On the slow death of a middle school library

 

Sadness

Example of the “engaging” books meant to “entice” our middle school students for the past several years.

I spent the last period of my day yesterday scavenging through the literary graveyard that was once our middle school library. The space, which has languished unattended for a few years, has officially been sentenced to obliteration in order to “re-purpose” it into a second cafeteria. As the high school librarian, I was given “first dibs” to pilfer through the musty shelves in order to snag anything worth adding to the high school collection, mainly because both schools will be sharing the HS library space and its resources next year. 

For the first six years of my employment in the district, the MS library was staffed by an aide, which was not ideal by any means but at least allowed for students to visit the space and check out books; however, the aide position was cut five years ago. Since then, the space has sat primarily unattended, unused, and filled with increasingly outdated, uninteresting, decrepit and in come cases, irrelevant materials gathering dust and mildew on shelves.

Looking through the neglected materials hurt my heart – but not nearly as much as pondering the unbelievable disservice the students themselves have been subjected to by policy makers who have not valued the importance of a having a licensed media specialist in every building. Students have not only been deprived of a professional who is trained to ignite a love of reading by tailoring suggestions relevant to individual interests and reading levels, but they were deprived of SO much more.

Librarians do not simply “check out books” to students. And in this age when students are flooded with information literally at their fingertips, librarians are more important than ever in helping them navigate, evaluate, curate, and skillfully apply their new knowledge. This Infographic is a fantastic representation of what our middle school students (and staff) have been missing in the absence of a Teacher Librarian:

teacherlibrarian

While inforgraphics are eye-catching and effective, I happen to be partial to lists. Following is a very condensed and edited version (my edits) of Joyce Valenza’s original Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians.These are the services and goals I that I work daily to provide to my learners and teachers. The same services and goals that have been absent in the education of our most vulnerable population for many years. 

Reading: The Teacher Librarian:
● Recognizes and supplies support for new ways to promote reading. Supplies learners   with audio books, Kindles, iPads,and/or Nooks
● Shares ebook apps with students for their mobile devices 
Markets, and has students share books using social networking tools like Shelfari,        Good Reads, or LibraryThing.
● Provides links on websites, blogs or social media to available free ebook collections.
● Works with learners to create and share digital book talks or book trailers.
● Is the information expert in the building. Shares and teaches an ever growing and    shifting array of research tools with both students and staff.
● Teaches evolving strategies for collecting information, including tags, hashtags, RSS feeds, Evernote, Google Docs, as well as traditional database searching,
Organizes Web resources for your learning community. Curates resources on blogs, websites,  Facebook page, or other portals.
● Integrates dynamic interactive features into the “Flipped” virtual 24/7 library using  Google calendars, photo galleries, surveys, polls, videos, avatars, and other tools as ways to interact with and provide outreach to students, parents and community members.

Communication, Collaboration, and Publishing
Includes and collaborates with learners. Fills both physical and virtual space with student work—their videos, original music, poetry, and art. Uses digital publishing tools to help students share and celebrate their written and artistic work.
Understands that a library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make, collaborate on, and share stuff.

Facilities, your physical space
● Knows the physical space is about books and WAY MORE than books. Welcomes and creates space for, media production—podcasting, video production, producing and presenting.
Partners with and teaches with other teachers both in their classrooms and virtually via email, chat, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Remind101 and websites.

Access , Equity, Advocacy
● Works to bridge the new digital divide: those who have access to new tools for creation and publishing and those who do not. Also, those who can effectively find quality information in all media formats, and those who cannot.
● Ensures that all students have access to readings appropriate for their differentiated needs.
Partners with classroom teachers to design and implement technology, research and information literacy lessons, 

Audience and Collaboration
● Helps student see that they have the potential to make social, cultural, and political impact by sharing their work and ideas globally on powerful networks.
● Views tools like Skype and Google Hangouts as ways to open the library to authors, experts, book discussion, debates, and more.
Uses and teaches students and staff new tools for collaboration. (GoogleDocs, Edmodo, Voicethread, Animoto, Smore,  Socrative, TikiToki, EasyBib, Padlet, iMovie, WeVideo, and MORE)

Copyright and Information Ethics
● Teaches students to care about and monitor their digital footprints and to develop academic–NOT invisible --ones.
● Models respect for intellectual property.
● Lead students to web-based citation generators and note-taking tools and instruct them in their use.
● Teaches about and leads students and staff to copyright friendly portals for images, music, and information.

New Technology Tools
● Considers mobile devices to be learning tools, storage devices and reference sources. Establishes classroom or library academic guidelines and norms for use of personal mobile devices during the school day.
● Considers your role as info-technology scout. Makes “learning sense” of new tools used in business and academics. Figures out how help teachers and students use them thoughtfully.
● Knows that students will find ways to access their social media accounts despite efforts to block them. Accordingly, plans meaningful ways to incorporate social networking.

Professional Development 
● Builds a personal/professional learning network using social networking tools and share these resources with staff
Guides colleagues in setting up their own professional learning networks.
Shares new knowledge and curriculum tools/resources with staff using tools like Diigo, Symbaloo, YouTube, Edudemic, Edmodo, Schoology,INFOhio, and Twitter

Teaching and Learning and Reference
● Helps students learn to evaluate information in all formats and guides them to make information decisions, and to evaluate all of their information choices.
● Understands that exploration and freedom are key to engaging students.
● Ensures that the library provides an independent learning environment that connects students and teachers in a social, digital, community.
Leads and looks ahead for what is coming down the road in order to benefit  for ALL learners.

Next year, I will be providing services to both the high school (9-12) and middle school (6-8) populations. Since the space will not increase, I will spend the summer restructuring the high school library environment, revising scheduling procedures, weeding resources in order to make room for 6-8 appropriate resources, cataloging new resources, and hoping to receive a budget generous enough to make the transition worthwhile to the populations I will be serving. While I am the singular library staffer, and while I also teach two Theater classes during the school day, this is, again, not an ideal situation, but it is better than districts that provide No services.

My hope is that with the increasing digital technology, global collaboration, and information literacy skills required to be college and career ready, the policy makers will recognize the necessity to fund the professional personnel infrastructure to help our students thrive.

Treasure?

The “treasure” salvaged from the middle school library shelves. Nothing newer than 2007.

 

Video

Celebrating resilience

All educators and policy makers need to watch this TED talk by teacher Clint Smith, a beautiful testament that draws attention to the “false, one-dimensional narratives” so often perpetuated about our students.
“So often we focus so much on the quicksand, that we fail to see what has refused to drown”
“No one can define who we are if WE are the ones holding the dictionary.”

Genius Hour + Student Talent = Success!

Every Wednesday our school runs on an altered “Activity Period” schedule that allots 30 minutes for organizations/clubs to meet. Along with standard organizations like student council, class officers, and National Honor Society, teachers also volunteer to host clubs or activities in their rooms that are geared toward students’ interest. This year’s include chess club, guitar club, computer club, knitting club, writer’s circle, and literature club. Not everyone has a place to go each week, and not every club meets every week, so we also try to offer programming and invite students who are not already committed to another meeting to try something different. 

Today, we invited students to enjoy performances by their peers who volunteered to share their singing, music, and poetry at an open mic. The even was organized by one of my students as part of her genius hour project. She set a one dollar admission fee, and the money raised will be donated to help USMC Sgt. Charlie Linville climb Mt. Everest as part of the Heroes Project.

The best part of being part of something like an open mic is how amazing it is to discover students’ hidden talents. Today, the audience truly enjoyed the event, and our assistant principal even requested print copies of students’ original poems because he was so impressed by them. Overall, we all left the auditorium imbued with the spirit of the event theme: HOPE. 

audience IMG_5233

More Google Goodness!

Last week I shared the Docs add-ons EasyBib and Table of Contents. Joyce Valenza highlights more of the most useful Google Apps Add-Ons for education in her NeverEnding Search blog:

Among the launch partners of most use in classrooms and libraries are:

  • EasyBib’s Bibliography Creator: allows you to search EasyBib and generate citations in MLA, APA or Chicago Manual of Style formats.
  • Thesaurus: highlight a word and synonyms appear in a sidebar box to the right of your document
  • UberConference: seamlessly organize a Web conference within Google Docs
  • Table of Contents: creates a clickable table of contents in a sidebar box
  • OpenClipArt: Find clipart from among more than 50,000 images and click on an image to insert it into your document
  • Kaizena Shortcut: opens your document immediately in the audio feedback app
  • ProWriting Aid:  offers a plagiarism, redundant phrases and grammar check
  • Template Gallery: allows you to select document formats, for instance: resumes, letters, invoices, calendars, planners, attendance sheets
  • Track changes: Manage the editing process when collaborating on a document
  • LucidChart: create and insert flowcharts, mind maps, and diagrams directly into your document
  • Calculator: a simple calculator appears in the right sidebar for help with basic math

Note:  Add-ons are not available for Google Spreadsheets unless you’ve installed the Google Sheets refresh.

Streamlining the standards with Google tools

As an avid user of Google Docs both personally and with my students, I was thrilled when Chrome released a suite of tools that work within a Google Document. Our juniors, who have been working on research essays, became enthusiastic users of the Easy Bib add-on the day after it was released!

In this age of standards-based assessment and lesson planning, I also suggest a use for the Table of Contents app that has helped me streamline finding and using standards in my lesson plans and rubrics. I look forward to finding other uses for other apps as well. Thank you, Google!

 

In this video, I use the incredibly fun app, Tellagami to introduce the Easy Bib tool:

Have fun exploring these new productivity tools with your students!

 

Mad City Money!

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Today, over 100 senior students participated in a real-world financial decision-making simulation sponsored by two local credit unions. The hands-on simulation, called Mad City Money, “gives youth a taste of the real world – complete with occupation, salary, spouse, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments.”

Students arrived in the library and received a fictional profile that included their occupation, income, family, and specific debt. They then visited merchants, (staffed by credit union volunteers and other community members) to select housing, transportation, food, household necessities, clothing, day care, and other wants and needs while building a budget. To troubleshoot, ask for guidance or invest money, they could visit their local credit union table as well. At the end of the 2 hour simulation, their goal was to have no debt, and to have money invested in savings or other investments.

The simulation allows participants to make mistakes, and troubleshoot the consequences of their decisions in a realistic, educational environment. Students were surprised to learn the true costs of housing, insurance and other necessities, especially when the expenses of children, day care and/or college loan debt was added. 

I loved walking around observing and overhearing students stand up against pressure tactics from the “Entertainment” table by saying things like, “I do NOT need to go to Hawaii. My kid is fine wearing hand-me-downs and I have loans to pay off.”  Of course, there were also those who allowed themselves to be wooed by Mustangs, Flat screens and nights out, only to be approached my Mr. Sheets and his Fate Cards, which ranged from “Your prize orchids won the $500 grand prize” to “You woke up to find your car vandalized, your tires slashed, and your laptop stolen. Deduct $500 from your checking account.”

Overall, it was the kind of simulation/education I wish I had had before I graduated from college, rented a swank apartment I couldn’t afford, purchased a computer on a credit card, and proceeded to practically starve as I sold my plasma to pay the interest on the computer. Four years later, I finally paid it off — for a grand total of over $4000!

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