Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Re-Visioning a School Library

For nearly twenty years our school has had the "Media Resource Centre" (MRC) as our school library.  The space is physically located at the centre of the school building and houses a mainly fiction collection of books and nearly 30 computers.  Out of necessity, the school made the decision to use computers, the internet and on-line data bases as the main source for students to access non-fiction resources (we do have a limited non-fiction collection).

In conjunction with this, the MRC has a vast collection of high interest fiction books for students - evidenced of by the fact that nearly 300 books are checked out weekly (not bad for a school population of 500).

Our Media Resource Centre also doubles as a working space for learning assistance for students, an audio visual/video editing studio, independent study and class research.  The MRC continues to be a hub of activity from 8 am to 4 pm daily.

This place of learning (and the people that have worked within it) has served the school extremely well over the years.

Nonetheless, the time has come for a "re-visioning" of our MRC.

This year we have embarked on the process of updating our Media Resource Centre to better meet the needs of our students and teachers as they full immerse in the data rich world we live in.

The first step was the hiring a new Media Resource Teacher/librarian/technology coordinator - call it our version of a "Techbrarian"

This teacher has already embarked on some interesting shifts in practice to support students and teachers and transform the space to be even more functional.

Here is listing of some the initiatives that have begun or will be beginning soon:

Co-teaching for research skills and using technology
The Media Resource Teacher has already begun working with individual classes to review, discuss and complete activities about online research techniques – tailored to projects within specific subjects.

Some of the topics covered this far include:
  • Identifying credible sites (common domains, truncating back, searching links, author’s background)
  • Plagiarism, proper citing, how and how much to paraphrase, crediting other types of creative works such as music and images
  • Creating a wiki for class learning, student groups contribute to each subsection of a given topic to create an evolving document that they can learn from to prepare for a class
This teacher is also assisting teachers - via our Building Experts Professional Learning Teams  - as a springboard for technology integration.  She will be hosting a workshop for teachers dealing with such things as website creation, wikis, voice threads, etc.

The construction of a new MRC website that will include:
  • Making our library management software capable of  web based search; students will be able to search our collection of books from anywhere they have internet access
  • Will have a link to our library’s group on "goodreads" for book recommendations by students and teachers
  • Will include pages for research projects for other classes with info, instructions, tools, links, etc.
  • A Interactive Research Guide with embedded links to various tools for completing any written work requiring citing or research (thanks to the good work of our Social Studies Department for laying the foundation of this work)
Digital citizenship and digital literacy
The creation of a comprehensive and streamlined (scope and sequence)  digital citizenship and digital literacy curriculum for grades 8 to 12.

This process will meet the needs of the students, take into account what’s already being done and most importantly integrate the curriculum into the existing system to cover the gaps

Renovation of the Space
This past summer we updated all 30 networked computers in the MRC.  These devices are now the fastest and most up to date machines in our building - capable of handling basic internet searching to complex video editing.

Moving forward we are looking at creating an even more comfortable and collaborative space for students and teachers to work and learn together.

As we continue to roll out our school's vision for "21st Century Learning" the Media Resource Centre will play an exceedingly important role. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Are we Measuring in Education?

 Example of a data room

I recently came across the practice having a "data room" in schools.   

These rooms provide teachers and administrators quantitative information (in graphic form) to facilitate "informed" decisions.

I have to admit, the site of the "data room" gave me that "something doesn't feel right" sensation in my stomach.

How has it come to be that, for some, data rooms in school are seen as exemplars in education?

If it's true that we measure what we value - it might be time to examine our values.

Let me be clear - I am not advocating that we make uninformed decisions.  We need good information to make the best decisions for our students.

My concern is that we (teaching professionals, politicians and other stakeholders)  are moving towards considering only certain types of data - usually those that are easy to measure - when we consider the quality of our schools, school systems and the teachers that teach within them.

The real danger is that this "easy to measure data" is driving the type questions we are asking about our schools and the subsequent change initiatives that flow from such questions. 

For example, the dependence on qualitative data usually leads to questions regarding graduation rates, standardized test results, retention rates, attendance rates etc.

While these data sets should not be dismissed - they do not tell the full story of any school system or school and their labeling as a "success or failure".

We should NOT measure only that which is easy to measure.

Perhaps we should also start taking into account  such things as:

  • students' sense of curiosity and wonder
  • students' motivation, engagement and passion  
  • students' sense of joy, happiness and safety 
  • collaboration in schools 
  • students sense of self efficacy

The Role of Leadership
This is where school leadership plays a critical role.  Today, more than ever, school leaders need to be guardians of their school's complete narrative - beyond that which can he displayed in a data room.

What can't be measured and shared quantitatively can be measured and shared qualitatively through meaningful narratives.

School leaders need to use all the tools available to them (including social media) to share that which isn't easily measured but has enduring value nonetheless.

Today's school leaders need to find a balance between measuring and  reporting on both the quantitative and qualitative data that abounds in schools   This is our moral imperative.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Call Me" - The Power of a PLN

A number of weeks ago I participated in a twitter chat on Simon Sinek's book Start With Why .  We used the #startwithwhy hashtag.

The chat began like other Twitter chats I've participated in - a few questions, a flood of responses, and the subsequent sense of being totally overwhelmed (I have yet to master the art of Twitter chats!)

And then I noticed an odd tweet.....

It was a tweet from Simon Sinek himself.

Sinek was offering those that were interested, to call him directly on a conference call to answer some of our questions.

I have to admit, at first I didn't know what to make of the offer.  Was this some form of spam?  Was it a hoax?  Can this social media thing REALLY be trusted?

I ignored the tweet.

Two minutes later another tweet from Sinek.  It went something like: "I will only stay on the line for another minute if anyone is interested in connecting....."

Could it really be the author himself?

What did I have to lose?

I decided to call.

As it turned out, it was Simon Sinek.  Me and few other spoke for about 45 minutes about his book.  I expressed some of my "challenges" with determining a "why" in education - i.e. multiple stakeholders with  potentially differing agendas.  I wrote a post about it here.

Sinek added depth and clarification that only he, the author, could provide.

It was an incredible evening of conversation and discovery and has lead to to ongoing discussion and reflection with other colleagues

Many people talk about the power of connected and networked learning  in time of "abundance"  - this experience has done nothing but affirm this new reality and its omnipotence.

Thank you Simon Sinek.  Thank you for making yourself available and contributing to our network (even though it was so late in the evening in New York)

Thank you to my own learning network - for pushing and challenging me..

Thank you social media for providing the vehicle for such powerful connections.