Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thank you!

Throughout this course and my previous courses at Dominican, I have continued to be impressed by my fellow classmates and instructors. You all have much to offer and I have learned so much from you. The workshops were very helpful and provided useful tools that I can use, and our discussions have also provided some wonderful ideas that I will take with me when I enter my own school library.

This is my last class, and I know I will miss learning from all of you. I am worried about the isolation that can occur when in the school library. I hope that I continue to learn from my fellow librarians through conferences and by keeping in touch with my Dominican classmates. I do not want to lose so many great resources! (Another reason I need to move all my resources out of blackboard soon! :-))

So thank you for your insights, ideas, and tools, and I hope to keep in touch with you. Good luck in your upcoming school years!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

differentiation in the library

As a classroom teacher I was always thinking of ways to differentiate, and it was consistently a topic during English department meetings. I also knew that I would need to do it as a librarian as well, but once I started looking at the articles and research I realized one of the beautiful things about libraries. They naturally focus on differentiation. Sure, when teaching lessons, the librarian should be sure to differentiate just like any other teacher, but the library itself is a differentiation haven!

What I mean is that there are different areas in libraries that will appeal to different kinds of interests, learning styles, and skill levels. There are quiet areas for study. Sometimes there are areas where it is okay to talk and be a little louder. Additionally, there are materials and resources that appeal to all interest areas. There are different genres of books, and many school libraries have different areas for different levels. There are computers if that is of higher interest or compliments a student's learning style. The space itself is made to cater to all different kinds of interests, learning styles, and skill levels.

I always knew libraries did this, but when thinking about differentiation specifically, I was very pleased to see how much school libraries can help all students. Additionally, it is the place teachers can come for additional resources if there are students at different levels, or if they need materials to enhance the curriculum in ways that will focus on different learning styles. Overall, differentiation in the library comes quite naturally, and as a result, all students can feel comfortable there knowing that they have an area or resource that will suit them perfectly.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Jury Duty

I spent today at criminal court for jury duty (sorry again to my workshop group for having to reschedule) and was struck by the importance of teaching information literacy. It is vital for students to gain knowledge in looking at information and recognizing fact from opinion as well as bias, and understanding this will help them become a contributing member of society. It will also be important for serving on any jury.

While the judge was questioning the jurors he made sure that all of us would be able to base our verdict on the facts presented by both parties without being partial to one or the other. He also made sure that we could disregard any questions or comments made by the defense or prosecution that played upon bias. In order to recognize bias, people need to know how to look at information in such a way that they understand why the source is conveying information in a certain way and how to be able to separate fact from opinion.

As library media specialists we will provide the education necessary to better be able to evaluate information sources in order to form the most educated opinions on certain topics. These are tools for life-long learning and life-long contribution to society.

I was selected today to serve on the jury, and I wonder if my telling them that I am currently getting my masters in library science made them want me on the jury for the very reasons I explained above. Regardless, today I was reminded that we as library media specialists offer a vital service to students in educating them on how to evaluate and judge information, and I was proud to be going into the field of librarianship while I sat in the courthouse.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Collaborative Learning Communities

The first part of this week's reading that struck me was the need for media specialists to help locate information on the "invisible Web." What this means is that search engines cannot locate beyond database query pages (Stripling & Hughes-Hassel, 2003, p. 176). The example the book gives is the Library of Congress American Memory Web site. The site contains numerous primary source documents that cannot be found unless searched for within the site. If a teacher is not familiar with this recourse, they will not be able to find and use many of the helpful documents that could potentially enrich the classroom curriculum. This made me think about some of my friends and acquaintances that seemed confused about my wanting to be a librarian because "everything can be found on the internet." Clearly, unless you are quite knowledgeable about what is really out there, some great resources and information cannot be accessed. This is exaclty why having collaborative learning environments is so important. There needs to be communication between teachers, media specialists, and others in order to provide the best possible educational experience for students.

The following chapter mentioned something that has bothered me since I started my library degree. Stripling and Hughes-Hassell cite Gary Hartzell writing that "Few teacher training programs contain any systematic instruction on how librarians might improve instruction" (Stripling & Hughes-Hassell, 2003, p. 195). Not only that, but my undergraduate education courses never mentioned the librarian either. In order for there to be an improved collaborative environment, teachers must be made aware of the great resources and services the media specialist can offer. Pam actually emailed me last week after Wednesday's class to let me know that this subject was brought up while I was absent, and I wish I had been there to join the discussion on this topic.

I did see one good sign though. My husband just returned from his training for Teach for America in Chicago and he was given a book about secrets to surviving the first year of teaching and there was an entire chapter of the book about the help and services the librarian can offer! When I saw his book laying around, I had to check if it even mentioned librarians. I must say that I was very thankful that it did, but it should not be in a book about "secrets." It needs to be well-known for all teachers that media specialists are a vital component of a well-rounded educational experience for students.

Stripling, B. K. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2003). Curriculum connections through the library. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Monday, July 20, 2009

SIGMS @ the NECC conference

After watching the video for the NECC conference, I am inspired to try to do some of what was mentioned concerning web 2.0 applications. First, David Loertescher's presentation on the learning commons rather than a typcial library web page made a lot of sense. He stated that rather than the library web page being a one-way street of information, it should be a conversation between all people involved in the school community. It would be like a big wiki.
I especially liked his idea of how to treat a unit that is repeatedly taught each year. There would be a "knowledge construction center" with the unit information and sources added by different people involved, and attached to the wiki would be the teacher blog with directions where the students and specialists could comment. This would help organize and connect students so much more. They would feel better supported when away from the school, because the learning commons would always be available. I also liked the idea of having all the students put the teacher blog into their rss feed. I wish I would have thought of all these ideas when I was an English teacher!

Another important aspect of web 2.0 use in the school was mentioned that I feel students can never be reminded of enough, and that is knowing how to use the technology responsibly so they do not hurt themselves or others. They should be constantly reminded that anything they put up on the web can potentially come back to them later, and they should be sure that any pictures or videos will not have any potential negative consequences.

I also found some of what Christopher Harris spoke about to be fascinating. He is a big fan of open-source software and said that wordprocessing should be added to the learning commons page mentioned by Loertescher. He mentioned using Zoho for wordprocessing, which would make it so students could search the catalogue, collaborate with each other, and conduct other research while also having the ability to write all within the one site. This does sound very exciting, and would make it so students could work on their project from any computer at any time without worry of software compatibility or flashdrives.

Harris also said he was over the idea of a laptop for every student, and thinks there should be an iPhone or ipod touch for every student. This sounds awesome, yet I would be worried about how easily these could be lost, stolen, or broken. Maybe I'm wrong to have that worry, and his idea of each classroom having a closed and safe network on the iPhone sounds fabulous. I may have to get over such fears because the idea sounds like it could be beneficial to students' learning.

Teaching and Assesssing

When beginning the reading for this week, I was immediately struck by one of the biggest mistakes I made as an English teacher after seeing the following on page 142, "our failure to teach research as a recursive process may be, then, one decisive, if not the most decisive, element in unsuccessful literacy instruction" (Stripling & Hughes-Hassell, 2003, p. 142). As an English teacher I taught research the way my department chair instructed, or based on how the other teachers doing the same project taught. I also do not remember learning how to teach the research process when in my English education courses. We focused on literature and writing about literature, and once I started teaching, the idea of teaching research seemed very daunting to me. I remembered how I felt in high school doing research papers using the notecards and always feeling like I didn't have enough time. I didn't want to make my students feel this way, but I did. I made understanding research even more difficult becuase I did teach it in a linear fashion. Even as I taught it this way, I knew that I was leaving out a very important step in the research process. Much of the time, I felt I had to teach it in a linear way because it seemed we didn't have the time for students to constantly be going back and redoing certain parts of their research. If I did that, I'd have students all at different points in the research assignment. The thought of that freaked me out, because I was picturing some kids working very hard, going back and reworking areas that needed it. Then I pictured the kids that were able to zip right through, and I'd have to think of something for them to do without them getting too far ahead of the rest of the class.

Now I see that those fears should not have driven me to create research projects that were completed without going back to possibly find different information or look at a different topic. I also didn't have much help from the librarian during this process, and if the librarian, who is trained in teaching research, would have helped it probably would have gone much smoother.

I also agreed with the Kuhlthau model because it acknowledges that feelings of uncertainty and anxiety at the beginning of research are normal. Students should know that it is normal to feel that way, and all researchers feel that way during points during the research process. I also liked the worksheets in chapter seven. They would serve as helpful for the students and also as a means of assessing students throughout the research process.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Curriculum and Collection Mapping

In my first position as a high school English teacher, there was no curriculum map, and the only "curriculum" I was given was an old text book, the novels I was supposed to teach, and told I should do at least one big research project and one big literary analysis paper. As a first year teacher, I definitely felt lost, but the second year the school began curriculum mapping. We would post all we had taught along with the state standards and any handouts at the end of each unit. We could all access each others units and figure out where we had overlap and gaps. I loved this! I left that school after mapping one full year, so I could not reap the full benefit of having a map laid out already for the next school year. Yet, I could see how much better we could teach the students with such a tool.

After doing the reading, I love the idea of taking those curriculum maps and creating a collection map to determine the exact resources needed and when. I am an especially big fan of the WEB boxes mentioned on page 126. I think of how great it would be for both student and teacher to bring in the box full of fun books, dvds, etc. at the beginning of a new unit. It would add to the excitement of learning and truly enrich the curriculum in all subject areas. If I am able to, I would love to implement this one day.

I also like the idea that the collection maps show "how the collection was in the past, how it is in the present, and what the hopes and dreams are for the future" (Stripling & Hughes-Hassel, 2003, p. 124). This is an excellent tool to show administration why funding is needed. Having the collection map in conjunction with the curriculum maps will prove exactly where money needs to be spent as well as the effectiveness and necessity of a school library.

I also have a question for those of you already in school libraries. Can Titlewise already do something similar to this? I was observing at a school and their Titlewise representative came over with graphs that he said showed them where they were, where they needed to be, and what the ideal would be. It was something similar to this idea of the collection map. Can anyone clarify that further for me? Regardless if it can, I still think it is a great idea to create a collection map based on the school's unique curriculum in order to best serve the students.

Stripling, B. K. & Hughes-Hassell, S. (2003). Curriculum connections through the library. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.