Time 4 a bargain!

With the concrete slab of the new school library less than a day old, I happened to be at Westfield Parramatta last Sunday, and noticed that a little store called Typo was having a huge sale on 20cm tall, painted, wooden letters for creating wonderful library signage! Seven letters or numerals, either in black or white, for only $20. The regular price per item is usually $4.95 – and to think of all those plain MDF letters I sanded, painted, lacquered and glued/nailed/Velcroed at the end of 2008…

Typo in Westfield Parramatta
You can see the wooden letters on the shelving along the far wall.

As I stood there, stunned by the potential savings, I couldn’t think of what I needed for my future library signage needs. I already have a concept for outside signage. I was also rather taken by the “@“, “#“, “$” and full stops available in the range but, apart from something like “INFO@YOUR LIBRARY“, I really was at a loss as to how to proceed. I wandered away in deep thought, worried I’d let a big opportunity pass me by and the stock would be exhausted when I got back a week later. During the looooong week, I did realise that I’d had to settle for a temporary (laminated) version of the following signage idea, my concept of which was positioned beside the four world clocks:

Time 4 learning & Core values - Shoestring makeover

I hurried back today, arriving at Typo at 10.25am, only to find they were closed. Oh no! Surely they wouldn’t be closed all day? With only seconds to spare before I was due to meet a friend at the cinemas, I was able to collect the black lettering I needed at 11.00am, and I even found a way to utilise an “@”! (Note that, unless they have more lettering out in a back storeroom, I did end up getting the last two examples of “E” and “N“.)

Time 4 learning
TIME 4 LE@RNING

That made thirteen pieces, with one more to go to make the $40. I chose a spare “@” in white – I’ll come up with a way to use it eventually:

1 x @

The original “Time 4 Learning” concept, as it appeared in the blog last year, is discussed in detail HERE!

My advice: Hurry to Typo!

What time is it when the clock chimes 13?

Answer: Time to get a new clock.

You may recall my emergency repair job on the library’s “Auckland” clock, part of our set of “newsroom” clocks in the revamped library? Well, the clock mechanism has failed again. I can’t get it to run longer than a few minutes. I very much doubt I can buy a matching replacement for a clock bought six months ago “on special” – and, rather than put up with a clock that was always giving a totally random time, I decided to go back to an idea I used a few years ago when I was teaching Stage 1 full time.

I’d realised that many students in that had no concept of a longcase grandfather clock, so I created one with corrugated artboard on the classroom wall, utilising the regular schoolroom clock that came with the room. We added a mouse to the clock when we were studying the nursery rhyme, “Hickory Dickory Dock”, and the students were shocked one day when the battery ran out right on the dot of one o’clock!

Anyway, “Auckland” has now been officially replaced by “Storyland” – and that clock’s time is permanently striking one, so to speak:

Revised clocks

At least it’ll also be the right time every lunchtime!

I also took the opportunity to make a better version of my laminated “Time 4 Learning” signage, and changed the “Library Rules” chart to match the green colour of our core values signage. Previously, it had been white.

Clocks x 4
(Click photos to see larger versions)

“I’m ready for my IWB, Mr DeMille…”

reno back wall - painted green

You know what? This has been the hardest blog entry to write – ever!

I completed the paint job on the back wall on Thursday afternoon, hung around after school for the paint to be dry enough to remove the masking tape from all the edges, re-adjust the couch’s purple cover and push all the furniture back into position, and then had to head into the city. Although I was exhausted from Wednesday’s undercoating (mineral turps cleanup, ugh!) and the Thursday’s two coats of semi-gloss (water-based), I did have photos to share, but something was stopping me.

Here it is Sunday afternoon already, and I’m still dragging the chain. Since this is probably the end of the current wave of shoestring makeovers, and normal classes start in the library on Monday, maybe I’ve become too attached to the renovation process? But I must… share! 😉

Why green? Well, I picked an obviously contrasting colour from the beautiful purple-framed Kim Gamble artwork I’d decided to decorate around. And our carpet is already the medium green school carpet. The Taubman’s Living Proof Silk green paint tint is actually called “Coral Fantasy”. The closest match I found to the existing purple frame, in case I need to paint anything purple in the future, is called “Tyrian Purple”.

In any case, the back wall started like this:

Busy back wall

and ended up like this:

stripped wall

Holes filled

reno back wall - painted green

Some plants, both artificial and natural are still to come, but… I’m sooooooo ready for that IWB to arrive!

Clocks x 4
NEW YORK, LONDON, PENRITH, AUCKLAND.

I loved the “newsroom clocks” idea, from a secondary school renovation in Kevin Hennah’s presentation last year, and I wondered if it was appropriate for a primary school. Or just too confusing? On my visit to Spotlight last year, I bought MDF letters for the signage on the opposite wall. When price-checking my purchases at the nearby rival store, Lincraft, I noticed they had three large white clocks on special for just $9.95 each. I’d already figured I needed four. Then I noticed they had a few of the same model in black – but again, not four. Brainstorm! I realised: even students who can’t read should be able to tell that “Penrith” time is on the black clock! (Well, okay, if they can’t read they probably also can’t tell the time, but you get the idea!)

iPhone world clocks

By the way, my iPhone has a “world clocks” application, which I have adjusted to match the order of the library clocks!

Core values

This was my Friday afternoon very-shoestring solution to a problem. When the school assistant helped me remove all the pinboards that were covering this wall, this last one was not able to be unscrewed, because the school’s burglar alarm system is bolted through the board. I did intend this section to have some MDF letters, perhaps in purple, to spell out our four core values, but I was also concerned I was going overboard with MDF lettering. Could I perhaps try a more economical piece of signage on the laminator, as a placeholder until it’s proven the area needs something more permanent?

On top of this, people kept asking me if Kevin Rudd was giving us a brand new library, and therefore why was I still redecorating the old one? So, anyway, here’s my quick solution: purple cardboard to cover the annoying old pinboard, and some laminated core values. The “TIME 4 learning” at the top is a small version of what I planned to have, as a vinyl-lettering-on-3D-perspex sign, under the four clocks. Until the IWB arrives, I really don’t want to tempt fate. Yet.

Note the white “Library rules” sign, which we made last year on our special library signage template. On Friday I also took down the matching “Closed for stocktake” signs. There are also red, green and purple “Premier’s Reading Challenge” laminated signs in appropriate places.

Oh, and the new coloured-pencil containers on the desks? I figured those old hessian- and/or Contact-covered cat-food tins from the 70s had outlived their usefulness. The new Accent Concepts containers (below right) are $3 each, in both purplish-blue and black, (and a pinkish shade for lead pencils). From Hot Dollar:

pencil containers

And the couch corner goes from this:

PRC nook

to this:
purple couch, Tigger, green wall

My special thanks to parent helper, Laura, who braved what is now known as Thickening Paint Thursday, – especially when we had to turn off the two nearest air conditioners because condensation was running down the outside of the ugly conduits we were so desperate to disguise the same green colour as the wall to which they were screwed!

What they’re saying about…

… ummm, me. 😉

This week, I did a quick Google search on what other schools around the world are doing regarding Kindergarten students using wikis. (Answer: still not much?) It’s now been a full twelve months since the unit of work, documented at penrithpslibrary.pbwiki.com, was done at this school, and I’ve just launched a similar project for a group of (possibly) gifted and talented Early Stage 1 students, hoping to repeat and improve upon the 2007 successes.

What surprised and delighted me was that numerous sites recently have earmarked/bookmarked our wiki pages, as an exemplar from which others can draw inspiration:

For example, on the University of North Texas School of Library Science wiki pages, Janienne Brown says, about our site, “This example of a Wiki from Australia shows exactly what a Wiki can accomplish and in this case [Stage 3 book review page] one of the students had their review printed in the newspaper and another student won a voucher for their participation, this is above and beyond the immediate benefits of the Wiki. Also shown are the stages the Wiki went through to illustrate that this is a process [Kindergarten fables] and the process is part of the journey. The setup of this Wiki is from their home page and names the book and author of the book and ‘A book review by first name, last initial, and grade’. This Wiki shows beautifully what we hope to accomplish, students reading, writing, getting other students excited about reading and writing too.”

Cool!

And, in an excellent and enthusiastic PowerPoint presentation (“Web 2.0 – Join the journey”) , for a Summer Institute for School Librarians by Lori Franklin, our Core Values Fables pages were recommended in her section called “Why in the world wiki?”

Even cooler!

I’m making sure I take lots of notes (ie. “evidence-based practice”) again as I run the program this term. I’m already realising that some things I did last year, as a bit of a fluke, were very effective. We still don’t have an interactive whiteboard in the school, so last year, when I had the wiki page set up on a bank of three computers, the students were able to see, quite dramatically, that changes to one wiki page on one computer, were instantaneously altered on the other two computer screens, after a simple page refresh. I only had one screen on for the first lesson this year and I suddenly realised a missed opportunity.

The twelve students, from three different classes, are highly motivated and are excited about working together on some “special”. I was impressed that they seem to be more Internet savvy than the 2007 group. It will be an interesting term!

More learning, growing and achieving

Unlike the last conference I was asked to speak at, I went into today’s events without that heavy weight of responsibility and impending disaster. I mean, if I could fill an hour on my own last time, how much easier would it be this time? We knew our material back-to-front, if necessary. The most difficult aspect would surely be, what bits do I leave out?

My co-presenter, Cath Keane, had prepared eleven of our PowerPoint pages, I’d added my own hyperlinks to the twelfth and last slide, and we only had 50 minutes or so to fill anyway. We also had plenty of time before our session, “Young rappers”, to play on the interactive whiteboard (IWB), test our hyperlinks and cache all our web pages that we were planning to visit. We also knew in advance that we had about twenty people signed up to hear our talk. Everything worked in the rehearsal and off we went to the first keynote event of Day 2 of this Early Years Conference.

Clinical psychologist, Lyn Worsley, presented her fascinating session on “The resilience doughnut: the secret of strong kids” and, while she probably didn’t say anything terribly new, especially to a ballroom filled with teachers who already had solid backgrounds in early childhood education, the strength of her approach was the clear answer of “where to know?” that one could glean after having used her clever, simple analytical tool for gauging the resilience of a particular student. Wonderful!

Before we knew it, Cath and I were deep into our presentation on book raps, blogs, wikis and Circle Time. Our only hitch was that our computer connection, which had worked so perfectly in rehearsal, had been lost for the presentation. A tech person came in and got us back online most efficiently, but our live connection to the Wilfrid rap blog (on Edublogs) was no longer working. Luckily, our PowerPoint had lots of frame grabs from the site, and the links to the Departmental website and my school’s wiki pages were still viable, so we carried on regardless. We finished off with a reading of my Kinder students’ “Zebra with spots” fable of 2007, and a walk-through of selected pages from my school’s wiki pages. I hope our presentation has encouraged more schools to start dabbling in wikis and blogs.

It all seemed to go very well, but a highlight for me was that two attendees hung back at the end to (re)introduce themselves. It was none other than Warren and Kathy, two of my colleagues from my teachers college days! They’d noticed each other in the audience of my workshop session – I’m not sure at what point they realised that I was also from the same year – but morning tea turned out to be a mini-reunion of the Class of ’79 of the Guild Teachers College. We swapped anecdotes about the good ol’ days and pocket histories of our lives. It was the first time we’d seen each other since Graduation Day in 1980 – very exciting, and great to know that they are doing so well in their own teaching careers. (I can see a bigger reunion coming up in the next few months! I hope.)

Next up was Peter Gould, Manager, Mathematics at NSW DET – and one of the people I worked with on numerous occasions back in my Scan editor days. Peter’s keynote was “From ABC to 123: what counts in early numeracy” and – despite some frustrating glitches with the movie clip elements of his presentation – it was an invaluable reminder of the essential differences in the ways young children learn to be numerate as opposed to literate.

After lunch, I attended two more workshops, both of which (again) ably demonstrated the amazing array of teaching and learning strategies that interactive whiteboards are bringing to classrooms in the 21st century. I guess that’s the main thing I’m taking from this conference: that most of today’s students are already citizens of the digital world of Web 2.0. The sooner their teachers and parents play catch-up the better. Every presentation I went to was using IWBs as part of their presentation – even my presentation, and today was the first time I’d actually been able to use one! Knowing that a little knowledge is dangerous, I can’t wait to get my hands on an IWB as part of my school library’s facilities and let my imagination run wild. Or wilder.

This conference left its delegates with so much food for thought (and delicious food for the body – the Novotel, Brighton-le-Lands always does well in that regard), great ideas we can start using on Monday (first day back of Term Three), and some wonderful memories of networking with colleagues, old and new. Synthesising all the learning into our daily lives will take time, but I’m glad I gave up two days of my vacation to absorb it all. I’m also grateful for the very handsome, gold-embossed “Presenter” pens, which Cath and I received for doing our workshop.

Roll on Term Three…

Kindergarten weaves a wiki

Zebra with spots

Last November, I bit the bullet and leaped into the next era of ICT (information communications technology) and taught a dozen Kindergarten students (and myself, slightly one step ahead) how to design a wiki.Now, I’ve dabbled in adding and editing an existing wiki (eg. Wikipedia, Star Trek Memory Alpha and Memory Beta, etc), but this time I had to work out how to design one, and how to help the students to build up a narrative (in fable form, complete with a motto) – and post it to the wiki. Welcome, students, to the world of Web 2.0!

We’d already spent a few weeks researching and modelling the nature of fables (The hare and the tortoise, The fox and the grapes, et al) and normally I’d have done a group construction of a narrative on butcher’s paper, and edited it with a felt pen. Instead, we used a free wiki service – at pbwiki.com (Peanut butter wiki) and, within a few moments of launch of our first fable, our fledgling wiki web pages were being looked at by two different Internet surfers in California, USA. Amazing!

Young students are simply not scared to (literally) push that newest button in modern technology. The next day we had visitors from several parts of Europe, more Californians, interstate Australians and even “a visitor from parts unknown”, according to pbwiki.

A week later, Selwa Anthony, Australian literary agent extraordinaire, held her annual all-day seminar and gala dinner for her ever-growing network of amazing authors. Once again at the Novatel Hotel in Brighton-le-Sands, Succeed – It’s Great in 2008 was as stimulating as the first one I attended (way back in November 1993, Succeed Some More in ’94.) The seminars take their title from a little self-help book, Succeed with me, which Selwa once wrote with Jimmy Thomson – and it’s now available in audio by Bolinda Audio; we received a freebie in our goodie bag upon arrival!

Despite the fact that, so far, I haven’t earned Selwa any percentages, she keeps inviting me back. These seminars have certainly directed me into numerous opportunities over the years but so far nothing commercial enough that would earn Selwa her percentage. Yet. Selwa continues to have faith in me, but I always feel quite humble in the talented company of Selwa’s network.

Anyway, the first speaker was a no-show. So compere, Mark Macleod, offered up what he called “one-minute spots”, over the course of the day, to anyone wanting to share something special to the rest of the network. A few people availed themselves of the opportunity and, in the morning tea break, I was boasting to friend and author/journalist Sue Williams about my Kindergarten students’ recent work writing fables on the World Wide Web via a wiki.

Sue’s eyes lit up and she said, “Go and tell Mark you’ll do a one minute spot!”

The next thing I knew, I was sharing my young students’ work – from memory! – with the likes of Tara Moss, Kim Wilkins, Ian Irvine, new children’s author Amanda Holohan, and so many other Australian literary luminaries. It was a highly energizing experience, and it made sooooooo twitchy to get to the keyboard and write about the students’ (and my) successes. Maybe there’ll be a chance for a much longer session at the next seminar?

Check out the final drafts of the students’ wiki fables and accompanying artwork at: http://penrithpslibrary.pbwiki.com/.