Category: Uncategorized

DonorsChoose.org

Valentine gift

At DonorsChoose.org full time public school teachers- yes, this includes teachers who are in charge of the library, aka librarians or media specialists– can sign up to seek funding for school projects and materials they need. Much like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites, educators can tap into a network of individuals much larger than the school community and their own personal circle of friends and acquaintances. The fact is, people want to help. Particularly if they can see how the money was spent and are able to interact at some level with the recipients.

The great thing about this site is that it’s very simple and straightforward. Teachers sign up (for free), detail out the materials and/or activities they need, and the campaign starts. Costs are verified by a member of the DonorsChoose team who then makes the purchases and sends items directly to the school. Finally, teachers are asked to send thank you letters, photos and a report. Donors can search by location; teacher or school; grade level, type of project or resource; amount needed; or by a keyword of their own choosing. They can fund a small part of the project or all of it. Sometimes there’s even a flash funding event where an organization or famous person- such as Google or Bill Gates, steps in and funds the whole thing. But mostly, it’s just regular people who want to feel useful.

And it works.  At DonorsChoose.org, 74% of the projects get fully funded. And on average, this happens within 27 days. Feel like cutting through the red tape, anyone? What I love is the range of projects that educators post. Here’s a few good examples:

  • Sally Ride Science – Literacy and eBooks for STEM learning:  A fantastic program that recognizes the role of literacy in STEM activities. This campaign is to fund a year’s worth of access to digital content and analytics.
  • Teacher of Three Oaks Library: A simple request for more library books. The teacher has identified three of the most important genres lacking from the library and then listed each book desired in the three categories.
  • A list of “Nearby Projects” yields 10 projects in my own school district! I like this one which is asking for bean bag chairs for the reading center.

Educators, if you haven’t already used DonorsChoose.org, please give it a whirl. And parents, please pass the word on to your children’s teachers.

Reclassification Rates of English Language Learners

 

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Awards Wall by JIsc infoNet (CC BY-NC-ND)

 

In our elementary school, English Learners (EL) represent 33% of the student body. Last year (2014-15), 10% of EL students were redesignated as Fluent-English-Proficient (FEP). Compared to a 4% FEP reclassification rate five years prior, this could be considered an improvement. Yet, the last three years have seen a steady reduction in FEP reclassification rates (RFEP)- from 16% (2012-13) to 12 % (2013-14) to 10% (2014-15). Our reclassification rate appears to be leveling off. I’m wondering why, and also to what extent EL reclassification rates reflect on the quality of a school’s instruction and/or library services- if at all.

First, the why: More rigorous performance standards (the minimum tests scores and qualitative data, such as teacher feedback, that students must obtain in order to be reclassified) are associated with lower reclassification rates. So, the schools that make it more difficult to get out of EL status have a lower reclassification rate. The state board of education (SBE) provides guidelines on the standards but allows districts to create their own- and 90% of school districts adopt standards that are more rigorous than those recommended by the SBE.  There are two main things at play here that may affect reclassification rates: 1) the new CCSS testing environment necessitates a revision of district-specified scoring mechanisms; 2) changes in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that increases funding for districts with large EL populations, potentially providing a disincentive to move kids up to FEP status.

Even though the reclassification issue is most sensitive for long term (6+ yrs) EL students in middle and high school where being an EL student starts effecting ACT scores, access to AP classes, and even graduation- I am still interested in understanding reclassification rates at the elementary level. It seems like a real catch 22; you don’t want to reclassify them too early, putting them into classes where they are unable to learn core concepts, and you don’t want to keep them in EL status too long, limiting their access to appropriate academic content and increasing stigma and demoralization.

Across the Twitterverse there appears to be a generalized concern about low reclassification rates (and a lot of celebrating of RFEP status). A recent report (Hill, Weston & Hayes, 2014) on reclassification of EL students in California recommends that reclassification standards be lowered in districts using standards more rigorous than those suggested in the SBE guidelines, and that perhaps all districts should follow a statewide standard reclassification criteria that is less rigorous. Some of the report’s key points:

  • Reclassified students not only outperform EL students, but also often do as well as native English speakers when it comes to measures of academic outcomes. But it’s best to reclassify early—those reclassified in grades 8 to 12 generally have lower levels of performance than those reclassified at younger grades.
  • It is possible that districts with high reclassification thresholds (strict fluency standards) are restricting the access of EL students to the full range of academic instruction that non-EL students receive, which would squelch the academic achievement of high-performing EL students.
  • Reclassified students’ outcomes are better in school districts with more rigorous performance thresholds, but not by much, calling into question if the trade-off between improved RFEP outcomes and fewer RFEP students is worth it.  

I don’t know what to think. Please chime in if you have some thoughts or experience with this.

Getting back to how and if the library has anything to do with reclassification rates: We know that students acquire critical grammar, vocabulary and text structure needed to comprehend the academic language found in textbooks through self-selected recreational reading. To that extent, the school library is supporting EL students by providing a wide range of reading materials and giving students free range to indulge their interests. I also think that having a good selection of native language books (in our case, Spanish) available would be helpful because background knowledge and general literacy in the native language both affect the rate at which students perform academically in English; reading skills are reading skills- they transfer from language to language. Literacy as a baseline skill is used to develop higher-order thinking skills. I don’t think lower reclassification rates directly reflect on the quality of a school’s instruction, but I do think that instruction in a student’s native language facilitates the acquisition of English, and that policies discouraging native-language use in the classroom (or materials in the library, for that matter) will diminish EL student engagement.

 

References

Hill, L. E., Weston, M., & Hayes, J. M. (2014). Reclassification of English learner students in California. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrived from http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_114LHR.pdf

Kiddle

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Protect by GotCredit (CC-BY)

I was just waiting for the fallout. News of Kiddle, the new google-like ‘safe’ search engine for kids splashed onto the scene over the weekend. In the beginning, most of the tweets in my feed were just quick retweets of news articles introducing the service and a few comments that it wasn’t actually a google product, but rather, used the google safe-search platform. Kids can choose to search by web, images, news or video. The first three results are handpicked by editors to include only articles written for children; results four through seven are also supervised by the editors and include content that is deemed simple enough for children to make use of; and the rest of the results simply rely on google safe-search filters without editor input. Wait, back up…did I just say ‘handpicked by editors’? Yup. Here’s the story as it unrolled on Twitter depicted in my storify.

 

 

 

My Personal Learning Network: A Baseline

baseline
Baseline by Megan Elizabeth Morris (CC-BY-NC-ND)

My personal learning network for all things library began in the Spring of 2014 (2 years ago). The heart and soul of my PLN was Michael Stephen’s Hyperlinked Library course (now also a MOOC), which provided the necessary information, impetus and inspiration for developing an PLN. For that course, I was asked to start a blog with which I would turn in assignments and reflect on what I was learning. I saved this little infographic which shows just how far I had come after one semester (or rather, just how low of a base I began with!)

final PLN

*Icon attributions at the end 

And now, here we are. I wasn’t so good at maintaining my blog and developing my network over the summer and throughout other courses, but thankfully, I never lost it altogether, and now, with more direction in my studies, I can really begin to tailor my PLN. I’m so grateful for this opportunity.

Since that initial push, which mostly revolved around public librarianship, I starting following a few school library people on twitter, added several school library and educational blogs to Feedly and most importantly, began volunteering in my daughter’s elementary school library. I’ve been sucking up information ever since.

Here’s what I’ve done the last couple of days to organize and revitalize my PLN:

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

  • Looked into the idea of using a dashboard product as my homepage. I’m currently using a chromebook (LOVE*), which is fine because everything is web-based these days. I considered Symbaloo and Netvibes and then just decided to stick with the existing products I love: Diigo and Feedly. I can set up my chromebook to always open with these tabs active. (I will probably add Twitter and Canvas to the active tabs).

LEARNING NETWORKS

  • Joined a couple groups in Diigo related to EdTech and then subscribed to those feeds in Feedly….that way I can see some of the links people are adding directly from feedly. Not sure if this will be helpful or not. Time will tell.
  • Reorganized Feedly with new collection categories, promoting some blogs to ‘must read’ and adding new ones. (Re-promised myself to read. feedly. every. day.)
  • Tweeted out an interesting article or two. I’m pretty good about avoiding the temptation to blindly re-tweet; I typically aim to provide some input/value add. At least I checked that this article wasn’t already all over #tlchat.
  • Made arrangements to go to the Friday session of The CSLA 2016 Conference (Vista Unified School District is presenting) and attend SJSU’s iSchool meetup. Who am I to turn down an invitation to cocktails?

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*Icon Attributions: RSS by Daniel Llamas Soto from The Noun Project; Texting by Luis Prado from The Noun Project; Twitter by aguycalledgary from The Noun Project; Telephone by Simple Icons from The Noun Project; Network by Bruno Castro from The Noun Project; Cloud Computing by Andrew Forrester from The Noun Project; Icons not cited are public domain.

Thanks for Playing

Geezaweezer
Geezaweezer by Geraint Rowland https://www.flickr.com/photos/geezaweezer/5140565053

So, I didn’t get the requisite 25 responses that would have got me firing up the pancake griddle…BUT I did get some good ones. I feel like I have some new tactics for getting myself and others into the creative zone. Thank you so much @michaelecasey, @mstephens7, @jakeogh, and @mollificence for playing…and as a token of my appreciation I’d love to send you a small gift which will ship directly from Etsy.com. Just direct message me with your home or work address (here’s a link on how to do it).
 

The responses reminded me that being ‘creative’ boils down to getting out of the way of yourself, or removing your own self-imposed limitations- if only for a few moments, to get the ball rolling.  Think about it: creativity is second nature to young kids, who exist in a world where the barriers between play and reality are entirely permeable. They don’t always know what to expect, so they’re free to experiment. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt for us adults to play a bit more at work, and encourage our patrons to do the same. I don’t mean play in the general sense of frolicking around the office (though that’s always fun); what I’m suggesting is that it may be worth considering this definition of play:

“the capacity to experiment with your surroundings as a form of problem-solving.”

That’s how the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism defines it in their video, Create Circulate Connect Collaborate. There, they highlight play as one of several new media literacy skills, or life skills essential to our success in a new media environment.  My takeaway is that play is nothing new; that our most far-reaching innovations involve liberal doses of creativity, but that the breakneck pace of technological change has morphed the socio-technical environment (particularly for librarians and other information professionals) to the extent that we need to employ more creativity than ever, just to keep up.  To make something happen these days, you’ve simply got to be willing to play.

PlayingWithMudUnderTree
Geezaweezer by Geraint Rowland https://www.flickr.com/photos/geezaweezer/5140565053

Practicing Creativity

2012_07_04_07_42_08My husband is away on a business trip. This unusual occurrence prompted some atypical behaviors in our house, including eating ‘breakfast for dinner’ (pancakes!) and me gorging on TED talks until way-too-late.  We miss Daddy, so these little breaks with reality were fun distractions.

I bring this up because it reminds me that breaking away from the expected, from what is supposed to happen, is not only fun but also useful to the point of being necessary. There is no achievement without creativity, and creativity thrives on unexpected turns and messy mistakes. We know this. But do we practice it regularly, as if our success depends on it?

It may be TED talking, but it’s clear to me that the educational enterprise as we know it is going away. This is a good thing if you see creativity as a crucial part of learning, as being paramount to living full and meaningful lives. Change is afoot from grade school to college, and beyond. The flipped classroom, learning analytics, MOOC’s, personal learning networks, open educational resources, gamification, authentic learning, and competency based learning are just a few of the trends revolutionizing education.  Now, I’m not going to get political here, or even very philosophical. But since I’m talking about the link between success and creativity, then I feel I must talk about it in terms of teaching and learning.

Librarians are nothing if not teachers and learners.  I believe that ultimately, our job is to learn all we can in order to facilitate the learning experience of others.  Our success depends on finding creative ways to help individuals and communities bloom.  In the words of Sir Ken Robinson, we have to “create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish” (Robinson, 2010).  What conditions are we talking about? Where and how can librarians teach creatively and reward creative inquiry by others? These are good questions for another time. For now, in the spirit of pancakes for dinner, I’d just like to know: how do you get your mojo on? How do you access your own creativity and pull it out of others?

Here’s something that I do: To instill a culture of play in our family life and to encourage healthy risk-taking, I like to use the ‘bravely done’ motto. It’s actually something I found on the inside of a beer bottle cap and it really spoke to me. So, when my five-year-old  gives something new a good go of it, I’ll tell her “bravely done!” and she’ll know it was the effort that mattered.  To be truthful, it’s the adults in the family that need the biggest push in that department.

So, what do you do?  How do you practice creativity and help others do the same? If I get at least 25 responses, I will send the person with the winning response a stack of my homemade pancakes. They will be delivered to your doorstep, ready to reheat and serve. Seriously. I will do this for you, if you do me the favor of sharing your personal approach to creativity. The winner will be chosen by an arbitrary and undemocratic process: if I particularly like it, you win! I will pick the winner in two weeks from now, so get your submission in before May 19th.

References

Robinson, K. [TED Talks] (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I

Transparency Builds Trust

I’m going to undress now.  Apparently, you like me better naked.  The cultural shift toward transparency fueled by the growth of social media has forever blurred the boundary between one’s public and private self.  In our hyperlinked, viral, always-connected world, word-of-mouth (think amazon user reviews) holds more sway than any glossy brochure a company could ever create.  In this environment, companies, CEO’s and even regular people like me must consciously work to show their authentic self.  We must actively manage our reputation, which now involves a solid understanding of Google algorithms and a willingness to get personal.  A 2007 piece about the new breed of ‘naked executives’ by Wired Magazine Online, asserts that a sense of authenticity is formed primarily by online exposure and that, “it’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t list their dreams and fears on Facebook.” (Thompson, 2007). The idea is that getting real with your constituency means showing everything- your mistakes as well as your successes. This kind of bare it all transparency humanizes the company or the online persona, which translates to higher levels of trust and goodwill. And I want you to trust me, which is why I’m getting naked. (It’s weird, because my mom always taught me that it was you  who I needed to trust if I was going to get naked…) Anyhow, here goes:

I can be inflexible. And I’m slow to change. There. I said it.*

barefeet

These are BIG warts for an aspiring librarian. Libraries that are truly interested in creating positive outcomes for their community- the kind of library I want to work in-  tend to place a high value on transparency.  And according to two well-known experts in this area, Casey and Stephens (2007), the transparent library is all about three things:

  • Being open to communication

  • Adapting to change

  • Scanning the horizon (trend-spotting)

I think I’m okay with the communication part. I talk, I tweet, I write; I blog; I ask; I listen; I teach; I learn. I love to give and receive input. Check.

checkok

But I fear that I may run into trouble on the adapting to change part. I’m the girl who just got a smartphone.  According to a recent Pew Research Center report,  55% of Americans have a smartphone (Rainie & Poushter, 2014). This means I have only just recently joined the majority. I’m not sure exactly where that puts me on Rodgers’ Bell Curve, but let’s just say, I’m not an “early adopter”.

So, I’m slow to change. I liked my flip phone. I still like Crosby Stills & Nash. To mitigate this shortcoming, I will seek out libraries that provide ongoing learning opportunities and the chance for me be a part of the change rather than have it imposed upon me.  Good libraries do this.

Since I tend to be slow to change, I may, theoretically, not be the best trend-spotter.  Yet, armed with a clearly defined mission, some good research skills, and a working  environment that rewards innovation, I will likely rise to the occasion.  After all, that is what successful organizations are capable of: they raise the tide to lift all boats, including both patrons and employees.

flexiblewoodenman

As for the inflexible part: well, I’m working on it. I had an employer tell me in an exit interview (I was moving out of state) that I should be more flexible. It stuck with me, which was a gift, of sorts. And now, when Michael Stephens discusses the ‘Culture of Perfect’ I see that there is much to gain from letting go, trying things out, and trusting that my mistakes will teach me what I need to know.

*Full disclosure: this is not a complete list of all my shortcomings, but let it suffice for now.

References

Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007, April). The transparent library: Introducing the Michaels. Library Journal, 132(6), 30. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2007/04/ljarchives/the-transparent-library-introducing-the-michaels/

Thompson, C. (2007, March). The see-through CEO. Wired Magazine Online (Issue 15.04). Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/15.04/wired40_ceo.html

Rainie, L. and Poushter, J. (2014, February 13). Emerging nations catching up to U.S.  on technology adoption, especially mobile and social media use. [Web log post].  FactTank, News in the Numbers, Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/13/emerging-nations-catching-up-to-u-s-on-technology-adoption-especially-mobile-and-social-media-use/

Diffusion of Innovation graphic. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 and modified using Skitch.