They say that teachers are most effective when we convey strategies for accomplishing tasks in explicit ways, and preferably just prior to the point of the learner(s)’ need – which is when they are most likely to be open, motivated and goal-oriented. A looming deadline probably helps as well. I don’t have any pithy, fancy quotes at hand, but it’s the style of teaching that I’ve honed through many years at PSP (Priority Schools Program), formerly DSP (Disadvantaged Schools Program) working environments, plus via my training and practical experience as a teacher-librarian.When these findings match up during my own learning, and my own readiness to learn (not to mention motivations and goals), I only cements my confidence that I’m on the right track. I wasn’t ready to learn about wikis until I was ready to teach about them. I wasn’t ready to learn about abseiling until I was ready to help students learn how to do it. I wasn’t ready to learn to ride a bicycle until – well, no need to go into that anecdote. The ducks in Centennial Park haven’t forgiven me yet.
On Sunday, knowing that Early Stage One and Stage One were to be studying Chinese New Year this week, and Stage 2 was to be studying Buildings and bridges, I went into the city with a borrowed digital camera and took lots of photographs of the Chinese New Year Festival Parade, plus assorted Sydney bridges. My intention is that we will use these images to create some wiki pages, and some group-negotiated, well-researched, descriptive captions (using SCUMPS, but more on that later). How to get the Photoshopped images available – and guarantee having access to them at school – for Monday morning’s classes, especially since I use an iMac at home and several, variable quality PCs at school, none of which seem to like my Mac-altered images or memory sticks?
The obvious answer was to upload the photographs to my Flickr account – to show them as a slideshow – and to finally learn how to shunt thematic images into special folders. It was all so much easier than I expected – so why was I so hesitant all these months/years? (We don’t have an interactive whiteboard at school yet – but I can already imagine some of the ways I will be able to use the board with students and teachers.)
The two lessons worked extremely well. I set up a Flickr slideshow on adjacent computers (Bridges – Stage Two or Chinese New Year K-2), and selected student volunteers to manipulate the mouse that would kept the slideshows progressing. I explained to the students and their teachers that we would be setting up a SCUMPS matrix (stay tuned!) on wiki pages so that groups of students could collaborate on descriptive factual writing into each of the matrix cells, which we’d then upload to the Internet at the touch of a mouse. That’s the plan, anyway. Who knows where this may lead once the students and teachers have their input?
I’d just finished patting myself on the back for accomplishing my goals, and started to head off for lunch, when a new staff member asked about looking for particular resources in the Teacher Reference section of the library. I almost set him off to the correct shelf, with a mere finger point, when I realized that, since he was suddenly at that “point of need” (and, under normal circumstances, I’d be at lunch), I’d do a quick bit of explicit teaching – and demonstrate OASIS Web enquiry for him. It was very successful, brief session, and we located better resources than if I’d relied on my memory, or the luck of random shelf-browsing. The teacher was excited about testing out remote access to from home, using the My library hyperlink on his Portal page.
Also, coincidentally, I happened to see a reference to the second annual ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) Library Lovers promotion on the upcoming Valentine’s Day (thanks Victor over at the nswtl listserv) on the 14th February. Somehow, I managed to overlook this quirky event last year and, at first, I thought it a rather dubious connection, attempting to cash in on Valentine’s Day. But then, thinking back to my impromptu demo lesson on OASIS Web enquiry but I suddenly realised that holding a Library Lovers morning tea for the staff on Thursday will finally secure me the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the new web tool to the whole staff at once. Up until now, I’ve only been able to do a few 1:1 orientations (at point of need), but without a firm deadline – ie. my own point of need – I guess I’ve been procrastinating, and all staff members do need to know about Web enquiry.
I quickly cleared the event with the Principal, and made up the invitations on pink paper, using the graphics supplied on the ALIA website. One of the staff chuckled over her invitation, “Cool! It’ll be the only action I get on Valentine’s Day. My husband’s in Victoria this week.”
Oh – and I should point out that, yesterday, I didn’t have hyperlinks to reply upon to use my slideshows and I was trying to prevent the students scrolling into my other (very off-topic) Flickr photos. It was only in the wee hours of this morning that I realised that Flickr would permit me to quote separate URLs for themed sets! Another exciting discovery that will greatly improve today’s activities (ie. the next two batches of guinea pigs, er, students).