Monthly Archives: June 2010

TLs, expand your field of vision

Everything has changed since information became available to all on the internet. Not so much changed as exploded. When something explodes, it shatters into countless pieces which means the whole we used to know needs to be re-examined.  Why are we still looking at the old ways of teaching, the old focus of our instruction, fellow teacher librarians? Yes, more than ever, our job is to help students learn how to manage this information explosion. Hence, information literacy is still a major focus for our instruction. But let’s expand our vision, let’s analyse that newly reconstructed whole to see what other literacies we need to teach – we need to learn in order to be able to teach. Digital literacy, network literacy.

I found this video on the Fair use and info ethics page on the NECC Library Learning Tools BYOL Smackdown wiki set up by Joyce ValenzaCathy Jo NelsonKaren KliegmanWendy Stephens, and Keisa Williams at the National Educational Computer Conference in Washington, D.C. 2009.

There is a wide range of skills covered in this wiki for teacher librarians, including the traditional information literacy/fluency as well as Digital Citizenship. In a way, digital citizenship is an extension of information literacy. If information literacy is about learning to navigate the whole information package online, then digital citizenship is learning how to behave online, how to responsibly work with and create from what is available online. All educators are responsible for teaching digital citizenship but teacher librarians are certainly well placed since they are already experts in the management of information.

Why stop at research skills when you can equip students to behave responsibly and ethically as they use digital content to view, create and remix?

I recommend you browse the many and varied aspects of this wiki. Fellow teacher librarians, isn’t it exciting to have such a broad and challenging role!

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Filed under 21st century learning, network literacy, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

When failure means growth

Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales on flickr

Today I found out that I didn’t get the teacher librarian position I’d recently applied for in a girls’ secondary school. Initially I was undecided about applying for the position and upsetting my world with change, then I decided that I’d go for it, and that I’d get it only if it was meant to be, after that it became something in which I had to succeed, which is silly because it turns into a personal quest. So when I received the fatal phonecall today, the rejection hit me on a personal level, although fortunately not for too long.

After asking for feedback, the head of library and I had a lovely conversation which had me thinking I would like to keep in touch if only by seeking her out at PD sessions. Some people you feel you would click with in the first few minutes of conversation.

Anyway, I’ve processed the whole thing to the point where I can put the matter behind me and return to my previous life. I wanted to write about this experience of job seeking, applications and interviews because I was interested in other people’s experiences. How many people go for new teaching jobs, how often, and how many rejections do you have before it hits you where it hurts, or before you decide no more?

And isn’t the interview a strange, artificial beast? I’m not very good at the interview thing but with practice (I don’t get any better but) I’m not as threatened and start to feel more confident about what I have to offer. I won’t be fake though, won’t talk myself up, and I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. I suppose I feel that I don’t want to trick people into thinking I’m something that I’m not. I want to be able to say, here I am – warts and all; take me or leave me. But that’s just unprofessional. Nobody wants to hear about your shortcomings, they just want to hear your uncompromising assurance that you will do a brilliant job.

Photo by Terry297 on Flickr

Meanwhile, I’m staying transparent, sharing everything I have with whoever is interested – and if that includes my failures, then so be it.

Just today I read a very transparent graduation speech by a  primary school principal whose openness and generosity of heart really touched me. Here is a principal whose strength lies not in top-down leadership but in the acknowledgement and appreciation of the members of his community.

Although this was grade 6 for you at Forest Green as a student, this was Kindergarten for me as a principal. .  I am honoured that I got to address you on your first day of grade 6 and now your last. In my first year as a principal, I wanted to sit back and learn the environment of the school and I was so impressed with all that you did.  As a teacher first, we are suppose to be the ones that teach YOU, but in reality, you taught me just as much.

As I get older, I feel not so much that I’m more knowledgeable – in fact, my questions increase – but that I’m stronger in that I draw my strength from others and I’m not afraid to admit it. My hope is that I pass on the message to students – that their greatest achievement is their learning community or network – not their mark but the support of and appreciation of others in their learning journey.

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Filed under networking

Five Card Flickr – what a great lesson

Teaching is such an up and down thing. I always hesitate to say ‘teaching’ because I’m a teacher librarian, and we don’t teach the same way teachers teach. Our role is so diverse, and we are sometimes seen in the classroom and other times seen at our computers, madly reading or researching and creating stuff for teachers and students. But teachers we are, so it’s teaching that we do.

Anyway, as I was saying, I think most teachers would agree that during a typical school week it’s common to experience ups and downs, and sometimes so many of these that you just want out.

This week just past was one such week. Most of the time it seemed that it would just be a downward roll but somehow the last lesson of the week was so enjoyable that it redeemed the rest.

Sometimes simple things can work so well. So it was when I joined a teacher and his Year 9 English class to give Five Card Flickr a go. It’s one of the writing  prompts in my new blog called Storyteller. It seemed simple, we both decided to give it a go. Secretly I thought it might bomb since this was the last period of the week, and after all, these were Year 9 boys.

But lo and behold! it was a success! After a brief explanation the boys were bent over their laptops typing away. And they kept typing! Now I have to explain that our lessons are over an hour long so I thought there was no way that this activity would take up the rest of the period. But it did! There’s something heart-warming when you see a room full of 14-15 year olds engrossed in something at school.

So what’s Five Card Flickr? Simple: you go to the website and you’re presented with five photos pulled from Flickr – so they’re photos people have shared. Real people, and you can check out a little about these people because their usernames are hyperlinked to their Flickr page. So you can have a look at what else they have been  photographing.

Ok, so out of these five photos, you choose one, and as soon as you click on it, a new set of 5 photos appear, and so it goes until you have 5 photos which you’ve chosen for your piece of writing. Then you add your username, a title for your story and write it directly into the box provided. You save and then it’s added to a gallery, and you can also share it as a permanent link.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Valbusa on Flickr

As soon as the boys started writing, they peered across to the student next to them to see what they were writing. Mr T. was also writing a story and his was projected onto the screen, and it was cool to see it evolve as a process along with the editing. After they’d written their first story, the boys were curious to read everyone’s contribution in the gallery. And that’s the whole point of this kind of technology – to open up to the group; kids like the social aspect of writing. They like to compare and have a laugh at each other’s stories. The sharing becomes the most important, most satisfying part of the experience. Compare that to writing something for the teacher full stop.

I think they were also chuffed to see their stories on the Web; they liked the fact that other people – people they didn’t know – would read them. I think it made them feel like mini celebrities. Never know who will read your stuff.

Five Card Flickr could be used in so many ways – in English class, ESL, foreign language. You could allow any kind of written response – we said write whatever. So they could write a poem, prose, a song, first person, third person, etc. After the first one we decided to specify genre, so they had to write a horror story. There are as many possibilities here as your imagination allows.

Pictures are such a good prompt for writing, and Five Card Flickr is a winner. You should try it.

Here are some of our boys’ responses:

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Filed under 21st century learning, flickr, Web 2.0, writing

Collaborate with an artist to write an online story – Storybird

This has been cross-posted from Storyteller.

Thanks to Judith @brightideasblog for the Storybird tip.

Storybird is a very easy way of creating an e-story using picture sets shared by various artists. It’s easy and it’s cool.

This would be an enjoyable writing exercise in the English, LOTE or ESL classroom.

Once you have an account, you can browse existing stories or just click createand write your own.

I whipped one up in a matter of minutes (so it’s not great) but it looks good! You can read my story here. Once you choose an artist, you just drag the pictures you like onto your page, then keep creating (or deleting) pages until you’ve finished.

You can write your own story or collaborate with a friend.

If you scroll down this page, you can search images by theme.

I like the way you can use somebody’s shared art. The artist I chose is Dwell Deep (Sam) and you can read a little about her here. She has a website and a blog. It’s a good feeling to have created a story in collaboration with an artist.

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Filed under Collaboration, creativity, technology, Web 2.0, writing

Students speak about success of global project

As part of the evaluation of this project, I interviewed a few students to get their feedback. You have no idea how long it took me to convert the interviews to film and embed them in this blog. Sorry about background noise. We will also ask all students in the global cohort to give feedback in a survey. Stay tuned!

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Filed under network literacy, networking, Social learning, Web 2.0, writing

Project reflection confirms the value of social learning

Recently, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been involved in a global project with two overseas schools (Finland and USA) within Flickr. Gradually my evaluation of each week’s outcomes have been written and cross-posted on this blog.

Today I completed my reflection on and evaluation of weeks 6 – 8 which you can read on the project’s blog. Re-reading the students’ contributions,  the value of social learning has been reconfirmed. If I had the chance to do it again, I wouldn’t hesitate.

I thought I’d cross-post Week 8, so here it is.

Week 8 – What does learning mean to you?

Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you.

Write about what learning means to you, where and how you learn best, school learning and outside school learning, your feelings about learning.

To some, learning was best represented by a simple pencilcase.

Photo by ryanrau

while others saw learning in relationships outside of school.

Photo by andresg201.usa

Many students’ reflective and evaluative skills were impressive. My guess is that the personal topics enabled the best kind of analysis because students were able to choose an aspect of their lives which was meaningful.

This is my father and my nephew. Isn’t he amazing! I think so. They are both learning so much. My nephew, about everything around him and how to interact and my father, about being a grandfather and everything that means. I really love that this shows how we never really stop learning and that there is always something new to experience.

I tend to learn more from project-based and hands-on learning as well as auditory learning. Though, I am good at standard school learning. I love learning new things and exploring topics. As long as it is something I like. Math, unfortunately, is not my forte. Reading and writing is more up my alley. But overall, I hope I continue to learn for the rest of my life. 🙂

We may not often ask our students to reflect on what learning means to them, or how they learn best, but the project’s responses made me realise how valuable this kind survey would be.

Many posts were endearing for their honesty indicating that students felt safe within the global cohort. This is testament to the respect and encouragement students consistently showed each other. It’s so important to recognise this when so many educators are afraid of trying out online, collaborative projects, fearing they might ellicit bad behaviour from students.

Photo by JamesMau

This surrounding basically describes the environment in which i like to learn in. One which is quiet, peaceful and relaxing. It’s hard for me to learn in a noisy and loud environment because there are too many voices going through my head, which then doesn’t allow me to lock in and concentrate.

Learning is a pretty big thing to me because it helps me get through each day and builds me up for what I want to do later in life. I can’t say that I like school but I’m there to learn and its part of my life.

Photo by timbau

This photo is of the book shelf we have in our study. Learning for me can sometimes be really fun or sometimes it can be horrible, depending of the subject. I like English, Maths, Psychology and Sports Science.

(comment) I feel like that too, it mostly depends on how I feel that morning. If I’m super tired and just want to go to sleep, I wont be in the mood to learn anything. But if I woke up good, I don’t feel tired and I’m not complaining, I want to learn. 🙂

Why don’t we realise the value of social learning and take learning out of the classroom, out of the hands of the teacher as ‘sage on the stage’ and into peer learning?

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Filed under 21st century learning, Social learning

The new language – it’s more than just smiley faces

I was just reading Silvia Tolisano’s post on her Langwitches blog about 21st century writing.

My children (16, 18, 20) are writing more and more. Their friends do too… Probably not in the way some of you can imagine… nor think of as writing…but nonetheless they are writing. They are texting… 8000 texts (per month) sent and received… Can you imagine probably 5-10 words on average per text…40,000 -80,000 words per month: A collaborative monthly story of their lives in WRITING!

Silvia quotes the US National Council of Teachers of English:

Good writing may be the quintessential 21st century skill.

Just as the nature of and expectation for literacy has changed in the past century and a half, so has the nature of writing. Today people write as never before—texting, on blogs, with video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even with traditional pen and paper.  People write at home, at work, inside and out of school.

How has this impacted on the ways that we teach writing in our classrooms? From what I’ve seen in my parts in Australia, not at all. Seriously. We still focus solidly on textual responses and evaluations. As important as these are to critical thinking and understanding of contemporary issues and literary texts, writing has taken off in a life of its own mainly outside of school. Have we considered this kind of writing at all? Are we only concerned that adolescent texting will result in the complete disintegration of language? Well, why aren’t we talking about it?

Last night I read about Jenny Luca’s  talented young daughter in her post A story about longing, loving and coming to a realisation.

I am one very proud mother tonight. This is the work of my beautiful daughter; it’s her multimodal creative response for an English assignment based around the theme of ‘Romance and Relationships’. It’s all her own work, inspired by thepoet Rives and his ‘Story of mixed emoticons‘ that we used as stimulus material in our English classes.

I just love Jenny’s daughter’s modern take on a love story where she uses emoticons so creatively while developing an engaging storyline. I just wanted to share this because I think it shows that ingenuity and ideas can be expressed through any kind of language. If you’re sceptical you may be imagining the Bible written in emoticons, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m suggesting that we open up our classroom tasks to include a richer variety of options so that young people can find a medium they can relate to.

Without further ado, here’s Jenny’s daughter’s story

And here is Rives’ TED talk which inspired this piece.

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Filed under 21st century learning, writing