Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pokemon Go & Augmented reality

Pokemon Go finally arrived in HK and I have been playing it for the past 24 hours. It is cute, it is addictive and I think it is quite a bit of fun. It can also get a little bit complicated when battles, badges, eggs and incubators all come into play. Baby steps for now. (See here for the Beginners guide ). My children were fans of the original Pokemon craze when it first came out - Pikachu was a firm favourite, they have take up the armour of a virtual Pokemon trainer in their 20's and relished the game with gusto.

The whole Pokemon Go concept and launch was well thought out and managed with launch dates coinciding with the beginning of national school holidays especially the long summer holidays in the Northern Hemisphere. Each country was released in stages to get the excitement built up - with Australia, USA & The UK first. I was chanting at the bit to see what all the fuss was about and to understand the conversations on ALA Think Tank FB group. There are also the haters with many memes being released about the Pokemon player.....  

There have been some teething problems with the game with Pokestops and Pokegyms being placed near monuments and other areas that really should not have had people traipsing all over them - places like memorials and cemeteries and other reverent, sombre paces. Many libraries are seizing the opportunity to be Pokestops, so that people will enter, or at least come close to entering and maybe they will stay a while.

Many school librarians and teachers have downloaded the app and are giving it a go so they can talk about it with there students when they return from holidays, school principals have been asked to comment in the general media on the game and what repercussions it may have on education. Here are two excellent articles on Pokemon Go in the school environment.
Pokemon Go : A distraction of an opportunity?  by Dr Alec J O’Connell, Headmaster Scotch College Swanbourne, Western Australia)
Pokemon @ School  by Skye Moroney

I am intrigued by the VR technology. I recently was introduced to it by a friend who developed a head set similar to but more permanent to the Google Cardboard. (Merge VR Goggles)  Wearing these goggles and watching a VR app go through its motions was incredible and literally mind blowing. But, this headset took me out of my normal environment and isolated me from the world. Pokemon Go reverses this and puts us back into the environment and allows us to interact with it in a whole new way, and placed the technology squarely into the mainstream. Everyone is taking notice, whether they love it or hate it.

There are currently a few Augmented reality apps on the market - Aurasma, Fresh Air,  Near Pod, Google expeditions, Star Walk (One of my favourites) that can and are being used in the education field. Many cities and museums are taking the augmented reality technology to help tourists explore their cities at a whole new level. Singapore has Waalkz and few European countries have Beetletrip apps. Of course, advertising has also got on board - iButterfly. What will be the real game changer is when crowdsourcing starts becoming mainstream and we are not just consumers of VR - but creators in a more meaningful way.

Although Pokemon Go may be a game, the technology is one of constant development and needs to be taken seriously - where can it go from here? Have a look at this article from Mashable on how Augmented reality will improve your life.  Further reading from VB - Pokemon Go is nice, but this is what real augmented reality will look like.

Get on board it is here to stay and is the 'next big thing'. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Approaches to Learning skills

This post is going to be a straight up post about the Approaches to Learning in the IB Middle Years Programme and what I have learned about them in teaching and working with them through workshops I have led and hopefully it will help others to gain the insights that I have arrived at and ease some of the stress about them. The principles discussed can be applied to the DP and PYP as well.

The Approaches to Learning Skills are conceptual in design. They are made up of 15 conceptual ideas about different tools of learning. They are divided into 5 main categories and 10 clusters.

The five categories are: 

The ten clusters are: 

When working with the ATL skills, these categories and clusters are non negotiable, which means they are the concepts with which teachers must work within when planning to teaching, map and identify the skills. All teachers in MYP schools are responsible for integrating and explicitly teaching ATL skills.

In the MYP: Principles into Practice  (Appendix 1 p. 97) these categories and clusters are expanded into a framework with suggestions of what skills may be included under each of the headings. These are not the be all and end all of ATL skills. In fact, these are suggestions of a possible framework only and can be modified to suit the needs of the school, students as well as local and national requirements as explained on page 21 of the MYP Principles into Practice. 
  1. "Appendix 1 provides a framework of important ATL skills for MYP students. Schools can identify additional disciplinary and interdisciplinary skills within this framework that meet the needs of students as well as local or national requirements. " 
After working with the ATL skills deeply with teachers in workshops I have discovered that schools are using these examples of skills as the gospel of the only ATL skills that can be taught, and they are being jammed into the curriculum without much thought or unpacking. Managebac has a drop down menu of these skills, as does Atlas without any other option to input other skills that the school or teacher is developing. This is going by the letter of the law rather than the spirit. The list of ATL skills in the the appendix are suggestions that could be used. Used by themselves without unpacking they really are too broad as they offer little description in what skills are being taught and learned.

The big idea behind the approaches to learning is that they are taught explicitly based on and correlated to the required assessment task at the end of the unit. For example, in year 1 of the MYP, in Individuals and Societies, an assessment task requires a student to give a verbal presentation with a slide show on Forces of Nature. This would be assessed under -

Individuals & Society - Year 1
Criterion C - Communicating 􏰇􏰞􏰎 : 
       i.Communicate information and ideas with clarity􏰈􏰋􏰔􏰔􏰄􏰌􏰇􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰂􏰎􏰇􏰌􏰛􏰋􏰁􏰔􏰉􏰊􏰇􏰋􏰌􏰎􏰉􏰌􏰏􏰎􏰇􏰏􏰂􏰉􏰒􏰎􏰜􏰇􏰊􏰕􏰎􏰈􏰆􏰉􏰁􏰇􏰊􏰓􏰎
     ii. Organise information and ideas effectively for the task
     iii. List sources of information in a way that follows instructions

For students to achieve in that assessment task, they need to know and demonstrate presentation skills which would include but not be limited to : - 
  • planning and drafting a presentation with opening, body & closure in a logical order
  • voice projection, 
  • Clarity & fluency of speech
  • Variety - pace, pitch, emphasis, pause
  • facing the audience, 
  • speaking without reading off notes, 
  • knowledge of subject
  • designing good slides & visuals, 
  • appropriate transitions and animations,
  • engaging the audience
  • knowing the audience
  • time management
  • meeting deadlines
These skills would come under : 

CategoryCommunications skills, Cluster - Effective communication through interaction, 
Category - Self management - Cluster - Organisation skills.

Using the Framework in the PiP Appendix - the suggested skills would be : 

Communication skills: 
  • Use a variety of media to communicate with a range of audiences
  • Use a variety of speaking techniques to communicate with a variety of audiences 
  • Share ideas with multiple audiences using a variety of digital environments and media
  • Organize and depict information logically 
Organisation skills
  • Plan short- and long-term assignments; meet deadlines
  • Create plans to prepare for summative assessments (examinations and performances) 
  • Use appropriate strategies for organizing complex information 
  • Select and use technology effectively and productively 
The skills offered in the Principles into Practice are too broad to be able to be taught effectively and with any possible real measurement or meaning. They need to be broken down further to make them meaningful and from there, the vertical and horizontal mapping can be developed with much more intent.

"In the MYP unit planner, teachers identify ATL skills—general as well as subject-specific—that students will need to develop, through their engagement with the unit’s learning experiences (including formative assessments), to meet the unit’s objectives. "p. 63  PiP.

For the assessment and unit example above, some (not all) of the presentation skills need to be identified by the teacher of the unit as those that need to be learned, and then explicitly taught through the unit, and hence assessed through the task specific subject criterion through the completed assessment. 

"MYP assessment plays a significant role in the development of ATL skills, especially skills that are closely related to subject-group objectives. The MYP approach to assessment recognises the importance of assessing not only the products, but also the process, of learning. " p. 79 PiP.

For example in the task assessment rubric it may develop from something like this :- 

Individuals & Societies
Criterion C - Communicating 􏰇􏰞􏰎 :  Year 1.
       i.Communicate information and ideas with clarity􏰈􏰋􏰔􏰔􏰄􏰌􏰇􏰈􏰉􏰊􏰂􏰎􏰇􏰌􏰛􏰋􏰁􏰔􏰉􏰊􏰇􏰋􏰌􏰎􏰉􏰌􏰏􏰎􏰇􏰏􏰂􏰉􏰒􏰎􏰜􏰇􏰊􏰕􏰎􏰈􏰆􏰉􏰁􏰇􏰊􏰓􏰎
              Skills focused on : - Voice projection, clarity and fluency of speech
                                              Audience Connection 
     ii. Organise information and ideas effectively for the task
             Skills focused on :- planning and drafting a logical presentation - 
                                            with focus on the  opening or hook
                                            Slide design using CARP principles
     iii. List sources of information in a way that follows instructions
             Skills focused on :- Writing a bibliography

The specific presentation skills would then be mapped as being taught and assessed in this unit by this teacher (in his case Dianne). Other teachers could teach the same skills, slightly differently with different resources, or they could build on what has already been taught well and move on to one of the other presentations skills so that the students will reach the end of the year with all of the planned skill developed ready to move into year 2 and 3.

A possible example of horizontal planning ...

The important part of the mapping and teaching of the ATL skills is that is it strategic, you map what you will teach or have explicitly taught based on the requirements of the assessment task.

What has been happening in schools in the drop down menu culture is that teachers are looking at the skills from the framework and saying to themselves - "yep - we will cover this, and this and that" ending up with most of the ATL skills selected, but not being explicitly taught in the unit, specific to the assessment task. It is a tick the box exercise and not at all meaningful or helpful. The mapping programmes need to add boxes for further information for the mapping to be useful and meaningful.

There are many assumptions about what students can and cannot do with regard to these skills. In some cases the assessment task requires a student to complete a field report (or lab report, or annotated bibliography etc), but how to write a field report may never be actually explicitly taught. This is an ATL skill under Communication - "Use appropriate forms of writing for different purposes and audiences" which is then further broken down into more specific forms of communication ie "Using a specific format and including required information, write a field report"

Once these skills have been identified for each year level for each assessment task and unit across the curriculum, the vertical planning becomes clear. 

This approach is flexible enough to allow national standards to be incorporated into the curriculum without trying to jam them, or create an added burden into the MYP framework. If the suggested skills are looked at critically and compared alongside national standards such as the Common Core (USA) , ACARA (Australia), National Standards (NZ), the national Curriculum (UK) or any other nations standards, they are all pretty similar. 

Myth busting: 
1. There is no requirement for all of the 140 framework suggestions to be taught or mapped in the MYP. (from Further Guidance for developing ATL in the MYP) 

2. It is not necessary for planning for teaching, assessing and reporting on all 5 MYP ATL skill categories or 10 MYP ATL skill clusters, they should used as a guide to direct learning and opportunities for learning. (from Further Guidance for developing ATL in the MYP).

3. All the MYP requires for the ATL skills documentation is that schools demonstrate that teachers have time to work on this important aspect of curriculum planning. Robust horizontal articulation (year-level planning across subject groups) will include discussion about ATL skills that cross disciplinary boundaries. The results of these discussions do not have to be documented in order to meet requirements for MYP authorisation and evaluation (from Further Guidance for developing ATL in the MYP).
So - stop stressing out about the Approaches to Learning, most teachers are already teaching them but now they need to be mindful of why they are teaching them and when. 

The ATL skills should not be taught as a stand alone but in context of what skills the students need to achieve in the units of work and they do need to be explicitly taught. 

Remember also you are working with a team of teachers across the school who are all responsible for teaching these skills, collaboration and conversations are required. It is not a single persons job to teach all skills to all students.

The MYP co-ordinator needs to be tracking what is being taught where and by whom, so that an idea of strengths and weaknesses can be identified in the curriculum to ensure the students have learned many of the skills before they leave school.

Those 140 skills suggestions in the appendix?  Use them as a base to build more meaningful descriptors of skills. They do not need to be (or should not be) used as a check the box exercise.

Links to resources that provide more specific skill descriptors are below: 

The image below is a graphical representation of how the MYP planner works with all of the pieces connecting with each other. The ATL skills role and place is depicted in red in the lower right hand corner. 
I would appreciate any feedback you have on this post in the comments.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The data driven library

Image from Pixabay

In the August / September 2010 edition of the Library Media Connection was an article titled "The Data-driven library program".  This article is timeless as it discusses how the Oondag-Cortland-Madison Board of Cooperative Educational Services, School Library System (OCMBoCES SLS in the USA)  district thought a little bit different about collaboration and came up with a strategy that not only boosted the use the library, but also gave the librarians much needed status with the teachers and schools by improving student learning, school wide.

The main question to start the discussion and program initiatives was:

"Through collaboration, how can the library program be instrumental at leading efforts to school-wide improvement in student learning?" 

There are four parts to this question that we need to connect with ;
  • collaboration
  • leading
  • school-wide
  • student learning
These three elements are what makes a strong school library program and what we need to be focusing on.
  • Collaboration means no going it alone, it is about working with others toward a mutual understanding and goal.
  • Leading is about being proactive, knowing where you want to go and how to get there. It is also about bringing others along for the ride. It is not reactive, or complaining or just accepting things as they are.
  • School-wide is about the whole school community - not just about the library. It is about moving beyond comfort zones and shaking things up.
  • Student learning is what why we do what we do in schools. It should be the focus of every decision and change in school and the library.
From this big and important question the PALS (Partners in Achievement : Library and Students) initiative was born.  The program worked by using "student achievement data from state assessments to inform & enhance library collections and collaborations with classroom teachers and to plan unit of instruction to address identified student needs."

The PALS developed a second essential question :

How could my library program in partnership with classroom teachers, leverage data from standardized state assessments to respond to students’ academic strengths and challenges?”
  • library program
  • partnership
  • leverage data
  • respond

In other words, how could working with the classroom teachers and data make what I do more meaningful and have an impact on learning?

One strength in the success of the program was that each school librarian started working with one teacher who was supportive, a master of their craft and willing to work collaboratively. The program did not go all out to change the world all at once.

The school librarians and teachers were up skilled on a particular piece of software (Data Mentor) and worked with the data. They then asked further questions to guide where they were going and what they were learning. They analysed how the questions on the standardised tests reflected AASL & NYS information literacy standards (and now common core, or even ATL skills) for each grade level. They evaluated how each grade was performing in relation to the standard indicator, and to other grades, they also identfied the strengths and challenges that each grade demonstrated. Once they had curated this data, they made a plan to move forward to target instruction.

They worked on a 2 year action plan together focusing on a or a just a few specific performance indicators. They did not try to cover everything at once. The school librarian and the teacher collaboratively planned learning experiences that built the skill level for those weaker indicators over time.

Another part of the PALS program was to address collection development and formed this important question ....

"How do librarians use various types of data to inform their instruction and to build a library collection aligned to curriculum & recreational reading?"

What data is used to build your collection? How do you collect it? We need to get beyond borrowing stats, online database usage and how many books we bought. We need to consider what are the needs of the community, how will we find this out, and then what will we do about it.


Reading this article highlighted to me, that to make a real difference in schools, to make a real difference to learning, we need to be involved in the creation, marking and evaluating of the formative and summative assessments of the students we work with. Although this article is based on American standardised tests, the concept & strategies could work world wide using any assessment data and any standards - whether it be ATL skills (IB Curriculum), ACARA capabilities (Australia), Common Core Standards, ISTE standards, NYC Information Fluency standards or another set of standards, or even a mix of any or all of these. 

We need to know what the students don't know or don't know how to do before we can start planning to move forward.

How ...???
  • Be prepared to be the leader in this. Do not wait for anyone else to do it, and do not be pushed out of the way.
  • Understand the process of strategic planning and what you want to achieve, be prepared to fail well, and be ready to move on. Think of how you will evaluate the process at the end, will it show evidence? What data will you collect that will add to your evidence that you are making a difference?
  • Know the standards you need to be working to - they will be the same ones your school uses, do not add anything else to the mix, do not go off on tangents. Use the same language and tools your teachers are using.
  • Start by asking the hard questions in bold above of yourself and your library program.
  • Know what standardised tests or other assessments are being conducted at your school, ask to look at the data across the board. Ask to be part of the planning or help to assess the work the students do. Analyse it to create meaning.
  • Ask questions of the assessments - break down the skill sets that are needed for students to complete them to a satisfactory level, then identify what was done well and what is weak. Identifying these skills, strategically plan with the classroom teachers to teach them specifically & strategically.
  • Start by collaborating with one teacher who is an ally and a supporter of your vision who is ready to learn as you go and make mistakes. Build it and they will come.
  • Have your Principal on board and supporting you.
  • Evaluate the journey - has it made a difference? How do you know? (see point 2 above)
  • Report and publish your journey and results widely in the school and the community.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Forest Libraries in Korea

In the past few weeks I was on a cycling trip through Korea and within minutes of starting on our odyssey we came across a small library alongside the bicycle track in Busan. These are called Forest Libraries, and I did some investigating on what they were and how they worked.

These small libraries are unmanned and stocked mainly through donations from corporations and individuals, but also with some funding from the district council. The books are not catalogued. There is no requirement for a library card, and people can borrow for as long as they like and whenever they like.

One user was quoted in the Korea Herald as saying "“At first, I had doubts about how long and how well an unmanned library could be maintained,” continues Yang. “But every time I come, the shelves are fully stocked and well-organized. It’s great to see how the library is encouraging a culture of trust and consideration among users.” 

These libraries were opened as part of the 2014 Year of Reading in 2012 are across Korea in the major cities. For more information on these particular libraries see this link Books for loan at new forest libraries.

The forest of wisdom library - photo from Korea Herald

Korea has been quite innovative in creating new types of libraries one of which is called the Forest of Wisdom which is open 24 hours a day, again the books were not catalogued on opening (but this is underway apparently), nor are they organised using any specific system. Borrowing is not part of this library's culture and the library is manned by "Kwondoksa" who are volunteers who help find books for visitors and guide them. Only they can climb the ladders to fetch books from the high shelves.  
Library with no restrictions opens up in Paju

The Korean government has been committing quite a lot of money toward creating more public libraries for the Korean people - with over 968 libraries open throughout the country. The population of Korea is about 50 million people, with most of the population living in the northern region of the country. The ratio of people per public library is about 53,000:1. (In Australia the ratio is 15000:1, in the USA the ratio is about 19000:1, UK is about 15,000:1) For more information on the plans of the Korean government see this link No. of public libraries to rise to 968
Evolution of libraries highlights values of books

This was all very interesting to me as governments in other parts of the world are doing their best to remove public and school libraries from their agendas.

If you are interested in our bike adventure through Korea - see our blog Rambling Cyclists

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Values and disconnects

Image from Pixabay

In the past 12 months I have had the opportunity to work with many school librarians from many different countries - Pakistan, India, China, Korea, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, Laos, Cambodia, New Zealand (and more) and it has become apparent that in many schools there is a disconnect between what the school librarians are wanting and expecting to be able to do and what the school leadership expectations are with regard to support of the library and its programs.

Much of this disconnect comes down to difference in priorities, expectations and values.

What are the priorities and values of the school librarian? 
What are the priorities and and values of the school principal?

Below is a wide range of values that may apply to school librarianship, it is not exhaustive, and I am sure it could be added to.... 

Select your top 10 values from this list and prioritise the most important to the least important for you, personally as a library professional. 
If you work with other library staff, ask them to do the same. 
Compare your lists, how close are they in the same choices and priorities? 
How does this impact on what happens in the workplace? 
How have these values developed?

Identify what you think the school and / or Principal values from your perspective.

If you have the opportunity, ask your Principal (or line manager) to do the same with these same values. Compare your list with the Principal's actual list and have a discussion with them about the differences and similarities between your values and priorities.

If nothing else, it may give you a greater insight into what the Principal values, and where you may be able to align some of your energy to work with them rather than against them.

This list may also be useful to be used in a survey across staff to see what they value in the library, and will give you an idea of where to direct some of your energy to win them over.

I have included the words below that you can copy and paste to use as you like and add your own if not included here.

Accountability   Advocacy    Collaboration   Communication     Community               Confidentiality   Creativity    Critical Thinking   Curation   Data    Democracy                     Diversity    Education    Equity    Ethics    Inclusion     Innovation   Inquiry                     Intellectual Freedom     Int’l Mindedness    Leadership     Learners     Lifelong Learning
Literacy    Preservation   Privacy    Professionalism    Provocation    Management
Order   Outreach    Reading     Relationships     Research     Responsibility    Safety
Service    Social     Systems     Teaching    The greater good    Transparency

Thursday, May 19, 2016

InSPIRing Conversations

Image from Pixabay

Prague : The City of 1000 spires will be the venue for the next School Librarian Connection conference themed "InSPIRing Conversations".  We will be replicating our format of having plenty of time for discussion and learning from each other during the presentations and adding a day to hold deep learning workshops with John Royce, Katie Day & Dianne McKenzie leading conversations on Academic Honesty & Information Literacy plus more to be revealed.

We will be hosted by The International School of Prague from 15 - 17 September, conversations will revolve around Maker Spaces, developing policies, involving students in leaderships roles, collection development and genrification, the Extended Essay processes, doing more with not much or nothing, reading initiatives, collaborative planning plus much more!

We are also planning to arrange a group visit and tour to the  Baroque Library Hall in Clementinum on the Friday evening.

Image from Pixabay

Are you interested? Please go to the survey to indicate your interest, and let us know if you would like to lead a conversation. You will be kept up to day on developments and when registration opens. We will be limiting registrations to 65 people.

The conference website can be found here  and just as a taster - the scenery of the City of Prague ...

Images from Pixabay

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Discussion starters

Some time ago I developed a board game for a full day of ethics education for years 9 and 10. This board game explored copyright and academic honesty issues through scenarios printed on cards using a South Park avatar generator, which had a license to create for non commercial purposes. I have used the cards in IB workshops to start discussions on Academic Honesty and Copyright issues. They were well received and I had many requests for the cards.

The cards took many hours to develop, however, I was not able to share them using the images I had originally used so they needed to be redeveloped with new images and professionally printed the size of Taro cards (70mm x 121mm, 2.75" x 4.75") and shrink wrapped

As part of the redevelopment, I have updated and included more scenarios and included two new categories - Digital Citizenship and General ethics.

There are 70 cards in total comprised of the following ...
Copyright : 13 cards
Digital Citizenship : 19 cards
General Ethics : 15 cards
Academic Honesty : 23 cards

They are colour coded and numbered for each of the different topics.

Ways they can be used :

  • Ask the students to identify what they think is the worst behaviour of the scenarios to stimulate conversation about values, the unspoken rules of society (which societal rules? where do they come from?) and doing the right thing even if no one is looking. 
  • Students are to place the Academic Honesty scenarios in order from the least breach to the worst breach of academic honesty.
  • Used with a board game like trivial pursuit (with 4 categories instead of 6) where they need to speak to the scenario and make a judgement with something like a moral compass, in the case of academic honesty or copyright with the actual 'rules'.
  • Used as a conversation starter in a short pastoral care programme like peer support, like a card-a-day.
  • Have the students create a game with the cards where the discussion is the important part of the game.
  • Be a starter activity for teacher professional development on any of these topics.
  • Any way that you think would be useful.

They would be ideal to be used for Theory of Knowledge, Pastoral care, Citizenship classes and teaching about Academic Honesty and Copyright from 10 year olds through to adults.

If you would like a set of these cards, they are $25USD (this works out to be 35 cents a card) and includes postage to anywhere in the world. You can purchase them online from this page where there are also free resources to download.  

Some examples of the cards can be found below (the actual cards do not have the watermark).