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For me, the gift of blogging is providing myself with a vehicle to ‘think’ about issues and formalizing my own thoughts on different topics.  Some thoughts sit with me for a very long time before I get around to exploring them further by teasing them out in writing.

I’ve touched on this one many times over the life of this blog.  It’s always under the guise of encouraging lifelong learning.  My thoughts are many and varied – just use the keywords ‘lifelong learning’ to search NovaNews to find my thoughts and ideas.

I aspire to lifelong learning myself and fervently hope that all those of us in the teaching game also reach out to constantly challenge themselves with new thoughts and new ideas and to discover and savour the joy of lifelong learning.

At the end of it all though, is our stated aim to inspire the students in our schools to become lifelong learners so that they are able to set their own challenges and be lead along a path which may quench their thirst for learning.

Some time ago, I came across this fabulous infographic created by Mia MacMeekin. Just now I’ve been re-visiting it, thinking about the keywords used and the thought bubbles created under each.  This infographic, I realize,  encapsulates so many of the thoughts and words that I’ve been sharing here on NovaNews or spoken about to colleagues over a cuppa or presented at conferences or meetings.

innovation

How great it would be to inspire our students with the many thoughts included in this infographic.   Indeed how great it would be to inspire educators to get on board and modify some of their daily routines by considering and adopting some of these thoughts.

I’m not really a ‘car’ kind of person, so I don’t usually follow news articles about the car market.

But I couldn’t help stopping in my tracks just a couple of weeks ago when I saw an article which forecast that self driving cars will be on the market in 5 years.  Why?

1.  The thought of cars zipping around the roads was at one time a little overwhelming while at the same time reminiscent of that immortal TV show – The Jetsons.  – Stop for a tic to either wander down memory lane or discover this futuristic family for yourself!

2.  The second reason I stopped in my tracks was because I had the pleasure of going for a drive in one about a year ago – The Tesla Model S.  Even if I was a little nervous sitting in the front passenger seat while watching the driver’s hands be anywhere other than the steering wheel, it really was quite an awesome experience!

While the article I read seemed to be a promo for Ford’s predicted entry into the self drive market,  others including Google, Uber and BMW are starting to compete with Tesla who are so well advanced in the self driver market that they are now working on a more affordable version.

Self driving cars are, it is said, is a development that will place the incredible advances that have been made in artificial intelligence squarely into the lives of the masses.  But with this development, a whole range of ethical issues arise.  And like many of you, I’ve not considered these issues until I read a recent article in NovaNext: Can Autonomous Cars Learn to be Moral? (July 27, 2016)

As artificial intelligence develops increasingly subtle and complex decision making processes, it will become harder to determine who’s accountable for a machine’s actions: the engineer who designed it, the consumer who purchased it, or the machine itself.

The kinds of decisions that need to be incorporated into the ‘thinking’ of self driving cars are really quite scary.  If, for example, the self driving car is heading into a crash with another vehicle or an oncoming train should it veer sideways to avoid the crash knowing that the car and its driver will roll down the bank on the side of the road with the possibility of the driver being either injured or killed?

Referred to as The Trolley Problem, this kind of ethical decision has long been debated by philosophers:

Food for thought – no?

The power of reading!

Being one of those people who likes to make a noise – constantly – about the value of reading and being one who just doesn’t understand why it is that the entire education sector doesn’t get the message about the value and importance of reading in the overall school curriculum, I couldn’t resist posting a tweet together with this infographic a couple of weeks ago:

Take note school admins! Haven’t TLs been saying this for years?

Reading-habits-that-lead-to-success-full-infographic-840x7634

One thing’s for sure though – I intend sharing it with my students at school!  It’s too much of a gem to not share!!

Loving Vincent

I saw the trailer for Loving Vincent earlier in the year when it was first uploaded.  Quite simply – it is both awesome and beautiful!

Then I started reading the story behind the making of the movie, which, on its own, is quite breathtaking in the complexity and enormity of its production.  Loving Vincent is to be the world’s first painted film.

For it we will have to paint over 62,450 frames of painting on over 1,000 canvases. We shot the film with actors, and now we are literally painting over it frame by frame. This is a very laborious and time-consuming process. It has taken us 4 years to develop the technique, and it will take us 1 year with a team of over 100 painters working at studios in the Polish cities of Gdansk and Wroclaw, and a studio in Athens to complete the film.

The reason we are doing it is not because we want to be the first, or that we want to set any records, it is because we believe that you cannot truly tell Vincent’s story without his paintings, so we needed to bring his paintings to life.

An amazing undertaking, which reveals itself as even more impressive the more I delved into the movie’s website: Loving Vincent.  Explore how the film is made by viewing anyone of a number of short videos on the website.  This one, for example, explains how the artists paint every shot with oil paints on canvas.

I can’t wait to see the finished movie!

When was the last time you gave some thought to the preservation of film.  Yes – film – as in movie film.

The Nuclear Bunker Preserving Movie History gives a fascinating insight into how a building which once used to store gold while doubling as a fallout shelter for the U.S. president and his cabinet during the Cold War has now been taken over by The Library of Congress and is responsible for both the restoration of films and their safe storage.

It’s a fascinating glimpse into an area!

So can there be a link between reading achievement scores as measured by NAPLAN testing and the presence or absence of Teacher Librarians in schools?

Sue McKerracher, Chief Executive Officer of ALIA (Australian Library and Information Association) seems to think there most definitely is an impact to be had, particularly when she states the obvious in a recent release on the ALIA website:

‘School libraries and teacher librarians are well placed to contribute to improving student skills in reading, digital literacy, critical thinking and research skills. However we see only a small number of teacher librarians on staff compared to other specialist teachers in schools.’

McKerracher goes on to quote research completed by Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to back up her claim:

….. in 2013 only 4-5% of primary teachers and 2-3% of secondary teachers were working in a library role. This compared with 5% of secondary teachers involved in Languages Other Than English, 5% in computing and 6% in special needs.”

While this report suggests that fewer graduates are entering Library & Information Science programs, perhaps a simpler explanation is that fewer teacher librarians are being appointed to roles within our libraries. Sadly, the kind of thoughts I expressed in a recently published article: It’s time: let’s improve schools’ perceptions of teacher librarians suggests that the collective lack of promotion by teacher librarians of their role within schools is surreptitiously adding to the demise of the role we are able to play in schools and the impact we are having on literacy achievement or more specifically, the NAPLAN scores achieved by the students in our schools.

It is no secret to those of us working in school libraries that the myriad of tasks facing us on a day-to-day basis are often totally overwhelming.  Finding the time to create the spin needed to ensure the profile of the library and its staff is recognized, appreciated and valued can be totally daunting.

Be in no doubt though – publicizing what we do, how we do it and why we do it – is an essential part of our role.  The effort put into this important aspect of school libraries can, in the end, be a make it or break it decision that may have far reaching ramifications, particularly at this end of the year in Australian schools, where number crunching hits the top of the list by school administrators.

A recent post by Megan Daley: NAPLAN Results and the Role of the School Library and Teacher Librarian says it strongly and very clearly!

To me at least, part of the issue seems to be that people don’t really know what teacher librarians actually do. Everyone seems to understand the role of the French teacher, the Maths teacher, the primary classroom teacher, the school groundsman, and the school receptionist (AKA the jack of all trades in a school). But few people seem to know what a teacher librarian does and how crucial the role is ensuring the success of our schools and our students.”

Daley doesn’t mince words when she implores those who don’t have the passion to get out of the profession and for those who do have the passion to shout from the rafters so that school communities sit up and take notice.

Take the time to read her post.  It’s excellent!

Like so many the world over, I grew up with Bob Dylan, listening to his music and enjoying the beauty of his lyrics and music.  When I listen to his songs today, warm memories are evoked  – significant moments in my life.  Dylan’s songs have penetrated my soul.

But while it is fabulous that Dylan has received one of the highest accolades in the world, the Nobel Prize for Literature, to me this achievement signals a new dawn for literature!

It was some years ago that I put an idea into action at one of the schools at which I worked.

I had a vision of staging a Literary Festival which would be all encompassing; one that would inspire and enthuse interest in literature.  I aimed high by insisting that literature was something that stretched across the curriculum and touched all aspects of students’ education.  Although I didn’t articulate it then as strongly as I do today, my idea was based on my strong belief that reading and writing is the cornerstone of all education.  Pitched as a Literary Festival for our senior school, Years 9-12, I ensured that there were inspirational events for all 300 students and all of the teachers who taught them.   With 18 presenters and nearly 50 concurrent sessions in its first year and 26 presenters and more than 80 concurrent sessions in its second year, the two Literary Festivals held in 2007 and 2008 ran over three and four consecutive days respectively.  I have blogged about this event previously: Staging a successful Literary Festival. Always keen to repeat the event, feel free to contact me if you need guidance in making an event such as this happen in your school.  It really isn’t as hard to make happen as it may seem on first look!

By referring to this event as a “Literary Festival” from the outset, I was reiterating my firm belief that the event should focus on all aspects of the written and spoken word.  When discussing my ideas with other staff, I pitched widely for ideas of the kinds of artists who could be included.  At its end, both Literary Festivals included traditional presenters such as authors and illustrators, but they also included poets, clay animators, puppeteers, scientists, journalists, musicians, actors and motivation speakers as well as hip hop artists and songwriters – all of whom are united in their passionate desire to engage, stimulate and challenge us with their love of the written and spoken word.

The songwriter we had in sat around with an enthusiastic group of students running a workshop which aimed to have them compose a short song: words and lyrics.   Singing and playing their music to a small audience was a fitting finale.  The hip hop artists we brought in presented fabulous sessions to a large audience and then ran workshops in which students were guided on how to go about creating their own hip hop music.  By the end of the Literary Festival, CDs were created of the students’ work.  While only one small part of the overall Literary Festival, these workshops turned out to be one of the highlights of the overall event.  The English teachers and students alike were overwhelmed with the end result.

Undeniably – these were ‘magical’ learning events!

So when I heard that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, I felt that my thoughts of nearly ten years ago had finally been vindicated.

While some raised their eyebrows in surprise at the award for Dylan, I feel that finally songwriting has found its rightful place within the world of literature.  An awesome achievement!!