Sunday, July 5, 2015

Peer mentoring for learning

To enhance my ALA conference experience I introduced myself and talked with the people who were seated nearby. One of the many I spoke to was an Australian woman called Alyson Dalby who is employed as a University Librarian in Sydney. In her spare time she is also a director of an organisation called "The International Librarians Network", which is a volunteer organisation to promote peer mentoring amongst all types of librarians and library support staff across the world.

It is a program that promotes and co-ordinates international peer networking and learning between individuals working in any library field. The ILN will use the information provided by prospective participants to match them with other participants to form a partnership. There are two programmes run each each year - August to December, and January to May. Throughout these rounds conversation topics are provided by ILN to help move the networking along. The idea is that individuals will connect with each over that 4 month period, having conversations based on the discussion starters, bouncing ideas off each other, talking through goals and helping to problem solve. They also hold regular twitter chats on varying topics through the year.

What is the ILN and how does it work? Have a look at this video. 

The next scheduled round of ILN will begin shortly, you can register for an expression of interest here .

It seems to be a very worthwhile venture, and if you would like to support it either through participating, volunteering or through donations, please visit the website or connect with them through the channels below.  @interlibnet

Friday, July 3, 2015

Vendors & what they offer

The first thing I noticed about the ALA conference is the magnitude of the exhibition hall (in this case - halls, plural). I don't know exactly how many exhibitors there were, but there were over 1000 (for  22,696  attendees).  Having moved out of the school situation I was now looking for useful tools and services that we may not be aware of in the South East Asia region that could be utilised by schools.

These are some that I found that piqued my interest ... (I took photographs of the the paper leaflets to reduce weight and space in my bags, so the quality is not that great.)

Open source Library management systems

From the brief chat I had with the vendor, this system is open source and organisations can also have technical support for a modest fee. The users will also have the opportunity to have input in the development of the  system.

This is another open source system which offers support alongside those who want to go it alone.

Ebooks :

Odilo - this company caught my eye as they are based in Madrid and are used throughout Europe, which for international and IB school this may offer a little diversity in content. 

From their website it says "OdiloTK allows seamless lending of digital content (eBooks, eAudio, eVideo) using industry standards. OdiloTK not only allows the digital lending of eBooks, but is also a complete digital asset management platform."  They also offer a library management service. It may be a company worth checking out.

To be honest, what caught my attention at this display stand was their revolving banner  - it is the little things. This company offers :  a cloud-based platform that creates a single, collaborative environment for reading, writing and research.

Referencing and citation services

If you have been following my blog you will know I am an Easybib enthusiast, however, it may be worth having a look at these tools to see what they are offering.

Generate citations in APA, MLA, Harvard or any style. For free for individuals, but they also have an institution plan.


Digital Asset Management
This is something I am quite interested in where all digital assets (video, audio, past essay papers) are stored off site or on a server but can be streamed or accessed through the OPAC.

This powerful is directed at the University market, but if you have the funds manybe it is something you could look into.

If you have a large online journal subscription base, this may be useful, it is designed and targeting universities.

No image for this one. 
SimpleDL is a digital asset management and display platform. They enable librarians to affordably create beautiful viewing experiences for their patrons.


This is part of the wider Academic Rights press group which has specialised databases on a number of topics.. 

This is an interesting database as it offers a huge range of professional footage from news reels and documentaries. It is targeting university consortiums, so if a number of schools can get together to open an account, this may be worthwhile. They are a startup, so are open to discussion.

The Fun and quirky that caught my interest.

This product seems to work as a facade or alongside your LMS OPAC to make it a little more interactive.

Maker space fun stuff

There was a lot of buzz about maker spaces at ALA and having just visited the Stanford D-school a few days before, I was inspired. That visit will be a seperate blog ...

Keva Planks - now this got my creative construction juices flowing, having had great memories of Cuisenaire rods as a child along with Janga, and this is the same thing on steroids.

Kits being sold for different projects. Very doable and practical.

Language learning

Mango Language learning

Book recycling & literacy programs

This business / charity collects and sells books online to donate and fund literacy programs worldwide. Have a look at their extensive website to see what it is all about.

Book vending machine

Now this is probably out of the range of most schools, but maybe it is something worth working for in the local community? 

Library cards and book marks

Are you looking for something that will help make your library cards and bookmarks pop? Have a look at what this company can offer - nice shiny cards that will get noticed.

More stuff 

Included with the vendors there were of course the publishers from all over the place fiction and non fiction. There were over 100 authors making an appearance and I was fortunate to meet Gene Luen Yang who was quietly sitting at his table with his supportive friends waiting for people to walk past and talk to him. What a lovely guy. He is interested in an extended school tour of South East Asia.  

It must be the only conference where authors are treated like rockstars - the crowds, the interest, the buzz about writing was palpable. There are also books called ARCS which are available throughout the conference. These are free uncorrected copies of new publications, they are given out for free in the hope they will be read and reviewed and book talked and purchased for libraries. I picked up a few, but many other people were able to fill boxes that needed to be posted at the on site postal service centre.

You can download the ALA program and exhibit directory from here if you would like to peruse the entire exhibits (part 2 will have the exhibitors information). This has got me thinking about developing a database of vendors that would be useful for school libraries ... another project!

If you attended ALA San Francisco 2015 - what vendors caught your interest?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Learning plus more

Well, what a ride. ALA Annual Conference along with the 2 day Research Relevance pre conference gave me 5 days of intense professional development across a range of topics and opened my eyes and brain to how passionate librarians are and the scope of the work they do. I have previously only been to school librarian learning opportunities, but ALA has librarians from all strands and they all have something to offer me - a humble school librarian. 

I spoke to Academic Librarians, Systems librarians, Public Librarians,  Special collection librarians, School Librarians, consultants, vendors interested in Libraries and retirees who just come to the conference to be reminded of their passion and to keep it alive.  I met some lovely people that I want to keep in contact with as I think we will both benefit from connecting.

I was fortunate to attend along with some friends from Singapore - Katie Day,  @librarianedge  Kurt Wittig, @KurtWittig  and Kate Brundage and we picked up a few more people along the way. This was fun as we had people to socialise and debrief with after the very full days. Watch their blogs for their learnings.

As with any conference, some sessions were better than others, but overall both conferences were worth attending. I now have to sift through my tweets and my notes to process what I gleaned from each session, my thick notebook is almost full and I have enough material to blog for almost a year. So, stay tuned ... the first blog for processing will be about the vendors I met and their products on offer.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The next chapter begins ...

Yesterday was my last day in the foreseeable setting where I will be working fulltime in a school setting. I resigned from my post as MYP teacher librarian last December having to give 6 months notice, and have been plotting my exit and future exploits since then. The day of self employment has arrived and I am starting with a bang.

Tonight I head to San Francisco to attend the annual American Library Association conference. I have never attended such a huge event, (about 25,000 people expected)  and already I have failed in registering for some pre conference events due to my newbie ignorance. That is OK, I will be going cycling in SFO downtown for the day, I hope the weather is good. Look out for the photographs on my instagram feed! (are you going to ALA? I would love to connect if we can).

Before ALA  I will be attending a small school based colloquium on Research Relevance at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. The program looks exciting and relevant to school librarians and anyone interested in student learning. 

After returning from SFO in July, I will be busy conducting a number of regional amd school based workshops for the IB Asia Pacific from Launching the MYP, ATL skills in Learning to librarian across the continuum, MYP and DP. I will be pretty much getting on a plane every two weeks to travel around South East Asia to meet with different people and to facilitate learning.

I have also set up a business for professional teacher and librarian learning  School Librarian Connection. I will be moving into library consultancy and conducting professional learning opportunities for teachers and librarians. If you or your school is looking for some one to assist with learning in your school or district, have a look at my current offerings. I promise the learning will be engaging, learner centred and fun with learning for change guaranteed. I will go anywhere!

A facebook page has been set up where I will be posting articles and updates relating to the education and learning field. This offers free professional learning for all!

So where does that leave this blog if I am no longer in a school library? As I see it I will have the opportunity to learn even more from others as I tour around different schools and conferences and talk to many people and find out what they have been doing. These snippets of learning will then be shared on this blog for my consolidation and your benefit. I may even be able to go back to regular weekly posts.

Yesterday at the secondary school assembly, I was called to the stage to be farewelled along with other leaving staff. I had my phone in my hand and snapped the photo below. This captures the MYP cohort at the school - about 900 students. These are whom I have been working with over the past two years, and hopefully left something behind with them.

The teens will be what I miss most about working in the school environment full time.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bag your summer reading

This week is our last week of the school term and we have opened up the library for unlimited borrowing for the summer holidays. If the students borrow more than 4 books they need a bag - hence our tagline.  So far we have had families coming in to borrow many things for every family member, and other students have taken out over 15 books for their own reading for the 5 weeks of holiday.

It has caused quite a buzz in the secondary school. 

Advantages of doing this include 

  • less requirement for storage space over the holidays, 
  • students can take whole series at a time and just keep reading through
  • it rewards those who have returned all their books on time
  • students are choosing the books they want to read 
  • hopefully, high motivation to keep reading
  • students working on their MYP personal project are able to use the resources
  • the library is seen as a welcoming space catering to the students wants
  • more goodwill than we can measure

Possible disadvantages 
  • we might lose a few books, but I think the advantages outweigh this.

Do you allow students to borrow over the long holidays? What are your reasons for or against?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Learning for life

Image from Pixabay

Things have been pretty quiet on this blog over the past few weeks and for this I do apologise and just plead too busy with work, home and learning.

If you have been following over the past 18 months, you may have picked up that was undertaking the online CoETAIL course (Certificate of Education Technology and Information Literacy) which took up much of my brain space and time in completing assignments around normal work and home life commitments.

Well I finally finished it, and thankfully passed. I have another piece of paper to add to my portfolio, and more importantly I have another skill set to work with and few resources to use at another time. The CoETAIL course is an online course focusing on the seamless integration of technology and digital skills into the curriculum and daily lessons. The course forced me to think about my own practise, be open minded to new ideas and to be brave in trying these ideas. (This blog post was about one of the new ideas) It helped me to take a step back and be reflective on what is happening in my teaching and in the school I work in with regards to pedagogy and the digital tools.

I had to set up blog on Wordpress to record blog posts you can see it here - Wagging my Coetail, where throughout most of the course I had to blog weekly either reflecting on readings or new understandings and how this affected my teaching. Although I was already an online communicator, blogger, tweeter, instagrammer, aggregator, curator etc the course did stretch me as I reflected on not only my own experiences, but also those in the cohort, many of whom were newbies to many of the tools and platforms. I was able to read through personal blogs about the learning and growth of others in the cohort and learn of new tools that they use to enhance learning - Aurasma was one of these tools I had not seen in action before and have since used.

If you do want to improve your pedagogy and enhance your knowledge and understanding of how the digital world can enhance learning, do look into doing the CoETAIL course. If you browse Wagging my Coetail, you will have an overview of the course structure and content, and if you want to just learn on your own, subscribe to some of the Coetailer blogs that can be accessed off the front page of the CoETAIL platform. So many inspiring educators doing amazing things! Go forth and learn!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Repackaging skills

There is a new frantic buzz going around IB schools "The Approaches to Learning". These have been around for a while in the IB documents, but they have been reorganised, repackaged and remarketed in the Primary and Middle years program, and introduced into the Diploma Program. 

To make their mark, the ATL skills have also been made a required specific teaching aspect of the IB curriculum. The ATL skills are not new skills, they are integral skills for students to master so they can actually do the tasks teachers ask them and expect them to do. 

Below are a few lines from the IB information on the Approaches to Learning 

  •  ATL are deliberate strategies, skills and attitudes that permeate the IB teaching and learning environment.
  • ATL supports the IB belief that a large influence on a student’s education is not only what you learn but also how you learn.
  • Teaching students how to learn has always been a part of IB teaching, but now the IB is providing more explicit support for teaching these skills, aligning the Diploma Programme (DP) with the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the IB Career-related Programme (CP). 
  • Focus on ATL will improve the quality of teaching and learning across the programmes and may result in more engaged teachers and students.

Most of the Approaches to learning are repackaged and remarketed what used to be and are still known as information literacy  or fluency skills (along with 21st century skills).

The first image below is a summary / overview of the 10 page Approaches to Learning document which really simplifies the skills and the purpose of what it is all about.

Image from The Relevant Educator, Caring for students.

The image below is a simplification of the information literacy skills, as you can see, there are many similarities between the two - just different words used.

Image from

Now school and teacher librarians have been banging on about these skills for years ... and have been relatively unheard and ignored. Now it is an required part of the IB teaching and learning skills and many teachers are struggling with integrating these skills into their everyday teaching.

Why is this such a problem for some teachers? Why is it adding stress and causing confusion? These are skills that students need to complete their work to a standard, they are also skills needed for students to learn at a higher level of thinking. These ATL skills are about pedagogy and making sure that students are just not learning content, but learning skills that will help them to access content, make sense of the content, and then create something from the content across subjects, university and life. Why is it such a hard thing? Is it because it has never been a priority? Is it because content has been king, with good pedagogy and skills coming in as the poor cousin?

The Relevant Educator blogger wrote a lovely post about the ATL skills and how by integrating them into our lessons is showing that we care for the students and how they learn.

"To care for our students means that we, as educators, should make intentional efforts to teach and embed within our students the skills they need when they move on from our educational institutions. ...... To me the ATL skills are all life-skills that will be applied during a variety of stages of  a student development — not only academically but also socially and professional. " The Relevent Educator
As a librarian whose expertise is the Approaches to Learning (or information literacy / fluency) I welcome this emphasis, this mandate to work with teachers to help them through the struggle to make sense, integrate and to prioritise these skills in their teaching. For too long teachers have assumed students have these skills, or they are being taught in another class. Now it is everyone's responsibility to teach the ATL skills that are relevant to their subject, and even those that cross over. Teachers now need to upskill themselves in these skills so they are able to teach them. They need to plan for their instruction and inclusion in the curriculum and they need to ensure they explicitly teach the skills. They also need to document the teaching and create scope and sequences. The ATL skills are not to be assessed, but they are an integral part of the assessment, as without the proficiency level of these skills, the students cannot achieve the higher grades. 

The ATL skills have been categorised and clustered as below to help teachers look at what the students need to be able to do to achieve. 
Image from IB Document MYP Principles in Practise 
Beyond the 10 clusters are ATL statements on what it may look like.

For example : 
communication -> 
        collaboration -> 
             working effectively with others -> 
                        "Manage and resolve conflict and work collaboratively in teams"

I do think the final ATL skill statement in bold is still too broad as it really doesn't give the skill set that needs to be taught to manage conflict or work collaboratively. There are quite a lot of skills embedded in this one sentence.

What does it look like to manage and resolve conflict and work with others collaboratively? 
What skills are required to manage and resolve conflict?

What skills are required to work with others collaboratively? Taking this one part of the 'skill' I have broken it down into further skills which are teachable and measurable.

  •   Demonstrates tolerance for different opinions. 
  •   Understands the concept of freedom of expression and the role that it plays in group work.
  •   Helps to organize and integrate contribu��ons of all group members into projects.
  •   Recognises the contribution of each individual in a group.
  •   Respects the ideas and opinions of others.
  •   Speaks and shares own ideas clearly with humility and openness, without patronising.
  •   Is willing to share ideas.
  •   Considers culturally divergent and opposing viewpoints on topics.
  •   Recognises the right to express own opinion in an appropriate manner.

The ATL skills that are given in the IB documents are broad suggestions and guides. The actual skill statements need to be broken down further so the individual skills that need to be taught can be identified. As teachers we need to be looking deeper than the broad sentences - what does the sentence mean? How can this be broken down so I can actually teach it. What skills are involved for this to be achieved at a high level. 

More work????   Don't fret... look at the New York Information Fluency Guide, ask your school librarian, the work has already been done. Do not go and reinvent the wheel.   Approaches to Learning are information literacy and fluency skills. They have just been rebranded and reorganised. Using this information and keywords you will see there is a wide variety of resources already available for you to use.

If you are a school librarian in an IB school, you need to be at the coalface at meetings, working in classes, collaborating on planning lessons and units. You need to share your expertise, and be helping others learn what it all means. 

If you work in an IB school as a teacher or an administrator are you including your teacher or school librarian in the process of upskilling your staff? This is the stuff that gets school librarians excited.