skillset and mindset that I had as a child. I’m a product of my generation and my surroundings, as is he. This is not to say I’m right and he’s wrong. He is merely used to being surrounded by technology that works easily and in high-definition, often with a mere touch or voice command. When he wants to hear a song or watch a show, it’s available on-demand. Wait time is barely a part of his vocabulary. When a device fails, it often means it’s time to throw it out and buy a new one. Few MacGyver fixes will work anymore.

Generational differences are some of the most misunderstood, disbelieved, and underestimated differences in life today. Much is made of economic differences, and racial & political differences are in the forefront of news today, but generational differences are a powerful and deep undercurrent in American culture. Today there are more generations (four) together in the workplace than ever before in human history:

Traditionalists (born before 1945)

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

Generation Xers (born 1965-1980)

Millennials (born 1981-2001)  (some have broken down “Millennials” into separate Gen Y and Gen Z groups, with the 2001 date extended)

* Though the exact beginning/end dates for the generations are often quibbled over, for the sake of simplicity I’m following the dates put forth by Haydn Shaw, author of Sticking Points and Generational IQ.

What this means is that today we have to learn how to work with/collaborate/learn from/teach/etc. with peers from a wider age range than ever before. And while we know that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and we know that Husky & Cougars are much different creatures, what we often don’t understand is why different generations act so differently. I can’t recommend highly enough two books by Haydn Shaw http://mygenerationalcoach.com : Sticking Points & Generational IQ. Both books go into far more detail on generational intelligence and with far more eloquence than my blogging skills allow.

“Generational intelligence requires us to understand the ideas that shape the other generations. But there’s another part to generational intelligence. Not only do we need to understand other generations’ assumptions, we also need to understand our own… We struggle to love people we don’t appreciate or understand. When we understand other generations, we will quit judging them and start learning from them. Generational intelligence doesn’t make the key teaching of Jesus to ‘love one another’ easy, but it does make it easier.” (Shaw 2015, 19 & 21)

“The easy route is to fall back on stereotypical assumptions about other generations—that Millennials are entitled, or that Boomers can’t change. That’s ageism. It allows us to assume we’re right, which makes us feel good for about a minute, but sets us up for failure in the long run. The solution is generational intelligence, the powerful ability to escape ageism, understand other generations, anticipate their reactions, and to lead and influence across generations.” (Lynch N.D.)

So how do generational differences affect communication and peer coaching relationships? A healthy peer coaching relationship is built on a foundation of honesty and trust. Falling into believing and then acting based primarily on blanket generational stereotypes will snuff out trust before it ever has a chance to germinate. A successful peer coaching model is also dependent upon active and open communication.

In his 2013 book, Shaw lists twelve “sticking points” or places where teams get stuck on generational issues:

  1. Communication
  2. Decision making
  3. Dress code
  4. Feedback
  5. Fun at work
  6. Knowledge transfer
  7. Loyalty
  8. Meetings
  9. Policies
  10. Respect
  11. Training
  12. Work ethic

It should come as no large surprise that the vast majority of these sticking points need to be addressed in a healthy peer coaching model as well, preferably prior to diving into the peer coaching process. Most are ongoing issues, and their impact can be lessened through active listening and open communication, through establishment of healthy and balanced norms, and through maintenance of positive and empathetic attitudes.

By age I’m considered a member of the Gen X population, a smaller population that the generations before and after represented in the workplace today. Much of the generational differences are rooted socially in rural and urban migration patterns since the early 1900s. Growing up in rural small-town America and subsequently moving to the greater Puget Sound region has helped to somewhat uniquely mold my understanding of the generational and societal differences. With Shaw’s words guiding my readings the past weeks, I found myself exploring Gen X and Millennial issues extensively (see the lengthy resource list at the end of this post for more information and resources).  A quick place to start is where many of the articles and books pulled their data from: the Pew Research Group and their extensive and ongoing work. At the risk of oversimplifying generational labels, I felt this resource best functions as a conversation starter when working with colleagues. “Take our 14 item quiz and we’ll tell you how “Millennial” you are, on a scale from 0 to 100, by comparing your answers with those of respondents to a scientific nationwide survey. You can also find out how you stack up against others your age.” http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/how-millennial-are-you/

TEDx Talks. (2011, June 10). Scott Hess – Millennials: Who they are & why we hate them[Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/P-enHH-r_FM?t=1m27s
An interesting TEDx talk that focuses more on the differences between Gen X and Millennials. I’m particularly interested in his point of view, as I found far more resources regarding Baby Boomers & Millennials, and less on Gen X (my generation).  Many of the TED Talk videos that are centered around generational issues (particularly ones focused on Millennials), in my opinion, seemed to have more of a narcissistic quality to them. Ignoring the exploitive title, I felt like this video represented an honest look at some of the important differences.

Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Retrieved from University of Minnesota website: http://rtc.umn.edu/docs/2_18_Gen_diff_workplace.pdf
Finding resources from reputable sources that were not just rehashing the same research has been a frustrating process during this module research. This report/presentation from the University of Minnesota seems to summarize research well, and also presents some great potential discussion topics (e.g. Attitudes regarding respect and authority; attitudes toward supervision; possible implications for employers)

While there are four separate and distinct generations represented in the business world today, in the educational world we get a bonus fifth generation… the kids. “Generation Z” some have already labeled them, though their label is not yet written in permanent ink. What does their generation look like? How will technology and their world shape them? How will they see us when they enter the workplace? These generational differences are not explored nearly enough in our professional development and teaching, but I’m looking forward to starting conversations with colleagues in the months and years to come. I’ll just have to speak up a bit now and then, now that all of the Plan I folks have retired and the rest of us Plan III folks will be teaching well into our 80s and 90s.


ISTE Coaching Standards

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences


The 8-Bit Guy. (2016, June 25). How old school cassette tape drives worked [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/_9SM9lG47Ew

Baer, D. (2016, October 13). Boomers don’t work any harder than Millennials | Science of Us. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/10/boomers-dont-work-any-harder-than-millennials.html

Brack, J., & Kelly, K. (2012). Maximizing Millennials in the workplace. Retrieved from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School website: https://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/executive-development/custom-programs/~/media/DF1C11C056874DDA8097271A1ED48662.ashx

Buckley, P., Viechnicki, P., & Barua, A. (2015, October 16). Understanding Millennials and generational differences | Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from http://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/economy/issues-by-the-numbers/understanding-millennials-generational-differences.html

Collins, S., & Lester, M. (2005). When Charlie McButton lost power. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Hymowitz, C. (2015, June 10). Gen X was right: Reality really does bite | Bloomberg. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-06-10/millennials-think-they-have-it-bad-generation-x-has-it-worse

Johnson, S. A., & Romanello, M. L. (2005). Generational Diversity. Nurse Educator, 30(5), 212-216. doi:10.1097/00006223-200509000-00009

Retrieved from http://www.chw.org/~/media/Files/Medical%20Professionals/Nursing%20Students/Preceptors/generational%20diversity%20teaching%20and%20learning%20approaches.pdf

Lynch, A. (n.d.). 3 new generational realities: And 38 killer strategies you can use to crush gen conflict now. Retrieved from Generational Edge website: http://generationaledge.com/assets/2425/38killerstrategies.pdf

Lynch, A. (n.d.). Managing with generational intelligence: A story [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.generationaledge.com/blog/posts/managing-with-generational-intelligence-a-story

Meister, J. (2013, June 4). The Boomer-Millennial workplace clash: Is it real? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeannemeister/2013/06/04/the-boomer-millennial-workplace-clash-is-it-real/#38203bf7d895

Pew Research Center. (2010, February 24). How Millennial are you? Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/how-millennial-are-you/

Shaw, H. (2013). Sticking points: How to get 4 generations working together in the 12 places they come apart. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Shaw, H. (2015). Generational IQ: Christianity isn’t dying, millennials aren’t the problem, and the future is bright. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Sparshott, J. (2015, May 11). Millennials become the biggest generation in the U.S. workforce. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/05/11/millennials-become-the-biggest-generation-in-the-u-s-workforce/

TEDx Talks. (2016, August 31). Why half of what you have heard about Millennials is wrong[Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3p9Ha6MO-0k

TEDx Talks. (2011, June 10). Scott Hess – Millennials: Who they are & why we hate them[Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/P-enHH-r_FM?t=1m27s

Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Retrieved from University of Minnesota website: http://rtc.umn.edu/docs/2_18_Gen_diff_workplace.pdf

Vozza, S. (2014, March 11). 4 steps to bridging the workplace generation gap | Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3027459/leadership-now/4-steps-to-bridging-the-workplace-divide-between-baby-boomers-and-millenials

West Midland Family Center. (n.d.). Generational differences chart. Retrieved from http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf

Wiedmer, T. (2015). Generations Do Differ: Best Practices in Leading Traditionalists, Boomers, and Generations X, Y, and Z. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 82(1), 51-58. (pdf saved from Ebsco)

Wikipedia. (2016, October 8). Generation gap. Retrieved October 15, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_gap

Williams, A. (2015, September 18). Move over, Millennials, here comes Generation Z | The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/fashion/move-over-millennials-here-comes-generation-z.html?_r=0

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Fred Rogers late 1960sMister Rogers quoteTriggering Question:
How can I make the peer coaching process a seamless one for my colleague, especially in regards to time and scheduling constraints?

As a specialist with a fixed schedule, I find myself time and again returning the issue of time and its role in the peer coaching process. Time and time-related issues come up often in the findings section at the end of several studies regarding the efficacy of peer coaching in education. A solution often mentioned is to have the librarian cover classes so you can meet with your peer… (I mentioned this possible solution to myself and we agreed that this is not a viable option.)

ISTE-C Standard 1:   Visionary Leadership

b. Contribute to the planning, development, communication, implementation, and evaluation of technology-infused strategic plans at the district and school levels
d. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

peer coaching rolesWith this concept of limited time influencing much of the framework of my peer coaching plan, I feel like working with a job-alike peer at another school within my district may be the most effective model. Dr. David Baker’s March 2013 article “21 Strategies for Teacher-Librarian Professional Development” in Library Media Connection is an amazing resource as it is quite evident the author in grounded in practicality. His ideas are not one-size-fits-all but instead model flexibility and adaptivity, two of the most vital skills present in a productive and sustainable peer coaching relationship. Strategy #3: Allow for scheduling flexibility. “Always be willing and able to make mid-course corrections and allow the PD calendar to be just what it is — a planning document. It should not be viewed as something that is set in stone.” (Utilizing Google Hangouts and other web-conferencing tools seem to be one of the most likely approaches, to eliminate travel and school scheduling issues). Strategy #6: Divide and conquer. “Holding professional development for a specific level allows for more focused professional development without making staff at other levels feel left out or bored.” (Primary and secondary staff have different needs — ignoring our differences does not make them go away. Why struggle to meet the needs of all simultaneously when smaller, targeted PD offerings can make a bigger impact?)

Mother Teresa quoteWith Baker’s strategies in mind, I’m looking forward to developing a peer coaching relationship with a lesser experienced teacher librarian in my district. The peer coaching model lends itself to quality and impactful professional development (PD). As new reports continue to highlight the disconnect in PD needs for educators and PD practices in districts throughout the nation (Gates Foundation 2015; THE Journal 9/26/16), it’s becoming more apparent that waiting for a ready-made solution to fall from the sky is not necessarily a feasible approach. Instead, peer coaching strategies can lead to tailored and impactful PD. Chris Gustafson’s article “Collaborating with Colleagues: None of Us is as Smart as All of Us” (Jan/Feb 2013 Library Media Connection) doesn’t spell out peer coaching as a model approach, but all of the elements of a successful peer coaching relationship are there: mentorship, flexibility, sympathize and strategize, organization, sharing. Her article will act as a wonderful starting point in initial discussions and planning with my colleague.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this partnership leads in the months ahead, and I embark on the journey knowing full well that I lack the capacity to make lasting and impactful changes on my own. With Mister Rogers and Mother Teresa’s words guiding my way, how could I not find success? Every small step is an important one and will help develop trust with my colleague as we seek to enact meaningful change in our cohort’s practices. I don’t believe that this will be an easy process, especially keeping in mind the limited flexibility within my current school schedule. “Doing something that’s hard can help you to grow” but “together we can do something wonderful”. I’m looking forward to it.


Baker, D. C. (2013). 21 strategies for teacher-librarian professional development. Library Media Connection, 31(5), 38-41.

Beglau, M., Hare, J. C., Foltos, L., Gann, K., James, J., Jobe, H., … & Smith, B. (2011). Technology, coaching, and community. In ISTE, An ISTE White Paper, Special Conference Release. Retrieved from http://www.isteconference.org/uploads/ISTE2013/HANDOUTS/KEY_81724011/Coaching_Whitepaper_digital.pdf

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (2015). Teachers know best: Teachers’ views on professional development. Retrieved from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Gates-PDMarketResearch-Dec5.pdf

Foltos, L. (2013). Coaching roles and responsibilities. In Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration (pp. 1-22). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Gustafson, C. (2013). Collaborating with colleagues: None of us is as smart as all of us. Library Media Connection, 31(4), 26-27.

Hirsch, J. (2015, June 4). Share “feedforward,” not feedback [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/share-feedforward-not-feedback-joe-hirsch

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

Jones, L. (2014, July 28). The power of teaching collaboration [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2014/07/18/power-of-teacher-collaboration-nea/

Schaffhauser, D. (2016, September 26). Report builds case for failure in teacher PD. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2016/09/26/report-builds-case-for-failure-in-teacher-pd.aspx


Mister Rogers:  By KUHT [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Fred_Rogers%2C_late_1960s.jpg

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

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)


PD for Librarians: Let’s Fix It

if its brokeI’ve been a librarian for 13+ years and I’m still learning every day. Through trial and error on the job I’ve learned about Follett’s Destiny circulation system. I’ve learned that Shel Silverstein books will never go out of style. I’ve learned that the right book at the right time in the right kid’s hands will fuel their love of reading. I’ve learned that keeping a tidy library is like stringing beads on a string with no end knot. I’ve learned that technology often experiences glitches when it’s truly most inconvenient. I’ve learned how to save time for teachers by focusing on what they’ll need, and, in best cases, before they even know they need it.

While all of that knowledge is important, very little of it was gained in traditional professional development experiences. The main problem for building specialists such as teacher-librarians is the professional development model in place in many districts is focused on classroom teachers and their needs, and building specialists are often left to try and find applicability where there is little. Or better yet, librarians are clumped together with music or art teachers or PE specialists in a corner table and we’re tasked with goals such as working collaboratively on a specialist schedule or planning assemblies instead of focusing on teaching and learning. If we are able to meet with job-alike colleagues, it’s often after-hours or at an annual professional conference, if we’re willing to fund our own way.

CassetteTapeGuiding Question: What are some professional development options for my job-alike colleagues and me as we try to develop a more cohesive teacher-librarian cadre in our district?

For the past several years, the librarian professional learning community (PLC) in my district has met for one full day, either in the fall or spring. Substitute teachers were provided for all of us, and we all met in a meeting room at our district headquarters. Last year, our annual meeting day was cancelled due to a district snow day. It was never rescheduled. When we finally met as a whole group this fall, it became apparent that our current instructional model was broken. It is impossible to form an open and collaborative culture when you’re literally meeting someone for the first time after they’ve been in their job for almost two years! Think of the implications of placing teachers in the same boat… Imagine seeing a teacher coming down the hall, saying “Hi” to that person and introducing yourself only to find out they’ve been teaching the exact same topics as you a mere two doors down. Wow! You’re not alone in this academic endeavor! You eat lunch with them, share a few stories, trade a few tips, then you each go back to your respective classrooms, closing the door behind you, emerging again to work together… twelve months later!

It was after this fall’s somewhat annual meeting that I realized, the system’s broken. It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Well, we’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, and the results aren’t only different than intended, they’re trending in the wrong direction. While it is certainly energizing and engaging to gather as a large group, waiting for those whole-group gatherings does not seem to be a sustainable instructional model. At the same time, I’m also hoping to extend our cohort model — moving from an in-district-only cohort, to beyond our district boundaries.

That is not to say that there is no value in attending staff-wide trainings and professional development offerings. Stephens writes about this in her blog post, Rethinking What We Do. “‘Do we need to go to whole-school PD? Yes!’ We are a part of a learning community…you can’t operate a successful school library program in a vacuum” (Stephens, 2013). But vacuums and being stuck in a time-wasting staff development meeting share a common trait… major suckage.

One emerging professional development model that is trending in popularity is the “unconference”. Rebecca Bagley provides a great description of the unconference: “The concept is fairly simple. At an unconference, no topics have been predetermined, no keynote speakers have been invited, no panels have been arranged. Instead, the event lives and dies by the participation of its attendees. They decide what topics will be discussed and they convene the individual breakout sessions. In other words, an unconference has no agenda until the participants create it.” (Bagley, 2014). In the world of education, unconferences have taken the form of “EdCamps”. A recent Scholastic Teacher article highlighted EdCamps. “EdCamps are all about the room being smarter than the individual.” (Borris, 2016). This is the disconnect that’s so pervasive with our current professional development model. Collectively our district library cohort has a wide array of skills and knowledge, but like so many organizations, our skills and knowledge are siloed. The unconference model seeks to disrupt the tradition of “stand and deliver” instruction, while empowering and encouraging all parties to take an active role in our professional development.silos2

The Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) has held a multi-day professional conference, with sessions, keynote speakers, vendor booths, and all the normal conference accoutrements. But as Washington state schools and teachers alike have been forced to tighten spending over the past years, attendance, participation and membership rates have consistently diminished, so much so that WLMA has merged with the Washington Library Association (WLA) to save costs. Gone too is the annual conference. In its place, in October 2016 WLMA will be shifting to a one-day unconference: WLMA 2016 unconference. There are pros (free/lower-cost conference for participants, sessions are adaptable to the interests of attendees, all participants are encouraged to share ideas rather than only listening to presenters) and cons (can be an uncomfortable model of professional development for introverts, success is dependent on attendees’ participation, and conferences are on a much smaller scale). It will be interesting to see if an annual unconference model will be a sustainable one for WLMA in the years to come.

Another model of instruction that is worth exploring is on-demand and web-based professional development, often in the form of webinars or videos. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) provides archived webinars with topics such as “Brains Change @ Your Library” and “Coaching the Leader Within”.  Pros: webinars can be completed independently, there are numerous free resources available, and they’re often available anytime/on-demand. Cons: access to full offerings often requires membership or other payment, there is often little interactivity in the delivery, and sound/video quality (as well as the quality of the presentation itself) can be inconsistent. One wondering I have is the feasibility of using webinars in a blended model, with independent viewing of the material followed by small and/or large group discussions.

Finally, I’m deeply interested in web-based (Hangouts & Google+ communities). As our district has shifted to a Google Education platform, it’s becoming easier and easier to integrate Google applications into our learning. A web-based community has many advantages over traditional in-person professional development, but it’s also not with its own issues. Pros: free access to community of job-alike colleagues from around the world, ease of 2-way conversation, no transportation requirements. Cons: our district has not opened access to Google+ for teachers, much like EdCamps these communities are dependent on members’ participation to bring value, and privacy issues — including some teachers who prefer to not be on camera.
Some examples of applicable Google+ communities: https://plus.google.com/communities/114899053206458405634 TLChat (538 members — invite)
https://plus.google.com/communities/117972083606648197914 School Library Media Specialists (2,258 members — open)
https://plus.google.com/communities/109025267965562834348 LSSD Teacher-Librarians (9 members)

Ideas and wonderings moving forward with online communities:
If I can’t convince the district to open up access to the Google+ features, what are my other options to get things started? Who will lead the sessions? Is it worth the time and effort if only a few colleagues participate?  I think these applications have the greatest potential for meaningful job-alike professional development in my current role as teacher-librarian, and I think a few proof-of-concept sessions would go far to convince district leaders of the value to teachers. And an added benefit with these new approaches… I won’t have to wait two years any longer to meet the new-hires!


American Library Association (ALA). (n.d.). School libraries: Online learning. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from http://www.ala.org/onlinelearning/schoollibraries

Bagley, R. (2014, August 18). How ‘unconferences’ unleash innovative ideas | Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccabagley/2014/08/18/how-unconferences-unleash-innovative-ideas/#26b5f2045e12

Borris, C. (2016, January/February). Happy campers. Scholastic Teacher, 125(4), 24-29. Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/how-edcamps-are-changing-face-pd

Evans, S. (2016, June 4). Our first Google Hangout for professional development [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://librarymediatechtalk.blogspot.com/2016/06/our-first-google-hangout-for.html

School Library Journal. (n.d.). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/

Stephens, W. (2013, October 14). Rethinking what we do: Professional development for school librarians. Retrieved from http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2013/10/14/re-thinking-what-we-do-professional-development-for-school-librarians/

Student Engagement and Learning: Baby Steps Down the Rabbit Hole

alice1 Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or conversations?”  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“I feel good. I feel great. I feel wonderful.” Bill Murray as Bob Wiley in What About Bob?

“Blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns at least in part through delivery of content and instruction via digital and online media with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”  “Blended learning,” Wikipedia entry

The opening line of Carroll’s classic book is a timeless characterization of childhood.  Alice was bored and her patience worn thin. Her boredom soon led her down an unpredictable path of adventure, wherein she learned lifelong lessons and met many unique and wonderful characters along the way.  Many of our students are like Alice.  They’re tired of sitting idly by, and they can’t wait to dive headfirst down a rabbit hole.  But one of the scariest things as an educator is knowing that if you’re going to give your students the freedom to explore, you can’t place enough soft cushions along the way to guarantee a comfortable landing for those in your care.  There are going to be trials and tribulations.  There are going to be bumps and bruises.  But there will also be a plethora of Alice’s wishes: pictures and conversations.  And, most importantly, there will be an abundance of transformational learning.

In this winter quarter of coursework at Seattle Pacific University I’ve been exploring the ISTE Standards for Students.  Student Standard 4: Critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making. Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.  My application of this standard led to a question for my students:  How can I introduce the idea of library collection development to 4th and 5th grade students, specifically in regards to supporting their science curriculum needs?

Recently I was privileged to attend the 2016 NCCE Teacher-Librarian Summit and the keynote speaker was Andy Plemmons, an award-winning teacher-librarian from Athens, GA.  Right out of the gate he spotlighted a project from his library that explored this student standard.  In his blog Expect the Miraculous, Plemmons documents a student library collection program at this school.  A group of students develop surveys, gather input, and with the help of book vendors and print catalogs, the select appropriate titles to add to their library’s shelves.  It’s quite telling that of all of the projects that he’s undertaken in the past years (there are many!), Plemmons consistently refers to this student project as his most impactful one.  From NCCE’s website: If you had $1,000 to spend on classroom tools and wanted to make the greatest impact on student learning, how would you spend it? (Plemmons’ response): “Through my student book budget project, I’ve seen what a powerful experience it can be to give students total control over a portion of a budget. By developing surveys, conversing with peers, analyzing data, setting goals, meeting with vendors, making wish lists, and debating a final decision, students become committed to the task and their decisions are respected by the school community. Anytime that students lead the decisions it will have a greater impact on student learning” (Agostinelli, 2016).

Plemmons’ student book project is an example of project-based blended learning unit in a classroom.  Although the teacher-librarian organized the framework for the unit of study, the students were allowed freedoms within that structure.  For example, when the books were received, labeled and ready to put on the library shelves, the students were then responsible for the development and application of a marketing plan.  The freedom to explore ideas and try new things directly resulted in higher student interest and engagement.  Wikipedia’s entry highlights the importance of an underlying structure of a blended learning program, but indeed, the draw for most learners is the “element of student control”.  But taking the first steps into changing the culture and structure of your classroom into a blended model can make teacher and student alike feel a bit like Carroll’s Alice peering down into the unknown of the rabbit hole.

SAMR HaneyIn terms of the SAMR Model of technology integration, a project such as Plemmons’s student library book task extends far beyond enhancement into the area of transformational instruction.  Students are learning in ways that are not possible without technology.  Surveys and data collection, budgeting and spreadsheets, book resource lists (both on- and offline), web conferencing.  Technically all of these could be done with technology, but the reality is that the technology tools provide access to goals that could never be achieved in total in a timely manner by elementary students.

Disappointingly I have not yet introduced the student library book project to my students.  Some of this is due to scheduling and logistics and some is due to fear.  The fears that I need to overcome?  Fear of giving up more control in my classroom.  Fear of possible comments and critique from colleagues or administrators upon seeing the inherent messiness of project-based learning and going off-script from district instructional calendars.  Fear of failure, compared to others — how can I do what Plemmons and others have done when I have a fixed and full schedule with little flexibility?  The very real fear of projects never ending, especially in light of the limited times I see my students each week.    

baby stepsWhen it comes to shifting the model for my classroom, I’m afraid I bear less of a resemblance to Alice and more of a resemblance to Bill Murray’s character Bob in the 1991 comedy What About Bob?  Bob knows what he needs to do, but his fears are getting in the way of living a good life.  Then along comes direction and guidance in the form of a psychiatrist and his self-help book, Baby Steps.  With a constant and simplistic mantra of “baby steps” this and “baby steps” that, soon Bob is rising above his initial fears, achieving goals, and realizing his life’s potential.  So, rather than focusing on fears and excuses, I’m finding that I have to remind myself daily about the importance of baby steps.  Baby steps to producing and posting a introductory video for students to watch on-demand.  Baby steps to building openness for creativity into project planning.  Baby steps to being ready to watch students try and fail and try again.  

The ISTE Student Standards and SAMR model are both important reminders of the importance of students in student learning.  Andy Plemmons and the work that he has shared on his blog are inspirational and insightful.  Edutopia and other educational websites have an abundance of resources to provide guidance for those just starting out with project-based learning and blended education.  Now it’s time for my students and me to take some baby steps to the rabbit hole and beyond.


Agostinelli, M. (2016, February 16). Meet a tech savvy teacher: Andy Plemmons. Retrieved from http://blog.ncce.org/2016/02/16/meet-a-tech-savvy-teacher-andy-plemmons/

Blended learning. (2016). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 2, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning

Carroll, L. (2015). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Puffin Books.

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

Edutopia. (2015, April 6). Blended learning: Resource roundup. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blended-learning-resources

Plemmons, A. (2015, November 12). Student book budgets 2015-16: Getting started | Expect the miraculous. Retrieved from http://expectmiraculous.com/2015/11/12/student-book-budgets-2015-16-getting-started/

Wong, W. (2014, April 1). How technology enables blended learning | EdTech Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2014/04/how-technology-enables-blended-learning


Marx, S. Down the Rabbit Hole. https://flic.kr/p/67xtJA (CC BY 2.0)

SAMR chart adapted by J. Haney from Dr. R. Puentedura.  http://hippasus.com/blog/archives/227

What About Bob? https://13movies.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/what-about-bob-baby-steps.jpg

Mission & Vision: Collaborate

vision4Our students need more from us than any one person can provide.  The only viable option to reach all of our students is collaboration with a team of caring adults, both teachers and parents alike.   Continue reading

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