Media Seasons


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the School Libraries category.

Inquiry Learning for Teachers, too

Recently, administrators in the school district in which I teach challenged learners in our community to frame learning via inquiry. As a library media teacher, trained to help others on not only teacher-assigned tasks but their own self-selected learning quests, inquiry has always been an essential building block of how I support learners. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to learn.

For over 25 years, as student body needs have shifted, so has my assignment.  The presence of a new classroom that includes physically challenged students, whom I’m meeting with not only during class visits but supporting through library class visits with their building peers, has prompted me to switch lenses repeatedly as I frame inquiry lessons with various media. 

I can prepare what I think is a perfect lesson, but the presence of just one new student may change all that.  To meet the needs of my present students, my plans include many more hands-on and tactile experiences than ever.  Sometimes, just when I think I have the perfect scenario, a new need arises and I reconsider yet again. 

Less than a month ago I discarded what I considered a dated book.  I’d added this title to my elementary school’s collection many years ago after meeting author Sally Hobart Alexander at a summer session for post graduate work at University of Pittsburgh.  Over the years, I shared it, along with newer titles, to expand my students’ lenses and perceptions of physical challenges.  Just last week a new student arrived—and I’m reminded of Alexander’s still relevant message yet again.  As a teacher, I need to consider and accommodate whomever might potentially walk into the public learning space of our school library—regardless of physical challenges.

With the presence of another student in the group, how I used books and other media about color last fall will no longer work.  How I used the felt board will no longer work. I am asking questions, experimenting, as well as sometimes failing and going back to the drawing board.  I will find opportunities, however, so that my students can successfully create meaning.

As author Alexander shares so fearlessly in her books about blindness, life is a journey about not only what we know we must prepare for but also the unexpected.  Those of us who interact with young learners must give them experiences to be curious and confident. Can there be a better stance to teach that knowledge than via inquiry?

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Explosive News for Educators

Media networks rely on the power of revisiting anniversaries of events to sell news and keep people focused on the format, but what young viewers do with it has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. In 1986, I was just launching my career as an educator.  For a student teaching requirement, I designed a bulletin board to encourage my first batch of junior high students to read books about space exploration by highlighting the space shuttle “Challenger” and our first teacher in space

While NASA and the President were processing how to handle the news coverage, I was processing how to treat it with students who were not yet of age to vote or pay taxes. Suddenly, students and staff gravitated to that bulletin board just inside the library doors for the remainder of my assignment.  Unassigned, students started to ask permission to post newspaper clippings and brief poems to honor our teacher in space Christa McAuliffe and her teammates because unexpected loss captures our attention, regardless of age.

During the remainder of my time there, students suddenly became interested in not only the success of their favorite ball teams or whether they found a dress for the 8th grade dance, but listened to the President reflect on where do we go from here. Yes, we had engagement that would not be tested that year nor any other, but probably one of the most memorable experiences of their junior high years.

15 years later, in 2001, a group of my students were lined up at the door for the end of library class when a staff member walked in to share the news of a plane accident in NYC.  Just as I turned on the large screen TV, we witnessed, via media coverage, the twin towers falling. The most tense personal moments for me were the ones until my instructional aide heard from her husband, who was a major airline pilot in the air from a major hub between the three areas struck that day.  What would end up most challenging, though, is how we educators help students respond to news coverage.

15 years later, we no longer have junior highs, but my middle schoolers still walk thru the library doors and troll webpages seeking information.  They can find the short, sensational media clips on their school-issued laptops, but as a trained researcher, I can help them sift through the overwhelming amount of information they can access.  When media coverage of 9/11 piqued students’ interests’ this fall, my most recent student teacher could also share searching tips but also point them in the direction of our print treasures, such as graphic novels about 9/11.

Social media trends will assure that when the next unexpected event to capture the world’s attention occurs, by the time they get on the bus at the end of the school day all our middle schoolers who want to will have viewed the video footage on the their smartphones, passed it on to friends, and already be mining the spoofs, including posting photo images of their heads, along with their BFF’s, on the stunning of the most recent event.

I’m not against students’ use of social media. I am an educator who uses social media. I’ve been tweeting since 2009 for many reasons, including news, developing a PLN, following fav authors and illustrators, gathering freebies from publishers, and promoting what my students do in the library.  But I still read novels that touch my heart (Palacios’ Wonder), poetry that make me want to sing (Kwame Alexander’s Crossover or anything by my birth year counterpart Jacqueline Woodson), and non-fiction (Daniel James’ Brown’s Boys in the Boat).  I want my students to distinguish between the formats so they know the joys of each as well.

As powerful as media visual images may be to view and share, I want my students to dig deeper than the beached body of a child on shore, the reclining image of a potential first of a First Lady, or another victim of the most recent shooting.

So I look for opportunities to help them be more than consumers of information so they might dig meaningfully as student researchers to create new connections for their own unique contributions to how and why information is necessary for learning.