Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Trusty Sidekick

Last week I presented at the IB Asia Pacific Conference to an audience that was quite different to the audience I usually present to. This audience was made up of School Principals, PYP, MYP & DP co-ordinators, teachers of classes and subjects across the K-13 range, and a few school librarians. I was way out of my comfort zone, and felt highly stressed in the build up.

My presentation took on a comic book format to tie in with the sidekick theme. The slides had fun little cartoon style animations and transitions, combined with the use of Comic life to create headings and speech bubbles. I have recreated the presentation below as a static presentation, with some of the notes I shared.....I have shared it like this as it may have the potential to reach a greater audience. Warning - this is a loooong post!

My goal through this presentation is to enlighten you to the superpowers of the school librarian, and how he or she is one of the most valuable team members in the school. They can also be the most under-utilised but, with the right conditions can become the sidekick that no IB educator can do without.

What do sidekicks do?
An open discussion between the participants about the role of the sidekick in movies, books, comics, etc. The participants came up with offering perspective, taking a load off the main hero and keeping the moral compass. 

I had identified the roles of the sidekick and used well known characters from movies and cartoons to give the example of each.

Mr Spock is recognised as a science geek. His expertise is wide & deep, and sometimes surprising even to himself.

ATL's move across 3 of the IB programmes, research, self management, communication, social, thinking skills. The librarian is an expert in many of these skills. To me the ATLs are the basis of our existence.

Research - extending from the ATLs,limbs know about this research business. It is at the core of our being. The saying Librarians are search engines with feelings. Some of the tools and ways we can help are to set up google custom searches for your subject and teach advanced google techniques along with efficient database use among many others. 

Academic honesty & copyright, not wanting to be the copyright or plagiarism police, but we do know the rules and how to use them. We also know the tools that will assist students such as Creative Commons and Easybib.

Digital tools - this is not in every librarians toolbox, but in most. The strange thing about librarians is that we like to curate things, and we are always on the look out for new tools to enhance our jobs but also to help with teaching & learning.

Social media - Being about to reach our students is part of what we do - Twitter, Facebook, blogging, YouTube, vine, snapchat etc .... We use these tools to not only connect to our students, but to each other.

Inquiry - This too is in our arsenal, we breathe inquiry cycles beyond the big 6, guided inquiry is where we are headed.

Literature - this often where are pigeon holed, yes it is one of our areas of expertise, an important one too, but it is just part of what we do. 

Collaborator - Mike & Sulley collaborating to scare children and to ensure the children do not contaminate the Monster factory.

Working with others & connecting with others is what we do.

Resourcing is only as good as how much know about what is in the curriculum and about how you are delivering it. We don't have resources in the library on your topic? Maybe it is because we didn't know you were doing it! Communication is very important here.

Teaching... Have you ever tried co teaching? Small groups, support, on the spot trouble shooting. What about if a regular teacher is away? I am a teacher librarian, and as such teaching is part of my being, however some librarians may be less comfortable, or have less skills in leading a whole class. Mentor them, start small such as group work & you will have an ally & asset for life.

Projects ....I love projects,  it is what keeps me going. My reminders list is never finished. I am a big thinker, and develop & want to be part of big projects. Concept based (rather than skill based) Digital & Info literacy continuum, mapping ATLs, referencing across, Assisting Humanities in backwards planning, pursuit of passion project.

Planning ... Always working with someone, units, Lessons, camps, special projects, units, professional development days. Planning, planning, planning ....

Supporter - The minions - lots going on behind the scenes to ensure the mission proceeded smoothly.
Connections - We have connections across the school, across the local community, across the country, across the world. Gladwell mentions us - we are both connectors and mavens. 
Need to find an article? We can do that.
Find a red book that has a fish on the cover that has something to do with evolution? 
Need a specific poem in an anthology that was published in Iceland in 1982?
Make contact with another school to do an international project? 
We love this sort of thing. 
We have the connections.We use twitter, list serves, and friendships - we ask for favours all the time.

Ideas ... Vast knowledge of what is available, and sometimes we can think of them while talking or collaborating with you, sometimes we may have to get back to you. 
Because we have the privilege of going into different classes we see different ways of doing things. We stash things in our toolbox all the time, ready for use at any time. 

Mapping see a lot of what is going across the school in different subjects & year levels, able to help with mapping of ATL's,  and other important curriculum connections.

Creator - I make so many resources to support teaching & learning, little videos, how to guides and scaffold templates. We can take the load off you with regard to your teaching resources.

Confidant - Fred & Barney - Good friends who shared their lives and thoughts with each other.

Library is a neutral space & normally the librarian can stay out of politics going on, they are good at asking questions & making sense of information. They may have inside information to put another perspective on things, and they could also be a good person to bounce ideas off as they have so much information & insights. What is said in the library stays in the library ....

This can be used to a leaders advantage .., not so much spying but to gauge feelings & reactions to what is going on in the school. 


Anticipator - Q - always knew the tools that Bond may have needed in his mission.

Resourcing & curation ... Always on duty - links & resources stash them away curating for later, or to just pass them onto you as and when you need them. Setting up Diigo groups for efficient sharing, web guides, lib guides,  pathfinders, Moodle pages... We are about getting stuff to you before you even realise you need it!

Differentiation - we understand our students & their needs, we are always looking out for ways that help them learn - fonts that can be downloaded onto computers, scanning text & being able to transform it into a word document, scaffolding, different editions of stories,graphic novels, audio, big print,  Google custom search has a level of vocabulary & language filter - mother tongue ? EAL?  the students know we can help them usually before the teachers. ... Different levels of learning & interests. 

We need to have relationships with you to know what you need.

We can be an Ally just like Chewbucca - helping to achieve our goals of conquering the education universe....

Culminating projects - support with being a mentor, supervisor, co-ordinator, assistant, mini workshops, planning.

Professional learning - does your school librarian run workshops or spotlights for staff? Do they have blog or virtual space for creation of fun things, do they share? Are they respected enough to be given opportunities to teach others? Have you ever thought about this? While they are teaching your students, there is an opportunity to learn from the librarian ... 
Three step process - I teach with teacher learning, you teach with me supporting you , then you teach with me supporting students and then you are right to go.

Mentoring - this comes in many forms
The librarian mentoring Library staff - upskill the library assistants to go beyond their job description - how to make signage from foam board & printed paper, manage ebooks, cataloging foreign books using a programme, how to use databases, assertive training, customer service, English. Help them learn and build on their skill base, they may get a better job out of it, but you have helped someone improve their lives.

Mentoring other staff outside of their normal roles by helping them to set up and use twitter, blogs, database use, moodle.  I have also been borrowed by other schools to train their teachers in various tools such as Diigo & Easybib.

Curriculum development - how is that ATL mapping going? The MYP nc planning? Could you do things better? What about bringing in someone who is not as protective about the curriculum in for a different perspective.

The new IB documents give us quite specific roles to play in the school. IB documents in every programme mention the library or librarian, standards & practises, ICT guides, special needs guides, principles into practise,  making it happen. These are some of the quotes from the new MYP principles into practise. This is powerful for librarians as although not mandating our existence yet ( a library is mandated, but a trained librarian is not) it helps to open doors, get us out of the stereotype of checking out & shelving books. 

What can it look like in reality? How do we support in practical ways?

Developing how to guides for different tools, to me this necessary but a very level use of my time. I do it for my own benefit so I only need to actually teach it once, then the students & staff can use this guides to refresh their memories.

Scaffolding for assessments - having a non subject based person look over you task sheet is extremely valuable. I do the assessment as the students would & give feedback, then create a scaffold to help break it down into manageable chunks.

This is an extract of a document I created now I teach PYP again. I used the TDs as the basis of learning, then identified what it looked like for year 6. 

With regard to teaching year 6, all my units and planning are attached via google documents to the main planner. Everything is documented, the resources used are uploaded to the year group Weebly.

This is breaking the assessment criterion of a subject into ATL's, and then expanding it to show what it may look like. This will need to be revisited with the new MYP criterion. I also record all the classes with whom I have worked - which subject, class, teacher and what we did.

I have been at my current school for only 8 months, so my current projects are a little slim due to a number of factors... But this what they are.

One of the most exciting things I have been involved in is a rubric I have developed with the other librarian workshop leaders. IB Librarians Rubric This is not an official IB document, but we feel it is something that is needed to accompany the evolving role of the librarian in IB schools. It can be used for upskilling, recruiting, leverage, change... have a look and see what you think, we welcome comments.

What I do, I can do because of my situation. We have 3 Teacher Librarian's, one for each programme. I used to be the only one for PYP & MYP, then MYP & DP plus run the library, this was difficult be across more than one programme and limits what can be done. There are many cases  of only  1 librarian across the 3 programmes.  In a large school, to get the most out of your librarian, you need at least 1 per programme.

Fulltime Trained Library Assistants  are imperative for the librarian to get out of the library. Otherwise the librarians are overpaid clerks, especially if they are teachers as well. In a difficult situation parent or student helpers can be recruited, however training is required, which usually involves the librarian which takes them away from supporting the curriculum and the learning. 

The library is one of the most specialised fields in the school. Recruiting someone "who is a book lover" is throwing away potential and opportunity. Send your librarians onto IB workshops, help them improve your school results. It has been well researched and found that schools with rich library programmes with trained library staff - both assistants & librarians, are one of the key factors in lifting student achievement. The research is linked here.

Scheduling I am not used as release time, I have a completely flexible schedule which allows for free flowing time tabling on an as needs basis. I work on just in time rather than just in case. As a workshop leader, I hear from different librarians across the world that they really want to do more than what they are doing, but their situations do not allow it. Using the Librarian for release time is not helpful. It limits when they can meet with other staff, it limits 'just in time' learning and it limits what they can do to support learning in other ways.Be creative, how can you improve student services through the library without overworking the staff? 

What about lunch and break times? Is your library on the lunch time duty roster across the school? Why is the librarian normally the one who gets the most duties of anyone? Maybe they would like to have lunch with other staff? Run a school activity? Attend a planning meeting?

Inclusion - Invite your librarian to meetings, planning or otherwise, collaborate with them about resources required, include them in the training. Make them feel a part of the school teaching and learning team rather than an add on. 

Budget - It is not possible to do wonderful things with an uninspiring budget. Talk to the librarian, find out what they need to create a truly supportive programme.

In summary - conversations are needed to be had between school administrators and librarians. If you want wonderful things to happen, you need to support it through staffing, training, scheduling and budget. Ask your librarian what are the blocks they face to reach their potential in being the trusty sidekick that no educator can be without.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ways of Knowing in Singapore

The IBAP 2014 conference logo and theme

Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend my first IB Asia Pacific Conference in Singapore. I was also one of those selected to present out of many, many submissions. (More about this next post). The conference itself was different to what I had anticipated - it was far more relaxed and inclusive than I had thought it may have been.

I have come home with many thoughts about it all and here are some of my thinkings....

IB educators are passionate people. The IB curriculum is what brings many of us together, we speak our own language and dream big about helping our students be the best they can be. We have tools to help us - ATL's, (Approaches To Learning), LP's (learner Profiles) Criterion, rubrics, Global contexts, etc across the three programmes (PYP,MYP and DP) and we work hard to make those tools work for us.

Being part of a twitter community like #mypchat helps to make connections and friends fast at big events like this. Twitter also enabled me to get a glimpse of what was going on in other sessions that I was not in. It also allows me to have conversations on the side, and even after the conference to follow up, to clarify and to learn. We managed to persuade a few to convert to twitter, however out of 1200 educators, there were only 319 tweeters at the conference. We had a few tweet ups and photo opportunities.

My takeaway from the first Keynote with Prof Marcus du Sautoy. We need to work with students in creating real world problems, not just give them canned problems. Puzzles & problems = inquiry based learning = more learning.

Richard Gerver also gave a keynote which I thoroughly enjoyed. He made some great statements such as "At its essence education has always been  and is about the development of the human being". He also suggested that as educators,  if you want new ideas - ask people who are not in the same occupation or environment as you. Get out of the school. This is where Edcamps are very useful for making connections. he also suggested that school could be like a smart phone with apps. You use the app you need, then close it when you are done. Students select what they need at the time. An interesting concept to contemplate.

I also went to a session on Academic Honesty presented by a Principal at an International School. He made some great points about Academic Honesty. These included the concept that the whole school needs to be on board with a school wide academic honesty / integrity policy. Have open conversations about what it is, what it means and be open about the process. Have students think about how their ideas are influenced by others.
 He stated that academic honesty is a small question in a bigger pool of education integrity - what is happening on a larger scale? He shared research that correlated teaching students explicitly how to write using in text ref, bibliography  helps to remove incidences of academic misconduct. He also suggested that we require bibliographies to be placed first in the assignments to change their priority. This is an easy change to make.

Lawrence Klaus was the final keynote speaker. He is a physicist who understands far more complex things than I. His presentation was full of passion for the sciences, but I am afraid I was left way behind needing a translator and learning support. I did manage to learn something from him though ...  What ever you talk about you need to keep it engaging and link to something people know already otherwise they become disengaged with what you are saying.  He did say some great things that I could understand and resonated with me  'What we need to teach students is less about facts & more about the act of questioning'   "We should celebrate what we don't know, and, what we might learn"

One of the excellent features of the conference was having a couple of artists to create a wall of learning that reflected the keynotes and some of the sessions. The finished product is below.

This is just a few of the takeaways I have. The rest will wait for another time when I have transformed them into action. Overall it was a good conference, and as with all good conferences, it is about the people you connect with over the 2 days of learning. 

A Storify of the tweets is here .

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Becoming a professional reader

Sophia Kramskaya Reading
 Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoy  

A little while ago whilst on the hunt for new books for our library, I read a review on Goodreads and the reviewer mentioned getting an early copy of the book via Net Galley for an honest review. This piqued my interest and I investigated this secret of Net Galley and discovered something just wonderful. 

Net Galley is a place where publishers and authors place books up for review before the actual publication date. Those deemed "professional readers" are worthy of this entitlement. These PR's are stated to include booksellers, librarians, media, bloggers, reviewers and educators. There is a bit of a process and a few hoops to leap through before being approved to download a book to read but once this is done the process is quite seamless. The books are in ebook format (epub or kindle), and after approval are immediately available for download.

The requirement for this privilege is that the review needs to be made public through a blog, Goodreads, Twitter or some other way. I have a Goodreads account which is linked to my Twitter and Facebook page, so that is taken care of, and as you can see I have also added a page to my blog with book reviews on it, where I take the embed code from Goodreads and place it on this page and all the links go back to Goodreads. It does not take very long to place the review in many locations. The other advantage for these publishers is that pretty much all of the books I have read so far I will also purchase for the library. This is a great way to become aware of titles I may not have been exposed to otherwise. 

Another of the joys of being so public with my reading is making surprising connections with authors. I had read and thoroughly enjoyed "Boys Like you" by Juliana Stone, giving it 5/5 stars on Goodreads. The review was automatically tweeted and Juliana Stone read it and retweeted it with excitement. We have since gone on to have a short conversation about the story. 

I was also informed about Edelweiss, by a friend (The Styling Librarian, who BTW is a voracious reader) After joining  Edelweiss they send out periodic newsletters about  new publisher catalogs which approved customers can access and read the books available. Are there other pre-publishing sites I don't know about? How come these secret treasure places are not told about in library school? Why has it taken me so long to know they exist?

A large part of my job is knowing what my customers are reading, and being able to steer them into reading something they may be interested in. Net Galley calls people like me, "Professional readers" which this year I am taking to heart by reading 2-3 YA books a week - pre and post published, ebook and physical. Reading is  once again one of my time priorities and I am loving it!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Global Collaboration

Are you working in an IB school?

A number of the IB Librarian workshop leaders have been having many discussions in the background on what is happening in the IB for school librarians. One of the results of this discussion has been a rubric created for IB Librarians based on the new MYP Guide and role description for IB Librarians and schools but adapted to be relevant across all programmes.
This is not an IB sanctioned creation at this time, but we think it may be useful as a guide for those who are wanting to see where they are, and what else they could be doing. And it could lead to something more in the future.
We have had a go at creating the rubric and now we would like you to give feedback and comments of all types - wording, grammar, suggestions for inclusion or exclusion etc etc. The document is a google doc where the comments function has been activated, but the edit function has been disabled.
There can be a general comment left by selecting  ' comments' on the top right hand of the document, or if you wish to comment on a particular section or paragraph, highlight the paragraph, go to the menu -> insert -> comments.
Comments can be replied to. We would love to see what you think and suggestions you may have. The document is open to anyone who has the link, so pass it on - the more input the better. It is not a final document - it is a working document at this time.
Yours in collaboration and conversation ...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Picture tells a 1000 words

This week I had a follow on lesson from the Primary and Secondary sources lesson we did a few weeks ago. In between me teaching them, the students went to the HK Museum of History where they applied their knowledge of Primary & secondary sources by taking a few photos of primary sources. They also figured out that Museums contain may primary sources.

This week was a lesson on learning from photographs and asking questions to find out more.

I created another bundle of photographs of HK in the 1950's. The 1950's was chosen as it wasn't too long ago, and the decade was a turning point in HK history.

The set of photographs are contained in this slideshare
Hong Kong in the 1950's from Dimac4

This is the thinking page with questions.

The students were broken up into groups of 2, 3 or 4. They were instructed to spread the pictures out so they could see them all together, they could group things together if they saw a connection.

We worked with I see, I think, I wonder.  They had a thinking sheet of questions they might focus on when looking at the pictures.  There was no writing involved, it was all dialogue. At the end of 15 minutes or so they were to share a fact about HK in the 1950's they had learned, and a big question they had about HK after viewing the photos.

It took a little while for the students to warm up to making connections, but once they had really looked at the photos beyond what they saw and made connections between what they knew and what was in the photographs, there was a lot of discussion and making sense of what they were looking at. They particularly liked the picture of the naked children and this got their attention. 

It was interesting in the students really had a bit of difficulty looking and creating facts about what they saw without injecting their own opinions, or assumptions. For instance - based on the image of the naked children, some of the students came to the conclusion that children had no clothes in the 1950's. When redirected to what the children doing in the photo they came to the conclusion that in some parts of HK, water had to be collected from a central pump. We then explored questions about this - why didn't they have water in their homes, then connected this to photos of the slums, and sampan living in contrast to the modern buildings image.  

Two of the most controversial images were the Chinese children learning on the street and the English learning in a proper school. The questions were quite insightful and built up to be quite 'phat questions". Why did the English have proper schools and the Chinese children didn't? Why didn't the HK government look after the Chinese people? How much rascism was in HK at this time? Why were so many people living in slums? Why were the English rich and the Chinese poor? Why did the English invade HK? 

These questions tied in nicely with the first unit they did earlier in the year on Human Rights. 

Some of the the things they learned was that Rickshaws were the taxis, The english had proper schools and the Chinese didn't, there were not many cars in HK at that time, there were slums in HK, people carried their goods over their shoulders. 

Something else I noticed was they always wanted to give answers to the questions ... based on their limited knowledge. They were trying to make connections with what they knew and how it could be the answer. 

Overall, it was a good 40 mins and I think the students are more aware of what they can learn from images. This could easily be transferred to older students, and I hope I get the chance to do that to see the different thinking and connections.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy Apping!

This is a short post on how to turn websites into app like links on your mobile devices.

I use my mobile devices quite a lot, and I really like the convenience and visual aspect of the apps on the iPhone and iPad. It is a bit fiddly to visit a web site on a mobile device through the bookmarks or having to type the web site into the address bar, so just recently I learned how to create an app like link. (I may be slow on this, but then I may not be too slow).

Follow the instructions below .....

Find the web site you want to a shortcut for....

Visit the website so the URL is in the address bar ....

Visit the Airdrop icon next to the address bar (1), then select Add to home screen on the pop up that appears. (2).

On the new pop up that appears,  select 'Add', it will add it to your home screen.

 The shortcut icon is created!

In some instances, you can log in and the log in remains with the shortcut app.

This could be a good way to place app like icons on class iPads, iPhones or iTouches when the useful website does not have a mobile app. Useful for ebook collections and platforms, OPAC etc.
Show your students if they don't know - it will change their lives!

Let me know if this is helpful or if I am just so slow on learning this!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Learning from the past with year 6

This last week I had the opportunity to teach year 6 about primary and secondary sources, what they are, how they are created and how we tell them apart. This is part of their PYP unit "Where we are in place and time" which has a history focus. History is one of my interests and primary sources are very important as a genealogist, so I was excited about this lesson, but I wanted to do it right!

I have taught the same lesson 6 times and each time it changes a little bit. I am a keen advocate of resource based and inquiry learning, but I only have 40 minutes with year 6. The lesson had to be engaging, inquiry and resource based and still meet the learning intention within the time frame.

The learning intention was that the students would be able to identify a primary and secondary source, they would be able to give an explanation of how primary sources are used to create secondary sources.

The lesson opened with a whole class discussion on what primary & secondary means. The first class I did not do this, and it took a long time for the students to figure out what the meanings were. After we had created a class definition of what primary (first) and secondary (second) was they were given a packet of resources to look at. I explained that one of the resources couldn't be printed, and I showed them the video of the first moon landing before they headed off.
In groups of 2-3, they had to determine which of the resources on the page was primary and which was secondary. They also had a thinking sheet with questions to answer from their observations (see below).

The rest of the lesson was unstructured and the class teacher and I wandered around the room talking to the students, and helping them with their thinking if they needed it.

At the  end I had the students talk to another group about what they found out and compare findings, then we had a class discussion to quickly bring it back together and see how their their thinking was going.

At the end of the lesson I gave a little story about 2 boxes I have that are important to me and why These were one of my deceased grandfathers cigar boxes, and my grandmothers button box. I had the actual boxes to show them. We then discussed how the boxes were primary sources because we could information directly from them, and my stories to the class about my grandparents were secondary stories. The students were engaged throughout the lesson and asking some great questions throughout.

The lesson took about 6 hours to prepare, but I do believe the students walked away with a good understanding of what primary and secondary sources were. I also think the lesson is robust enough to be used in secondary school. The year 6's will be visiting a museum next week, so we will have a follow up activity planned for the museum around primary sources.