Libraries: I’m a believer! How do I make converts?

Library as a Kitchen

I recently had the absolute pleasure and privilege of being invited to share with librarians in the SLANZA Waikato/BOP area around the weighty and timely topic of library advocacy.

After being affected by fog in Christchurch and three plane rides later, I finally arrived in Hamilton at 9 o’clock at night (original arrival time was scheduled at 3.30pm! There’s a potential separate blog post on my stressful, circuitous journey, but I digress) and drove across to Tauranga to meet with the SLANZA Waikato/BOP crew the following morning.

While the weather that Saturday morning may have kept more faint-hearted souls in their beds, that is certainly not the case for intrepid librarians!  They are like the Pony Express riders of the historic Amerian West, “heroes for the much needed and dangerous service they provided for the nation” and cheerfully turned out in good numbers. (They were admirably rewarded with a stunning morning tea spread to keep their energy levels at high! Thanks, team!)

Occupational Invisibility

The workshop covered 10 key areas:

  1. Taking a look at the big picture
  2. Identifying our vision
  3. Acknowledging what we already do
  4. Planning
  5. Collaborative strategies
  6. Working with our whole community
  7. Telling our story
  8. Promotion and marketing
  9. How to gather evidence and what to do with it
  10. Tools of the trade

Ross Todd Quote

Since coming across it several years ago, I have often reflected on Lauren Cohen’s Librarian 2.0 Manifesto, which is startlingly, now more than 10 years old, and it had inspired me to want to write my own, but it never got to the top of my “to do” pile.

So, while preparing for this workshop I revisited it, along with re-reading the UNESCO and IFLA School Library Manifesto and the School Library and Learning in the Information Landscape: Guidelines for New Zealand Schools, which is now more than 15 years old. It made me realise that there has been little of significance published about advocating for school libraries and learning in more than a decade and given the rate of change in education in those dozen or so years it certainly gives pause for thought.

It also made me revisit my goal of writing my own manifesto but chose a different path and instead I incorporated the UNESCO manifesto and the NZ guidelines with my own library world view and this is what I came up with:

If you’d like more details about the advocacy workshop you can access it here:

Librarian BookAnd if you are looking for even more inspiration then you should invest in a copy of This is What A Librarian Looks Like: A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information by Kyle Cassidy.  It is awesome! Expect a blog post soon on this amazing book.

Thanks to the Waikato/BOP Committee for inviting me to come and share with them. They’re an awesome team, ably led by Glenys and Linda.  And thank you guys for the most precious of gifts you can give a librarian, a newly published book!

Finally, I’ll leave you with what has become a bit of a catchphrase for me in recent months as I continue to explore the intersection between libraries and learning.

Visible Learning Hattie

 

 

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What students need from me – a teacher reflection

Brick wall & ladder
CC Flickr – Assault Techniques

Author and English teacher Tania Roxborogh has today shared her reflections on being a teacher with her English teaching colleagues on their listserve.

This really resonated with me both as an educator and a mum and thought it might be the same for many of you, so I made contact with Tania and she has kindly given me permission to post it here for you all to read.

It reminds me that part of learning is repeatedly wrestling with information and often feeling like you’re beating your head against a brick wall.  Maybe teachers are the ladder over that brick wall. This is reinforced for me as I embark on this year’s Tertiary Prep Programme.

What My Students Need From Me – a Self-Reflection

Confession from a returning soldier teacher:
Yesterday, I got close to losing my temper at a class. For the millionth time, I had to explain again an instruction that was:

a) contained in their handout

b) up on the board

c) in a message home to the parents

I was really frustrated. Couldn’t they just pay attention? Couldn’t they just read/check it for themselves? Couldn’t they be grateful at how awesome I was as their teacher to be providing them with this awesome task using all the correct pedagogical tools that make the work relevant, help with different learning styles and needs…?
Yeah, nah!

 

I talked the day over with my pōtiki, the one who had us up at nights, who slammed doors and screamed at us for being horrible parents. And who is now back living with us, happily having these kind of conversations because (apparently) we’ve learned from her and are the best parents ever.
‘Mum, just be like you were with me.’ For a moment, a Vietnam flashback of those teenage years threatened to send me to bed with a headache but my daughter continued. ‘I knew that you would never ever give way with me. You never gave up. No matter how bad or sad or sick I was. Be like that for them. Be their wall to knock against. You once told me that the world of school is a hard place and I could come home and let it all out cos I was safe. Maybe they are asking and complaining because you make them feel safe.’

 

Once I got over the surprise at my 20 year old’s wisdom, I sat back and thought: yeah, they are fourteen. Who’d want to be fourteen. Keep being kind. Keep being patient even to the smart-alec kid who likes to take pot shots at me.

 

What they really need is for me to LET THEM ask (again), tell me they don’t understand, complain that it’s too hard.
Yes, really.

 

As much as it nuts me out, my time in the trenches of student-ville (see what I’m doing here) have taught me that if I couldn’t get it the first time, or the next, and what I needed then was my lecturer to have the patience of Gandhi (am I pushing the metaphor too wide?), and, because I knew my lecturer would always answer my questions (again and again), I sought help more and I learned, even if those around me caught on quicker.

Telling them I already know the stuff and that they need to is unfair and a bit unkind. Telling them I know the stuff and why it’s good to know it is more helpful.

Inquiry Learning Pt 3: The Process

Here is part three of our guided inquiry journey.  Leon expands on what direction their inquiry took and sets out the process he trialled with his class.  If you want to catch up on the first two instalments you can do that here for part 1 and here for part 2.

In term 1 this year we had completed a unit on healthy eating. This prompted a lot of discussion about food, what was healthy and what was not. There had also been lots published in the media about sugar and its ill effects on our health. The class decided they wanted to investigate this further.

An in-depth discussion ensued about some of the choices of food and drink that was available in our canteen and from that it was decided to see if we could affect what was offered for sale.  We decided to look at other healthy alternatives and whether or not it would be cost effective to serve meals that had no highly processed foods. Our next step was to backwards map how we might make all this happen.

In groups we brainstormed ideas about all the things we would need to do to make this happen and put together a timeline so everyone knew what and when different tasks had to happen.

Brainstorming process

Sugar

Note: (I believe this step is crucial to any inquiry. You need to have a timeline and establish some parameters, including a goal otherwise, as we discovered, it is very easy to get off task or have ideas spiral into something massive that will go on forever and ever!)

The first thing we had to do was gain the permission of our rector to investigate foods our canteen was selling.  A team of students put together a simple power point presentation and invited him to come and listen to their proposal. Students had to back up their suggestions themselves with relevant information as we knew Mr Baldwin would be asking some tough questions. This meant that every student had to do their own research to learn about the effects of highly processed food and sugar on the body both physically and mentally. Our researching skills really paid off at this time (thanks again Senga).

Students also made appointments with other teachers in the Science and Health departments to gather further information to strengthen their argument.

During this process it became clear that the students were all doing different things at different times. This was where I had to let go of my inner control freak! As a class we talked constantly about self-management and being able to work to a deadline. I had to trust that students would complete set tasks without me constantly looking over their shoulder.

I deliberately gave the boys a lot of freedom to come and go from the classroom and work how they needed to work. For some this meant taking regular breaks, listening to devices, working in groups or individually as well as having regular catch ups with each other. It was amazing to see them becoming “experts” in particular fields and all feeding off each other for information.
Chicken Tacos with Tomato Salsa cook book

As a class we designed a cookbook made from healthy recipes we had researched and students had to show their learning in some way, shape or form. This could be anything from a mock news interview to a power point presentation to a poster or simply submitting their inquiry journal.  Documenting our journey in this way would prove invaluable.

Students designed the criteria for our final assessment and came up with a list of ways that we could measure each other’s learning. Having them co-construct the criteria for assessment meant they had real ownership of the task.

So it sounds like all is coming up roses and I am now an expert on inquiry and my class is perfect aye! WRONG! Not all my students responded well to the less structured approach we took with our learning. Two students in particular really struggled with this concept, choosing to be completely off task and “abusing” the system. In the next posting I will continue to outline both the successes and the stumbling blocks along the way to successful guided inquiry ………

Inquiry Learning Part 2: The Approach

Here is instalment two of our inquiry journey where Leon describes the approaches taken. If you want to know why we began this journey, you can read about it here.

Before throwing myself into the unknown, I had to learn about the process of inquiry. I had previously had many conversations with our librarian, Senga about Inquiry Learning but had always made excuses that I was too busy to make this happen in my room.  Looking back, I now realise I was scared to give away power and too proud to acknowledge that I didn’t have all the answers. (Told you I was a control freak!)

I knew that if this was to work I would have to acquire help from others. This would also mean opening up my classroom and putting my practise under scrutiny.

Two books I read which were to become my bibles were:
Creating Learner Centred Primary Classroom Guided Inquiry DesignCreating a Learner-centred Primary Classroom by Kath Murdoch & Jeni Wilson and Guided Inquiry Design: a Framework for Inquiry in Your School by Carol Kahlyhau, Leslie Maniotes & Ann Caspari. 

These gave me some foundation and ideas to move forward.

 I realised that I really did not understand what good research looked like, nor did I have the skills to teach them to my students. This is where our school Research & Learning Coordinator Senga became the first big piece of putting this puzzle together. My students and I met with her for several sessions where we learned how to research in books and online, how to synthesise important information and take notes, and reference our sources of information.

Dot Jot LDN ExampleLDN 9Home NotetakingMy students had never gone through the Inquiry process before so we decided to all explore the same topic. We had  already worked on a unit around healthy eating and so decided to look at sugar in foods and whether all the hype in the media had any substance.

Our literacy sessions involved in-depth analysis of research we had found and we also watched movies such as Supersize Me, The 200kg Kid, That Sugar Film, and Fed Up. Inquiry 2 Fed Up

I quickly realised this was becoming massive! There were millions of questions that we were losing track of and we would need help from experts to find answers.  

We decided we would brainstorm a list of people we may need to call on for help and the “Wonderwall” was born!

Wonderwall

The Wonderwall is our dumping ground for questions that that arise during research.  We had sticky notes available at all times to write questions. Everyone answered each other’s questions as they came across relevant information.

9Home working

We approached staff members as experts to work with us and a great group of people got on board, prepared to help at any time. We already had access to a great research person from our library, who was also very good giving us ideas and resources for documenting our journey.  She was joined by a scientist, a P.E. specialist, a leader of learning, an English major with exceptional skill in photography and video, an Alternative Pathways teacher who the students have great respect for and a Mathematician & Physics teacher with a passion for teaching. This would become a great starting group to get things rolling.

Inquiry Learning: One Teacher’s Journey – Part 1

Inquiry

I had some comments at the SLANZA Conference last month that my blog has been a bit quiet.  This is true. But it hasn’t been due to lack of material.  It has more to do with timing and the size of the undertakings. Good things take time!

For example, it has taken me the better part of 10 months to be in a position to share about the new and improved Tertiary Prep Programme.

Another significant piece of work I’ve been involved in this year has been supporting and working alongside of one of my teachers as he embarked on a huge mind shift towards guided inquiry learning in his classroom.

It has been a roller-coaster year for both of us so I’ve asked Leon to share, in his own words, how this journey has been.

This will be the first in a series of blogs over the next few weeks outlining:

  • why undertake this journey
  • what approaches were taken
  • the outcomes for the students
  • reflection of the process from the teacher’s perspective
  • the benefits of collaboration

LDN 9Home 15

I am absolutely thrilled to be introducing you to Mr Leon Dunn. Not only is he a pleasure to work with, he has shown himself to be brave in launching into a new direction in his classroom practice, generous in sharing and discussing ideas with myself and others, and genuine in his caring connection with every student who enters his sphere.  Here, Leon shares about why he began this journey:

This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and look at teaching through inquiry in my class. This was a relatively new concept to me and I had only touched on inquiry in a school I had previously worked at.

WHY?

For the past three years I felt I have been just going through the motions in terms of my classroom teaching. There are some great systems put in place in our school for curriculum delivery, but I felt like neither I nor my class had any control over what happened in our room.

An example of this is our school reading programme. A folder was given to me on arrival at the school and we were instructed to only use the resources that were in it! The same applied to writing, where the unit and resources would be given to us and we taught from that. No collaboration with other staff or students about what and how curriculum would be delivered in the classroom. I felt restricted in terms of planning and resourcing and after gathering student voice data I knew it was time for things to change. I was tired of filling my students heads with “just in case” knowledge with a didactic teaching approach that was boring for all of us.

I teach a Year 9 Homeroom / Alternative Pathways class in an all boys school. There is a roll of 15 students in my class, with numbers this low because our homerooms are made up of very low academic and high pastoral needs students. For some of my students it is a win just getting to school on time!

Teaching through inquiry was a scary thought because I would be “flying blind” having no idea how it would work or how the boys would respond. This is my first year trialling this so am by no means an expert on the subject. I am also a self-confessed control freak so letting go and stepping into the unknown is very stressful. But over the course of the next few weeks I would like to share my journey warts and all! 

Leon is a primary, bilingual trained teacher in his ninth year of teaching.  After completing his degree he spent almost five years in London teaching all ages groups from Nursery to Year 6.  Upon returning to New Zealand he worked for a year in Alternative Education before  teaching a Year 6-8 class in a small primary school.  He has been teaching at Southland Boys’ High School for the past three years with Year 7 and Year 9 classes.

Research and the Internet – Are we getting smarter?

Human – business evolution

Reused from Flickr with Creative Commons License

I have just finished reading a thought-provoking article from the American Psychological Association regarding research into whether internet searching makes us feel smarter than we truly are.

It would seem that it does!  Apparently the research would suggest that we gain an inflated sense of our own knowledge, even when we don’t find the answer to what we’re looking for, after the physical act of searching the internet. However, it appears this is not the case when researchers provided the link to a website to enable subjects to answer specific questions.  It is the act of searching that makes us feel all-knowing.

Lead researcher Matthew Fisher suggests that as a result of the act of reading a book or talking with an expert we are more engaged in the research process than when we are searching the internet and so it becomes apparent to us when we have gaps in our knowledge.  This then leads us to investigate further to find the answer. “With the Internet, the lines become blurry between what you know and what you think you know.”

So what are the implications of this on education and our future generations? And will it become more obvious as our current crop of young people who seem surgically connected to their smart phones become adults?

My initial thoughts are that we need to be designing lessons that require a level of critical thinking that demands our students to engage with the material they find, and that we should not be too quick to physically or mentally throw out our non-fiction collections.

We also need to continue to engage in learning conversations with our students as well as encourage those conversations to take place between peers, and demand not only reasoned and cited answers to questions but that further questions need to be asked in the quest for new knowledge.

It could become a dangerous world indeed when decisions are being made by people who think they know everything, but in fact know very little at all.

Why I need to be in the library and not the office!

So yesterday I had to take up a position at the circulation desk instead of the library office.

SBHS Circulation Desk

Today I’m still there, and here’s why:

In the course of an hour this morning I had three separate conversations with three different teachers that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been in my office.

  • Conversation No. 1:  A Science teacher who was booking in her Year 10 class to use computers to research common contemporary myths, such “red sky at night, shepherd’s delight”, for scientific accuracy and proof of validity.  As we discussed what her expected outcomes are and a possible approach to guiding her students in a meaningful way, I shared with her the Quality Information Checklist website to illustrate for students the types of questions they need to ask themselves to validate information for research.  As a consequence, I taught the first part of this lesson …. today! …. for her class and she is going to share this website with other science faculty who are also teaching this unit.
  • Conversation No. 2:  A Health and Wellbeing teacher who had booked in at the last minute with his Year 10 boys to use computers.  After chatting with him about what they were doing I found out they were researching sexually transmitted diseases, a fun and challenging assignment to research with a class of red-blooded 14 & 15 year old males! I asked him how that was working and showed him the EPIC database, Health and Wellness Resource Centre which is tailor-made for this type of research and presents no problems with filter systems.  One of the features I love about this resource is the comprehensive table of contents which helps guide the students to the information required for them to answer their questions.
  • Conversation No. 3: Teacher number 3 had brought a couple of her Year 12 Media Studies students into the library to look at newspaper headlines as she was getting them to create their own.  I asked “Have you seen the Newspaper Clipping Generator? It might be just what you need.”  Half an hour later the same boys came in to show me what they’d created.

View into Library OfficeLibrary Office Desk

As you can see from the photos above, my office is tucked behind a wall, out of the way and while I have plenty of glass (still a barrier) that only gives me a view of half the library.  I can’t see people arriving, and more importantly, they can’t see me!

As a consequence of being “front and centre”, I’ve had more spontaneous conversations with the boys as they move through the library in the past two days than I have in the past two months!

Now …. to devise a plan to have us all working in the library and not the office!