While I was in Cleveland, Ohio as Learning Strategist for the Cleveland Public Library, I was fortunate to see the work of many different kinds of organizations outside of education who were interested in supporting learning for people of all ages in formal and informal spaces. One of the most interesting experiences was going with my friend and colleague Jennifer Schwelik of INFOhio to visit Patti Choby at the Cobalt Group. During my visit there, I had the opportunity to learn about their work with the Broadway P-16 initiative [learn more here] and how they were mapping and aligning their work with other community organizations and initiatives with a simple yet effective approach utilizing old-fashioned bulletin board material, giant Post-It notes, construction paper, notecards, and painter’s tape. The effect, though, was anything but stale—this living organic wall really invited me in to the work they were doing and to see in a very present sort of way the alignment of their work with other groups to address community needs and initiatives. These kinds of experiences and my work with Tim Diamond and Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz in the Knowledge Office at CPL very much continue to inform my work in the present since our regular and deep conversations about community engagement, the user experience, data visualization, and participatory learning translate across many kinds of libraries and learning spaces.
Jennifer Lund, my wonderful fellow librarian here at Norcross High School, and I are working on what we call our “grand vision” action plan to elevate our media center as an integral learning space for formal and informal learning experiences here in our NHS community. Each curriculum area is currently establishing literacy goals across content areas to support one of our school’s LSPI (Local School Plan for Improvement) targets of identifying best strategies for building literacy skills. After some meetings and conversations with departments and faculty, we were thinking about how we could connect our work as professionals and goals for the media program with the academic goals of each department. I suddenly remembered the wall, and Jennifer and I both feel that the Cobalt group model is one we’d like to replicate both in the library physical space (we have a wall picked out in our office) and in a virtual way.
Our “wall” will represent how we are aligning our work with teaching and learning to each curriculum area’s (by subject and grade level) literacy goal. This “wall” will help us document and capture learning artifacts that show how we as school librarians are collaborating with faculty and students to co-develop learning targets, strategies for teaching and learning, assessments, and tools/resources for learning with each co-designed project we craft together. By mapping and aligning our collaborative work to each curriculum and grade level’s literacy goals, not only will we show our work in an explicit and visible way, but we will also have a body of evidence based practices and data (qualitative and quantitative) to help us reflect more deeply on the ways we’re supporting a diverse range of literacy practices and inquiry across different subject areas and grade levels to better understand how our work impacts teaching and learning at NHS. We also feel this more explicit and deliberate mapping and alignment of our work to that of content area collaboration will enable us to work more closely with faculty and students to work together as an interdisciplinary innovation hub. While I may no longer officially hold the title of Learning Strategist, I feel that is exactly the role that both Jennifer and I are happily embracing here at NHS.
We’ll also look to the work from our peers like Brian Mathews and Char Booth who have done similar mapping projects to better understand learner experiences and act as reflective practitioners who with our teaching colleagues can act on those understandings and insights to elevate the culture of teaching and learning in our community. It is our hope that our “wall” of mapping and alignment will reveal intersections as well as gaps to help us all collectively dwell in an inquiry stance on how we might define and expand our concepts of literacy and what counts as literacy practices. We’re so truly stoked about the possibilities this collaborative work could provide to help all of us think about literacy in deeper and more diverse ways that could ultimately help our library and school do transformative work as a community. We look forward to growing our wall and sharing with you our insights and experiences with this mapping and alignment project over the next year!