Monday, October 12, 2015

Treasure Mountain Canada 4 - Return to Small Scale Researching

If Carol Koechlin asks me to do something, I say yes.

Anita & Carol, TMC1, Edmonton 2010
Who is Carol Koechlin, you may ask? If you ask that question, chances are you are new to the teacher-librarian world. Carol is an influential author and workshop leader. As revealed on this virtual wall of honor for library mentors, Carol Koechlin was a big influence on my career. She loves to tell stories of what I was like as a brand-new teacher-librarian, a "little mouse", if you can believe it. (I do remember staying late creating book records on special index cards for the card catalogue - that's how long I've been involved with school libraries!)

I do things when Carol asks, not because she's bossy or demanding. Quite the contrary. When Carol makes a request, the end result benefits the participant and the school library community as a whole.

Recently, Carol asked me to consider writing a research paper for Treasure Mountain Canada 4, and to encourage other teacher-librarians in the province and country to do the same.

What is Treasure Mountain? To quote the history of the event from the TMC website,

Treasure Mountain Canada is visioned as an extension of a research retreat project called Treasure Mountain,in United States, developed  by Dr. David Loertscher and colleagues in 1989. A dozen retreats since then have established this 'meeting of the minds' in school library research as a valuable catalyst for improvement based on analysis of research in the field.
TMC1 print copy of papers, circa 2010

Me? Write a research paper? I'm not an academic! That's probably the first reaction teacher-librarians might have to such a proposition. I'd challenge you to undertake a lesson I used to often do with my elementary school students in the library - ask them (and ask yourself) to draw what a researcher looks like. What do you get? What gender or age do the drawings show? What clothes do the researchers wear? What tools do the researchers use? Why do the pictures look the way they do? What do we mean when we say research? Google the definition of research and you won't find a focus on the person but on the process. Research involves systematic investigation, inquiry with a purpose. Don't we research when we are purchasing a car, to discover which model would best suit our needs? Shouldn't we do a bit of research prior to an election, to learn about the candidates running for office in our region? Even the youngest children conduct research, be it to see how to conquer the last level of Super Mario Brothers, discover how to build a redstone-powered roller coaster on Minecraft, or select the coolest Halloween costume or Christmas gift for themselves. Teacher-librarians are conducting research frequently too, although they may not realize it. We are all researchers.

Treasure Mountain Canada research papers do have suggested themes, but they are not as onerous or intimidating as one might initially think. The topic for TMC4 is on implementing the National Standards for School Librarianship as outlined in Leading Learning. Too wide? TMC4 narrows it down even further, to three possible areas:

Theme: Growing Impact of Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Libraries in Canada
  • Co-teaching for Deeper Learning
  • Innovation for Learning
  • Building a Learning Community 
I find conducting research to share with a larger audience exciting. I prepare an Annual Report on my library program to give to my principal and examine my own successes and challenges, but this type of action research is invigorating. Selecting a particular unit or teaching practice or pathway and examining it deeper can lead to new insights, and with more people reading and thinking about the discoveries, the particulars can be honed and polished in the original location, and/or spread to new locations. How powerful is that?

The attendees of TMC1 in 2010
Treasure Mountain Canada is held every two years. The first was in Edmonton; the second in Ottawa; the third in Victoria and the fourth will be in Toronto. (I went to the Edmonton event but haven't been since.) The official call for papers is here on the website. Even if you cannot attend the symposium in Toronto, submitting a paper (or website or video) would help significantly to continue the conversation beyond the borders of our schools and boards. For 2016, I plan on writing two papers, on teacher-librarian mentorship and on using Games Based Learning in the library learning commons. I've got until January to write my papers. Join me. Join us.

P.S. Another benefit to TMC is being with TL friends (like June & Joanie)

P.P.S. Added plus? Touring the host city (e.g. me at West Edmonton Mall)

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