Tag Archives: learning commons

Theme Two: Managing Reference Materials

Theme one_SErving the clientele I am feeling a little less overwhelmed after completing the second theme.  Not because the job description is any less intimidating, in fact there are probably more bits and pieces to consider now!  However, it feels a bit more humanly possible to try to achieve the goals of being a good teacher-librarian.   So often in university courses, text-books and “how-to” manuals we are left feeling a sense of rigidity that doesn’t allow for or factor in the human element.  I felt relief in this theme with the acknowledgement of how being a relatable human being with skills to communicate can and will influence how the success (or failure) of a learning commons.   Thanks for Subscribing!   1.) Give credit for what you bring as an individual to the role.  One of the resounding messages that kept popping up, especially in Riedling’s Reference Skills chapter nine, was the role that the T-L’s personality plays in creating a successful learning commons.  So often this stereotype of the introverted, quiet and meek librarian is perpetuated, even though I never felt that this was some sort of common goal or characteristic in reality there was  a sense of validation I felt upon reading  Riedling’s acknowledgment of what an individual’s unique set of skills and  personality can bring to a learning commons experience.

 “Both tangible and intangible skills combine to create purposeful and interesting communications between the school library media specialist and the student, and hopefully, a successful reference interview.” – Riedling pg. 102

2.) Finding Balance.  Another strong takeaway I took from this theme is how crucial balance is to a learning commons.  Not only does balance play a role in the budget, but it also applies to the distribution of resource selections; being mindful of balance in all its forms is imperative to the success of a learning commons in a multitude of ways. I can only imagine each T-L’s individual struggle when comparing the purchase of hard copy or digital reference resources.  After looking over an example of what a hard copy set of encyclopedias cost, compared with an annual digital subscription my initial feeling is to go with digital.  It almost seems foolish to invest in the hard copy resources at those prices when it is merely a matter of time (the clock starts ticking the second that order has been placed) that it becomes outdated and in need of replacing.  Having said that, I can completely argue the other side saying it is not foolish to invest in print copies of resource materials.  It is important that we have a balance of various types of resources for students to engage with and from which they will learn.  So, how do T-Ls decide the allocation of funds and feel good about their decision?  I guess it goes back to some of the thoughts outlined in module six, we need to be PICKY when selecting resources, and get as many different inputs as possible from the people who will be utilizing them.  I have seen many great resources go unnoticed in a library because teachers didn’t know they existed, and neither did the T-L!  In fact, at one school the staff bought a selection of resources without realizing it already existed in the library, no one had checked!  I guess that goes back to one of the takeaways from theme one: Know your stuff!

Here is some follow up food for thought on the growing trend of moving from hard copy to digital:

Paperless Public Libraries Switch to Digital by Bill Hicks for the BBC.

References

Hicks, B. (2013). Paperless Public Libraries Switch to Digital.  Accessed August 22, 2015.
Riedling, A. (2005).  Reference Skills for the School Library Media Specialist: Tools and Tips (2nd ed.).  Worthington, Ohio: Linworth Books.
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Middle Years Inquiry Planning Guide

This is a document I would like to share with Middle Years teachers to help guide, support and inspire their efforts to create an inquiry based project.  Sometimes we are lost and we don’t know where to begin, other times we may have an idea of where we want to go but need a bit of inspiration for ways to get there, wherever you are coming here are a few places that can help you get where you are trying to go.  No one is expecting you to reinvent the wheel, but sometimes finding quality resources or information can be arduous with little show for the time you’ve put in.

I have broken down the guide into four curations:

  1. A starting point for planning.
  2. Activities/Lessons for students to teach key skills involved in the research aspect.
  3. A sampling of quality resources for student during research.
  4. Presentation – a selection of presentation tools for students to show what they have learned.

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So, you want to start an inquiry, or research project with your students but are unsure of where to start?  In this curation I have selected both resources that offer specific information about inquiry projects, as well as general teacher resources from quality sites created for supporting teacher planning and student learning.  I invite you to explore all of the sites to some degree, and narrow done the ones that will best aid you in your planning process.  Click here to begin.

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In this section I have curated a grouping of lessons and activities that can help teach students the skills they will need to be successful in their researching.  Ideally these lessons are taught before students are independently performing research, as it will help to guide their process.  Here you will find lessons and teacher supports to aid in the teaching of fundamental areas such as: avoiding plagiarism, learning how to cite sources, establishing credibility of websites, how to search, how to critically evaluate information, etc.

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By the time you are ready to use this next curation you will have a plan in place, and your students will be ready to start their independent research process.  In this curation you will find quality websites that you can pass along to your students to aid them in their research.  The websites in this section are geared towards students, the formats are easy to navigate, and the topics/information available is suited towards many learning outcomes of middle school curriculum.  In my experience, students appreciate this list as it gives them a bit of confidence as they begin their research and the daunting task of discriminating their sources to find the answers for which they are searching.  The list can be found here.

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Here I have curated a selection of presentation and tech tools as options for students to use to showcase their learning.  You may want all students to use the same format, or perhaps a selection of ones you’ve identified.  These are all tried, true, and teacher recommended options.  I would encourage you to spend a bit of time checking them all out to some degree, and playing around with the tools so you have an idea of which ones will be the best option in your specific project.  Note: while many of these are web-based, there is also a link to iPad app suggestions.  Our school does have iPads available, if there is a particular app you are interested in that we do not have please come see me as we may be able to purchase.

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In this section I will utilize some of the tech tools found that can be found in the presentation curation above as a medium to not only inform, but also expose you to some of the options highlighted for student use.  For example, all of the graphic posters you have seen thus far have all been created for free using Canva (found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

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This resource was created in efforts to support the staff at the school I teach, however, it would be nice if it could also serve the global community in some sense as well.

While this is a tech tool, it is not meant to eliminate the person from the process.  I am here to assist you throughout your journey.  This resource will hopefully provide you with focus and a plan, once you have those in place I can personalize the support I provide to you and your students.  I would also like to reinforce that this is a collaborative document, if I have left out tools, or websites that you (or your students) feel are worthy of sharing please let me know and I can add them to our shared document.

How can I support you?
Watch this clip I made on Powtoon to help you understand ways I may be of service to you and your students. (Powtoon’s website can found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

Outcomes: 

When planned and executed in a mindful way that is specific to your group of learners,  inquiry projects are incredibly successful as they allow students to individualize their inquiry and process, which supports a bigger buy-in and in turn a more meaningful learning experience.

Students will learn about the process of researching a topic and how both print and online sources can support one’s search.

Students will gain competency with technology tools, how to effectively use the internet for specific searching and how to discern between a good/bad source.

While the plan is in place, we want students to get from A to B, the journey of how they get there is not prescribed.  This approach meets the needs of diverse learners as the students will work with tools that appeal to them, and find content that is meaningful to their process.  Students can personalize their learning by the ways they approach their research and how they choose to present their information.  Students who require a more regimented and assisted approach can be provided a short list of resources, such as the ones provided above, but with a more direct route to the information they are seeking.  Since technology will be used ELL learners will have direct access to online translators as they perform their research.  Software is available on the computers for students who require assistance in reading the material, or scribing their thoughts as they go along.  The technology available is limitless, and therefore virtually any learning obstacle can be managed to assist students in their inquiry research.

This is an online tool, so the information is accessible anywhere there is internet and a device ready for use, which means students can continue their learning at home, in the classroom with the portable computer lab, or with their own devices on our wi-fi network (when permission has been granted).

Cross-curricular and integrative opportunities: Primarily this project meets prescribed learning outcomes for Language Arts and Technology across the middle and high school levels, and as many research based projects are routed in Social Studies or Science topics will be easy for your inquiry projects to meet the prescribed learning outcomes for multiple subjects.

Multiple Literacies addressed in this project are bolded in the list below, and explained in the Padlet image below. ( A link to Padlet can be found in the Symbaloo webmix: Presenting the Research).

 Digital Is outlines the various forms of literacies as:

  “Digital Literacy Cognitive skills that are used in executing tasks in digital environments

   Computer Literacy Ability to use a computer and software

   Media Literacy Ability to think critically about different types of media

    Information Literacy– Ability to evaluate, locate, identify, and effectively use info

    Technology Literacy– The ability to use technology effectively in several different ways

    Political Literacy– Knowledge and skills needed to actively participate in political matters

    Cultural Literacy– The knowledge of one’s own culture

    Multicultural Literacy- The knowledge and appreciation of other cultures

     Visual Literacy The ability to critically read images”

 For a closer, more interactive look click here.

If you have any further questions, or would like to add to the any of the curations above please feel free to contact me in person or online.

Let’s get started on something great in the Learning Commons today!

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Rebranding The School Library

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The idea of rebranding the school library as the Learning Commons is an interesting one, which when I first considered the thought I wasn’t sure I agreed with. My initial response was generated purely out of reaction to a headline and unsupported by any ounce of information beyond personal interpretation and experience. Removing the word library from the space just felt wrong (perhaps purely based on the romanticized feeling I have towards the library and the history I have dating back to early childhood visits). After reading through the articles and watching the video I of course understand the thinking behind the rebranding, and agree that as librarians we have to move with the times and meet today’s learners in ways that perhaps many never even considered. However, perhaps instead of issuing a completely new name we could merely hyphen it to show a merging of names, not dissimilar to a married couple where the woman doesn’t fully want to give up her last name: The Learning Commons- School Library. Or, should we take a page from Prince and try The Area formerly known as the School Library? Hmm, might be a bit much.   Enough about the name, whether it is called a school library, the learning commons, or a blend of the two, the facts should remain the same it is a place where students, teachers, and even some members of the community can come to collaborate, try new things, and build their knowledge using a variety of platforms.  

After watching a PowToon video and being nicely directed towards trying the site I thought what better way to articulate my ideas for what a successful learning commons should include.  

Here is my PowToon video:

 

Ultimately, the success of the library, or learning commons is a shared responsibility of both the librarian and the members of the school community, however, without the direction, encouragement and expertise of the school librarian it isn’t likely to meet its full potential.  So, the success perhaps is more determined by the ability of the teacher-librarian to market, communicate and facilitate the learning opportunities to both staff and students.  A big job, no doubt, but not unachievable.

 

How do you keep your School Library, or Learning Commons relevant and in high use?