The inauguration in my school library learning commons

“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

Best BITs: Are you underwhelmed in online spaces?

In reading Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, I’m reflecting on how not much has really changed since the invention of forums in the 70s … not that I was lurking there, but really it goes like this: post discussion thread, reply to discussion thread, repeat. …Right?

FullSizeRender.jpg
Why am I underwhelmed in my online spaces

Henry Jenkins says:”… It is abundantly clear that not all forms of participation are equally meaningful or empowering.”  Can you recall a time when you felt underwhelmed by a participatory experience?  What were the circumstances and what went wrong?

Looking forward to your comments.

#BIT16Reads: Multiple entry points

I attended TEDxKitchener last weekend and the first speaker of the day, Dina Pestonji, reminded me that learning has multiple entry points.  Likewise, our online book club #BIT16Reads has multiple entry points.  Here are some of the planned places where you can jump in:

June 1, 2016: Begin discussing Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

July 1, 2016: Begin discussing The Innovator’s Mindset 

August 1, 2016: Begin discussing Creating Thinking Classrooms

September 1, 2016: Begin discussing How We Learn

October 1, 2016: Begin discussing Building School 2.0

November 9 – 11, 2016: #BIT16Reads meet up at the Bring IT Together conference, Niagara Falls, Ontario

After #BIT15Reads last year, one of the most common comments I heard was “I’m so sorry! I joined the book club but I didn’t keep up and then I felt embarrassed that that I couldn’t keep up and so I just stopped participating…”

is completely contrary to The Point of BIT16Reads

The point of #BIT16Reads is

  • to develop a community of learning educators
  • to support each other beyond our annual face-to-face meet ups
  • and above all to enjoy it (there will be no public floggings).

The book club is an idea experiment in itself wherein we have a common text to move our discussion forward.  So if you read our first book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era and throw it across the room after 35 pages, that is your democratic right!  All I ask is that you tell us about it somehow, somewhere and tag it #BIT16Reads so we can see it.

If you want to find us, we’ll be on multiple social media platforms but I encourage you to REGISTER so we can find you!

TVO’s TeachOntario: https://www.teachontario.ca/docs/DOC-3594 

and outside Ontario in Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/170190-bit16reads

Cultivating participatory cultures in your library learning commons

This week I’m presenting on this topic at the Ontario Library Association’s Superconference 2016 #OLASC16.  Here is a link to my presentation:

http://prezi.com/ossxf_ab8lxv/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share

During the presentation I’ll be asking participants to participate! (surprise surprise)  One of those ways is using crowdsourcing.  I’m asking you to contribute your own ideas for cultivating a participatory culture using this form:

http://goo.gl/forms/gC4lmEHFUL


The responses will be here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1KopTSzmKQ3oJZkyjzQuoBseA6q8JWN401Erk-T20_ts/edit?usp=sharing

 

#BIT16Reads: Branching out

#BIT15Reads: Where do we go from here?

Welcome to all new members of #BIT15Reads! Hello to all of you who’ve been with us since the beginning.

We gained almost 30 new members since November 4th bringing our total membership to 92 members.  Fantastic.

I’d like to propose a few ideas for moving forward:
a) we keep the name #BIT15Reads until Dec. 31, 2015 and then change it #BIT16Reads
b) we review some of our favourite books (that involve technology and education somehow)…I’m calling this the “classics” bookshelf which I’ve said we’re “currently reading” in the Goodreads bookclub site  (I’ve already started a list based on suggestions and a few of my favourites but I know there are more out there…don’t be shy!)
c) We continue to expand our group’s platforms where we’re comfy…I’ve tried Goodreads, Flipboard, Google Hangouts and Twitter so far. Peter McAsh has offered to take the lead on Blab…a social conferencing tool that Steve Dotto highlighted at the conference. Any others?
d) Start thinking about #BIT16Reads books….these would be books with a copyright date of 2015 that you’d like to read/highlight as important reads about technology’s role in education.  Maybe we start reading these in May 2015 to get ready for #BIT16?

Your action items:

  • enjoy reading
  • nominate classics books
  • keep talking about the books you’re reading either from the BIT15Reads or Classics lists and tweet using the hashtag #BIT15Reads as you’re reading, when you review, when you connect to other texts etc.
  • start or join discussions in Goodreads
  • give me feedback
  • get involved

Want to be a moderator? Got an idea? Let me know. I’m so glad to have you aboard this experiment to create community all year long.

my reading 2015
What reading looks like to me in 2015

 

Reading in a Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins and Wyn Kelley

Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom

Jenkins and Kelley offer an optimistic alternative to Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains which is filled, as Jenkins claims, with “contemporary anxieties” (p. 10).  The book offers instead this explanation: “As a society, we are still sorting through the long-term implications of these [media] changes.  But one thing is clear: These shifts point us toward a more participatory culture, one in which everyday citizens have an expanded capacity to communicate and circulate their ideas, one in which networked communities can help shake our collective agendas.” (p. 7) I would like my library learning commons to reflect this ideal where there are always activities happening for staff and students and each of our school community members feel that they have a voice. The Canadian Library Association’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons (2014) insists that one of the key steps for implementation is to “foster a collaborative school culture of inquiry and participatory learning in both physical and virtual environments” (p. 23).   That’s a tall order in a secondary school where departments act as silos preventing cross-curricular collaboration from happening.

 

My favourite English department assignment at my school is a novel study where students explore contexts of the author, protagonist, setting and date of release.  In building in student choice, each one is able to research a context (or two) that relates both to themselves and to their chosen novel. The notion of exploring contexts in literature is similar to the chapter by Kolos and Nierenberg on negotiating cultural spaces (pp. 153-157) where Aurora high school students learned how to effectively protest to their local government.  This cultural negotiation, fitting into spaces where you haven’t fit in before, seems to be a requisite to developing a participatory culture and is highlighted in the Flows of Reading digital accompaniment to the book.  It particularly stands out in the video clip  

http://videos.criticalcommons.org/transc oded/http/www.criticalcommons.org/Member s/ebreilly/clips/rockabillies-in-tokyo/v ideo_file/mp4-high/rockabillies-in-tokyo -mp4-mp4.mp4

where Japanese rockabilly fans are dancing in Yoyogi park in Tokyo.  Having lived and worked in Japan for 3 years, I was often hit with cultural negotiation experiences where I had to fit in to the dominant culture and after a while I was allowed to sit cross-legged during tea ceremonies and the sushi would stop arriving at the table still breathing for the sake of my comfort.  Having to work through the awkward feelings of feeling out of place is a life lesson that everyone should experience.

One of my biggest epiphanies from this book is the idea that students are learning to negotiate cultural spaces between home and school in their discourse.  “While the Discourse of formal schooling is fairly well aligned with the home discourses of middle-and upper-class kids who want to achieve academic success will need to learn to “code switch”, to cross communities and alter speech, behavior, style of dress, and so on” (p. 161).  Of course, I understood the complexities of how public education’s expectations don’t match those at home, but I’ve never read the dilemma put so eloquently before.  It speaks to the same surprise I had when during the “Reading and Negotiation” chapter when a cosmetology class read two different novels. That would never happen in my school!  In my school, novels are for English classes and for pleasure reading.  Perhaps I need to negotiate reading into these foreign places.

A few years ago Dufferin County, where I grew up and where I teach, was threatened by a Megaquarry taking away some prized farmland.  A few teachers and I organized a debate where the stakeholders were allowed to come and talk to our students for 30 minutes each on their perspective.  We had five speakers in total including representatives from First Nations, Gravel Watch, a professor of Environmental Science, the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Task Force, and of course, the company that had purchased the land for mining.  We had to prep our students on the issues and how to ask succinct questions that used appropriate language for the presenters and audience as did the students in Aurora High School (p. 163).  The debate outside our school went on for months and after an environmental impact report was released, the company withdrew their mining application and the megaquarry was defeated.  I can’t say that our school’s debate had a direct effect on this decision, but the youth participation in this issue was extraordinary. In a twisted way, I wish I could recreate this excitement over a local issue every year in order to see the students become so invested in a topic that affects environment, economy, food, politics and culture.  The true learning was that these students mattered, and this small rural community mattered on a provincial, if not national, scale.  Truthfully, other than for communication and public relations, we didn’t need technology to reach our goal.  We needed a forum for negotiation and that was in my library learning commons.

There are moments in this book that remind me why I became a teacher…pre-library, pre-technology, I wanted to be a teacher so that I could have enlightening conversations with students. Jenkins and Kelley are asking educators to simply harness the teachable moments that come with honouring student voice, give it an authentic forum for expression,  and give students choices that reflect their own expression, and that in doing so any common text can be relevant to current generations of students.

References

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons.

Jenkins, H., & Kelley, W. (Eds.). (2013). Reading in a participatory culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Reilly, E., Mehta, R., & Jenkins, H. (2013, February 19). Thinking about subcultures. Retrieved from http://scalar.usc.edu/anvc/flowsofreading/3_6_thinking-about-subcultures?path=3-negotiating-cultural-spaces

 

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