Saturday, October 4, 2014

Without a Doubt, Change is Essential!

When the Association of School Librarians (a division of American Library Association) held discussions on updating its mission statement to more adequately impact the evolution of student learning, there were key components that rose to the top. First is that the role of the school librarian is evolving and changing. School librarians serve as the guiding light in transforming learning through new tools and technology. Second is that the essence of school libraries is teaching and learning. This concept places school libraries at the center of any discussion dealing with education. (From a press release issued on 07/15/2014 Jennifer Habley, Manager, Web Communications American Association of School Librarians.)
I applaud Region 15 School District Administration for having both the foresight and the courage to take a tremendous leap this school year by making the decision to revise the elementary media center schedules to provide students with increased access and to foster collaborative opportunities. By creating a more flexible schedule, meaningful integration of information literacy skills and the purposeful use of technology increase dramatically--because of the collaboration that develops between the media specialist and content area teachers. Such changes will directly impact student achievement. Countless research studies prove that flexibly scheduled media centers staffed by certified media specialists results in increased student learning.  As the new media specialist for Pomperaug ES, I am also grateful for the leadership demonstrated by the Region 15 high school and middle school media specialists, who strongly advocate and support flexible schedules in the elementary media centers. As a K-12 department, our media specialists embrace those key components that arose from discussions at the national level, as outlined in the opening paragraph of this blog post. We embrace the fact that the role of school librarian is evolving and changing. We thrive on shedding light and paving a way for our students, so they can develop to their fullest potential. We promise to transform learning through new tools and technology. We pledge our support to content area and special area teachers, because we firmly believe that together we are stronger. Our students deserve our best.
Just this week alone, because of our flexible schedule, grade 5 students participated in a backchannel discussion on the book, Wilma Unlimited written by Kathleen Krull, who will be our guest author later this month. With students utilizing the iPads, the classroom teacher was able to follow and assess the virtual chat, while I presented the text and a word cloud as the focus for the virtual and in-person discussion. Such a tool allowed all students to express their voices--and they did! This tool also served as a great quick assessment on a number of skills including digital citizenship, determining authors purpose, identifing character traits, interpreting images, and more. I would be remiss if I did not express gratitude to the PTO who generously donated the iPads a year or so ago.
Another example of the impact of collaboration within a flexible schedule is noted in the above photo. For the past 3 weeks, the third grade team and I met once a week for planning.  We selected the current science unit on Rocks and Minerals to embed information literacy and technology skills. Then, we scheduled time each week for an information literacy lesson directly connected to the unit of study.  Students has the benefit of both myself and their classroom teacher available to assist them during the lesson.  We used Discovery Education for research and "alphaboxes"
for a note-taking tool.  The unit also includes hands-on science investigations which the students will document using the iPad so they can share their investigation like a scientists! As you can see in the image, students are engaged in creative and challenging activities as they access information, build knowledge, and share it with others.

And one more example... Ten fifth grade students give up their lunch break (and rainy day recess) to create book commercials for picture books for the k-2 students. They read the book, create a short summary without giving away the ending, they grab an iPad, and using a cool app called Tellagami, they create a 30 second book commercial.   The link for their video clip is then encoded onto a qr code which is glued to the inside cover of the book. Next week, K-2 students will learn how to use the iPad app Qrafter to scan the code and listen to the commercials. Hopefully, the 5th graders were persuasive enough!  Our goal is to increase the range of books K-2 students choose from the "E" section of the library.  This project is a win-win situation for all involved. The older students are refining their skills in summarizing, fluency, appropriate use of technology, while providing a valuable service to our school community.  The images below show  what the video commercial would look like. However, to access a sampling of these commercials, either scan the QR code or click on the link!
Scan the qr code with your iPhone or iPad or click here.
Scan the qr code or click here.

So, I hope you can see that we are not taking for granted one single bit the opportunity we have been given this school year.  The benefits of collaboration between the media specialists and teachers in each of our elementary schools is worth the struggles that do come with change.

Keep on collaborating!
Mrs. "M"