Friday, July 24, 2015 learning

Part of my recent time in San Francisco was spending a day visiting the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto. What a beautiful campus and a fantastic community resource at the local, national and international level. I spent the day there with Katie Day. Katie mentioned she wanted to look at the (or The Institute of Design at Stanford), which I had not heard of before. After we had wandered about for a bit on this huge campus we finally found our way to the and it was just an amazing experience to be in this creative space.

The is not actually a school at Stanford in that they do not grant degrees, but what it is is a resource for use by all the faculties to use to learn about design thinking, collaboration and to support the creation of cool stuff.

This post is about the and what we saw there and learned from. Click on the photos to get a bigger picture.

The space and the way the space was divided and filled was the first thing we noticed. Large changeable space, with big furniture, white boards and racks to hold projects not yet finished on whiteboards. The walls were designed to have hooks to place removable whiteboards on them, with special carts to hold the unfinished project whiteboards. This we thought was a pretty cool idea.

All the large tables were on wheels and had space under them to hold tools and other essentials. The tops of the tables were covered in the lined green cutting mats, which allowed for many different projects without the surfaces being damaged. Some of the tables had a different surface with signage indicating this was good for paint and glue.

Signage was the next aspect we noticed. This had a consistent look about it and was very user friendly in its tone.

The one on the right below was a friendly reminder to put the space back to how you found it with a helpful diagram if you couldn't remember.

The following images were explanations of how the space and furniture could be used and what has been done to create a better space. 

Visible thinking strategies and post its were everywhere, with design thinking shown in progress all around the space. The top small photograph below shows thinking into how Stanford is addressing the water shortage issues currently facing California. The titles of the boxes include : surprise, disappointment, quotes, tension/contradictions, reasons/excuses, key environmental issues, emotions and wild cards. The comments were interesting to read.

The design process was even being applied to the current space as it is due for a revamp soon, and the community was involved in designing a new space, products and resources. All highly visible with the progress out in the open.

The rules of play were posted around the space, I particularly liked point three. There was also a separate space for "bad ass" equipment, film making, and story telling. Again the signage was clear, consistent and helpful.

One of the best ideas we saw was the Talk box for recording voices within a silent environment. We assembled it and I had a go - it had led lighting inside, otherwise it would have been very dark, with access points for microphones, electricity etc. It was a little claustrophobic, but I would imagine it would be very effective.

Visual cues and learning were everywhere.

As we were exploring the space we created many questions about the program and how the space was used. Somehow we managed to have a conversation with Scott Wiffhoft who is the co writer of this book (with his hand holding it) .... 

.... which has all the designs in it for the furniture, whiteboards and different spaces and is well worth purchasing if you are interested in "Setting the stage for creative Collaboration" in your workplace and space. It is well set out with small chunks of information, with an in text index. An innovative book in itself.

Overall it was a totally worthwhile experience touring the at Stanford and has prompted me to find out more about design thinking, creative collaboration and how spaces can be modified to create better learning opportunities. If you get the chance to visit Stanford, it is well worth your time and effort.

If you want some information on design thinking visit the "use our methods" page.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The open mind set

One of the sessions I attended at the ALA conference was "How to Fail Successfully" presented by Sara Kelley Mudie @skm428 and Andrea Snyder @alsnyder02.  It was about creating and having a growth mind set for life and learning. 

I was prompted to write about this today as I have just experienced being a facilitator at a workshop with adults of whom a few did not have an growth mind set for learning. Most were willing learners, but a few were what I would consider blockers and with very closed mind sets. This was difficult to work with especially in an environment where the change was going to happen and I was there to help them move forward with the change.

One of the IB learner profiles is Open Minded, I had connected this with being open minded about opinions, lifestyles, culture and being accepting of others in these areas, and to be willing to engage openly but I had not made the connection between being open minded and the growth mindset for learning before, (yes, you can call me slow), but it is a very good fit and one that all adults need to be working toward if we are to be lifelong learners.

In their presentation Sara and Andrea spoke about some of the phrases and thinking that come up when a closed mindset is in action : 

  • This is the way we have always done it (TTWWADI)
  • I know all this
  • We tried it before and it didn't work
  • I am no good at this
  • I have done/ taught this for years, and there is nothing new
  • This has been imposed on me, so I don't want to know
  • What use is this going to be?
  • Who is this 'expert'? I know more than they do
  • I am a dullard at computers
  • I just don't have time for this
  • I will be retiring soon, what use is this?

I have been guilty of some of these phrases at time, and now I am working toward to be more open minded.   To go through life with an open mindset we need to be aware of our self speak and work toward more positive thinking and communication. 
  • Let's give this a go and see what happens
  • How can I make my learning a priority
  • What do I need to learn to make this change happen as smoothly as possible?
  • What is challenging me, and how can I reduce that challenge?
  • What is the worst that can happen?
  • What can I learn from this?

Our mindsets change constantly depending on the place and moment we are in, if we are under a lot of stress in one area of our lives, other areas may have a closed mind set approach just to keep us focused and stable in the area we need to be at that time. However, we do need to be mindful of this and engage others appropriately to let them know that now is not a good time, can we revisit in a week or so.

Educators can sometimes be a little 'set in their ways' particularly if they have been in the same work situation for a number of years and are very comfortable with a bit of a power base. Schools as institutions can also have closed mind sets where the culture does not promote, allow or even be open to change in the form of new initiatives, this can be leader led, or just within the culture of the school. Schools that have had a long traditions of 100's of years are renown for such mind sets just because of the long legacy of instilled traditions, however younger schools have also been afflicted with this.

Part of having a growth mindset is being willing and able to conduct an evaluation of one's life, teaching, organisation and the things/ events/ traditions/ ways of doing that make up that life, library, teaching style, school etc and to really look at what is working and what is no longer relevant.  We need to be able to "master the art of quitting" and moving onto something if it is no longer serving the needs of our family, clientele, class, school or community. (The phrase "flogging a dead horse' comes to mind.) Sara and Andrea stated that we need to embrace the need for change, find the change we need and move on without looking back.

"You can't be a trailblazer without the fire."
Are you the trailblazer or the debris left smouldering behind?

As an educator how do you measure against the evaluation statements below for openmindness?

  • Encourages an open, critical debate of issues
  • Reacts positively to constructive evaluation from others
  • Ready to try new ideas
  • Appreciates there are many ways to achieve the same goal, solve the same problem, react to same experience
  • Evaluates own teaching style & programmes critically
  • Is open to learning of new skills, ideas and ways of doing

Sara and Andrea gave out little stickers at the end of their workshop which said "Relentlessly Optimistic" to remind us all that positivity is the key to being good learners and educators.  We are working for the students to be open minded with a growth mindset so we must be an example of how that looks and works.


To find out more about growth mind set visit Carol Dweck's website "Mindset

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pushing the barriers

One of the sessions at ALA that got me a little bit excited was "Beacon me up Scotty" presented by Paolo MelilloBranch Manager, Southeast, Orange County Library System, Florida, USA. In his presentation he talked about iBeacon technology and how his library had adopted it and used it. (His presentation slides can be accessed here).

Essentially iBeacon technology is a push technology using a smart phone app, bluetooth and a small disk that is mounted on a wall. It is proximity based. If you have installed an iBeacon app (Bluubeam, Kick etc) onto your phone, whenever you pass by one of the iBeacons disks, a message will be pushed to your phone. Have a look at this short video for a concise explanation.

 It has been implemented in the retail sector for a little while now, and cultural places such as museums, galleries and libraries even airports have picked up the technology and moving along with it.

Paolo talked specifically about how his library is using the beacon technology with library patrons. Having an iBeacon transmitter near the library entrance welcomes patrons to the library along with a message about new resources, library events, and even community events. As patrons move around in the library they are given messages about specific information in that location - for example as they pass the cookbook section they may get a message about the cooking classes the library arranges. He has the iBeacons transmit within a 15ft radius of the iBeacon, although they can transmit up to 200ft. It will depend on the size of the area and the purpose.

The iBeacon and messages are remotely programmable, this being a major advantage as they are usually attached to a wall with very sticky stuff, very high up. 

The ALA conference had iBeacons strategically placed around the centre. Upon entering some of the conference rooms, I would get notified of what was going on in the room, a link to the presentation slides, and sometimes even a link to a survey or further information. In the exhibitors hall, I was getting notified about special events starting up soon, or deals that exhibitors had going.

This presentation came after I had been in danah boyds 'Big Data' keynote about how so much data is being collected about us all the time. Having this conversation in mind, of course opened up questions about iBeacon technology and data collection. If users of the smartphones just receive the messages, then apparently the only data that is collected is in-store or at-event behavioral data of individuals. Further data can be collected if the ibeacon message encourages interaction - like downloading a coupon, accessing a website etc.

You can read more about data collection and the iBeacon technology here.

So what are the implications for schools and school libraries?

Have a look at the videos below for how two schools have implemented the iBeacon technology.

After watching these videos my brain is starting to swirl with ideas on how this technology can be used to enhance customer service and learning in the school environment.

iBeacon's could be used for :
  • a mobile information source with one being placed on a person as a roaming information source - "Ask me about... "
  • scavenger hunts
  • notification of new resources
  • lessons being pushed to students
The list is only limited by your imagination.

What do you think? Concerns? Ideas? Wow factor?

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?