Friday, December 31, 2010

An organic 2011


photo © 2009 Martyn Hutchby | more info (via: Wylio)

I spent a lot of 2010 making myself crazy. Immersed in my RSS feed, I saw so many new things I could accomplish for our students. Our learning commons is a sign of change in our school and over the past few years, I have been working very hard at leading the charge from the front.

This year I am in a very different place. Why the change? It isn't because the need for ratcheting up collaboration in curriculum planning to include information and media literacy skills is any less crucial for our students. It isn't because students no longer need to understand the power of their digital footprint and what citizenship means in 2011. None of that has changed.

The change is in how I approach student learning and progress. We will still be keeping data on curriculum, skills, and standards. I'll still be teaching as many classes as I can shoehorn into the day. But the watchword is going to change. It has been "21st century skills," and I will tell it to you true, everybody hates that phrase. You can see the hackles rise. It is too strident, accusatory, and has become empty jargon.

Leadership from the front spreads the message, and I think the message is pretty much out there.  Leadership in the field is what we need right now - nurturing new skills and new literacies with personalized professional development when and where it is needed.
This year my watchword is going to be "organic."  I'll cultivate students and teachers by focusing on their specific need or task and build the skills into the educational moment.  I'll look to nurture each student and teacher with what they need, when they need it.

I came to this model after reviewing what worked over the past academic year to date.
  • Our new student CCHS YA Galley Group Blog.  New staff member and YALSA Teen's Top Ten Committee Chair, Jennifer Barnes (you can read Jennifer's blog here) worked with our passionate student readers to create a review blog for YA galleys. These students are credentialing themselves in their joy of reading and publishing to the world. My favorite part is they not only assign a number on a scale in their reviews, they describe the book as a food experience. An example from a recent student post: "The combination of terrible emotions and timeline, yet satisfying ending that gives those silly characters what they deserve add up to give the book 3 stars. Imagine a funny tasting candy that's nice to just crunch down on and finish."
  • Our new ebooks aren't gaining as much traction as I would like, but this is okay. We are building the information infrastructure ahead of need. This is important behind the scenes work that will keep our school moving forward and well situated for the coming transition to a more digital learning environment.
  • Introducing new, more user friendly databases is working. Text-to-speech functionality and UDL compliance are the nectar luring teachers to this one.
  • Supporting teacher requests for more rigorous source evaluation skills for students is working.
  • Supporting teachers in more rigorous citation expectations is working.
  • Supporting teachers and special education staff requests for guidance in identifying and obtaining alternate versions for students with reading disabilities is working.
  • Supporting students in media production to synthesize their learning is working. Our media lab is busier than ever and the role of learning commons staffed skilled in advanced media production more crucial than ever.
  • Going to a paperless pass system, making life easier for faculty and more accountable for students, is working.
  • Establishing the learning commons as a place for academic as well as community building activities is working.
    All the things that have worked best so far this year have come from an organic need. They dovetailed with work already being done and/or served our community. Transformation has come by nurturing and tending to teachers and students based on a personalized approach that goes beyond good, responsive patron services. It is both more holistic and more effective.

    So for the balance of the 2011 academic year, I am going organic. I'll be working in the fields alongside teachers and students, checking in on them, seeing what their needs are, and seeing how we can support them. The nutrients will be skills and resources, and the sunshine will be collegial service with a smile.

    Wishing my fellow teacher-librarians an exciting 2011 filled with happiness, health, and a wonderful harvest in June.

    Farmer Robin : )

    the farmer in love - il contadino innamorato      photo © 2010 Uberto | more info (via: Wylio)

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    Blogger amglory said...

    Robin, I have to admit this is the first time I've read your blog. When posted, I assumed (you know what assuming does) it was a link to some work interest. Your writing is impeccable, and your obvious devotion to your work and client base admirable. I am very, very impressed. Thanks for the great and conscientious work you are doing. You are like a tree: deeply rooted and flexibly respondent. Great job. You make me proud. Love, Cuz'n Kathy

    January 2, 2011 at 12:17 PM  
    Anonymous Cindy Erle said...

    With all the demands on the classroom teacher, this has been my philosophy as well. I try to approach them with things that will fulfill their curriculum needs while, at the same time, integrating all different types of technology (including books). Thanks for putting it so eloquently! Cindy Erle, Luther Burbank MS Librarian, Lancaster, MA

    January 3, 2011 at 8:33 AM  

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