Friday, November 28, 2008

Pageflakes, Connections, Collaborations, Reviews


Check out the new link to Pageflakes: Literacy Blogs -- a pagecast -- to be found forthwith in this blog's sidebar feature, Related Bloggers. Not only is Pageflakes a cool tool to check out the broad scope of literacy-related dialogue or use for other educational purposes, but this particular Pageflake created by Sandy Hirtz of the BC Literacy Forum (Literacy: More Than Words) is a collection of 40 best literacy blogs posted by what Hirtz terms "articulate digital self-publishers" creating "a treasure trove of literacy resources, research, wisdom, expertise and information." Imagine my delight in perusing this to see that it includes both Heather Daly's In Circulation BCTLA blog and this very same T/L Special Weekly Report blog too! Whoo-hoo!


It was amongst the "40 best" that I found the Literacy Wisdom blog with instructions for Wordle which I think would work really well for teaching both vocabulary and concrete poetry.


From Joyce Valenza's Neverendingsearch blog from SLJ (link in sidebar here): Check out Wordia, a web 2.0 (interactive) dictionary where you can create a video and share it as a way of defining a word; great tool for building vocabulary, especially if you wish to acquire an English accent! I liked what Nikki had to say about anorexia and what Danny had to say about ameliorate, although I can't see what there is about James Blunt that makes him the butt of jokes!

In the News for TLs' Consideration This Week

If you didn't see the articles relevant to us in school libraries this week, I have captured them in postings that follow this one:

  • Chris Cobb's analysis of the importance of right-brained (big-picture) thinkers, as described in Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind
  • Mitch Joel's piece on the digital natives in the business world
  • Barbara Julian, in her article on freedom of speech, examines the perspective of Philip Pullman "whose book The Golden Compass was banned from school libraries by a number of Canadian Catholic school boards, [and who] is particularly unimpressed with attempts to check a book-hungry child’s exploratory progress through the world of literature. 'Tell your children they are not to read this book under any circumstances. What is more likely to make them go to the shelf and take it down and read it?'”
  • Sam Leith's article on the durability of narrative and storytelling, despite reports of its demise

New York Times: Notable Children's Books of 2008

New York Times: How to Publish Without Perishing, by James Gleick. Writes Elly, this is "a thoughtful analysis of the publishing world in the electronic age and of the beauty of books." Compare this with what Aidan Chambers had to say this summer at UBC in his talk "Reading and Books in the Digitizing Age," a summary of which is in the Fall Bookmark.

Book Review: The Secret Life of Bees

Any movie that captures the imagination as much as the book is worth telling about. Gwen and I recently went to see The Secret Life of Bees based on the critically acclaimed novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Here's a link to a blog review which sums up my experience of this novel: it's a close-to-perfect literary work. Maybe it's a fresh new novel to suggest for our secondary English teacher colleagues who have so loved teaching To Kill a Mockingbird.

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.

What a lovely read! Barnes and Noble terms it "unputdownable" which would account for my very late night ... or early morning ... I followed popular writer Juliet Ashton through the process of recovering the stories of the English Channel Island residents under Nazi occupation, of finding new friends and new meaning in her own life. Told in letters that are at once "light-hearted" and charming, the story grows as we learn about the members of a literary group and about the missing Elizabeth whose spontaneity, courage, and love of life on the Island provide the strength for all she loved to endure the dark years of World War II. My borrowed copy, headed for Chris at Tyee, was diverted to Meredyth for the weekend to quell the pleading; she reviews her clear reading delight in her most recent (November 30) blog. I suspect Chris will have her chance by Tuesday.

Signs of Life with Technology Out There!

The Vancouver Sun article "Are you native to the digital world or just visiting?" presupposes that anyone over the age of 30 is a digital immigrant (shall we say, DI). This notion, developed by a man called Prensky, is one that is not held universally. Some of us are cruising through the new cyberspaces with an appearance of confidence that would belie the immigrant appellation. (See article in next posting.)

If we, the alleged immigrants, had the same time to play in cyberspace and looked younger, we'd navigate with native confidence too. But navigating isn't anything much more than fearless and unfettered clicking. The problem is that the digital immigrant concept is limited; we who by virtue of age are termed DIs actually have the maps to cyberspace. Children wandering without the codes and the directions and the capacity to read the landscape and apply the customs of the lands they enter are at risk ... of seeing only the surface, of going places where caution is required, of appropriating things that don't belong to them, and of not seeing the long-term consequences of their unmapped travels. No, do not buy into this notion of natives and immigrants ... we are still the ones whose knowledge of learning landscapes and cultural patterns are important tools for mediating the journey of the supposed "little natives." Regardless of age, we are all engaged in learning and teaching has shifted with technology to place us at the side, companions in the sense of wonder at the new vistas and possibilities, learners ourselves. The young are unguided travellers, and we must be there in cyberspace to make the adventures meaningful.

Annabelle takes on Role of Cyberspace Guide

Thanks, Annabelle, at Laurier Annex (and Weir) for this email last month: I have been saving it (along with hundreds of other emails because I'm a bit weird that way, much to "my Diane's" amusement!):

I came across this link [Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies: 25 Tools every Learning Professional should have in their Toolbox - and all for FREE!] after I had downloaded a program called Jing (you may have been the one to mention this in the first place). In any case, Jing is pretty is the link to my first attempt [How to Use Webcat and Databases] -- my microphone isn't very good so you'll have to turn the volume way up but you'll get the idea. I plan to put this and others into my new blog (your influence again) and introducing it to the kids later! Thanks for all of your tips, info and links!

Way to go, Annabelle. For many of the "little natives," the databases are inaccessible. These, by virtue of the subscription, are termed the "invisible net" and you do need a guide to get there. Love your ingenious application of this tool. Kids will "get" this. Thanks also for "your influence" on me: in particular, the link to 25 Tools, complete with information pages and mini-tutorials. I have been meaning to get to Skype and, finding it on the list, I can say I have downloaded it and am ready to Skype ... just need some contacts!

On Learning New Technology Applications

By the way, it's time for me to tell the truth about my own techno-learning. Every time I am "forced" into learning a new application, I have to tell myself it is perfectly normal to experience anxiety and to leave it just until I need to learn it. It's a phenomenon so common that it is named: just-in-time learning (we all do this!) and it is always accompanied by STRESS (we all get this way!) ... I tell you this so you see that this is normal and so that, when you try to teach your colleagues something, you can understand that their responses -- often quite startling -- are also perfectly normal. You will need to be very kind and patient with them, now that you know to recognize this, be more forgiving of yourself, and anticipate this response. By the way, the effects of stress will be exacerbated when the learner is facing a deadline!

Knowing these truths about learning technology, I undertook to master Skype. Once you have a set of Web 2.0 tools under your belt, it takes a little inner prompting to go for the next set. I succeeded in downloading Skype, putting on the headset, watching myself with the camera on my computer ... and then putting it away. Who would I call? How did I find them? Now Skype is emailing me to help me through the anxiety. Same with Typepad. I have tried to register for a free trial. I can't think of a name for my Typepad ... some have been suggested. Now the Typepad geeks are checking to see if I have forgotten them ... did I leave to answer the door and forget them, they ask. This concern for what I am up to is new and somewhat reassuring. While I have to love the welcoming notes from my new Web 2.0 friends, I know they know I am working on the stress levels and looking for someone to teach me! All this I do in the name of llifelong learning. I know it's important not to give in the the inclination to retreat.

And that's what is so nice about our TL Studio group who meet once a month to "play" with new applications and tools. The object here is not to leave with a product that, as teachers, we can use the next day, that old and familiar model. The important dimension of these "studio" settings is to share, try, and enjoy learning in a supportive and informal setting, with guides like Michele and Lana. This week, we looked at the Searchme search engine from last week's blog and created stacks, adapted logos using the PrintScreen feature and Paint program, and checked out Animoto and MS Photostory. One group left with tasks to try out new programs and develop lessons which they will bring when we meet again in January. I am going to ask them to teach me Skype and hope my TL colleagues are working on the Typepad dilemma!

Thinking: Beyond Jing
-- was it Alan November or Michele at Kerrisdale who first introduced us to this tool? Alan November will be back for Faces of Technology Day 2.0 on February 20, by the way, so you may want to be planning to attend this day at Magee. MARK YOUR CALENDAR and watch the December Current Pro D online registration opportunities as there is anticipated to be a lot of interest in this event this year and numbers will be limited.

Another Great Professional Development Online Resource
for Teachers and Teacher-librarians:

Teacher Tap

Driven by an interest in finding sources of "images in the public domain" or copyright-free photographs to use with online publishing, I found Teacher Tap. The Teacher Tap website is a free professional development resource that helps educators and [teacher-] librarians address common questions about the use of technology in teaching and learning by providing easy access to practical online resources and activities. Their recommended list of places to go to check for the kinds of images we can use is wonderful too. I found what I was looking for: Public Domain, Copyright Free, Open Source, and Student Use Images and Media. Also check out the Internet Resources for Teaching and Learning and Libraries, Literature, and Learning pages.

What/Where is bestlibrary?

Judith Comfort, TL at Charles Best Secondary in Coquitlam, has been developing curriculum resources for her school and "the world" at Coquitlam's bestlibrary site. See the "best teachers" Teacher Assignments for new ideas. Judith uses the blogging tool called Typepad -- the very one I have mentioned above.

Cedar Cottage Walking Tour
Meeting our Colleagues in Curriculum

So, now, when James Henri told us TLs we needed to "meet teachers in curriculum," what did he mean? Here's a fantastic example of the collaborative potential of teachers (social studies, technology) and teacher-librarians -- and it puts real dimension into the notion of "neighbourhoods of learning" and of connecting collaborative inquiry possibilities to our local communities! Check out Gladstone's Cedar Cottage Walking Tour. Way to go, Pat, Nancy, and Jeff at Gladstone; they are using Moodle free open-source software for the online publication.

Need Some Professional Reading?

My recommendation for your professional consideration and review is this 72-page pdf document to be envied by TLs in other jurisdictions:

Saskatchewan's Connections: Policy and Guidelines for School Libraries

Citing leading school library researchers and advocates such as Asselin, Doiron, Todd, Kuhlthau, Branch, Oberg, Koechlin and Zwaan, Henri, Haycock, and Loertscher, the document describes the provincial vision and framework for robust school library programs that "are an investment in the future of Saskatchewan students, .... are integral to teaching and learning, .... provide environments rich in information, literature, and technology that, together with effective instruction, enable students to achieve curriculum learning outcomes and acquire the attitudes and skills for lifelong learning."

The focus is on providing a framework with real connections to the needs of communities and the growth of programs through continuous improvement and through building our own capacity to support the changing information needs of our colleagues and students.

In ways quite similar to our own Roles and Responsibilities document, the work of a qualified Teacher-librarian is described, both in relation to students (no less than half-time and with 1:500 as a benchmark for delivery of quality programs, p.28) and in relation to day-to-day operations and teaching. We too build complex programs that allow us to assume all of these dimensions, depending on the allocation of time, as follows (from Appendix D, p.47):

Teacher-Librarian – Every school has the services of a qualified teacher-librarian who delivers a school library program focused on provincial curriculum outcomes.

As an instructional leader, the teacher-librarian is responsible for:

  • collaborating with teachers to identify resources that support provincial curriculum outcomes and developing strategies for integrating these resources into the instructional program
  • collaborating with teachers to integrate activities and resources that develop information literacy outcomes across the curriculum
  • working with students, teaching them to locate information appropriate to their needs, assess its relevance, use it for educational purposes, share it with others, and integrate it with what they already know to create new knowledge and new understandings
  • supporting other teachers as they grow in their abilities to locate and analyze information and to use information for personal and professional development
  • assisting students, teachers, and administrators to use technologies to locate, use, and share information and ideas.

As an information specialist, the teacher-librarian is responsible for:

  • locating, acquiring, evaluating, using, and sharing information in all its forms for a variety of purposes
  • modelling processes for locating, acquiring, evaluating, using, and sharing information for the benefit of others in the school community
  • collaborating with teachers and other professionals to select resources for inclusion in the school library, and to weed the collection so it reflects the school’s educational needs and the criteria in the school division’s selection policy
  • serving as the school’s main contact in the division’s information technology department
  • ensuring, in collaboration with the school division technology specialist, that the technological infrastructure used to access and share information is operating effectively
  • staying abreast of current and emerging technologies that can be used to access, deliver, and share information; assessing the appropriateness of those technologies for the school library; and making recommendations regarding their acquisition.

As a manager, the teacher-librarian is responsible for:

  • managing the school library program and guiding all activities related to it
  • implementing polices, developing procedures, developing and managing budgets, monitoring staff, and managing the facility
  • planning for evaluation of the school library and its educational program
  • developing partnerships with other libraries and organizations in the community and the province to expand and enhance the resources and services available to students and teachers.

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