Monday, March 20, 2017

Richer Than We Think

Usually, my family and I spend our March Break vacation at home, relaxing or visiting with friends. This year, partly in honour of Canada's 150th "birthday", we decided to take a trip to Ottawa. My son and daughter had never been to the capital city of Canada and we thought it'd be a new and fun experience. I had only been to Ottawa twice before, and the last time was in 1999. We did some research and chose to stay at the lavish and historic Chateau Laurier.

We drove to Ottawa and spent three days in total there. Monday and Wednesday were mostly dedicated to traveling there and back, but Tuesday was jam-packed with activities. We reserved a tour in advance with the Canadian Mint and my husband lined up early enough on Tuesday morning to snag us tickets for a guided tour of the Canadian Parliament.



Maman by the Portrait Gallery with Parliament in the distance

In the Parliament Building

In the library
On Tuesday afternoon, we were also able to squeeze in a visit to the Canadian War Museum and on Wednesday morning, before we left for home, we toured the newly renamed Museum of Canadian History.

My feet - I'm not flatfooted so I could've enlisted in WWI if I was a man.

Hubby in the replica of trench warfare - oppressive, scary

A piece of the actual Berlin Wall

Totem poles at the former Museum of Civilization 

Mexican creation myths in yarn (I thought of Lisa Noble)
My children are both at an age and stage where they can enjoy and appreciate various museums and have the stamina to walk around. (I logged over 22 000 steps on my Fit Bit on Tuesday!) In fact, I think my son most enjoyed exhibits that he had some sort of connection to - he had completed a history project on the Fenians back in Grade 8 so he was interested in seeing the Fenian artifacts. Our favourite place was the Mint, where we bought some souvenir Canadian 2017 coins, and our favourite place to eat was Zak's, a diner close to the By-Town Market. My bacon and sausage poutine cost a lot more than I'm used to paying for poutine, but it was delicious!

Bacon and sausage poutine

Hubby's foot-long hot dog really was that long!

It wasn't until after we returned home and did some "minor" things that it really hit home to me how fortunate and financially comfortable we are, to be able to afford to go places and do things. When I returned to the GTA, I saw a couple of friends, Jennifer Casa-Todd (York Catholic DSB) and Alanna King (Upper Grand DSB) who introduced me to some decadent gourmet donuts. The next day, not only did I drive all the way to Aurora, ON to buy a dozen of these donuts for my family and for some other friends I spent time with that evening (Francis Ngo, Diana Hong, and Rob Reyes), I also did some shopping at Yankee Candle and Lush. I was a bit ashamed at blowing over $40 just on donuts, but then I looked at how much I spent on candles ($100) and on bath bombs ($30), neither of which are necessities.

I considered myself to be blessed (good job, roof over my head, wonderful spouse, healthy and happy kids) but I don't think I ever realized how financially well-off we are. I thought that, since we are a one-income family and we live in a much-maligned area of the city that we were just "average". Well, I looked it up and according to CBC News, the median family income is $76 000 and the richest 10% of individuals in Canada make more than $80 400. This is as of 2013.  Here's the Statistics Canada results, which are similar.

There are many other ways that we are richer than we think. My family is so lucky to be able to have all the adults and children with open and free schedules at the same time on March Break. Time together is such a treasure. Some families need to arrange time off in advance, or can only have one parent free to travel at this time with their kids. Other families have to scramble to find accommodations for their children because both parents work and can't manage to take time off. The members of my household get along extremely well with each other, so there are no "I hate my sibling" wars in the car or elsewhere - we enjoy spending time with each other. We have enough shared interests that we liked the places we selected to go as a group, but we also respected personal time and everyone had a chance to have it in Ottawa (reading, visiting friends in Ottawa, using the computer, or swimming in the chilly but stylish swimming pool).

How can I demonstrate that I'm aware that this isn't the reality for everyone, including my students?  I've struggled with this before and wrote about it here. I suspect that it won't be as big of an issue because for the first week back from the Break, I have three field trip planned (in a week and a half I will have taken 8 classes on 4 field trips - more details on where in a future post). Still, my time in Ottawa and with my friends made me very grateful for what I have.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Math-itudes and Teaching Differently

"Are you here because we aren't smart? Because we need extra help?"

This paraphrased question was what greeted me when I went up to a Grade 6-7 class to begin a new partnering adventure. I was really surprised by this reaction and the classroom teacher and I spent a few minutes talking with the group about the purpose of my visit before we began. As we explained to the group, their teacher had booked this time slot for partner time, which is often a time for the classroom teacher and teacher-librarian to work together somehow. This is usually a math period, and their teacher (a conscientious, talented, and all-around good guy) thought that it might be a great opportunity to give his Grade 7s some more attention. His Grade 6-7 class is a bit "lopsided"; there are only 5 Grade 7s and their teacher wanted to ensure that they received undivided attention for a portion of their next unit. He asked if I could take the Grade 7s and enrich their unit on fractions with some problem solving tasks. I wasn't present because they were weak students or unintelligent. Yet, when I showed up during math time, this is what they assumed.

We decided to work in the library. Instead of sitting at tables, we sat on the couches in the "cozy corner" of the library and started off with a community circle conversation about math in general. Most of the group shared some apprehensions about the subject. I told them that I was somewhat atypical of a math instructor - my math classes don't look like a traditional math class.

This was true twelve years ago, when I first came to my school and the principal included Grade 7 math as part of my teaching assignment timetable. Back then, it didn't work out so well for the students I had. Why? It was because I was not confident about teaching intermediate level math and so I agreed to use all the tests written by the other educator teaching Grade 7 math as the primary means of evaluation. In my math class back then, we did a lot of talking and group work. My scrapbook from 2004-2005 shows scenes from my math class of preteens sprawled on the floor sketching or crowded around the blackboard together. The tests they received were all paper-and-pencil, individually assigned, and marked according to specific criteria that my group had neither discussed nor constructed. The students I taught did not fare as well on these tests as the students the other teacher taught. This was before three-part lessons and math congress techniques were widely known or used. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have advocated for using other instruments to inform my understanding of their learning. I also would not have let my own discomfort with the subject material dictate the direction the class took.

Back to 2017 ... after our community circle chat about math in general, the students discussed what they knew about fractions. I wasn't completely responsible for their entire unit, because I only was scheduled for one double block and they have math daily, so I had the freedom of designing tasks so they could apply what they knew about fractions in authentic situations. I "warned" them that we might do unusual things, and one of the things we did was live-tweet our learning that day. The students gave their permission for their work to appear on Twitter, and one even suggested we tag our related tweets with the hashtag #fractions. I like that idea! I think I may retweet them but call it #fractionaction. Here are the tweets we shared.


What's with the monkey?  Well, I find that it can be useful to have a "third party" that can be the focus of any negative attention related to the subject. This is the case with Smedley the elephant (read the link to a post in 2013 about this toy). I also find that bringing in something completely unexpected gets our brains zipping a bit more. I had just bought this monkey puppet with my Scholastic Book Fair proceeds and I was dying to use him for something. Did the Grade 7s find it childish? If they did, they didn't tell me. They were too busy splitting their granola bars. This used a lot of math concepts from other strands. The granola bar was 10 cm long, so students used measurement as well as number sense and numeration to calculate where they should chop it. One used 1/2s, one used 1/3s, one used 1/4s, one used 1/5s and the final student used 1/8s. The fantastic thing was that as we were talking, my adult library volunteer mentioned that she was baking just that past week and had to figure out how to measure 1/8 tsp when she didn't own a 1/8 tsp measuring spoon. This was "real math" and led us to consider baking next week as our math activity.

What I'm doing isn't revolutionary or particularly innovative. What makes this possible is having a smaller number - challenging in junior / intermediate classes where enrollment is closer to 30 students per class than it is 20 - and less pressure to "cover" everything. It's also a overt effort to avoid math phobia and keep a positive attitude about learning math.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Do Meetings Have Value?

Do your meetings look like this?


If meetings (and this includes staff meetings) look a little like this, then why do we bother to have them?

I had three meetings this past week - one for LC3 (Toronto District School Board Learning Centre 3) area Teacher-Librarians, one for OSLA (Ontario School Library Association) council, and one with the organizers of the MakerEdTO conference.

Our meetings were mostly productive, but I'll admit there were times that I tuned out mentally. As I sat at my computer desk contemplating this blog post and reflecting on the various meetings, I turned and saw two books on my now-tidy book shelf that really offered some practical solutions and guidelines.

 
I should make it a point to re-read these books at least once a year, if not more, to remind me of their key points. For instance, in Unlocking Group Potential to Improve Schools, Garmston and von Frank list five standards for effective meetings (page 17).
  1. Address only one topic at a time
  2. Use one process at a time
  3. Balance participation and make meetings interactive
  4. Use cognitive conflict productively
  5. Have everyone understand and agree to meeting roles
I often think back on how well or poorly a meeting went, but I don't often use this helpful criteria to guide my evaluations. Many of the strategies this book suggests are already in play in the meetings I attended (e.g. establish an agenda, assign clear roles, etc.). Some interesting suggestions to creating "smarter groups" include (page 69) increasing the social sensitivity of the group and turn taking. Norms of collaboration like (pages 84-88) pausing, paraphrasing, posing questions, placing ideas on the table, providing data, paying attention to self and others, and presuming positive intentions can be incorporated more frequently in all my meetings, by me and others.

Whose job is it to ensure that meetings are worth the time? Garmston asks a similar question. "Who is responsible for keeping the group on track - a facilitator or group members? The answer is both." (page 17) I thought it was both bold and brave for one of our council members at the end of our lengthy meeting to suggest we revisit how we structure our time together, recommending we look to shortening information items and breaking off into smaller groups for discussion items so our energy does not lag. We still have to follow Robert's Rules of Order and obtain group consensus through voting as part of our council deliberations, but it doesn't mean that the meeting must be dull or drag on. My colleague's suggestion meant that he valued the time we had together - we only meet four times a year face to face - and he wanted that time to be as productive as possible. How would principals react if a teacher requested a change to the staff meeting traditional format?

I was only the meeting "leader" for one of these three events; I think it'd be fascinating to do a debrief to see how well we met the standards and how we could address them more effectively in future meetings. Often, this meta-reflection gets left out or is done in whispered asides by pairs of participants as the main purpose of the meeting takes center stage and tasks get assigned and deadlines get established. If I had to answer my own question title, I'd say that meetings do have value but can be even more valuable when carefully crafted with attention to process as well as content.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Inquiry Ain't Easy - Especially for ELL

I wish I spoke Mandarin and Cantonese.

This would be helpful, not because I want to travel to China in the future, but because I want more ways to help my English Language Learners.

Even when we share the same language, sometimes it isn't easy to teach and learn.

Take my recent group of Grade 4 students. I like partnering with their teacher because she is excellent at inter-teacher communication. She has a Grade 3-4 combined class this year and we agreed to separate the Grade 3s and the Grade 4s for partnering time for science, so that we could spend more time on content-specific tasks and concepts. We planned together, taught apart, and reflected on the process together. At first, I had the Grade 3s and she had the 4s. After six weeks, we decided that it would be healthy to switch groups. She admitted to me that she did not feel particularly adept at inquiry based learning and asked if I could focus my time with the Grade 4s on inquiry. I readily agreed. As the teacher-librarian, I thought I was decently qualified to work with students on developing their own inquiry questions. I believed that it would be less difficult because our inquiry questions would stem from topics they just finished studying with their classroom teacher. These students had been exposed to inquiry-based learning before, so it should just be a matter of reigniting their prior learning. I was looking forward to open inquiry, where the student questions would guide our investigations.

Silly me!

The students generated their own questions about light and sound but when I dug a bit deeper, through conversations with them and with their classroom teacher, I discovered that many of these questions were ones that they already knew the answers to or were already answered earlier in-class. Some of the questions weren't even "big, thick, meaty, juicy chicken wing" questions; they were "small, thin, bony chicken wing" questions with yes-no or one-word answers.

Then there were my ESL students. Despite having read and internalized these guidelines for supporting and including ELL in inquiry - see http://www.fluentu.com/english/educator/blog/project-based-learning-esl/ - I had trouble reaching them. They were extremely hesitant and reluctant to speak and ask questions, never mind generate their own questions.

I used my board's fabulous Virtual Library site to try and inspire some new questions, but my ELL Grade 4s found the material too advanced and my English speaking Grade 4s were distracted and unfocused. (It didn't help that the wi-fi was malfunctioning that day and we couldn't maintain a stable connection.)
This was not going as well as I had hoped.  I had followed the TDSB Implementing Student Inquiry guidelines. I used the Wiggins and McTighe Backwards Design model (page 11). I sought student voice and choice, as well as positive interactions and a comfortable learning environment (page 13). My solution lay back in the types of inquiry possibilities. I needed to abandon the idea of open inquiry in favor of a blended inquiry model.

We were playing with my buzzers - a method of participation that many students seem to enjoy, even those who don't like to talk - when my own sound-related inquiry question hit me out of the blue: "How might we be able to reduce or eliminate sound?" I got really excited about this idea, and I guess it showed, because the students started to become enthusiastic about it too. It also became very concrete and I was able to explain it to my ELLs in a practical way: stop Mrs. Mali from hearing the buzzer. I had four buzzers and so we divided into four groups to investigate. I rearranged the groups so that my ESL students would work with other students; they are inclined to wait until the end of the group selection process and just collaborate with other ELLs or with whomever is "left over". Thankfully separating the ESL students from each other is not as much of a problem as it might appear, because many of the other students are bilingual and can converse in Mandarin / Cantonese and English quite well. I spied on the groups as they worked and I could hear them actually applying the things that they had learned earlier with their classroom teacher. The neat thing was that each group used different techniques to try and mute the sound. (The rules were that the buzzer still had to make the original sound [no removing batteries] and that I had to be able to see them pushing the buzzer.) I could see where they understood ideas and where their notions were a bit incomplete.

Group 1 - Modifying headphones to make them more sound-proof

Group 2 - Covering buzzer with Styrofoam on bottom and top

Group 3 - Using fabric and tape to seal in / mute sound

Group 4 - Using cardboard and tape to silence the buzzer
While they worked on their inventions, I had some time to try and locate supporting resources at a variety of reading levels. I was relieved to find print books in my own library collection that covered the same material but with varying levels of vocabulary. (The classroom teacher informed me that the Grade 4s were jealous of the Grade 3s when they had a science "clicker test" in the library and she recommended that I try to give the Grade 4s a chance to use this method of evaluation. See http://mondaymollymusings.blogspot.ca/2014/03/tests-are-fun-tests-are-fun.html for an explanation of these "clickers" that the students are so fond of using.) I think I will need to create two different tests on the SMART board because my Grade 3 ELLs did not perform as well on the "regular" clicker test, even though I thought I had modified it enough.

This week, we will test the prototypes to see if I can hear their buzzers. The students will write (or draw, or write in Chinese) about why they think their design will work. We will review the reading material presented to ensure everyone understands the content and hopefully have our "clicker test" at the end of this week as well. (This, combined with my observation notes, will be my triangulated assessment pieces.) Does this "solve" my ELL engagement issues? No. Adequately reaching my ESL students is perpetually on my Annual Learning Plan, because it is a constant tinkering to see what modifications work with which students, and how much modification is needed for understanding to occur. However, it does remind me that inquiry isn't a walk in the park, even for an "experienced" teacher-librarian. It's okay to use guided or blended inquiry. Inquiry is messy. Inquiry is uncertain. Inquiry is engaging.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Creativity

My friend and fellow teacher-librarian, Salma Nakhuda, lent me a book when I last saw her, when my students were at her school teaching her club how to finger-knit. I had just finished a big, ambitious project (my second finger-knitted skirt - it was both a success and a failure) and I had forgotten to bring home some of the Silver Birch novels I had not yet read. I had time. I picked up the book to read over the holiday weekend and finished it in a day. I thought today's post would be a great opportunity to reflect on that book, Let the Elephants Run by David Usher.

This was my first "professional learning" read of 2017. I didn't read the book "properly" because the book provides action items that you are encouraged to try, over time, and some involve writing in the actual book. This is a library book, and a loaner as well, so I broke the rules I was supposed to break. Follow me so far? However, I think I can be forgiven, because my blog is often where I "tak[e] notes and collec[t] ideas about the world around [me]" (Action Item #1 - page 12). The book's goal is to help readers unlock their creativity. David Usher divides his book in two - a section on freedom and the other on structure. In the first section, readers analyze their own creativity, imagine what's possible, reconnect back to childhood creativity, mess with our established patterns, consider the importance of creativity in this time of rapid change, and make the time investment and do different things that expand your mind. David calls those wild and crazy ideas that emerge from creative wellsprings "Pink Elephants", which is why the book is called "Let the Elephants Run".

One of the most intriguing action items in this section was to determine if you are a "monster" or "mouse". He recommends playing a game called "Bang Bang Click Bang" to check your introvert/extrovert level and detect how much you observe or listen. (Heads up - I'm more monster than mouse.)

The structure section of the book outlines Usher's creative process. It is:

  • curiosity
  • interest
  • exploration
  • ideas
  • collect
  • file
  • filter
  • experiment
  • moment of creative collision
  • work
  • ship it
I wanted to see how his process matched or differed from my own. For instance, I'll compare it to the journey I've been taking alongside my students this year when it comes to our clothing inquiry and learning to sew. I'm not sure if it stemmed from curiosity - it might have started that way in July 2016 when I talked to Jennifer Brown and heard she had a sewing machine in her library. Then it was pushed onward by a sense of need or worry - my mother was getting older and I knew I couldn't depend on her forever to hem my pants. Interest and exploration definitely followed. I experimented before I had all my ideas together, for good or ill. As for bringing this into the classroom, I definitely collected ideas. I bookmarked Melanie Mulcaster's Makerspace On the Spot and On a Dime resources and searched for books to add to my school collection. I started to hoard cardboard (but in a wiser way than I did before, thanks to the guidance of Ray Mercer). I'm not sure how much filtering occurred, but right now I'm in the work and creative collision stage. Actually, strike that last sentence. I did a lot of filtering as I searched through YouTube and Learn360 videos to try and find an age-appropriate multi-media text that helped students grasp the social justice aspect of making and reusing clothes. 

I spoke to my good friend Moyah Walker, another TDSB teacher-librarian, on the phone the other day about the possibility of having her host a meeting at her school. As is often the case, we started to talk about what we were doing with our students and I was excited to hear that she's doing something with clothing design and her students too! All of a sudden, a creative crash happened and what started as a single-school event branched out. I'm in the process of arranging for Moyah to come and talk to my students about the sort of ideas she's sharing with her students. Her students will participate with mine in our culminating task. The final piece of this inquiry will be a fashion show and charity auction. I talked to Lance, a manager at a Value Village where we'll have a couple of field trips in March so that the students can discover where to obtain clothes at a fraction of the usual cost for them to happily hack and modify. He was super-supportive and enthusiastic about our plans and asked if a few of his Value Village contacts could attend the fashion show and share our results. Awesome!

Notice how many names were mentioned? This fits with the section in David's book on Idea Accelerators. I'd quibble a bit with his assertion that you need a "river of great ideas from really smart people". You need to be a "thought leader" but also a risk-taker, willing to share, enthusiastic and approachable. 

I'm improving in my "operational infrastructure" (Action Item 17 - page 192). When the students and I created restaurants - a project that they still talk about two years after the fact - I didn't adequately consider the time it would take to cook the food, and I had to abandon my initial "I want this to be as authentic as possible" ideal for a more practical "we need to collect orders in advance so we have enough food". This year, I'm giving the classroom teachers advanced notice about the activities planned (and sending them photos of our clothing creation experiments in process), so they are more aware and can be collaborators if they choose. 

Student-made cardboard flip flops

Student-made bow tie

Student-made finger-knitted toy scarves

This blog post coincides with the 18th Action Item - to "describe what you are working on in detail. Define your timeline to completion." (page 197). I am "commit[ing] to [my] creativity and go[ing] public", so that my "trusted circle" can chime in, make suggestions, and provide feedback. The students and I will determine the dates, but it will definitely be before final report cards.

The final action item in the book is to do a "post-mortem" on my last creative experience. I began this post by mentioning my finger-knitted skirt experiment and so I'll end by examining that project.

After making my first skirt (which was partly an accident), I wanted to see if I could make a skirt that didn't require wearing leggings underneath. I looked at my various finger-knitting books and none showed skirt designs, but I thought I could employ the braided technique from a headband and use it for the skirt. 

Braided headband, October 2016


It was challenging to braid those long finger-knitted chains (each chain was one ball of wool). 

Balling ends so they are easier to braid

Braiding chains, January 6, 2017

 My children helped by sitting on the ends and I kept the other sides in balls that I maneuvered around like shell game props. I wasn't sure how to get the right diameter so I used one of my own purchased skirts and pinned the Rapunzel-like braid around the skirt and then to each layer of the spiral.

Using skirt as guide, January 28, 2017
I had to buy more safety pins because I didn't have enough to hold it together. I hand stitched the braid together.

Hand-stitching the braids, February 2017
I finished it and it looked just like a real skirt, with no see-through holes. That part of the experiment was a success. The only problem was that the waist was too small and it was very hard to put on!

Finished skirt, February 17, 2017
My husband also noted that the skirt wasn't particularly flattering to my figure. The good news is that I can donate this skirt to my school fashion show and charity auction. If I had to do it again, I think that instead of using the skirt as a model for the size, I'd measure it to myself (and a wider part of myself so I can wiggle it on better). I think I may also do a single colour, so you can't see the stitching so much.

I will actually end this post with a warning for myself and other educators - beware the "factory education". A quote from Ken Robinson says:
"Mass systems of public education were developed primarily to meet the needs of the Industrial Revolution and, in many ways, they mirror the principles of industrial production. They emphasize linearity, conformity, and standardization. One of the reasons they are not working now is that real life is organic, adaptable, and diverse."
In schools, we need to innovate and embrace "curved line thinking". Let us be the innovation nurturers, not the creativity killers. I'm going to try and do my part by encouraging students to make their own clothes, their own ways, with whatever materials and techniques they choose. These lessons are not intended as just a "how-to" but a "how-might".  I'm excited to see what they'll come up with in a few months.



Monday, February 13, 2017

Be Like Doug

Last week, the incredible Doug Peterson, retired but active and connected educator, aka @dougpete on Twitter, launched another edition of his interview series on his blog. This time, I was the subject.

You can read the interview here.
https://dougpete.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/an-interview-with-diana-maliszewski/

I was really honoured to be featured by Doug. One of the things I tried to do (other than make it interesting to read with "exclusive content" like that old honeymoon photo) was mention as many wonderful fellow educators as I could. It wasn't name-dropping - it was an attempt to "pay it forward". Doug does a phenomenal job of profiling, promoting, and publicizing the good things happening in Ontario schools and classrooms. He shouldn't be the only one.

One of the lead-ins Doug set up was a chance to give a shout-out to the wonderful folks I know from his former board, the Greater Essex County District School Board. The pseudo-question (because he didn't actually ask anything) led to some inspiration - occasionally I should write a "Salute to my Colleagues from School Board X" on this blog. There is a fear that I'll leave someone out but if I'm methodical about organizing the post, it shouldn't be a problem (and blog posts can always be edited to add more information).

I've done something similar with my #lmmss Summer School staff, with members of the ultra-secret TTLTT PLN and with some individual teachers in my "regular" school like Kerri Commisso, Lisa Daley and Jennifer Cadavez and Thess Isidro. Everyone can use a little acknowledgement or boost now and then. Often, we are shocked and surprised that anyone would consider their work worthy of mention - I know I heard this sentiment from my colleague and friend Farah Wadia; several of us collaborated to nominate her for a major teaching award. (I really hope she wins!) Sometimes we need someone to point out the positive, especially because we can be our harshest critics.

So my advice for today's blog post is to be like Doug. Play the role of cheerleader, and highlight the amazing people you know. It may make someone's day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

OLA SuperConference 2017 - Reflections from #OLASC

Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2017 

All In / Le Tout Pour Le Tout
Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. MTCC 203CD
Coaching Conversations 3: Just Coach!


Summary (taken from the program description)


Every successful library leader understands that the ability to communicate effectively is a critical tool in their leadership toolbox. Conversations that begin from a place of inquiry empower your team to achieve success with strategies and solutions that they create individually or collectively.
These “coaching conversations” are only possible when leaders surrender ownership of the conversation, hold back on advice, and ask questions that empower their staff to reflect and determine next steps.
This practical, interactive and hands-on workshop will provide participants with an overview of the value and power of taking a “coach approach”. It will explain the rhythm of a coaching conversation, elements of engagement and how to create a suite of powerful questions that will achieve results. Participants will have an opportunity to test these skills through real coaching conversations with their peers, elevating this learning experience and ensuring that these concepts can be applied immediately.


So What? Now What?

The TTC was not my friend on Wednesday. I was already limited in the amount of time I could stay at this session, because I had to set up for my own session at 10:30 but my time was cut short even further because the north-south subway (Line 1) had significant delays. Instead of entering late and leaving early, I met with my convenor for my session (Melanie Mulcaster) and we went over the plan in the Speakers Lounge and took our time to set up. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. MTCC 206D
See How To Help


Summary (taken from the program description)


Helping students with visual impairments involves more than just providing large print books or books in braille. Creating a culture of respect that acknowledges differences but also encourages independence takes thought and effort. An Orientation and Mobility instructor with the Vision Department with the Toronto District School Board will provide tips and techniques she uses and a Teacher-Librarian will share her learning she gained from the Vision Team that applies to all communities that wish to be inclusive.

3 Key Points

  1. Many accommodations that are helpful for students with vision impairments can also be helpful for other students (e.g. ELL students, pre-readers, etc.)
  2. There are different kinds of vision impairments so one solution does not meet the needs of all students.
  3. Attitudes make a big difference. Be willing to change the way you do things and the way you think so that students with vision impairments can become more independent and successful.

So What? Now What?

I have to admit, I was extremely intimidated when I realized that everyone in the audience for this talk had extensive experience in the field. People from CELA (Centre for Equitable Library Access), CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), and other organizations were in the room. Thankfully, we were able to draw on the knowledge present for some useful dialogue. Participants really liked the hands-on activities (drinking juice boxes while blindfolded, finding their specific lemons, and playing goal ball) and there were some great insights shared. Lisa has students at her high school with vision impairments; some are very open about what actions help and hinder them whereas others don't want to talk about it. Karen shared how she sensitively dealt with missteps made my place unintentionally so they could improve their level of service without making them discouraged (e.g. putting their blind support materials in a glass case where they couldn't be touched). The participants even helped me with suggestions on how to allow my student to locate braille books in the library independently and without creating a braille book section that might single her out - I can place a raised dot or a felt strip on the spine label and she can feel along the shelf for those books! I'm really looking forward to calling CELA and using their resources much more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

1:00 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. ICTC Ballroom A
OLITA Spotlight Technology Session

Summary (taken from program description)

We are honoured this year to have Jessamyn West join us as the OLITA Spotlight Speaker.
Jessamyn West is a librarian and technologist living in rural Vermont. She studies and writes about the digital divide and solves technology problems for schools and libraries. Jessamyn has been speaking on the intersection of libraries, technology and politics since 2003. Check out her long running professional blog Librarian.net.
Jessamyn has given presentations, workshops, keynotes and all-day sessions on technology and library topics across North America and Australia. She has been speaking and writing on the intersection of libraries and technology for over a decade. She is the author of Without a Net: Librarians Bridging the Digital Divide, and has written the Practical Technology column for Computers in Libraries magazine since 2008. She is a Fellow at Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab for 2016-2017 (which you must admit, is pretty fancy!).
See more information about Jessamyn at: http://jessamyn.info

3 key points

  1. The digital divide still exists. The reasons vary. 
  2. We need to get better at getting offline people HAPPILY online.
  3. Be careful about how you talk - you don't want people to feel stupid so feel united and you as a person need to help others

So What? Now What?

You can see Jessamyn's presentation here: http://www.librarian.net/talks/ola17/
My big takeaway from her talk was about changing the narrative away from a "computers hate me" slant to "computers are just dumb calculators that we can defeat". I've been avoiding our main computer lab at school because only 1/4 of the machines work and it usually takes an entire period to get them logged on. I will think about other options, including my current solutions with the library lab (and having them already logged on, to avoid aggravation).


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

2:30 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. MTCC 103
Social Justice in the Library Learning Commons

Summary (taken from program description)


Libraries need to be culturally safe places for learners that provide equitable access to resources and learning. Cultural relevance, responsiveness and social justice are dynamic concepts that incorporate many elements of the Library Learning Commons. Moving beyond relevance, we will explore the importance of being culturally responsive and justice-oriented in our practice.

So What? Now What?

I was disappointed to hear that Deborah McCallum from Simcoe County DSB, who was supposed to lead this session, was sick. She withdrew her session. I hope I can hook up with Deb at a later date so she can give me an overview of what she had planned to discuss. Instead, I spent time in the Speakers Lounge having informal but informative conversations with people like Kate Johnson-McGregor, Joel Krentz, and Ruth Hall.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. MTCC 105/106
Conference Opening Keynote by Sunni Brown 

Summary (taken from program description)


Sunni founded and leads SB Ink and is an author, speaker, trainer, coach and expert meeting facilitator. She was named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” and one of the “10 Most Creative People on Twitter” by Fast Company. Her team has designed and led hundreds of group experiences in diverse industries and environments around the world. She is the best-selling author of Gamestorming and The Doodle Revolution and she leads a global campaign advocating for visual, game, design and improvisational thinking and hosts a podcast exploring wisdom for modern life called Sunni and Wise. Her TED Talk on doodling has drawn more than a million views on TED.com and her work has been featured in every major U.S. publication including The New York Times, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, WIRED, and Entrepreneur, as well as being featured twice on the beloved CBS Sunday Morning.

3 Key Points

  1. Librarians are knowledge sherpas.
  2. Acknowledge the "learning junk" you bring with you.
  3. Instead of fighting the constant "voice over" in your head, befriend it. It serves a purpose. 

So What? Now What?

Sunni's slides can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24462152@N03/sets/72157677803259302/
The games she had us play were challenging to some - I actually rather liked them - and I think that the self-talk exercise was one that I'd like to practice and use more often. I'm so used to ignoring the negativity, or arguing against it; listening to the protective influences behind the thoughts are insightful. It was easy to come up with an example because I was so scared after discovering how knowledgeable my audience at 10:30 that morning was. 



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. MTCC 105/106
All Conference Welcome Party

Summary (taken from program description)

Kick off your Super Conference at this grand event!
Mix and mingle with your colleagues, make new friends and enjoy an evening that will set the stage for your full conference experience.
This party is something you don’t want to miss.
Thank you to ProQuest for their ongoing support! 


So What? Now What?

It is delightful to be in a room filled with all sorts of people you know from various events and locations. I saw Elinor from the Maritimes right next to Joanne from Manitoba. I spoke with Rose, who is now in the library board sector but used to be a heavy hitter for school libraries; she introduced me to a couple of her public library colleagues that I'll have to reconnect with in the future. I saw Carm and Lori from Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB, who were getting ready for the next day's Awards ceremony. I touched base with Peggy and Maria. I even had a chance to sit down with Kevin Brennan, who is a main player in the transition team for the new CFLA (Canadian Federation of Library Associations) - I never remember what his actual title is, although I should. I know Kevin because he was the best man at my wedding. I followed up the party with a late dinner with two very good friends of mine, Martha Martin and Jennifer Brown.




Thursday, February 2, 2017

9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. MTCC 105/106
Keynote Lindy West

Summary (taken from program description)

Lindy West is a Seattle-based writer, editor, and performer whose work focuses on pop culture, social justice, humor, and body image. She’s currently a culture writer for GQ magazine and a weekly columnist at The Guardian, as well as the founder and editor of I Believe You | It’s Not your Fault, an advice blog for teens. In 2015 she wrote and recorded a story for “This American Life” about confronting an Internet troll who impersonated her dead father and was half of the duo who initiated #shoutyourabortion, which landed her on the cover of The New York Times. She was named “Internet’s Most Fascinating 2015” by Cosmopolitan.com.
In SHRILL, Lindy explores how to survive in a cold, judgmental world and shares how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss and still walk away laughing. Ferociously witty and candid, Lindy is a rare and bewitching talent whose body of work has garnered a coast-to-coast audience of prominent writers, press, booksellers, and men and women alike who are not afraid to hold an honest (and mostly unflattering) mirror up to our own culture. She has a special way of discussing tough subjects that both makes you laugh and cuts right to your core.

So What? Now What?

I missed this keynote but for a good reason - I had to prioritize. My daughter was presenting with me and she was very anxious about it. Rather than rush to Lindy's keynote and then hustle to our room to prepare in a hurry, I decided to keep it relaxed and low-key. We checked out the Expo Hall, placed our names on the waiting list for the Styling Lounge, and saw Leslie and Brenda browsing.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

10:45 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. MTCC 206D
Cosplay MakerSpaces

Summary (taken from program description)


You’ve heard the term “makerspace.” Have you heard of “cosplay”? Often seen and admired at comic and anime conventions, cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game. Cosplayers often make their own outfits, so why not combine cosplay and makerspaces at school? This mother-daughter team of amateur cosplayers will tell their tales of creating costumes and potential ways to incorporate it into your established or emerging makerspace.

3 Key Points

  1. Cosplay and makerspaces have a lot in common.
  2. There are many ways to integrate costume / clothing construction into the curriculum.
  3. Issues and challenges exist with cosplaying (e.g. expense, gender conformity, harassment, etc.) but these all have potential solutions.

So What? Now What?

I know exactly what my next steps are after this presentation. I'll be presenting it again with my daughter in Montreal at the QSLIN conference and I'll be happy to touch base with Julian from that organization to ensure that my content matches the educational situation in that province. At my own school, I'll continue to teach this unit and document all the learning as we go. We'll plan our trip to Value Village so we can see reusing in action. Mary will work on her Squirrel Girl costume and consider how to pull off her version of The Question. We had a few minor technical issues during our talk (i.e. the slides wouldn't move forward past the title screen) but we were flexible and everything worked out well. Big thanks to Melanie, Jenn, Alanna, and Jessie who took photos, handed out supplies, helped people finger knit, and helped clean up at the end.




Thursday, February 2, 2017

2:00 p.m. - 2:40 p.m. ICTC Haliburton
Making Gone Virtual with GAFE

Summary (taken from program description)


Makerspaces encourage hands-on innovation and creation in shared environments using a mix of digital and non-digital tools. These spaces offer students opportunities to actively learn, experiment, collaborate, share, and most of all, dream of possibilities. When layered with a virtual space provided through GAFE (Google Apps for Education), the learning and exploration of a makerspace are maximized. Discover how you can continue to provide differentiated content and resources to drive student passions and inquiry.

3 Key Points

  1. Time and the ability to collaborate effectively are makerspace challenges that can be surmounted by a virtual presence.
  2. GAFE tools can be used to discover student passions/interests, organize schedules, and share/collect feedback.
  3. Melanie hopes everyone might be interested in helping with The Forest of Making, combining the OLA Forest of Reading books with makerspace-like tasks.

So What? Now What?

Another no-brainer - my next step is to continue to help Melanie create this Forest of Making Google site. Her presentation can be seen here: 
It was a huge crowd in attendance - people were lined along the walls and sitting on the floor to hear Melanie talk. I'm honoured to know her and get to work with her.



 



Thursday, February 2, 2017

3:45 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. ICTC Oakville
Grow Your Professional Learning Network: Inside the Teach Ontario Community

Summary (taken from program description)


http://www.olasuperconference.ca/event/grow-your-professional-learning-network-inside-the-teachontario-community/

TeachOntario is the space to be for professional learning across the province. Leadership in education is taking on new formats and one of those is online professional development that is self-directed. Come and hear from your colleagues how this online space, along with other free TVO educational resources, supports the communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange between Ontario educators. How might an online platform of educators promote learning and improve your professional practice? Hear about one Teacher-Librarian’s experiments with participatory culture and the OSLA’s partnership with TVO’s TeachOntario and the #BIT16Reads online book club. TeachOntario, powered by TVO, is the where the learning happens!

3 Key Points

  1. Teach Ontario supports partnerships from all sectors - unions and government agencies even work together!
  2. Book clubs are constantly striving for improvement in participation and engagement; through new strategies like #pubPD F2F encounters, they are seeing even better results.
  3. Professional learning can be on your time, completely self-directed (i.e. even though courses are "over", you can still go through them and get support).

So What? Now What?

I just finished running the Secret Path book club for Teach Ontario. I think I want to join one of Alanna's new clubs. I will also revisit the MakerSpace course after I'm finished my weaving project. My highlight from this session was meeting Albert, the famous face behind "Ask Albert". 





Thursday, February 2, 2017

5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
OSLA AGM and Awards

Summary


So What? Now What?

Congratulations go to Colin Anderson from Ottawa Carlton DSB, Carmen Condotta from the Dufferin Peel Catholic DSB, and to Teach Ontario (TVO) for their awards. Our outgoing OSLA president, Kate Johnson-McGregor, also deserves congratulations for all the work she's done with the organization. I'll continue to work for OSLA as the magazine editor, although my days are numbered because I finally have a successor lined up. (No spoilers yet for the general public!) I lost my purse and took an hour (and a devoted team of TLs) to find it. Thank you Kelly for locating it at the Intercontinental Hotel concierge! I ended my time at the conference by having dinner with my friend Joanne Gibson, who was in from Winnipeg.



Johanna Lawler explains ETFO resolutions with Kate nearby

OSLA 2017 president Melissa presents Lauren with a parting gift

(L-R Carm Condotta, James Saunders, Kate Johnson-McGregor)

(L-R Colin Anderson, James Saunders, Kate Johnson-McGregor)

(L-R Leah, Akhina, Albert, Katina accepting the award)