Friday, May 30, 2014

Digital Divide Series: Public Education vs Charter Schools, Finland, and Media and Information Literacy Skills

Educational infrastructures are changing and adapting to their surroundings. How does this impact the digital divide?  This post highlights pertinent sound bites and references to resources.

Public Education vs. Charter Schools

In order to somewhat stay informed about public education, I regularly view Diane Ravich's blog.  She is a tireless crusader and advocate for public education. She provides insight how public and private schools effect each other.  Her motto is that an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.  I think that an attack on democracy fuels the digital divide.

Money, Money, Money (lots of library connections to Abba songs lately :)

Ravich's recent appearance on Bill Moyers alerted me to the following issues.
  • "Watch for charter schools putting public schools in the positive on being for sale and the privatization of public education." 
  • "The belief that public schools aren't failing but with 25% rate of poverty that schools have to deal with it because the communities are the problems.  Let's fix the communities instead of putting them into the hands of entrepreneurs."
  • "Charter schools run by hedge funds, competition for test scores, and want to keep people with disabilities out. Are politicians saying no to this?"
  • Virtual charter schools=academic results & making money
  • "Why can't we be more like Switzerland and their schools striving for equality?"
  • "Education is a central part of our democracy.  Can democracy beat big money?"

Inspiring Video
Toxic Culture of Education: Joshua Katz at TEDx University of Akron

Fascinating Findings From Finland

Our approaches, decisions and actions in education really matter and they contribute to the digital divide. Schools are experiencing accelerated learning or struggling to stay afloat with access to information, hardware, software, and acquiring skills through instructional practices. Yes Finland and America are two different countries with two different sets of educational circumstances but I like what they are doing in Finland.  I admire them from afar. 

Forward Thinking Education: Smithsonian A+ for Finland
  • "Teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around."
  • "Many schools are small enough so that teachers know every student.  If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else.  They seem to relish the challenges."
  • "Children from wealthy families with lots of education can be taught by stupid teachers. We try to catch the weak students. It's deep in our thinking."
  • "Equality is the most important word in Finnish education.  All political parties on the right and left agree on this."
  • "We teach children how to learn, not how to take a test."
  • "It was simply the idea that every child would have a very good public school.  If we want to be competitive, we need to educate everybody.  It all came out of a need to survive."
  • "Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated.  All children-clever or less so-were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind."
If you want to learn more about Finland I suggest starting with Ravich's blog post What These American Educators Learned in Finland.

Here is a quote from the article that caught my attention, "Surprisingly for several of us, we did not see technology used in classrooms at all."

Media and Information Literacy Skills: Policy and Guideline Strategies

"Without a MIL policy and
strategy, disparities are likely
to increase between those who
have and those who do not have
access to information and media,
and enjoy or not freedom of
expression. Additional disparities
will emerge between those who
are able and unable to find,
analyse and critically evaluate
and apply information and media
content for decision-making." -p.13

Source: UNESCO

Closing Remarks

Reflecting on this post I anticipate the digital divide creating mass chaos with the issue becoming more apparent in our society.  From my perspective each day the digital divide is growing and there is the potential for more mass confusion than the day before.  I believe that the gap is widening between those just trying to survive vs. flourishing. Because of the digital divide the lower end spectrum of people won't know what to do.  This may sound a bit dramatic but it seems like this path is a race to extinction on both ends. In the back of my mind I think about the possible social and economic outcomes due to real extremes in our educational system. I believe that extremes are dangerous causing problems of intolerance and hatred. Libraries need to be ready to help. 

Topics for the next digital divide posts include dispositions and educational communities.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Christine Sturgeon Our IASL President...Leadership In Action

In 75-100 words, tell us who you are
As a girl, Pat Middleswart (Dike) was my stellar teacher librarian.  Thanks to her example, I knew I wanted to be a librarian.  I forgot about that a bit when I went to the University of Iowa, where I studied journalism.  I met my future husband there, dropped out, and soon was a stay-at-home with five children.  I had many iterations as a college student until finally finding UNI's 2+2 program from which I graduated in 2009 with an elementary education degree.  Right after that, I started at the University of Missouri, earning my MLIS.  It took me 21 years to get my bachelor's degree and a year and a half to get my master's!
In one or two sentences, tell us what your current professional position.
I'm in my third year as K-12 Teacher Librarian/Technology Integrationist at Manson Northwest Webster Schools.  I love working with preschoolers one day and high school seniors the next.  The coolest things I've done this year are start the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program with our preschool teachers, and work with a sixth grade student group as they present a weekly video news program.
Your current job
What are your top three responsibilities or goals?  
My top three responsibilities as a teacher librarian are to empower students to become lifelong learners, build the collection and program so people want to be in the library space or use library services, and to make classroom teachers' lives easier!
How do you set priorities, especially if assigned to multiple buildings?
I do work in two buildings, and mostly, while in a particular building, I try to focus on the work of that building.  And I pretty much wear blinders, focusing on the next project, which does get me in trouble sometimes.
Who is your biggest supporter and why?
My daughter, Libby!  She's been my biggest supporter as I went back to college as a nontraditional student (I graduated from UNI the semester she started there).  Plus she almost always listens patiently as I tell her long, drawn-out stories of my escapades.  (I hope she'll get her MLIS eventually but she's a great ESL teacher so maybe we just have different callings in life.)
How do you stay current (in technology, literature, instruction, pop culture, etc.)?
Twitter, RSS (yes! really!), Wired Magazine
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Finding things in my office or worse, my email inbox
What’s the best (or worst) part about working with young people?
Best part are hugs (obviously!) and when a student says how I've positively impacted their lives. The worst part is when a student moves away.
What are you passionate about?
Makerspace, video production, MOOCs, 3D modeling and printing with elementary students
What are you most proud of as a teacher librarian and IASL president?
As a TL, I'm proud of the program I've built here.  The collection has improved greatly thanks to weeding and moving to the bookstore model.
As IASL president, I'm really proud of what we accomplished this spring at the Capitol, getting TLs off of the operational function list.
Other groups:
I serve on the North Central regional advisory board of the Governor's STEM council,  I am secretary of Iowa Student Learning Institute (ISLI), and I serve on the North Iowa Library Collaborating Board.
Advice and Inspiration
What advice do you have for current and future librarians?
Go for it!  School librarianship is so much fun, and if you have good administrators like I do, you get to write your own job description and make this job one for which you never, ever bemoan getting out of bed.
Who is your mentor and why? How did you meet this person?
Tori Ross, Children's Librarian at Nashville Public Libraries in Tennessee.  She was my public librarian when my children were young and was such an inspiration to watch as she worked with children.  She is really who convinced me to go back to school at 32, just through her example.  Since then, she's served as a mentor and sounding board, even from nearly 1,000 miles away.
How do you respond when someone says ”All you do is check in/out books and shelve them.”
I'd try not to laugh and I'd ask them to spend a day with me!
If you could have one visitor to your library for a day who would it be and why?
I'd love to have Kate DiCamillo come as an author visit.  I heard her speak on a book tour for Because of Winn Dixie years ago, and I've been a fan ever since.  I book-talk her books all the time - but The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, I only book talk to very special students who I know will appreciate it because it would break my heart if someone didn't love it like I do.  (I know you aren't supposed to do that, but I have my reasons why that book is so special to me.)   Plus I think she'd appreciate the things we do in the library, and would have great ideas about what we could do next.
If you would like me to link to your or your library’s website, please provide the link.
-Thanks to Diane Brown for conducting this interview! 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Summer Reading - Not Lists But Books

“Will we choose to address narrowing the reading achievement gap by providing kids with books to read during the summers, or will we continue to do largely nothing in this regard?  The kids are waiting for the answer

~ Allington and McGill-Franzen

Inventory and summer reading lists.  In my first years as a school librarian these were my major end of year to-do items.   Recently I have come to realize that these practices have very little to do with improving student reading achievement. In fact they do nothing to address the single biggest threat to reading development - summer reading loss.

Stopping Summer Reading Loss

(image from First Book)

The research of Richard Allington indicates that up to 80% of the reading achievement gap is due to summer reading loss (also known as the summer slide).  Allington's work is so compelling to us at College Community we have launched the first step in a K-6 Summer reading intervention program. The ideas in Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap and No More Summer Reading Loss (part of the Not This, But That series from Heinemann) helped us to design a simple solution with potentially high impact - providing kids with access to summer reading material.

The key drivers of this intervention:

  • Student Choice (from a fantastic selection of high interest books)
  • Independent Reading level (they can read these at 95% accuracy or better)
  • Home Access (the books, 10 of them, become part of their home library- FOREVER)
  • Summer scaffolds and support – using the best practices in literacy education from the school year to support independent summer reading.  This can take the form of bookmarks, videos, postcards, connecting on Edmodo and more.
More details about our work at Prairie Creek are available in this article from American Libraries magazine. I realize time is short so it is probably too late to get this level of programming in place at your district for the summer of 2014 (however, I encourage you to begin this conversation soon for the summer of 2015).  There are still ways to ramp up access to reading using our library collections.

Do It Yourself Summer Reading List (and checkout).

"Does your school ensure that every child has taken at least 10 books out from the school library on the final day of school? There is nothing more problematic, for me, than kids with no books to read and schools with libraries filled with books that no one will read over the summer. So my advice always begins with “Empty out your school library before the final day of school.”  ~ Richard Allington

 In the final days of the school year I will be guiding all of my students to make their own summer reading lists.  The list alone doesn't ensure that kids will have access to the actual books.  That is where the school library collection comes into play.

You May Also Like
With their reading logs from literacy class in hand we will use suggestion tools such as the "you may also like" feature in Destiny Quest.

Children's Choice
I have stockpiled the 2014-15 Iowa Children's Choice list and will be promoting these titles for inclusion on their customized list using book trailers and book talks easily accessed through our statewide access to (thanks to the AEAs!).

(poster created by my colleague Marcus Hora @mhorateach)

There must be dozens of ways to guide children to develop their own personalized summer reading lists based on the available titles in our school libraries.  I will be inviting my students to check out their booklist from the Prairie Creek library. Having the entire library collection be dormant in the summer months will not advance one child forward on their reading journey.

Beyond the Print Book

Searching beyond the school library collection opens up more options. Many of our students own devices that can provide hours of reading (and writing) time. We can mentor kids beyond Flappy Birds to apps and online reading environments that connect with the social nature of literacy. We don't need to be the experts. I recently posted this question to a 6th grade class " What is one Reading App everyone should have?"  Their responses were unanimous - Wattpadd.

These are a few of the ways I will move toward making best practices in literacy part of the library program. This shift will do much to prepare students for an enjoyable summer of reading. 

All the summer reading lists circulating through social media and the internet are great 
  • if you can get to the public library,
  • if you can purchase books at the local independent bookstore, 
  • if your parents can order books on Amazon. 

These are not options for every student.  That school library inventory will have to wait until September. Getting serious about addressing the leading cause of summer reading loss is far more important work.

I look forward to hearing about your great ideas to stop the summer slide.  

~ posted by Ernie Cox 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Common Core...One Year Later...Any Progress?

One year ago I posted on the IASL blog about Common Core: College and Career Readiness and School Libraries in the 21st century. My main concern was that I sensed that we were on the path to form two distinct types of schools libraries. This notion inspired the recent IASL digital divide series blog posts.

So I would like to present access to the Library IS the Common Core Wiki that I created in an independent study course at the University of Illinois in the Fall 2013.  I am curious about the Common Core even though it has not been implemented in the school district I work in.  Now as I stay semi informed on CCSS this is what I see.


What is so common about this? More divisiveness, more opportunities for our digital divide to widen.  I think that if we know both sides of an issue there is hope that we can have discussions that better education for all.

Now I am reflecting on Five Myths About the Common Core State Standards by Robert Rothman published in 2011 to think about how the Common Core has evolved over time.

Myth #1 The Common Core State Standards are a national curriculum.

Myth #2 The Common Core State Standards are an Obama administration initiative.

Myth #3 The Common Core standards represent a modest change from current practice.

Myth #4 States cannot implement the Common Core standards in the current budget climate.

Myth #5 The Common Core State Standards will transform schools.

Also I would suggest reading the January/February 2014 Knowledge Quest issue about expectations of the Librarian's Role in CCSS beyond the Core.


Be sure to check out Ernie Cox's article in May's American Libraries Knowing What Readers Need: Done right, Common Core teaches texts, not test. A great reminder that we need to focus on unique needs of youth no matter how unique their needs are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stories Connect Us & We All Can Be Ambassadors For Youth Literature

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature | Kate DiCamillo

National Ambassador for Young People's Literature
-Information below taken directly from the website linked above 
“Stories Connect Us” — Kate DiCamillo
"The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people."
Wherever and whenever we decide to share impacts our audience. 

Carol Van Hook our IASL Executive Board Liaison recently gave a presentation to the Des Moines Book Club's study of Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon

The photo of Where the Wild Things Are (showing acceptance of others rather than bullying) came from Naples, FL - South Regional Library Children's Room.

Carol shared other great award titles with the group and us! The list below is a combination of notable Newbery Award, Caldecott Award, and Printz Award.  A sampling of titles spanning from the years 1947-2014. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Review: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

What would you do if you had to live the same day over and over again?  Who would you be?  What would you find out about your friends and their secrets...and yourself?

In Before I Fall, Sam is having a perfectly normal Friday, ruling the school with her best friends, Lindsay, Ally, and Elody: cutting seventh period, making normal Friday night plans, and being (intentionally) oblivious to everyone else that is not in their circle of friends.  That night, they all go to a house party, where the normal teenage drama happens.  But after the party is when things go wrong.  There is a horrible car accident, and the last thing Sam remembers is glass shattering and smelling smoke.

Until she wakes up in her own bed.  Sam doesn’t know how she got home, but she’s glad she’s home and in her own room--until she realizes that it’s Friday.  Again.  She thinks she’s having déjá vu, but all the same things are happening...even the car accident.  Sam lives the same day over and over again, discovering secrets she never wanted to know, and trying to live the perfect day to break the cycle.  How will this experience change her?  And will she ever reach Saturday again?

Before I Fall is the first novel by Lauren Oliver, author of Delirium.  The book is very similar to the movie Groundhog’s Day, but made for teenagers, with normal teenage concerns and angst.  Although the ending might be a disappointment for some, the themes of popularity and friendship, bullying and suicide will make it a popular choice for fans of teen chick lit/drama, similar to books by Sarah Dessen, Jay Asher, or Susane Colasanti.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Leading, Connecting and Learning at the 5th annual IASL spring conference

Over 200 attendees and exhibitors braved rain, wind, sleet and (yes) snow to lead, learn and connect Sunday April 13 and Monday April 14 in Cedar Rapids at the Hotel at Kirkwood Center.

First arrivals included the members of the IASL executive board, your colleagues who volunteer their time and expertise to keep the association viable, meaningful and energized. Later on in the evening, Christine Sturgeon, IASL president presided over the first IASL membership meeting to be held during the spring conference.

At 5:30 pm, the first ever book swap kicked off the official activities, with the rest of the evening emceed by Ernie Cox of Prairie Creek Intermediate School. He welcomed the evening presenters from the Iowa Reading Research Center, Michelle Hosp and Kris Donnelly.

And the evening concluded on an electrifying note, with a round of 5 minute "lightning talks" on a wide variety of subjects, from genrefication to Chromebooks.

The rain continued through the night, but the registration table and breakfast buffet were busy by 8 am with attendees gearing up for a day of networking, learning, connecting and even getting professional photos taken for portfolios.

It was a full house of teacher librarians and a handful of administrators for Alan November's non-traditional keynote. Riffing through web sites using Google search, Alan challenged all of us to connect globally, think outside the traditional lesson plan and even downsize our book collections. He prompted us to think seriously about WHO OWNS THE LEARNING? 

He was joined by his friend and our Iowa colleague, Shannon Miller, for an interactive discussion of ways we can and are making these meaningful connections.

Our own members filled a 15 slot schedule of dynamic and diverse concurrent sessions held before and after lunch. See the conference program for titles and links to presentation materials. 

The announcement of our IASL book award winners is always a conference highlight and this year was no exception. Gail Dickinson, our AASL president and guest, followed up with a rousing reminder that "It's not about libraries. It's about learning!"

The afternoon break included an no-conflict time for exhibits, table talks, dessert and finally, a little sun!
By 4:15 pm the meeting rooms were emptied and most attendees were headed home, brains buzzing with ideas and possibilities.

Thank you to the 66 attendees who responded to the feedback survey. See a sample of the results below.