Monday, 30 December 2013

What I loved in 2013

As the new year approaches, I'm reflecting on the year that was and 2013 was a great year.   Last January I had the incredible opportunity to go to High Tech High in San Diego and see a PBL campus in action.  I returned with many ideas and the realization that my school, CNB, is on the right track.  In September I found out that Jenn Craig and I had won the middle school TEAMS award.  Sponsored by Gale and LMC, part of the award was a trip to Hartford to attend AASL's conference and what an amazing experience that was!

My library program continues to evolve.  The 5 things that I loved in the library in 2013:

1.New author: Rainbow Rowell.  I discovered her books "Eleanor and Park" and "Fangirl" and immediately became a fan myself.  The conversations I have with students that have read her books are always delightful

2. Book in a series. There were many that were highly anticipated books in a series but I thoroughly enjoyed Gayle Forman's "Just One Year".

3. Web tool. I played around with Smore and suggested it to a couple of teachers who tried it and meet with success.  It's going to be the go to tool in the spring at my school.

4. Wordless books.  As a middle school librarian I don't tend to buy much in the way of picture books but I do have a rather extensive collection of wordless picture books.  We've really used these a lot in the past year from transforming to non fiction books, and using covers to inspire poetry to creating stories in French 9.

5. Professional resource.  Another hard one, but I'm really enjoying "Growing Schools: Librarians as Professional Developers"

I can't wait to see what 2014 brings.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The teacher part of teacher librarianship

I'm an old school teacher librarian.  I see myself as a teacher first and librarian second and I try not to ever forget how hard it is being a classroom teacher.  So, in this post I want to talk about the teacher part of being a teacher librarian.

For me, the teacher role of the teacher librarian can really be divided into 6 different categories.

1. Project design.  I love this part of my job.  I love collaborating with my colleagues and creating new and engaging projects.  For me, when we sit down and create a project, I try to use any time we have to hash out the details and I draft out the project during my library time.  I believe it is important to use any release time for conversations around curriculum, not word processing and formatting.

2. Teaching. I think it is important to keep teaching and I'm not talking about teaching library skills (although that is important too).  My colleagues recognize that we are team teaching when their classes are in the library.  I'll go around and help with individual student questions and I'll stop the class to teach some clarifying point if necessary.

3. Resource support.  Of course I am constantly pulling resources for teachers and finding appropriate websites to tie in with their units.  I also believe I am responsible for digital leadership.  I have the time to look at web tools, determine their usefulness, and match them up with the most suitable teacher user.

4. Behavioural support.  Seriously, I see behaviour support as falling under my umbrella.  When a teacher comes into the library, I try to take on the problem student.  I have to keep in mind that the teacher is dealing with this student all year and probably would like a break too. 

5. Assessment. I go over unit plans, plan projects, read over formative benchmarks, and design rubrics.  I think we have created common language around assessment throughout the school and have made sure that our assessment practices and the learning outcomes align.  I also do a lot of marking during the school year because it helps teachers, teachers are more likely to use the library if they know I'm helping with the marking, and it keeps me in the loop.

6. Counsellor.  If you know me, you know that I would make a lousy counsellor.  I think all non enrolling teachers are counsellors to a certain degree.  We are easily accessible for our colleagues and we understand the frustrations of the classroom.  I think this role of a sounding board is important because classroom teachers are so isolated and really need a person they can talk to at any time.

Don't get me wrong, I do say no to teachers.  And I am finding I am saying no more often and more emphatically because I want my colleagues to know that I am there to help but I am not there to take advantage of.  It certainly can be a fine line at times.  That said, I love my job and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Finding your niche

From the time I became a teacher librarian, I have had administrators suggesting different ideas for the library from changing the name to the Library Resource Centre (LRC) to piloting smartboards.  My library is still called the library and there's not a smartboard to be seen.  Now before you start thinking that I am a stubborn technophobe, let me explain.  Neither the term LRC nor smartboards fit into my vision of the library.  Indeed, neither of the examples fit with my personality and I know that even if we had changed the name to LRC, I'd still be calling it my library.  If we had installed a smartboard (where on earth would we have installed the darn thing?) it wouldn't have been used to its full potential because I didn't believe in the idea of having it in the first place.  While I do agree that libraries need to change to keep up with the times, I caution changing just for the sake of change.

We've seen rebranding the library as the 'Learning Commons' and finding space for 'Makerspaces'.  We've introduced 3D printers, loaner laptops, and ereaders.  We've seen the rise of Flipped Classrooms/Libraries, Understanding by Design and Project Based Learning.  The library landscape is one that is always changing and can be incredibly daunting and exciting at the same time.  It is important with the flurry of new initiatives and technologies that teacher librarians find what works for them and make it their own.

For me, it has taken awhile to trust my own instincts and only take on what I believe in.  I now realize that my personality is intricately intertwined with the library.  I've come to realize that if I do take on a new program, I need to ensure that I have colleague who is willing to try it too; I cannot launch new library programs by myself.   For me, I love the powerful engagement I see with Project Based Learning.  I love the potential I see in 3D printers.  And I love the unknown that is around the corner.  It's taken seven years but I think I have finally found my niche .

Thursday, 12 December 2013

3D printers and the library

For some months I had been noticing on Twitter the trend of Makerspaces in the library and that a couple of librarians have 3D printers in their public libraries and I began toying with the idea of purchasing a 3D printer for our school.  In early November I headed over to KLO Middle School in Kelowna to check out the 3D printer that they purchased back in May.  I was only at KLO for an hour, but what I saw in that hour left me in awe.

I was amazed by the size of the 3D printer and its portable nature.  I loved how quiet it was because it meant that it could run during class time because 3D printing takes time.  I also liked the looks of Google's Sketch Up as it was user friendly. I had been worried about the software getting in the way of the technology.  I left with a cookie cutter and whole bunch of ideas.

This past week saw the arrival of our 3D printer, the Afinia H series printer.  On Monday morning at 9 am I was unpacking it from it's box and by 2 in the afternoon it had already run its first creation.  I must admit, I could sit and watch the printer run all day - it simply amazes me to see something spring from what appears to be nothing.  I love the potential that there is with this machine; truly your imagination is the only limitation.  I love the wonder that I see in teachers and students.  The printer was running during lunch on Thursday and the stream of students and teachers who wandered in to just check out the printer's progress was delightful to see.  What really gets me is the conversations that occur while the print is happening.  Every conversation is about revision and what should be changed for the next time.

I'm so excited to see where 3D printing is going to fit in at our school.  I can already tell that one is simply not enough.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

My students and our future

As a teacher librarian, I get to see students in a variety of different settings: academic classes, elective classes, hanging out in the library, book club... Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of being involved in some different but interesting endeavors: the Mayor's Youth Forum, Human Library and the SoMe Summit. 

During the Mayor's Youth Forum, students talked about the need for more busses and better placement of stops.  They talked about mental health and the need for more support in the schools.  During the Human Library, students actively listened to adults talk about how they turned their passion into their careers and after class was over, students hung around to talk one on one to the adults.   And then there was the SoMe Summit, where students spoke about how everyone of us can make a difference and how social media can be the tool that we use to make that difference.

After each event, I've left filled with wonder and hope having heard our students speak.  Often we get wrapped up in the administrivia, the curriculum, the report cards, the data, and the latest initiative.  We talk about pendulum swings and lowering the bar.  We commiserate over the decline in education and wonder where the rigor has gone.  And yet, day after day, I see students in class and outside of class who are thinking, inferring, reflecting and internalizing.  I hear students speak so eloquently about their learning, their world and the world around them.

I think perhaps as educators we are too hard on the system, ourselves and our students.  It is too easy to focus on the negative and lose sight of the awesomeness that it is happening around us on a daily basis.  Because in the end, we have students who are articulating their hopes and dreams and are passionate about making a positive change in the world.  And really, what more could we possibly want from our students?

To learn more about SoMe, visit their website SoMe4Change