books, tech, lessons from a librarian

Tag: library

The Future is Now. Librarians are Ready.

the future is now. sci-fi graphic with librarians

“Information is king” and “Knowledge is power” are how the sayings go. Though Sir Francis Bacon’s knowledge quote still rings true, the first would seem to be a 20th Century adage that should be retired. In the 1900s information was siloed and access was somewhat by caste. There are still remnants of the tiers of access in today’s education society. Unequal school funding and geographical economic differences result in imbalanced access to information, with factors such as reliable high-speed internet and the need for functioning technology playing a role. Even with those roadblocks, the arrival of the Internet and open access to networked information has begun to shift the balance of power to where the new saying is closer to “Information navigators are king”. Merely having access to information is now not enough, rather the desired skill set is knowing how to weed through massive amounts of information in varying forms to figure out what really matters. The mere act of knowing how to navigate helps to prevent failure due to information overload.

My final blog post of this quarter explores ISTE Coaching Standard 4:

Professional Development and Program Evaluation

Performance Indicator B

  • Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.

Guiding questions:

  • What role does administration play when designing professional development for adult learning?
  • How should we advocate for necessary professional learning opportunities when administrators pursue new educational technology initiatives?

Which led me to this triggering question:

  • What role should teacher librarians play in planning and in support of professional development, both at a building level and district-wide?

With the goal of proficient information navigation skills for our students, our thinking must then shift to professional learning for educators. How can we expect to help our students to develop these skills if we haven’t experienced the learning process for ourselves? 21st Century learning should look different as it’s focusing on a different outcome. Unfortunately, most professional development offerings bear little resemblance to the teaching we’re hoping to successfully implement with our students. Gaining 21st Century skills requires different emphases. Educator Greg Miller shares thoughts on this idea in a 2014 blog post: “Understanding Networked Learning is an essential part of contemporary pedagogy. Connecting through networks in a digital world is when a learner accesses information through a number of connections and uses that information to construct knowledge, often through those same networks. Whether it is Big Data or Linked Data as Tim Berness-Lee (founder of World Wide Web) refers to it in ‘The next Web of open’, linked data teachers need to be clear about how data, information and digital technology knowledge are interrelated and the opportunities that come with knowledge building.” (Miller 2014)

So how do we make the shift? Librarians. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) states: “The mission of the school library program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information; students are empowered to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information.” (AASL) The central focus is on developing effective “users of information” and not “responders to information” or “consumers of information”. There is a central difference in that “using” means going beyond a passive role into a position of active learning. Librarians are in a unique position and we must utilize our positioning to integrate 21st Century Skills with learning for staff and students alike.  

In 2015, the Alliance for Excellent Education created the Future Ready Schools (FRS) program to “help school districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by (1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while (2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize learning in the classroom.” (Future Ready Schools) The Future Ready Librarians (FRL) movement expands on the work of the FRS initiative. Here’s Mark Ray, former Washington State Teacher of the Year and librarian, and current Chief Digital Officer for Vancouver Public Schools, in Vancouver, WA, in a TED Talk about how librarians can and should shift our role:

This shift is not an instantaneous one, nor is it always painless, but it is necessary. “Librarians have traditionally served an important role in school systems as teachers, particularly in teaching students how to access information. Now, in Vancouver and elsewhere, librarians’ roles are evolving, as districts count on them to help teachers use technology to improve instruction, and to troubleshoot problems with digital systems as they emerge.” (Brzozowski 2015) and “Utilizing the ‘whole school’ view, the librarian is in a key position to contribute to the development of strong professional learning communities through professional development and technology integration.” (Dees, Mayer, Morin, and Willis 2010)

Future Ready Librarians frameworkFuture Ready Librarians graphic from http://futureready.org/about-the-effort/librarians/

As you can see in the FRL framework above, collaboratively developing professional learning opportunities for staff is right in the future ready librarian’s wheelhouse: Collaborative Leadership; Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment; and Personalized Professional Learning. With that in mind, one has to wonder why so many districts in recent years have made cuts to library programs? One consideration: in many cases, were those librarians working to make themselves indispensable when it came to working collaboratively with staff, students, and community alike. Were they focused on personalized student learning as an end goal? On the other hand, were the relevant administrators providing the funding and supports necessary for the librarians to achieve those lofty 21st Century goals? And if not, why not? If ever there was a group of educators with the desired skillset for this initiative, it’s librarians. “ISTE recently convened a small group of distinguished leaders to share the success they were having with PD models that integrate context, collaboration, and technology. In analyzing their success, three essential concepts emerged. The most effective PD was: 1. Technology-rich, 2. Delivered through a coaching model, and 3. Enhanced by the power of community and social learning.” (Beglau, M., & et al. 2011)

This video from FRS showcases some of the work being done to develop teacher leaders to strengthen professional learning:

Finally, created by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, this video is certainly applicable to education and professional learning in the U.S. as well:

Future Ready Schools need Future Ready Librarians. Future Ready Librarians are uniquely equipped to lead the way and should actively advocate for the opportunity to lead professional learning for their colleagues. Returning to the AASL’s guiding statement: “The mission of the school library program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information.” We need to provide opportunities for staff to experience information overload, to provide opportunities for creativity by asking open-ended questions and allowing the learners (and teachers) to explore solutions that are authentic and applicable to their world. We need to provide guidance to ensure equitable and open access to information and resources. Calling these 21st Century Skills does them a disservice, as it makes it seem as if they’re skills for the learners of the future. The future is now and librarians are needed more than ever before.


Abilock, D., Harada, V., & Fontichiaro, K. (2013, October). Growing schools: Effective professional development. Teacher Librarian, 41(1), 8-13.

Alabi, J., & Weare, Jr., W. (2013, August 23). The power of observation: How librarians can benefit from the peer review of teaching even without a formal PROT program” [PDF document]. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/gaintlit/2013/2013/1

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2017, February 14). Future Ready Librarians: What’s not to love? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2rPnjx_5yM

Beglau, M., & et al. (2011). Technology, coaching and community: Power partners for improved professional development in primary and secondary education. Retrieved from International Society for Technology in Education website: https://www.ri-iste.org/Resources/Documents/Coaching_Whitepaper_digital.pdf

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (n.d.). Teachers know best – K-12 education. Retrieved March 1, 2017, from http://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/2015/05/teachers-know-best-2/

Brzozowski, C. (2015, April 13). K-12 librarians’ roles shift to meet digital demands – Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/04/15/k-12-librarians-roles-shift-to-meet-digital.html

Dees, D., Mayer, A., Morin, H., & Willis, E. (2010). Librarians as leaders in professional learning communities through technology, literacy, and collaboration. Library Media Connection, 29(2), 10.

Farkas, M. (2015, January 6). Peer learning in library instruction [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2015/01/06/peer-learning-in-library-instruction/

Future Ready Schools. (2017). Future Ready Librarians. Retrieved from http://futureready.org/librarians

International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). Standards for coaches. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches

LaGuardia, C. (2014, March 20). Professional development: What’s it to you? Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/03/opinion/not-dead-yet/professional-development-whats-it-to-you-not-dead-yet/#_

Miller, G. (2014, May 31). Teacher professional learning in a digital world [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://gregmiller68.com/2014/05/31/teacher-professional-learning-in-a-digital-world/

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self- Regulated Professional Development Online.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, 2016, p. 64.

Murray, T. C. (2017, March/April). Seven gears principals can leverage to enhance technology use. Principal, 96(4), 8-11. Retrieved from http://www.naesp.org/principal-marchapril-2017-technology-all/principal-marchapril-2017-technology-all

Ray, M. & Trettin, S. (2016). Librarians connected to National Future Ready Initiative. Teacher Librarian, 44(1), 8-11.

Wolf, M. A., Jones, R., & Gilbert, D. (2014). Leading in and beyond the library. Retrieved from Alliance for Excellent Education website: http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/BeyondTheLibrary.pdf

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

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/

Learning to Fly (and Tweet): Why Twitter?

Robot-and-Bird-03_small-779473ISTE Teacher Standard 3: Model digital age work and learning
Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.

According to Wikipedia, Twitter debuted online in July 2006.  More than ten years later, in September 2016, I finally joined the Twitter universe.  The connection to ISTE TS-3 was immediately evident.  As an educator, I’m tasked with preparing students for functioning productively in a global society.  I can’t imagine accomplishing that goal effectively without using the Internet in my teaching.

Recently I worked with a third grade class to help them create a book award of their own.  We had just been studying ALA Caldecott books, Newbery winners, Coretta Scott King honorees, and many others award-winning titles.  My hope was that students would take a more personal view towards evaluating books… it’s okay to have favorites and some books are better than others.   Many students named awards after themselves, a favorite teacher, their pets, a family member.  A few kids thought beyond their sphere of influence, naming their awards after famous authors or their favorite athletes.  As we wrapped up the brief lesson and activity, I noticed the finished award of one boy:twitter2

The “Inspiring and Anti-Cyberbullying Award” was his creation, awarded to a Minecraft-themed book, Invasion of the Overworld by Mark Cheverton.  The student wrote: “I was a cyberbully until I read this book.”  Now, I don’t know Mark Cheverton.  I haven’t read any of his books (though my boys have many times!).  Quite honestly, Invasion of the Overworld is not in my summer reading plans.  I doubt that the author has Newbery Medal aspirations.  With all of that said, it was clear that the student made a connection to the text like few of his peers had been able to do.  

In the past, that would have been the end of things…  I would have sent the finished posters onto the teacher so they could see their students’ work.  I may have posted a few of the most interesting examples in the hallway for other students to see.  Some of the projects may have even found their life briefly extended by being posted on a proud parent’s refrigerator.  Thinking back to ISTE Teacher Standard 3b (“Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation”), though, I quickly came to the realization that Twitter was a perfect vehicle to extend our classroom to the greater community — in this case, the author’s ear.twitter1

Within the same school day, the author had responded to the student’s award.  I immediately printed screenshots of the Twitter conversation for the student to see.  (I’ve had to reprint them twice for him, as the prized printouts seem to develop feet!)  I emailed screenshots to the boy’s parents and his teacher, creating great opportunities to talk about the positive value of social media.  In the days ahead, I used the conversation in related lessons with other library classes, and in response their output and efforts were far more focused than the first class.  Modeling positive interactions such as this one are a powerful responsibility that I’ve overlooked in the past.  In the future, I’m going to make every effort to not miss those kind of opportunities.

In the past school year, the value of Twitter for an educator and librarian has become increasingly clear.  In fact, I’ve gone from avoiding Twitter to having a new issue…  managing multiple Twitter accounts and social media feeds.  My next blog post will explore some the tools that I’ve found to assist with that task.  One of those tools, HootSuite, highlighted some of the reasons for harnessing social media in a classroom setting: (1) Use technology to create a culture of collaboration, (2) Use technology to empower students to contribute, and (3) Remember: students don’t always understand the difference between personal and professional social media use.  My limited time spent exploring Twitter’s strengths has made me feel foolish for avoiding it in the past.  Lesson learned.


Byrne, R. (2015, July 29). Using HootSuite to spread your school’s message. Retrieved from http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2015/07/using-hootsuite-to-spread-your-schools.html

Kushin, M. (2014, August 18). How the social media mindset can be an asset to your classroom. Retrieved from https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-the-social-media-mindset-can-be-an-asset-to-your-classroom/

Crompton, H. (2014, July 24). Know the ISTE Standards T3: Model digital age learning. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?articleid=109


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