I have been active in AASL and AISL since I began as a librarian 20 years ago. I won’t be at AASL in Tampa this year. I always learn so much at these gatherings, and I will miss the learning and the fellowship (not to mention the free books and swag 🙂). I served on this year’s AASL social media committee, and I will miss seeing my fellow committee members in person (our work was virtual), and will diligently read social media to follow along as best I can.
If you haven’t heard me talk about it before, both my kids are/were rowers. As my oldest is an English teacher and rowing coach (and Masters level competitor) at an Independent School in Princeton, NJ, I still follow the rowing scene closely (don’t get me started…). Today I saw this in a social media post.
True, that! Attending conferences, especially in person has confirmed this over and over. There is always something new to learn, even if it’s not something you can apply In toto to your personal practice. Meeting and talking with other Librarians brings us so much. These takeaways can come in bits and pieces. They will form connections to other snippets, many from your own experiences. You might make something no one has thought of before (and you can present it at your next conference)!
A few years ago, in Louisville, KY, I was fortunate enough to attend a session with a Battle Creek, MI high school librarian. Her students participated the National Holocaust Memorial Museum’s History Unfolded project. This crowdsourced collaboration allowed the students to learn just what America knew about Hitler and the atrocities in Germany, and when they knew it. These scholars-in-progress (aren’t we all?) searched and read newspapers on historical events from the 1930s and 1940s. Their project culminated in town-wide exhibits, visits from Holocaust survivors, and an award from Michigan’s governor, among other accolades and opportunities.
After the session (which was too short!), many of us gathered with the presenter, Gigi Lincoln, and chatted. We exchanged takeaways, business cards, and a promise from Ms. Lincoln to respond to any questions we had. For the next several months (until the pandemic), we exchanged ideas and resources and cherished the wisdom of Gigi Lincoln.
While I have not put the entire project into use, I have used many smaller aspects.
The Research Sprint: Gigi Lincoln spoke in detail about the “research sprint”. The state organization in Michigan provides a robust suite of databases to its school and public libraries. However, these would not be enough for her students to find the local newspapers needed for information on the project. Gigi’s idea? A “research sprint”! Students visited Michigan State University’s libraries. In collaboration with an MSU History professor, and the US History librarian, the students used America’s Historical Newspapers to search for information. The students enjoyed lunch in one of the cafeterias and also had a tour of the MSU campus. In our Advanced US History (offered through Indiana Univeristy) we didn’t travel far – we searched African American newspapers available at the LOC for an “in-school field trip”. With the assistance of the History Librarian from a nearby college we spent four hours (and a pizza lunch) pouring over the magnificent collection, looking for evidence on the social accomplishments of significant African Americans in the late 1800s. The kids loved it (and not just the pizza and Halloween candy)! I’m always preaching the “community of scholars” (thanks Courtney Lewis!), but on this occasion, they experienced it for themselves.
Attending conferences – whether local or far away – is one way to experience the “together” we need to continue to advance our practice and our profession. I encourage you to take advantage of as many as you can! And, registration is open for AISL 2024, in sunny Orlando. Together we’ll go far!
Happy August, all! As we return to our schools and our jobs, I’m thinking back on the wonderful professional development trip I took this summer to Oxford, England. Oxbridge Academic Programs by Worldstrides has been running student programs for thirty-five years, in locations including Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, New York, and Barcelona. An offshoot of that is the weeklong Oxbridge Teacher Seminars, this year taking place in Oxford and Cambridge. This is my third time joining these programs, and the second time in Oxford. Each year the programs offer several different tracks, which in Oxford this year included: Literature and the Fantastic (about the Oxford fantasy writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Philip Pullman, etc.), The Library and the Academy, Shakespeare in History, and Leadership Challenges in Contemporary Education. As I had previously taken the Literature and the Fantastic course, which I loved, this year I chose Shakespeare. My AISL colleague Jennifer Lutzky, from Campbell Hall in California, chose the library track. She contributed all information related to that, as well as contributing to the details of the program overall.
The programs take place at one of the thirty-nine colleges included in Oxford University; this year at Worcester College. Program days start with breakfast in the college dining hall, seminar meetings in the morning, a tea break at eleven (because, of course), then further seminar meetings or local field trips with your seminar group until lunchtime. Lunches are on your own in Oxford. Afternoons include plenary (all-group) sessions that could be lectures, workshops, walking tours, college tours, or local activities. Dinner is also in the college dining hall, and can be followed by optional excursions to pubs, concerts, plays, etc. And of course, there is lots of time for connecting with your fellow course participants over meals, at meetings, and in your free time—network away!
There is also plenty of time for exploring Oxford and souvenir shopping. Oxford is a highly walkable town, with something new and photo-worthy around every curve, narrow alleyway, and corner. Our introductory walking tour, through the lively river of summer tourists and students, touched on all the main sites, such as the Radcliffe Camera, Ashmolean Museum, Bodleian Library, Sheldonian Theatre, etc. Despite its historic buildings, Oxford is no museum; it’s a living, active host to hundreds of years of scholarship and shenanigans.
Here is a daily schedule of the 2023 program, for the Shakespeare and Library tracks:
Day One: Arrival at Worcester College
Welcome: Group meeting to go over the program and make introductions
Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group, led by Dr. Kim Sturgess, discussed Shakespeare in general, and teaching Shakespeare. One suggestion was treating it like a video game, with many different levels of expertise. We then took a “field trip” to the college lake, overhung by willows, for a reading/discussion of Ophelia’s death in Hamlet. The library group, led by Steven Archer from Trinity College Cambridge, discussed “Libraries and the University”, an overview of how the Oxford and Cambridge systems work and how their different types of libraries integrate into the institution as a whole. Then we visited Merton College, established in 1264, and their library, which was built in the 1370s. It is the oldest continuously-operating university library in the world.
Plenary Session One: Dr. Mark Hammond: “Exoplanet research, Education, and Outreach.”
Plenary Session Two: Prof. Patrick Porter: “Blood and Iron: Ukraine, Taiwan, and the West.”
Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group read aloud from and discussed Romeo and Juliet, and ways to approach it with students, mostly by knocking it off its pedestal and connecting students with the universal emotions and experiences at its center. At our second session, we talked about the lyric poem Venus and Adonis, one of the few pieces published in Shakespeare’s lifetime. The library group discussed theories about what makes a library a library, and got an overview on the history of ancient and medieval libraries. Then we had two library visits! The first was with the curator of medieval manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, where we got to see an array of manuscripts, including one scribed in the 1180s and the first bible translated into Middle English in the 1430s. Next we visited the Lincoln College library, which moved into a beautiful church in the 1970s and has exquisite Georgian ceilings.
Plenary Session One: Charlie Gilderdale: “Experiencing Learning.” In this session, we spent forty-five minutes on a math problem, and forty-five minutes discussing our experiences as students.
Plenary Session Two: Punting on the Thames, unfortunately canceled due to rain.
After Dinner: “Optional drinks with the faculty of The Oxford Tradition and The Oxford Prep Experience at Corpus Christi College.” Worcester College Cellar Bar also open.
Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group read from and discussed The Tempest, and some of its problematic aspects, such as the treatment of Caliban. Dr. Sturgess tried to frame it with an Elizabethan consciousness to help us understand how its original viewers would have responded to it. The library group learned about the early history of printing, and then discussed cataloging and item access. Today’s library visits were to two particularly impressive libraries, Duke Humfrey’s Library in the old Bodleian, and the Radcliffe Camera. Both are places typically restricted to Oxford students and faculty, without any public access, and both were extraordinary to see in person. The library group was especially awed by Duke Humfrey’s library, with all its 15th and 16th century splendor, and amused by the juxtaposition of centuries-old volumes and bookcases with power strips and USB ports.
Plenary Session One: Gabriel Sewell: “Visit to Christ Church’s historic Upper Library with the college librarian.” Discussion about the library system at Oxford. On display: a 14th century copy of The Canterbury Tales, among other wonders, and a beautiful exhibition devoted to Lewis Carroll, who was both a student and mathematics tutor at the college.
Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group discussed The Merchant of Venice and its controversial aspects, as well as how it would have been viewed by Elizabethan audiences. The play does feature some wonderfully strong and intelligent women, who found ways to have power in a society that allowed them few choices. The library group discussed library spaces and how they have changed, and talked about ways that libraries can engage and serve their users. We then visited the library at Queen’s College, which has three floors with three distinct atmospheres, built in the 17th, 19th, and 21st centuries.
After Dinner: Walk to the nearby Norman-era Oxford Castle for an outdoor performance of Romeo & Juliet.
Discussion Groups: The Shakespeare group discussed last night’s performance of Romeo & Juliet, as well as reading from and discussing Henry V, and watching video clips from the Kenneth Branagh version. In the second morning session, we watched an episode of Michael Wood’s In search of Shakespeare, a documentary exploring Shakespeare’s lifetime. The library group talked about library services and the broad spectrum of what libraries do for patrons. Then we again fit two libraries into our field trip schedule. First we were off to the Oxford Union, the iconic Oxford debating society, to hear about their history and see their library (including a ceiling painted by William Morris). Next we explored the library at Trinity College, which is over 600 years old and houses everything from 10th century manuscripts to a collection of rare erotica to limited editions of Winnie the Pooh.
Plenary Session One: Choice of walking tours, one for architecture, one for literature.
After Dinner: Optional concert at the Sheldonian Theatre: “Shakespeare in Music; Oxford Philharmonic.”
Free time: With a free morning, some new friends from the Shakespeare group hopped on a local bus to visit Blenheim Palace, the vast and lavish estate that’s the seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The library group snuck in one last field trip, a visit to St. Edmund Hall (“Teddy Hall”) and their libraries. Another library housed in a church, the College Library building dates from the 12th century and is one of the oldest churches in Oxford. There is a tomb nestled among the desks in the reading room, a crypt underneath the floor, and students regularly lean against the gravestones outside to study on sunny days. The Old Library, in a separate building, was constructed in the 1680s and was the last Oxford library to keep their books chained to the shelves to prevent theft.
Plenary Session: Tour of New College (founded 1379). “A visit to this 14th Century college to explore the magnificent chapel, hall, quads, and gardens.”
Drinks Reception: Presentation of certificates.
Rebecca: I think I could happily spend part of every summer in Oxford, and I highly recommend the Oxbridge program, though it is rather pricey as far as professional development goes (I paid for it myself). Please feel free to contact me for any more information, and you can read an expanded day to day description of my experience here. If you’re really interested, you can also read a way-too-long travelogue of my experience with the Literature and the Fantastic course in 2011 here. That course is still being offered, and while of course it would be different, the travelogue could give you an idea of the type of thing likely to be covered.
Jennifer: For the library group, just to be admitted into so many very old and very beautiful library spaces, and surrounded by the sheer volume of rare and many-centuries-old books and manuscripts, was overwhelming and awe-inspiring. Those opportunities, paired with engaging discussions about libraries and library services, made this seminar both worthwhile professionally and delightful personally. I hope to repeat the experience, perhaps the next time it is hosted at Cambridge!
Composite of photos taken around Worcester College. It is enormous, including a small lake, multiple academic and dorm buildings, a library, a chapel, a dining hall, a pub, a Henry Moore sculpture, ancient trees in luxuriant gardens, walking trails, and a vast athletic field.
Three years ago this month, I wrote a blog post about the importance of being vulnerable in our work, as uncomfortable as it can be. Little did I know what lay ahead – recent technological developments are making me flex this muscle more than ever!
There have been some fascinating recent threads on the listserv about generative AI, with topics ranging from policy to privacy and more; as conversations continue, we will see how this .. increasingly impacts the searching, evaluating and attributing work we support through the library. Exciting! Daunting! And to be honest, slightly panic-inducing. But required of me as a professional and to be honest, as a human. So how do I deal with my emotional response to this brave new world?
Years ago, our AP Research classes were inspired by the work of Carol Kulthau and the information search process and began creating their own emotional continuum as a way of acknowledging the feelings that accompany the “cognitive thoughts and physical actions” inherent in the research process. At the beginning of each class, they make note of how they’re feeling about their research (here is an analog version; some classes do digital):
My students’ experience had me wondering if acknowledging Kulthau’s stages and their inherent emotional affect could lend me perspective and hope for my own knowledge journey in terms of AI. Looking at the vocabulary on this class’s continuum, I can say with certainty that I am feeling shades of lost, scared, worried, apprehensive, and overwhelmed. However, I am also feeling my usual robust sense of curiosity, along with some determination and a mild dose of excitement.
Taking action always helps me feel a bit more grounded, so I’ve got some plans, which include continuing to check in with my emotional self along the way to build what Kulthau calls “tolerance for the mounting uncertainty”!
I want to reflect on our efforts to promote DEIBJ in our schools and ask for your input and suggestions.
I need to start by acknowledging my privilege. I am a white, cisgender, married, protestant woman. I come from an upper-middle-class family. Many things I enjoy now result from generations of accumulated wealth, much off the backs of marginalized groups. My school is built on land taken from the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy, specifically the Odawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi peoples.
Recently, at school, we had an alarming post on social media. On the Monday before Spring Break, a 9th-grade boy thought it okay to post a video full of hate speech. The administration spoke with him and put him on disciplinary watch. On Wednesday of that week, the student posted a similar video.
Students, faculty, and academic staff gathered for an update on Thursday. The administration (President, Provost, DEI Director, and Residental life director) stood and addressed the issues. Afterward, they invited the students to the stage if they had any questions. Students began asking questions from the floor. It was my first time seeing students stand up for themselves in a DEI environment. I was thrilled for them and excited about what this could mean for our community.
After the break, we gathered again in a town-hall meeting, where all were encouraged to speak. Many students of all races, religions, and identities spoke out. We were so proud of their bravery.
For me, this incident has brought so much to the surface. You can substitute any marginalized group for the specific racial attack here. Am I doing enough? How does the library share marginalized groups’ struggles at our schools? This op-ed piece in the Detroit Free Press moved me. In it, Alemu says:
Solidarity means finding ways to relinquish the privilege that makes your whiteness inconsequential and my Blackness fatally consequential. Here I’m inspired by the words of the Australian Aborigine activist, Lilla Watson: “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Put another way, if you want to stand in solidarity with African Americans, then let it not be only because you want to save Black lives from our burden of oppression but rather because the consequences of your daily privilege on Black lives have become a burden you can no longer bear.
I have been a DEI advocate for many years. My collections have been through DEI audits, internal and external. My displays are varied, and my influence grows each week. Students appreciate my knowledge of our resources and see the library as a safe space.
I’m feeling a need for some fresh ideas to help make a difference here. So, how can we awaken our library approach to DEIBJ? Do you have any suggestions? Programs that have worked, ways to help our communities “see” into the issues, things that help raise awareness and spark conversations? Exciting ways to make inroads with your community?
My school is spending this year looking at grading and assessment practices. While we’re drawing from many sources, our central text is Grading for Equity by Joe Feldmen. Some of you are probably familiar with Feldmen’s work, but I am reading it for the first time. As a school librarian, I don’t carry a gradebook (for which I am eternally grateful). I do, however, contribute to the assessment design for most of our research projects in grades 9-12, and this book is making me wish I didn’t have to do that either! Grading is gross! According to Feldman, it incentivizes compliance, decreases intrinsic motivation to learn, challenges the ability for students to trust their teachers, and the list goes on. Not to mention the fact that it was born from an early twentieth-century model for education that focused on obedience, punctuality, attention, and silence as habits people would need when they entered an industrialized workforce. YUCK.
Like I said, as a school librarian I am mostly free of worrying about this. Freeing myself of the power dynamic that comes with carrying a grade book was one of the best things that happened when I moved from the classroom to the library. I never liked the endless back-and-forth over one point here and one point there when students wanted to challenge a grade. I never liked the conversation that started with a student saying “Why did you give me this grade?” and me responding with “I didn’t give you the grade, it’s the grade you earned.” Ha! Yeah, right. I totally ‘gave’ that grade. There is a great quote in the Feldman book that sums up how I’m feeling about this topic at the moment.
“[A grade is] an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgment by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an undefined level of mastery of an unknown proportion of an indefinite material.” Dressel (1983), Grades: One more tilt at the windmill
Isn’t that great? If true, however, then it seems like most “traditional” schools are in real trouble. How do we step away from points and grades when our school culture is so deeply entrenched in this way of doing things? How would students (and parents) respond to Feldman’s ideas?
As I was writing this, our dance teacher came in to discuss her upcoming modern dance research project. We do this each year and I love it. She has about twenty-five 9th-graders in Dance I. They will work in groups to learn about Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham, José Limòn, and Katherine Dunham. During the two weeks they work on this project, I am able to work with them on source selection, note taking, citations, slide design, image usage rights, presentation skills, and more. It’s a good project and they enjoy it.
The more we discussed the project, the more I realized that I get a totally different reaction from students when I teach/review these skills in their dance class versus when I teach the same skills to students in freshman biology or English. I mentioned this to our dance teacher and we started to wonder, what’s the difference? Why do the students seem to latch on to the skills and ease into the practice of them in dance, whereas in other content areas they seem a little more tentative, perhaps too concerned they are “doing it wrong”? I suggested that in dance class they may just be more relaxed. That would certainly impact their ability to learn. Then she said, “Maybe it’s because I tell them on the first day that they don’t need to worry about their grade. If they show up and dance, they’re getting an A.”
Ding-ding-ding! That’s it. That has to be it, right? If they don’t have to worry about a grade, they can authentically engage with the subject matter just for the sake of learning. What a concept. Feldman argues that traditional grading “stifles risk-taking and trust” and “demotivates and disempowers students”. Does that mean, then, that students in our Dance I are more motivated, empowered, trusting, and willing to take risks simply because they aren’t concerned about earning a certain grade? That seems to be what my experience with this modern dance research project demonstrates.
So now I’m really motivated to think about this for our other research projects. How can we adjust the way we assess, for example, our Junior Research Project (a big, multi-step, year-long project) to deemphasize grades and increase motivation and risk-taking? Can we do it within the system we have now? If we deemphasize grades, does that mean some students just won’t do the work because they won’t see the value in it (grades=value in a traditional system, after all)? Will the teachers go for it? What about the parents?
I have a LOT to think about. I’m grateful that my school is taking this full year to learn and discuss this work together. I, for one, am already seeing things differently and it’s only the second day of school. For now, I’m going to think more about Dance I, intrinsic motivation, risk-taking, and trust.
The AISL2022 conference planning committee is hoping you will join us for all or part of 2 half-days of emerging, engaging & evolving. Here is some information we thought you might want about this event coming up March 3 -5:
What is AISL2022? AISL2022 is this year’s annual conference for the Association of Independent School Librarians. We have a rich history of conferencing and connecting and while the conference is usually held in person, this year’s offering (like the last) is virtual in light of the current pandemic.
What do I get for $40? The conference includes 18 great programs, 4 exciting author panels, roundtable discussions, poster sessions, and, of course, the Marky Award and Skip Anthony lecture for you to enjoy. And the prize-giving that has been occurring during registration will continue throughout the whole conference!
What if I can’t get away from school? Registering allows you to not only take part in live sessions but to access all material after the conference, so you may wish to register even if you’re unable to attend at scheduled times. This wealth of information is only available to those who’ve registered for the conference. Note that programming is scheduled over 2 half-days rather than 1 full to better accommodate a variety of schedules.
I’m unsure about the virtual format. AISL2022 is being hosted on the Whova conference platform. Whova allows us to integrate sessions, speakers, and sponsors, providing you with one place to access all the conference offers – either on the web or using the Whova mobile app.
Tell me more about the Skip Anthony lecture. We’re delighted to once again feature wonderful authors as speakers at our celebratory Skip Anthony event. Rayna Hyde-Lay of Shawnigan Lake School in B.C. shares these details:
Pamela Harris will speak about her novel When You Look Like Us, the story of a brother searching for his sister after she goes missing. Law enforcement and other community members don’t get involved with the search because she runs with the wrong crowd, and all the while he is trying to keep her disappearance a secret – until he can’t anymore. This is a lovely story of sibling connection, difficulties in families and community support.
Jenny Torres Sanchez : the author of We are not From Here is also great to follow on Instagram. The novel involves the struggle of three youths in their hometown and their decision to migrate to the USA. It is passionate, filled with beautiful descriptions of tough decisions they each face, both while they are traveling and the decision to leave; this book “broke my heart and gave me goosebumps”.
I miss connecting with people! Join in on a Chat n’ Chew Lunch on Thursday, or Brunch with a Librarian on Saturday to connect with someone new (or old :). And use social media to connect online; see #AISL2022 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
I miss connecting with vendors! In our pool of generous sponsors, we have 2 (FactCite and Overdrive) who will be hosting virtual booths; see the schedule for the time dedicated to those who wish to connect with them live online.
How do I sign up? Click here to sign up for AISL22! If you need to pay by cheque, just use the “alternate pay type” option.
I could swim in a sea of professional development for librarians and never tire of it, and yet last spring I felt I needed a change, so decided to take a 2nd-year university statistics course to better support our AP Research students. I liked stats in grad school and it would exercise some neglected grey matter – how bad could it be? (TL;DR bad then not bad).
By week 3, I had learned what I came for which was unfortunate as there were 9 weeks left to go. However, this spoke to one of the most valuable takeaways:
It was very helpful for me to re-live the student experience.
As Courtney noted in her most recent blog post, “it’s important to place ourselves in the shoes of our students”. Taking one little course reminded me of the deft juggling required to manage a full course load. Managing one’s time, seeking extra help, pushing through dense material and continued stepping up to the plate while regularly striking out – I had seriously forgotten what this all felt like from a student perspective.
Online asynchronous learning is not a vibe for me.
Online is one thing, but asynchronous is a whole other, and the combination was not conducive to good learning in my case – but this may just be me. I’d love to ‘hear’ a comment from someone who’s had a different experience.
I am definitely the turtle, not the hare.
Slow and steady wins the race for me. Bombing most of the timed tests was balanced out by thoroughly completing weekly assignments; knowing this, I’m curious how I can apply it other areas of my life.
I can do hard things.
Despite there being many, many moments when I may not want to.
I’m glad I tried something different; it felt great to exercise some long-dormant brain cells. And while I struggled mightily (including failing a midterm), I finished stronger than I thought possible. More importantly, I developed much empathy for our students in the process.
Have you ever picked up a book only to discover at some point that you’ve already read it? I keep telling myself I’m going to stay current with my Goodreads account or try to find that small journal I started several years ago to keep track of books I’ve read. The busier I get the more this task sinks to the bottom of my to-do list, but every so often something jolts me back to reality and I know I really have to get more organized with my ‘have read’ list.
I recently picked up A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, a mesmerizing and meditative tale of time and how we inhabit it. It wasn’t until I was close to the end of the book (about 400 pages in) that the scene where Ruth’s dog is missing and turns up under her porch stirred a distant memory and it was then I realized that I had already read this book—probably about seven years ago if my memory serves me well. Lists are great, don’t get me wrong, but I realize if I had kept that list, I probably wouldn’t have reread this book given all the others in my ‘need to read’ pile. But, oh, what I would have missed by not being immersed once again in a book that brought me so much pleasure and that I’d gladly read again.
Book lists aside, I do, however, keep a list of the professional development I attend, mostly because I like to stay abreast of trends in the field of education and librarianship, and a list helps me keep track of gaps in my knowledge and areas I want to revisit. This summer, I’ve found a number of invaluable PD opportunities that are helping me hit my professional goals for the coming year. So here’s what I’ve added to my PD list so far—perhaps you might find them helpful, as well.
How to Save Ourselves from Disinformation with The New York Times
This webinar, presented by The New York Times, was short but packed with lots of great examples students, especially older ones, will likely be able to relate to. Of particular interest is the segment, “A Conversation With Former Radicals, Caleb Cain and Caolan Robertson” that starts at 2:51 and addresses radicalization that happens through YouTube. Later in the video, comedian Sarah Silverman talks about her perspective on who to follow for the truth. You can watch the entire webinar here:
NewsLit Camp with CNN and the Wall Street Journal
At the top of my list of research skills to focus on this year will be helping my students develop the skills to discern fact from fiction, understand the role disinformation and misinformation plays in the news landscape, as well as the role journalists and a free press plays in our democracy. I attended two of The News Literacy Project’s #NewsLitCamps and found them incredibly informative. Listening to reporters from CNN and the Wall Street Journal gave me personal insight into the challenges facing journalists and the media in reporting controversial and challenging issues. As part of the #NewsLitCamps, the NLP provides participants with an overwhelming array of resources to help put together a meaningful unit on this topic.
In addition to their outreach programming, they are the creators of Checkology, interactive lessons to test your students’ knowledge and understanding of what makes a source credible. These lessons help students develop skills to evaluate reliable sources and information and allow them (and you) to chart their progress. Last year I used their Checkology platform in my New Student Seminar and found the options to have students either work independently or as a group on their tutorials added to its functionality and allowed me to adapt assignments based on what we were covering or was happening in the news at the time. I’m pleased to see they have added a new lesson on Conspiratorial Thinking. Checkology is free and has lots of wonderful educator resources, including their weekly newsletter, The Sift, to keep you up-to-date on relevant media news along with examples of recent misinformation and resources to get the conversation going with your students.They also will connect you with a journalist for a virtual or in-person visit – check out their Newsroom-to-Classroom resources for more information.
Designing for Equity | The Global Online Academy
While my school will be back fully in person next year, I love the flexibility of creating hybrid lessons that I can use to support all of my students. Last year I took part in GOA’s Design Bootcamp and this year I continued with their free Designing for Equity five-day course. Each day we explored ways to disrupt, design, and discuss key elements essential to equitable design: Community, Content, Assessment, and Grading. We explored first-hand accounts, heard teacher and student voices and discussed ways to create a learning environment where all of our students feel welcome and one that encourages them to feel that they belong. I found the resources on grading for equity challenged me to think about what that assigned number really means—to me and especially to my students. I would encourage anyone who struggles with the concept and process of grading to check out Joe Friedman’s Grading for Equity. Readings from it have encouraged me to think more deeply about my grades and evaluate if they: 1) describe a S’s level of mastery, 2) evaluate Ss based on their knowledge, not their environment, history, or behavior, 3) support hope and a growth mindset, and 4) ‘lift the veil’ on how to succeed. Numbers three and four resonate with me as my goals for my students include helping them develop a sense of agency over their own learning and belief in themselves that they are capable of succeeding. This course left me with an extensive reading list which I plan to add to our Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism guide, so stay tuned if you’re interested in exploring more.
ThinkerAnalytix: How We Argue
The homepage on ThinkerAnalytix says it all:
ThinkerAnalytix has partnered with the Harvard Department of Philosophy to help students develop logical thinking skills through the use of argument mapping using the interactive platform Mindmup Atlas. ThinkerAnalytix offers a subscription-based course which a number of our member independent schools use, but there are also lots of free interactive puzzles/ argument maps (referred to as ‘toy arguments’) that you can use to help students master critical thinking skills, effectively communicate their independently formed ideas, and engage in productive discussions taking into account opposing points of view. This two-day workshop was truly inspiring as the sessions were run by teachers at the middle, secondary and university level who currently incorporate argument mapping into their curriculum. Many of the presenters were philosophy majors or faculty who taught philosophy courses and possessed strong argumentation skills. Listening to them makes me regret not having taken any philosophy courses in college—something all of our students would benefit from, as well. I could also see this being a useful complement to the question formulation technique (QFT) I explored in the Right Question Institute’s course on Teaching Students to Ask their Own Primary Source Questions, which I’ll save for another post.
AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity
Last, but definitely not least, my favorite PD this summer was our own AISL Summer Institute 2021: Incubating Creativity hosted by Melinda Holmes at Darlington School, Rome, GA and facilitated by the authors of the book of the same name, Incubating Creativity at Your Library, Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer. While I learned so much from the other PD I did this summer, I think you all can relate to the challenge of being a librarian in a sea of teachers. I’m approaching the learning primarily from the POV of how I can use this knowledge to collaborate with teachers on these skills, while their focus is on how they can incorporate the skills into their curriculum. It’s definitely given me insight into how I might approach future collaborations.
That said, the Summer Institute is great because as colleagues from an academic perspective, we share similar goals to more fully integrate our library program into the curriculum and the academic life of the school. I loved hearing what other folks were doing and appreciated the care that Melinda put into the structure of the day. Although it was virtual, between content sessions we had the opportunity to do stretching with Kate Grantham, slow drawing with Lisa Elchuk, and book art with Michael Jacobs who makes amazing book art for the Darlington School. During the content sessions we explored how we might bring creative programming into our ongoing library programs. I feel blessed to be part of such a creative, committed group of librarians. I’ll leave you with a sampling of some of the brainstorming/planning we accomplished individually and collaboratively.
If, like me, you find yourself having to explain why you’re spending so much of your time off actually enjoying a deep dive into PD this summer, perhaps edX will help—their motto is: “Restless learners change the world” (or at least our little corner of it).
Note: For those of you concerned that all I’m doing is professional development this summer, I would like to put your mind at ease. I have been indulging my newly found love of growing Dahlias, introduced to me by a colleague at work (thanks, Rebecca!). This is my third summer growing them and I’m just beginning to feel like I know what I’m doing. Each year, I learn a little bit more about how to care for them so they can be their best, most beautiful selves. Here are a few blooms from last summer to provide inspiration to my current plants, who hopefully will get the hint and start blooming any week now.
Here’s hoping everyone has a restful, growthful summer!
Aways appreciative of PD opportunities, I have been particularly eager for ways to connect with others through virtual workshops, blog posts, Zoom meets, etc. during this heck of a year.
So I’m pretty excited about our upcoming AISL conference – but also a little trepidatious. To be honest, as incredible as the lineup is, it’s only going to be valuable to me if I have a game plan to focus as much as possible. While I appreciate virtual PD, it has proven far too easy for me to be interrupted and distracted. So here ‘s the plan –
I’ll make sure to carefully review the conference schedule in advance; with the banquet, presentations, seminars & table talks all happening in the span of just a few hours, I need to have a strategy (priorities with alternatives noted)
Being in the moment
I hereby acknowledge that taking part in virtual PD from my office is not going to happen in any meaningful way. Maybe my supervisor is supportive of me leaving school early to connect from home? Maybe there’s a corner of my library, or even better, hidden away in my school? I’ll plan to put a sign on the door, email on out-of-office, and phone on silent. I’ll also give myself ½ hour in advance to eat, fill my water bottle and take a bio break.
A few years back, disheartened by the number of conference bags sitting in the corner of my office – filled with valuable notes not looked at since the day of return – I began using travel time home to create a list of actionable items that can be implemented either short- or long-term. I’ll do the same on Apr 9th. Fewer things done is better than more things stagnated.
After the fact
While I will miss sitting around with friends (preferably by a pool with drink in hand), nothing is stopping me from reaching out and connecting virtually – so join me in reaching out to someone! I took part in a recent AISL Zoom chat and ‘met’ some people I’d love to get to know better. Here’s to checking in with people we miss and making new friends!
How do YOU prepare to make the most of your online PD?