A Prescription for Healthier School Librarianship: Transforming Our Practice for the 21st Century

A sincere thank you to the Hall County Media Specialists’ Association in north Georgia for inviting me to be a guest speaker at their luncheon this past Monday!  I enjoyed seeing several of my dear friends from the University of Georgia days as well as new colleagues.   Here is the slidedeck that facilitate the talk I gave:

21 Things for 21st Century Teens: What Would You Include?

21 Things for 21st Century Parents | via kwout

The Darien Library’s awesome new 21 Things for 21st Century Parents has me thinking about designing a 21 Things for 21st Century Teens that could be offered before or after school, one evening a week, and/or during summer hours.     Right now I am thinking about topics and tools related to digital footprints/digital citizenship, cloud computing, mobile computing, and tools for creating content.   What would you include in a program like this?


It IS About Intellectual Freedom, Not Politics

We claim that we want students to be engaged citizens. We claim we want interdisciplinary thinkers. We claim we want lifelong learners that challenge ideas, work collaboratively to solve problems, and communicate effectively.

YET, we don’t want our students exploring the idea of education simply because the President is the person starting the conversation and we fear the controversy.

~Ryan Bretag~

Over the last few days,  I have become increasingly “fired up” about the ridiculous and rampant hysteria over the upcoming speech President Obama that is intended for school age students.  I am cobbling together the thoughts I have been sharing on my Facebook page in recent days to share my thoughts on this issue.

What I Believe

While I do not agree with many of President Obama’s policies (and did not vote for him)  nor those of Arne Duncan, I DO believe in intellectual freedom. I am disturbed by the nationwide hysteria that is resulting in subversive forms of censorship. How can we say we want to raise a generation of critical thinkers when we don’t allow access to all viewpoints and ideas in our schools? Freedom of ideas and liberty must be permitted for all perspectives, not just those that fit the agendas or political views of one certain group. I totally respect a student’s right to “opt out”, but do we require this kind of opt-out paperwork that is sewing forth from hundreds of school districts  for other guest speakers or special broadcasts? Do we deny access to all viewpoints that may differ from our own whether the medium be books, the Internet, or other vehicles for information? No! This is what information literacy and freedom are about people—having access to as much information and varied viewpoints as possible and letting individuals come to their conclusions.

Remember also that for many children, the speech may be the only encouragement they get to follow their dreams and to achieve those dreams through hard work and education–not all children grow up in nurturing homes with responsible parents, and you might be surprised to see how many there are in your own neighborhood.

Why are people so threatened, fearful, and insecure? We devote what amounts to DAYS to mindless standardized test prep, yet we can’t give a few minutes to our Commander in Chief to encourage students to see education as the path to fulfilling life? Our country was founded on the principles of the free exchange of ideas even when those ideas may conflict with our personal beliefs.

I am also disturbed at how people are relying upon obviously biased information sources to argue their opposition.   I have yet to see any concrete or reliable evidence that the president intends to do anything other than a deliver an encouraging message to young people.   The misinformation that has been fueled by reliance upon opinion-oriented sources only reinforce my belief that information literacy is an essential literacy and more important than ever.

What Others Are Saying

There are others who have articulated opinions and arguments that reflect my own feelings much more eloquently than I ever could.  Here are some suggested readings:

Media 21 Project Reflections, August 10-14, 2009

This week has seemed like a blur—between the lessons with the Media 21 edupunks, juggling lesson plans for other collaborative projects with classroom teachers, working on some upcoming collaborative projects with other librarians (more news on that to come soon!), celebrating my birthday, getting my copy of Pat Conroy’s new book, working on upcoming Media 21 lesson plans, scheduling speakers and guests for the library and my Media 21 peeps via Skype, and then brainstorming my personal Geek the Library campaign, the hours needed to get it all done with quality and still sleep have seemed a bit elusive.  However, the hive of activity has been positive and energizing!  Here are my thoughts on this week’s work in the world of Media 21:


Two things have struck me this week with my Media 21 students:  their patience in learning the new tools and our use of the tools and their willingness to try.  Their faith in what we are doing is rather humbling to me—even on days when I have to punt with our lesson because we are moving at a pace I didn’t anticipate, they seem unflappable and just keep moving with a positive outlook.

Most of the time I feel as though I am barely staying a few steps ahead of them.  I feel more than confident with the material and tools, but organizing them  in a way and pooling together the resources I want to share with them is what is time-consuming.  Most of my work is done at home since I am teaching the majority of the day, and the few open periods we have are usually taken up with administrative tasks I must tend to in the library or doing a good bit of one-on-one help.    The one thing I do not have in my awesome and dream world library environment is at least 30 minutes to plan/talk with my collaborating teacher, Susan Lester.  We try to debrief and discuss at the end of the day, but by then, we are both usually tired and have other school responsibilities calling us.   I don’t know how, but I am going to strive to find an hour a week in which we can sequester ourselves and just talk/brainstorm/reflect/dream without interruption.  I feel that more time to just dialogue is essential; hopefully, we can also use Gmail chat to do some discussions after hours, too.

This week’s past mini-lessons and next week’s upcoming lessons are now posted.   I am struggling right now with the pacing—activities I think that can be done within a class period really wind up needing additional time.  I’m still fumbling around to fine tune my pacing for two reasons:

1.  This is the first time I am really teaching most of these skills and ideas in a formal, methodical sort of way, so like anything else, you have to tweak it.

2.  I have not done lesson planning with this depth for an hour long period in several years.   I taught at our district’s evening school for three years, and I had the luxury of blocks of time near two hours—the longer class periods somehow seem to lend themselves to more inquiry based and hands-on/project based learning.  I find it ironic that I crave a block schedule now since I was dead set against it as a baby teacher 18 years ago!

I hopefully will hit my stride soon with the pacing; on the bright side, it is better to be overplanned than underplanned!

The students seemed to enjoy using the discussion thread feature on our Wetpaint wiki; they also are in love with Gmail and are falling in love with Google Docs, too.

They jumped right into setting up their blogs that they will use for reflection/wondering/thinking through their research and learning activities; one enterprising young student has already figured out how to embed a YouTube videoYES! I also noticed that not only did they seem to enjoy exploring the dashboard of WordPress, but they jumped into exploring other blogs they could find through WordPress, too.  They will be engaging in their first posts next week, so I am looking forward to seeing what they have to say.   I have not yet collected all the blog addresses from 5th period (my fault—the week just got away), but you can see where I have pooled all the 7th period blogs here on our Netvibes page; if time permits, I will be creating a Yahoo Pipe with the RSS feeds from each blog.  I will also collect the 5th period feeds for their Netvibes space this week.


Susan Lester, my c0-pilot in all of this, is going to be doing some mini-lessons on persuasive writing late next week (unless her new grandbaby arrives on Thursday or Friday–if so, we will flip-flop some lesson plans).  I am thinking that for this persuasive essay, we should have them blog the process of brainstorming and drafting the essay—I feel like they might benefit from blogging the writing process as they could then share challenges, how they are going about organizing the essay, what they like or are proud of the essay–in other words, they could make the writing process more transparent.

On Thursday, we reviewed some advanced Google searching techniques and the pathfinder for our first mini-research assignment.   Our task was to research two topics:  social media and education (or social networking and education, Learning 2.0) in a broad/general sense; the second topic was to pick a social media/ Web 2.0 tool from a list I generated and to research its use in education (K-12 and/or college/higher ed).   Students were told they could pull articles from databases, but that web-based articles, podcasts, videos, blog posts, virtual presentations (like SlideShare), or web pages were also welcome sources of information.  The only stipulation was that the “article” or info source needed to somehow tie back to education or classroom life.

Once students got their heads around what we were doing and the how to search the tools on the pathfinder (searching blogs and web pages was another skill I had to demonstrate), they seemed to jump in and appeared to slightly unsure but excited  about the menu of options.  They had all day Friday to finalize their 2 info source choices and used the class period for reading, summarizing ,and or getting help with the citation info.

On Monday, they will be posting their articles to discussion threads I have set up on our Wetpaint wiki.  After all summaries are posted (which will include a link to the info source and citation info), students will then choose two info sources to read and respond to on the discussion wiki.  I modeled this activity after Dr. Michael Wesch’s “94 Articles” activity;  I had actually created a Zoho Creator generator form for gathering the summaries and citations ,but I am not techie enough to create a gorgeous web-based represenation of all that information.  Dr. Wesch graciously Tweeted me the blog post by Kevin Champion on how he generated this beautiful web page with the data, but as I said, I don’t know enough programming/code to do something of this nature (or not yet, anyway!).  However, the discussion feature of our Wetpaint wiki is a nice substitute for sharing and discussing.  I had also hoped to have students create their Diigo accounts and post to our group Diigo account, but the toolbars aren’t installed yet, and we honestly did not have time.  I also realized that adding this layer would totally overwhelm them, so I have let this concept go for another week or so.


Last week’s bugs with the Wetpaint wiki and Gmail are resolved–yeah!  Here are this week’s technology challenges:

  • I’m still looking for a way to make the YouTube videos I use for instruction and/or as information sources viewable when embedded into the pathfinder pages.   Zamzar is great for downloading the videos to show to the whole class, but I want them to be able to see the embedded videos as needed.  I need to make finding time to implement one of Joyce Valenza’s YouTube solutions a priority instead of whining about the problem!
  • Although it doesn’t seem to work with the GALE databases at this time, I still want Firefox installed in my library along with the Zotero toolbar.  I love how Zotero picks up the publication info for blogs, online books, and YouTube videos.   In addition to meeting my need for transparent bibliographies,  a new colleague and friend, Georgia State University librarian Jason Puckett “Librarian X’, reports, “Universities are adopting Zotero like crazy and your students will have a leg up if they learn it while still in high school.”  Check out his amazing Zotero LibGuides page!
  • Our network guru Todd now has the links for installing the delicious and Diigo toolbars in Internet Explorer in my lab, so I can  hopefully introduce social bookmarking the week of August 24.
  • Still waiting to hear if my request to have Firefox and the Zotero toolbar installed has been approved for my library.  I love all the amazing Firefox extensions and Greasemonkey scripts—I wish my students could have access to all of it to make using these Web 2.0 tools easier.
  • Time—enough said about that already!

Looking Ahead

On the horizon… is what I hope will be happening after August 24:

  • Video assessment of student learning with the FLIP camera is coming soon—hopefully next week!
  • Social bookmarking mini lessons
  • Twitter/Cover It Live/Backchanneling lessons as learning tools that we will actually integrate and use in our classroom (the library and in Susan’s room!).
  • Research on school filtering policies
  • I am working on lining up Alan November for a virtual visit via Skype!  YES!  Many thanks to edtech guru Kevin Jarrett for inspiring this idea via Twitter conversations earlier this week!  I envision the students interviewing him as part of our research on filtering policies—remember, our culminating assignment for the first nine weeks is craft a presentation in which students will argue why social media/social networking tools should or should not be allowed through school system filters for educational use.    We will incorporate the elements of persuasive writing and speaking as well as presenation zen skills for what we hope to be an authentic audience (stay tuned on who that will hopefully include!).
  • Show students how to start using their own wiki pages for posting content.
  • Beginnings of digital citizenship—Creative Commons licensing and resources for copyright friendly materials.
  • Mashups
  • VoiceThread

Major Development of the Week

I am in the process of finalizing a group solution with the great people over at the 21st Century Information Fluency Project to provide our students the Investigative Searching 20/10 course.    With our package, we will be able to track our student results.   While I could come up with lessons for teaching these skills, why reinvent the wheel when something that is awesome and proven is already out there?  We will give our students class time to work on the self-paced course and piggyback the concepts into our other class activities/mini-lessons we are incorporating.

Activities and Resources That Informed My Learning/Thinking This Week

My “Homework” for The Next Week

Updated Learning 2.0 Presence for My Media 21 Students

Our LibGuides Pathfinders
Our Course Netvibes
Class Twitter
Class Blog
Class WetPaint Wiki
5th Period Class Wiki
7th Period Class Wiki
5th Group SlideShare
7th Group SlideShare
Class Diigo Group
Unquiet Library

7th Period Blogs

My Favorite Thought of the Week:

from Dr. Monica Rankin:

Learning is going to be messy, and I have to come to grips w/that…and that it’s not necessarily bad.

Final Thoughts

And who says media specialists in schools are not needed?  This post reflects what I am doing with just two sections of classes—it does not even touch the other projects I have cooking in and outside of my wonderful school building.

For those who think certified school library media specialists are easily replaced with a non-school librarian, I dare you to find someone who can do all this at $10 an hour!

Yes, highly qualified school librarians DO matter.  Yes, we CAN, and school librarians can effect change that  educators and students can truly believe in when they are supported as I am by my fellow teachers, my principal, and my district.

Onward and upward!

I Geek Inspiration!

Get your geek on. Support the library. | via kwout

Most of you are familiar with the awesome Geek the Library campaign that began a few months ago to help promote the importance of public libraries (and in my opinion, all libraries) and the funding issues they are facing in these difficult economic times.  Not only do they have an amazing interactive website, but you can find Geek The Library on Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook!

While browsing the latest additions from Flickr contacts (which does include Geek The Library on Flickr!), I got inspiration for some ways to incorporate the Geek the Library advocacy strategy at The Unquiet Library!

Idea 1

These photos from the Geek the Library event at the Iowa State Fair have inspired me to create a bulletin board and to invite our students (and teachers, too!) to scribble what they geek!

We could use this as a fun way to get people to share ideas and to also make sure we have materials on the topics that speak to our patrons’ hearts.  It would also be fun to photograph patrons holding books we have that reflect what they “geek”!  Sadly, there are no more old chalkboards around, and I don’t have a prime spot to throw down some chalkboard paint, but I think black butcher paper with red glitter trim will do the trick!  All we need is a box of chalk, and we are good to go!  Fun, cheap, and patron centered!

It might also be fun to get some sidewalk chalk and with the permission of our administration, have an event in which students could write in the courtyard across from the library what they “geek”!   Thanks to my friend Andy Woodworth for the sidewalk chalk promotion inspiration!

Idea 2

I would like to enlist the help of some of our teachers and personal friends who excel at photography to do some photo shoots with the “Geek the Library” theme  for our Unquiet Library Flickr account and to create posters to put up around the school.

I think it would also be cool to enlist the help of Ashley Estapa’s video production students to create videos like these for our Unquiet Library YouTube Channel!

YouTube – geekthelibrary’s Channel via kwout

Idea 3

I’m going to use the “personalize” option not just to create a snazzy new email signature (see below) and some new web headers…



but I also am going to purchase some customized gear—I think I will start with the stickers!

Geek The Library Gear | via kwout

I think these are all fun, inexpensive, and effective ways to raise our library’s profile in our school and community.   I will be sharing updates as I get these ideas rolling and bring them to life @ The Unquiet Library!

Geek on!