Thursday, March 27, 2014

'Got AIR?

When Nike launched their "Air" brand, the word became synonymous with 'height'   and achievement --thanks to Michael Jordan.  That had nothing to do with a reading program, but perhaps we can leverage the positive association in our Acountable Independent Reading (AIR) programs.   Another acronym has been added to our educational alphabet soup.  Our state has just recommended the use of an AIR, to help close the achievement gap. 

All over the web and on great Pinterest Boards you can find reading incentive programs intended to inspire kids to read.  (Such as this one:  Click here.)  However, the growing trend, or focus, is on reading incentive programs which include: student self-assessment; student self-selection; student self-motivation;  and independent accountability.  Students however, need a framework.  They need a skeleton.  They need a plan.  They need direction, perhaps.  They need a reason.  They need a goal and more.  We librarians know that all too well.    

As a vital link to closing the achievement gap, reading has always been front in center in the elementary years.  However, all the mandates of assessment dare we say, have pushed this vital skill off its pedestal and into the background.   Programs such as RIF or 1000 books club are still as vital as they were years ago.  If you are at the elementary level, insure that your district has implemented a connection to the community if possible.  Locally, our Barnes and Noble does a book drive every holiday season towards our local 1000 book clubs.  Last year our elementary libraries received over 3000 books for their clubs, courtesy of generous B & N customers.   Contact your local bookstore to inquire whether they would do this. 
Thanks to Saratoga B & N for their donations! 

Pictured below are students in a local rural district holding their new "Passports to Reading"  which we recently aligned with the shifts of the CCSS to increase reading of nonfiction, spotlight vocabulary, and find meaning.   Feel free to download and print this document if you are looking for a program for summer reading or for next year.   We printed over 5000 copies of these passports for our local elementary library programs.  Kids bring them to the library weekly.    Our 'passports' were tweaked from the Macy's sponsored reading program from NYC.  Attribution is given on the back cover of our modified version.   You may find the link to this PDF, for downloading  here:  Click. 

(Photo had all parents approval for posting...) 

We realize there are "electronic versions" of rating and accountability such as GoodReads, Opals and Follett "star rating" features, etc., but there is something kids find special and novel about holding this paper booklet.  It also requires no connection at home.  

So put on your thinking caps and plan a program for this summer or for next school year!  Use this to increase your visibility.   Brainstorm any great reading incentive program for your area.  Feel free to share links or ideas below!  Here's one I found yesterday:  "Iditeread"!   Click Here.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

SMART Goals for Visibility:

From time to time I am asked about the "research" behind the efficacy of the school librarian.   I want to take a quick minute to post some of the best resources here for those that may need to share these with budgetary decision makers.  (Listed below) 

In this issue of Scholastic's Administrator, I have a short article entitled: Your Hidden Asset.  Let's hope we're not too hidden! (I did not choose the title).  Now, we know that too many administrators just don't frequent your library doors, and Scholastic meant that title figuratively, but let's make it our goal to insure we are seen and heard.   The research will not do you much good if you are not connecting to the classroom, kids, and being visible with your principal.   Consider some Spring SMART goals for visibility.  Here are a few examples:

One of our local elementary librarians, Jen , advocated for bags to enable her to send home 5 books with each student this summer.  She works in a high-needs district and commented, "I know some will be lost, but I don't care.  We have to work to reduce the summer slide and I know many kids have no books at home."   She said she is planning on telling the kids to share and to bring them back.   This will be the first year of this program so it will be interesting to see the data on what is lost.  Dare we say it will be a small cost compared to the lost reading ground retained?   

To find other ways to be seen and hear, order a copy of Make a Big Impact @ Your School Board Meeting.   - From Libraries Unlimited. 

Here are a list of the white papers for advocacy and more: 

  • American Association of School Librarians (n.d.). Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students.  Click here 

  • American Association of School Librarians (2012).  School Libraries Count:  National Longitudinal Study of School Library Programs.    A report of the annual online survey of school library programs in the United States. Findings  indicate that despite cuts in many areas, school library programs remain consistently strong.  However, the survey also indicated that the number of computers outside of the library with networked access to services has significantly increased.   The trend is to increase remote access  to library licensed databases.
  • American Library Association (2007). Libraries Connect Communities: Public Library Funding and  Technology Access Study 2006-2007.    This survey of technology access in libraries throughout the United States demonstrates that  technology is attracting larger numbers of people to public libraries each year. It includes  information on children as consumers of technology, especially as users of databases that help with  homework.

  • American Librarian Association (n.d.). Add It Up: Libraries Make the Difference – Talking Points. These advocacy documents provide readers with talking points in favor of funding of public and school libraries. Public library  School library
  • Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (2010; 2011).  The New Jersey Study of  School Libraries:  One Common Goal-LearningExecutive summaries of an intense two-phase study of school libraries in the New Jersey educational  program indicating that libraries and librarians contribute to the intellectual life and development of students in complex and diverse ways.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Internet @ 25: Prime of its' life or problems brewing?

The Internet is arguably about the most revolutionary tool invented (or which has evolved) in our lifetime.  At 25,  humans are no longer a fledgling, but ready to fly.  Is the Internet ready to fly?  Or, we know it? 

Your students could examine the Infographic below, and use the essential questions to conduct a short term research assignment and build an evidence-based-claim.    The CCSS challenges instruction to spawn thinkers.  What better opportunity do we have than examining the information beast that our Millennials love? They might be surprised to find out people like me spent $3000.00  in 1980's  to purchase an IBM  XT with a 10 MG hard drive (which was not even connected to the Internet yet).  That's less than 30% of a flash drive which sells for about $20.00 now, and we carry that in our pocket.  

Essential Questions such as:

  • Will you define the Internet, or be defined by it? 
  • How has the Internet changed our society for the good or bad? 
  • How will the future be impacted by further development of the Internet? 
  • Is the Internet our friend or foe?  
will help your students think critically about a tool they use ubiquitously.  

Carpe Diem! -- Let us think! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sloganize Your Research!

Today while virtually chatting with a colleague, she shared that she was still looking for a great graphic to represent our "Research Ambassador"  program.   We are turning out capable research change-agents and are proud of the role our Cybrarians are playing in transforming low-level-lame research units into deep learning endeavors that are aligned with the goals of the Common Core.    

We can view the Common Core as instruction that librarians have been advocating for over that last ten years.  Whether you are in a CCSS state, or not, the anchor standard, research to build and  "present knowledge," is a great goal.  Why else do research?  To sit on the findings?  To merely write a paper?    Research without presentation, is like a jeweler buying a gem and not putting it in a ring. 

When kids used to complete their research early in my library, I would differentiate the assignment and ask them to "sloganize" their findings.  If it were a biography, I'd ask them to get to the heart-and-soul of that person and create a slogan they might use in advocacy.    If it were an explorer, I'd ask them to choose three words that would best describe that person.  Or, to sum up the findings of their [issue] such as homelessness, I may have asked them to find a saying for their thesis. 

Having just finished reading  Sheinkin's book, The Bomb, I was wondering what Sloganizer would come up with if I tried to summarize Oppenheimer's mission.  I brainstormed three words that Oppenheimer might have chosen:  fusion finish first.   Here's what Sloganizer came up with for Robert Oppenheimer: 

This simple fun task can wrap up a "project" that may be less-than-stellar.  If a teacher hasn't collaborated and the kids are merely completing a deadly "packet,"  It instantly gives them a crumb at the top of Bloom's taxonomy. To summarize and create an enduring understanding is a tough task.    If you type that into the sloganize box, you can continue to hit the button until you get one of 500 them and variations you may like.  Here's what Patrick Henry might have chosen: 

While I chatted with a colleague via email,  I thought of using the old tool that I would send kids to for this purpose.  I wanted to come up with some short slogan to add to our Research Ambassador's bootcamp.  Here's a sampling of what sloganizer created. 


So while I may not have found a graphic, I am close to a slogan!  
 From these I may choose a hybrid...  Research  Builds Brains and Empowers People

Have some fun today, and ask your students where else they could use this?  What would your inventor have sloganized for his invention?  What would the main character of the book have advocated for?  - Choose the English Tab 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Can your students think?

Yesterday I talked with a Superintendent in Pennsylvania, and he was complaining how kids can't think.   "They cut and paste, they want to fill in the blank and that's it,"  he said.  "We need problem solvers and our teachers are merely conveying content." 

Later, President Obama agreed with him when he made this statement in the State of the Union address: 
 "Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy – problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math.  Some of this change is hard.  It requires everything from more challenging curriculum and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test.  But it’s worth it – and it’s working."  

If you are wondering just how to get there, let me suggest this book.  We believe it lays out the principles of student-centered Inquiry Based Learning in an easily-digestible format.  If you wonder how you can get this message to your teachers, you may wish to read this and tab a page or two for a teacher to read.   Every page has an essential curriculum planning question at the top, and if you read that section, you should be able to understand that concept.  Some examples are:
 EQ:  How do your foster engagement and student ownership?  EQ: How does a knowledge product differ from an information product?  EQ:  What's the scoop on text-dependent questions (TDQ's)  and 33 more.  

Included in the book are 99 Essential Questions to help you craft student research projects for higher-level thought. It is high-time to repackage our content to get to the top of Blooms and beyond. Create a curriculum-aligned Essential Question to compel students to "uncover and discover," rather than merely standing and "covering" content.   
This book can be ordered on Amazon or directly from ABC Clio: click here  

I was privileged to work with NYS legend, Mary Ratzer on this book.  We thank all our colleagues and mentors who have taught us and led us down this Inquiry journey.  You may say this is self-serving, but in reality we are serving our students and doing them a disservice if we don't move beyond rote and recall or copy and paste assignments.  Join the journey today. 

We are available for PD in your area, if you need a hands-on day for librarians.    Here is one just one on many email feedbacks we receive.  This one from a day in Kentucky: 

'just want to thank you for the awesome PD yesterday.  I learned so much!!  At first I was kind of bummed at staying all day because I have so much to do here, but it was worth every minute J

Library Media Specialist
Beaumont Middle School

Thursday, January 23, 2014

You Tube Videos as Knowledge Product Models?

Every January we hear, view, and get solicitations for the "best of 2014" this-and-that, and I find all these intriguing.  The popularity contests in media are a barometer of cultural values. They speak volumes about what issues are beleaguering Americans; what speaks to people; where values lie; and what people are worried about.     

As I reviewed this blog posting about You Tube's Most Popular Educational Videos, I couldn't help ask...why?   In watching these great videos my mind went into overdrive thinking how these could be used to compel secondary research projects that are CCSS aligned.

When the new SS standards were released, it was interesting to note the pervasive message that kids should "research to build and present knowledge."  Students expect to do research in our schools, but what teachers lack with CCSS alignment is allowing students to creatively present their findings.    

Many teachers still are operating in the mode that students must deliver research in a written report--that will be fed into the anti-plagiarism tools  for which the districts have paid plenty of money. Dare I say that if our student's knowledge product was in the form of a video, song, infographic,  compelling speech, drama, script or some other
 Howard-Gardner-Approved format that we wouldn't have to worry about plagiarism?  

Why couldn't we ask our students to present their knowledge in this format?  

Here are a half - dozen  questions that could inspire open-ended Inquiry-Based research units eventually begging for a YouTube Instructional video - Students could create an evidence-based-claim for anyone of these: 

EQ:  Why is your chemical element important to the world?   (This could follow a close reading of the book,  The Disappearing Spoon for CCSS alignment.) 
EQ:  Why is your life better because of the scientific research which has been done for [your chosen scientific topic]? 
EQ:  Why is your life significantly better because of the Enforcement Acts of the 1870's?  
EQ:  Why does Ulysses S. Grant deserve to be on the $50.00  dollar bill?    (Reconstruction) 
EQ:  Why should we care about what we eat?  (This could follow a book such as, The Omnivore's Dilemma
EQ:  Why is the old phrase "The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil"  so apropos today - and how was this manifested in our American History? 

Unbelievable statistics below from YouTube.   If our kids are living online, you are likely to get instant engagement if you require an Evidence-Based Claim in the form of a movie.  

Insure that your students give citations  (i.e. "credits") which will add value and rigor to their movie evidence based claim. 


  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that's almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3x since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4x since last year

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Building Bridges: Collection to Classroom

Am I the only one who is disturbed to read national postings such as this? 

A small  classroom library serves a purpose of convenience and ease, but cannot match the quality and quantity and recommendations from a well-supported, well-maintained school library.  This just keeps kids in the classroom-silo that much more. 
  • Don’t we want them to experience more than a garage sale special collection sitting on a shelf in a classroom?   
  • Don’t we want them to move beyond their “J” of “E”  straight-jacket reading?  
  • Don’t we want them to enlarge their world beyond the teacher’s choice?

We have notables such as Kelly Gallagher speaking all around the nation espousing the need to build robust classroom libraries which most often duplicate resources found on the shelves in libraries.  When he spoke here and we confronted him on statements, he did recant and say that classrsoom shelves cannot replace a great library.  When I read this infographic posted above, about classroom libraries, it brought Gallagher’s conversation back to mind. (I love Gallagher's books, but recommend collaboration with the librarian.) 

While I commend Jeff @edudemic for wanting to foster a wonderful reading environment, I caution him against circumventing the robust collection of his building library and the expertise that the librarian has in building, maintaining and circulating their collection. 

Building Bridges: 
Chris Harris, a colleague,  suggested once to circulate the library collection to the classrooms, and that would be a better avant-garde solution to this model.  At least the library would be involved in the process. 

So, if your teachers are in this “classroom library” mode as espoused in many books, here are 7 ideas to keep you in the loop: 

  1. Rotate some of your captivating nonfiction, -good fictions that are sleeping, and other titles to fill this need.  
  2. Deliver them with "stars" on the cover and market them as 5-star books!   
  3. Slip bookmarks in the books which suggest they log into the library catalog and create a book recommendation when they're done.
  4. Offer to do the booktalks for the teacher. 
  5. Suggest a technology integration for book trailers when they're done. 
  6. Give the teacher pre-printed library passes for reluctant readers.  When you see that "hot colored" pass, you know it's a clue the student needs extra help.  
 Don’t worry about the losses.  Get those kids reading.   Add value to the classroom process.  Build those classroom bridges and maybe the next time they will come to you for information and collaboration.  When they see you have more to offer, they’ll seek you out….possibly. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Metaliteracy, Megaliteracy and Information Literacy!

Last week our local colleges and universities held a conference around METALITERACY.   Transliteracy has a partner--metaliteracy.  Reaction panel member, Richard Fogarty (History, University at Albany) shared that meta means "larger" or what comes after, and that is where our conversation finds us.  After years of talking about "transliteracy," the literacy ecosystem has evolved to metaliteracy.   This is a large habitat that is not endangered. As an afternoon reaction panel member, I had the opportunity of sharing the K-12 College and Career Readiness piece of this conversation.  Whether we are working in the K-12 environment or higher education, we are all in the same boat.  The learners of the 21st Century are not those of the 1960's and our pedagogy must include adaptations.   

I created this infographic to summarize the day's conversation and encourage educators at all levels to understand this paradigm shift.  If you need to know more, follow the links on the infographic to  or create your own local PLC to uncover and discover what this is all about and embrace this in your information literacy instruction. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Information Fashion Show: subtle faux pas

Library resources are imperative.  
Information databases are wonderful. 
Resources for research may be impressive... Your shelves are filled. But, as librarians we need to move beyond our information fashion shows and start walking the runway with talk about the research process. We live in an information-ubiquitous world, or perhaps a misinformation-ubiquitous world, and our patrons (students and teachers) will not necessarily be impressed with your resources. They  may reply, "Well I can find just as good stuff on Google, Bing, SweetSearch, or other information valets. So, I'll politely listen and then go do what I want."    

We sat at a luncheon at AASL and I couldn't help noticing how no one was paying attention to the speaker when they were telling us what we already knew.  As soon as someone started talking about topics we hadn't heard about (the research behind students' online searching behavior), they had everyone's attention.  That is where we as librarian-leaders need to head:  We need to start talking about the process of research and how that has to change.    

  • Kids have changed
  • Curriculum has changed 
  • Resources have changed, and ...
  • Research has changed 
 When you start talking about 21st Century research needs, people may listen.   

The Common Core gives us the opportunity to invite teachers to the research table.  Get your lines ready:  "Did you know Research to build and present knowledge is an anchor standard?  How can I help you meet that?"   "Did you know that students need Essential Questions to drive research reports, rather than 'information seeking' opportunities?" 

Give your teachers a holiday present this season and move beyond being a resource reservoir--model the research triage they need.   Here is a link for our teacher self-assessment tool used to awaken ah-ha moments with teachers: click here.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Removing the Guilt of Excessive Calories...and reforming research tasks

'Tis the season to spend money, eat too much, shortchange our sleep, and remember our abundant blessings.  As I contemplate which flavor pie to bake, I am reminded that people are still recovering from Super Cyclone Haiyan and living in shelters.  With 2.5 people in need of food or assistance, I am compelled to I plan to cook. Here are three links to relief organizations taking donations: 

There are many other worthy organizations, but before making a donation, insure that they have their books audited for accountability.  When disaster strikes, it shouldn't matter which religion is delivering relief--as long as aid arrives.  These organizations have helped out in  areas within the continental US who have also met with recent devastation.    

It struck me that we often  are researching "facts" and disaster preparedness, but rarely embed a "response."  As students all around America study disasters, we should strive to embed a humanitarian element of response.   As we teach kids the Inquiry Cycle and they approach the last phase of "reflection"  I wonder how many of these kids have  a self-centered view of the research task.    Would it be possible to turn the research task into a research and respond, rather than a fact-fetching report gathering task where the kids are just reporting on the travesty? 

Rather than having our kids create  personal disaster plans for avoiding damage from superstorms, could we concentrate on building better relief plans?  Could knowledge products  include media plans for to help with disaster relief-- rather than PSA's about what we should do to get ready for a cyclone which will never hit [our area such as the Adirondacks of NYS]. Could we have students calculate damage and reconstruction costs and prepare FEMA presentations for weak links they found?   Now those are "real world" issues which need to be solved.   

So to assuage my guilt of consuming too many calories, I have made a donation. I wish I could do more, but at least I've done a little part.