When I PD (yes, as a verb), I look for things that will push me out of my comfort zone: new venues, new people and new ideas. I asked to present at the OSSTF Educational Technology conference this week as it was described as trying to reach teachers who were reluctant to use technology in their classrooms. I hoped to meet people who didn’t even own cellphones, and I did! I had the dreaded last spot of the day to present in. I say ‘dreaded’ because I am deadly in the last spot. By the time the last spot rolls around I have everyone else’s presentations in my head, I’m second guessing what I have to say and, let’s face it, I’m tired. In this case though, I was also unsure of my audience. How do you get reluctant people to buy in to your message? I decided to present the idea of How to become Comfortable with being Uncomfortable.
Earlier in the day, I participated in a session run by Amanda Anderson as she talked about classroom technology that she uses to help her ELL students to accelerate their language learning. Her fifth slide was this one:
Amanda stopped me thinking about anything else for the rest of the week with her statement that we need to stop aiming to integrate technology in learning and instead created blended learning situations. I really like Amanda’s definition, and was even more appreciative when I saw her beautiful reference to this article as a blended learning starting point. Later the same day, presenting finally, I felt the earth shift as one of the godfathers of educational technology in Ontario rolled his eyes when I mentioned the SAMR model to my audience of reluctant technology users. I’ve relied on both TPACK and SAMR for years now to explain that models of technology use are real but imperfect because we still haven’t achieved those elusive 21st century competencies (now to be re-branded as Global Competencies in Ontario). I’m not married to the idea of SAMR but I refer to it as a rubric for improving the task in which technology is used. I am particularly fond of the S in SAMR as I try to only resort to Substitution when the wifi goes down.
Why is everything in education either a ladder, a pyramid or a target? Do we not know any other 2-D shapes? I see the complexity of the issue of integrating technology effectively into learning as more of a sphere. The Canadian School Libraries Association said it really well in its 2014 document Leading Learning: “The learning commons promotes personalization, inquiry, and the integration of technology through the implementation of innovative curricular design and assessment.” The 3D-ness of the sphere allows us to reiterate the process over and over again rather than to climb a ladder or hit a target or move up the levels of a pyramid. In my job as teacher-librarian, I maintain and advocate for the use of technology for improved collaboration, communication and creativity inside the building, and into the community. Often then I am using the C’s as another handy way to encourage the use of technology in schools.
My favourite abbreviated model though actually comes from the TV Show Silicon Valley: SOMOLO. This is how I ended my presentation. If we can make learning with technology more social (C for collaboration and Vygotzky would be proud); mobile (using the tech in student pockets as well as the board-approved device) and local (authentic, relevant and real in the user’s life), then we’re making huge gains. With SOMOLO, I think our pedagogy and integration of technology will improve, perhaps to even become seamlessly blended in learning.
Woefully, I think about 100 people of the 150 had left by the time the last spot arrived, and my audience sat all the way at the back of a cavernous room. Thank goodness for the wireless mouse. Looking back at that moment, I think the uncomfortable-ness I was experiencing, was just what I needed to push me to put my thoughts down here.
PS: In revisiting this idea with @dougpete, he gave me a whack of articles which (like any good teacher-librarian) I have curated into a Flipboard all about questioning the purpose of SAMR for your use:
This week editor Derrick Grose and his team of editors released their inaugural edition of the Canadian School Libraries Journal. Derrick says: “This first issue of the Canadian School Library Journal reflects the exciting times in which we are working” and “the actual work being done in school libraries”.
For those of you who don’t know, Canadian School Libraries has gone through some redevelopment in the last couple of years. Like a phoenix from the ashes, it is reborn and lead by the Canadian movers-and-shakers in school library.
What they don’t teach you in teacher’s college is how lonely teaching can be. The professors don’t tell you that if you wanted to you could completely fly under the radar, inherit a dusty binder of outdated material and recycle it for the next thirty years of your career alone in your classroom. You may have a department office where you can bounce ideas off of each other, but if you’re like me, and there are only eleven of you in the whole district, then that opportunity doesn’t come around enough.
In 2009 I began to feel the power of developing my own professional development through online places as reaching out to internet-based PD suited my autonomous, asynchronous and rural lifestyle. I co-wrote an Ontario Ministry of Education English course for these new-fangled platforms called eLearning and I discovered the possibilities for distance education. I joined Twitter, I started to blog and I found my tribes both through the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) and the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA). The commitment of these groups to hosting really great face-to-face professional development conferences is profound. Through this new knowledge I emerged as a leader in educational technology in my school, district and beyond. I did all of this simply by showing up and sharing. It’s actually that simple. About the same time, I became a teacher-librarian and my opportunities to promote global competencies [See Exhibit A] exploded.
When I arrived at teacher-librarianship, I inherited a library that felt deeply confused…the books had become second-class citizens to the clunky desktop computer lab that pulled focus. In 2012 we transformed our library into a learning commons. I went through my first emotionally draining power weed going from 12,000 items to 9,000 in 6 months and the average publication date of my collection went from 1989 to 2003. Like a bad boyfriend, I washed that confused adolescent library out of my hair. There is nothing like a renovation to rejuvenate…and then the really hard work began. It wasn’t enough to buy new furniture. I needed to shift the culture of learning in my school. As an innovating early adopter of the learning commons model, I felt alone [See exhibit B].
I was in a trough of disillusionment [Exhibit C]. I often struggle with the cheerleading aspects of teacher-librarianship because I need to feel deeply committed to whatever I am advocating. That’s really easy to do about innovative ways to deepen critical thinking but less so about standardized testing. Easy: Graphic novels and makerspaces. Difficult: having every student write in proper APA format. You get the picture. So what does anyone in need of a professional pick-me-up do? I started my M.Ed. in teacher-librarianship at the University of Alberta completely online. I relished every moment of the four years I studied and I fell into a deep mourning period the moment it was over.
That year at our ECOO conference, I was having post-workshop beverages with my tribe and we started talking about how to keep the good feelings growing. We had just come from a marvellous session that was essentially a panel discussion about a riveting book [See Exhibit D]. We were talking books at an educational technology conference. We were moaning how one conference a year just isn’t enough when your professional development tribe is spread all over the world. That was the eureka moment for a crazy journey of online partnerships.
The first year I promoted twenty books using just Twitter and Goodreads. The second year we tried ten. I used my WordPress blog to go deeper in my reviews and questions. I tried to get these introverted book nerds to meet up once a month in a Google Hangout and once a year at the conference for breakfast. I interviewed people reading the books and I interviewed the authors. I promoted our book club with publishers and most times I was able to secure a review copy and even a discount for our book club members. Overall I had 94 people interact with the book club worldwide. It was exhausting and rewarding all at the same time but the book club wasn’t yet running itself.
Through my volunteer work for the OSLA, I met Katina Papulkas who came to our quarterly meeting in November 2015 with an idea for a partnership. I told her about my experiments to build community through online book clubs and she told me about TV Ontario’s (TVO) TeachOntario. So the OSLA volunteered to run two pilot book clubs and I rebirthed our discussion about danah boyd’s book.
The trick about running online communities is that you really have to redefine the idea of “participation”. I have been greatly influenced by the participatory culture ideas of museum curator Nina Simon and of communications professor Henry Jenkins. Lurkers are people too. I just appreciate it when I can measure their lurking. In that first book club we had 24 people join, but there are some discussions that have had 994 views since then. I’m not kidding! In our current book club using Trevor Mackenzie’s Dive Into Inquiry, I have 140 page views on one discussion thread this week. Whether I would ever have been able to gain that kind of traction all on my own through Twitter or not is beside the point, because I am reaching a different audience through TeachOntario. The audience inside TeachOntario is made up of public educators who are wary of their online presence and who have specifically asked for a walled garden approach to their PD, learning in this space so that they can be free to be themselves. I am finally reaching the early majority, the late majority and maybe even some of the laggards.
For face-to-face time, we’ve tried breakfast at the ECOO conference, book giveaways to entice new readers to join us but our best yet has been to partner again with #PubPD. The Edtech Team who create Google Summits came up with the idea to coordinate a date once a month North America-wide where like-minded people would come together at a common watering hole and talk about a specific PD topic. The creator delivers five questions on the topic via Twitter, so it’s a Tweet Up Meet Up. Last summer I was presenting at a different venue each month and I got to meet a lot of new people and sell them on the idea of joining us in TeachOntario. In August, we broke a record with 39 people at once attending our #PubPD while at the Pedagogy B4 Technology conference in Markham, Ontario.
The biggest advantage of partnering with TeachOntario is that Katina’s team is filled with extraordinary people who design the online space, manage the technology, promote our activities, encourage us to do more and relentlessly pursue the authentic and cost-free sharing of professional development. If I say to the TeachOntario group, “I have an idea…” they run with it and make it happen in a polished, professional way. They are flexible, adaptable and vigilant in their mandate to deliver quality professional development. They enable us, and they empower me to keep working hard to contribute to the growth of this community.
My goals for the future of these book clubs is that I hope that the book clubs will feel like they don’t have a start date and an end date. I want to step away from being the fulcrum of the momentum. I want it to take on a life of its own and for past participants to propose new readings for discussion and to lead. I’d like the walled garden to include all educators in Canada if not beyond our borders to the globe. My online professional development experiences are as rich, or richer, as the ones I have face-to-face. No, I take it back. They’re definitely richer because they are self-driven.
Alanna King is an agent of change in the Upper Grand District School Board. She works tirelessly to improve availability and access to resources in all media forms in her secondary school library learning commons. Alanna is proud to represent the Central West region with the Ontario School Library Association and can best be found on Twitter @banana29.
This little book (just 157 pages) is not for the faint of heart and is not a light read. It spans the life of Amed, who makes the horrible choice to swap places with his brother as a child, rather than to suicide bomb a target in revenge for the death of his grandparents. Sweeping across continents and across time periods in Amed’s life, this book feels like an epic journey of a tortured soul. He is constantly visited by the ghosts of his past and they stir Amed to flee rather than deal with his crisis of conscience. Not until the ending, does Tremblay provide a Deus ex Machina in the form of a tortured play where Amed can finally bare all in a giant cathartic finale.
I read this book as part of the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine program. The translation is awkward feeling and the ending is too abrupt and yet I would put this book in the canon alongside Elie Wiesel, Night for the way it has perfectly captured the zeitgeist of our war-torn era and the human migration that is a result of it. Small but mighty, The Orange Grove spoke to me on many levels. In the secondary school classroom, it would ignite all sorts of entry-level conversation on difficult topics.
This book is a light read but darker than Don Calame‘s previous works. Dan and his Mom’s fiance venture into the wilderness with a motley crue of tag-alongs. Dan is intent on breaking the fiance until he starts to really struggle with the wild as nature bites back. Underneath it all is Dan’s fear of change and the healthy mistrust of this new adult. It turns out the fiance is not all he appears as well except he has an unwavering concern for Dan’s well-being.
I read this book as part of the Ontario Library Association’s selection for the White Pine program this year. I didn’t like it as much as Calame’s previous Swim the Fly in the same way that I didn’t appreciate Robin Williams trying to become a dramatic actor after being a comedy star. Perhaps Calame is morphing and this is his transition book. Regardless Dan Vs. Nature still suits the nature of male-focused fun in an otherwise morose world of young adult fiction.
This week I’m attending the inaugural CANeLearn symposium in Vancouver, BC. The session I’m presenting is a collaborative action research project that we had funded by the Ontario Teachers’ Federation.
The session will show you the results so far of our action research project in improving student motivation. Through teaching strategies for increasing student curiosity, control, collaboration, scaffolded challenges and recognition we are conquering fear and fostering courage in the frontierland of secondary school elearning. You will gain full access to our strategies as we harvest your ideas for further exploration and testing.
I had such a treat this week to interview author John Vaillant about the book that we are currently reading in TVO’s TeachOntario. The questions were developed in conjunction with the book club’s participants.
Usually when I have interviewed people in the past, I have simply used Google Hangouts on Air and hit record. This time I needed to adapt to the new Livestream option inside YouTube (which is just like Google Hangouts on Air but hidden) and I had the marvelous Matthew O’Mara to school me on a few production tips. I hope you’ll enjoy the interview and to be encouraged to pick up this timely and treacherous adventure. For my review of this book, please go to The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant
Do you remember how you felt at the end of the Harry Potter books…you couldn’t believe it was all over? Lev Grossman’s world renderings have left me feeling like I have been to another world and back again. Truthfully, I didn’t start enjoying Harry Potter as an adult until we got to #3 The Prisoner of Azkaban and things took a turn to the darker. Well, Grossman starts you with that delicious darkness right away by following the angsty college-age characters into the pits of their binge-drinking, malaise, and their general feelings of invincibility. It took me awhile to get Quentin Coldwater, our protagonist, as he begins as such an unlikeable character: weak, needy, low self-esteem and perpetually whinging. Hanging in there with Quentin means you get to enjoy Grossman’s foils: Julia, Eliot, Alice, Janet, Penny and Plum. Each of his friends is suprisingly complex and I looked forward to every encounter. Grossman isn’t gentle with his readers…he expects you to have a well-versed lexicon of pop culture and regularly twists icons of the fantasy world to his will. This is a reader’s book. There may even be an encyclopedia on The Magicians’ Lore and Easter Eggs out there somewhere….and if not then someone needs to conjure one. Of course I loved the Neitherlands’ library most and I’d like to spend some real time there if I just had the right button.
I think Grossman may be ahead of his time, combining this almost dystopian and back again version of the typical fantasy quest with very real struggles with mental health themes, the continuous search for identity and enough modern slang to quickly date this book. I will recommend it to everyone but I’m not sure it will suit everyone’s taste as it breaks all sorts of archetypal rules. And readers like their archetypes.
On a side note: I am not particularly enjoying the casting of Quentin Coldwater in the TV series and actually my favourite actor is the one playing Penny, who is grossly underused in Grossman’s The Magicians. Maybe Mr. Grossman will reward my loyalty by writing a spin-off series just about Penny? Or Plum…she’s awesome too.
It’s dark and dingy but it has this throwback, homage feeling to it that really appealed to my sense of design. The story uses many archetypes and predictable twists and turns as there is a plague, and zombie-esque creatures and vampires, but really our hunter is fighting evil, and that never really goes out of style, does it? My favourite part is when the pretty sidekick (who just can’t seem to keep her blouse on her shoulders) escapes the onslaught of the zombies by hiding inside a submarine full of corpses. I’ll have to see what my secondary school readers think of it as they are always craving more brains….errr, zombies. More zombies! More zombies!
Baltimore reminds me more of something about the same age as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde then a modern day graphic novel. If you like fog and death, you’re going to love it.
In 2015 award-winning author John Vaillant released his first novel “The Jaguar’s Children” saying that the issues of Mexico’s plight are just too complex to do justice in a non-fiction book. The book cover shows a wall….the same wall that everyone is talking about in 2017.
It’s this wall that our main characters Hector and Cesar must overcome but the greater story is in the reasons that have pushed Hector and Cesar to make this choice. For one, their home region of Mexico, Oaxaca, has been overtaken by corporate farming and the heritage strain of Oaxaca’s indigenous corn is being bioengineered out of existence. The corn is an underlying metaphor that pervades the novel as Hector’s own Zapotec heritage is threatened by modernisation and his decision to leave Mexico altogether. Most of the novel takes place inside the water truck which conceals the boys’ identities but becomes their prison as it breaks down in the hot desert sun. In dealing with this real conflict, Hector takes Cesar’s phone and tries to reach out for help. Timely and gripping, The Jaguar’s Children will leave you with questions about our own responsibilities as global citizens and who gains most from economic policy.
Join me in TeachOntario for a great discussion beginning February 21, 2017. TeachOntario is an open space for educators and the public alike. This is our first fiction collaboration with the Ontario School Library Association and we’ve chosen The Jaguar’s Children because it is a) a wicked good book and b) because it was nominated for an Evergreen award by the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program. The book club is inside the Explore section of TeachOntario as we are inviting the public to join in so please bring a friend.
“Our approach to freedom need not be identical, but it must be intersectional and inclusive.” – Janet Mock, writer, TV host, transgender rights activist
Today I feel compelled to put into words my choice to broadcast the inauguration of the 45th U.S. President in my school library yesterday.
Living on the other side of the U.S. border has its challenges for a small town teacher-librarian. While we dance around the idea of Canadian identity and what that means when our culture is represented, Canadian publishers in all media forms are still driven by American markets and American values. So populating a library with well-loved material of CanCon isn’t always what pleases the staff and students because we’ve been gorging ourselves on the fire hose of American content. But the direction of Trump’s politics is certainly affecting my library just 150 km from our border. It is our mandate to give equal weight to the voices in my school respectfully, responsibly and compassionately.
When my principal put forward the idea of livestreaming the inauguration in our school, I was all for it from the beginning. Generally, when I’m faced with a situation that feels precarious in the library I have to resist that flight feeling and instead push through. I gather my community for support and so we put it to the staff that we were going to livestream the inauguration throughout the halls and in the learning commons. We received the full spectrum of reactions…some who thought it was important and some who thought it was giving support to the wrong values. After some discussion back and forth we decided to show it in the library only and I think now it was the right decision because of the wide range of opinions and emotions in the school around this momentous occasion. The dilemma seemed to be whether or not we should be giving hateful politics any space at all in our school community. Better to have staff on hand and nearby for students who are wrestling with the same strong emotions we’re having. I side with providing information openly first and then we can work through our disparate reactions together. That’s my job and it gets me out of bed every morning.
We didn’t make any announcements at all, but I started to set up about an hour before Trump’s speech and the students just started pouring in. We have simply not had the technology before now to do this before and it was surprisingly easy. I put up a question trying to focus on a critical thinking aspect of whatever we were about to see. “What words does he use to persuade the audience?” That was as neutral as I could manage. I also made sure that the students knew they didn’t have to stay and that there was a quieter area in the lower library. As the speech began I estimate that we had 150 students and 7 staff members watching. We spoke quietly with the students asking what they thought of the words being used. The end of his speech really enflamed some passionate responses but everyone was in control and respectful. Just before the end of lunch, the videostream ended.
It inspired wonder! Curiosity! I heard:
“I wonder why they chose January 20th to begin his presidency?”
“I wonder how Trump’s changes will affect our economic relationship with the U.S.?”
“Is that racist?” “Are those all of Trump’s children?” “Are there any black people in the audience?
I know it was the right thing to do. This is why civic places exist in democracy. It may be difficult to work through the issues we all feel are most important, but on my watch my library will continue to be a place where issues and voices can co-exist.
“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde, African American writer, feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist
I first became interested in Plum Johnson’s They Left Us Everything as it has won the Ontario Library Association’s 2016 Evergreen award for best in Canadian adult fiction. This book is my surprise read of the year. Aging parents and all their stuff? The topic doesn’t really sell itself, does it? But then I engaged with Plum’s story as it speaks to the changing nature of family dynamics. Her family is challenged by her father’s Alzheimer’s disease, her brother’s cancer and the general decline of her mother. As her parents age and pass away, she is left with a monument to their time on Earth that seems psychologically insurmountable to deal with. Each item that Plum touches resonates with a history sometimes obvious but more likely it’s true meaning isn’t revealed until Plum has a series of serendipitous moments. This book spans the time it took Plum to deal with each item, the family disagreements about how to deal, and the time of putting it all to rest. This book is filled with the things that we think and don’t say and in joining Plum in her memoir, I feel better about the future challenges in my own life. It is descriptive and concise, and a true tribute to family dysfunction in all its glories. If I could, I’d buy a copy for each family member with a card attached that says “Fair warning.”
I can barely tell you about the book without spoilers but let me say something about the most enticing bits ….the library is THE library containing all the knowledge in the world (including resurrections, for example. …there us unspeakable violence and the threat of an approaching apocalypse and our antihero Carolyn has to learn all this while living with her 11 adopted brothers and sisters who are each mastering their own catalogue and experimenting on each other. It takes sibling pranks to a whole new level.
I will recommend this book to any student in my library who I suspect lives a double-life or has their sights on anarchy.
I can’t help but say that I was hoping that this book would be the perfect addition to my secondary school library collection because once again Lawrence Hill tackles challenging topics of race and discrimination. In Any Known Blood Hill spends a devoted part of his novel to how being of mixed race makes people ostracized in all camps …not black enough, not white enough. Mixed race faces are the faces of young Canada and I see my students struggle with feeling comfortable in their own skin every day. The lineage of the Langston Cane men that forms the novel is fascinating to see the choices they’ve made through history and I’m a devotee of the multi-generational plot structures (Wild Swans: Three Daughters of ChinaOne Hundred Years of SolitudeA Fine Balance). However, the amount of sexuality in this book makes me uncomfortable as a public educator in recommending it to my young readers….which is too bad.
"Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity ... we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance." - A. Edward Newton
Turning and turning in the widening gyre | The falcon cannot hear the falconer | Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold | Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world | The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere | The ceremony of innocence is drowned | The best lack all conviction, while the worst | Are full of passionate intensity. -- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
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