Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Let's Get Physical!

The more things change...

A while ago an old student of mine (now a teacher), pointed out after I commented on someone's remark on his FB wall,  that she was my "grand-student."  Yikes.  I've been teaching long enough to have grand-students.

But the thing about longevity is you start seeing "the old ways" come back in updated iterations.  When I first started the library gig about 10 years ago it was all about digital, virtual spaces. I wasn't so much worried about the physical library, as developing our online presence.  And that's important.

But we've started seeing a shift back to THINGS: Print sales rose for the first time in years, and ebooks declined.  Learning has shifted from consumption to creation as MakerSpaces abound and even Forbes Magazine is calling for more emphasis on vocational education.  And more  and more we're understanding the impact of physical spaces on student learning.

Last year, my school initiated a five year plan we call FLoW21. Its mission: to completely rethink what learning looks like at WAB. We're not just doing bits and pieces, we're tackling the entire learning ecosystem, from curriculum to teaching, to systems, guessed it,  Learning Spaces.  Guess which committee I'm heading?

With all of this, I've been thinking quite a bit about the physical space in my library, its flexibility and whether it supports student needs and student learning.  It's a great space as is--we're packed during "free"blocks, but it's not all that flexible. I believe we can do better.

Thus, I've been reading.  A lot.  I'll link below to some books I've found especially helpful in organizing the two "think tanks" I have going, one made up of students, the other of teachers.

The first two activities, to get them thinking about the library, their beliefs about the library, and how it gets used.

 1) With one idea per sticky note, they brainstormed what the word "library" means to them.  Once they each had about 10 sticky notes, they places them on a large piece of butcher paper, then tried to determine the overall categories these fit into. Then we discussed those, questions they had, etc. I really should have recorded that conversation.  Next time.   As you can see from the photo, they thought in terms of Values, Environment, Systems and Activities.  As "homework" I've asked the teachers to come to the library during a couple blocks and just observe how students use and reconfigure space to their own needs.

2) As part of our FLoW21 study, we've been brainstorming around "Bob" and "Bobbie" imaginary students and what a typical day would look like for  them in our ideal school (think: self-directed, co-constructed, personalized learning).  Next meeting we'll do "Library Bob/Bobbie."  In this ideal school, how would they use the "ideal" library?  What would be available for them?   I'll also share the brainstorm session from another committee on the kinds of use we want to see happening.

3)  I'm collecting learning spaces ideas on Pinterest, to get their creative juices flowing.  Research tells us we need three types of spaces:  Caves (solitary spaces), Campfires (group learning) and Watering Holes (discussion). Or, put another way: Community, private, virtual, display and presentation spaces. I'll have the groups explore the Pinterest, then do a walking tour of our current space, discussing strengths and areas to improve.  Time for a new chart: Existing State ------ Desired State

Here's a short walk-through of the HS library.

This focuses on space, but I also want to discuss systems. Everything is on the table and open for change.

I haven't shared my ideas with anyone yet, as I don't want to influence them, but here's a summary of my thinking so far:

1) Less is More and the Library is Everywhere.
Shelving takes up a huge section of the center of the library. The students really like those two enclaves, but a lot of "shenanigans" also go on in there as it's hard to see due to the shelves. I want to open up that space for collaborative seating.  Thus, I'm doing a severe weed of the 000-930 to clear out space and have a tighter, more focused collection. I'm also thinking: Satellite libraries.  The HS here is spread into two buildings, separated by a pond. It's a 5-10 minute walk from one to the other.  I'm growing more and more convinced that books, to some degree, need to be where the students are. However pertinent a book might be, it's just easier for them to jump on to Google from class, than come to the library, so that's what they do.  I also don't think teachers are all that aware of what we have.  Fun fact: Hallways take up 40% of space in most schools. What a waste!  We're wondering how to reconfigure them into usable areas.  Pulling out lockers and adding shelving/chairs would create mini subject-specific libraries in key areas.  The library already doesn't have doors and our school is open to students 24/7. If we train students to use the Destiny app to self check-out, it would be an interesting experiment to see if there's increased usage and/or loss.

2)  Make it move.
Students are always dragging chairs and tables into different configurations. Why not make that easier?  Thus, we're looking at flexible furniture, rollers, etc.  We're talking about even putting the shelves on rollers, but I don't know how feasible that is.  A) Do I really want people rolling shelves around?  B) Given the weight of books,  those shelves are heavy. Not sure how much more movable they'd be, even on rollers. Or that rollers could sustain the weight.

3) "I Vant To Be Alone"
We have some good collaborative and hang-out spaces throughout the library and the HS in general. We really don't have private space, and that's going to be a hard one.  I also hate that corridor between the shelves and the windows. Kids pile up in there, throw their bags and books all over the floor turning it into quite the obstacle course.  I want to pull out the tables/chairs and have window seats (though not trees!) with power strips.  Semi-private space, and declutters it. It will also add some shelving,

4)  Collaborative Caves
Sometimes you want to work alone in a group.  With shelving out of the way, we'll have room for a couple collaborative pods with whiteboard tables and display screens where students can hook up and work together on presentations or whatever. We're also giving all the tables whiteboard tops.

5) Make the Virtual Tangible
I haven't figure out how to do it yet,  but I want to incorporate relevant digital material into the physical shelves.  If students are browsing for content on, say, the Cultural Revolution, I want an iPad or something there to point out relevant material in the databases, or have a QR code they can scan linking to a pathfinder or something.

How's that for a start?

Of course, we're doing more as a school.  Walls are coming down!  And we also have a bigger issue to consider: If every student has an individual plan, individual studies and areas of interest, how does the library support that?  I don't have an answer, but I'll definitely be pondering it.

Useful Books:
Blueprint for Tomorrow, Prakash Nair
High Impact Library Spaces, Margaret Sullivan
The Space, A Guide for Educators  Louise Hare
Design for the Changing Educational Landscape,  Harrison and Hutton

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Easy Collaborative Spaces

This is the year of making a more collaborative, interactive, hands-on library for me.  The  (not-so) epic Lego wall is almost finished; I'm still weeding NF to make more space for maker-shelves. I had a brainstorm the other day as I was looking at the useless end-of-shelf displays we have (that are too shallow to actually, you know, DISPLAY books), and realized if we shaved off the shelves and used some whiteboard wallpaper, they'd be a great collaborative brainstorming / planning space.

We decided to test it with one area (the most populated one) to see if students use it. If so, we'll do it with the other shelf ends, too.

How easy is that?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

No Space? Build a MakerShelf!

I've been thinking a lot about flexible spacing and interactive libraries this year, and realized a bit of rigidity in my own thinking.

Space in my HS is at a premium, and there's really nowhere for the library to expand.  Our "makerspace" is actually a small room in another part of the building (on a different floor even), and it's photography focused.  We also already have three DT labs, complete with machines, 3D printers and all the maker bells and whistles, so when I was honest with myself, I realized we didn't really need another one in the library.  Yet this was very frustrating to my tech-loving, I want an innovative library self.

Then two things happened.

For no particular reason, I dumped several coloring books and sets of colored pencils in our "hang-out" areas. I was almost embarrassed by it, secretly suspecting the kids would scoff.  Who knew? They absolutely loved it--girls, boys, even some teachers.  ALL of them spend time coloring. One girl even told me, "I thought it was dumb at first. But now I think it's the most brilliant thing in the library."  Yet so amazingly simple.   As is the poetry wall we made when I found a bunch of magnetic words buried in the library office.

A few months after this, I presented at the Contexts and Conversations workshop in Beijing,  attending a presentation by the always forward-thinking Katy Vance who is busy re-imagining and re-configuring her new library in Japan.   During her talk, Katy mentioned doing an  über-drastic weed and using some of the resulting shelf space to create a Maker-shelf.  Lights and bells started going off in my head in one of those, "Well, duh!" moments.

Makerspaces are great, but even with the one I have, I fall down on programming.  And while I love that kids can tinker and engage in their own interest-driven learning, I don't want to lose the "library-ness" of the library.  The makershelf, for my library, is a sweet-spot combining student tinkering and creativity with easy-to-manage tools.  So here's my plan.

1) Gut the nonfiction section. And I do mean gut.  I'm in the midst of a pretty ruthless weed of the 0-800 sections.  I discussed this with the relevant departments, and they agreed that most of the information in the books can be found in the databases.  I'm keeping books relevant to extended essays or casual interests. Books that specifically relate to class topics are being reassigned to the classrooms. We need to stop thinking of the library as a particular space: the library is everywhere--it's a state of mind and a way of thinking. Books need to meet the students at point of access where they're most needed, and that's usually the classroom.

Everything else goes.  The shelves are looking pretty barren.   As a side note, I'll be curious to see if/how this affects circulation. There's some convincing evidence that a serious weed helps the remaining collection to stand out.

2)  The cleared shelves will then be dedicated to different maker subjects, based on informal interviews with students about what they'd be interested in having around. Along with the tangibles, each shelf will include relevant books and some basic "how to's" to get the kids started, as well as ideas they can build on.  I  want to give them just enough to get them started, but still leave room for them to have to "figure it out" through discovery.

3)  Shelves will start with the following, but the cool thing about shelves is they can always change, based on student interests.  That's harder to do with large (expensive!) spaces.

Knitting.  I'll say, this surprised me. I think it's kind of dumb, but I thought the coloring books were kind of dumb, too.  And some kids asked for it, so what do I know?

I have more plans--whiteboard tables,   a conferencing table with built-in monitor for collaborating on projects/presentations, better promotion of our digital content. But that's another post.

Would love to hear other ideas!  Post in the comments.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Guided Inquiry Design: The Put-It-All-Together Chart

Previous GID posts:  #1,  #2

As part of our decision-making process for choosing Guided Inquiry (GI), the three librarians (ES, MS, HS) scheduled weekly meetings to read/discuss both of the Guided Inquiry Design books.  (If you can only buy one, definitely get the Framework one.  It's practical, rather than theoretical.)

Aside from nuts and bolts of the process, much of our discussion focused around  how the model fit with IB philosophy, the Learner Profile, and our individual sections.  It really is a natural for the PYP (elementary), which is very inquiry focused and collaborative, both with students and teachers.  It's still a good fit for MYP (6-10), though as the grades increase, I predict more of a struggle as classes become more content-driven, especially in the DP (11-12).

A big part of GI is research centered on student interests. Many of the "research" based learning at our school is short-term, product oriented, and teachers don't want to spend the time this kind of process takes.  And I do get that--not all research needs to be heavy-duty and pull-out-the-stops.  Thus, my goals for our pilot program this year:
With our pilot classes, identify which units benefit best from deep, sustained research.
The team then assesses and redesigns those units (as needed).
The team and students document and evaluate the process (I'll have a dedicated post on that later), gathering qualitative and quantitative data.

Once we'd finished reading/discussing, we felt we still needed a deeper understanding, so we broke up the various steps, and each of us gave a presentation summarizing how it all fit together.

That helped, but I felt I still needed a "big picture" flowchart of how the affective, cognitive and behavioral strands fit together for students and teachers, so I created the chart below (click to enlarge), which is by no means all inclusive, but gives a general "at a glance" idea of how the process works and what goes on when.  This is obviously more for teachers than students, and I don't like how each strand is separate--maybe some arrows to indicate the recursive nature?

Mental Health Break: It's That Time of Year...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"Respect the Research!": Why We Chose Kuhlthau's Guided Inquiry Model

Being librarian's you'll get my little Me, Earl and the Dying Girl shout out.  I really want this t-shirt, btw. Not the greatest design in the world, but I love the thought behind it.

Harrumph!  Moving on...

When we decided to overhaul the way research works at our school, we had a long talk about models.  Specifically, what we use in each of our sections, and what that approach was based on.  A number of inquiry-based research models exist out there (with the Big 6 arguably the most popular in the U.S.), and in one sense they're different treads of the same tire, variations of a  discover, explore, focus, gather, evaluate, synthesize and publish model. If they're basically the same pattern, does it matter what model you choose?

For the eight years I've been a librarian, I've mostly used the Big 6, or (after a few years) a hybrid  I concocted after a) seeing some problems I was having with the Big 6 and b) reading a couple of Kuhlthau's  pre-GID articles.

However, after looking at some of these models, we decided the Guided Inquiry Process provided some strengths lacking in the other models:

It's based on years of research into how students learn and seek information, and grounded in constructivist learning.

They  recommend  a collaborative approach to inquiry design: teams of three to develop the unit and guide the students. These teams consist of the teacher, the librarian and another member as appropriate: e.g.  tech integrator, learning support, school counselor, another subject expert.   These three members help design the unit from the ground up, and are not tacked on as just-in-time one-offs.

It specifically addresses three aspects of student learning: cognitive, affective and behavioral.  In each of their stages Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (I shouldn't neglect the other authors!)  link what students are doing intellectually with how they FEEL about that, suggesting useful interventions to promote student success.  Moreover, at each stage,  they address not just what students are doing, but what the guided inquiry team should be doing, too.

It doesn't skip the questions!!  While I was initially put off by the  model's eight steps (see image), I soon realized it hit one of my biggest complaints about the Big 6, which I feel jumps too quickly from defining the  task to information seeking.  HELLO!!?!   AREN'T YOU FORGETTING SOMETHING??!?

 Research, as Jamie Mackenzie has pointed out, is all about the QUESTION....and good research questions are really, really hard.  In fact,  I've moved my "how to write a research question" lesson later and later into the process, as I (too slowly!) realized that students often have to do background research before they can even think about writing a question; they often just don't know enough to understand what the questions even are.  And, quite bluntly, if the students don't have a solid focused, arguable question, based on their own interests (not the teacher's!)  their final product is all but doomed.  The Guided Inquiry model recognizes this and not only builds those steps into the process, it grounds everything in writing that well thought-out question.

Finally, my favorite part of the model is the idea of the Third Space, developed by Carol  Leslie Maniotes.  Student interests and prior knowledge (the first space) merge with curriculum (the second space)  creating a new, third space, where students create personalized learning. This ties in, on a deep level, with all the conversations we're having in the library world about whether the library is just a physical space or not.  It overtly acknowledges that meaningful learning is personal and emotional and endeavors to build that into the process.

There you have our thinking in choosing the model.  Next post, I'll discuss how we went about getting our heads around the nitty-gritty of the model.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Collaborative Action Research in the iBookstore

We're published!

I blogged about the iPad Trials, but we've published the two studies in the iBookstore.  You'll find the larger iPad study as well as each teacher's individual subject-focused study.  We'd love feedback!

Year one/Cycle Two
Year two/Cycle Three

And here's our student-created book that started it all--over 15,000 downloads!