Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
Late in 2011 I was asked to give a short presentation on the proposition: Every interaction is an opportunity for transformation. Transformation, along with re-imagining, repositioning and reinterpreting our libraries and our roles are the new black for librarians everywhere. The only constant in our professional lives is indeed change.
However, as much as it is vital that our work IS relevant and HAS impact, it is equally critical that it is SEEN to be so by colleagues within our communities and institutions and particularly so by the decision makers in our organisations; Boards, Executives, Councils and government.
So how do we get noticed and ensure our voices are heard? It is not enough to lobby from the periphery. We need to be permanently engaged in the decision making dialogue as an equal partner whose experience, expertise, and opinions are valued and listened to.
These are precarious times for libraries and for librarians and as much as we embrace new visions and understandings of our work and our role, there is an urgent need to better communicate these new models beyond the echo chambers of library professional silos and e-ghettos.
Firstly, we must lay the groundwork for transformation with our key stakeholders. Seek to understand rather than to be understood. Listen more – talk less. Understand the culture of your school and the challenges and barriers to change. Understand how the library and librarian are perceived in your school. Understand how you are perceived. Don’t assume anything.
Have a clear vision – know it, believe it, live and breathe it. Start with the end in mind. Focus on the why and how not the what. Think learner outcomes, collaboration and integration.
Be patient. Be strategic. Be proactive and constructive.
Make the most of any opportunity and identify where the ground is most fertile and plant a seed. Ensure that your rhetoric resonates with your audience.
Relationship building is critical. Show respect. Build trust. Demonstrate expertise. Demonstrate authority. Present yourself as credible and professional.
We can learn a lot from business models. Make strategic use of ‘The elevator pitch’ and make the most of every opportunity to engage, no matter how briefly, with the movers and shakers in your organisation. Practice, practice, and practicesome more the key messages that you want to get across. Focus on impact and how you want to be perceived. Ditch the cultural baggageand eliminate “library speak”. Present your ideas simply and focus on the how not just the what, highlighting the positive impact on learner outcomes.
Know your core story and articulate it. What do you do that others don’t? What problem can you solve that others can’t? What is your point of difference?
Transformation is a two-way process. In seeking to truly listen and acquire a deep understanding of your stakeholders needs, visions, constraints and opportunities – particularly within both your own school environment and culture and within the wider education and political landscape, you must be open to the possibility that your own views and understandings will be transformed.
It is no longer appropriate to think of single solutions. Our professional world is now permanently in beta. We need to be engaged in ongoing conversations with key stakeholders, defining challenges and exploring opportunities. We need to realise that every interaction is an opportunity for transformation.
What it is about fiction that I find so fulfilling?
I have just finished a most enjoyable holiday novel, and have been pondering on what it is about reading a good fiction book that makes me sigh, want to read more and want to find someone to talk to about it.
This particular story, was made up, but was based on real life. It felt real to me. I was transported to a different time but I could relate to each of the characters. I could relate to the plot. I could relate to the place or setting.
In other words, I felt connected. And, I gained through reading it.
I was deeply absorbed by story and couldn’t put it down. I wanted to follow through after the book had finished to find out “what next?”
So; back to my original question: Why fiction?
Non fiction feeds my factual brain, my desire to know “what”. Fiction feeds by emotional brain, my desire to know why. The authorJulian Barnes wrote: “Books are where things are explained to you. Life is where things aren’t”. I have always been a person who wants to know why.
The books that I remember most vividly are those that have evoked an emotional response from me. This realisation makes me reflect on the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ). Research indicates that our success in life is as much dependant on our EQ as it is on our IQ. Consequently it follows that anything that strengthens our emotional intelligence can enhance our capacity for success in life.
Well, reading fiction, stories about people, their interactions, their inner and outer lives, their adventures, fantasies and romances, their successes and failures must surely enhance my social awareness and my understanding of people. Surely this leads to enhanced social abilities and a more mature IQ?
I am reminded of the well publicised adage that “Kids who read succeed”. In particular, the New Zealand based research “Competent Children, Competent Learners” lead by Kath Wylie. This study reinforces that children who choose to read are more successful learners across all curriculum areas as well as being more socially integrated.
Surely this is what we want for all our students!
Why do I read fiction?
Well, there are the obvious reasons :
Also, based on my previous reasoning, I also read fiction to succeed.
All this leads me to ponder on yet another question. Do girls and women read more fiction than boys/men? And if so why, and what are the consequences? That is another discussion for another time.
…And the book that set me wondering about all this? I highly recommend “Ithaca” by Lynley Dear. This beautifully written novel, spans family generations in Scotland, London, New Zealand, Germany and modern Jerusalem. It was mostly the New Zealand connection that drew me in, especially since my holiday travels took me to many of the places mentioned in the book.
If you haven't seen it already, check out the AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner (PDF).
This concise, accessible document is structured around some common beliefs, and four key learning areas with expanded standards statements for each around skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies.
Learners use skills, resources, & tools to:
by Jeannie S
"Reading is a foundational skill for 21st-century learners. Guiding learners to become engaged and effective users of ideas and information and to appreciate literature requires that they develop as strategic readers who can comprehend, analyze, and evaluate text in both print and digital formats. Learners must also have opportunities to read for enjoyment as well as for information. School librarians are in a critical and unique position to partner with other educators to elevate the reading development of our nation’s youth." - Excerpt from the School Librarian's Role in Reading Position Statement
Now, as we start the new school year, take a look at this position statement. It is a good time read through these resources and plan to purposefully implement some new strategies for reading in your school this year.
How will you measure your impact? Plan to capture the evidence of the library impact and add it to your arsenal of data for advocacy.
Cliffs Notes are a familiar sight in backpacks and dorm rooms the world over. Those distinctive yellow and black booklets are beacons of hope to any students who ‘haven’t had time to do the reading, and I happen to know more than one teacher who has dipped into the chapter summaries while preparing lesson plans.
Of course we all agree that perusing the Cliffs Notes version of Romeo and Juliet is no substitute for reading the play, but any tool that can help students understand and appreciate literature has value. Cliffs Notes has recently branched out and released a series of short animations summarising six of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.
The films are around five or six minutes long and introduce us to main characters, themes and plot points in a humorous way. Students will see Macbeth’s ‘ambition meter’ rise and fall as he grapples with his decision to kill King Duncan and will laugh when Benvolio describes Romeo as a ‘total emo.’ Characters’ names pop up when they are on screen to tell us who’s who and Cliff, the narrator, pipes up with a running commentary designed to help students’ understanding.
I think these videos would be really useful as a way to introduce Shakespeare and his plays to a class before you dive in and start reading an entire play together. They are funny, engaging and relatable and students will enjoy watching them. Librarians and teachers could also point eager readers toward the films before offering those slick graphic novel versions of the plays or encouraging students to tackle the originals on their own.
Have you seen these videos? How do you get kids excited about Shakespeare?
flickr image by tonynetone
You have probably seen them without realising it, a small black and white patchwork square in the corner of a movie poster or magazine advertisement. Designed for use with a mobile phone application, the QR code utilizes mobile phone tagging software to link your phone to the corresponding website, video, image etc. Once loaded on your phone the application works like taking a photo, you simply line up the pattern in the viewfinder and the QR software does the rest, linking your phone to the web address.
When you realise that all that is needed is to visually identify the design and ‘photograph’ it to link to online information, you can begin to imagine the applications this could have for libraries and library users of all ages and abilities.
QR codes were initially designed for use in manufacturing, transcending the need for foreign workers to understand the text or language on the machinery or packaging, a quick scan of the QR code, would link them via their mobile device to a relevant video or text that matched their needs and language.
Authors have already caught on to the marketing possibilities building the codes into their cover designs and posters, linking readers to their corresponding websites.
BookBuzzer a marketing blog for authors describes QR Codes as “The newest tool for book marketing.” It is little wonder then that Libraries are also seeing the possibilities. Library Success Wiki lists numerous University and Public Libraries utilizing the use of QR coding for anything from links to mobile phone compatible websites and chat to topic pathfinders for users browsing the book stacks.
What about school libraries? Dr Joyce Valenza, teacher-librarian and prolific education and technology writer has long been promoting QR Code use in school libraries. In her School Library Journal October 2010 article, Joyce lists many great ideas and information on ‘the simple process’ for the uninitiated school librarian.
A quick web search produced the following Blog entries:
Serious Fun Blog - QR Codes: Could you use them in your library?
Hyperlinked Librarian – Includes footage of pupils generating their own codes during a lesson.
Daring Librarian Blog – Includes a QR code tree containing codes for parents to scan.
The answer for some is a resounding YES!
How can we help your school library meet the challenge?
Looking for interesting and engaging short stories? Storyville can help! It is an app for the iPhone or iPad that delivers a quality short story straight to your device every week.
Most stories are by reputable authors and are sourced from recently published collections, though the creators also promise ‘unearthed gems by masters of the form.’ A six month subscription is $4.99 (USD), which is a good price for twenty-plus stories. The app allows you to receive your stories on more than one personal device and makes it easy to share what you are reading through Facebook and Twitter (though friends will have to buy the app themselves to access the actual story). The app is available through the iTunes.
This could be a great way for teachers and librarians to discover new short story writers and collections to stock for older students. Short stories have been in the news lately, with the BBC announcing that it would cut back to one short story reading a week on Radio 4 next spring. Authors such as Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris responded with a tweetathon designed to support the short story form and Gaiman wrote a great blog post outlining his views in The Guardian.
Do you find it difficult to find engaging short stories for yourself and your students? Do you think Storyville could help?
image by Steve Rhodes
By Rob Finlay
The “summer slump” or “slide” in literacy occurs when the gains made in literacy during the academic year are lost over the summer holidays. It is a particular problem for lower decile schools.
Many low-decile schools make a positive impact in student literacy over the course of a school year which is lost due to the lack of reading over long summer holidays. Clayton Park School in Manurewa tackled this issue by setting up a planned intervention which they monitored, measured and evaluated.
The approach was underpinned by a close analysis of literacy scores in successive Februaries and Novembers to establish a baseline, taking into account variance in months from expected age reading scores. For the study, the students were placed into three cohorts: “at-risk Māori”, “at-risk Pasifika” and “high-performing students”.
Deliberate interventions followed to improve teacher effectiveness. Existing Home-School Partnership meetings were used to keep parents informed. At the last meeting of the year the school set up summer reading contracts, goals and expectations with families as well as giving the parents strategies for helping children with their reading
The reading scores, both during the year and at the end of the summer holidays, were reviewed, and the strategy modified accordingly in an annual iterative process beginning in 2005.
The number of students who complete their contracts has grown over the six years the programme has been running has increased from 6 percent to 23 percent. For those students who complete the contracts, the results have been very gratifying, with an average gain of 5.7months in reading age over the summer break. Furthermore, as compared to students who fail to complete the contracts, these students have also experienced a year-on-year gain even greater than the national average annual reading gain. Conversely those who don’t complete their contracts slide backwards in their reading levels and do not experience a “catch-up” effect when they return to school.
The authors: Paul Wright, Principal at Clayton Park School and Dr Cathy Wright, researcher at Auckland University, conclude that the sustained practice of summer reading as part of a wider strategy leads to improved literacy gains.
For the full article :
Wright, Paul & Wright, Cathy. “An initiative to counter the “summer reading drop”: an iterative process”. Set 2, 2011, p 38-46, NZCER.
Recently I was given the fantastic opportunity to show educators Digital NZ and Mix and Mash at the annual ULearn conference in Rotorua.
I have presented these topics before and I am always amazed that there are some teachers who haven’t used Digital NZ before. Amazed and excited actually, because I know that I am about to show them something hugely useful and relevant that they will take away and be able to implement with their classes immediately. At Services to Schools, we discuss the skills students need to follow an inquiry process, like finding information from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats. This lends authenticity and credibility to the information and when using it to make something new, different sources provide multiple perspectives and a deeper layering and understanding of a story. Digital NZ, of course, makes this easy.
We have been very keen to encourage student entries into the Mix and Mash competition as it is such a great outlet for creative use of New Zealand digital content and ties in beautifully to many aspects of the curriculum. To increase confidence in teachers this year, we created Free to Mix; An educator’s guide to reusing digital content where we provide a whole heap of tips and ideas and links that will enable teachers and librarians to help students understand, find and use New Zealand digital content. We discuss copyright and Creative Commons, the best places to find material for reuse, what to do to enter the competition and a whole lot more that will keep a school’s creative remix community buzzing well beyond the six weeks of the competition.
One of the things that the teachers at the ULearn breakout enjoyed seeing was the achievability of some of the entries. When they saw A Grand Mother they realised that you don’t need advanced technical skills when you have a great narrative. Year 12 student Casey Carsel’s entries showed history, heritage and humour and a huge variety of well attributed resources. Our favourite primary school entry from Pt England School embodies the spirit of the competition and just looks like a whole heap of fun. Another entry reflected work that was completed for NCEA credits and also eligible for entry, and others showed learning that started in class and was extended beyond that.
In lots of different ways, the teachers at the session felt positive and empowered and challenged with a variety of actions. One of the participants, a school librarian, was going to create a Digital NZ custom search related to the school wide topic in Term 4 and put it on her library blog. Another participant was going to show the whole staff the digital stories that were entered this year and use them to inspire digital storytelling work in all the classes in his school. One teacher found an image of some students in her school of about 100 years ago; this is going to be a centrepiece in their jubilee work.
Even as I was delivering the workshop, one teacher was uploading links to her Learning Management System. Her students were easily able to find links to Creative Commons, Digital NZ and inspirational digital stories in their own learning environment before she’d even left the room. These things are easy to do for educators but hugely empowering for the students who will learn about the rich resources in New Zealand’s digital collections, who will make their own heritage materials and become an active part of global creative communities.
Are you looking for new ways to get students working with primary sources? TwHistory can help! The site uses Twitter to create virtual re-enactments of historical events which are broadcast in ‘real time.’
You choose the historical event, collect information and primary sources and then assign roles to participants. The participants study their information and write tweets (140 character messages) documenting their characters’ roles in the event. The time-line is based on the actual event, so a TwHistory re-enactment of a month-long event will be scheduled over a month, giving students an interesting perspective on what happened and when. Go here for a short video explanation.
It is free to sign up for an account and the site has a Teachers’ Corner which has more information and urges you to contact them if you need help figuring out how things work. You can also browse past re-enactments. Some of these appear to be planned events that haven’t happened yet, so if no Historical Figures (profiles of people involved) and Historical Timeline (messages) come up, just choose another event.
When I was in school (a definite historical event!) we kept diaries as historical figures, but TwHistory allows students today to go further because they can actually interact with each other as the events unfold. They can also share their work immediately with families and the school community, who can follow the Twitter, feed and see what is happening in real time. TwHistory opens up the walls of the classroom in other ways too. Students in different classes, different schools and even different countries can work and learn together.
For more information about New Zealand primary sources you can go to our Primary Sources. Among other things, you will find Galleries, Educators’ Resources and More Primary Resources you can use to track down further New Zealand and international primary sources. What would Te Whiti have tweeted as he sent his people out to plough confiscated land? What would the ANZAC soldiers have tweeted about their experiences landing at Gallipoli?
A TwHistory re-enactment also offers a valuable opportunity for teachers and librarians to collaborate on finding primary sources and teaching students how to interpret and use them. Don’t let the students have all the fun, either! Sign yourself up as a character, set up a Twitter account and join in. After all, as the TwHistory website tells us, “those who forget history are doomed to re-tweet it!”
Could you use TwHistory in your teaching or library programme?
image by caswell_tom
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