AustLit – Australian Literature like you’ve never accessed it before!

By Kay Oddone
austlit logo

Every Australian teacher, and any teachers of literature across the world who teach Australian Literature should make themselves aware of AustLit, an amazing resource created by a dedicated team of researchers and indexers based at the University of Queensland, funded by the Australian Government and a range of University and research partners.

AustLit’s mission is ‘to be the definitive information resource and research environment for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures’ – and indeed it is.

AustLit is available to patrons of subscribing libraries, educational institutions, other organisations, and individuals. Currently, all registered users of subscribing libraries or institutions have full access to AustLit, which includes registered users of almost all Australian universities, the National Library of Australia, Australian State & Territory Libraries, a number of local council libraries around the country and…ALL STAFF AND STUDENTS OF BRISBANE CATHOLIC EDUCATION!!

The decision to subscribe on a system wide level has enabled all BCE students and staff to make full use of this fantastic resource – and this blog post aims to give some insight in to just some of the fantastic resources available to support quality learning and teaching.

Tip One: Use Search Effectively

austlit searchAustLit is a database, and as such it has a powerful search ability to access the 152 000 writers and organisations who have created the over 840 000 accessible works. This includes full text novels, poems, films and TV, children’s and young adult literature, biographies, criticisms and reviews.

Understandably, a simple search may not pinpoint the exact work you are looking for, so making use of the Advanced Search capability is a time-saving feature for busy teachers and students. AustLit provides extensive information on how to search effectively, as well as an overview of how to use the built in Boolean Operators and the handy Subject Heading thesaurus.

The Advanced Search allows for very fine-grained searching; a search for female authors of the crime genre, who were born in Brisbane revealed that there are eight that fit the bill:

adv search

brisbane authorsTip Two: Make Use of the Curated Exhibitions/Trails

Austlit staff don’t just add records to the database; they also curate rich resources known as Exhibitions or Trails around their research projects. These curated collections of AustLit records and other relevant material  provide insights into specific fields or areas of study – just some of them are pictured below:

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Click on the image to access these and other research trails.

Tip three: DO check out Black Words

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

Click on the image to read more about BlackWords

BlackWords records information about the lives and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers and the literary cultures and traditions that formed and influenced them. BlackWords is the most comprehensive record of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander publications available. It includes texts both by and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and literary and storytelling cultures.

This resource is magnificent, both for Australians wishing to learn more about Australia’s heritage and our first people, and for those internationally who would like to learn more about the oldest culture on earth. This article, by Dr Jeanine Leane (PDF) outlines what resources are available through BlackWords, and how teachers might use these resources to meaningfully embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives into the curriculum. Please note that the link to the map of pre-colonial Australia referred to in the article has changed; the map can now be accessed here.

Tip Four: Don’t forget Reading Australia

Reading Australia was created separately, by the Copyright Agency of Australia. It is a list of over 200 Australian titles, many of which are accompanied by practical teaching resources that align to the Australian Curriculum. In addition to these resources, AustLit has created a series of curated information trails that provide context and supporting information relating to the Reading Australia texts.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

Click on the image to go directly to Reading Australia.

 Tip Five: BCE Students and Staff – access AustLit TODAY!

As mentioned in the introduction, AustLit is available through many channels, but for Brisbane Catholic Education students and staff, the database is being delivered system wide, with the username and password available via the ResourceLink Portal.

Go to the ResourceLink Portal AustLit page, where you will find further resources, as well as useful links and our conditions of use. BCE staff can share access information with BCE students. Simply sign into KWeb and go to the ResourceLink Portal, click on School Access and then Austlit, or go directly using this link, signing in when prompted.

AustLit has an active social media presence, as recognised by this recently crowdsourced list of Australian historic fiction; follow them on Twitter @AustLit or stay up to date via their blog at http://www.austlit.edu.au/news/.

Have you used AustLit in your learning or teaching? Share in the comments what you did, and how it went – we’d love to hear from you!

 

#Edutechau – Report from the 2015 Edutech Conference

This is why we must have events like Edutech.

The Edutech Conference is the largest of its kind in Australia. Over 1000 delegates, participating in streams reaching broadly across the educational landscape; K-12 Leadership, Teacher Librarianship, IT Directors, Higher Ed, Vocational Education and Training, Tertiary Education, Business Managers – basically if you are in education, there is a stream for you.

The world is undeniably changing, and we must prepare students for a future which will be significantly different to our own experiences. Many speakers, including David Price, author of Open, How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future, pointed out that the rate of technology development is rapidly shaping the skills and capacities required by today’s learners. While the entire 15 minutes of the following video is fascinating viewing, here’s just the final summary, which paints a challenge for everyone in education and indeed in government today:

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. George Couros asked us to remember that sometimes, it can be easy to be drawn into the myths of technology, and be swayed by the negative hyperbole of the media. His stirring keynote reminded us that there is a lot to be gained from the connections social media enables us to create; both from a learning and a personal point of view. He presented strong challenges to the myths of technology; that it automatically ensures engagement and that connecting with strangers online is inherently dangerous He also argued against the common beliefs that technology will make us narcissistic, replace face to face interaction and dehumanise us, while also making us dumb! You can read more about each of these on George’s blog, where he addresses each of these myths.

One of the highlights of the 3 days was the effervescent Super Awesome Sylvia, who’s have a go attitude and maker videos have brought her world wide attention at age 13. Her short keynote was a great example of ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’ – she was clearly nervous (as any normal person speaking in front of such a huge crowd would be), but she spoke with passion and simplicity, encouraging everyone to take on a maker mindset, see failure as part of learning and learn through play.

2015-06-09_0933Personally, I had great fun presenting to a group on the value of developing your Personal/Professional/Passionate Learning Network, using Social Media, and also was honoured to be a part of a panel which included Joyce Valenza, Jane Viner and led by Debbie Hunter, where we discussed the value and importance of curation for the Australian Curriculum.

 

Reporting on such a massive conference is challenging, as it is physically impossible to participate in the workshops run simultaneously by world class speakers, and even a keen eye on the mind-boggling tweet stream could only give a glimpse at the amount of information being trafficked. My summary below is just a tiny snapshot. I have included also as many links as I could to the speakers’ handouts, websites or resources, as well as the links to my Storify Summaries, which are on the final page of the presentation below, which was created in my latest tool ‘discovery’, E-Maze.

The video below tries to capture some of the emerging themes of the conference. You can view it at a more leisurely pace, viewing the videos and accessing the hyperlinks (the little orange ‘play’ symbol indicates if a word or phrase is a hyperlink, and every web address should also link directly out) viewing it online here.

If you would like to read more deeply into some of the wisdom shared via twitter by accessing the three Storify summaries I have created – one for each day.

2015-06-09_08282015-06-09_0828_0012015-06-09_0828_002 This was my first experience of Edutech. It was a great confirmation of the work we are doing at schools in Brisbane Catholic Education, and an opportunity to meet with likeminded educators who all share the belief that being an educator is an ongoing learning experience. Share your Edutech experience in the comments below!

 

 

Getting Graphic: Introducing Graphic Novels to the Classroom – Resources and Inspiration

2014-06-06_1037It is undeniable that we live in a new media age. In this age, literacy requires students to be able to make meaning from information in a wide variety of formats, one of the most prevalent being visual. The Australian Curriculum identifies the important role that visual literacy plays in contributing to a student’s overall literacy level, so much so that it forms one of the four major building blocks within the Literacy Capability.

Within this context, the graphic novel is perfectly poised to provide a powerful teaching tool, which enables students to develop literacy skills. As Di Laycock identifies, graphic novels can be considered the ‘holy grail’ of literature, as they are truly multimodal texts, encompassing all five semiotic systems.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide. Image: McCloud, S 1994, Understanding comics: The invisible art, HarperPerennial, New York, p. 68.

 What is a graphic novel?

Graphic novels are often seen as ‘not real literature’ or as an easy way out for readers who don’t want to engage with ‘proper’ texts; however as Will Eisner points out, reading graphic novels challenges readers in ways perhaps educators haven’t considered:

“The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimens of literature (e.g. grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of the comic book is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit.” Comics and Sequential Art, p.8)

You will note that in this quote, Eisner speaks about comic books as opposed to graphic novels. The difference is defined as one of serialisation; comics and graphic novels share the same format, however a comic is generally one part of a larger sequence, with a continuity plot that extends over multiple issues, whereas a graphic novel is a complete and extended narrative (Laycock, 2014).  While we are in definition mode, let’s turn to the work of Scott McCloud whose amazing work Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art gives a terrific explanation of what distinguishes this format from others such as picture books or movies.McCloud-Comic-Definition2

This definition focuses on the fact that it is the juxtaposition of images, which have been deliberately sequenced in order to make meaning, which differentiates graphic novels or comics from other multimodal formats such as picture books or movies. Watch this fascinating Ted talk where Scott McCloud explains this in more detail:

Using graphic novels in the classroom

Di Laycock’s research has led her to work with many teachers using graphic novels in the classroom. One of the things that she has noted which may make graphic novels less appealing is a possible  lack of familiarity with this type of text. Many teachers and students simply don’t have the metalanguage required to ‘talk about’ graphic novels, and indeed, many may need explicit instruction as to how to read a panelled page.

Fortunately quite a few terrific resources exist to take both teachers and students into the world of the graphic novel. Aside from the books which give an indepth foundational understandings of this form, such as Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, there are also books that focus more specifically on how to include graphic novels as part of the curriculum:

Click on this image & access this collection on Amazon to learn more.

Click on this image & access this collection I have compiled on Amazon to learn more. Teachers of Brisbane Catholic Education may borrow any of these titles from ResourceLink.

For those who like to use digital resources, generously shared graphics such as the one below also provide a fantastic introduction to the format:

Choosing graphic novels: for the library and the classroom

Another challenge for teachers and teacher librarians who want to introduce graphic novels to the curriculum is identifying which are quality texts. There is a growing number of graphic novels for sale, but evaluating these for use in teaching can be time-consuming and overwhelming for someone not familiar with the format.

Just as there are novels that you might choose for a trashy ‘summer’ read, and others which you might choose for their literary merit, so too are graphic novels published for many different reading purposes. Thankfully there are a number of resources online which assist in this area of selection. Selecting graphic novels for inclusion in a general borrowing collection for a school library is also different to selecting texts for inclusion in the curriculum. For teacher librarians looking for advice on how to develop a quality collection of graphic novels for students to borrow, I would direct you to Di Laycock’s excellent article from Synergy (PDF download).

Unfortunately at the present time there are few evaluation sites for graphic novels run by Australians for an Australian audience (if they do exist, please let me know in the comments section!). Nevertheless, there are some fantastic sites for teachers and TLs getting started – one of the best is Getting Graphic, by Canadian teacher Kym Francis. This website has an excellent introduction to using graphic novels in the classroom, as well as an extensive vocabulary page which is good for building up ‘metalanguage’ skills, as well as a page devoted to evaluation processes for choosing great graphic novels. Another fantastic source of up to date information is Comics in Education, which has a very comprehensive site, and which tweets a lot of good information for educators wanting to keep up to date in this area. Follow them at @teachingcomics on Twitter.

There are other good information sites also; some of the best are pinned on my Pinterest board about graphic novels.

Of course, no post on graphic novels would be complete without a few suggestions for fabulous titles to consider. Here at ResourceLink, we have been fortunate enough to be able to build up a small graphic novel collection, so I have had the pleasure of reading quite a few titles recently. The graphic novels below are now available to borrow by BCE staff!

Great graphic novels to investigate:

9780141014081

Click the image to access teachers’ notes on this title.

Maus is an incredibly powerful tale of two generations, and the impact of the Holocaust on both. Cutting between the father’s story of his survival as a Jew in Poland during World War II, and the son’s story of his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to learn about his family history, Maus has themes of racism, guilt, masks, imprisonment and family. From the Puffin teaching notes:

The comic book is able to depict the events of the Holocaust in a less confrontational way than photographs or films, especially with the distancing element of the characters being depicted as animals. However, Spiegelman did meticulous research and based his drawings of Auschwitz on photographs and plans.

An array of teaching resources to support Maus in the classroom is available on the Melbourne High School website.
This graphic novel would be best suited to students in Year 11 and 12.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Another graphic novel which uses anthropomorphism is the recently published An Anzac Tale by Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld. This title retells the Anzac Story from the perspective of Wally and Roy, two young larrikins who sign up for adventure and to earn some extra money for the family. An author’s note inside the front cover notes that the animal representations were chosen either for their indigenous associations with the country (kangaroos, wombats and koalas) or for their symbolic association with the country (e.g the British Lion, or the Bengal tiger of India). Terrific teaching notes are available from Working Title Press. This retelling would be suitable for middle primary students and above.

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Blue tells the story of Christian, as he looks back on his youth  growing up in the fictional industrial town of Bolton. While some of the language is ‘colourful’, it is necessary to the authenticity of the story, which the author describes as a combination of Stand by Me and District 9. This graphic novel has themes of racism and immigration, which lends itself to classroom discussion, and the entire book can be accessed online at Pat Grant’s website, for further discussion on how the book translates into the digital medium. Best suited for students in Year 9 and above.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

          For something completely different, Classical Comics provides graphic novel versions of many popular high school novels – and interestingly, they offer them in ‘original’, ‘plain’ and ‘quick’ text, so that readers of all abilities (and those who are time poor) can access the story more effectively. These are of beautiful quality, and well worth investigating. In addition, the titles have extensive teaching notes available. Staff of BCE can borrow packs of several of these titles which include all three text levels and teachers’ notes – Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Frankenstein. These are available in Australia through Book and Volume .

           So where do I start?

Like anything in teaching, it is the pedagogy that is the most vital part of the puzzle. Don’t include graphic novels in the curriculum simply because you can; include them because they are the best tool to use. A great deal of the Australian English Curriculum focuses on multimodal texts – either working with them or creating them – and so familiarity with this format is an awesome way to develop student’s skills in multiliteracies.

An example of how graphic novels might be used in a series of lessons for Year 8 is available here. These simple lesson plans have been developed by myself and our Education Officer – English, Kim Summers, as a way of introducing teachers to the possibilities in using this format in the classroom.

Start just by sharing a graphic novel with your students. Consider a graphic novel version of a text you might usually teach, or better still, deepen your teaching by using both traditional and graphic novel format. Investigate having students create a graphic novel (or part of one) as a writing task. Almost all literature strategies equally apply to graphic novels, but check out this list of easy to implement strategies for graphic novels for more ideas.

Teachers in Brisbane Catholic Education are welcome to borrow from our range of resources to support their investigation into graphic novels. For all other readers, check out our Pinterest Board of resources.

If you have used graphic novels in your library or classroom, share your experiences or advice in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

References:

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hill, R. (Ed.). (2004). The Secret Origin of Good Readers: A Resource Book. Retrieved from http://www.night-flight.com/secretorigin/SOGR2004.pdf
Laycock, Di (2014) The Power of the Panel. Workshop presentation for English Teachers Association Queensland, 31 May 2014.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Reprint edition.). New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.
Oddone, K. (2014). Graphic Novels – bring your teaching to life. Pinterest. Curated list. Retrieved June 10, 2014,
from http://www.pinterest.com/kayo287/graphic-novels-bring-your-teaching-to-life/

Resourcing the contemporary curriculum.

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians places great emphasis on the work of education to be realistic and responsive to new local, regional and global demands (MEETYA, 2008).  This emphasis is at the heart of Brisbane Catholic Education’s Learning and Teaching Framework (site accessible only to Brisbane Catholic Education Employees).

“As a Catholic Christian community, we educate all to live the gospel of Jesus Christ as successful, creative and confident, active and informed learners; empowered to shape and enrich our world.”
Learning and Teaching Framework,
Brisbane Catholic Education, 2012

The Religious Education Curriculum continues to deepen the call of educators to be responsive to the contemporary demands of education so to;

“…form students who are challenged to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and who are literate in the Catholic and broader Christian tradition so that they might participate critically and authentically in faith contexts and wider society.”
Religious Education Archdiocese of Brisbane,
Brisbane Catholic Education, 2013

The classroom teacher of Religious Education must draw on these contextual understandings to access, curate, engage, innovate and collaborate to resource both Religious Education and the Religious Life of the School so students learning experiences are rich, dynamic, engaging and contemporary.

ACCESS

ResourceLink is Brisbane Catholic Education’s contemporary resourcing and information centre, providing staff from Brisbane Catholic Education and Religious Institute schools, the Brisbane Catholic Education Office and other Archdiocesan groups with access to a diverse range of high quality resources to support their work.

Our work is driven by the need to ensure that our physical resources such as DVDs, print texts, puppets, posters, Indigenous Australian realia, interactive kits, music scores, music CDs, prayer and spirituality kits and religious realia as well as our online resources such as eBooks and Audio books (only available to Brisbane Catholic Education staff and students), curated online content, blog and films are easily accessible and user friendly.

Borrowers can access the ResourceLink library catalogue via the Brisbane Catholic Education public page  or via the Brisbane Catholic Education portal or K-web.  Browsing can be done via multiple ways but first a simple key word search will (in most cases) draw suitable results.

If signed in borrowers can book the resource then and there for a time which is suitable for the planning of learning and teaching within the Religious Education classroom.

Whilst the ResourceLink catalogue is one possible way of accessing high quality resources for Religious Education there are many other sources that can be accessed to locate appropriate resources for learning and teaching:

Some of ResourceLink’s favourites are:

The Trove website states that Trove is an exciting, revolutionary and free search service.  With millions of items, Trove is an unrivalled repository of Australian material.  Trove is for all Australians.  Whether you are tracing your family history, doing professional research, reading for pleasure, teaching or studying.

AustralianScreen is a promotional and educational resource providing worldwide online access to information about the Australian film and television industry and is operated by the National Film and Sound Archive.

Scootle is a repository of quality digital resources to support the Australian Curriculum which can be used directly by students and by teachers to learn, teach and collaborate.

CURATE

The term curator, from its Latin roots means to “take care”.  As educators we often are curating much content, making decisions about the quality and value of resources, text, technology and other learning activities. Sometimes a great resource is located, but when it comes to teach that topic again, it can’t be located again.  With the advent of social bookmarking and other online curation platforms, educators have powerful tools to curate quality digital content.  You can learn more about content curation and online curation strategies and tools at these links.

Kay Oddone (Librarian ResourceLink) and Susanna Di Mauro (Education Officer Information and Systems ResourceLink) promote the idea that anyone can locate resources but it is what an individual does after they locate such a resource that is really exciting.  In their roles with ResourceLink this team of curators work through a specific process to identify and curate quality resources and content.

Firstly it is important to review the resource or content and ask critical questions of it:

  1. What is the focus and scope of the learning?
  2. Who is the target audience for the resource?
  3. Is this resource or content appropriate for our particular context and need?
  4. Is this the best type of resource for this context and need?
  5. Who is the author or creator and are they a reputable authority?
  6. What is the content and is it accurate, current and valuable?
  7. How should users access the resource or content in keeping with appropriate protocols?

Secondly it is important to discern the best way to curate the resources or content for access by students by asking a range of questions:

  • What is the literacy and numeracy levels of the audience?
  • Are there any permissions or security needed to access these resources?
  • What are the logistical implications for users in accessing these resources?
  • How user friendly is the curation tool and is it suitable for the target audience?
  • Is the curation approach in keeping with appropriate copyright and creative commons licencing?

After the content is reviewed and the curation platform has been chosen, teachers and students should be able to access diverse resources or content in a variety of ways given the technological and connected environment of learning today.

There are multitudes of curation tools available for use. Here are some of our favourites:

Pinterest is a really easy to use app, which is very appealing because it is highly visual. Unfortunately recent changes to Pinterest have resulted the need for users to have an account before they can easily view the ‘boards’ or curated items. As account holders must be aged 13 or above, this limits its use with younger students. While it may still be a very useful tool for teachers and older students, we encourage the use of other tools such as Blendspace or Sitehoover for sharing resources with students.

Suitable for secondary students and teaching teams. This online tool will catalogue your texts for you.  Users can then add appropriate ‘tags’ for searching reviews or creating book lists.  These can then be shared with students, colleagues, parents or the wider educational community.

Suitable for primary students, this online tool collates useful websites in one location and is accessible from any computer.

Is suitable for all students. Users can collect, publish, and share curated web content.

Suitable for high school students and educators, users can build engaged audiences through publishing by curation. This is a highly visual tool, with the capacity to add detailed reflections on each ‘scooped’ item.

Suitable for all students to access. Users can organise, explore and share online content by creating content ‘pearls’, which can be displayed in a mindmap style.

Please note that many social media and curation tools require users to be aged 13 and above before creating their own accounts. For younger students, it is suggested that the teacher creates a class account which is co-curated by students, or teachers share their curated lists with students.

 

ENGAGE

A question that we often ask at ResourceLink is how might a resource be used as a way of unpacking multiple ideas or learning within a classroom.  There are so many great texts, resources, DVDs, online content or web tools available that we are often spoilt for choice.  Given this, the old adage “that less is more is something to hold on to.”  Often one resource can open up different learning pathways.  Taking for example Shaun Tan’s picture book The Lost Thing*, secondary or primary teachers can use this picture book as a starting point for study in Religious Education, English, History or Visual Arts.
* The book and video of which are available for loan to ResourceLink borrowers.

INNOVATE

Some people think that innovation it is outside of their particular experience or skill base.  Everyone can innovate in some way, be it in the manner in which they access or share resources or perhaps through the creation of a resource for learning experiences using mobile technology.

 

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians calls educators to be responsive to the contemporary landscape within which they teach (MEETYA 2008).  Educators are challenged to innovate, not only in the approach taken to resourcing but also the approach taken to technology and pedagogy as well.  Ruben R. Puentedura’s model of Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition or SAMR, whilst focused on mobile technology, provides a lens to approach resourcing. Quality resources not only enhance student learning, can transform it.  Read more about Puentedura’s model and mobile learning here.

How might you innovate the way you resource for learning and teaching?  Firstly go shopping.  Not to buy anything, but to see how retailers or cafes or restaurants are developing spaces and experiences to engage consumers.  Education, it can be argued, is similar to that experience as educators seek to engage students, and encourage ‘buy-in’. Importantly a significant amount of time should be spent understanding the context of the audience.  Firstly, identify the demands of the curriculum, content areas and achievement standards.  What is required? How is this already taking place?  Is there a need to innovate?  If so why?  Armed with this reflection it is then necessary to consider further the context of the class.   Who are the learners?  What are the individual learning needs?  What are the challenges and opportunities within the school in terms of access to technology?  What are the needs of the school community?

Being responsive to this context, you might substitute a DVD for a reader kit or augment a book with an eBook or modify a learning experience that moves from a re-enactment to a re-development and design and redefine the way students are learning by using technology and resources in a way not done before.

 

COLLABORATE

Teaching isn’t done in isolation.  Quality educators are collaborative. Once more the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians challenge educators to develop stronger partnerships (MEETYA 2008).  This is certainly an important part of quality contemporary resourcing.  The value of collaborative partnerships is vital in the delivery of an exciting dynamic learning environment.  Each member of the community has a contribution to make to the dialogue of student achievement within a school – especially the students.

Who might you turn to collaborate with?

  • Assistant Principal Religious Education or Religious Education Coordinator.
  • Teacher Librarian or School Librarian.
  • Colleagues beyond the subject area.
  • Students, parents and family members.
  • The wider community
    • The local parish
    • Local interest groups
    • Other schools
  • The world.

See how other educators are collaborating in a beyond their schools here.  If you are interested in this global collaborative approach to education, learn more from the work of Julie Lindsay at Flat Connections.

 

 

Resourcing contemporary learning and teaching requires a renewed approach. If educators are to work towards the goals as outlined in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australian then now is the time to take stock, to reimagine and to see how they can access, curate, engage, innovate and collaborate to work towards supporting student achievement within a contemporary context.

“If school systems are to be able to bring more students than ever before to higher levels of accomplishment than ever before, they will need to do some different things and do them in different ways…”

(Levin, 2007, p 230)

Co-Authors:

Susanna di Mauro (Education Officer Information and Systems ResourceLink)

Kay Oddone (Librarian ResourceLink)

Benjamin van Trier (Education Officer ResourceLink)

References:

Brisbane Catholic Education (2011) Learning and Teaching Framework, Brisbane, Brisbane Catholic Education.

Brisbane Catholic Education (2013) Religious Education Archdiocese of Brisbane, Brisbane, Brisbane Catholic Education.

Levin, B. (2008). How to change 5000 schools: a practical and positive approach for leading change at every level. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Education Press.

MCEETYA. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians. Melbourne: Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs.

Celebrate Australia Day!

Each year, when school returns we are immediately plunged into Australia Day celebrations – and at such a busy time of the year!

Below are some terrific resources that require little preparation, so you can grab and go and impress your new class with exciting and informative lessons.

The ABC has a terrific page full of news and information about Australia Day, suitable for high school students, with a special focus on our Australian of the Year. Find out how Australia Day is celebrated, read about what the day means to others, and explore what it is like to be a young Aussie living in a regional area.

2014-01-24_1458Explore with students how they each celebrate Australia Day, and then use the Australia Day website to explore how people across the nation celebrated. This site also features Australian history, teaching resources and digital learning objects for students to complete.

2014-01-24_1510

Celebrate by sharing some wonderful Australian literature; this Pinterest board links to a number of titles, for younger and older readers, which would be great to share, as we reflect on our heritage and celebrate all that it is to be Australian. Many of these titles are available to borrow from the ResourceLink library for those who work in Brisbane Catholic Education, or to download from our BCE Digital Library.

Simple printable activities for early years’ students are available for download here. Rather than simply colouring the images in, why not have the students find photos of the flora or fauna online, and try to replicate their colours as closely as they can, or colour, cut out and create simple jigsaw puzzles to test their friends?

Why not search Trove for a fantastic range of photos, articles and digitised resources that show students how Australians have celebrated this day throughout history? A classic example is this photo reported to have been taken on the ‘first Australia Day’ in 1901:

  1. A.N.A. Day 1901. The first Australia Day  Colquhoun, James, fl. 1896-1915, (photographer.)

    A.N.A. Day 1901. The first Australia Day
    Colquhoun, James, fl. 1896-1915, (photographer.)

     

There are so many ways to explore and celebrate Australia Day – why not share your ideas and experiences in the comments?

Postscript:

2014-01-28_1125

A wonderful colleague has alerted me to the fantastic wealth of resources available on the TES Australia website; with links for Primary and Secondary learning activities, video clips such as the one below and links to other resources, it is definitely one to check out.

Running a Maker Faire: Good Hard Fun at St Joachim’s

After being inspired by our fantastic day working with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez at the Invent to Learn day hosted by Brisbane Catholic Education (which you can read about in the earlier post, Resourcing the Maker Movement, my colleagues and I decided to run a Maker Faire at one of our schools. Being based at ResourceLink, I began creating kits of resources and equipment that we could use to run the Maker Faire, and which could then be borrowed by schools who wish to investigate using this style of hands on learning.

Running the Maker Faire

The plan was to run the Maker Faire at St Joachim’s, Holland Park West, where we could work with the Teacher Librarian who had also attended the Invent to Learn day, to introduce the Year 5,6 & 7 students to a range of hands on activities based on the ideas in Invent to Learn.

We organised the students into groups of 8, and timetabled them to spend about one hour on each of the activities, which they would rotate through throughout the day. cardboard alley

One space, ‘Cardboard Alley’ was open for the students to visit at any stage during the day, and offered the students the opportunity to use Makedo and Rolobox equipment with a huge assortment of cardboard boxes of all shapes and sizes. This was an important option, as it provided students a place to go and recharge if they completed an activity early, or if they just needed a ‘brain break’ from the more challenging activities.

During the Maker Faire, the students had fun with:

Lego WeDo – an introduction to Lego engineering and robotics, Lego WeDo allows students from Year 3 and up to build and program simple models such as cranes, cars and ferris wheels. Using either the Lego WeDo software, or the free programming app Scratch, students can experiment and develop skills in  language and literacy, math and technology, as well as enhance their creativity, communication and design skills.

lego

Arduino – Arduino is an open-source electronics  platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Using Arduino, students can write simple programs using  Arduino open source software to create projects using motors, gearboxes, speakers, LEDs, switches, cases and many other electronic parts.Projects can be as simple or as complex as you wish, suiting users from Year 5 and up.

arduino

Makey Makey – allows students to turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. Simply use the supplied wires or alligator clips to connect any type of everyday item (such as fruit, plants, coins, play dough etc) to the Makey Makey board, and then plug the board into the computer, and you are able to interact with the computer by way of the attached objects. Students love playing computer games using fruit as the controllers!

makey

Squishy Circuits– by combining conductive and non-conductive dough with a battery pack, leds, small motors and buzzers, students are able to create innovative simple circuits of any shape. A fascinating way to learn about circuitry and basic electronics.

squishy

Interactive Cardcraft– students were able to make light up greeting cards by using conductive paint and copper tape along with led lights and small batteries to create simple circuits on the cards. The challenge was to apply their understanding of circuits and switches to the real-life application of the greeting card.

paper

Interactive Wearables – Using ideas from this wonderful soft circuits booklet, students created brooches and arm-bands that lit up by sewing circuits using conductive thread, copper tape, batteries and led lights. While the sewing was challenging, so too was the application of their understanding of simple circuits to another practical challenge.

wearables

During the day, the students had so much fun. Their smiles, their engagement and the question ‘is this really school work?’ was evidence that the Maker Faire was a big success. However, not only did the students have fun; they also learnt so much about circuitry, programming, robotics and simple electronics, as well as developing their creativity, their problem-solving strategies and their ability to collaborate and work together. We encouraged the students to ask each other for help, and to share their successes and failures throughout the day. Listen to the conversations the students are having during this short video:

Constructing the Invent to Learn kits: advice for libraries wishing to resource Maker Spaces

When creating the kits for the Maker Faire, I purchased equipment from a range of different outlets. As a library, ResourceLink cannot supply the consumable equipment required for these kits, and so I created detailed lists of what was included and what the user needed to supply in order to run the activity successfully. This information is included in each kit on a laminated card (copies of which you can download below). I also included where possible printable information and instruction cards, which you can download also from the links below. Being based in Brisbane Australia, please note that some of the suppliers are locally based, however some of the online retailers ship all over the world.

Cardboard Construction:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Squishy Circuits:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Makey Makey:

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Click on the image to download a printable pdf version.

Arduino:2013-10-30_1217_001Lego Engineering:2013-10-30_1217_002Interactive Papercraft:2013-10-30_1217_003

Links to all of the resources you could possibly need to learn more about Maker Faires and creating maker spaces in a library are available on the ResourceLink Pinterest Board, Makerspaces and STEAM in Libraries or Anywhere, and also curated on this Pearltrees site.

For those who want to try running their own Maker Faire, I can only say: Go for it! The learning, the enjoyment and engagement is well worth the organisation, and the equipment is really not as costly as you would imagine. Start small, and build up. You may be surprised at what your school already owns, once you start investigating! For those in Brisbane Catholic Education, borrow these pre-made kits as a ‘try before you buy’ – contact ResourceLink find out how you can borrow these new resources today!

Resourcing the Australian Curriculum: Building Digital Collections – a review

2013-09-11_1125Members of the ResourceLink team were recently privileged to participate in the Syba Academy and SCIS sponsored seminar ‘Resourcing the Australian Curriculum: Building Digital Collections Conference’.

This seminar was of great interest to us, as ResourceLink has been working hard over the past 18 months to deliver a digital library to all schools in the Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) Archdiocese. This roll-out, which is a product of collaboration with BCE Information Services, Softlink and Overdrive, has been one of the ways we are supporting the provision and modelling of contemporary library services. We have also been focusing on enriching our collection to provide a wide range of both physical and digital resources, including websites, apps, streaming videos and lists of curated sites, and so we were eager to learn more about whether we were taking the right approach, and how to improve our processes and protocols.

We were thrilled when the organisers contacted us, and asked if we would also share our journey in delivering the BCE Digital Library as part of the day, by participating in a panel of speakers sharing their experiences.

speakers-photo

Speakers included Lyn Hay, CSU, Pru Mitchell, SCIS, Colleen Foley, NSW DET, David Munnoch, Trinity Grammar School, and Kay Cantwell, ResourceLink.

Building Digital Collections

The day began with a keynote from Lyn Hay Lecturer and Course Coordinator of the Master of Applied Science (Teacher Librarianship), at Charles Sturt University. Lyn’s keynote gave an overview of the value and importance of  building digital collections. She presented an overwhelming array of research and evidence which demonstrated how school libraries,  qualified teacher librarians and rich collections of both physical and digital resources positively impact upon student achievement and improved literacy levels.

Many are questioning the need for libraries, as access to information appears ubiquitous. With the answer to every question seemingly a ‘Google’ away, it is a common misconception that libraries and library staff are no longer needed. Hay’s presentation concisely demonstrated why this is untrue, highlighting a wide range of research, including:

  • Stephen Krashen on the role of reading in literacy development,
  • Francis, Lance, & Lietzau, (2010) on the role of school libraries and their impact on student achievement
  • Softlink (2012) on the positive relationship between literacy results and school library resourcing and
  • Hughes (2013) on how the ratio of library staff to students has a significant effect on student achievement in reading and writing

The presentation also pointed out how libraries and the provision of digital as well as physical collections provide not only what users need and demand, but also provide equity of access, which are two of the underlying reasons why BCE went ahead with the provision of the Digital Library in a centralised way – to offer equity and access to a wide and balanced collection to complement the schools’ existing physical collections.

Hay also highlighted (literally) the huge number of content descriptions within the Australian Curriculum that are able to be resourced by libraries which offer both physical and digital resources – and that the inclusion of ebooks and audiobooks in any school collection was, in her words, ‘a no-brainer’, simply because of the number of learning opportunities they offered in supporting the introduction of the Australian Curriculum, and in learning areas well beyond English, including History, Science and Geography, as well as General Capabilities and meeting the needs of diverse students.

eBooks and eLending

2013-09-11_1423The session after morning tea was presented by Pru Mitchell and Colleen Foley, and together they focused on eBooks and eLending, and how the provision of a digital collection is vital for 21st century education.  Pru focused on the considerations schools need to make before launching into  digital library provision, while Colleen spoke about links to the curriculum, and reported on the NSW Department of Education trial of a digital library in schools, which they reported on in Ebooks for Leisure and Learning. The report found that students and teachers both reported increased enjoyment in reading, and students believed that using ebooks improved their writing, independent reading and creativity, while teacher librarians noted an improvement in reading comprehension. You can read more in the November 2012 Scan article ‘Ebooks for Leisure and Learning‘ by Colleen Foley.

Both presentations confirmed the processes and protocols BCE has put in place for the delivery of our Digital Library. These strategies included the importance of providing a range of both digital and physical resources to learners, the necessity for those implementing the systems to have a strong and shared understanding of digital rights management and different licensing agreements and to have a plan for providing centralised access to all resources, whether physical or digital, through the institution’s library management system.

BCE is fortunate that strategic planning had already led to all schools within BCE converting to the Oliver Library Management System in the years prior to the delivery of the Digital Library. This has enabled us to deliver access to the ebooks and audiobooks by centrally exporting records into each school’s library catalogue, ensuring that all users across BCE schools have equal access. It also has meant that complex licensing agreements can be managed centrally.

eBooks and eReaders: Panel of Practice

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by KimCarpenter NJ: http://flickr.com/photos/kim_carpenter_nj/7565537700/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by KimCarpenter NJ: http://flickr.com/photos/kim_carpenter_nj/7565537700/

The panel of practice session featured David Munnoch, sharing his experiences rolling out a variety of digital resource platforms at his school library at Trinity Grammar School, and my own presentation on our experiences in the delivery of the BCE Digital Library for the Archdiocese. A summary of what I presented is available here.

The afternoon session focused on maximising access to digital resources. Lyn Hay presented a very comprehensive overview on the importance of content curation as a role of the contemporary library, and Pru Mitchell gave participants a rundown on the value of providing a library catalogue to users that provides one point of access for all library resources.

Content Curation

This image at http://www.bethkanter.org/good-curation-vs-bad-curation/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 License.

Content curation is a huge field, and worthy of its own blog post. ResourceLink has been engaging in content curation for some time, using many of the tools Hay discussed, including Pinterest, Storify and of course Diigo. Not just creating lists of links, content curation is the selection of specific online resources, which are value-added to in the form of a contextualised commentary. Examples of ResourceLink’s curation include our Diigo lists to support the Religious Education Curriculum the ResourceLink Pinterest boards and the use of Storify to compile tweets shared at various professional learning events (such as the Storify created for this very seminar!).

Resource Discovery and Maximising Access

Pru Mitchell’s presentation about library catalogues was also affirming, as ResourceLink has been working to model contemporary collection development and cataloguing. Pointing to articles from Joyce Valenza and Judy O’Connell, Mitchell outlined how a rich collection of digital and physical resources, well catalogued, enhances user access, as they are more likely to experience success finding quality resources to meet their needs from an OPAC search than from a Google search, where the amount of irrelevant information is so overwhelming. A library catalogue can provide a central point of access to a range of materials, and even across library collections – for example, the ResourceLink library catalogue allows users to search across our own collection and our Digital Library collection, as well as Trove, Scootle and the Film and Sound Archive, from within the same interface.

Thank you Syba Academy and SCIS

Syba Academy and SCIS have put together a fantastic seminar here, which all Teacher Librarians and those involved in resourcing schools should consider attending.  The day had an air of positivity, as Teacher Librarians and those who support resourcing in schools were reminded not only of the key role they play in education, but also of the exciting, challenging and ever expanding world in which they inhabit. Libraries are no longer confined to four walls and rows of shelves – they can be the portal to a wealth of resources, and a place for meeting, learning, exploring, inventing, creating and so much more!

We at ResourceLink have accepted this challenge, and are constantly investigating new ways to support our clients. In an age of ‘infowhelm’, libraries and librarians are best placed to support information management and access, and we use the best tools available to make this possible.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by LibraryGirlCC

 

Cybersafety – With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility!

Teaching about cybersafety is the responsibility of every teacher. Here in Australia, we are fortunate to be able to access the fantastic services of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the government authority which has responsibility for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radio communications and telecommunications.

Part of ACMA’s role is providing cybersafety education through the Cybersmart Program, which  is designed to support and encourage participation online by providing information and education which empowers children to be safe online. It does this by providing information and resources for children, teens, parents, schools and libraries, as well as running seminars and workshops free of charge for all of these groups.

This is just one example of the terrific high quality video resources available on the Cybersmart Facebook Page.

I was fortunate to participate in a day long professional development opportunity run by Cybersmart, which focused on the modules of Booting Up (getting to know students and their digital behavior), Ethical Online Behaviours (promoting positive relationships and exploring how to deal with various cybersafety issues), The Bottom Line (the roles and responsibilities of teachers when dealing with cybersafety) and Plugging in to the Curriculum (ways to connect cybersafety education to the Australian Curriculum). You can read more about this workshop here.

This blog post will share the information that I gathered during the Cybersmart professional development day, with links to where you can find more information and ideas.

One of the key changes in a contemporary approach to teaching cybersafety is a movement from ‘protecting students’ to students learning to ‘self manage’. This approach acknowledges that prohibition, in the form of blocking sites and banning devices doesn’t work, as students will always get around blocks and filters if they want to. Simply blocking or banning access removes responsible adults from the conversation – it is only when students are using and interacting with technology that opportunities for discussion around ethical and sensible use  arise. It is when students are forced to ‘go underground’ with their technology use, that issues have more potential to escalate.

The potential to connect, share, create and partake of a world of information is at student’s fingertips. How to use this power responsibly is a skill and understanding that today’s students require, and the message ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’ is one that they should hear loud and clear from educators.

Through providing students with the opportunity to experiment and take ‘strategic risks’ by using a variety of online tools and devices, students vulnerability to exploitation is reduced – as always, education is the best strategy, enabling students to develop confidence and competence so that if they become involved in an inappropriate or dangerous situation, they are more likely to report to trusted adults and will have more skills to manage the situation.

Even with this proviso, kids will be kids, and it is important for adults to be aware of the types of tools they are using and the positive opportunities and potential risks they present.

According to our ACMA Cybersafety workshop, the current apps and sites are ‘trending’ among young users. Please note these change frequently!

The following have the age limit of 13 in their terms and conditions, but are used frequently by students of year 5 and upward:

InstagramInstagram

What they say: “Capture and Share the World’s Moments. Instagram is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends and family.”

What it is:  a huge photo sharing social media site, with over 100 million users – like a visual Facebook.

snapchatSnapchat  –

What they say: “Snapchat is the fastest way to share a moment on iPhone – up to 10x faster than MMS. Control how long you want your friends to view your messages”

What it is:  Send a photo which will ‘self destruct’ after a given time limit to a friend – this is sometimes used to send inappropriate images, as the user believes the image only has a short life on the receiver’s device – however these images may be recorded using screen captures, and then shared with others.

tumblrTumblr

What they say: “Post anything (from anywhere!), customize everything, and find and follow what you love.”

What it is: a photo and multimedia blogging site, where users can share images and videos with others and comment on posts – some students are using this as an alternative to Facebook, which is more likely to be monitored by parents.

keekKeek

What they say: “Create fast, short videos and share them with the world.”

What it is: a social media site where you can create and share videos up to 36 seconds in length, comment on others’ videos and chat with friends.

qoohmeQooh.me

What they say: “Qooh.me is a social site that allows people who find you interesting to ask you anonymous questions so they can know you better.”

What it is:  a site where users can ask each other questions which are completely anonymous.

askfmAsk.fm

What they say : “Ask and answer. Find out what people want to know about you!”

What it is: Similar to Qooh.me, students sometimes share their Ask.fm address  on other social media sites such as Instagram to encourage questions from others.

One site some upper primary and secondary students use which has a 17 plus requirement in the terms and conditions:

kik

KIK messenger

What they say:  “Kik is the fast, simple, and personal smartphone messenger that connects you to everyone you love to talk to”.

What it is: an app that allows users to contact anyone at no cost. Users must know the username in order to initiate a chat with another, however some advertise this information on other social network sites and therefore have many people they do not know contacting them.

In many cases, the default settings on these apps generally are open unless the user purposefully goes in and changes the settings, so if students are using these, it is important for them to know about how to maintain their privacy settings; on each and every app.

What can schools do to develop cybersmart students?

Planning, open communication and positive relationships are all key in managing this area. Even though schools hope they will never have to deal with complex ‘worst case scenarios’ such as students engaging in cyberbullying, sexting or meeting with adult strangers that they have met online, it is important that all staff are aware of the types of behaviours kids can engage,  so that staff are prepared to handle the issues if they ever do arise.

Two key areas teachers must be familiar with are cyberbullying and sexting.

It is important that teachers are aware of the difference between cyberbullying and cyberagression. A lot of behavior is labeled bullying inappropriately, however to deal with these issues effectively, they need to clearly identified, so that appropriate actions can be taken.  Donna Cross has done extensive work in this area, and finds that the differentiating features between cyber bullying and cyber aggression are in the intent to harm, whether the act is repeated and how severe the harm is.

Cyberbullying vs Cyberagression

In cases of cyber bullying, the response of the teacher to a student reporting this issue is key. Most students will report to a parent or teacher, but an additional safety net is to put a link on the school website/learning management system to a web counselor from a site such as kids help line. http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling/

Sexting is sending another person an inappropriate sexual image, usually of oneself. It is developmentally normal for students to experiment and push boundaries in this area, but the increase in the act of sexting is due to exposure to our highly sexualized media and in response to peer pressure. It can also be a test of power or trust in a relationship, or may be a sign of a teen displaying at risk behavior (a sign that they are looking for help).

Most common scenarios are between romantic partners (or those they hope to be romantically involved with) and exchange between partners that are then shared beyond the couple.
It is important for teachers and parents to respond in a way that doesn’t demonise technology, and to explore underlying issues, but it is vital that students understand the implications of these actions, especially as they currently carry the possibility of criminal convictions. You can read more here.

Teaching about Cybersafety

The Cybersmart program provides a wide range of resources for students, teachers, parents and libraries. These include interactive online activities, videos, workshops, physical resources and more. Teaching about being cybersafe also fits well into many of the General Capabilities outlined in the Australian Curriculum, particularly Information and Communication Technologies, Critical and Creative Thinking, Ethical Behavior, Personal and Social Competence and Intercultural Understanding.

For those within Brisbane Catholic Education, a range of Cybersmart resources will soon be available for loan through the ResourceLink library. All schools throughout Australia may order these resources for free from the Cybersmart website here.

Please take the time to check out the excellent Cybersmart Website, and think seriously about developing a cybersafety curriculum for your school – the possibilities of technology are wonderful, but as Spiderman says, with great power comes great responsibility!

e
spiderfront / CC BY 2.0

The ASSISI Experience: Animators for Sustainability

You may be thinking that this article will feature reflections on a recent sojourn to one of Umbria’s most beautiful walled cities, the birthplace of St Francis, the ancient city of Assisi.  As magnificent as that beautiful city is and any pilgrim’s journal will recount, this is a reflection of a similar yet different type of ASSISI experience, an experience that engages with Sustainability.

How might we imagine what sustainability is and how might we go about developing a sustainable future.  Alex Steffen an American futurist and co-founder of World Changing  attempts to see a sustainable future in his TED Education Talk below.

Educators are called to engage students in a conversation about sustainability, a conversation that calls all participants to action.

Image created by Ben van Trier, Education Officer ResourceLink using Instaquote

Image created by Ben van Trier, Education Officer ResourceLink using Instaquote

Recently, at Santa Theresa Spirituality Centre, Ormiston, Brisbane,  fifteen participants engaged in a four day retreat experience for Animators of Sustainability facilitated by Luke Edwards of Catholic Earthcare Australia and Megan Seneque, an international systems change consultant.   For Catholic Earthcare Australia, the acronym ASSISIA Strategic Systems-based Integrated Sustainability Initiative is used to name their three-day, transformative process for animators and transformative it was.

After experiencing ASSISI, all participants stated freely that they found themselves in a new place of understanding, seeing the world and becoming much more attuned to sustainability from a Catholic Christian perspective.  All animators would agree that it was a capacity building and worthwhile process. Some animators have been moved to write their reflections of this significant experience.

What was the ASSISI experience like for me?

Alex Collins, Manager from Centacare, Rockhampton Diocese:

I can summarise my experience as one of involution, revolution and evolution.   Involution is that the first twelve hours gave my mind and spirit a workout through reflection and in this process I discovered how many patterns within me as a leader were unfit.  By day four I felt all my paradigms and existing behavioural rituals evolutionising, the experience of listening with an open heart, mind and hands taught me in a new way that what is around me is also inside me.  Becoming an animator has placed me in a new evolutionary point, one that is an invitation to shape shift our vision of sustainability as spirit-nourishing and we have the capacity to welcome others into this new system.

Colleen Mullins-Sifread, Fleet and Security Coordinator – Office Services, Brisbane Catholic Education:

ASSISI gave us a chance for listening, conversation, engaging, sharing thought, reflection, challenges, engaging with new concepts and techniques, confusion, U turns, realisations, “ah-ha” moments, new understandings, deep thinking and moving forward.

Dalveen Fletcher, Year 5 Teacher, St Eugene’s College, Burpengary:

Dalveen, with others from the school community, have developed the Eugreenies’ Community Garden.

This experience for me was very daunting initially.  I felt rather out of my depth, mostly because I’d assumed that everyone else had a far greater understanding of what was being spoken about.  As the days progressed I felt myself at a turning point in my thinking, taking a U-turn as per lots of the diagrams we had investigated in relation to animating change within my own organization.  At the conclusion of our time together I felt re-energised, valued and ready to move forward using many of the new strategies we had talked about.

Dalveen at work in the Eugreenies’ Community Garden

Jenifer Fowler at work in the Eugreenies’ Community Garden

What new learning did you experience?

Dalveen Fletcher:

I learnt far more than I could possibly remember or follow up on without revisiting all the documents we were given.  However, what has stayed very much in my mind is a diagram we looked at, yet another big U that focused on ‘letting go’ and ‘letting come’ as the turning point in animating change.  This has been invaluable in far more situations than I thought possible and I do see a new ‘me’ emerging.  Let’s hope this is also sustainable.

Colleen Mullins-Sifread:

New concepts, heightened understanding of my role and those of others across the organization.

Kerry Rush, Senior Education Officer Brisbane Catholic Education Office:  Dutton Park:

I learnt many things, but one of my biggest learnings was that transformative change is best brought about by a holistic approach that engages a group or groups towards integrated solutions instead of using a fragmented, pushing through, driving to solution approach that is frequently supported with “so called” consultation processes that arrive at preconceived solutions.   Holistic transformative approaches to change can look like this:  a group or groups of people engaging in generative conversations, appreciative inquiry, attentive listening, that fosters rich and authentic dialogue to co-plan and collaborative act.  Such groups that are working in this way will get to a point of realizing that they know what they don’t know and will freely draw on multi-disciplined knowledge, skills interests and capacities of others to join and support the groups’ initiatives. A holistic notion of sustainability underpins Assisi.   This understanding of sustainability is one that incorporates human, social (cultural/economic/political) and environmental sustainability.  It is not just about caring for the environment, it is about caring for and sustaining all of God’s creation.  In light of this new understanding I was able to self-reflect and critique my own successes and failures to lead sustainable change over the years.

A very accessible text that is pre-requisite reading for the ASSISI program is Denis Edwards’ book, “Jesus in the Natural World”.  It has so many gems about ecological conversion.  Paraphrased from the book’s blurb, ecological conversion requires a radical change of mind and heart.  Such a conversion will lead to a deeper love and respect for all of creation.  This involves moving towards sustainable lifestyle, patterns of production and consumption, economic and political choices.

Watch an interview with Denis Edwards regarding his book “Jesus in the Natural World” below.

Would you recommend the program to anyone else?

Dalveen Fletcher:

I would highly recommend this program to others who are striving to make changes within their own work places.  However, I believe it is best to have others from your own work place with you to complete action plans and start from the same understandings explored during the time together.

Colleen Mullins-Sifread and Kerry Rush:

Absolutely, most definitely!

What does being an ASSISI animator now mean to you?

Dalveen Fletcher:

Being an ASSISI animator means a great deal to me at this time.  The term ‘animator’ means, to me, facilitating changes, not having to make these changes happen all by myself.  I see the role as a person on a journey of change with many like-minded individuals and communities working together to achieve success.

Colleen Mullins-Sifread:

Communicating from the heart to spread the word about sustainability.

Kerry Rush:

Being an animator for me, still mean having energy for or inspiring energy for something.  It’s also about trusting people, promoting participation and letting go of the way you want things to go.  Also I think the idea of Denis Edwards of seeing things properly with the eyes of wisdom is terrific challenge for animators to aspire to and practise.  This requires seeing all things as loved by God, eyes that listen and connect:  seeing things with loving eyes beyond arrogant, valuing stares and prejudice, beyond the ignorant, blinkered view and position.  Seeing the world in this way is a big challenge.  If only we could buy glasses that enhanced our capacity for eyes of wisdom.

What new processes will you adopt?

Dalveen Fletcher:

Click on the icon above to learn more about this text.

Click on the icon above to learn more about this text.

I have begun to adopt a number of new processes within my school simply by sharing what my time with ASSISI was all about.  I have personally invited many to come to our garden to share the experience and am hopeful that this direct, personal approach will be effective.  I will be using the EATING process but need a much better understand of all areas of this before getting any further that the ‘E’ and the ‘A’!

The EATING approach comes from ‘Kitchen Table Sustainability’ by Wendy Sarkissian et al.  It is an approach that can be used to foster community engagement for sustainability. It is an acronym for Education, Action, Trust, Inclusion, Nourishment and Governance.

Find out about additional resources being used by the team at ResourceLink here.

Colleen Mullins-Sifread:

U Theory and being aware of “Who am I being, that their eyes are not shining?”

The U theory comes form the work of Otto Sharmer. It is a theory that assists people to move from reactive quick fixes to generative responses that address the systemic root issues.  It is journey to change that is particularly helpful to those leading change. It is one path with five movements:

  1. Co-initiating: building common intent,
  2. Co-sensing: observe, observe, observe
  3. Presencing: connecting to the common will,
  4. Co-creating: Prototyping the new
  5. Co-evolving: Embody the New ecosystems.

What did you discover about others roles and journeys toward sustainability?

Dalveen Fletcher:

I discovered that other teachers have had a similar journey as me.  I found I am very much not alone in feeling frustrated and not valued for what we have been trying to achieve.  I have importantly discovered that Brisbane Catholic Education is very much on board with striving towards creating a sustainable workplace and that those who attended from the Brisbane Catholic Education Officer are very much valuing the work that is tirelessly being done in schools.  I’ve also just re-read some notes about two different models – one driven by answers and the more favourable one guided by questions.  This is very worthwhile.

How would you do things differently after the ASSISI program?

Dalveen Fletcher:

Perhaps if I had done the ASSISI program years ago before attempting and continuing many sustainability initiatives, I would not have felt so much despair along the way!  I would have found others to come on board and work together to animate many desperately needed changes in our school.  However, having already started the journey, I will take to heart many of the learning experiences we shared.  In particular, I will stop speaking from a place of ‘lack’ and work with who and what we do have.

In what way was the ASSISI experience transformational?

Dalveen Fletcher:

The ASSISI experience has been transformational in creating what I hope is the start of a new and much improved version of ‘me’.  Everything else in going to flow from there!

Image created by Ben van Trier, Education Officer ResourceLink, using Instaquote

Image created by Ben van Trier, Education Officer ResourceLink, using Instaquote

What dreams, preferred futures imaginings did you have or hear articulated at the end of the program?

Colleen Mullins-Sifread:

I’d like to see more connections within and between schools.  Networks for the dedicated, creative people with “like minds” across the organization and ecouraging local conversations to start the ball rolling.

Dalveen Fletcher:

Moving forward in a positive manner.  Hoping to achieve my dreamed vision for 2016 where all memebers of the St Eugenes’s College community are at some point and in some way egaging with the understanding of what they are achieving.  Celebrating the achievements and community importance of the Eugreenies’ Community Garden, the profile an value of the project will be further fostered.

Kerry Rush:

Working with groups of people within Brisbane Catholic Educatione and beyond towards (AStrategic Systems based Integrated Sustainability Initiatives, developing great relationships with others, having fun and doing our bit together to educate, inform and enact sustainability the ASSISI way.

What words of wisdom or experiences will you remember?

Dalveen Fletcher:

Authentic! Heritage! Legacy!

Colleen Mullins-Sifread:

“Life can be framed by the conversations you don’t have”.  The phases of U Theory.  Create communities of co-creation.

Kerry Rush:

Let go and see all of Creation with eyes of wisdom.

Image created by Ben van Trier, Education Officer ResourceLink using WordFoto.

Image created by Ben van Trier, Education Officer ResourceLink using WordFoto.

Building a Disaster Resilient Australia – A meeting of minds for a great cause

Australian Emergency Management Institute

For the last two days I had the privilege of meeting with an amazing group of people who form the newly established Disaster Resilient Australia School Education Network, at the Australian Emergency Management Institute in Mt Macedon, Victoria.

The aim of the meeting was to establish a cross-sectoral group to examine current resourcing of educational programs that support this area, and to identify partnerships and ways to work together to construct resources that span across the range of emergency services, to promote a strong shared message of how to prevent, prepare, respond and recover (PPRR) when facing  hazards such as  Bushfires, Climate Change, CyclonesDroughts, Earthquakes, Floods, Heatwaves, Landslides, Pandemics, Severe Storms, Tsunami or Volcanoes.

Meeting with representatives from diverse groups, including those immediately involved with emergency management such as the Country Fire Authority, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of WA, Save the Children, Red Cross, Green Cross and the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as educational representatives from the Geography and Science Teachers Associations and experts in the field of Psychology,  Human Services  and Disaster Research was a rich example of the value of sharing multiple perspectives.

Australia is a wild and unpredictable country, and the importance of a strong educational program cannot be understated. Listening to Professor Kevin Ronan speak on the first morning on why disaster resilience education is so important, it became clear that although many people know they should prepare for a possible disaster, many don’t. Professor Ronan shared that when asked, 90% of respondents in one study agreed that preparedness was important, however less than 50% had a plan, and even less, it is likely, had practiced it.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by electricnerve

Focusing on providing school education is vital. Part of Professor Ronan’s presentation, which was also supported by the research conducted by Dr Briony Towers, is that children are aware of, and are afraid of disasters; in a media saturated world, even events that occur on the other side of the world feel frightening. One of the best ways of addressing this fear is to establish what children know, what their misconceptions might be, and to empower them with strategies that will help them cope should a disaster befall them. Educating children is also a way of indirectly influencing families and communities – children are a motivational reservoir, encouraging their family members to act, and connecting families with community. With well educated students, the foundation is laid for a community of future adults who have a resilient mindset to risk and stressors – which is one of the major goals of disaster resilience education.

Fortunately fantastic resources already exist, and more thanks to this network will be on the way. Here are a selection of just some freely available online:

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  • Smiling Mind modern meditation for young people. It’s a simple tool that gives a sense of calm, clarity and contentment. It is a unique web and App-based program developed by a team of psychologists with expertise in youth and adolescent therapy, Mindfulness Meditation and web-based wellness programs.
  • Emergency 2.0 a free global resource for using social media and new technologies in emergencies
  • Stormwatchers a 3D interactive web based game which allows children to choose the state in which they live to create their own cyclone experience by working through one of 5 ‘true-to-life’ cyclone scenarios with one of the game’s characters. The game provides children with the skills to enable them to be better prepared in a real cyclone situation.
  • Emergency Management for Schools a comprehensive emergency management resource for Australian students and teachers.
  • Triple Zero Kids Challenge kids learn about getting help by playing games and solving mysteries. They’ll learn about safety messages and hear what happens when you call Triple Zero.
  • After the Emergency the After the emergency mp3s and website were developed after the 2009 Victorian bushfires. They are intended to be distributed immediately after a disaster, but may also serve as long-term resources for young people (aged 12-25 years) affected by crisis.
  • Harden Up developed to help you understand the history of severe weather in your suburb and get prepared. Once you understand more about what’s happened in the past, we hope you will take practical steps to get prepared.
  • Beachsafe current information and conditions for the beach you would like to visit, hazards you might find and services available to assist in your beach choice to let you relax and enjoy your activities during your stay. Games and educational resources as well as first aid info and more.

There is great work being done in this field, and it is so important. When you are planning for 2013, why not include an inquiry into emergency management – it might just save hundreds of lives…