Digging into designing learning

I have started reading Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005)(this edition on Amazon). The phrase “backward design” has been floating around discussions of curriculum design for a while now, both on the ground at my school and ‘out there’, on the interwebs. This concept is not really new to me; I have read a bit here-and-there, following up on links from conference sessions, and have used similar strategies through various professional learning experiences (Intel in Education course, 2005, springs to mind – infusing technology into the curriculum by starting with the Essential Question and working back from there- review paper available here). However this is the first time I have sat down to read a textbook on the topic.

First impressions: this approach dovetails quite nicely with how I plan units of work. I think it will help me refine my techniques, and to be more explicit in sharing learning goals with students. I also like the quiet humour showing up here and there – always makes it easier to read a densely-packed serving of information when it is lightened a little with appropriate puns!

Thinking about children’s books in a global context

A comment in an online forum led me to this BBC Radio 4 episode – A World Beyond Alice.

This was a fascinating documentary about the dominance of English-language publishing for children’s books, touching on the differences between marketing and publishing structures in different parts of the world, historical influences on publishing for children (apparently English-language publishing houses led the development of publishing for children, so the whole arena began in an English-centric environment), and even what would in Australia be termed the ‘cultural cringe‘: an assumption that one’s native language works were somehow not quite good enough for the international market.

I am planning to listen to this program again, and in the meantime have been doing some research. I have heard of IBBY , The International Board on Books for Young People before, and their biennial round-up of great children’s literature from around the world is wonderful, but why is it so hard to find material written from and about other cultures? Is it the cost of translating work into another language – a similar economic barrier to that of creating audio books?  Is it the lingering tentacles of the late dominance of the British Empire? There are very few (if any) schools in Australia that do not have children who are either recent immigrants or the offspring of migrant families – are they not being marginalised by not having a variety of cultures (including that of their families or ancestors) represented in reading materials in our libraries? This is separate from the complex and emotionally-explosive issues surrounding literature by the Indigenous Australian peoples, but perhaps there are parallels to be drawn…


Going back to the radio program that inspired this post, there is much that books born of other cultures can teach our children. The sight and sound of different landscapes and environments, the rhythms of different ways of life, the love and importance of families expressed in different customs. To use a very Asian saying, people all over the world are “same-same but different”, and experiencing the stories of other cultures through literature is one way we can help our children understand this fundamental truth of humanity.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Online again, astonishingly!

I hope this isn’t going to jinx myself, but after a few months of this app not working, I have updated everything – app, iOS, my work wardrobe – and finally it seems as though I am returning to the world of mobile blogging!

School holidays are over; in fact we teachers went back to work last Tuesday, and tomorrow sees the return of teeming hordes of freshly washed, shod and barbered boys to the hallowed halls of my workplace.

Actually that’s kind of ridiculous – my library is in the Junior School ie primary, so the halls are often crowded, somewhat noisy, and quite grubby by the end of the day! “Hallowed” generally doesn’t get a look in.

We had a very busy Professional Learning week, with lots of great sessions run by staff in the school. I’ve seen quite a lot of articles recently about in-house inservicing, and how powerful it can be in building a learning community, and I think that perhaps my school is making progress in that direction. I am also thrilled to say that I was able to help in that progress by assisting a fellow Teacher Librarian to present a small session on accessing our online Library services. We were a bit worried by the small turnout, but decided to assume that we were the victim of circumstances (ie 8am session on the Friday, when most people were trying to get their rooms organised for tomorrow). We have since sent out invitations to each minischool to come to a tailored version of the session and were very pleased to receive plenty of enthusiastic responses! I think this was a very effective lesson in Don’t Take It Personally – by trying again in a more flexible way we have been able to reach many more staff.

Professional Learning Week had lots going on:
* Differentiation through language, use of content in a variety of media, using technology to make content accessible, using technology to help students express their understanding
* Child Protection – Duty of Care – process to follow when something seems ‘not quite right’
* First Aid – I will forever more associate CPR with the rhythm of Staying Alive
* Backwards Design – I am a huge fan of this approach to instructional/ curriculum design
* Library staff meeting – we will be doing more with far less this year, so lots of challenges ahead
* Curriculum focus


And throughout it all, a major refrain was that our focus is on educating our boys – everything we do as teachers is about how we can help our students learn the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will shape them into young men we are proud to know.

I hope that I can contribute to that process of growth in some positive ways – I will certainly do my best to do so!

Standing desks?

If it is good enough for Claude Monet, I should take this idea seriously! Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Monet_-_Caricature_of_Man_Standing_by_Desk.jpg

This idea has been floating around the internet for a little while now. I just read an article about trialling standing desks with students at school, using pedometers to measure activity levels over time, which said that the measurements showed increased activity across all grades, the younger the student the more they moved about. Anecdotal reports from teachers claimed higher attention/engagement from students too, although this was not specifically measured – that sounds like a great opportunity for someone (not me, but someone in the education-engagement research field).

Working in a school library I have break-time supervision duties every day, and often find that the easiest way to get some work done while keeping an eye on my customers is to put my laptop or iPad on the end of a bookshelf right in the middle of the Library. I am able to answer emails or read articles while still being aware of what’s going on around me, and I am very easy for students to find when they need help.

Looking around my office with built-in cabinetry, I am not sure how I could change this space to allow a standing desk with or without a stool… I suppose some kind of mini-table or shelf arrangement on top of my existing desk would work…

A quick online search and I have found an excellent set of ideas here, a Pinterest collection here, an amazing idea for putting a desk over a treadmill to keep you moving gently all day here, and of course Lifehacker has a collection here.

I am quite interested in trying this, but will have to think further about what I can do to set it up in the space I work in.



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