Mary Manning- a beacon in the Teacher-Librarianship world

I’ve just returned from a dinner meeting of our local SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria) group. Mary Manning was our guest speaker. She was talking about library spaces and design and was making reference to Susan La Marca’s book ‘Rethink’. But she was doing so much more than just that and I don’t know if she knew it.

Mary is an engaging and ‘real’ person.  She’s the kind of person you feel comfortable around, and that’s a compliment. Mary speaks from the heart and makes you feel comfortable about the direction Teacher-Librarianship is headed in. At least, I felt comfortable about it, I can’t speak for all. She provides the wake up call we all need. The understanding that we have to be proactive and move with where education is heading and our libraries have to reflect this in all ways. Our spaces need to be comfortable and inviting; let’s face it, with so many online resources who needs to visit the library for research purposes? I love the Chip and Dan Heath term, ‘sticky’. We have to make our libraries sticky so that people want to be engaged with the learning we can help to provide. We are trying to do this with connective activities that make our kids feel positive about the library environment. Comfy couches, knitting, quizzes, Book Club. We’ve even got our interactive whiteboard hooked up to TV reception so that the Olympic games can be viewed by our students over the coming two weeks. I have a wonderful staff who work hard to enable so many of these activities to happen. (I even have a wonderful Mum, experienced knitter Barbara, who has been coming in over the last couple of weeks to help our girls learn the finer points about knitting!)  

Much of Mary’s talk tonight was laced with the need to respond to technology and how it can help to transform learning. SLAV have been running the 23 things program with Library staff around Victoria and are going a long way towards helping make the shift happen in our schools.  I had an engaging conversation after the event with teachers about Powerful Learning Practice, the initiative developed by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson that I am helping with here in Australia. We are setting up a global cohort and Australian Schools will be involved. These teachers could understand the capacity building model this program offers. It’s like the extension of the 23 things program; it offers teachers the opportunity to become immersed into learning communities, enabling connections and transformative learning opportunities for students. They were excited by it and so am I. I feel a bit like an evangelist right now – I’m so excited by the possibilities and want everyone else to catch the fever! I realise it’s going to take time, but with people like Mary speaking to Teacher-Librarian groups in Victoria, we’re headed in the right direction.

Passing the time with Sheryl, Chris, Wes, Kevin and Dean.

I’m frightened I’m going to sound like a braggart in this post but I’m pretty darn chuffed about being a guest panelist for Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s workshop in West New York State on Wednesday night last week (my time 11.00pm to be exact!). Been so busy haven’t had a chance to write about it. Sheryl asked me to join a panel to discuss inquiry and project based learning utilising Web 2.0. The intention was to highlight that Web 2.0 tools are not to be taught in isolation. They need to be integrated into meaningful authentic learning tasks where they can take students to new places with their learning.

When Sheryl sent me the link to the wiki I was amazed to see who else was on the panel. Chris Lehmann, Wes Fryer, Kevin Honeycutt and Australia’s own Dean Groom (an expert in Project based learning using Web 2.0 as the driving force behind creation of tasks). Such illustrious company for little old me to be involved with. The session was for educators from West New York (State) near Buffalo. It was held using elluminate. I could see the names of the participants but couldn’t see or hear them. They could see who was speaking as we enabled our webcams to be accessed. It was a fantastic opportunity to share my experiences with people in the United States and let them know what a transformative experience it has been for me writing this blog. I was able to share with them how making connections has enabled my students to have experiences wider than the classroom walls we habitate.

You could hear the passion for the idea of Learning 2.0 from Chris, Wes, Kevin and Dean. I think it was obvious that all of us were student focused in our belief that it is transformative adopting new technologies to transform learning experiences for the students we have dealings with. I hope the participants got a sense of this and that they reach out like we have done to make connections for their students. Sheryl recorded the session so when I find out where the link is to that I’ll post it.

I’ve been involved in helping to establish the Australian arm of a global cohort for Sheryl and Will Richardson’s Powerful Learning Practice. I see it as a means of increasing the capacity of our teachers to move with change and see the potential of Learning 2.0/Web 2.0 for their classroom practice. We’re still seeking a couple of schools so if you’re an Australian educator and want some detail contact me through this blog and I’ll pass on some info.  

Thanks Sheryl for the invite. It made my week.

Laura Stockman – inspiring others across the waves.

Sunday morning I was grazing through my Google reader, kicking back and hoping I’d find something that would inspire me to write. I found something better than that, I found something that inspired me to act. 

I checked out Will Richardson’s latest post and discovered Laura Stockman, an 11yr old from New York who has been writing a blog called Twenty five days to make a difference.  Laura’s mother Angela was involved with Will and Sheryl Nussbaum Beach’s PLP cohort and Laura was inspired to write a blog as a result of this. Her blog was written in honour of her grandfather and Laura has set about performing good deeds with the resulting donations going toward charity.  Laura’s blog has moved beyond the initial 25 day target, largely because Laura has felt empowered by what this experience has meant for her.

Angela has written a very moving post about Laura’s presentation to the PLP cohort last week. Here’s what she said about her discussion with Laura when she decided to continue beyond 25 days;

You know, when Laura decided her blog was going to be more than a twenty five day experience, I questioned her decision.

“There are all sorts of things that we haven’t thought about. This is going to require a ton of effort on your part. It’s going to require a huge commitment,” I said. “It might not work.”

“Oh, it’ll work fine,” she told me. “It’ll work because I want it to work. “

Laura gets it. She already knows that it’s self motivation and belief that can drive you forward. Some of us don’t get this until we’ve had a fair bit of life experience, if we ever get it at all. Here’s an 11 yr old teaching us how to navigate life.

I went to Laura’s blog and read through quite a bit of it. I was so impressed by the essential good in what she was doing. She wasn’t raising millions, but she was performing simple, honest tasks that were contributing to the greater good. She’d recently Skyped into a classroom in Florida and was disappointed that the kids couldn’t see her as she didn’t have a webcam.  In a blog post that followed she recounted how Skype had sent her a webcam so that others would be able to see her when she made calls. She posed this question in her post;

Is anyone else out there interested in doing this? I really enjoy blogging and Skyping about blogging and ways that kids can make a difference. This is really cool. 

This was my answer;

Hi Laura,
The students at my school in Melbourne, Australia would love to have you Skype into our classroom. Time differences between our countries is a bit of a problem. It may well be you would have to Skype in in the evening. If you are interested you can email me at jenny.luca1@gmail.com. We raise money for local and international charities at the end of our school year and your story would be inspirational for them.

Laura replied with enthusism;

Hi Ms. Luca!

I would LOVE to do a skype chat with you! My dad and mom are really excited about this too! I’ve never met anyone from Australia before! I can definitely do this in the evening. Please just let me know what works for you and your class. Thank you so much for this invitation!!!!

My class is responding with just as much enthusiasm as Laura. They’re posting comments on her blog and already we’ve been discussing what we can do to help Laura and her charitable efforts. She is going to Skype into our classroom next Wednesday morning our time (evening her time) and my class can hardly wait. Already Laura ia extending her reach globally and her 25 days project looks set to ignite action all the way to Australia.

I’ve been in email contact with Angela and we both feel that this has potential to become a global project. Will’s post has drawn people to Laura’s blog, and other educators from differing countries are keen to learn from Laura. Maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to work together to make an impact for a global cause. What a potential learning experience for our students this could be. Angela’s words from her post are important here;

If I’ve learned nothing else this year, it’s been precisely that: when we are truly committed to making something happen, it happens. It doesn’t matter who or what might be standing in our way. If the goal means something to us in the end, we don’t let our fear or our lack of resources or the politics of a situation or our bruised egos stand in the way. We just make things work. Because it matters, this work that we do, and it’s bigger than the credit that anyone could receive or the mistakes that might be made along the way.

What an amazing affirmation for a young girl with a desire to make a difference in honour of her grandfather.   

Thanks Laura. You are an inspiration. 

School’s out Friday

Are you looking forward to the weekend? Do you need something to lighten your spirits at the end of a tiring working week? I do. Especially after staying up until 1.30am last night watching Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s keynote address at a conference in the US via ustream. You’ve got to love the fact that you can do PD these days from the comfort of your own bed! Loved the backchannel discussion as well – a great way to establish networks. 

Time for the fun. Home grown aussie talent this time. A couple of weeks ago I featured an Australian comedy program, The Chaser’s War on Everthing, and their Life is a Musical routine in a Bunnings store. Today’s post is from Joel Gilmore, who very cleverly chased the chasers and enacted his own ‘Life is a Musical’ routine at a book signing the Chaser’s team were appearing at. Funny stuff. Thanks for the laugh Joel.