The Teacher-Librarian in the Learning Commons

March 26, 2012 (1 Comments)

Posted by: ASLC

In our February 23rd post on What is a Learning Commons, Lissa and I ended the post by asking readers to think about how the role of the teacher-librarian plays in the learning commons. I thought for this post I would continue the conversation by attempting to answer the question: As school libraries move towards the learning commons model how has the role of the teacher librarian evolved?

I have been a teacher-librarian for four years now so being relatively new I can’t talk about the far past but I know when I first began, my job was finding books and resources for assignments teachers developed. We would both work in isolation--the teacher developed an assignment, I would then find the supporting materials. The students would come to the library and I would introduce the resources through a pathfinder and then the students would get to work. Very seldom was I out of the library in the classroom with students; rarely was I involved in the developing of the assignment and I was never in the classroom working with the students prior to the research phase of the assignment. The library was open from 8:00 until 4:00 Monday to Friday and that was when I was available to help students and staff.

I think the biggest change is philosophical and the idea of schools being a learning community where the learning commons and the teacher-librarian are key in seeing this big picture and bringing the learning community together. Sometimes this occurs in the library...sometimes in the classroom...and sometimes in a virtual space. Learning is no longer isolated by subject or space.

Now, I have a virtual library, that not only allows students and teachers access to our resources, this virtual space allows for conversation and participation for the community through twitter feeds, our book blogs and tutorials on how to use web 2.0 tools. As well, it showcases our student work through book trailers, student created comics, glogsters and student blogs. The library resources are now embedded in many classrooms as I work with teachers building inquiry units. I am now in the classroom working with both students and teachers incorporating new technologies and resources in the work they do. I am working with teachers linking subjects together in inquiry assignments so subjects are no longer being learnt in isolation. Now, some of our roles remain the same and I think they need to. I am still responsible for being up to date on the best and latest resources, sharing this knowledge with students and teachers, ordering the resources, maintaining the collection and providing readers’ advisory. But my role has expanded and grown as we move towards a learning community. Anyone who says that the teacher-librarian is a dying breed is wrong!!

I am giving a high school perspective of how the role of the teacher-librarian evolves in the learning commons model. I asked Fern Rierson, an elementary teacher-librarian for her take on the role we have and here is her response:

For me, being a teacher-librarian is many things:

  • It is about …being a Change Agent….who helps envision and shows the way to change through places and in learning/teaching pedagogy. 
  • “I can’t believe what we have learned as teachers in such a short period of time. Ididn’t know what I didn’t know.”
  • It is about… Empowering Others.... to learn in ways they hadn’t considered before and teachers, in risk-taking to learn with their students, instead of being the expert. “Can I make an Animoto about other topics Earth Day, now that I know how to use Animoto?” 
  • It is about …Leading the Way by example even if you don’t know exactly where it will take you and others. “I’ve never done this with Grade 1’s before, but would you like to try this with me”
  • It is about…being a Lighthouse Keeper …..Lighting the way to literacy…in many formats. “We have the best books in our library commons!” “Can I show the book trailer I made about my favourite book?”

Joyce Valenza’s Manifesto of a 21st Century Librarian really hones in on the role of the Teacher-Librarian in the Learning Commons and is something I definately use as my check list as I continue my evolution.

I hope that you will join in the conversation this week. What is our role in the learning commons? Can you give examples of how you facilitate learning? Build community? or Perhaps you have a question about the topic of this week’s post?

by Kelly Reierson


Reference on Steroids!

March 19, 2012 (0 Comments)

Posted by: ASLC

This week signaled the end of the Encyclopedia Britannica print version. According to a statement on the company's website, the encyclopedia "will cease to be available in book form the first time in 244 years when the current stock runs out." Now that’s the end of an era!  

While some may be tempted to ante up the cash for a vintage set of the final edition, for most of us it will be business as usual. Some of you may subscribe to the digital version of this famous tome already. Or you may subscribe to some other online encyclopedia, such as World Book in all its student level variations, or Encarta, or you just might be relying on the infamous Wikipedia more than you thought you ever would when reference questions and kids research activities begin in your library.

Regardless, digital reference is our future whatever way we access it. At the core of vetted digital encyclopaedias is their original print content. But once the search page is open, the digital functionality now inherent in these products makes all the difference. I like to think of it as “reference on steroids”!

In addition to the usual Browse, Keyword and Advanced Search capabilities you can look for in any digital encyclopedia there are some very neat things these resources offer to differentiate and extend student learning. Here are just a few:

Content searchable by Lexiled reading levels

  • Current news feeds
  • Curriculum Standard Links to content
  • E-mail, print, save and article tracking/personal research folder options for students
  • Web 2.0 capability for sharing
  •  Ability to compare countries, animals
  • Interactive atlases, dictionaries providing pronunciations along with definitions
  • Text to speech options
  • Games & Activities
  • Interactive Timeline builders
  • Downloadable e-books

The list could be longer, but the point I’m trying to make is that it isn’t just print content, but a multitude of functionality that can be optimized for teaching and learning. If you haven’t spent time exploring the online encyclopedia you have access to it’s time to take a second look. Think about how it can be integrated into learning beyond basic searching for articles, images, web links, etc.

For example, how can you use encyclopedia content to re-visit history? World Book’s “Back in Time” articles can help students to understand how countries have changed over time. How could you incorporate a timeline feature that allows students to upload their own photos as well as those from the encyclopedia itself? What about the student with organizational challenges? Why not help them create a research folder within the resource so their hard sought information doesn’t go missing shortly after it comes off the printer?

A digital encyclopedia can be as statically used as a print one if you don’t take time to explore the options. There lies the key to helping integrate use of such a resource into daily student and teacher practice. Good luck exploring your online encyclopedia, I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

By Dianne GallowaySolowan


Building an Effective Reader’s Advisory in .2 Time

March 07, 2012 (3 Comments)

Posted by:

Part of the challenge in building a great Reader’s Advisory program in .2 is (surprise, surprise) TIME. While I wish I could connect with each student and steer them towards a book that will make a difference, leaving no reader behind, just like Miss Malarkey, it is not possible for me. I do booktalks twice a month for each grade group, essentially meaning that I am doing a booktalk every time I am in the library. Booktalks usually last half and hour and I try to go through at least 15-20 books, with 2 minutes per book. Often I have teachers ask me incredulously, “Where do you find the time to read all these books?!” I smile and shrug my shoulders, thereby increasing the air of mystery surrounding the omniscient TL.

Cool emoticon

The truth is, I don’t. It’s one thing to sit and read 15-20 picture books and build booktalks surrounding them, it’s another to read 15-20 chapter books! The secret is (make sure no one is looking!) The Internet. I check out reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, The Nerdy Book Club and Nancy Keane’s booktalks. Through them, I create a teaser/trailer booktalk that is tailored to my school and students. However, that only reaches students twice a month. The challenge is to reach them daily. Here is where the vision of the library as a Learning Commons comes in. Why not share ownership of the Reader’s Advisory piece WITH students? As the model of education moves from the Sage on the Stage to the Guide on the Side (King, 1993), so can the model of teacher-librarianship, empowering students to connect, talk and share their books through conversation, print, and digital forms. How?

  • I have ‘You’ve Gotta Read’ chart paper up in the Learning Commons, with genre headings such as ‘Mystery books you’ve gotta read!’ On each paper there is the title of the book, the call number, and the person who has recommended it. I began each one with a list of four or five titles, demoed how to add to it to students during booktalks, and let them go. Now they delight in writing down their favourite books and checking in to see what their friends have recommended.
  • While weeding the picture book collection, we have discovered many wonderful books that are not being read. I can’t booktalk them all, so we created the ‘Books without Friends’ tubs. We put a large address label in the front of each one, sort them by grade level, and then pass them out to classrooms. Teachers and students read them and rate them on the address label, with their name and the number of stars (out of five) that they would give the book. We then can do displays of ‘Five Star books’.
  • If you have a library blog or website, why not have students create booktalks using Animoto or another web-based tool. Check out these student-created booktalks from Scona high school. Alternatively, have students blog about their books, getting a digital conversation going. (This one requires time to monitor comments and sometimes you need to get in and kickstart the conversation. Or, direct kids to a blogging platform that already exists, like the Dog-Eared Book Club, or the Spaghetti Book Club.

What are your ideas? How do you promote Reader’s Advisory?


Making It Work! 2017 ASLC Conference April 8th

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