Monday, April 21, 2014

UbD - How Do You Know?

It's week three of Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century School Librarian and time to complete Step Two.

Step One was to identify the Big Ideas that I wanted students to take away from the unit I am planning.  I chose to write a unit for Grade 2 based on the big idea "Libraries are organized based on the needs and wants of its patrons".

Next I needed to identify HOW I would assess that they understand this big ideas.  Not just know the big idea.  Not repeat it back to me.  But understand it.

What does it means to understand?  When student understands a concept, they are able to transfer their skills or knowledge, they know when and how to apply it in a new situation.

I realized this week that I teach this way to a great degree already.  I may not always formally plan it, but I am always looking for the transfer of learning.  I don't want students to memorize Dewey Decimal numbers, I want them to understand there is a system in place, that similar items are grouped together, that this system is found in many libraries and they can transfer their knowledge when visiting a different library.

I realized this week that this is also why I am so frustrated when a teacher proposes I teach a 15 minute lesson on in-text citations to a class that is not currently working on an essay or term paper.  Teaching out of context almost guarantees there will be no transfer!

How can one assess learning of information literacies?  Formative assessments can be in the form of exit tickets, checklists, or responses to writing prompts. These are great, quick ways of checking progress, but I admit I am guilty of not always assessing what students are learning in the library. I do a lot of informal assessments, such as watching to see if they apply what I just taught about using the OPAC or checking to see if students have logged into databases rather than reverting to Google, but I know I can do more.

For the unit for this course, I came up to with two possible performance tasks that would serve as summative assessments.  In the first one, students redesign our existing library (on paper), rearranging resources and explaining what they moved and why.  In the second, students serve as various members of a "library board" and decide how to spend a ficticious grant we just received.  Both are engaging.  Both require students to understand the resources and services a library can offer as well as the wants and needs of the users.  They both require higher level thinking, and - that most precious commodity - time.

After writing up these tasks, I decided they were not all that different from some of the work I did for my graduate classes.  And again I am struck by what an opportunity this is to teach children what I wish more administrators understood.  It gives me hope for the future of libraries.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

When you're an island...

With whom do you network?

When I first became a librarian, I was part of a district with 19 school libraries.  The librarians met monthly with the district coordinator, who planned the time so that she covered business for the first half and then left the second half of the meetings for us to ask questions and share ideas.  Pat Johnson was a genius with this planning, as it resulted in many things being approached in a unified manner across the district without her having to issue orders, and some really amazing ideas were shared in these meetings.  She also met with the new librarians once a month to ensure we were familiar with selection/deselection, copyright, cataloging and those other things the veterans took for granted.  I am so grateful for all of those meetings and all that I learned.

The next district I worked in had one certified librarian working in a library---- me.  There were a couple of other librarians in administrative positions, but I had no colleagues with whom to discuss district policies and procedures, best practices, or simply run an idea pasy.  Listservs like LM_Net and the monthly regional meetings for coordinators became my lifeline.

And now I am the lone librarian at an international school in a foreign country.  I had to relearn everything... from ordering to copyright rules to who to network with.  LM_Net and the TLA groups continue to provide support, but I found there are situations unique to international schools that require the experience and expertise of other international school librarians, such as resources for cataloging books in Portuguese or where to buy book tape!

Recently I received an email from Chris Hayes, a fellow member of the AGIS (Association of German International Schools) Librarians Group.  Chris organized a virtual round table for the librarians using Google Hangouts.  You can watch our discussion on YouTube.

The video starts after our introductions with me sharing ways I promote the library.  Following me are other librarians from around the country, speaking on topics such as primary and secondary curriculum and ways to promote reading in the secondary grades.

I urge you to find ways to connect with others - join associations, attend conferences, add to listserv discussions, or organize a hangout like Chris did.  We have so much to learn from one another!

Monday, April 7, 2014

UbD - What is a Library?

I'm well into the second week of my AASL online course, and I now have to begin planning a unit using what I have learned thus far.  Fortunately, I was given a relevant, exciting idea by the grade 2 teachers who recently requested I tie library instruction into their current unit of inquiry "Communities are organised based on the needs and wants of people".  I am supposed to guide students in examining the roles libraries play in communities, perhaps looking at different libraries around the world.

Immediately my thoughts jumped to making lists of wants and needs, watching the Biblioburro, learning about library arrangement, reading My Librarian is a Camel.... Yes, I was full of all kinds of activities.  I have to STOP this habit and think ... what is the big idea that I want students to carry with them?  

I've identified the Enduring Understanding (or big idea) as "Libraries are organized based on the needs and wants of their patrons" and our guiding questions are What does a library need? and What is the role of a library within a community?

I'm sure these will undergo some revision, but I have to start somewhere.

Unfortunately, I am just getting started writing the unit, and I am supposed to already start teaching... so I am already ignoring what I am learning about designing the end first and I jumped into the pre-assessment.   I figure it will make for some good reflection fodder.

This week I asked each grade 2 class to answer the question "What is a library?"

I tried this in small groups on sticky notes.  
I tried it with larger groups and half sheets of beautifully colored paper. 
And then I tried creating a mind map with a whole class on a flip chart.  

Each time I saw the same results.  

Hands-down, without fail, each class answered the question the same:
  A library is a place to check out books.  

A few students added, without prompting, it could be a quiet place to read.  

That was it.  

I really had to work to get anyone to look deeper, to think about other resources, to see other uses for the space.  I couldn't believe these children, who visit this fabulous, well-resourced facility, had such a limited definition.  But we have only just begun...

I've worked for administrators who operated under the same limited definition that a library was just a place to check out books.  No matter what I said or did, their views did not broaden.

But this time I'm armed with BIG IDEAS.  And I'm working with children who are used to thinking deeply.  They expect to have their understandings expand.

The idea of educating a new generation of thinkers on the full potential of a library is exhilarating.   Let's get started!