Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Are our ICT skills really failing?

There has been lots of conversations around the water cooler this week about the results of the ICT survey that NAP conducted.

As someone who has taught in schools for over 20 years, this does not surprise me. You would think that with the dollars that parents have put into technology programs over the years, ICT proficiency should be through the roof. Operating systems are getting easier to use and applications are so much more intuitive than before WYSIWYG operating systems (can you remember WordStar). So the decline in results is a bit worrying from every perspective.

When laptop programs first came into schools, there was an emphasis placed on induction or technology orientation. Acceptable use, formats, conventions, tips and hints and typing skills were all explicitly taught. Schools also actively trained their staff in applications that they could use with their teaching. At one stage, many schools had Professional Learning points to encourage teachers to do and deliver regular ICT professional development. There would also be an assumption that new teachers have these ICT skills already -  of which they don't.

Over the years, this part of the technology program implementation was overlooked, dropped and taken for granted. As the perceived technology proficiency of students increased, the perceived need for explicit teaching declined. The students were so confident with the technology they didn't need to be taught anything as they were all "digital natives" of course! Teachers who wanted these skills taught were told that they were old fashioned and that the school needed to move with the times.

Was this perceived confidence a reflection of the evolution of operating systems rather than skill level? It amazes me how my son can navigate the iPad and get his TV shows or games to work. My daughter the other day made a movie on her iPod about her trip to the Zoo. The pervasiveness of the technology has increased and so has the opportunities. But has our technology teaching kept up with the innovations. Once upon a time, I taught Year 7 Information Technology. I had the students for one period a week and my job was to teach and reinforce the skills that were not being taught in class. Formats, conventions, typing, layout, problem solving.

For years I have observed students in the senior years being unable to organise their files properly or update their computers. The teachers just expected the students to do it. Of course once in a while there is a whiz bang student who comes along with a skill level that just amazes everyone, but overall are we doing our students a disservice if we don't explicitly teach and reinforce these skills?

Are the skills that the National Assessment Program survey evaluated appropriate? I noticed that the Year 10's were tested on changing font formats and conventions. How does this align with Information Literacy and Digital Fluency skills?

Is there a correlation with good ICT proficiency results and an effective School Library? Many teacher librarians teach information literacy skills and conduct technology orientation sessions. We deal with students every day who are trying to print, save and convert files and yet this part of our role isn't acknowledged.

There is certainly food for thought in the National Assessment Program report, but the scope of the research needs to be widened to include more factors that might impact on skill development. I am sure that there is a PhD in there somewhere ;-)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Three things that Teacher Librarians can do to encourage recreational reading.

Fond memories of seeing Stephen Krashen at a professional development event run by Learning Team Australia at the Library at Docklands.

This video does go for close to an hour, but so enjoyable to hear someone talk about a realities of free voluntary reading or sustained silent reading in schools.

As a Teacher Librarian, what hit home was the importance of the role of the Teacher Librarian in promoting voluntary free reading at school. We know that students will increase their understanding of their reading if they talk about the books that they are reading. A neutral encouraging Teacher Librarian is wonderfully positioned to assist with that.

Three things that Teacher Librarians can do to encourage "Free Voluntary Reading"
  1. suggest similar or appropriate books and authors to match students interests.
    If you liked "Fault in our stars" by John Green you might like "If I stay" by Gayle Foreman. There are web sites and tools that you can use to connect students to similar books that you know they enjoy. When students discover a genre or author that rocks their world they magically start to perceive themselves as "a reader".
  2. discuss books with students to increase understanding.
    What did you think of the ending? What about the main character, do you feel that they got what they deserve? What about that plot twist. I have found myself several times quickly reading a Young Adult book over the weekend so that I can talk through a book with a student the following week.
  3. encourage students to develop frequent reading habits.
    Keeping tabs on how long students take to read a book.  Reading 10 pages of a book every two weeks isn't very satisfying. I compare this reading habit to pressing pause on a TV program and getting back to it a week or two later.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Library at the Dock Makerspace

A few weeks back we headed off to a professional learning session at the Library at the Dock run by Learning Team Australia.

The workshop focused on how the School Library or learning commons can build influence and become an agent of change within the school community.

It featured presentations and workshops that identified ways teacher librarians can establish influential relationships within their school. James Henri spoke a lot about understanding your circles of influence and making sure that you are building and maintaining them. Influence and Social Capital are two closely aligned terms, check out Joyce Valenza's talk.

The Library @ the Dock is all new and shiny and as you would expect they have a 3D Printing section where they have a number of 3D printers that are available for the public to use. Consumables are charged per gram of the finished product and of course there are samples sitting around including a Tardis!

I liked the way that they had the filament rolls above the unit on a stand made by the 3D printer of course!

The Library at the dock have plenty of Makerspace workshops that you can attend and they are all FREE!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reflections on Makerspace, Science Week and Shrinky Dinks

Every Thursday Lunchtime we set up a Makerspace area in the Learning Commons where students can tinker with makeable objects, be it technology or crafty gadgets.

In an ideal world we would have a breakout space where we could allow students to get access to this equipment all the time, but for the moment, our Learning Commons is a shared space and space is at a premium. So at the end of lunch the space needs to be packed up as it is used for teaching and learning during Period 4.

For Science week, the Learning Commons staff collaborated with the Science Domain to set up a shrink dink workshop where students could create their own science jewellery, brooches or key-rings.

It was a great session, we had over 20 students and 4 staff members jostling for access to tools and equipment. Lots of conversation about what "science" emblem, element or diagram they were making and why. The Learning Commons at lunchtime is normally full of students and teachers, this added to the atmosphere of the maker space.

As we wiped down the tables at the end of the session, there were a few thoughts and reflections on how it went and what we could do better next time.

1. Be clear on procedures for Bump in and Bump out

In an ideal world students would assist with this, but realistically there needs to be support staff to ensure that these stages go smoothly. Labelled containers, plastic pockets and tools all need to have a place to live and return to. What is the expectation of the students at the end of the session? Do they have to help pack up?

We held our workshop at lunchtime, so we had everything set up the period before so that students could just sit down and play with the technology and tools.
  • Craft Placemats x 16
  • Hole punches x 5
  • Coloured Pencils x 3 packets
  • Permanent fine tip markers x 2 packets
  • Sandpaper
  • Pre-cut shrinkable plastic
  • Instruction sheets x 6
  • Scissors x 8
  • caution tape (for drama)
  • witches hats (for drama)
  • Variety of jewellery piers and hardware to make earrings, pendants and brooches.
We found that the stools around tables worked better than chairs.

2. Instructions

Even if you don't think that students will need it, instruction sheets ensure that the teachers know what is going on! I like the idea of having a simple side and and a complex side to instructions so that students can choose which side they like to use.

We made a simple 6 step instruction sheet for the students to follow and the rest of the details of how to use Shrinky Dinks is on the Learning Commons Libguide space.

3. Safety - OHS considerations

Do you need to manage tools? Do the tables need protecting? I would like to get some padded table protectors so that we don't have to worry about accidents when working in this shared space.

For the shrinking, one of the science teachers took groups of students to the staffroom to use the oven. A toaster oven would be a great idea, but then you would need to maintain it and get it tested regularly.

4. Time Expectations

How long does it take to do the whole process?

If it took you 10 minutes, it will take a student 20 minutes (not because they don't know, but because they need to decide on their picture, talk to their friends and work out which colours to use).

Have ideas or images pre-laminated to trace over. Most of our students actually traced off their iPad's or phones the images they wanted to "shrink".

5.  Follow-through

Makerspace initiative isn't just about tinkering in the school library. It is about igniting that curiosity within so that students go home and continue to tinker and learn.

Make sure that the students have something to go home with. Instruction sheets, equipment lists and a hashtag to share their creations with.


Have you found this article worthwhile?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Makerspace Bookbinding Adventures

As with most schools, our Learning Commons (Library) budget is stretched. So any Makerspace activities are done on a shoestring.

Today at lunch we tried book binding as an activity using recycled and bought materials.

I am not sure if it was the hammers, but we were swamped with students wanting to try their hand at bookbinding. We didn't have waxed thread or japanese tissuepaper, but we did have kitchen twine, some leather hole punches and also hammers ....

There was a lot of noise and a lot of interest and the senior students were great at encouraging the younger ones with the equipment.

Next time we do book binding we will have more equipment ready to go, as this tends to be a lunchtime activity. I'm working on form to use when planning Makerspace activities, so hopefully that will assist me in the planning for these events.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Celebrating Science Week #natsciweek

Science week comes to an end and the Learning Commons has been busy with running events this week. We have had puzzles, quizzes, kaleidoscope workshop and today we did a shrinky dinks workshop as part of our Makerspace.

As a knowledge space, we set up a science book display with some of our more visually interesting books and a collection of home made kaleidoscope's as part of National Science Week celebrations.

We made a bunting using Periodic elements using MyFunSTudio and we set up one of the Tetris Lamps to engage curiosity in conductivity and Rubrik's Cube. Lots of conversations about how to solve the cube and the algorithms needed to manipulate the cube.

Today students had great time designing scientific shrinky dinks that could be used as earrings, cufflinks and brooches. The activity was a huge success and there was much learnt by both the Science and Learning Commons staff members in regards to running a workshop like this.

More reflections about our experiences later though!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Librarians and Social Capital

I've been reading up on how teacher librarians can leverage social capital to improve teaching and learning and I came across this.

Not only is Joyce knowledgable on the topic, she is also great at explaining how introverted teacher librarians need to get over it! That it is essential to our survival to get our there and get active!


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I got published!

I enjoy writing! 

So when the opportunity came up to write for the School Library Association of NSW at the end of last year I jumped at the chance. Lyn Hay was wonderful in allowing this very *new* Teacher Librarian to write down her thoughts about engaging students with author visits.

My article was published at the start of this year and I was very excited when I got my own copy through the mail. In preparation, a good friend took some "author photo's" for me (glamorous from the waist up) and some close friends did some proof reading for me.

My article spoke about my experiences with a number of author visits; Michael Pryor, George Ivanoff and James Phelan. In particular, I reflected on how we felt the impact of the author visit years after the fact. With Year 10 students still borrowing Michael Pryor books years after the visit, because they can remember the "burning book" trick.

This poses the question, are author visits essential to creating an engaged reading culture in schools?

Feedback has been very good and I am looking forward to writing more articles in the future if given the opportunity.

The reference for my article is in the publications page on my blog. If you are interested in my writing or you would like me to expand any of my blog entries into "articles" then please contact me via my blog, twitter or email.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The unconventional guide to Writing Prompts

Last year I co-ordinated the Student Write Club at school and I loved putting together interesting writing prompts for students.

You might ask me ... so where do you get your inspiration from?

Here are a few strategies that I used throughout that year.

Reading meaning into random words

You can either take a line from a less than conventional song or use one of the song lyric generators.
I normally look for one or two lines that make sense and then use them as writing prompts.

Similar to the song lyrics, using a line of computer generated poetry as a writing prompt. Poem Generator allows you to choose words that will be used randomly and they have sample lists that you can experiment with.

Using your senses

StereoMood can set the mood in terms of music. Type in what your mood is and it will set up a playlist for you to listen to. Musicovery is another site which performs a similar function.  Another option is to get the students to shut their eyes and allow them to inhale some essential oil. What does it make them think about? Or perhaps touch fur or sandpaper. Prompts don't have to be written!

A picture tells a 1000 words

Flickr Explore is worthwhile taking a look. 20Under20 has some great photo's that could be used as writing prompts or if you want you can use google to find images which represent genre's. You can also generate random images in Flickr using BeesBuzz and BigHugeLabs.

Students can bring their own images from home and swap them with each other for writing inspiration. Take a normal picture and use various filters to make the image say something different.

The art of observation

One of my favourite past times is to wander the city for a day with my camera and just observe. What is down that lane way? What happens at the top of a building? Who is that person sitting and reading?

This article appeared on Junkee and I loved the way that the owner of the garage turned what would have been an annoyance into an opportunity to write something about the backstory of the graffiti and who might have created it.

Part of being a writer is to observe and read meaning into what others might pass over.

How do you find your writing prompts?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Winter Reading Packs

At the end of last term, Kaitlyn (our wonderful Library Tech) and I put together some winter reading packs at the end of last term.

Our goal was to encourage students to borrow a book that they were unfamiliar with. A classic, a brand new book or a book of a lesser known author.

We tried to combine at least two books that related to each other in some way:

  • A classic and the modern day equivalent,
  • A book and movie of that book,
  • A collection of different styled poetry books,
  • Themed books and similar topics, for example: two books about dogs.
  • Books from the same genre.
  • A popular book, such as Hunger Games, and a less popular book of the same genre.

The books were wrapped up with a strip of wrapping paper and string and students liked that after we "processed" the books we wrapped them back up again for them to take home.

By the end of last term we had 24 packs (at least 48 books) borrowed in addition to our normal borrowing patterns.

Many students who borrowed the paired up books returned the first one and re-borrowed the second one so that they could finish it.

We are hoping to survey students who borrowed the Winter Reading packs to see if it would be worthwhile to do it again, perhaps as a Spring Reading Pack.