Art is not just pretty pictures: The deep process of artistic creation

My topic today is Art as a subject in schools. I wonder if we sometimes underestimate or misunderstand the role of Art in a student’s learning. It’s so much more than making pretty pictures. Art personifies learning through a transparent process of deep exploration and problem solving – with an end product to show for it. Just as with literature, the end product can be unpacked to reveal the influences which were part of the creative process. Fortunately this is not a purely scientific process but one which invites the exploration and interpretation of the viewer. Art is a model for problem solving in other areas of learning. We should hold onto Art, and not be fooled into thinking that it is less valuable than subjects which are associated with occupational success. We need Art.

I visited a year 9 class today to see the students happily working on large representations of themselves based on their exploration of the unit ‘Home and Place’. My part in this project was the collaboration with Mihaela Brysha, Head of Art, in resourcing the project  in our library website (Libguides). I’m including the project brief:

This unit explores ideas about belonging and is designed to question our relationship and interaction with:

  • Others
  • Pop culture
  • Consumerism
  • Cultural beliefs,
  • Personal histories
  • The natural world

The aim of the exploration is to make and visually interpret personal statements about what home and place means to you and how it shapes personal and cultural identity.

Australian artists Patricia Piccinini, Fiona Hall, Gordon Bennett, and Howard Arkley address some of these ideas from very different perspectives, influences, art forms, aesthetics, materials and techniques. The study of their ideas and studio art practice as well as interpretation and analysis of their artwork aims to provide stimuli for the exploration of ideas, content and techniques for practical explorations.

The online resources were a starting point for further research into these artists:

Fiona HallGordon BennettHoward ArkleyPatricia Piccinini

The art of Gordon Bennett strikes a chord with many of our students whose families come from different countries. Bennett’s art depicts the cultural tension between his ties to his Indigenous roots and his association with Western culture.

I loved the size of these art works, their bold colours and strokes, delicate details, diverse imagery and visual storytelling. I loved the energy and focused activity in the classroom, the productive interaction between students and teacher. I took photos.

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I’m looking forward to the hanging of these in the art show. Well done, boys, and well done, Mihaela.

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Is marketing a dirty word for school libraries?

La lectura es el viaje de los q no pueden tomar el tren

I’m writing an article about marketing the school library for the publication FYI.

Marketing. I used to think that it had nothing to do with education. Marketing school libraries? Bad taste. Things of value should stand on their own merits.

But here we are living in libraries within schools – part of the school, not quite part of the school. I have to admit that much of what I do is a form of marketing – the benign kind, the sincere kind, but marketing nonetheless. No, we are not selling our souls but we do need to reach out and make connections with the teachers who have charge of the students. We need them all so that we can make a difference.

Still, I have many questions about this marketing thing. I would love to have a full-on discussion with other teacher librarians about this, and with teachers, to see what they think. To see what you think.

So I’m going to offer a few of my thoughts in the hope that you will leave a comment. What do you think about this as a teacher librarian, as a teacher? The following is selected from my article:

Library promotion and the forging of relationships with staff is what we do every day.I don’t claim to be an expert and there is no ‘one size fits all’, but what I’d like to do is share my personal experience and my story.

Marketing your school library is not optional, as far as I’m concerned.

Why?

Marketing the library is a most important job, not only to make the library visible but also to make it shine, to show its vibrancy, so that teachers and students will take a break from their relentless busyness and take notice; so that they will want to come in to see what’s going on.

Sadly, libraries are sometimes invisible – despite bright and shiny new furniture, despite the brilliant displays, despite the extensive collections, despite the well meaning efforts of librarians. What I mean by that is that the library and library staff are not an intrinsic part of the essential teaching and learning activity of our schools – they don’t show up on teachers’ or students’ radar –  unless we make them so. And we have to keep making them so on a daily basis.

The library used to be THE PLACE people came for information but it’s simply not the case any more. Surely you’ve noticed how often student assignments are set and completed without anyone stepping into the library. We all know how indispensable we can be and should be when research assignments are created so we need to educate students and teachers that we have the experience to support them in navigating the flood of information they now have at their fingertips. We all know our area of expertise: we can show them how to find what they need when it seems like finding a needle in a haystack – how to locate, evaluate, sort through and select, organise, interact with and synthesize information so they can create what is required. But often teachers and students will have no idea that they are playing in a sinkhole when they trust Google to find what they need. There is no doubt that we need to seriously promote ourselves as playing an essential part in everyday teaching and learning.

How?

Granted, that is easier said than done. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. I would say, trust your instincts. create connections, nurture authentic and meaningful relationships with teachers, faculty heads, leading teachers, assistant principals and principals.

Be yourself, be real. Don’t put on your teacher librarian persona and go out door knocking like a missionary. There is no script. You will know what to say.

Be patient. It won’t happen overnight. It might not happen the way you envisage but something will happen. Connect with other teacher librarians, blog and tweet about it, and share your experiences, reflections, evaluations. Be honest, be deep. It’s not all about what can be seen from the outside, it’s also about creating cultural shifts, shifts in understanding. All of this takes time. Look for and celebrate small successes.

Be awesome, surprising, and indispensable. Find and share what teachers want and need, but also make it amazing and wrap it up in gorgeous colours with metres of ribbon and exotic feathers.

Think about the library as a space; it’s prime real estate. The library can be a Wunderkammer, and when people come in, they should feel happy and intrigued, and wish they could stay a while. It should be a refuge for teachers from their relentless running from class to class. And you should become indispensable because you have offered to create something they have little time to do.

Where?

Everywhere – in library spaces, in classrooms, during chats in the corridor or quick catch-ups after a staff meeting, during sports days, music days, and PD days.

Don’t forget the power of promotion online – to your staff, students and school community but also to those outside the school walls. Let’s promote ourselves and what we do in our schools to the outside world, creating a reputation for being awesome, inspiring others, and being inspired by them.

It’s essential that we are seen in places other than the library. Let’s unleash ourselves from that ancient library institution – the desk. If we are stamping books and dealing with delinquent photocopiers for too much of our time, let’s think about what we can do to change that.

How to develop good relationships with teachers

My personal approach is working from the ground up with individual teachers I feel are responsive to collaboration and to my crazy ideas. I recommend you spend a lot of time in that relationship, trying to make solid, deep things happen, and that you blog the whole process with photos and repost everywhere. This way one documented collaborative project can be used as an example for many more such projects. The blog post will capture examples, reflection and evaluation, for teachers who want to see how the project worked, as well as evidence of good things happening.

Integrate, integrate, integrate

Become integrated with classes and the curriculum. Avoid feeling happy enough with isolated ‘library program’ -type lessons. As long as teachers view what we do as library programs, they will view what we do as separate, and not take it seriously. This goes for  students too. We need to be there throughout the whole project, either in the classroom or through our interaction with teachers. 

Should we speak up about what we’re doing and how we can help teachers in staff meetings? I’m in two minds about this. Staff meetings are usually after school and staff are tired and want to go home. On the occasion that I did stand up and promote what teacher librarians could do to support staff and students, I tried to be as entertaining as possible, and hoped that laughter would keep them focused. I would be reluctant to do that too often so that staff do not start to switch off. In my opinion, working on deeper relationships with individual teachers is more effective.

So these selections are a small part of the article which will soon be published in FYI. The article includes a lot more practical examples which I hope will be useful to other teacher librarians.

It would be so good to hear from you all. I open to changing my mind about approaches. Leave me a comment, okay?

But seriously, can we afford not to be marketing our libraries?

 

 

 

 

 

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Melbourne City Edge Schools Day – librarians’ meetup

mypeople

 

Photo source: http://www.pinterest.com/ucylibrary/bookish-humor/

I’ve been thinking lately how my blog writing style has changed over time. Reading post archives while searching for something, I realised how informal, loose and reflective my earlier posts were. Now I feel internal pressure to wait until I have something substantial to write about, and that happens infrequently. I often feel that there is nothing I can say better than those who have written before me. I might have to work through that – after all, a blog post is not supposed to be an academic article. Can anyone else relate to this?

So, today is the first day of second term, and the Melbourne High School staff attended a curriculum day with faculty-related staff from the City Edge schools which included the Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, Melbourne Girls’ College, University High School, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Albert Park College, Princes Hill Secondary College and us. Library staff (as well as Maths staff) met at University High School. 

It was an enjoyable and valuable day, and I thank the principals for organising this opportunity. It makes so much sense to come together and share stories and ideas, to take time out for ourselves and get to know each other. Our session was relaxed and informative. I loved meeting everyone and taking in the diverse personalities and talents. There were a few short presentations, including mine on my use of Pinterest, one from Melbourne Girls’ College about their recent reading initiative and also from Andrew Finegan who has recently taken up the position as head of library at VCASS. After morning tea we decided not to split up into teams of teacher librarians and technicians, and I thought that worked very well. We fit comfortably into a space which was both open and intimate, and we shared and discussed library-related issues ranging from practical aspects, such as security, to controversial issues, such as the relevance of non-fiction in a contemporary school library and the changing nature of information access. I thought that everyone spoke honestly, and that we felt supported by the larger network which understood shared experiences. We are fortunate to have this opportunity, especially since professional development days are usually packed with guest speakers and intensive sessions with little time to socialise.

Later in the afternoon we were treated to a visit from Mike Shuttleworth, Program Manager at Melbourne Writers Festival, who predictably spoke about the Melbourne Writers Festival program and authors. Not really a talk but more of a conversation. Mike was interested in learning from us how we select authors for school visits, how many of us had attended previous festivals, and our feedback from these events. Again, I was grateful for this informal, interactive session – so much more valuable than formal talks which place us as passive recipients. The afternoon ended with several people sharing books they had recently read and enjoyed. Mike shared with us a book by Carol Ann Duffy called 1914: Poetry remembers

To mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, has engaged the most eminent poets of the present to choose the writing from the Great War that touched them most profoundly: their choices are here in this powerful and moving assembly. But this anthology is more than a record of war writing. Carol Ann Duffy has commissioned these same poets of the present to look back across the past and write a poem of their own in response to the war to end all wars. 

We thought that we might organise a poetry competition for students to do something similar.

Oh, and did I mention that it was a very wet and miserable day? What has happened to the beautiful, quiet Autumn sun? And so it’s back to business as usual tomorrow. Never mind – public holiday on Friday for ANZAC Day.

Big thanks to Rob Castles and his team at Uni High for welcoming us into their spaces and organising such a great day.

 

 

 

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Participatory learning a prerequisite to 21st century teaching?

This is the introductory section of an article I’m writing for Synergy, the publication of the School Library Association of Victoria.  I’m sharing this section before I consolidate the second, more practical, half of the article. Feedback, ideas and opposing viewpoints are welcome in the comments section of this post.

Photo source: Top Design Mag

Twitter and participatory learning – how relevant are they to teachers and students?

New technologies have created opportunities for participatory learning for students and new, connected ways for teachers to access professional development.  Some of these, such as blogs and wikis, are suitable as learning platforms for students of all ages. Twitter is one of the most powerful tools in terms of instant accessibility to huge numbers of people, but it is one of the most challenging to set up to work effectively. I would suggest that Twitter is a tool most suited to teachers and senior secondary or tertiary students.

The internet has changed the learning environment dramatically. As a result we have changed the way we think about information – how we locate it, how we organise it or remix it, and how we share it.  Wherever we are, whenever we want to, we can use our smartphones to find information because the internet has transformed our phones into powerful and mobile information devices. Furthermore, technological tools have changed how we think and how we interact. An example of this is the texting facility on mobile phones which has been adopted by young people as a dominant way of communicating, frequently replacing the speaking option. Technology does not merely add to existing ways of functioning – it changes our social practices.

Through social media we go a step further to connect to others in a new culture of communicating and learning. Our learning environment may be in a constant state of change but one factor is constant – the fact that learning is now participatory.

As educators, we should be constantly evaluating our teaching methods by asking ourselves what constitutes effective learning in the changing environment of our students and their futures – an environment driven by digital technologies and social media. We have the opportunity to think about innovative approaches to learning and teaching especially when our students’ learning can extend beyond the textbook and classroom.

How motivated we are, as educators, to find new and innovative approaches to teaching will depend on a range of factors – one of which is whether we realise and appreciate the potential of digital technologies for relational learning, for example, when we see opportunities in our daily lives for the connective potential of social media.  When we understand the value of social networks in our own lives, we will be able to translate this potential into the educational environment.

In a recent blog post, What’s in a selfie, Tom Whitby (2014) discusses the recent news about Ellen DeGeneres’ massively retweeted photo of a group of actors at the Oscars to highlight the power of social media, and to urge educators to harness this connective potential.

Well, if you watched the Academy Awards last week, you witnessed the global impact that social media has in the world. Ellen DeGeneres was able to take a picture of a group of actors that, in the first half hour of it being posted, was re-tweeted 700,000 times, which temporarily knocked Twitter off the Internet. It has now become the number one tweet of all time.

Whitby identifies the hashtag as a connective device used extensively by the entertainment and news industries. The hashtag is a simple way to connect users online to a person, event or information, providing an interactive experience for hashtag users. Whitby explains that social media affords a new opportunity for actors and fans to connect with each other in real life. He goes on to say that the news and entertainment industries are taking advantage of this new connection with the public by bombarding them with hashtags for interactive involvement. Finally he questions why educators have not realised the potential of social media in the educational context:

What does any of this have to do with education? The idea that social media gives us a platform to send out information and have people interact with it, or just digest it, would seem to be an idea that would be snapped up and embraced by educators. They are the very people who make a living trying to get folks to get information and interact with it, or just digest it.

According to Whitby, educators could potentially blow DeGeneres’ Twitter statistics right out of the water when you consider the wealth of resources they have to share:

Imagine if every teacher shared just one of their best sources with other educators, who in turn could tweet them out to the tune of 700,000 tweets in a half hour. Everyone would benefit. The idea here is to get educators familiar with the concept of connectedness and its possibilities, so that getting comfortable with social media itself becomes less of an obstacle.

Sharing information and resources is second nature to teacher librarians. Perhaps this is the reason why many of us have been early adopters of social bookmarking and social media, since our roles centre on curating and disseminating information in all its forms across the curriculum, and because these tools provide us with effective ways to connect to other educators and extend our networks. The new connective possibilities make collaborative practice amongst teachers easier than ever before.  Whitby is clear about the urgency of educators moving to a culture of sharing information using social media tools:

Social Media is here to stay. Its form may change, and certainly the applications we use will not remain the same, but the idea of openly exchanging information in whatever forms it is produced is not going away. As educators we can use it or lose it. If we don’t start to understand and use this technology soon, we will lose the opportunity to harness it, because we will be irrelevant. We don’t need social media to teach, as much as we need it to learn.

It is concerning when educators who do not use connective technologies in their private or professional lives turn their backs on innovative educational practices made possible using new technologies. We should not determine our professional practice according to our personal preferences; we must remember that we are educating our students for their future, and we owe it to them to be well versed in the participatory culture of social networks.

Examples of new participatory learning environments include social bookmarking tools such as Diigo and Delicious; online communities such as Facebook groups, Google+ groups and wikis; image based platforms such as Pinterest and Tumblr; magazine-like RSS tools such as Feedly and Flipboard; book-based online communities such as Goodreads, and many more. One of the most powerful social networks used in the field of education is Twitter.

Feeling at home in Twitter

Twitter is not the easiest of social media to understand – in fact it takes time and perseverance to reach the stage where you are convinced of its value.

While trawling back through my blog posts to ascertain how long it took me to feel at home in the Twitter network, I was surprised by how long I had indeed been a Twitter user, and realised that, while it was now second nature for me to tweet daily, it was some time before it began to make sense to me. My archived posts have captured my reactions and reflections which may otherwise have been forgotten.

On 7th November 2008 I wrote about my first impressions of Twitter :

Twitter I’ve only recently added to my online life (told you I was a latecomer), and I still feel like an outsider there, posting the odd tweet in the hope of being heard, of being accepted into a conversation. Mobile computing is not part of my diet yet, and that may change in the future if I reinvent my commitment to the latest technology.

Whereas prior to joining Twitter, my main form of communication and self expression was blogging, things were about to change:

I don’t have that mania for a daily post as perhaps I did in the past. I’ve allowed various social networking and microblogging outlets to soak up a range of smaller spontaneous thoughts.

The hardest part, for me, was to connect to a meaningful network, and that always requires initial hard work and staying power. A little like developing readership and comments for blogs. Once you do that, the rewards are apparent. Previously, I subscribed to a teacher librarian network, ‘oztl_net’, and that worked well for a time, but the advantages of Twitter are the global connection, the updated status which connects to the person in real time, the fantastic stream of links, the fluid conversation.

On 22 December 2008 I discovered the immediacy of Twitter for communicating breaking news:

The first thing Mike Wilson did after surviving the Continental Airlines 737 crash when his plane slid off the runway in Denver was use his mobile phone to update his Twitter community.

A dedicated microblogger or …? Whatever he is, he has now made history as the first person to tweet a plane crash directly after an accident. Twitter might be the up and coming way to communicate after trauma. I think psychologists may eventually decide that sharing directly after a traumatic experience decreases shock or at least somehow alleviates stress.

On 6 March 2009 I recorded my discovery of live tweeting:

Earthquake in Melbourne: Twitter beats breaking news

Sitting on the couch earlier this evening, I felt a strange sensation of moving with the couch, as the bookshelf behind me creaked. Melbourne had experienced a light earthquake. Did it happen or did I imagine it? After a while I tweeted it in the form of a question, hoping to ascertain whether it really happened or not. Sure enough, Twitter exploded with tweets registering similar experiences.

Meanwhile, the TV was on, but no news about an earthquake. Look at ABC newsonline – nothing. Channel 7 Breaking News remained unbroken – just a repeat of the stories that had been broadcast several times already this evening.

Gradually, traditional news providers came on board. Channel 7 finally acknowledged the quake at 10.27 pm. Very slow, considering John Connell had already completed a post about the Melbourne quake from Scotland.

Here it is, and he has an image of the first 18 twitterers – I’m there on the right. I would have been quicker but my laptop was doing its usual slow-loading.

So what does all this have to do with education?

Where Twitter sits in education

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008):

supports the focus on digital learning and identifies the creative and productive use of technology as an indicator of a successful learner (Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, 2008).

The world of digital learning beckons, with opportunities for teachers and students alike to benefit from the opportunities and capabilities a digital world offers. Embracing digital learning is not a choice for students or teachers to consider and adopt – it is the modus operandi; the way we do business.

I think I learn better using technology than just sitting in the classroom and being told what to do because it gives me more flexibility and responsibility. I’m in control of my own learning which enables me to learn how I best learn and get the most out of my learning experience.

International research shows that integrating digital technology into the learning environment can: improve students’ confidence levels, attitudes towards their own learning, behaviour and attendance, promote improved opportunities for students to learn through collaboration and conversation improve connections with the real world and provide access to global communities with expertise and perspectives that can enrich learning.’

Teachers must keep learning

However, it is not just students that need support in this age of digital learning. Some teachers are comfortable in the digital learning space while others are still working to integrate the use of technology into their daily language and behaviours. In an environment where the digital space moves rapidly, teachers are also learners.

Educators who participate in Twitter networks are well placed to support students in the use of relevant digital technologies because the Twitter community shares knowledge, resources and expert advice. Twitter bios often lead to professional blogs, wikis and other online platforms which openly share ideas and units of work.

Students of all ages can learn how to learn in online learning environments such as blogs and wikis, for example, but Twitter is probably more suited to older students. Alexander’s post (February 9) testifies that Twitter is a powerful tool which can be used by more senior students to create and customise their learning network, and that this tool connects learning to a broad network people, as well as individuals who share specific interests. In a fast changing world, we should be aware of how important it is for our students to learn how to learn, so that they are confident players in a changing world .  Unlike the passive consumption of information in the traditional teacher-centred classroom, students using Twitter become proactive in setting up and interacting with their customised networks.

Helen Haste (2009), visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, ‘claims that new technology tools are altering the ways students interact with the world. In a series of video segments, building on her four decades of research, Haste describes the 21st century student as a collaborative tool user who needs a new brand of competences to thrive within a changing environment.’

Two of the competences described by Haste are agency and responsibility, and finding and sustaining community. She points out that if students are encouraged to function as active agents interacting with their world, they will have to take responsibility for things, thus developing the confidence to deal with whatever comes their way.

She also talks about the competency of finding and sustaining community – managing friends, developing social skills, and managing online communities where they encounter a multiplicity of people, have to deal with strangers, and are involved in the multi-tasking of connecting and interacting. They recognise that they are part of a larger community, beyond their private world.

But how does the idea of students in charge of their learning and learning networks make us feel as educators? Are we also learning how to use social media to connect with a broad community, or do we feel uncomfortable with something which is foreign to us? How should we, as educators, react to evidence that our students are confident players in an arena we may not have stepped into, or in which we feel some uncertainty.

In a time of rapid and constant change, it is my opinion that there is one overriding prerequisite for an educator to thrive, and that is, to possess the mindset of a learner. But do we really need to be connected as educators? Couldn’t we leave that to our students – after all, they have been born into a world where technology is embedded into almost everything they do. Can’t they work it out without us, while we go on with the business of teaching?

I don’t think we can justify ignoring technologies we would rather not engage with. How can we justify turning our backs on the world outside the school walls? As Howard Rheingold (2014)says in his Social Media Literacies Syllabus: High School Level:

There is no doubt that ‘new individual and collaborative skills are emerging’ thanks to new connective technologies. As educators we should practise the use of these and assist students and other teachers to do the same.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Social Media (Part 1) – guest post by Alexander Sheko

I asked my son, Alexander Sheko, (also known as Sasha) to write a post about how he uses social media for his academic and personal pursuits. He is currently in his second year of Master of Urban Planning at The University of Melbourne, and at the stage where his interest in mindful and pro-active involvement in urban and environmental issues have blended his studies, personal life and work. I have recommended the use of social media to him since his later years in secondary school, so it’s interesting for me to note that his use of Twitter and Facebook have taken off at a time when they could serve a real purpose in connecting him with experts/like-minded people and enabling him to organise and promote forums and events. As a teacher librarian with an interest in social media in education, this observation has confirmed for me that students will appreciate and use social media platforms when there is a real world significance – and this is often problematic in schools where the agenda is more about practising for life rather than experiencing life. If nothing else, I hope this post will help educators reflect on possibilities for real life connections made possible for our students using social media. 

Photo by Alexander Sheko

Social media – especially popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter – are often characterised as frivolous time-wasters, manifestations of first-world banality and ennui. They are platforms on which to post cat pictures and selfies, the means of production by which we broadcast the minutiae of our lives to nobody in particular, craving likes, follows and other reassurances.

Certainly, they are often seen as counter to productivity, tools of procrastination. We might switch to another tab when a manager or (not so long ago, for me) a parent enters the room. Of course, there is more than a grain of truth in this perception. When attempting to focus on a set task or meet a deadline, it can be unhelpful to have the ping of a Facebook notification providing an excuse for distraction. And unless one is an academic in the field of communication analysing memes as “nuggets of cultural currency”, it is probably less than productive to spend hours looking at Doge, Dolan, Insanity Wolf and the such.

However, as with all tools, the utility of social media is determined by the user and the manner in which they are used. Contrary to the prejudices discussed above, tools such as Facebook and Twitter can be invaluable in finding information (and new sources thereof), sharing and discussing opinions, and making useful connections with others. Over the past year, having begun studying a postgraduate degree and exploring career opportunities, I have been able to use these tools to considerable benefit.

Finding information is perhaps the most basic way that these tools can be used. I often recommend Twitter to those reluctant to use it as a quick way to receive updates and notifications on topics of interest. For example, following a variety of news sources is a good way to get a large number of headlines and snippets of information that can be followed up (perhaps using a service such as Pocket to save articles for future reading), while following cafes and restaurants in the local area can provide updates on changes to menus or opening hours, special events, etc.

Of course, this one-way communication does not fully utilise the interactive nature of social media; however, it often does make use of social media’s networking effects. By following a particular journalist, politician, musician or writer, you are likely to see who they interact with and what information sources they use. You may also get useful recommendations from the social media platform along the lines of “people who liked X may also like Y”. This is a great way to expand your pool of information sources, providing a greater variety of perspectives.

For example, rather than only reading about sustainable transport (an interest and potential career path of mine) through local mainstream media sources such as The Age, Twitter has helped me find sources providing information and opinion from around the world, covering a more diverse range of topics and a broader set of perspectives. (For those interested, I often read The Atlantic Cities, Sustainable Cities Collective, Next City and Co.Exist, as well as blogs such as those of Mikael Colville-Andersen and Brent Toderian). Of course, whatever your interest or profession, finding and following a few key sources and active individuals will start a cascading network effect that will expose you to an increasing array of information and opinion sources.

I’ve talked mostly about Twitter so far, as I’ve found it the most useful platform for finding information in the ways I’ve discussed. Facebook can also be used for this purpose by following pages of organisations of interest (for example, I “like” the Public Transport Users Association page, which often posts articles and other updates on public transport issues in Melbourne). However, I find it is not as useful due to its more dominant use in socialising with people known in “real life” (friends and family). One aspect of Facebook that I do find quite useful, however, is group pages on particular topics that allow for sharing content and discussion.

For example, I often visit Urban Happiness, a group that was started by a professor from the faculty in which I am studying at the University of Melbourne. This is quite a successful group, with 650 members at time of writing, and frequent activity and interaction on urban-related topics, such as architecture, transport, placemaking, design, environment and policy. The group’s members include students (past and present), teaching staff and other interested people. Members are from a range of backgrounds (planning, architecture, landscape architecture, engineering) and include those employed or active in a variety of professions, sectors and locations. This diversity is incredibly useful in exposure to a broad range of information (when people post information that is relevant to their background or expertise), a variety of perspectives (when various people comment and provide their take on material posted by others) and a diverse pool of knowledge that can be accessed (for example, when posting a question to the group page).

I’ve published this despite the fact that it is only a portion of what Sasha had intended to write. When his life is less hectic, I hope to convince him to complete his post, or perhaps take part in an interview-style post. 

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A year in the library – retrospective

I’ve just written the 2013 library report and thought I’d add it here as a summary and evaluation of this memorable year. Holidays now. The feeling is so good. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. Here ’tis.

Just as Melbourne High School is about more than just marks, so is the library more than just books. The library is both physical and virtual – it is a space for events, as well as for ubiquitous information and 21st century skills training. It is an essential part of the mechanism which drives teaching and learning at Melbourne High School. It is a service and resource, both onsite and online; a treasury of literature; a space for private and collaborative study; a social meeting place; a hive of activity including meetings, games and puzzles.  The library provides a quiet nook for solitude, a space for spirited debate, for collegial help with homework, a table full of familiar friends, (and the opportunity to make new ones), and an ever-changing range of visual and conceptual displays to broaden reading choices and spark ideas. It holds the collective wisdom and experiences of extraordinary people long gone, and stories from every part of the world throughout history. The energy of the library is evident to all who visit.

This has been a year for change on many fronts. The library has developed a new silent study culture – for the first time, VCE students have been given the choice of going to the library for quiet study or the dining hall during their ‘free study’ periods. We have been pleased to witness a quick adaptation to these changes, and impressed to see how many students have preferred to come to a disciplined, silent space to study despite the alternative choice.

The refurbishment of the front of library is almost complete, and amidst temporary changes to entrance and spaces, it has been business as usual without serious interruption to essential services. We look forward to opening the newly refurbished part of the library on the first day of school 2014, with its larger entrance and increased, open space for reading and relaxation, 2 additional study rooms (and potential to open these up to one larger room using the operable wall).

Existing spaces have also been improved. In particular, the Global Learning Centre (GLC), has been modified to create a more effective use of space, with the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) mounted on the wall and reconfigured to Apple TV for improved efficiency. We look forward to reclaiming our small discussion room (currently housing furniture) as well as the creation of another discussion room within the GLC. In all, we should be able to provide 4 study/discussion rooms for students and teachers next year.

In keeping with the developments of public libraries, the library strives to move with the times in all aspects of its service, and so we have encouraged students and staff to be independent library users by investing in a self-checkout unit (RFID). We are also in the process of moving to a new Library Management System (LMS) with improved efficiency and user-friendliness to encourage more students to use our catalogue more effectively in their search for resources and use of databases.

As always the library supports reading enrichment, and teacher librarians work with English teachers to broaden the scope and differentiated reading experiences of students. This year, in support of wider reading, we trialled a move from the Premier’s Reading Challenge to the social media platform, Goodreads, in order to connect students with each other and to the wider reading community. Goodreads provides options for online connection through private or shared class groups, and enables students to share their virtual bookshelves with each other and their teachers for increased engagement.  The importance of real world connections, and student-initiated discussions, combined with practice of appropriate ethical behaviour online, address the need for students to develop important 21st century skills.

Reading breadth and specialisation have been encouraged and applauded, and reading prizes have been awarded in a special Junior assembly to students who excelled in categories of ‘classics enthusiast’, ‘graphic novels gourmet’, ‘the eclectic reader’, ‘the richest online literary discussion’ and other genre related awards.

As always, teacher librarians have worked with teachers to develop programs and projects, to create resources, and teach collaboratively. The library has been flexible, experimenting with varied approaches, and adapting to the needs and preferences of teachers and students. This year teacher librarians have worked in a more focused way with faculties, following their areas of expertise in order to deepen relationships with staff and enrich their own knowledge base.

The 1:1 iPad program in years 9-11 has filled the library with mobile technology which provides students with anywhere/anytime learning. The library has continued to develop its ebooks collection, and so it is a common sight to see students tucked into corners and engrossed in reading on their ipads.

Learning and connecting are core needs for all our students and staff, and the library has responded to the digital environment by continuing to develop rich educational content, a revised library website, with an improved homepage for easier navigation, further developed subject- and skill-related resources, and blogs for specific audiences. Lifelong learning begins in a school whose library staff provide the tools and expertise in guiding students towards understanding the learning process, and in particular, in the management of information and research in preparation for tertiary studies and life.

The library team has successfully integrated the use of Google Drive and Docs into meetings in their team approach to ideas mining and problem solving. Google Drive is a collaborative, flexible and cloud-based suite of applications which allows live, multi-user sharing and editing of documents accessed via sign-in on any device. Google Drive has been the perfect tool for a democratic approach within the library team, an approach which has empowered individuals within the team and deepened collaborative relationships.

As many have remarked this year, there is always something happening in the library. The library continues to support interest groups, including Library Assistants, Cyber Book Club and Competition Writing. In Library and Information Week we ran a ‘Book spine poetry’ competition. In Book Week we ran a number of photography competitions including ‘Bookface’ and ‘Holding up books for no reason’. Our inaugural event, ‘Bookwiz’, a literary quiz which included 15 tables of student and teacher teams, was a sell-out event, and featured a talented student Jazz quartet for our listening pleasure. Also for the first time, the library organised ‘The Great Book Dominoes’ event (which was run and filmed by students) and ‘The Great Book Swap’, a fundraising initiative for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Of course, the traditional ‘Dress as your favourite literary character’ competition is a favourite event during Book Week, and this was definitely a year to applaud the English teachers’ efforts, as well as those of the students. In conjunction with the English faculty’s concurrent Literature Festival, Book Week has offered an impressive range of literary events.

This year the library hosted the launch of Laureate, our student literary magazine, after its 10 year hiatus.  This was organised by Mr Sam Bryant and featured special guest, renowned Australian poet, author and educator, Judith Rodriguez.

Students have been extremely fortunate to have talented, engaging authors visit the school, including Emilie Zoey Baker, Spoken Word Performer, and author and graphic novel artist and illustrator, Nicki Greenberg.

Students were also given the opportunity to be part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival where they attended a Q & A session with Ambelin Kwaymullina about her debut novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, and enjoyed talks with Alison Croggon, author of Black Spring, Cassandra Golds, author of Pureheart, Justine Larbalestier, author of Team Human, and Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea. They also attended a session on “How to Make a Book,” featuring Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space, and Tony Palmer, a cover artist who has collaborated with authors such as Morris Gleitzman and Sonya Hartnett. The session was hosted by Lachlan Carter, creator of “100 Story Building,” a social enterprise for young aspiring authors. A group of students also attended the Reading Matters conference organised by the State Library of Victoria. Stonnington Library’s Literature Alive festival, with guest presenter, author/illustrator, Kevin Burgemeestre, was a fantastic opportunity for year 9 Art students.

The library has been involved in Transition sessions for year 10 students. Teacher librarians have taught the essential skills of online research (in particular, databases), study skills and digital citizenship, to prepare students for the tertiary environment. Teacher librarians have also contributed to introductory sessions for the Year 9 Melbourne Project, helping students brainstorm ideas to prepare them for their city project. For the first time, students were instructed in the use of Google Drive for collaborative research. Year 10 students have also been supported by teacher librarians in their Civics and Citizenship research project and, for the first time, an essay which centred on their solution to a real-world problem of their choice.

As well as our library website (Libguides), our digital presence resides on the ‘Melbourne High School Library’ Facebook page which informs the school community (including alumni), as well as the broader community, of library events and literary news, and updates posts from the Melbourne High School blog. Teacher librarians have also led the way in experimenting with new digital platforms for curation of online resources, including Pinterest and Scoop.it, to mention only a few.

These are interesting and exciting times for school libraries everywhere. The digital revolution has challenged libraries to reconsider how they should remain relevant and engaging to the school community at a time when ubiquitous information requires even more explicit skills development for our students than ever before. Teacher librarians have been involved in continuous professional development in order to prepare students to be informed, critical users of information.

As head of library this year, I would like to thank the wonderful staff of Melbourne High School library who have worked hard to make tremendous contributions to the library and the school community. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the principal, Mr Jeremy Ludowyke, the assistant principals, teaching and support staff, casual relief teachers and parent volunteers, as well as book donors. We look forward to the leadership of Ms Pam Saunders as the new head of library in 2014.

 

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What leadership has meant to me

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This year, by default, I’ve been head of library at Melbourne High School. At no point have I desired this position, and I’m happy to say that we have a wonderful head of library all set to go next year, Pam Saunders, who is currently head of library at Princes Hill. However, despite the trials and tribulations of being default head, I have to admit that I’m grateful for the new experiences which I would never have deliberately chosen but appreciate retrospectively.

I came across this paragraph about a particular style of leadership which describes the my style perfectly – only I didn’t know it was a style; I was just following my gut feeling -

In teams one of the more effective styles of leadership is the participative style. This style of leader seeks to work with team members and encourages collaboration. The participative leader consults and looks for consensus when making decisions. This style of leadership welcomes suggestions from the team and does not respond by merely paying these suggestions lip service but genuinely considers how these suggestions can be used.

In terms of the participative style of leadership, I’m glad I went with my gut feeling and amazed by the diverse talents of my team. You really don’t know the extent of what people are capable of until you trust them (and thus empower them) to take responsibility for their areas of expertise. I think it may have taken a bit longer for them to trust me, and the time is takes for each person can’t be rushed. At this point, despite the dramas we’re experiencing every day in the midst of our refurbishment and changes to stocktake since we’ve adopted RFID, I’m feeling quietly happy knowing that we’ve had an awesome year, and that so much good has happened as a result of our collaborative efforts.

Next year I hope to focus more deeply on a meaningful use of social media in student learning. I’m also keen to develop my research skills to a stage where I feel qualified to prepare our students for university. I’m in two minds about whether I should contact research librarians at universities or Masters students who would have deep knowledge of the research process. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

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