School’s out Friday

They’ve done it again. Another very funny video from the improveverywhere crew. This is ‘Where’s Rob‘, and it demonstrates how people can band together to get behind a common cause. Rob was the cause in question. It was improveverywhere’s cause to get people to notice that Rob couldn’t find his seat, and it became the crowds’ cause to get Rob back to his seat. Very funny stuff.

My exciting news is that I am going to be in New York in late January and then head to Philadelphia to Educon 2.2, thanks to SLAV and the money that came with the John Ward Award! I’ve actually left a comment on the improveverywhere blog asking if they can do a mission during the time I am there so that I can participate. I’ve even offered to be the subject of the prank! People who know me, know that it is a dream of mine to get to New York. Well, I’m going to fulfill that dream and would be so thrilled if I could fulfill another dream and participate in an improveverywhere mission. So, Charlie Todd, if you’re listening, I’m more than game!

Correction’s all done, reports are finished, might even get time to write a few long overdue blog posts.  Or maybe the house will finally get some much needed attention!

Whatever comes your way this weekend, make the most of it. : )

Influence and the John Ward Award

Can you pinpoint the moment in your life when you decided on your career direction? For me, I can’t pinpoint it to the exact date, but I can identify the time of my life.

Once there was a little girl who went to a Primary School. She was the little chubby kid who had a brain in her head and who discovered a place in the school where she mattered. It was the school library. Unusually, it was run by two men, one of whom took an interest in her and encouraged her. He gave her responsibility and helped foster the love of reading that had been established early in life by her mother.  He pushed her to read widely, even when it was Paul Zindel’s, ‘My Darling, My Hamburger’, and she had to go back to school and kindly inform him that really, this book wasn’t suitable for someone in Grade 5.  He gave her ‘The Nargun and the Stars’ for her work as a Library Monitor, and even though she didn’t really like the book, she kept it on her bookshelf for years; it followed her from house to house through her married life and still occupies a place to this day.  The man’s name was Wayne Hassett, and to this day, he has no idea of the influence he had on this young girl’s life. He helped her to love libraries and harbour the desire to be a Librarian when she got older.

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That little girl was me, and yes, I did become a Teacher-Librarian. Last Friday, I stood on a stage in the Clemenger Theatre at the National Gallery of Victoria and accepted the John Ward Award from the School Library Association of Victoria. The award is given to a recipient who demonstrates an outstanding contribution to learning and teaching at their school and raises the profile of the profession through their role as Teacher Librarian.  It was one of my life’s proudest moments, and in my speech I paid homage to the Teacher-Librarian who all those years ago influenced a little girl to pursue a career where she could encourage others to experience the joy that comes from reading and acquiring knowledge.

So, all of you out there. Do your job well. Do it well so that you can motivate others, spark a desire within them to reach for their dreams. You never know who it is that you are influencing, who out there is remembering the kind word, the encouraging comment, the friendly smile, the nudge to extend themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of doing. It’s probably the most important thing we can do.

*SLAV’s blog, Bright Ideas, have posted about the award – thanks very much to Judith Way for writing such kind words about me. Judith, herself, was a well deserving recipient of the innovator’s award last Friday at the ceremony. Congratulations Judith!

Network Literacy – the next big thing

I said I’d get back here to reflect on my presentation at the Perspectives on Learning V.2 SLAV conference and our PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) face to face meeting at Toorak College on Tuesday. The week’s been a long one and the exhaustion factor has been high. Hence my slow return!

First up, I’m pretty sure my presentation went well. I received positive feedback and that’s the best you can hope to achieve really! I was really pleased with the slides and as is usual for me, once I start I find it hard to stop. I need to work out how to deliver a presentation in 50 mins rather than an hour so I can field questions at the end. I embedded the presentation here last Monday so  track back to then and you’ll find it if you want to see it.

Our PLP meeting was a wonderful opportunity to share our thinking, projects and ideas for how we continue to change practice in our schools. When you’re hosting the event it’s hard to get perspective on how it’s all going, but my feeling was that it was a positive day that had benefit for those attending. Will Richardson had timely advice for us all and it was a fantastic opportunity to gain from his experience.      

On the Monday night before the meeting we went out to dinner with some of the PLP teams. On arrival, one of the team members said to me something that went like this;

“So, Jenny, what’s the next big thing? It seems like we’ve been talking about these things for the last six months, what’s the next new thing coming along?”

My answer went something like this;

“I don’t think there is any ‘next big thing’. I think the next big thing is how we use these tools to get our students connected. It’s how we get them to start making the connections with others out there.”

What I’ve realised is what I’m talking about is what Will Richardson calls ‘Network Literacy’. This to me represents the biggest shift our schools need to take if we are going to make inroads for the students we teach. Will’s presentation on Monday struck many chords for me and reshaped my thinking about the next steps I need to take in my school.

Will defines Network Literacy as;

The ability to create, grow and navigate personal learning networks in safe, ethical and effective ways.”

He says we need to help students identify their passions and then immerse them in ‘passion based’ learning environments where they can then pursue their interests in Personal Learning Networks.  He references the work of John Seeley Brown when he discusses this.  

We have been learning the tools and have embedded some of them into practice, now we need to start assisting our students to reach out and create learning opportunities themselves. How they do is the tricky part for us as educators because we need to have a handle on it first if we are to guide them well.

Will asked educators to consider these questions in his presentation on Monday;

Am I “network literate”?

Am I “Googled well”?

Am I learning with others “out there”?

Am I a “mobile learner”?

Am I reading and writing differently?

Am I collaborating, co-constructing and collectively acting with others?

Am I a learner first, teacher second?

I can confidently answer ‘Yes’ to six of the seven questions. I’ve got to  master mobile technologies – this is an area I’m  not confident with yet.

The real question is ‘How many of our teachers can answer in the affirmative to the questions Will posed?’ And that is the dilemma facing our schools. How do we bring teachers with us and how do we do this on the scale that is necessary? I don’t know the answer to that question, I know that PLP goes someway towards it, but I do know that I have to start making inroads with the students I teach.

This means teaching them how to write in a hypertext environment. It means lobbying for an elective called Passion Based Learning where I help students understand how they can become self directed learners. It means working with my school and changing thinking about transparency for student writing and allowing our kids to connect with other teachers and learners outside the walls of our school.

It means lots of hard work and an understanding that change takes time. We can’t expect to see things happen overnight. Small steps are important ones and these may have to be the steps taken to have the shift take place.

Thanks Will for helping shape my thinking and helping me define the next steps.

How to deliver a great presentation – Garr Reynolds can and maybe me too!

I’m presenting at the SLAV conference about Web 2.0 on Monday May 12th at the Telstra Dome. Will Richardson is delivering the keynote address so it’s a bit of a big deal. My head is quite literally spinning with what it is I need to say to try and turn a few people on to the potential of Web 2.0 tools for learning. Tony Richards, from IT made simple, is going to help me out by ustreaming my presentation. Tune in and see whether or not I can deliver the goods. I’ll post the link closer to the date. Tony’s helped me out again by posting this YouTube video on his blog, Learning – Thinking -Playing. This is Garr Reynolds, who writes a blog called Presentation Zen, talking to Google staff about how to deliver an effective presentation. It’s long -72 minutes- but totally worth watching!

I’m watching. I’m learning. Just need to deliver!