Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week

In earlier posts I have talked about how I got started with my "Spies and Detectives" theme for Book Week and some of the things I learned while filming videos for it.

Last week, our Book Week began. The week started with the video from author Peter Millett, which was shown prior to morning tea.  Pete obviously knows how to make videos look good and it was a great way to start things off:

Students were encouraged to come up with their own code names - I made a Random Code Name Generator for if they needed help with that.

Then at lunch, we showed our first "Spy School" video:

After that video, our Year 3-6 teachers hung up a poster about Morse code and another advertising our "Design a Gadget" competition (one of our teachers complained that students left her huge note after lunch, written entirely in Morse code!).

The next day, we showed our "Channel Z News" report:

This showed a clue found at the scene of the crime, written in Morse code.  The pattern of getting a clue and then finding out how to answer it by watching one of the Spy School videos, continued until Thursday lunchtime, when the last clue was decoded and GPS coordinates to the location of the missing jewels could be "passed on to police" by the teachers.  I deliberately made the location of the jewels outside of Hamilton so no students could be tempted into going and having a look for the treasure themselves!

Friday's videos were another Channel Z News report, describing the apprehension of the thief, and a final video from Peter Millett congratulating the recruits for helping solve a crime and welcoming them as junior J.S.A. agents.

This week, after a viewing for all the spies and getting their permission to share it, the classes had a good laugh watching the Bloopers video:

Illustrator / Poet Visits

I told both our guests for Book Week about our theme and asked if they could incorporate something to do with spies or detectives.  Both of them were happy to do so.

Illustrator Daron Parton talked with our Year 3-6 classes.  He drew a cool spy wearing a hat.  Then he took suggestions from the students and drew different spy gadgets coming out of the top of the hat.

We also had Poet Judi Billcliff come and work with our Year 1-2 classes.  She created a new song to do with looking up, down and all around, based on the Hokey Tokey.  She also had the kids play the "Hot and cold" game to find a couple of simple clues to work out.

Junior School Book Week Activities

We issued "Where's Wally" and other puzzle books for our Year 1-2 classes and gave them some laminated Where's Wally characters to hide in their classrooms in different places every day.  The students loved this!

Many of the classes also watched the Spy School videos, but didn't watch the Channel Z News Reports or decipher any clues.

I had some lovely feedback from these teachers.  Their students were building spy gadgets out of Mobilo and spying on each other in the playground.  One group of Year 2 students had been pulled out of class to work with a visiting maths consultant.  Unfortunately, a parent wearing black shades walked by and the students cried out "It's a spy!".  When they got back to their class their teacher asked them how it went and their answer was "we saw a spy!".

One teacher got so involved she printed out her own spy ID badges for her class:


Here are all my resources if you would like to run your own Spies and Detectives Book Week:

  • The plans I shared with our Year 1-2 teachers and our Year 3-6 teachers.
  • The list of items I put into an envelope for our Year 3-6 teachers.  A number of them shared out the ID badges at the start of the week instead of the end.  If I did it again I would create a different badge for J.S.A. recruits to wear.
  • The clues (you'll probably need to change the one that says "fridge" - that was a reference to our Book Fridge.  If you choose a location you have control over you can keep track of which classes have solved all the clues).
  • The script for the Channel Z News episodes (if you want to do less filming you could just film these two short clips and change the place where the thief has taken something).
  • The scripts for the Spy School episodes (I did cut some scenes out of these, and change words that students had trouble with).
  • The script for an adult (I asked our Principal to do this so that I wasn't giving vital information about solving the clues to our student actors ahead of time)
  • The Certificate of Appreciation was a Word doc and looked like this:

It came from the "New Zealand Crime Fighters Association" as I didn't know the legalities of saying it was from the police!
If you do have a go running your own Spies and Detectives Book Week I would love to hear how you get on.  And I'm happy to help if you have any questions.

Lessons Learned

I kept the videos unlisted and this turned out to be a good idea.  There were a few students who had a look on Youtube to see if they could see the videos ahead of time.  I did get caught out with students looking at the spy books we put on display.  It wasn't a good idea to put the ones dealing with codes in the display, there were some very keen students who used them to decode one of the first clues!  After that we took those books away.

The timing of the Book Week was really unfortunate.  There was a LOT on for the teachers in that particular week and I would definitely try to have it during a less busy time of the year so that the whole school could get completely involved in it.  

While some of the Year 3-6 teachers said my plan was easy to understand and follow, others were a bit confused.  It would have been better to attend team meetings and explain it verbally.

Final Reflection

The Book Week worked really well.  I loved having a theme - it generated ideas and tied everything in together.  I had students mention books that were talked about in the Spy School videos, and actively search for spy books - yay!  

Overall, everyone seemed to have a great time, and although it was very time-consuming it was a lot of fun for me to put together.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Disrupting a Conference

I have spent the last two days at a conference with fantastic keynotes, or 'provocations' and wonderful workshops.  However, what I was inspired by the most was the unique way the conference was organised.  I suspect you're thinking 'huh?' so let me explain.  I went to the #edchatNZ conference, organised by the amazing Danielle (@MissDtheTeacher) and her team of passionate teachers. 

The organisers claimed the conference would "disrupt conventional conference practice".  Here's how they were planning to do that: 
We believe that quality conversations are the key to a transformative conference experience.  Therefore at the heart of the conference will be our "learning tribes".  Conference attendees will be grouped in tribes and guided by a tribe mentor.  This will ensure that every single participant will have the opportunity to make personal connections and to be pushed in their thinking.
They went further and issued a challenge to the tribes "to create an action plan (a Possibilities Project) of something that you will work on collaboratively post-conference".  To support this the tribe mentors all received mentor training from a sponsor.

So what did this look like in practice?  At registration we were given the name of our learning tribe (they were named after NZ birds).  Straight after the conference welcome we had 45 mins to get to know our tribe better.  The tribe was made up of primary and secondary teachers plus any support staff and also sponsors (we didn't have a sponsor in our tribe but as far as I could tell those in other teams were well-behaved and didn't try out their sales techniques!).  From there we went to our workshops, but we arranged a meeting place so we could share lunch together.

I often attend conferences or unconferences aimed at teachers, and one of the problems I have is finding people to eat lunch with as I inevitably end up going on my own.  I get to mix with a fantastic group of educators, and I've been slowly getting to know more of them, but I'm quite shy so I still get 'lunchtime anxiety'.  Having a place to go for lunch was therefore a huge bonus for me.  I think this idea alone would be hugely reassuring for anyone considering attending a conference on their own, something that primary school librarians, who are usually sole charge, often have to contend with.  Even at a library conference, where I know loads of librarians, I think having a learning tribe is a fantastic idea to meet and make connections with even more people.

A small activity first up on Day 2, to sit in a random group of four and have a quick chat about the previous day, was another idea that worked really well.  I met even more people, we had plenty to discuss, and it set a nice, friendly vibe for the start of the day.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the "Tribe Possibility Planning" event following afternoon tea on Day 1.  I found out about what was discussed when I caught up with my tribe the next morning and then they did their "pitch" and we listened to the pitches of other teams.  New teachers who were attending just on the Saturday were invited to join up with tribes whose pitches caught their interest, and we had a few more members join us later that afternoon when we met up with our tribes again.  This meant an infusion of new ideas, always a good thing!  

There were some things about the conference that worked better than others.  I think if you're experimenting with a new format that is always going to be the case.  #edchatNZ has always been, as they say "the little hashtag that could" and I am so pleased that they were willing to head fearlessly into the unknown and change the whole way they ran their conference.

I would love for all the future conferences I attend to have learning tribes, even if they don't have the time in their schedule to take it further and have the tribes collaborate to create action plans.  Just the act of putting people into new groups and letting them talk to each other is a fantastic idea and really enhanced my whole conference experience.


As a side note, there was also the opportunity to pay just for the conference and not for any meals.  You could bring your own food and pay a mere $30 for the two day conference.  I love this idea because it makes professional development accessible even if you don't have the support of your principal (I did, but that isn't always the case and at $30 I was prepared to pay for the conference myself if necessary).

I learned a great new Google sharing tip -  first, allow anyone with the link to view.  Then go into the URL and change the word 'edit' at the end to 'copy' instead.  That way it will force the people you share it with to make their own copy.  If you need people to make their own copies of your work so they can make their own changes, this is a great way to make that happen.  See it in action here with a random Google doc.

I didn't tweet a lot at this conference, but I did re-tweet a few gems and they are worth having a look at.  The double photo in the first tweet doesn't seem to come up, which is a pity because the tribe were pitching the idea that what we need is a way to connect with other people who can mentor us for certain things, so the slide was about having a Tinder for teachers to match others with your superpower!  Click on that tweet to see the other image.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pokémon Go

Just caught a Meowth!

I probably don't need to tell you that Pokémon GO is HUGE.  If you need a bit more help understanding it, here's some good information:

How to Play Pokémon Go
Official Site

It is definitely worth learning a bit more about this huge global fad.  Your students will be talking about it so it's nice to have the terminology sussed out and not look clueless.  Plus, it's fun!  And it gets my fifteen-year-old out from his bedroom.

There have been some cautionary tales however.

School Library Journal had a great article about how this might affect libraries - Pokémon Go:  What Do Librarians Need To Know?  They also had a link to a more advanced article about Pokémon GO.  WAY more advanced.

I've bought a few more Pokémon books as I'm sure demand for these will increase.  I've also found a few Pokémon colouring pages that students might like to use:

Super Coloring
Morning Kids! (this one has the Pokémon listed by number and it corresponds with those in your Pokédex).

Have you had a try yet?

Updates:  Just saw this fabulous post by the New Zealand Book Council - Gotta pun 'em all:  New Zealand books with Pokémon

And fortunately, we can use them if we want:

Here's a cool activity if you know your way around Google Maps:

Mark has now done a post about how to customise a Google Map.

This is a fantastic place for teaching ideas - Ways to use Pokemon Go in the Classroom

Other links:

Pokemon Go Brings Augmented Reality To The Mainstream

Here's The Inspiring Story Of The Creator Of Pokémon GO, John Hanke.
List of Pokémon (Pokédex)
Help! Pokemon Go isn't working: How to fix common Pokemon Go problems
Pokemon Go players: you have 30 days from signup to opt out of binding arbitration

Saturday, 16 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - Filming

For our Book Week this year, I have filmed six spy training videos and two news reports!  You can find out more about how this came about here.

I have no training in making videos, although I did make a couple years ago.  The image quality is awful, best not to make it full screen.  Fortunately, I have upgraded our video camera since then.

I have learnt a few things from my filming this year, that may be of use if you're ever indulging your Steven Spielberg tendencies:

  • Think about whether you want good actors or "friends of the library".  Every time I film I know the smart choice is to go for actors, but I end up picking "friends of the library".  If you are going to pick library people and not actors, then have personal knowledge of their capabilities, or hold auditions.  It is still really important that they be able to speak clearly and understandably.  
  • Don't be afraid to ask people to be in your video.  I only had one student turn me down, and even the principal agreed to join in.  Author Peter Millet also agreed to film a couple of short videos for me.  Never underestimate the power of a fun project.
  • Be mindful of the times that you are filming:  
    • I chose the weekends to cut down on external noise, but one Sunday there was a netball tournament on and we had to avoid the times they made announcements on their loudspeaker (fortunately they weren't on it constantly).
    • One of my filming sessions was in the late afternoon and during filming the sun moved and started streaming into our library from an angle which affected the quality of the film.
  • If you go outside, take your keys with you!  On one freezing morning, I took the boys outside to film and then couldn't get back in.  Fortunately, the aforementioned netball tournament was running and I was able to go to the other end of the school, beg for a key, and get back inside.
  • After you have hit the record button, use your fingers to count down from three before your actors start speaking, and give another count of three after they finish and before you push stop.  That will give you a bit of leeway if you want to use transitions between your scenes.
  • If you have a student filming, make sure they don't bump the camera during recording and check EVERY TIME that they have actually pushed the record button!
  • Make sure the students understand that they need to be familiar with their scripts!  I had a few tell me they hadn't read them....arrgghhh!  Also, reconfirm times with parents, I had a couple of students still at home when they were meant to be filming.
  • Have fun!  And don't expect perfection.  Don't compare your amateur school video with a professional production.  Depending on the time you have, it may be unrealistic to expect your actors to have memorised every line.
  • Be careful with the words you choose for the script, and don't be afraid to make changes.  One of our girls could not say the word "espionage" so I changed it to "spying".  After that, if I had harder words I spelled them phonetically in the script to make it easier for the students to learn.  I had the word "loitering" in one script and the students didn't know what it meant, which was a good indication it was not the right word to use.  I changed it to "lingering around".
  • Allow plenty of time for everything.  Writing a script, filming it and then editing it will take a lot more time than you think.  My scripts were around about a page and a half long, my videos have come out at about 5-6 mins long and that took about an hour and a half to film.  Editing has taken about that much time again (I'm still learning though, it might be quicker for those who know what they're doing!).
  • Let the students add their own ideas.  The kids were keen to add their own touches.  I was mindful of the content I needed to get across, but was happy to let the kids decide to spin their chairs around at the beginning, or add a sign-off, or create some extras for the bloopers video.
  • Oh yes, have a bloopers video!

The students have been very keen and have been good at keeping their scripts 'Top Secret'.  Some of them don't know who else is participating, some don't even know there is an author and news items involved - it's good to give them surprises as well!

I'm learning as I go and it won't be polished but it is fun and the students will enjoy seeing people they know pretending to be undercover spies with exotic code names!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

A Spy's Guide to Book Week - The Beginning

Last year, I attended a SLANZA conference workshop by Cathy Kennedy about how she approaches Book Week at her school.  I was inspired by a number of her ideas, in particular choosing a theme and keeping activities manageable for teachers, so you're not adding too much to their workload.

I decided our theme should be "Spies and Detectives", which would then allow me to promote mystery books.  I didn't want to encroach on too much teaching time, so I thought about using our 'eating for learning' time, the ten minutes that the students spend eating their morning tea and lunch.  Perhaps I could have a series of little activities for the teachers to do.

Then I delved into learning about spies.  They are so cool!  In particular, I liked learning about various ways of encoding secret messages.

When it came time to choose an author to visit during Book Week, my first choice was Peter Millett, author of the popular Johnny Danger books.  Unfortunately, he's in Auckland and we're in Hamilton and we couldn't make it work.  In a decision he might come to regret, Peter said he liked our theme and offered to Skype in or to record a video answering questions from students.

At the same time, I had decided that we could have a spy school and teach various spy skills as well as promoting our spy and mystery stories.  But it would be more fun if there was a practical application for them - how about some secret messages for students to decode?  Of course that led to an idea to have a news item about treasure that's been stolen from the elves who live in the Reading Wonderland.  Our lovely artist, Jenna, agreed to come in the weekend beforehand and add some little elves to our mural.

I decided the only clue located at the scene of the crime could have different coded messages on it.  Then we could have some students introduce some short videos about codes that I could find on YouTube and show a different clip at each eating for learning time.  Only there weren't any videos that were the right length and handled the way I wanted, and isn't it better to have one code lead to another clue in a treasure hunt kind of way?  And then, what about other spy skills, shouldn't we teach them?  Oh, and we can't have a student teach about the codes anyway because then they might be able to decode them ahead of time...  And that, dear friends, is how you go from a simple idea to scripting, filming and editing two news reports and six spy training videos, with additional footage about codes provided by your principal dressed as 007!  Not to mention having the temerity to ask an author if he wouldn't mind filming a couple of short videos pretending to be head of the J.S.A - the Junior Spy Agency.  Although if you've read the Johnny Danger books its pretty apparent Peter has a good sense of humour!

So, that's what has been keeping me busy lately.  I have filmed all my spy training videos and just need to avoid having the police called in after sunset as my son dresses as a robber and uses a torch while breaking into the Reading Wonderland and taking off with the elves' treasure.  I think it may be a good idea to let my principal know what's going on ahead of time!  I think my filming experiences could fill another post, so watch out for that soon.

Book Week starts on 15 August and before then I still need to do all my editing and work on some activities for our younger students.  Once I've recovered from the event I'll do another post, update you on how it went and link to all my resources in case you want to do something similar.  That's all for now, remember, this information is extremely TOP SECRET!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Sharing Tech Tips with your Students, Staff and Community

One of my new projects this year has been working with our Student Digital Leaders.  I emailed my principal about this idea last year and have been fortunate to work with Renee, one of our very I.T. savvy teachers, on it.  We are working with two students from each Year 5 & 6 class (16 students in total) and showing them troubleshooting tips and how to use particular creation apps.

One of the things Renee and I talked about was how to educate the teachers as well as the students.  Like all schools we have a range of abilities amongst our staff and we wanted to make sure that whatever we taught our students was also available to our teachers.  Initially we thought we would offer drop in sessions after school, but we didn't want to add to the many time demands that teachers already have.

I suggested that we record a series of very short tech tips and promote them so not only our students and staff benefit, but we also provide useful information for parents.  We have started with troubleshooting for iPads:

Next up is how to update apps and iPads, followed by how to check how much storage you have (and what to do if your iPad is full).  There are a number of topics that can follow that, and they won't all be about iPads.

We decided to do the Tech Tips separately to our normal Digital Leaders' meetings.  We asked for volunteers and then I gave them a short script to learn.  I had our I.T. guy check the script to make sure I hadn't got any advice wrong!  We could have covered more but I wanted to keep the videos short, and teaching kids how to restore an iPad to factory settings, for example, seemed a bit dangerous!

I made an introduction that we will use for the whole series.  I used PowToon, which took a bit of getting used to but was a lot of fun to learn.  I think it looks quite smart.

The process took longer than I imagined - we needed more than one lunchtime to get the recording done (if you're observant you'll notice that there are continuity errors!).  Just filming the iPads up close was troublesome, you have to watch the angle or you get reflection from the lights.  The school bell went off during one recording, as did the alarm on one of the boys' watches!  Recording at lunchtime also meant there was a lot of outside noise to contend with.

Afterwards I had to piece it all together in iMovie.  Again, it took longer than I anticipated, partly because I'm still learning with that as well.  I was pleased that I had allowed three seconds of recording before and after the dialogue, as this meant it was easier to get the transitions right.

I think there are many things we can do to improve, but at the same it will never be the same quality as a professional production.  However, at a primary school level I think parents are going to be forgiving of errors and will enjoy seeing their children share their knowledge.

I've scripted the next episode but fortunately another teacher will be filming and editing it (I have a Book Week to prepare for!).  I've also made posters with a QR code that links to the Tech Tips playlist, which I will be giving to all the teachers.  It is exciting to see this idea coming to life and I look forward to building up a bank of Tech Tips videos that our students, staff and community can refer to when they need them.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Awesome ideas from #EducampTheTron

Today I joined a bunch of teachers at EducampTheTron.  If you're not familiar with educamps, you can find more info here.

I've been working my way through some of the slides from the SmackDown, (a SmackDown involves people sharing ideas and tools with each other in a short amount of time).  First up, I had a play with a couple of resources Dave Winter suggested.  There was Story Builder, a tool I've played with before but now I have a creative writing group, the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms, and I think they would have a blast with it.  Here's my quick test.  

I also had a look at Background Burner, which is an online tool that removes backgrounds from images in seconds.  I used a photo without a cluttered background for my test:

Then I transported my Book Fridge to Egypt, using their stock photos.

I'm not sure what I might need this for at the moment, but it will probably percolate in my brain and I'll wake up at 2am with a crazy idea!

There was a slide about Creative Commons which had several sites I knew about and one I didn't -  Images are filtered so they are appropriate for school, and when they are downloaded they automatically cite the author and image license terms - awesome!

Moving on, I had a look at Breakout EDU.  Thanks to Kim Tautari-Scott I actually got a chance to play this game today.  It was another idea I'd seen on Twitter, but I couldn't get my head around it until I saw it in action.  I can't say I was very good at it; I imagine I'd be better second time up having got the general gist of it.  It doesn't fit into what I'm doing at the moment so I'll put it aside for now.

Over to a slide about Blendspace.  It is an interesting curation tool that lets you add in images, documents, Youtube clips and quizzes.  It looks great but I have no need for this one yet either.

Alex Le Long provided some great links to genius hour resources - Youtube playlists and a Google Drive folder from the GAFE summit.  I will share these with our Year 5 & 6 teachers as I am sure they will be interested in these.  I also noticed her Slam Poetry playlist and then searched for some done by primary school kids.  

Here is the back story to this - yesterday, Ryan, one of our teachers, came into the library and asked what I thought about students doing slam poetry in our Reading Wonderland.  I said 'awesome, as long as you do it!'.  I had thought about having the students put on short plays in there, because the tiered seating makes it perfect for performances.  But it would have taken a lot of organisation.  So, I'm thrilled that Ryan's going to get that going and now I can suggest some great YouTube clips.  Perhaps my writing group will be interested in trying out writing slam poetry.  Actually, I've just gone back into Blendspace and downloaded a couple of lessons on slam poetry shared by teachers on there.  Some of it is on performance, which I can share with Ryan, and the rest is about how to write them.  Ooh, lots of great things for the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms on Tuesday!

And...this is how you lose hours online!  It's way past my bedtime and my laptop's battery is dying, which is a sign I should wrap this up.  If you get a chance to attend an educamp I would highly recommend them.  They are free and full of really interesting people and can lead you on new adventures!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Introducing our Reading Wonderland

Last week we opened our new library space and our students got VERY excited!  Here's proof:

A neat feature is the little creatures, hidden doors and adorable bugs that can be found in the room if you look hard enough.  Spotting these was the reason for a lot of the extra noise!  Here's a few of them...


For a long time I lamented over the lack of space in our library.  Considering we have 750-800+ students, our 89m2 library was often jam packed.  "It's like a club" was a teacher's comment after venturing in one lunchtime.  

In January 2014, I made a proposal to the Board of Trustees to enclose the library courtyard area.  I was given the go ahead to get some quotes but my happiness was short-lived as incorrect concrete had been laid and therefore walls could not be erected on it.  The cost of digging up the old concrete and then laying new concrete made the project unaffordable.

For some reason this area wasn't very popular!

I considered taking over a bit of our adjoining resource room, but a giant air conditioning unit would have to have been moved.  In the end I looked at enclosing the courtyard with an outdoor screen, much like cafes often have, in order to weatherproof it and be able to lay carpet.  This revised proposal was accepted late last year and all systems were go!

Esther, our library assistant, suggested I put tiered seating in the room and then she found an apprentice builder who could do it for us.  I love the different dynamic this creates in the space.

My vision for the area was to have a theme so that students feel they are in a special spot, quite different from the rest of the library.  I ended up asking our very creative teacher aide, Jenna, to make a meadow/forest mural that went around every wall in the space.  Considering the walls are made of corrugated iron, glass, and wooden slats, I asked Jenna to go with quirky and whimsical art that incorporated the different surfaces, and then I showed her some art I liked that I'd saved in Pinterest.  I also asked for a blue sky ceiling where students could see different shapes in the clouds.  Because I like to be difficult!  And then I left Jenna to it because I knew that what she came up with would be way cooler than I could imagine.  And it was!

Naming the Room

I wanted the room to have its own identity so it needed to have its own name.  We held a competition last week to see what the students could come up with.  We had 379 entries; here are some of the key words that kept appearing: forest, garden, reading, nature, magic, enchanted, paradise, mystery, secret, fantasy, dreamland, wonderland, kingdom, peaceful, beautiful.  Aren't they lovely words to have associated with the library?  The winning entry was 'Reading Wonderland'.

The Opening Ceremony

My enthusiastic library advisory group, the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls, helped organise an official opening ceremony, which took place during morning tea on Tuesday.  I invited the staff involved with transforming the courtyard, our senior management and our Board of Trustees (although unfortunately, apart from our principal and DP, none of the Board could make it).  We also had some reporters from the Te Totara Times and we invited our book club, the Ferocious Bookworms, because the Moustache Girls felt we needed more of an audience!

We had a shared morning tea of the very sugary variety and then I thanked the Board of Trustees for their support and some of the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls thanked key staff and talked about our future plans for the room.  I announced the winner of the naming competition and then she cut the ribbon and declared the Reading Wonderland open.  Esther and I had blown up lots of balloons and put them in the room so everyone had a bit of fun with those.  It was short and sweet, which is how I like my ceremonies!  Here is the report from the Te Totara Times (also short and sweet!).

Communicating with the Community

Throughout the creation of the mural I posted photos to our library Facebook page.  These had positive responses, with many of our community knowing our artist Jenna, as she is also a parent of children in the school, and a teacher aide here.

I also shot the video of the children's reactions to the Reading Wonderland and shared this with our community on our school website and our school and library Facebook pages.  I don't think photographs would have done justice to the noise levels and extreme levels of excitement!

I invited parents to come in and view the Reading Wonderland and we saw some new faces, which was great. 

Plans for the Reading Wonderland

I am looking forward to the Reading Wonderland being a place where our classes are read to, where students can read with each other, and where we can also run some special activities.  At present it hosts the Mighty Magical Moustache Girls, the Ferocious Bookworms and the Ninja Unicorns in Uniforms (our creative writing group).  I have plans for a crochet group and we also want to do occasional craft activities and have reader's theatre sessions.  

I'm so happy to have such a great room.  It was definitely worth the time and effort involved with making it happen.  One of our Year 2 teachers told me that a reluctant reader in her class asked if the room would be open again at lunchtime.  Music to my ears!

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Most Likely to Succeed

Having missed out on seeing the film 'Most Likely to Succeed' when it was shown in Hamilton I did what any self-respecting librarian would do and got the book out of the public library.

The book, by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, is a cautionary tale about losing sight of the bigger picture and not keeping up with a changing world.  The authors tell us about how the education system we have today is largely unchanged from that set up in order to provide workers for the industrial era.  Our access to smartphones, crammed with more computer power than NASA used to get to the moon in 1969, is disregarded, in most cases discouraged.  We continue to teach students in the same way that we always have, with a focus on learning content that anyone can Google if needed and that most of us forget when we don't use it in real life.  The authors claim that "since information is readily available to everyone, content knowledge is no longer valued in the workplace".  Instead what we should be focussing on is "forming independent opinions, critically evaluating the logic of others, communicating, collaborating, solving problems creatively, and synthesizing".  This emphasizes the importance of digital and information literacy skills, which are often taught by a librarians.  It also provides a good case for a library having a Makerspace, where students can be encouraged to work together and meet challenges.

The authors also assert that somewhere along the line the U.S. education system has managed to make the purpose of education to pass a bunch of largely unhelpful-in-real-life tests.  What's worse is that because the tests are standardised and cost so much to administer, they are limited to what can easily be measured and not necessarily what is useful for students to learn.  In relation to reading the authors say "...if you're designing tests, there's no way to standardize based on students reading mostly what interests them".  So it is the test designers who are calling the shots, requiring that students read the same text even though it probably won't appeal to everyone.

There is a real fixation on test results - "...the bulk of U.S. education is a largely hollow process of temporarily retaining the information required to get acceptable grades on tests".  When this information is also irrelevant to the real world you can see why students get bored and lack motivation.  And what is even worse is how early the focus on testing impacts children's lives.  The book describes a kindergarten that cancelled its school play "to devote more time to preparing its six-year-old students for college and the workplace".  How awful!

One thing that particularly resonated with me was the authors' claim that the primary goal of education should be to help students find their true passion and purpose in life.  They feel that schools should "expose students to a wide array of pursuits and help them find what they love spending time on".  Having a library with a wide range of books, technology activities and a Makerspace, helps them do this, as does providing support for students who are involved with genius hour or passion projects.

Last year the OECD published an interesting report stating that using technology at school doesn't improve test results.  I thought of that report when I read this: "The impact of innovation in education isn't in using technology to deliver obsolete education experiences".  How often is technology used to simply repeat the same lessons teachers have always taught?  This goes back to the substitution level of the SAMR model.  Technology needs to be used in education to allow new and innovative education experiences that fully engage students and allow them to direct more of their own learning.  If technology can help students engage more with a lesson we are teaching on library or information literacy skills, then we need to be embracing it in this way as well.

You can probably tell that I enjoyed reading 'Most Likely to Succeed' and it got me thinking about how a library can support positive changes to the education system.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Dreaming of a Library

The #EdBlogNZ challenge for March is to blog about what your dream school would look like.  Obviously a dream school needs a dream library, so here's what I've come up with so far:

  • My dream library is vibrant, innovative, warm and welcoming and an acknowledged "centre of amazingness" within the school.  It supports teachers and helps a culturally diverse population of students discover a love of reading and learning.

Physical Space and Equipment

  • The library is big, with a variety of areas to meet the different needs of students e.g. a quiet reading room, a Makerspace, a media production room, tiered seating for performances of plays/reader's theatre.
  • Furniture is movable to allow students to configure areas to suit their current needs.
  • Students can sit on, under and in furniture. There is a big range of comfortable seating options around the library, including an impressive-looking reading chair that teachers, and students, can read in. 
  • Outside the library is a private lawn surrounded by large leafy trees with even more seating options for outdoor readers.
  • The reading room is soundproof and decorated in an immersive theme so that the students feel relaxed and peaceful.
  • The media production room has camera equipment, microphones, an editing suite, music and podcasting equipment and a green screen.
  • The library has iPads and laptops for students to use in order to provide some equity for those who do not have access to them at home. 

A great window seat in Devonport Library

The Collection

  • The library's budget allows for a good physical and electronic collection to be developed, enabling the school to cater to all students' personal interests and curriculum needs.  
  • There is a system so that students, teachers and parents are able to request books.
  • The library's collection also includes makerspace items that can be borrowed by parents e.g. telescopes, microscopes, sewing machines.

Programs and Services

  • There is a strong online presence so students have access to the library 24/7.
  • Students and librarians combine to make awesome, interactive library displays that are regularly changed.  In addition to physical displays there are also student-made book trailers that show on the large library TV.
  • The TV is also used to Skype in authors and subject experts into the school.
  • The library publishes physical and electronic copies of student work.
  • There is a student librarian programme giving training, library experience, rewards and privileges to interested students.
  • A team of students help to run activities in the Makerspace and provide student voice around library decisions.  The Makerspace allows students to be creative, solve problems and collaborate and introduces them to robotics, coding, 3d printing and crafts.
  • There are library-run challenges and competitions to inspire creativity.
  • Students can play games in the library e.g. chess
  • There is a book fridge so that students and staff can swap books from home with one another.


  • The budget enables the library to be fully staffed, including over the holidays, in order to run summer reading programmes, and before school, at morning tea and lunch, and after school.  Staff are paid well, have regular appraisals, access to good professional development and are respected as professionals.  They are enthusiastic, dedicated, have strong professional networks and enjoy working with children.
  • There are teachers on the library team who provide direct classroom teacher feedback on library initiatives and share their own ideas for the library.
  • Library staff are involved with planning and collaborating with teachers in order to support the curriculum.  They provide curated materials for the students and teachers which are regularly used.
  • Library staff teach library skills, digital citizenship and information literacy in ways that are as fun and engaging as possible.  They allow flexible scheduling and they are on hand for students who come to the library with research needs.
  • The library helps feed a school-wide reading culture by employing staff with an excellent knowledge of children's books who make digital and physical reading guides, run book clubs (with teacher involvement) and are available to help children select books.

Community Connections

  • Parents are able to use the library before or after school to help their children, including their preschoolers, select books and to discuss book selection with the library staff. 
  • Social media is used to engage the community with the library.
  • Library staff encourage the community to use the library to share their knowledge and skills with students e.g. through the Makerspace or as an expert for genius hour projects

Support from the Top

  • The library manager has regular conversations with the Board of Trustees and senior management team around how the school's charter and the New Zealand Curriculum can be supported by the library.  
  • The BOT and senior management team regularly visit the library and are excited by the vision for the library, its collection and the programs that are taking place there.

Finally, my dream library is not one-of-a-kind but just one of a nationwide, legally mandated chain of exceptional school libraries providing New Zealand's students with a passion for pleasure reading and lifelong learning.