School Librarians and K-12 Online/Blended Learning

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article every work day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 9: Operations and Management

“School Librarians and K-12 Online/Blended Learning: Moving Critical Conversation beyond the Medium” by Lucy Santos Green and Kathryn Kennedy. School Library Connection, May 2016.

Much of the professional discussion surrounding our role as school librarians focuses on the ever-changing and flexible nature of the job. School librarians have quickly added a large list of technological responsibilities: maintaining a school website, delivering professional development on technology tools, coordinating school-wide BYOD programs, establishing computer coding camps, and more. Change in the profession has also resulted in change in the library space itself. The Learning Commons movement is still going strong, while makerspaces invite students to explore, create, and contribute their own artifacts and experiences to the library collection. One particular aspect of education, K-12 online and blended learning, is quickly and quietly impacting school librarianship, and yet, professional discussion of this topic remains minimal.

Brenda Boyer, a school librarian in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, and a leading voice on the topic of school librarianship and K-12 online/blended learning, passionately explains why school librarians must engage in this critical conversation: “Libraries need to meet learners where they are, and where they are is on their laptops, tablets, and phones. To remain relevant in the lives of our digitally connected students, school libraries must be both available and useful” (Boyer 2016, 4). Continue reading “School Librarians and K-12 Online/Blended Learning”

Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction (April 2017 Issue)

Subscribers: Browse our April 2017 bonus online issue at SLC online! In this issue, we explore how you can collect and use data to improve your library practice, advocate for your library program, and make your instruction more meaningful and effective.


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Table of Contents

Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction

Leading Positive Change through Strong Relationships and Communication By Priscille Dando

Thinking Outside the Lesson Plan Box: Designing Quick, Multi-layered Assessments By BJ McCracken

Developing a Meaningful Self-Assessment/Evaluation Instrument in Georgia By Phyllis Robinson Snipes Continue reading “Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction (April 2017 Issue)”

The Power of Yes

We’re thrilled to welcome Leslie Preddy as our new Instructional Leadership Topic Center Editor. She brings with her years of experience as a librarian and active involvement in professional organizations as well as a tireless devotion to promoting reading among children everywhere. Please join us in welcoming Leslie to the fold and read on to find out what makes Leslie so successful at what she does.

Everything wonderful to happen to me professionally is because I said yes. Yes to opportunity. Yes to chance. Yes to appropriate change. Yes to developing new skills. Yes to engaging in new experiences. Yes to new additions to my professional learning network. Embracing the role of Instructional Leadership editor for School Library Connection is an exciting event in my life that has already helped to enrich my life both personally and professionally.

Situational Awareness

The U.S. Coast Guard defines situational awareness as “the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.”* Professionally, our team consists of school library educators, school library staff, our building staff, and the youth we serve. The mission is to prepare our youth for a future of learning, reading, and engagement within their community and throughout their lives. To get there, we can’t continue to be who we were and do what we did. We must evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities and profession. Sometimes that means change for the library. A few years ago I realized my students’ reading motivation and abilities were deteriorating. I seized this opportunity to lead some action research within my building where we found a way to successfully engage our students and increase their time spent reading, reading interest, and reading scores on standardized tests. We knew that being situationally aware meant sharing what we had learned with other educators: through articles, resources, a book, and many conference presentations with the school librarian and classroom teachers collaboratively presenting and sharing our successful program and process. When situationally aware, there is recognition for  change, need, or action, whether at the building, local, state, national, or international level, and putting together a team and action plan to do something about it. Continue reading “The Power of Yes”

Beyond the Election: Teaching Civics in 2017

“An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” —Thomas Jefferson

Being an informed citizen involves more than just staying current on the issues. Now more than ever, it is important that students also understand how our government operates and what powers are given to specific branches and the people who constitute those offices, from the federal level down to the county level and to the voters themselves. In this article from our February issue, Carrie Ray-Hill and Emma Humphries discuss the great resources available at iCivics that make learning about our government both interesting and fun.
Subscribers can see all of the February online issue here.

For educators across the nation, a presidential election represents a teachable moment—a months-long period in which the nation’s attention is predictably focused on the lead up to one singular event. Everything we see—news coverage, spot ads, even car commercials—are themed for this time of year. It is relatively easy to create in-school connections to the interesting, relevant, and often controversial content that the election season produces. But what about when the election is over?

The political conversation does not go away; it merely evolves from a laser focus on the horserace to an under-the-microscope examination of the new president’s activities: the inauguration, the cabinet building, the first foreign visit, the first state dinner, and so on. Just like a presidential election, the president’s first six months in office, especially those critical first 100 days, also represent a nationwide teachable moment, except even better! Why? Because there are many more lessons about our government and political system to be found after the confetti settles.

The president is not the only new elected official settling into his or her new desk in January. Countless new members of Congress, governors, state legislators, and local government officials are sworn in and expected to quickly learn the job…on the job. Indeed, elections are the only type of competition in which the prize is awarded before all of the hard work is done. After the long lead up to the election and all of the media and hype surrounding it, it’s easy to think of the election as an ending; but it’s only just the beginning! Continue reading “Beyond the Election: Teaching Civics in 2017”

Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events

Digital image courtesy of the Getty‘s Open content Program

The school library calendar is filled with events that are focused on both the library and literature: Banned Books Week, Banned Websites Awareness Day, Digital Learning Day, Read Across America, and School Library Month, to name a few. National organizations set the date these initiatives are to be held and library programs provide displays or sponsor programs to support the goals of these events. These efforts clearly fit into our responsibilities as program administrators who ensure that “all members of the learning community have access to resources that meet a variety of needs and interests” (AASL 2009, 18).

Getting beyond Months and Days

What may not be quite as clear is the school librarian and library program’s role in relationship to heroes, holidays, and special events that are not specific to the library. For example, “multicultural months,” such as African-American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month, are celebrated according to the calendar in many schools and communities around the country. Spotlighting religious holidays may also cause challenges for school libraries. Some librarians may even wonder about the wisdom of the library being known for other special events such as “Poetry Month” or “National History Day.” Should these genres in our collection receive little attention except during their month or on a particular day?

The American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” is clear about our charge to “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill). While heroes, holidays, and special events have a place in the academic program of the school, how can we help ensure that “diversity” is not simply something our school is checking off its list? What are some alternatives to these practices and how can school librarians take a leadership role in guiding our schools toward an integrated model rather than an additive model for diversity? Continue reading “Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events”

What’s Important to Teach from the New MLA 8th?

new-picture-13The familiar MLA Handbook changed recently, taking a new approach to bibliographic citations. Are you prepared? In this installment of her column Adding Friction: How to Design Deliberate Thinking into the Research Process, Debbie Abilock tells you what you need to know about introducing MLA 8th to your students.

Subscribers can see more of Debbie’s columns here.

The preface to the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook (MLA) argues that accurate citation is more important than ever. Writers owe their readers precise pointers to the sources they use since “documentation is the means through which scholarly conversations are recorded (MLA Handbook x).  Yet digital sources migrate, merge, and mutate. It has become increasingly difficult to identify “the” original—or if a copy is faithful. Nor is generic credit sufficient. Only precise documentation enables “a curious reader, viewer, or other user to track down your sources” and evaluate “whose work influenced yours” (MLA Handbook 126).

Hand in hand with this new emphasis on precision, the handbook proclaims new flexibility. Rather than continue MLA 7th’s prescriptive models which itemize distinctive citations for each source type, MLA 8th proposes a series of principles in Part 1 to guide writers in identifying the common elements (author, title, etc.) among sources, a framework which can accommodate future “modes of academic writing” (MLA Handbook xiii). MLA’s new mantra: capture the information available, rather than require information that is not. The result is Lego-like assembly of core content elements grouped into nested “containers” (e.g., a website, anthology, database aggregator, digital archive) that modularly build a “reliable data trail for future researchers” (MLA Handbook ix). Continue reading “What’s Important to Teach from the New MLA 8th?”

Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks!

Image courtesy National Park Service/Tim Rains
Image courtesy National Park Service/Tim Rains

The National Park Service is celebrating the 100th birthday of our national parks. In case you missed it, BJ McCracken discusses a climate change unit taught at Great Falls (Montana) High School and how schools can—and should—play a central role in educating students to be well-informed and proactive citizens.

Subscribers to SLC can read more articles like this by visiting School Library Connection.

Glacier National Park had 125 recorded glaciers in the 1850s. Today there are 25 glaciers. It is predicted they will all disappear by 2030.

Citizenship and an individual’s responsibilities to society and global well-being should be a purposeful part of all curricula, not just social studies. There is a social contract within democracy that requires individuals to be informed citizens who seek quality information especially when determining what to believe in situations involving conflicting viewpoints. Basic citizenship skills should include knowing how to locate quality information, being able to apply that information to problem analysis or solutions, and using critical thinking skills. These are used in daily life.

Verb Citizens

This idea of personal responsibility for national or global issues and that an individual’s personal decisions can affect society, is often a foreign concept to freshman high school students. While they may have encountered concepts such as social contracts, citizenship, and stewardship in an abstract way, they often do not see what they personally can do to make a difference. In other words, these concepts are perceived as nouns, not verbs.  And unfortunately, education too often fails to clearly identify and emphasize that the choice to be a well-informed citizen is central to being an active citizen in a democratic society. Making the choice to be informed is just as proactive as choosing to recycle. Both actions require intent and effort. Education should be modeling the same intent and effort to proactively promote citizenship as an ongoing process of making informed choices.

Our Foundations of Science teacher at Great Falls (Montana) High School, Beth Thomas, wanted her climate change unit to move beyond the mechanics of science and into that awareness of personal citizenship responsibilities. To implement this unit she pulled together a collaborative planning and presentation team that included a literacy specialist, a classroom technology specialist, and what she calls an information specialist, the librarian. One of the team goals was to assist students in viewing themselves as “verb” citizens. Continue reading “Happy 100th Birthday to the National Parks!”