Monday, August 31, 2015

Making sense of Manga

A small image of Amy's Poster - the original can be seen here 

If you are anything like me you will find the whole Manga scene a little bewildering ... where to start? What series goes with what, and what should I buy?

At the ALA conference in July, I attended a poster session by Amy Pell Seipke who works at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Amy did a quite massive research project into Manga to make sense of it and put it altogether in the poster above.

Her research was was impressive as she needed to unpack how the Manga story is constructed, the language, the characters and the audience of Manga and the difference between Anime & Manga. 

One of the most interesting aspects I learned about Manga from Amy's presentation is that Manga stories are written with a particular audience in mind, and Manga is classified by the audience for which it is written.

It is also constructed differently to western literature. She created a visual below to explain it better - this is also on her poster.

Image taken from Amy Pell Seipke's poster 

Amy has created an extensive Bibliography of Manga titles that you can download. It is entitled Essential Manga : An annotated bibliography (also available on screen on her blog) - You really have to see it to believe it. So much research and time has gone into this, and I would probably say she is as as much an expert on Manga that you will ever meet or read. She has also authored another bibliography entitled Graphic Novel Bibliography with Beth Walker. Again a very useful resource.

Amy created a blog to record her journey in her research into this medium which has much background information that could not be placed in the poster or the bibliography.  These bibliographies will go a long way to help you in your understandings and collection development of Manga and graphic novels. It could also be useful resource to supporting spilling Manga into the curriculum....

Monday, August 24, 2015

One size for all limits learning

Last post I wrote about the importance of including literature in the curriculum that students can connect to in time place and space. As promised, this week I am writing about how studying one text across a class, year level, or school is something that happens often, if not regularly. Again I will be referring to Barbara Braxton's article "One size does not fit all"  (Teacher Librarian ; Feb 2006, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p50. Available through Ebsco).

As a reader I enjoy books that others wouldn't enjoy and other people have different choices and preferences in their reading. Even within the closest of families there are different preferences for writing styles, genres, subject matter, length, font size and type, hard back or paperback, fiction or non fiction. Reading is a very personal experience. So why do we insist that students in a class read the same novel? Using the one novel kills choice, ownership, interest and possibilities.

The proponents of this outdated model will insist that having all students read the same text ensures that all students are exposed to works they may not have been exposed to. It also allows for common conversations and analysis on the one book. After doing a brief search I have not been able to find further strong reasons to support novel study like this. I think it is done this way for a few reasons - it is easy for the teacher and it has always been done this way. If you are a teacher of English literature and know of other strong arguments, please let me know.

How could an approach to studying literature allow for student choice and wider reading but still reach the outcomes required by the syllabus? A conceptual and inquiry approach would be the best fit, so how could this work?

With each novel study are essential questions and concepts to be answered or learned. For example a study of "To Kill a Mockingbird" would include covering  concepts of racism, prejudice, justice, integrity, time and place, gender roles. The teacher could identify the concepts (and other elements they want learned), then the students need to find a novel (or even non fiction) that covers these themes. The teacher could supply a list of possibilities (which would include To kill a mockingbird) to help the selection process and the school librarian could support the students with suggested possibilities. 

The students would read the books of their choice and then discover and connect with the themes and elements they need to connect. The teacher could direct the learning with questions, but also allow the students to create their own questions relating concepts to the book, concepts to their own lives and making connections. As the book is not being read by everyone, including the teacher, the process of justifying and supporting their arguments, findings and stance becomes authentic and they learn these skills. More research and inquiry would need to be conducted to find out more as the teacher would not be the fountain of all knowledge.

Braxton offers a number of questions that could start the conversation ....
  • How did the title prepare you for what the story was about?
  • How did the main character change and develop throughout the story?
  • If you were the main character, how would you have resolved the problem?
  • How did the text and / or illustrations support your understanding of the story?

  • Did the book meet your expectations?
  • What did you need to know already to understand the text?
  • What did what you already know help you to understand the text?
  • What does the writer want you to know?
  • What is the 'big idea' or message of the story?
  • What is the text really about, and what tells you this?
  • How does this fit with what you already know and believe?
  • Does the author see the world in the same way that you do?
  • What are the key similarities and differences?
  • What view of the world and values does the author assume that you hold?
  • Is the author trying to change that perception?
  • Has the author been successful in prompting you to reflect on what you know believe?
  • How has your knowledge and understandings been challenged by this text?
  • How does the structure of this text match its purpose and intended audience?
  • What mechanisms has the author used to introduce and reinforce the message?
  • How do the language and techniques influence the message and purpose?
  • How are the personalities of the various characters developed through the story?
  • How are age, gender and cultural groupings portrayed?
  • How are the relationships between the characters portrayed?
  • Which characters are empowered, and why?
  • Does one characters point of view have a prominent or privileged position in the story?
  • How do the relationships influence the perpsective of the story?
  • Whose story is not told?
  • Where does the author place you in relation to the characters?
  • Is the world the author portrays real or feasible?
  • Has the author presented a fantasy workd and characters to present a real world issue in a less threatening way?
  • How would the text be different if it were told in another time, place or culture?
  • Is your interpretation of the text the only one?
  • What kind of person composed the text?
  • Are that person personal interests beliefs and values evident?
  • What would you ask the author about those beliefs if you had the chance?

"Such an approach allows students to read what they are interested in, and what they can comprehend, yet they can still read critically and develop their understandings of the messages and mechanics of the text." (Braxton 2006)

What do you think? Is it possible to build a literary curriculum based on student choice? This would be an effective method for differentiation by providing students with different avenues to learning, in terms of acquiring content, processing, constructing, or making sense of ideas so that all students within a classroom can learn effectively, regardless of differences in ability and interests. Inquiry learning with choice in English literature readings.

Learning is about making connections, and if that one text that is being used in classrooms does not connect with a student, their opportunity for learning is reduced.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Literature in Time, Space and Place.

Reading is a dynamic and personal experience. Humans do it for a number of reasons - for leisure, for interest, for learning, to pass the time. Whatever the reason, at any time it is different for each of us.

Using texts to study literary techniques, characterisation, plot development, and making connections is something that has been going on in schools for I don't know how long - it may have started after World War II when publishing became much, much cheaper and books became more readily available for the masses.

My memories of novel study in school are grim - two books I was forced to read were "2001 a Space Odyssey" and "Pride and Prejudice" among many others which I don't remember. I remember these titles because I simply hated them. I could not get through the first chapter. I did not connect, I felt they were boring, irrelevant and totally uninteresting. Yet I was being tested on their content. How did I manage in a time before the internet and Cliff notes? I listened carefully in class, took copious notes, was able to remember a few key passages and quotes and their context and I passed. I still hate those books, and any thing else by those authors.

I do know why English teachers make us study many different styles of texts - to give us exposure, to help us discover something we may not have been aware of etc, however,  I do think the books that are chosen for novel study are not because of the students interest or need, but due to the comfort level of the teacher. The teacher does not need to reread the book or rethink lessons because they know it inside and out, having taught it for many, many years (and probably even studied it themselves in school or university). The students are taken on a ride of teacher familiarity which they may not have any connections of interest.

One bug bear of mine is when the majority of the texts being studied in an International School are American, especially when the school is not in America or follows an American curriculum. This also applies to any other texts from a culture that the students are not very familiar with. A student who has grown up in Hong Kong, Thailand, or Germany etc will not be familiar with the cultural nuances that "Catcher in the Rye" or "Of Mice and men"  are riddled with. What is the point of teaching a novel when you need to spend most of the time explaining what specific phrases, the historical context and general cultural stereotypes are? If the objective is to learn more about American History - then sure, but if it is to learn about literary technique, characterisation and themes, then surely the teacher is placing high barriers to learning by the selection of book. One language and literature teacher who was new to teaching outside of the US said to me "I did not expect to need to explain so much of the nuances of American Society as much as I did". 

A good teacher is considerate of the learner and their needs and ensure that learning can occur. In 2006 Barbara Braxton wrote the article "One Size does not fit all" for the Teacher Librarian Journal (Teacher Librarian;Feb2006, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p50. Available through Ebsco). In it she offers a few questions a teacher needs to ask before selecting a book for study.

  • Why are we asking the students to read this book?
  • What do we expect the students to know, understand, and do because of this lesson or unit?
  • What are the lifelong learning skills that is contributes to?
  • What specific concepts, knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills do we want the students to develop, practise, consolidate, understand, and achieve by the end of this lesson or unit so they can continue to learn?
  • How will these concepts, knowledge, attitudes, values, and skills contribute to their understanding of the world?

I will add two more questions ..

  • What barriers will need to be overcome if reading this text outside of the cultural context in which it is written?
  • Are there other texts which will allow for the same learning that are relevant in time space and place for the students being taught?
To follow on from posts about being Culturally Intelligent and having a Growth Mindset, one of the ways to do this is to be aware of and be familiar with the literature of the region you are teaching in and use these texts. Yes it will mean having to do more work, and actually having to read new literature, but is that really a bad thing apart from the time it takes? Another consideration is the context - is the protagonist living in the region or have they migrated? Has the work been translated and / or an authentic voice, or is the author from outside the culture writing about a culture different to their own? Is the work about atrocities that went on in that country, or about normal life? We need to be aware of perpetuating the single story of a culture.

Does the school library collection include authentic titles from the region the school is in? Are they plentiful or are they token? Are they promoted? How are they promoted? What are the barriers to an international collection? 

We also need to get away from using the words 'Ethnic, Multicultural and Foreign' to classify books or stories - International & Global are perfectly fine and inclusive if you have to use anything. They should be just what they are - stories or novels.

Using texts in the school setting that are relevant in time, place and space for the students we work with is imperative to help them learn. Student centred learning is about putting the needs of the learner first - not what is convenient for the teacher. As the world population becomes more spread out there is no justification not to include authentic international texts in your classroom or in the library, whether you are in an international setting or not. It just may be the one book that connects a learner to learning.

There have been a few article written about using international novels into the classroom (from an non international school point of view)

To find international texts there are many resources - 
Goodreads lists - 

Blogs and websites
USBBY Outstanding International Books (OIB) List

nadine Bailey shared this resource :
I'd like to promote the Australian group: Asia-education foundation- they have a wealth of information- this is the email I had from them today : Join schools across Australia to celebrate National Book Week from Saturday 22nd August. You can follow the action on twitter at ‪#‎bookweek‬ and celebrate in the
classroom with the following Asia related resources for all age groups and interests.
- A curation of Asia-related literary texts from F-10
- Curated digital resource lists
of stories and poetry from F-10
Book Week aligned learning sequences:
- Years 7-8: Stories that change lives
- Year 7: Exploring haiku
- Year 7: Indonesian poetry and translation
- Year 8: Contemporary short stories
- Years 9-10: Understanding China through literature

Do you have a go to resource for your international texts?

Another related big question which will be the topic of the next post - Why is one text for all students the norm or even a requirement?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cultural Intelligence - how are we doing?

  1. Image from AHA world campus : passport to Culture

  2. Cultural Intelligencecultural quotient or CQ, is a term used in business, education, government and academic research. Cultural intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures.
  3. At the recent ALA conference I attended Marla J Ehlers very early morning teaser session on Understanding Cultural Intelligence. I was interested in this as part of my current MYP and International Baccalaureate focus and wanted to see how this connected with the IB's concept of international mindedness. 
  4. Exploring the concept of labels and judgement, Marla opened the session with everyone placing a post it on themselves having written assumptions people make about you before they know you, and another label of a fun fact I want people to know about me. This was in a room full of strangers. We then had to introduce ourselves to another 3 people with these labels and discuss them. This required some reflection and thought as we considered other peoples perceptions of us.
  5. We then explored stereotypes about librarians as a whole, and then Americans. Addressing the concept of stereotypes and if they were true as a whole group or true as they applied to us. (This was interesting in itself as the assumptions was that everyone in the room would be American). Stereotypes generally apply to the group labels, but not to individuals - "I know a few ...... and they are not like that at all" yet the stereotype continues to exist. Where are these stereotypes created, maintained and manifested through our lives? It reminded me of the TED talk - The danger of the Single story.
  6. She introduced David Livermore as the guru of Cultural Intelligence and we watched this short video which outlines 4 capabilities of the CQ person and advertises his book at the end. There is a longer version of the presentation.  This stimulated discussion on the four capabilities.

    Video Summary :
Cultural Intelligence has been proven through Livermore's research that it is a predictor of one's success or failure in todays global marketplace.

The four capabilities of a Culturally intelligent person : - 

  1. High CQ Drive - an interest and motivation to learn about cross cultural issues
  2. High CQ Knowledge - having a good grasp of similarities and differences across cultures
  3. High CQ Strategy - Be aware of and plan for cross cultural scenarios
  4. High CQ Action - Appropriately adapt their behaviour for cross cultural scenarios.
Culture is more than racial and ethnic geographic boundaries - it could be friendship, workplace, institutional and organisational culture. Every group we belong to, or want to work with, has its own culture.

We then explored language as an integral part of CQ. Marla shared this beautiful and poignant poem written by a friend of hers who wished to remain anonymous. The discussion led to how stereotypes of appearances leads to assumptions and expectations which can cause conflict and embarrassment. (Click the image to make it bigger).

Values were then explored and as individuals we needed to rate 10 specified values that according to our personal system were important or not. We discovered that values change between individuals, families, communities and ethnic cultures.  We cannot assume what is one of our higher values is someone else's high values. The concept of time as a value was used as an example - across ages, cultures, professions this value changes.

Marla asked us to examine our own organisations cultural intelligence - do we allow all users and participants to be comfortable in our organisation? 

A quote that was  "You might be uncomfortable part of your time here at the library, and that is OK. If you are comfortable here, help someone else be comfortable by taking the initiative to help them, be a friend."

Marla then posed a question : - Why care about CQ? What benefits can it bring to ourselves, our organisations, our communities and our nations?

The video below goes a little way to answer the question.

Cultural intelligence -- a new way to think about global effectiveness | Jeff Thomas | TEDxSpokane

So how does this link to international mindedness in the IB framework? After being inspired to find out more on Cultural Intelligence, I think they are the same thing, and, with the business world getting behind the Cultural Intelligence trend, it means there are resources and new thinking being developed that we can adopt in our schools.

There are a number of books available on this topic, also courses that can be taken to expand your understanding and videos to watch. Livermore has a free pdf download called - What is your CQ and why should you care? He has also developed a number of CQ assessment tools which could be used to measure how effective your school programme has been or even how effective the Education out of the classroom (ie international field trips) has been. 

The concepts of international mindedness and cultural intelligence both work toward creating a world where understanding, empathy, and open mindedness are the main components of how we live. How are we doing to help the young people in our care become culturally intelligent?

Have a look at the American Hospitality Academy Global Campus Passport to Culture page - is this enough? can more be done?

  1. Marla's full presentation with transcript can be found here on Prezi

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?