Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's All Good

It's All Good
Originally uploaded by rockwilder
One of the teachers in my school was selling bracelets for her daughter (who has been ill) that says, "It's all good." I have been wearing it in support for her, but also because it reminds me that life is "all good" when things seems like they are about to spiral out of control (or when I am surrounded by negative thinking, which often happens behind the desk in my library -sigh!). I just read Bette's blog about how special Thanksgiving is, but especially, for her family, the day before Thanksgiving. It put me in a reflective here is my day before story...
Last night I was at La Guardia waiting for the moment when I would see my wonderful, tall, too-thin son , Adam, appear after a long day of traveling from Wisconsin, where he attends the University of Wisconsin. I hadn't seen him since the third week in August (except through one iChat). Finally, I spotted him walking down the ramp, looking like a typical college student - unshaven, messy hair, backpack and laptop. What joy to hug him hard. And I thought, that despite my worrying the past three months about his health and happiness, "It's all good." Later that night, the sound of deep male voices and laughter emanating from my kitchen as Adam's best friends raided my pantry while they caught up with each other about their lives at Columbia, Brown and Wesleyan (yes, he has smart friends) allowed me to go up to my bedroom, get under the covers, and think again, "It's all good."
Yesterday at school was insane. I scheduled all of my fourth and fifth grade research classes to meet with Noel Forte and me to make sure we were at the point we needed to be at in our various projects. There wasn't any time to stop and reflect on how wonderfully these students are doing - how engrossed they were as they went into their wikis, their blogs, their powerpoints, transforming and combining. As one of my classes sat in teams arguing (yes, very heated arguing) as they brainstormed ideas for a new U.S. holiday for our Federal Holidays project, I couldn't have been happier. In Adam Dugger's fourth grade class, we brainstormed questions to ask our Native American Project partner school in SC when we videoconference with them next week. Happy, happy, joy, joy. Collaboration, Synthesis and Constructivist Learning at its best with all four of my classes!
Yesterday was also a banner day for me with paychecks. It coincided that I received my paychecks from both of my jobs as well as from the Teacher Center for the Digital Storytelling Course I taught. Was I happy about the money? Of course, especially when my husband complained during the drive to LGA about the skyrocketing cost of heating oil. But, honestly, what really made me happy was what those checks represent - accomplishment. I am pulling it off - somehow - weaving all of this together, as Tim Gunn from Project Runway would say, I am "making it work." Bette talks about how layered our learning is, how we step into and out of different spaces. My life is like that. During the course of one day, I do step in and out of so many spaces, and I have to say that I love it. Although it is often exhausting, and I definitely do not get enough sleep, and I can't seem to get myself to stay on a diet (at some point I will step into
that space and FOCUS), I can't envision my life in any other way. How boring it would be. How lucky I am. How lucky I was yesterday, to start my day with a random hug from a fourth grade (troubled) student and to end it with a powerful one from my son. As I said, it's all good. I am thankful.

Carry on! (Now, if only I could look like Heidi Klum).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We the People Announces Bookshelf Grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office is accepting applications for the fifth We the People Bookshelf program. Each year, NEH identifies a theme important to the nation’s heritage and selects books that embody that theme to build the We the People Bookshelf. The theme for the 2007-08 Bookshelf is “Created Equal.”

The “Created Equal” Bookshelf grants are part of the NEH's We the People initiative, which aims to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study, and understanding of American history and culture through libraries, schools, colleges, universities, and cultural institutions. Since 2003, NEH and ALA have awarded We the People Bookshelves to 6,000 public and school libraries. NEH plans to issue a We the People Bookshelf each year on themes related to American ideas and ideals.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Web 2.0 Overload?

When is it too much of a good thing? I have lately been feeling like I am on web 2.0 overload. I am blogging, wiki-ing; I use twitter, iChat, gmail chat, skype; I am a part of 4 'nings' now: Classroom 2.0; Teacherlibrarian 2.0; Information Fluency 2.0; NYSCATE 2.0, I have 5 different email addresses, I probably have hundreds of rss feed reads to catch up on and tons of podcasts to listen to. I have 7 billion passwords and user names. I am maintaining about 6 wikis, and overseeing 100 student blogs on blogmeister. Not to mention that I like to get in and read the 30 or so TEAM blogs on a weekly basis. (Oh, and by the way, I also teach 600 elementary students, 30 adult students, occasional teacher courses, have two kids in college and a husband, a dog, and a house to give attention to.)

So how can I possibly keep up with all of these forums of communication????
There is going to come a time when I will have to pick and choose my way through all of these new web 2.0 tools. There are times that I JUST DON'T CARE what other people are doing!! There are times that I have to tell myself to close my laptop - that there is a fine line between wanting to be part of and contribute to this great information network and letting it take over my life!

Do you ever feel that way?

I also think that I have to keep in mind when I read some of the wonderful blogs and interesting 'tweets' of some of my favorite thinkers that for a few of them, this is what they do for a living, and that there are not enough hours in the day for me to blog/twitter/wiki/network at the pace that they do! On the other hand, so many of them have 'day jobs' like I do and yet find the time to think great thoughts and share them with the rest of us. Of course, when I read one of these great insights, my mind starts going, the emails, blogs and wikis get opened, and I'm sucked right back into the thick of it.

I have noticed, however, that one thing for me has gone by the wayside as a result of the availability and immediacy of web 2.0 information - that is, I have basically stopped reading my teacher/library magazines. One, I don't have time and two, by the time it comes to me it's old news or I have read the online version. That worries me a little...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Route 21

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has launched Route 21.
TEAM cohorts should make it their business to explore this site!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Constructivism in the Library

TEAM students are working through the constructivism module and blogging about it in their blogs. It reminded me of my own study of this subject when I was a TEAM student a few years ago. The image above was made in Fireworks and it is featured on my Educational Philosophy web page. Reading other students' blogs motivated me to go back and read what I wrote and to think about how I might add to it to incorporate web 2.0, the technological landscape that has emerged since I graduated. Here is what I wrote in 2002:

As schools explore the potential of information and electronic technologies, it has become clear that the 21st century library/educational technology specialist has the responsibility to ensure that students and teachers are effective and critical users of information. At the heart of the American Association of School Librarians' Information Power is a constructivist pedagogical framework. Team building, shared inquiry, project based learning, performance assessment, technology integration, learning communities, critical thinking and viewing, emotional intelligence, and multiple intelligences are the vessels that supply the lifeblood to knowledge construction.

Thoughts on Constructivism and Technology Integration in the Library Media Center:

Meaning making is at the heart of the constructivist philosophy of learning and at the heart of Information Power, the framework for the American Association of School Librarians' Information Literacy Standards. Meaning making is prompted by a problem, question, confusion, disagreement, or dissonance (a need or desire to know) and so involves personal ownership of that problem. In the constructivist model, knowledge is constructed, emergent, situation in action or experience, and distributed. (Jonassen et al,1999). Thus, each person must build or construct a framework of knowledge based on what they already know. Traditionally, teachers were the sage on the stage. In the past, this prepared students for the assembly lines of the Industrial Age. Today, however, students must be encouraged to construct meaning from a myriad of information available to them in the Information Age.

Technology brings into the library more interesting and diverse materials than ever thought possible. Hundreds of libraries and museums, including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonion, distribute their resources in digital form. Technology can expand students' horizons with online field trips to historic sites and to museums to study art and artifacts. They can follow expeditions, engage in simulations, and gather environmental data to share with other students. Library Media Specialists who guide their students to learn in these new ways prepare them for lifelong learning. ("Web-Based Learning," Gwen Solomon and Lynne Schrum, Education Week, May 29, 2002).

The constructivist library media specialist sets up problems and monitors student exploration, guides the direction of student inquiry and promotes new patterns of thinking. Constructivist teachers refer to raw data, primary sources, and interactive materials to provide experiences for their students rather than relying solely on another's set of data. (Classroom Compass, SEDL-SCIMA,1994) Students cannot ask a textbook, "What is it like to rescue a stranded whale?" Yet, this is the type of real-world question that can be asked when technology is used as a partner to foster learning.

How Technologies Foster Learning and Support Knowledge Construction

Technologies in the library media center can be used as vehicles for:

  • representing learners' ideas, understandings, and beliefs
  • producing organized, multimedia knowledge bases by learners
  • accessing needed information
  • comparing perspectives, beliefs, and world views
  • representing beliefs, perspectives, arguments, and stories of others
  • collaborating with others
  • building consensus among members of a community
  • helping learners articulate and represent what they know
  • reflecting on what they have learned
  • constructing personal representations of meaning

Adapted from Learning With Technology: A Constructivist Perspective by David H. Jonassen, Kyle Peck and Brent G. Wilson (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999)

In a Constructivist Library Media Center:

  • Student autonomy and initiative are accepted and encouraged.
  • Higher-level thinking is encouraged. Students are encouraged to connect and summarize concepts by analyzing, predicting, justifying, and defending their ideas.
  • Students are engaged in dialogue with the teacher and with each other. Social discourse helps students change or reinforce their ideas. If they have the chance to present what they think and hear others' ideas, students can build a personal knowledge base that they understand. The class uses raw data, primary sources, manipulatives, physical, and interactive materials.
  • The constructivist approach involves students in real-world possibilities, then helps them generate the abstractions that bind phenomena together.

Adapted from In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms by Jacqueline G. Brooks and Martin G. Brooks (Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993)

Thoughts on Team Building: The Library As A Learning Organization

Learning organizations are where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together. For this to happen, it is argued, organizations need to "discover how to tap people's commitment and capacity to learn al all levels." (Senge 1990).

The goals of today’s library media program point to the development of a community of learners that is centered on the student and sustained by a creative, energetic library media program. Team Building occurs in the library when:

  • there are learning experiences that encourage students and others to become discriminating consumers and skilled creators of information through comprehensive instruction related to the full range of communications media and technology
  • the library media specialist provides leadership, collaboration, and assistance to teachers and others in applying principles of instructional design to the use of instructional and information technology for learning
  • the library media specialist provides resources and activities that contribute to lifelong learning while accommodating a wide range of differences in teaching and learning styles, methods, interests, and capacities
  • the program functions as the information center of the school, both through offering a locus for integrated and interdisciplinary learning activities within the school and through offering access to a full range of information for learning beyond this locus
  • the library program provides resources and activities for learning that represent a diversity of experiences, opinions, and social and cultural perspectives.

Adapted from: Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (AASL, 1998)

Thus, the framework of the library learning community in which students and teachers function needs to be conducive to reflection and engagement. In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge tells us that "real learning gets to the heart of what it is to be human...for a learning organization, 'adaptive learning' must be joined by 'generative learning', learning that enhances our capacity to create." (Senge 1990). Most importantly, learning in the library is a lifelong discipline, a process, in which members of the learning community access, share, contribute, and build information as a team.

To Top

Shared Inquiry: The Underlying Foundation

The library media specialist provides intellectual access to information through learning activities that are integrated into the curriculum and that help all students achieve information literacy by developing effective cognitive strategies for selecting, retrieving, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, creating, and communicating information in all formats and in all content areas of the curriculum. (Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning 1998).

Howard Gardner On the Importance of Engaging Students Actively in What They are Studying:

We have schools because we hope that some day when children have left schools that they will still be able to use what it is that they've learned. And there is now a massive amount of evidence from all realms of science that unless individuals take a very active role in what it is that they're studying, unless they learn to ask questions, to do things hands on, to essentially recreate things in their own mind and transform them as is needed, the ideas just disappear. The student may have a good grade on the exam, we may think that he or she is learning, but a year or two later there's nothing left.

Inquiry-based activities cause students to revise their prior understandings and deepen their understandings of the world. Inquiry is a dynamic approach to learning that involves exploring the world, asking questions, making discoveries in the search for new understandings. In an inquiry-based library program, students develop skills such as careful observation, reasoning, critical thinking, and the ability to justify or refute their existing knowledge. Because inquiry begins with a meaningful problem or issue, the process engages students as they come to value the essential question that motivates the inquiry process.

Shared inquiry lends itself to collaborative activities. The collaborations are multidimensional in that students collaborate with each other, with teachers, as they learn alongside with students, and with experts provided by technological access in the library. Project-based learning is a vehicle for students to work in teams, apply what they know, problem-solve, self-direct their learning as they explore real-world problems and tasks. Student learning is gauged through performance assessment, the essential companion to project-based learning.

Critical thinking is directly related to inquiry-based activities. Students are bombarded with electronic, visual information and it is crucial to give them the skills to question what they see; to distinguish between information and info-garbage; to determine the credibility of their sources and to identify and recognize logical fallacies.

Putting It All Together: Building the Learning Community

Team building, collaboration, constructivism, shared inquiry, critical thinking, project-based learning, performance assessment, multiple and emotional intelligences, coupled with the use of information and communication technologies, provide an environment where all members of the community come together to construct knowledge. It is my philosophy to create a learning library in which both educators and students have the opportunity to stay in a continual learning mode as they work in a collegial environment which provides pedagogical, technological, and emotional support. The integration of technology into the library allows connections to be established between communities inside and outside the walls of the library. In this environment, learning is an evolving process where all members of the learning community have the opportunity to learn side by side.



Brooks, Jacqueline G. and Martin G. Brooks. In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1993.

Jonassen, David H., Kyle Peck and Brent G. Wilson. Learning With Technology: A Constructivist Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1999.

Senge, Peter. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. NY: Currency/Doubleday, 1994.

Solomon, Gwen and Lynne Schrum. "Web-Based Learning." Education Week 29 May 2002: 48.


American Library Association and Association for Educational Communications and Technology. "Information Power: Mission and Goals of the School Library Program" [Online] Available June 16, 2002.

Lucas, George. "Edutopia" [Online] Available June 16, 2002.

Murphy, Elizabeth. "Constructivism: From Philosophy to Practice" [Online] Available June 16, 2002.

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory."Constructing Knowledge in the Classroom." Classroom Compass Winter 1994, Vol. 1, No. 3. [Online] Available June 16, 2002.

Further Browsing:

Advanced Readings for Critical Thinking Workshop
Comer School Development Program
I guess what I would add to that now is that web 2.0 mandates a new kind of literacy because the web has become so interactive. Information literacy skills are more critical than ever, and the AASL has recognized this and has just unveiled the revised information literacy standards at the recent AASL Conference in Reno to reflect this. (New Learning Standards). The exponential growth of information on the net and the ability to easily be an information contributor goes hand in hand with constructivist learning. The importance of being an ethical, critical, and creative user of the net cannot be overstressed. And this is why I love what I do! What a great time to have my job!

On a completely different note, my 22-year-old daughter was looking at my blog and said that the frappr map on my blog is "creepy"...hmmm.