Monday, October 5, 2015

School Libraries in Pakistan

Last week I posted about my general perception of Pakistan after my visit there, this week I want to focus on what I learned about the status of school libraries and librarians in Pakistan from the people I was working with.

Firstly, it is quite rare for school librarians to have any training in librarianship. From my brief research I found that there were only two universities in Pakistan that offered such courses. The University of Karachi and the University of the Punjab. There is also a 6 month course at the  Alama Iqbal Open University. It appears there are about 200 spots a year in offered in total, and, of course the cost would be something that needs to be considered by possible applicants and if the cost is offset by increased future earnings.

This situation leads to school librarians not really knowing what they are doing with regard to systems, policies & procedures and then having to work out their own based on what they already know, what they can find out, or what the school dictates. This sometimes leads to some organisational elements being over complicated (or insufficient) such as processes including cataloguing and shelving.  Many of the schools are for profit schools, so books are treated as assets and usually cannot be weeded without a struggle. Collection development can be based on 'reading practice' style books and resources, with limited wider leisure reading of good literature. In school systems with large numbers of schools, the collection purchasing could be done by someone in a main office, with no input from the school librarians, and the budget could also be managed by the main office, again with little input from the individual school librarians. 

Most school libraries do not use an automated library system, and many not have any system to allow students to search the resources in any capacity (not even a card catalogue). Browsing the shelves is the only method to know what is in the library (or going through the accession records). Pakistan suffers from regular daily power outages even in the cities, so not being reliant on computers maybe a good thing, and in places the internet is very inconsistent. The physical space of the school library tends to be very traditional based on the old British model, and what has always been done.

The procuring of books from other countries can be difficult due to the cost of both the books and shipping, (some vendors will not ship to Pakistan and if they do, it is very expensive), possible censorship by the school governance, and some books disappearing from the boxes on route. There have been instances of customs not releasing books until the appropriate 'tax' is payed. Local publishing in Pakistan is limited, even in the Urdu language. The cost of imported books is the same price as the retail price in the USA - ie $10 -$20+ USD per title, but when parents are paying between $100 - $300USD a month for school fees, the percentage of spending on books to create a decent library collection is very high at these prices. The cost of authentic titles and the lack of local publishing has led to a lucrative trade in pirated photocopied books, which are a fraction of the cost of the original and tend to be what school collections are based on.

With these limitations for physical books, many school librarians are looking to supplement their collections with e-resources, but again the costs are prohibitive for e-books and the supporting platforms. The distribution rights for Pakistan are also limited due to the high piracy rate in the country. Platforms such as Project Gutenberg, and Google Books have recently provided Pakistan with far greater opportunities than physical books have.  The well known and established online databases are also very expensive for even the richest private schools in Pakistan.  There is also the issue of slow internet access and power outages that again limits access, however, many people have a smartphone with 3G access. 

The status in government schools is even more grim, and it is recognised as being a problem - this quote from the Pakistan Libraries project.
"Happily, a majority of middle and high schools under control of the Pakistani Ministry of Education do have some sort of library. However, these libraries are often not effectively used to enhancing education and broaden students’ frame of reference. Most of these libraries contain old and outdated collections, and the librarians are not well trained to manage the libraries or to develop reading habits in students and teachers. Furthermore, there are generally no internet or computer facilities in middle and high schools to provide access to online resources and knowledge exchange activities. PLP plans to upgrade these libraries curricula, train librarians, and establish IT facilities to strengthen libraries in middle and high schools in rural Pakistan."  
This page from an 2012 IFLA report "Libraries in the early 21st century, volume 2: An international perspective" Libraries and Impact of Information and communication developments in Pakistan" by Kanwal Ameen outline some of the issues surrounding school libraries in Pakistan. He states that in the 1990's out of 171,000 schools, 481 had libraries, and only 30 of these had librarians. The National Education policy (1998-2010) targeted school libraries as a focus, but according to the report, not much has happened for a variety of reasons.

The internet is not censored by Pakistani authorities, only Youtube has  been blocked for the past 3 years due to a disagreement between Google and the Pakistan government over blasphemous videos that are available on the site. There is a  movement afoot in an effort to lift this ban. 

There is also some perception that the school library is just a store house for resources, and the school librarian is there just to take care of the books, this too is based on an old British model and hasn't changed very much due to the limitations of training   There are some great programs happening such as the Teachers and Children's Literature Festival held annually. There are also special projects such as the Pakistan Libraries Project working with government schools and Pakistani Academics writing about it (Revisioning School Libraries as Learning Hubs by Nooruddin Merchant. 
Also see this article by Rubina Bhatti on the historical context.)

At the three day IB Librarian Continuum workshop I led we started with the participants designing their perfect library. I use this activity as a diagnostic tool to see where the participants are in terms of thinking about the library.  Nearly all of the plans focused on the physical 'plan' of their library which supports what is stated by Kanwal Ameen, that the libraries are collection focused rather than user focused. I am glad to say that after three days of workshopping, and then re-evaluating what their plans were at the beginning there were significant shifts in thinking with a real sense of motivation to start right away.

I asked the participants if they would like to contribute to this post to tell the world what they are doing in their school libraries from what they learned in the workshop ... this is from Hasina.

"The school I joined has just started the IBDP program.  I have a small Library and only 10 IB1 students so far. I found though the students who were enrolled in IBDP program had no clue how to use a Library. Not one of them knew what a Library Catalogue was or any idea of shelf arrangement.

"I gave a Library Orientation workshop to the IB students and some teachers also attended. The students had the old idea of a room full of books. We talked about the changing role of Libraries - the nature of a Library program today in a school setting, the role of a Teacher Librarian in a School Library and making effective connections with, and use of the Library and Librarian. I touched on Information Literacy and we broke them into the skills necessary to become quote “effective users of information". We also talked about Library citizenship.

This has led to the following - the students are designing a layout of the Library.  Leaving the fixed fixtures and furniture in place I gave them freedom to plan out their library into areas which came out of our discussion.  For example casual area, group work area, audio visual access etc. We shall have 2 sets of design by the 8th of October.  The layout of the Library will follow the best of the two.
Then they will help me make the signage and we will discuss what to adorn the walls with. This will give them owner ship and I am sure the Library usage will increase.

The second task the students are going to do is form Library Rules Regulations and Procedures. These we will share with the management and barring the non-negotiable ones, according to school policies, we shall adopt these rules and regulations for our IB Library. Meanwhile I have asked for 4-6 slots in the next couple of months to teach the children the basics of location of resources, reading the shelves and a brief introduction to DDC.

I have already arranged for a presentation about Plagiarism by an outside expert and will carry it through together with the Extended essay coordinator to teach them Academic Honesty, research and writing skills and use of Turnitin.

The next on agenda is teaching the students access to e-resources and citation.

Thanks to Dianne I gained fresh perspectives and the will to start building. I hope to have a good library program in place by the end of my tenure.

Exciting stuff Hasina. It is great to see you have taken on a new role with the support from your administration, teachers and students. You are making a difference.

The most sustainable way for Pakistan to move forward in all respects is through education and improving literacy throughout the nation. Research has shown that libraries with qualified staff play an important role in improving literacy in young people, however Pakistan faces some unique challenges to succeed in this area. I am thankful I had the opportunity to work with enthusiastic and eager school librarians wanting to make a difference in their schools and with the young people they work with, and am looking forward to further opportunities to do so. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Single stories can be changed

The Badshahi Mosque from Lahore Fort.

This blog has been somewhat quiet over the past month as I have had the opportunity to travel to and work in India and Pakistan where I led three International Baccalaureate in school and regional workshops. These workshops had been booked months in advance and they were fantastic opportunities to meet and work with new people in these countries.

The opportunity to travel & work to Pakistan was an interesting one. When I received the invitation to do so, I went through a mixture of feelings - should I go? what will it be like? will I be safe as a woman travelling alone? I started seeking out non Pakistani's who had lived in Pakistan to ask them about these issues. They were quite positive and gave me some tips. I have one friend whose mission is to travel to every country (he has 50 left to vist), who recently visited Afghanistan and who said do not take much notice of the travel warnings as long as I am sensible. I decided to go, planning my wardrobe with appropriate clothing to cover my arms and legs so as not to garner too much attention beyond being a foreigner.

My perceptions of Pakistan before I visited were : 
  • All women wore burqas in dark colours
  • Women were treated somewhat poorly by males
  • Foreigners are treated with suspicion and as possible kidnapping fodder
  • It was dangerous with Taliban extremists running around everywhere
  • Bombs may randomly be set off in crowded places
  • English was not spoken very well
  • Infrastructure was poor
  • The population is poor
  • There was animosity toward India & America particularly
  • Religion is a major influence on life in Pakistan 

I was well aware of the Danger of the Single story - those who write the stories are the ones in power, I was going with an open mind.

I spent a week in Pakistan - 5 days in Lahore, then travelled 200 kms by car to Faisalabad for another 2 days. The time in Lahore was spent with 6 other workshop leaders, 5 of them women who had travelled to Pakistan from Mauritius, Tanzania, Indonesia, Canada, England and Beijing. The IB rep had travelled from Singapore and our workshop field rep was a school principal from Karachi. We were treated with the utmost hospitality by the local people everywhere we went. We had a designated driver and van to take us around to some of the historic sites, we were taken to lovely restaurants to experience the wonderful Pakistan cuisine, we were invited into peoples homes for dinner. The workshop participants were all keen learners and hungry for new understandings. English was the medium of instruction and no one had problems with this. 

The Librarians I worked with in Lahore
The women wore Kurta's of different styles and wonderful colours in the most beautiful fabrics and designs. Yes there were still burqa's and hajibs, but nowhere as many as my expectations had been. I went shopping and bought a few of these beautiful garments. We had men and women working together and having what I would consider normal healthy working relationships with each other. Many men were dressed in regular business attire, with some wearing the traditional Pakistani Shalwar KameezAll were acceptable forms of dress.

In Faisalabad I found the same hospitality. One of the male staff members even travelled 2.5 hours with a driver to pick me up from Lahore to take me to Faisalabad, and then did the same thing for my return to Lahore to ensure I was delivered safely to the right place as the drivers english was very basic. The road we travelled on would match any tollway / motorway in the USA, Australia or Europe.

Security was tight at the hotel, and everywhere we went we had to pass through metal detectors. The schools had guards with big guns.  These measures were in place to reduce the possibility of unseen problems by people who want to cause trouble. The area of Punjab is renowned for being a safe state with the Pakistan Rangers playing a major role in the security with one of the headquarters based there. The Pakistani people are sick of the random acts of terror in their country by those who feel the need to act this way. 

There was no animosity by the people I spoke to toward any other country, even India with which it shares a common heritage but also a common conflict of politics. Everyone I spoke to, and plenty of people on the street and at the historic sites approached us to speak with us, were interested to find out where we were from and to share their information about what they knew about our home country. In many cases they had relatives living there. They were so open and welcoming.

There is a large divide in Pakistan between the haves and the have nots. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics the average annual income is $1,513USD. However, there are some very rich people in Pakistan worth billions of US dollars. The cost of schooling is also a divider. Private schools charge from 150 - 330USD a month. Private schools are for profit schools. The average monthly salary for a teacher is $530USD depending on experience and qualifications. 

The staff from the school I visited in Faisalabad
Literacy of Pakistan is at 58%. Pakistan Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate is 79.1% for males and 61.5% for females. Each new generation of Pakistanis is more literate than its predecessors:

Over 55 years 30% literate
45-55 years 40%
35-45 years 50%
25-35 years 60%
15-25 years 70%

English was the official language of Pakistan until just recently, and Urdu the national language. In the private schools English is the medium of instruction and 49% of Pakistani's have a command of the english language, making it the third largest English speaking country, behind the US and India. Education is seen as a way to improve the situation of the Pakistan people.

Something interesting I did discover is that there is no specific teacher training in Pakistan. Teachers become teachers by having a degree in something, and then applying to a school for a job as a teacher without any background in pedagogy. This means they generally teach the way they have been taught, which is usually through lectures and text books. This is a challenge as the IB format of inquiry learning and teaching moves into Pakistan, requiring a very steep learning curve for administrators, teachers, students and parents. This 2011 article from the Express Tribune outlines some of the issues encountered.

My perceptions of Pakistan after my visit were:
  • The women wear beautiful clothing and are free to dress as they wish. There are expectations of modesty.
  • Relationships between males and females is one of mutual respect
  • Pakistani's are delighted to meet and converse with foreigners, being very hospitable 
  • Security is everywhere to prevent disruption to the normal peoples lives. The Taliban are disliked in Pakistan for their violent ways.
  • Generally the infrastructure in  Pakistan cities is good and the roads across the country are good. There are a variety of transport options - cars, trucks, rickshaws, motorcycles, bicycles, donkey and horse carts.
  • English is widely spoken
  • There are many poor people in Pakistan, but many middle and high earners as well. Pakistan has a growing & bustling economy.
  • Regular Pakistani's do not hold any animosity toward anyone
  • Religion is important in Pakistan, and, it is understood that everyone is at a different level of understanding and growth. I had many wonderful religious based conversations in my time there, with the people I spoke to open to questions and sharing of their beliefs. They were also interested in mine.
  • The people of Pakistan are just like everyone else, wanting a good family life with opportunities.
  • Eating good food is very important in Pakistan. 

I am fully aware that my experience was based on being an invited guest in two cities that have more opportunities than the rest of the country. If I had visited by myself without the complete hospitality of my hosts, I may have a different experience, but for now, this is my story of Pakistan as I saw it. It also brought to my mind why we need to be careful of the information that we pass onto or encourage students to use in their research. We need to be critical of who is telling the story and why. We need to be aware of the single story. I am also very grateful to be given these opportunities as an IB educator to both expand my knowledge and understanding of the world, and to meet people from very different cultures to mine.

I have shared a few photographs from my trip on here, but if you wish to see all 500+ more, please visit my Smugmug account. Many of them were taken from a moving vehicle as we travelled to and from the workshop. I was there to work!

Visiting Pakistan was one of the best things I have ever done in my life, and I will return at the next opportunity I have. 

Edit : Watch this TEDx Talk - about the stories that Pakistan needs to be telling. 
How we become the stories we tell | Nadine Murtaza

The clock tower in Faisalabad
Preparations for Eid well underway.
Donkey carts - a sustainable form of transport
Bicycles were designed to carry many things
The outside walls of Lahore Fort
The Badshahi Mosque, Lahore
My tour guides in Faisalabad

The clocktower in Faisalabad
Sunset over Pakistan

Monday, August 31, 2015

Making sense of Manga

A small image of Amy's Poster - the original can be seen here 

If you are anything like me you will find the whole Manga scene a little bewildering ... where to start? What series goes with what, and what should I buy?

At the ALA conference in July, I attended a poster session by Amy Pell Seipke who works at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Amy did a quite massive research project into Manga to make sense of it and put it altogether in the poster above.

Her research was was impressive as she needed to unpack how the Manga story is constructed, the language, the characters and the audience of Manga and the difference between Anime & Manga. 

One of the most interesting aspects I learned about Manga from Amy's presentation is that Manga stories are written with a particular audience in mind, and Manga is classified by the audience for which it is written.

It is also constructed differently to western literature. She created a visual below to explain it better - this is also on her poster.

Image taken from Amy Pell Seipke's poster 

Amy has created an extensive Bibliography of Manga titles that you can download. It is entitled Essential Manga : An annotated bibliography (also available on screen on her blog) - You really have to see it to believe it. So much research and time has gone into this, and I would probably say she is as as much an expert on Manga that you will ever meet or read. She has also authored another bibliography entitled Graphic Novel Bibliography with Beth Walker. Again a very useful resource.

Amy created a blog to record her journey in her research into this medium which has much background information that could not be placed in the poster or the bibliography.  These bibliographies will go a long way to help you in your understandings and collection development of Manga and graphic novels. It could also be useful resource to supporting spilling Manga into the curriculum....

Monday, August 24, 2015

One size for all limits learning

Last post I wrote about the importance of including literature in the curriculum that students can connect to in time place and space. As promised, this week I am writing about how studying one text across a class, year level, or school is something that happens often, if not regularly. Again I will be referring to Barbara Braxton's article "One size does not fit all"  (Teacher Librarian ; Feb 2006, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p50. Available through Ebsco).

As a reader I enjoy books that others wouldn't enjoy and other people have different choices and preferences in their reading. Even within the closest of families there are different preferences for writing styles, genres, subject matter, length, font size and type, hard back or paperback, fiction or non fiction. Reading is a very personal experience. So why do we insist that students in a class read the same novel? Using the one novel kills choice, ownership, interest and possibilities.

The proponents of this outdated model will insist that having all students read the same text ensures that all students are exposed to works they may not have been exposed to. It also allows for common conversations and analysis on the one book. After doing a brief search I have not been able to find further strong reasons to support novel study like this. I think it is done this way for a few reasons - it is easy for the teacher and it has always been done this way. If you are a teacher of English literature and know of other strong arguments, please let me know.

How could an approach to studying literature allow for student choice and wider reading but still reach the outcomes required by the syllabus? A conceptual and inquiry approach would be the best fit, so how could this work?

With each novel study are essential questions and concepts to be answered or learned. For example a study of "To Kill a Mockingbird" would include covering  concepts of racism, prejudice, justice, integrity, time and place, gender roles. The teacher could identify the concepts (and other elements they want learned), then the students need to find a novel (or even non fiction) that covers these themes. The teacher could supply a list of possibilities (which would include To kill a mockingbird) to help the selection process and the school librarian could support the students with suggested possibilities. 

The students would read the books of their choice and then discover and connect with the themes and elements they need to connect. The teacher could direct the learning with questions, but also allow the students to create their own questions relating concepts to the book, concepts to their own lives and making connections. As the book is not being read by everyone, including the teacher, the process of justifying and supporting their arguments, findings and stance becomes authentic and they learn these skills. More research and inquiry would need to be conducted to find out more as the teacher would not be the fountain of all knowledge.

Braxton offers a number of questions that could start the conversation ....
  • How did the title prepare you for what the story was about?
  • How did the main character change and develop throughout the story?
  • If you were the main character, how would you have resolved the problem?
  • How did the text and / or illustrations support your understanding of the story?

  • Did the book meet your expectations?
  • What did you need to know already to understand the text?
  • What did what you already know help you to understand the text?
  • What does the writer want you to know?
  • What is the 'big idea' or message of the story?
  • What is the text really about, and what tells you this?
  • How does this fit with what you already know and believe?
  • Does the author see the world in the same way that you do?
  • What are the key similarities and differences?
  • What view of the world and values does the author assume that you hold?
  • Is the author trying to change that perception?
  • Has the author been successful in prompting you to reflect on what you know believe?
  • How has your knowledge and understandings been challenged by this text?
  • How does the structure of this text match its purpose and intended audience?
  • What mechanisms has the author used to introduce and reinforce the message?
  • How do the language and techniques influence the message and purpose?
  • How are the personalities of the various characters developed through the story?
  • How are age, gender and cultural groupings portrayed?
  • How are the relationships between the characters portrayed?
  • Which characters are empowered, and why?
  • Does one characters point of view have a prominent or privileged position in the story?
  • How do the relationships influence the perpsective of the story?
  • Whose story is not told?
  • Where does the author place you in relation to the characters?
  • Is the world the author portrays real or feasible?
  • Has the author presented a fantasy workd and characters to present a real world issue in a less threatening way?
  • How would the text be different if it were told in another time, place or culture?
  • Is your interpretation of the text the only one?
  • What kind of person composed the text?
  • Are that person personal interests beliefs and values evident?
  • What would you ask the author about those beliefs if you had the chance?

"Such an approach allows students to read what they are interested in, and what they can comprehend, yet they can still read critically and develop their understandings of the messages and mechanics of the text." (Braxton 2006)

What do you think? Is it possible to build a literary curriculum based on student choice? This would be an effective method for differentiation by providing students with different avenues to learning, in terms of acquiring content, processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability and interests. Inquiry learning with choice in English literature readings.

Learning is about making connections, and if that one text that is being used in classrooms does not connect with a student, their opportunity for learning is reduced.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Literature in Time, Space and Place.

Reading is a dynamic and personal experience. Humans do it for a number of reasons - for leisure, for interest, for learning, to pass the time. Whatever the reason, at any time it is different for each of us.

Using texts to study literary techniques, characterisation, plot development, and making connections is something that has been going on in schools for I don't know how long - it may have started after World War II when publishing became much, much cheaper and books became more readily available for the masses.

My memories of novel study in school are grim - two books I was forced to read were "2001 a Space Odyssey" and "Pride and Prejudice" among many others which I don't remember. I remember these titles because I simply hated them. I could not get through the first chapter. I did not connect, I felt they were boring, irrelevant and totally uninteresting. Yet I was being tested on their content. How did I manage in a time before the internet and Cliff notes? I listened carefully in class, took copious notes, was able to remember a few key passages and quotes and their context and I passed. I still hate those books, and any thing else by those authors.

I do know why English teachers make us study many different styles of texts - to give us exposure, to help us discover something we may not have been aware of etc, however,  I do think the books that are chosen for novel study are not because of the students interest or need, but due to the comfort level of the teacher. The teacher does not need to reread the book or rethink lessons because they know it inside and out, having taught it for many, many years (and probably even studied it themselves in school or university). The students are taken on a ride of teacher familiarity which they may not have any connections of interest.

One bug bear of mine is when the majority of the texts being studied in an International School are American, especially when the school is not in America or follows an American curriculum. This also applies to any other texts from a culture that the students are not very familiar with. A student who has grown up in Hong Kong, Thailand, or Germany etc will not be familiar with the cultural nuances that "Catcher in the Rye" or "Of Mice and men"  are riddled with. What is the point of teaching a novel when you need to spend most of the time explaining what specific phrases, the historical context and general cultural stereotypes are? If the objective is to learn more about American History - then sure, but if it is to learn about literary technique, characterisation and themes, then surely the teacher is placing high barriers to learning by the selection of book. One language and literature teacher who was new to teaching outside of the US said to me "I did not expect to need to explain so much of the nuances of American Society as much as I did". 

A good teacher is considerate of the learner and their needs and ensure that learning can occur. In 2006 Barbara Braxton wrote the article "One Size does not fit all" for the Teacher Librarian Journal (Teacher Librarian;Feb2006, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p50. Available through Ebsco). In it she offers a few questions a teacher needs to ask before selecting a book for study.

  • Why are we asking the students to read this book?
  • What do we expect the students to know, understand, and do because of this lesson or unit?
  • What are the lifelong learning skills that is contributes to?
  • What specific concepts, knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills do we want the students to develop, practise, consolidate, understand, and achieve by the end of this lesson or unit so they can continue to learn?
  • How will these concepts, knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills contribute to their understanding of the world?

I will add two more questions ..

  • What barriers will need to be overcome if reading this text outside of the cultural context in which it is written?
  • Are there other texts which will allow for the same learning that are relevant in time space and place for the students being taught?
To follow on from posts about being Culturally Intelligent and having a Growth Mindset, one of the ways to do this is to be aware of and be familiar with the literature of the region you are teaching in and use these texts. Yes it will mean having to do more work, and actually having to read new literature, but is that really a bad thing apart from the time it takes? Another consideration is the context - is the protagonist living in the region or have they migrated? Has the work been translated and / or an authentic voice, or is the author from outside the culture writing about a culture different to their own? Is the work about atrocities that went on in that country, or about normal life? We need to be aware of perpetuating the single story of a culture.

Does the school library collection include authentic titles from the region the school is in? Are they plentiful or are they token? Are they promoted? How are they promoted? What are the barriers to an international collection? 

We also need to get away from using the words 'Ethnic, Multicultural and Foreign' to classify books or stories - International & Global are perfectly fine and inclusive if you have to use anything. They should be just what they are - stories or novels.

Using texts in the school setting that are relevant in time, place and space for the students we work with is imperative to help them learn. Student centred learning is about putting the needs of the learner first - not what is convenient for the teacher. As the world population becomes more spread out there is no justification not to include authentic international texts in your classroom or in the library, whether you are in an international setting or not. It just may be the one book that connects a learner to learning.

There have been a few article written about using international novels into the classroom (from an non international school point of view)

To find international texts there are many resources - 
Goodreads lists - 

Blogs and websites
USBBY Outstanding International Books (OIB) List

nadine Bailey shared this resource :
I'd like to promote the Australian group: Asia-education foundation- they have a wealth of information- this is the email I had from them today : Join schools across Australia to celebrate National Book Week from Saturday 22nd August. You can follow the action on twitter at ‪#‎bookweek‬ and celebrate in the
classroom with the following Asia related resources for all age groups and interests.
- A curation of Asia-related literary texts from F-10
- Curated digital resource lists
of stories and poetry from F-10
Book Week aligned learning sequences:
- Years 7-8: Stories that change lives
- Year 7: Exploring haiku
- Year 7: Indonesian poetry and translation
- Year 8: Contemporary short stories
- Years 9-10: Understanding China through literature

Do you have a go to resource for your international texts?

Another related big question which will be the topic of the next post - Why is one text for all students the norm or even a requirement?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cultural Intelligence - how are we doing?

  1. Image from AHA world campus : passport to Culture

  2. Cultural Intelligencecultural quotient or CQ, is a term used in business, education, government and academic research. Cultural intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures.
  3. At the recent ALA conference I attended Marla J Ehlers very early morning teaser session on Understanding Cultural Intelligence. I was interested in this as part of my current MYP and International Baccalaureate focus and wanted to see how this connected with the IB's concept of international mindedness. 
  4. Exploring the concept of labels and judgement, Marla opened the session with everyone placing a post it on themselves having written assumptions people make about you before they know you, and another label of a fun fact I want people to know about me. This was in a room full of strangers. We then had to introduce ourselves to another 3 people with these labels and discuss them. This required some reflection and thought as we considered other peoples perceptions of us.
  5. We then explored stereotypes about librarians as a whole, and then Americans. Addressing the concept of stereotypes and if they were true as a whole group or true as they applied to us. (This was interesting in itself as the assumptions was that everyone in the room would be American). Stereotypes generally apply to the group labels, but not to individuals - "I know a few ...... and they are not like that at all" yet the stereotype continues to exist. Where are these stereotypes created, maintained and manifested through our lives? It reminded me of the TED talk - The danger of the Single story.
  6. She introduced David Livermore as the guru of Cultural Intelligence and we watched this short video which outlines 4 capabilities of the CQ person and advertises his book at the end. There is a longer version of the presentation.  This stimulated discussion on the four capabilities.

    Video Summary :
Cultural Intelligence has been proven through Livermore's research that it is a predictor of one's success or failure in todays global marketplace.

The four capabilities of a Culturally intelligent person : - 

  1. High CQ Drive - an interest and motivation to learn about cross cultural issues
  2. High CQ Knowledge - having a good grasp of similarities and differences across cultures
  3. High CQ Strategy - Be aware of and plan for cross cultural scenarios
  4. High CQ Action - Appropriately adapt their behaviour for cross cultural scenarios.
Culture is more than racial and ethnic geographic boundaries - it could be friendship, workplace, institutional and organisational culture. Every group we belong to, or want to work with, has its own culture.

We then explored language as an integral part of CQ. Marla shared this beautiful and poignant poem written by a friend of hers who wished to remain anonymous. The discussion led to how stereotypes of appearances leads to assumptions and expectations which can cause conflict and embarrassment. (Click the image to make it bigger).

Values were then explored and as individuals we needed to rate 10 specified values that according to our personal system were important or not. We discovered that values change between individuals, families, communities and ethnic cultures.  We cannot assume what is one of our higher values is someone else's high values. The concept of time as a value was used as an example - across ages, cultures, professions this value changes.

Marla asked us to examine our own organisations cultural intelligence - do we allow all users and participants to be comfortable in our organisation? 

A quote that was  "You might be uncomfortable part of your time here at the library, and that is OK. If you are comfortable here, help someone else be comfortable by taking the initiative to help them, be a friend."

Marla then posed a question : - Why care about CQ? What benefits can it bring to ourselves, our organisations, our communities and our nations?

The video below goes a little way to answer the question.

Cultural intelligence -- a new way to think about global effectiveness | Jeff Thomas | TEDxSpokane

So how does this link to international mindedness in the IB framework? After being inspired to find out more on Cultural Intelligence, I think they are the same thing, and, with the business world getting behind the Cultural Intelligence trend, it means there are resources and new thinking being developed that we can adopt in our schools.

There are a number of books available on this topic, also courses that can be taken to expand your understanding and videos to watch. Livermore has a free pdf download called - What is your CQ and why should you care? He has also developed a number of CQ assessment tools which could be used to measure how effective your school programme has been or even how effective the Education out of the classroom (ie international field trips) has been. 

The concepts of international mindedness and cultural intelligence both work toward creating a world where understanding, empathy, and open mindedness are the main components of how we live. How are we doing to help the young people in our care become culturally intelligent?

Have a look at the American Hospitality Academy Global Campus Passport to Culture page - is this enough? can more be done?

  1. Marla's full presentation with transcript can be found here on Prezi