Reinventing our Library space – what did we do?

Tomorrow, I return to work. It’s an early start for me, and that’s because the new library that has been under construction is completed. It’s very exciting and something I have alluded to over the last year. Our library, and the staff who work in it, have been located in temporary accommodation for the past twelve months so we are very much looking forward to moving into a spacious environment where we can realise some initiatives we have planned for the 2011 school year. I haven’t written a post outlining the process we underwent planning this construction, and I thought it might be useful for anyone facing either remodeling or building from the ground up.

Our original brief was to remodel an existing building, but the eventual outcome was the demolition of our old library, and the construction of a new building on the same site. We had very little time in the planning stages to come up with a design, but after working in a library that had functional issues, I was already convinced of the changes we needed to implement to make for a more functional space that would meet the needs of our learners, and the people who work in the building.

Our old library had already seen a change in usage as a result of changing seating options. Over a two year period we invested funds into couches and cushions, and we strategically placed them in and around traditional table and chair configurations. What we saw was an almost gravitational pull towards the new seating options. Classes that were booked in would float to those spaces rather than the traditional areas. At recess and lunch breaks those spaces were fully occupied with students working on their laptops, reading and talking. We also had become more flexible about eating arrangements. I know this will not suit many, but we allowed our students to eat in the library, provided they were respectful and cleaned up after themselves. I have always struggled with break periods like lunchtime, and restricting student use of the library until they have finished lunch. For many students, the library is a refuge, the one space in the school that is always supervised and can provide them with a place to belong. Those kids need the library, and eating lunch by yourself can be a very solitary pursuit. At least in the library they are in a group atmosphere. I think it helps them. I’m not sure how we will approach eating in this new space. My feeling is that we will be very precious about it to start with, and probably will ask students to eat before they come in, but I feel we will need to gauge this and see how our ‘refuge’ students react.

We had always struggled with poor design that meant our workroom was located well away from the main traffic areas. It led to a dislocation of staff and an inability for some staff to see when times were busy and more hands were needed on deck. We made sure in our new design that our workroom was centrally located with visibility to all parts of the library. The reality of any library is that we are service providers in our school; students and staff needs come before all else, and we need to be responsive.

I’ve included a floorplan of the new library below. I used an online program called Floorplanner to help me insert furniture, and I used Jing for the annotations. The furniture is not necessarily as it will appear in the new space and there may well not be all of it either. It will very much depend on what the space looks like when we walk into it! The picture below was my thinking based on what we envisaged might be possible. We have tried to put most of our non-fiction shelving along a wall, so that it doesn’t compromise what could be a learning space, but we have found that we will have to have some shelving spreading  into a learning space. The ‘snake lounge’ as I’ve called it, is actually a very large piece of furniture that will be the defining piece of the large library space. I can’t wait until it’s installed- it’s going to be a stand out piece. It won’t be in until mid Feb at this stage. I’m excited about the portable IWBs that we will have in the space (there will be three of them) because we intend to allow student use of these. I’m interested to see what use they make of them.

Right throughout the flooring are floorboxes containing data and power for students to power up devices. This was a crucial part of the design process- there are not many desktop computers- they exist only in the multimedia lab. Our students bring their own laptops to school and we provide netbooks (and iPads as of this year) for student use within the library if their device is not working.We are a wireless networked environment, but we have factored data points for cabled connection into the floorboxes for moments when the wireless may be down.

Another exciting addition is the presentation space. It’s a room off the fiction/reading /relaxation space that has  three rows of tiered seating – a reverse amphitheatre type arrangement. All of the tiers have power outlets within them, so that our students can lounge there and plug their devices in when necessary. We envisage teachers will book this space for presentations and will be using one of the portable IWBs that can be rolled in to allow students to hook up their computers.

The conference room at the front of the very large learning commons type space is exciting too. It has doors that can be remotely closed making it a self contained space. It will have a data projector and very large screen installed for presentations. If your school is anything like mine, you will know how hard it can be to facilitate large groups like a year level for a presentation. We think this room is going to see a lot of traffic, and we are planning flexible seating arrangements so that it can be reconfigured to meet changing needs quickly.

We will be sharing the space with our IT Department and this will be located in the back of the building. Both the library and IT department welcome this. We work very closely together facilitating technology needs of our students, and a closer physical working arrangement is going to be an added bonus.

We won’t have all of our furniture installed from the start of the school year. It will be a partial fit out to start with but we envisage the place to be totally functional from May. It’s going to be a bit messy and very busy for the start of the year, but it’s going to be exciting too. I’ll post some pictures of the completed building in the coming days.

Our Library- close to end of construction

Busy days ahead!

School’s out Friday

It’s actually Christmas morning here (1.36am to be precise!), but it’s still Friday in parts of the world so I’m feeling justified, if not a little bit crazy, for getting School’s out Friday out at this time. This is North Point Community Church’s iBand, playing Christmas tunes using iPads and iPhones. Just imagine if a group of kids could do something like this for a school music concert. There’s another thing to dwell on for the 2011 school year! Thanks Allanah for sending me this link tonight. You saved me a lot time searching for something. : )

Christmas Eve party is over, dishes are done, presents are wrapped. Time for bed methinks!

Merry Christmas to you all, loyal readers, whoever you are. Hope you have a wonderful holiday season. : )

ISTE 2010 reflection

ISTE 2010. So, what were my impressions. In a word, big. Really big. Probably overwhelmingly big. The scale of a conference this size (17,000 or so attendees!) really is hard to comprehend from the outside, and difficult to comprehend from the inside too. There are acres of people and it’s a struggle to get into sessions. I was shut out from quite a few I wanted to attend as were countless others. You weren’t allowed to sit on the floor to get into full sessions, although this was relaxed in a couple of rooms where the numbers occupying floor space were too many to usher out.

You need to be organised, and I have to confess, I wasn’t. I’d been occupied with reports and end of term happenings, and then spent the time before I left getting the MICDS and ISTE presentation organised. I didn’t give myself time to study the conference program, and I should have. Note to self: do this before attempting a conference of these diminsions should you ever attend another one.

Edubloggercon: A great day, and a nice way to start a conference like this. Steve Hargadon chairs the day, but sessions are determined by participants. There was a session about the changes/monetisation of Ning networks. A representative from Pearson publishing was present to discuss the free networks that are only available to North American educators. I don’t think he was expecting to see an international presence there. Both myself and Julie Lindsay (who teaches in an international school in Beijing), expressed our concerns about the lack of support for teachers outside of North America. To his credit, the representative has sent on our concerns to Pearson and has said he will remain in email contact. Let’s wait and see. Interestingly, Adam Frey from Wikispaces sat in on the discussion. I use Wikispaces all the time, and appreciate the support they give to educators with their product. He spoke to me at the end of the session and said he’d talk with Ning about the concerns we were raising. I hope he does so.

Lots of discussion at Edubloggercon about the iPad and it’s usefulness as a device for schools to consider. There were people there talking of it becoming their 1:1 computing device and a lot of push back saying that it doesn’t have the ability to be a creation tool. It seems that people are relying on the developer community to create apps that are going to make the iPad more adaptable to the needs of students. Many people spoke of the benefits of the battery life. I can attest to this. I took an iPad with me to the conference and was amazed that I could use the device all day without having to look for a power outlet to recharge. I was anticipating that I’d use it rather than my laptop. It’s great as a web surfing device and handling email, but I was hoping to be able to edit Google Docs along the way and take notes that I could access from my Mac later. I was really surprised to see that I could access my Google Docs, but I couldn’t edit them. Talking with conference participants throughout the coming days, it seems that an app called Office HD for $7.99 is something that can allow you to edit your documents. People were pretty happy with how it works, but reviews on the App site suggest there are some problems with it crashing.

The best session for me at Edubloggercon was run by Monika Hardy and her students from Loveland, Colorado. They are doing great things at their school with an innovationlab project they are running from August onwards. Students will have time in their school day to explore the things they are passionate about and will be using whatever tools they need to get their message out there and contacts made. The students were inspiring to listen to. They are in good hands with Monika; she is a passionate educator who wants to do the best for her students. She is enacting in her school what many people talk of doing. Keep tabs on Monika’s progress. I would love to see my school make some connections with this program and do a similar thing.

Dean Groom ran a session about how you go about creating an iPhone/iPad app. It was very well attended and Dean presented in a no nonsense way how you access free code out there (and something called The Kitchen sink!) to assist in creating a app for the iTunes store. He made it sound achievable. It got me thinking that something like this would be a great inquiry week project for the students at my school. I’m going to need to find time to immerse myself in the process first to see if I can get somewhere with it so that I can support the students with their learning. Hmmnn…wondering when I’ll be able to manage that!

The Conference itself: There’s a bit of ‘Razzle Dazzle’ at a conference like this. Keynote presenters are introduced with a band playing music that doesn’t always coincide with the message being transferred. In Australia, we just clap. I found myself in a couple of sessions where speakers were evangelical in their ‘call to action’. I found it a little ‘full on’; maybe it’s a cultural thing. I haven’t been to conferences here in Australia that are like this. Early in the peace, David Warlick was asking how this conference differs from Australia. I said I felt like I was at Disneyland; I felt like I was being entertained. (I feel a need to explain this; I’ve noted David has indicated ‘ISTE as Disneyland for teachers’ as a possible post and I presume he is referring to my comment). Please don’t take this the wrong way; the presenters were relaying important messages that educators should be listening to, it’s just that it was full on, and maybe that’s just their style of presenting. And that comment was based on a microcosm of the conference; at that stage I’d only attended the Keynote and a couple of sessions. Let me preface that as well by saying the the keynote speaker was not providing ‘entertainment’, but the opening music on his entry was!

It’s probably a reflection of the sessions I chose to attend (and being a Teacher-Librarian you won’t be surprised) but there was a strong message coming through that we need to focus strongly on digital literacy skills and understandings. Howard Rheingold had the best term that I’d love to be using at school, but I can imagine some would feel it inappropriate. He calls it ‘The Art of Crap Detection 101″. Thankfully, you can view this presentation online.  (and you can visit here, to see other presentations ISTE has released for public viewing) I missed it as I was involved in my poster session while it was being delivered. Howard seems to have partnered up with Microsoft, who have created a very useful guide for teachers called ‘Critical Thinking in the Classroom‘ that you can download as a PDF. You can also access lesson plans and handouts from the site. They have worked closely with American Teacher-Librarians  and students in the process of creating this, and it looks useful. Some of their examples are US centric, and I brought this up in the session. They acknowledged that they do need need to put on a Global hat when they are creating resources like this so that they can be useful everywhere, in all school systems. The session made me think more about using Bing with my students; it looks like they are doing some interesting things in their labs.

It was great having the opportunity to catch up with Joyce Valenza again at this conference. Joyce is visiting Melbourne in July and is presenting for SLAV. I would encourage you to send your staff along, and not just your Teacher-Librarians. Joyce is a dynamic presenter who has a raft of advice to offer about how you integrate new ideas into teaching and learning.I was able to help with the backchannel at the ‘Learning Tools Smackdown‘ that was hosted by SIGMS (Special interest group Media Specialists). The wiki supporting this session is a fabulous resource, as is the Twitter hastag #SIGMS where you will find the resources referenced collated as live links. It was really wonderful seeing Teacher-Librarians and Ed Tech integrators sharing what works for them in their schools. All of the presenters had put so much effort into the wikipages they have created. I can see this being a very useful resource to take back to my staff.

And that brings me to probably the most valuable resource at this conference. Twitter hashtags. Whether you were there in person or attending virtually, the hashtags supporting the conference are a veritable mine of information that can act as your professional development opportunity in the coming weeks. Hashtags to search via Twitter include #iste2010 and #iste10. You should also check out the Diigo group, ISTE 2010; many educators have been adding links there that you will find useful. One of the problems with any conference is that you are just one person and you can’t go to everything. Being able to access information post-conference like is invaluable.

I had a great time meeting people from my online community. Some I’d met before, and some were people I was meeting for the first time. Meeting Jeff Agamenoni was a highlight. Jeff is such a nice guy, both online and in person. I shared a really fun night out with Jeff, his family and Dean Groom. Thanks for your hospitality Jeff and Joanie, and for driving me back to my dodgy accomodation! I shared a great conversation and was so pleased to meet Richard Byrne who writes ‘Free Technology for Teachers’. Richard’s a very nice guy who is doing great work to support the teaching community across the world. I really enjoyed catching up with my PLP friends, Sheryl Nussbaum Beach, Will Richardson and Robyn Ellis . Once again, thanks Sheryl for your hospitality.

Sue Waters and Frances McLean were rocks for me. I loved sharing time shopping, eating and laughing with them. Frances and I even managed to see Toy Story 3 together! Dean Groom, Judy O’Connell and June Wall were also fun companions to be around. Thanks for sharing time with me. I do think we all tend to gravitate to one another because we’re Australian; you look for the common thread in unfamiliar surroundings, and the accent and shared understandings are connective glue.

I ran a poster session on the last day of the conference. I wasn’t too sure about the format, but it was worthwhile. I spoke to many people who were interested in applying Ning environments to their school settings and who seemed to appreciate the fact that I’d embedded the presentation into a wiki and had added a voiceover to help them with their understanding. Hopefully people elsewhere will find it useful too.

Denver is a beautiful place, and a conference like ISTE is incredible. It’s an experience to be had, that’s for sure!

Aha! Publishers respond to changing trends. But when will we see files borrowed from libraries?

The UK branch of Dorling Kindersley presented this at a sales conference, but decided to release it publicly after the response they received internally. They commissioned Khaki films to produce it and you can read about the process on the Penguin Blog (USA).

I see young people at my school continuing to read voraciously. Not all of them obviously, but we do have readers who go through five or more novels a week. One of our challenges is to keep the new fiction up to their requirements! We have three Kindles, and will begin lending them out for a week at a time next term. We’ve decided to not invest in more of them and are awaiting the release of the iPad to see how that looks. But really, the reader device is not our big issue. I don’t see us purchasing these devices in bulk and borrowing them out. I see our clientele having a device (their own computers can fulfill this purpose!) and we as a library lending out a file.

Our big issue is, how is the publishing industry going to respond to the rollout of a device like the iPad, and how will we as Libraries be involved? My personal opinion is that I think the iPad is going to be the start of the revolution that will see an ereader device have a major impact on the way people read. But the tricky question for libraries will be, how do we become a part of that revolution??

Unless I’ve missed something somewhere, I’m not seeing this essential question being answered in the networks I inhabit or by the publishing industry. I did discuss it with the developer of the library system we have just moved to, and he was talking about having the ability to encrypt files so that they could be transferred to a device, but they would only remain on the device for a two week period. When that time was up, they would once again appear as a file available for borrowing. Now that made sense to me; in fact, it was the first time someone had presented an idea that I thought was even feasible.

The same issue relates to audiobooks. One of our students had a wonderful conversation with me last week about the great things she can access on iTunes. She’s not an able reader, and her mother had suggested she download the audio version of the text they are studying at Year 10 to her iPhone. She has been listening to it on the bus on the way to school and was telling me how she was now able to understand and contribute to class discussion. This was just wonderful; I was so thrilled for her because I know she struggles with English classes. She suggested that we download the book and share it with students. I had to explain to her that we would have to ensure that we loaned it out as a file, but only one student at a time could access it because of copyright considerations. Now, how do we go about doing just that? How do we ensure that the file we loan isn’t copied and transferred to someone else? How do we enable producers of content to receive their rightful royalties for the work they have produced?

Are there answers out there to these questions? If there are, point me in the right direction, because I want to make my library relevant to the kids we teach. I want to see them able to borrow files like these and not have to fork out money to pay for everything they want to read on an ereader or listen to on an iPod or other MP3 device. I want my library to fulfill the function libraries have been performing for the last century or so; ensuring access to information.

The way information is accessible is changing; the way Libraries lend content will change with these new ways of receiving information. Let’s work out how we’re going to go about doing it.

School’s out Friday

Busy day here for me. I’m in Philadelphia and about to go and sign up for Educon, the real purpose of my visit to the United States. Then it’s off to do a bit of sightseeing before things kick off tonight.

Thought you might be interested in this review of the iPad, Apple’s new offering, that I think is going to blow the Kindle and other ebook readers out of the market. I may be wrong, but the touch screen, and the fact that it offers so many more features, the best of which is internet browsing enabling you to leap from your newspaper to other links, seems to me to be reason enough to purchase an iPad as opposed to a Kindle.

I’m so tired right now. Think all of this traveling is catching up with me! I’ll have to find some reserves of energy so that I can keep up with the discussions taking place this weekend. I’ll keep you posted.

Enjoy your weekend. If you’re in Australia, enjoy the warm weather. Philadelphia is freezing!!