‘Tis the Season?

via flick https://www.flickr.com/photos/43089317@N04/8239376115/in/photolist-dy5XsT-qc8DpX-9eoN3Y-7oJC9Z-pEx4vg-puDANL-dJPoiC-aX4v9i-qeHUD-5MFdMa-4dEjTW-5Kdy93-bWiDEZ-5LkDKj-4zrYnA-bsQWGP-iBcPXb-dNadaE-vdEdsG-dybxDc-4wRe18-dxCmZZ-6Gz6jq-jr5CLZ-dD5QrL-9W586C-dog7nD-7prbXw-7EePs-4cisDD-pG8pee-aXabFR-7oW5NL-dCZry2-9Df3TD-Nz6tF-5KAysh-8YQdSQ-7bX7yM-jr7ym1-86mdJs-6XqgBt-du8LbC-9KxTHB-92NZHC-5KEAZs-8Rwdw2-4cDnWL-dJ2DxA-cDmR
“Humbug” by SK via Flickr Creative Commons license

I love Christmas. I love Hanukah. I love giving gifts, the cookies, caroling and all the other festivities that go along with this December season. But…every time that Amazon ECHO commercial comes on television I turn into Scroogette incarnate. That’s right. The hairs on the back of my cybrarian neck just stand on end, and I begin to pontificate on how tomorrow’s leaders are going to be intellectually impaired. The same reaction ensues from the Google Home equivalent. Why in the world would we want to insert in our homes a thinking device, a data-miner, and a microphone that listens to every word we say…just awaiting her name to be called (i.e., the “wake up” word)?

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Almost eighty years ago, Aldous Huxley wrote A Brave New World, in which he espoused that humans will come to love technologies that undo our capacity to think. Fast-forward 80 years and here we are embodying his theory. So here we are. We now have devices that can and do think for us. In the 1940s, what technologies did they have?  The typewriter? Morse code?

Today, impoverished children have strikes against them. They are likely arriving into kindergarten having heard merely half the vocabulary as their peers entering school from an educated home, but dare we claim that in the future their brains might be a bit better off? Will they demonstrate resourcefulness? Will they have more experience problem solving? Once they catch up with language and other skills, will they exceed children from privileged homes where they don’t need to think and where the kids have spent the mornings on their iPad swiping away or asking Alexa how to spell or what the meaning of life is? Only time will tell. Continue reading “‘Tis the Season?”

So, What Exactly Is Culture Anyway?
(And How Should We Teach It?)

cellist-playing-celloSLC is delighted to feature this guest post from author and school library luminary Randi Schmidt. Make sure to check out the links to free excerpts from her latest book on guided inquiry and the humanities research project at the end of the post!

Recently I saw the documentary film, The Music of Strangers, which explores how and why the renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, gathered together a large assortment of accomplished musicians from across the globe to form an ensemble and perform as The Silk Road Project for the past 15 years in various parts of the world.  The group first came together at the Tanglewood Music Center in western Massachusetts during the summer of 2000.  However, September 11, 2001, changed everything and transformed how people viewed the world and the interaction of different cultures.  Yo-Yo Ma saw this as an opportunity for the Silk Road Project to use culture and its diversity to create positive and trusting transformations.

Yo-Yo Ma discussed the nature of culture in the film and how culture essentially provides meaning to all human lives.  As the world experiences increasing intersections of different cultures through the proliferation of media, multicultural societies, conflict-driven movements of people across the globe, and other forms of globalization, humanity is provided with numerous opportunities to examine the essential nature of culture as it is differentiated across the globe. Continue reading “So, What Exactly Is Culture Anyway?
(And How Should We Teach It?)”

Are Your Seniors Ready for College, Career, and Civic Life?

The Presidential Citizens Medal
The Presidential Citizens Medal

School Library Connection’s own Paige Jaeger reminds us that in this political season of change, pontificating, bloviating, orating, and more…the truth gets buried deeper than normal.

Now more than ever we need to teach our students to make informed decisions— based upon evidence—and ensure that they see the link between history and real life.  Now may be the best time to ensure we understand the new College, Career, and Civic (C3) readiness.

new-picture-2Swept up in the tsunami of educational standards reform, the National Council for Social Studies completely overhauled their teaching framework so that social studies content is aligned with the Common Core (CCSS) reforms. Even if your state has not adopted the Common Core, it’s likely that they have been influenced by it. State education departments use the national standards to inform changes at the state level and it often takes a few years for the aftershocks to be felt by the students. Be ye hereby warned: The changes are massive.

It’s likely that your state will be, is currently, or has reviewed their state Social Studies Standards for alignment. Here are a few thoughts to ponder as you start the school year and begin to review possible social studies (SS) projects for alignment with new national standards.

The Arc of Inquiry

Storytelling may still be alive, but lecture is dead. There is no doubt about it—new standards want students to manipulate content, get down and dirty with the past, draw informed conclusions, and deeply uncover, discover, and understand the why behind our (hi)story.  In fact, the crafters of the C3 put it up front and center in the change.  If you are not familiar with inquiry-based learning, now is the time to embrace this learning model that fits the learning styles of the NextGen students who want to be in control. The inquiry model is defined in  “dimensions,” where students are asking questions, researching, deliberating, and making claims, all wrapped up in a knowledge product, thus making them more capable of taking informed action. Continue reading “Are Your Seniors Ready for College, Career, and Civic Life?”

Sneak Peek: Inquiry as a Lone Ranger

JaegerToday, we’re wrapping up a series of posts about creating deep learning experiences on a fixed schedule with this sneak peek of an eight-part workshop by School Library Connection’s own Paige Jaeger. Click the video below to watch. (Subscribers can view the complete workshop online here.) We know you’ll enjoy some of Paige’s ideas for leading the charge on inquiry learning as a “lone ranger” librarian. And thanks to Sue Kowalski for putting in a special request for these resources from #ALAAC16!

Inquiry as a Lone Ranger Librarian

Deep Learning Experiences within a Fixed Schedule

Fixed schedule got you feeling trapped? This week, we’re featuring a few favorites from our archive, after Sue Kowalski put in a request from #ALAAC16 for some resources to support our many colleagues on fixed schedules. Today’s article from Julie Green and Laurie Olmsted  focuses on creating deep learning experiences for second graders within a fixed schedule. Subscribers will find dozens more relevant resources at our online home and can also look forward to a great new article on this topic by Ernie Cox in the August/September 2016 issue of the magazine.

Two and a half years ago, elementary school librarians in the Birmingham Public School district had to change to a fixed schedule for half the day with kindergarten through second grade students. This change was due to cutbacks and the need for common planning time among classroom teachers. School librarians found themselves scheduled for 45-minute class periods in a four-day rotation.

As a result of this change, school librarians at the lower elementary level typically saw one kindergarten, one first grade, and one second grade class each day. After the first year, school librarians realized that they needed to develop more meaningful learning experiences for students to meet curriculum objectives and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards. Because they saw these students often and consistently, it became a rare opportunity to go beyond the basics and develop deeper concepts.

Continue reading “Deep Learning Experiences within a Fixed Schedule”

“I Can’t Do Inquiry! I’m on a Fixed Schedule!”

Sue Kowalski, one of our favorite partners in crime here at School Library Connection, put out the APB over Twitter this weekend at #ALAAC16, mentioning how much our colleagues in Orlando have been discussing the need for great resources on making the most of a fixed schedule. So this week on the blog, we’re highlighting a couple of our faves from our online archives, starting with these quick ideas from the fabulous Kristin Fontichiaro. Enjoy!

THE REALITY IN MANY SCHOOLSFontichiaro

It’s true that doing inquiry on a flexible schedule offers opportunities that a fixed schedule does not. At the same time, the budgetary pressures make flexible schedules a difficult reality.

Fixed schedule solves two problems for administrators: it facilitates release time and ensures consistent information literacy instruction. Additionally, flexible schedule only thrives in buildings with a generous and robust collaborative culture. A solo-practitioner mindset won’t take advantage of a collaborative librarian. Consider, too, that many states’ new teacher evaluation programs pose new pressures for teachers to cocoon themselves in their rooms. If a teacher’s professional future will be based, to any degree, on student test scores, then relinquishing personal control of those students poses a credible hazard. In some states, teacher evaluation scores determine class assignments; pitting colleague against colleague can further diminish reasons for collaborative work. So, let’s brainstorm alternate possibilities for those librarians wanting to achieve inquiry within their fixed schedule routines.

Continue reading ““I Can’t Do Inquiry! I’m on a Fixed Schedule!””

Three Ways to Differentiate Inquiry

author-Maniotes_Leslie1Inquiry offers many opportunities to differentiate learning. This column by Leslie K. Maniotes from the May issue of School Library Connection describes three ways to design more differentiation into your inquiry lessons: using a workshop model, increasing student voice and choice in the process, and incorporating a variety of student groupings into daily work.

Inquiry as a Workshop Model

The Guided Inquiry Workshop 1
(Kuhlthau, Maniotes,, and Caspari 2012)

Inquiry learning occurs in a workshop model. Similar to the writing workshop, a workshop provides time for students to work, and for teachers to hold conferences (Obermeyer 2015). In Guided Inquiry, each workshop session includes these basic components: Starter, Worktime, and Reflection (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012; Maniotes, Harrington, and Lambusta 2016).

The workshop model provides time for interventions outside the traditional classroom structure. Teachers confer with students during the Worktime to address individual needs and to keep students productively moving along their process, thus providing opportunities for differentiated teaching and learning. (Kuhlthau 2004; Maniotes, Harrington, and Lambusta 2016). Continue reading “Three Ways to Differentiate Inquiry”

Inquiry Infusion: Surviving and Thriving in a 1:1 Environment

Like the traveler in Robert Frost’s poem, we found ourselves standing at a crossroads—facing a transition to the 1:1 device environment. Our success however, came not through selecting only one path, but through each library following its own path towards the common destination of inquiry and information literacy. This is the story of how our district’s library program was able not only to survive the transition to a 1:1 environment, but also to thrive.

Set Your Goals

Here at Lake George Central Schools we are very fortunate to have a strong connection between the two libraries and the technology department. Together we created a shared vision of integrating technology and information literacy skills through inquiry-based instruction. This vision helps guide each school building in their integration of both inquiry and technology, and allows us to continue thriving even as faculty and technology resources change.

Build Your Basic Infrastructure

Our elementary library serves students kindergarten through sixth grade while our high school library serves students seventh through twelfth grade. Both programs are fortunate enough to have flexible schedules with collaborative lesson planning. Each library has built a web presence as well as a solid collection of resources to support students and teachers in teaching and learning through inquiry. In both libraries we use the WISE (Wonder, Investigate, Synthesize, and Express) model for inquiry, developed by the Warren Saratoga Washington Hamilton Essex BOCES (WSWHE) School Library System, to guide our instructional practice when working with teachers and students. This inquiry curriculum was used district-wide when building curriculum.

Continue reading “Inquiry Infusion: Surviving and Thriving in a 1:1 Environment”

Mary Boyd Ratzer: Knowledge Products and the Brain

The incredible Mary Boyd Ratzer will be speaking this morning at NYLA-SSL. Don’t miss it, New York readers! For the rest of our colleagues around the country, here’s her column from our November 2015 issue, in case you missed it.

If a learner’s brain could talk, it might provide some valuable advice about inquiry. Engaged learning experiences that lead to rigorous knowledge products build in dynamics that work for the brain. The outcome of brain-based teaching and learning is what Ross Todd calls formative knowledge—knowledge that hard wires and becomes the foundation for new learning. Without a knowledge product that demands synthesis and manipulation, use, and application of new knowledge, the brain’s recycle bin gets emptied in two weeks. Stopping short of a knowledge product disempowers learning experiences and learners. Just ask a candid kid about that. You will hear a tasking mindset concerned with “getting done” and giving the teacher what she wants for a grade.

Continue reading “Mary Boyd Ratzer: Knowledge Products and the Brain”

Using Images as Scaffolds for Reading Complex Text

Nov_coverApril at School Library Connection has been all about inquiry—but we’ve got inquiry on the brain all year long! In case you missed it, check out this great article from our November 2015 issue by Nicole Waskie-Laura and Susan LeBlanc on using images to scaffold learning as we move students toward the goal of reading complex texts.

Picture this: a class of students with a wide range of reading levels and abilities engaging deeply with the same introductory text. The topic and text are unfamiliar, yet the students that typically struggle to read are leading the text-based conversations. As the lesson progresses, the room buzzes with conversation as students grapple with the information in the text, ask inquisitive questions of their peers, and provide evidence-based answers.

How is it possible that all students across reading levels are independently accessing the same text? Because the introductory text is an image, allowing for the engagement of all learners. Visual texts sustain interest and help build understanding, scaffolding the reading of complex, printed text. Continue reading “Using Images as Scaffolds for Reading Complex Text”