Posts Tagged With: Library

At Heart, I’m Still A Teacher

All of us who move into district leadership positions must remember that we are still teachers.

This past Friday I visited 4 schools in our district to present on Library Learning Commons. It was a busy and exciting day as I raced from school to school sharing my message and trying to convince teachers that an effort to bring our libraries into the 21st century was a worthwhile endeavour. These were the first 4 of 7 schools I’ll be working with as part of our district wide pilot. I recently blogged about our plans here.

In the days leading up to my presentations I made myself conscious of the fact that this could easily be seen by our already stretched teachers as one more thing being preached about from my soap box in central office. So, I decided to prepare a presentation showcasing projects that could be experimented with in the Learning Commons and possibly used to support the work they are already doing with their students. Using examples from my previous work as a teaching administrator, I tried to highlight projects that build important competencies and provide a platform for authentic literacy. I wanted them to see these projects as an “instead of” and not an “in addition to.”

Here are the projects I shared:

Grade 6 Iroquois Confederacy Webpage – Grade 6 students worked with their teacher to design, build, edit, and manage a webpage that covered their Social Studies unit on the Iroquois Confederacy. Students researched and created content over time and eventually completed this amazing resource that can now be shared with others. http://iroquois6gle.weebly.com

Public Service Announcements –  Grade 6 students used iPads and iMovie to create Public Service Announcements as part of their unit on the Charter of Rights. They were then uploaded to the teachers YouTube account and played on the Smartboard in the Learning Commons for all to see.

100 Word Challenge – Grade 4 students participated in the 100 Word Challenge, a website that provides some guaranteed comments on student blog posts. Pay particular attention to the comment towards the bottom where Cait connected with a class in Galway, Ireland.

Bullying Rants – Grade 5 students wrote and recorded rants about bullying in school, using their Kidblog accounts and the Audioboo App. Not only did they write from their heart, they also spoke with great passion and emotion.

Digital Stories – Grade 3 students created digital story books using Storybird, recorded themselves reading it, and then embedded it all into their blog. You can press play and then follow along with the book.

About Me – Grade 1 students created an Animoto  to tell their classmates (and perhaps even the rest of the world) about themselves.

Digital Portfolio –  Grade 6 students maintained a personal blog throughout the year, building a portfolio of their work.

Sharing these personal learning experiences and offering support seemed to go a long way. A number of teachers have already contacted me with questions about how to try some of the ideas I shared. We as leaders often see the value in moving toward something before our teachers do. Before moving themselves, our teachers need to see and understand the small practical steps that will get them there. I hope to find the right balance between the two.

My best chance of doing so is to never forget…

At heart, I’m still a teacher.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning Commons – It’s Not An Add On

In the coming weeks I will be working with 7 pilot schools in my district to begin a shift away from the traditional use of the school library and toward a Learning Commons model. I’ve been asked by our Superintendent to explore this area because I completed action research on this very topic a couple years ago and made the shift in my own school at the time.  Wikipedia defines a Learning Commons as follows:

Learning commons, also known as scholars’ commons, information commons or digital commons, are educational spaces, similar to libraries and classrooms that share space for information technology, remote or online education, tutoring, collaboration, content creation, meetings and reading or study.[1][2] Learning commons are increasingly popular in academic and research libraries, and some public and school libraries have now adopted the model.[3] Architecture, furnishings and physical organization are particularly important to the character of a learning commons, as spaces are often designed to be rearranged by users according to their needs.

Furthermore, Educause, a nonprofit community of IT leaders and professionals, provides us with their vision of what these spaces might look like:

The village green, or “common,” was traditionally a place to graze livestock, stage a festival, or meet neighbours. This concept of social utility underlies the philosophy of the modern learning commons, which is a flexible environment built to accommodate multiple learning activities. Designing—or redesigning—a commons starts with an analysis of student needs and the kind of work they will be doing.

slide-7-728

slide-6-728So my goal is to bring principals, librarians and teachers on board in such a way that they see the shift to a Learning Commons not as an add on, but rather as a way to support the initiatives that are already underway in our district. It is my belief that the Learning Commons can be used as the 5th corner of each teachers classroom as they continue to build their capacity in carrying out the districts two big initiatives, Balanced Literacy and Differentiated Instruction. If you look at the list above and to the left, what better place than the Learning Commons to move these initiatives forward.

So our Learning Commons journey has been unfolding something like this:

  1. In late August, at our first principal’s meeting of the year I presented on Learning Commons and Steve Clark, a specialist from Calgary spoke to us via Skype.
  2. At the beginning of October, interested principals were asked to complete this Library Commons Pilot Proposal.
  3. All 7 schools who submitted proposals joined the pilot and the principals and librarians will now gather to participate in a 3 part Learning Commons webinar.
  4. I will be providing a short presentation on Learning Commons to our local School Board in late October.
  5. I will be visiting each of the 7 schools by mid November and presenting to the staff on what a Learning Commons shift might look like and engaging them in conversation about the benefits of moving forward.

It is my hope that our school communities will see the value in transforming these beautiful learning spaces in the heart of their schools so that the needs of todays learners can be better served. I believe a Learning Commons model and philosophy will not only support our learners in more relevant and engaging ways, it will also provide our teachers with another option as they consider new approaches to teaching and learning in this ever-changing time.

I’ll leave you with this reflective quote taken from a literature review written by Judith Sykes of the Digital Design and Resource Authorization Branch with Alberta Education:

“The hallmark of a school library in the 21st century is not its collections, its systems, its technology, its staffing, its buildings, BUT its actions and evidences that show that it makes a real difference to student learning, that it contributes in tangible and significant ways to the development of … meaning making and constructing knowledge. (Todd 2001, p. 4)”

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building, Community Engagement, Education Transformation, Inclusive Education | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Give Your Library Books a 90 Degree Turn

Last week we made one small change in our school library/media centre that immediately paid big dividends with student engagement. We’ve been spending the past few months transforming our library to one that better meets the needs of today’s learner, and along the way have been tweeking as we go.

During that time our paper collection has been downsized somewhat. Electronic material is definately increasing but providing a balance is the key. I have found that while our older students prefer electronic devices and reading online books through our Destiny Quest library system, young emerging readers still like to get their hands on books where their tactile senses can take charge. When these students visit the library we usually lay out a few books for them to choose from as it is difficult to navigate the packed shelves. We’ve been looking for a way to provide them with more flexibility and choice

So we decided to give the library a 90 degree turn. Now our younger students can easily browse and have the freedom to make the choices they want. It was neat to watch them the first time they encountered the new set up. The engagement level was amazing.

BEFORE

AFTER

Categories: 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Teachers – Invite Them and They Will Tweet

For some time now I’ve been preaching to my teachers about the benefits of Twitter. Since opening my own account in May 2011 I would say that I’ve grown more as an educator than in the previous 20 years. The personalized learning offered through a quality PLN is second to none when it comes to relevant professional growth. I know this, but have often wondered if those I work with feel the same way. On more than one occasion in the past, I’ve felt the rolling of eyes while sharing my latest Twitter gold nugget with whoever is ready and willing to listen.

When two teachers approached me a few days back to ask if I would consider hosting an “Introduction to Twitter” supper session, I must say I was a bit reluctant. Hesitant to act on the request, I told them we would probably be the only one’s there, but decided to give it a try, and on February 7th I fired off the following email:

“Good Morning Everyone,

A few of you have asked me about the possibility of having a session to learn more about how to use Twitter. In my opinion, there are many benefits of having your own Twitter account or one for your class. If interested, I would like to invite you to a sharing and learning session Thursday, February 16th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in our school library. I will provide great food and a babysitter if needed. Let me know if you are interested.”

I was surprised to hear back from a couple of teachers later that day and could not have imagined that the numbers would continue to grow. The next morning a couple more committed to attending and by the end of that day we were at 20.  One by one, almost every teacher on staff took up the offer to attend the session – on their own time. I was reminded of the importance of inviting rather than forcing when it comes to new learning experiences.
 
This evening we met. We set up Twitter accounts, followed great educators, and were introduced to hashtags, retweets and favorites. We learned, laughed and ate together. It was a powerful collaborative experience.  I am proud to introduce these great educators. Please consider giving them a follow.  @arlenewilliams9 @TedGross2 @BKindergarten @WingerterL @CrystalLothian @ANemecek
@ERodzinyak @AnnieGreeno @MeganRSLP @lisemccormack @CorkyKovach @millers6 @kimyearous
@EAMunroe @DoddiMatz @HeideeW @TheresaMead @JordanGroves2 @KBouch8 @cdsmeaton    
Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Capacity Building | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Let Go of Control Through Twitter

I set up this Twitter account (@stmarylibrary) last August and have been using it to share the wonderful activities that take place at my school every day.  This has allowed me to make many connections with teachers, classrooms and organizations who see the value in this incredible form of communication and collaboration.  During the first part of the school year I planned to involve my students more directly in the Twitter experience but had not gotten around to it.  I think I was a bit reluctant to give them control of what would flow in and out of our Twitter feed.  I wanted to make sure there was some real educational value in the process. 

Over the Christmas break I spent some time looking at many of the wonderful classrooms around the world we are currently following and was amazed to see the ways teachers and their students are using Twitter to enhance the learning experience.  I figured we could start simple and then let things grow from there.

Well today I watched as two grade 4 students were introduced to tweeting for the first time.  The first thing I noticed was the ease and comfort with which they navigated an interface they had never seen before.  After all, they are digital natives.  Then, it took no time at all for each of them to decide what to tweet.  They both asked our followers to visit their blog, which they had been working on all year, and leave a comment.  They were over the moon when, in about one minute, a grade 4 teacher from South Carolina responded; and then a grade 7 student from Essex, Ontario.  As you can imagine, the engagement level was pretty high at that moment.  I can’t believe I waited this long to let this go.  Starting tomorrow my students will be doing a lot of tweeting.  The possibilities are endless.

If you have any ideas for gr. 4, 5, and 6 Twitter activities please share.

Categories: 21st Century Competencies, 21st Century Learning, Education Transformation | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.