Tag Archives: culture

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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Poetry Graffiti at MHS

The library is a space with unlimited potential. Of course I’m not talking about things that are financially prohibitive. It’s not bound by faculty, it serves an enormous range of purposes; it’s the social and cultural centre of the school – at least potentially.

I’ve been thinking about how to dispel the fallacy that the library is just about books, how to include popular culture and encourage students to feel that the spaces in the library belong to them. It’s good to start small. I spoke to my colleague, Denise, about setting up a ‘Poetry Graffiti’ board. The idea is that students pin up poetry they like and have either found written. I thought we’d add some pictures to inspire thinking and whimsy, and we hope the students will understand ‘poetry’ in a broad sense and contribute both text and images.

To share pictures with Denise without the hassle of emailing them back and forth and keeping separate folders, I decided to try Pinterest. I warn you about Pinterest, it does suck you in if you’re a picture person (no, I’m not talking about wedding photos or recipes). My Pinterest boards have grown amazingly fast. I started collecting interesting or quirky images into a poetry board.

To provoke interest in a cryptic way, we decided to start off by creating a ‘Watch This Space’ board. This is how we did it.

Denise has done a fantastic job on creating the board. In the solitude of a library on Athletics day, she has created a brick wall using A4 prints and pinned up a couple of poems to get the boys started.

I hope this board will take off and that creativity, love of poetry and poetic image will fill the space and give students the chance to contribute their graffiti. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted.

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What do you know about vodka and Matryosha dolls?

The origin of words and the culture and history behind them are fascinating. Jenny Luca sent me to the Words of the World website today and I’ve been having fun learning about my Russian cultural background.

From Nazi to Chocolate, words play a vital role in our lives.

And each word has its own story.

But where do they come from? What do they mean? How do they change?

The University of Nottingham School of Languages and Cultures does a brilliant job of unpacking words in a very engaging way. It’s difficult not to go through all the videos in one sitting when the experts present their knowledge in such an accessible way. It makes me want to study at Nottingham University. So much more interesting for students to learn in video form, I think, and learning from experts in this way would be something which could entice reluctant learners or just bring knowledge through a face and voice, whetting the appetite for more.

Check out the YouTube channel, join the Facebook group, follow @wordsnottingham on Twitter, or follow the blog of the creator, film-maker Brady Haran.

My question is – will the word bank increase? I hope so because this learning site is very addictive.

Ever wondered about the history of Russian nesting dolls?

You might also like to have a look at The University of Nottingham’s YouTube channel.

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We all need a regular kick in the pants

Antoni-INhabit2

Janine Antoni, “Inhabit,” 2009. Courtesy of Luhring Augustine Gallery

 I agree with the Art21 blog post, Another kick in the pants, that everyone needs the occasional kick in the pants, only I think that maybe we need it regularly. Joe Fusaro says

I use Art21 for a kick in the pants from time to time, whether it’s to inspire my teaching by watching Carrie Mae Weems or to give my studio practice a jolt by listening to Kiki Smith talk about her process for making works of art. I mean, everyone needs an occasional kick in the pants, don’t you think?

Joe goes on to mention TED talks as another source of inspiration, and I have to agree with him –  TED.com and Art21 have been regular sources of inspiration for me too.

TED’s theme is Ideas worth spreading, and its mission is of epic dimensions:

…our scope has become ever broader…. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. This site, launched April 2007, is an ever-evolving work in progress.

A clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers is an amazing boast, and the reason why so many people either discover TED with joy or continue to return to its rich storehouse.

The scope of Art21 is enormous, and its themes a dream for teachers of art. The series explore such themes as compassion, consumption, ecology, fantasy, humor, identity, loss & desire, memory,paradox, place, play, power, protest, romance, spirituality, stories, structures, systems, time, and transformation. Each theme is tantalising in its scope, eg. compassion – artists explore conscience; reconcile past & present; expose injustice; express tolerance. It makes me wish that Art were compulsory, or at least, not separate from the official literacy which seems only to reside in English. A sharpening of higher order thinking skills will find no better place than the Arts (although it certainly resides in all subjects).

Every day I still find myself explaining, justifying and defending my online activity. I always point out that it’s the connections to people and ideas, information and images, which I would otherwise not discover, that keep me coming back to my laptop. It’s a breathlessly vast source of inspiration and ideas, a regular kick in the pants – pushing my thinking, challenging me, jolting me and enriching my life.

I would recommend Art21 to anyone, not just art lovers, because it provides a window into a world of ideas and creative concepts, and of course, TED.com because of its amazing array of interesting people who have a way of making complex things simply fascinating.

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Filed under 21st century learning, art, creativity, Education, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Creativity, a sense of purpose and belonging

In his latest post (6 May), Will Richardson asks this question:

So when I read Jay Cross’s latest piece in CLO magazine, I wondered how many schools could point to someone, anyone, who is in charge of learning. By that I mean someone who manages the culture of the school by focusing not on outcomes as much as how learning is writ large in the system.

Learning is occurring at my school this week. Learning with a capital L. We are coming to the end of a pilot project where the entire Year 8 cohort, along with its teachers, has been involved in researching a big picture question culminating in a multimedia presentation of their choice.  Normal classes have been suspended, and each teacher has stepped into the continuum at different points, providing the support needed at that time. Teachers have been in a unique situation, supporting not content, but skills; and this often meant that they were learning alongside the students, at times from the students. The process seems to have taken on a life of its own, and teachers have reported being surprised that students’ projects are taking shape, and that they are on task and engaged, even excited.  Trust in the students’ abilities and creativity has been growing.

This is the part of the project that gets me going – the learning process of both students and teachers. This is what I hope we can record, make transparent, discuss collaboratively, reflect upon, project into the future with. I’ve been enjoying discussions with teachers at different stages of the project: the initial feeling of not knowing how to begin, being overwhelmed by the enormity of something new and big, the joy and relief with the first successful day, the surprise when students took the task and ran with it, in all different directions, in a variety of ways, the excitement upon seeing things take shape, and the anticipation of the final presentation.

I’d like to record all of this. I think that this discussion is the guts of the learning. It’s exciting to see shared discussion in a shared project, and I wish it would happen more often. For a change, the teachers are not in charge, they are facilitators, they are not in control, but are taking one step at a time, and trusting in the students, they are not keepers of the content, but observers of the process.

This is learning. I hope we can capture this for reflection and evaluation. We can base next year’s project on what we have observed, what we’ve learned. I hope we can come together for discussion, reflection and evaluation, modifying the assessment rubric from experience of what the process has involved. Teachers have been talking excitedly not of perfect products or best products, but of the learning leaps for individual students.

I read Will Richardson’s latest post (6 May) and he says

I wonder how many of us can look at our colleagues and answer the question “How does that person learn?” And think of the leaders in our schools in that light as well.

This week, Year 8 teachers have seen with new eyes how their students learn. I think they’ve had an insight into their own learning process. Learning has been shared by teachers and students alike.What does Will Richardson say about teachers’ learning? In discussing Jay Cross’s latest piece in CLO magazine, Will wonders if any schools have one person

 ‘who is in charge of learning. By that I mean someone who manages the culture of the school by focusing not on outcomes as much as how learning is writ large in the system. Someone who also understands the ways in which social Web technologies accentuate the need for the learning skills we’ve desired all along: creativity, critical thinking, independent thought, collaboration, etc…

And it really is about a culture that supports, celebrates and shares learning.

The Year 8 immersive project has given those involved a taste of the learning culture which supports, celebrates and shares learning.

In the article about Chief Learning Officers in companies, Jay recommends looking at the workplace through different lenses: from the point of view of the anthropologist, the Web 2.0 specialist, the informal learner.

Some of the questions posed through these lenses are:

From the anthropologist:

Are people sharing the information or are they just hoarding?

Are people taking time for reflection, or are they so busy they only live in the moment?

Are they experimenting and taking risks, or are they doggedly following the rules?

Are people working collaboratively or are they in isolation?

Through the Web 2.0 lens:

Are people using instant messaging, social networks, search engines and multimedia resources that are as good as or superior to those they are accustomed to in their homes?

Are discoveries recorded and shared with one another and documented for future use?

Do workers have blogs or other means to express themselves?

The informal learning lens:

Are there comfortable places for people to talk?

Are workers intrinsically motivated to learn and increase their professionalism, or are they waiting for their next class?

Is informal collaboration encouraged?

Are people learning from observing others… and reflecting on experience?

These are questions I’ve chosen which are most pertinent to the school situation. As Will says, do we or should we have a CLO in our schools,

 … people to lead that work, …  who understand deeply the passion-based, self-directed potentials for learning in a connected world, and the importance of a vision for true learner-centered classrooms and curricula for everyone in the building.

Do you have such leaders in your school?

(Now, I’m not sure about this, but it seems that the Chief Learning Officer is like our Training (or Learning) and Development Manager in Australia).

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The power of Youtube – Queen Rania wins (and we celebrate Jenny Luca’s win too)

Our own Jenny Luca has recently been recognised by the Victorian Institute of Teaching as the winner of the World Teachers Every Day competition. Well done, Jenny! You’ve certainly deserved this award, and you’re an inspiration and model for all educators.

Across the other side of the world, a member of royalty received a different award, but one which will be of equal interest to 21st century educators. San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, presented the inaugural YouTube Visionary Award to Queen Rania of Jordan. Queen Rania wasn’t able to accept the award in person, so instead she sent a video.

Her acceptance speech shows that getting serious about something significant doesn’t preclude a sense of humour. Queen Rania warms up the viewers with humour and ends powerfully with a serious message: that suspicion, intolerance and mistrust are driving us apart. She says she wanted to kickstart a conversation in the world’s largest community. Her motto for the power of YouTube is:

We’re stronger when we listen and smarter when we share.

Queen Rania urges us to use the power of YouTube’s conversation. She admits that it’s not likely to change the world, but it will change some minds.

San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, introduced the award by nominating YouTube as a dominant force in politics, a powerful tool for shaping policy, and communicating with the public world wide. He talks about this award recognising those who use technology to instigate change, who have had a real impact.

Mayor Newsom says that Queen Rania of Jordan has dedicated her time and talents to breaking down stereotypes, and combatting misconceptions about Islam and the Arab world. Her videos have created open dialogue around the world amongst millions of commenters and viewers. Her aim has been to encourage people to join forces and bring down misconceptions. Here is a message worth thinking about:

We can’t judge another culture through the lense of our own cultural compass.

So true.

Queen Rania encourages us all to make a difference through YouTube. She says: Your eyes can open people’s minds. She urges us to get our clips out there to create change. YouTube is a platform for the most powerful dialogue.

We need to look past technology as an end in itself, and realise its potential.

Thanks to Joi Ito for his post.

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Filed under Education, film, humour, internet, technology, Web 2.0