Author Archives: LiterateOWL

About LiterateOWL

An avid outdoorsman and passionate photographer and painter. Seeking joy through knowledge, creativity, adventure and Grace.

Hub, MOOC, Learning Commons- all serve an aspiration

i recently read an Open Book blog post and was reminded of how all our modern systems and paradigms are really just what all exemplary libraries aspired to be. Bygone days or new variants, libraries serve the needs of patrons- of people. Oddly, our culture rewards an institution of progressive services with anchors of stereotypes. Libraries are just old irrelevant dusty books. Librarians are either old cranky grannies or sexy introverts. The reality in public libraries or school libraries is quite contrasting. The library as an access point for resources or discourse has never been so vital and frequently adopted. The stereotype still prevails while Google and hitech resources get all the accolades yet serve just the mechanics. If you want quick facts by all means Google but this doesn’t serve the majority of patron needs. People visit libraries more than ever for diversified content, expertise and service. They patronize libraries for cultural reasons not simply fact finding. 

Jaqueline Van Dyk, Open Book blog, writes about a public MOOC. Although my experience with moocs was an academic course with edtech background, it was clear the concept of open and integrated connected learning would sustain itself. It’s not all roses but serves many social learning needs. I say social learning as opposed to prescribed learning. Credit or GED etc all have specific exit outcomes that are mostly indifferent to the learner. Not that standards are evil but a MOOC addresses a user driven model more than a administrative model. Libraries, as a whole have adopted these personalized learning options for ages. It’s in their DNA to serve from a patron’s view of needs. Service is foundational. Librarians embrace open access and sharing just as we cherish breathing. 

  
Sometimes learning is playful and other times just damn hard work. Fulfilling your learning needs is a personal and time specific exercise. Sometimes it’s not pretty. Falling down repeatedly in order to grasp wakeboarding. Learning how to read and write at 30years old. Occasionally learning is fun and seems easy but that’s in conjunction with a persons background, goals and degree of task. Whether a public library MOOC or high school virtual library, librarians usually are driven by patron service. Our sexy little librarian or reserve matron are images that fulfill parodies or fantasies but not reflect our reality. 

The trend for finding a ‘learning commons’ is none other than trying to leverage the roots of all library programs. Advocacy, marketing or good design; MOOCs, learning commons or damn good library, all are driven by serving others. It’s like first aid for the mind. :-) 

-Al Smith. Middle aged, male, extrovert, high school librarian. Where did they find me?! ;-)

…as an extension of what we’ve been doing as libraries in facilitating lifelong learning. What’s new is that we’re creating an atmosphere for that, for bringing people together to do that. It makes the library more of a place of connection. In that regard, it’s a professional departure – by facilitating these activities and using the technology as activities unto themselves, we’re extending what we’ve been good at traditionally in new and interesting ways with our programs…
Paul’s view is that this experiment represents an exciting professional departure. “With the MOOC, we’re providing recreation – people are having fun, getting to know each other – and it provides interest in more reading materials. We’re providing an opportunity to learn and absorb materials together and talk them over and people are lapping it up. Traditionally, people used libraries for education as a solitary activity. Now we’re providing the same educational role, but with an opportunity to share and enhance their learning by learning together. We are extending what we’ve been good at traditionally in interesting new ways.”  (VanDyk)

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“What’s a Mooc and Why You Should Know and Care!” Social Media Today. N.p., 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 May 2015. Image. <http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/whats-mooc-and-why-you-should-know-and-carE&gt;.

Van Dyk, J. “Mooc Ecperiment.” Open Book. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2015. <http://jacquelinevandyk.ca/the-great-mooc-experiment%2F&gt;.

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Kite Runner suspended after a complaint- removes freedom to read

Originally posted on KSSreads:


http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2015/05/01/school-suspends-use-kite-runner-following-complaint/26736581/

As a librarian, it is always concerning to read about books being banned. The larger implications created when we narrow the opportunities to read, think, share and learn, are trouble for society. Diversity in our culture builds understanding. The diversity of ideas in books should be a reflection of our reality. Constricting access to ideas and authorship doesn’t protect our children but rather put them at risk. Loss of empathy, hate or radicalization is a likely result. The current discord and misinformation about race and theology in the Muslem community is an example. We need more knowledge and empathy not less. Books, especially well crafted literature, like Hussein’s Kite Runner, provide potential for discourse and freedom of expression.

Many classrooms around the world use the Kite Runner or provide copies in their libraries. Most schools use this title with Grade 12s. Like many situations, one needs to know…

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Nomads and Rhizomes- Dave’s blog revisited


I read this blog awhile ago during #etmooc course but thanks to my Twitter PLN, I rediscovered it.  Today, in the climate of confusion and discontent in British Columbia public education, the themes could not be more contradictory with our classroom experience.  Teacher professional development and reform doesn’t function in a vacuum. It is organically growing within the classroom setting- embedded with our young people. It is rhizomatic learning. Adapting, reaching out, and evolving in multiple tentacles, Pro-Dev thrives with good soil and fresh air.  The BC Government is currently smothering teachers and even elected school boards. Public education as a societal ambition demands an empathy and execution much like we now see our ecological issues. Schooling is an organic collective of human beings much like a sensitive but resilient environment. It can absorb many body blows yet wanton disregard for life does result in extinctions and degradation. 

People learn collectively and individually. Teachers and pupils forage for meaning. They flourish when nomadic not constrained inside a cage. The cages may be the restraint of many policies and cultures.  Wreckless or ideological, leadership needs stewardship of people and environments not just accounting.  BC education IS people. It is a living thing. It’s rhizomatic. Parents, teachers, students and our public deserve to treated by their elected officials less like container ships of iron ore and more like a rich vegetable garde.  Teachers should be respected more like proficient caring gardeners and less like endentured labour. Leadership, like good parenting cannot be arrogant. Like gardening or parenting, family or nation, our children need measures of experimentation, boundaries and love.  David Cormier’s blog, although assessing paradigms, is observing human relationships and culture. How does your garden grow? 

 Cormier tackles pedagogy and approaches change with the #rhizo15 paradigm. His insights are interesting  for teachers embracing their own professional development. Sadly, #bced Bill11 is legislating mandated PD structures for teachers, while espousing ‘personalized learning’ for students. The paradox, if not hypocrisy, of this government’s strategy flies in the face of many progressive education reform. Teachers need considerable professional autonomy in order to be innovative and effective. The climate of teacher learning does directly impact the nature and degree of student learning.  – Al Smith
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  • Why do we teach?
  • What does successful learning look like?
  • What does a successful learner look like?
  • How do we structure successful learning?

It is that map that I think successful learning looks like. Not a series of remembered ideas, reproduced for testing, and quickly forgotten. But something flexible that is already integrated with the other things a learner knows. Most things that we value ‘knowing’ are not things that are easily pointed to. Knowing is a long process of becoming (think of it in the sense of ‘becoming an expert’) where you actually change the way you perceive the world based on new understandings. You change and grow as new learning becomes part of the things you know.
Sounds a bit like networked learning…? The rhizome is, in a manner of speaking, a kind of network. It’s just a very messy, unpredictable network that isn’t bounded and grows and spreads in strange ways. As a model for knowledge, our computer idea of networks, all tidy dots connected to tidy lines, gives us a false sense of completeness.( Cormier )

  

What does a successful learner look like?
In a recent blog post i tried to offer three visions for ‘what education is for’ to help provide a departure point for discussion. Workers take accepted knowledge and store it for future reference. They accept that things are true and act accordingly. The soldier acquires more knowledge and becomes responsible for deciding what things are going to be true. The nomads make decisions for themselves. They gather what they need for their own path. I think we should be hoping for nomads.
Nomads have the ability to learn rhizomatically, to ‘self-reproduce’, to grow and change ideas as they explore new contexts. They are not looking for ‘the accepted way’, they are not looking to receive instructions, but rather to create.(Cormier )


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Cormier, D. “Dave’s Educational Blog.” Daves Educational Blog. N.p., 5 Jan. 2014. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. <http://davecormier.com/edblog/category/rhizomes/&gt;. 

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The cure for childhood obesity parents will hate


The editorial says schools should make exercise the norm by ensuring that mandatory physical education classes in elementary and high school.  But it’s not enough to have physical education.  It says physical education classes need to be long enough and vigorous enough to meet recommended activity levels and not just token nods to exercise.  It adds that schools need to cut sitting time by getting kids moving in class with short exercise breaks and what’s called kinetic learning.  (Goldman, CBC)



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Goldman, Dr. Brian. “The Cure for Childhood Obesity Parents Will Hate – Blog | White Coat, Black Art with Dr. Brian Goldman | CBC Radio.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. <http://www.cbc.ca/radio/whitecoat/blog/the-cure-for-childhood-obesity-parents-will-hate-1.3014981&gt;.

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Struggles Realities of Student-Driven Learning and BYOD


As our technological world rapidly evolves and our social and work place environment changes, it’s unacceptable that we don’t address the low income demographic for anything not just schooling. The civility of our society cannot afford to only protect the 1%. Letting poor schools fend for themselves and not funding them to be progressive is akin to permitting slavery by justifying the economic benefits of free labour! 


National surveys consistently show that students in low-income schools are getting short-changed when it comes to using technology in school. A 2013 Pew study revealed that only 35 percent of teachers at the lowest income schools allow their students to look up information on their mobile devices, as compared to 52 percent of teachers at wealthier schools. (Schwartz)

-I personally think Giulucci below is over enthusiastic. Even with polite and engaged students, my experience is that the urgency if not obsession to txt is stronger than any force. Even college classes are now banning phones. People still txt and drive when they know it is severely hazardous. I think lesson design and engagement can only go so far. Although I implement every technology I can, I also have an explicit class management regime that includes a course of action for use and abuse of mobile devices. -Al Smith

Many advocates of using mobile technologies say the often cited issues of student distraction are just excuses not to try something new. Mark Giuliucci, a freshmen social studies teacher at Sanborn High School in New Hampshire, said it’s not the end of the world if a kid sends a text in class. “The way you discourage it is engage them in the activity so they don’t even think of sending a text,” Giuliucci said. “You’ve got to jump in and play their game or you’re going to lose them.”(Schwartz )



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The Story Behind the Anahim Lake School Viral Video

Originally posted on Big Rocks First:

Trent Leon, a student from Anahim Lake Secondary, takes a shot on his hero, Carey Price, on a recent visit to Montreal. Trent Leon, a student from Anahim Lake Secondary, takes a shot on his hero, Carey Price, on a recent visit to Montreal.

Mikel Brogan is the Principal of Anahim Lake School.  Last Friday afternoon, Mikel and I sat down in my office to watch a video telling the story of a young student from his school who had the chance to spend time with his hometown hero, Carey Price, a couple of months ago in Montreal.  Of course, the video was not a surprise for either of us as the preparation time, a week of filming in the school and the Anahim Lake community, and a crazy few days in Montreal had been pretty intense.  It had been six weeks of anticipation leading up to the release of the video on youtube.  After watching the video, it was pretty easy to predict that the video had an excellent chance of going viral.  At the time…

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Top 10 Psych myths debunked -TED Why education gets tricked ..

Cautionary tale. Learning styles are not science. They are myth. How many other themes to we impose on students that are based on narrow self interest, ‘systems’ sales or institutional mythology? 

Not long ago I recall our entire school undergoing a Learning Style Inventory. We bought products, booked rare ProD days and tried to find ways to transform our practice. No one really objected. Most had some fun but why did we believe this learning style program ( or any inventory) had efficacy? 

Our entire organization bought it- literally! Abstainers were written off as party poopers or unprogressive! Teased even! Results were fun like astrology charts but not education science. So why do we get ‘sold’ on these myths? How does a study become the next education reform? Why are experienced teachers, who usually filter out the bull from the curious, so often marginalized when they resist or raise doubts? 

I think it’s because educators so frequently have their heart in the vocation and desperately want to help, that they adopt practices out of desire not objective research. They are so loving they trust every ‘speaker’ who introduces a new idea . They comply with admin or leaders who tell them the pill to swallow is good for them. Our profession’s embedded good nature and care sets us up for following myths not sound pedagogy. 

Except, of course, as you’ve probably guessed, that it doesn’t, because the whole thing is a complete myth. Learning styles are made up and are not supported by scientific evidence. So we know this because in tightly controlled experimental studies, when learners are given material to learn either in their preferred style or an opposite style,( TED )


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“10 Myths about Psychology, Debunked.” Ben Ambridge:. TEDX Manchester, Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_ambridge_10_myths_about_psychology_debunked&gt;.

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A flawed assumption that the Internet simply replaces strong teaching practices of school librarians

It is such a deep sterotype that even in 2015, any librarian is just a keeper of books, that intelligent people think the Internet solves all just by its mere existence. That logic is akin to to ‘guns don’t kill, people do’ or that simply writing seat belt legislation stops automobile injury. Clearly, the education lobby that ignores the value added services of a teacher-librarian, in favour of only an adoption of more technology, is very misguided or doesn’t understand how students grow. People only know what they know- and unless one has experienced the exemplary school library program in action, they easily adopt flawed assumptions. Like the vintage photo below, the endearing imagery has become a barrier to reality. Not nurturing school libraries will indeed close libraries because these invaluable services are not frills but integral enterprises to any progressive schools. If the Internet and all its gargantuan bytes of noise were the answer then why have schools at all? Why should we desire coaches, piano teachers, doctors? Why not just ‘google everything? What have priests or mechanics? Why not just let us all be moulded by the machine? Technocractic oppression is still tyranny. Our children need more than a screen to look at, they need a mind that critiques and assesses right from wrong and truth from myth. Isn’t that what we want? 



In the broad constellation of professionals who make up public schools, it is important to pause and acknowledge the forgotten education professionals who aide and support teachers. These include the librarians, nurses, social workers, learning specialists, and guidance counselors. They contribute to the growth and development of our young people but often find themselves left out of broader discussions about the preservation of public education. They provide a range of critical support and intervention frequently invisible to us. Most certainly, their value has escaped the notice of so-called education reformers and politicians. All too often, these champions of a “new order” have taken aim at the forgotten teachers in their ever-expanding quest to cut public school funding.

“…With the advent of the internet and digital resources in particular,
the flawed assumption surfaced that these positions are no longer necessary. “

….To be clear, budget and personnel cuts have hurt the profession across the board. However, professionals in these areas bear greater risk, given widespread misperceptions about the essential services they provide that remain vital to public schools. …
Another equally hard hit position is that of the school librarian. Fifty years ago, it was inconceivable to imagine schools without appropriate library resources and the personnel to staff them. The disparity in library facilities, for instance, helped civil rights attorneys demonstrate the inherent inequality in segregated schools. With the advent of the internet and digital resources in particular, the flawed assumption surfaced that these positions are no longer necessary. Librarians remain important conduits for student support in ways that many might be surprised to learn. Contrary to popular perception, librarians do more than curate collections of dusty books; they teach critical research skills and often serve as the first destination for young people on the road to quality research.(Williams, Huffingtonpost) 

Article…. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/sense-and-sensibility-why_b_6409076.html



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Story Time. Image. Vintage Librarians. Christchurch City Libraries. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <https://www.flickr.com/photos/christchurchcitylibraries/sets/&nbsp;72157633383010966/>.

Williams, Yohuru. “Sense and Sensibility: Why Librarians Remain Essential to Our Schools.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yohuru-williams/sense-and-sensibility-why_b_6409076.html&gt;.

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Texts that talk to each other, and get us talking

LiterateOWL:

Some powerful strategies with many cross-curricular applications THX

Originally posted on Messy Professional:

 Notes for presentation at the October 2014, BCTELA conference, Cultivating Passionate Learners

Why I organize my teaching around essential questions:

McTighe and Wiggins (Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding. Alexandria: ASCD, 2013, p. 17) outline several reasons why essential questions are so powerful. They:

  • Signal that inquiry is a key goal of education.
  • Make it more likely that the unit will be intellectually engaging
  • Help to clarify and prioritize standards for teachers.
  • Provide transparency for students.
  • Encourage and model metacognition for students.
  • Provide opportunities for intra and interdisciplinary connections.
  • Support meaningful differentiation.


Below, I have outlined some of the questions and texts I have used in my classes.

Some principles in these units:

  • I like threes. I think it is important to have more than two texts to consider.
  • In each of the following examples, these are anchor texts. That is to say, we take them in…

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Tackling the Cognitive Capacity Cap in College…

Tackling the Cognitive Capacity Cap in College Readiness – The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

http://www.p21.org/news-events/p21blog/1597-tackling-the-cognitive-capacity-cap-in-college-readiness?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

Most students are ill equipped for college and most pre-college education in its current state is unlikely to change that. This may seem harsh, but I’ll go even further. Students can demonstrate the knowledge and skills embodied in state standards (common core reading, writing and arithmetic), and still be grossly underprepared for college. (The fact that so many students aren’t even meeting those academic standards is, of course, even more concerning.)
What is missing? Any recent report on college readiness will tell you (Conley, 2007). Skills like inference, analysis of data, interpretation of findings, developing hypotheses, defining alternative explanations, comparing and contrasting, developing cross-disciplinary insights, and providing relevant evidence for an argument are essential for post-secondary success. These skills are all about how complexly and deeply students can process, associate and evaluate information. It is about their skill in attaching meaning and weaving new knowledge into existing networks of understanding. As many have, we might reasonably call these thinking skills.(Stark)

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Stark, Roger. “Tackling Cognitive Capacity.” Tackling the Cognitive Capacity Cap in College Readiness – The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. P21.org, 19 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. .

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