Posts Tagged 'literacy'

Changing Their Minds (With a Little Help From My Friends)

I am lucky to be connected to many wonderful, vibrant school library media specialists who work in high school settings.  So when I thought about how to demonstrate the possibilities of school library media programs, I reached out to friends and asked for their help. Two media specialists, Holly Frilot and Buffy Hamilton, were able to participate.

These future teachers were amazed by Holly’s work at Collins Hill High School library media center in Suwanee, Georgia. She shared a Prezi that showed many of the ways her library media program reached out to teachers and students to enhance literacy learning. Take a look at what her program provides… Her presentation made the connections between the school library media program and literacy learning abundantly clear. The teachers were amazed at what they saw, scribbling notes and links throughout her talk.

I also shared a peek into Buffy Hamilton’s Unquiet Library at Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia. Although Buffy could not take the time to come to Athens, because of her meticulous documentation of her program at Creekview, I was able to search her blog for video testimonials from teachers and students.  The videos I selected are linked from my presentation. (See slide 6).

As I showed these videos to my high school preservice group, they were amazed at the quality of thinking going on in the Unquiet Library. This experience also reinforced the importance of taking time to document (and share) the learning taking place in school library media centers.

In my next post, I’ll share a bit about the final take-away activity I did to try to solidify the new ideas these teachers were creating about school library media programs and literacy learning in high schools.

(In an interesting side note, since my presentation several months ago, both Holly and Buffy have taken new positions, working with wider audiences to further connections between libraries, literacy, and learning.  Thanks to both of them for allowing me to share their amazing work!)

New Post About Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Intergenerational Learning

Hi everyone.

It’s been a busy summer! I’m finally getting back into blogging, writing, and the like. I thought I’d share the link to a new post I wrote for the National Coalition for Literacy. This was composed as part of my service on the OITP Digital Literacy Task Force.

It was especially satisfying to find inspiration for this post in the intergenerational learning I’m noticing in my own family.  I hope you enjoy it!

Meandering Meditations About Readers

One of my favorite parts of being a researcher is talking to people.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been “hanging out” (in a researchy way) in a middle school library media center since March.  This week I had the pleasure of interviewing students at the school. Contrary to current popular notions of reading, this school has a lot of boys who read enthusiastically. Four of them were kind enough to speak to me.

These students are incredibly dedicated users of school library resources. They read voraciously, at time multiple books per week. Their teachers allow them to go to the school library as often as they like. The collection in the school library, as they told me, is well-stocked to meet their needs.

As school winds down, these students have been on my mind. Like many (perhaps even most) school libraries, the facility is not open during the summer months. I admire school librarians who keep their libraries open intermittently for checkouts during the summer. But, I also see the position of the school librarians who does not open their spaces, especially if there is no funding to support this investment of time.

But that’s not what sticks with me.

As I spoke to them this week, all of these young readers were so clear on the incredible benefits they derive from a school library staffed by their certified school librarian. I was nearly moved to tears to hear them speak of their school librarian with such esteem and affection. When I asked them what they would be reading this summer, these boys, for the most part, thought they would be able to find enough reading materials between home and trips to the public library. I could sense some anxiety though, or a feeling of loss at not having access to their school library.

I am not sure why I keep coming back to this feeling. It is not my purpose to be critical of the school librarian, or the families, or anything in the situation, really.

Instead, I keep thinking of the thousands and thousands of children across this country who are losing their librarians to less qualified staff. I keep thinking of collections unreplenished. I keep thinking of all that is being stripped away from libraries, indeed from young people, right now. To be honest, it is hard not to be heartbroken (and angry!)

I think of the young readers I spoke to this week. I see in them, and hear from them, the wealth that a robust school library program brings.  For them, it is a couple of months until the lights flip back on and the bright face of their school librarian welcomes them.

They are the lucky ones.

In a couple of months, in many libraries across this country, the scene will not be nearly so sunny. I think about all the shade that is being cast in school libraries around this country. When will all the rest see the light?

Library Research Seminar Recap, Part 2

This is my second post devoted to sharing what I learned at Library Research Seminar – V, held last week in Maryland.  See the first post here.

Sessions in the afternoon of Day 1

Thomas D. Walker – Cultivating Library Research among MLIS Students – Theses and Other Investigations

Walker studied MLIS programs and their research requirements.  He found that there is a lot of variability in the amount, nature, and type of research required at different institutions. Some programs require a thesis, others require comprehensive exams, and others have substantial term papers. The thesis requirement seems to change a lot about the program.  A research methods course was not an apparent core requirement in many MLIS programs (although there were several people in the audience who wondered if it was a different kind of requirement). He is looking to extend the study to investigate these methods courses in more detail.

Elizabeth Aversa and Diane Barlow – Measuring Success in Graduates of LIS Programs

Aversa and Barlow are working on a research project to understand whether there is a relationship between the delivery of one’s LIS program (online, blended, face-to-face, etc.) and one’s career success. One hurdle they have to jump is answering the question: what is career success?  While there have been many studies about job satisfaction, career success is less studied, in part because “success” is difficult to define. Aversa and Barlow shared some objective and subjective indicators of success, which fell into five categories: money, power, options, growth, and balance. (There were specific items in each of these categories). There are also some alternative indicators in the LIS literature, such as awards and activity in professional organizations.

In order to illustrate how complex “success” is, the audience was divided into groups of 5. We each received some index cards – 5 different colors (to represent the five categories mentioned above), two of each color.  In our groups, we were asked to trade the cards with one another in order to get closer to our visions of a “successful” career. This activity was interesting. The groups found that there were several definitions of success, and the definitions sometimes depended on age, point in career, background, and other factors. For example, I am a mother of 3 relatively young kids, working on my doctorate. I prioritized my cards and work-life balance was very important to me. At this point in my life, I would take less money for a better balance. Learning opportunities, part of the “growth” category, are also important to me. I’d take less power for more learning opportunities. The other people in my group were at different points in their personal and professional lives. Some saw money and power as more important than others, and so on. We also discussed the way some of the 5 are interdependent. This activity was a great demonstration of the topic. It got people talking to each other and showed the complexity of the construct of success. I’ll be interested to see how this project continues to develop.

Jenny Bossaller – Print vs. Online: Teaching Sources in an Online Reference Course

Bossaller teaches reference in an online course. While her predecessor did not use print in her version of the course, Bossaller did for a number of reasons. One of these reasons was to give students the important insight that not everything is available online (with historical research standing as an important example). Bossaller, who teaches students from a broad geographic area, had also heard some concerns from students who lived far away from reference collections. These issues led Bossaller to collect insights from the students who had taken her reference course.

Through a survey of her students, Bossaller found that her assignments, which required both online and print resources, helped students understand libraries and the variable quality of reference sections. Roughly 75% of her students thought print should continue as a requirement for the course, with the main reasons for dissent revolving around concerns about fairness. (Apparently, getting to a print reference section was difficult for some students). Bossaller ended with some of the implications for online reference courses and distance education in LIS.

Next, I attended a panel entitled Youth and Libraries: Four Studies of the Information Behaviors of Today’s Young People

The panel was designed to cover a wide age spectrum, starting with early literacy and ending with college students.

Here’s a brief overview of each talk:

Eliza Dresang – Project VIEWS: Valuable Initiatives in Early Learning that Work Successfully (or do they?)

Dresang reported progress on a larger IMLS-funded project, which aims to determine the outcomes and impacts of early literacy programs in public libraries. Although public libraries have implemented early literacy initiatives over the past decade, there is not much research to show whether and how these programs have made a difference.  The first step is to develop a tool to assess the core literacy knowledge of the librarians providing these services.  Dresang pointed us to but this site does not appear to be active beyond a general description of the project at the moment.  So, this is a work in progress worth watching. I can see the potential for this approach beyond the birth – K spectrum, personally.

Carol Gordon: A Study of a Web-Based Summer Reading Program and Reading Engagement

Gordon outlined an overview of a three-phase study of summer reading, using an engagement model of comprehension as the theoretical foundation for her approach.The first phase called “Reading Takes You Places” is discussed here in detail. The second phase anchored from a different website called . Students played a role in creating this site. The third phase, called Summer Reading Plus, focused on taking the positive attributes of summer reading from the first two phases and transferring them to reading during the school year.

There were many transitions made during the study, showing how this version of summer reading departed from traditional school reading, including free choice instead of mandated lists and so on. Many of the students who participated in these studies did not qualify as high level readers. But, through focus groups in Phase 1, Gordon found that these students didn’t dislike reading – they disliked being forced to read certain things. Many of these students read a lot, but their reading is not validated because it may not come in the form of a traditional book. In Phase 2, online surveys revealed that the students who liked to read felt they had free choice and found the experience of reading satisfying. Students who did not like to read did not report these sentiments, and felt that they could not find books to read. Interestingly, Gordon found that some of the responses students gave to books that might be considered lower-quality were quite sophisticated and high level. In Phase 3 students will be creating their own online reading spaces.

Denise Agosto – Youth Information Behavior as Social Activity: High School Seniors, Social Networks, and Libraries

Agosto studied seniors at a high-tech high school. She found, through focus groups, that it is impossible to separate social networks from other methods of mediated communication, such as texting. Students see the end goal as communication, not technology. She studied the kinds of communication tools these teens use, and correlated these tools to the level of closeness with the message receiver.  Closest friends often received text messages, more causal friends received facebook messages, and broader connections got Facebook posts. Cell phones are extremely important to this group for keeping in touch, especially for close friends and family. Facebook is for a wider range of friends. Other factors that contribute to their selection of communication tools include simplicity of use, speed of communication, and multitasking capabilities.  Many of these students are at least casually connected most of the time.

Agosto found that this group obsessively documented their lives through media and communication. They used Facebook to share information about gatherings and events, as well as a way to find out about new friends and casual acquaintances. There was an undercurrent of talk about addiction, exhaustion, and overcommunication at times throughout the study. Libraries can provide access to the media that needs want to use to connect. We can also promote our services with an emphasis on what teens tell us they need and want.

Nancy B. Turner – Do Students Really Search Differently? Comparative Usability Testing with Students and Library Staff

As a part of a redesign of the search function on the library homepage, Turner studied the different ways students and library staff searched for specific materials, comparing the processes and efficacy of their searches. She found four differences between the searches of students and library staff.

First, the two groups differed on their selection of tools. Students always started with the general search box on the default tab labeled “discover.” Library staff tailored their starting points based on the material they were searching for. Second, the search syntax differed across the two groups. Third, the two groups differed on their knowledge of library resource organization and representation. Fourth, their level of persistence varied.  Librarians often enjoyed a complex search, whereas students preferred finding to searching.

As a result of these findings, the Syracuse library changed the design of their search function on the homepage. This study reminds us that our mental models can make it difficult to see things as our users do.

Overall, I liked this panel a great deal. I can’t help but wish there had been an additional panelist to discuss a study in the elementary and middle grades age range, where my own research is situated.

For more information about these studies, as well as the many other presentations from the conference, check out the conference schedule and abstracts here.

A Selection of Blogs for Reading, Literature, and Writing Teachers

During my first classes of the semester with my preservice teachers, I was upfront: they would not leave my class knowing everything there was to know about literacy education. After their astonishment wore off, I explained that, in my mind, a big part of being a teacher is being an ongoing and insatiable learner. So, I told my students that one of my goals for this semester was to help them develop ways to continue their learning that would last far beyond the semester’s end.

With that in mind, this week I took the plunge and started talking about RSS. All semester I’ve been sharing and using resources that came to me through blogs and twitter, but this week students started developing new spaces and pathways for connecting on their own.

About an hour into my classes, I showed the RSS in Plain English video from Common Craft, then talked through some blogs to start with. Many students were surprised that, as google account holders, they had not known about google reader before. There was some excitement as well as some skepticism, which is to be expected.

The big question for me was, which blogs should I choose?  I follow many literacy-related blogs, but wanted them to start with just a handful. I asked my twitter network for their suggestions a couple of weeks ago, and many in my PLN responded with great ideas. I was also asked to share my lists once they were complete. So, my starter blogs for Language Arts, Kindergarten through 8th grade, are listed below.

Note: This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the great blogs out there.  I chose some blogs that seemed to best reflect the principles of literacy education we’ve discussed this semester. I also included some technology-focused blogs, and blogs by classroom teachers. In class, I talked about how important it is to read blogs that are provocative and even opposed to your own perspective, just to keep you thinking. I need to keep working on this last point.

Writing Workshop by David Stoner

Two Writing Teachers

The Book Whisperer

The English Teacher’s Companion

In For Good

Free Technology for Teachers


Larry Ferlazzo

Grammar Girl

Teri Lesesne – ProfessorNana

The tempered radical

The Reading Zone

A Geekymomma’s Blog

Welcome to NCS-Tech

30 poets 30 days at Gottabook

Raising readers and writers



Miss Rumphius Effect

A year of Reading

We will talk in the next couple of weeks about what learning this way is like, and how it might (or might not) be useful. I’ll share their thoughts soon after.

In the mean time, do you have any other favorites that I missed?

What’s the Big Idea?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been caught up in evaluating the other group of multigenre projects.  I do have more to share about those, and will post examples soon. But in the mean time, classes have been coming along and I wanted to share a few thoughts about what we’ve been doing.

I can’t believe it is only a month until semester’s end. Even though my two classes come from different programs (elementary and middle grades are separate programs in our college), they are both approaching an “end” of sorts.  For my middle school Language Arts group, they are coming to the end of their main semesters studying literacy. Last semester they studied middle grades literature, and this semester they’ve had content area literacy and my writing pedagogy course. As far as required literacy core courses, that is it. Next semester they are back to spending a lot of time in the schools.

My elementary school class is coming into their last month of coursework before student teaching. They’ve had two courses in reading, my language arts course, and children’s literature.

As you might imagine, these endings, along with the hectic rush of this time in the semester, bring up a lot of emotions in the classes – some of them conflicting.  The students seem excited about the end of the semester, but there is also a palpable weariness. They are overwhelmed by all the different approaches and strategies they’ve learned – this is only compacted by the impending awareness that soon they’ll be implementing many of these ideas daily with students. Even though they are overwhelmed by what they’ve learned, they also seem to feel anxious about not knowing enough. I hear, over and over again, “how am I going to DO all this???”

Through all of these emotions and a fair amount of exhaustion, I try to keep the students learning and thinking. A couple of weeks ago, it felt like the right time to start telescoping back out to try to focus on some of their “big ideas” for literacy teaching.  I was inspired by this post about simplicity at Two Writing Teachers. I invited my students to start trying to think about how they will begin their lives as literacy educators. I asked them: What are the simple principles that form the core of your vision for literacy teaching?  How does the way you plan to organize your time and space reflect that vision?  We’ve worked on timelines, maps, and other exercises to try and get the vision to begin to come together on paper.

One reason for this process of developing a vision is to give them a place to start when they get into their classrooms.  But, I admit, there is another reason, too. Sometimes I worry about the future of these young teachers – so bright and full of energy, ideas, and fire. With class sizes growing, resources disappearing, and, most troubling, the thunder of emphasis on test scores and standards, I fear that what we’ve worked on in our courses will quickly be swallowed, perhaps even smothered by the onslaught of the structure of schooling.  So, we are taking a little time to try to develop their vision. I hope they keep their core principles posted somewhere near their desks, as touchstones to refer to and expand upon as they continue to develop as teachers.

As my students thought and wrote, I also took the time to articulate my vision for literacy classrooms. Of course, it is a work in progress, and has changed a lot this year.  I thought I’d share it here, along with this wonder: what “big ideas” you return to again and again as a teacher?

Beth’s Vision for the Literacy Classroom

My students will know that I care about them.
I will know them and their lives and what matters to them.
I believe that my students have important things to say and I value their voices.
I am committed to helping them find ways to express themselves and their insights in a manner that allows them to be heard and understood by others.
I encourage my students to take risks and make mistakes in my classroom and in the world at large. I believe this is one of the main ways that we learn. I strive to model risk taking, and reflecting, rethinking, redoing, and renewing practice in my role as a teacher/co-learner.
I want my students to love reading and writing (broadly defined) and learning, and to know that engaging in reading, writing, and learning can enable them to grow as teachers and as people.

Beth Friese – 4.1.10

Multigenre Research Projects: An Introduction

This is the first of several posts about a multigenre research project I have just completed in my language and literacy courses with preservice educators, grades P-8. (I teach one class focused on P-5, one class focused on 4-8).

For all of you librarians out there, even though the students I teach are future classroom teachers, please continue to read along. As I’ve gone through this project, I’ve seen numerous opportunities for collaboration between language arts teachers and librarians. (Ironically, there were times when I wished I had a librarian with me as another teacher. Much of my focus was on composition, and a librarian partner might have helped me do more with information literacy and ethics.) Multigenre research, as I see it, lies at the intersection of research and writing, and presents a great opportunity for librarians to collaborate with classroom teachers.

The first several of posts in this series will describe the project, some background, and the process we went through over the past weeks. Then, I hope to share some pieces of my students’ projects so you can get a sense of what multigenre research projects might look like.

I probably should have been writing about this all along, but to be honest I had no idea how these projects would turn out.  This is my first time teaching multigenre research. Now that the finished projects are rolling in, I am thrilled with what the students have accomplished, and happy that a number of them have given me permission to share their work here.

I hope you’ll tune in to see what they’ve done. I think many of the students surprised themselves with what they accomplished, and how “research” became something challenging, creative, and productive.  I feel, in many ways, that the students succeeded in spite of my fumblings as I learned to teach this process. Many of them went above and beyond what I set before them as tasks, and, as they have told me, quite a few wished they had more time to continue writing and research.  How great to hear students say that, especially since, at the beginning of the semester, the words “research project” filled the room with apprehension and dread.

So, to begin, my question is…why does “research” prompt that reaction?  Why does it fill many of us with dread? As an educator who believes that ongoing research and learning is essential to being an effective educator, how can we change the aversion that people have to research?  I’m starting to see some possible answers coming out of this project.  I welcome your thoughts.

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