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Archive for the ‘Learning & Teaching Tools’ Category

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College, Brisbane’s first new school in 50 years, has just opened its doors for the 2020 academic year.

You may have heard about it or read the publicity surrounding it’s grand opening at the start of this year.  On hand for the opening was Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who informed the waiting press that the $100,000,000 school would be an exciting place of learning for the 140 new Year 7 students who were to start school that day.

Designed by COX Architecture in collaboration with ThomsonAdsett, a leading Australian International architecture and design firm and built by Hutchinson Builders, the Fortitude Valley State Secondary School also has the honour of being the first vertical school in Brisbane.  Clearly proud of this new landmark, these three companies have feature articles on their webpages: COX: A First in Fifty Years: The New Fortitude Valley State Secondary College Opens, ThomsonAdsett: Vertical schools on the rise – Fortitude Valley State Secondary College and Hutchinson Builders: Fortitude Valley State Secondary College.

It is in the ThomsonAdsett article however, that an incidental fact about the process is gleaned from the article which is included in the news section of their website:

We closely collaborated with the Principal (who was appointed after the design phase) to adapt the original design to better suit the management and operations of the school.

Having worked in schools for so many years where I have witnessed the creation of a great many new purpose built buildings, I have always been amazed at the logic of employing a school head, in this case the Principal, or the Head of Department after design plans have been created.

An Arts Centre at one Independent School I worked at, involved the faculty staff and their Head of Department only at the end stage after construction was completed.  Three of the school libraries I have worked in over the years have been designed and built by ‘experts’ that excluded both the Head of Library or the Library Staff.   At another Independent School at which I have worked, the professional insights, experience and opinions of the library staff were neither sought nor considered in plans to revamp the existing school library space.  Instead, a wide cross section of school staff were appointed as the reference group to guide, advise and determine features that should be incorporated.  There is no intention to appoint a Head of Library until after designs are set in place.

If anyone is able to elucidate the logic behind the notion of excluding library staff from having input into the design and construction of its new school library, I would be very pleased to listen ….. and learn.

Apologies though.  I have digressed, venting perhaps a little too much …..

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College does indeed appear to be a wonderful new facility, BUT some, OK, quite a number, have taken to Twitter to express their horror, dismay and disbelief that this new facility designed to operate as a 21st Century school, is to be completely paperless and will not have a library.

Lessons have begun at Queensland’s only highrise school where learning will be paperless. There’ll be no textbooks and no libraries at the state-of-the-art Fortitude Valley facility.

7NEWS Brisbane

Take a couple of minutes to view the video shot at the opening and then have a read of the many Tweets, which so aptly and succinctly sum up the feelings of the many of us who work in school libraries who understand only too well just what  a school library equipped with qualified and experienced library staff can offer to students, school staff and indeed the entire school community!

It’s hard to fathom the thinking behind making schools paperless.  It’s even harder to understand the logic behind getting rid of the school library.

Sadly, Fortitude Valley State Secondary School is not the only school taking up this trend.  Other schools, such as Siena College in Melbourne has replaced the school library with a “learning centre” where students can discuss ideas and learn technology, such as 3D printers and robotics.  Librarians have been replaced with ‘change adopters’. (The Age: Schools that excel: No detentions, no libraries, no problems for this girls’ school March 25, 2019) And in New South Wales, the new $225 million Arthur Phillip High School in Parramatta, has 17 floors but no library.   As reported:

Rather than dedicating a room to the school’s books and research resources in the form of a traditional library, the new Arthur Phillip High School in Parramatta, which opened this week, will have so-called iHubs for each year level on different floors.

Each iHub will have digital resources and some hard copy books, while “students can access other parts of the school’s collection through the librarian,” said a spokesman for the NSW Department of Education.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s new $225 million school has 17 floors, but no library January 31, 2020

It’s great to see that a movement to promote the value of school libraries is gaining traction in educational circles and among parents.  Students Need School Libraries has become the voice for those of us working in school libraries, promoting not just the value of school libraries and all that they offer students, teachers and the extended school community, but the importance of staffing school libraries with qualified and experienced teacher librarians.

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The internet is an endless reservoir of resources.  Wading through what is current, valuable and relevant though can be an exhaustive and laborious process for many, most especially our students.

KidsNews, a resource designed to be informative and appealing to students, presents current and reliable news sourced from a wide range of News Corp publications. The content is written in child appropriate language and is filtered to remove inappropriate content or imagery.  Pitched to students from Year 3 to Year 8, a colour coding system is used to identify age appropriate content and comprehension levels:

  • Green – Simple to medium vocabulary, story content easily understood, accessible to all readers (especially with audio option)
  • Orange – medium level of vocabulary, story content a little more complex but still able to be read and understood at middle to senior primary level (audio option and glossary to assist)
  • Red – contains complex vocabulary and content that is of a higher level, suited to more able readers, requires teacher scaffolding for less capable readers.

Three new articles, divided into two main categories, are added each school day:

  • News — covering current affairs, key curriculum topics, interesting stories about people, animals and things
  • Sport — Australian and international sports events and people.

Aiming to be a quality resource for teachers, KidsNews has been developed as a literary resource for teachers using current daily news stories suitable for students.  The classification of content can be sourced by selecting the ‘Key Topics’ tab from the top menu:

The recent gathering of leaders from over 40 countries worldwide to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the World War II concentration camp Auschwitz is just one of the recent subjects highlighted on this website.  By integrating photographs taken by The Duchess of Cambridge into the KidsNews article Photos a moving tribute to Holocaust survivors this webpage incorporates an explanation of the Duchess of Cambridge’s photographs, a brief explanation of The Holocaust, a glossary of key vocabulary, two extra reading articles, a quick quiz, an audio in which the article is read, a number of classroom activities and finally an opportunity for readers to leave a comment. A clear statement at the start of the article indicates to teachers that the article relates to the Key Topic of Humanities and that both the text and content are pitched at a red – more able –  reading level.

In addition to the content are a range of classroom activities – three per news article – written by teachers for teachers that are linked directly to the Australian curriculum.  As noted on the KidsNews website:

The activities vary each day and are specific to the article. Each activity also includes an extension for higher students. The types of activities include:

  • Written projects for literacy, comprehension and storytelling
  • Art projects
  • Geography
  • Speech writing
  • Persuasive text
  • Maths etc.

Explore many more features available on this fabulous website by selecting the How to Use tab at the bottom of the webpage or spend a few minutes watching the video incorporated on this page:

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Just last week, a friend sent me this magnificent stop-motion animation created by Charlotte Arene which, using the imagery of a bedroom, depicts the changing moods of the ocean as it shifts from evening dusk, through a fierce and angry night and finally becomes calm as dawn claims the day.

Captivating…..  Mesmerizing…..  Beautiful…..

It is not just that the sleeping woman bears an uncanny resemblance to someone I know and love which captivates me, but the deeper meaning that I see and feel each time I view this animation.

This young woman is at the mercy of the ocean as she slithers up and down the bed.  Life has a cycle.  The ocean has a cycle.  Man and nature are entwined.  Indeed we are all one with nature – dependent on the environment as it determines our lives, our survival and our ability to shift through the moods that shroud our days.

Some life decisions are made for us.  Events and situations that present themselves dictate the path we follow.  As I’ve written before …..

Life is so unpredictable, full of twists and turns we can never anticipate. Challenges crop up and hit us seemingly out of left field.  Unexpected and unplanned events, circumstances and situations can so quickly take over.  Value judgements can be upturned in an instant.  Days that quickly run into weeks and months take us in a different direction.  When it happens though, it’s easy to decide what is important. It’s easy to decide where attention must be focused.

Other life decisions however, are made consciously.

At the end of a passionate blog post I published late last year – Literacy, libraries and school reading culture – I was forthright in stating that I had recently resigned my position as a Teacher Librarian.  My decision has brought to a close a significant chapter of my life – one that I have thoroughly enjoyed and savoured.

For the moment, I am ‘between jobs’ as I take a break and search for another role in which I can meaningfully contribute to our collective drive to ensure that school libraries remain in the forefront of education.  The value and importance of reading is something I have continually espoused here on my blog NovaNews for nearly ten years!  As oft stated, I passionately believe that

Reading is the cornerstone of all education!

With a wealth of experience, I know I have much to offer others.  The many literary programs, events and ideas I have initiated and staged over the years in a number of different schools speak for themselves.  The advice I have shared with work colleagues to nurture and encourage a school wide reading culture have been well received.

As I wander through this ‘between jobs’ stage of life, I welcome the opportunity to assist others in devising ways to cement the role of the school library as a central location in the school, exploring ways to engage reluctant readers or those coming to English as a second language, developing ideas to encourage others to appreciate the power and importance of reading or advising on how best to develop and expand a positive school reading culture.

Available for either a once off consultation or for a short-term contract, I can be contacted at any of my cyberspace nooks – to chat about how we could work together to achieve your goals to devise and develop a program for your school.

Twitter:      @novanews19
Email:         bev.novak@gmail.com
LinkedIn:    Bev Novak

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It’s hard to believe, but text messaging reached a milestone last week!

25 years ago – December 3rd 1992 to be exact – the first text message was sent by Engineer Neil Papworth when he wrote “Merry Christmas” on a computer and sent it to Richard Jarvis, the then director of Vodaphone.  It was an event which changed technology forever and along with it, set in motion a colossal shift in social norms.

While it’s debatable whether SMS today is being overtaken by social media platforms, the impact of texting on our lives has been profound.   Twenty five years is a very long time!  A generation of young people know no other way to communicate, a fact which raises a whole range of issues including whether or not the art of interacting face to face is being lost.  Have a listen to this discussion to gain a greater understanding:

I’ve been in teaching long enough to remember the days when fears for students’ ability to spell beyond texting shorthand was a serious concern.

Educational concerns however are constantly evolving.  As reflected in a presentation by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman at a conference earlier this year and repeated regularly since, he advocates the need to teach all children how to talk to each other on the internet and how to understand fact from fiction:

Believing in the importance of starting to educate children from a young age, the DQ Institute has developed a 15 hour free online curriculum aiming to teach digital citizenship covering a range of key skills:

Underlining the importance of school students learning digital civics, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will, from next year, assess ‘global competencies’:

From next year PISA will test not only maths, science and reading skills, but “global competencies”, which its education head, Andreas Schleicher, described as young people’s attitudes to global issues and different cultures, analytical and critical skills and abilities to interact with others. The first results will report in 2019.  (“Don’t teach your kids coding, teach them how to live online” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 25 2017)

How appropriate it would be to see teacher librarians take the lead to ensure the introduction of digital civics lessons during library sessions!

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Having blogged a few times in recent weeks about fake news –  So … what are we doing about fake news? and an earlier post titled Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE I got a buzz reading last week’s Open Culture post: “Calling Bullshit” – which describes a College course designed by two professors at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West to combat bullshit in the information age.

Their comprehensive website “Calling Bullshit” gives a great rationale for introducing this course to college students.  A statement shared with students attending the first class highlights the most basic of reasons for establishing such a teaching course:

Have a listen to the first lecture and you’ll probably find yourself hooked!

The presentations – available on Youtube – are short, sharp and easy to watch and, say the two professors who developed the course, it is all there online for anyone to pick up and teach.  All they ask in return is acknowledgement of them as authors of the material and to let them know how the material is being used.

Viewing this series of 10 sessions would make a great professional learning opportunity for any of us working in education.

Most particularly for teacher librarians, viewing this series could be an inspirational stepping stone to develop a course suited to students and would clearly be an extension of the CRAAP Test mentioned in my recent post.

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Nothing much ….. or heaps?

Who, what, when, where and how is this issue being tacked in schools?

  • Who is taking fake news seriously?
  • What is being done to combat fake news?
  • When is fake news being tackled?  Before or after the fake news has been circulated?
  • Where is fake news being tackled? In subject specific classrooms or centrally via the school library?
  • How are our students being trained to be discerning believers of that which they read or hear?

It would be interesting to run a survey of schools and find out some answers to this question.  Feasible or likely – do you think?

An undeniable fact though is that the term ‘fake news’ has probably never been bandied around more that it is today.  Indeed, ‘fake news’ has been selected as the Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year.  Commenting on this decision, its editor, Susan Butler says:

“There has come a point with fake news where people are beginning to believe what they want to believe, whether or not the news story is actually true.”

(Sydney Morning Herald, January 25, 2017)

Is the term ‘fake news’ new?

Not really, is the implication of a hefty article by James Carson of The Telegraph which claims the term jumped into mainstream media with Donald Trump’s accusations against CNN but in reality is another term for ‘bending the truth’ or propaganda, a tool used to influence public opinion for quite some time.

If the frequency of the term ‘fake news’ is starting to wear thin though, equally powerful ‘catch phrases’ have started to pop up: ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ being the two front runners.

It’s clear that today though, the spread of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘misinformation’ has never been easier.

Social Media has rewritten the books! 

The implication of information being published and shared at will, without any authoritative verification of its truth is, to put it plainly, very scary!

Moves to address the issue are coming thick and fast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about this very issue: Evidence based journalism: WikiTRIBUNE which highlighted platforms and programs that are being developed to help people verify facts.

Educating our students to be discerning and informed on how to sift fact from fiction has probably never been more important!   Teaching them specifically how to fact check through valuable online resources such as Snopes, FactCheck and PolitiFact Australia are important and essential!

But this is only one aspect of the kind of education we should be providing in our schools.  So much more needs to be included in an education program.

A recent report – Students fight fake news and the spread of misinformation – about one school’s effort in Melbourne to tackle this issue was inspiring.  Students in English classes at Lowther Hall in Essendon are encouraged to apply the CRAAP test – checking for currency, relevance, accuracy, authority and purpose – to articles they come across in the press.

Reading this article seems to imply that this process was developed in Melbourne by this school’s Head of English but an online search finds reference to the CRAAP Test dating back to 2012 in a paper written by Sarah Myhre: Using the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Websites. More recently though, the American Library Association has updated its CRAAP test for spotting fake news.  A quick reference as to what is included in the CRAAP test can be found online.

Teacher Librarians have forever been working with students in sessions either alone or in a team teaching situation with subject teachers to instill in students an awareness of the currency, relevancy, accuracy and authority of information they come across online.

Indeed – one of the massive failures of the current climate of school administrations as they apply staffing and resource cuts to school libraries is a recognition of the value of having qualified and experienced teacher librarians to lead and guide school communities to recognize and address this modern scourge!

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For years, teacher librarians have been teaching students not just how to run online searches but how important it is to authenticate information found.

But over the last 12-18 months with the preponderance of ‘fake news’ popping up not just on the internet but in usually reliable print publications such as newspapers and journals, the impact ‘fake news’ has had on our world has been the subject of much discussion around the globe.

So it is refreshing to see that the conversation has now started to shift from how dangerous fake news is to how to spot and combat fake news.

Perhaps under threat from mega million law suits, Facebook has been one of the first to take a lead by informing users of some basic tips on how to spot false news.

For a few brief days in mid April this year, Facebook users in just 14 countries got to see this alert:

from where they could read through the following concise and useful tips on how to spot false news:

Why only 14 countries were included in this roll out and why the alert was only live for a few days is a complete mystery.  Given the value this kind of shared information can have in the fight against the spread of misleading and false information, one can only hope that Facebook was testing the ground and will come back to making this a permanent alert available to global Facebook users.

As reported by engadget recently, Google also is attempting to stamp out the spread of fake news by inserting a ‘Fact check by’ tag on searches on contentious issues.

Another interesting development this week is the announcement by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

WikiTRIBUNE is being developed as a new kind of news platform.  By calling on the community to work hand-in-hand with journalists, the aim is to verify and edit facts before they appear online.  Using crowdfunding to hire 14 journalists, it is intended that WikiTRIBUNE, like Wikipedia, will be free to access.

WikiTRIBUNE is set to differ from other news outlets in four specific ways:

  • the news source will be clearly stated
  • access to WikiTRIBUNE will be free and ad free
  • contributors from both the community and journalists will be equals
  • to achieve full transparency donors will be informed where money goes

Read more about the purpose and nature of WikiTRIBUNE in this excellent engadget article Wikipedia co-founder launches Wikitribune to fight fake news or listen to Jimmy Wales himself as he invites the world to come on board.

 

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