books, tech, lessons from a librarian

Tag: PD

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

Connecting the Dots: Is there room for creativity in professional development?

connect the dots header image

Dot-to-dot puzzles. My kid loves them. Always has. Now in sixth grade, his favorites still start off 1-2-3, but now they’re cranked up to 11. Extreme puzzles like this one:   extreme dot to dot of a giraffe
This giraffe puzzle (sorry to spoil the surprise… it’s a giraffe) has over 1300 dots to connect, but the concept is still the same as the first puzzles he completed as a toddler. Find the beginning dot, and then follow the pre-determined path until the image becomes more clear and complete. Reach the final dot and you’re done. Move onto the next puzzle.

Dot-to-dot puzzles are the antithesis of the creative process. Worse than coloring books even… it’s not even about staying inside the lines, you’re literally drawing the line. Nothing in life is as simple as connecting the dots. Nothing in education that prepares our students for life as a grown-up is as simple as finding the starting spot, drawing a straight line from one prescribed dot to the next, and continuing until you reach the end.

In reading and researching the final ISTE Coaching Standard in EDTC 6106 at Seattle Pacific University, I was given this guiding question to explore: What does the ideal technology rich professional learning program look like? During my exploration the question & answers I decided on were:

Q: How can we integrate creativity into a technology rich professional learning program?

A: Have teachers follow the LAUNCH design process in their learning. Celebrate innovation. Allow for reflection and open communication. Make the collaborative process necessary for success.

So why focus specifically on creativity? Returning to the original analogy, in my 15+ years in education much of what I’ve seen in professional development programs has been a dot-to-dot puzzle. It’s been a prescribed process, with a predetermined product expected. Straying from the order will result in more than a few raised eyebrows and even redirection. Engagement is driven not by innovation but by strict adherence to connecting dots, one after another. The problem is we’re tasked with helping our students to develop the learning and innovation skills that by consensus have been agreed to be critical to success in the 21st Century: Creativity and Innovation; Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Communication and Collaboration (http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework). How can we hope to achieve success in developing those skills if our own professional learning doesn’t reflect the same values?

I was recently reading a book and came across this quote by educator Bo Adams (It’s About Learning https://itsaboutlearning.org/bo-adams/):bo adams quote

LAUNCH book coverThe book is LAUNCH: Using design thinking to boost creativity and bring out the maker in every student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. Spencer and Juliani have created a design framework that is applicable and incredibly useful for today’s education, for students and teachers alike. The LAUNCH acronym stands for:

Look, Listen, Learn
Ask Tons of Questions
Understand the Process or Problem
Navigate Ideas
Create a Prototype
Highlight and Fix
& launch your work to an audience.

Here’s a video introduction to the LAUNCH design thinking framework:

What I especially love is how the focus is on design and creativity, rather than specific technology “stuff” that may or may not be available to all educators or their students. Allowing for personalization in the learning and design process means that the there is considerable freedom in taking a different approach to find solutions. Juliani and Spencer’s Launch website is filled with great ideas, as are both individual author’s blogs and Twitter feeds.

Related Resources
John Spencer: http://www.spencerauthor.com/
A.J. Juliani: http://ajjuliani.com/
The LAUNCH Cycle: http://thelaunchcycle.com/
The Global Day of Design: http://globaldayofdesign.com/ (coming up soon! — 5/2/2017)

In my opinion “creativity” is the key to success for 21st Century citizens for at least 3 of the 4-Cs in the P21 Framework (http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework). [1] Critical Thinking — higher level skills inherently require creative approaches; [2] Collaboration — going beyond mere collegiality requires creative thinking. Creative thinkers find new ways to collaborate and new partners to collaborate with; and [3] Creativity.

By injecting a requirement of creativity into a technology rich professional learning program, it keeps the focus not on consumption but on creation. It is easy to be distracted by shiny new apps and flashy tech doo-dads, but requiring creativity in the learning means that higher level thinking skills are essential to success. A lot of adults have forgotten what it means to innovate and create for fear of failure. Allowing for failure in the process would be great practice for educators as they begin the process of bringing project-based learning into their classrooms.

The TPACK framework is largely the work of Professors Koehler and Mishra and the Deep-Play Research Group at Michigan State University. This infographic by Mark Anderson (Twitter @ICTEvangelist) provides a great overview on the subject:

TPACK framework(Anderson 2013)

Related Resources:
Punya Mishra, Ph.D.: http://www.punyamishra.com/
Example of Mishra’s work: Mehta, R., & Mishra, P. (2016). Downtime as a Key to Novelty Generation: Understanding the Neuroscience of Creativity with Dr. Rex Jung. TechTrends, 60(6), 528-531. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0119-3. Retrieved from http://www.punyamishra.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Jung-Interview-Mehta-Mishra-techtrends.pdf
The Deep-Play Research Group at Michigan State University: http://deep-play.com/

So returning to the question, how can we integrate creativity into a technology rich professional learning program? I think the key is understanding that creativity must be a part of the planning, implementation, and product of the educational process, but it shouldn’t be the only focus. TPACK centers on this idea of a balanced approach. When all of the circles (Technology, Content, and Pedagogy) are intersecting, and when creativity is called upon, there you’ll find the sweet spot of learning. The TPACK model reminds me of an early dot-filled infographic from the 1971 Ted Williams book The Science of Hitting. In his mind, arguably the greatest hitter in Major League Baseball history imagined this graphic in each at bat:

Ted Williams batting zone infographic

“My first rule of hitting was to get a good ball to hit. I learned down to percentage points where those good balls were. The box shows my particular preferences, from what I considered my “happy zone” – where I could hit .400 or better – to the low outside corner – where the most I could hope to bat was .230. Only when the situation demands it should a hitter go for the low-percentage pitch.” (Ted Williams)

Williams’s “happy zone” was at the intersection of vision, reach, muscle memory, training, bat angle and speed, and knowing himself as a hitter. His innovation as a baseball player made him a Hall of Famer, and yet his quote acknowledges that there are times to shift your approach “when the situation demands”. One of TPACK’s strength is that it can help educators from losing focus. The targeted learning should be at the intersection of how you teach, what you teach, and what you use. Focus on only one or two of the three and you’ll miss out on the “happy zone”.

The Dot book cover by Peter H. ReynoldsFinally, I couldn’t wrap up this dot-focused post without mentioning one of my all-time favorite picture books. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds is profoundly simple. Vashti is convinced she is not an artist, that she’s not creative. “I just CAN’T draw!” A simple art project (“draw a dot”) transforms Vashti’s life when she realizes there is room for exploration and her spirit and voice. The fear of failure is replaced with pride and ownership, and the book’s ending finds Vashti empowered to pass on her learning to others. Vashti’s development and success was aided by a teacher who provided the necessary tools, a framework that allowed for exploration, and the chance to share her learning with others. My hope is that someday soon it will be more common to find technology rich professional learning that allows for creative growth and innovation. Are we ready to LAUNCH? 3.2.1…


Anderson, M. (2013, May 28). Technological, pedagogical and content knowledge [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://ictevangelist.com/technological-pedagogical-and-content-knowledge/

Fryer, W. (2009, June 13). Moving at the speed of creativity | Blending professional development to focus on content, technology and pedagogy [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.speedofcreativity.org/2009/06/13/blending-professional-development-to-focus-on-content-technology-and-pedagogy/

Juliani, A. J., & Spencer, J. (2016). The Launch Cycle – Bring out the maker in every student. Retrieved from http://thelaunchcycle.com/

Kay, K. (2011, September 29). Becoming a 21st Century school or district: Use the 4Cs to build professional capacity (Step 4 of 7) | Edutopia [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/21st-century-professional-development-key-kay

Mehta, R., & Mishra, P. (2016). Downtime as a Key to Novelty Generation: Understanding the Neuroscience of Creativity with Dr. Rex Jung. TechTrends, 60(6), 528-531. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0119-3. Retrieved from http://www.punyamishra.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Jung-Interview-Mehta-Mishra-techtrends.pdf

Mishra, P. (n.d.). Punya Mishra’s Web – Living at the junction of education, creativity, design & technology. Retrieved March 5, 2017, from http://www.punyamishra.com/

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group. (2012). Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16. doi:10.1007/s11528-012-0594-0. Retrieved from http://www.punyamishra.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Mishra-crayons-techtrends1.pdf

Niess, M., & Gillow-Wiles, H. (2015). Creativity, digitality, and teacher professional development: Unifying theory, research, and practice. In Handbook of research on teacher education in the digital age (pp. 691-721). Retrieved from http://www.punyamishra.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Creativity-Digitality-and-Teacher-Professional-Development-Unifying-Theory-Research-and-Practice.pdf

Pearman, D. (2016, April 9). Are we putting the cart before the horse? | Innovative pedagogy [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://innovativepedagogy.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/are-we-putting-the-cart-before-the-horse/

Spencer, J. (2016, February 15). Curious about design thinking? Here’s a framework you can use in any classroom with any age group [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.spencerauthor.com/2016/02/curious-about-design-thinking-heres.html/

What in the World is Game-Based Education? The Good, the Bad, the Dysentery

Oregon Trail game

I grew up in the golden age of educational gaming. I don’t know that any games have matched the cultural and educational impact of the 8-bit majesty of The Oregon Trail (play the 1990 version here: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Oregon_Trail_The_1990) or the full-color wonder of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (play the 1985 version here: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Where_in_the_World_is_Carmen_Sandiego_1985) on my Commodore 64. As a student, I felt like I was getting away with something by playing video games during the school day. Sure, the monochromatic splendor of the Apple IIe is laughable today, but for me and many of my generation the effect was magical. I learned more about life on the Oregon Trail in those primarily text-based games than I ever did by reading about it in our social studies textbook. Carmen Sandiego shipped with a World Almanac… a librarian’s dream! I search for more facts about countries throughout the world by chasing that mysterious red-hatted fiend than I would have without the game’s prodding.

These early educational software games are still some of the best examples of game-based learning. Many flashy apps and online games have tried to fill the niche, but too often they get bogged down in graphics and cutscenes and microtransactions and they lose sight of the vital elements of good game design.

Games vs. Game-based learning vs. Gamification

This infographic from upsidelearning.com helps to explain the differences:

Games vs Game-based Learning vs Gamification

Games vs Game-based Learning vs Gamification
Click to view the complete infographic.  |  Infographic by Upside Learning

Reasons to Be Scared

Unfortunately, there’s a troubling trend that emerges when reading about gamification in the classroom in its current state… it’s rarely proved itself to be a sustainable model. Where it’s successful at the elementary school level, it’s almost always the result of a relative few innovators who are taking a risk.

Ananth Pai

Ananth Pai was a businessman who became an elementary classroom teacher in Minnesota. His 3rd grade class soon became an attractive stopping place for elected officials, business leaders, and tech founders alike. They were all drawn to his classroom because they wanted to see his approach to reaching kids at their level primarily through the use of games. Students participated in numerous electronic gaming activities throughout the day, including competing in games online with peers around the world, playing math games on Nintendo DS, and more. All of this is written about Mr. Pai in the past tense, as his online presence has vanished. His Twitter handle is inactive. I can’t find record of him presenting at conferences. News stories haven’t been posted in years. It appears that Mr. Pai is now teaching 3rd grade at an International Baccalaureate school outside of Minneapolis, but his gamification stardom has quickly faded. This KQED article hints darkly at the frustration of an educator trying to innovate in the face of mandated testing and curriculum. 




Michele Alvarez

Another meteoric gamification educator… Reading through her blog posts, tweets, and subsequent lack of updates, her story is a cautionary one. Gamifying your classroom is not an easy task, and it’s made all the more difficult when roadblocks emerge: changing grades, changing curriculum, changing standards, lack of support, etc.


Extrinsic Motivation

I’ve referred to Alfie Kohn’s writings in past blog posts. Kohn’s blog post on the dangers of extrinsic motivation should play a role in the discussion for anyone looking at shifting to a completely gamified classroom or curriculum. http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/risks-rewards/ His primary concern is that once the reward is removed from the learning equation, the learner becomes disengaged from the process. This brings to mind the popular idea of badges for learners. For some, the lure of a digital badge fuels them. For others, not so much…

Reasons to Get Excited

I don’t know that the nostalgic magic of Carmen Sandiego and dysentery will ever be topped (now that’s a sentence that’s never been typed before) but there are promising signs for the future of educational gaming and gamification:

Never Alone

An atmospheric platform puzzle game designed and built in collaboration with the Alaska Native community. Tribal elders hoped to pass on their culture to the disinterested youth of their tribe. This gorgeous video game melds great game design and native folklore & language to engage young people in the Alaskan Iñupiat culture.



Leading Change

Gameful Learning banner“Developed in partnership with Microsoft, this education course aims to transform teaching and learning at all levels through explorations of how the features that make video games great learning environments can be used in formal learning environments to increase learner engagement on a local, regional and global scale. By creating classroom learning environments that support learners’ senses of autonomy, competence and relatedness, school leaders are able to promote actively engaged and resilient learning.” This free 8-week course created by Microsoft In Education in collaboration with edX (University of Michigan’s free online education program https://www.edx.org/school/michiganx) is exciting as it represents a commitment (for the time being) by private and public sector to explore digital gamification in the classroom. Enroll for free now at: https://www.edx.org/course/leading-change-go-beyond-gamification-michiganx-microsoft-education-gl101x The course starts on March 6, 2017.

Quest to Learn (Q2L)

Quest To Learn logoTeachers and game designers work together at this public school (grades 8-12) in New York City to create learning opportunities for students, and the results are what you would expect: engagement, creativity, and a spirit of inquiry. What makes this school’s approach so promising is the fact that it’s based on a sustainable school-wide focus, rather than the siloed efforts of individual teachers like Pai and Alvarez.





So What Next?

Step One: Read this resource!

Mind Shift: Guide to Digital Games and Learning coverMind/Shift: Guide to Digital Games + Learning By Jordan Shapiro, et al. http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/the-mindshift-guide-to-games-and-learning/

This collection of blog posts by Temple University’s Digital Learning Coordinator is a robust starting-point if you’re at-all interested in exploring the idea of bringing digital gaming into your classroom or school. One of its greatest strengths is that it addresses stumbling blocks with honesty and adherence to strong classroom pedagogy. Here are a couple of passages from Shapiro:

On choosing games: “A great literature curriculum considers the particular students in the class and chooses books that are simultaneously fun to read, academically challenging, and provide important canonical touchstones that can help contextualize future learning. Satisfying any one of these criteria, without the others, is problematic. The same is true for learning games. But for some reason, when it comes to games, many teachers are confused about the difference between ‘cool’ and ‘fun.’

Cool and fun are not the same thing. Cool has to do with a game’s aesthetics: the art, sound design, characters, narrative, et cetera. But a game does not need to be cool in order to be fun. Don’t be seduced by the spectacle. Making coolness a priority is tantamount to choosing to teach literature with People magazine because the students like to read it. Sure, pop culture gossip would satisfy the engagement criteria, but it wouldn’t satisfy any of the other academic criteria.”

On why game mechanics matter: “The best learning games are always fun. Try playing them yourself and see if you enjoy them. No matter how advanced your understanding of the subject matter, a good game should still be fun… All good games offer challenges in intuitive ways. In fact, this is the reason games work so well for learning: Players are intrinsically motivated to identify and succeed at understanding the game’s mechanics.

‘Mechanics’ are what game designers call the collection of rules and structures that produce the actual gameplay. The mechanics organize the game’s components in the way that defines how a player’s actions will have an impact. In good learning games, the subject matter is always embedded into the mechanics themselves. Learning to navigate the game’s mechanics and learning the academic subject matter are one and the same. Bad games sometimes attempt to simply graft a topic onto existing game mechanics. They might add vocabulary words to Angry Birds, or multiplication tables to Temple Run. It never works. The best learning games teach in the same way good teachers teach: They don’t trick students into being interested, they help students find genuine excitement in learning a subject.”  (Shapiro, 2015, 19-20)

Step Two: Start simple.

Educator Mary Beth Hertz in an Edutopia blog post distills the elements of video games that students are drawn to and love. It’s important to note none of Hertz’s ideas require technology. Technology can certainly enhance gaming and gamification, but it shouldn’t be required. Hertz writes:

  1. Mistakes as Part of Mastery

“For one, while watching my students play games I notice that they easily just click ‘retry’ or ‘new game’ or ‘start over’ and keep trying until they master whatever skill that game’s level requires. They don’t worry about making mistakes because they know they will get another chance. They learn more and more each time they have to do a level or game task over. We should be building these kinds of experiences into our classrooms.”

  1. Immediate Feedback

“In addition, games provide immediate feedback. Not just any feedback, but usually feedback that helps a student fix or improve on their previous performance. We should be giving students as many opportunities as possible for useful and timely feedback.”

  1. Manageable Goals

“Games also have a purpose, an underlying goal. Sometimes there are mini-goals that help get you to the final goal, beating the game. Players can focus on the mini-goals rather than be overwhelmed by the ultimate goal of beating the game. There is usually something that indicates how far along they are toward their final goal, which makes them feel like they’re getting somewhere. We should be setting manageable goals for our students that help them move toward mastery while providing timely feedback on their progress.”

Step Three: Begin to explore integrating a gaming culture into professional development.

My guiding question for this blog post was based on ISTE Coaching Standard 4: Professional Development and Program Evaluation. “Is gamification of professional development an achievable and sustainable goal?” I don’t know that I’m any closer to deciding on an answer after exploring the many online resources linked in this post. Digital badges seem like an interesting path to possibly explore, but Jackie Gerstein also highlights some of the issues inherent to the practice with this great blog post. Gamifying an entire PD program would quite possibly fuel greater engagement with some of my librarian colleagues, but what about those who just don’t like games? Would gamification alienate them? And how can I avoid the burnout and frustrations of innovators like Pai and Alvarez, without strong administrative support?

So, is it “game over” or “game on” for gamification? Well…

insert coin to continue 8-bit


Baier, M. (2015, February 19). Game Face On: Gamification for Engaging Teachers in PD. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/gamification-engaging-teachers-in-pd-matt-baier

Bell, K. (2015, September 1). Take PD to the next level with badges [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.shakeuplearning.com/blog/take-pd-to-the-next-level-with-badges/

College Ready Ohio. (2016, February 19). Gamification and Badging Professional Development | Entire Professional Development [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IsZVVXK8l0

Dobo, N. (2014, November 26). Oregon Trail computer game lingers, amid a slew of new educational games – The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from http://hechingerreport.org/content/oregon-trail-computer-game-lingers-amid-slew-new-educational-games_18202/

Education|Evolving. (2012, November 2). A Split Screen Strategy: Creating the Capacity for Teachers to Innovate [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KimG8igaZIA

Edutopia. (2013, July 30). Katie Salen on the power of game-based learning (Big Thinkers Series) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wk_OfUHpCbM

Extra Credits. (2012, May 13). Extra Credits: Gamifying Education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuDLw1zIc94

Extra Credits. (2013, August 22). Extra Credits – Games in Education – How Games Can Improve Our Schools [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HTS2nxpRqM

Fishman, B., & Niemer, R. (2017, February 16). School is a game: Can we make it a good game? – EdTech Researcher – Education Week [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/2017/02/school_is_a_game_can_we_make_it_a_good_game.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-twitter

Gamification Co. (2012, September 27). Tim Vandenberg – Monopoly Academy (GSummit SF 2012) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iHv3vrW2Lo

Gerstein, J. (2013, March 16). I don’t get digital badges | User Generated Education [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Hawkins, B. (2012, November 13). Teacher Ananth Pai’s do-it-yourself tech effort pays big dividends for students. MinnPost. Retrieved from https://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/2012/11/teacher-ananth-pais-do-it-yourself-tech-effort-pays-big-dividends-students

Hertz, M. B. (2011, April 19). Using the Video Game Model in the Classroom | Edutopia [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/education-game-gaming-technology-tools-design-project-mary-beth-hertz

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

Juliani, A. J. (2014, March 29). How to Gamify Professional Development in Your School. Retrieved from http://ajjuliani.com/gamify-professional-development-school/

OLTV19. (2010, June 11). Exciting new approach to classroom learning! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSJ5LwAXxLk

Shapiro, J. (2014, September 28). The MindShift guide to games and learning. Retrieved from http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/the-mindshift-guide-to-games-and-learning/

Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014). Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games. Retrieved from Games and Learning Publishing Council website: http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/level-up-learning-a-national-survey-on-teaching-with-digital-games/

Talbot, M. (2015, January 9). A quest for a different learning model: Playing games in school – The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from http://hechingerreport.org/content/quest-different-learning-model-playing-games-school_18465/

TEDx Talks. (2012, September 21). TEDxBerlin – Gabe Zichermann – “Changing the Game in Education” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Axk5-i8oTIU

TEDx Talks. (2012, April 24). Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qlYGX0H6Ec

TEDx Talks. (2013, May 31). Press Play — Gaming, Simulation & Achievement in the Classroom: Jonathon Best at TEDxDenverTeachers [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKpo5SeZWns

TEDxYOUTH. (2011, June 9). TEDxKids@Brussels – Gabe Zichermann – Gamification [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2N-5maKZ9Q

University of California Television. (2016, May 13). Power Play: Trends and Opportunities in Gaming for Good with Asi Burak [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SWidS0wzcA

Waniewski, B. (2012, December 18). Meet the game designers who are on a quest to make NYC Public School more fun | Fastcompany. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/3003920/meet-game-designers-who-are-quest-make-nyc-public-school-more-fun

Andragogy, Pedagogy, Heutagogy… Holy Goji Berries! My Brain is Full.

exploring “andragogy” and the work of Malcolm S. Knowles
Head map


I debate with myself. A lot. At times this seemingly unending stream of thoughts leads to unease and pinch of insomnia. I like to feel at peace with my thoughts, but I’ve really struggled with my latest unit of study. Andragogy, pedagogy, professional development and learning, adult educational theory, and how all of those pieces fit together… Throw them all together in a bowl with an extra dash of fatigue and you’ve got a recipe for confusion. What started out as a relatively simple blog post has morphed into a complex and interrelated tangle of educational theory and experiences. You know when you carefully pack away your Christmas lights at the end of the season and then go to unpack them the next year?

tangled Christmas lights

Yeah. I think that’s roughly what the neurons in my brain currently resemble. With that in mind, literally, I thought I’d open up my journal…

Tuesday, January 17

Andragogyandragogy definition

As opposed to pedagogy, the study of how teaching children. Got it. Google?…

Wikipedia entry on Malcolm S. Knowles

The adult learning theory of Malcolm S. Knowles

I should make an infographic explaining Knowles’ theories. Nevermind, someone else already did a better job than I could have…

Knowles andragogy infographic

Knowles’ Six Principles of Adult Learning

  1. Adult Learners are Motivated and Self-Directed
  2. Adult Learners Bring Life Experience and Knowledge
  3. Adult Learners are Goal Oriented
  4. Adult Learners are Relevancy Oriented
  5. Adult Learners are Practical
  6. Adult Learners Like to be Respected

This blog post is going to be easy…

So, to sum up: Adults learn differently than kids. It can’t be that simple, is it?

Wednesday, January 18

I think I’ve got a triggering event that will work for the topic:

What role do adult learning principles play in planning educational technology professional development?

Vague enough that I can put my own spin on the topic, without having to do too much extra reading this week (I am still trying to catch up from being sick at the beginning of the quarter)…  So how does andragogy fit in with professional development? Edutopia here I come… Holy cow. So many resources. Where to start? Discomfort, Growth, and Innovation Ha! Pretty much sums up how I’m feeling right now. “School leaders and coaches must foster a culture that celebrates the discomfort inevitably resulting from change. And that requires three key strategies: 1) Empathize 2) Model 3) Celebrate.” That represents a massive shift in culture. It’s not an easy fix, especially when thinking of the layers of tradition in professional development.

Thursday, January 19

I haven’t even scratched the surface, but something’s bugging me… Much of what I’m reading about andragogy focuses on differences between adult learners and young learners. And nearly everything leads to Malcolm S. Knowles. Hasn’t anyone taken up his mantle? And have his theories been proven? How? Anytime I come across a theory that’s so closely tied to one individual, I always become a bit of a skeptic. Does andragogy appear in Snopes? Nope.

And what about the fact that our world is very different from that of Knowles? Take a look at this article Malcolm wrote about buying his first computer (I accessed it online at my local library http://www.sno-isle.org/research/). The guy literally wrote a letter to Steve Jobs and the microcomputer industry because he was having a hard time installing and using word processing software. And Apple sent an Apple employee to his home for a day to try and help him through the technical difficulties. Unsuccessfully. Yesterday my kid installed a spelling game app on his iPad. With no help from me. He’s 7. There was no instruction manual. My 9 year old is working on a book report. He started the project at school; everything’s saved in the cloud; his learning is extended from his classroom to our kitchen computer; and now he’s writing an email to his teacher to apologize for the fact that his work will be late because he should have started this project a week ago.

Friday, January 20

So are there other models, related to andragogy? Or principles that don’t lead directly to Knowles’ work? I swear, ANY Google result for “andragogy” is roughly ½ a degree of separation from good ol’ Malcolm. Interesting and slightly related fact: Malcolm Knowles is separated by only four degrees from Kevin Bacon on Wikipedia. Pike’s Five Laws of Learning. I’ve seen that mentioned a few times.  Hmmm, let’s take a look:

Law 1: Adults are Babies with Big Bodies
Law 2: People Don’t Argue with Their Own Data
Law 3: Learning is Directly Proportional to the Amount of Fun You Have
Law 4: Learning has not Taken Place Until Behavior has Changed
Law 5: When You Can Transfer Learning to Someone Else, You’ve Confirmed Competence

Here’s another site on understanding adult learners that blends Knowles and Pike. But really, all of this stuff applies to kids and adults alike. Yeah, learning should be fun, we should keep the learner’s experience in mind, yada yada yada… this is leading nowhere. Are we shortchanging our kids by sticking to pedagogical models of yesteryear? Are they really that different than us grown-ups when it comes to learning?   

Sunday, January 22

Reading the Seattle Times with a cup of coffee (the first of many today). What a great opinion piece on school funding by the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling. Co-founder of Teachers United… Let’s take a look… What’s this? “House Bill 1345, which defines professional learning for teachers in the state of Washington, was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on March 31, 2016. […] Teachers United worked with our legislators to recommend policy and craft the language of the bill.” We have a House Bill that defines professional learning? And when did “professional development” become “professional learning” and is there even a difference? Great, now I’ve got to go find what the bill actually says. Adopting a definition and standards of professional learning (HB 1345: 2015-16). And why haven’t I heard a thing about this legislation? They all sound like great ideas, but is this just another unfunded mandate from our legislature? And how can I leverage this document to push for more effective professional development for myself and my colleagues?

Monday, January 23

Searched by .pdf filetype on Google. I always forget about trying that. Here’s an interesting resource by Marcia Cross looking at andragogy and pedagogy. Oh my goodness, yes! “Unfortunately, andragogy usually is cited in education texts as the way adults learn. Knowles himself concedes that four of andragogy’s five key assumptions apply equally to adults and children. The sole difference is that children have fewer experiences and pre-established beliefs than adults and thus have less to relate.” I think this is a lot of what’s been throwing me for a loop. On one hand we’re saying adults learn differently, PD needs to be different, even state law says so. And yet, in much of my experience, it’s not changing. Stand and deliver doesn’t work; “one and done” trainings aren’t a sustainable or effective model and yet they persist. Why? And is it really a continuum of learning, from pedagogy to andragogy? I know I’ve seen kids that are more andragogical learners (especially in regards to technology) than some educators I’ve worked with over the past fifteen years…

Tuesday, January 24

What really separates pedagogy and andragogy? Kids from adult learners? Time and experience. So is that it? Seems a bit short for a blog post. Gotta keep reading.

Wednesday, January 25

Youngest kid is sick. I don’t want to get sick again. Wash hands, rinse, repeat. Please don’t get sick.

Thursday, January 26

Now I’m sick. So much nose blowing. Ugh.

Friday, January 27

I thought I’d revisit a book I purchased last year to try and give my brain a vacation from “andragogy”. I grown to appreciate the writing of Alfie Kohn. I greatly respect educators who ask questions. Not questioning just to be difficult or different, but questioning to truly seek out answers to complex issues. So let’s relax with a book…

Alfie Kohn - Feel Bad Education book cover

Well, so much for relaxing. Reading Kohn’s “‘Well, duh!’ — Obvious Truths We Shouldn’t Be Ignoring”, I’m thinking to myself: “Pretty much all of these apply to all learners, not just kids, so what the heck is andragogy?”

  1. Much of the material that students are required to memorize is soon forgotten
  2. Just knowing a lot of facts doesn’t mean that one is smart
  3. If kids have different talents, interests, and ways of learning, it’s probably not ideal to teach all of them the same things — or in the same way
  4. Students are more likely to learn what they find interesting
  5. Students are less interested in whatever they’re forced to do and more enthusiastic when they have some say.
  6. Just because X raises standardized test scores, doesn’t mean X should be done
  7. Students are more likely to succeed in a place where they feel known and cared about
  8. We want children to develop in many ways, not just academically
  9. Just because a lesson (or book, or class, or test) is harder, doesn’t mean it’s better
  10. Kids aren’t just short adults
  11. Education policies that benefit (or appeal to) large corporations aren’t necessarily good for children
  12. Substance matters more than labels

Wait, Alfie Kohn is bad for me? Willingham seems like a great guy, too. Well, crap. Now I don’t know what to think.

Saturday, January 28

Seriously? Ebsco just went down for maintenance… 😐

Okay, why can I not get this blog post started? I agree with nearly all of the andragogical ideas regarding improving professional learning for educators. What’s nagging at me? I think it’s the unease of the efficacy of Knowles’ andragogy model in relation to our student expectations. We’re asking them to do things that they’re not ready for developmentally. Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, the basis for our Washington State TPEP model of teacher observation and development. In order to step up into the category of “distinguished”, learning must shift into student control and direction. How can these elementary kids possibly be self-directed and motivated when those are the very andragogical skills that develop through experience and age? I understand that scaffolding those experiences can assist with the progression, but are they really ready for that model of freedom at such a young age? Today’s kindergarten work is yesterday’s 1st and 2nd grade curriculum. So has andragogy been pushed into lower grades as well? Creativity and play and social skills have been pushed aside to better prepare for rote skills. There are so many disconnects, I don’t know where to begin…

Sunday, January 29

This blog post is not writing itself. I still have no idea what I’m writing about…

Sometimes I'll start a sentence

Wait, “heutagogy”… I thought I’d already read about all of the -gogies? This article looks at the idea of shifting from the self-directed learning of andragogy and into self-determined and autonomous learning of heutagogy.

progression of learning model(Blaschke 2012, 60)

Is this learning progression a more accurate model for today’s learners?


Monday, January 30

I don’t know. All of that reading, all of that thinking, and I still don’t know. In fact, I know I’ve got more unanswered questions now than when I first began this unit.

I’m including a list of references that I’ve explored these past couple of weeks. It’s a ridiculously long list for the trivial blog post that emerged, and it’s not even complete. I especially enjoyed reading many of the magazine articles by Knowles himself (many in Training & Development Journal), to gain a better understanding of his voice and his thinking. I wonder how he would react today to the near canonization of his theory of adult learning, and also how he would view the students of today, especially keeping in mind the changing nature of our technology? Would Knowles agree with Knowles from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s?

I just realized I haven’t even answered my triggering question. One of my deepest struggles during this time of introspection and exploration has been running all of this theory of andragogy through the filter of my own district’s professional development. And knowing that it may get worse before it gets better. We need instructional coaches. We need professional learning based on a foundation of trust built on relationships. We need to escape the culture of learning that is focused squarely on SBA test results rather than the skills and creativity of our staff. Our professional development model needs to shift, as does our teaching, but I just don’t know how to be a change agent for that necessary shift in the face of high-stakes testing. And that is a hard mental pill for me to swallow.

So what can I do? For now, I can take comfort in the simple focus of these words from Knowles in an October 1989 Training & Development Journal column “Learning to Be Authentic”:

knowles quote

I can focus on just being myself, especially when working with colleagues towards professional learning. I think that is truly the key to bringing about change… Realizing that every learner brings their story to the table, and I bring mine. 

(I hope you have enjoyed this journey into my thinking process from these past couple weeks. Please note that I omitted many random thoughts that occurred throughout this time, especially an abnormally large number of Bugs Bunny cartoons that seemed to be on repeat in my head… the operatic “Kill the Wabbit!” was quite popular this week, for some reason. If there are any dream interpreters out there, I don’t want to know what it means.) -JH


Australian Catholic University. (2015, December 16). Knowles’ six principles of adult learning. Retrieved from http://www.acu.edu.au/798038

Bretzmann, J. (2015). Personalized PD: Flipping your professional development. New Berlin, WI: The Bretzmann Group.

Benjes-Small, C., & Archer, A. (2014, January 13). Tales of the undead… learning theories: The learning pyramid [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://acrlog.org/2014/01/13/tales-of-the-undead-learning-theories-the-learning-pyramid

Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(1), 56-71. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ979639.pdf

Carpenter, J. (2016). Teachers at the wheel. Educational Leadership, 73(8), 30-35. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may16/vol73/num08/Teachers-at-the-Wheel.aspx

Conner, M. (n.d.). Introduction to andragogy + pedagogy. Retrieved from http://marciaconner.com/resources/andragogy-pedagogy/

Edmunds, C., Lowe, K., Murray, M., & Seymour, A. (2002). Ultimate adult learning. In The ultimate educator: Achieving maximum learning through training and instruction. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/ovc_archives/educator/welcome.html

Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). Conclusion: Beyond the app generation. In The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world (pp. 155-197). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Henschke, J. (2011). Considerations regarding the future of andragogy. Adult Learning, 22(1), 34-37. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/104515951102200109

Knowles, M. S. (1976). Separating the Amateurs from the Pros in Training. Training & Development Journal, 30(9), 16.

Knowles, M. S. (1983). Malcolm Knowles Finds A Worm in His Apple. Training & Development Journal, 37(5), 12.

Knowles, M. (1989, October). Learning to be authentic. Training & Development Journal, 43(10), 42.

Kohn, A. (1993). Choices for children: Why and how to let students decide. Phi Delta Kappan, 75(1). Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/choices-children/

Kohn, A. (2011). “Well, duh!”: Obvious truths that we shouldn’t be ignoring. In Feel-bad education: And other contrarian essays on children and schooling (pp. 1-17). Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. (n.d.). Massachusetts standards for professional development (HQPD). Retrieved January 28, 2017, from http://www.doe.mass.edu/pd/standards.html

Pappas, C. (2013, May 9). The adult learning theory (andragogy) of Malcolm Knowles – eLearning Industry. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/the-adult-learning-theory-andragogy-of-malcolm-knowles (accompanying infographic: http://elearninginfographics.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Adult-Learning-Theory-Andragogy-Infographic.jpg)

Phillips, P. (2017, January 4). Personalizing professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2017-01-04-personalizing-professional-development-for-teachers-by-teachers

Pike, R. (2013, June 3). Creative training techniques 101: The basics [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bobpikegroup.com/blog/78

Siko, J. P., & Hess, A. N. (2014). Win-win professional development: Providing meaningful professional development while meeting the needs of all stakeholders. TechTrends, 58(6), 99-108. doi:10.1007/s11528-014-0809-7

Strickland, C. A. (2009). What is high-quality professional development for differentiating instruction. In Professional development for differentiating instruction: An ASCD action tool. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109042/chapters/What_Is_High-Quality_Professional_Development_for_Differentiating_Instruction.aspx

Swanson, K. (2014). EdCamp: Teachers take back professional development. Educational Leadership, 71(8), 36-40. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may14/vol71/num08/Edcamp@-Teachers-Take-Back-Professional-Development.aspx

Washington State Legislature. (2016). Adopting a definition and standards of professional learning (HB 1345: 2015-16). Retrieved from http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=1345&Year=2015

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

Learned Helplessness Attacks!

Alien spacecraft over a panicking city

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

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

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

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

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

man looking over his shoulder in fear

Reaction #2: Frozen in Fear

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

by pointing up into the sky

Reaction #3: Childlike Wonder

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

couple standing together looking into sky

Reaction #4: Athletic stance

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

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

Growth Mind-set

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

growth vs. fixed mindset chart

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

change your words, change your mindset

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

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


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

iceberg illusion infographic

So What Now?

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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/

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