Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
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
LeechBlock is an add-on for Firefox that allows you to block the sites that distract you when you need to be productive. You designate which sites you want to block and when you want your access restricted. For example, you can block YouTube and Facebook from 8am to 12pm on weekdays to keep yourself on task when you should be dealing with emails and writing that end-of-year report.
You can also give yourself time limits for certain sites. If going cold turkey is too much for you then allow yourself ten minutes of Goodreads time each hour before you get back to work. Don’t trust yourself at all? Block all dot-com sites for the afternoon. Want to keep yourself from checking work emails on the weekends? Block your school website to make that simple click a little more difficult.
LeechBlock is not a fool-proof solution to all your internet problems. You can set a password to slow yourself down but there are ways around every barrier and if you really want to check your newsfeed then Leechblock won’t be able to stop you. What it does do is make you stop and think before you automatically click on the sites you habitually check. It will allow you to change your patterns and hopefully break the bad internet habits that lead to wasted time.
This is a great tool to introduce to your students. Blocking Facebook during study sessions will teach them to stay focussed on the report they are meant to be writing. Try blocking wikipedia on the library computers for the first half hour of a research session so students are forced to check out other sources! Make them think about their patterns of internet use and if they are really making the most of their time.
Don’t use Firefox? No problem. Check out this article with similar tools for different browsers.
Have you ever used a tool like LeechBlock?
image by ladybeames
Does the introduction of iPads and e-books make a difference to students reading in the school library? During 2010 Westburn School librarian, Sylvia Junovich, observed a significant drop off in the amount of reading related use of the school library during break times. The library was busy, but mainly with computer activities and games. She discussed her concerns with staff and as a result, they decided to purchase two iPads for use in the library. These have been loaded with interactive picture books (see the blogpost on Q-books) and word-finds. They are being used by small groups (2-3 students) at a time and a system of change over has evolved, usually self managed by the children with only minimal intervention by the Librarian.
She is delighted to find that the enthusiasm for leisure time reading in the library is returning. Reading the e-book Hairy Maclary on the iPad has had a spin off effect of children going to the library shelves to find the hard copy of the same book. This has generated a surge of interest in Lynley Dodd’s books again.
With Westburn’s multi-cultural population, international students have enjoyed reading and hearing books in their own language. Sylvia finds this particularly exciting since print copies of these books in other languages are not easily accessible.
Having these iPads available has given her a guide for purchasing further e-books or replacing worn out hard copies of some titles in her library.A few students have asked to use the iPads for research purposes, but so far, leisure time interaction with books has been the main focus. Sylvia sees huge potential with the iPads opening up an increasing range of reading material for students. Her next move will be to get them used during class visits to the library.
She says that with these tools “transliteracy is not a problem, possibly due to the fact that many of our children are already using e-resources at home. Not keeping pace with this trend would be counterproductive to helping students to become life-long learners”.
Enthusiasm and the willingness to read are integral factors in developing reading competencies. At Westburn School the introduction of these two iPads has certainly worked in those areas.
by Kathy G
This post looks at quick response (QR) codes – what they are, how they work, and how you can use them in your school library to excite and encourage your students.
A quick response code is a barcode readable by smart phones and mobile devices with cameras. On the right is a basic QR code. It consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern (matrix) on a white background.
When you scan or read a QR code with your smart phone, it can:
A QR code placed on a book cover in the library, for example, could link to a video clip of the author reading their book, or to a website with reviews of the book – or to whatever the person who generated the code has decided would be a relevant link.
QR Codes are everywhere, originally developed in Japan in the mid-nineties as a means to track parts in vehicle manufacturing. QR codes are now used across many sectors. The explosion of the smart phone market has increased their usage and they are a popular marketing tool. Once you know what a QR code is you will be amazed at all the different places you find them. They are everywhere, from the back of buses, to billboards, magazines and now they feature in school libraries too!
Many of the newer smart phones have a QR code reader app installed. If yours doesn’t, you can easily download one. There are plenty of free apps to choose from for all phone platforms.
A web search for ‘QR code reader, along with your phone type will return plenty of results, for example:
Just as there are many QR code reader apps available to download, there are plenty of free QR code generating sites to use, for example Kaywa is a popular choice.
QR code generating sites take a web address (URL), some text, or a text message, and instantly convert it into a ready-made QR code. Easy!
Tip: When generating your QR code, shorten the URL, use a service such as Bit.ly.
Not only will it shorten the URL it also automatically creates a QR code when you click the ‘Info page’ on the shortened url. Sites such as Bit.ly also allow you to monitor usage of your code, so you can see how often someone has scanned it. Great potential here for school library promotions!
No mobile phones allowed in the library? No problem! If your school policy does not allow the use of mobile phones in the library, an option is to set up a dedicated station with a web cam and QR reader app. Students can both read and generate QR codes from the desk top station. This also ensures that students without smart phones do not miss out on the QR experience.
“Our Library has embraced World Cup Fever by placing QR codes on several of our Rugby World Cup Display books, thus offering the students more up-to-date information on the players and the teams. Our students are not only learning about The Rugby World Cup, but also about QR Codes. It truly is serious fun.” Annette McKitrick, Waimea Intermediate School
QR codes provide the opportunity to add an exciting new dimension to library resources and services – connecting students with extended or related information, enticing readers, and showcasing the library in an interesting new way. And you and your students can also have a lot of fun together! Here are a few examples to get you started:
Fashionable or not, if you want to motivate and engage students in their learning, QR codes are a fun way to do it. This quote from Library girl sums it up well. “I simply love the idea of kids spending time in the library, exploring new ideas and checking out new material based on the opportunity for inquiry provided by the QR Code. However, when this activity is followed by a reading experience that is informed by the student’s desire to find more, new and better resources to be linked to the title they are reading, well… that’s when QR Codes make the switch from just being a fun fad or cool gadget to a meaningful tool that can not only extend learning but also help cultivate a love of reading in our students”.
What do you think - another fad or a meaningful educational tool?
And here is another helpful resource from the ‘Daring Librarian’ that explains the creating of QR codes in a visual format.
Image of Waimea Intermediate School Library QR station by Kathy G.
By Glenda F
A New Zealand based company Kiwa Media converts print books into QBooks – these are exciting interactive digital children’s books for touch screen devices such as the iPad and iPhone.
In April they won the e-learning and Education category of the World Summit Awards for the e-learning and Education category.
QBook is an interactive read-along digital colour picture book format designed by Kiwa Media for young children. QBook is an eBook, iPhone and iPad app that combines a narrator’s voice with original picture illustrations and touchable text that is synchronised to highlight and sound when words are touched.
They include exciting features such as the ability to play back the story at your own pace, to hear each word sounded or spelled out, to record the story yourself and to colour in the pages. Each QBook is also multi-lingual. Languages can be selected from English, Maori, Spanish, French, Dutch and Cantonese.
QBooks would be a great addition to paper based texts for classrooms and school libraries. They are interactive and fun and help develop reading and comprehension skills for students.
Many of the books published in this Qbook format are familiar and much loved New Zealand titles as well as retelling of traditional stories. They are all able to be downloaded from the iTune App Store
More information and a demonstration of Qbook can be found on the Kiwa Media website.
While we’re all trying to get our heads around e-books, particularly the mechanics of their provision in school libraries, some of us are also beginning to think about the possibilities of e-textbooks. At first blush, it seems like a no-brainer – they’re obviously going to be cheaper than the hard copy, since there’s no material costs involved. If they’re specifically written for digital format, with flexible usage rights, they can be selectively printed, modified to suit teaching plans, incorporate student annotations, hyperlink to definitions or related web-content, connect to collaborative study groups – the possibilities seem endless.
But we may not be quite there yet, according to Adriana Lee (August, 2011) who discusses the three main factors needing consideration in The scoop on e-textbooks.
The price has to be competitive with the paper copy, and may not be for a while, she suggests, as publishers attempt to protect their current business models, while investigating the financial stream which renting e-textbooks might provide. Students may still prefer to buy the hard copy too, knowing they can recoup some of their money when they on-sell it at the end of their course, an option not open to them with their e-version.
Lee points out that it’s still early days for a wide selection of e-textbooks available for purchase too – don’t run off and purchase a whole lot of hardware just yet. And she suggests that when you do, make sure you have a good idea of what functionality you might like from your e-textbook – will it allow note-taking? access related web-content? facilitate student content-sharing? It may not happen overnight…
A feature article in the US journal Teacher Librarian (February 2011) found that there were positives for students in the integration of e-textbooks with more traditional library resources. Marcia Mardis and Nancy Everhart, investigating the uptake of digital textbooks in Florida schools, found that not only did students enjoy using the electronic version better than traditional books; they also felt their concentration levels and comprehension had improved.
And before you get too woeful about the demise of the book, remember it’s the content that counts. Research by Peters (2009), discussed in this article, pointed out that ‘e-books and digital textbooks may represent a fresh way to continue [the library’s’] advocacy for the importance of reading’. Reading mileage is reading mileage, whatever the format.
The article highlights further positives: ‘Digital textbooks will represent an important transformation in the way teacher-librarians are involved in the resource base of the school’, not only playing a crucial leadership role in integrating online and physical resources, but also recognising the potential of the electronic format. Kenney (2009) is cited: ‘We could infuse these textbooks with different points of view in multiple formats, customize them to address diverse learning styles, and make them the launching point of guided inquiry.’ Wow! What was that about possibilities again?
As always, keep an eye on the play, and… watch this space.
Do you know how your school library website visitors find, use, and interact with your site’s content?
An important part of website development is user testing at the planning stage, after implementation and as an ongoing method for ensuring your site is meeting the needs of your intended audience. One common qualitative method of user testing is observation, providing a simple yet effective way to see first hand how visitors interact with your site.
Firstly consider the questions you are seeking answers to that will assist in ironing out any issues or problems with the development of your site. Typical questions might be:
Next write up a script of the tasks that you will set for your test group so that you are comparing ‘apples with apples’ when it comes to evaluating the results. Set them a few tasks to complete e.g. find the library catalogue search, suggest a book for the library to buy, ask the librarian a question. Set up a small test group comprising of students and staff who use the site regularly and a few who don’t.
As you observe each user working through each task it is important that you let them navigate, browse, and search as they normally would so that you see the site through their eyes. It is also useful if the users can think aloud while they are carrying out the tasks so that you can understand the thinking behind their moves. Take notes during the completion of each task and give users time to add any other comments relating to the specific tasks or general feedback.
Remember, you are very familiar with the site, its contents, structure, and tasks but you want to develop a site that responds to user needs in a timely, uncomplicated way. User testing informs ongoing development of your site. It allows you the opportunity to see the website through fresh eyes, to identify issues that you wanted to know more about as well as others that you didn’t know existed.
Image by betsyweber
The theme of this year's conference was Passion, People and Power. The conference invited us to think critically about ourselves as professionals, our contributions to the library sector and the place libraries have in society. The conference included many speakers from New Zealand and overseas who reiterated that one of our greatest challenges is our ability, or not, to advocate effectively. For the full keynote and other sessions transcripts go to LIANZA.
The keynote speakers outlined a range of advocacy ideas and suggested that we should be advocating in the good times, not just the bad. There seem to be some important questions to ask. How do we promote ourselves and our industry? Who should we align ourselves with and what message do we want to send? Libraries are always facing threats, obstacles or challenges; the question is: how do we respond? Do we continue to just respond? At what stage do we become proactive? Advocate during the good times, advocacy as par for the course – Imbed it into our behaviour.
Research is another area that is crucial to developing a strong advocacy base. Molly Raphael, 2011 -2012 President, American Library Association mentioned several research papers that are particularly compelling. These include The Importance of School Libraries compiled by Keith Curry Lance, Ph.D. Director; Library Research Service; Colorado State Library. Looking at research ensures we are always seeking evidence around best practice.
Andrew Booth is Reader in Evidence Based Information Practice at the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield. He spoke about evidence based library and information practice. Stating that we need to be sure of the decisions we are making and use evidence, research and stats to support our decisions. Use the 5 A’s of Evidence Based Library Information Practice:
Karen Coyle has over 30 years library experience and currently is investigating the possibilities offered by the semantic web and linked data technology. Are library catalogues holding us back? Restricting our clients and ultimately boring? Linked data may be the answer. In this brave world information links to information, even the link is information. You don’t just look up an author or a title, but an entire web page of information. See Open Library Here you get a range of information – imagine the possibilities. At The Virtual International Authority File you can search across a range of National Libraries that are linked by authority files, making the information available on the web. The update at conference is that the Library of Congress is to replace Marc with the Symantec web! Check out Karen’s blog at Coyle’s Information and here.
Jenica Rogers is the Director of Libraries at the State University of New York at Potsdam. This was the last keynote session of the conference. The theme was Reality based librarianship for passionate librarians. Jenica was challenging, inspiring and realistic in her view of librarians and libraries. Jenica believes that there is an issue in fostering leadership within libraries and more needs to be done to identify and mentor current and future leaders. Jenica also stated that budget cuts, stereotypical views of librarians and libraries is par for the course and “we should just get over it”. We should spend time moving forward, not concerned with where we are now.
Jenica spoke about being passionate, how in the pursuit of goals and objectives one big question determines if it is all worth it “is this a hill you are willing to die on?” If you ask yourself that question, then you will gain clarity on the things that count, and the things you can maybe let go of.
Some engaging workshops included Sally Pewhairangi – Finding Heroes The ideas factory: what is the biggest challenge you will face next year? This was a very practical, thought provoking session where we worked as individuals and teams to decide upon our greatest challenge. Interestingly many of the same issues concerned the groups. These included funding, professional development, staff training and development, customer outreach and growing our client base. Each group analysed a range of issues and came up with responses that prioritised their level of importance. The information gathered can be viewed and discussed at NZ Libraries in 2025: Ideas.
The LIANZA workshop was on Building a stronger profession – is the library and information service profession dying or a profession which remains relevant and is worth strengthening? In this session 4 groups each examined a question set by LIANZA hoping for member feedback. 1. How do we keep the best and brightest in the profession – how do we get them? 2. We are in silos and fragmented – how to unite? 3. How do we articulate our value 4. Our skills have changed, how does LIANZA help this? A fun, stimulating and practical idea may be to ask your colleagues, staff or users these questions. They may form the basis for an introspective look at our own services, and skills. The questions could be altered to accommodate a variety of environments.
0800 LIB LINE
0800 542 5463
Get help from our advisers using this free phone line