AITSL research project – VicPLN reflection

Last year, some of you completed a survey for us exploring your experiences of the Victorian Personal Learning Network (VicPLN) courses. In this post, we’d like to share our findings.

The team at the State Library of Victoria applied to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) to research the impact of our professional learning approaches, in particular the impact of networked learning in the VicPLN program.

We undertook surveys and case studies with questions based on Stephen Heppell’s framework for effective learning.

Our hypothesis:

That the online delivery of the Victorian Personal Learning Network course (VicPLN) through guided collaborative learning encourages sustained change in professional practice in schools and school libraries.

Despite considerable positive feedback over the years, we weren’t anticipating the profound impact the PLN had on many participants, their attitudes to learning and confidence with peers.

Truly it transformed me or maybe it turned me inside out […] – it allowed me to develop professionally with like-minded people. It allowed me to share with those people and beyond. It allowed me to find serendipitously things that I needed and that gave me more ideas.

[…it has changed the] way I think about trying to solve problems – so if I need something – I don’t know what I used to do, but now […] I’ll go on Twitter and I’ll ask or I’ll use a certain network of people […] you don’t Google it – you Twitter it.

Key trends – Case studies

Importance of sharing – Participants who took part with colleagues from their school or library found the shared experience made the learning more meaningful and immediately applicable in the workplace.

And in terms of the library I think it’s been profound as well, in the sense that we have restructured our library, we’re aware of the way libraries are changing and I think the PLN has given us confidence to move forward and I think, a little bit out of the box in terms of our approach.

Power of networks and the idea of an authentic audience for learning – For some participants networked learning was completely transformative, changing their entire approach to teaching and learning. It enabled them to become advocates for change in their schools and the broader professional community.

[…] what the PLN did for me was to see – was to give me a bridge to what I think all education should do […] almost a subversive bridge for the children, for the students out into the world […] – I was with true colleagues. […] It gave me and it affirmed that this is what a great teacher aims to be, out in the world, thinking, making connections, making possibilities, realising possibilities.

Key trends – Survey

The first place people share is with their colleagues, with 98.5% of participants indicating they shared their professional learning with colleagues and school staff.

It makes sense that educators, as part of deeply collegiate profession, look to peers before looking out to the broader online community. It also highlights the importance of PLNs in all their forms, be they local, international or something in between. The power is in connecting with others around a shared goal.

[The PLN is] probably the first time I’ve shared my professional thinking with anybody […] in schools, you might at a staff meeting or something, but that’s probably the biggest change in my mindset, the kind of thing that I try and get other people to do now is to realise that when you’re sharing you’re not showing off, you’re … trying to get reactions to help you learn more.

72% of participants surveyed indicated that the course gave them the confidence to share with peers. Developing the confidence and shared language to engage in professional discussions with peers is core to being an advocate for change in schools and libraries. Getting issues out in the open for debate supports organisational transparency and cultural change.

The PLN has given me a language to talk to other people […] although I tend to take ideas from it rather than give online, I do share those ideas with other staff. […] look it’s really worth everyone being encouraged to do it […] it is life-changing. In the sense that my teaching practice is different.

I feel as though I have the vocabulary now to ask the right questions, whereas before I did the PLN I didn’t even know what questions I should ask.

The PLN, for me, provided a space in which to explore possibilities […] it changed my relationship [with staff and students], it changed how I operate, that I became a more effective change agent.

The project was a wonderful opportunity for the PLN team and past participants to reflect on our practice and the impact the course has had on individuals and broader networks. One of the most interesting results for us was how sharing often begins with local PLNs including colleagues in schools and communities close by.

Our networks begin close to home and then with growing confidence and success, reach out into world.

 For information on our online courses, visit the State Library of Victoria website.

Image credit

Labrary – experimental library makerspace

Labrary was a 37 day experiment that trialled the idea of a community makerspace that extended beyond traditional library walls. The project was developed by a team of students and staff from Harvard University’s School of Design in collaboration with the Librarian/Assistant Dean for Information Services, Anne Whiteside.

While based on key principles that underpin any library – ideas, information and culture – Labrary encouraged collaborative activities, experimentation and sharing. Labrary, as the name suggests, was a ‘lab’ and a library at the same time. It was designed to be a place where you could explore, experiment and test ideas and where failure was accepted as part of the creative process. More importantly, it gave people the opportunity to develop new themes, and to share interests – providing meaningful projects for the community. Labrary was also community driven so anyone could  walk in off the street and do whatever they wanted, rather than being something procured by an organisation or institution from the top down.

Some of the activities in Labrary included:

Inflatable reading room – A portable bubble for group discussions or a quiet space to chill out. A space within a space designed to transcend and take you to other worlds.

Time/Slice – A crowd-sourced digital bulletin board that opened the library up to different users, letting them discuss, collaborate, extend their personal research and include others’ resources organically. It’s also a way library sanctioned events could appear on a calendar alongside informal meetups and pop-up events.

There were also a series of discussions labelled Library Futures that explored how libraries could work in the future.

Libraries are well known for their role as transactional entities – people come to libraries to find information, then off they go to make sense of it. Labrary gave people a chance to work together to make information meaningful together. This didn’t eliminate the space for quiet solitary thought, but rather, was an additional resource – rich knowledge curation evolving in real time in a networked community.

In terms of how we work in our own libraries, the idea of having a space for experimentation in a library makes good sense because there’s access to information, and space to put that information to use. Working in groups to problem solve, create, and discuss changes the dynamic of work and progress, creating one that collectively builds on our passionate energy, becoming a reserve for everyone involved.  Experimentation encourages risk in learning, with rewards for new ways of doing things, learning and creating that we couldn’t have imagined before.

For more information about the project, you can read an Library Journal article on the Labrary project here.

PLN Plus reflection – community in the making

In this guest post from Sue Osborne, Head of Library Service, Haileybury College, Brighton, she shares her experience of the recent PLN Plus course.

I was interested to do the PLN+ because I had participated in several PLN courses (two 23 things, PLN research tool kit) and I was interested in taking the things I had learned the next level. I was also interested in the idea of project work and finding other library professionals who were interested in developing similar ideas in their schools.

I found the course to be quite different from my past experience of the PLN. Firstly, it was a shorter course – only four weeks long, but it was filled with new ideas, so in terms of content it still delivered. There was also a less formal approach, with four stages rather than particular products or apps to focus on. It was more about the process of starting and growing networks, rather than specific, measurable outcomes. I found this approach disconcerting at first, but once we all started talking about our areas of interest, I took to it well.

I enjoyed the relaxed approach, self-driven learning, connecting with like-minded colleagues who wanted to be instruments of change within their organisations as well as a huge pool of ideas and tools to think about and try. I will be exploring the tools for at least the next month or so! I’ve listed my three favourite tools below.

1/ Mightybell – the platform the PLN was based in has been fantastic. It is easy to use, looks great and has greatly enhanced the learning and sharing for this course. Far superior to Edmodo, which was used in the last course. I love it. Not sure how I might use it in my work, except perhaps to set up a project group of my own down the track (not on the cards just yet)

2/ Shadow Puppet – this iPad app allowed me to take photographs and then record a narration track over a slide show. I decide when each photo comes up. It is intuitive and dead easy to use (as easy as Animoto, which I use almost constantly at work now). I am planning to use Shadow Puppet with my newly formed Middle School Library Committee. We are going to make short how-to presentations about the library catalogue, searching and so on for classes to view before they come to the Library to do research

3/ Padlet – this product let’s you set up a wall, send the link to people you want to have participate in the project/discussion and you all post ideas (a bit like post-it notes) so you can collaborate and brainstorm together. I am already using this regularly with other staff to talk about planning information literacy sessions and trying to develop a reading culture within the school

I guess the number one thing I am taking from the course is a sense of community – that we are all part of something bigger, something that can help us achieve great (or small) things. The openness of the participants has been fantastic and I think many of us will stay in touch by following each other on Twitter, or continuing to build on our Padlets or other collaborative tools.

I will also take a renewed sense of purpose in what I do, and the knowledge that I have skills and experience that other people appreciate and value, just as I value their experience and skills. The rise in my professional (and as a result, personal) self-esteem was an unexpected bonus.

Finally I plan to implement some programs in my school and document them, with the objective of sharing them via Bright Ideas, or perhaps even FYI, so that others can see what I am doing, and perhaps be inspired to try something different. I have the confidence to push myself forward and try harder, which is probably the most valuable thing of all.

Image credit: Toban Black on flickr

You can follow Sue on Twitter at @LibraryMonitor and her reviewing blog Worth Reading, Worth Sharing.

 

Mind tools – What does it mean to be literate in the age of Google?

With the holidays here, we thought we could share a longer video with you, particularly given it’s one of the best videos I’ve watched about information literacy. It’s comprehensive, current, and logical in its flow. I thought I knew a lot about information literacy – now I know a lot more.

The presentation comes from Dr. Daniel Russell, research scientist at Google and took place in March this year at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at the University of North Carolina.

He begins by calling a library a mind tool that ‘amplifies your cognition’. Wonderful stuff.

We hope you have a happy, safe, chocolate filled holiday and we’ll see you next term.

 

 

World War I centenary resources

With the centenary of the First World War set to begin in July this year, many institutions will be launching new sites, programs and resources for schools. But there’s already a lot out there to explore.

Locally, the Australian War Memorial is a key institution when looking at the Great War and the history of ANZAC. They also have an education blog which includes mystery objects, details of new resources, acquisitions and personal stories from the collection. The ANZAC Centenary website from the Victorian Government and the existing ANZAC website from the Department of Veteran Affairs are also great resources looking at the Australian experience of WWI.

For a different perspective, the BBC’s Schools WWI site is a wonderful resource to explore Britain’s involvement and includes relevant media from their archive. The British Library’s WWI site has over 500 primary sources and articles from experts and academics looking at what life was like at the time. The British Library is also a contributor to the Eurpeana 1914-1918 site which provides collection materials, commentary and perspectives from different collections all over Europe. The National Archives UK WWI website is also a beautiful resource including personal diaries and an extensive collection of digitised material.

The American broadcaster PBS also has an interesting website from their documentary series The Great War  and the Shaping of the 20th Century.

These resources are just a taste of what is currently available and many more resources, digitising projects, programs and events are likely to begin mid 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Stormboard – brainstorming with post-its online

Stormboard is a tool which lets you create online post-it pin up boards that an unlimited number of contributors can share. Educators can join Stormboard for free until July 31 so it’s well worth having a look.

Chances are if you’ve done any professional learning or whole school planning in the past few years, you’ve used post-its for collaborative planning. Many of you would be using similar techniques with your students. Stormboard provides a simple online environment where you can brainstorm or plan with groups, where ever they are. This means students can collaborate on projects from home or on their own devices via the web. It would also be useful if you’re collaborating with other educators or students at different schools.

Stormboard let’s you collaborate on boards and share your work via a link. You can add text, videos, images and links to post-its and also create stacks which link to other boards you’ve made. As an avid Evernote user, I must admit the interface all seemed quite familiar

If you like post-its and use them in class or with colleagues, Stormboard is a great way to record your planning and ideas more effectively than sticky bits of paper on the wall!

PLN Plus – be the change you want to see

Kelly Gardiner, Online Learning Manager at the State Library of Victoria, is a well-known voice in the VicPLN community, particularly in relation to professional learning for educators and librarians. This post introduces the guiding questions that underpin the new PLN+ course, beginning on the 11th March.

We’ve been wondering: what’s the next logical step for people who’ve done the VicPLN course?

Last year, we found out. With support from AITSL, we carried out some research into impacts of the VicPLN courses. Many of you participated in that. The thing is that a startling number of people report that the course changes their practice. And once that’s happened, what do they do?

They – you  – start to enact whatever changes seem most needed in your immediate world or beyond. It might be changes to the way you do your work, the way you collaborate with colleagues, the interactions with students, simple process or system fixes, big initiatives.

It’s about leading change.

Now, we’re not all Joan of Arc.

But it seemed clear to us that after the initial PLN courses, people then need the skills, tools and resources to enable them to enact the kinds of change they want to see – in their workplace, in their classroom or library, in the wider school community, in professional networks, in disciplines, or the broader systems and structures.

How do you become an advocate for literacy or simply for more resources? How do you collaborate to create new professional networks or share ideas or raise funds? How do you involve the wider community in learning? How do you create programs that pass on what you’ve learned to students?

How do you define what you want to do, attract support, design and manage projects?

How do you keep on learning, when you have so much to do already?

And what does that mean about our VicPLN network – what do you need from it now?

We can’t promise to answer all of those huge questions in a few weeks. But let’s make a start, shall we?

If you’d like to take part in the course (and maybe change the world just a bit) you can find out more here or email learning@slv.vic.gov.au  to book a place.

Periodic table of story telling – story starter activities

The Periodic Table of Storytelling  is one of those special treats that comes through your feed and gets your mind buzzing with ideas of how it could be used with students.

 ps

As well as being pretty funny, the table covers most of the major story types and character arcs, making it a great tool for engaging students in creative writing.

Each story element has an identifier, name and is grouped under one of the following categories – structure, setting, modifiers, plot devices, heroes, villains, archetypes, character modifiers, meta tropes, production and audience reaction.

Ideas for use with students

  • Give each student in the class one story element, making sure that all categories are represented. (You could make coloured cards for each element).
  • Ask them to form small groups (3-4) and collaborate on a story that incorporates all their individual story elements. This could easily be a homework assignment or even a competition with time limits
  • You could mix up the activity by asking them to write in different genres or mediums – film, play, poem, short story, tv show etc.
  • To make this an individual task, give each student three cards and ask them to include all three elements
  • You could also use these story elements to describe the books you’re reading. This would be a great way to build a shared vocabulary for understanding story and transferring knowledge of one story to other narratives
  • The story elements could be a prompt for a library creative writing challenge – how many story elements can you get in your story? or even a weekly writing challenge with one element as the focus each week
  • Put story element cards into a box and students choose one (or more) to prompt a free writing task

These kinds of forced association activities are a great way to get kids (and adults!) thinking creatively. If you have any other ideas or find something that works well for your students, let us know.

Revamping your school library orientation

Does your library orientation plan for next year’s students feel a bit stale? Have you been doing the same lesson for the last few years (or more)? Do you feel bored just thinking about what you have planned? If yes, here are some great ideas to help revamp your next school library orientation, from teacher librarians and library technicians across Australia:

Introducing the school library:

  • Promo video: Have current students create a promo video about what they thought the library was going to be like, what it actually has to offer, and what they think the students will like about their library. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian.
  • Student presentation: If you have a library committee, get current members to create a presentation (such as a Powerpoint presentation) to tell new students the basics of the library, e.g. opening times, where the OPACs are, and how many items you can borrow. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School

Becoming familiar with the library:

  • Prior knowledge: Ask the students what they already know about school libraries. It will open up discussion. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian
  • Library relay: Each pair of students takes a question card, searches the library for the answer, then returns with the answer for their next question card. The first team to complete all the cards wins a prize. All the questions are reviewed at the end of the lesson. Sue Crocombe from The Glennie School
  • QR code QnA: Students move around the library to approximately 25 QR codes and scan them for the questions they need to answer. It gets the students moving and asking questions. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
  • Research Frenzy: Students are divided into two groups, one using computers, one using books. In teams they draw a question from a central bowl. Once they find the answer (either via computers or books), back goes the slip and another is drawn. The students swap from computers to books (or visa-versa), and discuss what they found at the end of the lesson. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
  • The Great Race: Have five junior secondary school students run this race. They create cryptic clues to help participants explore the library. In teams, the students receive their clues, and have to be the first to find all the answers to receive a prize. The same group of students running this game hand out ‘treasure bags’ at the end of the lesson, consisting of things like pen, notepad, library brochure, bookmarks, chocolate frogs and jelly snakes. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School

Understanding Fiction and Non-Fiction shelving:

  • The coded letter: An activity to get students used to where things are in the non-fiction section is a letter from someone on holiday with words left out and Dewey numbers in their places.  Students go to the Dewey number and work out the subject there and place that in the space until their letter is complete (and makes sense).  You can have a simple letter and a more complicated one depending on the class.Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Class A-Z: Put the class in fiction order by their surname and then get them to take themselves to the shelf where they would live if they were a book. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Marco Polo:  Call out a subject or type of resource and the students have to run to that place. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Where in the Dewey?: The aim of this game is to get students thinking about the context of what they are searching for, and where it may be located in the Dewey system. In groups the students need to find books that have information about specific topics, such as: wood – how trees grow; a guide to Australian timber for furniture making; how trees are used as habitats, or; the environmental impact of deforestation. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ask your colleagues for suggestions. Your State Library (such as State Library of Victoria) may offer library orientation tours and that will provide students with knowledge transferable to the school library. Thank you to all those who contributed ideas via OZTL_NET and Twitter.

Image credit: Enokson on Flickr

School library blog making connections

Kim Yeomans is the teacher librarian (TL) at St Martin of Tours, Rosanna, Melbourne, where she has been full-time in the LRC (Library Resource Centre) for the past 11 years. Kim teaches 21 classes each week and considers it a privilege to be part of every student’s reading and learning journey. Kim believes it is an exciting time to be a TL and she is regularly searching for new ways to use both books and technology to inspire her students. Kim began the LRC Blog in 2009 and below tells us how the blog is being used to make connections, and inspire students.

At our Library Resource Centre we say “The LRC is the place to be” and these days that is both physical and virtual.

During 2008 my eyes were opened to the world of Web 2.0 when I completed the “SLAV Re-imagine” course. As a result, our LRC Blog was created in February 2009 with high hopes of using it as a means of connecting with our students, the wider school community and eventually the global community. Today I cannot imagine having a library without a blog as it is such a vital conduit between the LRC and our school community, particularly our students that I only teach weekly for 45 minutes. It has also provided a means for me to connect professionally and share ideas with other blogging TLs which is invaluable when you are the only TL at your school. Since I have started blogging I have spoken at TL Networks about the benefits of a school library blog and actively encouraged and mentored teachers in my school to create their own classroom blogs.

When I began the LRC blog I started small, had a clear purpose and made a commitment to write a weekly post (except on holidays) and to reply to every comment. It is important to promote your blog and I regularly link to posts in the school newsletter and introduce it to new parents at Prep Orientation. I also show the latest blog post to relevant classes at the beginning of lessons and students can follow up in their own time. We now have a number of students and parents who subscribe to our blog.

Over the past five years the LRC blog has been a wonderful vehicle to promote books and reading and share our work. It has also connected us to some of our favourite authors. Some of our boys met Jeff Kinney after I posted details of his visit. There was also great excitement when Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton left us comments about our 124 Flavour Icecream and Andy recently answered a letter sent by one of our Year Three students. Our blog has allowed me to promote many events for participation by students. These include Book Week, Premiers’ Reading Challenge, Melbourne Writers Festival, The Children’s Book Festival, National Year of Reading, The Reading Hour as well as our Book Fair, and challenges for Book Week including our Reading Minutes and Shelfies this year.

Our LRC blog documented the building of our new LRC (unfortunately some of our PhotoPeach slideshows are missing). It also conveyed the news of our Christmas Day Flood in 2011 and demonstrated the global connections we have made when Julie Hembree our blogging buddy in Seattle, Washington. Compassionately Julie came to our aid via her Bulldog Readers Blog and parcels of books arrived from library friends both overseas and local. Our blog has in turn also allowed us to reach out to others in Japan and Bangladesh.

As the LRC Blog has evolved students have written guest posts and new pages have been added as I discovered new things to share. One of my favourite pages is the LRC Snapshots page which is linked to a Tumblr blog. I always keep my camera handy to take photos of students who have shared something with me or incidental moments in the LRC before and after school or during lunchtimes – these are a collection of the precious connections you make as a teacher librarian.

The LRC Blog has ensured our library is no longer confined to four walls and is open 24/7, though recently I have found I needed other ways to provide for our students’ needs and interests. Last year I used a Wiki to create a page of links for Authors and Illustrators to link to the LRC blog. This year I discovered Weebly and began our LRC Website which is also linked to our blog. I have begun adding links to Search Engines and Creative Commons websites that I teach in class and students can access when needed from school or home. The LRC blog is now morphing into our online library hub.

This has been a great opportunity to reflect on our LRC Blog and I am amazed at how much of our library journey over the past five years has been recorded there. As you can see I could not function without it! Today the LRC Blog is embedded in both our library and school and has regular local and global visitors searching for how to draw Greg Heffley, Anzac Day resources or simply reading the latest post. The day I heard two of our Year 6 students telling prospective parents on a school tour “Our library even has its own blog” I knew I was on the right track!

My dilemma now is what will happen to the LRC Blog while I take leave for 2014…

Kim’s creation on an ‘online library hub’ that is making connections through the school community and beyond is inspiring. For further information and ideas from Kim, visit Kim’s Corner.