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Archive for the ‘Learning Community’ Category

Coming across an article by Will Schwalbe “The need to read” published in The Wall Street Journal late last year (November 25, 2016) I knew I’d hit a powerful article.

The start of his article tells the simple story of a grandmother desperately trying to connect with her grandson who lives far away from her home in Florida.  When she asked the usual kinds of questions about school and his day during their phone conversations, his auto reply of ‘fine’ or ‘nothing’ led the conversation nowhere.  So when she asked an alternate question: ‘What are you reading?’ and he replied “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, the grandmother decided to get hold of a copy and read it in the hope of using this as a springboard for conversation during their next phone conversation.

To her delight, it worked!

The book helped this grandmother cut through the superficialities of phone chat and engage her grandson on the most important questions that humans face about survival and destruction and loyalty and betrayal and good and evil, and about politics as well. Now her grandson couldn’t wait to talk to her when she called—to tell her where he was, to find out where she was and to speculate about what would happen next.

While flagging the danger to our well being and our lives by the constant connectivity enabled today by the Internet, Schwalbe discusses the power of reading.  In short he notes that books are able to

  • create connections between people
  • create connections between people and events
  • enable the reader to hear the expression of an individual/group of individuals

While recognizing that reading is a solitary activity, Schwalbe emphasizes that books creates connections with others in a most powerful way.

Books ….. speak to us, thoughtfully, one at a time. They demand our attention. And they demand that we briefly put aside our own beliefs and prejudices and listen to someone else’s. You can rant against a book, scribble in the margin or even chuck it out the window. Still, you won’t change the words on the page.

The technology of a book is genius: The order of the words is fixed, whether on the page or on the screen, but the speed at which you read them is entirely up to you. Sure, this allows you to skip ahead and jump around. But it also allows you to slow down, savor and ponder.

If you have the chance to read Schwalbe’s full article in The Wall Street Journal, do.  It is a powerful treatise for the power of reading.

Working with young adults in school libraries over many years, I repeatedly tell my students how much they will gain from reading.  Apart from the impact reading will have on their own ability to express themselves verbally and in writing, they will get to experience so much that they may never otherwise be able to explore: history, culture, social issues, love, horror, fantasy, art, passion ….. indeed all that life has to offer.

Read a book ….. learn about the world”

I tell them.  This has forever been the mantra I’ve shared with all the kids I’ve worked with in both the classroom and in the world of school libraries.

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So ….. is hoodwinking our kids into believing that the tooth fairy is real the right kind of thing to do?  Or should we instead be helping them learn to distinguish fantasy from reality?

Never thought about it?

I hadn’t either – not until I listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about the tooth fairy on the The Late Late Show with James Corden.
 

 
Imagine how easily we could apply this kind of logic to so much of what we teach our students!

It’s a little mind-boggling – no?!

 

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It’s a while since I last blogged about Google Doodles …..

Google Doodles

I really love Google Doodles!

They never fail to bring a smile to my face and I just love sharing what has become a morning ‘find’ with family, friends and work colleagues when I open Google.com on my laptop in the morning.  I’m in awe of both the creativity and the ingenuity of their creators……

In a nutshell, a Google Doodle, is a temporary graphic variation of the Google logo on its homepage and aims to honour or celebrate holidays, events, achievements and/or people.  Each of these special illustrations embed links with a host of information about the focus topic.  A Google Doodle appears for just one day, but is archived and available for viewing on the Google Doodle website.

Just last week I came across a fabulous entry about a woman by the name of Aletta Jacobs who is, among many other ‘firsts’, noted as a suffragette, a doctor and the inventor of the first effective contraceptive.

Clearly Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929) was a trailblazer for her time.  Just last week on February 9th, she was honoured for what would have been her 163rd birthday with a Google Doodle.

aletta-jacobs-163rd-birthday-5639465472098304-hp2x

Like so many of the links associated with Google Doodles, this one: Aletta Jacobs: 5 fast facts you need to know gives a thumbnail sketch of this amazing woman and her contribution to our world.

Google Doodles really do hold a goldmine of information.  Use them as an inspirational, quick look at information about a host of different topics that have been the feature of one of the many Google Doodles created over the years.  Search the Google Doodle website for previous creations dating back to 1998.  You’ll be surprised at the amount of information that can be gleaned from them in a very short time!

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So  ….. could a 15 year old have really nailed the reason for Australia’s falling stakes in the PISA academic analysis game?

Our falling results since PISA’s inception should be a wake-up call to schools and teachers for the need to integrate more engaging ways to educate their older students on the realities of everyday life.

“Why 15-year-olds don’t care about Pisa rankings” Sydney Morning Herald, December 7, 2016 by Paloma Jackson-Vaughan

Arguments presented by 15 year old Paloma Jackson-Vaughan in her well publicized article late last year lays the blame on the fact that her peers simply can’t be bothered engaging with tests such as PISA.  It is, she contends, their lack of motivation to either sit for or apply themselves to the demands of tests that they perceive to have no relevance on their school marks that PISA test scores have fallen.  For good measure, she suggests that high levels of stress endured by this cohort also impact poor performance.

If, she suggests, students better understood the performance of the PISA tests, the results would be different.   After alluding to the fact that Australia lacks the kind of cultural expectation for nationwide academic success held by other countries, she concludes her article by laying the blame for falling standards on teachers’ collective inability to engage students in what she terms ‘realities of everyday life’.

A fairly harsh conclusion, which I am sure riled many a teacher who read these words just prior to the end of the 2016 academic year!

That Australia’s PISA performance has been steadily falling can’t be questioned though.  This short video, which was incorporated into the article by Paloma Jackson-Vaughan, gives a concise and simple explanation of both PISA and Australia’s performance over the last 16 years:

pisa-2017-report

Ranking scales of the 2015 PISA scores certainly reflects poorly on Australia.

ranking

While attempts to account for Australia’s falling achievement levels most often revolve around politics and funding given to education, could it be that this 15 year old has opened an unsavoury can of worms?  Could it really be that Australian students are increasingly disinterested in education to the point that they just don’t care?!

Moving from school to school throughout my teaching career, I’ve often been struck by the different ‘feel’ of the school and the different keenness level of students in one school over another.  Why is it, I’ve wondered, are students in one school so enthusiastic and engaged while others in other schools are totally laid back?

Is it the teachers who are at fault, the lesson content/presentation, the school admin, the students themselves, the students’ family socioeconomic status, the value given to school and education by the students’ family or is it just simply the amount of money available to create a more apt learning environment?  Why are some students more motivated and engaged than others?

So … the question remains.  Are the words of this 15 year old  truth or nonsense?

Let me know what you think.

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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.

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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!!

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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!

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