Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fixing a flexible schedule

There has been a raging battle with school librarians over the fixed vs flexible issue for their schedule. It has mainly been a battle for the elementary school because the library time is often used as a relief from face to face time, and secondary schools have have had a different battle of just getting access to classes. The whole debate is a difficult one as each school is different and each school librarian has different talents.

Something that we tried this year in the secondary school is for each English class years 7 -11 to be scheduled into library time once a fortnight. In the first term, I used this time to upskill the students on the library resources and services through a quick 15 minute activity as they really had had no formal exposure to the library before this after elementary school. They then had time to browse and borrow books and read. The teacher would always accompany their classes.

For the first few months, I scheduled other appointments around this schedule so I would also be able to be with the classes to help with finding resources, talk to the teachers, and to promote the library services. After a few months the English teachers started asking me to integrate some of the things they are doing in class into these library sessions - Introduce George Orwell and Animal Farm, run a literature circle group, and help to collect supporting texts (Star Crossed Lovers to support Romeo & Juliet).

Although the scheduled time with the secondary classes has been quite low level stuff on my part I have realised it has led to a number of long term benefits :
  • Building relationships with the students, I can see what they are reading, doing, and ask them about their lives. They are now more willing to approach me to be helped in any way they need to be helped
  • Building relationships with the teachers. This has led to being invited to be part of the planning process, and to co teaching in the English department. It has also led to being invited into other curriculum areas as word gets around.
  • Better collection development as I now know what the student interests are, and the context in which subjects are being taught.
  • Students who know how to use the library more independently remotely, and better use of our services and resources.
  • More use of the physical space during recess and lunch times and after school.
  • More meaningful access to the students by the school librarian.
  • Increased reading by the secondary students.
  • More students wanting to be involved in the Library Service programme, which has led to more positive student initiatives happening in the library.
It has all resulted due to the increased exposure of the students and teachers to the library and teacher librarian.

As  my schedule fills up, the flexible part of the scheduling comes into play. It is now 2nd term and  the english teachers are aware that I may not be with their classes during their scheduled library visit as I will be working somewhere else at that time - in a planning meeting or teaching a class in the classroom. I will tell them in advance and they have the choice if they wish to bring the students in for their scheduled time or not. Most choose to still come along as the students demand it!

My point of this post is that even though regularly scheduled classes may not be the best use of the School Librarians time all the time, if it is negotiated beforehand and used with purpose, it can lead to much, much more. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Wattpad Phenomenon

What is Wattpad

Wattpad is a crowd sourced site for self published writing. The writing is voted on, it is changed and updated as the author feels the need, it is free to access as a writer and a reader, and, the middle school students at our school love it. This blog post from David Gaughran explains it in more detail with some statistics (one of which is that Wattpad users spend about an hour a day on the site). Read the Wattpad story.

The official blurb goes like this ... 

"Wattpad is the world's largest community of readers and writers. It's the free and fun way to read on the web and across all mobile devices. Everyday millions of people use Wattpad to read unique new fiction or share their own creative writing. For both avid readers and aspiring writers, Wattpad is the best place to discover and share unlimited stories. It's the only community that offers a mobile, social, eReading experience.
Wattpad was founded by Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen and is based in Toronto, Ontario.
Wattpad’s vision is to revolutionize the way people read, write and share stories. All the content on Wattpad is created by its community of users. So far, over 5 million stories have been uploaded to Wattpad spanning all genres of creative writing - from mystery, to romance, sci fi, poetry and fan fiction.
And it's fun for adults and kids"  from Crunchbase
I sort of stumbled across this phenomena last academic year when we did the Reading Trends survey, and discovered many of the students were accessing their reading through the Wattpad App, and, these were readers of all ages and levels.
Intrigued, I asked them why they access their reading here and not through the mainstream methods. It essentially came down to similar reasons as expressed by Caution District ....

 "I recommend this app for anyone who loves to read and people who don’t like to read either because there is something for everyone. Wattpad is not just for the people who love to read it is also just for people who love to write because Wattpad is where anyone can publish a book, fan-fiction ,and anything that a everyday person can think to write."  

Reasons from our students included : Lots of books written by teens, for teens, interesting books, short books and books that keep changing depending on what people ask for. A wide variety of storylines and interesting characters. Searchable, easy to find books of interest, lots of fanfiction. You can vote on the books, and suggest changes which the authors may or may not do. I can talk to the authors and ask them questions and they talk back. There are so many titles to choose from. There are so many topics.
I needed to check this app/platform out - particularly because the students were asking me to add their Wattpad reading to Goodreads for them and I needed to figure out how to navigate the site, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Well, it is huge, it is easily accessible, and it has diversity and for writers, it has an authentic and responsive audience. I can see its appeal immediately.
There are awards, challenges to encourage writing, (The 30 Day writing challenge) , it is connected to all social media sites - twitter, facebook, instagram, youtube and tumblr and it has a community consisting of club discussions, crowd sourced awards and a blog.
So, what are the social, business and educational implications for Wattpad?
Social : Young people have easy access to reading, and lots of it, they have conversations about what they are reading with each other and with the author. The authors want to improve their writing so people will read it to garner more votes.  Authors have a platform to publish their writing and get immediate feedback, it is crowdsourced so the best writing will always get the most votes.
Authors : Aspiring authors have a platform to test their writing, they don't need a publisher to tell them "it is not what we are looking for." They are evaluated by their peers along with everyone else. They are encouraged to keep writing by immediate feedback. It can be used as a platform to be noticed by publishers or even film studios to have their work published. Established authors could use the platform to pique interest from a new readership, they may even have the opportunity to republish their out of print books to give them a new life. There is a short non fiction book on Wattpad - "How publish on Wattpad" to give tips on making your written work work on Wattpad.
Publishers : This is a serious challenge to their current business model. I really don't think they need to be too concerned about ebooks - Wattpad and similar sites are a challenge. Publishers have always decided what will be printed according to their perception of the next big thing, however, Wattpad shows that readers want diversity in their reading, they do not want all the books to be vampire fiction, or dystopian love stories. They want to be able to read a variety of themes and genres.  They want easy access and they want free. 
On the other hand, Wattpad might be just a perfect place for publishers to find the next big trend, or even pluck an obscure author from the masses just based on the votes they have received and published, it may reduce the amount of manuscript reading and unsolicited "I want to publish a book please publish mine" scenarios.
Education : We need to embrace this phenomena, as I don't think it is going away soon. It has grown from strength to strength. So how could it be embraced?
Library : 
  • We could promote it as another access point for reading (and writing). 
  • Could some of the popular books be catalogued in our OPACs? 
  • Could we highlight our own students who are publishing on Wattpad? 
  • If you use Goodreads, we could all become Goodreads librarians and add our students Wattpad reading to the Goodreads database to give this reading validation as being 'real' reading.
  • There is writing in every language - this platform could easily be promoted and used for mother tongue support.
  • Throughout the site, there are comments about copyright, creative commons, public domain.
General School life: 
  • Could Wattpad be used as a platform for publishing in class creative writing?
  • Could the teachers use examples from Wattpad to look at different writing styles and devices?
  • A class could follow a story as it is published chapter by chapter and comment to the author.
  • A language class could use the writing in the language of instruction to enhance the reading and language skills of their students.
  • The art and design curriculum could be harnessed to connect with authors to create covers and promotion for their books.
  • The platform can be used as a place to start or read about campaigns against undesirable behaviours 
  • Students undertaking Personal Projects and Extended essays could use this platform as research or as a publishing platform.
  • Wattpad is outstanding for those students who have access, learning and reading difficulties - text size and font can be changed, audio can be used to read the books and the writing comes in lengths from 1 page to 1000's of pages - and you can search the database based on length of the work.
  • The short Wattpad writing tips videos (recorded by established Wattpad authors) could be used as a self checker against their own work, or even as a tutorial on how to write, or if you like - flipped classroom pedagogy.
  • Staff could be encouraged to write and publish on Wattpad on their area of expertise whether it be fiction based on their subject, or commentary of their own interest. There is a story in all of us.

The statistics for Wattpad in 2014 are astounding, Wattpad is here to stay. I encourage you to check it out, learn how to access it and promote it as an authentic reading and writing platform across your school.

Can you think of some other ideas of how Wattpad could be used?
Do you harness the power of Wattpad in your library and school? Please share.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Something fun for the New Year!

Reference Question from the NYPL 

Happy New calendar Year everyone!

I just read about this fun thing the New York Public Library is doing until their supplies run out (which may be a long long time). I found this information from the Gothamist blog, which I follow via Google +.

The NYPL has always been a place for people to find information, and in the days before Google, they would record the reference questions that people would ask on what looks like catalogue cards. Well, they are now posting pictures of these reference questions on their instagram account with a new one each Monday. The hashtag they are using #letmelibrarianthatforyou.

Some of the questions are ....
  • Is it possible to keep an octopus in a private home?
  • I just saw a mouse in the kitchen. Is DDT OK to use? (1946)
  • Does NYPL have a computer for us of the public? Answer: No sir! (1966)
  • What did women use for shopping backs before paper bags?
  • Are black widow spiders more harmful dead or alive?
  • Is it proper to go to Reno alone to get a divorce? (1945)
  • Are Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates the same person?
  • Can NYPL recommend a good forger?
  • Where can I rent a beagle for hunting (1963). 
  • Has the gun with which Oswald shot President Kennedy been returned to the family?
  • What is the life span of an eyelash? Answer: Based on the book Your hair and its care, it's 150 days.

As I am writing this I am thinking of some ways to use this resource in school and some of the ideas  I have come up with are: 

  • Repost the question on our library instagram or facebook page and see if someone can find the answer to the question. 
  • Use the photos as a lesson on questioning - good and bad questions, strange and unanswerable  questions, what are they really trying to find out?
  • Use the cards as a history lesson on life before Google ... where would you find the answers to this question? Can it be googled?
  • Use the cards and questions as a stimulus for a social insight into the era of the question.
I may think of more, but thanks NYPL - this is a fun little project and I will look forward to checking my instagram feed on Mondays!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of year pressure

I am a big fan of Goodreads, and I particularly like the reading challenge you can set yourself a reading goal at the beginning of each year. Last year I set a goal to read 50 books through the year, I achieved that goal in October, and then extended the challenge to 70 books. I tend to read mostly young adult fiction and a few books for grown up and some non fiction.

I am now sitting here on the last day of the year in a quandary - I have two books to read to reach my goal before midnight tonight. I am halfway through one, so do I count the half read one and move onto a short read (ie picture book) to read my goal? - or do I just relinquish the opportunity to reach the goal and move on to the next year knowing I was so close .... but not quite there?

There was this blog post from book riot at the beginning of december on "Why I won't be participating in the Goodreads Challenge"  where the author Jessica Pryde found that she became consumed by the reading challenge, and continual increased her goal each year, but then found it difficult to enjoy her reading with the pressure of the high number she had set herself.

Then there is another blog post about why AliGeorge will be taking the Goodreads challenge, and I am tending to lean more toward agreeing with the points in this post. I like to be able to see my reading over the past 12 months, and as I look back over the year, I am surprised the books I read were only from this calendar year and not before. This was the first year I participated in the reading challenge and although I didn't keep a record from previous years, I know it was the year that I read most books since leaving high school, and I will put this down to the Goodreads reading challenge.

So after reading a bit more than 19339  pages and 68.5 books over 12 months, I will probably finish the one book I am halfway through and call it a year of reading, the purpose of the challenge was to motivate me to read more and it has achieved that, and I went way beyond my original goal of one book a week.

So what did I read this year? Have a look at this link .. My Goodreads 2014 reading log for the full list.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The next chapter

Last week I resigned from my current placement as an MYP Teacher Librarian at an International school in HK.  I have done this not because I was unhappy, or that I have another job to go to but because I want to try something new, something risky and something that gives me more flexibility with my time.

I am moving into the field of full time Professional Development for Educators. I want to see what exciting things people are doing out there and to learn from them. I want to facilitate dynamic and fulfilling learning experiences for adult learners, and, I want to do this because this is what lights my fire.

So what next? I have sent up a website, I have created preliminary workshop plans, I will also be creating short online upskilling courses for school librarians very soon. I am now reaching out to you if you know of an opportunity where I could facilitate a workshop or consultation in one or more areas of my expertise in your school or district from September 2015, please mention my name or let me know so I can apply. I am open to all suggestions anywhere in the world. I am also open to suggestions on topics that you are interested in that I currently do not have a plan for.  I will put in 150% of my time and effort to bring your organisation one of the best learning experiences you will have as educators. 

I will miss working in a school, especially the students and the funny things they do and say, but the time is right for me to do this and I believe I am ready as I will ever be for this challenge.  I just need a little help from my friends and blog readers to get started.

If you are interested in applying for the vacancy at RCHK I will leave, please visit this page on the school website. Applications close January 9, 2015, the start date will be August 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sharing for learning


Late in November Katie Day and myself hosted a School Librarian Connection mini conference for 60+ school librarians across SE Asia. 

The lead up took quite a bit of planning and brainstorming via skype, emails and messages as Katie lives in Singapore and I live in Hong Kong. We took an informal survey some months before the event to see if people were interested, and if they were interested, what did they want to learn about?

We wanted this event to be specifically focused on 'Library stuff' as we found that many of the regional conferences focused on literacy, digital integration etc, and while these are all important parts of our role, we felt there was a real need to get back to the basics of our organisations and what we do to connect with students.

The five hot topics were identified  - Collection Management,  Digital resource Management, Supporting the curriculum, Visual Literacy, Research Skills.  People were invited to share their practice in short bursts of 5, 10 or 20 minutes in rapid fire with question time following. We had envisaged to have break out time to discuss the presentations in more detail, but that didn't quite work out and we should have worked harder on that. It was only 1.5 days of learning, and we could have made it longer, but through new experiences we learn what could have been better to make the next one even better. The feedback we received was that overall the participants felt it was an event worth attending, and many look forward to the next one.

Some of the tools to organise the conference were Skype, Google sites and docs, Paypal along with the event event management site Eventbrite which when combined, made our job much easier. Some of the presentations were in the form of a video from people who were unable to attend in person but still wanted to contribute. We even had a live skype in from Emily Johnson in Nanjing which worked very well.

We employed Maggie Appleton as our conference sketchnoter who did a fabulous job of capturing many of the presentations. Maggie is a young entrepreneur looking for more work as a sketchnoter and will even consider artist in residence for visual note taking. 

Softlink sponsored the event with an iPad giveaway with a nametag drawn out of a bowl by Maggie and, we had a fabulous lunch catered by a local restaurant called Casa.

If you would like to see what you missed, the presentations and accompanying sketchnotes can be found on this conference page. Of course, we can't capture the informal learning and networking that went on in break times and at the social functions, which are always an important function of any event like this. If you would like more information on any of the presentations, please contact the person directly if possible.

A big shout out and thank you to all who presented, attended and helped in some way. It was great meeting and working with you all and very rewarding experience overall. We look forward to seeing you at the next one in 2015!

A snapshot of some of the tweets from the weekend.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Upskilling Online

Over the past few months I have been involved in learning online for two courses, one course was for IB educators to facilitate online workshops (I passed!), and the other I have been doing since February is COETAIL - or the Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy. I have almost finished course 4 and have one more module to complete before I finish. Both of these courses were demanding of my time and thinking, hence things have been a little quieter on this blog over the past few months. 

Through COETAIL I have had to examine visual literacy, flipping classrooms, problem based learning, digital literacy and citizenship and have had to consider models for digital technology integration. The blog I have had to record my thinking and research is called Wagging my Coetail.

One of the assignments I chose to complete for the visual literacy unit (module 3) was a CV formatted in the style of an infographic. There are a number of examples of these lurking about, here is one on Tumblr and Keri-Lee Beasley keeps an updated board on Pinterest. It was an interesting exercise to create a CV like this, and, once I had finished and handed it in, I already wanted to change it a bit to make my work experience and education smaller and place more emphasis my current skill set. I created it using Pages.

What do you think - is the education world ready for such a one page CV in such a format??