Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Creating more co-teaching opportunities within the school community

For a number of years, I wondered,
"How can I get more teachers to work with me as they present units to their classes?"
I remembered the advice
I received from a library media specialist years ago. The advice was that I should work with those who wanted to work with me. For a number of years, this advice worked (somewhat). I presented PDs about online databases, the primary/secondary resources in the library, and the ways teachers could utilize the library collection to bring their units to life.

The one set back was the amount of teacher transition in our building. Each year a number of teachers would leave our building and nearly twenty percent of the teacher population would transfer, retire or leave the teaching profession. The relationships that had been formed would have to be formed again. With each new year, new teachers would arrive to the building and the cycle of introductions and advertising the library program and its resources would begin.  It became daunting and the advice to wait for those who wanted to work with me seemed ill-advised.

In the 2013-2014 school year, I had an idea to get more teachers to use VoiceThread (VT) with their students. I had just completed a summer course on VT and was excited about the stories I had learned about teachers using the online discussion tool to reinforce learning. By using VT, teachers had used the tool to get students to discuss their ideas in the online forum and to enhance their lessons.

My thought was that VT would help the teachers in my school flip and blend the learning in their classrooms while they integrated technology into their lessons. I also saw it as an opportunity to work with teachers. With the backing of the principal, I created a plan for a series after-school workshops that would provide teachers with the information they would need in order to create their own VTs and use the VTs with their students.

During the summer, I created VT accounts for all the students enrolled in our school. Information about VT was shared with the teachers, an Animoto video was made to increase interest and a representative from the Office of Technology agreed to come to the school to present the workshops. I also created a Livebinder  (an online resource used to store information in a virtual three-ring binder format) which included samples of VTs, suggested procedures, resources, and a synopsis of the workshops. The workshops has a number of issues: attendance and willingness to commit. At first, teachers were excited to try the new technology; however, once testing, PBAs, and other assessments began the excitement for the initiative waned. The number of attendees became problematic and the desire to create VT that could be used with students lessened.

After the workshops, a few teachers used VT with their students; however, the vision I had of co-teaching a variety of lessons was not fully realized. I did assist a teacher as she planned her VT lesson and aided in the implementation of the lesson. While this planning and implementation only occurred twice, it was an increase in my work with the math department. My secondary hope was to see an increase in the number of math classes that used the computer lab and an increase in co-teaching opportunities with the math department. Although the opportunity only presented itself twice, it was an increase from the previous year (zero encounters) to two lessons in the 2013-2014 school year. While it was an improvement, I had hoped for more and realized I had to do some reflection.

Based upon my experience with the after-school workshops, I wouldn't initiate it again. One set back was the requirement that teachers attend three of the four face-to-face sessions. For requiring attendance was important for two reasons. First, a representative from the Office of Technology (now Digital Learning) was coming to the school to present the information to the teachers. By doing this, after school, he was sharing his free time to help teachers learn more about this tool. Second, VT classes were offered three times a year through the county for credits; however, many teachers had one or more of the following complaints: the locations for the courses were too far away, the times for the classes didn't fit their schedules and/or the dates for the courses didn't work with their schedules. By offering the workshops in the school, once a month and after school, my thought was that the convenience would make the workshops more attractive to the teachers; however,
the requirement of attendance seemed to lead to some resistance.

The resistance (I feel) was a factor in the low number of VT lessons and co-teaching opportunities that occurred during the school year and once the workshops completed. To be frank, this resistance was problematic for me and lead me to my conclusion that I wouldn't initiate the concept of an after-school workshop again. Instead, sharing resources with teachers through department meetings, as well as utilizing the school newsletter to promote resources ideas became my focus. I share the resources, offer suggestions and work with those who wish to utilize my skills and the resources of the library.

I also put more focus on the students and increased my efforts to build their excitement for new tools and library resources in a variety of after-school get-togethers.  One tool was the use of video to advertise the resources in the library. Below is a sample of a video that was shared with students in order to advertise the library program.
WMMS: Building a Reading and Research Community
Stay tuned for more information.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Enhancing the library environment

During the summer of 2012, the library collection was weeded, the reference section was streamlined and moved to the back of the library, and the graphic novel/manga section was moved to the middle of the library.
















Phase Two began a few weeks ago. Tables and chairs were removed in order to make an area where students can congregate, work on group projects, and take part in the new makerspace area.  Phase three will be the addition of posters, student art work, and a few other decorative touches to make it a more inviting area.












An interesting note is that phases two and three included the input of students and staff members. I also applied much of the information I learned about creating an inviting learning environment from my coursework.