Moments of Discovery

I had some Year 6 students today who were working on a wiki that I asked them to create based on a Tectonic Plate webquest. Mostly they were doing okay with finding basic facts (eg what does a seismologist do?) by themselves, and very keen on finding relevant YouTube videos (they knew that irrelevant videos would not cut the mustard). It was interesting to me to see that my most important role was in prompting them to take the next step in putting together several pieces of information and articulating the new idea that created. For instance:

  • a student found maps showing the tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust, the distribution of earthquakes around the world and the active volcanoes around the world. I asked him to look at the dots of the volcanoes and earthquakes and how they followed the lines of the edges of the tectonic plates, and asked him what was the next thought he could say about that? To begin with he could only put the first two ideas together, but with some prompting he was able to say that perhaps the three things were related. It hadn’t occurred to him to put three pieces of pictorial information together that way.
  • a student playing the part of astronomer has found an interesting diagram about Mars’ magnetic field, but couldn’t explain it. He and his partner went back to the website and read through the notes to discover that putting the written information together with the diagram they could visualise and then explain the concept – he was so pleased to be able to see it clearly in his head and say it clearly on his astronomy page!
  • a student looking at biology had found information about the Tasmanian Beech, a native deciduous tree, that was supposed to be significant in supporting the idea of Continental Drift, but when I asked him to explain he merely demonstrated his great skill at reading the copied-and-pasted text. So I asked him what was important about that tree, what was so strange?? This was where environmental factors made it harder for him to get the point – Hobart is full of buildings and parks and gardens built and established in the earliest days of European settlement of Australia so – unlike most of mainland Australia – spring is heralded by flowers and new leaves on bare branches, and autumn is glorious with gold and red leaves heaped in piles under liquid ambers and stone fruit trees. We had a chat about Australian native plants usually being evergreen, how our winters simply aren’t harsh enough or long enough to make hibernation a necessity, and suddenly the lightbulb went on! Why was this native tree deciduous?? A flurry of typing altered his original entry to reflect his new understanding.

This turned out to be such an exciting pair of lessons for me! These groups had had a couple of lessons using their wikis, and had gotten past the initial confusion and messiness of trying a new technology, and were able to concentrate on understanding the purpose of the task. From trouble-shooting the ‘what am I doing?’ and ‘how do I xyz?’ questions we had moved on to constructing personal meaning  – not bad for a total of four lessons!

Reading back over the above examples, I am also struck by the information skills required – one student needed to compare sets of visual data, the next had to put text and visual data together to grasp the concept, and the last needed to take text and visual data and compare it to pre-existing general knowledge in order to make an important discovery! I think that if I take a moment to look over the NETS for students, or 21st Century Learning Skills, I would find that the types of thinking being used by some of my students today are part of a suite of metal tools that many consider will be necessary to equip them for life in a digitised future.

Now if only I could replicate this for every class I teach…

Web it, web it good…

Which is a dreadful pun on some half-remembered song from the 80’s, but I just couldn’t resist!! You see, I am participating in an online conference Your School Library – Transforming School Libraries, which goes live tomorrow night (or possibly early Saturday morning once I work out the timezone issues) for about 9 days.

The main theme is how we can delve into the world of web2.0 and beyond to connect and evolve the traditional work of school libraries with the new interactive techonologies available online. So far I have viewed/listened to a presentation on Voicethread, downloaded a PowerPoint from the conference site (my internet was too dodgy to cope with streamed content today), am downloading another ppt from Slideshare, and am hoping for some vodcasts (fingers crossed!!). There is a conference blog, discussion forums (I’m a moderator for one of them – exciting!), chat room, networking tools, participant profiles, and so many possibilities for “walking the talk”!!! I have yet to add a profile pic or fill out my professional details. There appear to be 149 members, I just noticed a new ppt called ‘giggleit’ and there’s a button there for creating ‘web meetings’ – what more could a click-happy TL want?

Aside from all that, I am madly pulling my head together as we launch into Term 1, with a number of changes to The Way Things Are Done, eg a new group-work, collaborative, integrated approach to library time for years 5 and 6, with three teachers here for those lessons!!! Can you imagine???

For now, however, it is time to go home, be a parent, talk to hubby, veg a little in front of the gogglebox, and maybe send a few emails:>

I really must blog more often

I have many many different things to say about being a Teacher Librarian, but squeezing the time into my day to compose the prose can be a mite difficult, to say the least! For want of some other organisational technique, why don’t I talk about two very different projects I have undertaken this year – the link between them being different sessions I attended at the joint CBCA-Tas and ASLA-Tas conference here in Hobart earlier this year.

Let’s start with a fabulous activity I tried with two Year 8 English classes.

Book Trailers

We had Dr Susan La Marca as a keynote speaker, and also as a speaker on the second day, talking about integrating technology to enhance learning and teaching. The activity which really caught my imagination was a way of making movie-trailer-style reviews of books – Book Trailers. Dr La Marca said that she had had this idea when she a new book being promoted on a publisher’s website, and so she had tried it with her students with great success.

I took this idea to some of the teachers who bring their classes to the library for Silent Reading during English lessons, and offered to set up and run the technology side of it. One of the Yr 8 teachers was interested, so we ran it with his two classes. I set up a wiki on the school library website, with different pages outlining the task, the tools, and the assessment criteria. The aims for this activity were to:

  • Provide a mulitmedia alternative to a written or oral book report
  • Encourage students to plan, draft and edit a project
  • Introduce students to issues of copyright on images and sound files available on the internet
  • Introduce students to alternative search engines such as flickrCC
  • Reinforce the referencing message
  • Emphasise the role of the library in providing information literacy skills as well as leisure reading materials

I created a sample book trailer to demonstrate what we were after, and led the students through the assessment checklist rating my example. When we were sure that the students had understood the task, we let the students get on with it.

Over the next two to three weeks, the students were really focussed and motivated – they worked hard on their projects, frequently previewing and editing their work; they asked lots of questions, and sought help to identify copyrighted and copyright-free images. Toward the end it was clear that some students needed more help with time-management; they hadn’t quite completed their book trailers, or hadn’t added sound, but that is one of those minor tweaks that will be used to improve the activity next time.

When the students had to hand in and share their work, it was great to see the effort that had gone into matching images to events/plots/characters, to see the connections that students had made between the ‘feel’ of a story and what kind of music/soundtrack could evoke that feel. I missed the sharing session of the second class, and afterwards a couple of the boys came to see me to say that they had really enjoyed the task, and that it was interesting to see what other boys had made for different books.

I have two of the students’ final book trailers, and will be collecting some more to share on the school intranet (once the boys have inserted a copyright notice on the last screen). I am thrilled with the students’ enthusiasm and engagement, and am very keen to run it again next year, with a few minor adjustments to achieve an even higher rate of completion.





My apologies to the edublogiverse for taking so long to move from intorductory to post to actual content.

I have been thinking hard about what to blog next, so much so that I have been (metaphorically) oscillating in one place, bouncing around between ideas and thoughts and priorities like one of those virtual ball bearings in a MS Pinball game!! (Have to keep the ICT theme going)

For lack of ideas on how to tackle the deep philosophical issues, why don’t I start with a recent success?

This year I started work in a boys’ school, which is a new environment for me. I am learning about boys’ education, and what kind of fiction tastes boys have a different ages, and I’ve been reading things like Cherub (R. Muchamore) and Contest (M. Reilly) and so on. Promoting reading and a culture of reading is of course one of my goals as a Teacher Librarian, and I am always looking for new ways to do this.

My latest brainwave is to have the boys in Yrs 5 and 6 create Reader Profiles for themselves, using as many useful web2.0 gadgets as I can, and have them saved on the students’ personal intranet pages – this is going to be built up into favourite author lists, favourite books, and hopefully even the occasional book review ::gasp!::

This week’s task is to create a personalised Genre Wordle.

  • We do a fast reminder of what genre is, and then the class collaborate to create a genre list of about 20 headings. Every student saves their own copy of the list. (You could do this as a whole class activity if you can’t access enough computers at once)
  • On the big screen – or on a smartboard – I show the students how to find Wordle, and demonstrate coping and pasting the genre heading list into the text box, and tell them to click on ‘Go’.
  • I then show students how to play with the layout, font and colours, so that they know how to change the image.
  • Then we go back to our genre list, and I show the students what happens if I select my favourite genre and paste it into the genre list another 5 or 6 times, and make a new Wordle.
  • Students then have to try it for themselves, chooosing their favourite genre and putting it into their list multiple times, then choosing their second favourite and putting it in several times, etc. I emphasise that students need to save their Favourite Genres list before going any further.
  • Students now make a new Wordle out of their Favourite Genres list, ending up with a Wordle that puts their favourite genres in beautiful big letters!
  • I show students how to publish their Wordle, emphasising that they should not use their real names because these will be on the internet. We copy the URLs and paste them onto the end of the Favourite Genres Word documents.
  • Next lesson I will show the students how to take a screenshot of their Wordle and paste that into Paint or Word to use in their Reader Profiles.

So far this task is working well, and I hope to build on it by having students share their genre Wordles, and start thinking about why they enjoy particular genres – we may then take the favourite genres and make wordles describing their special characteristics…. the sky is the limit!!