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Archive for the ‘Learning Community’ Category

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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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!!

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Last week my husband and I went for a coffee at one of our favourite spots in outer suburban Melbourne.

Getting out of the car, we could hear someone shouting.  It didn’t take long to realize that the young guy, looking slightly disheveled and ‘out of it’ who was standing on the corner was the one shouting a string of abusive rants at another more ‘cleanly’ dressed guy who was hastily retreating from the scene.  Fortunately, nothing ‘ugly’ transpired, but the incident of just a few short seconds left me rattled, pensive and concerned.  It’s a question I found myself asking earlier this year following a similarly unexpected incident when I blogged Are we failing those we teach?

Reinforced by daily news reports of violent, antisocial behaviour involving theft, assault, abuse and even murder by young perpetrators, one can’t help feeling frightened, anxious and nervous about the ramifications of young people who know no limits on their behaviour and it’s impact on society.

Then, last week, I read the horrific account of the sexual abuse endured by a 16 year old boy at the hands of his classmates.  Hoping that the revelation of his story, 30 years after it occurred, may prevent other children from being hurt, this brave 46 year old stated that

Silence is the perpetrator’s greatest weapon”

A shiver coursed through me as I reflected on the damage that may have been perpetrated on students long before ‘mandatory reporting’ by those of us working in schools became compulsory by law.

Such disturbing thoughts were compounded last week when I read the recently published Young Adult (YA) novel Saving Jazz by Kate McCaffrey.

Over the years, I’ve had lengthy discussions with teaching colleagues – teacher librarians, librarians and general teaching staff in secondary schools – as well as school psychologists and social workers about the inclusion or exclusion of novels in school libraries written for the YA market on a range of tough themes: rape, incest, anorexia, pyromania, drugs, abortion, suicide and more.    The argument of whether to include books of this nature in school library collections vacillates between exposing or hiding from teens influential ideas that may encourage them to ‘experiment’.

Following my read of McCaffrey’s latest book though, my belief is reinforced that well written novels which clearly present a social issue and then guide teens on appropriate ways of responding to deviant behaviour most definitely belong in our school libraries.  While confronting, well written literature offers students a safe place to learn and explore real life issues.

It is also my strong belief that it is incumbent on teaching and ancillary staff working with teenagers to read these kind of novels so as to develop a real awareness and an understanding of the impact of changed social dynamics that dominate the lives of today’s teens.

I hope that this short review of Saving Jazz will inspire many educators to dip into the real world of teenagers so as to learn, explore and understand the real life issues facing today’s secondary school students both in and out of the classroom.

Saving Jazz – Kate McCaffrey

saving-jazzA hard hitting ‘in-your-face’ novel about cyberbullying.  When Allison is found floating in the bath by her mother, the story of what and why is revealed by a series of blog posts written by her friend Jazz.  As the ugly truth about events that occurred is revealed, the reader develops an increased appreciation of the grave ramifications that can result from posting on social media.  A well written novel, which presents a clear, well defined message through the voice of Jazz and at its end is quite uplifting.  Despite the mature age theme, this novel is highly recommended.

Rating:  *****
Theme Fiction:  Social Issues
Suitability:  Year 10-12+

 

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