Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Easy Collaborative Spaces

This is the year of making a more collaborative, interactive, hands-on library for me.  The  (not-so) epic Lego wall is almost finished; I'm still weeding NF to make more space for maker-shelves. I had a brainstorm the other day as I was looking at the useless end-of-shelf displays we have (that are too shallow to actually, you know, DISPLAY books), and realized if we shaved off the shelves and used some whiteboard wallpaper, they'd be a great collaborative brainstorming / planning space.

We decided to test it with one area (the most populated one) to see if students use it. If so, we'll do it with the other shelf ends, too.

How easy is that?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

No Space? Build a MakerShelf!

I've been thinking a lot about flexible spacing and interactive libraries this year, and realized a bit of rigidity in my own thinking.

Space in my HS is at a premium, and there's really nowhere for the library to expand.  Our "makerspace" is actually a small room in another part of the building (on a different floor even), and it's photography focused.  We also already have three DT labs, complete with machines, 3D printers and all the maker bells and whistles, so when I was honest with myself, I realized we didn't really need another one in the library.  Yet this was very frustrating to my tech-loving, I want an innovative library self.

Then two things happened.

For no particular reason, I dumped several coloring books and sets of colored pencils in our "hang-out" areas. I was almost embarrassed by it, secretly suspecting the kids would scoff.  Who knew? They absolutely loved it--girls, boys, even some teachers.  ALL of them spend time coloring. One girl even told me, "I thought it was dumb at first. But now I think it's the most brilliant thing in the library."  Yet so amazingly simple.   As is the poetry wall we made when I found a bunch of magnetic words buried in the library office.

A few months after this, I presented at the Contexts and Conversations workshop in Beijing,  attending a presentation by the always forward-thinking Katy Vance who is busy re-imagining and re-configuring her new library in Japan.   During her talk, Katy mentioned doing an  ├╝ber-drastic weed and using some of the resulting shelf space to create a Maker-shelf.  Lights and bells started going off in my head in one of those, "Well, duh!" moments.

Makerspaces are great, but even with the one I have, I fall down on programming.  And while I love that kids can tinker and engage in their own interest-driven learning, I don't want to lose the "library-ness" of the library.  The makershelf, for my library, is a sweet-spot combining student tinkering and creativity with easy-to-manage tools.  So here's my plan.

1) Gut the nonfiction section. And I do mean gut.  I'm in the midst of a pretty ruthless weed of the 0-800 sections.  I discussed this with the relevant departments, and they agreed that most of the information in the books can be found in the databases.  I'm keeping books relevant to extended essays or casual interests. Books that specifically relate to class topics are being reassigned to the classrooms. We need to stop thinking of the library as a particular space: the library is everywhere--it's a state of mind and a way of thinking. Books need to meet the students at point of access where they're most needed, and that's usually the classroom.

Everything else goes.  The shelves are looking pretty barren.   As a side note, I'll be curious to see if/how this affects circulation. There's some convincing evidence that a serious weed helps the remaining collection to stand out.

2)  The cleared shelves will then be dedicated to different maker subjects, based on informal interviews with students about what they'd be interested in having around. Along with the tangibles, each shelf will include relevant books and some basic "how to's" to get the kids started, as well as ideas they can build on.  I  want to give them just enough to get them started, but still leave room for them to have to "figure it out" through discovery.

3)  Shelves will start with the following, but the cool thing about shelves is they can always change, based on student interests.  That's harder to do with large (expensive!) spaces.

Knitting.  I'll say, this surprised me. I think it's kind of dumb, but I thought the coloring books were kind of dumb, too.  And some kids asked for it, so what do I know?

I have more plans--whiteboard tables,   a conferencing table with built-in monitor for collaborating on projects/presentations, better promotion of our digital content. But that's another post.

Would love to hear other ideas!  Post in the comments.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Guided Inquiry Design: The Put-It-All-Together Chart

Previous GID posts:  #1,  #2

As part of our decision-making process for choosing Guided Inquiry (GI), the three librarians (ES, MS, HS) scheduled weekly meetings to read/discuss both of the Guided Inquiry Design books.  (If you can only buy one, definitely get the Framework one.  It's practical, rather than theoretical.)

Aside from nuts and bolts of the process, much of our discussion focused around  how the model fit with IB philosophy, the Learner Profile, and our individual sections.  It really is a natural for the PYP (elementary), which is very inquiry focused and collaborative, both with students and teachers.  It's still a good fit for MYP (6-10), though as the grades increase, I predict more of a struggle as classes become more content-driven, especially in the DP (11-12).

A big part of GI is research centered on student interests. Many of the "research" based learning at our school is short-term, product oriented, and teachers don't want to spend the time this kind of process takes.  And I do get that--not all research needs to be heavy-duty and pull-out-the-stops.  Thus, my goals for our pilot program this year:
With our pilot classes, identify which units benefit best from deep, sustained research.
The team then assesses and redesigns those units (as needed).
The team and students document and evaluate the process (I'll have a dedicated post on that later), gathering qualitative and quantitative data.

Once we'd finished reading/discussing, we felt we still needed a deeper understanding, so we broke up the various steps, and each of us gave a presentation summarizing how it all fit together.

That helped, but I felt I still needed a "big picture" flowchart of how the affective, cognitive and behavioral strands fit together for students and teachers, so I created the chart below (click to enlarge), which is by no means all inclusive, but gives a general "at a glance" idea of how the process works and what goes on when.  This is obviously more for teachers than students, and I don't like how each strand is separate--maybe some arrows to indicate the recursive nature?

Mental Health Break: It's That Time of Year...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

"Respect the Research!": Why We Chose Kuhlthau's Guided Inquiry Model

Being librarian's you'll get my little Me, Earl and the Dying Girl shout out.  I really want this t-shirt, btw. Not the greatest design in the world, but I love the thought behind it.

Harrumph!  Moving on...

When we decided to overhaul the way research works at our school, we had a long talk about models.  Specifically, what we use in each of our sections, and what that approach was based on.  A number of inquiry-based research models exist out there (with the Big 6 arguably the most popular in the U.S.), and in one sense they're different treads of the same tire, variations of a  discover, explore, focus, gather, evaluate, synthesize and publish model. If they're basically the same pattern, does it matter what model you choose?

For the eight years I've been a librarian, I've mostly used the Big 6, or (after a few years) a hybrid  I concocted after a) seeing some problems I was having with the Big 6 and b) reading a couple of Kuhlthau's  pre-GID articles.

However, after looking at some of these models, we decided the Guided Inquiry Process provided some strengths lacking in the other models:

It's based on years of research into how students learn and seek information, and grounded in constructivist learning.

They  recommend  a collaborative approach to inquiry design: teams of three to develop the unit and guide the students. These teams consist of the teacher, the librarian and another member as appropriate: e.g.  tech integrator, learning support, school counselor, another subject expert.   These three members help design the unit from the ground up, and are not tacked on as just-in-time one-offs.

It specifically addresses three aspects of student learning: cognitive, affective and behavioral.  In each of their stages Kuhlthau, Maniotes and Caspari (I shouldn't neglect the other authors!)  link what students are doing intellectually with how they FEEL about that, suggesting useful interventions to promote student success.  Moreover, at each stage,  they address not just what students are doing, but what the guided inquiry team should be doing, too.

It doesn't skip the questions!!  While I was initially put off by the  model's eight steps (see image), I soon realized it hit one of my biggest complaints about the Big 6, which I feel jumps too quickly from defining the  task to information seeking.  HELLO!!?!   AREN'T YOU FORGETTING SOMETHING??!?

 Research, as Jamie Mackenzie has pointed out, is all about the QUESTION....and good research questions are really, really hard.  In fact,  I've moved my "how to write a research question" lesson later and later into the process, as I (too slowly!) realized that students often have to do background research before they can even think about writing a question; they often just don't know enough to understand what the questions even are.  And, quite bluntly, if the students don't have a solid focused, arguable question, based on their own interests (not the teacher's!)  their final product is all but doomed.  The Guided Inquiry model recognizes this and not only builds those steps into the process, it grounds everything in writing that well thought-out question.

Finally, my favorite part of the model is the idea of the Third Space, developed by Carol  Leslie Maniotes.  Student interests and prior knowledge (the first space) merge with curriculum (the second space)  creating a new, third space, where students create personalized learning. This ties in, on a deep level, with all the conversations we're having in the library world about whether the library is just a physical space or not.  It overtly acknowledges that meaningful learning is personal and emotional and endeavors to build that into the process.

There you have our thinking in choosing the model.  Next post, I'll discuss how we went about getting our heads around the nitty-gritty of the model.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Collaborative Action Research in the iBookstore

We're published!

I blogged about the iPad Trials, but we've published the two studies in the iBookstore.  You'll find the larger iPad study as well as each teacher's individual subject-focused study.  We'd love feedback!

Year one/Cycle Two
Year two/Cycle Three

And here's our student-created book that started it all--over 15,000 downloads!

The Power of the Process: Adopting Kuhlthau's Guided Inquiry Model

The three librarians at my school (ES/MS/HS) spent the last few months thinking about the research process, what it looks like at the school (kind of a mess), and how we can improve it. 

Our biggest problems:
  Each of the libraries takes a slightly different approach (mostly variations of the Big 6)
  Just because the library has a process, doesn't mean teachers are using it.

Thus, students are getting conflicting messages/approaches to research (when they get one at all). I wouldn't say confusion reigns, but it's definitely mounting a campaign.

As a bit more background, the tech integrator and I ran a prototype of a collaboratively planned unit with the grade 9 science team last spring (Prototype: 90% sure it's not what the final will look like; Pilot: 90% sure it is).  The planning team involved all the grade 9  science teachers, me, the integrator, learning support and the enrichment coordinator.   As you can guess, it grew a bit unwieldy with so many people, and we had WAY too many meetings, but some good things came out of it and next year, as a pilot, each department is mandated to plan one unit a year with the entire support team.

What does that have to do with our research problems?

We took a long, hard look at Carol Kuhlthau's  Guided Inquiry model, a key element of which is using learning teams of three to guide students through the inquiry process.  It seemed like a natural fit!

Thus, beginning in fall, the three libraries will concurrently run a formal action-research pilot of what the guided inquiry process would look like at our school, then use those findings (presumably!) to push for school-wide adoption of the model.

Since this is action research, we need to document the planning and the process,  which seems as good a reason as any to start blogging again after my overly-long hiatus! 

Stay tuned...