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A newly opened library in the Carver County city of Victoria is being touted as a prototype for achieving the maximum amount of community benefits from a minimum amount of space.” (Star Tribune, May 14, 2015)

I found myself intrigued by some of the ideas noted in this and another article about the Carvery County Library in Minnesota, USA.

Carver County LibraryWhile there are some pretty cool libraries out there, when faced with only a tiny space and an enormous need, challenging issues revolving around use need to be tackled in an innovative way.   And I really like some of the solutions adopted here:

  • flexible design allowing use for varying purposes without the need to rearrange furniture
  • introduction of a ‘digital-in-person’ concept: using library space for people to interact with each other
  • providing a delivery service link from a nearby library in place of storing expansive books collections
  • computer stations in the library to allow patrons to easily browse our eBook collections
  • long, farmhouse-style tables equipped with power and data connectivity which can be used by individuals and small groups to classes of up to 24 students; space is “flipped” without any rearranging
  • using colourful furniture to create zones and define spaces
  • adaption of the Apple stores’ Genius Bar tech support counter to assist library patrons navigate the digital library

The notion of adapting ideas from Apple into our schools and libraries is something I enthusiastically blogged about some time ago: What Apple can teach us about learning! so, as you can guess, I’m a big fan of the idea of introducing the ‘Genius Bar’ as a tech support counter to assist library users.

Being able to teach patrons how to better use the library in a ‘spiced up’ manner has to be a win-win for Teacher Librarians. Imagine teaching a dedicated/attentive small group

  • how to search the catalogue
  • how to download e books and other materials
  • how to use e-resources
  • how to effectively run a search
  • ensuring patrons feel ‘at home’ and comfortable in the library

Yes – I know this is what we do now, but giving the process a ‘facelift’ can go a long way.

Guess it’s time for a change!

How often have you considered your state of mind and your level of productivity when you have felt happy?

In our fast paced lives, most probably few of us ever consider the correlation of the two. But, according to Shawn Achor in this TEDx talk: The Happy Secret to better work the correlation is very high.

This very fast talking psychologist injects a hefty chunk of humour into his talk to not just garner our attention, but to drive home his point.   Happiness, which he has studied and researched, is, he claims, a powerful tool which can transform not only our productivity in the workforce, but our ability to learn.

In short, a happiness revolution can re-wire our brains.

The outcome of success is not happiness, Achor maintains.   Rather, success leads to us constantly resetting our goalposts which does not achieve increased levels of happiness: “You got good grades, now you have to get better grades, you got into a good school and after you get into a better one, you got a good job, now you have to get a better job, you hit your sales target, we’re going to change it.

But our brains work in the opposite order. If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.” (10.03 mins)

By finding a way of becoming positive in the present, our brains work harder, faster and more intelligently.  Dopamine, which floods into our bodies when we are positive, not only makes us happier, but it turns on all the learning centres in our brain allowing us to adapt to the world in a different way.

The key to becoming positive is to train our brains to think and see our world in a more positive way.  In other words, to rewire our brains!  The process is really quite simple:

  • once a day – for 21 days
  • take two minutes
  • to write down three things for which you are grateful
  • each day write down three new things for which you are grateful

Further processes include:

  • writing about a positive experience in the previous 24 hours allows our brain to relive the experience
  • mental exercise teaches us that behaviour matters
  • meditation enhances our ability to focus on the task at hand rather than multitasking
  • random acts of kindness become conscious acts of kindness
  • writing a positive email to praise or thank someone in our support network

After just three weeks of thinking positively, we will have retrained our brains to see the positive before the negative.  The process of focusing on the positive will create a mindset more attuned to happiness.

Achor has worked in both business and schools, helping to sew the seeds of a happiness revolution.  Have a listen and be inspired!

I have a friend with whom I often text.

This friend is younger than me, considerably younger.  Though fluent in reading and writing in English, English is not their first language.  So when I saw the preponderance of exclamation marks in texts sent to me, I put it down to either an age difference ‘thing’ or a lack of grammatical knowledge – for after all an exclamation mark has a specific use in the English language.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Exclamation mark

I regularly found my eyebrows raising at short texts like this:

Have a nice day!

or

Thanks!!!

or

See you tomorrow!

not understanding the meaning intended by the added explanation marks which just didn’t ‘fit’ the communication we were having.  Was there an element of cynicism, sarcasm or aggression tucked away in the comment?  Most often I thought it was message tainted with unsaid words like

enough ….. I have to go now ….. I’ll speak to you another time ….. goodbye!”

It’s taken me ages to just ignore these meaningless-to-me exclamation marks and go with the flow.

And then I read Simon Castles superb article The exclamation mark is murdering the full stop!!! in The Age (May 13, 2015).  The byline to this article hooked me straight away

Resistance is pointless. In the digital age, the exclamation mark conquers all.

Suddenly I found myself on a path of discovery and explanation.  Suddenly, my young friend’s texts were making more sense to me.  Suddenly I found myself acknowledging that the frequency of that beastly little exclamation mark meant nothing sinister, nothing untoward, nothing intentional other than being a friendly and engaging way to conclude a text!!!

Exclamation marks (Castles says) exploded with the rise of the digital age because they gave people a shorthand way to sound friendly and upbeat in their messages, whatever the subject. They acted as markers of sincerity and amiability, as a hedge against being misunderstood.”

As I read the article, a memory flashed through my mind – advice I was given when I first embraced Twitter: the use of apostrophes, commas, fullstops and the like in tweets were a give-away sign of age.  Ever since, I’ve found my fingers hovering over the keyboard, constantly tempted to include those all important dots and dashes known to my age group as punctuation.

It’s hard to let go of this.  If you are of the ilk who had the importance of punctuation drilled into you as a student all those years ago, you’ll understand how I feel.

Woe betide – what is to become of our English language?!

I’m passionate about the importance of teachers not just modelling lifelong learning, but being active learners themselves.

No matter how busy we are, making time to read, engage, discuss, learn and share is an essential practice.  School administrators need to play an active role in not just encouraging this practice, but making it an achievable goal for our teachers. It’s time to consider alternate ways to excite teachers’ interest in their own lifelong learning.

The second in a series of articles I was asked to write for Education Technology Solutions Reinvigorate professional learning programs to inspire lifelong learning!  has just been published – Issue 66, June/July 2015.

ABSTRACT:  Exciting, stimulating and meaningful learning programs in our schools are vital to entice teachers to become lifelong learners.   Alternate program delivery which incorporates creating time for teachers to learn on the job and encourages professional reading, active use of social media and a new look at conference attendance as well as exploring how the skills of both students and teacher librarians can contribute to the professional learning of teachers should be considered as ways to upend traditional professional learning programs.

Also published online on the Educational Technology Solutions website, my article can be read here:

Reinvigorate Professional Learning Programs To Inspire Lifelong Learning!

picBy Bev Novak.
Exciting, stimulating and meaningful learning programs in schools are vital to entice teachers to become lifelong learners.

Apart from updating basic skills, teachers must constantly master new skills and new pedagogy that continue to evolve at an overwhelming rate in a fast-paced world. Rather than having to sit back and wait for learning opportunities to come to them in the form of staff meetings, curriculum days, workshops or conferences, teachers should be encouraged to embrace those many learning opportunities that constantly present themselves in both formal and informal settings. By developing independent learning skills, teachers will discover a wealth of learning opportunities they never knew existed.

Move over science fiction!

The seemingly impossible is on its way to becoming possible as Google takes the concept of wearable technology to a new level.

Announcing a partnership between Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) and Levi’s at Google I/O 2015, the aim is to create interactive clothing, such as a pair of jeans, which can act as a touch screen.  Known as Project Jacquard, it is hoped that just a touch of our jeans will allow us to answer our smartphone – without actually touching it!

Pretty cool.  Very radical.  And definitely greater than our wildest dreams!

It wasn’t just the guffaw made by our Prime Minister in his response to a question posed by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament about the need to make coding compulsory for all children which made me think about coding this week.  Rather, it was that in the space of just a couple of days, I came across a number of different articles about coding.  My interest in this subject has been piqued, yet again.

Despite the unfortunate words of Tony Abbott, it is apparent, as described in a Sydney Morning Herald article that, while there is presently no intention to make coding a compulsory subject for all children, funding to at least introduce coding into our schools already has the backing of the present Australian Government.

An article in Educational Technology Solutions by Sarah Boyd: Getting girls into coding talks about the importance of exposing girls to coding and providing them an opportunity to input into designing and building the software they use.  Boyd’s words echo those I blogged a few months ago Coding: the new trend or the new essential? The video I included in this post: Is Code the most important language in the world? highlights the fact that a non diverse workforce, which does not really understand the end user experience, is responsible for building software.  Questions, such as ‘who’s going to use it?’ ‘what are they going to do with it?’ and ‘how are they going to live with it?’ are not being addressed as production and development continue.  Boyd offers many practical solutions on how coding classes for girls can be initiated and run in schools.

Moving beyond the fact that those building and designing software are not fairly or equally representative of those using the end products, the challenge facing educators in the 21st century is clearly that of preparing students for the workforce of the future.  For the last 15 years or more, the catch cry heard in education has been that our students will be entering jobs that presently do not exist.  As a society, we have been slow to recognize that today’s graduates will hold a number of different jobs in a range of diverse professions throughout their working lives.  Well gone are the days which emphasized that school and university graduates would hold the one job in the one profession for life.

The role of educators is to nurture students and provide opportunities for learning to occur.  By providing a scaffolding, educators provide students with a set of skills by which they can independently grow and learn.  I’ve blogged about this important set of skills before: Developing students as lifelong learners: 10 essential skills

….. lifelong learning is more about developing a set of skills by which an individual can pursue knowledge.   Learning these skills in an educational setting, be it school or university is what it’s really all about.  Teaching students how to learn should be the gift that educators aim to impart.”

Education curriculum has always held basic “core subjects” as essential for the school program.  The three “Rs” – reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic have been the basis of education for time immemorial.  Time has shifted though.  Our digital world demands a change in not just how we teach, but what we teach.  To adequately prepare students for the future, an addition to “core subjects” needs to be made!

Coding is now an essential skill that should be introduced into our schools.”

Developing a basic skill set which can enhance understanding and perpetuate learning is important.  A well rounded education needs to include ‘ core subjects’ which reflect the world in which we will live, participate and to which we contribute.   By including coding as one of these ‘core subjects’ does not imply that they will become professional computer programmers.  Instead, the inclusion of coding among ‘core subjects’ taught implies an ability to read, write and process basic mathematical computations upon completion of schooling, along with an enhanced understanding of our digital world.

Developing a basic skill set which can be applied in one setting, then refined, developed and expanded to meet the needs of a new setting should be an essential product of schooling.  Being able to transfer, or rather knowing how to transfer this skill set from one employment setting to another is a proficiency increasingly needed.

Arguing for the inclusion of coding into school curriculum has recently hit the pages of our newspapers.  Educational conferences along with educational journal articles have, for some years, been grappling with the importance of including coding in our school programs.  A considered opinion on the topic was recently included in the respected online edition of The Conversation by Leon Sterling: An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools.

In an effort to bring authenticity to the learning of coding by kids in schools, an exciting new organization has been established.

Code the Future aims to connect educators with developers in industry and is committed to advancing coding and computer science education in schools.  An informative blog written by one of its founders, Bec Spink – @BecSpink – highlights new initiatives.

We provide a platform where educators can post code-related projects, request a custom project or pick from our growing base of pre-defined projects. Developers can browse projects in their local area and connect with the educators to take discussions further and bring authentic learning opportunities to the classroom.”

A video posted on their webpage inspires an answer to the question: Why should schools teach kids how to code?

 

There’s every chance that you are one of the nearly 10 million people who’ve already seen this video since it was posted online just three weeks ago on April 30th 2015, but on the slim chance that you haven’t, here it is.

Like me though, if you have already seen it, you’ll be happy to take a few minutes out of the day and watch it again!

The incredible applications that 3D printing continues to bring to our lives and to our world are ones that few of us could  have ever imagined!

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