Saturday, October 11, 2014

The learning wall

Last weekend I had the pleasure to co-facilitate an IB workshop "Inquiry and the librarian across the three programmes with Gary Green (@ggreen7) who has been working at PLC in Perth, Australia for the past 12 years as the Head of Library among many other roles he has undertaken at the school. This was the second workshop we facilitated together.

Gary is all about the learning, and is an inspirational educator to learn from and work with. He is always thinking of new ways to teach better and ensuring the learner is actively engaged in their own learning. 

As part of our learning journey together I have introduced him to some online tools and ways of learning, and he has introduced me to some great paper thinking tools he has created. We are a great team as we are able to work with each others strengths and we are both flexible and reflective. This last workshop Gary introduced me to the "Learning Wall' which he had just developed for his students based on his learning in the Harvard "Making thinking Visible" course. He had enough copies for all the participants and he persuaded me that this was a good idea before we started, so we went with it rather than an online document either as a downloadable or google doc that we had used before as it allowed for a 'jot style' of notetaking.


We introduced it to the participants and explained how we envisioned its use. It was a type of placemat where they could just place short notes into each box or brick. The wall is a metaphor for their learning, building upon previous knowledge.

Over the three days of learning, the participants walls filled up, some even overflowed onto a new wall. At the end of each day we asked them to place their learning walls on the real wall for others (and us) to see what learning was happening in the room.  In the very last session we asked them to circle the following on their wall :- 

Something they will initiate in the next week
Something that will be a short term goal (by end of year)
Something that will be a long term goal (1-3 years)

They then had to talk to a partner about their learning over the 3 days and the goals they were making. 

The learning wall is a very visual way of knowing what is being learned by the class participants, and a great reflective tool for after the workshop. The participants can now take this page and show to their line managers, co-ordinators and pin it on their notice board to remind them of the learning they had a the workshop.

I have thought about how else the learning wall could be used.  A student could carry it with him or herself over a day and uses it to jot down the learning as it happens then reflect on it in the evening (but not every day - this could get a bit painful). Or when students and teachers are engaged in one day seminars they can keep track of their learning in small bite sized chunks. The beauty of the learning wall is that it does not allow for copious notes, so the learner needs to really transform their understandings into small chunk sized pieces. 

What do you think? How might you see this tool being used?

If you do create a modified version of the learning wall please ensure you attribute Gary in this, his creative genius does need to be acknowledged.

Using this page 
Anyone may link to this Library Grits without asking prior permission, I’d be honored and happy that you have found it useful. However, I would appreciate if you cited it correctly if you use any part of it wholly or separately.

This page can be cited as follows :
McKenzie, D. (2014, 11 October)  The learning wall. [Blog] Retrieved from

Friday, October 3, 2014

Helping one of our own

This post is a off my normal track and I hope you will bear with me and take action.

A Teacher Librarian in Hong Kong, Debbie Alverez (aka the Stylin'  Librarian) is needing support from the wider education community. Over the past 14 months Debbie has been dealing with and treating multiple cancers, and, the health insurance is drying up. She does not need this type of stress right now.

I knew Debbie through her blog and was very excited when she was moving to Hong Kong from Oregan, USA so that I could get to know her personally. Over the past 2 years we have become friends and have worked together on a number of projects.  Deb has been an inspiration for myself in what she shares, her professionalism and her depth of knowledge of children's books, authors and school librarianship. Her family have been actively adventurous over the past 2 years exploring Asia on a shoestring and finding new treasures that are off the beaten track. With this new challenge (or plot twist) in her life, she has faced it bravely and head on. She has been researching and making changes in her life to reduce the impact of the cancer and treatments on her body and sharing it so others may learn and grow from it.

If you can please support Debbie by visiting this Give Forward page to donate what you can to an amazing woman so she can continue her fight against cancer and continue to inspire so many of us with her work. This has been set up by a friend of hers as Debbie is way too humble to ask for money or help.  If you have learned anything from Debbie, or been inspired by her over the years, now is the time to give back. If you haven't heard of her before, visit her blog and if you learn one thing or are inspired by something you read, then donate. Or, just help a stranger and see how it feels.

Postscript 11/10/2014 : The Give forward page has raised over $10,000 for Debbie. Thank you to everyone for your generosity. You can keep giving even though the goal has been reached.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Integrated referencing

View through a 4x rifle scope. Public Domain.

As part of the journey we have set upon to lift the profile of academic honesty at our school, and in response to the ATL audit we did I created a draft scope and sequence for referencing which starts in the first year of secondary school. There are plans to extend it into the primary school, but that is not the immediate priority right now.

This draft was given to all Heads of Department as a guide as to the minimum requirements that would be expected for full marks in the criteria on referencing for each year group and gives specific skills and benchmarks for teachers to teach to regarding referencing. It also is a marking guide for expectations that will be standardised across the school, to reduce confusion for the students and teachers. The Heads of Department took it to their team for comment and trial and we have had some interesting conversations and feedback.

Referencing is just one element of a number of others in each criteria, so the emphasis should not be just on referencing and citation.

For example MYP Science Criteria D ... (For MYP year 1)

Objective D

Reflecting on the impacts of science
At the end of year 1, students should be able to:
i. describe the ways in which science is applied and used to address a specific problem or issues
ii. discuss and analyse the various implications of using science and its application in solving a specific problem or issue iii. apply communication modes effectively
iv. document the work of others and sources of information used.

And for Individuals and Societies (Previously Humanities) Criteria C communicating.
(MYP Yr1)

Criterion C

At the end of year 1, students should be able to:i. communicate information and ideas with clarityii. organise information and ideas effectively for the taksiii. list sources of information in a way that follows task instructions*.

Referencing and citing is just one of 3-4 points the students are marked on. 

Going a little bit further, a break down of the criteria to assist in creating a standard marking rubric across the year level team is the next step. This is not finished and requires more thinking and discussion and is being developed across all year levels for each subject. The example below is just to give an example of where we are heading for all criteria. Sometimes teachers have different standards of expectations for students, (particularly with criteria marked like this * above) this type of guide helps to reduce the gap so marking can be consistent across all students.

Year 1 Individuals and Societies Criteria C - Communicating.

Level descriptor
The student does not reach a standard described by any of the descriptors below.
The student has not:-
completed the work to any standard
or may not have handed in the work
The student
i. communicates information and ideas in a style that is not always clear.
ii. organises information and ideas in a limited way
iii. inconsistently lists sources, not following the taks instructions
The student
i. (written)  The arguments and thoughts are not organised in a logical manner and not grouped together. Sentence and paragraph structure is difficult to read. Grammar and spelling errors are frequent.

The student:
i. communicates information and ideas in a style that is somewhat clear.
ii. somewhat organises information and ideas
iii. lists sources in a way that sometimes follows the task instructions.
The student has
The student :

i. communicates information and ideas in a style that is mostly clear.
ii. mostly organises information and ideas
iii. lists sources in a way that often follows the task instructions.
The student has demonstrated
i. (written) mostly grammatically correct sentence structure. Paragraphs are used, information is mostly organised using headings and subheadings. The attempted use of labelled and relevent  graphs and images where appropriate.
(oral/ presentation/ visual) Thoughts and arguments are organised in a mostly logical order, with relevant visual prompts.

ii. Ideas and themes are in a reasonable logical order, similar ideas and themes are mostly grouped together and discussed in context with relevant evidence. Formatting is mostly  consistent.

iii.  Bibliography is in Alphabetical order Author or Corp is included
Correct capitalisation
Date of access if no date for the resources for all resources.
Attempts to cite all in text pictures and graphs.
The student :
i. communicates information and ideas in a style that is somewhat clear.

ii. completely organises information and ideas effectively

iii. lists sources in a way that always follows the task instructions.
The student has demonstrated
i. (written) consistent and grammatically correct sentence structure. Paragraphs are used, information is organised clearly using headings and subheadings. The use of labelled and relevent  graphs and images where appropriate.
(oral/ presentation/ visual) Thoughts and arguments are organised in a logical order, with relevant visual prompts.

ii. Ideas and themes are in a logical order, similar ideas and themes are grouped together and discussed in context with relevant evidence.

iii.  Bibliography is in Alphabetical order Author or Corp is included
Correct capitalisation
Date of access if no date for the resources for all resources.

The referencing scope and sequence is the tool we are using to help to develop these standard marking criteria. The scope and sequence cannot be a stand alone document without any relevance to anything the teachers are doing. It must be part of the big picture of curriculum and assessment.

The referencing scope and sequence I developed is a google document which can be found here. Feel free to make a copy of it and change where it will work with your school. I ask that you keep my name on it as the original drafter as it is quite a number of hours of work and thinking. it has been made specifically to tie in with the IB and Middle Years and Diploma Programmes with supporting references. It also refers to Easybib as our tool of choice. You will also notice that the higher the grade the more emphasis on formatting is required beyond the basics. 

Editing of this original document has been turned off (make a copy), but commenting is allowed and encouraged. I would appreciate any comments you may have about the process or document.

Using this page 
Anyone may link to this Library Grits without asking prior permission, I’d be honored and happy that you have found it useful. However, I would appreciate if you cited it correctly if you use any part of it wholly or separately.

This page can be cited as follows :
McKenzie, D. (2014, 28 September)  Integrated referencing. Retrieved from

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Service and Action in the Library

The IB MYP programme requires that students participate in service and action to qualify for their MYP certificate. With this new year I am working on a service and action programme where students can work in the library and fulfill the requirements of the MYP programme.

The learning outcomes for the action and service component of the MYP are as follows ..

With appropriate guidance and support, MYP students should through their engagement with service as action
  • become more aware of their own strengths and areas for growth 
  • undertake challenges that develop new skills 
  • discuss, evaluate and plan student-initiated activities 
  • persevere in action 
  • work collaboratively with others 
  • develop international-mindedness through global engagement, multilingualism and intercultural understanding 
  • consider the ethical implications of their actions. 
  • Students in the final years of the programme should, with proper guidance, develop the scope and nature of service activities and have responsible roles in planning, organizing and implementing service activities to reflect their growing maturity and autonomy. 
MYP Principles in Practice. IB 

The students have a choice of doing a minor (2-3 hours of service) or a major (12 hours +)

Previously the students who undertook service in the library, just turned up and we gave them jobs to do. With these new outcomes there needs to be a new approach to how we manage the student helpers. 

I put out a request for those who would like to be helpers ... I spoke at assembly, and sent a link to a google form to  all year 10 and 11 students.

I had about 40 students sign up under the following areas :
  • Event organising (quiz's, lunch time activities, bookweek activities etc) 
  • Leading Book Clubs, Battle of the books teams, Golden Dragon awards 
  • Static Displays in the library 
  • Administrative support - collection development, cataloguing, etc.
  • Digital support - website design, book trailers, digital displays.
I have created google docs and folder for each of these areas with responsibility statements, time sheets, and links to tools they can use and inspirational pinterest pages for events and displays.

There have meetings with each of the groups, the volunteers have been divided into different teams and I have met individually where required. I am letting the students take the lead in what and how they want to do things, but offering advice and direction where required (and a bit of a push where necessary).

We have 2 display boards already completed with topical themes, the book clubs and Battle of Books groups are working on getting organised. The admin support group have been divided into PODs with a pod leader who will ensure all the group members are involved, turn up and do the required jobs. I have yet to meet with the digital display team and the event organisers, but we have meetings lined up and the google docs are ready to go.

This has taken up much of my time in these first few weeks as we get these groups up and running. Some of my objectives for this programme are
  • for the students to take more ownership of the library and its programmes through initiation, 
  • to entice more students into the facility and of course to meet the objectives of the Action and Service programme.
  • to help the students develop new skills in their chosen area, leadership, collaboration and communication.
My personal goals for my own behaviour include ensuring that I do not overwhelm the students with my ideas, keep in mind the student limitations and expertise and, just let go .... just let them work it the best they can. 

How do you manage your student helpers?

One of the students learning about design of a display and
putting it all together.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reading persuasion

This week at school I have been focused on reading - promoting and persuading students to read, to make reading goals and I even had the opportunity to speak to parents on supporting their children's reading in secondary school.

In class time I have been asking students to revisit their Goodreads accounts and making reading goals for the 4 months to the end of 2014. I have helped them find something to read by offering suggestions and through searching the catalogue. I also encouraged them to suggest books for the library to purchase. I have also tried to help them make the connection between reading and writing, citing the research (both subjective and anecdotal) about how high academic achievers are also avid readers because of their ability to articulate their thoughts with a wider vocabulary, increased general knowledge, the ability to make connections in the world and having a wider perspective on topics. They will also probably be better at creative writing. As we move toward banned books week I will also be mentioning how if governments want control, they burn the books and free thinking and dispose of authors and academics. Books and reading create thinkers (and hence troublemakers).

Having lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years now I have heard many stories first hand from Chinese adults born in the 1960's who grew up with parents who viewed reading for pleasure as a waste of time as it was a hedonistic activity and it did not lead to any greater, utilitarian benefit. They needed to read uplifting and serious books, mainly Chinese classics with a clear message or learning about life, or school related material. Fiction was forbidden.  The young readers had to hide their books and sneak their reading. If they were caught, they would be in serious trouble.

This attitude in general does not seem to be the case today, with the Hong Kong book fair receiving 1 million visitors over 7 days, reading books is seen as a legitimate way to spend time, however, I am not sure the full benefits of reading as found through the research is widely known in our local Hong Kong community. The students at our school are quite surprised to make the connection that the students who achieve the highest grades are also the ones who read the most - in any language. They also asked - how can we fit reading AND homework into our lives? It is a well known and researched phenomena that the time spent reading drops as students move through the higher grades due to school work demands.  

At the beginning of each year our students need to set goals - academic and personal improvement goals. Am I being manipulative and scheming to suggest to them that the easiest and most enjoyable way to improve their grades is to increase their reading to at least 30 minutes a day and to plan to read at least one book a week?  

I feel no guilt or shame, I am saying these things anyway. Let's see where it takes them.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

School Librarian Connection

School librarians generally work in isolation, trying to do many things for many people and, in many cases, have limited opportunities to look after their own learning needs. Katie Day (from The Librarian Edge) and I were chatting at many miles an hour about the limited opportunities there are in the South East Asian region to network with people in person doing the same job across many lands and learn from them. There are opportunities, just not too many of them, and they tend to be very localised. So we decided to create an opportunity that is regular, sustainable and possibly mobile.

We have developed the concept of the South East Asian School Librarian Connection. Starting with a small symposium of like minded people getting together to share their best practice we have developed a programme of alternate presentation opportunities where school librarians have the opportunity to share an idea or practice on a theme (hot topic) as a 3 minute, 10 minute or 20 minute snapshot. Time is made available at the end of the presentations to talk to the presenters individually and ask questions about the idea or practice, or just to talk to each other about what they just learned (see here for more details on the format).  This will allow everyone to be active in their own learning. Katie and I were disenchanted with the rush of big conferences along with the lack of time to make real connections. We wanted to create an experience that led to deeper learning and connections.

We are in the final stages of preparation and are quite excited about how it is all unfolding. We are open for expressions of interest for people willing to share and registration will be open soon. Have a look at the website School Librarian Connection. If you are in the South East Asian region, do consider sharing one element from your every day practice. It may not be a big deal to you, but it may just be what others are needing to know right now.

School Librarian Connection. Sharing for learning, come and be in the room.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Creating a culture of Academic Honesty

Created by Dianne McKenzie using Paper iPad app 2014

Last term we undertook a referencing audit and found there were inconsistencies across the board with regard to expectations of the students and to what was being taught, which led to a lower than required standard. This year academic honesty has become a focus with a whole school ethos being developed through the Academic Honesty Policy being revisited, staff being upskilled and expectations of the students being made consistent. The new IB documents on academic honesty have been released at the right time for our school.

Academic honesty is more than just not plagiarising. It is respect for creators and information, it is a matter of integrity and ethics and of time management. To use one of the IB learner profiles, it is a principled behaviour that promotes behaviour demonstrating "integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, and with respect for the dignity and rights of people everywhere." This is an ethos that needs to be promoted in schools. Academic honesty is not just about not getting caught, it is about being honest and ethical because it is the right thing to do.

Something that I feel very strongly about is that students are very much influenced by teacher behaviour and teachers need to be modelling appropriate behaviour in all aspects of their lives that are exposed to students. Teachers need to hold themselves to the same or higher expectations they hold for the students (Reed 2011) . This also applies to being academically honest.

How many presentations,  posters, handouts, information packages are created without correct citation? How many unit plans borrow inspiration from other sources without accreditation? How many times do we create things without putting our name on them, to give others the opportunity to do the right thing? How many times do we just take and share without accreditation? Most people are happy to share what they do, accreditation is one way to show respect and appreciation for the creator. 

Many of the articles on academic honesty in the classroom focus on assignment setting, student learning and punishment rather than how teachers can be good role models.  Colin Purrington  wrote a couple of blog posts "Kids learn to plagiarise from their public school teachers" and "Preventing Plagiarism", both offering practical ways that teachers can be modelling academic honesty. He suggests teachers "Explicitly model good attribution behaviour ... Always". Setting the example that academic honesty is important and that it can be done (even when you are in a hurry) and how it should be done. 

Deborah K. Reed published an article for Learning Forward JSD entitled "Plagiarism isn't just an issue for students" (2011 p.48)  Where she outlines instances of academic dishonesty by teachers and examines possible consequences. She states "The notion that students should be allowed to plagiarise in their work has always stricken teachers as absurd" and, if it was not necessary for teachers and academics to be held to the same standard, then academic honest policies need to be abolished.

If students are exposed to examples of academic honesty often and it is integrated into normal teaching practise, they will get it and standards will improve. Think about your own practise, what do you do? How do you teach it? Is it modelled?

What about school official documentation? newsletters? policies? Are they setting an example for the whole school? Do the students see academic honesty being used in their every day lives or is it just an expectation we have for them as students set apart from real life?

The most effective way to improve academic honesty is through many conversations from kindergarten. If you get them older than this, start conversing anyway. As a class go through your schools Academic Honesty Policy (do you have one?) and the expectations for everyone - including the teacher.  Place the policy somewhere where it is visual and accessible and refer to it often. Use the policy as a tool for learning. The new IB guide "Academic Honesty in the IB educational context" has a checklist for what an effective Academic Honesty policy can look like along with suggestions on methods of teaching. The IB has also published a companion document "Effective citing and referencing" which is also very useful. There are many tools to help teachers and students be honest in their academic life. We promote the use of Easybib at our school, there are others that also do a good job.

Teachers and adminstrators have a responsibilty to be models of academic honesty, otherwise what they 'teach' is not authentic.  Use the schools Academic Honesty Policy and add the words "teacher & administrator" alongside the references to student. Bring the meaning home. In most cases teachers and administrator talk the talk without walking the walk.

Take responsibility for your own learning about how to be academically honest, upskill so you know how to do it, embrace it and make it a part of what you do. Always. Not just when you have time or when you could be bothered or remember.


IB learner profiles [PDF]. (2013). International Baccalaureate organisation.

Purrington, C. B. (n.d.). Preventing plagiarism [Web log post]. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from

Purrington, C. B. (2014, March 3). Kids learn to plagiarize from their public school teachers [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Reed, D. K. (2011). Plagiarism isn't just an issue for students. JDS, 32(1), 47-49. Retrieved August 11, 2014, from

Using this page
Anyone may link to this Library Grits without asking prior permission, I’d be honored and happy that you have found it useful. However, I would appreciate if you cited it correctly if you use any part of it wholly or seperately.

This page can be cited as follows :
McKenzie, D. (2014, 23 August)  Creating a culture of Academic Honesty. Retrieved from