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.


VATE Conference – English and the Australian Curriculum

I attended a VATE Conference today about English and the Australian Curriculum. I’ve tried to export it here using Storify‘s  export option, but it didn’t work. ‘Internal server error 500’ was the message I received. : (

You can read it by visiting this link. Not as impressive as an embedded Storify, but what can you do when technology doesn’t cooperate. I hope you find it useful.

Storify your English classroom

Washington Post Storify
Washington Post Storify (Photo credit: cfpereda)

This year, I’m teaching Year 10 English. In our team discussions early on, we decided to apply some SAMR thinking to modify a task that was normally completed as a paper folio, with pictures pasted in and students adding their comments as handwritten text or something that was computer generated pasted in. Over the past year, I’ve used Storify to help compile tweets and thoughts from conferences I’ve attended.  Storify is a wonderful curation tool being used by journalists, newspaper organisations, noted figures from Social Media circles, and even the British Monarchy and The White House!

Our focus this term is a thematic study about power and greed, perfect as a lead in to out text study of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. We introduced Storify to our students, with the intention of them curating resources of their choosing that they feel link to this theme. Storify is pretty simple to use; you make your stories by accessing tools of the social web that are handily searchable in a sidebar and can be dragged into your story space. It’s best to see it in action, so take a look at this explanatory video.

The students have adopted it quickly and find it intuitive to use. We have asked them to provide explanations for their choices; they do this by adding text after each embedded resource. We have discovered that it doesn’t seem to work well with Internet Explorer (for those with PC’s), and I’ve been recommending they use the Chrome browser as it seems to save properly using this. Because we plan as a team, this means all of our Year 10 students are using Storify. We’re also using a Ning for discussion and as a place to store curriculum related videos, photos and links. From my perspective, that’s pretty good exposure to some very useful platforms. Both help these students gain a deeper understanding of communication tools that can be applied to other subject areas, and maybe even further, into their tertiary studies or working lives.

I can see us using Storify for other purposes throughout the school year. Our students need to study issues in the media, and it’s the perfect vehicle for the curation of an issue. Whenever you use a new application, there’s always the perceived danger that the kids might see it as passe after awhile. To me, an application like Storify is something that could be an essential part of any English classroom, just like the pen and paper or folio of old!

Our students have blogs they use as ePortfolios. I’m hoping the embed code you are provided with will work on their Edublog, otherwise we may try the export to WordPress method available. Edublogs is on a WordPress Multi User platform, so it may just work.

Obviously, Storify could be used in a myriad of classroom settings. Do explore it – I’m sure you will see the benefits. Just today, they released their Storify iPad app, so those of you with iPads in your classrooms will find it to be a fabulous addition as a creation tool. Sign up, play around with it yourself, and see just how easy it is. You’ll be a Storify convert before you know it.


Contextualising life

Watching an episode of Modern Family had me thinking about the importance of being able to have a context for understanding of so many things we are confronted with on a daily basis. Cameron, the big gay guy, was wandering the streets looking for Stella, the lost dog Jay adores. As he shouts out ‘Stella’, he realises he is wearing a tshirt very like the one worn by Marlon Brando who played Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee William’s, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘. His cries for Stella become more impassioned as a result. For me, the joke was obvious, but my two children, having no context, had to ask why was I laughing.

Today, I was reading an answer on Quora, and it made mention of Alexander the Great and Bucephalus. I was immediately taken back to my obsession with all things Ancient Greek in my first year at Teacher’s College. But once again, it had me wondering. How many times a day do we not entirely grasp the full intentions of information we read or view, because we don’t have enough context to understand it in it’s entirety? How much does our formal education play a part in our general knowledge base, and is that determined by the teachers you had or your ability to ferret for information yourself?

In Victoria’s VCE English curriculum, Area of Study 2 requires students to study a central theme or idea, and be inspired to write from a variety of texts, be they print or visual. I’m teaching Year 10 English this year, and we are beginning our course with a thematic study in a similar vein to what the student’s will encounter in Area of Study 2 in VCE. In past years, students have created a hard copy folio of stimulas material, but this year, we are going to have our students use Storify for the same purpose. Storify is a fantastic curation tool, and is currently being used by individuals, corporations and news organisations around the world to report on current events.

I can’t help but think that the students with a broad general knowledge base have the advantage over others when it comes to formulating a response to Area of Study 2. Hopefully, the use of a tool like Storify will help our students comprehend the importance of reading widely and accessing a variety of sources to help formulate understanding.

I know that when I introduce this topic, I’ll be talking about the importance of being well read and able to contextualise life. School’s purpose is not just to get students through the final exams of year 12 with a decent enough ATAR score to get them into University courses. We’re helping to prepare these young people for the rest of their lives, and we want them to know how important it is to have context for understanding. I think I might just get Cam and Marlon to help me make my point.



CCAEducause 2011 – The Game has Changed

I returned last week from the CCAEducause conference and have been collecting my thoughts. The conference by line was, ‘The Game has Changed’. It has, but I’m not entirely sure both secondary education and higher education have quite understood just how much has changed. This conference was aimed at higher education, and I went along because I wanted to see what higher education was talking about in relation to technology and its role in the eyes of those running and working in universities in Australia. My idea was that I would be able to assess what we needed to do in Secondary education to prepare our students for the kind of tertiary experience they were heading for.

To say my eyes have been opened is an understatement. I’ve come away from this conference thinking that the situation might need to be reversed. Maybe it should be personnel from universities visiting some secondary education institutions and looking at what is happening there, so that they can prepare themselves for the students heading their way. Note I said ‘some’ secondary institutions. There is no doubt there is huge disparity in the take up of new technologies within our sector.

I suspect the final keynote speaker, Richard Katz, might even describe me as some sort of edupunk, because I write in a public space using web 2.0 technology and influence others with ideas. Heck, I’m not a ‘published’ author, and I have an audience. I’d prefer to think of myself as a public intellectual, as I’ve heard bloggers described by John Seely Brown. I refer to the ‘edupunk’ tag, because Richard described Jenny, the very savvy 27 Yr old creator of ‘60 second recap‘ as an edupunk and one of the perceived threats higher education faces. Jenny offers an informal learning experience. Anyone can tap into her site and watch her creations, as she dissects the plots, characters and themes of classic fiction and plays. I don’t view someone like Jenny as a threat. In fact, our Yr Nine students were watching Jenny’s creations last year as they explored the themes surrounding Romeo and Juliet. In my eyes, Jenny helps augment our curriculum, she’s part of my teaching arsenal and I’ll employ her to assist my students with their understanding. I’ll go one step further even and encourage them to replicate what she does and submit it to her site, so that they can become the creators influencing and helping to lead others to understanding.

Here are other perceived threats. The Khan Academy, iTunesU, MIT Opencourseware, P2PU, any of the burgeoning sites where a student can self direct their own learning. My gut is telling me that none of these things are threats if universities rise to the challenge and embrace new ways of doing things. Shirley Alexander, from University of Technology Sydney, spoke of the need to do things differently, to deliver instruction via a podcast if it could be done that way, so that face to face time could be spent with students dissecting ideas with lecturers. I was under the impression that this was happening already, and I suspect it is in some institutions. Please, fill me in if it is the case. She spoke also of the 20% drop out rate in first year, and the need to address this appropriately, and determine what is causing this.

I suspect a lot of the speakers were directing their thinking to those who are already trying to make a difference. There were many IT support personnel and Librarians present, many of whom who are doing the groundwork in their institutions to bring them up to speed. It seems the people missing from a conference like this, and those who most need to be there, are the lecturers themselves, the people delivering the content. Most of these people are obviously highly accomplished in their fields, but might be lacking the teaching skills that might help them to visualize alternate ways of delivering content.

There were some excellent keynotes. Bryan Alexander was so interesting that I had to stop sending out tweets so that I could concentrate on his fast paced delivery of possible scenarios for higher education in 2016. This was brilliantly mind mapped on Prezi, and I was so captivated I can forgive him for the seasick motion of the zoom that Prezi is noted for. If I could find the presentation on Prezi, I’d embed it here. It is visionary. I have found Bryan’s Slideshare presentation that made up the first part of his talk, and you can get a feel for the way he thinks.

Mal Booth, Librarian from UTS (University of Technology Sydney) gave an inspiring presentation about how their library is responding to change. Mal has shared his presentation and notes on Slideshare, so I can embed it here and you can benefit from his wisdom.

UTS staff delivered another presentation about mobile support for staff and students at their library. Sophie Macdonald, a Librarian, presented with Rajan Davio, the IT Manager who works in the UTS library. It was an excellent example of how librarians and IT staff can work together to find solutions for access to library resources. As we move towards mainstream usage of app driven mobile devices, it is even more apparent that close working relationships are necessary between Library and IT staff. I’m very pleased that our IT staff have moved into the new library building my school has just completed; we recognize the need to work together to ensure as seamless a delivery of services as we can manage.

Maxine Brodie, from Macquarie University, spoke of the new Macquarie Library, a very impressive building with 80% of its collection stored underground, and robotic book retrieval operating for on demand access to resources. Why have they done this? Because acres of shelving prevents patrons from accessing space, and space is what libraries as collaborative learning places and places for quieter reflection need. I’d like to know what they are doing to change up their service model in terms of support for students now that they have a space that can cater for more of the university population.

Mckenzie Wark was fascinating. He’s an Australian working in New York, and some of the work he is doing with a graphic novel looks like it will be very useful as a text explaining different political systems when it is eventually published. He has written a book called ‘Gamer’s Theory’ and used the plugin commentpress in WordPress to encourage co-contribution to the text’s development from gamers and other informed and interested members of the public. What he has done represents new models for authors to consider as they create informative texts.

I tweeted long and often, (well as long as 140 characters each tweet!) and battled with the demons of autocorrect on my iPad. My iPad came into its own. I used it to tweet, search and check the emails streaming in from school. It was great for that. In fact, when I got home my right forearm was aching from holding the iPad all day. Can you claim Workers Comp for an iPad RSI conference injury? ; )

My tweets were my means of notetaking. I’ve done this at the last two conferences I’ve attended, and I can see myself getting better at it. My tweets become a combination of what speakers are saying and my own reflection on their words. If I add my input, I try and separate my thinking from the speakers by adding a ‘J’ at the end of my contribution. It works for me, anyway! I’ve collated my tweets in Storify, and they give a reasonably good run down of my conference experience. If you go and take a look, remember to start from the bottom and scroll up to follow the conference from beginning to end.

The conference has strengthened my belief that in Secondary Schools, we need to be preparing our students to be effective digital citizens. They need to understand how to use new technologies safely and ethically, and they need to know how to manage their digital footprint. I heard no mention of this kind of talk at this conference. If our students don’t understand the importance of managing their digital lives by the end of secondary school, then they seem likely to be entering Universities and their working lives under-prepared.

CCAEducause 2011 has left me thinking. To the best of my knowledge, I was the only representative from the Secondary education field. There is a need for the different streams of education within our country to talk more openly with one another. We need to prepare our students adequately for a system that requires them to take control of their learning, and universities need to be ready for students who are used to employing mobile and social technologies as their means of communication. Some of our secondary schools are going to be sending along students who are well versed with new technologies as a means of communication and creative output. A delegate presenting spoke of the “ever lengthening tale of non engagement” that keeps getting told within his institution, as people refuse to budge from tired methods of instruction. Universities today can ill afford to tell this story. Our next generation is ready for the new edition.

Want to get inspired – listen to Erica McWilliam

(This post exists on Storify, but it seems impossible to embed it here on this WordPress blog, so I’ve copied most of it here. To see it on Storify, follow the link.)

Below is my Twitter stream while I was listening to keynote speaker, Erica McWilliam, present at the SLAV conference here in Melbourne last Friday. The theme of the conference was ‘Creating collaborative learning spaces: Future school library scenarios’. Erica’s talk was entitled, The e-shift: What does it mean for 21st century literacy and learning?
Erica is a woman worth listening to – if you ever get the opportunity, leap at it.

So refreshing to hear a learned woman speak at a conference, given the fact that so many keynotes are delivered by men.

Lyn Hay, from Charles Sturt University, also presented a thought provoking presentation about the role of Teacher-Librarians and libraries as physical spaces as we move into an increasingly digital world. Lyn’s presentation has been uploaded to Slideshare and I’d encourage you to take a look at it.

On the day, there were very few of us using Twitter to push the ideas out to the wider world. In fact, most were taking notes using the pen and paper model. Hardly a laptop or iPad in sight. Maybe people were using their phones, but I didn’t see much of anything like that happening around me. In 2011, I’d expect a Teacher-Librarian audience to be wired up and sharing ideas in collaborative spaces. If we are to respond to the ideas presented by Erica, then we better see our profession rise to the challenges of our age. We need more networked Teacher-Librarians to model for our staff and students how we self direct our own learning, and how we can seek out opportunities to make the learning experiences in our schools today reflective of the connected era we are living in.