Category Archives: Faculty

Announcing: OverDrive Digital Lending Services

Click here to get started by downloading the the OverDrive Media Console

We here in the Library & Learning Commons are thrilled to announce our new partnership with OverDrive, the leading ebook and audiobook lending service for libraries. While we maintain (and defend!) our love for reading works in print, we also hope our library will become ubiquitous: students, parents, faculty and staff should be able access our collection whenever they’d like and wherever they are.

If you’re interested in browsing our digital collection, you can click here to search our offerings. Your username and your password are the same: your student or employee ID number. Parents: please click here to e-mail the library team if you’d like access to the collection, as well, and we’ll set you up with an account straightaway.

Over the next few months, we will continue to grow our collection, but here are some highlights. Click the images for direct access to these titles.

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson.

Flora & Ulyssess, by Kate DiCamillo

If you’re new to borrowing ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive, you’re always more than welcome to stop by the library, and we’ll walk you through the steps. In the coming weeks, we’ll also post several short tutorials on this site to help you access and download titles on your e-readers and mobile devices.

Your Summer Assignment

Last school year, our faculty and staff selected from a number of books that they had identified as good, helpful professional reading, and we here at Annie Wright Schools entered the summer months tasked with tackling one of these texts. Thus launched our exploration of best practices in  inquiry-based learning.

Next school year, we also hope to continue exploring inquiry, so we’re using our summer ‘reading’ to launch into our own explorations. When we teach inquiry, we teach our students and ourselves to be mindful of a process of inquiry. Are you just starting out by exploring? Have you identified a solution to your topic? Are you preparing to present?

When individuals or organizations struggle to realize where they are in a process, the inquiries struggle. They’re more likely to give up. To start over. To become so frustrated that they limit future risks.

So your summer assignment, just like ours, is to forecast your inquiry. Think about what challenges or topics you want to explore. Make a plan for resources. Stick to one of the cycles you’ll find in the documents linked to below. And be mindful of how you move through the process. Where did you struggle? How would you evaluate your performance for each step in your journey?

So, what’ll it be? Personally, I’m exploring how to eradicate bamboo from my backyard. I have a mountain of books, both professional and personal, I’d like to get to (a post on these will come soon!), and, most immediately, I’m off to inquire about the Columbia River Gorge, Smith Rock, and the Coastal Areas of Oregon.

Enjoy the summer months, and enjoy plotting your inquiries. As faculty and staff, we’ll report back in the fall on how we were practitioners of methods that we teach. We hope you will, as well.

New Books on Pinterest!

Lately, we’ve been experimenting with a few ways to share our library collections with the wider community. While we often display our new additions, seasonal reads, and super classics, we don’t offer as many opportunities to view our new additions throughout our digital space, the library’s second home.

Enter Pinterest.

Given the school’s new internal website (it’s fantastic: if you haven’t seen a demo, be sure to check it out!), we can embed outside web applications for our internal audience to use. So, the library’s increased its activities on Pinterest by we have added our new books to the site. If you click on any title, you’ll be transported to the book’s home on GoodReads, where you’ll find a brief description of the book along with reader reviews.

Below, you’ll see every book we’ve received from the start of January.

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Read. A. Loud.

How busy are the holidays? Amazingly, head-spinningly busy. Yet as we approach more opportunities for even more time with our families, let’s continue to maintain the many great habits we’ve employed in the past. After all, not a day goes by without a parent and child drops by the library after school to pick up a book to share together at home. And that, I think, is absolutely fantastic.  So, be sure to keep scheduling in those 15 minute (or more) segments to sit down with your child, your youngster, your teenager and/or your spouse to listen and share reading together. Picture Book. Chapter book. Classic Book. Brand new book. Short stories. Long stories. Every option is a great option.

And for those looking to amp up their read aloud skills, check out Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook and Diane Frankenstein’s Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read. Both works are speedy reads themselves, and they’ll help you discover even more strategies you might employ to maximize the effects of reading together (at any age). Diane Frankenstein, for instance, encourages Conversational Reading: engaging with children in and around the telling of the book by sharing analytical questions to show true engagement around the material. For more on the importance of reading aloud (for all ages–I become such a better reader and thinker after pausing a bit with  Selected Shorts or The New Yorker’s Fiction Podcast), check out the following infographic from Read Aloud 15 Minutes, a national nonprofit hoping to make reading aloud for 15 minutes a day the standard for child care. Or, check out Trelease and Frankenstein. Or, even better: take the breaks of the holiday season to add even more time to reading together with family and friends.

Click on the infographic to be directed to Read Aloud 15 Minutes, the nonprofit responsible for creating this chart.

And need ideas where to start? Swing on by the library and we’ll get you set up with a few great options.

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Group Process Resources

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Here’s the final of our five post series on group process and collaboration. For context, here are links to the first, second, third, and fourth posts.

Collaboration is never delegation. Instead, it’s a constant negotiation between task and maintenance, between roles and goals, and between humans who want to work together to make positive impact, on each other and their tasks.  There’s still thought to be put towards this and activities and language to teach and employ, but these are a few first steps we might take to teach everyone to harness the productive tension in groups in order to accomplish our goals. Here’s my reading list, both past and present, that is helping push the very early foundations of a group dynamics curriculum that you see emerge in this series of posts. Click on each link to be directed towards a short description or the source itself.

Paradoxes of Group Life, by Kenwyn K. Smith (for learning about the central, necessary tensions in groups)

Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott (for increased knowledge and skills for conversation and collaboration)

Leadership and Design Studio’s Task-Maintenance Cards (pictured above in their prototype versions–not yet available for distribution.)

Gamestorming, by Dave Gray (for a series of ideas and activities to accelerate group process)

The University of Victoria’s Human Resources Department’s Manager’s Toolkit (for more on The Waterline Model)

The University of Pittsburgh’s Speaking Within the Disciplines (for more details on the specific functional task and maintenance roles we might adopt)

The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley and Jonathon Littman (for various group roles we might strive to fulfill)

The Six Thinking Hats, by Edward De Bono (for various group roles we might strive to fulfill)

For anyone who has studied organizational behavior, you’ll know there are even more appropriate professional and academic texts regarding organizational and behavioral management (and please! write them below in the comment section of this blog!). But, with easier reading comes faster experimentation. We won’t grow our ability to facilitate groups (or teach facilitation) but over-preparing.

Instead, drop Task-Maintenance into your next group project, see how your group takes on the language, and make an action plan from there.We’re happy to help facilitate this process (and other group tension creating and mitigating activities)

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Why Groups & Libraries?

This is the fourth post in a five post series on helping learners navigate group life. Here are the first, second, and third posts.

Why Library? 

Previously, we’ve posted on the increase in attention inquiry has received given how inquiry equips students with a process of learning that they can use to navigate ambiguous tasks. We’ve also positioned the library as a central space for inquiry, a space that’s equipped with various tools, informational resources, and places to make inquiry happen.

While it’s crucial that individuals learn how to learn through the inquiry process, it’s as important that individuals learn how to learn in groups. After all, it’s a big world and the problems are too many to rely on solo master inquirers to solve them for us. Instead, we’ll need people who are equipped to work in groups and facilitate groups masterfully as each individual brings a unique body of knowledge and skillset to aid group success. If each of our learners is pursuing individual lines of inquiry based on their interest in a particular topic, then we’ll have opportunity to team several up for a project experience so they can teach each other and learn a topic even more holistically.

I’ve always said that libraries are spaces for conversations with a text and with another person. Collaboration is just a specialized conversation the library can help facilitate.

The Co-Lab:

In fact, the Annie Wright Schools Parents’ Association was kind enough to donate funds necessary to flip the librarian’s office into the Co-Lab, a collaboration laboratory that groups in our community can book to enhance maintenance and tasks. The seating is flexible, the windows are writeable, and with a little advanced notice, it comes equipped with supplies and facilitators that can make your group fly. Attendees can learn how they might use four spatial factors to modify a room to suit their meeting’s goals. They might learn about task-maintenance, or they might learn how to use various activities and techniques to proactively encounter group challenges.

Group Life at AWS

This series of posts isn’t to say that we don’t teach collaborative skills elsewhere in school. In fact, we’ve been doing such fantastic work with teamwork for many years. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Our 4th Grade completes an entire inquiry unit on “How We Organize Ourselves,” where they explore leadership in their community and build teamwork skills that they use for the rest of the year.
  • Our 2nd grade works on team skills as they design their own team experience in their normal classrooms but also for their physical education experience.
  • Our IB Business course helps students practice team-building and team success as they develop proposals and business plans.

Of course, there are many other instances of how we help our learners learn group skills, but these are just a few of the highlights I have seen in my short term as librarian!

Next Post: Further Reading on Group Process

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Practicing Group Life

This is the third post in a five-post series on Group Life. For the first post, click here. For the second post, click here.

Today’s workshop was speedy, but it featured introductions to several techniques we might use with groups. Some will stimulate thought on how groups work. Some will be readymade for learners to use as they work on group facilitation skills. Here’s a brief description of each one and how they might align with stages of maintenance on The Waterline Model.

Prop To Y: Give a group early confidence in its ability to succeed by providing low-stakes tasks they can easily master. Prop To Y requires a set of props and a pile of notecards, each card with a verb phrase on them. Then, groups are randomly assigned a prop and a notecard and asked to answer this question: How Can You Use this Prop to Do Y. The group will have five minutes to create a plan to share with another team.

Task-Maintenance Spectrum: Groups should perform continual maintenance to understand each individual better. In the early days of a group, it’s useful to understand where each member falls on a spectrum between task and maintenance. Who cares more about how the group works together? Who cares more about getting stuff done? Arrange yourself along this spectrum (it’s not necessarily a polar choice), see where your teammates fall, and talk out why you’ve placed yourself where you have.

Roles & Goals Fishbowl:  After reviewing the Waterline Model, have one of the many groups in the room sit in the middle of the room with everyone else watching. Then, ask that group to discuss how they want to work together as a team. You can pepper that group with questions, but you should also write acts of Task and Maintenance that you witness the group performing. You might even ask others watching the interaction to do the same just so we come to an operating understanding about how to view Task and Maintenance occurring in a group. Of course, the entire conversation is pointed towards maintenance, but there are tasks that always be seen when the group will converse.

Signature Presence: How do I look/talk/act/think when I’m performing at my best in a group? How do I look/talk/act/think when I’m at my worst in a group? Your Signature Presence is your special uniqueness you bring to a group situation. By asking and answering these questions and letting your teammates know, you’ll enhance the support your group can offer you. Bill will know when Mary’s on fire and when he should stop and listen for a bit. Or, Bill might notice that something’s bothering Mary, so he’ll stop task and perform maintenance to bring Mary back to her signature presence.

Speedback: On the count of three, point to the leader in your group. Discuss. On three, point to the person you feel most comfortable with right now. Discuss. On three, point to the person you’d like to hear from next. Finger-vote: on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “beta-fish collaborate better than we do” and 5 being “we’re thoughtful, considerate all-stars!” show how you feel your group works together.

The goal of speedback is to get quick reads on how the group feels about its process. Some speedback can clarify roles and goals, while some speedback helps analyze group dynamics. Some speedback even points out the elephant in the room. Hey, the elephant is there: we might as well point it out so we work together to usher it out the door.

Johari’s Window: 

Graphic from Mindtools.com’s article, “The Johari Window: Using Self-Discovery and Communication to Build Trust.” Click the graphic to be transported to the article.

When you push this far into the Waterline Model, maintenance will dive deep, but maintenance will also become highly productive. Johari’s Window asks all group members to acknowledge what they think they know about themselves that no one else knows, what they know about themselves that they think everyone else knows, and finally, the blindspot: what others know about an individual that that individual doesn’t know. Group members should actively strive to close their blind spots in order to improve group functionality. This last one I didn’t ask the entire faculty to complete. Instead, I passed a Johari Window about myself to let faculty fill out, and I made copies of the Window in case a brave group wanted to take this next step.

We practiced several other group process techniques, and not every group practiced every single technique. However, these are a sampling of the techniques that were introduced. Some are tools that we can all implement in our group experiences, and some are experiences that ask individuals to reflect more deeply on how they operate in groups.

We ended the workshop wondering: which techniques, tools and language should we help our students adopt and use, and which techniques, tools, and language should we adults facilitate for our kids?

The Next Post: Why Library, and Why Inquiry?

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The Waterline Model

Here’s the second of our five post series on Group Process. For the first post outlining the importance of group skills and the basic language of groups, do click here.

The Waterline Model

“Let’s take a break. Would anyone like some coffee?” You’ll see individuals and groups make early efforts at performing group maintenance by fulfilling human needs, and maintenance can and should be even more complex. The Waterline Model offers an action plan for how we might perform group maintenance proactively and productively.

From “Positive Goals, OD Resources: Supporting Positive Transformation for Organizations”

Here’s how it works: you and your group are sailing along the sea of performing tasks. At some point, your group will encounter a problem, and you’ll have to lower sails on task to perform some maintenance on the group.

Oftentimes, our first step towards solving a group’s problems is to blame an individual: “Joe’s a real boor to work with!”

However, the Waterline Model is much more sagely. Hit a group challenge? Our first priority should be to clarify roles and goals.

That didn’t work? Let’s analyze whether we’re all included in the discussion or whether we’re operating with the optimum procedure for making decisions.

So, the model encourages us to hold off questioning interpersonal problems or an intrapersonal problem until all else has failed. After all, if your group has to focus on a conflict between two members, you’re completely off-task. Be proactive, perform easier and earlier maintenance, and lay the foundation for a successful, confident, functioning group.

Want bonus points for group facilitation? Too often, meeting facilitators start sessions on task, rather than on maintenance. Or, if we do start on maintenance, it lacks authenticity or surprise.

Don’t assume roles and goals are clear with everyone, and be conscious to group dynamics, how they might have changed since your last session, and how they might evolve throughout.

So, perform Group Maintenance. Always First.

Next Up: Techniques & Tool-Kits for The Waterline Model

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I Love Group Life. I Hate Group Life.

In the coming week, I’ll be leading a workshop on group process with our US faculty as they explore inquiry and its best practices. The Library Co-Lab will also feature its Grand Opening Event with the AWSPA. In celebration, I’ve written a series of posts on group process  and its important to inquiry and, in turn, library. In advance, I’d like to credit Greg Bamford and Ryan Burke for introducing me to many/most of the ideas and techniques expressed in this series. My experience working with the Leadership + Design Studio was invaluable for having the time/space to take risks with putting these ideas into practice. 

I love group life. I hate group life. That’s the paradoxical reaction each and every one of us face on a daily basis, and it’s one that we are too often ill-equipped to navigate.

This week, the Upper School faculty and I will be using our Late Start to demonstrate how lessons and exercises on group dynamics might be woven into inquiry-based learning. Collaborative Skills are one of many 21st Century Skills* we’re working to develop with our learners at AWS. Often, you’ll see curricula that weaves group skill growth into “Life Skills,” or you’ll even see entire courses commited to growing leadership, especially at the college or professional school levels.

However, we’re looking to find avenues to integrate that skill set as one of the core literacies we help students develop. That way, learners will see transfer: how group skills matter for any pursuit we undertake, whether it’s biology, chemistry, world studies, or business (but really, don’t we all pursue a concoction of them all?).

So, what’s up with group life? Why’s it so hard? In the week’s posts, you’ll find how the Upper School will be working through these issues and ideas on Wednesday. After all, our Upper School faculty are in the midst of their own collaborative inquiry project focused on stress, and we have an inkling there’ll be opportunity to resolve distracting group tension and raise productive group tension as we complete our own inquiry work.

Task and Maintenance

Too often, we’re left without a vocabulary with which to frame our group experiences.

To solve this problem, we’ll introduce an easy dichotomy to use with each other and also our students:

Task: the action items a group accomplishes in order to reach a goal.

Maintenance: the actions a group undergoes to maintain its harmony or functionality.

Groups perform tasks (we must do x and y), but groups also perform maintenance (how might we work best together?). Just as tasks are consistently completed and morphed by groups, maintenance needs to consistently occur, even among those groups that have been established for long periods of time.

Each participant in a group sits somewhere on a spectrum between being completely task-oriented (“I pride myself in getting stuff done”) and maintenance-oriented (“I’m always worried about how we work together on this stuff”).  Even though there are specific task-maintenance roles individuals might feel more comfortable in, everyone should learn to adopt several roles responsively, as roles can change from group to group, from project to project, or even from day to day.

Unfortunately, we all exist in environments that reward tasks, while successful maintenance is much more difficult (although possible) to identify and incentivize.

Can we stay on task? Might we stop for maintenance?

Even though we might teach such terms to those who won’t always transition into environments that also use this same language, at the very least, we’ll provide two terms that’ll help our learners step into the murkier, more ambiguous areas of group process: how might we perform maintenance to assure successful completion of tasks. Once we’re equipped with a basic, operating language of groups, we can start to take control of how we process groups. Nothing is more empowering to navigate group life than knowing terms we can attach our feelings and experiences to. Task and maintenance helps just that.

Next Post: The Waterline Model & How Maintenance (Should) Work.

*I know, I know: the term “21st Century Learning” or “21st Century Skills” can receive a bad rap: aren’t these the skills we’ve always instilled in our learners? I’ve seen “New Knowledge Skills” gaining momentum, as these allude to the skills we need to develop when we work in environments where information is easily accessed and we need to learn to navigate that increasingly complex web of information to create knowledge and action within our communities.

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What do Teacher-Librarians Teach?

Whew! It’s been quite a few weeks, as I’ve been out of the library for several professional development experiences which I hope to chronicle on the blog. Until then, here’s a quick note on the emerging role of the teacher-librarian in schools, as presented by rockstar teacher-librarian Joyce Valenza. It’s a poster I hang right next to my workstation to serve as my guiding principle behind librarianship, and as we explore inquiry based learning, it’s guidance for all educators, as well.