Tag Archives: change

Where I am now, where I’ve come from. Reflection.

Reflection and evaluation have always come easily to me, for which I am grateful. It’s not always pleasant but it does help to move forward, or rather, break out of one skin into the next.

In my professional life, I’ve celebrated with my colleagues our first term ‘under my leadership’. I say that with a smile because my role as head of library at Melbourne High School has been passed to me like an unwanted basketball, and my leadership has depended desperately on the experience and good will of my colleagues. Still, at the end of a term which contained an unusually high number of new challenges for all of us, we acknowledged (and celebrated with Laurent cake!) our successes and triumphs, our new directions and relationships. It’s always been a challenge for me to see the positive things amongst the clutter of problems and unresolved issues which tend to cloud my clear vision, being a perfectionist, and often demanding of myself unrealistic goals, but I’m happy to say that, with the help of good friends, I accepted the cake and focused on the whole picture. We had, after all, successfully managed the move to RFID (with related technical issues, as always); moved the huge cultural shift of a silent library – having provided the VCE students with an alternative space for their private study sessions – which surprised us all by demonstrating that most students actually preferred to study under our politically incorrect hovering and insistence on silence than go to the more relaxed space with a moderate amount of noise;  acted on our determination to leave the library more often to make connections with teachers and be associated less with desk duty and ‘library duties’ and more with meaningful support for teachers and students; made a good start on our promise to staff for delivery of services which responded to their specific requests for support, both in curriculum creation and collaborative teaching; worked on the planning and preparation for a refurbishment of the front of our library involving a temporary reallocation of desks, shelves, books and the like in readiness for demolition some time next term, and many more things I won’t mention because this paragraph is getting much too long.

In my personal professional life, some things changed – as they do. My activity within social networks was reduced but not weakened. Obviously I had much less time for online interaction, and sadly missed some opportunities and events (not all), but my focus was more strategic, more targeted and less serendipitous. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other online communities have still been my lifeline, professional development, inspiration and connection to new developments and ideas. Blog posts have become less regular as priorities have shifted – all as it should be – in exchange for projects which have resulted in the satisfaction of making things happen, introducing good changes and bringing some people with me.

Do I still have readers? I’m not sure – but then this blog hasn’t attracted dialogue with others for some time. Does it matter? Maybe a little – everyone wants some kind of response when they write (I think), but then again, the writing clears my head and creates another record amongst all the posts since 2008. It may be sand art but I value the opportunity to share my thoughts with what is potentially parts of the world – at least a world further than my own backyard.

What have I learned this year?

My colleagues are my strength and support – at school and beyond. If you openly value and respect people, they will reward you with good things and surprise you with unexpected things too. Leadership is not control; it can survive uncertainty as long as that doesn’t turn to fear which makes you lose trust in your people. Life’s too short to keep on the tried and true, safe path – follow your instincts. The change you want will take time. Celebrate with your friends – and cake!

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What’s our future – school libraries and librarians

It disturbs me that we are not seriously thinking about the future of school libraries. This statement will receive incensed objections; teacher librarians are, after all, talking about changes in what we do and how we do it at conferences and in their own libraries. We talk about some of these changes in my own school library – delivering ebooks, providing transferable skills such as critical literacies to our students, delivering online resources. Well shoot me down if I upset you but I still think we’re not getting it. We can’t make changes to our libraries and continue to hold onto the way we’ve always done it. I seriously think we’ll be out of a job soon unless we move along with public libraries and transform what we’re doing. We need to look at future predictions for education and the world of work, let go of what we’re comfortable with and make serious and fast-moving plans for change.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stop thinking about this topic. I don’t plan to retire for a long time (God willing) and don’t like to see myself made redundant. I’m also enamoured with my job and its possibilities, its enormous range of roles, its creative and connective nature, its freedom from the daily grind of curriculum and assessment of exhausted and time-poor teachers, its focus on school community, the empowerment of essential skills teaching, its embracing of transformative technologies. I could go on.

Just this morning I asked Jenny Luca on Twitter what she would be speaking about at the SLAQ2012 conference. She said she hoped ‘to talk about the future of the profession – what we need to do to ensure there is one’. I look forward to following her talk online because I know Jenny understands the imperative nature of this topic and will be worth listening to.

Also this morning I found on Twitter (via Judy O’Connell) a link to this article from Northwest England: ‘Special report: The future of public libraries; what the senior managers think’. I can see in many ways that school libraries (at least the ones in Melbourne, Australia) are lagging behind public libraries in their unwillingness to move with the times. New, shiny, colourful spaces – lovely, but that’s not fixing the problem. I found myself thinking that many of the points made in this article applied equally to school libraries. (You can read notes summarising the meeting here or listen the 60 minute  recording.

I’ve pulled out what I think is relevant to school libraries (open to discussion about these) –

What are the core services of libraries now and in ten year’s time?
  • To provide unbiased access to info.
  • To promote community and civic engagement (For us we definitely need to take a more pro-active role in connecting to the school community and also the wider community. Yes, we’ve been doing that through parent book clubs, providing our libraries for school related meetings and events  but I think we could break out even more and organise events which are not traditionally associated with libraries and books)
  • Digital access (We should provide more online, taking notice of an attractive and user-friendly web design – how outdated are some of our web pages! Let’s not ignore – or block- the students’ mobile devices which already enable them to connect to and create so much)
  • No longer transactional [that is, not based on stamping out books] but moving to transformational [presumably, this means, improving people’s life chances]. (Oh yes! Some school libraries have got this but at my school we are still spending most of our time stamping books and putting print credit on our boys’ printing accounts! How can we move into a transformational role? Something we should be discussing. I’m going to tread onto dangerous ground and even suggest that we avoid freeing ourselves up from the desk because provides us with the busy work our school community is used to observing. If we freed ourselves up we’d be challenged to organise engagement with teachers and students).
  • Force for social change (We can be leaders in modeling and integrating social media into learning and teaching. What other kinds of social change can we impact?)
  • Libraries can be a space for businesses and entrepreneurs,  providing meeting space, patent clinicsinventor clinics.  (Our school libraries should provide spaces for teachers to get away, relax, take part in discussions, collaborative planning – whatever. How many TLs are finding it difficult to catch a teacher on the run for a meaningful conversation? Money is always an issue. Some schools have been able to afford refurbishment, creating beautiful new and welcoming spaces. That hasn’t happened in our library yet but I think we should seriously think creatively and rearrange our spaces. So much space is taken up by our vast and archival non-fiction and reference collection. Beautiful but not the most contemporary face for our library. We also have small rooms housing journals and text books going back so far! What we can’t afford we can make up for using collective creative thought.)
  • In the larger cities, libraries can in the future supply 3D printing and fab-labs (Wow, I’d never heard of fab-labs before) (More about 3D printing here.)
  • Community spaces for all sorts of different things (Bring our school community in! Who has done this and how?)
  • Libraries will increasingly work with communities, where “anything can happen”.  Libraries will be very different “two miles down the road”. Volunteers can deliver more so “every neighbourhood is different” and every library will be different.  We need to employ people who positively react to community and allow libraries to be places which  “people can recognise as their own space”. (I wonder if our school community views our library as their space or our space? Certainly our students treat our library as they would their lounge room – noisy but vibrant. How can we do the same for teachers? I know that Kevin Whitney (Head of Library at Kew High School) does this by providing a quick, friendly service, a ‘yes, we can do that for you’ manner and a cup of coffee and CD playlist.

I like the idea of libraries being places where ‘anything can happen’. Yes, we should run ‘library-type’ events, as we always have, but what about breaking out of our mold and planning something unrelated to libraries and books. How better to dislodge the community’s narrow view of us and our role? I think public libraries are doing this better than us.)

This point interested me –

Public libraries will need to engage more with e-books and encourage “live” literature such as author visits which are really important. [However, it seemed like all the participants, with the possible exception of Ciara Eastell of Devon, did not really have their heart in this one and saw the delivery of books as, well, tedious and somewhat old-fashioned.  This was summed up by one panel member who said “we’re going to get savvier than offering just books”.

Of course school libraries focus on reading for enjoyment and literacy which is central to education. There’s so much more we can do (and are doing in many cases). Reading is not just decoding the writing and that’s why we offer audio and ebooks. But it’s also about many others things such as the thinking, discussion and debates that come out of it. Why not provide regular activities which focus on these things? Some of these things are happening in our libraries and others outside the library. Let’s become event organisers and creators for these things so that we’re not just limiting ourselves to author talks (fantastic as these are). We could do these things in different ways. I haven’t yet skyped an author but I plan to. I have brought authors into our yr 9 English student blogs, and students are thrilled that authors are commenting on their posts and sharing ideas. I’m hoping to organise a Slam Poetry event at the school – outside the library and hope to include teachers from different curricular areas to sit on the judging panel. What are you doing? What would you do if you had more courage?

Are there any limit to what libraries can do?
  • Libraries are provided by local authorities so need to have a responsibility to make life better for people.  However within this,  “the sky’s the limit” as long as framed by core needs.  “The ambition is to create surprises.”

I really like the idea of surprises. I have a plan for a surprise which I can’t share in case it’s not going to be realised. If I had my way, our library would overcome its financial limitations by decorating ‘grunge’ or be a kind of Wunderkammer. What I’ve seen in beautifully refurbished and designed school libraries is fantastic but it’s more a reflection of what librarians want and how they perceive their space than what students want. I say we listen to our students and include popular culture in our designing of spaces.

And this brings me to my final, and most dangerous, paragraph. This is where I lose friends (I hope not!) I’ve observed a defensiveness in our profession. One which occasionally divides teacher librarians and technicians into class distinctions; which sometimes sees us frustrated when we understand more about important literacies than teachers do but are unable to get a foot into classrooms to make any difference; which sees us taking up our precious class time cramming what our professional journals have told us we should be doing – unaware that nobody sees the value in this, unaware that the teacher really only wanted a quick 15 minute talk. Sometimes we don’t listen enough to the teachers, don’t have enough patience to build trust in the relationship before we go for it. Sometimes we don’t ask students if they already know something, or ask them what they really need help with, because we are determined to ‘do’ our planned information literacy lesson. If this isn’t you, then I apologize but I know I’ve been in all these situations at some stage and I’m never going to be there again. Our separation from the rest of the teachers and from ‘owning’ classes of students is difficult, and we have to work hard to build these relationships, because we know that relationships need to be forged before we can successfully teach our skills. I believe these relationships have to be sincere, real, not just as a way of promoting ourselves, and teachers can see through the marketing approach.

The Institute For The Future (USA) has published its Future Work Skills 2020 report. If you look at the summary below, you get an idea about what we should be thinking about in terms of our own future for school libraries.

You’ll have to view the original version to be able to read this. There’s so much here we could be helping the school community to realise: novel and adaptive thinking, new media literacies, transdisciplinarity, cross cultural competencies – we have the potential to play a role in all of these. We should take note of the ‘rise of smart machines’ prediction and free ourselves from the repetitive work which stops us from getting out and doing more essential things. We can do so much for social media competencies across the school so that the whole school focus is on a globally connected world. Just take a look at the Optus Future of Work Report 2012-2016 and its appeal for flexible workspaces. Futurist speaker, Tom Frey, lists teachers as one of the jobs which he predicts will disappear by 2030. But coaches and course designers will stay, according to the report.

Believe these reports or not, we should be looking at the future; things can’t stay the way they have been. We have been lulled into thinking that education will not be subject to the changes which take place in business because it actually hasn’t changed for such a long time! But this disconnect will not last too long, and we need the mindset and understanding to move with the changes. We should be part of schools which educate students for their future world; let’s look outside the walls of our libraries and our schools, and start moving.

(I am a secondary school teacher librarian and speak from this perspective. Views expressed are my own and do not represent those of my school).

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Getting ready for iPad rollout at school – exploring apps and thinking about Apple’s new iBooks Author

Unexpectedly, and on the last day of school (for me, as teacher librarian – all the classroom teachers were on holidays the week before), our principal announced at an informal meeting that we were going to put iPads in the hands of students and teachers at school, starting with all our year 9 and 10 students. Okay, so I get my iPad1 upgraded, not bad at all. It seems our school is the first to gain approval to use the government funding for technology on iPads.

As happy as I am, and as excited about the possibilities for innovative, hands-on, mobile learning, I can’t help wonder how it’s going to work – with teachers coming back to school without preparation time, time to think and plan, time to play (I don’t think too many teachers have used iPads), time to collaborate within faculties to decide on a plan of attack. Nevertheless, it’s an exciting new direction, and with Apple’s recent announcement of the iBooks Author, I wonder if digital textbook creation will ever be possible on the iPad. I’ve saved in my Diigo only a few of the many reactions from people after having read Apple’s license agreement restictions.

I’ve been doing a little thinking and researching myself. Last year I put together online resources for the use of mobile technologies in the classroom in our library’s new LibGuides. You can access these resources here (don’t forget there are 2 tabs) – yes, I’ve mentioned these before but I’ve been adding links here and there. I’ve also created other LibGuides pages which support the use of mobile technologies, eg 21st Century Learning and Digital Citizenship (multiple tabs) and these a work in progress.

Having the time to myself these holidays, time to meet with family and friends, to shop and explore, I’ve (perhaps foolishly) decided to tackle the 365 daily photo blog again. Yes, I have. But this time I decided to do what some of my online colleagues are doing, and that is use a few choice apps to quickly and easily upload photos to a blog, usually without text. I figure, yes, I miss the description and reflection, but at least this will be an easy way to document my year as well as play with photo apps on my phone. So it’s Posterous that I’m using and the app PicPosterous to upload the photo, or else you can email the photo straight to the blog. My blog is called Going round again (yes, I know, not very original). In most cases I’m not including any text, just throwing up a visual snapshot of my day.

There are so many apps for photo editing which sometimes transform a mundane subject matter into something a little more interesting. As you can see at the top of this post, I’ve been playing with an app called Kinotopic – I’m sure that photo is driving you nuts by now. You can read about what this app can do on the website but as far as I’m concerned it creates pictures like those hanging on the walls of Hogwarts, moving pictures. Very cool. Less cool is my skill at colouring what needs to move without disconnecting things that shouldn’t be disconnected. Have a go if you can, it’s fun. Heaps of possibilities for students for creativity here.

I’ve included screen shots of my photo apps –

The apps I’ve used the most are PhotoStudio, Instagram, PhotoShake, and more recently, after Kim Cofino‘s recommendation, Camera+. It’s easy to go from the photo itself on the phone to the editing and finally posting to Posterous (via PicPosterous app or email). The effects are fun and make an otherwise mundane photo look a little more interesting or at least look better with a frame.

Of course, there are so many more apps for whatever purpose, and here’s the link to the links I’ve been saving over time.

Gimmicky apps aside, teachers are interested first and foremost in applications which enable them and their students to function as they always have, eg word processing, document saving, etc. A recent Twitter discussion confirmed the popularity of Evernote to do – almost everything! Andrew Maxwell shared 100 uses for Evernote which is a handy little checklist. The Apps in Education ning has a good selection of Apps for Teachers.

Google has a suite of apps for all its different tools.

I’m getting ready to present to staff and I’m happy to do the research for what they need, but I’ll also be recommending they build their personal learning networks, join Twitter, Google+ or Facebook, so that they can ask their own questions and share knowledge and expertise. I’m hoping that the new challenges will convince them that social networking is a powerful way to learn rather than something other people do when they have no life.

If your school is using iPads, I would be very happy if you would share some of your experiences and your favourite apps for teaching and learning.

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New start – second week at Melbourne High School

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo Elorza on Flickr

As far as new starts go, this one feels good. Not one to go with the flow of things usually, change for me is often like a dentist’s visit I want to avoid. I admit the first few days weighed a little heavily with new procedures, finding my way around, new names and the loss of friends and familiarity of my old school, but one day into the second week and I’m really enjoying the experience.

Today we had 2 interesting visits in the library. At lunchtime Adele Walsh, Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature, came to talk to our Reading Group about The Inkys’ shortlist. (Sorry, I have forgotten the name of the lovely person who accompanied Adele and also shared her experiences of the listed books). Some people talk about books in a way that makes you want to drop everything and read all of them simultaneously, and this was one of those times. When you can talk about books without sounding like an academic, and without relating plot or analysing characters (without mentioning teenage angst!!), then you have the students listening with interest.

After school my head of library had arranged for Simon Shaw from Apple to come and talk to teachers about iPads as tools for learning and teaching. I’ve been to sessions about iPads before, and Simon’s session was probably the best one I’ve been to. There was no hard sell, just a focus on how teachers could do what they already do only better on the iPad, and a range of impressive apps, plus a hands-on session using iMovie. It was good to see a decent turnout too.

Wednesday I will be running an after-school session on Google apps. I have a serious problem when faced with ‘presentations’ and hope to improve with more practice. The research and preparation I do is excessive. Basically, I find it difficult to select a realistic portion of what’s possible. I’m sure the ridiculous amount of research is a procrastination technique. Finally, yesterday, I decided on what I might talk about and what I would exclude. At the moment this is all sitting on a page in my wiki – and looks awful. When I have time I should put this into a slideshow. If you’re brave, here it is. It’s not exhaustive but I wanted to showcase a range of tools. It’s difficult to prepare things like this when you have no idea of what your audience knows or expects, but hey, whatever.

Tomorrow lunchtime I will be meeting with the group of boys I’ll be working with as part of the Creative Writing group. I have inherited this group from my predecessor, and I’ve heard people refer to this group as the Competition Writing group which is an obvious clue in terms of what they do. I had a quick chat to the school captain who is a leader of this group today – lovely boy. I assured him that I didn’t want to change anything they were already happy with, but what did he think about also creating a blog so they could have an audience for their writing. Happily, he thought this would be a good idea. I’m really looking forward to working with these boys; I’m sure there is much passion and talent amongst them. In terms of the blog, I thought it might also be a space for any of us to share anything and everything about writing. Just now I received a Facebook update from the Facebook group, ‘The Wheeler Centre for books, writing and ideas’. I want to include this in a post to encourage the boys to join the group, and to show them what Facebook can provide besides chat.

The Wheeler Centre Facebook group also put me onto Australian Poetry, a Wheeler Centre resident organisation which is celebrating National Poetry Week with a different theme every day this week. There really are so many wonderful programs happening locally, and it will good to share these.

Well, that’s it from me. Just checking in after week 1 in the new job. My blogging has been slow lately, and this has a lot to do with the unsettling leadup to leaving one school and venturing into another. At this point I feel that I will have the opportunity to get involved in some interesting projects, and look forward to telling you about it all.

Have good days!

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Sir Ken Robinson animated

Here’s a great example of how visualisation enhances a very good talk by Sir Ken Robinson;

Some of the most disturbing parts:

  • Schools are trying to educate children like they did in the past, and consequently alienating millions of kids who don’t see any purpose in what they do in school.
  • Ritalin is overprescribed (in USA). We shouldn’t be sedating our kids, we should be waking them up to what they have inside themselves. They live in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth; they’re being besieged with information that calls for their attention from every platform, and they are getting distracted from comparatively boring stuff at school.
  • Schools are still organised on factory lines. We still educate our children by batches in age groups. Why is the most important thing kids have in common is how old they are. It’s essentially about conformity and standardisation.
  • Kids’ scores for divergent thinking deteriorate the older they become mainly because they become educated to accept that there’s only one answer and that you don’t copy.

Two concluding points by Ken Robinson:

  • Collaboration is the stuff of growth.
  • It’s mostly about the culture, the habits of our institutions.

What does this say to  me?

We can’t improve kids’ learning in schools by doing what we are already trying to do inside the current system. We can only improve their learning by changing the culture of schools, by changing the ways we do things – not within the current setup we have which is clearly not working because our teachers are really trying. What we need is a whole school system change which will discard the outdated factory model. I think this talk explains why we are trying so hard and yet failing on the whole.

What do you think?

Read about RSA here. How is it I hadn’t heard of RSA Animate before? It really does bring discourse to life.

Thanks to Sheryl A. McCoy for the link to this video.

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Reading in a whole new way

Photo courtesy of Darren Kuropatwa on Flickr in the group Great quotes about learning and change

Debates about whether reading and writing are going to suffer in the digital age open up opportunities for reflection and discussion.  I was interested to read the Smithsonian article Reading in a whole new way about the way that reading and writing have changed and how they will continue to change.

Today some 4.5 billion digital screens illuminate our lives. Words have migrated from wood pulp to pixels on computers, phones, laptops, game consoles, televisions, billboards and tablets. Letters are no longer fixed in black ink on paper, but flitter on a glass surface in a rainbow of colors as fast as our eyes can blink. Screens fill our pockets, briefcases, dashboards, living room walls and the sides of buildings. They sit in front of us when we work—regardless of what we do. We are now people of the screen. And of course, these newly ubiquitous screens have changed how we read and write.

What really interests me is the change in the way the mind works with online reading, and I think it’s very well expressed here:

Books were good at developing a contemplative mind. Screens encourage more utilitarian thinking. A new idea or unfamiliar fact will provoke a reflex to do something: to research the term, to query your screen “friends” for their opinions, to find alternative views, to create a bookmark, to interact with or tweet the thing rather than simply contemplate it. Book reading strengthened our analytical skills, encouraging us to pursue an observation all the way down to the footnote. Screen reading encourages rapid pattern-making, associating this idea with another, equipping us to deal with the thousands of new thoughts expressed every day. The screen rewards, and nurtures, thinking in real time. We review a movie while we watch it, we come up with an obscure fact in the middle of an argument, we read the owner’s manual of a gadget we spy in a store before we purchase it rather than after we get home and discover that it can’t do what we need it to do.

It’s important to understand the positive changes in the way we read so that we don’t get stuck in lamenting the loss of old ways of reading. Certainly I can identify with the reflex to do something while reading online. Interrupting reading to look up a definition, investigate something for deeper understanding or find others’ opinions may be mistaken for a lack of focus. Is this kind of reading really a lack of concentration or is it actually a new and different way of understanding information?

Some people never read news anywhere but online. When you read news online you can fine-tune your control of what you want to read. Hyperlinks take you straight to the source; tags and keywords make searching and finding easy. But even this kind of reading would be enriched by some form of teaching.

I think that in many ways it’s more demanding than traditional reading, and I also expect that future generations will adapt as people have always adapted to new challenges. I believe that we have the opportunity to become less passive as readers and more discerning, more willing to seek out others’ understandings and views. Again, a great teaching opportunity.

How do we as teachers help students to read fluently, thoughtfully and informatively? I hope to encourage students to use the collaborative annotation facility on Diigo to annotate and share their understandings and questions of texts. What other ways can you think of which push reading into a more connected experience?

Yes, things are changing. We’d better start thinking about the implications and reflect on what’s most important in our role as teachers.

Photo courtesy of Langwitches on Flickr

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Filed under 21st century learning, internet, teaching, technology

ACEC2010 My slant

How is it that a conference about technology, namely the ACEC 2010, the national biennial conference of the Australian Council for Computers in Education, wasn’t chiefly about technology?

That’s a good thing in case you’re wondering.

So, for me, at least, the conference was about the opportunities to meet new people, share ideas and make connections. Some of these people I hadn’t previously met, others I knew online and was happy to finally meet face to face. And the program wasn’t too bad either.

I attended one day in body and the other days virtually. Either way, I was there thanks to the gracious collaboration of participants on Twitter #acec2010 and other great places to be when you’re not there.

The theme of the conference expresses the essence of the program:

Digital Diversity conference explores interactive and creative approaches to ICT in education. Addressing diversity in styles of learning and thinking offers us new pathways for building the right knowledge and skills to adapt to constant change.

Yes, the theme of the conference is ICT, but the words ‘interactive’, ‘creative’, ‘diversity’, thinking’, ‘building’ and ‘adapt to change’ express the real focus.

The sharing has been amazing. For example, @ackygirl tweeted a link to the Twitter transcript.

Here are ACEC2010 Delicious links.

Alan November‘s plenary and workshop sessions were a highlight for me on the Wednesday.

Amongst other things, Alan spoke about authentic learning projects based in the real world, for example,  the teacher and students who built their own Wikipedia page. Listen to these students describe themselves as historians in the most serious way.

A huge thankyou to organisers of this very successful conference. Hope to see everyone again next year.

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