Saturday, July 19, 2014

Planning is over rated...

Schloss Dreckenfels 
I have been quiet on the blog front for a bit as I had end of term normal craziness to contend with and then I left right away to start an amazing adventure with my husband - cycling 700kms across The Netherlands and Germany, from Amsterdam to Frankfurt.

Part of embarking on such an adventure is planning and we didn't have much time for this - we got the basics sorted - fitness, required clothing, panniers, bikes sorted and a bit of a plan of what we wanted to do.

We travel airline staff standby, so we didn't have our flights booked, nor any accomodation nor did we know where we would actually end up - we just looked at possible dates and found one where there were a few spare seats and we left for the airport with our bikes and clothes. It wasn't our original destination of Frankfurt but, it was Amsterdam, so it was sort of part of the plan.

Our holiday was riding for 5-6 hours a day in the direction of Frankfurt, then to find accomodation at the end of the day within our budget. We had Google maps on the ipad mini, we both had Garmins on our bikes, and we just followed the signs of the riding routes. Not much was in English, we didn't have data plans to access the internet through the day, part of the accomodation requirement was to have wifi included so we could see where we needed to head the next day. In most cases, we never made to where we thought we would, so, we eventually stopped planning nd just rode.

We picked up maps along the way and used them a little bit, expecially around the towns and we explored whatever took our fancy. We had no plans for the day other than to ride about 50-60kms toward Frankfurt, look at castles, churches, amazing scenery and just enjoy the day.

We often have holidays like this where we have just turned up the airport and got on a plane that had spare seats - not knowing where we were confirmed until we were through the gates. I love holidays like this - no expectations leads to no disappointments.

This cycling holiday was one of the toughest I adventures I have done. It was great just going by how we felt on the day, with no bookings or deadlines to meet by a certain time. There was only one day we had trouble finding accomodation where we needed to ride an extra 20kms. Did we miss stuff along the way? Yes probably.  Does it matter - not at all. We did what we wanted at the time, and had a great adventure.

Does this have anything to do with libraries or learning? Maybe a lose connection in that we need flexibility in our lives and learning and teaching to take advantage of what comes our way at the time.

If you would like to see what we did, I created a blog : Rambling Cyclists with lots of photos and not much writing.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Our reading trends

Reading together, Istanbul - Photo by Dianne McKenzie

Last post I reported about the reading trends survey we conducted in our international secondary school. You can find the results below or at this link on on Issuu.

What we have done with these results is to send the report to the school executive, and shared with the teaching staff, particularly with the English department. We then published the link in our school newsletter and on the our library facebook page for the wider community to review the results.

There were some slight problems with the survey- one question had a technical glitch and I think we could have have asked a few more specific questions to truly be able to be comparative to the other reading trends surveys. I outlined these problems in the report and will work on creating a better measure next time.

The report has given us some interesting data to work with - including what ebook devices are being used, who has the most influence on what is read, where they obtain their reading material and how much time they are spending reading, which may not necessarily be reading for pleasure, but, it is still reading. A phenonema we are seeing more of is the reading of fan fiction and reading and writing on Wattpad by our secondary students. 

I would appreciate any comments or feedback you might have about this project.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Reading trends

Who is reading what and when?

Over the past weeks I have been the reading the Commonsense media report "Children, teens and reading" and it got me to thinking about our own clientele who are a little bit different to those used in the original research reports that comprise the summary. The summaries in the report were from an American perspective and I was interested to see how the students in our asian international school compared with regard to their reading habits and trends.

Although I did not have access to the original questions of the original surveys, I devised some questions based on the information we wanted to know such as how much time would our community dedicate to reading for pleasure, what types of things they read, where they got their reading material from, how many were reading eBooks, and who or what influenced them in their reading choices.

The google form was created with the following 12 questions and shared with our secondary students.

The survey link with a brief explanation was placed on the daily student bulletin, with an email to staff to encourage their advisory group to complete the short survey. The link to the survey was also placed on the library facebook page, inviting all of the school community to participate. This will continue for the next 5 days to garner as many responses as possible.

The survey has been live now for 4 days and we have over 150 responses (there are 1050 students in our secondary school). Already there are trends becoming apparent through all the age groups. The survey will close this Friday, so we will be able to really see what is happening with regards to reading at our school and maybe we can see where the strengths and barriers are and work toward building an even more robust reading community.

Is this action research? I checked against some literature on the subject and I have nearly completed Steps 1-4, Steps 5-7 will be acted on in the next few weeks. 

Guiding School Improvement with Action Research

Step 1—Selecting a Focus

What element(s) of our practice or what aspect of student learning do we wish to investigate?
The reading trends and practices of our school community.

Step 2—Clarifying Theories

Generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.
Does the RCHK community reflect similar trends in reading as those reported in the commonsense media report?
Are there profound differences (allowing for different questions being used?)

Step 4—Collecting Data

What tools will I use to collect data, will they be effective in collecting the data I want?
Using the survey is one form of data collection from a wide variety of people - is it reliable and valid? What other ways could I collect data on this subject?

Step 5—Analyzing Data

What is the story told by these data?
Why did the story play itself out this way?

Step 6—Reporting Results

How will we report the results of the research?

Step 7—Taking Informed Action

So what? What are we going to do about the information we collect from the data?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ATL Skills audit

Image from 

The IB programs have a strong emphasis on Academic Honesty throughout the three programs, in particular the Diploma Program. The skill of referencing and citations are expected to be taught at appropriate times in a students life, and ideally when they reach the higher year levels, they will know how to do it without too much problem. Referencing and citation are assessable skills in some subjects through the subject criterion from year 7 (or 11 year olds), and are an integral part of the Approaches to Learning  skills (ATL).

If you are of my generation or even younger, you would not have been even exposed to referencing, bibliographies and in text citation until you hit University level, and even then it was a big shock to the system and created much stress. (Where does that comma go, what is italised??) After working in my current school for a little while I began to see a pattern of inconsistency regarding referencing and citing through no fault other than it is a big school, and that no one had actually taken the beast by the horns and tamed it.

Some subjects did not require a bibliography, other a list of websites or URL's was enough, other subjects insisted on manually written bibliographies and others encouraged the use of Easybib. Explicit teaching of this skill was happening but in ad hoc manner to varying degrees of success. In text citation was another area of concern where some subjects required year 7 to attempt in text citations. Imagine being a student trying to figure this out - who requires what and what is the standard expected?

Where to start? The MYP Co-ordinator and I knew some things were going on, but we were not sure what, where and by whom so we set about holding an audit of referencing in the school via a Google Form. Each year level had their own google form. The same questions were asked on each form for each year group.

The Head of Departments were briefed about the audit, and what we hope to achieve from it. They were requested to share the form with their departments and allocate different people to complete the form for each year group depending on who taught the year level.

After the allocated time, the results were viewed and then using the Google form Form menu "Show summary of responses" where it places all the data into lovely graphs. Below is the result of the year 7 survey ....

I then matched subjects from the results form to the answers and we came up with some data about what is happening where. I shared these results with the MYP co-ordinator and we hatched a plan as to the next step.  

The plan was that I would bring it all together in a report - text with visuals, and present it to the Head of Departments to then work on moving forward to standardise referencing across the secondary school.  I was also to create a draft scope and sequence for referencing and citation for year 7-13, keeping in mind the capacity or the different year groups. This draft would be presented to the HOD's for comment and for them to take the document back to their departments for comments and improvements. Ideally we will get a small working party together to finalise the scope and sequence to be implemented from the next academic year.

The overall goals are :
  • students to be required to submit a bibliography in all subjects and for all work that uses another person's ideas and information whether or not the subjects criterion explicitly specifies it. It would fall under the ATL category of Information Literacy Skills in this case.  
  • the skill of referencing and in text citation to be taught explicitly by each of the subjects that require it in the criterion, using the scope and sequence as a basis. 
  • teaching resources and exemplars will be created to assist in the teaching of these skills\
  • Teachers will be briefed and upskilled on the APA style for referencing and the use of Easybib.
  • The scope and sequence will be expanded into the PYP next year so the whole school is on the same page.
The documents were shared  with the HOD's and the response was positive and enthusiastic. 
The Draft Scope and Sequence is linked here and I would welcome any comments or suggestions. You can comment on the Google doc itself or in the comments on this blog. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Internationally reading

Have you heard of Battle of the Books? (if not, Google it - you will find loads of links)

Battle of the Books in general is a program where multiple schools read the same books for an academic year, then compete to answer questions asked about the content. Questions are very specific, and sometimes quite difficult, but the program can be a lot of fun for the participants. There are different Battle of the Books programs going on all over the world. It is usually held where the schools are close enough to travel to each others schools for the competitions in person.

A friend and colleague in Hong Kong, Bryant McEntire has been working very hard over the past 12 months to set up International Battle of the Books, where BoB has no borders. Using reliable communication technology, schools compete remotely via text messaging, initially connected within continents to rise to the top, to then compete against other winning teams from other continents. It is big, it is brave, but WOW. What a great initiative!

It is still in its infancy, but Bryant is looking for some more schools to achieve the big picture. Ideally to start with, Bryant would like 6-12 schools in each section, from each continent to kick this baby off into a truly international inaugural event.  Several schools piloted and tested the framework this year with friendly battles around the world.

If you think this is something you may be interested in have a look at the website and if you are convinced you want to have a go fill out the form to enroll your school.

Bryant has just been given $1000USD to provide four lucky schools with a free set of books if they enter a drawing he is devising on the IBOB website.  Watch for a button there to enter.  All schools worldwide who share a desire to ramp up reading, who will commit to participate if chosen for next year, and who have an internet connection qualify but you must partner with another school to apply.  In typical Chinese tradition good things come in pairs so in one draw you and a partner school will receive book sets and support to participate no strings attached.  I suggest following Bryant on twitter or the hashtag #intlbob to know when this kicks off so you do not miss a good chance to win some nice titles.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Knowledge Management

Image from Morgue File

Knowledge Management
  1. 1.
    capturing, developing, sharing, and effectively using organisational knowledge..

This past week I have been working on collecting, curating, updating, organising and sharing the information, policies and processes that help make our library tick over. Our current team leader will be leaving the facility at the end of this academic year, and with leaving she will take 8 years of knowledge and history with her. Seeing she was an integral part of the set of the library, being able to capture some of the reasons behind decisions, and also curate the documents and processes that are currently followed, will help those of us left behind and her replacement be able to move into the position being able to locate the information we need.

When the library was set up 8 years ago a wiki was created to keep track of the developments. This was a busy online place for a while, then the set up phase was over, more staff came in and learned the processes and procedures, and the staff have been there for a long while since. The wiki was not updated as much as it should have been probably due to having to have yet another address to bookmark and go to and everyone just got too busy to document what was going on.

We have been working on updating the information, and transferring it all across to a Google site, which will enable us to access it via our Google education apps suite (just one place to remember, and we should already be logged in). There are so many aspects of a library that need to be documented in a policy and procedure document that having it located in a dynamic format such as a Google site or wiki allows for on time updates, easy searching and painless editing by any of the library staff. These type of websites are only as good as the information they contain, and keeping the information current is an important part of this process. 

What to include in such a website? The Australian School Library Association created a document in 2007 "A manual for developing policies and procedures in Australian School Library Resource Centres" which is still timely and useful as a guide.. Select the hyperlink to download the document.

How do you manage your libraries knowledge?
Do other departments in your school have a policy & procedure site? 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Trusty Sidekick

Last week I presented at the IB Asia Pacific Conference to an audience that was quite different to the audience I usually present to. This audience was made up of School Principals, PYP, MYP & DP co-ordinators, teachers of classes and subjects across the K-13 range, and a few school librarians. I was way out of my comfort zone, and felt highly stressed in the build up.

My presentation took on a comic book format to tie in with the sidekick theme. The slides had fun little cartoon style animations and transitions, combined with the use of Comic life to create headings and speech bubbles. I have recreated the presentation below as a static presentation, with some of the notes I shared.....I have shared it like this as it may have the potential to reach a greater audience. Warning - this is a loooong post!

My goal through this presentation is to enlighten you to the superpowers of the school librarian, and how he or she is one of the most valuable team members in the school. They can also be the most under-utilised but, with the right conditions can become the sidekick that no IB educator can do without.

What do sidekicks do?
An open discussion between the participants about the role of the sidekick in movies, books, comics, etc. The participants came up with offering perspective, taking a load off the main hero and keeping the moral compass. 

I had identified the roles of the sidekick and used well known characters from movies and cartoons to give the example of each.

Mr Spock is recognised as a science geek. His expertise is wide & deep, and sometimes surprising even to himself.

ATL's move across 3 of the IB programmes, research, self management, communication, social, thinking skills. The librarian is an expert in many of these skills. To me the ATLs are the basis of our existence.

Research - extending from the ATLs,limbs know about this research business. It is at the core of our being. The saying Librarians are search engines with feelings. Some of the tools and ways we can help are to set up google custom searches for your subject and teach advanced google techniques along with efficient database use among many others. 

Academic honesty & copyright, not wanting to be the copyright or plagiarism police, but we do know the rules and how to use them. We also know the tools that will assist students such as Creative Commons and Easybib.

Digital tools - this is not in every librarians toolbox, but in most. The strange thing about librarians is that we like to curate things, and we are always on the look out for new tools to enhance our jobs but also to help with teaching & learning.

Social media - Being about to reach our students is part of what we do - Twitter, Facebook, blogging, YouTube, vine, snapchat etc .... We use these tools to not only connect to our students, but to each other.

Inquiry - This too is in our arsenal, we breathe inquiry cycles beyond the big 6, guided inquiry is where we are headed.

Literature - this often where are pigeon holed, yes it is one of our areas of expertise, an important one too, but it is just part of what we do. 

Collaborator - Mike & Sulley collaborating to scare children and to ensure the children do not contaminate the Monster factory.

Working with others & connecting with others is what we do.

Resourcing is only as good as how much know about what is in the curriculum and about how you are delivering it. We don't have resources in the library on your topic? Maybe it is because we didn't know you were doing it! Communication is very important here.

Teaching... Have you ever tried co teaching? Small groups, support, on the spot trouble shooting. What about if a regular teacher is away? I am a teacher librarian, and as such teaching is part of my being, however some librarians may be less comfortable, or have less skills in leading a whole class. Mentor them, start small such as group work & you will have an ally & asset for life.

Projects ....I love projects,  it is what keeps me going. My reminders list is never finished. I am a big thinker, and develop & want to be part of big projects. Concept based (rather than skill based) Digital & Info literacy continuum, mapping ATLs, referencing across, Assisting Humanities in backwards planning, pursuit of passion project.

Planning ... Always working with someone, units, Lessons, camps, special projects, units, professional development days. Planning, planning, planning ....

Supporter - The minions - lots going on behind the scenes to ensure the mission proceeded smoothly.
Connections - We have connections across the school, across the local community, across the country, across the world. Gladwell mentions us - we are both connectors and mavens. 
Need to find an article? We can do that.
Find a red book that has a fish on the cover that has something to do with evolution? 
Need a specific poem in an anthology that was published in Iceland in 1982?
Make contact with another school to do an international project? 
We love this sort of thing. 
We have the connections.We use twitter, list serves, and friendships - we ask for favours all the time.

Ideas ... Vast knowledge of what is available, and sometimes we can think of them while talking or collaborating with you, sometimes we may have to get back to you. 
Because we have the privilege of going into different classes we see different ways of doing things. We stash things in our toolbox all the time, ready for use at any time. 

Mapping see a lot of what is going across the school in different subjects & year levels, able to help with mapping of ATL's,  and other important curriculum connections.

Creator - I make so many resources to support teaching & learning, little videos, how to guides and scaffold templates. We can take the load off you with regard to your teaching resources.

Confidant - Fred & Barney - Good friends who shared their lives and thoughts with each other.

Library is a neutral space & normally the librarian can stay out of politics going on, they are good at asking questions & making sense of information. They may have inside information to put another perspective on things, and they could also be a good person to bounce ideas off as they have so much information & insights. What is said in the library stays in the library ....

This can be used to a leaders advantage .., not so much spying but to gauge feelings & reactions to what is going on in the school. 


Anticipator - Q - always knew the tools that Bond may have needed in his mission.

Resourcing & curation ... Always on duty - links & resources stash them away curating for later, or to just pass them onto you as and when you need them. Setting up Diigo groups for efficient sharing, web guides, lib guides,  pathfinders, Moodle pages... We are about getting stuff to you before you even realise you need it!

Differentiation - we understand our students & their needs, we are always looking out for ways that help them learn - fonts that can be downloaded onto computers, scanning text & being able to transform it into a word document, scaffolding, different editions of stories,graphic novels, audio, big print,  Google custom search has a level of vocabulary & language filter - mother tongue ? EAL?  the students know we can help them usually before the teachers. ... Different levels of learning & interests. 

We need to have relationships with you to know what you need.

We can be an Ally just like Chewbucca - helping to achieve our goals of conquering the education universe....

Culminating projects - support with being a mentor, supervisor, co-ordinator, assistant, mini workshops, planning.

Professional learning - does your school librarian run workshops or spotlights for staff? Do they have blog or virtual space for creation of fun things, do they share? Are they respected enough to be given opportunities to teach others? Have you ever thought about this? While they are teaching your students, there is an opportunity to learn from the librarian ... 
Three step process - I teach with teacher learning, you teach with me supporting you , then you teach with me supporting students and then you are right to go.

Mentoring - this comes in many forms
The librarian mentoring Library staff - upskill the library assistants to go beyond their job description - how to make signage from foam board & printed paper, manage ebooks, cataloging foreign books using a programme, how to use databases, assertive training, customer service, English. Help them learn and build on their skill base, they may get a better job out of it, but you have helped someone improve their lives.

Mentoring other staff outside of their normal roles by helping them to set up and use twitter, blogs, database use, moodle.  I have also been borrowed by other schools to train their teachers in various tools such as Diigo & Easybib.

Curriculum development - how is that ATL mapping going? The MYP nc planning? Could you do things better? What about bringing in someone who is not as protective about the curriculum in for a different perspective.

The new IB documents give us quite specific roles to play in the school. IB documents in every programme mention the library or librarian, standards & practises, ICT guides, special needs guides, principles into practise,  making it happen. These are some of the quotes from the new MYP principles into practise. This is powerful for librarians as although not mandating our existence yet ( a library is mandated, but a trained librarian is not) it helps to open doors, get us out of the stereotype of checking out & shelving books. 

What can it look like in reality? How do we support in practical ways?

Developing how to guides for different tools, to me this necessary but a very level use of my time. I do it for my own benefit so I only need to actually teach it once, then the students & staff can use this guides to refresh their memories.

Scaffolding for assessments - having a non subject based person look over you task sheet is extremely valuable. I do the assessment as the students would & give feedback, then create a scaffold to help break it down into manageable chunks.

This is an extract of a document I created now I teach PYP again. I used the TDs as the basis of learning, then identified what it looked like for year 6. 

With regard to teaching year 6, all my units and planning are attached via google documents to the main planner. Everything is documented, the resources used are uploaded to the year group Weebly.

This is breaking the assessment criterion of a subject into ATL's, and then expanding it to show what it may look like. This will need to be revisited with the new MYP criterion. I also record all the classes with whom I have worked - which subject, class, teacher and what we did.

I have been at my current school for only 8 months, so my current projects are a little slim due to a number of factors... But this what they are.

One of the most exciting things I have been involved in is a rubric I have developed with the other librarian workshop leaders. IB Librarians Rubric This is not an official IB document, but we feel it is something that is needed to accompany the evolving role of the librarian in IB schools. It can be used for upskilling, recruiting, leverage, change... have a look and see what you think, we welcome comments.

What I do, I can do because of my situation. We have 3 Teacher Librarian's, one for each programme. I used to be the only one for PYP & MYP, then MYP & DP plus run the library, this was difficult be across more than one programme and limits what can be done. There are many cases  of only  1 librarian across the 3 programmes.  In a large school, to get the most out of your librarian, you need at least 1 per programme.

Fulltime Trained Library Assistants  are imperative for the librarian to get out of the library. Otherwise the librarians are overpaid clerks, especially if they are teachers as well. In a difficult situation parent or student helpers can be recruited, however training is required, which usually involves the librarian which takes them away from supporting the curriculum and the learning. 

The library is one of the most specialised fields in the school. Recruiting someone "who is a book lover" is throwing away potential and opportunity. Send your librarians onto IB workshops, help them improve your school results. It has been well researched and found that schools with rich library programmes with trained library staff - both assistants & librarians, are one of the key factors in lifting student achievement. The research is linked here.

Scheduling I am not used as release time, I have a completely flexible schedule which allows for free flowing time tabling on an as needs basis. I work on just in time rather than just in case. As a workshop leader, I hear from different librarians across the world that they really want to do more than what they are doing, but their situations do not allow it. Using the Librarian for release time is not helpful. It limits when they can meet with other staff, it limits 'just in time' learning and it limits what they can do to support learning in other ways.Be creative, how can you improve student services through the library without overworking the staff? 

What about lunch and break times? Is your library on the lunch time duty roster across the school? Why is the librarian normally the one who gets the most duties of anyone? Maybe they would like to have lunch with other staff? Run a school activity? Attend a planning meeting?

Inclusion - Invite your librarian to meetings, planning or otherwise, collaborate with them about resources required, include them in the training. Make them feel a part of the school teaching and learning team rather than an add on. 

Budget - It is not possible to do wonderful things with an uninspiring budget. Talk to the librarian, find out what they need to create a truly supportive programme.

In summary - conversations are needed to be had between school administrators and librarians. If you want wonderful things to happen, you need to support it through staffing, training, scheduling and budget. Ask your librarian what are the blocks they face to reach their potential in being the trusty sidekick that no educator can be without.