Tuesday, June 10, 2014

PLN Starter Kit Update | Summer Learning Challenge

Two years ago, I asked y'all to help me create a crowd-sourced tool to help other educators start building a PLN.  This request grew out of conversations I'd had at the time (and continue to have) with teacher-librarians, classroom teachers, administrators, etc., who know they *should* be participating in the global conversation about what it takes to prepare today's learners for the world of tomorrow.

And boy did you come through.

Click me! Click me! Click me! 

Together, we created a livebinder full of links to blogs/twitter handles of educators whose work NEEDED to be shared.  This wasn't a "Top 10/50/100 list" created by a reporter or editorial board, it was a lovingly curated gift chock-full-o PLN goodness and brimming with YOUR go to resources.  Since then, this resource has been pointed to and shared over and over again by many of you as you work to help your colleagues grow their personal learning and I could not be happier with how it continues to grow.

That said, while people still contribute to it from time to time AND occasionally someone will send me a note to correct something, I think it's time to give the PLN Starter kit a purposeful update.  Technically, it may be a little late to be doing spring cleaning, but I think it's time we clean up the stuff that is longer active and add some new names to our crowdsourced whose who of educational awesomeness.

One person I will definitely be adding to the list is my friend, and brand new principal, Todd Nesloney.  In fact, if I'm honest, it's Todd's work that got me thinking that it was time to update the Starter Kit.  This summer, Todd is challenging all of the teachers at his school to be "professional learners" by taking part in a Summer Learning Series.  Each week he'll issue a challenge to his teachers that will, ultimately, extend their learning and help evolve their practice.  I love, love, LOVE this idea! We often talk about students and the "summer slide" but if such a phenomenon is real, then it stands to reason that teachers experience it too. And yes, it is important to take time to rest, relax and rejuvenate during the summer break, it's also a time for to reflect and reboot. I just love that Todd is taking his role as the instructional leader at his school seriously and starting off by challenging and then HELPING his teachers make this summer one in which they grow and evolve, so that when the new school rolls around in just a few short weeks, they'll not feel rested, but they'll also feel better prepared to make some instructional magic with their students. What's more, Todd is opening up his Summer Learning Shallenge to ANYONE who wants to participate. Simply fill out the google form on his blog and you're in.

Easy peasy.

Click here, yo! 
Speaking of google forms, now's the time for you to tell me who you'd like to see added to our crowdsourced PLN mega pick! Like I said last time, there are no rules for how to do this, but I recommend not thinking about it too long. Go with your gut. And then, if your gut tells you to recommend others, go back and fill out the form again. Fill it out as many times as you like. I just ask one thing: once you've filled it out, share it.

Blog about it.
Tweet about it.
Talk about it over a cup of coffee.
Make some nice graffiti art (just don't get caught and be sure to send me a photo!)

But let's spread the word and help all those newbies out there begin the journey of learning that has helped us grow so much as teachers and learners.

Ok. Ready???


Monday, June 9, 2014

My ISTE Bucket List

As much as I love attending conferences, I'm not much of a NATIONAL conference goer.  I haven't been to AASL since '08, ALA since '11 and I've never been to ISTE.  But that all changes at the end of this month when I'll be heading to Atlanta to attend ISTE for the first time.

And I'm excited. 

But that's not all.  Not only will I be going to ISTE as an attendee, but I was also honored to be asked to give the keynote at the annual SIGLib breakfast on the last day of the conference.  I have to be honest, I'm nervous about this. Many, many of my heroes will be in the room.  I can't even think about it without getting butterflies in my stomach. But I'm also incredibly humbled and plan to give the presentation of my life. 

I'm also WAY excited. 

Then... my library wondertwin and Level Up Book Club partner in crime, Matthew Winner, recommended to the folks at ISTE that I blog about my experience as a first-timer AND my first post as an ISTE blogger went live today.  Since I've never been to ISTE before, I can't offer sage advice about how to get ready or what to expect, so I decided to create an "ISTE Bucket List" that is to say a list of experiences that I really want to accomplish during this year's conference.  Some of the items on my list are silly, but most are designed to help me get the most of out this experience. Also, if you plan to be there, some will require your help. :) 

If you haven't noticed, I'm excited! 

So... hop on over and take a look.  And please, if you see me at ISTE, be sure to say hello.  I can't wait to connect, face to face, with many members of my PLN and to enlist you as part of my #MissionISTEBucketList.  Let's do this thing! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

No More Technology (or Library) Initiatives, Please.

I ran across this great post by Nancy White the other day in which she questions the practice of referring to learning initiatives by the technology they include - like 1:1 or BYOD initiatives, as opposed to individualized learning initiatives, etc.  In her post she wonders...

"If we call an initiative by the name of the strategy, rather than the results we hope to see, will we actually achieve the end goal?"
A valid question.  But I couldn't help but wonder another question of my own...
"If we call the initiative by the name of the strategy, rather than the results we hope to see, is it because we haven't spent enough time thinking about about the results or, in some cases, even identifying desired outcomes for kids?"
Like Nancy, I've come to believe that this important.  First, naming our work more accurately solves the problem of compartmentalizing it. Not long ago a wonderful NC librarian (who shall remain nameless here because I've not asked her permission to share this story) asked me how she could become a technological leader in her school without "stepping on the toes" of the instructional technology facilitator that she works with.  My response was something along the lines of "kids are more important than toes, so you do what's best for the former and forget about the latter", (which is true, by the way), but the reality is that if we thought about, (and therefore identified), technology for what it really is, a tool for facilitating learning, then we'd eliminate situations in which a) we are afraid to step on toes because technology is "someone else's job" or b) we fail to teach in ways that prepare today's students for the world of tomorrow because technology is, again, "someone else's job."

Plus, identifying our work by the learning goal or desired outcome gives us flexibility to reinvent the strategies we use to achieve those goals mid game.  If we start an eBook initiative, (something I receive questions about almost daily), but then find we can't locate the titles we need in digital form or we realize that the eReaders aren't being used because many students do not have broadband access at home or we find that our kids just prefer print over digital for pleasure reading, our "eBook initiative" is likely to fail - even if, in the end, we do actually put books in students' hands and they read more and achieve more as a result.  Whereas, if we lead our school in a literacy initiative in which eBooks are just one of many tools used to achieve the goal of increased literacy within our school community, our strategies can change because we're focused on the thing that really matters: our kids.

Listen, I get it. Things change fast.  And it's hard to keep up.  And obviously what we call a thing is less important than what we do with the time and resources we have.  But the next time you're asked to participate in an initiative or roll out or program that is named for an inanimate object or a room in the building, I'd encourage you to take it as a cue to ask some questions like...
  • What do we want kids to be able to do at the end of this?
  • How will we know if this has been successful?
  • What will do do if it's not?
The answers to these questions are not only important in helping us identify more accurate names for the work we do, but they will also help us keep our eyes on the prize.  I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be involved with an initiative whose success is measured by how much a child grows or how much they report loving to learn or how many other learners they are able to connect with or how well they're able to to communicate or collaborate or by the kinds of things they're able to create or by the kinds of authentic problems they're able to solve versus those that are deemed successful simply by virtue of the number of devices we bought and checked out. 
In the end, we all shoot for the bar that's been raised for us (and our students do the same).  By refocusing these initiatives on the learning goal and renaming them with the weight of what we want for children as a result, not only do we set a higher bar for ourselves and for our kids, but we also free ourselves up to do whatever it takes to reach what is hopefully a far more important and more worthy goal. 

PS:  From the shameless promotion department: I've been feeling lately like the My Presentations page (at the top of this blog) was becoming unwieldily, so... after some experimenting, I think I may have finally tamed the savage beast! For the moment, anyway, I'm happy with the results. And, for the moment anyway, it's pretty up to date!  If you've got nothing better to do... please take a look.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Awards Are Nice But It's The Work That Matters

Over the last decade, school libraries have been disproportionately hit by the funding crisis in education with cuts to programs and personnel far exceeding most other members of the instructional team. And these cuts continue. Across the country, more and more students have lost, and continue to lose, access to staffed (and stocked) school libraries. I'm of the belief that there's no elevator speech or strongly worded letter to legislators that will stem this bleeding. 

The only thing that will save school libraries is exceptional work on behalf of children. 

The more school librarians who establish themselves as indispensable members of the learning community, the greater the chance that the perception (and in some cases, the reality) of school libraries as being nice, but not necessary, will change. 

Awards like the two new honors sponsored by School Library Journal: School Librarian of the Year and Build Something Big, (a school library design award), along with the inclusion (starting last year) of school librarians as a category for recognition at the Bammy Awards provide an opportunity for us to shine a light on innovative practitioners who represent the real and significant role that school librarians play in student learning. But more than that, they represent an important opportunity for us to raise awareness of the work of school librarians - but only if we take the time to a) nominate ourselves or our peers b) participate in the process by voting (when applicable) and c) share our own nominations with the people without whom our work would be meaningless:  our communities. 

As someone whose received a few honors over the years, I won't lie, winning is AWESOME.  (And I'm honored to have been selected by the Bammy Committee this year as an "official nominee.") But winning is kind of the least important part of the process. While it's cliche to say "Oh... I'm just happy being nominated," every nomination and vote can be leveraged as a conversation starter, as evidence of your impact and as a point of advocacy for us all.  By casting your vote or nominating someone whose work matters, you're not just patting that person on the back, you're casting a vote for school libraries and, as such, for children.  

Please take the time to make your voice heard today.