Sunday, March 31, 2013

More Kitchen Than Grocery Store: Valenza and Guided Inquiry

Since 2008, Valenza has used the metaphor that a library should be "more kitchen than grocery store".  She has said:
Our libraries should transition to places to do stuff, not simply places to get stuff. The library will become a laboratory in which community members tinker, build, learn, and communicate. We need to stop being the grocery store or candy store and become the kitchen. We should emphasize hospitality, comfort, convenience and create work environments that invite exploration and creativity both virtually and physically. We want our users (members, students, teachers) to trust us enough to allow us to participate.  (From:  The NeverEndingSearch).
This clearly resprents a constructivist way of thinking about libraries.  Guided Inquiry is also based in constructivist thought.  A constructivist approach to learning "builds knowledge by engaging students in stimulating encounters with information and ideas" much like the tools, equipment, and ingredients  that we gather up in a kitchen to build a cake. 

A non-constructivist, or transmission approach, to learning "emphasizes finding the right answer, memorizing facts, repackaging information" - much like running into a grocery store to merely pick up a cake that is already baked. 
So, it is clear that Valenza espouses a constructivist framework as a teacher-librarian.  But does she specifically embrace Guided Inquiry as an approach to learning in the 21st century school library?
The Springfield Township High School Library Mission Statement
This mission statement, written by Valenza, reads, in part, that "instruction, formal and informal, provides students with a process transferable across subject areas and from academic to real life. The bulk of the learning is "laboratory style" with students involved in guided, inquiry-driven research using resources in all formats: traditional, new, emerging. (Emphasis added).
Implications of Valenza's Work with regard to Guided Inquiry
Valenza's body of work has many implications with regard to Guided Inquiry.  Her research interest in education technology tools is definitely significant in this regard.  Since she is an expert in the evaluation of such tools, she can suggest ways in which they can be used effectivel as part of instruction or as an intervention.


Valenza's 5 Key Roles for 21st Century Teacher-Librarians

This blog has examined Valenza's body of work, her research and scholarship, and her efforts to create a "tribe" consciousness among teacher-libraraians.  What are the implications of her work for the teacher-librarian in a 21st Century School?  Her extensive Manifesto for 21st Century School Librarians provides an in-depth analysis.  However, Valenza  herself has synthesized much of her thought on this issue by defining 5 Key Roles for 21st Century Teacher-Librarians.  These are skills that teacher-librarians must themselves aquire in order to pass them along to their students.
Since time immemorial, librarians have been curators of information.  In the 21st Century, they must now become experts in "emerging technologies that help students showcase their progress as they acquire, organize, contextualize, and archive both existing content and new learning."
How has Valenza's work informed this practice?
Valenza's own research interest in curation has led her to review and suggest various digital curation tools, such as Diigo, LiveBinders, Paper.Li, Pinterest, PearlTrees, Posterous, Scoop.It, Sqworl, Storify, Symbaloo.
Libraries once served inward looking communities, but now work together to serve the global village of the 21st Century.  In this world, where borders and boundaries are melting away, teacher-librarains must assist students as they make their own contributions to "society’s collective intelligence".  Moreover, this should be done with empathy for their fellow "citizens of the world".  Teacher-librarians, as well as their students, must create their own unique digital footprint with purpose.
How has Valenza's work informed this practice?
Valenza's body of work is itself a wonderful example of building an online identity with purpose and contributing to global knowledge in such a way that demonstrates respect for all citizens of the world.  For example, her interest in well-designed school library websites has created a set of "best practices" that will benefit students world over.  Her online presence and social media networking, combined with her generosity of spirit, have benefitted and inspired thousands of her peers in the teacher-librarian community. 

How has Valenza's work informed this practice?
Another of Valenza's research interests is digital storytelling.  She has explored, reviewed, and embraced many tech tools in this area.  She has used them in her own work and encourages her students and colleagues to use them as well.  In addition, Valenza adopts a B.Y.O.T. (Bring Your Own Technology) attitude in her school library - encouraging students to bring and use the technology of their choice to create content. 

Teacher-librarians in the 21st Century benefit immensely from developing personal learning networks (PLNs) to connect with experts and collaborators.  They should model this for their students.  Students should be exposed to all of the various ways that they can connect with others to promote their own learning. 

How has Valenza's work informed this practice?
Through her online presence, use of social media, daily interaction with her students, and participation in professional association conferences and meetings, Valenza had modeled various ways in which to construct a PLN.  In the virtual world, her TeacherLibrarianNing is itself a PLN.  At her "day job" her collaboration with classroom teachers forms another PLN. 

While some educators view the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) as an impediment to "real learning", Valenza asserts that "curation, citizenship & compassion, creation, and connection embed experiences into instruction that make the CCSS gel for learners. They make learning authentic and relevant. They are the Common Core."  If teacher-librarians and their students engage in the first 4 key roles identified here, they WILL be meeting the CCSS, in a creative way.

How has Valenza's work informed this practice?
Valenza's Common Core Resources page provides a wealth of information, tips, tactics, tools, and strategies for meeting the CCSS.   

A Tribe of Teacher-Librarians: Valenza's Legacy

Although Valenza has contributed much to her profession through her scholarship and research, perhaps her most enduring contribution will be the teacher-librarian "tribe" consciousness that she has created, fostered, and nurtured through her involvement with professional associations, her online presence and the use of social media.

Valenza follows over 1,800 people and has over 15,000 followers on Twitter.  She was named one of the Top 100 Librarian Tweeters by Best Colleges Online.  In discussing her use of Twitter, Valenza has said:

I don’t see any excuses for not knowing and teaching about the search, organization and communication tools of the moment. Librarians must be the information technology leaders in their buildings. How do they do this? You read a lot. And you build your network. I’m not telling you to read every blog in the world. I’m telling you to develop a network that you can leverage for your particular needs, your practice, your library. Twitter just happens to be my main strategy. Shrewdly choosing your network may be all the work you need to do (From: findingEducation).

TL Virtual Cafe
The TL Virtual Cafe is a webinar series created by Joyce Valenza and Gwyneth Jones that is "committed to creating transformative conversations about teacher-librarians, educational technology, and collaborative connections to facilitate meaningful and lifelong learning skills."

Through  the Cafe's free and "open" professional development webinars, Valenza and her collaborators have established a center of the teacher-librarian universe.  In addition, because the focus of the Cafe is professional development, thousands of school librarians are receiving instruction in the areas addressed by Valenza's  Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians.

TL Chat Live!
A product of the TL Virtual Cafe, the popular #tlchat live! is a series of monthly chats, which run on Twitter and Google+ Hangouts, and allow teacher-librarians from all over the world to discuss topics such as: 
Collaboration:  How to get it going and keep it going
New Tech Tools and How You Are Using Them
Get Those Books Moving:  Advertising and Display Ideas for the New Year

The NeverEndingSearch
Valenza's ultra-popular blog, hosted by the School Library Journal website, provides yet another way for Valenza to share with her peers.  Here she discusses school librarianship and related research, provides tips, strategies and tools for instruction, explores the information literacy needs of student learners,  and dissects Google and other search tools.

The Geek Tribe
Branding is another way in which Valenza, and her collaborators, have nurtured a group consciousness among like-minded teacher-librarians.  Adopting the name of "Geek Tribe" and providing ways for people to self-identify as "tribe members" further stregnthens the teacher-librarian professional network. (Note:  The Geek Tribe was recently renamed the Library Tech Geek Tribe). 

Teacher LibrarianNing
Perhaps the most collaborative of Valenza's online projects is the TeacherLibrarianNing,a Facebook-like online community for teacher-librarians and other educators who "connect, teach, share, and lead in new information landscapes."

Valenza's Never Ending Work: Scholarship and Research

The evolving role of the teacher-librarian is one focus of Valenza's scholarship.

Joyce Valenza's contributions to the field of School Librarianship are many and varied.  In terms of research and scholarship, she identifies her current research interests as:

Virtual libraries as digital/mobile learning spaces, Evolving role of the teacher-librarian, Transliteracy and youth, Digital collection curation, Digital storytelling,Youth information-seeking behavior, Youth and technology, Youth and social networking, Online learning, Information fluency, Database use, Searching skills, Web 2.0/3.0, Library 2.0/3.0, Global literacy, Youth services.  (From:  Joyce Valenza - Curriculum Vitae).

Valenza is best known for her research and writing in the following areas:

School Website Evaluation

Valenza's doctoral dissertation, Discovering a Descriptive Taxonomy of Attributes of Exemplary School LIbrary Websites, (University of North Texas, 2007), examined the taxonomies and characteristics of exemplary school websites and established her as an expert in website evaluation.  She is now regarded as an expert in the evaluation of any and all education technology tools. 

Ed Tech Tools and Trends
Through her blog, The NeverEndingSearch, and her other written work, Valenza shares her experiences as an insatiable explorer and reviewer of Web 2.0/3.0 tools.  Teacher-librarians value her expert opinion and look to her for guidance when incorporating these tools into their instructional practice. She also identifies technology trends and their implications for school libraries and librarians.  For example, a recent trend she has explored is digital content curation.

The Evolving Role of Teacher-Librarians
Much of Valenza's writing explores the evolution of the teacher-librarian's role and the "essential" and "non-negotiable" practices that teacher-librarians must embrace to remain current in their practice and be effective educators in 21st Century schools.  One of her best-known writings is her Manifesto for 21st Century Librarians, published in 2010.  The Manifesto lists practices, beliefs, attititudes, and skills that 21st Century teacher-librarians should either adopt or "unlearn" in areas such as reading, collection development, equity, collaboration, information ethics, new technology, professional development, and teaching and learning. 

What's Next for Valenza?

In the following conversation with Dr. Ross Todd, Valenza discusses the research interests she plans to explore when she joins the faculty of the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information in 2014.

Who is Joyce Valenza?

She has been called a "rock star librarian", a "superstar teacher-librarian", a "tech maven", a "school librarian extraordinaire," an "ed tech Sherpa", and "one of the most well-known librarians in the field today". 

She has been named a member of the Twitterati by the Bammy! Awards,  a Learning Commons Visionary by Teacher Librarian magazine, and one of the 10 Most Influential People in Online Education by the Sloan Consortium.  In 2011, she won the Edublog Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the field of education technology.

She is the founder of the TL Virtual Cafe, an online community providing "open" professional development webinars for teacher-librarians, and is the author of The NeverEndingSearch, a blog for teacher-librarians which presents "news, thoughts, and discoveries at the vortex of libraries, literacy, and learning." 
Both of these online projects have garnered multiple awards. 

She holds several advanced degrees, including a Ph.D in School Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas (2007).  She has authored four books, and countless book chapters and articles.

But how does Joyce Valenza describe herself?  How did she get her start in libraries?  And what does she think about school librarianship - the work she had done for over 35 years?  In her own words...

Valenza describes herself most often as...
The teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School (Erdenheim, Pennsylvania).

She also refers to herself as...
A technology writer, author, speaker, blogger, learner, mother, connector, and founder of the library Geek Tribe.

Her start in libraries...
I grew up loving books. And I loved helping people. It was a way to connect those two things. When I was 16, I got a job as a page at the local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. And I worked with a very cute library intern… He started feeding me stuff that was not the stuff my friends were reading, [such as] existential literature. He had given me Kobo Abe’s novels. And I was blown away by that trust… I was reading good stuff anyway—J.D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath. But this was stuff they hadn’t taught me about in school. That job became so much fun. I wanted to connect people with books and information just like that library intern did for me.  (From: FindingEducation).

Her proudest accomplishements...
I started as a special librarian in 1975, became a public librarian in 1976, and I became a teacher librarian in 1988. For real, the proudest achievements are those one or two emails I get each year from alumni who take time in their college/adult lives to thank me for something I did or taught that made a difference in their lives. I suspect that many of us get those emails. They are gifts. They are treasures.

Over the years, I've had the wonderful opportunity to build two library programs, to teach thousands of learners, and to mentor many student teachers. I was particularly proud of my 11-year stint as the edtech columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. It gave me the opportunity to meet and interview my heroes and to talk to an incredibly varied audience. If I had to point to specific events, over the past couple of years, doing that TEDxPhillyED talk [on researching] last spring was an honor and a challenge. I've also loved being able to help build our tribe through our hashtag, #tlchat, the TLVirtual Cafe, and the Ning. (From: School Library Journal).

When Valenza was asked to give a TEDx talk on school librarianship, she said...
After engaging in my own personal soul searching, exploration of my passions, what I love about my work, and what I want people outside our little pond to understand about our role in the school culture, it was clear that I wanted to paint the picture of our work and to try to frame it, at least partially, through the eyes of the learner. (I know that this choice was risky and that I would likely, perhaps legitimately, be viewed as self-serving.) So here is that speech, about what matters to me and what I think I contribute. (From The NeverEndingSearch.)

For Further Reading:
Joyce Valenza - Curriculum Vitae
Text of Valenza's TEDx Talk:  "See Sally Research".