About Me

After 23 years as a high school social studies teacher, I have taken a leap into library media.
This blog chronicles my experiences making this transition and my learning in that process.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ISTE Standards for EDUCATORS... another infographic

Standard, standards, everywhere! Whether we are developing curricula, teaching, or assessing with Common Core, C3, Next Gen Science or some other set of standards, our focus is on standards for student achievement.

What I don't see or hear discussed as much, are standards for educator achievement, and lately I've been thinking a lot about ISTE's standards for teachers. (See infographic below.) I envision professional development that focuses on these standards. Teachers can self-assess with these standards as a measure in order to suggest learning that they need. Developing sessions in response to such reflection means the PD is self-directed and standards-based.

On a related ISTE note: my library partner, @mluhtala, and I just heard that our proposal to present at #ISTE17 was accepted -- so please come see us on Sunday, June 25 to discuss Libraries in Transitional Times where Kids Love to Learn!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Stanford Report as an infographic: Student Vulnerability to Fake News

The Stanford Graduate School of Education Study recently released its report, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning. Their findings in this two-year study about students' ability to critically interpret information they encounter online are frightening.

There has been abundant media coverage of this issue and the SHEG study by PBS News Hour, NPR, and The Washington Post, among others. Here is my unpacking of that report in an infographic:


Monday, December 19, 2016

Using Question Stems to Spark Inquiry

As I am working with students on research exercises I am working to find ways to help them with the development of their research questions. The scope of their research and the means by which they explore what they learn are all products of a well-crafted research question. I am observing that students can ask very narrow questions that begin with "what" and very broad questions that begin with "why." Without prompting, they get stuck here: too narrow or too broad. To help them expand their inquiry strategies I have begun using these question stems to push their thinking:

Which?  This stem helps you to collect information to make an informed choice. For example: Which Twentieth Century president did the most to promote civil rights?

How? When you seek to understand problems and perspectives, weigh options, and propose solutions, try starting your question with this stem. For example: How should we solve the problem of water pollution in Long Island Sound?

What if? Your question can change history! Use the knowledge you have to pose a hypothesis and consider options. For example: What if the Apollo 13 Astronauts had not survived?

Should?  A question can invite self or community examination. Using this stem, you can make a moral or practical decision based on evidence. For example: Should we clone humans?

Why? Understand and explain relationships to get to the essence of a complicated issue. For example: Why do people engage in human trafficking?

I like these stems because students can decide on the purpose of their inquiry and use the stem best suited to that end. They also are versatile and can be used in any discipline. What is really key, is they push students away from bias confirmation, from the tendency to ask questions to which they believe they already know the right answer. By using these stems and asking many questions about the same topic, they are pushed to think critically about the subject of their research and remain open to a range of evidence and perspectives before developing their thesis.

Here are examples of the stems being used all about the Civil War:

  • Which Civil War general was the best military strategist?
  • How did King Cotton affect the Confederacy’s waging of war?
  • What if General Lee had better intelligence at Gettysburg?
  • Should Confederate symbols be used in official state flags and logos today?
  • Why did Great Britain favor the South during the Civil War?

And here are literary examples focused on Shakespeare's plays:

  • Which of the characters in Henry IV has the most relevance for today’s politicians?
  • How does Hal’s ascension to the throne affect perceptions of his father’s coup?
  • What if Brutus had made the final funeral oration in Julius Caesar?
  • Should Hamlet have minded his own business?
  • Why does Shakespeare use so many references to the natural and unnatural in Macbeth?

I have used these this year with grade 11 students researching the relationship between socioeconomic class and opportunity in modern America. These stems helped the students focus their topics under the umbrella of the unit essential question.

Today I will use them with grade 10 students. Their essential question is "What should be America's response to the current refugee crisis?" Imagine the research possibilities with each of these stems: Which country has a fair, enforceable policy in this current refugee crisis? How does US response to Syrian refugees compare with US response to Holocaust / Bosnia / Vietnam refugees? What if the US reinstated quotas like those of the 1920s? Should the UN establish and monitor camps for the refugees? Why did the French respond to the Calais Jungle as they did? Using these question stems, the students can focus their research on the aspect of this issue that is most interesting to them, and the teacher can engage with the students about content that the student has chosen so the curricular experience is personalized. Ultimately the students will be writing Op-Ed pieces and they range of issues and perspectives considered will read to rich classroom discussion and mean the teacher is not reading twenty five identical papers. A win-win exercise!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Creating a Vision to Guide 21st Century Teaching and Learning

Without a definitive vision statement and mission schools lack a guide for decision making. How do we know if what we are doing is working if we don't first have a statement of purpose against which to measure the outcome of our efforts? The library is a vital component to the development of a school’s vision because the library faculty are:

  • Co-teachers with the whole faculty
  • Curriculum development partners
  • Professional development facilitators
  • Resource curators
  • Information literacy instructors

As more and more schools invest in and adopt 1:1 or BYOD initiatives, a rationale for those programs -- something more than “so we can teach with technology” -- is essential to progressive pedagogy and transformative teaching and learning. Of her own epiphany regarding the meaningful, purposeful integration of technology into learning opportunities, Jennie Magiera said, “I would have to be willing to depart from what I had always done or always taught. I needed to create a blueprint for a fresh classroom design with the power of my new tools in mind. By setting aside my preconceived notions of how my classroom ‘should’ look, sound, and feel, I was able to transform my practice from the ground up.” There are educators like Magiera reinventing themselves as part of maintaining the relevance of their pedagogy in a dynamic technological world. But this world requires whole schools, whole systems, to undertake this renaissance not as random individuals but as systems. Most teachers can explain their rationale for why they do what they do. Systems need a purpose (which is much more than a rationale), and educators need support and continual learning opportunities to evolve in pursuit of that purpose.

When the leaders of a technology implementation initiative are asked to evaluate the effectiveness of a new device roll-out, what should be the instrument of measure? Well, I think, the vision statement. The investment of time, finances, and human power in the tech initiative should have been made as a step toward fulfilling the mission, achieving the vision. So the vision is the measure of how well the initiative is going.

The unexamined life may not be worth living, but don't save the examination for the deathbed. We want students to be reflective learners and we, too, must be reflective practitioners. And schools and districts must be reflective planners. Act with purpose: common, examined purpose in order to transform classrooms into the constantly evolving learning spaces 21st Century students (and teachers) need.

Magiera, Jennie. Courageous Edventures: Navigating Obstacles to Discover Classroom Innovation. Thousand Oaks, CA, Corwin, 2016.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Vision for 21st Century Teaching and Learning

This one is short and sweet (I hope!).

My infographic in which I try to convey a vision for what it means to teach and learn in the 21st Century.



Nussbaum-Beach, Sheryl, "ASCD Express 6.11 - A Futuristic Vision For 21St Century Education ". Ascd.org, 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. <http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol6/611-nussbaum-beach.aspx>.


Palmer, Tsisana, "15 Characteristics Of A 21St-Century Teacher". Edutopia, 20 June 2015. Web. 12 Dec. 2016. <https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/15-characteristics-21st-century-teacher>

Natick Public Schools, A Vision and Framework for 21st Century Teaching & Learning, February 2011 Web 12 Dec. 2016, <http://www.natickps.org/district/districtmaininfo/documents/Technology%20Presentation%20Part%2012.pdf>

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mapping Global Climate Change Has Begun

A few weeks ago I described a project that I was co-planning with a science teacher for her grade 9 earth science students. Today we began! When they arrived in the library they were already assigned to groups of three and given a country that, in most cases, they had previously studied in their social studies class. We used their double lab period to introduce the project and get started on research. In a nutshell, here is a the project:

In small groups you will examine the climate of countries in different environments. You will then predict what might happen to the climate of a particular country as the earth continues to warm. All of your research, insight, evidence, and citations will be presented as a layer on a class Google My Map.

My colleague wisely reminded the class of their predisposition to jump to the final product without embracing the vital steps of research necessary to inform that product. So we began by giving the students a short (less than 2 page) overview reading on indicators of climate change and impact projections. We instructed them to read and annotate what they thought was important.

No one annotated.

When the chatter began, and they said they were done reading, I asked them to review the reading one section at a time. The sub-heading for the first section was: "Increasing Temperatures." I asked students to share something in that section that prompted them to ask a question about the geographical region they were about to study. First they blinked, then they stared at their computer screens hoping that avoiding eye contact would end this part of the exercise.

I kept pushing: "when you read about rising temperatures what does it make you wonder about your country or region?" Finally, a student who is studying India asked, "what happens to people already living in really cramped conditions when it gets hotter? won't they suffer?" And then, a student started to answer that question. Now, I'm not in the habit of stopping a student from contributing, but I did. I said, you are making statements but this phase of our work is about asking questions. What happens at the beginning of research when you make statements instead of asking questions? They figured this out right away: statements lead to bias confirmation; questions allow you to see and incorporate information that surprises and challenges you. Statements rehash what you already think you know; questions enable you to learn something new.

We returned to the overview reading and students began asking questions about their assigned region based on the information in the reading. They annotated the reading with their questions and shared with the class. Then I said, what's next? How will you find more information about your region? The reading is a global overview, now you need to focus geographically. They knew it was time for keywords. I suggested they work in their groups to make a list of 25 keywords, and when they had that many they had to ask me or their science teacher to review the list and give them the thumbs up to begin searching the databases and collected websites. They were aghast! TWENTY-five words?! Yes, I said. And next year I will ask you for 75!

By the time class ended, they had made their lists, gotten approval to proceed with research and were given the expectation that each member of the group will have completed reading, citing and note-taking from at least one source before we reconvene. When they have examined multiple sources each, they will share their notes and organize them in this table:

Ultimately their goal is to make predictions about their region, so we will give them these formulas to help guide that synthesis of their information:


Finally, they will display their questions, research, citations, and predictions on a layer of a Google MyMap and write or screencast a reflection on the future of global climate predictions by comparing the information in their map layer with their classmates. I will share more when we get to that stage!

Lessons learned from experimenting with VR

We are investigating different ways to use augmented and virtual reality to enhance teaching and learning. At this point our approach may be a bit haphazard as we play with different free devices, apps, and triggers in our pursuit of a full curricular adoption of a VR platform. Such adoption is a long way off. In the meantime we are gaining increasing appreciation for the learning potential of a robust system as we watch our students interact with the modest tools in our makerspace.

A tool we have: a class set of cardboards
The obstacle we face: no devices to insert into the cardboards

Another tool: In addition to their BYOD devices, students bring smartphones to school
Another obstacle: our state has a student data privacy law that significantly restricts the digital platforms to which teachers can direct students for classroom exercises.

So here is what we have tried:
Having recently upgraded my phone, I donated my old android phone to our TechXperts. I showed them the roller coaster cardboard app and then got out of the way. They started by creating elastic head straps to turn the cardboards into hands-free devices. They scoured the play store for VR experiences compatible with the single device we have and began wandering the makerspace wearing the headset. Students started clambering: me, too! me, too! and the line formed of students waiting for a turn.

Lesson 1: Students are always game for a new learning experience.

Once the furor abated I tried out the apps they installed and wandered around a fantasy world for a while. I moved around my physical space as I moved around the virtual space. I jumped, squatted, spun, reached, walked... I moved.

Lesson 2When you are looking for ways to introduce movement into your classroom, VR is a great tool for kinesthetic learning!

After the fantasy exploration, the students tried to get me to cliff dive, and I was done. The roller coaster app was not enough for them. They needed to free-fall through space! I told them when I tried Google Expeditions at ISTE2015, and found myself on the side of Everest, I fell out of the chair was helped off the floor by a very sweet Googler who assured me that I wasn't the first person to do that. Still embarrassing.

Lesson 3: VR experiences are visceral and can help students develop empathy.

Augmented reality is cool, too. While less immersive, AR experiences have similar and important impact on teaching and learning. On a recent professional learning day, we set up a playground for teachers to visit between workshops or as a workshop session. One of the playground stations was an AR station. We downloaded the chemistry and anatomy triggers from Daqri, installed the Daqri app on the library iPads, and invited teachers to play with the element, heart, and body systems enhancements. Say goodbye to cellophane overlays that build the systems of the body in increasingly difficult to read layers! Now the systems can be added and removed by a touch of the finger and they layer and intertwine with one another as they do in a body.

Lessons 4&5: The interactive, multi-media, self-directed nature of VR and AR helps students orient to challenging concepts and gives them agency over their interaction with the content.

In the library specifically we are resurrecting a past initiative using Aurasma to create triggers out of book covers. When students meet in the library to select independent reading material, we are capturing short videos of them reviewing their books. Then, we make the video an overlay with the cover as a trigger. Students -- any library patron, really -- can follow our channel and scan the covers of books to see what fellow students say about them! Now, AR is not just about consuming information, but about the creation, by students, of new insights, learning, and content.

Lesson 6: In small and large ways, AR and VR experiences encourage students to explore previously inaccessible ideas and places expanding their passions and curiosity.

Needless to say there are much more expansive AR and VR experiences available for education than those in which we have dabbled. Our little experiences are helping us build a plan for more curricular integration of such experiences -- and more financial investment, too. In the meantime, these dabbles are helping us to expand our thinking about how to enhance teaching and learning, beyond the wow! factor.

Monday, December 5, 2016

On loving to read (or at least pretending to)

When I was in grad school earning a master's degree in social studies and my grades 7-12 teaching certification I took a methods class in which we were put into pairs and had to develop a lesson to deliver to our classmates. My partner turned to me and said: "Let's not give them any reading to do for this; I hate reading." I don't remember anything else about that class, not the lesson we planned, not the name of the professor, not even the name of my partner. But I have always -- for 25 years -- remembered that comment.

I was aghast at that sentiment back then. I mean, why would someone go into teaching if she doesn't like reading? That is a fundamental element of teaching and learning, an essential skill nurtured in every student by every teacher. Yet, recently I was shocked (more like horrified) to hear another educator say the same thing. Don't get me wrong, there are kinds of texts I don't like to read. There are authors whose work I don't really enjoy. There are wildly popular books that I fail to appreciate with such enthusiasm. But I love to read. And do so daily for intellectual enrichment and enjoyment.

Today we worked on revising our library curriculum. We spent hours discussing the concept of literary appreciation. To me this means understanding the value of the written word, the power of texts to inform and entertain, and the necessity of developing the ability to access those texts. It does not mean (to me) enjoying reading. Enjoying literature (both fiction and non) is separate from understanding its importance. Ideally, I would be elated for every student I encounter to leave school a lover of reading, voraciously consuming texts in multiple forms of media, but I know that this will not be the case for all of them. I do hope students graduate knowing how to identify what they need to know and what they enjoy and able to access the literature that satisfies those needs when they arise.

But reading is hard. Our brains, according to Maryanne Wolf in Proust and the Squid, are not born wired to read. In fact the mechanics of the brain are rearranged through our learning processes to accommodate this human invention of the written word. So struggling with reading is natural. As with anything students learn, some intrinsic value and other incentive (like the enjoyment of story) must boost students to persist in building the neuropathways necessary to build a literate brain. Students are surrounded by people who have an array of relationships with reading. Their parents may or may not be big readers. The same is true of their friends. In high school I frequently encounter students who disavow reading. If these students encounter even one teacher who says, "I hate reading," I fear that student is doomed. The very person trying to teach you to read or to have literary appreciation has just eviscerated any hope you develop those skills or habits of mind. Yikes!

I would like to know why someone who doesn't like to read does like to teach. Perhaps, there is space there for exploration. How can a non-reader discover enjoyment or mastery for the sake of utility of reading? No matter how old that person is? And, how do they convey this appreciation of literature to others?