Monday, February 11, 2019

YouTube Club - Status Report 1/2 way Through

This school year, I launched several new clubs to replace Minecraft Club (which could no longer run due to recent technology limitations beyond my control). I brainstormed with some classes about what would make good replacements. Based on my schedule, availability (and let's be honest, my own interests), the new clubs offered were

  • Comics Club (offered for Primary students, Junior students, and Intermediate students, on Mondays at lunch for a two-month chunk per division - one month for reading comics, one month for writing comics)
  • Keva Plank Club (offered on a month-per-grade basis, either on Wednesdays at lunch or Wednesdays after school)
  • Board Game Club (open to Grades 4-8, one grade at a time, one month at a time, during lunch on Fridays)
  • YouTube Club (reserved for Grades 7-8 together on Thursdays after school for a three-month period)
We are halfway through our YouTube Club time and I thought it'd be beneficial to examine how this new, experimental club was progressing. 

To be frank, I wasn't exactly sure what YouTube Club was going to be like at first. Someone in one of the intermediate classes suggested it, probably not entirely seriously, and the idea intrigued me. When the sign-up list was being circulated, many asked what would happen in YouTube Club and I admitted that I wasn't sure. They told me what they thought could or should occur and that helped shape some of the content. I decided to limit the club to just the intermediate students because there was a chance that they might see something inappropriate and you have to be a certain age to have a YouTube account. (Plus, I didn't want the group to be too big and unmanageable!) I talked about the formation of this YouTube Club with fellow members of the board of the Association of Media Literacy (AML) and they had some fantastic recommendations about possible activities, challenges, videos to watch, and discussion starters. 

There are a couple of things we've done as part of this club that I haven't tried in other clubs I've been involved with. 

1. We established a "code of conduct" and some "ground rules" together. For instance, we limit watching of a single video to five minutes. We also said that no one should be forced to show or watch a video that they don't feel comfortable seeing/hearing.

2. I take meeting notes. I record who attended, link to the videos that were suggested, and summarize some of the discussion that takes place.

I think I've learned more from YouTube Club than the students have! For instance, Neil Andersen, president of the AML, told me about Social Blade, a website that " tracks social media statistics and analytics. Social Blade most notably tracks the YouTube platform, but also has analytical information regarding Twitch, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Mixer, and Dailymotion" (Wikipedia)

To my surprise, not only did the students already know about Social Blade, they had some interesting opinions about accounts that YouTube favours and those it doesn't, regardless of popularity.

Another example - speed settings. I only recently learned how to use the Speed Settings on YouTube, during my attempt to complete all of Sylvia Duckworth's Sketchnote challenges. It was driving me bananas to constantly pause and rewind segments of her tutorials, but then someone told me to change the speed setting of the video to 0.25 and then I was able to follow along at an easier pace. Watching and drawing simultaneously isn't easy!

Me with my Sylvia Duckworth certificate!
Some students were unaware of the speed settings options, but many were. They had plenty to say about why viewers would want to watch a video at a different speed, and they shared a really cool story about a YouTuber who filmed a segment in one speed and had his fans watch it in another, manipulating the viewing stats in a unique way. (I'm not describing it adequately here, so I may need to copy and paste from my meeting notes to properly convey the clever tactic.)

YouTube Club members also took it upon themselves to discuss the advertising that appears before some of the ads, comparing those that pop up at school vs at home, whether or not they skip the ad, and the impact of the ad on them as consumers. (One YouTube Club member is a proud supporter of Grammarly, it seems.)

Another benefit for me is that I've learned more about the interests of my students. We have a lot of students who are huge fans of BTS (a K-pop group). I knew about BTS, thanks to my students and to educator and tweeter Rafranz Davis, but I had never taken the time to watch BTS videos or listen to their songs. YouTube Club provided that time. BTS videos are filled with impressive dance choreography and incredible video production. I think the one I like the best is "Idol", featuring Nikki Minaj, although the students scared me with their description of why it was (or wasn't) appropriate viewing for school. The students like to share the history and fan theories behind the songs, and that makes it interesting. Some members of the YouTube Club have tried to insist we put limits on the number of BTS videos we watch during a club meeting, "because it's YouTube Club, not BTS Club", but so far, we're sticking with our student-centered playlist.

So, it sounds like things are going quite well but there is one part of YouTube Club that has me concerned. YouTube Club, like Comics Club, incorporates multiple grades. For YouTube Club, it's for the Grade 7s and 8s. However, for some reason, the Grade 7s and 8s do not mingle or interact with each other almost at all. In the presence of the Grade 8s (some of whom are big and boisterous), the quiet Grade 7s who are part of the club say nothing. I've made a point of insisting that no one can have a second turn at sharing their favourite YouTube video (with an explanation of why it's beloved) until all those who haven't had a turn and want one get to go. The Grade 7s approached me after all the Grade 8s were gone with their video idea for the following meeting. They wanted to share a video but did not want their names attached to the link and their reasons. How do I ensure they feel comfortable? How can I decrease the divide? 

And while I'm on a roll of asking questions ... what other things could I do with YouTube Club? I still have a list-full of possibilities, but is there anything I'm missing?

Monday, February 4, 2019

OLA SuperConference 2019 Abridged Reflections Part 3 - "Experiments and Endings"

This is the third blog post (all published on the same day) outlining a shortened version of what went on at OLA SuperConference 2019. I've called this day's reflections "Experiments and Endings" because much of my time on Friday was consumed by an experimental space and novel learning opportunity called the Sandbox, and everyone could see the finish line ahead.

Friday, February 1, 2019
7:00 am

You read that time correctly. All the SuperConference planners meet early on the last official day of the conference to eat breakfast together, touch base and provide "2 Stars and a Wish". I couldn't stay to hear everyone's thoughts, because I had presenters coming in early to set up their gear at the OLA Sandbox. The goal of the Sandbox was to provide conference visitors with a lot of time to tinker and explore some of the hands-on, interactive options available in schools and public libraries. The Sandbox was scheduled to be 90 minutes of mostly playing, with one-on-one conversations peppering the experience.

Friday, February 1, 2019
9:30 am

There are so many things I can say about the Sandbox. There were a lot of positive things about this pilot, but also a lot of things that can be changed and improved for next year. I am so grateful to all the people who contributed to the Sandbox. (One thing to alter is that, although the Sandbox was mentioned in the program, there was no explanation about what it was all about and the presenters weren't mentioned by name.). Thank you to:

  • Cortney LeGros (Huntsville PL) = Lego Robotics Mindstorms
  • Tina Surdivall (Toronto DSB) = Lego WeDo and Scratch
  • Shahin Dashtkian and Karen Papadopoulos (Pickering  PL & Durham DSB) = Virtual Reality
  • James Steeves (Peel DSB) = Augmented Reality Sandbox
  • Peter Skillen = Code to Learn book giveaway
  • Lisa Noble (Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB) = Self-Regulation Station
  • Sara Furnival (Upper Grand DSB) = E-Textiles
  • Heather Stoness (Halton DSB) = Breakout EDU
  • Alison Yntema (Oshawa PL) = Makey Makey
  • Laura McEwan (Oshawa PL) = Green Screen and DoInk

 At first, things were slow in the Sandbox. People couldn't find it or didn't know what it was. The interest started to grow, just as we were supposed to be closing shop to get ready for the OSLA Spotlight session! We also noticed more youth attendees, accompanying their parents who were at the conference, coming by later in the day. What were we to do?

Thankfully, those generous people who were located in the Sandbox agreed to stay a little longer. Sara really wanted to see our OSLA Spotlight speaker, since they had a lot in common. We put a "be right back" sign on her table and she vowed to help people once she returned.

While I managed the Sandbox, Alanna took care of four separate sessions! They were Children's Books with Mental Health Themes by Lorna Schultz Nicholson, Learning with Scavenger Hunts by Keri DeClute and Grace Chung Fung-On, Growing Kids Who Can Change the Game: The School Library Learning Commons Movement in Newfoundland and Labrador by Leigh Borden, and How to Talk to Middle Schoolers about Death and Grief by Monique Polak and Merrie-Ellen Wilcox. I really wish I could have attended Leigh's talk, as I'm not sure when I'll get the opportunity to hear her speak again in person. Newfoundland isn't exactly around the corner!

Friday, February 1, 2019
10:45 am

Our OSLA Spotlight speaker was Chelsea Klukas, who is a Product Design Manager on Facebook. Her talk (which, in the common theme or thread for much of this conference, I didn't hear much of) centered on the "origins of the creative technology movement, the communities that fuel it, the makerspace movement, how libraries can build their own creative spaces and how library can support how information and skills are sourced and shared". I was still heavily preoccupied with handling the Sandbox and fielding other questions.

The SuperConference planners are required to wear a distinctive red vest and this attracts all sorts of inquiries. Our goal as planners is to try our best to give all attendees the most positive experience at the conference, so "customer service" is important, even if it means that you are interrupted from doing your original job to three new ones that crop up unexpectedly. To be honest, I like helping people. I even had some fabric fidget mazes in my pocket to distribute to people whom I thought it would help. I gave fidget mazes away to everyone from the 2018 OLA President, Kerry Badgley (who had to deal with the OLA AGM) to a volunteer (a "blue vest") that had a dull job so she wouldn't be bored. I wish I had more mazes to give out. Better get sewing to be ready for 2020!

Friday, February 1, 2019
2:00 pm

The Sandbox took a while to disassemble, and I really appreciated those folks who were able to extend their time serving others in the Sandbox. I actually had time to grab lunch (from Subway across the street) and eat it with Alanna King, Lisa Noble, and Christy denHaan-Veltman in the Speakers Lounge. Christy was here as the representative of the BCTLA. She's a former TDSB TL and we had the chance to hang out off-and-on during the three days of the conference. The 2:00 pm time slot was the last section for a variety of workshops, prior to the closing keynote. The three OSLA tagged workshops were Demonstrable Value: School Libraries by the Numbers by Marc d'Avernas, Get Your Game On with the Game of P.I.E. (Plagiarism and Integrity Education) by Richard Sims, and Microaggressions in Your School Library by Gemsy Joseph and Deborah Haines.

I have been dying (not literally but figuratively) to hear Gemsy deliver this talk since last year, when she debuted a version of it at a TDSB professional learning event. I couldn't attend it then because my own session was scheduled for the same time slot, and I couldn't attend it fully at the OLA SuperConference because all SuperConference planners were expected to report to Room 105 to be ready to go on stage for official photos and to be thanked. It was with great reluctance that I left that room to do my duties. I learned a lot even during the short time that I was there (like understanding how posting photos of the past administrators on the walls might have a negative impact on some students and could be a microaggression). Thank goodness Gemsy and Deborah's session was recorded by VoicEd!

I also lost my lipstick for the second time at conference. I lost it the first time around 4:00 pm on Thursday and by some minor miracle, Alanna found it for me in one of the conference rooms. Since one of my vanity goals is to have lovely tinted lips like our amazing SuperConference leader, Michelle Arbuckle, I was carrying around the lipstick so I could reapply it just before all the photo-taking on-stage - and I lost it again Friday afternoon. (I think my tweet about my lost lipstick garnered more attention and response than any of my #OLASC tweets!)

Friday, February 1, 2019
3:00 pm

The conference closing Keynote was CBC's The Debaters, doing a live version of their beloved show. Steve Patterson, Deanne Smith and Arthur Simeon generated a lot of laughs with their stand-up routines and their mock debate on whether we should get rid of librarians in the age of Google. Once again, planners had to exit early to prepare for their final task, sharing gum for the road and offering champagne for a final 25th anniversary toast.

Friday, February 1, 2019
7:00 pm

Yes, I said that my final duty was to distribute treats, so why wasn't I home? I chatted at length with Ruth Gretsinger, Heather (the new Toronto representative for OSLA Council), Rose Dotten, and others. Whenever there's a party and Joel Krentz and I are both present, chances are good that we will be the absolute LAST to leave. It happened at the OSLA AGM and it happened after the closing keynote. Then, I helped the OLA staff pack up their cars and vans. After that, I went to The Beguiling and Little Island Comics, where they were hosting a post-conference social for librarians of all stripes and types. I was tired but glad to talk to the wise and wonderful Andrew Woodrow-Butcher, the always positive Jordan Graham (Professional Library @ TDSB), and meet some new comics folks like Lindsay, Gemma, Amie and Matthew. (The photo below is of me and Ruth.) I made it home to my family closer to 9:00 pm

There are so many people I should thank, in closing. I know I'll miss some. Thanks Michelle Arbuckle, technically the Drector of Member Engagement and Education at OLA but in our hearts is the OLA SuperConference head honcho and main Mom. Thanks Zack O, Jacqueline, Zack M, Matthew, Alex, Megan, Andrew, Ben, Michelle G, Lee, Veronique, Jennifer, Desmond, Michelle L, Nancy, Karen, Amanda, Elizabeth, Angela and Manda, the SuperConference planners. Thanks Alanna King, my OSLA co-planner and Energizer bunny. Thanks to all the presenters, vendors, and attendees. I will be the senior OSLA conference planner for 2020 and Kate Johnson-McGregor will be my junior partner. We are excited to try our best to best represent the entire school library sector and select the best possible sessions for everyone's professional learning. Wish us luck!

OLA SuperConference 2019 Abridged Reflections Part 2 - "The Best Possible Outcome"

This is a continuation of my photos and experiences at this year's 2019 OLA SuperConference. The subtitle for Part 2 is "The Best Possible Outcome". Many people asked me about how I felt about the results of the meeting that inspired last week's blog post, and my common refrain was that it was the "best possible outcome" - not wonderful, not terrible, but considering the circumstances, the path that was the most beneficial to take. Despite that one hour looming large, there was plenty to see, hear and do before and after.

Dinner the night before at a lovely restaurant could have also ended with a bad taste in our mouths, but I hope that things will proceed like how that late-night dinner ended - with an admission that mistakes were made on both sides but that a positive resolution that satisfied all parties was found.

 Thursday, January 31, 2019
8:00 am

Duties begin early. Alanna and I started with the TALCO (The Association of Library Consultants of Ontario) AGM and breakfast. I skipped the 9:00 am Keynote address by Robyn Doolittle to help out at the front desk with participants who needed to collect their badge holders, print their badges, or deal with registration issues.

Thursday, January 31, 2019
10:45 am

Attendees really like sessions that have hands-on components to them. While Alanna took care of the session Let's Get Together: School and Academic Librarians Unite to Tackle the IL Gap Between Secondary and Post-Secondary Education, I helped convenor extraordinaire Dawn Telfer support Stephanie Morris and JEn Taylor with their talk, called Investigating Makerspace: Tools and Strategies to Support and Engage All Learners. A huge crowd attended (123, based on my count) and there were so many activities to try. I bonded with a new friend over at the paper craft area - I'd share the photo I took of her with the simple-but-stunning card she made, but I don't have her permission. I'll have to locate her email and send the picture to her directly. I think I want to invest in either a button maker or those magnetic shapes that can create 3D solids. Once again, participation at one event meant forgoing another event. There were two amazing spotlights on at 10:45 am, the Public Libraries Spotlight by Ryan Dowd on the The Librarian's Guide to Homelessness and the Intellectual Freedom Spotlight by James Turk, Pilar Martinez and Michael Vonn entitled What is Hate Speech, and What Do We Do About It?

Thursday, January 31, 2019
12:30 pm

No pictures here. It was the OLA AGM, rescheduled from 9:00 am. The atmosphere was tense. Proxies were arranged and people even attended online using Adobe Connect. Those in favour of and against the motion being proposed made decent points. In the end, someone brought to the floor an alternate motion, recommending that a committee, consisting of representation by all impacted stakeholders, be formed to deal with the language of the by-law and that a recommendation be made two months before the next OLA AGM. Even though there were enough bodies and votes to strike down the original motion, I think it was better to decide on this path of action. It was the best possible outcome. The next steps won't be easy. Despite the "best possible outcome", there were a lot of hurt and stressed out people exiting that meeting. As someone told me, a lot of healing is going to need to occur, especially since Peter Roger (former OSLA and OLA president) pointed out that this is an issue that has plagued the organization for 40 years and has been the downfall of one version of the Canadian equivalent organization. I know it negatively tinged some of my OLA SuperConference experience. I just hope we can move forward.

Thursday, January 31, 2019
2:00 pm

This was probably the busiest time slot for OSLA sessions. Three started at 2:00 pm and continued 'til 3:30, and two more started at 2:50 pm and ended at the same time as the others. Another started at 2:00 pm and ended at 2:40 and I missed it completely, to my great disappointment. I really wanted to see Game-Based Learning Using Minecraft in the Learning Commons because of the speaker, the inspirational Jen Apgar, who was a wonderful last-minute replacement for a speaker who was unable to come. I got to see five-minute chunks of Doing Data: A Fun and Innovative Way to Count What Matters by Caroline Freibauer and Anita Brooks-Kirkland, Make Writing: Making Creating and Communicating by Melanie Mulcaster, Angela Stockman, and Amanda Williams-Yeagers, and Fostering Wellness in the LLC: Stories from Around the Board by Enid Wray, Caroline Schoales, and Adrienne Kennedy. Alanna checked in on Learning and Unlearning: Coordinating Cultural Competency Training for Information Professionals, as well as Beyond "Evidence": Narrative and Graphic Mental Health Literature in a Clinical Collection. Stephen Hurley continued to record audio for VoicEd Radio and we also had Peter Skillen donate books to distribute for free. Books were shared at the OSLA Council-run session at 3:45 pm How School Libraries Advocate for the People! An Advocacy Story (as well as at the OSLA AGM and Friday's Sandbox). At 3:45 pm I was monitoring Tough Topics: Talking to Children about Prejudice, Tragedy and Online Safety with Dr. Jillian Roberts, but convenor Lauren Flattery had things in control so solidly that I was able to briefly take a peek at the Expo Hall, filled with exceptional authors, great vendors and super swag. I didn't have time to grab anything for myself, but at least I made it up there. Another "if I only could clone myself" would have been to visit Helanie Becker as she talked about The Next Wave: Diversity in Picture Book Biographies, as well as a session that was so crowded that people were spilling into the hall to listen, Dismantling the Resilience Narrative: Honest Talk about Burnout, Morale Issues and Negative Workplace Culture in Our Libraries.

Thursday, January 31, 2019
5:30 pm

The OSLA AGM was held in an unique space in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Saunders Book Company sponsored the event, for which we are extremely grateful. I know I needed a beverage and a snack around this time of the day, despite filling my pockets with granola bars and portable munchies to keep me energized throughout the day. The president and treasurer report was shared, the new council was introduced and we had awards. Congratulations to Amanda Chapman, the OSLA Administrator of the Year, Leigh Cassell and the Live Learning Canada - digital Human Library won the OSLA Award for Special Achievement, and we had two OSLA Teacher-Librarians of the Year, Kate Tuff and Glenn Turner. We also hosted the OLA Technical Services Award, which went to the Library Support Services Team from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. My job at the AGM involved furniture relocation, award distribution, and photography.

Thursday, January 31, 2019
8:00 pm

A planner's work is never done. After the OSLA AGM (and some great conversation with Joel Krentz and Andrea Sykes), I was supposed to attend both the Karaoke Pub Night and the Games Night Social. I could only make the Games Night event. I didn't get to play any games and I skipped dinner, but I had some more wonderful conversations with Connie Scott, Michelle Goodridge, and Matthew Rohweder. Although I ended the night earlier than Wednesday (10:30 vs midnight), I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally, but I had a sense that I tried my best and did as much as I could ("enough", one might say) and that I had to let go and be ready for the next day.

OLA SuperConference 2019 Abridged Reflections Part 1 - "The Quiet Day"

I have attended the Ontario Library SuperConference for a very long time. I first presented there in 2000 and if the records in my photo albums, on my wiki and my blog are correct, the only times I have not attended the #OLASC after that date were in 2002, 2006, and last year, 2018. (Technically, last year I was present at the Super Conference Planners meeting but spent too much money at AASL to be able to afford going to both AASL and OLA.)
My favourite photo taken of me at OLASC
Credit to photographer Anita Brooks-Kirkland
Me and my partner in crime, Alanna King

It is traditional for me to write my reflections on my blog, summarizing sessions, highlighting key points and revealing my "so what" next steps. I don't think I can give my "report" in quite the same way for 2019. Experiencing the conference from the point of view of a planner, like some of my wonderful OSLA planners before me (Alanna King, Jess Longthorne, Sarah Oesch, Joel Krentz, Lauren Flattery, and many others) is a completely different experience. It is both more and less - more altruistic, less self-centered; more sessions to check in on and ensure things are going smoothly for all attendees, less workshops to personally attend for a significant length of time. Some observations should only be shared with our SuperConference Planning Team, as they are behind-the-scenes deliberations that are not meant to be negative but serve to improve next year's conference. I think that this year, instead of my regular structure, I'll provide "snapshots" and some abridged reflections of the event.

ETA: As I began to write, I realized that there was NO way it would all fit into one post. Therefore, I'm creating three separate blog posts. Day 1 is subtitled "The Quiet Day" because I was told that Wednesday, the first day, is the quietest of the three days of SuperConference. You may disagree after reading about what took place.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
4:00 pm
After trying unsuccessfully to carry all my luggage to the bus stop, I gave up and drove downtown. Driving downtown was a dream! I was parked and in my hotel room before 5:00 pm!
It's very important to like and work well with your division co-planner. My co-planner was the incomparable Alanna King. Tuesday evening prior to the 6:00 pm on-site All-Planners meeting was the first of many times that Alanna and I sat down to ensure we were organized and prepared. We also did wellness checks on each other. Dinner in "The Vault" at The Loose Moose was lovely! (Alanna, that was Tuesday, right?)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
8:00 am
We were lucky to have Stephen Hurley from VoicEd Radio come to the conference to live stream and record for later broadcast several of the sessions. We met early in the morning to give him a tour of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and guarantee that he knew where to find the first presentation he was scheduled to record, a 9:00 am talk called Diversity at Your Library: Effective Strategies, Best Practices, and Lessons Learnt by Nadia Caiki, Andrea Cecchetta, and Louise Reimer. I worked the front desk, helping wonderful people like the 2018 OLBA President Mariam Hamou alongside library school volunteers assembling lanyards.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
10:30 am
Jess Longthorne and Jacquie Raycraft from the Simcoe County District School Board gave a great talk called Using the Outdoors to Power Up Your Library Learning Commons. It was well attended (43 people squeezed into the room) and I know my next step is to learn from Jess how to do an outdoor story walk (and get access to her slide deck). That would be a perfect fit for my Platinum Eco-School!

Alanna took care of two other OSLA sponsored sessions at this time: Finding Your Voice:Engaging with the OLA Advocacy Toolkit (Dawn Telfer and Jesse Carliner) and Phenomenal Learning for Young Learners and Activists (Greg Harris, Stephanie Tosh, Jamie Taylor and Alicia Dart Shaw). I got some great photos from Sarah Oesch's session, called EmPowering Our Youngest People: Storytime Sessions as a Transitional Tool for Pre-JK Students and Their Families. Our friend Jennifer Casa-Todd did a great job with her session, Virtual Reality and Your Library Learning Commons that started at 11:20 am.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
1:00 pm

We could really use one of Hermione Granger's time-turners during the SuperConference. Thanks to Alanna's simple but sufficient lunch she pre-packed and stored in her room, we were able to claw back some time that eating would, pardon the pun, eat up. Still, there's never enough time in the day. I would have loved to been a fly on the wall at the OLITA Technology spotlight to hear Dr. Safiya Noble speak. (She wrote the book that my AML friends have frequently referenced, Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism.) Alanna was able to squeeze in some time to see the Careers Spotlight speaker, Melissa Nightingale (author of How F*cked Up Is Your Management? An Uncomfortable Conversation About Modern Leadership) at 9:00 am and she liked it. I needed to be at my friend Lisa Noble's talk called Organizing Your Digital Closet: The What, Why and How of Curation. Heavens knows I need some better curation systems for my personal life. Lisa's introductory activity taught me that I'm not a totally lost cause; I do have some curator tendencies, but choosing the right tool will help keep, sort, and organize information more effectively. I plan on trying out Diigo, Symbaloo, and/or Wakelet. Lisa's URL for her talk is Simultaneously, Alanna took care of the needs of the popular talk by Jennifer Thiessen, Colleen MacKinnon, and Amanda Pemberton, Beyond CRAAP: Critical Thinking in the Age of Fake News.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
 2:30 pm

All OLA conference sessions are assigned a convenor that is meant to assist the presenters with whatever needs they might have prior to their session. Convenors introduce the presenters, read scripted announcements that are required to be shared, and other duties. My friend Ruth Gretsinger convened this very well-attended talk by David Zambrano, Christopher Su, and Kate Wetmore (employees of the Markham Public Library) called Transforming Your Library into a STEAM Learning Hub Through Camps. I was glad to be around, because this dynamic crew had a lot of things they brought for their participants to explore. These photos are just a small portion of the shots I took - and these are just ones with no faces included. At the same time, Alanna was supporting the talk Mind the Gap! Information Literacy Challenges, Needs and Opportunities for Students' Transition from High School to University / College  by Kate Johnson-McGregor, Sarah Shujah, Sophie Bury, Samhita Gupta and Christopher Tomansini. The Indigenous Spotlight speaker, Tanya Talaga, was also sharing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
4:00 pm

Keynotes are sessions that are deemed to be of interest to all OLA conference attendees. As such, nothing is scheduled at the same time as the keynotes, and there are only three keynotes, one per day. Our Wednesday keynote, at 4:00 pm was Micah White, activist, educator, author and the co-creator of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It was a good talk and it challenged some of our assumptions about activism. He provided an illuminating allegory about pigeons in a research study. One received food every time it pecked a lever. The second received food every second time. The third received food at random intervals. At some point, the researchers disabled the lever's connection to food. The first and second pigeons stopped pecking the lever after a try or two. The third pigeon never stopped pecking. Micah said we have to stop acting like the third pigeon, using the same strategy in the vain hope that things will change. He said that despite all the environmental activism of the past 30 years, we are in dire straits and we need to change our approach.

The interesting part of being a planner is that we are actually scheduled to attend socials and our job is to have a good time and make sure others are having a good time. Our All-Conference Welcome Party started at 5:30 pm. The theme was "Dragged Out of the 90s" to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the OLA SuperConference. As such, we had many things that linked to the past. (I got to see my friend Jessica who had some Rubik Cubes for people to play.) The centerpiece was a performance by two talented drag queens, who lip-synched to some 1990s classic stars, like Britney Spears, old-school Beyonce, and the Spice Girls.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Is teaching devalued in 2019?

Sometimes I wish no one read my blog.

My blog is a place where I consider the significant events of the past or upcoming week and reflect on the educational implications. Some of the things that are swirling in my head this week are thoughts that disturb and distress me. The way I try and make sense of them might accidentally insult some people if they read it the wrong way, which is why part of me hopes no one will see it and take offence. However, these are topics that should not be hidden. This week, there were four events that made me ask myself if teaching is devalued.

Hubby sent me flowers to keep my spirits up!

1) Grade 11 Math and Terrific Tutors

My son is in Grade 11 and he is taking the final math course of his high school career (Grade 11 Functions). He has been struggling with some of the content and earning marks below what he'd like to receive. We met with his teacher on Parent Teacher Interview night, and I'll be honest, we didn't feel very reassured after the conversation. My son needed help, especially since his final exam is scheduled for Tuesday, January 29. Thank goodness I know some amazing educators. I called up a close friend that I've known since we were together in the Faculty of Education at York University and he agreed to tutor my son. After the first session, my teen boy was smiling, feeling more positive, and said that he finally understood certain concepts. After the second session, I could see his confidence growing. The name of this amazing math teacher is Robin McCabe. (More on Robin in a bit.)

Robin, Diana and Angela, Dec. 30/17

The funny thing is that my daughter was in a similar situation a few years back. She was not doing well academically in her Grade 11 Math class. Her math teacher (a different one from my son's current instructor) said to me during Parent Teacher Interviews that she had no clue why my daughter was not achieving success. The teacher reported that my eldest paid attention in class, completed homework, and asked questions but that she just could not understand why this did not equal improved performance. The teacher did not have any strategies or suggestions for us. Back then, I reached out to a teacher on my staff with an extensive math background and strong teaching techniques to tutor my daughter. With only three short meetings, Brenda Kim helped my child go from a failing grade to a 75% final mark. (I would have asked her again to help my youngest, but she is currently on maternity leave.)

Ms Kim & my girl, circa July 2017 at MakerEdTO

I asked Robin why Grade 11 Functions was such a minefield of challenges. He explained that the course design is flawed and that there is a lot of pressure to give a surface overview of many different topics (e.g. trigonometry, functions, etc) instead of going deeper. He also admitted that many teachers just aren't sure how to explain or teach some of these concepts, especially to students who don't understand the first time or way an idea is introduced. He says that sometimes a different approach or explanation will help a student comprehend easier. Doesn't that sound like good teaching?

Now, before the argument can be made that tutoring is a one-on-one situation and it's easier to help a student when they are the only body to worry about, I should point out that Robin is a high school math teacher. He teaches Grade 11 Functions. His class average is usually 10 percentage points above the other math sections and he covers all the required content. What is different is how Robin teaches the material. Teaching matters and if teaching (and teachers) matter, then you can understand why I might be a bit unsettled about the next three areas.

2) Doug Ford and the Primary Cap

I know that the current provincial government is not exactly a "friend" to teachers. Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Education Lisa Thompson, and their team have cancelled indigenous curriculum writing sessions that had already been scheduled, established a "snitch line" to tattle on teachers who dared to teach the 2015 Health and Physical Education curriculum (since teachers were told to go back to the 1998 version), and made serious negative changes to OSAP (post-secondary student loans). The current government loudly touted "the largest public consultation in Ontario education history" but then downplayed the results when the response did not align with what they hoped would occur. The latest move is the possible removal of the "primary cap"by no longer limiting Grade 1-3 classes to a maximum of 20 students.

This is bad news on so many levels. Part of my job this year is a SERT (Special Education Resource Teacher) for the primary classes in my school. Even with two trained adults in the room, it can be a challenge to help all the students in the class. I have to admit I was in awe last Friday watching how much patience Tina Voltsinis had with a resistant writer in her Grade 3 class. She used so many tricks from her "teaching tool-bag", from offering to scribe for him to altering the assignment to make it more appealing to him, to addressing his social and emotional needs as he ranted and acted out. He took a huge chunk of her time, energy and attention - and this is in a "capped" class of 20. It makes me feel like the current government doesn't appreciate true teaching. They'd prefer the cheapest method of supervising children, even if it means their education might be compromised. Don't they care about the quality of teaching?

3) Marriage Prep Facilitation and a New Direction

Last Thursday, we had a meeting of our parish's marriage preparation class facilitators. I thought the meeting was mostly just going to be a quick review of the number of participants that have registered, our class location, and other logistics. Turns out, our parish priest would like us to consider using a new resource and a new approach. If I understand it correctly, the sessions would consist of a 30 minute video, followed by small groups answering questions in the participant book and then having the couple complete further book questions together as a pair. My husband and my priest could see the obvious concern and resistance on my face. I wasn't happy with this proposed change. It took some time, distance, and observations made by my husband (who sometimes knows me better than I know myself) to understand my strong negative reaction. In this new approach, the facilitator doesn't matter, because there's no actual teaching involved. This has the "benefit" of being a more "effective" way of disseminating information and ideas because it isn't dependent on the skills or talents of those leading the sessions. If anyone can do it, then why should I do it? I'm worried that this makes me sound like a "teacher snob". I volunteered for this ministry because I thought I could use my teacher training to help others with this important sacrament. Is this what the Khan Academy is like? If this is what is involved, then I am uncertain that I want to devote my time to it anymore. My dear friend and comfort Lisa Noble reminded me that for some of us, teaching is a vocation and it is okay to walk away from something if what they require is not what I was prepared to offer. I'll be seriously contemplating my two focus words for 2019 ("enough" and "labour") as I decide my next steps.

4) Changes to the OSLA

Since this information is time-sensitive (i.e. I am not allowed to talk about it until a notification has been released to members) I will communicate this section in the meantime only using emojis.



I am dismayed because of an upcoming meeting at what should be a wonderful, celebratory event. At the upcoming OLA SuperConference, on Thursday, January 31, at the OLA AGM, a proposal to alter the OSLA by-laws is on the table. The suggestion is to remove all mention of teaching and teacher-librarians. The reason for this change is supposedly to be more inclusive of other school library personnel.

As you can imagine, I strongly disagree with this course of action. It has taken years of advocacy and effort to try and ensure that school libraries are adequately staffed by qualified people and I suspect that the removal of descriptive terms would allow school boards to fill these positions in ways that will not necessarily benefit the students, but act as cheaper alternatives. It is often said that the school library is the heart of the school and the largest, best-equipped classroom. Why would we want to remove teachers from the classroom? Staffing should not be seen as an either/or situation. As the OLA page on School Library Issues states, “Effective school library programs include teacher-librarians with library qualifications, library technicians and support staff” (citation -

Many research studies, including local investigations such as the ones conducted by People For Education, indicate there is a correlation between the presence of teacher-librarians in schools and reading enjoyment and academic achievement (see )

I fear that the loss of specific language geared to teacher-librarians in the guidelines of our biggest subject-association representative would be detrimental to advocacy efforts and deadly to the profession, opening the door to cuts. The way this change to the wording is being suggested feels poorly thought out and potentially rushed through. If we want inclusion, why not include? Don’t cross out any and all references to teaching; instead, take the time to craft a statement that mentions and protects other trained school library staff members.

This proposal will be voted on at the OLA AGM on Thursday, January 31 at 9:00 a.m. - if you are a teacher-librarian who is attending SuperConference 2019, please try to attend this meeting, as this suggestion will be put to a vote. Please show that teaching (even, or especially in the school library) is still valued.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Race - the "bad" word we need to examine closer

I attached this Bitmoji to a recent email I sent, more as a reminder for me than the recipient.
I can feel my stress increasing, as I try to complete report card marks/comments, finish reading Forest of Reading books so I can chat with students, and handle the many loose ends associated with co-managing the OSLA strand of the Ontario Library Association's Super Conference which occurs in less than two weeks. (Thank you again to my wonderful co-chair, Alanna King, for forgiving me for my thoughtless words as well as your patience and guidance.) Another reason why my cortisol level was higher than normal was due to an event I read about on Twitter that upset me greatly - and made me realize how very important the new book club I joined is to me and my own development as an educator and as a human being.

I guess I should back up. Let me talk about my book club first, since our first meeting was on Friday, January 18, before all this stuff happened on the weekend. A fellow educator, Dr. Ken MacKinnon, put a call out on Twitter inviting people to join a book club. The book is called White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo.

I need this book. My own journey to being an anti-bias educator is a long one. As I told the other members of the book club, my pre-service teacher education program at York University had a strong anti-bias foundation. However, what good is a strong foundation if you don't build something stable on it? I've debated for years about sharing on this blog one of the worst teaching mistakes of my career so that I could bring my shame out in the open so I could learn more from the experience. However, decades later, it's still hard for me to discuss. My Mentor AQ course, led by Karen Murray and Jennifer Watt, has been another helpful guide on the journey. 

I'm making a concentrated effort to have these uncomfortable conversations more frequently with my students as part of their units of study. (Don't congratulate me on my "bravery"; really, I'm not doing enough [my 2019 One Word focus] in this area.) This time last year I examined the racist background of the term monkey. During our fashion show inquiry in 2017, I had to push students to even be willing to mention race at all in their observations. Term one's inquiry for the junior division students this school year was about power and we examined aspects of social identity to help us understand how power intersects with these identities. That was challenging to complete because the students hadn't had many opportunities to discuss these topics in this way before. Even I was at a loss for words at times. My friend Jen Apgar helped me immensely by pointing me in the direction of the Genderbread website ( and I found other resources to help me explain some terms, but I couldn't find and had a hard time explaining why in our society at this time, we use the words "white" and "black" but not "red" or "yellow" to describe certain races.

Our next media unit of study is about hair and we'll be combining our understanding of power and identity with our examination of hair. When we recently watched a disturbing video clip of the teen wrestler getting his hair unceremoniously and brutally chopped off because a referee said his hair was against the rules (even though he had competed earlier in the tournament), during the class discussion, one student got quite agitated and said, "We aren't black and I don't like it when people use that word. We are brown! We are caramel! We are not black!"

I want to respect her wishes, but I'm also worried, because a lot of the materials we'll be accessing use the term "black". Just because it won't be easy doesn't mean we should shy away from discussing things. That's why I'm really grateful for this supportive book club. I have to confess that I was a little intimidated at first - there are a lot of principals in this group and I'm "just" a teacher. However, Ken made it clear that these distinctions mean nothing in our book club and that we are all learners. We discussed the first two chapters over breakfast. Here's a photo of the group as well as some key quotes from the first part of the book.

I was not taught to see myself in racial terms and certainly not to draw attention to my race or the behave as if it mattered in any way. Of course, I was made aware that somebody's race mattered, and if race was discussed, it would be theirs, not mine. ... the first challenge: naming our race. (page 7)
When we try to talk openly and honestly about race, white fragility quickly emerges as we are so often met with silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude and other forms of pushback. ... These [social forces that stop us from discussing race] include the ideologies of individualism and meritocracy, narrow and repetitive media representations of people of color, segregation in schools and neighborhoods, depiction of whiteness as the human ideal, truncated history, jokes an warning, taboos on opening talking about race, and white solidarity. (page 8)
If your definition of a racist is someone who holds conscious dislike of people because of race, then I agree that it is offensive for me to suggest that you are racist when I don't know you. ... I am not using this definition of racism, and I am not saying that you are immoral. (page 13)  
There are some great reflection questions on pages 14 and 35, and I'm going to need to explore them further (and not necessarily as publicly as on this blog).

The reason why I found our book club meeting so timely was because of some video footage shared on Twitter of some young, white, high school students who were mocking and intimidating a man, Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder, who was in Washington DC as part of a protest. (Search terms like #NathanPhillips or #CovingtonCatholic if you need more details. Be aware though that many of the mainstream news media's headlines minimize the race aspect of the incident.) I won't share the video or images here, because I find them quite unsettling to watch. There are a lot of contradictory messages that come out at a time like this, especially with regards to "how we should react".

  • Say something to condemn the action (immediately), otherwise it appears like you don't care, don't notice, or worry it will "hurt your brand"
  • Don't shoot your mouth off, talking about stuff you don't know much about
  • Let native people take the lead on the next steps
  • Take the lead on next steps, don't leave it to those who are mocked
  • Call for punishment, or forgiveness, or education, or next steps for those involved
I needed time to think, so I used some of Robin DiAngelo's book to help shape my thoughts. I won't share what it is I'll be doing on a local level, because I don't want to center myself or my experiences in this discussion. It's not about me, it's about so much more. Others, like Shana White, have been working at and thinking about this much longer than I have. Her blog post can be found at 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Staff room: Sanctuary or source of stress? (PS Board games make it better)

This past week, I spent a great deal of time in the staff room. I eat lunch there daily but there were other reasons for an extended stay. On Friday, we had a union representative come to talk to the staff. On Thursday, a bunch of us played a board game called "Imagine". On Wednesday, I left my copy of "What Do You Meme" for teachers to explore. (Note: playing this game "as is" will probably get you written up in the OCT's blue pages, as it is similar to the game "Cards Against Humanity". I only use a few of the cards as examples of memes, and a wonderful new TDSB teacher, Ms Barriga-Viera,  used some selected cards with her Grade 7 students as a first-day activity.) We also had a former EA pop by to visit and she came to the staff room to chat with colleagues.

The "teachers playing board games during lunch" activity is a relatively recent development at our school. Jennifer Balido-Cadavez explained the history of it for me.
We actually started this waaay before the holidays when Tina [Voltsinis] was asking what games were good for her daughters for Christmas. I mentioned the game Spot It and it just so happened that [Diana] Hong has a few sets at school. Steve [Tong], Dean [Roberts] Farah [Wadia], Hong, Tina and I began playing them for fun and then from there it just became a weekly habit during lunch! ... It actually was all about Spot It and various versions Hong had in her class then we expanded to the games you offered to us ... The vibe lightens up when we play, a bunch of good laughs are heard, competitiveness is shown, new connections to others are made and overall we just have a lot of fun!

 How serendipitous that we had that visit by Board Game Bliss to our school - I know many of our staff members have ordered games from them and as Jen mentioned, we've started to try out some of these games during lunch. Many of us realize that, despite the demands on our time, especially with report cards looming, we need a mental health break just like the students.

What reinforced this idea and pushed me to turn it into a blog post was Rolland Chidiac's question on Twitter. (Note for those using assistive technology to read this post: the embedded Twitter image says "Teachers: Do you eat in your staff room? If not, why? If so, why?" and my answer below says "I do eat in my staff room. Why? We have LEWIS (lunch every Wednesday is salad) where teachers bring items. Space is big enough. Good time to relax (lately teachers have been playing board games at lunch). We do have lunch clubs and need to mark but we go up briefly")

 I checked the responses to Rolland's thread, as there were many, and there were different answers and explanations, as you can imagine.

Those who replied YES said it was because
- it was a place to destress / decompress / unwind (Melinda) (Alisha) (John) (Lisa)
- it was a safe, positive space (Lisa)
- it offered time to connect (Sharon)
- for pot lucks and soup days (Jim) and other treats/food (Kelly) (Lynn)
- students are in the class for lunch so no time to prep in there (Laurel)
- it was a place for adult conversation (Claudia) (Elizabeth) (Karen)
- for consolidating friendships / relationships (Ken) and professional dialogue (Anne)
- it was a place to have fun and recharge (Amy) (Katherine)
- it was a place to share ideas / strategies / resources and learn about students / each other informally (Ray) (Spencer)
- it's a time where they don't talk about school (Sarah) (Leann)
- of the same reasons kids eat with their friends (Drew)

Those who replied NO said it was because
- it was a place of gossip (Melinda) (Ms. R), drama / negativity (Michele)
- use time instead to plan or offer student activities or allow students equitable digital access (Paolo) (Danesa) (Morgan)
- the need to be alone to get refreshed (Sharon) or find quiet (Peter)
- it was a place where teachers just complain about students (Claudia) ("the C")
- the time could be used to eat/work/bond with students (Jennifer) (Chelsea) (Jodi)
- it was a place where students and parents were trashed, and awkward excluding conversations happened (Matthew)
- it's part of school culture to sit with your students to eat (Nicholas)
- use time for work so can leave school at a decent time (Kim) (Melissa)
- the space is uncomfortable (Mr. T) or gross (Magistra)
- it's unproductive time (Dawn)
- the space is too small (Bridget), too far (Breanna), or non-existent (Karen)
- there's no time (Carol) (Meghan) (Julie) or too busy (Rosemarie)
- introvert nature (Tashia)
- too many people use the space (Christyn)

I had to stop scrolling through that long thread, so apologies if I didn't include people's ideas. Of course, Rolland did a better job of summarizing the results:

So, how important is it for teachers to be in a staff room? Is it possible to change a toxic space? Is this just another version of my musings on staff parties? It's interesting that there seemed to be more "no" answers than "yes" answers. I hope Rolland writes his own lengthy analysis of the remarks.

What I've noticed is that incorporating board games has made the staff room more friendly and inclusive. In that quote I got from Jen Balido-Cadavez, she mentioned the names of nine staff members who have played one of the games at some point during lunch. We aren't a big staff, so to have that many people involved is very encouraging. Factor in that some teachers run clubs during lunch so they aren't there, and a group of teachers are part of a lunch walking group, and that makes the number more impressive.