Looking back on my PD journey in 2018 in #OntEd

Waking up to more cutbacks in #ontEd funding is never fun.  So I decided to look at the data.  This post is all about the different ways I developed professionally in 2018.  There were so many great happenings around the province this year.  It never ceases me to amaze me the passion that Ontario educators have for generating their own professional development, voluntarily with a little help from organizations to cover classrooms, and provide accommodation and transportation.  In an effort to be radically transparent, I’m going to try to use these hashtags so you can see where the funding comes for me to be able to participate in these events:

#self-funded = one way or another I usually provide transportation, accommodation, registration, resources for myself in order to be able to attend.  I need idealistic people in my life in order to take the creative risks that I do so for me, it’s worth it.  #babyI’mworthit

#OLA = Ontario Library Association, I have volunteered for the Ontario School Library Association (my school library subject association) for 5 years now.

#UGDSB = The Upper Grand District School Board does backflips to try to make sure that its staff are well-supported.  I love working here.  As a weirdo school-librarian, eLearning teacher I have lots of strangely specific needs for PD and UGDSB always helps me somehow.

#OTF = Ontario Teachers’ Federation is invaluable as a resource for professional development.

#OSSTF = Ontario Secondary Schools’ Teachers’ Federation is the union representing many education sectors in Ontario including teachers.  They have started to really recognize their value as providers of professional development in a new, reinvigorated way.  I like this direction a lot!

Of course we have to start with the incomparable work done by the Ontario Library Association’s Superconference in January 2019.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to volunteer as OSLA’s co-planner for 2018 with Jess Longthorne and again in 2019 with Diana Maliszewski.  Having an elementary expert alongside my deviant secondary brain has made a marvellous madness of Superconference elements.  There’s something for everyone.  I’m really really looking forward to our line up of outstanding school library speakers, our inaugural OLA Sandbox of makers and maker strategies, and our OSLA Spotlight speaker Chelsea Klukas. #OLA

My board UGDSB Applied Strategy workshops with Sandra Herbst involved 4 release days to work with consultants and the incomparable SH to appeal to our applied-level students through strategies on the triangulation of assessment.  Having this time to hyperfocus helped my school create valuable tools and shifts in thinking towards using conversation and observation more effectively each teaching day. #UGDSB

I completed a webinar series from Edugains and Brian Weishar on inference with my colleagues in the UGDSB. It was so rich and so informative that it has immediately become part of my teaching practice both in the classroom and as part of my school library program.  Brian must spend hours making these webinars as they are hugely interactive and use all sorts of critical thinking activities.  I can’t find the webinars anywhere on the Edugains website, but there are some inference resources.  Better yet: here’s Brian’s blog. #self-funded I was able to take some of these great ideas and share them with UGDSB’s literacy leaders because our own UGDSB optimist Sandy Kritzer believes in me. #UGDSB

I have to let you know that there is this secret underground lair where professional development is happening called VoicEd Canada and it is awesome.  My guru who lead me here is Stephen Hurley and although he does a lot of the work, he is joined by amazing educators across the country!  There’s always something going on and their podcasts are archived.  Hello!  Archive your stuff people so we can use it later!! #self-funded

FOLD
FOLD publishes a regular list for diverse Canadian reading.

Where do you get the best reading lists in Ontario?  From Amnesty International Canada’s bookshelf and from the Festival of Literary Diversity (The FOLD).  If I’m marking something to read that’s relevant to me both as a human and as a teacher in an Ontario secondary school, it probably comes from one of these two sources.

The first shoutout to the Ontario Teachers’ Federation for their series of webinars called OTF Connects.  I have participated in numerous webinars but the quality of the content in these is generally wonderful.  I even tried one myself!  Big thanks to Trish Morgan for keeping this resource alive for Ontario educators. #OTF

union
The important work of unions.

My own union OSSTF has done some remarkable re-engagement work for its members this year.  As someone who has served on my branch’s executive every year since 2000, this important work needs to be supported, and I really appreciate the way that District 18 has held  rejuvenating local workshops for its members.  #OSSTF

PD Todd Pottle
Todd Pottle visits elearning teachers at UGDSB

As an elearning teacher in the UGDSB, I am really well taken care of.  Sean Hamilton and Pam Eurig recognize that we are doing ground-breaking work to make online learning a viable and dynamic experience for students.  They even convinced the fabulous Todd Pottle to visit Guelph one day.  able supported to attend both the CONNECT conference and the BOLTT conference each year.  Both conferences offer different foci for different audiences.  ELearning is best supported at BOLTT but CONNECT’s work is better-grounded in the research. #UGDSB #self-funded

I’m still fondly remembering the work done by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation on their 2 day Wellness conference in the spring.  I learned a lot about self-preservation, balance and remembering that every interaction with students can make a difference in their mental health.  Highlights: dancing my understanding of support networks with Leigha Turner and Jenn Coleman #OTF

Eden
Asking Eden Robinson a question!

I am thrilled by the success of our ODSS staff summer book club reading Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster. UGDSB’s own Colinda Clyne has been very gracious in provoking and promoting FNMI voices and she provided us with many many books this year. She even visited one of our meetings and brought cookies.  #rockstar  It was so successful that we also co-read Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers.  I have hopes that this will continue in 2019, possibly starting with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, who visits Brampton’s Rose Theatre in February 2019. #UGDSB #self-funded

This is the 3rd year that I have presented at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation Pedagogy B4 Technology conference, in Markham, Ontario  and I thrilled to do it.  This conference’s focus on the practice of teaching with the use of technological tools is just right for it’s length, breadth and optimism!  I look forward to it because the questions and the speakers really motivate me to focus inwards on my own educational values, and I return to my school feeling rejuvenated and ready for action. #OTF

PD Mindomo
Tina Ginglo’s course inspired this Mindomo reflection.

I was so motivated and enthused by the idea that I was stepping back into the classroom again as the new creative writing teacher at ODSS, that I INSANELY signed up to take Tina Ginglo‘s Writing Part 1 AQ through York University.  I’m only insane because of the time commitment not because the course isn’t AWESOME.  And this awesomeness is what got me through because as a veteran teacher of 21 years, I STILL learned something and was thrilled to have time to focus on my teaching practice of writing itself, to gather new resources, and to develop really practical tools for teaching writing.  Thank you Tina! #self-funded

I have admired the work of ECOO for years and they have propelled me into being that person at school that people rely on for innovation and technical support.  Imagine a world where self-professed geeks and nerds want to show you their cool stuff for 3 days and you have, what is now known as the, Bring IT Together conference. My favourite day is the first one, where you get to hyperfocus on hands-on learning in workshops that are 1/2 day.  This year I chose to work on 2 topics: gamification using BreakoutEDU and computational thinking through knitting.  I learned so much from Kim Gill and Lisa Noble and I am still working on these ideas.   I usually apply to present so that my registration is subsidized but this is harder to do each year without additional support.  #self-funded #UGDSB

What’s next in 2019?  We’ll see.  I know, as well as you do, that we’re entering leaner times.  I wanted to write this post to remind myself as well as you that there are many many opportunities for PD.  Just because we can’t always get together face-to-face doesn’t mean that we can’t learn.

All the best for a happy new year of professional development.

 

School Library Makerspaces: Grades 6 – 12 by Leslie Preddy

School Library Makerspaces: Grades 6-12School Library Makerspaces: Grades 6-12 by Leslie B Preddy

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a secondary librarian, without planning time, without my own students focused on design/construction/creativity, I’m launching a full-time makerspace this fall that is filled with mostly donated items from the now-extinct home economics and fashion programs at my school. We have a severe shortage of electricity because we were built when libraries contained only books and the occasional microfiche reader. Nonetheless, after successfully executing at least 1 makerspace per semester for the first two years, I’m confident that a full-time makerspace will bring two qualities to my library learning commons (LLC) culture that I struggle to maintain on a daily basis: creativity and community. What I mean by that is that libraries were made for consuming information and to truly understand the nature of manufacturing/designing/inventing we need to shift to becoming as much creators as we are consumers….in life, in general, for all people, but certainly for the students in my LLC. The other thing that students (if not all people) are sorrily missing is community. They need to have places to hang out and learn from each other while enjoying the company. Flashback to the quilting bee, the hunt club, or as I experienced it, the 4-H homemaking club.

So with these ideas already in mind, I approached this book, particularly excited because it’s aimed at grades 6 – 12 whereas so many other resources on makerspaces are targeted at elementary folks. I purchased the book after having listened to author Leslie Preddy speak at a library research conference called Treasure Mountain in Connecticut a few years back. Maybe I read it already, maybe I’ve picked up most of what Preddy has to say through other means, but I found that for a book devoted to secondary makerspaces, that it was lacking in innovation. I suppose what I wanted most was to feel a reassuring hug with a few sure-fire strategies for success and didn’t. In fact most of the book is devoted to Pinterest-style pages of what to do with very little. I already thought of that.

The meat of this book is in the first 8 pages where Preddy suggests creating library-style pathfinders with instruction videos on how to get started. This is an idea I’ll definitely take away. She suggests that signage and mentoring are the best ways to get students started. She also says that it might take some time for students to move to independent experimentation and to just keep the students coming back and soon it will take off. She briefly mentions some sort of badging or achievement system where students can move from novice to mentor, but doesn’t really expand on it.

I’ll be continuing my quest for secondary makerspace guidance as Preddy’s book, for me and my needs, fell short of the mark.

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School libraries and eLearning: Answering the call for access and equity

Michelle Campbell and I presented at CONNECT 2018 in Niagara Falls this week.  After some very encouraging conversations at Treasure Mountain Canada in October, we decided to take our ideas about the intersection of school libraries and eLearning success to the wider audience at this conference.  CanConnect attracts some of the greatest education influencers in the province, if not the country and has the power to implement our ideas and philosophy nationwide.

One of the first times I benefited from Michelle’s brilliant work was when she invented UG2Go, the single point access for all of Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB)’s digital resources.  She did this to solve the problem of multiple logins and passwords that were a barrier for students when working in these spaces.  Here’s the elementary portal:

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and here’s the secondary portal:

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Each of the buttons on the secondary portal lead to a drop down menu containing appropriate digital resources in each.  We have both sponsored and subscribed digital resources here.  The invention of UG2Go was a game-changer for me as a teacher-librarian because I could direct staff and students to one place for everything.

Do you remember when we were kids that there were these Block Parent signs around the neighbourhood?  Block Parent meant that you could go to that house for help for whatever reason.  School libraries are like the Block Parents in schools.  No matter if you need academic help, tech assistance or just want a place to be yourself, you can find this place in a school library.  The shift to learning commons means that school library staff now aim to have this same safe experience in all of our resources: physical and virtual.

 

In UGDSB, the addition of robust digital resources has made it even more attractive to all students, but especially to students who break the mould.  Many of our students come to the school library learning commons well before and after school and on no bus days just for our hospitality and wifi.  The library is not a quiet library anymore as learning takes on many forms.  The library learning commons is also safe for creative risk-taking in learning.

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So why, when we were first rolling out eLearning courses, didn’t the school library come to mind?  Why are we an after-thought now that the stakeholders realize that many of the students taking eLearning require some face-to-face help to be successful? I hate to be repetitive but this is largely because the education system bought into the digital native myth, leading everyone to believe that new generations of children would innately be comfortable using digital technology for all of their tasks.  What we’ve learned from decades of mediocre success rates is that students need equitable access to technology and technology instruction needs to be explicit and in context of learning. Students need to learn how to learn and that above all, digital technology is an additional layer to this learning not an innate process.  Even now, boards are eliminating teacher-librarians and technician jobs and instead creating unstaffed learning commons and e-learning hubs.  Much of what I do day-to-day involves personal coaching of staff and students in designing and implementing deep learning tasks both online and offline. I provide technology, professional development, just-in-time support and continuity across the school. Why shouldn’t our eLearning teachers and students have the same support? Face-to-face I am able to create a safe, participatory learning environment where we tailor our daily work to the individualized needs of staff and students.  Online I’m still challenged to find a way to embed my library work in online spaces.  New developments in collaborative technology and a shift in philosophy to include school support staff would go a long way to improve success rates in eLearning students.  

The Feedback-Friendly Classroom by Deborah McCallum

The Feedback-Friendly ClassroomThe Feedback-Friendly Classroom by Deborah McCallum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are so many hidden gems in this unassuming book. McCallum uses gentle prompts to stir up thinking about how we build trust, reliance and collaboration in our classrooms with the ultimate tools of feedback. If we could write the follow up to this book using some of the rich technology in education that we use every day, this book would take on new significance.

McCallum has reminded me to worry about depth of thinking and not breadth of curriculum coverage.  Her book has reminded me to make feedback part of my teaching practice every day.

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