Teachers Pay Teachers vs Open Education Resources for the School Librarian

Teachers Pay Teachers vs Open Education Resources for the School Librarian - Teachers Pay Teachers offers a mixed bag of instructional materials at prices ranging from inexpensive to very costly. OER offers completely free and open licensed instructional materials from an array of educational institutions. Here's my reasoning for choosing TPT. #NoSweatLibraryEducators are sharers, and School Librarians are super-sharers as evidenced by the 12,000+ members of LM_NET listserv. Through my 13+ years as a Middle School Librarian I’ve created documents for Library Lessons through online service providers and freely offered these to other School Librarians who need new ideas.

After retiring I began to save my Library Lessons and administrative documents into my Google Drive, which was shared with anyone to whom I sent the links.

One day—when I’d exhausted my monthly stipend paying some unexpected bills—I realized I could earn some extra retirement money by selling my library lessons & management materials on Teachers Pay Teachers.

TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS

Teachers Pay Teachers logoTeachers Pay Teachers stated goal is “to make the expertise and wisdom of all the teachers in the world available to anyone, anywhere, at any time” and they provide an online “marketplace where teachers share, sell, and buy original educational resources.”

My first hurdle was an emotional one: overcoming my natural reluctance to charge for teaching materials. Then, as I looked through the Properties settings on my computer files, I realized that nearly all of my work had been created here at home, in the evenings and on weekends—because what school librarian has any time to work on such things during the day? So, this was truly my own intellectual property, and as such, I had the right to determine its dispensation!

I established a brand—”No Sweat Library“—and since TPT asks sellers to give away their first upload, I offered, for free, my Library Lesson Planner Template which I’d amalgamated from the best of other planners I’d used over the years. I also offer some of the same free materials I share here on my blog. (click on the FREE Librarian Resources link in the menu bar!)

I began to update my Library Lessons to current content standards and National School Library Standards. So began the long (and continuing) process of making my Library Lessons worth a purchase. Considering the countless hours I’ve put into updating and improving my intellectual property, I feel completely comfortable with the reasonable prices I’ve attached to each product.Gender Equity & Marketing Our Teaching Materials - Teachers Pay Teachers has become a valuable educational resource for teachers all over the world. Learn why I chose to contribute and why I think it's important. #NoSweatLibrary

Recently I read an explanation about selling from a gender equity standpoint. I’ve never come across this approach before and it’s extraordinarily powerful, especially for teachers and librarians who are predominately women.  I have permission from the author, Monica Froese at Redefining Mom, to quote from her article:

Most women struggle with asking for money. … I don’t struggle with asking for money for my hard work. … I am 100% unapologetic about it and let me tell you why.

  • FAMILY CURRENCY: For every minute I’m sitting at my desk creating amazing content and resources for the world to consume, I’m taking time away from my kids. That is some pretty serious currency. The tradeoff for spending time at work is making money so I can give my kid’s a better life. I can’t do that if I don’t get paid.
  • EXPERT STATUS: It takes a lot of energy and mental capacity to be an expert on a topic. … It’s not only a valuable skill … but it requires a lot from me to live up to my promises of being an expert. If I didn’t charge people … you wouldn’t take it seriously and I’d be wasting my time.
  • VALUE: People don’t value what they don’t pay for. Period.

It is not wrong to be compensated for your hard work. I spent a lot of years being in the room with c-suite male executives. Men have no problem talking about money, asking for money, or stating how much they are worth. The reality is having open conversations about money is important for gender equality. I choose to exist in a world where my daughters see me working hard and being fairly compensated for it.

This wonderful article has made me more determined than ever to provide high-quality resources for teachers and other school librarians…and to appreciate that they are willing to reimburse me for the time I’ve saved them!

OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

Open Educational Resources LogoLately I’ve also been pondering the growing trend toward Open Educational Resources. What is OER? First proposed at a UNESCO conference in 2000, it became reality a year later when Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) put their 2,000 courses online. Making this university-level content available began what the MIT president called “the global intellectual commons” and since then more than 300 colleges and universities around the world have contributed OER courseware and materials. The purpose is best expressed on the Open Education Consortium-About Us webpage:

…probably the most basic characteristic of education … is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built. Open Education combines the traditions of knowledge sharing and creation with 21st century technology to create a vast pool of openly shared educational resources.

OER Commons - Open Educational ResourcesPublic K-12 education has stepped into the OER movement through the OER Commons, which offers over 40,000 items for primary and secondary educators. As a partner with FutureReady Schools and FutureReady Librarians, OER Commons promotes research-based and personalized lessons that comply with Common Core ELA and Math Standards, NextGen Science Standards, the C3 Framework for Social Studies, and AASL National School Library Standards.

Most importantly for us, the Open Educational Resources initiative doesn’t just mean access to free—as in no-cost—materials but it also means free as in openly licensed, that is, we can copy, modify, and redistribute OER materials! Here are some examples of the “5Rs of OER”:

  • Retain: House them in a digital cloud space, such as Google Drive.
  • Reuse: Once in a digital cloud space, the teacher has access to frequent use as needed.
  • Revise: Teachers make edits so that the content best fits the readiness needs of their students.
  • Remix: In some cases, content is taken from one source like a lesson or online textbook, and merged into something completely different, such as a video, which is more accessible to the learner.
  • Redistribute: Acquired resources can be shared with as many people as desired, without a cap on numbers.

The beauty of the OER Commons is the huge number of contributors: universities; public institutions, like the Library of Congress, the Getty Museum, TED, and NASA; and several educational providers, like Khan Academy and Read Write Think. In additions, there are more OER online sources from which to find materials:

For the School Librarian, OER sites don’t seem to offer much in the way of middle school library lessons, so I will continue to provide products for sale on TPT to best benefit my colleagues. Eventually I can make some of my products available to the OER Commons to supplement what’s there and give my lessons a wider exposure to public education.

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Not Fixed vs Flex, But Responsive Scheduling for the School Library

Responsive Scheduling for the School Library - Fixed scheduling or flexible scheduling of the school library is no longer applicable to our time. While each has advantages and shortcomings, the new recommendations are for "responsive scheduling." Here's some history and analysis of all three, along with the combination that worked for me. #NoSweatLibraryFixed vs. Flexible Scheduling for school libraries has long been controversial, and AASL now recommends we implement “Responsive scheduling”. The purpose for library scheduling is often misunderstood by school administrators, by teachers, and even by School Librarians, so it’s time to take a fresh look.

To better understand the issue of fixed or flex or responsive scheduling, it may help to see how far we’ve come, and where we are now, so that we can effectively work toward where we need to be.

A SHORT HISTORY OF LIBRARY SCHEDULING

Fixed scheduling was originally a non-negotiable schedule of library visits set by school administration. Lessons came from a specific, fixed, scope-and-sequenced Library curriculum of what students needed to know about the library, just as English, Math, Social Studies, and Science were separate curricula. There was no coordination of Library skills with what was happening in classrooms, but that seemed OK, since none of the subject areas were coordinated either.

For the next 30 years we tried to coordinate and integrate curriculum to improve student learning, like adding literature, art, and music to Social Studies. Along the way we increased the use of technology and added authentic project-oriented assessment.

cover image of Information Power, 1998Educational advancements increased use of the school library, highlighting inadequacies in student information literacy skills and the need for an improved library program to address these skills at point of need. AASL’s Information Power (published in 1988 and republished in 1998) promoted the integration of library skills into the curriculum and a flexible approach to library use for the teaching of these skills. To make that happen, librarians and teachers would collaborate on how and when to teach what.

THE FLEX APPROACH: THE PROS & CONS

No more stand alone library lessons taught in isolation from other subjects. No more classes dropped off by teachers at prescribed times each day of each week. School Librarians would now flexibly schedule classes into the library when they needed to be there, for a few days in a row if necessary, and take time to plan with teachers to create lessons that integrate library skills into classroom activities.

Here’s where some misunderstanding arose. If fixed scheduling denied us power over our schedule, flex scheduling can also take away our decision-making power. If we’re told we can’t have any schedule at all, that we need to provide unlimited access, to anyone, anytime, to do anything, well, that isn’t what flex schedule means.

image of a flexible scheduleThe key word is flexible. It means that, rather than being forced to accept specific classes on a regular schedule, WE determine who uses the library and when. It means we decide when a class needs to be in the library, and it means we can even have a fixed schedule for certain classes, because we have decided that is what students need.

True flex scheduling means we can say yes or no to casual drop-ins or last-minute requests, because we have a class scheduled to visit which requires our full attention, especially when we don’t have an aide to assist with book checkout. It also means that students working on projects we’ve had a part in teaching can come to the library at any time even if the class isn’t scheduled.

BENEFITS OF A COMBINATION FIXED/FLEX

A fixed schedule provides more opportunities for teaching and reinforcing library skills, so we must know our school’s curricula very well and develop a wide repertoire of activities to keep students engaged. Fixed schedules demand that we become as flexible as possible to plan with teachers and integrate curriculum into our library lessons.

Flex scheduling promotes integration of library skills into classroom activities; however, flexible schedules demand that we regularly plan with teachers and schedule classes for library and research skills. Either way, we must push ourselves to become a better professional. As fixed scheduled teachers work with us, they begin to see the benefits of having a flexible library schedule, so they can become our best allies when we ask administration to move toward flex scheduling.

I began my school library career with completely flexible scheduling, but after a couple years it became problematic. Once I understood what true flex scheduling meant, I created a combination fix/flex schedule that works for our school:

  • ELA classes come to the library on a set day every other week for book checkout and DEAR time (silent reading). We collaborate on a schedule so one week 7g & 8g classes visit on Tuesday & Wednesday, then the following week SpEd/ELL and 6g visit on Thursday and Friday. I can adjust ELA visit day if the library is otherwise needed: we switch to another open day that week, or they get books & return to the classroom for DEAR time, or the teacher sends a few students at a time for a new book.
    Example of a combination fixed ELA schedule with open times for flexible scheduling.linebreak
  • With 5 contiguous open days—Thursday through Wednesday, every other week,  I can schedule other subject classes into the library for lessons and research assignments.
  • I can reserve Monday for library administrative work, for planning, and for collaboration with teachers, unless it’s essential for a teacher to bring students in that day.
  • Recurring yearly lessons, such as my Dewey Decimals Lesson with 6g and 7g Math classes, my Online Subscription WebQuests with 6g and 7g Social Studies, my Cloud Computing Lesson with Spanish & Art classes, and my Digital Citizenship Lessons, are all scheduled with teachers at the start of each grading period to be sure there are no conflicts with newly planned projects that may need to use the library and its resources.

This combination (or semi-fixed/flex) scheduling worked well in my School Library for over a decade from the early 2000s.

“RESPONSIVE” SCHEDULING FOR THE 2020s

AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner in Action (2009) offered little about scheduling other than consistent use of the term equitable access. However, AASL issued a Position Statement on Library Scheduling in 2011, revised in 2014, which was printed in the new National School Library Standards (2018, p216), about “flexible scheduling”:

Classes must be flexibly scheduled to visit the school library on an as-needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and use of technology with the guidance of the teacher, who is the subject specialist, and the librarian, who is the information-search process specialist. … Regularly scheduling classes in the school library to provide teacher release time or preparation time prohibits this best practice.

A Responsive School Library Is Essential for Student Success - The June 2019 AASL School Library Scheduling Position Statement calls for flexible, open, unrestricted, and equitable access and collaborative planning between teachers & the school librarian. #NoSweatLibraryThen in 2018, “flexible scheduling” was revisited to better align with the new Standards. The new AASL Position Statement on Library Scheduling was submitted to the board and approved in June, 2019. Their new recommendation is for “responsive scheduling”:

Scheduling of classes should allow flexible, open, unrestricted, and equitable access on an as-needed basis to facilitate just-in-time research, training, and utilization of technology with instruction from the school librarian and the content-area educator. The practice of scheduling classes in the school library on a set schedule to provide educator release or preparation time inhibits best practice by limiting collaboration and co-teaching opportunities between the school librarian and classroom educator.

Responsibility for responsive scheduling is to be “shared by the entire school community: the local educational agency, district administration, principal, school librarian, educators, the school library support staff, parents, and learners.” We School Librarians can use this section when we approach our principals for a more flexible schedule, and give them something to take higher up.

This new Position Statement on School Library Scheduling is a critical document for School Librarians “desiring to fully achieve a collaborative and integrated school library philosophy.” It emphasizes the importance of collaborative planning and helps us promote our Library Lessons as “an essential and integral part of all classroom curriculum.” I encourage all of us to print out this 3-page .pdf document to show to our principals and our teachers and to develop a new “elevator pitch.”

With this new Position Statement we may need to make changes in our policies & procedures. I’d love to have an aide to help with book checkout and incidental student interaction while I’m teaching classes, but know that’s not fiscally likely. So, I set up a self-checkout station and teach students how to use it, having eliminated overdue fines and increased book limits to remove barriers for making this work.

I use the Open Dyslexic font for print and digital documents to make it easier for all students to read materials. I create videos answering some common questions students ask about the library and its resources, putting them on the School Library Website, so students can find answers when I’m unavailable.

I have computer administrators set the student browser homepage to the School or District Library Website so our virtual library is the first resource students see. This will ease student access to searching for books, using research databases, and locating Resource Lists, library guides, and other assignment helpers.

I’m sure there are other considerations I’ve not even thought about. If you have suggestions, please add them to the comments!


References:

AASL Board of Directors Meeting, ALA 2019 Annual Conference, Washington, DC June 20 – 25, p46-50 

AASL Position Statement on School Library Scheduling

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