Sunday, February 24, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

Got this from my fellow blogger who writes quoteflections. It's like a blogger chain letter. I got wind of this thing from Cathy Nelson's Techno Tuesday blog last week- it's kind of neat how this thing spreads. PC picked it up from Blue Skunk and passed it on to me. The challenge is:

"Post a picture that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about, reflect upon it a little, and include links to 5 folks in your professional network."

Here's my picture (ever try to find a picture about critical thinking?). I believe that kids need to learn how to think critically - this is essential in our times. I think that the process of learning is so much more important than content - especially with our older students. I wish that the curriculum revisions our Ministry of Education is focusing on weren't still so infused with content. We need to teach kids how to learn and how to embrace a 'learning lifestyle' as David Warlick so eloquently puts it. So emphasis needs to be on the higher order thinking skills such as evaluation and synthesis. And these skills are so much a part of a research process and inquiry-based learning curriculum.
I follow a blog called Students 2.0 and the post that is linked here is written by a student from Vermont. He blogs about study hall and the idea that schools have the attitude that students must be forced to learn. This particular blogpost ties into the idea of the thinking curriculum and the development of a learning lifestyle. It's worth a look - the comments attached the post have stimulated some thinking from educators about the future of education.
So here are the links to 5 people in my professional networks:

Teacher Librarian Ning

You may have noticed a new widget on the left side of this blog: it's the Teacher Librarian Ning which is a social network for teacher librarians. I've just recently joined. I've known about it for awhile but didn't join until now.

I'm kind of an introvert and really don't feel the the need to be socially networked but I figured that this would be a great place for professional development and professional networking. I'll let you know more about it as I participate.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Too Little Too Late or Saved in the Nick of Time?

Scholastic Administrator posted an article on its site called Meet Your School Library Media Specialist. That's where the graphic included with this post came from. A quote from the article really sums up our role as teacher librarians:
The library media specialist is at once a teacher, an instructional partner, an information specialist, and a program administrator, [...]. They collaborate with teachers, administrators, and others to prepare students for future success.”
The article says that South Carolina's Department of Education has released a set of standards for administrators to help them hire and evaluate library media specialists (teacher librarians). They are worth a look and can be found in part in the article. Obviously this state has recognized the value of strong library programs and effective teacher librarians.
After a long drought, our provincial government, backed by the support of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat is beginning to recognize (again) the essential value of a strong school library program and the contributions of excellent teacher librarians to student achievement. A recent funding announcement by the premier coupled with the submission to the government of a draft document outlining the vision for school libraries of the 21st century gives cause for hope for those of us who have tried for years to deliver exemplary programs with little support and funding.
Doug Johnson's posts We have Met the Enemy and Not Your Grandma's Librarian and Joyce Valenza's post The Impact of Ubiquity, the Importance of Brand and Doug's Warning though, makes me wonder if all of this is too late? Are we becoming displaced by computer contacts and literacy coaches? As Doug Johnson states:
Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration?
I had to respond, and did to the post Not Your Grandma's Librarian. Here's part of what I wrote:
[...] in many places, funding for school libraries and teacher librarians are and have been the first to be affected by funding cuts. Many boards of education haven't had excellent library programs for years so no one knows what they look like. [...]. If a school has a teacher librarian, they are too busy providing prep coverage to classroom teachers to even do the job they are trained to do. That's even if the teacher put into the position even knows what to do because, more likely than not, they have absolutely no qualifications. Or you have a culture of unaccountability for library programs so there is no incentive/pressure for individual teacher librarians to do anything.
I think that our govenment's support is not too late. We need to see this as being saved in the nick of time. This new support is a chance to see this as a personal challenge to hone our technology skills, integrate more information literacy skills, and prove our worth through data collection that demonstrates our effectiveness and help us advocate for our role in promoting student acheivement and helping teachers.
Carol Koechlin (one of the authors of Ban the Bird Units) comments on Joyce Valenza's post:
Why have school librarians not had a bigger impact on information and tech literacy integration? I actually think we have made remarkable contributions to these areas, that is not the problem. The problem is that many teacher-librarians do not gather evidence of their successes and take their stories to where the 'power' and 'money' is.
The OSLA Toolkit has many forms that can help document your practice. We need to get into the habit of doing this and sharing the information with our administrators.
School Library Learning 2.0 has started a new session that is running from December to April. It is not too late to sign up and start working on the 23 things to increase your technology skills. Let's be ready as professionals to step up to the plate when we are given the opportunity to use our skills. Some TLs are doing this already and our students are reaping the benefits.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Federation Support for School Libraries and Teacher Librarians

I just received my copy of Teaching Librarian which is part of my membership to the Ontario School Library Association. While the publication always has lots of informative articles (this volume had 2 articles by our own M.M. and her son M.M. - no M&M comments please:-)), the topic of my post is in regards to two inserts that were included in the mailing.

The Elementary Teacher's Federation of Ontario has produced a pamphlet in suppport of teacher-librarians. The pamphlet is available through the ETFO website and is intended as a tool to describe the role of teacher librarians and to help parents evaluate their child's school library. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation developed their own monograph about the state of secondary school libraries in Ontario. It is called Education Watch: School Libraries and was published in January of last year.

Why were they included? I think that they are a reminder to all of us that our provincial federations are starting to hear our pleas for support. That our federations are realizing that it doesn't make sense to cut school library funding at a time when all students must be literate to survive in today's society. At a local level, with contract talks approaching quickly, it doesn't hurt to remind our local representatives that school libraries cannot be forgotten during these talks. Download these support documents and make copies or call the federation for copies. Distribute them to your local federation reps and ask that they include libraries in contract talks. Put them into your parent council mailbox. Share them with your administration.

Be active and advocate.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Quoteflections Hits the Big Time!

Congratulations to Paul Cornies! He has entered the inner world of bloggers. I was reading Blue Skunk Blog by Doug Johnson who has a major following in the blog word. Imagine my surprise when I found this in his entry:

I've also been enjoying Canadian Paul Cornies's quoteflections blog. He opens each of his posts with a quote or two on a wide variety of topics - and then personally reflects for a few paragraphs. Always worth reading!

With the number of readers that Blue Skunk gets, quoteflections will receive considerably more attention as the link is spread exponentially across the Internet. Quite an accomplishment for someone who just started blogging in January. According to his Clustermap, he is getting readers from all over the globe. I can't wait to see what happens now!

Check out his blog - it is always thought provoking.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Superconference 2008

I'll make a short post about the Superconference, which was, as usual, inspiring, motivating and thought-inspiring. Even though I could only attend Friday and Saturday, what I experienced still compells me to believe that this is one of the best conferences for ANY teacher!

I volunteered to blog about some of the sessions that I attended. You can find those on the Superconference blog. To whet your curiosity, I had the priviledge to hear Vincent Lam (author: Bloodletting and Other Miraculous Cures), David Warlick (whose blog I follow faithfully), Carol Koechlin [Session 1802](who wrote Ban the Bird Unit and Beyond the Bird Unit and who I really want to come down and work with our GECDSB TLs), Irshad Manji (author: The Trouble With Islam Today. An amazing storyteller who demonstrates her couarge daily as a Muslim Refusenick), a session on videoconferencing with White Pine (Session 1703) and a session by some secondary TLs from TDSB (Session 1210) that absolutely convinced me that using the 4 stage research process is the way to go. The Superconference 2008 site will have all the presentations posted for all sessions - it's a great place to go for personal teaching resources and pd.

I also attended the OSLA's Hot Issues session and have a draft copy of the new library document. It is not a currciuculum document. What it is, is a vision document that (and this is really important and significant) was commissioned by the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat. What is completely important is that it is a vision of what education in the province should look like in the 21st century. And what is amazingly important that the LNS commissioned teacher librarians of Ontario to write it! It will be presented to Avis Glaze (head of LNS) on Tuesday and a pdf copy of the draft will be posted on the OSLA site by Wednesday. Remember that the document Many Roots, Many Voices was a vision document that now has become Ministry policy. If this vision document is accepted by the Ministry, policy will follow and hopefully, curriculum and funding. We have 3 years of this government - we must support this document so that other things can follow. Most teacher librarians at the conference agreed that this was a momentous time for TLs in Ontario. There were also representatives from the Canadian Association for School Libraries who commented that all the provinces were watching what was going on here and are eagerly awaiting the publication of this document.