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Part 2 of 4 in a series By CUE guest blog editor Jane Lofton

Mark Archon

The arrival of the new California Standards has truly transformed the landscape of education in California as schools make substantial changes to create learning environments and lessons which foster student collaboration, require critical thinking and develop self-direction.

Change just ahead - California StandardsTechnology and digital literacy skills play ever-increasing roles in these learning environments, yet the State of California never adopted separate standards for technology. To address this gap, the Fresno County Office of education (FCOE), in a pioneering effort led by the then-region VII CTAP Director Emy Lopez Phillips, developed a Tech Skills flow chart identifying digital literacy and technology skills supporting the new California Standards for K-12. This resource aggregated the technology recommendations from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21), the ISTE Standards for students, and standards associated with the Massachusetts Department of Education. It has been used by countless educators in California and beyond. Long Beach Unified (LBUSD) has adapted the FCOE tool and taken it a step further, aligning technology and digital literacy skills with the new California Standards and developing a scope and sequence for technology integration by grade level. Both the FCOE and LBUSD documents are readily available for educators. Take advantage of them to help ensure student technology proficiency through the grades.

For many teachers, teaching the new standards, along with technology and digital literacy skills, represents a dramatic shift. This shift includes a change in role, resources, and skills necessary for success.

First, the role as an educator is migrating from teacher to a facilitator of learning. Creating inquiry-based lessons which allow students to explore, research, collaborate and create products to demonstrate learning requires a substantial shift in how the teacher interacts with the curriculum and his or her students.

Secondly, the resources that teachers need are quite different from those in the textbook-driven approach commonly used under the former assessment system. A multitude of resources online and in print, technologies, and engagement strategies become the focal point of these new lessons. open educational resources, a plethora of web resources, publisher-generated resources, as well as home-grown lessons and collaborations between peers are all welcome additions in this new educational landscape.

Finally, the lesson design and delivery skills necessary for exemplary standards implementation are varied and many. These include team teaching, peer collaboration, facilitating student engagement, classroom management, proficiency with technology, and an understanding of universal Design for Learning, to name only a few. Ongoing job-embedded professional learning for all teachers and administrators is essential to ensure teachers are learning and using current research-based practices their students need.

Districts and school have spent a tremendous amount of time, energy, and fiscal resources in the past few years to prepare teachers and administrators for this change.

In Fresno County, for example, we see many districts hiring additional staff to provide professional learning for teachers. Titles for these new positions include technology coach, academic coach, or a teacher on special assignment (TOSA). A clear job description is an imperative part of these new teacher support roles, yet not all schools and districts have these in place. What are the expectations for these support positions? How are teachers perceiving them? Will the new support staff coach all teachers, or will a teacher interpret being coached as being an under performer? Are the conversations between coach and coachee confidential? So many questions surface in a school when a support position does not have a clearly defined role. District and site leaders will want to define roles carefully to avoid such problems.

While some schools are hiring coaches, other schools and districts are seeing the value of  hiring and using their Teacher Librarians (TL) to provide curricular and information / digital literacy support. TLs are strong facilitators of technology integration in support of student learning goals. The role of a TL is quite unique as teacher credentials are concerned. While technically still a teacher who is charged with instructing students, a TL also is versed in information literacy, digital literacy, and digital citizenship skills that correlate perfectly with the needs of 21st Century learners.

changing gears with California StandardsWe live in a world in which so many questions can be answered by a Google or other search engine query, and yet too few students are versed in information and digital literacy. TLs are uniquely prepared to instruct students and provide professional learning to staff on effective research and collaboration skills. If our intent is to prepare students for college and career, then helping them become information literate must be a non-negotiable within the K-12 environment, and this instruction must not be something that begins only at the secondary level. It is disheartening to know that California ranks dead last in the nation in ratio of students to TLs, leaving most of our students with the inequity of lacking access to the very instructor best versed in teaching these skills. Perhaps the advent of the new California Standards and the dire need to nurture digital and information literacy in all students will help bring awareness to the need for TLs in all schools.

Of course emphasizing the skills that TLs possess is not meant to imply that technology coaches or TOSAs are not adept at providing support in curriculum and information and digital literacy support, but rather that it is the Teacher Librarian that has a credential specifically identifying these as well as other skills. Moreover, as Petaluma High School Teacher Librarian Connie Williams explains in KnowledgeQuest:

The presence – on staff – of a dynamic school librarian with support staff has been proven by 21+ state studies to positively affect student achievement by encouraging co-teaching and learning that teaches students how to effectively work in today’s information environment. Skills required by Common Core such as independent learning, reading for, and writing with evidence, creating presentations, and researching effectively are necessary skills that cross all subjects.”

The linchpin behind all successful structures to support effective learning environments is the site leader. This person leads the vision for his or her school and ensures system alignment with clearly identified goals. This person provides a supportive environment so that teachers establish high standards for teaching and learning for one another and for all students. So I will finish with a question:

How might site and district leaders best leverage all available resources to ensure that teachers have appropriate access to necessary support as they navigate these new standards?

Share your thoughts by contributing to the comments.

About the author:

Mark ArchonMark Archon has been in the field of education for 25 years. During this time he was a middle school science teacher for five years and a site administrator for 12 years at the middle school level. He spent several years working for the Madera County Office of Education as the Director of Administrative Leadership Services providing professional development for educators in Region 7. He currently works for the Fresno County Office of Education as the Director of Instructional Technology Services.

Mark has been married to his wife Holly for 19 years and has two daughters: Alexi, 14 and Emily, 11.

CSLA Information Literacy Summit at CUE 2015

Part 1 of 4 in a series By CUE guest blog editor Jane Lofton

While so many concepts have transformed meaning with the advent of the information age, this 1989 statement from the American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy still holds:

“Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn.”

InInfo_Litformation literacy – the ability to assess the need for information, access information sources effectively and efficiently, evaluate information for accuracy and quality, and use and create with it appropriately – is a cross-disciplinary skill crucial for both college and career readiness and a foundation for lifelong learning. Information literate people know how to learn what they need to and want to as technologies, opportunities, and demands of society change.

As part of the core of the credentialed teacher librarian’s training and expertise, instruction in Information literacy skills is one of their key focus areas as they work with students and provide professional development to other teachers.

To share some of their expertise in information literacy with other CUE members, California School Library Association (CSLA) partnered with CUE during CUE 2015 to present a full-day information literacy summit on the Saturday of the conference. The Summit included presentations by four librarians: guest keynoter Kathy Schrock, a nationally-recognized expert in information literacy, digital literacy, and educational technology; and three CSLA leaders, Deborah Stanley, Janice Gilmore-See, and Glen Warren. Each of them explored different aspects of information literacy.

This was the second year that CSLA presented a summit during the CUE Conference. In 2014, CSLA’s summit theme was digital citizenship, another area in which teacher librarians develop special expertise as part of their credential training. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s summit:

Kathy Schrock on Information Literacy as The Common Thread

Kathy Schrock’s topic was “The Common Thread: Weaving Information Literacy Skills to Engage Learners.” Schrock opened her presentation with this excellent video from Semole State Library that explains and provides examples for each of these aspects of information literacy – identifying, finding, evaluating, applying, and acknowledging information – are applied both in the academic setting and in the real world:

Schrock then anchored her presentation around an image from the SHIFT Disruptive eLearning blog that highlights 10 things learners pay attention to: questions, contrast, problem-solving, comparisons, brevity, emotions, stories, lists, visuals, and controversy. For each of these attention-getting devices, she shared several examples of both how we can use them to weave information literacy into content-area instruction in ways that will engage students, help them retain information, and process it into personal knowledge.

Here’s one example: Under brevity, she shared the value of having students develop infographics to demonstrate understanding in visually appealing and concise ways. Along with infographics, students need visuals. As they create visuals, they need to learn about Creative Commons. She explained what Creative Commons licensing is and why we should be teaching about and using Creative Commons-licensed materials.

Schrock made it clear that teaching information literacy skills is vital for our students, and that librarians and classroom teachers can work together to weave them into content areas. A great take away from the session was access to her presentation resource page with links to useful tools, videos, and more.

Deborah Stanley on Research Teaching

Research Teaching in a Common Core Digital World

Deborah Stanley spoke about “The Importance of Research Teaching in a Common Core Digital World.” Stanley, a Past CSLA VP of Organization and teacher-librarian at Riverside USD, is also the author of three books on research, Practical Steps to the Research Process for High School, Practical Steps to the Research Process for Middle School, and Practical Steps to the Research Process for Elementary School (Libraries Unlimited). Through her books and presentations over the years, she has guided many teacher librarians and other educators in their teaching of the research process. For the information literacy summit, she created a brand new website, The Research Process in a Digital World, which updates the research teaching process with the latest digital tools for each of the research steps. She organizes the research steps into these categories: defining the topic; defining subtopics; selecting and using sources; reading, thinking, and selecting information; note taking; sorting notes; and writing. For each step, she shared techniques and digital tools. Her site is a gold mine of information and tools for teaching research. As a bonus, the site has links to digital tools to help with writing, creating presentations, and more, which could be used as part of research or other project-based learning activities.

Some of the important messages from Stanley’s session were that research, like writing, is a process. It takes time to teach and learn, and it needs to be scaffolded from grade to grade. She urged us to build choices into the research process, which allows for differentiation and accessibility for all students. She also emphasized that students need to understand why they are doing the research. Unless they buy into the why, they will see no purpose for learning. Another take away was the value of good note taking: when information changes forms – from reading to notes, and then to the students’ paper – learning occurs. When students simply cut and paste in place of writing their own notes, they learn nothing because the material never changes form or gets processed in their brains.

Janice Gilmore-See on Depth of Knowledge

Janice Gilmore-See, District Librarian at La Mesa Spring Valley School District, is CSLA’s Immediate Past President and author of the book Simply Indispensable (Libraries Unlimited, 2010). In her presentation on “Getting to DOK 4: Depth of Knowledge and Information Literacy,” she shared how Depth of Knowledge (DOK), in conjunction with information literacy, can serve to raise and promote rigor in our curriculum and classrooms. Greater rigor, she explained, is important to better prepare students to be college and career ready.

Here is the visual Gilmore-See used to explain depth of knowledge levels:


Here is just one of many examples she shared of how activities can be moved to higher DOK levels:

  • DOK1: Identify the Democratic and Republican party platforms by searching their official websites.
  • DOK2: Explain four issues where the Democratic and Republican candidates disagreed identified by viewing a series of debates.
  • DOK3: Verify that candidates espoused the same views as the official Democratic and/or Republican platforms expressed in a series of debates.
  • DOK4: Create your own party and party platform. Include three to five issues and be prepared to present and debate those issues.

She explained that DOK3 and 4 activities usually take more time and it is not necessary to teach everything at these levels. All students, however, need some DOK3 and 4 activities, not just the high end students. Gilmore-See shared a wide range of ideas for higher level activities. These are available in her presentation slides.

Guncommon corelen Warren on the Uncommon Core

The final Information Literacy Summit session of the day was Glen Warren’s on “The Uncommon Core: Advancing Student Centered Learning through Gaming and Information Literacy.” Glen is current CSLA VP of Government Relations. He was also Orange County Teacher of the Year and a California Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist in 2014.

Glen Warren and studentsWarren stated his belief that way too much time in school is devoted to content-driven teaching. We send students the message that learning is all about required content and that their personal interests don’t matter. We need, he explained, to begin adopting a process-driven model, which allows students time to explore their personal interests and to ask, and answer, their own questions. “When we connect kids with what they love,” he shared, “they become better learners.” In fact, the Model School Libraries for California Public Schools, which serves as a “how to” for implementing Common Core, highlights personal interest as part of integrating information, as he showed in this visual:

personal interest

Information literacy serves as a cross-curricular anchor that ties together all the different disciplines as well as personal interest:

Warren had two of his students with him who explained how they were able to the work on their personal interest – using Minecraft to design a computer – by asking their own questions, doing research, and finding the solutions they needed. Their enthusiasm for their topic and clear demonstration of skills mastered was inspiring.

information literacy graphic

Warren’s slides are available at this link.

If you have a teacher librarian at your school, ask them to help you implement ideas shared here. You can also contact any of the presenters. They love to share. Stand by for some more forthcoming posts on the theme of information literacy.

Jane Lofton

Jane Lofton is the Teacher Librarian at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. She is a Google Certified Teacher (GTAMTV14) and Educator, a Past President of California School Library Association (CSLA), and an American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee member. She is a confessed conference “junky” and a regular presenter at CSLA and CUE conferences. She has served as co-coordinator of the CSLA Summit at CUE the last two years. You can find her on Twitter at @jane_librarian, her personal blog, “Jane Lofton’s Adventures in School Libraryland” at janelofton.com, school library blog, and Google+.

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