But that is the beauty of tumblr. And Tania has the perfect platform for what she is trying to resource and convey to art students.
You may remember reading about Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko‘s collaborative learning project using Flickr. The project has now concluded and a few of the students have shared their thoughts, reflections and ideas about what they loved most about the project.
As part of the evaluation of this project, I interviewed a few students to get their feedback. You have no idea how long it took me to convert the interviews to film and embed them in this blog. Sorry about background noise!
Thanks to Tania and her students for a number of posts about the project from the beginning right through to the end. Sounds like it was a great success and thanks for sharing.
This is a rather embarrassing post to write, but it needs to be done as I need to publicly thank some people for their support.
In September, I was awarded the 2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award for the work I have done on this blog. This would not have occurred without lots of kind library staff for sharing their trials and tribulations when using technology for learning; without being nominated by the award by Helen Boelens and without supporting documentation from Kelly Tenkely, Camilla Elliott, Mary Manning and Sandy Phillips. A generous and supportive readership also made this possible. So thank you all.
A huge thank you to Softlink for generously sponsoring the award and to Softlink’s Chief Operating Officer Nathan Godfrey and Marketing Coordinator Karen Gear for making the presentation a wonderful experience. Thanks also to all of the IASL committee involved in the application process.
Now on to another embarrassing episode in my life. Bright Ideas has regularly featured the brilliant work of Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko. Since my first contact with Tania, she has become a real supporter and a firm friend. Tania recently featured a post about me in her fantastic blog, Brave New World. She has requested that a parallel post be posted here and so as to agree to her wishes, the post has been reproduced below.
If you think about people who are a constant and inspirational support in your professional life, you know that you are indebted to these people on a daily basis.
I’ve decided to feature an interview with Judith Way, a Victorian teacher librarian who has made a significant difference in the professional lives of teacher librarians and others, and whose unassuming, friendly nature has endeared many, both in Victoria and globally.
Judith’s blog, Bright Ideas, which she writes for the School Library Association of Victoria, is one of the first things I check daily because I know that she is on top of what’s happening in the world of education. Although she may not need an introduction since so many are connected to her through the blog, Twitter andOZTL-NET, to mention only a few platforms, I’ve included a short biography as an introduction to a recent interview I conducted with Judith.
Judith Way is a teacher-librarian with a Graduate Diploma of Children’s Literature and a Master of Arts. Recently she was recognised for her work with the Bright Ideas blog through the 2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award .She has also been the recipient of the School Library Association of Victoria’s John Ward Award for outstanding contribution to teacher librarianship in 2007 and the SLAV Innovators Grant in 2009. She was awarded the Children’s Book Council of Australia Eleanor E. Robertson prize in 2003. She has presented at conferences locally and internationally. Judith writes the Bright Ideas blogfor the School Library Association of Victoria.
How did you come to create and write the Bright Ideas blog?
Due to the success of the School Library Association of Victoria’s Web2.0 online program in 2008, there was a real momentum for more online resources for school libraries, and the idea that schools would showcase what they had developed to encourage others was a big part of that. I was honoured to be asked by SLAV to write the blog on their behalf. I had undertaken the ’23 things’ course through Yarra Plenty Regional Library in 2006.
What were your initial thoughts/feelings about the blog?
Excitement! What a fantastic opportunity to delve into the web 2.0 world and see what we could all make of it in school libraries.
Was it difficult to take the first steps in creating a blog identity and developing a readership?
The first thing was getting a body of work up on the blog. No-one is really going to read a blog with one or two posts on it, so building it up was vital. I then promoted it via the OZTL-NET listserv and down the track joined Twitter. That really developed the readership. Then I joined the ILearnTechnology blog alliance in January this year and that furthered readership again.
What were some of the difficulties you experienced along the way?
School library staff tend to be a modest bunch, so encouraging people that their web 2.0 efforts should be highlighted and shared with others was a challenge.
What were some of the highlights?
Getting lots of positive feedback from readers, especially in relation tothe school library examples that were shared.
Last year Bright Ideas also had the honour of being voted the “FirstRunner Up” in the Edublogs Awards for the ‘Best Library blog”. What a fantastic vote of confidence that was.
Notching up 200,000 hits earlier this year was also a terrific milestone and it was an unbelievable recognition to be awarded the 2010 IASL/Softlink International Excellence Award in September.
How is the role of the teacher librarian changing, if at all?
In one way it is changing dramatically. In another way, it isn’t changing at all. What do I mean by that? We are facing enormous changes in the way we present learning opportunities to students. Social media and eBooks have changed the landscape for many school libraries. But we still want to teach our students how to research well and to love reading- whatever the medium.
What would you say are the most important goals of the teacher librarian/ of educators in general in these times?
To remember the power you have to make a difference to the lives of your students. You have the ability to be a positive role model in terms of using information well, both content and morally. To teach students how to make a positive digital footprint and how to be cybersafe and cybersavvy. To pass on the love of reading. These are lessons they will carry throughout their lives.
Thanks, Judith, for your thoughts, and also for the untiring support you provide for teacher librarians and educators everywhere.
Thanks Tania for your support and kind words. It is nice to know that one is appreciated!
Extremely creative Whitefriars College teacher librarian Tania Sheko has developed another engaging and interactive piece of work for her students. Using Flickr as its basis, Tania explains how the project went from idea to reality:
In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman says that there are certain ‘flatteners’ that promote and allow for connection, collaboration and creation via distance. He was referring to technological applications which shrink geographical barriers and make global connections possible. This is my aim for a special project at my own school – a project which would enhance teaching and learning through ‘connection, collaboration and creation’, taking the students out of the classroom and into the world.
In 2009 I decided to take up a Flickr challenge to upload a photo every day for a year and post it to appropriate flickr groups. As a result I connected with others through interest and dialogue, and three of us – Marie Coleman, Sinikka Laakio-Whybrow and I – agreed that a similar project would be an enriching experience for students. I was lucky to find a teacher who was interested in the project and who has supported it wholeheartedly.
In the planning stages, we collaborated in a Google document, using Google spreadsheets and slideshow (thanks Marie!) to brainstorm and formulate our project. The geographical time differences weren’t a problem at all, and occasionally Sinikka would catch me in Google chat before going to bed if I was online early enough in the morning.
The final product is an 8 week project with a weekly assignment based on a photo and written description following a theme. The first assignment is to take a photo which ‘is not you, but represents you as a person’ – so, an introduction to initiate the sharing of personal information and interests. Although almost every student included sport and music in their introduction, there were diverse details which created interest in the group. The cultural differences were obvious conversation starters, and the similarities brought the students together through shared interests. I know that our boys, being in a single sex school, were interested in the opportunity to connect with the girls!
The project is quite simple but with very rich results. The weekly themes set diverse tasks. Some themes ask for the sharing of personal, cultural or geographic information, some encourage photographic creativity (‘Take a photo: of something you go past every day and take it from an interesting new perspective”), while others require deeper thinking and creative solutions (‘Take a photo that goes with the title or lyrics of a song’ or ‘Take a photo that somehow represents learning to you’).
We have used Flickr as a platform for this project. Flickr provides an easy way to upload photos, an automatic photostream for each student, and a profile for identification. Our group, Through global lenses, is a one-stop shop for the whole operation. It holds all the members from the three schools, allows for instructions and program, as well as storing all essential information such as netiquette, creative commons, commenting guidelines, etc. It even has email.
Following a weekly theme and guiding questions, students’ task is twofold. Firstly, to take their own photo – this requires thinking and reflection, creativity, individuality, and it is hoped that, as students become accustomed to the challenge, they will become more creative and try different things. Secondly, to write something which responds to the theme, answers prompt questions, and informs and entices readers.
When students view each other’s contributions, this sparks curiosity, natural questioning, and ensuing dialogue. It also brings out a desire to do as well or to do something different. Students are not writing for the teacher, but for a peer audience, sharing generational views and tastes, and learning about cultural differences.
It really is one big conversation, with everyone getting a go, and nobody feeling they can’t get a word in. Several people can engage in dialogue under the same photo. Conversation arises from shared interests and curiosity about cultural differences. Students encourage each other and develop trust and respect for each other. The result is writing from desire instead of duty.
Differences in language are often the subject of conversation. Students ask and explain linguistic and semantic differences, for example, the first week’s photo has resulted in a discussion of the differences between American and Australian football.
Challenges for us include encouraging students to move away from ‘chat language’ and to write correctly and fluently. Despite our instructions, I’ve noticed in the early stages students reverting to their preferred chat in the comments.
It’s easy to keep up with who is commenting on your photo, or further conversation in photos you’ve commented on, when you visit the homepage for the group. Another useful feature is the availability of editing comments or writing. Teachers can ask students to improve or correct their writing at any time.
Reading through comments in the early stages, I can already see the conversations developing as more people enter the conversation, as questions are answered and elaborated on, and the desire to develop the dialogue becomes self motivating. This is very different to writing for your teacher which is a static exercise. Here the writing is interactive and can continue at any time. The Flickr Group Pool can be viewed here.
I’ve noticed that our boys seem different in their writing and comments to the way they present themselves at school. In the comments they seem unafraid to say that something is beautiful, comment on cute dogs, and be generally more open. I guess that’s what comes with writing to a peer audience. That and writing to connect with kids like them from distant places. For these reasons I’m excited about this project which, even in its initial stages, has sparked authentic and engaged conversation, and which will no doubt develop for each student his/her voice through images and words.
Isn’t it interesting that the students are more open to authentic and honest commenting via Flickr than they were previously in face to face situations? It seems that the ways the boys communicate will be a lasting effect from this project, which is absolutely fantastic. It is also another excellent way of students committing to writing and enjoying what they write; being aware of a (possible) international audience means that they really think, write and polish. The project is also a lovely way to engage in dialogue about cultural differences and similarities.