Planes, Trains and Conferences Part II – SLAQ 2012 and SLAV Global eLiteracy

Well, a plane did get me to sunny Cairns, and there was a conference there, but no sign of any trains! Like I said in my ISTE post, it sounded like a good name for a blog post!

If you’re going to present at a conference in Australia in July, there’s no nicer place than Cairns to do so. The weather is just wonderful there at this time of year. A stark contrast to the southern states. It wasn’t just the weather that made this conference such a wonderful experience; there were a wonderful group of women behind the scenes organising the SLAQ 2012 Biennial Conference who made me feel very welcome and really looked after me up there. I’d like to thank all of you for such care and consideration.

My presentation was well received and you can view it on the wikispace I maintain. Essentially, my message was that as Teacher-Librarians we need to recognise the opportunities that exist now to cement our positions in schools. We can do this well if we respond positively to change and skill ourselves to a level that will enable us to support the Australian Curriculum. I outlined the steps the library team have taken at Toorak College to try and ensure that our students will leave our school with a skill set that prepares them for the knowledge economy they are entering.

I shared the work our library staff have done on an Information Fluency Program to support the development of skills. We’re not suggesting this scope and sequence document is perfect, but we do think it provides a framework for moving closer to providing opportunities within curriculum to address the General Capabilities and give our students (and teachers) the chance to develop their skills. We consulted with our Principal, Mrs. Helen Carmody, who agreed to share this work under a Creative Commons attribution, share alike, non-commercial licence. This has been done in the spirit of sharing, acknowledging that our profession should be supportive of one another and embrace some of the ideals expressed in Australian Curriculum documentation. This program can be accessed by clicking here. Please be mindful of the terms of the licence should you choose to use it within your school setting.

Mandy Lupton, from Queensland University of Technology, presented a really interesting session about Inquiry Learning and the role of the Teacher-Librarian in helping to facilitate this in their schools. Mandy has just launched a blog called ‘Inquiry Learning and Information Literacy‘ to share her research and learning with others. I recommend you take a look and start to find ways you can apply this thinking to curriculum in your schools.

It was a great conference. I met many committed Teacher-Librarians open to ideas and I hope to forge many ongoing connections from this experience in Cairns.

My message was very similar at the School Library of Victoria Conference held at the MCG last Friday. (The presentation is embedded here.) Again, the audience was receptive, or seemed to be at least. You never really know when you’re presenting, unless people tell you otherwise. I can only base things on the feedback I received, and that was positive. The Bright Ideas Blog compiled a Storify of tweets from the day that includes many links to presentations and resources shared on the day. Judy O’Connell, from Charles Sturt University, keynoted the day with a presentation entitled ‘Leading the Learning Revolution‘ looking at what’s on the scene and what we need to be looking out for in the digital landscape. Judy also launched the site at the conference. The site has been established to provide tools, resources and connections for information professionals in Australian schools and beyond. One to keep your eye on.

There was a sharing session at the conference where people led participants to an understanding of tools they might not otherwise had a chance to experience. Although it was hectic, it was rewarding for participants. I led the groups interested in Storify, and others discussed wikis, twitter, screencasting, facebook, eBook authoring, and quite a few others. After lunch, John Pearce discussed iPad apps, Di Ruffles outlined Libguides, Cam Hocking talked about the value of Personal Learning Networks and David Feighan talked about strategies for placing your library in a positive position in your school. All great presentations that advanced the knowledge base of participants.

There’s no rest for the wicked. Later this week I’m off to Coffs Harbour to deliver a Keynote address at the Teacher Education Dialogue Conference being held at Southern Cross University.  A different kind of audience for me this time. Should be very interesting. I’ll keep you posted.


Liana’s second guest post – The Sustainable Table

Liana Gooch teaches at Toorak College with me and is one of the hardest working people I know. She was part of our PLP group and has really tried to embrace new technologies into her teaching practice. She holds the position of Academic Enhancement Coordinator, and goes out of her way to try to create interesting learnng opportunities for the students at our school. I asked Liana to share with you the inquiry project she ran at the end of last year with our Yr 8 students. It was called ‘The Sustainable Table’ and I can vouch for the fact that it had our students immersed in a learning experience in the final days of the school year (and we all know how hard it can be to hold their attention at that time, when reports are written and there are no assessment tasks to complete!). This is Liana’s second guest post; it’s wonderful having a colleague willing to share her work with others.

So, take it away Liana!

The Sustainable Table – creating a recipe for the future

It may not be so apparent but your dinner table is the reflection of how well you apply the sustainability of food resources.  Have you ever wondered how far that apple that you’re eating has travelled or felt guilty about the amount of food we waste?

The two questions above were just part of the collection of thoughts Year 8 students at Toorak College have considered over the last two years in the highly successful inquiry ‘What does the sustainable table look like’?

Motivated by the global food shortages and related price hikes in 2008 which saw desperate people in developing countries such as Haiti resort to rioting, we were keen to develop an inquiry which not only informed students but developed some practical strategies which they could apply to their own lives.  There were two key objectives of the inquiry:

– How can we shift our students’ awareness and understanding of sustainability as being a practice not just being observed at a global or national level, but one that can occur in their individual lives as simple as changing some of their practices in the kitchen?

– Just as important, how could we as teachers ensure our delivery of the concept of sustainability is both inspirational and engaging so that students would be keen to adopt these practices from a young age?

The answer came in the form of an inquiry which would culminate in a sustainable afternoon tea which would not only demonstrate the students’ understanding and application of sustainable cooking practices for their guests, but would create an innovative platform for them to inform the wider school community about their findings.

The inquiry involved a successful partnership between several disciplines – Food Technology, Humanities, English and Science.  In the past we had conducted many inquiries between English, Humanities and Science so it was exciting to bring Food Technology on board. We wanted a project which students could get their teeth into, and the work conducted on cooking sustainably in Food Technology classes proved a perfect stage to initiate the project, and then merge with the concept of sustainability from a Humanities perspective. Students had been working with Giselle Wilkinson’s book ‘The Conscious Cook’ which provided students with  a range of insightful and practical approaches, ideas and recipes to assist with becoming more sustainable in the kitchen.  Students have been extremely fortunate to have had Giselle Wilkinson present ideas about food sustainability in the launch of the inquiry. Students acquired formal writing skills in their English classes in the preparation of invitation for guests to attend a sustainable afternoon tea.  During the introduction, a Science teacher explored the idea of food wastage experienced from paddock to plate.

Blended through this project was the commitment to the Toorak Attributes in which students were developing and demonstrating the ability to become more Community minded and Communicative and Innovative in their inquiry work.

Running over two days, students were initially exposed to a variety of ideas which they would then explore through their own inquiry depending on their choice of topic.

  • There are different cultural attitudes towards the choices of food we make.
    • The choices of food and cooking methods we apply can have a huge environmental impact
    • There are some sustainable choices to be made related to cooking which can reduce their environmental footprint.
    • There are a number of issues related to social and environmental sustainability and food.
    • Individual small actions can still make a huge contribution to sustainability.

Some examples of topics explored by students were: genetically modified food, feeding the world, food miles, fair trade, animal rights, food waste, pesticides, water sustainability, greenhouse warming.

Students became enthused about their inquiry upon discovering what their task entailed over the two days:

  • The preparation of an annotated page of recipes for a recipe book to inform people about strategies to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle in the kitchen.
  • The creation of a placemat related to their inquiry to inform people about sustainability and food.
  • The organisation and preparation an afternoon tea which is composed of sustainable snacks made by the students.
  • Preparation of an oral presentation about aspects of their inquiry to their guests.
  • The development of an appreciation for sustainability.
  • The development of literacy and communicative skills.

The scope for developing leadership and communicative skills was enormous. Each group had to work industriously and creatively to not only inquire about their topic but also to prepare invitations, recipes, place mats, an oral presentation as well as a themed table setting (following a demonstration by the Food Technology teacher of some creative and innovative approaches). Careful consideration had to be taken in the selection of their materials used for their table setting and meals.

The morning of the afternoon tea saw students cooking up a storm of activity. The rooms were filled with an array of inquiry products receiving finishing touches, coloured serviettes, clattering trays, food goods being transported to kitchens, flower arrangements and fluttering tablecloths.

The fruits of the students’ labour could be seen in the form of some inspiring presentations and products created for their inquiry. A real sense of achievement was sensed as guests wandered around the room and was seated to enjoy their afternoon tea while learning about sustainability.  Finally, the students were able to take a copy of all of the groups’ annotated recipes to continue applying the concept of sustainable living in the kitchen at home.

All in all, both students and teachers thoroughly enjoyed this engaging and thoroughly practical experiential approach to inquiry.

I hope you can see the effort and commitment shared by everyone involved in this project; teachers and students alike. Perhaps you can take some of this and adapt it for your own school. Liana would love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment if you can. : )

School’s out Friday

This is ‘Lost Generation’, and it was second place getter in the ARRP U@50 competition. According to its creator, it is based on the Argentinian Political Advertisement “The Truth” by RECREAR.     

My friend Nina discovered it a couple of weeks ago and uploaded it to Working together 2 make a difference. (Which, by the way, is starting to take off. I am really excited by the activity and service learning projects that are forming there. Please take a look and get involved if you think it might be good for your students.)

This week my husband dicovered it and suggested it for School’s out Friday. It’s very clever, and excellent for class discussion I think. I’ve uploaded it to our Yr 9 ning  and am hoping to use it in class next week. Those of you who teach young people will know, like I do, that they majority of them reflect the representation depicted in the second stage of the video. 

While you’re at it, check out Nina’s blog. She’s two months in, has received a swag of hits and is making connections for her prep students. All really good stuff.

 Hope the weekend treats you well.

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