Friday, July 11, 2014

Collaborative Action Research: Empower Your Teachers (Part II)

My last post looked at  the power of CAR and why the library should be integral to the process, beyond the obvious research reasons.  Here, we'll look at how we implemented the process at my school.

Our CAR team consisted of our tech integrator, me, the IT manager and my über-organized assistant, who set up all the check-out procedures and worked with the IT manager to decide the process for requesting/loading apps.

Cataloguing the sets in Destiny Asset Manager
Between the school and our parent group, we had a set of  36  16gb iPads, which we broke into sets of 6 by department area.  A few generally useful apps such as Explain Everything, were on all the iPads; otherwise, we kept a list of which apps were on which set.  We were going to run out of room fast, if we tried to have every app on every device.  The library made a rule from the start that the iPad sets  had to be checked out by the teacher, and could only be checked out as a set.  We broke that  last rule occasionally, when a student needed an iPad to finish a project.  We catalogued the set itself in Destiny, making it easier to check out.   Each set had a different colored cover, making them easy to identify.  Each set also had a subject-based (e.g. science/math) desktop image.

In addition, the school bought an iPad for each teacher's personal use (I work at a GREAT school!).  Half came from the teacher's personal PD money, and the school paid for the rest.  Each teacher had the option of buying an iPad retina or an iPad mini; in return, teachers had to commit to completing the CAR cycle (including their final iBooks chapter write-up).  Teachers who did not finish for some reason had to reimburse the school for the iPad.

Once we knew what we had to work with, we had to decide what we were going to do, especially since none of us knew much about action research.  Of course, that meant doing some research of our own:  we wanted to know what was being done, and how people were doing it.  We collected our research here, and quickly realized we had two very basic questions at this point: Can iPads improve student learning?   Can they replace a MacBook Pro (we're 1:1 laptop)?


With those guiding questions in mind, we met to design the study.  Teachers had to apply to be part of the study (though, really, I don't think we turned anyone down) and commit to completion. We ended up with about 17 teachers the first year  (a similar number this year), from Science, Math, Languages, PE, Music, English, ESOL and admin--a good cross study.  They also had a varying range of technology ability/phobia.  We had to dedicate the first few sessions to just familiarizing them with the iPad.

You can see the notes from our brainstorming session here.  It includes our outcomes as well as a tentative schedule of courses and content.  We also knew we definitely wanted to publish our findings to a global audience, having learned the power of going "public and permanent"  with the  WW II: Illustrated Histories project with the grade 10s.  Thus, we decided teachers would need to document their study and findings in an iBooks chapter, which we would collect into a book and publish. (We hope those will go live by the end of the summer!)

We also thought the best way to organized the course was through iTunes U, which would be easy for teachers to access using their iPads.  You can download the cycle 2 course here, and cycle 3 here (FYI, cycle 1 was the WW II book with the students.  We have that process documented here.) It's actually pretty cool that we have several schools following the course--and Apple's keeping an eye on it, too.  The teachers know this, and it honors and values their efforts when they know the world is watching!

Finally, we needed to adapt an easy action research process to our needs.

That's quite enough to look at for now!  My new post will look more specifically at a few of the process elements, the action research planner, and how we tried to structure the sessions.

If you have any questions you want answered, please post them in the comments!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Collaborative Action Research: Empower Your Teachers (Part I)

Two years ago, our director asked the tech integrators "So when are we getting iPads?"  Now, we've all been there:  Schools want to look tech-forward, so they pour money into smartboards or whatever, throw them at the teachers and say, "Here--use them!"

Fortunately, we have a brilliant tech integrator in the HS and she told the director  "If we're going to do this, we need to do it right.  We don't even know if these things are worth the investment."

And that was the birth of the iPad Trials, a two year experiment in collaborative action research. Perhaps ironically, my big take away isn't about iPads (meh--as with any tech, the power's in how you use it, not the tool itself);  it's about the power of the process  to engage and support teachers and their teaching and through that, improve student learning.  That blew me away.

As I mentioned in my last post, I  struggled mightily this year with the whole collaboration thing. WAB has a very strong staff, and part of that translates into them (knowingly or not) keeping control of the teaching in their classes.  Add the insanity of the IBDP teaching load, and teachers don't have a lot of time for non-content instruction or playing with new ideas that may or may not work.

I also believe that, while it's important to broadcast our impact on student learning, it's not having the effect we hoped for, because we're not accountable.   Nobody expects the counselors to take responsibility for science scores and principals don't hold librarians responsible for  reading or history outcomes.  Test scores aren't directly relatable to anything we do--and until NCLB starts testing for information literacy,  they won't be any time soon.

Where we DO have huge impact is on school climate and community building. I will always remember my principal telling me after my first year as librarian that he'd never seen one person make such a huge impact on a school in such a short time.  Now, as much as I'd like to take all the credit for that, I think it says far more about my role than it does about my performance.  They hadn't had a certified LMS in several years, so how could it not have a big impact, when suddenly someone is there whose main job is to make everyone students' and teachers' jobs easier/more productive?

Which brings me back to the iPad Trials.

I'll describe our process in later posts; what's important here is why CAR is so worth doing, and why it should be an integral part of your library services.  Basically, we had 15-20 teachers from multiple disciplines meeting from 4:30-6:30 every Wednesday for four months. The tech integrator and I worked as a team to take them through our version of the action research process. Some worked on individual projects, others worked as groups, but all of them came together every week (and occasional weekends) to discuss, share, commiserate and congratulate.  It was friggin' awesome.

I watched this disparately-skilled group of teachers move from not even being sure how to turn the iPad on let alone knowing how they wanted to use it in their classrooms to writing confident, data-driven chapters on their studies.  It was fulfilling to walk down the hallways and hear teachers talking about their studies, to listen to students chatting in the library about their classroom experiences, and to feel the teachers' pride in their own learning and growth.

Action research is "practical, focused on real life problems...acting on knowledge gained through reflection" (Barranoik, qtd in Sykes 16); it's grounded in students' observable behavior or problems; it's a teacher's reflection on practice, followed by focused, direct action in response to learner needs.  Moreover, working together embeds teachers in a supportive network of shared expertise,  building both collegiality and what Mitchell, Reilly and Rogue call a  "community of practice."

Being an integral part of this process demonstrates the libraries' role in the school and student learning more than any abstract study.  Not only do admin see teacher-librarians actively leading/supporting teachers in their efforts to improve pedagogy and student learning, teachers themselves experience the power of collaborating with the library because, of course, this is an excellent opportunity to team with teachers in the classroom.

I hope I've conveyed the power and promise of the CAR process, and raised your interest.  In following posts, I'll detail exactly how we went about this and link to all of our documentation.

CAR, Part II

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bib 2.0 Summer Reboot

Hello?!  Hello!?  Anyone there?!?

I know, I know.  It's been ages.  I've pretty much given up blogging during the school year, as you may have noticed...There's a reason the Buffy's and Doug's and Cathy's and Joyce's of the world are the superstars they are: they have more stamina than I do, and probably a stronger work-ethic(well, among other things, of course!)

While I am certainly aspirational, I find the insane busy-ness of my current school just doesn't leave me more energy (once I get home at the end of the day) than I need to plop myself in front of the latest episode of Grimm!

 While I seriously considered just stopping the blog altogether, it's too important a place for me, personally, to think out issues, ideas, and practices.    Also, my current school being what it is, there are too many big things going on that I believe are well worth sharing and that I hope will be useful to others as we forge ahead into the challenges of 21st century librarianship.

Hence, a reboot.   I decided to turn this into a summer blog, where I a) document/evaluate the past years' projects and b) ponder/discuss ideas for the upcoming year.  In some ways I think that will be more useful for you, dear reader,  as it has the advantage of a full year's thinking and work, rather than the "as I go" nature of past posts.  What it loses in spontaneity,  it makes up for in thoroughness!

So, what's up for Bib 2.0, 2014?


Collaborative Action Research:  The role of the library in empowering teachers and improving learning through long-term PD.  We're wrapping up a two year iPad Trial, and this is the how we did it and what we found series of posts.

Evaluating Your Tech Mission: Last spring, we did a school-wide study of our tech mission statement (that no-one knew we had), which also evolved into a study of the perception of technology use at our school.  We have a reputation (somewhat underserved, I feel) as being a very tech forward school, and we wanted to "test the waters" as it were to see a) what teachers' perceptions were, where we were meeting the mission and what the barriers are to achieving that.  It turned into a huge deal, with lots of response coding, and I'll  detail what we did and why it's important that we did it.

MakerSpace update--a big hit, but also a snag.


That's the past stuff.  As to the "thinking online," stuff-for-next-year part:

Visual Notetaking/Visual Thinking--I've been really taken by this concept (ironically, as I always got the "well, you tried" C-/D+ in my art classes); I think it will make a big impact on student learning.  I'm exploring ways to embed it into my TOK (Theory of Knowledge) class, but it's also a good tool for the library to promote as we work to support multiple literacies and learning styles.

Library Services Infographic--In some ways, this year was something of a failure, as teachers used me even less than they did last year. Seriously, I had two collaborative lessons and that was it. My annual report is really embarrassing.  The MS Librarian and I spent the year bemoaning our mutual fate and cursing the teachers,  when we realized we could gripe and moan, but it was up to us to be more proactive.  We have some ideas (including the infographic to have in every classroom) so I'll do some posts on those.  I'm really getting kind of disheartened by this.  It's been an issue at every school, but it's getting worse and I'm wondering if I'm just really bad at advocacy, or ineffectual and teachers don't want me in their classrooms!

That Library State of Mind:  As long-time readers know, I was totally on board on that "put the library where the students are" mindset--of having resources all over the place online.  I still think that's  important, but after a few pathfinder debacles this year (Teacher: "But I  put the link in the Moodle course!  What else did they need?") I'm rethinking that whole idea.  While we need a virtual presence, the more I do this, the more I realize virtual me isn't nearly as good as me in the flesh.

If those are ideas you're interested in, keep checking back over the next month or two!








Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why My Library Just Cancelled Its Subscription to Time Magazine

The New York Times published this interesting article today, unfortunately burying the lede in the third paragraph.  Money quote:
...Time Inc. will abandon the traditional separation between its newsroom and business sides, a move that has caused angst among its journalists. Now, the newsroom staffs at Time Inc.’s magazines will report to the business executives. Such a structure, once verboten at journalistic institutions, is seen as necessary to create revenue opportunities and stem the tide of declining subscription and advertising sales.  

Yep.  Time, Inc--no struggling online trade mag--now requires its journalists to report to the business execs, and editors now seek out "sponsored content" (aka "native advertising") as a large part of their professional duties.

Without getting too overtly political, I have long been concerned over the corporate buy-out of American public institutions, whether it's the money behind so-called education reform, a university selling its professorial hiring decisions to the highest bidder, or the Supreme Court (and presidential candidates) solemnly assuring us that corporations are people:


So what does all of this have to do with a library blog?

I just cancelled our library's subscription to Time Magazine, and am in the middle of an email to Time explaining why.

I work hard and spend considerable thought providing quality, authoritative resources for my students.  While we obviously have books or periodicals that promote a particular side or point of view, that bias is generally made clear through content or editorial policy. And, of course, my students and I talk about  using the databases first, evaluating sources, using the CRAAP test, etc.

Now, there is a long history of passing off advertising as editorial content; the public is increasingly sophisticated at recognizing and ignoring advertorials. Advertisers (and the publications) need to make it harder and harder to distinguish between journalistic and sponsored content; thus, it's not always clear which content is an advertisement.  Worse, the Online Publishers Association estimates that 90% of publications offered sponsored content by the end of 2013.

However, Time's decision is especially insidious, using their magazine's  integrity and  reputation as a reliable source of news in order to mask that commercial line. When reading  Seventeen or Sports Illustrated, there's a public understanding of the monetary bottom line, hence students have a certain amount of healthy skepticism when reading their articles. Time, as a straight news magazine, has traditionally drawn a firmer line between its sponsors and its articles, and students read it less critically.

As a librarian, I have a duty to provide my students with material that presents not an unbiased view, but one free of corporate interests--or at least material that makes clear distinctions between content and ads.  It may be a futile gesture, but I'll be cancelling our subscription once school starts again next week, and will definitely add this into my critical literacy curriculum.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The MakerSpace: Equipment and Programming

Exciting title, eh?

Once you have the space, you need to add the "Maker" element, which consists of both equipment and programming.

Now, personally, I think there are all kinds of Makerspaces.  The point is to lure the kids in to hands-on activities that get them creating and learning.  Whether that's video production, 3D printing, carpentry/mechanics...it's all good.  Having said that, I was at a Learning 2.013 conference a few weeks ago, and attended a Makerspace un-conference session.  After I showed the panorama of ours, the leader flat out told me: "That may be other things, and it fits your needs, but it's not a Makerspace," then went on to talk about carpentry and mechanics.  Sucks to him, I say.  This is a pilot program with plans to expand.  If you wait around until you have the ideal space and tools, it may never happen.

The school already has 3 Design Tech rooms,  two art rooms, and a film and recording studio.  These, however,  are located in a building separate from the high-school.  As an all Mac/iPad school, with a 1:1 laptop program in the high school, ours students do a LOT of video and digital media productions.  We were also starting a weekly TV program in the HS.  We needed a space to both facilitate student production and improve the quality of their work.

The Equipment

After discussion with the Film, Art and DT teachers, we either purchased or re-assigned the following equipment:


Most of it is self-explanatory.  The Legos are for stop-motion videos (or anything else the students think of!).  You might notice it totals far more than the $3,000 I had leftover in last year's budget; the extra comes from this year's budget.  Fortunately, I have a VERY generous budget!

We house the large items in the Makerspace, but keep the cameras, tripods and other portable items in the library for students to check out.

A word about the large-format printer:  We are working to improve the design of both student and teacher posters, banners, etc.  There is nothing more empowering for a student than seeing their work as a large banner in the school--but it has to be good!  In order for students to print their posters/banners on the (very expensive to print) large-format printer, it has to first be approved.  This means it is in it's final format and tested on the regular color printer before it is printed on the large format printer.

UPDATE: I just realized I forgot to include this tip:  We went with a green screen, rather than painting the whole room green, because the green paint reflects on the students when they video.  This not only gives them a rather sickly hue, when you attempt to remove the green while editing, part of the students disappear, too.

The Program

Teachers and students will need to be trained in appropriate use of the space/equipment before they can use it.  Fortunately, we have a strong student Geek Force, and I'm working with a core group of them (Maker Geeks!) to provide both training and workshops for students and faculty.

The "official" roll out happens in two weeks, when we have two PD days.  Faculty rotate through a mix of both obligatory and optional workshops.  The Makerspace workshop is obligatory, and will be run by the Maker Geeks.  They will attend a lighting tutorial run by our Film teacher next week, along with a session on the cameras and other equipment.  The Tech Integrator and I worked together to develop the faculty workshop (Brief intro to the equipment, followed by the time to create their own video, which we'll showcase at the end.  The group that uses the most Makerspace Equipment "wins").

We'll give students the workshop outline, along with two practice faculty groups to practice on before the PD days, then leave them to run it (though available if they need help, obviously!)

We're rolling out with the faculty first, using the theory that familiarizing teachers with the space will trickle down to the students.

The Geek Force will also offer regular tutorials in iBooks Author,  video editing (iMovie and Adobe Premiere),  green screen techniques,  stop-motion videos and more.

We'll populate the back walls with poster guidelines for various media:  e.g.  if you're filming an interview make sure you have x,y,z.  Putting together a documentary: these are the steps.   Basic reminders and quality-checks for students, in other words.

The library itself will sponsor various "challenges" or showcases  throughout the year, promoting student use of the space.

Finally (and I need to put these together next week) after each class or individual use of the space, students and teachers will fill out a brief questionnaire, that we'll use for documenting how the space is used, and what improvements would have most impact for next year.






Thursday, October 17, 2013

The MakerSpace: If You Build It, Will They Come?

I'm about to find out.

Thanks to a dream, an under-utilized workspace, and a $3000 end-of-year surplus in my budget,  the library now has a MakerSpace!  It's on a different floor, the space isn't ideal, but hey!  It's there!

Ever since Buffy Hamilton first blogged about it a couple years ago or so, I've wanted a makerspace.  OK, sure, I'll admit it.  The geek in me waxed euphoric at the mere idea of more tech toys.  But I also firmly grounded my makerspace-lust in the belief that the library needs to support ALL literacies, not just reading and writing.  What better way to broaden our sphere and empower students than by giving them the tools, space and permission to go in and engage in meaningful play??

In my last school, money was the issue; in my current school, with its four different DT labs, film and recording studios, I figured we didn't need one.  I was so wrong.

When we were working on the WW II history project last spring, we set up the tech integrator's room as a mini-studio, with two soft box lights borrowed from the film studies teacher, using the whiteboard as a backdrop.  Next thing we knew, kids from all over the high-school were dropping in to use the lights.  This was my ah-ha moment:
  • Students recognized the need for better quality in their digital creations, and
  • We needed something local, as the DT laps and studios are in a separate building halfway across campus.

First Step: Collaborators
 I explained the vision to the tech integrator.  As one of the key-players for how technology is used in the high-school, she needed to play an integral role in promoting the space. Since she was part of the history project and saw first-hand the improved quality of students' work as well as the kids coming out of the woodwork to use the space, she was on board immediately--even though it meant giving up her work room. We moved her to the library's back-office instead, since I never use it; this has the added advantage of making it easier for us to collaborate.

More importantly even agreed when I insisted it be part of the library.  In fact, I was adamant.  If the space "ran" out of the tech department, teachers and students would connect it with them, and view it as just another tech lab.  Run as part of the library, it's a communal space for everyone to use.

We then got our curriculum coordinator on board, as the first person to present it to our principal.

Finally, we met with the all the film and DT teachers, had a good look at the space and asked for their recommendations. I've embedded a panorama of the room below. You can see it's quite long and narrow, which limits what we can do in there. We also wanted to  keep our goals attainable and achievable over the summer,  saving the dreaming for next year.  Thus, the current space is very oriented towards digital media production.

Step Two:  The Proposal
Now we needed a brief but powerful rationale for why we needed the space, and how we'd pay for it. Fortunately, this was going to be relatively low-cost as it mostly involved the re-purposing of an already existing space and buying equipment, all of which could come from the "leftovers" of last year's budget.

I focused on three areas:  An explanation of what it is and how it would be used, the impact on learning, and the benefits to the school.  You can see the document below.  Like most admin, mine are very short on time and don't want to read pages and pages of rationale; I didn't quite make my  two page goal, but almost (I've blacked out names for obvious reasons).



I have to say, there were no real road blocks to this, mostly because my school is very tech-forward and progressive, with challenging and inspiring students part of our mission statement. The principal read the proposal, loved it, and arranged a meeting with our director.

He asked me one question: How will you pay for it.  When I explained I had enough money from my budget, he exlaimed, "Fantastic! Get started!" and moved on to other business.  Shortest meeting I've ever had here!

And here's the space, though it's not the best panorama in the world!  Next post, I'll describe the equipment we purchased and how we're running the programming.







Monday, July 22, 2013

iBooks Coming to Your Mac: This is HUGE!

I have to say, I never thought it would happen.  Keeping iBooks off your Mac forced people to buy iPads in addition to their Macs, so why would Apple bring iBooks to their computer.  Or so I thought.

With their new OS X, Mavericks (glad we're out of the cat phase), which releases in Fall, Apple announced they will finally have iBooks on the Mac.

Why is this huge?  Think interactive learning!  I'm part way through writing my blog post on our iPad trial findings, but our big take away is that Macs are still the real workhorse, so this combines the power of your Mac with an interactive space.

Flipping your classroom (or library) just moved out of the "go home and watch this video" stage.  Using iBooks Author, teachers and create engaging,  interactive lessons that ALL students can access, not just those with an iPad or iPhone (this assumes you're a Mac school, of course!).

I also like that student notes appear in a sidebar beside the book, making them easy to review and use.



More importantly, students can now create and preview books all on the same device--you don't need computers AND iPads,  putting the power to create, edit and publish in one place.




So if you're a Mac school and haven't jumped on the iBooks Author bandwagon yet, this fall is definitely the time to start!