Category Archives: Professional Development

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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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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Serving up a Learning Commons recipe …

A blog post by Chris Kennedy of West Vancouver, recently inspired me to add my own spices to what is cooking in the learning commons kitchen. I couldn’t agree more when he writes, “While the physical spaces are exciting, the changes to our mindsets are far more powerful. “( Kennedy)

As an experienced teacher-librarian and kitchen hacker, I believe that an exemplary school library is a dynamic learning process not just a nice space. A learning commons model is more than a new space that people congregate in but a cultural, social hub of learning. My librarian mentors knew this for years-some time before David Loetscher or Watters started promoting it. (Loetscher ) The collective wisdom of teacher-librarians has been cooking up innovation in schools for years. (Kuhn) It’s refreshing nevertheless to see revitalization of school library programs and perhaps this will ebb the tide of reductions or library closures. Libraries aren’t simply replaced by the mechanics of web2.0 but rather the new capacity can teach us how librarianship supports learning.

Wikipedia entry defines a LC …

Learning commons, also known as scholars’ commons, information commons or digital commons, are educational spaces, similar to libraries and classrooms that share space for information technology, remote or online education, tutoring, collaboration, content creation, meetings and reading or study. or study.( Wikipedia)

Like a great classroom, it should be an experience as much as a room.  Like cooking a five star meal, it takes more than a set of instructions. A school learning commons needs a team of chefs, great ingredients, effective execution and a creative spirit. Like a great restaurant, a learning commons needs a welcoming environment, great service and a comprehensive menu that prides itself on the experience of building a culture of scholarship.

The school’s hub of learning also needs to cater to diverse demographics.  It needs to be well prepared for the multiple needs that demand support. A school library cannot transition into a learning commons(LC) model overnight.  A LC can be a very exciting and powerful ‘learning’ asset because a progressive program addresses diverse student opportunities that nurture school goals and promote achievement.

Student achievement is a complex matter. If it was easy, we all could do it. A simple recipe for education innovation is seldom effective or enduring.  The new ‘learning commons’ if not built organically will also be doomed and a 2015 footnote. A successful school library is a cultural reality not simply a physical space regardless of how modern it may appear.  It takes experience, expertise and vision by many educators to develop a program that serves the needs of each unique school.

As a teacher-librarian in a large senior high school, our library program has demands and patrons quite different than a small middle school. It tales a team of people to assess, design and implement a sustainable service. An effective library program needs to evolve not revolutionize. Innovation can take time.

When I reflect on our successes and failures, it was planning and people that was the driver. It is my opinion that a library program that effectively serves its clientele is a dynamic social experience not just a physical asset. .  When learners/patrons are engaged with quality resources and services there are substantial costs. The physical space needs attributes that allow the community to thrive. Resources need to be acquired, updated and managed by trained personnel.  The teacher-librarian may be the chef but the entity needs many others to truly create delicacies.

A learning commons is the natural evolution of an exemplary school library program. A school cannot create a LC by simply borrowing a recipe. To build something meaningful from scratch is a major hurdle. A school with a tradition that recognized the diverse contributions of its library has the roots to grow.

The development a great ‘learning commons’ takes more than a nice presentation or directive. It takes a difficult execution of a plan that finds inspiration from the gifts of each school. An effective learning commons demands a school culture that always places learning and scholarship as a priority over appearances or expediency. It takes a culture of trust and collaboration. Teachers need to respect and value the library staff and students need to believe it benefits them collectively. It is not just a holding area. Not unlike a superior restaurant, a library needs a restauranteur, chefs, servers, etc all working effectively toward inspiration.

A beautiful restaurant that serves uninspiring food is a waste. Delivering great services and opportunities without a great space is almost impossible. Unlike the old ‘book truck’ , a modern library now needs to be more than just a great ‘eat street’ sandwich truck. Schools need a library that can provide a large nutritious and creative menu 24/7.

Much like a chef starts with quality ingredients , an inspiring menu and trained staff, a LC needs a great space, appropriate resources and a qualified teacher-librarian. Like superb waiters, that deliver the best dining experience, an LC also needs library clerical expertise. ( my mother would say – tables don’t get cleared and dishes don’t get washed by themselves. ) The learning commons model demands even more social interaction, resource management and instructional design than the ‘library’ before it. Like good food, one cannot rush the preparation or cooking. It needs to be an institutional designed process not simply an experiment. Without these conditions the LC will not be sustainable. I believe this because I know teaching and learning is a complex social endeavour not just an exercise in handing out books.

With many misconceptions around the library’s transformation into a ‘learning commons’ the Kelowna Secondary School LC is derived from an excellent traditional of fine dining. The teacher-librarians, has worked with admin, teachers, and students to develop a culture of inquiry not just trendy fast food. We collectively desire a library that’s provides quality
main courses that match the school’s positive cuisine.

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We don’t remove books ( we buy more) and replace them with comfy chairs( we’ve had those for a decade) We remind ourselves that a common area that includes measurable student learning must also require some careful planning and slow cooking. One cannot just buy ingredients and throw them in small space and hope it tastes delicious!

Starter Recipe for Learning Commons:
1. Add a quest for knowing and finding meaning
2. Mix with spaces that provide a variety of activities
3. Frequent stirring by a teacher-librarian
3. Add scholarship to taste and
4. Cook well with heaps of love.
Yield: happy people that grow

Also Read: http://cultureofyes.ca/2015/02/12/the-learning-commons-mindset/ “I like the library metaphor from Joan Frye Williams (shared in this blog from Joyce Valenza):

“Our libraries should transition to places to do stuff, not simply places to get stuff. The library will become a laboratory in which community members tinker, build, learn, and communicate. We need to stop being the grocery store or candy store and become the kitchen. We should emphasize hospitality, comfort, convenience and create work environments that invite exploration and creativity both virtually and physically.” ( Valenza)

-Al Smith

@kssreads

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Kennedy, Chris. “The Learning Commons Mindset.” The Culture of Yes. 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

Kuhn, Nicola. ‘ Evidence Based Inquiry of the Role of teacher-librarians’, The Bookmark. BCTLA. Web. 2011.

Loertscher, D (2014). “Makers, Self-Directed Learners, and the Library Learning Commons”. Teacher Librarian 41 (5): 35–38.

Watters, Audrey (23 November 2011). “Libraries and Museums Become Hands-On Learning Labs”. KQED MindShift. Retrieved 1 August 2013.

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Ban laptops in class…

Although I completely understand this debate, the issue isn’t really ‘the device’ but rather the people engaged in the class? Or not. Perhaps a conversation isn’t the correct word when we place 300 Students in a lecture hall with 1 professor? Perhaps having no devices for everyone would re-infuse humanity into the delivery of curricula? I doubt it.

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As a high school teacher, I can and do manage a set of expectations around devices. I can teach, ( although often a frustrating aspect) the application appropriateness of devices when teaching a small class. 30 is hard. 300 impossible. Teens do get it even if they don’t like it. I love using technology in my classroom but only for my classroom goals. I hate the idea of technology used as babysitters but I also believe we have a generation who has been raised with that exact thing. ‘Schooling ‘ is a passive thing you do when you have to. Learning is a process with personal intention and technology is implemented when a demand shows itself. Today I see students learning a great deal when choosing not to use technology. In fact I’m seeing a decline the use of devices by some students who already have accepted an intent. Thinking, talking, etc. I often see laptops used by students who have NOT found a purpose or intention for learning. As a reaction, they lean on the equipment hoping it will yield something or just as a prop. The power of devices are to seldom integrated with design but brought into the classroom space with the notion they are needed- like wristwatches or stop lights.

Adult age students who pay tuition bring a different cultural dynamic to the use of laptops or devices in classrooms. What can high school educators learn from this essay topic? Should we be doing anything different?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/30/this-year-im-resolving-to-ban-laptops-from-my-classroom/

“It was one kid who unintentionally suggested the idea. He was sitting in the back row, silently pecking away at his laptop the entire class. At times, he smiled at his screen. But he rarely looked up at me.”( Gross)

Clay Shirky, a professor at New York Univeristy, recently asked his students to stop using laptops in class. Another recent study convinced him to do so. The title: “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers.” A research team in Canada found that laptops in the classroom distracted not only the students who used them, but also students who sat nearby. Meaning, not only do the laptop-using students end up staring at Facebook, but the students behind them do, as well.(Washington Post)

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Gross, T. (2014, Dec 30). ‘This year, I resolve to ban laptops from my classroom. ‘ Retrieved Jan 4, 2015, from

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Blended learning assessed…

http://www.christenseninstitute.org/does-blended-learning-work/

When we talk to education leaders about blended learning, we often hear the question, “Does it work?” What they want to know is, “If I fund a blended learning initiative or implement a blended learning program in my schools, can I be confident that it will improve student learning?” Typically, these education leaders can see the potential that blended of aviation history demonstrating that fact.
…student-centered instruction, which in turn can produce strong student learning outcomes. Many schools today are testing and refining their blended learning models in order to figure out how to achieve increasingly stronger student learning results. The success of any blended learning program, however, depends on how well school leaders design and implement it with clear goals in mind
…”

( Arnett)

– See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/does-blended-learning-work/#sthash.vE54TmgW.dpuf

From
Al Smith
twoloons@icloud.com @literateowl

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http://www.christenseninstitute.org/does-blended-learning-work/
Arnett. “Blended Learning.” N.p., Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. .

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Epic life- reflection reblog…

Wow! Where was this post 20years ago! :-) doesn’t matter- I knew it. I was just to absorbed or misguided to see it as an action. We all get off track of priorities despite ‘knowing’ , that developing boundaries for life’s priorities isn’t theory but an act of intention. I will share this with all the new fathers and mothers in my professional network. Very very sound reflection from Mr. Spencer. Thanks

“…. I recorded this reflection last night after putting my kids to bed and thinking about the trajectory of my career. I’ve chosen to do less and embrace the notion of doing the small things well. I think that’s what makes life epic…”( Spencer)

http://www.educationrethink.com/2014/10/the-epic-life.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+JohnSpencersBlog+(Education+Rethink)&m=1

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From
Al Smith
literateowl@gmail.com @literateowl literateowl.com

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Spencer, Jason. “The Epic life”. ‘Education Rethink’. (Online) 10-07-2014.

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Maker spaces?

As many progressive teacher-librarians are introducing spaces and activity opportunities for creation, most of us should also evaluate the efficiency and worthiness from a learning perspective. It’s not just about any experiential rewards but also about the outcomes that attempt to meet our curricula. I believe there is implicit value in exploring and challenging but there are boundaries as to whether the activities are justified, worthy and cost effective. ‘Play’ -at any age has terrific value but like any decisions professionals make, we must weigh any virtue with our goals.

“Kids have always made in my library.
We encouraged digital and visual and dramatic and rhetorical creativity before, during, and after school. But for a while, I’ve questioned the value of using already heavily used real estate to randomly carve out space for a 3D printer, electronics stations and sewing machines. I had my doubts about the makerspace movement in school libraries.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to chat with Amos Blanton, project manager of the Scratch online community, and a member of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab. On his profile Amos notes: I design and sustain creative learning environments for people with agency.” ( Valenza )

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VALENZA, Joyce. ‘Neverending Search’. Sept. 09-24-2014. (Online)

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BCTLA DEAR2014 intro

Reminder. Mark your calendars.
Monday, October 27th will be the 8th annual Drop Everything and Read event.
Watch for announcements and printable posters soon.

Details will be available at http://dropeverythingandreadbc.com
Jeff Yasinchuk
twitter.com/jyasinchuk
jeffyasinchuk.ca

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Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private | Reblog

The Principal of Change blog post by George Couros is a thoughtful and purposeful overview of the common social media concern of privacy in the public online space. I particularly appreciate George’s thesis of teaching students the distinctions and role of ‘public’ content. I have two profiles for Twitter and I’ve reflected on how useful that can or cannot be as a teacher. We do function in particular public profession and also have to be privacy advocates for students. Us king social media as we provide learning opportunities that teach concepts such as ‘public’ has to be a wise consideration.

> http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3432
>
> During my time over in Australia, there was a lot of talk about the notion of having both a “personal” and “professional” identity on social media.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker

> The “personal” account would be one that is used with friends and family, where as the “professional” account would be one that is used with the work that you do in school. Although I understand the notion behind what is being said here, I don’t know if this is what I would really be focusing on when working with students or educators. We should really be focusing on the notion of “public and private” and how that works in our world.( G Couros )

Reblogged by Al Smith

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Beyond Five-Paragraphs

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rch&AN=95379320&site=ehost-live

Firstly, I’m a teacher-librarian not an English teacher. I don’t pretend to be an expert in either craft.  I’m commenting to support the thesis in Kimberly Hill Campbell’s article of Education Leadership ‘Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay’. Years of research indicate the model isn’t a wonderful writing aide. So why are we still fighting it’s implementation in 2014?  Our school has mostly moved away from it in favour of other writing devices. As a librarian the outcome and eventual writing or production exercise does influence your course of action.

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“The five-paragraph essay format often puts students’ thinking in a box.  Ther’s a better way.”(Hill Campbell)

Many of colleagues have embraced a comprehensive inquiry model or PBL which starts with students generating big questions  not simply completing a  topic outline that fits 5 paragraphs or three boxes.  It’s valuable to emphasize organizational skills but in 2014 its finding personal meaning and filtering content within issues that is vital. Writing becomes a form of affirmation. Their writing is driven first by research and then by a deeper level of thinking.  Hill Campbell says, “developing an authoritative voice’. She claims the organization actually comes after the purpose of writing is generated- after the inquiry.  She discusses the virtues of not establishing predetermined formula of size or shape but let the student’s position statement and evidence dictate the organization and writing needs. I like her assessment.  Check her article out.

 

 

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Hill Campbell, Kimberly. “BEYOND The Five-Paragraph ESSAY.” Educational Leadership 71.7 (2014): 60-65. Canadian Reference Centre. Web. 14 Apr. 2014.< http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rch&AN=95379320&site=ehost-live >

 

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