Elevating School Librarians As Curriculum Creators and Collaborators

All too often, the school librarian is an underutilized member of the team. As the use of digital content in school grows ever more connected to improved teaching and learning, school librarians must be tapped as experts in addressing digital information needs across their campuses. Moreover, librarians should be seen as key partners in curricular and instructional planning and implementation.

ISKME’s work aims to elevate the potential of the school librarian role, especially in relation to open educational resources (OER). OER, openly licensed and shareable curricula, allow educators to use and reuse digital teaching and learning content without cost, without needing permission, and without needing to start from scratch.

ISKME’s Program with School Librarians

Our education non-profit is pioneering a three-year training program for K-12 librarians and STEM teachers called the School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning. The goal is to activate the librarian as a co-planner and co-leader of open curriculum and shared instructional planning and classroom implementation. Together, the school librarians and STEM teachers in the training program are seeking to enhance their skills in using open educational resources. They are being introduced to OER as an essential vehicle for adapting and personalizing content for the needs of their own classrooms, to go beyond the textbook and to meet rigorous learning standards that foster student-led inquiry across the STEM disciplines.

The program aims to create new pathways and practices for STEM teachers to collaborate with librarians across subject areas by creating and adapting curriculum that engages their students in text-based inquiry, close reading, and deeper learning skills, including critical thinking and collaboration.

The training program’s current cohort of 24 librarian and teacher fellows were introduced to open education principles and processes at the program’s Professional Learning Academy, held in February 2016 at Granite State College in New Hampshire. Participants learned about resource collections and tools available in OER Commons, ISKME’s digital library of open, freely available, resources developed over the past ten years. Participants from the same school formed small cohorts--composed of a librarian, and a science, technology or math teacher--and practiced design thinking and brainstorming exercises to generate essential questions to frame student inquiry and literacy activities.

After exploring examples of OER and STEM-literacy exemplars in OER Commons, STEM teacher and librarian participants are identifying informational texts and generating ideas for literacy-based curriculum to support student learning through close reading and text-based investigations in STEM inquiry. Their goal will be to create curriculum that guides students to engage with informational texts, and then share this curriculum openly with the school and the larger outside world, on OER Commons and through social media, such as blogs, videos, and tweets.

Throughout the spring and continuing into the fall, school librarians in the program will aim to co-develop innovative K-12 lessons, give each other feedback along the way, co-implement the lessons in the classroom, and extend their voice and outreach through presentations at their school and postings in social media—all of which add up to taking leadership roles around OER and curriculum and instructional improvement.

Rubric for School Librarianship

To guide the work of the project, a new rubric is being created. ISKME’s Rubric for Learning and Practice will be an assessment tool to help school librarians as well as teachers build their understanding and skills. Specifically, school librarians will be expected to co-develop strategies and co-lead the development of student tasks that build literacy skills called for in the CCSS Science Literacy Standards, and actively incorporate open education practices.

For example, working with one or more STEM teachers in the training program, they will develop STEM curriculum with these components:

·      a focus on essential questions,

·      an informational text set for student close reading,

·      text-dependent questions and student tasks focusing on students’ ability to articulate text-based evidence and data in a STEM investigation,

·      and students’ ability to synthesize or present arguments to support the findings of the investigation.

In addition, school librarians will learn about the role of OER for curriculum improvement, meeting local instructional goals, and building collaboratively created cross-disciplinary curriculum. Taking a hands-on approach, participants will identify OER content and informational sources, curate collections of STEM sources and resources, and lead the design and creation of new high-quality OER for their school.

Are teachers, school librarians, and school leaders in your district and state working together already in this way? Join in on the hub at https://www.oercommons.org/hubs/imls to share your resources and reflections.

Led by ISKME, the project is a partnership with Granite State College, the New Hampshire Department of Education, New Hampshire’s Institutes of Higher Education Network, and with endorsement and participation by American Library Association/American Association of School Librarians (ALA/AASL).

Support is provided by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

April 13, 2016