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Archive for the ‘Online Learning’ 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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So said Lorna Prendergast after being awarded her Masters of Ageing at the recent University of Melbourne’s graduation ceremony on July 29th 2019.

Acclaimed as one of the oldest students to complete a masters degree at the graduation ceremony, her teacher, Associate Professor Rosemary McKenzie, referred to Mrs Prendergast as an “inspiration” noting that she reflects the societal shift occurring as more and more older people in Australia’s aging population take up studies in Australia’s universities.

“She really is, I suppose, the vanguard of people who are becoming lifelong learners who take up university study at any age.”

Living in the country town of Bairnsdale, about 300 kilometers east of Melbourne, Mrs Prendergast enrolled in the online course in her late 80s and proved to others that age was no barrier to continued learning.  Taking the travails of distance education and the complexities of technology in her stride, Mrs Prendergast was keen to fill her days with meaning and gained inspiration to learn more about how music is being used to help the aged after watching an  ABC science program Catalyst.

In an interview after the graduation ceremony, Mrs Prendergast proclaimed that there is no such word as can’t in the dictionary!  “Nobody is too old to learn”, she said.  By speaking about her experience of returning to study, she hopes that others will realise they are never too old to learn.

As we age, it is easy to let the days drift by.  May this woman’s passion for lifelong learning be a continued inspiration for all of us to follow!

Congratulations Mrs Prendergast !!

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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 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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Reading an article recently about a program which aims to combat racism, discrimination and cyberbullying,  I jumped online to check it out.

Developed by the Anti-Defamation Commission, Click Against Hate (CAH) is a relatively recent addition to the many programs already operating in our schools which aim to tackle, head on, frightening statistics such as those highlighted in one ABC News report:

From YouTube vid - Click against hate

Through interactive, hands on sessions, facilitators of the program encourage students to assertively stand up to all forms of bullying, hate and discrimination.  Fostering confidence to report all forms of abuse, racism and bullying, students are empowered to be proactive, responsible users of the Internet while learning the mindset of those who perpetrate such hate.

This educational program focuses on the development of an inclusive culture and respectful school climate by addressing issues of bias, bullying and prejudice reduction at its roots and provides the tools to deal with this ugly phenomenon.  The program also focuses on diversity in schools and social cohesion among students.  CAH has been designed as an interactive and innovative program giving students current information that empowers them to deal with these situations showing them what the power of words can do.  (Anti-Defamation Commission)

In addition to the more lengthy video produced and posted on the website of the Anti-Defamation Commission, my online research located two short news broadcasts about the program which are well worth a look.  The first was published August 13, 2015 on ABC News while the second was aired on SBS World News more recently on May 18, 2016.

 

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I very rarely look at the stats of my blog.  Quite honestly, I’ve better things to do.

But the other day, I was poking around on the NovaNews dashboard looking for something and came across an incredibly high number of hits for a post I wrote back in late 2012:  Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers.

I was amazed to see that in just the first three months of this year – 2016 – there have been a total of 962 hits on this post, a figure which equates to 43% of the total number of hits on the same blog post last year.

Learning to learn - 10 essential skills for teachers!

So I’ve been sitting here for a while puzzling over why this post should be generating so much interest.

Perhaps my post may be garnering some attention via Twitter, but a check of recent stats on my WordPress analytics suggests not.  Most of the ‘referrers’ to this blog post are in fact coming from search engines which suggests

that many ‘out there’ must be searching for ways to improve their own teaching skills and that is the really interesting finding in all of this!

Inadvertently, it seems, I’ve discovered that my thoughts are being read far more widely than I’d previously thought.

Ah, I say with a smile on my face:  the power of blogging!

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It’s hard to believe that Pindex hasn’t been developed before now because when you stop and think about it, the idea has almost always been out there.

Launched just a month ago, its premise is simple and its design is very appealing.  Its four person team aims to curate educational videos and infographics for teachers and students.

In short it’s a pinboard for learning or looking at it another way …..  a Pinterest for Educators.

More information can be extracted from the Pindex website:

Pindex is a pinboard to collect and discover the best educational material. It’s not just for teachers and students. Anyone can create boards to share their passion and enjoy the adventure of learning.

Take a look at this video which gives a glimpse of what’s available on Pindex

or explore a guide to Pindex to figure out how best this new resource can be used in your school or shared as a resource through your library.

Be quick to request an invite.  I’m anxiously awaiting mine so that I can have a more in depth peek at this fabulous new resource!

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Whether participating as a reader or a writer of blogs, engagement with the Blogoshphere provides an opportunity to learn, explore and discover the knowledge, opinions and thoughts of others.  It is an exciting and vibrant world which invites readers and writers to freely express and explore an enormous range of topics.

Having the opportunity to tease out the various aspects of blogging – how to blog and what can be gained from blogging – is an opportunity that was extended to me by the Australian publication Education Technology Solutions and is the fifth and final article in a series about lifelong learning which I have written for this magazine over the last twelve months.

Aiming to provide concrete suggestions for the novice blogger to help get started as well as providing thoughts and ideas of the benefits to be gained by engaging in the Blogosphere. Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!  has just been published in Education Technology Solutions – Issue 69, December/January 2016.

ABSTRACT: Blogging is a powerful way to determine our own growth and development. By pursuing topics of personal interest, by considering the words and thoughts of others, by writing reflective and informative posts, a rich, supportive network is built. Engagement with the Blogosphere enables educators to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience and in the process define their own path of lifelong learning.

Also published on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!

pic-1By Bev Novak.

Blogging is a powerful way to learn, explore and discover.

Replete with an infinite source of information on a limitless number of topics, the blogosphere is a perfect location for educators to create and direct their own learning path. That which is learned from either reading or writing blog posts expands both their knowledge and their thinking. By posting comments on blog posts, it is possible to engage in a form of social networking that is distinct and different from other social networking platforms. Connecting with those who write blogs or with those who read their blogs is exciting, stimulating and inspirational.

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Last week I focused on my own foray with online reading and reflected on the massive changes that have unconsciously and slowly crept into my online reading routines.  My reflection on this prompted the realization that we really need to tease out skills involved in online reading so that we can be sure we are helping our students master these necessary skills.

Debunking the assumption that students in our schools instinctively know how to successfully engage with online reading is essential at the outset.

Being tech savvy, which many of our students are, does not mean they know how to successfully extract information from the wide diversity of websites they are likely to encounter in our increasingly online world.  Like all aspects of education, skills need to be taught and learned.  Remember those left right eye coordination activities given to young pre-school aged children?  Perhaps it’s time to develop similar activities that incorporate skills pertinent to online reading and establish for this young age group a set of foundation skills which will see them better engage with our online world.

As students progress through our schools though, cross curricula kinds of activities should become part and parcel of various classroom experiences:

  • Exposure: Constant and regular exposure to a wide range of online reading sources is important to enable students to develop familiarity.  If online reading activities focus more on one kind at the expense of another, they will not develop necessary skills.  Expose students to online reading for pleasure, interest and information which can be found in short stories, newspaper articles and Wikipedia posts.  Ensure that online reading incorporates a range of media such as text, graphics, pictures, video and audio such as that found in blogs, magazines, encyclopaedias and newspapers.
  • Format: Rather than assuming students have an innate understanding of how to ‘read’ various online sources, discuss and highlight techniques which can be applied to different kinds of pages as well as aspects included wtihin them:
    • learn to see the gestalt of a webpage so as to instinctively know how to tackle reading it
    • explore what is incorporated in header and footers of webpages
    • size up a webpage so as to determine skills needed: one column requires top down scanning; many columns requires side to side scanning while moving from top to bottom;
    • scan web page headings and the first sentence of paragraphs to give an indication of content
    • focus on the entire website content before succumbing to the urge to check out embedded links
  • Expectation: Increased familiarity with a range of different online websites will enable students to predict what they may expect to find.  This expectation will, in turn, give them cues on how to approach reading the website.  In other words, the more we talk about what is being read, or having students discuss it with each other, the more ‘approach’ skills they will develop. By exploring embedded links in a structured way, students can develop a sense of when it may be of value to wander away from the reading at hand and what they can gain from this diversion.
  • Notetaking: Learning how to use various apps and programs to take notes while reading will enrich the online reading experience.  Along the way, valuable lessons can be learned in how to gather information, record sources and compile bibliographic information which may be needed if the information is to be shared.
  • Focus: Much as we encourage students to pick up a novel or magazine and read for an extended period of time, so too should we require them to read online for an extended period of time.   Those wonderful programs such as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) can easily be moved to online reading.
  • Writing:  Today there are a plethora of online tools which allow the novice to write and create websites of their own.  Learning the ‘back end’ of how a website is created or a blog written is a very effective way of learning to read online!   The mantra I constantly tell my students rings very true:  “The more you read, the more you write.”  Flipping this mantra to say “The more you write, the more you read” also holds true!

Increased expectation and improved navigation will ensure improved engagement with text.  Enabling students to successfully engage with online reading is a path to increasing the amount of online reading they choose to do rather than being required to do.

Somewhere in this amazing process, a spark may well be lit that will encourage independent online learning that may inspire a voracious hunger and thirst to learn!

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