Saturday, April 30, 2016

Conferencing in Beijing

Last week Katie Day, Babs Albury and I had the opportunity to organise a 2 day conference of School Librarians at Keystone Academy, Beijing, China. We had 43 school librarians attend from Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Dongguan, Guangdong, Changshu, Suzhou, Jiangsu, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Yokohama (Japan), Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), with our furthest attendee coming all the way from Moka, Mauritius.

It was two days of sharing our contexts and conversations about best practise. 

We heard from people who had little or no budget to work with and the creative ways they make things happen in their library. 

We also learned how to :
  • be creative when the accounts department do not let you dispose of books from the school premises. 
  • organise an effective author visit, 
  • make a library centred school. 
  • create the role we play in creating a culture of academic honesty and fairness 
  • make meaningful connections between school and public librarians
  • create a family reading program
  • transform a library into a libratory
  • go through the process of action research
  • analyse our contexts and needs then create a strategic plan
  • make our virtual resources visible
  • support students with personalised learning plans
  • use concepts in our planning and teaching
  • evaluate and create reading programs
  • plan for change in the library environment
  • evaluate the perception of the school librarian in Asian society
Overall, it was a diverse programme that had something for everyone with opportunity for questions and conversation in each session. We are very thankful for the presenters for sharing their experiences and expertise and the time they took to prepare fabulous learning for the participants.

We also had the opportunity to tour the libraries at Keystone which was followed up with an information social.

Follett and Gale Cengage were our sponsors who also had the opportunity to share their current products and talk to participants.

We shared resources, presentations and a museum of spaces using Padlet (this works well in China).

Keystone Academy is a new custom built bilingual, boarding school that opened for students in August 2014, it offers the International Primary Curriculum, Middle Years Programme (IB) and Diploma Programme (IB) curriculums catering to Chinese and International students.

The three keystones of Keystone Academy are :
  • bilingual immersion in Chinese and English; 
  • building character and community in a residential setting; 
  • promoting Chinese culture and identity in a world context. 
It is a beautiful campus, catering for the arts and physical wellbeing as well as the traditional subjects. It has lovely on campus housing for the staff who wish to live on campus.

You can view photos of the conference, campus and libraries at this link, the full programme with links to the presentations can be found here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Visible thinking for adults

One of the techniques I use in the workshops I facilitate is a visible thinking routine.

At the beginning of a workshop I pose three questions to which participants need to respond ...

What do you know about (topic)?
What are your concerns about (topic)?
What do you think are your biggest challenges regarding (topic)?

The questions are placed on paper to hang on the wall, participants write their responses on post it notes and place on the appropriate paper.

The papers at the beginning of the workshop

I use the responses as a diagnostic tool to see how the participants understandings are and how they are feeling about the topic. It identifies the issues that need to be addressed over the workshop to ensure I am meeting the needs of the participants.

At the end of each session, I request that the participants go back to their responses and see if the challenges and concerns have now become understandings. If this is the case, they move their post-it note to the understanding paper.  By the end of the workshop, most of the notes have been moved. Some challenges cannot be solved at a workshop level as it is at an individual school level and context.

The papers at the end of the conference

It is a simple reflection tool for the participants to see how their learning is developing over the workshop, and it is good for me to see how successful I am in addressing their concerns.

Although my workshops last from one to three days, this routine could be used through a unit of work at any age level maybe change the language of the questions to make them more age appropriate.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Moving out of the comfort zone

Katie Day & I are organising a small conference in Beijing to be held in April at Keystone Academy. We have done something similar in Hong Kong in 2014, however this location being China definitely has its challenges as many digital apps are not able to be accessed there without a VPN - VPN's are currently illegal to be used in China.

Some of the apps we tend to use and take for granted including the Google Suite - Google forms, sites, blogger, youtube, gmail are all closed off in China, as is Facebook, Slideshare, Trello and a few others. This has become a challenge as we needed to have a website, a booking platform and place to collaboratively host presentations along with survey software.

We worked around the Google site issues by using Weebly to create our website, for our surveys we used Typeform. Our booking platform is Eventbrite. The one place we had trouble finding was the collaborative sharing of files, Google drive does this so good we knew it was going to be a tough one.

After identifying someone with knowledge on the subject who is an Ed tech educator living in Nanjing. (@brianlockwood How, What, Why?)  I contacted him via twitter and we bounced off a quick conversation about apps that might be used for collaborative sharing. He suggested we used Microsoft's OneDrive as that will probably fit our needs. So I am now working on learning how to use this platform so I can help others.

So you see, just when you think you have it all figured out ... along comes another curveball to challenge and move you out of your comfort zone. The upside is that I have been able to learn about some new applications and platforms I may never have got to learn about.

If you are interested in the conference, visit the website School Librarian Connection. We will be tweeting and hopefully streaming some of the conversations through Meerkat or Periscope, (whichever works) follow @schlibcon on twitter for updates closer to April 22-23.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Searching Facebook

Facebook has been around for a little while, (about 10 years now) and it is still popular for keeping in touch with friends and family, and has now extended into a way for professionals to share and discuss topics through groups and professional pages. 

One of the criticisms of Facebook as a user for professional purposes is the inability to search and curate the content, I beg to differ. Facebook is quite powerful in the curation and search stakes if you know how to do it.

Firstly know about the "drop arrow in the top right hand corner of every post" tool. This can be found on Facebook on all mobile devices and desktop devices. 

Pull it down .... you can see at the top there is an option to save the video, or the post to retrieve later.

Note : You do not have to share, or comment on these posts to keep them in your feed and then to try and find them later.  (You will also see that you can turn off notifications, If you were the original poster you can also edit and turn off comments and translations).

Where are they saved to?
One the left side of your wall is a list of your favourites - "Saved" is one of these ...

And when you open this, you open a page of your saved links, videos and posts in one long chronological order - refined by the bar on the top. 

The saved items are sorted by the time period in which you saved them. There is also a shared button, where you can revisit the post and share it at a later time. The data also includes where you saved the post from so you can see the context or offer credit. 

Once you have saved the resource you want to save, you can then use Evernote or another tool to curate and organise it with more detail, or just leave it on Facebook to find later.

Searching Facebook
These search features are only available on the desktop version of Facebook - not on Mobile devices unless you view Facebook in the browser version, not the app version. (See here for details on how to achieve search function on a mobile device using the browser, or use an app for iOS Search for Posts)

If you are part of a Facebook group, you are able to search the group posts using the search function, which picks up all matches, so use it wisely. This is also useful to see if what you are about to post has already been discussed in the group.

Searching your own page : 
Go to your profile / wall - to the search bar along the top, type in the keyword you are looking for.

Your results will come up on your wall - first will be specific pages with that keyword included, then under that will be results from your own posts and friends of your posts.

If you want to just find things that have been posted to your wall place your name in the box with what you are searching for in quotation marks "weather" and only what you have searched for will come up. You can use this to find posts from your friends in your feed as well - just put their name and a key word.

Another option is to go to your personal Activity Log and type in the search box, this will bring up any post with the search term in it that you have posted to your wall, or that others have tagged you in.

Yes, Facebook uses these too and they are quite powerful.

If you include a hashtag in your posts, it becomes a live link, just like in twitter. 

If you click on this live hashtag it will take you to all the posts with the same hashtag in your feed, (or groups feed) as well as any other public post using the same hashtag. This could have possibilities to find opinions, articles etc on Facebook on trending topics, or just topics that students or you want to find more about.

So to make your posts even more searchable and to give more exposure, especially in groups, public posts, or business pages - use hashtags.

Facebook can be searched and curated, and you can then move the links and videos to other curation tools when you have the opportunity.  You just need to know how it all works to make it work!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich - Oerlikon

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Zurich for a short visit, and as part of this visit I popped into the Zurich Branch Library of Oerlikon that was across the road from the hotel, because that is what you do when you are a librarian visiting another country. Zurich has 14 branches of the Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich (or PBZ) system.

The total floor space of the library is 1105 m2 over 3 floors. the premises are located in an historic former post office building dating from 1927. It is Located directly at the railway station of the district of Zürich-OERLIKON, one of the main hubs in Switzerland.

The first thing I noticed was that the entrance was an open space without any oppressive circulation desks. There were three standing desks, separated, near the entryway and facing in slightly different ways so that each desk could be approached from a different direction. There were many people in the library at the time I visited at about 4pm, it was also very warm when the outside temperature was close to zero.

The library is the showcase for the PBZ as it was completed in 2013 and incorporates many modern designs and functional furniture. Just beyond the entrance a Take-away wall has been fitted where new releases and best sellers are kept for customers with little time. A 'grab and run' section if you like. 

Further along the building, the fiction section in multiple languages is held, along with magazines, DVD's and CD's. The shelving incorporated a lot of front facing books.


The lower floor also has a number of self checkout machines, with a readers lounge that looks out onto the train line.


On the second floor I found the non fiction, then on the third floor was the children's library, which at the time was filled with children participating in after school activities, so I didn't take any photographs while the children were there.

On the way back down to the lower floors, I looked more carefully at the spine labels on the non fiction and I noticed there were no dewey numbers. I also don't read German so I approached the librarians to ask about the spine labels ...

The top line of the label is the branch of the PBZ (in this case OE for Oerlikon), the next line is the classification (or signature) of where it is placed on the shelf. The third line is the authors suffix.

The signature is the item that intrigued me the most - it means that the entire non fiction of Zurich libraries is organised by subject - without the Dewey or LOC system indicated on the spine or the OPAC. One of the librarians took the time out to show me the subjects they use throughout the system. Unfortunately you cannot access the list through the regular OPAC, but you can gain an inkling from the shelf markers as to how they created the subject headings and what would be generally included as part of this. After some searching I think I have found the full list here, but it may not be.

Something else that impressed me was the OPAC is available in multiple languages.

This library was also featured on a blog 1001 Libraries you need to see before you die.

Overall I was very impressed with the Zurich library system, and this branch of it.

EDIT : I wrote to the PBZ for more information and this is what they replied with : 

For our non fiction department we use a blend between the ASB (Allgemeine Systematik für Öffentliche Bibliotheken i.e. General system for public libraries) see:, and the so called Themenbereiche (subjects), mainly created by ourselves. 

They also send me 31 pages of information on the subjects they use. Thank you PBZ!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Where are we going?

When we ask students to undertake a task - whether it is big or small, an activity in one lesson or a unit over a number of weeks, we need to assess to see if learning has occurred both for our own learning and that of the students.

We need to examine what the purpose of the assessment is ...

Is it to see how well the student has learned what you have used their time to try to teach them?
Is it to reflect on the effectiveness of teaching methods you used?
Is it to see what the students already know?
Is it to find out if you are heading in the direction you think you are?

There are three forms of assessment according to John Hattie - diagnostic (or pre-assessment), formative and summative.

Diagnostic is to find out where the students are in their learning before you even begin to teach them. It is really important step that is sometimes overlooked due to time, or more dangerously, due to assumptions or presumptions of the learners knowledge.

In the cartoon below by Chris Lysy from fresh Spectrum, he takes the words of  Michael Quinn Patton from his book Developmental Evaluation and turns it into a cartoon representing the three forms of assessment (below).
Formative evaluation is when the cook tastes the soup to see it is what he or she is planning, the guests tasting the soup is the summative, with the guest passing final judgement.
Diagnostic evaluation ...  
"begins when, before cooking, the chef goes to the market to see what vegetables are the freshest, what fish has just arrived, and meanders through the market considering possibilities, thinking about who the guests will be, what they were served last time, what the weather is like, and considers how adventurous and innovative to be with the meal."
As educators we need to be constantly using diagnostic tools to see where our learners are up to in terms of knowledge, skills, mindset and process and also what is going on outside our classroom in the big wide world which will affect them. Not just at the beginning of each unit, but throughout the lessons and the unit.

A few of the diagnostic tools I use most commonly include a quick question - tell me what you know about ....?? With short follow up questions on skills and process this usually gives me enough information for a short lesson on something, and allows me to connect what they have told me they know to what I am teaching them. It gives me a starting place, but also gets their mind thinking about what they do know about something and has them in the zone for learning.

Another diagnostic tool I use quite often with adults is the 4 pronged sentences - 
  • What is one thing you are comfortable with about ...., 
  • What is your biggest concern regarding ..... , 
  • What are your perceived challenges? 
  • What questions do you have? 
The learners write their answers on post it notes and place them on specific boards at the beginning of the unit / workshop. I can look over them and see where they are and what their perceived challenges are, and the depth of their understanding through the questions they ask. Throughout the workshop I ask the learners to move their questions, challenges, understandings to a new place if it is appropriate. It them becomes a formative evaluation.

One of the more common ways of assessing prior knowledge is using a KWL template, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano in 2011 wrote a blog post to bring the KWL into the 21st Century. She called it the KWHLAQ chart - 

  • What do I know already?
  • What do I want to know? 
  • How do I find out?
  • What have I learned so far?
  • What action will I take?
  • What new questions do I have?
These questions help the learner to determine where they are going, and assist the teacher to see what they already know.... or do they???

I used this template based on the question with a group of adult learners for a field trip we were heading out on and their comments included that they couldn't write any thing for the first question because they didn't know anything about where we were going. This non knowledge is in itself a diagnostic moment and could be turned into a question storm rather than a brain storm.

Question storming is similar to brain storming, but with brain storming you are limited to what you already know, and if you know nothing, then it all comes to a grinding halt. Question storming is limitless as one continues to ask questions, building on previous questions, and even if their knowledge is limited, the learner can still participate and think about the understanding and context of the task. It also allows the teacher to see the level of understanding about the matter at hand through the types of questions being asked. Hal Gergerson co-author of The Innovator’s DNA explains question storming in this short video.

This link on the page Differentiation and LR Information for SAS Teachers has a number of other strategies and tools that can be used to assess prior knowledge and skill levels, identify student misconceptions, profile learners' interests, and reveal learning-style preferences. Angela Stockman has identified 10 creative pre assessment ideas on her page "Brilliant or Insane".  This Pinterest page has a good collection of links to explore on diagnostic assessment.

Pre-assessment is an important part of the teaching process as without it we may aim our teaching too high or low for our learners, which will result in limited learning and a waste of time. We need to do it for a short lesson or for a full unit over a number of weeks. Select the technique that works best for the situation.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Contexts and conversations

An intimate conference with a slight difference is being organised in April for School Librarians to be held in Beijing. The theme is "Contexts and Conversations" and will explore the thoughts, struggles and achievements that are part of the job of being a school librarian in an international setting. Exploration will take place of how situations and solutions change based on the contexts within the school, the community and the individual strengths we all have.

Presenters will be leading with questions they have, struggles they have encountered through sharing their achievements with participants, who will then have the opportunity to explore the issues through conversation based on their own context.

If you are interested in leading a conversation, or would just like to attend, please visit the links in the Smore below to express interest.

The conference is being organised by Katie Day & Dianne McKenzie through School Librarian Connection on the invitation of Keystone Academy and promises to be an exciting 2 days of learning and problem solving. We hope you can join us.

Share your thoughts, struggles, actions.
Submissions close 28 February

Express your interest to attend so as not to miss out on important information.