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reflections on Libraries, Librarianship, Science and Education

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Future of Education/ School Libraries Opinion Piece

 

As many sessions at the Australian School Library Association conference recommended using reflection as a powerful learning tool, I have decided to act on it. So I have built on my existing knowledge of using Twitter and made my first Storifys. From these I have written about the basic ideas and resources of each session of the two-day conference to share with other teacher librarians who were not as fortunate as I to be there. Finally I am writing a reflection on the conference and the future of education and school libraries as I see it. This are the opinions of a second-career teacher, turned teacher librarian who has never had a permanent job and at the moment doesn’t even work in a library so make of it what you will.

 

I attended the ASLA conference in Brisbane last week, read blog posts from an attendee at the concurrent SLANZ conference and have been following the twitter feed of the Libraries for Future Learners conference in Sydney. A common thread to all of these is that school libraries need to be at the forefront of the technology tsunami coming our way. We need to change our teaching priorities from the 3Rs to the 4 or sometimes 5 Cs Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity (+/- Cooperation). We are told that 70% of entry level jobs will become automated and that a post graduate qualification together with self taught high level other skills will become the minimum to acquire a secure high paying job. As an educator, teacher-librarian and mother of young adults I have a number of concerns: how are we going to up-skill all our teachers in time; the digital divide between the digital adept and the digital illiterates is going to grow; what will it mean to society and the individuals if the majority are unable to find secure, well paid employment: and finally if the majority are doomed to be underemployed what other skills should we be teaching them.

 

The Digital Education Revolution in NSW began in late 2008 with all public year 9 students being given laptop computers, high speed broadband to all schools and professional development to teachers, the NSW Quality Teaching Framework dates back to 2006.However a recent study by the OECD Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection found no improvement in literacy , numeracy and science in the PISA tests over that time. My suggestion based on teaching in country primary schools and my children’s experience in a country high school is that integration of the technology was extremely patchy between schools and subjects. Teachers continued on teaching the same way with worksheets and textbooks and in many schools still are. Having had 7 years of professional development in ICT myself over that time I can attest that we have all heard about the importance of producing students with the skills needed for the hyper-connected, digitalised societies of the 21st century. So why are some schools still using worksheets and textbooks, why are some schools cutting back on school library services when they are needed more that ever, and why at a conference attended by the committed teacher librarians prepared to spend their holidays at professional development like the ASLA conference were 80% of participants writing notes by hand and only about 5% tweeting.

One of the problems is the ASLA School Libraries Research Project snapshot of Australian teacher librarians shows that teacher librarianship is an overwhelmingly female occupation comprised of an ageing demographic with almost 90 per cent of the survey group aged 40+ years, almost 80 per cent aged 45+ years, 55 per cent aged 55+ years and 10 per cent aged 60+ years. Only three per cent are younger than 30 years. The second problem reported by the same research is that 1/3 had not had any professional development in the 12 months prior to the survey. This is not to say that all older female teachers /teacher librarians lack the confidence to use technology effectively in the classroom but I know myself that as an older second career teacher I only made the jump into technology when forced to by the M.Ed (TL) program 5 years ago.

 

I think we also need to ask ourselves whether the current way we do teacher professional development is working. How many times can we go to a conference, say “that was really great” and then not change any of our practices? Reflection, commitment to experiment with a new skill, and then a follow up to see how it worked needs to be built more into the professional development. I know that this is present in the BOSTES PL website but I usually fill this in up to a couple of years after I have been to the conference, and I assume I am not atypical in this. So what I think will work better is that instead of being lectured to by “sages on the stage” is Teachmeet type PD of local teachers showing ideas that have worked in their classes. Sages can be just a bit intimidating so people need to see what ordinary teachers/teacher-librarians are doing in classes and schools just like their own. Or a group of teachers/teacher-librarians plan a unit/lesson together then observe it being taught, before meeting again together to work out how to improve it. That way everyone gets buy in. Yes it is expensive but how much money has already been spent on traditional PD without behavioral change. Until we see life long learning and self learning in our teaching population, how can we expect to teach it to our students?

 

The digital divide is part of the bigger problem of educational inequality between high and low SES areas and rural and city areas. Students from low SES backgrounds from low SES schools on average end up 3 years behind students from high SES backgrounds from high SES schools. Broadband internet in the country is far more expensive than city areas. 15G used to cost me $120/month on the mid North Coast 3 years ago and when I moved to Canberra $120 would buy me 500G /month. Low SES areas have less discretional income to spend on internet and computers, less educated parents, less experienced teachers and high teacher turnover. If the only people who can compete in the digital tsunami wave to come are the digital elite then the students in rural and low SES areas have no chance. Having lived for 15 years in a low SES area on the Mid North Coast I know that academic success is NOT a level playing field. I hate to think that the vast majority of the students I have taught will not achieve a secure and high paying job. Unfortunately I have few ideas on how to fix this. Implementing Gonski would be a good start, as would attracting high performing teachers to rural and low SES school perhaps with higher pay, funding school libraries well and rolling out the NBN faster to rural and low SES areas.

 

Assuming Tyler Cohen, author of “Average is Over” is correct and the majority of the population, including most of the current middle class is going to be underemployed in low paying jobs in the not too distant future, what is that going to do to society. Are the dystopia novels in our collections going to come true in our lifetimes? Having a large permanent underclass with no hopes of improvement is not a good recipe for social stability. If the majority of our students (despite our best efforts to teach them the 21st C skills of creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking and assuming that the schools manage to change in time) end up time rich and income poor, with casual jobs and multiple micro incomes, what other skills should we be teaching them so that they will live happy and fulfilling lives? I am thinking growing vegetable gardens, cooking, building, entrepreneur skills, music, but how do we mesh everything together. In this regard I think I like Erica McWilliam’s idea of the school and public library being like the 17/18th century coffee houses the best. Places where one goes for self-directed, non-curriculum learning, intellectual stimulation and debate and companionship.

 

Changing the behemoth that is our education system to suit the future needs of our students, is what the NMC Horizon Reports would call a Wicked Problem. It is big, multifaceted and seems impossible. However there are many wicked problems in the world, including two I care deeply about, climate change and refugees. Two years ago both seemed unsurmountable, public opinion and government policy was firmly against them. Today I think each of them might crack like marriage equality has in the USA, in Australia 80% of people are in favour (it is just government dragging the chain). Changing our school libraries and ourselves to be the places and people they need to be to give our students the skills of life long learning in a world of continuous change is as much as challenge as changing our education system. So I think we should take notice of what works well for the climate change and refugee activists; encourage small steps, share ideas that work well and good news stories, keep positive, use social media and keep the value of school libraries visible. I also thank the teacher librarians and educators who have seen what the future holds and have been exhorting change and promoting school libraries  for so many years.

 

 

 

 

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SLANSW NoTosh PD Day

I attended the SLANSW NoTosh PD Day at UNSW CBD on 22nd November 2014 and thought that I should reflect on it for the people who were unable to attend.

We worked through a design thinking process with NoTosh presenter Hamish Curry in which we explored concerns about the future of Teacher Librarians. More importantly we looked at the opportunities available in this time of change and how we can take positive steps to take advantage of them. Design thinking is a process you can use with your students to generate and solve “problems worth solving” or you can use it as a school, faculty or organisation to work your way through complex issues.

About twenty people attended some of whom had no experience of using these techniques and others such as myself who had been to a regional workshop.

In the immersion phase we looked at the idea of seven spaces in a library and wrote on post it notes how we were already using our libraries as these spaces both physically and digitally. The seven spaces are publishing spaces, participation spaces, group spaces, performing spaces, watching spaces, data spaces and secret spaces. As we posted our notes on the wall it was obvious that we are already using our libraries in many innovative ways. 

7 Spaces in a LibraryHow we use library spaces

 

I liked the following quotes:

“It’s not a place of memory but place that’s memorable”

“Configure library spaces around user experiences rather than around collections” Lorcan Dempsey

Next we wrote down quickly some of the obstacles that we were experiencing in our roles as Teacher Librarians. I’m sure that the problems of funding, lack of understanding of our role, being used as Relief from Face to Face instead of collaborating with teachers, lack of technology hardware, and old buildings and furniture not built for flexible or group learning are things that many can relate to.

Obstacles

But we were here to look for solutions not to concentrate on the negatives so we moved on to looking at the statements that had been generated by workshops across the state at Queanbeyan, Newcastle and Byron Bay.

1. How might we empower teacher librarians to add value to learning?

2.How might we engage and empower students to advocate for teacher librarians?

3. How might we use the Australian Curriculum to lead teaching and learning in the school?

4. How might we strengthen communication between staff about the potential uses of library spaces?

5. How might we raise awareness of the value that TLs add to learning?

6.How might we sell ourselves to principals without increasing workloads?

7.How might we engage teachers in the creation of flexible learning environments in the library?

8.How might we promote the changing role of the teacher librarian within the school?

We divided into groups to examine one of these questions in more detail using the SQUID method.

Generating questions and answers on a topic

Generating questions and answers on a topic

My group examined “How might we use the Australian Curriculum to lead teaching and learning in the school?” by generating questions about this, answering them and then generating more questions based on these answers.

Using the AC to Lead Flexible Learning SpacesPromotion to principals

From here we were ready for some lunch but also to start the process of synthesis using hexagonal thinking.

We put the main points that we had been considering on paper hexagonals and then thought about how they fitted together. If we placed two hexagons together then we had to articulate the reason for it. This is our first attempt using the Australian Curriculum as a starting point.

hexagonal thinking 1

Then we decided to start again using Advocacy as our starting point. It is always interesting when doing this exercise how starting again from a different point can give you a different viewpoint of a problem.

hexagonal thinking 3

The next step is to look for a line of enquiry that the hexagonal thinking has uncovered.

Our group decided that an opportunity existed to create resources using the General Capabilities and Cross Curricular Priorities to fill the urgent needs of teachers as we change to the Australian Curriculum and demonstrate our capabilities.

The next step of the design thinking process is Ideation where we once again open our minds to as many possibilities as possible. Using the open mindset of “yes and…..” we built on these ideas with colleagues.

In the last 30 minutes of the workshop we designed a prototype idea that we could start on Monday in our own libraries and schools. The we pitched these ideas to two colleagues getting ideas on how to make our idea even more awesome.

prototype

At the end of the day we all went home with an idea to start on Monday that helps position ourselves and our libraries for the future of learning in our schools. Instead of being bogged down in the complex problems surrounding us we each had a way forward.

I think at the end of the day there are two take home messages. One is that you can do design thinking like this with a group of colleagues or with a class to generate problems worth solving and generate solutions to develop further. The second is that whenever there is change there are opportunities and sometimes limitations can lead to creative solutions.

Thank you to Hamish Curry and SLANSW for running this Professional Development Day and for giving us the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues.

 

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January Jaunts and Experimentation

Catching the Ball

Catching the Ball

I love the Australian Summer School Holidays!
Without the constant demands of programming and organising the next days lessons teachers can unwind and relax, but also revitalise and discover new learning experiences.
I don’t think teachers are ever really off duty. Everywhere you go, and everything you see, hear, or learn is constantly evaluated to its value in providing learning experiences for the students in your care.
Now without an avalanche of details demanding your attention is the time to expand your vision and look at the big picture. Inspire yourself with some Education TED Talks. Start to grow your Professional Learning Network with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or sector based networks like Maang or Yammer.
If you have school aged children or grandchildren or nieces and nephews yourself you also have some handy guinea pigs. Take the children and visit your local tourist attractions, museums, parks, national parks, rivers and beaches. How can some of these fit into your units for this year?
Do some cooking with the  your kids. Can any of these recipes be adapted to work with a class? Do some science experiments with the kids from CSIRO’s Do-it-yourself Science. How can some of these fit in your unit?
Try out some of these free web tools yourself and even better get the kids to try them out so you find out any difficulties and the possibilities.
What wildlife is endemic to your area? Use books, websites such as Earthwatch, and apps to find out. Use the ABC’s Scribbly Gum to find out what is happening in nature this month.
Take photographs that might be useful educationally and share them on Flickr. Investigate Flickr Creative Commons for copyright free images to use in your teaching resources. Start a set or group on Flickr on a particular theme and you may be on the way to creating a worldwide resource like this one on Australian Rainforest Plants.
Research the local Aboriginal history so that you will be able to fit it into all your subjects at school. Check the library, internet, local museum and local Aboriginal organisations for resources.
Go to the local bookshop and/or library and read some children’s books. The kids can borrow or buy at the same time.
At the end of the holiday you will be bursting with ideas and the kids will think they have had a great time too.

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Why Learn About Famous People?

People of the Week

I include a lot of famous people listed by birthdays in my Celebrate the Australian Year website and some people may want to know why. Isn’t doing projects on miscellaneous “famous” people what we did in the 1970s? Aren’t they all “dead white males”? I know I did my fair share of them, but guess what 30 years later I still remember them, because they became virtual friends.

People who are famous for endeavours in history, science, art, music, mathematics, literature and poetry are part of our western cultural heritage. They are part of where we have come from , highlight the best of humanity and have produced something of worth that has outlived themselves. In contrast many of the people that students read and see images of  today are famous purely for being famous. The movie and TV stars, pop stars, sports stars and models in the popular magazines are more consumables themselves than creators of things and ideas of lasting worth. It is easy for students to discover these people. It is not so easy for them to discover the sort of people I include in my lists so it is up to parents and teachers to help introduce them.

We are by nature social creatures who connect by “gossiping” to find out about others. It is easier to learn about people’s ideas if we know a bit about their childhood and foibles. This is why popular magazines sell, so take the advantage and “sell” the people who are famous in your field. Maths teachers might prefer to concentrate on mathematicians and science teachers on the scientists.

Students need to know that books, music, art, and scientific and mathematical ideas are thought of and created by real people. They don’t just exist by themselves. In fact the more we know about these people the more we realise they have problems and make mistakes just like everyone else. Then if they can rise above this then maybe we all have the potential for greatness and creativity.

I try hard to find famous women particularly in the maths and science fields to make girls realise that they can achieve here too. This is our chance to make sure role models are not just “Dead White Males” and include women and minority groups.

We are awash in information all day long but once we have heard about something once we are more attuned to noticing it when we encounter it again because it becomes familiar. When we introduce children to famous people they will pay more attention next time they find that name in a textbook or website or hear it on TV. Gradually it will become connected to more strands of information and interconnections will appear.

It is entirely arbitrary ordering famous people by birthday and indeed there is a lot to be said for introducing people when they are connected to something else that is being learnt in the classroom. However starting the day with a 5 minute spiel on a famous person is a useful settling routine and increases the number of people introduced. The greater a student’s general knowledge the more hooks they have to connect new knowledge to.

Many famous people aren’t on these lists because their birthdays aren’t known either because they lived so long ago or in societies where birthdays weren’t recorded. Add then to your own lists on days when there isn’t anyone else. Have fun getting to know them yourself.

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How Our Calendars Show Our Priorities

Calendar

 

I saw a tweet recently that said, “you should be able to tell a school’s priorities by looking at the school calendar“. This idea keeps coming back to me and obviously we can extend it to the home calendar as well.

When we look at our calendar does it reflect the values that we wish to inculcate in our children?

As you replace your 2013 home calendar for a fresh 2014 calendar have a flick through it. What does it say about your family priorities? Birthdays? Work appointments? Sporting commitments? Music lessons? Dentist appointments?

Each family will be different. Now think about your family values- are these reflected in your calendar?

If not then maybe this is the time to pencil in some celebrations and events that do.

As I digitalise the events I like to celebrate in my family/school library calendar in myCelebrate the Australian Year website I am acutely aware that it shows my personal interests of environment, multiculturalism, science, maths, art, literature, religious diversity, social activism and aboriginal history. There is no sport or popular culture reflected in it. Other families will have different priorities and their calendar would reflect that.

Then if you are a school principal, school teacher or teacher librarian have a look at your 2013 school calendar. Does it reflect your school values and priorities? Could a stranger look at your school calendar and work out your school values?

I would suggest that all Australian schools would have priorities of Numeracy and Literacy as well as the Australian Curriculum three Cross Curricular Priorities and theGeneral Capabilities. In addition schools might have traditions of sporting, music, language, drama and/or religious priorities that should be seen in their calendars.

All of us can adapt our calendar to reflect our priorities, we just need to be proactive and plan instead of letting events unfold. On a school wide basis why not bring this up at the Staff Development Day. Don’t take on too much at once. Change should be gradual to be sustainable.Try to make sure you have a least one event for each Cross Curricular Priority and General Capability. Teachers and teacher librarians can implement these changes at the classroom or library level if school wide change is not possible.

Keep your 2013 home or school calendar and compare it to your end-of-the-year 2014. Then celebrate your progress.

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Engaging Students and Community with Science

Australia has a problem with science education. Our community scientific literacy is alarmingly low, our PISA results in science are flat-lining, and our students are abandoning science in the higher years.

 

The Australian Academy of Science commissioned a report, Science Literacy in Australia Report, into the level of scientific literacy in the community. Only 59% of Australians knew that the Earth takes one year to travel around the sun and knowledge levels had dropped in the three years since the survey was last done.

Sunset

Sunset

While Australia performed significantly above the OECD average in PISA in 2009, it was outperformed by six countries. The results had not changed significantly from 2006. There are major differences in scientific literacy between rural and metropolitan schools, high and low socioeconomic areas and indigenous and non-indigenous students.

Another Australian Academy of Science study shows the drop in students studying science. Twenty years ago 94 per cent of year 11 and 12 students were enrolled in science subjects but last year the figure had dropped to 51 per cent.

 

So why does this matter? A good general community scientific literacy enables people to participate knowledgeably in society. It affects people’s ability to take ownership of their health, manage technology efficiently, and take part in solving global problems such as climate change. A lack of students in the science disciplines is leading to shortages in the skilled scientific and engineering workforces and reduces our ability to be internationally competitive.

 

There is general agreement that we need to improve our science education from K-12.

ACER’s report Reimagining Science Education suggests teaching science as it is practised in the real world, designing units that teach science outcomes through solving real problems in the community, and having collaboration between schools, industry and community.

Australia’s chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb has called on schools to “teach science in an inspirational way”. “You’ve got to ensure science is taught like it is practised, so you have people who are turned on by the awesomeness of science and can explain why it is important and relevant in everyday lives,”

In this Australian article Alison Samuel says we need to learn to see the science in everyday life.

One of the problems is that most primary teachers don’t have a science background so lack the background knowledge to do this confidently.

Tadpoles in the creek

Tadpoles in the creek

Victoria has headed down the road of Specialist Primary Science and Maths teachers and New South Wales has some fantastic Environmental Education Centres. I see this as a short term measure though because it continues to down skill the generalist primary teachers and reinforces the silo approach of making science a subject you do at a specific time each week or on a school excursion rather than something that is all around you and infuses everything.

 

So I am going to suggest that we involve our schools, students and school communities in citizen science. Citizen science involves ordinary people contributing information to real science projects. Not only do our students learn that science is for everyone but also through them so does the parents and school community. Citizen Science has a much bigger profile in countries like the UK where this Guide to Citizen Science by the UK Environmental Observation Framework comes from.

 

However there are a number of initiatives in Australia. There are the long running Streamwatch and Waterwatch programs, where community groups and schools can monitor local creeks and river systems. Some are geographically located like the Great Koala CountBirds in Schools and Wingtags. Wingtags and Climatewatch both have apps that allow people to report in sightings on their mobile phones.

With Explore the Seafloor you can help report on crown of thorns and kelp distributions from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Climatewatch can be done anywhere in Australia by identifying reporting on the appearance of key indicator species in your area.

Rockpools

Rockpools

CSIRO supports Mathematicians in Schools where teachers can form professional partnerships with maths professionals, supporting maths education and Scientists in Schools, which creates and supports long-term partnerships between scientists and schools for fun, inspiration and learning. With the internet and collaborative tools such as Skype, Adobe Connect and Google groups schools don’t even need to be in a capital city to participate. Pulse@Parkes provides high school students the opportunity to control the famous Parkes radio telescope via the internet. Students observe pulsars under the guidance of professional astronomers.

 

Internationally, Australian students can use the internet to help teach a computer algorithm how to identify birds at the All About Birds Cornell Lab of Ornithology or classify galaxies at Galaxy Zoo.

 

The best thing about using citizen science is that the Citizen Science programs provide the information and training needed to participate. All the teacher needs is enthusiasm and the impetus to connect their students to real science in the real world.

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Encouraging Australian Children to Enjoy Nature

Encouraging Australian Children to Enjoy Nature

 

In Richard Louv’s influential book Last Child in the Woods he argues that children today have a deficiency in exposure to nature leading to obesity, attention deficit disorder and depression. This has struck a chord, leading to many media articles and a Victorian Government report Good Play Space Guide and contributed to the formation and growth of forest kindergartens, Children and Nature Network, and the Audubon Society.

Many of the resources are British or North American rather than Australian so I thought I would look at some resources to encourage Australian children to enjoy nature.

The Bushwalk by Sandra Kendall

The Bushwalk by Sandra Kendall

Books

There are some amazingly beautiful books for children on Australian wildlife on the market. From early childhood picture books like “The Bushwalk” by Sandra Kendall to the beautifully photographed Steve Parish books. These books are a valuable addition to the home or school library. However the most likely Australian animals and plants that will be seen by children are insects, roadside and park plants, garden birds and small lizards. Of course it is possible to see echidnas and platypus in the bush but these are rare and special occasions. So I would make the case for investing in books like Peter Macinnis’ Australian Backyard Naturalist and Densey Clyne’s books because they focus on the sorts of animals found in backyards and schoolyards.

Australian Backyard Naturalist

Australian Backyard Explorer and Australian Backyard Naturalist by Peter Macinnis

Another consideration is to invest in Field Guides for your local area. By learning the names of fauna and flora in your local area you actually increase your chances of seeing them because your brain doesn’t just dismiss it as “brown bird” or “tree” you instead notice the “Red Wattlebird” or “Yellow Box”. “My Little World” by Julia Cooke ticks all these boxes for me because it shows the child perspective plants and animals of the Black Mountain Reserve, ACT near where I live.

 

Local Field Guides

Local Field Guides

 

Posters

Beautiful posters in the child’s bedroom, on the toilet door or in the kitchen inspire and encourage everyone to learn the names of what they see around them. High quality Australian posters are available from Gould League, National Parks and Wildlife and Australian Geographic.

 

Free Apps

Sydney Wildlife A field guide to the wildlife that can be found in and around Sydney, Australia. 

The guide includes most birds, many fish, many mammals, a number of reptiles, and a number of invertebrates.

Aust. Bird Guide is a general field guide to Australian Birds.

For the Victorians there is Biodiversity of the Western Volcanic Plains Flora and Fauna with the flora and fauna of the Western Volcanic Plains, and the Museum of Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna.

The MyEnvironment app from the Australian Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Find the Australian environmental places and species that make up your neighbourhood or area of interest. 
MyEnvironment uses the GPS in your phone or iPad to show assets around you.

See the heritage places, wetlands, protected species, protected areas, weeds and invasive species near you.

The Climatewatch app helps you identify local flora and fauna but you can also record the seasonal behaviour you see in plants and animals, and help scientists understand how Australia’s environment is responding to climate change.

If you like frogs the Australian Museum Frog Field Guide and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority both have great field guides to Australian frogs including photos, maps and calls.

 

Resource links

Gould League

Australian Government Department of Environment

NSW Environmental Education Centres

Climatewatch

Birds in Backyards

Australian Museum fact sheets

But finally just get out there. Find your local reserve, national park, or creek and enjoy yourself discovering things with your child.

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PLANE Teachmeet on Game Design

When you first start learning about using technology in education or using social media it can seem that EVERYONE knows more than you and you can never hope to have anything worthwhile to say. It is intimidating to say the least. It is also (and I think it is easy to forget ) terrifying. But the thing to remember is that you are already ahead of many people because  you have taken the first steps towards looking beyond your own school and school provided professional development.

Last weeks PLANE virtual teach meet on Game Design first presenter had Adrian Camm had some interesting suggestions for the tentative beginner. He quoted the Done Manifesto point number 3. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it. In other words don’t wait to be an expert in something, don’t wait for it to be perfect but have a go and do it.

I have unknowingly been following this advice for much of the last 2 years since I first began this blog on starting my M.Ed (TL). Despite being by nature an obsessive perfectionist I have been picking up new web tools and giving them a go. From blogging I have tried out Web 2.0 tools, social bookmarking, website creation, social media, PLANE and even virtual teach meets. Some of these I have been pushed into by the demands of the course, others I jumped into from choice. Sharing these even when they are not perfect is another huge psychological step that I am still working on. I have introduced web 2.0 tools and apps at school and had students show me things that I hadn’t learnt myself. You don’t need to be an expert, the students will take it beyond what you have shown them.

Another memorable quote from Adrian was failure is an option. Failure is OK and we learn from it even when something doesn’t work out. Adrian must have known what I was presenting on. I was presenting at the same teachmeet on a game that I designed to be used a high school teacher visit to my local primary schools and community. I had had a plan in my head of what I wanted to achieve and was determined to learn to use ARIS to achieve it. The fact that I had never used ARIS didn’t faze me (see I had already unconsciously learnt Done Manifesto Rule 3). In the end I couldn’t sort out the bugs in my game and used the basic structure to make a QR code treasure hunt instead. This actually  worked well and everyone enjoyed the game.

So when Stanley Yip contacted me and asked if I would like to present to the ARIS game which he knew I had been working on my reply was that “it hadn’t worked”. Over the next few emails we decided that the “failure” and what I had learnt from it was probably just as good a topic to talk on than if it had worked. It is human nature to want to talk about the great things that we have done that have worked. But maybe we should talk more about things that don’t work- but most importantly what we learnt from the experience. I certainly know a lot more about the capabilities and potential uses of ARIS and game based learning in general. In that spirit I offer the link to my non-perfect presentation.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) American inventor.
It would also help beginners not feel so intimidated by perceived experts and we would be better able to see each other as fellow learners at different stages of our journeys. So thank you Adrian Camm for validating my presentation and thank you all the people along the way who have pushed me into things that I  didn’t feel I was “expert” enough to do.
My advice to all beginners would be “Say Yes to opportunities even when you are terrified”

 

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Teacher Librarian skills can be used for environmental activism too

I recently had the chance to use many of the skills that I have learnt in my M.Ed (TL) and particularly the INF506 course. The river that flows through my historic picturesque village is the Macleay River on the mid north coast of NSW Australia. While most people won’t have heard of it is extremely important to the 28,000 people who live in this valley.

At the head of the catchment headwaters is a gold mine called Hillgrove. The mining practises over the past 100 years have resulted in a arsenic and antimony contaminated sediment 60 km long that is progressively moving down the Macleay River. Over the past 6 years, since our water from the Macleay at Bellbrook was found to be high in arsenic and antimony, there have been at least two failures of containment dams that have released contaminated water and sediment into the Macleay River. So you can imagine we were not particularly pleased to hear that the a) the mine was being sold to a group called Bracken who plan to reopen it and b) that it was being considered as a place to decontaminate 10,000 tons of arsenic and antimony contaminated soil from Urunga 180 km away.

I went to the public meeting to which the organisers had already invited the local media. 120 people turned up to an unairconditioned meeting in 43oC day in January.

I suggested that a Facebook page would be a good way of keeping people up to date and so Save our Macleay River Facebook page was born.

I have used my search techniques to find scientific and popular articles on the antimony/arsenic pollution of our river. I have collected these in a Diigo group for the campaign. With a Google Alert for “Macleay River”, “Hillgrove Mine” and “Bellbrook” I am alerted whenever something is found on these subjects and I can quickly add it to the Facebook page. Newspaper articles and TV coverage can be added as they happen to the Facebook page. We keep our Facebook page on people’s minds by regularly posting people’s pictures of the beauty of the Macleay River.

 

Canoeing on the Macleay River

My daughter had heard about a web tool called change.org where you can set up online petitions. She researched the issue and then made two petitions. The first was to stop the transportation of contaminated soil to Hillgrove Mine from Urunga and the second was to try and prevent the sale of the mine to Bracken. Each time someone signs the petition emails are sent to the government ministers and Departments concerned.

The petitions were spread using emails, Facebook and Twitter. By finding politician’s emails and twitter handles it is possible to send our campaign right to their computer screen. We can connect to other organisation like Lock the Gate by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

The Facebook page and online petition were further spread by emailing their details to the journalist who had covered the initial meeting.

We have actually won one of the battles. The option to transport Urunga’s contaminated soil to Hillgrove has been crossed off the list by the Soil Conservation Service. But the fight on the other front looks like being a long battle as news came in today that the sale to Bracken will go ahead.

The Save the Macleay River campaign will need increasingly to be visual and online. I have trained other members of the group to make and edit videos and upload them to a Youtube page.

The amazing thing is that 2 years ago I didn’t have the skills needed to run an online environmental campaign, whereas now thanks to CSU M.Ed(TL) I do. The skills of a Teacher Librarian can be used not just in the school library but for environmental activism too.

By

Thank you

This is just a short post to say thank you to the my lecturers and fellow students who have travelled with me on this journey to become a teacher librarian. It has been challenging, exhilarating and exhausting. It wasn’t the course I was expecting (I thought I would learn how to manage a book based library ) but indeed it was something even better . Now I am not just a primary or secondary  science teacher but a universal educator helping students and colleagues to navigate the flood of information out there, use it to solve problems and improve education and lifelong learning.

So thank you to my lecturers : Judy O’Connell who introduced me to the vast PLN of social media; Roy Crotty who, even though I laughed at the time at The Teacher librarian as Leader, helped turn me into one; James Herring who showed me how broad the role of the T. L could be and encouraged me to make my first website; Lyn Hays who showed me that a library is far bigger than its physical space; Paul Scifleet who taught me how to organise information; Ashley Freeman who kept the whole ship afloat; and Barbara Combes who introduced me to educational research.
Thank you also to my fellow students. We have all journeyed at different rates and come from different countries, states and school systems, but it has been fantastic fun. It has been great to meet some of you face to face today. I enjoyed meeting you on the forums. Quite often you asked the questions that I wanted to know. I met some of you on the Sydney Study visit and I met some on Twitter/Facebook during INF506. To those who are still travelling, keep going it is worth it. We’ll meet again online or at a conference sometime.
Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, this is not the end of our association. You are part of my PLN now and I’m sure I’ll be seeing you all, virtually or in RL again.
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