Weaving the Future – Inquiry based learning & DigiTech curriculum


On Friday, 17 March, School Library Association of Victoria conference Weaving the Future: Inquiry Learning within a Digital Curriculum will feature, Dr Mandy Lupton from QUT and Paula Christophersen formerly of VCAA.  Focus of the day will be the Digital Curriculum and the role of School Libraries can take in its implementation and execution.

Dr Mandy Lupton is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at QUT and well known to library and literacy professionals through her blog Inquiry Learning and Information Literacy.   Mandy teaches units in the Master of Education (teacher-librarianship) and has undertaken a number of research projects into inquiry learning and information literacy.  She will present a number of tools for the design of inquiry learning curriculum including questioning frameworks, process models and Mandy’s GeSTE windows model for information literacy. Delegates will have the opportunity for hands-on application and evaluation of these planning resources.  This is an opportunity to work closely with a renowned Australian information literacy specialist.

Ms Paula Christophersen (formerly of VCAA) is a familiar presenter at SLAV conferences having introduced ICT in the curriculum and general capabilities.  As a major architect of the new Victorian Digitech curriculum, Paula is the ideal person to present Ways of thinking in Digital Technologies.  Through this Paula will explore the essential features of the Victorian Digital Technologies curriculum, paying particular attention to the different ways of thinking in the curriculum, namely computational, design and systems thinking. Exploration involves teasing out the breadth and depth of content associated with this curriculum, and how meaningful connections can be made with other learning areas.  As schools seek methods of integrating the new digital curriculum into both primary and secondary schools, this session gives library staff background and understanding to support digital learning through the STEM curriculum, makerspaces, coding clubs etc.

SLAV is pleased to be starting the year with professional learning support for Victorian teacher librarians, teachers and library staff generally.   Don’t miss out.  Register here.

Slow Reading: the Power to Transform

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Reading programs and the support of a culture of reading is a common commitment in school libraries.  As teacher librarians, and librarians, we promote reading for enjoyment as a means of raising literacy levels through activities such as reading classes; engaging children in the Premiers’ Reading Challenge; running Book Clubs or supporting English teachers. To this end, the Synergy article Slow Reading: The Power to Transform by Dr Pam Macintyre, Senior Lecturer in Portfolio of Design and Social Context in the School of Education at RMIT is of particular interest.

In this article Pam says it’s logical to state, ‘greater understanding produces greater pleasure when reading’.  To fully understand and learn the skill of reading she encourages us to take time and to give students time, through a process of ‘slow reading’ saying:

Students need us to slow the reading, to model and facilitate the enjoyment of contemplation and the sharing of responses and interpretations. We need to share our enjoyment of language, and the delight in the places reading can take us well beyond the physical, geographical, emotional, intellectual boundaries of our daily lives. We also need to share our knowledge and pleasure about the how of what is said, not only the what.

Pam mentions the Australian research, the Children and Reading literature review which reports a 4% drop in the number of children reading for pleasure between 2003 and 2012.  As a passionate advocate of adolescent reading, she notes the opportunities for further research in this field as reading formats change from hard copy to digital.

In promoting a reading culture Pam quotes Terry Eagleton’s, How to Read Literature (2013)  and urges us to encourage in students a peculiarly vigilant type of reading, ‘one which is alert to tone, mood, pace, genre, syntax, grammar, texture, rhythm, narrative structure, punctuation, ambiguity’ (2013, p. 2).

This article, published in SLAV’s professional journal Synergy, provides teacher librarians and educators involved in raising literacy levels through a formal reading program, with a thoughtful approach to developing skilled readers.  Synergy is published bi-annually and is freely accessible online, apart from the two most recent editions.  It is a valuable source of research relating to school libraries.

Financial literacy – ASIC’s MoneySmart

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Purchasing a mobile phone is one of the first mature financial commitments a young person will make.  Before reaching that stage, however, most will have had experience with online shopping, including in-app purchases which are often impulse buys with minimal prior thought.  Financial literacy instruction that begins in primary school and gradually builds over time will equip students with the skills to confidently manage these transactions.

As one of the key initiatives of the National Financial Literacy Strategy. the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has developed the MoneySmart Teaching program, a comprehensive financial literacy resource for use by educators.

This is an impressive resource with units such Mobile Phone security designed for a 15 minutes time-slot making it ideal for teaching alongside other content or within a homeroom class.  On the other hand is the more comprehensive financial training course for VET students consisting of 5 online units.

MoneySmart has been developed for the Australian community. It’s valuable, not only to teens and young adults, but as a resource for Australians of all ages.  It’s worth checking out.

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.

Text to speech – supporting online information access

There are a growing number of online tools to support students in need of literacy support. As part of a new series on web based literacy aids, this post from Catherine Hainstock talks about how text-to-speech programs can support students’ reading online.

Implementation of the Australian Curriculum  is in full swing across the nation and as a result schools are committing more resources towards their Literacy programs. The demands and opportunities for TL’s to support this literacy focus may vary, but as information specialists our core business is to ensure our students can effectively find and interact with information.

After giving a brief demonstration on advanced Google searching to our school’s Literacy Support teacher, I wondered about other ways to improve access to online information for students who may be struggling. Many of the mainstream tools students use for accessing information such as Google Search and Wikipedia do not support students with literacy needs as well as they could. There are a number of ways we can help improve this experience. First I turned my attention to browsers; I found they offered very different experiences and levels of assistance. Text-to-Speech support is available on most browsers (you can read about the options here). When I tried them I found:

  • Bing relies on Microsoft Window’s software being installed on your computer. The system was complicated and required a lot of reading to work out. The version we had installed on our computers used a very robotic voice
  • Firefox’s add-on Text to Voice app plays MP3’s of selected text so it’s very slow. Any words it doesn’t recognise, it spells out. Again it was a very robotic voice
  • Google’s Chrome Speak app (available from the Web Store) was easy to install and provided options for varying the rate, pitch and volume but once again the voice sounded very robotic
  • Once I added Google’s US English Female Text-to-speech voice extension to Chrome (available from the Web Store) and activated it in Chrome Speak’s options (found under Chrome Settings – Extensions – see image below), the voice offered pleasant web reading support.

It’s important to note different schools run different versions of software, different implementation programs and have preferred devices including mobile devices and BYOD programs. In mycase, I used desktop computers in a school library for testing. Every school is unique so it’s important to investigate and experiment with your own equipment.

Many schools in Victoria are also restricted to only one browser, usually Internet Explorer. As information specialists, it is vital that we recommend and push for technical decisions to be based on educational criteria, so explore browser tools and lobby for programs if you think they will benefit staff and students.

In the next instalment I’ll look at improving access via search engine tools and options.

Image credit: Chinese children in class with Australian kids at Carlton State School, H2002.199/1074,  State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection

 

What’s Technology For, Anyway?

In this guest post, Kristin Fontichiaro, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, School of Information highlights key ideas from her upcoming presentation at SLAV’s, Transliteracy, multiliteracy, makerspaces: how can I participate? on Friday, 16th August.

The other day, I heard a story. A parent of young children heard that the oldest children in the school – ages 9 and 10 – were going to be having an end-of-year technology celebration to which everyone in the building was invited.  Eager to hear what her kids would be experiencing in a few years, she dropped by. The students filed in front of the assembly and, without a word, held up an A4  printout of a presentation slide.

That was it.

The whole school had been pulled out of class to gaze at small pieces of paper dozens of feet away.

Ahem.

Now, I have no doubt that the educators behind that project had great intentions and worked hard. (Anyone who has ever tried to get an entire primary school class to print out a project without mixing up whose is whose knows what a feat it is that each kid actually ended up with anything.)

But how did a tool meant to serve as an illuminated backdrop for public speaking end up as a small paper rectangle held up by a silent child? How did a faculty make a decision that seeing these faraway papers merited pulling every other child out of class? What was this project supposed to accomplish?

It’s hard to know. Maybe the technology curriculum focuses on the acquisition of specific skills and behaviours (“the learner will print from software,” “the learner will format a presentation slide”). Maybe the educators were pressed for time. Maybe something else.

I would argue that the crux of the issue is this: there were not clear, aspirational expectations for how technology could transform, extend, and deepen student learning. I would bet that this faculty did not have a clear understanding of what it meant to teach and learn with technology and how to use technology as a game-changer. I have a hunch that the administration pushed for its staff to use technology without talking about how and why to use it.

I quote an extreme example, but (I fear) it probably resonated within the realm of possibility for you. In this madcap Web 2.0 world, where there are endless “creative” tools, just waiting for you to type in a few words and pick a template, how do we move the conversation from “teachers need to use technology, period,” to, “technology needs to transform the teaching and learning and take students further than they could go without technology.”

Next Friday, we’ll gather to talk about this phenomenon. We’ll look at a possible vocabulary and framework for planning and discussing student work, and we’ll draw inspiration from Alan Liu’s Transliteracies Project as we collaborate to articulate what it means to do robust “reading” and “writing” in multimedia. At the end of the day, we’ll dip quickly into two alternative ways to use technology with kids: digital badging to track learning in formal and informal spaces and the makerspace movement. Come roll up your sleeves and dig in with us!

Image credit : cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Brad Flickinger

Lizzie Bennet Diaries: transmedia story telling

In this guest post Centre for Youth Literature Program Coordinator, Adele Walsh talks about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – an amazing example of transmedia story telling.

When you think of Lizzie Bennet, most see a tome of Pride and Prejudice or Jennifer Ehle slowly coaxing a smile out of Colin Firth in the last scene of the BBC adaptation. Since April last year, the two hundred year old character has undergone a radical makeover in the form of a hugely successful web series.

Hank Green, one half of the Nerdfighting duo with brother John Green, and head writer Bernie Su, have created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a web series that lovingly references the classic text while reflecting life today and social media trends. LBD, as it’s known, has also created a staggeringly engaged online community.

It’s a perfect example of highly successful transmedia at work – a series of web tools that integrates the elements of narrative to create unique content based on existing (and out of copyright) properties.

Remaining loyal to the structure of Jane Austen’s work, Hank and Bernie have followed the same narrative arc, but have adapted characters and motivations so they make sense today and fit the medium. For instance, there are only three Bennet sisters in LBD – Lizzie (our fearless vlogging protagonist), Jane (timid but lovely) and Lydia (irrepressible and endearing). Mary makes an appearance as a cousin with Kitty as the family pet. Every change to the original is done with love and humour, it never mocks its source material.

Marriage proposals are now job offers, estates become large corporations and as for the shocking Wickham/Bennet development….well, our lips are sealed.

Green and Su have also integrated different social media platforms to develop characters and events from outside Lizzie’s perspective. Each character has a Twitter account composed by the series’ writing team where they interact with the public and each other. Jane works in fashion so her outfits and inspiration are posted on her Tumblr and Lookbook accounts.

Jane Bennet on Lookbook

Lydia starts her own web series to have a share of the spotlight but what starts out as an exercise in narcissism becomes something else entirely. Lydia Bennet has never been as beloved as she has in this form of Pride and Prejudice. The appearance of the characters (and cast) at last year’s VidCon brought real and imagined worlds together in a way that tickled the funny bone and imagination of the LBD audience.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries appeals to new and established audiences. Many of the teens and adults who have gravitated to the series have no pre-existing knowledge of the story so every new episode is a revelation. The dialogue, acting and variations in the story give viewers familiar with the novel a new experience which often challenges them to think about characters in a different way.

The series also encourages audience participation. Viewers are actively involved in the characters’ lives – giving Lydia advice (or warnings…) in YouTube comments, chatting with characters on Twitter and pestering creators to hurry up and introduce Darcy!

One of the most interesting spin-offs from LBD is the fan group, The LBD Seahorses. Before Lydia’s fall from grace, fans couldn’t agree which tragedy would ruin her in a contemporary setting. Pregnancy seemed to be the frontrunner. The question was then asked, “What would Darcy even do to help the situation?” To which someone replied, “He’d offer to carry the baby for her.” “Oh, so he’s going to become a seahorse?”

And so the niche group was born.

LBD Seahorses group on Twitter

While it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and not all LBD fans love it, the group is a great example of how web based media evolves. In a recent Lizzie Bennet Q&A session there was even a shout out for this fan group.

The creators couldn’t have anticipated the audience driven art, discussions and interests inspired by the series. The actress who plays Jane often styles her hair using ideas from the World War II era prompting questions about how she does it.  Jane posted on Pinterest and made video tutorials so now fans are wearing elaborate hair styles like Victory rolls and milk maid braids.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries project is slowly coming to an end. This week celebrates the 91st episode and (almost) a year of continuous, free narrative-based content. Who would have imagined that a series of 3-5 minute videos and social media channels based on a classic reimagined text would so firmly capture young people’s attention?

Hank Green and Bernie Su did.

The big question is which classic will they tackle next?

 

Talking Reading

With a recent study indicating that approximately 44% of Australian adults have a literacy level below the minimum required for everyday life, promoting reading and literacy has never been more important. The Talking Reading project on ABC Pool is a wonderful resource for anyone with an interest in developing literacy skills and promoting reading.

The project brings together interviews with literacy experts, librarians and authors. The episodes were recorded during the National Year of Reading and are hosted by Tony Wilson, Paula Kelly and Sally Rippin. One episode features the fabulous Miffy Farquharson, who talks about her love of reading and reveals that she has read close to 15,000 books!

Other episodes explore young adult literacy technology (featuring our own Kelly Gardiner), apps for literacy (with Dan Donahoo) and author profiles with authors such as Leigh Hobbs, Cath Crowley and Alison Lester.

You can view all of the episodes and find out more about the project at the Talking Reading site. It’s an excellent resource full of ideas about promoting this critical skill and fostering a love of books in young people.

The three literacies of comics

Updated: Here’s the recording of the webinar on comics and literacy held on 10 September. This post introduces some of the ideas and resources discussed.

Comics are often misunderstood. Many people, when they think of them at all, think of them as being the preserve of superheroes and three panel gag strips in the newspaper. Comics embrace works of all genres and they are increasingly finding a place in classrooms around the world.

A commonly used definition of comics is “sequential art.” Images, when viewed in order, give a sense of the passage of time.

 

Image source: http://scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/carl/3a/02.html

This simple two-panel comic from Scott McCloud, the author of Understanding Comics, demonstrates this point. By “reading” the placement of these images as a time sequence, we build a narrative.

The art form of comics imposes no boundaries on genre, content, or indeed artistic merit. Art Spiegelman’s Maus, telling the story of his Holocaust survivor father, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Reading comics is an engaging experience that embraces traditional literacy skills, but also brings other skills into play as well.

Literacy skills

Most comics have words, in the form of speech, captions, or both. These written elements become uniquely engaging through their embedding in the comics medium.  Many of the core concepts of literacy learning can be explicitly addressed. Sequencing and ordering of ideas is at the very heart of comics, and inference and deduction from context are also well supported by the inclusion of visual imagery. This additional visual support provides another way in to a story, and can provide an often much-needed boost to visual learners.

The use of comics in literacy teaching is finding increasing support in academic circles, as these studies show:
Comics Are Key to Promoting Literacy in Boys, Study Says
For Improving Early Literacy, Reading Comics Is No Child’s Play

Visual Literacy

Comics not only have to be read as literary texts, they also have to be read as visual texts. The artistic choices made in producing a comic shape the experience of the comic. To appreciate a comic fully requires an understanding of the elements and principles of visual design.   These elements provide a common vocabulary to talk about images that can be used across the curriculum. This allows students to think about the composition of an image in the same way they consider the composition of a written text. This idea can be expanded by considering individual panels of a comic like shots in a movie. What is visible in the shot? How is it framed? Why were these choices made?

Comics literacy

Comics are constructed in a particular way, and they use their own grammar and syntax. Each image in a comic is called a “panel”, and the space separating them is known as the “gutter”.  Speech is enclosed in “balloons” and internal dialogue is often placed in “thought bubbles”. Panels are read in the same direction as usual reading order, which can often come as a surprise to first-time readers of Japanese comics!

Most of us are so familiar with reading comics that these procedures become transparent, but they are learned skills, and a vital part of reading comics.

Tools and resources

Given the place comics can have in class, here are some online tools and resources to help you and your students make their own:

Comic Life – one of the most popular comics makers, which is now bundled with EduStar for use in public schools. A simple drag and drop interface allows you to create comics with your own images.

ToonDoo – free online comic creator. Use images from the site, share your creations, and view comics made by others

A great site for news and reviews about comics is No Flying, No Tights, which as the name suggests, looks well beyond the usual superhero fare.

 

 

Children’s literacy lab

Helen Boelens has passed on information about the Children’s literacy lab.

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She explains

It is an interesting programme which is trying to investigate how children actually use digital books.  It is hoped that the research will help school librarians and teachers to adjust to the way in which pupils use E-books.

With lots of resources, information, tips and news, this is an interesting site to peruse.