SLANZA 2015: Lots to Learn from our NZ Neighbours!

By Kay Oddone

In September, I was honoured to take part in the School Library Association of New Zealand’s biennial conference, in Christchurch. Presenting a workshop and keynote, I was delighted to meet many of the amazing professionals who do a wonderful job managing school libraries across the North and South Islands, many of whom go above and beyond to ensure that NZ students have access to contemporary, effective and high quality information and resourcing services.

The three days passed in a blur of conversations, author breakfasts, conference dinners, keynotes and workshops, and reading back through the three Storify collections I created which collated the huge number of tweets shared (we trended in both New Zealand and Australia on several occasions!), I was compelled to write this blog post to share with others the rich learning that took place.

Below you can access the three storify articles, but for those short on time, and who would like to dip their toes into the learning, I have also created a Haiku Deck slideshow that attempts to capture just some of the themes of the conference. Click on the image below to view the slides.

The keynotes were fascinating in that almost every one raised the pressing issue of workforce change, and how technology, automation and globalisation are rapidly bearing down on us. For educators, we are on the precipice- skills previously valued will no longer be of use, and students live in a world which requires new ways of information management, cognitive load management, higher-level and different types of communication skills as well as the ability to learn quickly, manage constant change and think creatively. Research such as the articles pinned on my Futures Pinterest board all point to the need for a re-think in what students learn, and how they learn it; as jobs are automated, outsourced or radically re-imagined.

The storify collections below contain fascinating reading; take some time to be inspired, to discover and to make connections with the School Librarians of New Zealand; and share your thoughts in the comments below!

storify day 1

storify day 2

storify day 3

Linking Literature to Makerspaces

Libraries seem to be the space where makerspaces are taking off.

a makerspaceThe library is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

A makerspace is a place of engagement, learning, discovery, belonging, community, creativity and innovation.

In schools, the library is the only learning space not limited by curriculum; it is an open learning space, which can be interpreted in many ways, and I suggest that this is why so often makerspaces find their place there. Outside of schools, public libraries are increasingly one of the only ‘3rd places‘ where people can feel free to meet, collaborate and learn, without the pressure to spend (even coffee shops move you along if you linger without a coffee in front of you).  Not to mention that library staff are often the most open to new, exciting and innovative ways of interacting and engaging with learning and technology!

I have written before on makerfaires, resourcing makerspaces and the role of makerspaces in enabling creativity and creation.

However recently, I got to thinking about how there is a natural link between this new development in library culture – makerspaces, and one of the original and most seminal aspects of libraries – books.

There are several types of ‘maker’ books, and this blog will look at each in turn. But first, a description of these maker book categories.

The first and most literal interpretation are books that describe how to make things. These books have existed for as long as anyone can remember, but as the maker movement grows in popularity, have moved back into the limelight. Now, as well as the ever present craft and hobby books, there are also books available on a wide range of project types.

The second type of maker book are those about the maker movement. Either charting its development, or describing how or why you need a makerspace, these books are less in number, but are essential reading for anyone considering moving into this space from an educational or practical perspective.

The third and least considered category of maker books are picture books and other literature that features characters that display a ‘maker’ mindset. These beautiful books are fantastic for inspiring an open mind, a ‘give it a go’ attitude and for reinforcing the importance of persistence and problemsolving.

So – what are some of the best examples of each of these categories of maker book, and how can you use them to inspire young learners to get excited about inventing, innovating and creating?

Books about making things (category 1):

One of the surefire ways to ensure a successful makerspace is to get the students involved and engaged in what such a space might look like, and what local interests it might encourage and enable. So why not inspire them by creating a collection of books that encourage exactly the type of activities you might include in your space? There are literally thousands of ‘how to’ books for every craft, hobby or activity you could even think of; this selection is just a small sample of the wonders that await you at your library or bookshop. Look for books that are highly visual, that offer projects at a range of expertise levels, and that feature activities suitable to your local context. Check out the titles below, and if you would like to see more, have a look at this work-in-progress list for further suggestions.

PicMonkey Collage

Books about the maker movement (category 2):

Anyone wanting to implement a makerspace should spend some time reading and learning about the ideas and thinking behind the concept. Laura Fleming, in her recently published book, Worlds of Making, spends much of the first chapter emphasising the importance of an innovative, empowering, safe culture, where failure is celebrated as a way to learn, and makers feel confident to take risks. Without this, even the most well-equipped makerspaces can fail, says Fleming.

Another essential part of planning a successful makerspace in a school is having a shared understanding of the reasons why it is being introduced – a strong understanding of the learnings possible in a makerspace, as well as how it contributes to the curriculum is how to ensure the makerspace is not seen as just this year’s fad. One of the essential texts which covers this is Invent to Learn, by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, which gives an amazing introduction not only to the practicalities of makerspaces, but also the pedagogical understandings and reasoning informing this movement in schools.  Informing much of the maker movement is STEAM/STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. Titles that explore this connection include Design Make Play by Margaret Honey and David E Kanter, as well as From STEM to STEAM: Using Brain-Compatible Strategies to Integrate the Arts by David A. Sousa and Thomas J. Pilecki. 

Beyond these practical texts, those interested in implementing makerspaces might also benefit from a deeper understanding of the maker movement in general, as well as some of the research regarding the importance of innovation, creativity and the need to prepare students for a future unlike anything we currently experience. Titles that you might consider include Creating Innovators and the Maker Movement Manifesto; books that examine what innovation looks like, how to develop innovative thinking and why creating, inventing and just getting your hands dirty making can lead to discoveries not possible through any other type of learning.IMG_0576

So you want a Makerspace is a list of these books and more; it is, as all good curated collections are, a work in progress, but it will put you on the path, and give you lots of food for thought. Almost all of these titles are currently available for loan to Brisbane Catholic Education staff through ResourceLink (link requires staff login), otherwise, try your local library or buy online or at your local bookshop.

Books about the Maker Mindset (Category 3)

The third group of books, and the least well known, are the growing number of picturebooks that have been written with little makers (and not so little makers) in mind. These books encourage the ‘give it a go’ ‘fail = first attempt in learning’ mindset that we want all students to have. From Rosie Revere, Engineer to Monkey with a Toolbelt, to Harvey, the boy who couldn’t fart, who invents a farting machine to resolve his problem, these cute characters encourage children to get hands on with their learning. Beyond being engaging stories, these picture books provide a great starting point to inspire children’s own initiative and inquiry, and can be the catalyst for any number of adventures.

Other titles, for older readers include The Invention of Hugo Cabret (suitable for readers around 10 years of age) and for adults looking for a novel with a maker mindset, why not consider Makers by Corey Doctorow, a sci-fi future tale of technology and enterprise.

 

Examples of all of these types of maker books can be found on my Pinterest Board, Makerspace Picturebooks (and lists of other inspiring titles):

Why not create a display in your library, and inspire discussion around making, makerspaces and the potential creative use of library space for providing another avenue for learning and discovery; it could be the first step into a larger world!

 

Images appearing in this post are CC Licenced and used with permission from:

Phillipe Put, Thomas Leuthard, IMagineCup, Hindrik Sijens, Kenny Louie, L’ubuesque Boite a Savon, Sarah Houghton, Stuart Madeley.

Designing Library Spaces – From Dreams to Reality

By Kay Oddone

We are fortunate here in Brisbane Catholic Education in that almost every school has a library. This space, whether it is a state of the art, architect designed, contemporary I-Centre or a converted classroom made warm and welcoming with paint, cushions and a few comfy chairs provides not just an area to house books and resources, but a space where just about anything is possible!

“But libraries are about freedom.

Image in the Public Domain. Click to read the entire speech by Neil Gaiman.

 

Although the traditional role of the library as the source of information has changed in the age of Google, every school still needs one (preferably well staffed with qualified, passionate teacher librarians and library technicians!). Libraries are the hub of a school – a third space, away from the pressures students can feel in the classroom and on the sports fields, where they can choose to work or play, where they can investigate or read for leisure, where they can meet friends or just be alone – it is a place of choice, as well as a space which provides not only access to books and physical resources, but increasingly to other collections such as realia, maker tools, new technologies and expert advice on how to navigate increasingly complex online worlds. While students (and teachers) may have a world of information via the smartphone in their pocket, the library is the place where they can go to find out just how to make the best of this trove, and to get tips and tricks to access databases, online journals and a range of other ‘deep web’ resources.

Recently, I was fortunate to be taken on a tour of the beautiful new Beanland Memorial Library at Brisbane Girls Grammar by the Director of Information Services Mrs Kristine Cooke, as she shared her wisdom about the development of the building and the value of the library within the school.

This video charts the progress of this amazing space:

The library is merely months old, and many of the ‘ways of working’ have yet to be finalised. However as Kris shared, its many small spaces are already being embraced by the girls of the school, who keenly await her arrival at 7am to open the doors of the library, and who must be ‘pushed out the doors’ when it closes at 5pm. Why, when the information they seek could easily be accessed from elsewhere, is this space so popular?

BBG LibraryIs it because of the multitude of seating types available for different working styles? The inspiring artworks that decorate the space? The gorgeous curving stairwells that led the girls to nickname the library ‘Hogwarts’? Well yes, all of these elements appeal – but they are not the whole story. It is also because the atmosphere of this library is welcoming and safe. The inner city location and high academic expectations of the school definitely play a part, however walking into the space, it is also clear that thought has been given to the ‘feel’ of the library. Kris and her library staff obviously have a passion for providing a haven for students that goes beyond providing a space strictly for  learning, and that passion provides a space for comfort and leisure as well as hard work; an environment that makes you want to broaden your horizons, just as the large glass windows broaden the view into the beautiful fig tree outside.

The Brisbane Girls Grammar Library has a budget larger than most; but a similar atmosphere can be achieved with far less investment.

This slideshare has a wide range of simple ideas to rethink and redesign your space.

For more inspiration, check out this fantastic Pinterest Board compiled by Associate Professor Hilary Hughes, who leads the Designing Spaces for Learning subject as part of the QUT Master of Education course.

Image sourced from the Public Domain.

Image sourced from the Public Domain.

Libraries are far more than a home for dusty shelves of books; share your actual or dream library ideas in the comments.

 

Your Professional/Personal/Passionate Learning Network – Your PLN!

Struggling to stay afloat in a sea of information?

flickr photo shared by kleuske under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

If there is one thing that is true of education today, it is that change is the only constant. Staying abreast of educational change can seem like a full time job in itself, and sometimes it seems fair enough to think that it is just not possible to stay afloat amid the overwhelming amount of information that is presented to us every day.

You are not alone! We are living in an age of information abundance, and it is no longer reasonable to expect that any one person can hold the entirety of knowledge on any particular topic within their brain, nor keep up with the rate of change in knowledge and information. In fact, people like David Weinberger, author of books such as (the extremely long titled) Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts are not the Facts, Experts are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room is the Room and Everything is Miscellaneous go so far as to say that technology is reshaping the way we understand and experience knowledge, and that we must begin to teach network literacy, as it will be the connections that we have, and the ability to access information when we need it that will be a determinant of success in the future, rather than the ability to store knowledge in our own brains, which has previously been how we have assessed expertise.

As educators, we know more than anyone that in a rapidly changing world, a student who has learned how to learn, who is flexible and is able to transfer skills across contexts, and who knows how, when and of whom to ask the right questions are likely to be the most successful – in life, if not in standardised tests.

flickr photo shared by purplechalk under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

So in an  environment of infowhelm, who can we turn to to seek support, ask questions, share learnings and sometimes just have a laugh (or cry!)? Teachers have always been able to turn to each other for this support, however in a networked world, we are fortunate in that we can reach beyond the boundaries of our own school, and connect with others all over the country and the world.

These well-known diagrams by Alec Couros sum up the potential of making connections for the 21st century educator:

flickr photo shared by courosa under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

flickr photo shared by courosa under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

A networked teacher, connecting to the many sources which Alec Couros has described above, has a very healthy PLN – a Personal, Professional, Passionate Learning Network  – a community of like-minded individuals who might never meet in person, but which challenge, push, share, teach and support each other.


flickr photo shared by mrsdkrebs under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

All of this talk about having a support network sounds nice…but educators are busy people, and you may feel you need more convincing that connecting and developing a PLN is worth the effort. Don’t just take my word for it! Here are some of the wonderful members of my PLN, sharing why they love having a network of teachers and thought-leaders at their fingertips…

why pln

So if you are convinced…or even if you want to give it a go…there are many tools that you can use.
One of the most popular is Twitter, and I have written before on the value of using this tool as a way of making connections with other educators (just click on the link above or on the image below to read the blog post about how to get connected using Twitter).

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by Rosaura Ochoa http://flickr.com/photos/rosauraochoa/3419823308 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 

Of course, Twitter is just one tool; you can build your PLN using Facebook, through subscribing to blogs, by contributing to communities on Google Plus or Diigo, or by connecting with and following curators on Scoopit, Pinterest or Pearltrees. You can choose one or all – the beautiful thing about PLNs is that they are PERSONAL! No one can tell you how best to grow your connections, or which tools will suit you best! You can spend as little or as much time as you like developing your networks, and the flexibility of online PLNs is that they are always accessible – either during working hours, or after hours, whether you are a night person or a morning person, a visual person or a verbal one – you learn the way that suits you best, where it best suits and when.

Hopefully this post has whetted your appetite for exploring the potential of developing your own PLN.

If so, these resources may get you on your way:

2015-05-25_2053

You can also check out my presentation, which I shared at the Edutech Conference in Brisbane in June 2015, (see below) or become part of my PLN – you can follow me on Twitter as KayC28.

PLN using social media

Changing Spaces, Changing Minds – Libraries and Learning Spaces as Places of the Future

Today my colleague and I were fortunate to participate in a workshop run by the passionate and inspiring Liz McGettigan, who is the Director of Digital Experiences at SOLUS. The workshop was entitled Changing Spaces, Changing Minds, and focused on  how to combine the physical with the virtual in public spaces. Although the workshop was aimed at Librarians, and investigated Liz’ and the participants’ experiences in libraries, many of the ideas and concepts could easily be adapted to apply to any learning space.

2015-02-09_1601

Like many institutions, libraries are currently in a state of flux. Whereas once libraries were a fount of knowledge, and librarians the gatekeepers of information, today, everyone has the world’s information in their pocket. So how do libraries (and many would argue schools) remain creative, relevant and sustainable community spaces where rich, real and relevant learning occurs? Just like in Will Richardson’s text Why School? (a extended essay which for $3.10 is a must read for anyone involved in education), Liz challenged us to step away from negative mindsets limited by funding shortages and staff cuts, and instead to embrace a new way of thinking about libraries, which focuses on leadership and vision.

“At a time when the provision of knowledge and culture is increasingly digital and screen-based, the value and importance of high-quality physical spaces and experiences is growing, not diminishing” Roly Keating, CEO British Library.

This quote by Roly Keating set the stage for an important discussion – how to effectively combine the physical and the virtual – to find the right balance so that library is seen not as a dusty remnant of the past, but as a living incubator of ideas, learning and innovation. The clues for how to achieve this are in the strategies employed by the commercial sector – entrepreneurial vision, effective marketing and meeting user needs – indeed, Liz encouraged us to ‘shake of our modesty’ and promote the wonderful work libraries do, and to make sure everyone knows that the library they remember from their childhood is now a completely different space!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

The libraries of yesterday are nothing like the centres of creation and inspiration they are today!

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Super Furry Librarian
creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by The Daring Librarian

Learning Spaces(4)

Here in ResourceLink, we have been working at combining the physical space with the digital for some time. We have re-designed our physical space to create a more open, welcoming atmosphere, with more areas for groups to meet and work, inspired by the work of David Thornburg, Ewan McIntosh, Bruce Mau Design and others as you can see in this infographic I created to the right (click for a larger image):

We have played with Augmented Reality, both as a learning tool and as a way of engaging our users in our displays and resources, which we shared in this blog in the article Bringing Augmented Reality to Life – in the classroom and the workplace

A staff member viewing Rick's video explanation using an iPod touch. Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

A staff member viewing Rick’s video explanation using an iPod touch.
Students using mobile devices to view the past and the future with Augmented Reality

We deliver a hybrid collection of resources, including physical items, digital and online resources through our online catalogue. Indeed, my colleagues and I joke that we would like our library management system to be one day ‘greater than Google!’. We use a range of different tools for information service delivery, including social curation tools such as Pinterest, Diigo and Bag the Web and social catalogues like Library Thing (click these links to see some of our collections).

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

The BCE Digital Library is delivered via our online library catalogue and enables students and staff at all 137 BCE schools to access ebooks and audiobooks.

Additionally, we provide access to e-books and audiobooks using the Overdrive platform, integrated within our library management system. Also included in the catalogue are bibliographic records linking to resources that include online video clips, websites and app reviews. Users may also search and access a selection of alternative providers from within the catalogue. This carefully evaluated and up to date list of alternative providers include Getty Images, Khan Academy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Australian National Library.

In doing so, it is hoped that if no physical item is available to meet the user’s needs, there is a far greater chance that the information the user is seeking will be available via one of these alternative formats or avenues.

makeyWe have also dabbled in Makerspaces, creating kits that schools can borrow so that they can play and learn. The development of these kits was inspired by the work of Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez, and was informed by the best use of our space, and the needs of our users, which are mainly schools. You can read about these kits, and see how we put them together in these blog posts, Resourcing the Maker Movement and  Running a Maker Faire.

With a focus on learning, creating and innovating, ResourceLink also has a production room, where we create many short films working with other members of staff at Brisbane Catholic Education. One of our productions was created to introduce users to our Digital Library collection:

What’s next for ResourceLink? Inspired by Liz McGettigan’s workshop, we hope to venture more fully into the social media space, engaging with our users more regularly in the virtual world, and spending more time developing our knowledge around online learning. We aim to continue developing our content and to work towards truly being an incubator of ideas, inspiration and imagination.

 

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/

Love Your Library on February 14

library lovers displayMove over St Valentine! February 14 is now also known as ‘Library Lovers’ Day’, and to celebrate, this post is all about why everyone should reconnect with the library – be it their school or institution’s library or a nearby public library.

Too often, we librarians hear comments such as ‘who needs libraries when we have Google?’, or, when they hear that one is a librarian, the response ‘so you just spend all day reading and telling people to be quiet!’

Today, more than ever, libraries play an essential role and events such as Library Lovers’ Day aim to raise the profile of the services that most people don’t even realise are freely available to them in this information age.

If, after viewing Pam Sandlian Smith speak, you still aren’t convinced we need libraries in the 21st century, ask yourself this:

What can your library and/or librarian do for you, that Google can’t?

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

photo credit: Enokson via photopin cc

1. Provide access to curated information that specifically meets your needs

Trying to find quality information on the internet has been described as trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. Even choosing a novel to read can be an overwhelming experience when faced with the millions of titles available through providers such as Amazon.

Your library provides access to information and resources that have been carefully curated, chosen because they are of high quality and will meet local needs. What’s more, your librarian has been specifically trained to help you find the information you want; they know tips and tricks for searching online, have access to databases and indexes that allow them to drill down into areas that a simple surface search will not reach, and are familiar with the collection of resources that are currently available.

What’s more, with more resources being available digitally either online or for download, library catalogues are becoming far richer than simply lists of books that are sitting on shelves. The ResourceLink library catalogue  provides access to books, DVDs, CDs and other physical resources, as well as e-books and audio-books to download, links to websites, reviews of apps for installation on mobile devices and more. This movement to seeing the library catalogue as a social space, is being adopted across many libraries.

Librarians take pride in developing rich library catalogues that take users directly to high quality resources; the ten top ‘hits’ on a catalogue are probably much closer to what you need than the ten top ‘hits’ from a simple Google search.

2. Provide access to resources and items which may not be practical to purchase

Not everyone can afford to buy every book they want to read. Educational resources, used once in a classroom, can be difficult to justify, and technology is so expensive that it is often not worth buying something that you just want to play with to see if you like it.

Libraries can come to the rescue! Loaning out expensive items that are often used as a ‘once off’ makes economic sense, and in an age of sustainability also reduces waste. The ResourceLink library is purchasing increasing numbers of kits such as the Despatch Box and realia such as Indigenous and religious artefacts, which schools can borrow for the period of time in which they require these resources. Expensive texts can be borrowed so that teachers can peruse them before making the decision to invest, and DVDs, CDs, puppets and posters are available for effective lessons that involve multimedia, without the need for purchase.

3. Provide a social space to meet, collaborate, research, learn, share, relax!

The library provides one of the last public spaces which is truly free. While some may insist that the stereotypical ‘silent’ library still exists, in most places you will find that libraries provide spaces for meeting, talking, eating, working, studying, playing and more. With great examples of modern libraries here in Brisbane such as our own State Library, The Edge and our wonderful public libraries, we here at ResourceLink are also working towards making our space a welcoming, flexible learning environment. School libraries have long been a place of refuge from the playground for many students, and now, with changing technologies and concepts such as maker spaces becoming common place, libraries are even more exciting places to explore than ever before.

ALIA promotes Library Lovers Day, and this year, they are asking everyone to share why they love their library on social media, using the hashtag #librarylove – and take the time to vote for your favourite library also!

If you haven’t visited your nearest library recently, take the time to drop by. Let’s make it a date!

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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

 

Living ‘appily ever after in the library


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Serge Melki
In education, mobile devices have taken a strong hold – and for good reason. They are less expensive than computers, more portable, and far more responsive for impatient learners who demand instant access. There are thousands of apps designed with an educational focus, and many more productivity and content-creation apps that can be used effectively by students to facilitate and enhance their learning. Like all new technology, apps bring challenges to the school library – the centre in the school for resource and information management.

The library’s resource management role

The school library may be given the responsibility for managing the school’s fleet of mobile devices, and is certainly a natural centre for managing the purchasing of apps. This is an opportunity for the library to develop another area of service for students and teachers, and to reinforce the resource management role of the library.

Managing apps can present challenges, as most mobile devices are designed to be owned and managed by an individual. When managed centrally, creative approaches are needed to ensure the device is set up to meet multiple users’ needs while complying with complex legal limitations.

Identifying apps

It can be overwhelming to keep track of recommendations for app purchases. Time-poor teachers often leave requests until the last moment, or request an app that meets the same needs as one already installed on school devices. One way to manage this is to create an online form that teachers complete in order to request the purchase of apps. You can see an example of such a form here.

Online forms may be embedded into webpages, meaning the request form can be built into the library’s online presence. Using a form such as this controls the flow of app requests, helps teachers to consider why they are requesting the app and how they are going to use it, and also gives library staff time to manage the app purchasing and loading process. Having a set time each week for app loading, and making this clear on the form, should go some way to streamline  requests and ensure apps are ready for lessons.

Cataloguing apps


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Glyn Lowe Photoworks
Once apps are purchased, the next step in effective management is to add these to the library catalogue.  As well as providing access to the range of hard copy resources that are physically stored on the library shelves, the school library catalogue should also be a doorway to a range of carefully curated digital resources, including apps.

By cataloguing apps, librarians are placing into the hands of users a way of finding quality apps that have been evaluated from an educational perspective and which, through the use of metadata, may be linked to other supporting resources and tools. Cataloguing apps also allows librarians to quickly identify whether an app has already been purchased and the device it has been loaded onto, which is an organisational boon for those managing large fleets of devices.

Curating and promoting apps

Of course, there also needs to be an awareness of the range of apps that are available on school devices. It is here that social bookmarking tools such as Pinterest and Pearltrees may be useful. These curation tools create appealing visual displays, and are popularly used by students and teachers to manage information. A Pinterest board of apps related to inquiry learning, for example, is a great way for librarians to advertise apps already purchased, and how they might be used. Similarly, Pearltrees allows for apps to be categorised according to learning area or topic.

Acquiring apps

One of the best things about apps is their relatively low cost. Although a few specialist apps can be expensive, on the whole paid apps range from 99c up to $10. In addition, there are many free apps available, some fully functional, and others as ‘lite’ versions that provide a ‘try before you buy’ experience.

The decision to choose the free or paid version is dependent upon the app. In many cases, choosing the paid version of an app results in a better experience for users. This is for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that, essentially, nothing is really free and, often, free apps are funded with advertising or require ‘in app’ purchases in order to reach full functionality. Secondly, some free apps allow the user to create content, but limit the ways of exporting or sharing the finished product. Other times, the app will watermark the content, or limit the number of times something can be produced.

Even though apps are relatively inexpensive, paying for apps to be installed on multiple devices can quickly increase costs. There is a misconception that one app may be installed on up to five devices; however, this only holds true for personal use, and schools must purchase one app per device. Accessing Apple’s volume licencing goes some way to reducing these costs for those using Apple devices although not all apps are available through this program.

Who manages the purchases of apps, and how they are purchased is also an issue that must be addressed. If apps are being loaded centrally by the library staff, then it makes sense that they should be in charge of purchasing. The budget for these purchases may be centralised, or may form part of the app request process (i.e. teachers must ensure they have enough funds available to purchase apps that they request). Often gift cards are used to remove the need for credit cards, which can add an extra layer of complexity. An added benefit of using gift cards is that these frequently go on sale, allowing users to save up to 20% on the cost of purchase.

Evaluating apps

Evaluation of Apps

Click on this image to download a printable PDF of an evaluation form

Ideally, every app should be carefully evaluated before it is purchased, to ensure the best use of school funds. When evaluating apps, there are three main aspects that must be considered: purpose, design and content, and process.

Quality teaching comes from using apps that are not just chosen because they were recommended, but when teachers recognise the app’s purpose and potential.

 
This includes teachers knowing and being able to articulate:

•    what added value the app brings to the learning context
•    how the app enriches and adds to the pedagogy being used

•    the potential for the app to amplify learning through creation, remixing, publication and sharing
•    a familiarity with where the app sits within Puentedura’s SAMR model and whether or not the app simply automates or substitutes for a traditional learning task, or if it brings about truly informative and transformative learning, that simply could not be achieved any other way. (based on the work of Rosenthal Tolisano, May 27 2012).

The design of the app is hugely important. The app should be intuitive to allow user independence. It should provide a secure and stable platform, with a variety of ways to share the content created. It is also worthwhile to check if student data can be stored, so that if an activity is interrupted partway through, work may be resumed from the same point at a later time. Ideally, the app will also be flexible in use, suitable for a range of learners, or for a range of learning experiences.

 

Finally the content and processes of the app must be evaluated. This evaluation will be dependent upon curriculum requirements, the classroom context and the experience of those working with the app. Criteria such as the authenticity of the learning, the connections to the curriculum and the opportunities for differentiation and personalisation should be considered. Many apps are excellent in providing rapid and effective feedback to learners, and allow learners to be creative and self-directed in problem solving.

There are many checklists and rubrics available online to guide this evaluation (some are available here). Schools may find that it is best to create individualised criteria, to reflect unique school needs and requirements. One of the best ways of managing the information gathered from this evaluation process is to use an online form, so that evaluations are collected in the form of a spreadsheet that all users may access. An example may be seen here.

e-reading vs apps

Another way libraries are using mobile devices is as e-readers. The distinction between an e-book, an e-audiobook and an app is becoming increasingly blurred, and an app may provide another way of engaging a reader. While there is some evidence to suggest students are growing to prefer e-readers to traditional books (Bosman, 2011 and Indiana State University, 2013), there is still a place for a physical collection. The decision to offer e-books and audio books via mobile devices is one that libraries might make as a way of meeting the needs of many different types of learner, and to offer a variety of avenues to access information. The evolution of e-books in the library space is one that demands close observation, and cannot be ignored by librarians who are operating at the cutting edge of this area.

Libraries are always being challenged to take on new and innovative ways of delivering information and resources to their patrons. Effective management of mobile devices and apps takes forward planning, but the benefits of having a well-organised and centralised system for evaluating, purchasing, cataloguing and loading apps will result in a service that is appreciated by all members of the school community.

References:

Bosman, J. (2011). E-readers catch younger eyes and go in backpacks. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://173.201.102.115/eslefl/miscstudent/downloadpagearticles/untitled5.pdf

Indiana State University. (2013, May 24). Research Shows Students Perform Well Regardless of Reading Print or Digital Books. Newswise. Retrieved June 5, 2013, from http://www.newswise.com/articles/research-shows-students-perform-well-regardless-of-reading-print-or-digital-books2

 

This article was originally published in SCIS Connections, Issue 86.

You can view it online here:

http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_86/articles/living_appily_ever_after_in_the_library.html