Tuesday, December 14, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Are these really my favorite things? No, not really, but coincidently enough, this song was playing while I was doing one of my favorite things—shopping for books with my students! Hearing this got me thinking...what are some of your favorite things? Within our libraries, we all have programs, ideas, lessons, etc that fall into the category “favorite things.” One of my favorites happens to fall right at the holiday season which of course heightens the stress, but I think it makes me appreciate the project all the more. So, sit back, relax, and get ready to hear about one of my favorite things...

A few years ago at the NCSLMA conference, someone mentioned taking the students to Barnes and Noble to buy books. A light bulb went off and an idea started brewing. I could take all the freshmen English students to Barnes and Noble, they could pick out books, and I would put them in the library catalog. I would call it the “Fresh Books” program. A week later, I had talked to the English teacher (only one teaches 9th grade), reserved a bus, found some money, and was ready to hit the road. I made a deal with the kids that they would have a $20 limit, could pick out any book that would be appropriate for the library, and I would put it in the library with a book plate with their name on it in the front cover and allow them to check it out first.
Was it a success? Just ask the kids. Our first group is this year’s senior class. Just the other day, one of the boys was looking up his book in the catalog to see if it was available because he was telling another boy how great it was. That first year, some of the older students complained because they never got to go on any “cool” trips. Later on, I heard a few of the younger students (I serve grades 6-12) discussing what they were going to buy when they got to go. Each semester, as I catalog the books, I have to fight the kids off from the book cart and tell them that the freshman who chose the book gets to check it out first. And before this last trip, one of the sophomores asked me to make sure to get the latest Ranger’s Apprentice book because he had chosen one in the series as his book, and he wanted to make sure we had the next one.
We took our latest group of students to Barnes and Noble on December 3 with a few reservations because they are one of “those classes.” You know what I mean. But, $902 and 50 books later, I was extremely pleased. This trip was also the perfect example of what this can do for my library collection. Before these trips started, recommendations for books really only came from the readers. The non-readers were just that—non-readers. But getting these non-readers into the book store has helped my shelves be populated with books that I never would have thought to buy. I never knew there was a series based on the Halo video game. I definitely never knew there were that many hunting books! And this trip, after two boys approached me with “You ask her.” “No, you ask her.”, I have my first two gaming strategy books on my shelves. During the past two days of cataloging, I’ve had more kids pick up those two books than any others, begging to be allowed to check them out. I think I’ve found something to put in my LSTA grant application! But, my greatest satisfaction came on the day the books were checked out. Seeing the kids’ faces when they opened up their books and saw their names printed on the inside cover reminded me once again why this is one of my favorite things. Happy Holidays and Happy Reading!

Sarah Justice, President Elect

Monday, November 8, 2010

Something to talk about

If you were at the NCSLMA conference last week, you had something to talk about.

If you weren't there, you missed 2 panel discussions that were frank, forward-focused, ferocious at times, and frightening to some. If you weren't in Winston-Salem, you need to connect with someone who was there* and talk about where our profession is headed.

Whatever your reaction to the panelists' remarks, you have to admit it got us talking about our library lives. It's true that some of the statements were pretty strong, even hard to hear, but I also believe that those assertions were meant to challenge our thinking about our current practice and the future of our profession.

Book lovers in the audience probably cringed at the pointed remarks about storytime. Hard as it was to hear, there was truth in that statement. Unfortunately, there are some in our field who wield storytime as an easy way to fill the time, simply reading aloud without enriching or connecting the literature to the curriculum beyond the boundaries of the book. Even when our schedules make us feel undervalued and overworked, we HAVE to be promoting reading in all formats, focusing on student learning, and supporting school-wide goals for student achievement. If we're using storytime to merely fill the time, then we're not adding any value with our school library programs.

If you're like me, books worked their magic and lured me into this profession. But books can no longer be the end-all and be-all of school libraries. If we're too focused on the primacy of the book or if we let our easy love of the book interfere with the teaching of other essential skills and content, then there isn't a very promising future for school libraries. Never mind the future, we're doing today's learners a tremendous disservice.

So, what should we do about our peers whose best just isn't good enough any more? Does it really matter if the school librarian/teacher librarian/media specialist at another school isn't at the top of their professional game? It matters. I am convinced that we have to elevate the practice of our peers -- their practice shapes the opinions of stakeholders about our profession and more importantly, their students deserve better! Whether we want to believe it or not, we're all in the same boat and we need to start talking and paddling hard in the same direction.

So, let's keep the discussion going. NCSLMA isn't just the conference. NCSLMA is us, a reflection of our daily work life and a vibrant professional community if we make it so.

Just sayin' . . . North Carolina, let's give 'em something to talk about.

Kelly Brannock
Past President, NCSLMA 2009-10

*check out the Twitter stream from the conference at #ncslma2010.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Talking about the NCSLMA Conference

What are conference authors, speakers, and attendees saying about this year's NCSLMA conference?

Lisa Yee
Lisa Yee blogs about her experience at NCSLMA in Winston-Salem in her latest entry at her blog: http://lisayee.livejournal.com/149019.html

Check out the photos of Lisa and Peepy, her muse, along with school librarians Becky Palgi, Beth Obenschain, Evelyn Bussell, and Yvette Davis and authors Cynthia Kadohata and Kirby Larson. You might even find yourself in the pictures from the author luncheon with Lisa on Friday!

Doug Johnson
Doug Johnson just blogged about attending the NCSLMA conference -- he looked at attendance at our conference and others, and then wonders if library conferences are fading away? Here's the URL for his blog: http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2010/11/6/library-conferences-fading-away.html

On Twitter
#ncslma2010 @DebLogan we have to stop advocating for #teacherlibrarians and start advocating for students and who else we serve. - @jenniferlagarde

Media centers have been seen as a respite from testing, but this doesn't help w advocacy or relevance #ncslma2010 - @kellybrannock

Home from #ncslma2010 and fired up. Look for something big soon. - pcaggia

What are you talking about?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Conference Update: What Great Sessions You Have!

Okay, folks, if you haven't looked at the conference program online, go look now! I'll wait.

Well? Aren't those some incredibly, fabulous concurrent sessions happening on Thursday and Friday?

Yes! Those are your smart, creative, forward-thinking colleagues presenting some of those sessions.

And yes, those are some well-known national school librarians presenting some other sessions.

And yes, those are some incredible children's and YA authors and illustrators presenting those other sessions!

So you're coming to the conference, right? Great!

But what about you? No, you didn't pre-register. Well, that's okay, you can still come on Thursday morning and register on-site for the two day conference.

So you can only make one day? Then do it! Take Thursday or Friday off and get in your car and head to Winston for some of the best professional development you'll get!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Conference Update: Guess Who's Autographing?! (And There's Food!)

Have you seen the list of authors that will be signing their books at Thursday's night's reception and autographing session?! There is an author for everyone!

The All Conference Reception and Author Autographing Session is Thursday, November 4th from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

You definitely do not want to miss the opportunity to meet these authors:

And there's food -- lots of food -- planned for the reception! So much food you could make your own "dinner with an author" session while you graze the buffet, enjoy a drink from the cash bar, and get your favorite author to sign his or her latest book!

See you Thursday night!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Conference Update: Get Connected at Lunch!

Get connected at lunch on Thursday, November 4, 2010!

The All Conference "Connections" Luncheon, included in your conference pre-registration, features some of our national leaders in school librarianship, 21st century learning, and leadership and advocacy for school librarians:

  • Doug Johnson, media and technology director, author of numerous professional books and creative genius behind the blog, Blue Skunk Blog.
  • Cassandra Barnett, immediate past president of American Association of School Librarians
  • Deb Logan, school librarian, member of American Library Association advocacy committee
  • Diane Chen, school librarian, member of American Library Association executive board

The focus of the panel discussion will be the future of school libraries and school librarians.

Be sure to connect with your colleagues and these national leaders at lunch on Thursday!

A limit number of lunches will be available to those who register for the conference on-site; however, all are invited to attend the panel discussion.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Forum Scholarship winner announced!

Congratulations to Karen Van Vliet, Media Coordinator at Troutman Middle School, in Troutman, NC who has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship to attend the 2010 AASL Fall Forum in Portland, Oregon in November. Karen will be joining other school library professionals from across the U.S. to focus on the essentials of 21st century learning.

We can't wait to hear about her experience! Karen will be sharing what she learns with all of us in this blog, in an upcoming issue of
Media Connections, and at next year's NCSLMA conference.

Way to go, Karen . . . congratulations!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Taking Control of Your Professional Development

With staff development funding cut in many districts, there may be fewer opportunities to attend workshops and conferences. There may be fewer chances that your district or school can cover the costs of registration, travel and lodging, or substitutes.

But even if your district cannot cover the costs associated with participating in workshops and conferences, it is more important than ever that you take control of your professional growth so that you can be aware of the trends, best practices, and educational policy affecting school libraries.

Attend Our Fall Conference

With the theme of this year's conference -- 2020 Vision: Connect, Lead, Learn -- you as a cutting edge school library professional have the chance to network with some of the national and state leaders in our field: Doug Johnson, Diane Chen, Cassandra Barnett, Deb Logan, Neill Kimrey, Kelly Brannock, Sandra Hughes-Hassell. You have the opportunity to attend over 100 concurrent sessions focused on literacy and reading, technology, advocacy and leadership, and information skills. You have the chance to gather information about purchasing the latest eBooks, equipment, and software from over 50 vendors.

Attend an Online Conference or Webinar

Online conferences and webinar offer a virtual opportunity for you to attend some great professional development without leaving your home or school. Sometimes these opportunities are free, like Learn NC 's fall interactive conference. You can participate in the online version from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 14th. Just be sure to register before October 7th.

If you haven't tried the Teacher Librarian Virtual Cafe, well, this Monday, October 4th is your chance! Doug Johnson will lead the discussion, Changed But Still Critical, about the role of brick and mortar libraries in the digital age. Just visit the TL Virtual Cafe for details about logging on to this webinar.

Read Professional Journals and Blogs

Another free opportunity -- it only costs you a little of your time -- is reading online professional articles and blogs. By following some of the leaders in our profession, you can keep up with the latest trends, best practices, and educational policies affecting school libraries. See our blog roll at the right for some of our favorites!

We hope to see you in Winston-Salem in November, as you take control of your professional growth!

Monday, September 20, 2010

21st Century Learning anyone?

NCSLMA is offering a $1,000 scholarship to one NCSLMA member to attend the upcoming AASL Fall Forum, "In Focus: The Essentials for 21st Century Learning", in Portland, Oregon on November 5-6, 2010. Forum attendees will "connect school library programs to current educational concepts now at the core of curriculum, and leave with new insight to encourage, elevate and evaluate information literacy in their programs."

Only NCSLMA members are eligible to apply for this special scholarship. Since the Fall Forum coincides with NCSLMA's fall conference, the recipient of this scholarship agrees to attend all sessions at the Fall Forum; this may necessitate leaving the NCSLMA annual conference before our state conference concludes on the afternoon of November 5th.

The Fall Forum scholarship covers the cost of registration, travel, hotel, and meals. Approved travel expenses will be paid through reimbursement according to the travel guidelines on the NCSLMA website. In exchange for this sponsorship, the attendee agrees to share his/her learning with other NCSLMA members by completing the following tasks:

1.) present a conference session at the 2011 NCSLMA annual conference
2.) submit an article to Media Connections
3.) write 1 post for NCSLMA's blog.

The article and blog post must be completed by September 2011. We are eager to hear about your experience and to have you share your learning with other NCSLMA members!

To be considered for this opportunity, please complete the online application & submit it no later than September 29, 2010. A committee will review all applications, make a selection, and notify the recipient no later than October 1, 2010. Once notified, the recipient is expected to register for the Fall Forum before the deadline for advance registration ends on October 4, 2010. If you have questions or need more information, please contact Kelly Brannock at ncslma.kelly@gmail.com.

Good luck to all the applicants!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Why You Should Be Interested In The New Teacher Evaluation Process

An Opinion Piece by Dr. Robin Boltz, NCSLMA Secretary

Last year my district was abuzz about the new teacher evaluation process from DPI. There was extensive professional development on the instrument and an equal amount of uncertainty. When the doors opened this year, the uncertainty was still there. For some of us in districts where library positions are being cut, welcome to our world!

Okay--be honest: raise your hand if you have read (or browsed through) the new teacher evaluation process handbook from DPI. Just how familiar are you with the new criteria that administrators will use to gauge the efficacy of classroom instruction? Yes, I know the PDF is over fifty pages long and we’re all busy. But I’m also of the opinion that DPI has handed those of us in the library a present that should have been delivered with virtual wrapping paper and bow.

For those of you not familiar with the new standards, here are the five main strands (if you are familiar, bear with me for the next couple of paragraphs): 1) Teachers demonstrate leadership; 2) Teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students; 3) Teachers know the content they teach; 4) Teachers facilitate learning for their students; 5) Teachers reflect on their practice. If you are National Board Certified, or have looked into Board certification, then you’ve been down this road before.

The following quotes directly from the teacher evaluation handbook: “According to the North Carolina Professional Teaching Standards Commission, the different demands on 21st century education dictate new roles for teachers in their classrooms and schools. The following define what teachers need to know and do to teach students in the 21st century.

1) Leadership among the staff and with the administration is shared in order to bring consensus and common, shared ownership of the vision and purpose of the work of the school. Teachers are valued for the contributions they make to their classrooms and the school.

2) Teachers make the content they teach engaging, relevant, and meaningful to students’ lives.

3) Teachers can no longer cover material; they, along with their students, uncover solutions. They teach existing core content that is revised to include skills like critical thinking, problem solving, and information and communications technology literacy.

4) In their classrooms, teachers facilitate instruction encouraging all student to use 21st century skills so they discover how to learn, innovate, collaborate, and communicate their ideas.

5) Subjects and related projects are integrated among disciplines and involve relationships with the home and community.

6) Teachers are reflective about their practice and include assessments that are authentic and structured and demonstrate student understanding.

7) Teachers demonstrate the value of lifelong learning and encourage their students to learn and grow.”

Let’s pick out some core concepts here: leadership, relevance, critical thinking, problem solving, information and communications technology literacy, innovate, collaborate, communicate, reflection, authentic assessment, lifelong learning. Is it just me or does this language seem remarkably similar to IMPACT and our own MCPAI? My somewhat belabored point here is that many of the skills that teachers are being asked to embrace and demonstrate, and those they will now be critically evaluated on, are those that we are already doing and facilitating.

For those of us in districts where library positions are being cut, the new teacher evaluation is a marvelous advocacy tool. It’s our chance to stand up and say, “ As the nature of information and the tools for its retrieval change, so the position of the librarian has also changed. We are no longer ‘keepers of the books.’ Our role is as positive change agent for 21st century information literacy skills.” In other words, to stand up and say, “This is why you need us now more than ever!”

Kelly Brannock, our NCSLMA President and I will be presenting a session on this topic at the upcoming conference in November. It’s tentatively titled either“10 Reasons Why You Should Be Interested In The New Teacher Process” or “Ways to Leverage the New Teacher Evaluation Instrument to Advocate for Your Library.” If you are interested in the topic, please join us. If you are already doing this, please come to share your specifics with others; we’re planning a very collaborative and interactive session!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Racing to the Top: Will You Be in the Clouds?

With the announcement that NC has just received a federal grant for school reform in the amount of $400 million, it's important to understand what this means for North Carolina, our students, and our teachers.

You can wade through the 271 pages of the narrative application, June 2010, if you want to get the whole feel for the proposal: the standards, assessments, data systems, professional development, closing the achievement gap.

But the pages that caught my eye and made me think about my role in this race were pages 27 - 29 of the document. This is where the NC PK-12 Education Technology Cloud is visually represented and outlined. (If you're not familiar with cloud computing, read more from Wes Fryar or David Warlick.)

The K-12 Education Cloud "will be used to deliver statewide access to the major digital resources and tools necessary to support RttT initiatives." (p. 28) According to the plan, this means online resources and tools to insure EQUITABLE ACCESS. It means professional development. It means SHARING of resources across classrooms, schools, and districts. It means Web 2.0 tools. It means digital learning and video streaming. It means CONNECTING.

All of this improved technology supports the four main initiatives of the RttT: 1) standards and assessments; 2) data systems to support instruction; 3) great teachers and leaders; and 4) turning around the lowest achieving schools.

When referring to the lowest performing schools, it was noted: "In addition, it is essential that students in these schools have equitable access to technology and to teachers with the expertise to use it well, to guarantee that they experience the full range of technology uses that their peers in high-achieving schools receive." (p. 29)

Teachers with the EXPERTISE to use it WELL. Are you prepared to be the teacher with the expertise? Are you prepared to work with your fellow teachers to insure that they are experts as well? What do you see as your role in your classroom and in your school in the race to the top?

Will you have your head in the CLOUDS or will it be stuck in the SAND?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let's Get Visible, Visible!

In the fall of 1981, I was an avid reader, taking eighth grade by storm, on a mission toward my goal in life: becoming a school librarian. I just didn't know it then.

I could be seen in our small school library, thumbing through that wonderful card catalog. Remember back in the day when they still taught the card catalog -- subject, author, title cards -- and the oh so many skills-in-isolation lessons. I was brilliant at using an index in any reference book. I was a mighty fine almanac user. I was the best map reader in my class, loving the atlas the best. (Look at all the great places you could imagine yourself to visit!) I always had a book, fiction or nonfiction, possibly a volume of the encyclopedia, with me. (Okay, I was a geek!) I was always seen trying to get more information, out of my teachers or out of some book. I was a highly visible student motivated by the quest for information!

I really have absolutely no idea what my middle school librarian did, though. I remember she was nice. I remember she said my name sort of fancy like: Dee-onna. I remember her sitting at a classroom-type desk in our library. Honestly, though, I don't even remember the lessons she taught us, and I definitely never remember seeing her outside the school library.

As a school librarian now, I wonder if this teacher of thirty plus years ago was visible to her colleagues at all. Was she big in her professional association? Was she part of her school's leadership team, budget team, school improvement team, or the equivalent at the time?

Did she move beyond the walls of the media center, do poetry breaks in the hallways, collaborate and team teach in core classrooms? Was she visible in the cafeteria or in the carpool line booktalking with students? Could she be seen at PTA meetings, department/grade level meetings, or athletic events? Did she plan, instruct and access students? Did she facilitate workshops for colleagues, present at district and state meetings, or provide parent resource workshops?

Was she visible to her students, teachers, parents, business community? Was she VISIBLE to her PRINCIPAL?

In her August 6th post, Kelly Brannock quoted Gary Hartzell -- success flows to the visible -- and offered a challenge for us all to SHOW how the school library is essential. If you're not up to the challenge, if you choose to remain incognito in the shadows of school libraries past, then you'll have to accept the consequences of remaining in the dark (job cuts, devalued library programs, lower student achievement).

But if you choose to be VISIBLE, to step up to the challenge, to make the hard decisions and the big changes that will impact your teaching and student learning, then go boldly, go brightly, go BIG and be VISIBLE!

We're right there with you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Listserv problems - Tuesday, Aug 17

The NCSLMA listserv will be down for 4-6 hours today while we transition to a new web hosting provider. We apologize for any inconvenience!

Friday, August 13, 2010

NCSLMA website newsflash

On behalf of our webmaster, Deb Christensen, here's an important message about our NCSLMA website:

NCSLMA is transferring our site to a new host server. There may be a short interruption in service in the next week. Our domain (ncslma.org) will remain the same and you should not notice any changes at this time with this switch. Thanks for your patience as we attempt to improve our services. Please pass the word to your colleagues who may not be subscribed to our listserv.

If all goes as planned the switch will be barely noticeable. Also, if any members have scripting experience and would like to help with the website, please contact me. Good luck with the new school year!



NCSLMA Past President and Webmaster

Director-Elect Region IV AASL Affiliate Assembly


Smart and helpful!

The countdown is on for the start of a shiny new school year! Are you ready for an exciting year of teaching and learning in a 21st century learning environment?

As I've mentioned before, I subscribe to the NC Teachers Message, a bi-weekly update of news and highlights from the State Superintendent's office. Over the years I've found this to be a very useful source of information. It often gives a heads-up on new programs and issues that would otherwise take time to trickle down to the faculty meeting level -- plus it gives me a great way to "be in the know". It's easy to look smart and helpful with a resource like this in your back pocket! If you don't already, I encourage you to subscribe to this important bi-weekly listserv.

In case you've missed it, here are some important snippets from the latest issue of the NC Teachers Message concerning assessment, Race to the Top, poetry events, advocacy, blended learning, and the upcoming Elementary School conference:

Computerized Adaptive Testing - In the last year, the use of Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT), a testing system that provides a customized assessment for each student based upon his/her level of knowledge and skills, has become a subject of many state and national conversations. As states seek to provide more and better data to enhance classroom instruction, the CAT seems to be a compelling tool. Data from CAT could provide more precise information than traditional tests about which concepts a student has mastered versus those for which the student needs additional instruction.

The multi-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium - of which North Carolina is a governing state - has placed Computerized Adaptive Testing as a central component of its proposed assessment system for the Race to the Top Assessment Grant. If the grant proposal is accepted, member states will have the option to implement the CAT system fully online in the 2014-15 school year or use a comparable paper and pencil assessment. Starting in the 2016-17 school year, all member states will have to use the fully online system. The NCDPI released a report to the Board that discusses the benefits and challenges related to implementing a Computerized Adaptive Testing system in North Carolina. It can be found on the ACRE website under Resources and Publications at http://www.ncpublicschools.org/acre/resources/.

Visit NC FALCON – What better time to visit NC FALCON then the beginning of a brand new school year? The North Carolina Formative Assessment Learning Community's Online Network (NC FALCON), available online at http://center.ncsu.edu/falcon/ , contains online modules focused on helping teachers learn how to effectively implement formative assessment to enhance student learning. Formative assessment provides the base or foundation for instruction and learning and should occur more often than any other type of assessment. If you haven’t heard how your school will implement NC FALCON, ask your principal for information regarding your district’s and school’s implementation plans.

America's Legislators Back to School Program - America's Legislators Back to School Program, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures, will be held Sept. 20-24. Teachers are encouraged to extend invitations to their local representatives to visit and talk with students about the legislative process and what it's like to be a state legislator: the processes, the pressures, and the debate – the negotiation and compromise that are the fabric of representative democracy.

Elementary School Conference Scheduled - The Seventh Annual Elementary School Conference, “Tools for Building a Better Tomorrow,” will be held Oct. 24-26 at the Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh. Conference strands include quality teaching across the curriculum, responsive teaching and promoting global understanding. The registration fee is $150 for NCAEE members and $175 for non-members. There is an additional charge for pre-conference sessions. There will be no onsite registration. For a complete agenda and registration information, please visit www.ncelementary.org.

Blended Learning - Learn NC has just published an article about blended learning in its education reference. It explains the characteristics, history, features, and benefits of this teaching and learning method. At the bottom of the article are links to LEARN NC's other blended learning resources, including a guide to implementing blended learning in the classroom, and online courses that teach various blended learning principles.

Poetry Out Loud - The North Carolina Arts Council is inviting high school teachers to become a part of Poetry Out Loud, the national poetry recitation competition for high school students. For the sixth great year, North Carolina high school students will be memorizing poetry to recite in front of friends, family, teachers and total strangers—and teachers are an important part of the program. Students can choose from an amazing selection of poems that can be found online at http://www.ncarts.org/poetryoutloud, along with lots of other information about the project. Teachers who would like to participate in Poetry Out Loud should review the information and fill out the registration form at by Friday, Sept. 17.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The best of times, the worst of times

It’s tax-free weekend in North Carolina and kids, anxious parents, and teachers are hitting the stores to stock up on binders, bookbags, and back-to-school clothes. The lines are long at the Apple Store this weekend, the malls are jammed, and the newspaper is full of sales circulars. For most of us, school is only a few weeks away. What an exciting time!

On the other hand, if you read the newspaper, The Friday Report, or the State Board of Education blog you learn that North Carolina is among the states facing the worst budget shortfalls next year – a projected shortfall of over $3 billion, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only California and Texas are in worse financial shape. We lost school library positions this year in my district. I hate, in fact I avoid, thinking about what next year will bring. I hear the words, "falling off the cliff" applied to next year's budget scenario and I worry about what this will mean for our profession and the impact it will have on our students.

Now add to this strange mix: a new Teacher Evaluation instrument that emphasizes 21st century skills & knowledge, the introduction of new Essential Standards replacing the familiar Standard Course of Study in every curriculum area (including the integration of information and technology skills), and the possibility of Race To the Top funding with all the strings attached.

What’s your take on this challenging, confusing convergence of circumstances? In my mind it means no more status quo. I’m thinking hard about what it means to model 21st century skills and knowledge. I’m drawing on my PLN to develop resources for 21st century learning. I’m making plans to use technology in new ways to promote collaboration, new communication models, and critical thinking. Most of all, I’m keenly aware that I have to: 1) be on top of my game, and 2) make others aware of my efforts, especially when it comes to my impact on student learning. It’s not enough to do good work behind the scenes. I can no longer acquiesce to the stereotypes about librarians, the warm fuzzy library memories that so many share, and the outdated ideas that the library is just for quiet reading and checking out books. I'm not your mother's school librarian -- why, I'm not even my adult son's school librarian. No more status quo.

This year, a year of profound change and challenge, things will be different. I’m taking some advice from the comments of Gary Hartzell on the Blue Skunk Blog post “Wisdom from Hartzell and Professional Death Wishes”. Hartzell says that success flows to the visible. It’s up to me to show that the school library is essential – to teachers, as a partner in data-driven instruction, to administrators as a supportive model for 21st century teaching and learning at every level, to students as THE place to engage in exciting learning activities, and to parents and the community as the 21st century learning environment their children deserve. Big ideas, big plans, and let's face it -- a big challenge.

Chances are I may not have a adequate budget or an assistant to share the day-to-day work load this year. In fact, I’ll probably be doing more with fewer resources, just like every other teacher at my school. What I DO have, however, are personal resources -- the vision for what I need to accomplish, a commitment to 21st century teaching and learning, the technology skills to support my goals, a great PLN to propel me forward, and the ingenuity to embrace a new kind of practice.

The new school year is almost here. It’s exciting and scary. The stakes have never been higher, but I’m staring straight into the future. No more status quo. What will you be doing differently this school year?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conference Update

The Call to Present form is still available. Please fill out the form on Google docs. The deadline for completing the form is August 1, 2010. Presenters will receive their conference registration FREE (maximum of 2 presenters per session) but must register and pay for pre-conference sessions and other conference meal functions.

If you are interested in assisting with NCSLMA conference planning and preparations before, during and/or after the fall conference either as a coordinator of volunteers or a volunteer in a specific area, please complete the volunteer form.

NCSLMA 2010 Conference Registration Form registration due by 10/15/10
Preliminary Conference Program

Visit the NCSLMA Conference Website for hotel registration and additional information.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's day 4 on my great NC-to-DC adventure and it's been non-stop meetings, sessions, and chances to network with some great school librarians from around the US and the world.

Yesterday was a morning-long meeting at AASL's Affiliate Assembly where we discussed concerns and commendations from across the U.S. This morning I had the special opportunity to attend a meeting with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Secretary Duncan talked about the dire economic decisions facing school districts now and said it was imperative that we make our voices heard and tell our stories loudly and clearly. I'll post more about this meeting later when I have time to collect my thoughts and decipher my quickly typed notes! The meeting ended on a perfect note with AASL President-Elect Nancy Everhart telling Secretary Duncan about the showcase of exemplary school libraries on her Vision Tour website of Outstanding School Libraries. (Check for our Gina Webster, of Walkertown Middle School in Walkertown, NC on that site!)

This morning I also attended a session on Collaborative Strategies for Teaching Reading Comprehension: Maximizing Your Impact
led by Gail Bush, Liz Deskins, and Judi Moreillon. I was surprised and glad to learn that there is a toolkit of fabulous free resources available on the AASL website on how to collaborate in reading instruction. I'll post some of those links in a later post when I re-cap ALA10. I've been tweeting as time permits -- you can search for me on Twitter as kellybrannock or under the name of ncslma. Or, just search for the Twitter hashtag #ala10 to find all kinds of tweets on lots of activities here in DC.

Kudos are in order to our own Deb Christensen, past-president of NCSLMA, who has been appointed Director-Elect of Region 4 in AASL's Affiliate Assembly. I also have to give a shout-out to Evelyn Bussell, from Wake County Schools, who has been using her Flip camera to capture comments and reactions from school librarians about their experience here at ALA. I can't wait to see her finished product!

Tomorrow is Library Advocacy Day on Capital Hill and hopefully there will be thousands of us rallying at the Upper Senate Park, dressed in our bright red t-shirts and making lots of noise about the importance of libraries. If you can't be here in person to join the chorus, won't you add your voice by sending a message to your representative and Senators tomorrow? It only takes 5 minutes to email a message and ALA makes it easy for you by supplying talking points. Please check out the ALA site, put together a brief message, and email your message tomorrow. We're all in this together!

Kelly Brannock
NCSLMA President
connecting -- learning -- leading

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hanging Out in Washington, D.C.

Kelly Brannock and I are braving the D.C. heat to represent you as your North Carolina delegates to the American Association of School Librarians Affiliate Assembly.

On Friday night, we met with other delegates across the country to discuss concerns brought to the AASL from the various regions. Region 4, which we belong to, was well represented and our two concerns were discussed by the assembled delegates.

We both spent time in the exhibits on Saturday, talking with some of our favorite vendors and meeting up with fellow North Carolinians on the floor.

On Sunday, we will meet again at AASL Affiliate Assembly and share our discussions with you via the blog and listserv!

If you're in D.C., we hope you're enjoying the conference and the D.C. sights! If you couldn't make it, we hope your friends are bringing you back lots of autographed books and free posters!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

21st Century Learning Skills: The Big 6 Information Research Process workshop

Don't snooze, and don't lose.... NCSLMA is sponsoring a very special Big6 Workshop offered by Gerry Solomon at DPI in June. Collaboration is a key feature of 21st Century learning, so this workshop is designed to pair you and a teacher partner in hands-on learning. Enrollment is limited and you must apply by May 21! Here are the details:

  • Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
  • Time: 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
  • Place: NCDPI in Raleigh*
*Reimbursement for travel expenses is available, depending on distance traveled.

Who can attend?
You MUST be an NCSLMA member to participate in this workshop. Workshop is designed for a collaborative team consisting of a media specialist & 1 teacher.

What will you learn?
Strategies and resources for implementing each of the stages of the Big6, including hands-on activities. Participants will work in teams and should come prepared with a unit topic or curriculum objectives as a focus for the planning activities in the workshop.

Tell me more!
This is a train-the-trainer workshop, sponsored by NCSLMA. After attending the June 2010 session, attendees are expected to conduct at least 3 workshops in their own region (and invite multiple counties to attend), so that other media specialists have an opportunity to be trained. NCSLMA wants to extend this training beyond our own profession, so participants also may receive sponsorship to present this training at other education conferences in North Carolina.

Find a teacher partner, send in your application, and get ready to kick off your summer with some 21st century learning! For more information, contact Catherine Barone at catbarone@yahoo.com. Applications must be received by May 21, 2010.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Free webinar tonight on Web 2.0 + Education Reform

Classroom 2.0 is offering a free webinar this evening at 8 p.m. This session is part of the FutureofEducation.com series and features an interview with Professor Leonard Waks of Temple University. He'll be talking education reform, Web 2.0, and where the two converge. Sounds like an interesting prospect for our profession to watch! Here are the details:

A message to all members of Classroom 2.0

Tonight, as a part of my FutureofEducation.com interview series, I'll be talking live with Leonard Waks, Professor Emeritus in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Temple University, who's writing a book with the working title The LearningWeb Revolution: Web 2.0, Digital Tools, and the Transformation of Education. Join us for what promises to be a fascinating discussion of educational change.

Date: Tuesday, 11 May, 2010
Time: 5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern / 12am (next day) GMT (international times here)
Duration: 60 minutes
Location: In Elluminate. Log in at http://tr.im/futureofed. The Elluminate room will be open up to 30 minutes before the event if you want to come in early. To make sure that your computer is configured for Elluminate, please visit http://www.elluminate.com/support. Recordings of the session will be posted within a day of the event at the event page.
Event (and Recordings) Page: http://www.learncentral.org/event/73309

Leonard has been an active participant in the FutureofEducation.com series, and is doing an amazing job synthesizing the larger themes playing out in education as reflected through previous guests and other current voices. In preparing for tonight's interview he has written me:
"I think we are at a crossroads at the moment. On the one hand folks like Robert Epstein and Anya Kamenetz are pulling away from the schools to take advantage of the affordances of the web. On the other, so many folks are doing the opposite: channeling the power of the web into the schools to neuter it while retaining the top down structure of learning.
...My questions (and answers) are: what is fundamental or revolutionary change (change in basic grammar of learning or 'paradigm'), is web 2.0 generating fundamental change yet (not really), will it (probably but not inevitably), what would it look like if it did (open learning centers), and how will it get there if indeed it will (a path from virtual schooling to blended schools to OLCs). I think the transition to blended schools will now be swift; the question is what happens next...
Here are a few interesting thoughts from your favorite authors to put together:
1. We are surrounded with new tools that are powerful, mobile, cheap, easy to learn, easy to use, and soon will be ubiquitous. (Jeff Howe)
2. With these tools it is increasingly easy to learn, to contruct and express one's knowledge and insights, to exchange, to cooperate and collaborate, and to act collectively (Clay Shirky).
3. Late teen and early adult years are cognitively peak years (Bob Epstein) and the young people are the primary users of the new tools (Kaiser Family Foundation and others).
4. All of the world's useful knowledge is already on-line or soon will be, and is readily acquired and mashed up for re-use by the new digital tools. This knowledge, circulating in open access formats, is better than the official knowledge because it is subject to rapid correction and augmentation (Judy Breck and others).
5. As a result teens and adults do not need schools and teachers, and in fact are infantilized and humiliated by their constraints (Epstein).
6. As a result the overwhelming percent of them hate their schools (Collins and Halverson).
7. At the same time all sorts of outside the system innovation is being generated by educational entrepreneurs, such as Live Mocha.(Curt Bonk tells the whole story here).
8. Meanwhile college diplomas are increasingly worthless as links to advantageous jobs, unless they come from elite colleges -- it is the elite college link, not the diploma, that pays. And elite colleges are pricing the middle class out (as Kramanatz said this evening -- though this is hardly fresh news).
9. Larry Cuban is probably right that the schools have great internal capacity to adjust without changing in very fundamental ways -- they'll continue to be age-graded egg-crated curricularized test-oriented factories as long as they can. I might agree with Cuban not to expect much change from within.
So where does that leave us? My story is that blended schools can morph into something quite different, and may have to in order to avoid a blow up. But nothing is inevitable.
This promised to be quite an evening! More about Leonard:

Leonard J. Waks holds earned doctorates in philosophy (University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1968) and organizational studies (Temple University, 1984). For almost half a century he has been examining the links between technology and education, publishing more than 100 journal articles and book chapters and a book, Technology’s School (CAI, 1995). He taught philosophy and educational theory at Purdue, Stanford, and Penn State, and retired in 2005 from the department of educational leadership at Temple University. In the 1960s at both Purdue and Stanford he introduced the nation’s first regular courses on the philosophy of revolutionary change. At Temple in the mid-1990s he introduced one of the first courses on education in network society.

Waks was co-founder of the National Technological Literacy conferences, which earned him first prize in creative programming by the Association for University Continuing Education. He co-authored the first article on “technology” in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and served as associate editor for the periodical Research in Philosophy and Technology. He co-directed the summer institute for college teachers sponsored by National Endowment for Humanities on Re-Examining Technology, and he offered popular National Science Foundation Chautauqua workshops for college science teachers on Integrating Technology and Social Issues in College Science. He has also received numerous other research, training, and course development grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies.

Waks is the General Editor of the book series Leaders in Educational Studies, published by Sense publishers, editor of the volume Leaders in Philosophy of Education (2008) and co-editor of the volume Leaders in Curriculum Studies (2009).

Waks’s recent research has focused on revolutionary educational change in global network society. His recent articles have included “How Globalization can Cause Fundamental Curriculum Change” in The Journal of Educational Change (2004) and “The Concept of Fundamental Educational Change” in Educational Theory (2007); the former has been reprinted in the Oxford University Press handbook Globalization, Education, and Social Change (2006), the latter is consistently among the most downloaded articles from Educational Theory.

Visit Classroom 2.0 at: http://www.classroom20.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stephanie Vance, the Advocacy Guru, Keynote Speaker at Fall Conference

Stephanie D. Vance, the “Advocacy Guru” of Advocacy Associates, LLC is author of Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress, the fabjob.com guide, Get a Job on Capitol Hill, Citizens in Action and the recently released Advocacy Manual: A Practitioner’s Guide. She has over 20 years of experience in Congressional affairs, having worked in a prominent DC law firm, lobbied for National Public Radio and worked in various Congressional offices, holding positions as Legislative Director and Staff Director.
Her work on congressional communications stems from a deep and abiding belief that government is effective only when citizens are active participants. She has presented the concepts behind Citizens in Action at seminars and workshops around the country and she is a member of the National Speakers Association. Ms. Vance is also a member of the American Society of Association Executives and Women in Government Relations. Her website, www.advocacyguru.com has won a number of awards, and her work has been the subject of a variety of print media stories, including a column in the Washington Post.
A frequent guest on radio and television news shows around the country, Ms. Vance holds a Masters Degree in Legislative Affairs from George Washington University and a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies at Georgetown University. She is the only advocacy trainer to hold the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association.

Stephanie Vance is the keynote speaker for the fall conference. She'll open the conference on Thursday, November 4, 2010.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Storyteller, Author Joseph Bruchac to Appear at Fall Conference

Author and storyteller, Joseph Bruchac will present sessions and speak at the storytelling breakfast on Friday, November 5, 2010, at the fall conference.
Much of Joseph Bruchac's writing draws on his deep connection to the Adirondack region of New York where he was raised and still lives and his American Indian ancestry. His ethnic background includes Abenaki, Slovak and English blood. He and his two grown sons, James and Jesse (who are also both published writers and storytellers) work extensively in projects involving the understanding and preservation of the natural world, Abenaki culture, language () and traditional Native skills and also perform traditional and contemporary Abenaki music together as The Dawnland Singers. Their most recent CD, HONOR SONGS, came out in 2009.
Joe's academic background includes a B.A. from Cornell, a Master's Degree from Syracuse and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the Union Institute of Ohio.
His poems, articles and stories have appeared in over 1000 publications, from American Poetry Review to National Geographic. He's authored more than 120 books for adults and children and his honors include a Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship for Poetry, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson!

I'm just now catching up on my blog feeds in my Google reader, so apologies to those who may have already read through Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk blog posting of April 21st, "Dangerous Statements for Librarians to Make". Some of the statements really do emphasize how we can be our own worst enemies when making our cases for our library media programs.

Here are some of my favorites:

But the school HAS to have a librarian/library. Really? So we don't think they could do without us and our programs?

If all we're doing all day is sitting behind the circulation desk and checking out books, then yeah, they can do without us. A paraprofessional, an assistant, even a parent can scan those barcodes to check out those books to the voracious readers that clamor through our doors.

With facilities budgets being cut and school populations growing, that space we call a library media center would convert nicely into about three classrooms. Just move in some portable walls and voila! More space for instruction!

Oh, we instruct, do we? Well, that reminds me of another favorite line:

Correct bibliographic format is absolutely critical.

If our instruction revolves around colons and periods being in the right place of a bibliographic citation, then we're feeding the stereotype of the anal retentive librarian, in my book. Why aren't we helping students evaluate websites? Or helping them craft a thesis based on the preliminary investigation they are doing on a topic of interest? Or working toward creating processes that will build foundations for their research?

Maybe here's our problem: The research proves that libraries improve student achievement.

Well, bully for the research! But we can show all the research in the world to our principals and our staffs, but if it's not data and research that DIRECTLY impacts OUR students and teachers, it's probably not worth a hill of beans. Do our teachers and kids really care about what happened in Colorado ten years ago? A resounding, "No!"

But our teachers do care about the fact that we've spent all year working with our students at one particular grade level to implement a process to improve students' research skills and access to information. They do appreciate the time we put in with them and their language arts students, helping to create rubrics and instructing those students in cool technology tools to enhance their multimedia book reviews. And those same teachers are probably excited that we introduced them and their students to blogging which they now use on a regular basis to deconstruct and flesh out content, ideas and concepts in their core content classes.

But ultimately our actions have to speak for themselves. What we do for STUDENTS has to be the focus of all that we do. We have to be ACTIVISTS.

And don't believe this statement for a minute: I can advocate for my own program. I don't need anyone else vocally supporting it.

In today's budget crunch, teacher lay-offs, and central office down-sizing, we need all the support and advocacy that can be mustered for employing strong teacher librarians. But that support has to come from our students and teachers and most especially our administrators.

If we aren't being ACTIVE, relevant, innovative and information-savvy TEACHERS for our students, then how can we expect anyone to support and advocate for librarians in our schools?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Conference Author Luncheon Speaker: Lisa Yee

Born and raised near Los Angeles, California, Lisa Yee always loved to read. As co-owner and creative director of Magic Pencil Studios, a strategic creative company, she has done everything from writing and directing original projects for Fortune 500 clients to leading creativity seminars for dairy farmers. Lisa has also penned her own newspaper column, and written TV and radio commercials, as well as menus that have been read by
millions, jingles for waffles, and television specials for Disney.

With the publication of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Lisa realized her lifelong dream of becoming a book author. Winner of the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award, the book has over 250,000 copies in print. Lisa’s second novel, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, was published in October 2005 and her third book, So Totally Emily Ebers, was published in 2007. Other books include Absolutely Maybe, Boys vs. Girls (Accidentally), and Geektastic, an anthology

Lisa will present at the author luncheon on Friday, November 5 of the fall conference. For more information on her, visit her website, www.lisayee.com .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

School Librarians, Where Do You Hang Your Hat?

At my library media learning team back in August 2009, we looked at the beliefs that are the cornerstone for the standards in library media programs using the book, Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (AASL, 2009). First, we looked at the nine common beliefs through our own eyes, as library media coordinators.

If we had to hang our hat on just one of the beliefs, where would we hang it? What did we see as our focus in our library media programs?

  • Reading is the window to the world.
  • Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
  • Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
  • Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
  • Equitable access is a key component for education.
  • The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  • The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  • Learning has a social context.
  • School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.

We were split between two of the beliefs: 'Reading is a window to the world' and 'School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills'. Some of us felt that reading was the main focus of our programs and our work with students while others took a broader approach to seeing themselves and their programs as the place, environment, and access to all. No real surprises there.

But when we looked at the beliefs from other perspectives, we began to see how others view the library media program and how this affects our work. We asked ourselves which belief our principals would hold up as the hallmark for the media program. What would our students say is the most important belief? And what about our parents and PTA? Where would the superintendent or the school board member hang her hat on these common beliefs?

That's when we realized that we have to consider all perspectives about library media, our influence on others, and the advocacy to promote our entire program.

If a teacher views the library media program as a place for reading and that's it, will he ever begin to incorporate instructional technologies or encourage educational and social networking with his students? If our principal sees our program as the place for students to improve their technology skills, will we ever get a budget to purchase the latest and greatest fiction? If the superintendent is most worried about and focused on ethical behavior in use of information, will he recognize the need for inquiry and critical thinking skills within the framework of learning?

We as librarians know that these are a set of beliefs and one does not necessarily outweigh another. It's important to understand the perspectives of all our users in order to meet their needs, build influence and advocate for out total program.

However, our hat rack may tell a different story if we tend to hang our own hat on only one or two of the beliefs instead of wearing the many different hats of our profession.

Friday, April 16, 2010

School Librarians Cut in Wake County

Wake County Public Schools has made proposed budget cuts for the 2010-2011 school year that include $2.9 million in cuts to media specialist allotments. In real terms that equals 40 school librarian positions that will be lost.

Yet the News and Observer is reporting that with the WCPSS proposed cuts no teaching positions will be lost. The last time I checked, media coordinators in the state of North Carolina are certified teachers and the school libraries and media centers that they teach in are their classrooms.

The proposed budget cuts create a new formula for serving the students, staff, and parents of schools, no matter what the size of the school: 1 media coordinator at an elementary school, 1 media coordinator at a middle school, and 2 media coordinators at a high school.

To say that no teaching positions are being cut is misreporting of this budget information. Every day media coordinators, teacher-librarians, implement the information literacy curriculum: teaching students search strategies for gaining information, teaching students to evaluate print and electronic resources, teaching students to think critically about information, teaching students to select appropriate reading materials.

In Wake County, 20% of the school librarians are National Board Certified Teachers. They hold a certification recognizing them as accomplished teachers in their curriculum area. It is wrong to state that no teaching positions are being cut: WCPSS administration is proposing a cut of almost 20% of those teachers of information literacy.

It's not only a sad day in Wake County for media coordinators, it's a sad day in the state of North Carolina for all media coordinators. But ultimately, it's a sad day for all teachers.

Deanna Harris, NBCT

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take action NOW .... vote!

Have you VOTED yet?? If you're an ALA member, you have the power to make history by electing a school librarian to the position of ALA President! Sara Kelly Johns is that school librarian -- she is a former AASL President, current ALA Councilor, Associate Editor of Knowledge Quest, and a practicing school librarian at Lake Placid Middle/Senior HS. You can find more details about her platform & qualifications on her website at http://www.skj4ala.com.

If you have not received the e-mail from ALA with your ballot, please call ALA membership at 1-800-545-2433 and choose option 5. Don't delay! Voting is open now and concludes at 11:59pm on April 23rd.

Less than 9% of eligible ALA voters have cast their ballots so far. AASL members have the numbers to make a difference in this election IF they exercise their right to vote! Please vote and encourage others to vote in person, with phone calls and online.

connecting - learning - leading

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Take action -- VOTE!

I am reposting this important message from Gail Dickinson. She originally sent this message to the AASLForum & has given her permission to repost.

This morning I found in my morning email the opportunity to do one of the most important tasks to further the cause of school librarianship that I could ever possibly do. I did it with alacrity, crossing my fingers that it would be successful, and the result would hold all of the possibilities that the promise teased. I paused before I hit submit, picturing all of the others around the country reading the same email, and hoping that they would be moved for the same result. And what did I do that was that important? I voted for a building level school librarian to become the president of the American Library Association. I voted for Sara Johns. As a group, our profession is dynamic, vital, and energetic. By its nature, we are also at times contentious, argumentative, and sometimes belligerent. And that is how it should be. Calm and peaceful water is sometimes also called stagnant. I prefer the energy. I understand and sigh as well at the problems and issues we face. Secrecy in a volunteer organization is abhorrent to me, and AASL as well as ALA has far too many closed doors and secret spaces. Important issues are decided behind the scenes and launched on the membership as a finished product. The designated river channels are sometimes concrete canals we cannot break out of to do the best for the organization. But in spite of all that, I want a school librarian, sometimes who speaks for me, at the head of the organization, in those meetings, and privy to those discussions. So when you receive your ballot email, make your clicks, do your part, and keep your fingers crossed when you hit submit. Go, Sara!

Gail Dickinson, Associate Professor
249-6 Education Building
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reading without limits

How many books are enough?

If you ask 20 school librarians in North Carolina, you're likely to get at least 15 different answers. The topic of student check-out limits "circulated" on our NCSLMA listserv, and it generated lots of interest along with a surprising variety of responses. One of those responses not only got my attention, it's still got me reflecting on my long-held ideas about how many books are enough.

Here's a link to that powerfully reasoned message... it now appears on the Wild Patience blog of Dr. Gail Dickinson. Gail has graciously allowed me to link to her post. Please read, mull over, and feel free to respond here or on Gail's blog. As Dr. Dickinson suggests, letting our students read without limits might be one of the best things we could do right now to advocate for our role in student learning!

connecting -- learning -- leading

Thursday, March 4, 2010

NCTIES Conference: Are You Here?

The NC Technology in Education Society (NCTIES) conference is happening in Raleigh, March 3-5, 2010. Are you here?

If you're not in attendance, then you are missing out on some great sessions on instructional technology: Google-free searching, wikis in the elementary classroom, web 2.0 tools, web gadgets, E-rate, online professional development, video in the classroom, student response systems, 3D virtual worlds, and a host of other topics.

If you're not in attendance, then you are missing out on some great speakers: Gail Lovely, Hall Davidson, Kevin Honeycutt, Leslie Fisher, Clif Mims, Kathy Schrock, Alice Yucht.

And Ron Clark. Yes, Ron Clark. You know, the former Disney Teacher of the Year, subject of biopic movie, and founder of The Ron Clark Academy. That Ron Clark, the eastern NC boy making a difference for kids.

What does he have to do with instructional technology? Well, not as much as I had expected. But man, is he infectious and inspiring and enthusiastic and passionate....okay, he's like an educator on speed to hear him speaking about children and teaching. And his reminder: if you don't like kids, you need to quit teaching!

While you may not be willing to get up and act "the fool" for the sake of education with your students, it's his out of the box thinking that makes the difference. And for many of our colleagues using instructional technology tools is out of the box thinking. The problem is if you are not a school librarian who integrates technology tools to enhance instruction then you might need another job. To paraphrase Ron, if you don't like technology, you need to quit being a school librarian in the 21st century!

Ron reminded us that technology motivates, inspires, and engages kids. And folks, remember that good teaching is still good teaching. But enhancing that instruction with technology tools can be the difference for some students.

Ron's best advice: "We don't have time for fear, and we don't have time to be afraid. We gotta go for it, live for it."
If that means trying some new technologies, taking a risk with your students, making a difference for kids, then you need to step out of the box and try it.
It will make all the difference in the world!

Friday, February 26, 2010

3 little letters


No -- not those kind of letters!

How fast can you copy and paste? If you've got 5 minutes, you can create and send 3 letters to advocate for school libraries. All the resources you need are at the Lettersforlibraries wiki. Come on... it's easy! 3 little letters might make all the difference -- and you don't even need a stamp.

Time is of the essence, so SOS (support our students) and send 3 little letters today!

Kelly Brannock

connecting - learning - leading

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Media Center Survivor!

Oh what trying times are these. The economic news is bad and badder, and if you're like me, you're just holding your breath, hoping that we can hold the line, and nervously wondering about the impact on the hard-working school librarians in North Carolina and across the United States. Advocacy, ubiquitous as the phrase has become these days, doesn't seem like a big enough strategy to shield us from the shifting political realities and economic downtime we live in.

In January 2010, East Carolina University held their annual Librarian2Librarian Networking Summit and as NCSLMA President, I was invited to join other distinguished NC library leaders to talk about surviving in the lean times. The theme for the Summit was Media Center Survivor and here are my comments from that panel discussion.

Who knew that all the hours I spent watching reality TV would pay off one day? With homage (and apologies) to the good people of Survivor, here's my take on how to be the player that can "outwit, outplay, and outlast" in the game of Media Center Survivor. Whether you're dropped off in the wilderness of the Australian Outback, Samoa, Kenya, or say, Greenville or Raleigh... what are the top ten strategies of the ultimate survivor? Here's what my viewing experience tells me...

10. Create alliances
Think strategically about whom might be a good ally. Consider: who are all the stakeholders for the library program and how can I cultivate their support? What's in it for them for my program to flourish? Who can I go to for information, help, or support when I feel that my program's status is in danger? Remember that you can find allies in surprising places and that your allies can come from different tribes, like students, parents, community members, administrators, and school board members, (as well as from our own friendly tribe of library peers).

9. Know how to start a fire, read a map, and build a shelter
Make sure your basic skills are sharp so that you are seen as a contender and can hold your own back at camp. Better yet, stay abreast of new information, resources & tools; take advantage of opportunities to develop professionally; learn new skills and teach others. Joyce Valenza, a player that I'd love to have in my tribe, has blogged about "how to retool yourself ...a roadmap of at least 14 ways" to develop professionally. Best of all, a lot of the professional development resources she recommends are ready-made and easy to use. Who doesn't love Common Craft videos, Teacher Tube, bookmark sharing sites like Diigo, ALA toolkits,and much more? As Summit attendees giving up your Saturday to be here today, I'd say that this group has a head start on surviving under tough conditions!

8. Work hard around camp, learn to speak the native language, and be a stand-out performer at immunity challenges
Work hard and let your efforts be visible; when there's too much to do, as there often is, set priorities & focus on the most important things. Do the essential things that benefit your entire tribe in an immunity challenge.
As for communicating with the natives, make sure you speak their language. Translate our unique language about concepts like information literacy and make it meaningful to the players outside the school library tribe. Initiate conversations with other tribes about assessment and data -- then use that data to inform your collaborative planning. Demonstrate that you can (and DO) make a difference in student learning and you can help your tribe win immunity.

7. Know when to speak up at tribal council
First of all, make sure that you have a seat at the council... serve on the School Improvement Team, the Leadership Team, Curriculum Committees, district-wide task forces, etc. If you're not chosen or elected to serve on one of these committees, ask to attend anyway and offer your ideas. In his Blue Skunk blog, Doug Johnson, another great survivor, has posted a series of entries about leading and managing the library program in lean times. He makes the important point that "if you have a chance to take a decision-making role and do not, then you've lost all your whining rights about the choices that are made for you". Don't sit on your hands, and don't get voted out with the immunity idol in your pocket. You must take advantage of opportunities to speak out for your program at Tribal Council!

6. Be the strongest player
The strongest player in every tribe has a variety of talents and excels in nearly every area. The strongest player also possesses deeply-felt convictions, a vision for the future, and a belief in their ability to succeed. So, be the strongest. Maintain a strong skill set by keeping up with the pace of change in the world around us; look to peers that have strengths you need and learn from them; share what you know with other teachers, and NEVER stop learning. Do you have a personal learning network? Are you exploring and using social media like Twitter, nings, or Facebook to develop new professional relationships, skills, and knowledge?

5. Never go fishing, swimming, eating, or bathing alone
...because you don't know who or what they're talking about back at camp! What's more, some of the most valuable information and alliances are built on shared experiences. Cultivate personal relationships with staff in your building, at the local public and college libraries, and with other school media peers in your district, region, and state. Join your professional organizations and be an active member. Develop a personal strategy for advocacy and be ready with an elevator speech about your library program. Don't be afraid to share ideas and strategies with others in our profession. Back at your own camp, make sure that your space exudes warmth and welcome: keep a jar full of chocolate in your workroom and share it with other teachers; look for reasons and opportunities to communicate with parents and engage in two-way conversation often; use your technology skills to connect in more than one way. Bottom line -- don't go it alone! Pursue relationships with others... don't wait for them to come looking for you in the library.

4. Hold your nose (if you need to) and find a way to eat the gross stuff
Be a devoted team player, even when the challenges are inconvenient, unpleasant, not part of your usual duties, or involve a disgusting thing to eat. Volunteer and be visible; stay for after school meetings and come back in the evening for report card night, math night, and PTA meetings; get your hands dirty with messy tasks. Join the PTA, serve on their board as a teacher representative, and actively participate in their family events; help to raise funds for other programs at school; and offer your library as a place for meetings
and activities of all kinds. This is all part of creating and maintaining important alliances as well as developing personal relationships with other players. You want to be seen as an indispensable member of the tribe. As Joyce Valenza says, "as schools are making tough budget choices, if the librarians aren't at the center of the school culture, they're on the cutting board."

3. Lead quietly, but lead nonetheless
Don't grandstand, demand, or be seen as a pushy or negative force. Good leaders collaborate, build consensus, make others look good, and develop strength within their own tribe. If you watched last fall's Survivor episodes from Samoa, you know that a very powerful and strategic player lost in the final round to a seemingly lesser tribe member. The reason? Others didn't like his tactics. While his former rivals couldn't defend against his impressive skills and strategy, they wouldn't abide this powerful player's conduct, and it showed when they cast their votes for a winner at the final tribal council. Reflect on your professional practice, embrace your strengths as well as your weaknesses, and use that information to grow into the leader you were meant to be. Use your expertise to stay abreast of legislation that impacts your work, use your technology skills to advocate in a variety of ways, and call on your personal network for advocacy resources and support.

2. When the going gets rough, remember how much you love the small things like your toothbrush, a soft blanket, or a hot shower -
Don't forget the things that make your professional life so special. Appreciate and enjoy the things that brought you to this profession in the first place... working with students, sharing your love of books, the fun of learning with technology, or helping others with problem-solving. Even when times are lean, we can still enjoy these simple pleasures along with the opportunity to be creative in the very best job there is.

However, there may come a time when holding onto the small things isn't enough.
Sometimes when conditions warrant, players make a bold move to improve their standing in the game. In a state where site-based management is the norm, advocacy has to happen in your own local camp. The host of Survivor can't make the case for your program. Only you can do this. If or when advocacy falls short of your hopes, then swapping tribes, or making a change to a different school or district can bring new opportunities, recharge your professional engine, and give you new chances for staying in the game you love. From my own experience I have found that what is lean in one place may not be as lean in another. Different tribes organize in unique ways and value different skills and attributes. So, don't be afraid to explore your options and make a bold move if the time is right. And finally . . .

1. The challenges are different every week -
One week the challenge is swimming and the next week it involves solving puzzles. Then it's on to launching coconuts at a target, followed by balancing on a moving platform. The best players prepare and step up to these challenges. They practice, take advantage of opportunities, and they don't give up. They dig deep because they know how important it is to win immunity. Just like in the game of Survivor, our challenges are different every week too. To stay in the game we need to be nimble, courageous, balanced, skilled, and flexible -- change is the only thing that stays the same!

In the game of Survivor, fire represents life. If your fire goes out at camp, you're cold and miserable without a way to cook food or purify water. At tribal council, when your torch goes out, you're out of the game and out of the money. In the library game of Survivor, your personal fire is just as important. Don't let others extinguish yours and don't neglect your own flame -- keep your personal passion for the work you love burning strong.

So, who knew that reality TV could be so helpful? Now, if only we could take home that million dollars... just imagine what we could do in our school libraries?!

Remarks by Kelly Brannock, presented at the ECU Librarian2Librarian Networking Summit on January 9, 2010.