My great QR code adventure

About a year ago, I started hearing references to QR codes, and noticed the distinctive, square barcodes turning up on advertising posters, business cards and websites. I did a little further investigation when I received my upgraded iPhone4 in late 2011 – and even uploaded a recommended QR code app, I-nigma, from iTunes – but, apart from a few tests, I haven’t really done very much with this aspect of technology.

But it certainly seems to have some clever possibilities.

In preparation for my presentations at Friday’s MANTLE conference, I created QR codes for the websites I would be referencing in my talks. For example:

QRCodeBooked Inn blog

Blue

GoldQuest

QRCode
GoldQuest blog

Blue

Penrith PS Library wiki

QRCode
Penrith PS Library wiki

Blue

Penrth PS rappers and bloggers

QRCode
Penrith PS rappers & bloggers

Blue

PhotoPeach

QRCode
My PhotoPeach profile page

Blue

QRCode
PMBW TL professional learning group

QRCode
QR codes Kaywa generator

QRCode
NSW DEC CLIC raps and book raps

Blue

Endangered animals

QRCode
Stage 3’s Endangered animals: beyond the rainforest

Blue

Imagine your own adventure

I have been invited to present at the 2012 MANTLE Conference in June, speaking on two topics: “Engaging students through Guided Inquiry” and “How to promote your school library on a shoestring budget”.

Both topics will have some added tweaks to presentations I’ve done before, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge of the conference, and meeting teacher librarians of the Newcastle, Maitland, Taree, Lake Macquarie and Central Coast districts.

Patrick Sullivan at NER TLs’ professional learning day

On Monday, I was fortunate and honoured to be the keynote speaker at a New England Region teacher-librarians’ professional learning day at Westdale Public School in Tamworth. My brief was to present “School library makeovers on a shoestring budget – and Adventures in Web 2.0”.

It was great to meet host TL Zoe Morris and all the TL attendees, but many thanks to Patrick Sullivan (aka sullypm) for introducing us to his Breakkie with a Teckkie page, which both promotes the Web 2.0 video conference series for NSW DEC teachers, and has hyperlinks to a huge range of amazing Web 2.0 tools.

I particularly liked (and am already using, or about to use):

Build your wild self avatar creator

Posterous spaces, which Pat demonstrated by uploading a picture he’d just taken of me delivering my presentation: HERE

Oxford owl: help your child’s learning with free tips and eBooks

and

Storybird collaborative storytelling.

2012 is the National Year of Reading

I’ve just registered our school for the National Year of Reading.

Australian libraries are supporting the campaign to turn 2012 into the National Year of Reading, linking together all the great things that are already happening around books, reading and literacy, and giving them an extra boost, with inspirational programs and events taking place across the country. The website at www.love2read.org.au/ is already quite extensive and will continue to grow. There is also a wiki at https://love2read2012.wikispaces.com/ for resources and templates the committee has made available already.

The Travelling Fearless Project

Fearless at the gate

My fifth day each week (timetabled in chunks across the rest of my four TL days) is to work with students on PSP (Priority Schools Program) literacy and numeracy projects. This term, it’s Kindergarten’s turn, and we’ve been part of the “Travelling Fearless Project”, in which Fearless, the misnamed, cowardly, British bulldog puppy from the Colin Thompson & Sarah Davis picture book, is visiting various schools, coordinated by Cath Keane at School Libraries & Information Literacy.

My Kindergarten literacy students (five representatives from three classes, working as a small group, four times per week) brainstormed this slideshow (content, poses for photos and captions) on Fearless’s visit to our school, making good use of our IWB and exploring every nook and cranny of the new library. Photo Peach is so easy, it’s almost foolproof:

View the students’ slideshow HERE! (Update: A sequel is now online HERE!)

I hope to provide annotations, and the results of our pre- and post-tests, on a parallel page to our wiki work soon: Select the third option on the menu. Enjoy!

Destination 2011: Guided inquiry

I’m off tomorrow to a teacher-librarians’ seminar on “Guided Inquiry”, presented by Dr Ross J Todd!

Teacher-librarian Lee FitzGerald, a former editor of “Scan”, is also presenting and last time I heard of her experiences trialling “Guided Inquiry” under Ross’s guidance, I went back to my school and made a point of recording more often student pre-test and post-test results and tracking the emotional side of my students’ self-evaluations, thus gaining very solid statements of the students’ analyses of their learning, in their own words.

Powerful stuff! The Kinder students who were part of a wiki project in 2007 still talk about those experiences to this day, and the Stage 3 students who did a bushrangers WebQuest in 2008, and recorded their learning on a blog, are being represented in a text book very soon!

Both of those successes occurred without the benefit of now seemingly-indispensable elements such as IWBs and the Connected Classroom. Looking forward to tackling the next stage!

Update:

Ross Todd
Ross J Todd presents the election speeches of
Obama and Cheney… as Wordles
!

Digital fables

Taking a break from stocktaking for a moment, I wanted to share some digital stories my Early Stage 1 bloggers made over the last few days. These Kinder students, plus a K-2 Language Support class, have continued coming to the library for their regular PSP literacy sessions – what to do now the book rap is over?! – and we’ve been able to extend their Term 4 class learning about fables. They have enjoyed incorporating ideas from Stage 2’s digital stories, which were support material during the recent Bear and Chook books rap.

As you will see from the two Powerpoints, first we read many versions of each Aesop’s fable, then spent time in the playground with mud-map storyboards, the library toy collection, some hastily-made props, and my trusty iPhone. After I uploaded the photos into Keynote (Mac) templates at home, I converted them to Powerpoint format and brought them back to school on a memory stick. The students then viewed their photos again on the IWB, and then we jointly constructed new text during Circle Time (talking & listening). Then some editing after feedback from other audiences – and uploaded to our school blog site.

The ant & the grasshopper

The hare & the tortoise.

If time allows, we may try to do The lion & the mouse next week. (Update! We did it – click on the title!)

This is my third consecutive year working with Early Stage 1 students on fables. The students who created our first batch on a wiki in 2007 (at penrithpslibrary.pbworks.com still talk about them!


Aesop: biography of a great thinker

Wikis made simple

I’m often asked to explain what a wiki is, and I usually liken it to an electronic communal scrapbook.

I’ve seen the following snappy little video a few times now, but I’d forgotten all about it until I was re-investigating the preliminary “how to” pages over on PBworks, in preparation for my sessions on wikis at Saturday’s TESOL conference at the University of Technology Sydney (Broadway).


“Wikis in plain English”

When one displays a Common Craft video on a site, creator Lee LeFever asks for a link back to be provided to the Common Craft web site. Free versions of Common Craft’s videos are for “non-commercial” use. (This means that commercial organisations can’t display the videos without their express permission. For example, if you owned a podcasting company, you could not display “In plain English” series videos internally or externally, without permission.)

How do current school libraries impact on student learning?

Dr Ross J Todd observes, over at School Libraries 21C that, in many schools, outcomes and impacts are often “assumed some how to be lurking in there”. When a new syllabus comes in, educators often try to bend existing units of work to fit the new document, rather than to use the new outcomes to plan new, statistically-valid, pre- and post- tests that will enable staff to prove that learning has occurred. I’m guilty of that myself, trying to stretch old print-based resources to fit new units when library budgets are too tight.

Unless a school has cause to collect measurable data of the students’ achieved outcomes – eg. schools defending expeditures in Priority Schools Programs; teacher librarians undertaking post-graduate study (and requiring valid results for their assignments); etc – that all-important post-test, and results analysis, often get lost in the shuffle in the end-of-term mayhem, and that often happens four times a year, of course.

In a previous school, long before outcomes appeared in every KLA syllabus, we had our first taste of the power of collaboratively-planning valid, measurable, pre- and post- tests, when we re-examined our school-based science and technology units, spent a considerable amount of money on relevant resources that truly supported what we were hoping to achieve, and ensured that every S&T unit maximised the capacity for Talking & Listening (in English).

Schools need to plan for constant revisiting of syllabuses and evaluation strategies. I was going to say especially in schools with a high turnover of staff but, no, every school needs to do this in a structured, cyclic way.

Certainly, I’ve noticed renewed opportunities for the teacher-librarian to be more involved in collaboratively-planning valid, measurable, pre- and post- tests as a result of my voluntary role as an editor of several teaching colleagues’ half-yearly student reports. When educators have to clearly articulate just where on the learning continuum each student is, and for each key learning area, the traditional, waffly comments of yesteryear just don’t wash. I can see where certain gaps are exposed, and then I try my best to lend assistance.

Statements about students’ achievement, at our school, now have to be written in terms of outcomes. The new online reports, as daunting as they are, do seem to be assisting with providing a strong focus on value-added results. Of course, the new reports have brought in an additional problem: many outcomes sound too much like eduspeak, and that can really make some parents feel even more out of the loop.

And, of course, sometimes the best ideas for how something could have been evaluated come too late. (Hurray for cyclic programs, which can be improved each time the units are revisited.)

Similarly, a few years ago, I volunteered my services as an editor of the Annual School Report, and we noticed that the library had, previously, not really rated a mention in the ASR. The last few years have seen added paragraphs about the interrelationship of this school library with other important, high-profile school programs and events: Holiday Reading Is Rad, reading picnics, visiting storytellers, participation in annual community artshows, book reviews in the local newspaper, Circle Time, Premier’s Reading challenge, book raps, and a wiki.

This year, I hope to add OASIS Library borrowing statistics, too, and this is another easily-obtained set of data.

How to ensure that higher order thinking, and pre- and post-tests, are vital elements of the teaching program?

Well, I’m a great advocate of the online book raps and event raps run by the School Libraries and Information Literacy Unit (NSW DET). Programming and planning (including evaluation strategies) are provided. At the conclusion of each rap, we have solid data of learning progress, and the students’ jointly-constructed responses to the rap points remain online, for parents to visit via home or local library computers.

While the maximum benefit from book raps would, ideally, include teachers and the teacher librarian working collaboratively on the rap points, we have also used a highly effective “withdrawal of rappers” strategy, that requires the students reporting back to their classmates. We timetable what is achievable, and that can vary. Because book rapping takes place in the school library – and the new interactive whiteboard arrived this term, and is also in the library – the profile of the library is constantly being flagged (and raised).

Our school wiki (which I instigated, and made a point of branding as the Penrith PS Library Wiki (see “Scan” vol 28 no 1, 2009, pp 30-37) has several pages dedicated to outcomes-based annotations of the students’ progress, much of it in the students’ own words – pre-, during and post- tests, as gathered through whole-school Talking & Listening programs, such as Circle Time (see “Scan” vol 26 no 4, 2007, pp 4-7).