Monday, October 03, 2011

Lori Clark-Erickson - Tues. Oct. 4 to Thurs. Oct 6, 2010

Next up on this semester's roster of guests is Lori Clark-Erickson, a teacher librarian at Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming - that's next to Grand Teton National Park, near Yellowstone N.P., and the headwaters of the Snake River.

Lori's library career path included a stint working at the public library and time at a school library paraprofessional position. She returned to school, completed a school library media degree, and a position opened up at the district's high school.

Lori is an enthusiastic and energetic teacher librarian, who enjoys collaborating with teachers, integrating technologies into classroom learning, and teaching information literacy to students.

Learn more about Lori's professional background and interests at her bio information page:

As with all our guests this year, I have asked her the startup question: "What is it that people don't get about your job?"


  1. Hi Lori,

    I am a Media Specialist in an elementary school K-4. Can you share with me some ways that you collaborate with teachers? This is something that I have been working on for a while. It is hard to get all teachers on board.

    I love that are enthusiastic about integrating technology into the classroom. This is something that I am very passionate about as well. There are so many great new technologies that are available.

    The newest piece of technology that we have at our school is a "Mimio" it is placed on on a regular whiteboard and it turns the board into an interactive board. We have 4 Smartboards but we love this new piece because the teachers can use the boards they already have.


  2. Anonymous12:33 PM

    Hi Lori,

    It's great to hear that you enjoy collaborating with teachers; what are some examples of your favorite collaborative experiences?

    I was also wondering about the challenges of working at a high school but also overseeing all of the district libraries as well. What responsibilities come with that job?

    Thank you for sharing your career insights with us!

    Casey O'Leary

  3. Lori,
    I'd love to hear about how you originally started collaborating with teachers in your school. Did you inherit a program where collaboration was the norm, or did you have to go about convincing teachers to work with you? What techniques do you use to encourage collaboration?


  4. Good morning everyone. The questions you have raised are excellent and I will comment on each of them.

    As for the prompt - What is it that people don't get about your job?" let me respond.

    I think that most people don’t comprehend the scope of the responsibilities that I, as a teacher-librarian carry in a school setting.

    Each day is different with teaching, planning lessons, managing my two paraprofessionals, ordering new books, cataloging, ensuring that the library is a welcoming place for all. Unless someone shadows me throughout the day, she wouldn’t see the many, many hats I wear. I work in a district of five certified librarians servicing nine schools. We had the opportunity last year to present to our school board our programming, services and support of literacy across the curriculum. We were rather taken back when some of these professionals shared their preconceptions of a school librarian – that being the person who whispers shhh and solely checks out books. I feel we were able to dispel this as we outlined the many aspects of our job. The discussion following indicated that they just were not aware of our role in a school. This advocacy is what I need to do at some level each day.

    Another important aspect I want to mention is that of school leadership. Being involved in decision-making teams, chairing committees, communicating with all teachers is essential as the school library and librarian can be a significant focus of the school. Lori Clark-Erickson

  5. Good morning,

    I've just started a new position in my high school's media center and you nailed my biggest go-to response when people ask me about the transition, "I'm having a blast; every day is different!" It's fun being a jack of all trades and learning to be a master of quite a few of them, as well. :)

    Bringing together two of your areas of expertise, how do you go about collaboratively integrating new technology into teachers' rooms/lessons who are less than willing to embrace change? The staff in my building are getting younger and younger and more open to trying new methods, but others simply don't care. My gut reaction is to focus on working with the newer teachers and waiting out the "more experienced" ones, but that's still doing a disservice to some of our students.

    Thanks and have a great day,

  6. Heather-
    It seems that with elementary school schedules, your time with the students is often during the teachers’ planning time. This makes it hard to collaborate with them on projects and learn what they are working on in class. That being said, our elementary librarians try to meet once a month with the grade level teams to get this information. They also draft out year-long “maps” of topics studied throughout the year. If any of the skills you teach can be reinforced in the classroom, we've met a huge goal for the students.

    I am pleased to learn that your school is using Mimio as it is an easy alternative to the more costly Smart or Promethean Boards. Is there software that comes with this? I'm not familiar with this.

  7. Casey-
    Some of my favorite collaborative experiences are with colleagues who I am able to co-plan and co-teach with. I’ve done many lessons embedding information literacy skills into their content goals. One lesson was evaluating websites in a Health unit. I do a three day PPT lesson teaching ways they can determine the authority, accuracy, objectivity and currency of a web resource. Another was a Learning Styles project, where I set up a website with links to inventories, resources and Noodletools (an online citation generator). The students end up writing a paper responding to the prompt: If my professor’s teaching style does not match mine, what strategies might I use to ensure success in this course? After the paper is written in MLA, then we redo it using APA format. And one more of my favorites is with the Spanish teacher using Google Earth and PPT researching activities in a national park in a Spanish-speaking country.

    I have in place a shared leadership model for the District Libraries. Overseeing the District budget, ordering our databases, planning our AASL trip to Minneapolis are examples of dispersed responsibilities among members of the team. We share chairing, taking minutes and timekeeping at each monthly meeting. I communicate with the District Office and our supervisor (an elementary principal). Each year we work on a specific project and in the past few years have reviewed all district policies, built a teacher-librarian evaluation rubric and developed a scope and sequence of library skills K-12. I end up overseeing the “big picture” but get quite a lot of support from the team. Even though I have the title, everyone realizes that it takes a lot of time to have a strong and well-functioning team.
    Lori Clark-Erickson

  8. I serve on our schools Technology in Education team along with the librarian and several other teachers and staff members. I wondered what some of your favorite technologies are (software, online resources, hardware, etc.) We are slowly getting funds to update and it is important to us that the items we choose will have long term value, not simply be a "band aid" for this year.

    Alison Williams

  9. Jessica-
    The program I “inherited” was very rigorous and the teachers DID NOT like it. There were many days of very involved information literacy lessons and it really gobbled up the content time. It has taken me several years to “lighten” up the program and develop trusting relationships with the teachers. It is a challenge, however. Some teachers just “get it” that library services can make an impact and that I can help them tremendously. Others, I still have yet to see them use the library. It’s such a loss for the students.
    Every year I try new techniques to inform teachers of the resources we can provide and the resources that are available to them. This year I had NO before school meeting time and have begun meeting with individual teachers per department. I haven’t gotten very far, but the meetings with the Social Science teachers was wonderful – I showed them specific online resources for THEIR courses and we spent time together looking at them. There were some “wows” and “this will be perfect for my lesson tomorrow” comments.
    I try to get around the departments to check in with what lessons they are doing and if I can offer any help. I also have been hosting a one-hour workshop featuring our new resources. One afternoon it was Learn360, a video library, another Visual Thesaurus, soon another with Destiny. These haven’t been robustly attended, but I do need to offer something for the teachers. Lori Clark-Erickson

  10. I'm also interested in the technologies you use. We are very excited to have 8 Nooks to get out into our 4th and 5th grade classrooms, but have had trouble deciding how to set them up for the most effective use. We have a very large school, but only a few devices to go around. What are some ways you've found to manage limited resources so that the most students can get the best use out of them?

  11. Lori,
    Thanks for your comments! I think it's a great idea to work with individual departments - last year I helped one of the 5th grade classes use Glogster on a project, and I ended up doing the same project with all the 5th graders! Maybe the best way to get teachers to use the library is peer pressure - get one department teacher to embrace an idea and talk the others into it! :)

    I'm curious about the rigorous program the teachers didn't like - did the principal require them to bring classes to the library? And speaking of principals - what kind of support are you getting now from the principal? What kind of relationship do you have with him/her, and how have you gone about building it?


  12. Anonymous5:40 PM

    Hi there Lori. I just want to say that my husband and I vacationed in Jackson Hole and loved the Tetons. What a great place to live!!! We hoping to head back there this summer with our 10 yr old son. Ü

    I am wondering if you would share your process for book selection for your media center. What are some of the things that you consider before ordering a book?

    Thanks - Christy Russell

  13. Lori,
    I’m so impressed with the teamwork among your district librarians, and that you all share the load so no one is overwhelmed or running everything. It seems to really benefit the school libraries in your district!
    Your collaborative experiences are so varied, and I think it’s great that you can offer support to teachers in a variety of subjects.
    I too am interested in the rigorous program that existed prior to your arrival. It’s interesting to me that it’s not just about quantity of information when it comes to being a school media specialist; there seems to be a need for balance?

  14. Clint-
    In the past, during our teacher back to school days, I would have the opportunity to meet with most departments for 30-60 minutes. During this sit and get, I’d try to introduce as many resources and technologies as I could. This did pique the interest of many teachers who would integrate the new technologies into their lessons. If a class is working on a project, I always will suggest a “modernization” of the project. For instance, if the project was a poster, I’d encourage the teacher to change it to a WORD poster and ultimately to a Glogster poster.
    Each year, I try to get a few more teachers on board by supporting them 100% with the technology. It’s been slow going and there certainly could be more integration. I’m still working on getting more tech in the classrooms. Lori Clark-Erickson

  15. Alison-
    Great question – I have lots of favorites to recommend. With any and all of these suggestions comes the mandatory need for training without students and in the classroom with the teacher and students. If any assignment can be made more “global” the better. There is a classroom audience that wants to share or collaborate.

    For Web 2.0 applications look into VoiceThread, Glogster, Animoto, SKYPE, Audacity, Wordle, Tagxedo. Google Earth is wonderful for setting in literature (check out Google Lit Trips), geography, Social Studies, Spanish name places

    For some very new ideas check out this link:
    I helped present some of these in a presentation called ”What the Tech is That?” at the Wyoming Library Conference last week. There are many really fun applications – Masher, BatchGeo,, Simple Booklet…..

    I think a school should have a scanner that makes OCR editable WORD docs.
    I use the Camtasia program to make tutorial videos and School Tube to post.

    For software, it’s important that someone knows how to use each of these and if you get a site license, teach the students but the following are great applications: Inspiration (word, concept mapping) Webspiration allows collaboration, OFFICE 2010, PhotoShop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, FLASH

    As for hardware, interactive whiteboards are powerful tools, as well as CPS/clickers/student response systems, webcams, headsets.

    These are just suggestions, but I’ve used all of these and found suitable application in the classroom that engaged students and introduced new technologies to the students and teachers.

  16. Liz-
    Good question and I will continue to brainstorm ideas for you. I would suggest you try a couple of different ways and see what works the best for you. One would be a traditional check out, one might be to offer the Nooks to a “class” per month and have the students share them. More students would get exposure to this tool and you and the teacher could do a mini-lesson on the features.

    I have 24 Kindles and at this point have just worked with two teachers with classroom use. I haven’t been able to check these out, because they are used regularly. The ultimate would be to check them out for a three week period, just as I do other resources. The students LOVE to read with these. Lori Clark-Erickson

  17. As far as teaching information literacy, could you summarize your favorite information literacy lesson (or perhaps the first lesson of the year)?


  18. Lori -

    Thank you. It's reassuring to hear some of your ideas being similar to ours. We were thinking about having 4 cycle through the 4th grade classes and 4 going through the 5th grade classes, for about a month at a time.

    What materials do you put on the Kindles? We have been leaning towards fiction, but I'm wondering if they would be effective as reference materials, too.

    On another note:
    Have you created any resources to help teachers or students with technology when you're not available, such as tutorials or guides?

  19. Anonymous5:38 PM

    Lori -
    Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas. I am a technology lover and will have to try some of the Web 2.0 ideas that you shared. Do you do any kind of broadcasting projects or other video-type activities? I have no experience with high school students, but I know that the students and teachers in my elementary have had great success using Flip cameras. I am thinking of creating a book trailer with some fourth graders using a flip camera. I have never had to use editing software. Is there one that you would recommend?

    Thanks - Christy

  20. Jessica-
    The rigor I spoke of was a super high level of demands placed on the teachers to endure weeks of research and information literacy lessons in the library. My current admin is supportive, yet I still don’t think they understand the power of what a library can provide for a highly effective school. I have good communication with both the principal and assistant principal. Sending short and reflective monthly reports, not complaining, getting involved as a school leader are all things I have worked on. Lori Clark-Erickson

  21. Christy-
    We have a book selection policy for our school district that offers a foundation for selecting materials. That said, I order many books from student and staff requests. I peruse SLJ, Voya and other book reviews and try to get a range of books that appeal to all readers. Last year I rearranged my fiction area by genre and am finding it to be fabulous. It took a bit of time to change the location in the marc records, but it was well worth the effort. Lori Clark-Erickson

  22. Casey-
    You can refer to my comment to Jessica above, but there is a balance – I try to embed short lessons into the content lessons. It may not be the perfect situation as they could use more information literacy instruction, but the teachers will come back if it’s not too much.
    Lori Clark-Erickson

  23. Clint-
    My favorite IL lesson would be based from the Trails9 assessments. I have five lessons to teach 1) developing a topic 2) potential resources 3) revising search strategies 4) evaluating resources 5) ethical use. I made these all web-based, tutorial style with some video instruction, some handouts –all to enable the students to be successful with the Trails9 evaluation. Lori Clark-Erickson

  24. Liz-
    Most of my Kindle selections are fiction. I’ve been ordering reference ebooks for use on computers.
    I have done a few tutorials and think it’s a great way to document things I need to repeat to build the students’ skills. I use Camtasia and find it an easy way to record lessons. Lori Clark-Erickson

  25. Christy-
    iMovie is the “best” and all Mac users swear by it. We’re a PC school and I’ve used Windows Movie Maker with video editing very successfully. We also use PhotoStory 3 to create movies using digital images. It’s a wonderful free product – students can add text, effects, voice over and music. Book trailers are really fun for the students. Lori Clark-Erickson