VCE English: Encountering Conflict

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ABC Radio is renowned for its podcasts, with most ABC broadcasting now available for anywhere/anytime listening.  The full list of programs and listening option can be found on the ABC podcasting page.

For a number of years, local Melbourne ABC 774 broadcaster Libbi Gorr has presented a gem of a program on Sundays appropriately entitled Sunday School.  It’s a must for VCE English students, as Libbi joins with English teachers in discussion and commentary on texts, exam preparation support and topics relating to the subject.

In this sample broadcast of Sunday School: Encountering Conflict, Christine Lambrianidis, English Learning Leader at Point Cook Senior Secondary College, joined Libbi to discuss ‘how human trafficking and slavery can affect Australians through the food we eat, clothing we wear and the services we engage.’

Christine related these key issues back to the VCE theme ‘Encountering Conflict’ and also extracted examples from the film ‘A Separation’ directed by Asghar Farhadi which is one of the optional VCE English texts.

This embedded file is from Soundcloud, however, it can just as easily be downloaded via iTunes.  Check with your VCE students to ensure they’re not missing out on this supportive resource.

https://soundcloud.com/774-abc-melbourne/sunday-school-encountering-conflict-theme

Learning professionally with Google+ Communities

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Google educator Kimberley Hall recently presented a full day workshop for School Library Assoc of Victoria. For some delegates it was a glimpse into the possibilities of the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) tool-base, for others it was an opportunity to enhance their existing knowledge with the leadership of a dynamic trainer.

Educational institutions, from primary to secondary schools, through to universities, are now using GAFE, so skill in managing the range of tools such as Google Docs, Tables, Presentations and the indispensable Google Forms with confidence is essential. The value lies in streamlining and managing workflows and documentation within the library, plus the ability to be a learning support resource for students.

Ample support material is available online and Google for Education is a good place to start.  The sites of trainers such as KimberleyChris Betcher and Jim Sill are just a few of the training sites bursting with tutorials and ideas.

Google tools range from Docs, to search strategies, to Google maps, Youtube videos and the new Google Photos. However, learning is a social process and occurs readily through active engagement with peers.  Learning, for all of us, is about collaboration and the boundaries preventing this from happening have disintegrated.  Joining Google Communities is recommended as a collaborative learning space that will put you in touch with like-minded professionals.

Teacher librarian, Heather Bailie, in her recent blog post Get connected with Google+ – a digital artefact presented a video profile of a ‘connected educator’ that includes instructions on how to get started with Google Communities. Whilst mailing lists have been used as professional points of exchange for many years, it’s time to consider moving onto tools such as Google+ Communities.
Some groups are private but most are public and open to all comers.

We are presently trialling Google Communities as an alternative option from Facebook discussion groups for senior students.  The interface is much less distracting than Facebook and I believe it’s is only a matter of time before Google Communities becomes a common learning tool as schools extend their use of the GAFE suite.   Here’s an opportunity to put yourself ahead of the curve – be courageous and move on from mailing lists!

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Conference report: Process of change

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During 2014, School Library Assoc of Victoria has presented a full calendar of professional learning.  This post reflects on the conference School Library Roles: a Process of change held on 31 October at the Catholic Leadership Centre, East Melbourne.  The gathering of over 120 delegates reflected on the impact that change has in school library staff job descriptions, tasks and responsibilities and how it is to be managed.

Head of Library at Whitefriars Catholic College, Rhonda Powling, laid out the tone of the conference in her opening keynote.   Karen Malbon provides a thoughtful reflection on the presentation in her blog Infinite Possibilities where she says:

So often we hear gloom and doom stories about school libraries. Rhonda is optimistic for the future and drew our attention to the futuristic thinking of Mark Pesce and the 2013 ALIA discussion paper, Library and Information Services: the future of the profession themes and scenarios 2025.The three themes identified were convergence, connection and the golden age of information. Convergence generally means fewer jobs but require skills, connection is a library strength and the golden age of information is full of possibilities for libraries.
Libraries will flourish with professional expertise, connectedness, by building relationships with the community and by empowering clients. It is time to let go and move on. School library staff need to be open to challenges, creative, team based, collaborative and focused on the needs of community……. Read all of Karen’s reflection…

 

One of the aims of the day was to provide the conditions for delegates to discuss the variations between the roles of library staff and the impact on library team members’ situations.  Personal input and discussion, followed by presentations from a panel of library staff who spoke positively about their jobs and the students they encounter daily was encouragement for everyone to go back to school and look closely at their roles and the documentation supporting it.  Resources to support an analysis of roles and preparation for an annual review meeting can be found here.

There’s an increased emphasis at SLAV conferences to allow delegates time to try out new skills, discuss what works and simply swap ideas.  The ‘sand pit’ session facilitated by Glenda Morris, teacher librarian, was hands-on time covering a range of topics from web tools to makerspaces and search engines.  Comments from these sessions and more covered in the conference are captured in the Storify below.

SLAV conferences are increasingly about raising issues and building knowledge through the community.  School libraries are being challenged, as Rhonda pointed out in her keynote, yet the future is potentially very bright.   It does, however, require rethinking, reskilling and a good understanding of your role.

Blogging – Revisiting VicPLN Course tools and support

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When you’ve been connected online for some time, it’s possible to lose sight of the perspective of staff new to the professional online environment.  Library staff in particular can come into the profession via a route that hasn’t involved interacting online other than in the personal social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. In joining the school library workforce, however, they must be, or become, digitally literate.  Every member of staff in a school library must be actively digital, it’s the very nature of today’s libraries.

Being ‘digitally literate’ involves knowing how to use digital tools and, most specifically, knowing how to apply them to a specific task.  In recent years hundreds of people have participated in and completed, to various degrees, the VicPLN Course  (Personal Learning Network) conducted by the State Library of Victoria learning team in conjunction with the School Library Assoc of Victoria.  It’s amazing, however, that I constantly encounter people who ‘never really got their head around the PLN tools’, ‘don’t have a use for them’ or feel, ‘they don’t apply to the library role’.

If you work in a school library today you need to be using social media, blogging, curating resources and actively building your own Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Building a PLN according to personal interests, fosters enthusiasm and reveals relevance as you increase your involvement.  This doesn’t mean that everyone must be tweeting, skyping and Google+ing, however, it does mean that they must be looking outside the walls of their library for ideas and inspiration.

Blogging is a good place to start.  Read other people’s blogs, comment and contribute where possible.  The emphasis on blogging has changed since the introduction of curation tools such as ScoopIT and Flipboard but they’re for another post.  Today we’re talking blogging because blogs are a powerful tool in schools, both at the learning and resourcing levels.

Blogging tools recommended:

The VicPLN Team at the State Library created a fabulous resource to support participants of the online VicPLN Web 2.0 Course.  The course material was refined over a number of years and VicPLN Unit 1: Start your blog is the recommended place to start your blogging journey.  In addition to finding recommended resources and blogs to follow, you’ll find tips, tutorials and a wealth of support material.

A note to Library Managers:  Creating a blog for library staff use only is a great place to start.  Use it as a communication and professional ‘sandpit’ learning tool within the library team.  Use your library blog to:

  • Share library staff news and events
  • Record meeting notes, ideas and suggestions
  • Link to professional learning
  • Learn by actively participating

Once confidence is built, start blogging:

  • Book reviews and recommended reading blog
  • Travel blogs for school trips, camps etc
  • Support classroom teachers in using blogs
  • Library news and updates blog

The message cannot be overstated.  Library staff build your skills.  Review your practices, put aside the time-consuming busy work, book displays etc and become an indispensable, digitally skilled workforce.  Blogging is a good place to start.

Bright Ideas will revisit the tutorials and support resources of the VicPLN Team in future posts.  You’re invited to come on board with a commitment to personal skills growth and the development of your own Personal Learning Network (doc will download).

Comments and feedback is welcome as always.

 

 

 

Google Forms – new look, versatile tool

Google-Apps-640x350Forms are one of the most useful tools in the Google toolkit. For some time, however, users have been looking for more functionality and an improved appearance in the product.  It’s finally here with the recent announcement that Google Forms has a range of new themes and options, including the ability to customise the theme with your own image.  These changes have really lifted the appearance and make them a great deal more appealing.

New to Google Forms?  This Tour of Google Forms is prior to the themes upgrade but gives a clear introduction of the main features for the uninitiated.

Forms have a multitude of uses from data gathering, questionnaires, competitions, analysis of an embedded video, surveys, self-graded tests, short story competitions … the list is endless.  Google educator Molly Schroeder’s examples of Using Google Forms is a source of inspiration, although once you start using them you won’t be short of ideas yourself.

At the recent Melbourne Google Summit the professional conversations around the use of Google tools was inspiring.  With so many schools now using Google Apps for Education, the Summit was an ideal place to pick up practical tips that could immediately be applied to the classroom.   In this video Chris Betcher, another leading Google educator and generous sharer of knowledge, explains some of the lesser known, innovative features in Google Forms.  Chris’s Google Summit resources site is packed with ideas and assistance.

A colleague who attended the Google Summit with me has been ‘set on fire’ with the functionality of Chrome extensions Doctopus and Goobric, using them to manage the workload of senior Maths and Accounting classes. It is certainly worth exploring Google Apps for Education and tapping into the resources of the many knowledgeable educators associated with it.

Put the Google Drive Blog in your RSS feed reader to keep posted on the constant improvements.  The Google Educast podcast on the Edreach Network is also a favourite of mine for keeping in touch with Google Apps for Education news, ideas and application to the classroom.  So much to learn, thank goodness for our Personal Learning Networks!

Header image: http://frankbennett.co.uk/

 

Mindmap integration in Google Docs

thinking Many schools, including my own, use Google Apps for Education (GAFE).  As such, I was interested to discover the new partnership between one of my favourite mindmapping tools Mindmeister and GAFE.  With the new MindMeister add-on, (accessible via the add-on tab within a Google Doc) users can turn any bullet-point list into a MindMeister mindmap and automatically inserts it into their document. The mindmap adopts the exact hierarchical structure used in the list and adds a visually appealing graphic to the document.  It’s free and doesn’t require a MindMeister account.  The map created is not editable so students need to do the thinking and planning before they convert it to a mindmap.  Nothing lost however, as they can always delete and re-do if they need more details.  As we are basically visual learners, this is a useful, easily accessible learning support tool. There are many, many online, collaborative mindmapping tools available.  A couple of other favourites are:

  • Bubble .us – ‘Freemium’ model also with full access but limit of 3 maps.  Good collaborative interface.
  • Wisemapping – Free, open source, collaborative and able to be embedded into websites.
  • iThoughts – very popular IOS tool for iPad and iPhone

Comments and suggestions for other recommended options are welcome.

Blogging in the classroom – resources by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano

If you have ever thought about introducing blogs into your classroom or school library, it’s well worth looking at Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano’s blog Langwitches (@langwitches on Twitter).

Recent posts look at how blogging is fundamentally different to simply writing using a computer and how visible thinking routines can get students to reflect and develop metacognitive skills.

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Here are a few posts providing strategies and resources for using blogs with students:

To read more great posts about engaging students in blogging, follow the tag ‘Blogging’ on her site.

What was there – historical photos and Google Maps

What was there uses historical images and Google Maps to look at how places have changed overtime. You can add photos to specific locations and then using Google Street View, overlay images from the past and present.

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A particularly nice feature of the interface is the option to fade between photographs and the street view image. Anyone over 13 can register with the service and add images, tag by location and year, save locations, and position images to overlay with street view.

There are some great examples of cities that have thousands of photographs pinned to different locations, including New York which has around 2000 images. Closer to home, the Victorian regional town of Bairnsdale has around 60 historical images pinned to shops and community buildings.

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With so many cultural institutions digitising collections and making images freely available online, tools like What Was There give students and teachers the opportunity to connect to local history in new ways. The State Library of Victoria has thousands of out of copyright images of regional towns around Victoria that can be used freely for educational purposes.

Imagine students finding images of their town or suburb’s main street a hundred years ago and comparing it to today? Or even their own house or school? Try searching for your town or suburb name in the SLV catalogue and see what you can find.

Library tours on Historypin

We recently came a across a great application of Historypin, a tool which lets you attach media to specific locations on a map.

Judith Way has created a virtual tour of Australian (and a few international) school libraries showcasing different approaches to library design and function. It’s a great example of how we can use tools like Historypin to share our learning and expertise with colleagues.

Tools like Pinterest could also be used to showcase library spaces and displays online.

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You can look at individual libraries, view by location or follow the tour.

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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.