"The most difficult thing is the decision to act." Amelia Earhart
So, you want to move to a learning commons? I am with you! But, I have some questions before you get started ordering furniture, buying whiteboards, and choosing paint colors.
Why do your students need a library today?
Why will they need one tomorrow?
Think about this: Wifi has become ubiquitous in most of our schools, homes, and towns and we have devices available in our pockets, in our classrooms, at our homes that provide access to amazing resources. The information we can find on the internet is sometimes better than what we have in our library. It's certainly more current. In the case of ebooks, the information is identical and this is where the Internet and the library intersect and provide multiple ways to access the same information. So why do we need a library now if I have this mobile device with better, more current info than is available in my school library? The information on my device is interactive. I can read books, do research, type a paper, communicate with experts, chat with friends… all of the things a traditional library provided for me-- but I can do all of these things on my phone now! from Starbucks or my classroom or my bedroom.
How have you changed what you're doing to address this?
Before we begin advocating for our programs, training our teachers on the location of resources, and teaching students about all of the exciting new tools available to them, we must first shift our mindset. We need to think about our space more as a lab than as a place to organize books and provide access to computers.
Students are now creators of information and new knowledge and less consumers of it. Our learning commons need to be the place where everyone turns for tools, resources, and space to create new knowledge, projects, and products.
I've been the school librarian at Sanborn Regional High School in New Hampshire for five years. The Sanborn School District is a leader in competency-based education (CBE). The goal of CBE is to allow students to progress as they demonstrate mastery of academic content, regardless of time, place, or pace of learning. This type of teaching and learning leads to better student engagement because the content is relevant and more tailored to their unique needs. (Read more about CBE at Sanborn via Brian Stack's blog posts on www.competencyworks.org.)
I learned quickly what the faculty and administration needed from me. They needed an information curator, a flexible collaborator, and a nonjudgemental colleague.
The following tips will help you to better identify and serve your school's needs under the competency-based framework:
Learn the Competencies
Not that you have to memorize each course competency, but take a look at them. Be familiar with the language, expectations, and grade-by-grade changes in English, Science, and Social Studies. Work with the other teachers, too, but especially focus on the academic areas where you can help the most!
Know the Standards
Read, re-read, and understand the Common Core ELA Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and C3 Social Studies Framework.
It may seem like a lot, but read through the standards on the Let the Librarians Lead website (where the similarities and differences from grade-to-grade are highlighted) and notice the common language in the standards. Making claims as well as finding and evaluating the validity and reliability of evidence are all common skills woven throughout the standards.
As your school begins the process of moving to CBE, offer to lead the way. Serve as a facilitator of meetings where competencies are first developed. An engaged but objective point-of-view is the only requirement for a good facilitator in these meetings. Offer this objectivity and engagement in rubric and assessment development, too. Your teachers will appreciate the honest and thoughtful feedback.
Offer to search for different reading levels for new assessments. While teachers are revamping their curriculum they may need assistance in differentiating for all of their students. Finding articles at three different reading levels helps with personalization of the assessments as well as differentiating instruction. Look for tools that provide an audio version of readings. Ebooks? A database with a read-aloud feature? Playaways? Any of these resources will help to engage and assist students at your school. Plus, your teachers will love you!
Listen to the Teachers
Moving to competency-based education is a difficult process for the entire school. Your teachers will need help, but sometimes, they may just need to talk about their challenges and frustrations. We do not need to offer solutions to every situation: just a friendly ear to help them process some of the more complicated differences in rubrics and changes to assessments.
How have you helped your school in the move to CBE? Comment below! I'd love to hear from you.
Leadership is the word of the year for school librarians. The mission of American Association of School Librarians is "The American Association of School Librarians empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning."
While our national association is empowering leaders, our job is to lead!
School librarians can lead students in developing information literacy skills and a love of reading. Think of new ways you can teach students to make claims, find evidence, and evaluate sources in your library lessons. Work with teachers on integrating these lessons into existing assessments. If students have to "look something up" for a class assignment, jump in and work with the teacher on including a quick lesson on advanced Google searching or an introduction to RefMe.
School librarians can lead faculty in creating engaging projects, lessons, and assessments. Offer to help your teachers find interesting informational texts for their projects. Using current news stories can make an old assignment seem relevant to our students. Think of ways to help teachers personalize assessments by demonstrating tools to use in a blended learning environment. Do a quick after school drop-in for teachers on how to use the PowerPoint voice annotation tool. This can turn entire class lessons into a great self-contained learning asset students can use as they need them. It takes time to se-up the first year, but will save time in years to come.
School librarians can lead other school librarians through sharing time-saving ideas, meaningful lessons, and clever presentations. Participate in your local state organization. Attend the school library and education technology conferences in your area. Do a bit of research and decide on dates, content, and what will work best for you. Consider offering to present at an upcoming conference. We are all doing surprising things that would help other school librarians.
Share the wealth, fellow-librarians!