Monday, September 26, 2005

Blog Interaction with John McDonald - Mon. Sept. 26 to Wed. Sept 28, 2005

John McDonald, Connersville Middle School, is an active school library media specialist with seemingly endless energy and ideas. A few years ago as a beginning teacher librarian, he proactively initiated changes that truly impact students, his school and community. John has been successful in collaborating with administration, teachers and students.

Learn more about John McDonald at

You may want to start with discussion about his part in the adoption of an information inquiry model, or how he teams with students in the media center, or his insights on professional involvement. But feel free to bring up ideas and issues related to any part of his work.


  1. Your "bio" mentions that you have a student cadre group. Tell us more. Are they students who help you in the media center or are they more of an outreach group?

  2. The greatest "joy" in my job is working with my student workers. My workers are called the "Greencoats" because of the green vests they wear. Last year I had 70 Greencoats working for me.

    The Greencoats are students that give up their study period to come work in the media center. Our schedule is arranged in twelve week blocks. During each block we have as many as 35 students working for us. Some students do not have study periods all 3 blocks, so with overlap we end up with about 70 students per year.

    The Greencoats are now an integral part of our school culture. They run signficant parts of the school infrastructure. A few of their duties include: maintaining the signage at the school, desiging webpages, maintaining the school homework log, shelving books, prepping new materials, book selection, preparing classroom library collections, creating promotional materials (video commercials, print and internet) resources for the media center, taping teachers and preparing the tape for self-evaluation, mentoring teachers on technology, and basically whatever else we need.

    My rule of thumb is that if I perform the same task 10 times in a year, I try to see if a Greencoat can take it over. Affectionately known as "Mr. Mac's Army", the administration relies heavily on the Greencoats and they have been a designated point of pride for the school.

    I started this program 2 years ago and I can't believe how much it is grown. Currently, we are working on establishing a new splinter division of this group called the "Blue Jackets". These blue-jacketed students would focus entirely on multimedia including our video production activities as well as enabling teachers to create differentiated assignments using technology by providing full support each period.

    John McDonald

  3. John,

    Thank you so much for your insights on addressing finding cheap books. I was a middle school math teacher for almost 10 years and I never had a collection in my room. I really wanted one though. I am sure there were lots of us that felt the same way. I want my school to have these collections in the classrooms. Books need to be readily available during SSR or when students finish a test early etc. I am so excited that I can find these items through weeding sales at the large public library.
    I am also quite impressed with how many student helpers and their list of responsibilities in your library. How much time do you think you spend training them and how much time do you think you save by delegating responsibilities to them? Do you have a policy on selecting helpers? Do you envision the ‘Blue Jacket’ students going to help the teachers show other students how to use multi-media?



  4. WOW. This is my first year as a Media Specialist and I'm learning what I should do compared with my two clerks. I do have one student aid that is doing an excellent job that I might be able to train to do more tasks.

    How do you select your cadre? Being on trimester, do more students have study period? At my school few students start with a study period. Those that end up there are usually kicked out of a class.

  5. Here's a question on a slightly different topic... At the middle school/junior high level, do you have specific suggestions for getting other faculty 'on board' with your meida center program and with the importance of information literacy in general? Do faculty consult you on curriculum issues? Do they see you as an 'idea' resource...not for just a book or video they see you as a teacher as well? Hope this question makes sense.

  6. John,

    I am really intrigued by your cadre of student workers. I am in a middle school that utilizes parent volunteers, but not student ones, although the office uses "helpers" and I am wondering of the potential of tapping your idea and that one to create a library student workforce....this idea definitely incorporates the "ownership" theory...coming from the Mom perspective, it is similar to the idea of having your children help you prepare a healthy meal in the hopes that by participating in the development of it, they will be betters eaters of the food. I see this theory working with students in the library....involving them will give them an interest in the resources and services available...that they share in.
    We have had in the past a Web Tech group of students that meet after school; their predominant responsibility has been to work on their teacher's webpages and other technology projects. This could possibly be our "core" as well. My question for you: how did you "pitch" this to the students to make it a desirable, "cool" thing to do? Do you apply? Did you do a lot of PR when soliciting for your first group? I am thinking that maybe the technology element of the work ups its interest level...I have to say that I am not sure how much interest we would have for "library workers" only. Also, is there any expressed objections to the jackets worn? I know how self-conscious and fashion-driven most middle schoolers are.

    Thank you for sharing your great ideas and energy with us,


  7. Anonymous6:27 PM

    Good evening! Like most of the others who have posted comments, I am particularly impressed with the ‘Greencoat’ idea.’ Our middle school utilizes student helpers as well, (they actually take ‘media helper’ as an elective for a twelve week trimester) but they don’t have nearly the same kinds of responsibilities as your students. My experience with this age group is that middle school students are usually very eager to help out, but it can be very time consuming to train them—especially when it comes to more complicated projects. Do you train your kids during their class time, or do the more experienced greencoats do most of this? Is any part of this program extra- curricular or do students get done only what they can during their study period?

    Thank you again for taking time out of your schedule to ‘talk’ to us. I look forward to hearing a bit more about your program.

    Sadie Smith

  8. Okay, let me try to address both sets of questions one at a time.

    First, let me say that training is continual and I have never thought about it as a timesaver. I may ramble a bit here, but I hope I can get my point across without being too convoluted. When I think of what I do, in my mind I am a teacher first, and whatever position I hold is second. So, it was a natural extension to invite students into the process of running my "classroom" (read 'media center'). My student helpers learn responsibility, enjoy taking ownership and have some control over the direction of their school. They must problem-solve, brainstorm, etc. It is the most authentic form of learning I can think of. My Greencoats feel like they belong and the school belongs to them.

    Also, the Greencoats have allowed us to extend our services in ways that I never would have considered. Sure, the shelving of books saves us some time, but they always mess up a little, and then learn from their mistakes. More importantly, we take on more and more client-oriented services and allow the school to progress in new directions. For example, they came up with the idea of how to run a homework webpage. They thought of the idea of creating music videos to promote the media center. In many ways they are equals in the developmental process.

    We do train our Greencoats in a basic set of skillss (checking the mail, prepping books, shelving, etc.) but when a teacher or administrator thinks of something that needs to be done, I often say "let's put a Greencoat on it" and they figure out the basics.

    Selecting helpers has been an interesting process. My first year, I hired a few students to do some day-to-day tasks to save me time. It took me awhile to realize how much more involved in the total process they could be. These first students were the cream of the crop and they worked well. The next year, I had a small core of students that had worked for me before (several volunteered time in the summer). These students really opened my eyes as to the potential of student partners. After the first 12 weeks, we began tracking Greencoat grades and I began to take on students that weren't necessarily stellar, but needed us. Some of these students were "kicked" out of class and to a person they all did wonderfully in the media center. This year the teams, community and administration have begun to suggest students that may need help belonging to the school. We have several students that have undergone some trauma and need some security. Some examples from my 25 current Greencoats are a student whose mother died, 3 students in the middle of custody battles, 2 students that are new to our school, one student that is failing most classes but needs a place where they can feel successful, and one student that has no friends. If I see a student walking alone between passing periods more than 4 days in a row, I ask the team if they need to be with us.

    My goal with the Blue Jackets is to formalize a process that we are already involved in. Last year we created or had a hand in the creation of 34 videos and commercials. We don't have a gifted program, but I have convinced many of our teachers to differentiate for our top students by giving them projects that extend their thinking and use multimedia...often videos. Another function of the Blue Jackets is going to be the creation of a semi-monthly television show promoting recreational reading. We envision starting small (4 minutes or so). Also, we have begun the creation of virtual booktalks using stock video, stock music and voiceovers. The goal is to make these available through streaming so teachers can download the booktalks and show them to their classes on demand. I also plan to put my Blue Jackets in charge of some wiki projects that we are creating for book clubs and discussion groups.

    One piece of advice, remember that as soon as you involve students, you must give up some control for it to be truly effective. Giving students the power to have a voice and choice is where their true growth occurs. Remember that it is the process that is important, not just your vision of the end result. Sometimes I am amazed at what they come up when I had planned on something completely different.


  9. This is in response to Susan's question.

    When I started at CMS, I took over for a lovely librarian who didn't want to go through a renovation. She was somewhat technophobic, but great at developing the collection of books. Because of the renovation, everyone was out of their comfort zone. This was the perfect time to come in because I was so different from their previous experience.

    First, I didn't worry about making sure every book was in the right place or that the place was picture perfect. I focused on those things that cause my teachers stress or that they are excited about. My mantra was "what can we do to help you?" and then "what more can we do to help you help our student?" I focused on a small group of "willing " teachers and we collaborated to redesign existing projects. One of the most important things was that I volunteered to help lesson plan, kept a planning log, cotaught and graded some portion of the work. Further, I provided simple, summarized research on the process of information inquiry and how students in the new millineum need these skills.

    Okay, I'm not getting paid to say this, but Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson have been huge in this process. I virtually took their online information inquiry class even though I had graduated. They had so much information that I never would have thought of on their eduscapes sight.

    One method I have used to get non LA teachers involved is I have continously presented at meetings how each discipline uses information inquiry. Science calls it the Scientific Method. Math calls it problem solving. Social Studies calls it Historical Analysis...and so on.

    Don't forget the related arts. Working with them is not only fun, but it gives you a better feeling of how the students are educated in the round. Also, many of these teachers are fighting the same battle of respectability and perception and working with them validates both of you. Plus, they talk to other teachers in the lounge.

    Another thing that is helped is that I know the standards for every discipline taught in 7th and 8th grade. It was time consuming to learn, but has paid off many times over.

    All of these things have been helpful, but to be honest, the most critical factor in being treated as an equal is probably my technological knowledge. Before I was a teacher I was a trainer and computer support technician for universities. I don't know why it is, but if you know something about computers many people think you are moderately capable.

    Another tip to take as you will, it helps if you can take a new technology, wrap it with a thorough understanding of the standards and then present it as part of a solution or ready-to-implement project rather than as an abstract training session. Here's an example. Let's say I'm going to introduce Webquests. I could teach about how to make a webquest, show some examples, talk about the research and share anectdotes. Or, I could present the skeleton of a webquest for a Social Studies unit using some of their already made unit plans and enhancing it with some simple websites. I then ask them their ideas and I put in the basics and return to them to discuss it in the short term. Then, they either use the webquest or we develop it further. Once they have used it successfully, we reflect and make changes for next time.

    I always then make a comment either formally or informally to the principal regarding how impressed I am with how Mrs. Smith is integrating technology effectively in their instruction. My principal is great about then praising their efforts in their evaluations.

    The teachers in my building do see me as a fellow teacher and I spend a considerable amount of time with teachers developing lessons, talking about instructional methodology and developing curriculum. Sometimes this is difficult, but always worth the effort.

    Belonging to the right committees is also important, but this is getting long so I'll leave it here.


  10. I want to respond to Carrie's questions, but I've never really thought about the "cool" factor so I hope this makes sense.

    I have never done any real PR for the Greencoats. I approached my first five students because we always had interesting conversations in the media center. Once these students experienced being treated as valuable, integral resources, they talked to their friends. It kind of snowballed from there. Some are attracted to the books, others to the freedom to talk while they work. Still others are attracted by the chance to do cool technology projects, help their team or their teachers. A few, just like the safety of having a place to belong.

    We try to make the job fun through little things. I spent $45 to put in a stereo system that is constantly playing. Usually it is classical, but we do have our DISCO moods. Sometimes you just have to Boogie Oogie Oogie. My principal is great at realizing the value of the Greencoats and also sends things our way. For example, we had extra juice drinks left over after IStep. Guess who gets them. We have a pizza lunch each 12 weeks. We are thinking about having a formal dinner with violins...just because. We let them know that homework comes first, but they can do it in the media center. We give them their own space to hang their jackets, materials, etc. We treat them as partners.

    I think the most important thing is that I am truly, undeniably, unabashedly in love with my students. They know it. I respect them. I ask their opinions. I am willing to try their suggestions over mine when it is appropriate. Students talk. This gets around. More students want to join. I currently have 25 Greencoats. I have purposely kept the number low until the Blue Jackets are off the ground. However, I have turned away more than 80 students that want to work for me. Eventually, I may have to hold interviews.

    As for the green jackets. I think it is an honor to wear the jacket. I play that up big. I let them know that the jacket is sacred. It actually came about because I got tired of writing passes for my students to move about the building. Now, the students know that they must behave perfectly in the jacket. We have a 0 tolerance policy. If you mess up wearing the jacket, you are automatically returned to your study period for the remainder of the 12 weeks. In my three years we have only done this once. The student took care of their problems, asked to rejoin (which we let them) and we never had another problem. Only one student has ever quit, and that was because she wanted to do her homework.


  11. In response to Sadie's questions:

    There is no extracurricular component to the Greencoats. My secretary is integral in training them. Keep in mind, that many of my students are there for two or even three trimesters. Whenever possible we have the more experienced Greencoats train and assist the newbies.

    Also, every Greencoat shelves for 10 minutes at the beginning of their shift. Only in special circumstances is that changed.

    I try to train students through projects. For example, I'll spend thirty minutes showing a group of 4 Greencoats how to do a basic webpage. It isn't important that they remember everything...there are 4 of them. I then pair them off and give them a basic needed page. They work on it. They might come up with something gaudy, then we talk about communication. Once the finish the basic page, I'll spend another 10 minutes showing them a site like Dynamic Drive. I'll insert a basic DHTML script and then let them play. Play with purpose is a great teacher.

    I never take time to show a new recruit basic skills. That I leave up to the experienced Greencoats...and they love doing it. We must be doing something right because my seventh graders want to come back during eighth grade. That is great.

    A couple of other helpful items we have discovered. First, I always look for a couple of technologically proficient students early in seventh grade. I spend a little extra time developing their skills and confidence and then they quickly take on the role of teacher. I also "seed" my workforce by working with the assistant principal to make sure that I have two or three students for the entire year. This also works wonders. Finally, never make a student shelve for the entire period. I don't care if you have books falling off of carts. Space the work out. We have an annual circulation of 30,000 items for 700 students. 10 minutes per period seems to work well. If we start getting behind we...yep, you got it...hire more Greencoats.

    Have a great evening everybody.


  12. I just read over all of my postings and I think I left something out about the Greencoats...the fact that they are kids. Sometimes, the little things we take for granted make all the difference in making a job enjoyable. Here are a list of things that amuse me because they get such a big kick out of them:

    1. Riding the elevator. Give them the key and have them deliver.
    2. Getting me a coke from the teacher's lounge. At first I thought this was exploitation, but they BEG to do it.
    3. Change the message on the front sign.
    4. Go into any locked room that students normally aren't allowed to go into.
    5. Take digital pictures of anything. You'd be surprised how many projects in the school can be enhanced by this.
    6. Eating leftover staff donuts at 10:00 in the morning.
    7. Cutting in the lunch line to buy Mr. Mac's lunch because he won't get more than 2 minutes for lunch and isn't able to get down there himself. I swear they swagger when they do this.
    8. Cranking the volume of the stereo up at 3:30 when the students are dismissed.
    9. Running the poster making machine.
    10. This should be number 1...checking out the books. They really, really, really get a kick out of this.
    11. Missing a class period to work in the media center because my secretary is gone. We always arrange to get the homework done first.
    12. Answering the phone. "Hello, Connersville Middle School Library Media Center...student speaking. Mr. Mac? I'm sorry, he is in a meeting at the moment. Might I take a message? You have a nice day now."


  13. John, I would like to ask you about your professional involvement. As you began your career as a School Media Specialist, which group did you join first? Did you begin locally, state-wide, or leap into a national group? Are there associations you have joined beyond the ones designed for SLMs? (technology, teachers, etc.) I would think that membership in those groups might serve one well in extending beyond that librarian persona in the minds of fellow educators. I am curious what are the first steps, in your opinion, for a new SLM to take when forming contacts/networking and pursuing professional development?

    Thank you for all your details regarding the Greencoats. You have a wonderful program there. Sounds like everyone is a big winner.

    Thak you again for your time,


  14. Carrie,

    As a new media specialist I joined five associations directly and several indirectly. I think that is quite a lot, and can get expensive, but during my first year I was still a student so I took advantage of the reduced rates.

    First and foremost I recommend you join your state School Media association. In Indiana this is AIME (Association for Indiana Media Educators). The day I responded to then President Leslie Preddy's e-mail to join AIME was a true watershed moment in my career. The knowledge and interaction with the people in AIME helped me accelerate my development as a media specialist. AIME is the strongest voice media specialists have at so many levels. I encourage you to join and attend the annual conference. Consider taking an active role on a committee. In many ways you are on the cutting edge of training and your insight is invaluable as AIME seeks to serve its members. This is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of the media field. The Indiana Library Federation is the parent association and it is valuable to stay involved with the greater library field.

    Another membership I recommend for a starting media specialist is AASL (the American Association of School Librarians). The magazine alone is worth the fee (Knowledge Quest). You will be joining ALA at the same time.

    Join AIME.

    Technology is a such a critical component of our field, so I recommend joining a technology association. ICE (Indiana Computer Educators) is a great one in Indiana and the membership is free. At the national and international levels I have found ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) to be worthwhile.

    Oh, and you should consider joining AIME.

    Reading is also an important component, so I'd strongly recommend looking at ISRA Indiana State Reading Association and also the IRA (International Reading Association).

    And, join AIME.

    Okay, to summarize: JOIN AIME and the AASL. Strongly consider joining ICE, ISRA, IRA.

    It has been my approach to join other professional organizations that are specific to my level. For example, I am a member of IMLEA (Indiana Middle Level Educators Assocation) and the Connersville Area Reading Council.

    You will find areas that you want to explore more deeply as well.

    One bit of advice that I have taken to heart is to spend at least one morning each month flipping through the professional journals of our other subject areas. I don't have time to sift through them with a fine toothed comb, but you can pick up on the hot topics in the other fields pretty quickly. This gives you starting points for collaboration.

    Also, as a shameless should join AIME and attend the conference.

    I hope this helps.

    Did I mention that you should join AIME :-)

  15. Anonymous10:38 AM

    Nancy McGriff

    John said it - join AIME. AIME provides so many opportunities for you to 1. get involved 2. make a difference 3. network to get ideas and stay current 4. make friends 5. share your ideas

    Most of the amazing professional experiences I have had started with joining and AIME and volunteering for a committee. That committee asignment grew into a committee chairmanship, then I became a district director, president elect, conference chair, president, that led to involvement with AASL, ILF committee work, ILF Board, ILF president, etc. It all starts with joining AIME.

  16. Anonymous3:37 PM


    Wow! Thanks for such detailed responses to our questions. Your program sounds so amazing :) Working with middle schoolers as well, I got a huge kick out of the 'things they love to do.'

    A quick question for you: when your students create multimedia projects, what software do you primarily use? Have you found certain programs to be more user- friendly than others?

    Sadie Smith

  17. Sadie,

    One of my current explorations has to do with Open Source software, such as Star Office. These are programs that are managed by a core group, but contributed to by hundreds or even thousands of programmers around the world. A few examples are the Firefox web browser and Blender 3D. This is a relatively new area for media centers, but I think it will revolutionize the way we will work in the future.

    Anyway, whenever possible, we use Open Source software. So, for presentations like Powerpoint, we use Star Office. We also use Star Office for web page authoring. For static images we use The Gimp. This is a very powerful free program.

    Unfortunately, there is not a really strong Open Source video editing software. The program called "Jashaka" is being developed, but it is too confusing for my middle schoolers. Last year we looked at 4 different packages-- Avid Express, Final Cut Pro, Pinnacle Liquid Edition and Ulead Win Media Studio Pro. Up until this year we used Imovie, which is still the easiest. I ordered an evaluation copy of each and then let the students go at it. All of my students liked Final Cut Pro and Avid Express, but they are quite expensive and for Final Cut you need high-end Mac computers. That left Ulead or Pinnacle. Ulead proved to be more powerful and the kids chose that. We are just now starting to use it heavily, but preliminary activities are showing that the students have less problems learning it than I do.

    We do have a green screen capability, but we are just now beginning to explore the possibilities in that realm.

    I hope this helps.


  18. John,

    Thank you for all the tips regarding professional organizations.....from the listservs I have observed and websites I have visited, I can tell that they are such a wealth of information and invaluable for networking. I appreciate your personal recommendations for several. One question...I can't remember....did you say I should join AIME? : )

    Your answer to Sadie's question about mulitmedia software scares me a little...I am not the technology queen, and feel that as I am trying to grasp all the other important elements of school mediaship: collaboration, administration, advocacy, collection development, and technology....I am not on the cutting edge of technology issues, nor do I have a background in technology. I agree with you that showing proficiency in technology will help our overall image among colleagues, and someday I hope to wear that technology crown with pride. : ) To get there, what would you recommend are primary technology areas to master as a new media specialist? I also have noticed the informative nature of the professional journals that come to the media center where I work. I can see that this is a great tap for hot topics in technology and other areas of school media.)

    Thanks for the tons of wisdom and enthusiasm you have shared. I know I would have loved being a middle schooler in a school with a media center that sounds as cool as yours. Thanks again --


  19. Hi John!

    I've enjoyed the discussion so far about your student helpers. It sounds like something I would have enjoyed doing at that age too. It was always cool to help a teacher instead of stay in study hall.

    I read over the two webpages posted on your bio concerning different projects you put together (bird watching and capturing a panoramic view of the library). I like how you mentioned going through the inquiry process yourself. Annette Lamb required us to do that when I went through the Information Inquiry class too!

    What information inquiry model do you use with your students/helpers? Do they keep learning logs as they wrestle through the learning challenges you give them? How do you collect evidence to show how your programming is helping the students?


  20. John,

    Thank you, thank you. I cannot begin to tell you how many wonderful ideas I have gotten from your postings. You sound like exactly the proactive kind of media specialist that I want to be...I'm sure the rest of our class feels the same way. One more thing...I have to respond to your plug for Annette and Larry... I am currently teaching 7th grade composition on a temporary contract for a teacher on maternity leave. I am here for their expository wriing unit, and I have turned it into a true Inquiry Project thanks to Dr. Lamb's 551 Information Inquiry course... I am having a blast, the kids are having a blast...and they are beginning to 'get it'...they are researching out of their own interests, and they are enjoying the ride (i.e. learning the information search process...) The Information Inquiry course was invaluable to me--personally, with my own children, and now with my awesome students! I recommend that class to everyone.

    Your suggestions for getting faculty on board were very helpful. I'm printing them out for next year when I'll (hopefully) have a 'real job'.

  21. Carrie,

    Please don't let my answer about technology scare you. While the effective integration of technology is critical to our profession, the degree and direction that a media specialist takes is up to each individual. Factors such as budget, school structure and infrastructure will all affect this. Don't get caught up in my description of video software, I've been developing my own knowledge base in this area for two years.

    Your question about what to focus on is a good one. I recommend that you concentrate your initial efforts on two fronts. First, focus on your own circulation system and other data collecting mechanisms. These will help you get an accurate view of your collection and help you plot your future course.

    My recommendation for the second area would be those technologies that provide information resources useful in the process of information inquiry for your students. Examples of these would be INSPIRE, fee-based online services (if budget allows), exceptional internet resources, planning guides, etc.

    To my mind, these are the two most essential areas. Once you have focused on these, you will naturally begin to branch out into other areas.

    One recommendation is to always remember that technology is a tool and that you must evaluate whether that tool is effective in furthering the goals you have for your program and your students. My view is that I am a communications teacher. Most everything I do is to help students become effective users of communication...this means in understanding existing media and information, as well as their own production of it. Even recreational reading is the author communicating thoughts, feelings and ideas to their audience. When I look at a particular technology, I try to evaluate whether it is worth my time to explore it by thinking about its role in my overall goal of effective communication.

    I hope this helps.


  22. Emily,

    Wonderful questions. We have officially adopted the Big6 model for our middle and high school. Simplicity and availability of resources were two big factors. Rather than try to "push" this process, I enlisted the help of teachers from multiple disciplines. The principal jumped on board and soon the adoption of a research model became a focus of our school improvement plan.

    During the evaluation stage we discovered that many of the "big" models were quite similar, they may have had different steps, but the goals of the models were nearly the same. I'm sure you've covered this in your coursework, but if you haven't I'd refer you back to the Eduscapes website on information inquiry. Especially powerful is this graphic provided by Danny Callison.

    Anyway, the teachers were most comfortable with the Big6. For each project I do complete a collaboration log. I believe Nancy mentioned Leslie Preddy, who is a personal hero of mine, from Perry Middle School. I'd also recommend the work of David Loertscher who I believe is mentioned on your course outline as a "big Cahuna" in the library field.

    My focus this year and in future years is getting teachers to shift from the product to the process, and to have students practice more metacognition (learning journals). There has been a predominate focus on finding information and producing something. We want to shift that focus to asking good questions and identifying effective resources. I can see this starting to happen. Student choice is another big factor for me, but that is probably another discussion.

    I use several tools to identify our successes and setbacks. We also trying to keep the administration informed. First, I try to keep the faculty up-to-date on the research discussing the need for higher level thinking skills. We then try to construct rubrics that focus on evidence of these skills in the finished products. Teacher anecdotes are important, as well as the reflective logs of the students. Finally, I always try to hold a follow up meeting to evaluate how we did, and what we need to do next time.

    The process of moving to inquiry and effective questioning is not clean. I find it frustrating and slow. Many teachers want nothing to do with it at this point, but as more come on board I hold hope for the future. I make one contact at a time and keep trying to plug away. In fact, I'm hoping you will ask this question of the other media specialists who will be contributing to the blogs because I'm always looking for ideas in this area.


  23. Susan,

    Thank you for you kind comments. I'd like to highlight something critical that you said:

    "I am having a blast, the kids are having a blast...and they are beginning to 'get it'...they are researching out of their own interests, and they are enjoying the ride (i.e. learning the information search process...) "

    You have managed to sum up so many important ideas in one short phrase. The students are searching out their own interests. This is critical. My personal philosophy is that education is 90% motivation and 9% reading and everything else comprises the final 1%. A child who is motivated cannot be stopped. Try keeping a kid from learning curse words if they really want to find out. A student that is motivated will learn to read, learn to research, learn to... Student choice is critical in that. How many kids do you have that can tell you every major brand of skateboarding products, but struggles with identifying 7 parts of speech. Somehow we have to help them transfer these skills, but it begins with student choice.

    That second part of your statement is huge. The kids are getting "IT". The IT is no longer the facts, it is the process. You are talking about them developing the critical thinking skills they will need to be successful in an information rich environment. Man, that's great! I'm going to print your words out and hang them on my wall. Thank you for making my day.


  24. Hi everyone,

    In response to Sadie’s question about software and John’s issue with find good cheap editing software, I have a recommendation to pass along. I attended the Indiana Department of Education’s West Central Media Specialist Meeting held on September 14, 2005 at Avon Intermediate School West. The conference was led by Elizabeth Winningham. She highly recommended the use of Arcsoft Showbiz 2 digital editing software at $70 a copy because of the ease of use by students. Now I do not know if this program can be used with MAC computers but Elizabeth said she really liked it.
    Also, several media specialists I have talked to highly recommend AIME as well. Information on upcoming conferences, grant opportunities and Indiana specific curriculum ideas and concerns are addressed. They recommend it over any other group by far!!!


  25. Anonymous10:21 AM

    I know Connersville at least I used to know it. I was raised in Cambridge City. I am interested to know how the community reponds to all the new things that you are trying there, not to be negative but I remember it being sort of backwards. I also know that things change a lot in twenty years. I went back to CC a while back and still found it backwards. My question is how do you get the backing of the teachers and community to support a modern, up-to-date media center? I will probable be taking a postion at a school where it technology and the media center haven't kept up with modern standards and practices, so I would like some ideas to accomplish this.

  26. Hmmm, to be political or not to be political... Okay, Connersville is not the most progressive area in the state. How's that.

    Honestly, Connersville needs to make some fundamental changes. The community has one major employer (Visteon), the lowest percentage of people with a college degree of any county in Indiana, the second highest unemployment and a functional illiteracy rate of 30% or more. This is not the garden spot of the state.

    On the other hand, we have licensed media specialists in both the high school and middle school, the high school media specialist has two assistants, while I have one.

    I don't know if I can give you a clear answer to your question, because the process is ongoing. We have become a point of pride for the school. I try to meet the needs of my teachers as well as my students. I try to communicate with parents, and I try to share credit with anyone I can. I try to always follow through when I make a promise, and I try to have a suggested solution whenever I identify a problem. That being said, the process is slow.

    I know you are all enthusiastic about being media specialists, and I appreciate that enthusiasm. We need strong colleagues and I do believe we have the best jobs in the school system. However, I'll be completely honest and say that there are many days that I go home frustrated with the lack of vision of the entire public school system. In Connersville, at least, we seem to still be focused on the old model of controlling kids, fact-based instruction and traditional approaches. I have examined many times whether or not I belong in this school system and there have been times I have considered moving to a new school, or even leaving the profession all together. I sometimes feel like I am trying to make the best of a flawed system. Sometimes you realize that you cannot make the big leap with a teacher (such as leaving behind a bad research proejct) and must settle for the small change. I draw strength from the other members of AIME and my professional support circle. It doesn't matter how proficient you get, everyone deals with some sort of frustration, but then one of my students walks in and I realize there is no place I'd rather be.

    Hey, this was probably my last posting. I want to thank you all for your questions. They have given me an opportunity to focus on my own practices and learn much through examination. Your comments are much appreciated. You have joined a wonderful profession and I want to personally welcome you all into the coolest group around. If you ever need anything, please don't hesitate to e-mail me at I look forward to working with you on the other side.

    See you at future AIME conferences,

    John McDonald a.k.a. Mr. Mac