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Probably the most cited reason I hear for attending conferences (both library and edtech) is, “I get to be with like-minded people.”   While this reason is fine and good and often inspiring and energizing, I personally leave these events more determined to make my own corner of the world one in which people are aspiring to be lifelong learners and to take risks whether they are classroom teachers, students, or librarians.  I think our ultimate goal should be to cultivate a culture of inquiry, curiosity, and conversation in our learning spaces.

Access to new hardware and access to information doesn’t mean that teachers and students automatically have buy-in to 21st century teaching and learning frameworks.  Asking people to critically interrogate their teaching philosophy and pedagogy is something that really should be at the forefront of technology integration because ultimately, the integration requires a significant shift away from teacher centered instruction.    I truly believe that conversations about learning are critical in order for teachers and students to rethink and question what we mean by “education”, “learning”, and “achievement.”

In our work as “instructional partners” and “leaders” in our learning communities, school librarians collaborate with teachers and students to help cultivate participation literacy and transliterate practices to facilitate learning experiences.    These collaborative efforts can become powerful grass-roots advocacy for meaningful change when other students and teachers take note of the kind of work their peers are engaging in with the assistance of the library program and librarian.

I’m excited to share that by request, I’ll be working with two of our departments this fall to provide half day professional development workshops in which we’ll explore:

  • How we can use Google Sites as a tool for instruction and information sharing as well as a medium for hosting content creation by both teachers and students? (Foreign Language Department, coming December 2010)
  • How can we tweak our research assignments to engage students in higher level questioning and exploration to minimize opportunities for plagiarism ( I think Jamie McKenzie refers this kind of “topical” research as scooping) and maximize students’ opportunities to think critically and inquire?  (Social Studies Department, TBA)

I’m also excited that my principal has given me the green light for my facilitating an additional professional development opportunity based loosely on the EdCamp concept. While I think the EdCamp concept is terrific, how powerful could it be to be host this in-house with your faculty and students as the experts leading the conversations as well as virtual guests from around the world who can also lead and join the conversation via Skype?  For many educators,  means for travel (personal and professional funds, professional leave time) is limited, so why not bring the experience to your local learning community in-house?

I’m still sketching out the details for this professional development with input from interested faculty and students, but I’m excited to help ignite this type of learning experience in my own school and for the library program to contribute to our learning community in a way that I think will have a direct and profound impact on teaching and learning in our building as we work together.

4 thoughts on “Igniting Conversations for Learning: Librarians Leading Professional Development

  1. Buffy, this is wonderful, as usual. I am attempting similar enterprises with my area school library media specialists. We need to lead and model change. I want to be around “like-minded” people in my local area as well as on a multi-state/multi-national scale.

    Suggesting that teachers change the way they think about pedagogy and assessment is scary. It’s a delicate line to walk and to the less than self-confident suggests that we are finding fault with their teaching. Still, in the best interests of our students, it’s a task we must face.


  2. Great post, Buffy! I love passing on the knowledge I’ve gained to my colleagues, especially when you see their eyes light up in that “A-HA!” moment. Being a part of a staff of 10 in a public library makes it both difficult to present ideas at workshops and stresses the remaining staff in times of “overt patron love.” But I am extremely lucky to have a director who understands what I am doing and why I do what I do here. It really helps a lot.

    Being the contrary voice in a vendor-locked world is scary sometimes, but it’s all about making the right choices for the right reasons. And who knows, the contrary voice may be the one to help others to realize that there are tools available that can help them accomplish their tasks in a way never before possible!


  3. Thanks for the post, Buffy! I am particularly interested to hear how your CPD workshops go.

    I created a google site for our library over the summer, and one of our depute heads asked me if I would consider showing other staff how to use google sites. I wasn’t entirely sure if I would be great at demonstrating *how* to use it as I typically teach myself web 2.0 applications through trial and error. However, I suspect a workshop on why I use it and how it is useful could be a worthwhile CPD session.

    I am also looking forward to reading more about tweaking research assignments in order to force learners to utilise higher order thinking skills. This is something I have been struggling with for the past year since becoming a school librarian. I often see pupils who have been assigned “research” projects that in fact only require them to find straightforward factual information. My school classifies my position as clerical (I know!), but I am challenging this by trying to become more involved in curriculum design, so I will certainly be looking to you and other experienced educators for practical suggestions.


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