Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If you Build It, They Will Come....

...but it  takes a lot of work.

I had a shocker the other day when a teacher brought a group of students in to search for a specific type of information.  I offered to give them a quick lesson on ways to find the information more easily, and the teacher turned me down, because s/he though they should figure it out for themselves.  I must say, I was surprised into a (for me)  unusual silence.

I'd been at my previous school long enough, and embedded myself deeply enough into the program, that I'd forgotten I had to train the faculty as much (or more) as I had to train the students.  When faculty are not used to having an  LMS to rely upon, they learn to do for themselves, and may even resist offers of assistance because
1) their system works
2) they don't realize it could work better
3) they hold a mistaken belief that students (aka digital natives) intuitively understand how to work online, and
4) quite honestly, they have limited knowledge of what is actually available for use

When facing these teachers, I have to squelch my own gut instincts (usually less than tactful), bite my tongue and take the longer view, realizing I can't convert everyone in a day.  This post is my "plan of attack" brainstorm for the first semester.

1)  Quick, weekly tech workshops for faculty.  I'm keeping these very simple at first, as it's all too easy to feel overwhelmed with options.  First up, a tried-and-true lesson on search skills, followed by lessons on Google Sites for classroom websites, VoiceThread, ToonDoo, wikis and collaboration.  I created a sign up sheet with the Forms in Google Docs, and general feedback has been very positive.  I tried for a good mixture of fun and functional.

2) Our school is IB, which builds in extensive, individual research projects in 10th and 12th grades (more or less). I will meet with the two coordinators for this next week, get their ideas on where the current program needs work, then offer some suggestions for building a solid culture of research.  I'll blog more about this early next week; I'm going to put together a plan this weekend.  As I work with the students, it will trickle into their classes, as they grow to expect tools and methods to be available to them, and as they learn the skills themselves.

3)  Focus on specific teachers, build a collaborative rapport with them and help them (and their students) be successful. Word of mouth is always one of the best forms of advocacy, and nothing promotes the media center's general "indispensability" than playing an integral role in a successful lesson. Of course this means finding teachers who are open to trying something new--look for teachers who are new to the school or to teaching, as they are less engrained into a pattern and their "usual" way of doing things.  Hang out in the staff room during lunch to hear what people are doing. I planted some of my best seeds here, as people talked about what was going on in their classrooms, or what units they were planning.

4) Watch your attitude. This is my biggest problem---it's all too easy for me to come across as a know-it-all tech evangelist here to show you a new and better way, and woe to any who resist!  "What do you mean you don't want to use the library, you neanderthal??"    Modesty is everything, and remember the ALA mantra:  Lead from the middle.  I tell both teachers and students "My job is to make your job easier" and try to keep that in the front of all I do, with the full awareness that I have huge gaps in my own knowledge, and much to learn myself.  A certain humility makes you more approachable, and compassionate.  I always treasured the comment from a teacher that "you teach like you're one of us."  Well, I am......we are.

5) Not that any of us need more committees, but.... Start a library committee; in fact, start two.  I haven't done this before, but this year I will initiate a formal advisory board consisting of representatives from each division (primary, middle, secondary), a parent and two students (middle, secondary).  I will also have a more informal student advisory group, both for ideas on making the library more user friendly, as well as for advocacy among students.


  1. Great post, Jeri. It's like you read my mind! I have had similar incidents and have enacted a personal grassroots education campaign similar to what you outlined. I have begun to realize that personal 1:1 teacher training leads to lasting results more than large group PD session. It's labor intensive, but I do enjoy working individually with teacher helping them integrate technology.

  2. I think you're dead on with the 1:1 workshops. Those were always fun and, obviously, directed towards exactly what the teacher is interested in. I'm hoping the larger groups will get them interested, then I can go into more detail with the ones who need it on an ad hoc basis!