I am pretty much always late to the party, so here I am, a month after attending my first ISTE conference in San Diego, sharing my reflections. I just finished summarizing twelve different sessions and events in order to share what I learned with my principal as we head into the new school year, and I thought I would pull four of my favorites out to share here.
Sifting through the notes, cards and QR codes was like reliving the conference, with all of its exhilarating, exhausting wonder. More than anything – and I see people write this about ISTE all the time – I appreciated the opportunity to meet and thank, face-to-face, those bloggers, tweeters and super-sharers who have helped shape my practice as a librarian. If by chance you stumble upon this blog entry as a new school librarian, or are thinking about pursuing any job in education, I highly recommend following the people I link to below.
Beyond Googling: Building Conditions for Structured Inquiry
Presented by Chris Lehmann
After this session, Chris Lehmann, principal of Science Leadership Academy, is one of my education heroes. He described the philosophy of the public high school he opened in Philadelphia, an iterative process of “inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection.” Students are immersed in guided inquiry in every class from the time they enter as freshman, graduating to more open inquiry as they complete their senior capstone projects. Some notes from Lehmann’s presentation:
- This DOES NOT mean students doing the same things at a different pace.
- This DOES mean students are working on things they care about.
- Personal investment
- Covering content
- Teachers asking questions we know the answers to
Guided inquiry amounts to choice given within parameters. In other words, all students in a U.S. history class might be investing a different question related to the causes of the Civil War, but they have a choice about what they are investigating and may choose to research something the teacher doesn’t know or hadn’t planned for (my example, not Lehmann’s). Checkpoints must be given along the way to catch students who are not producing, rather than penalizing students at the end of an inquiry assignment upon realizing that they have not kept up with their work.
Lehmann describes technology at his school as “ubiquitous, necessary and invisible.” Students don’t go to computer labs at certain times in the day. Rather, they always have a laptop or device with them that can be used as the need arises.
This session could not have come at a better time for me as I work on revamping the library curriculum for middle school students. I have a vision of sixth, seventh and eighth graders learning research skills and digital literacy as they generate their own questions related to a common theme or topic. I feel like this is a more authentic experience in terms of how students will conduct research in their daily lives and will hopefully lead to a higher level of student investment. Lehmann’s session showed me that it can be done, and with astonishing results on the part of students.
Designing Brick and Mortar Libraries in the Digital Age: Changed But Still Critical
Presented by Doug Johnson
I follow Johnson’s Blue Skunk Blog religiously, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak in person. His presentation centered on the evolving nature of school library facilities in a digital age when most information and even books can be accessed online from the comfort of one’s home. Johnson asked how school libraries can keep from becoming “netflixed”, a verb indicating forced obsolescence, as in the Netflix model rendering Blockbuster obsolete. Johnson describes the future of school libraries as social learning spaces (in contrast to the quiet study halls we all grew up with). School library spaces should be flexible, allowing for different activities, uses and services in changing configurations. In many ways, our new library already allows for this. Johnson cites Joyce Valenza’s metaphor of transforming the library from a grocery store (where students come to get information) to a kitchen (where students create new information and products), a paradigm shift that we can work toward at our school. He also suggests that the library could serve as a school’s model classroom, a place where new teaching strategies and technologies can be field tested by teachers and the librarian. He encourages community access to the library, which Hynes recently practiced when hosting the Academic Games this in the library this summer.
Digital Age Media Centers
Presented by SIGMS (Special Interest Group – Media Specialists)
This event was kind of like a science fair of best practices in school library media centers, presented by media specialists from around the country. Ben Curran of Engaging Educators talked with me about Diigo, a social-bookmarking site with education accounts that allow teachers to set up accounts for students. I’m looking forward to exploring this option as I’d like to give middle school students a tool to save and retrieve websites when conducting research in the library or for class assignments. Websites for free, customizeable animations and infographics were shared by Linda Dougherty, which I will pass on to faculty looking to spruce up presentations. I spoke with Gwyneth Jones, master of all things wiki, about using Wikispaces as a place to display student work. Tiffany Whitehead, a middle school librarian in Baton Rouge, talked about Schoology.com, which her school is adopting after a lackluster response to Blackboard. Schoology has an interface similar to Facebook that faculty, students and parents at Ms. Whitehead’s school seem to be embracing.
May the Forms Be With You
Presented by Will Kimbley and Jennifer Roberts
I paid extra to attend this session and I’m glad I did. I’ve experimented with Google Forms in my middle school library classes last year for a quick, easy, paperless way to collect student responses as an “Exit Ticket” type exercise. Kimbley demonstrated how to use Google Forms to create and administer classroom assessments which, in combination with Flubaroo, can be automatically graded (if the questions are multiple choice). Flubaroo even allows the teacher to email scores to students after assessments have been graded.
For me, Roberts took the potential of Google Forms to the next level when she shared how she uses this technology in her high school English classes. Roberts collects responses to student questions in Google Forms, which are collated in Google spreadsheets, and then displays the spreadsheets to the class (with student names hidden) to facilitate class discussions. So cool! I can’t wait to try this with my middle school library classes. I can see so many applications for using Robert’s method to teach research in the library. For example, students can enter search terms they have generated for a given research topic and we can display and analyze their collected responses when discussing how to broaden or narrow an internet search. Responses can even be displayed as a word cloud, which Roberts demonstrated at our session. Did I mention that all of this is FREE? I LOVE Google Forms, more than ever after this session.