Monday, August 29, 2011

Why does T4L=despair for some?

 On Wednesday August 24, 2011 I had the pleasure of working with twenty-five teacher-librarians at the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board's annual summer institute. My session was called "A Little Learning Commons Can Go A Long Way" and after a brief round of People Bingo and a Prezi-fueled talk, much of the time was participant-driven as people circulated among five centres based on key elements from the OSLA vision document Together For Learning. The teacher-librarians were encouraged to set their own personal goal and see if it could match with one of the sections involved in developing a learning commons. Near the end of the workshop, the group talked about the one thing they were going to try to do this year. Some of the answers really inspired and impressed me.
  • start writing an annual report and share it with people in the school
  • write up some teaching ideas and strategies as "lesson plans" to show administrators what we teach
  • buy a camera and start documenting via photos some great things happening in the library
  • make a blog but target it for the teachers so that more professional dialogue can occur
  • start a wiki with the students and a teacher to show that we aren't "just book pushers"
  • use the "paper blogging" idea to introduce the idea of sharing information and privacy
  • restart the area's "Battle of the Books" using the Forest of Reading and social media
This was a motivated, friendly and eager group of educators. They were also honest - and they confessed that Together For Learning often left them feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. This was not supposed to be the purpose of the document. It was an outline of what's possible, of why teacher-librarians and school libraries are so important and still matter in the 21st century. Yet, this isn't the first time T4L has been misinterpreted or done the opposite of its original intent. Remember that school board that was going to close all their school libraries and distribute the books to the classrooms? They rationalized their decision by quoting T4L, explaining that they wanted to create Learning Commons, technology areas that everyone could use. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water!

I'm not exactly sure why T4L elicits this sort of response. In my brief introductory chat with the DPCDSB teacher-librarians, I used the following analogy.
Some people, after reading T4L or attending a workshop, feel like this is a vision of their school library - a place or program that is insufficient, has holes, lacks key things. It's a deficit model. "My school library is no good - I don't have (flexible partnering time / a decent budget / a full library staffing allocation / many computers). Teacher-librarians are left feeling sad about what they have.
I encouraged the listeners to take a different point of view.
Look at your school library more like this.
Yes, it may be small, but you're doing a good job.
And look at those openings.
Those are openings for new possibilities.

So add something new.
Try a new teaching strategy.Borrow a laptop.
Let the students choose the next book to read.
You've still got your school library, but with just a bit more.
When that change is successful, try adding something more.
Squeeze in a new collaboration.
Try a new Web 2.0 tool as part of a unit.
Through deliberate "baby steps", you can make your school library a learning commons, the hub of a flexible and responsive approach to learning collaboratively. If anyone has any insights on how we can transform the despair felt by some after reading T4L into inspiration, please comment below.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Get By With A Little Help From My ...

I did not write about my IASL conference last Thursday because I was at the home of a friend of mine. She, along with two other colleagues, are part of a very special PLN of mine. We try to meet as regularly as our hectic schedules will allow us and often have to be quite creative to make these meetings possible. I've learned so much from each of them and I hope they realize how valuable they are to me as people and as professionals. I used to be quite hesitant to name people publicly on my blog but as I learn more about creating positive digital footprints, I realize that giving credit where credit is due can't be wrong. So, big kudos to:

Lisa Dempster (@LisaJDempster on Twitter)
Lisa is a secondary school teacher-librarian and she gives me such an important glimpse into the issues high school TLs navigate. Lisa taught me about using Twitter for professional learning. Lisa has also taught me, through example, how to deal with difficult people without compromising your beliefs. In addition to being a fabulous teacher-librarian that uses social media effectively in her programing, she is the Toronto counselor in the Ontario School Library Association.

Joel Krentz (@JoelKrentz on Twitter)
I enjoy sitting next to Joel when we both attend Superconference because his ideas are contagious and his knowledge deep, and combined with the thought-provoking plenary speakers at the annual library conference, my brain nearly explodes with new information. Joel is an elementary school teacher-librarian and he has helped me in so many ways. The most recent assistance came with his un-stingy sharing of resources from the book trailer project his school worked on. My school re-tooled his original rubric and it was so nice not to re-invent the wheel from scratch. Joel and I worked together on the Red Maple Steering Committee from the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program.

Paul Kay (@PaulPKay on Twitter)
Paul and I quibble, yak, and taunt each other so much that some people erroneously assume we are married! (Just to quell any rumors, this is not the case; both of us are happily married to other [very patient] people who aren't teacher-librarians!) We appeared together on TVOntario with Annie Kidder to talk about school libraries - you can still find the clip on YouTube. Paul encouraged me to try Google Apps for Education. He signed his school up and walked me through the steps for my own school. My principal and I even visited Paul's school to check out the technology equipment he used as part of his teaching. Paul is incredibly supportive, never has "can't" in his vocabulary, and has oodles of ideas he is willing to share. He used to be an elementary school teacher-librarian but recently was promoted to vice-principal and will start his new position this September. He was the past-president (without being the president - a long story) of the Ontario School Library Association.

My descriptions are just the tip of the iceberg - these three people are absolute treasures. Similarities between the three?
  • all are on Twitter, willing and able to use social media and technology responsibly
  • all played roles in the OLA, demonstrating their leadership beyond their schools
  • all are keenly interested in learning and sharing what they learn
Our school board is very fortunate to have three such incredible teacher-librarians. I know I'm grateful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Learning between the Sessions @ #iasl2011

I skipped posting yesterday because I met with a team of teacher-librarians for a combined social and self-directed professional learning session. I'll share some of our discoveries in a post in the next few weeks. Let me return to IASL for a final blog reflection.

A common refrain of mine is that I learn just as much from the conversations I have between workshops as I do from the sessions I attend at conferences. The International Association of School Libraries conference in Kingston, Jamaica, was no different. Here are a few "percolating pots of ideas" gleaned from conversations from August 7-11.

a) Research Projects via Dr. Elizabeth Lee
I'm honoured to consider Elizabeth a friend. While we were in Jamaica, we were able to continue a conversation we've had about a research project I want to undertake. Elizabeth is a university professor familiar with proper research procedures and I am not. While tasting ginips and sipping drinks by the pool, she outlined possible tools to use and ways to analyze the information. I won't go into excessive detail on what my research project will entail, but thanks to Elizabeth's guidance, it's closer to becoming reality. More literature reviews searches for me are in my immediate future. Thank you Elizabeth!

b) Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants via Dr. Barbara McNeil
During the panel on multiple literacies, I asked a question: "The terms 'digital native and digital immigrant' are problematic because they are a fallacy and lead people to thinking that they can't change. What other metaphor can we use to explain the situation?" Anita Brooks Kirkland, an Ontario teacher-librarian, disagreed with the labels and I've accepted and internalized her opinions on the matter, and so I brought it up. Dr. Branch suggested "digital migrant". Dr. Doiron suggested that instead of "we vs them" that it should be "us". Mrs. Roberts did not consider the term to be important or objectionable. Later that night, there was a banquet and auction and I had a chance to speak to Dr McNeil from Regina. She gave me a new perspective on why the terms "digital native and digital immigrant" are problematic and she made a good point, one I had not considered deeply. Being labeled an immigrant suggests that the person is less-than those who are "in the know". As she explained further, I found myself nodding vigorously. Our conversation then veered to finding another analogy to help people understand without alienating or denigrating a particular group. When Dr McNeil came upon a suitable metaphor, I literally got goosebumps! She has promised to write about the idea for The Teaching Librarian in what I think will be a great article.

c) Cross-Country Advocacy via Lourense Das (Netherlands) and Ella Makinza (Namibia)
I had separate conversations with these amazing ladies who are soldiering along against challenging circumstances in their own countries. It made me realize that it's not just in Ontario or in Canada that we struggle to keep effective school library programs afloat. We have some projects lined up between us to help each other with our similar goals, and it is these worldwide endeavors that have me energized and excited.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Appreciations from IASL2011

This was my first time attending the International Association of School Libraries annual conference. There are so many people that made it possible that I really need to thank them, frequently and publicly.

1)  Jeanne Buckley, fellow University of Alberta alumni and Ontario teacher-librarian
It was because of a conversation with Jeanne at the Ontario Library Association's Superconference that encouraged me to take the first step to attending IASL. I was chatting with Jeanne at the Ontario School Library Association's awards reception about her trip east (I believe it was either Hong Kong or Taipei) to present a version of her capping paper. Jeanne said that the 2011 conference would be held in Jamaica, a cheaper location for Canadians to attend than other places, and encouraged me to fill out the proposal form.

2) Dr. Dianne Oberg, my former advisor at the University of Alberta
Although I have given many presentations and workshops in the past, only one other engagement has been based on an academic paper. I didn't realize that my original capping paper (over 35 pages long) did not come close to meeting the specific requirements needed by the IASL. In a panic, I emailed Dr Dianne Oberg, my U of A advisor for help. Not only did she herself edit out 40 000 words, she gave me tips on how to further prune and shape my paper properly. Not once did she scold me for my stupidity or naivete. My conference paper was a lean 10 pages after we were through. If it wasn't for Dianne, my paper would not have "made the grade".

3) Ms. Myrtle Harris, Program Conference Chair
Myrtle was very patient dealing with a "n00b" like me. She kindly extended my deadline so I could repair my paper and answered all my various questions. I had the opportunity to thank her in person on the last day of the conference and she confessed that when she and her staff first received my huge tome, they thought it was a prank or practical joke! It was very comforting to have that contact to email for guidance. Thanks Myrtle!

4) Mrs. Gloria DeFreitas, my mother
Even though Jamaica is not as expensive a destination as Australia, it can still be a challenge for a single-income (or 1.5 income) family, especially one that just had its primary breadwinner take a conference trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia the same year and pay for it without aid. My mother saw this presentation as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and financed the entire trip (with the sole exception of my conference registration fee). She came along with me and was my companion, security guard, assistant, bank machine, on-call photographer, and cultural translator (having lived in British Guiana, another Caribbean country, for 35 years before coming to Canada). She herself had a wonderful time exploring the country with relatives of the other delegates. It was wonderful to share this voyage with her and without her, it would not have been possible. Love you Mom!

5) Dr Paulette Stewart, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee for IASL 2011
It takes an awful lot of work (a year's worth of work, at least) to organize and pull off a conference of this size with people from around the globe. Big thanks should go to Paulette and her team for all the work in creating a memorable conference - the 40th one of its kind and the third to be held in Jamaica. To quote Gerald Brown, fellow Canadian and honourary IASL ambassador in his letter to the group,
I do appreciate the work that is needed just to co-ordinate the committees, and to recruit all the help for the various events.  You did it well.
To this, I say a simple, "ditto". 
 6) Dr Diljit Singh, President of the International Association of School Libraries (and his wife)
 The chief of an international association, insanely busy with meetings, speeches, and all the organization that goes on behind the scenes before and after such an event ... yet Dr. Singh was friendly and welcoming to me, a new attendee. His wife is an absolute treasure and the unofficial social convener for the relatives of the delegates in attendance. She ensured that my mother was among new friends and enjoyed her time visiting a new country.
There are so many others I can mention, but I think they'll fit into the "people who taught me things at IASL" post later this week. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Start tweeting the news about IASL2011

I know there's got to be a much more tech-savvy, sophisticated way to share the tweets made with the #iasl2011 hashtag, but I just don't know it yet. So, I've taken a decidedly primitive route and have copied and pasted. Please forgive the layout! Remember to read from the bottom up, for those of you unaccustomed to Twitter - the most recent tweets are at the top.

Results for #iasl2011

Diana Maliszewski


Diana Maliszewski


Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Older Tweet results for #iasl2011 are unavailable. 
I didn't want to lose the other IASL tweets I made, so these are copied from my personal tweeting record.
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Diana Maliszewski
Now, I hope I don't give the wrong impression that I was the only attendee at the International Association of School Libraries conference! I just happened to be one of the few tweeting about it. It's understandable that there wasn't a flood of tweets about the event like there would be for other conferences. We didn't have an official hashtag for the conference. We did have an Internet cafe at the University of West Indies, but delegates had to make a point of visiting it, and there was so much going on that it wasn't always possible. People did have wi-fi devices but occasionally they'd have some connectivity issues (issues that I even have in my own, wired, school library setting in an urban sector of Canada). 
Another reason explaining the small number of IASL tweeters may reside in the very international makeup of the conference. What I learned about the organization - a fact that impressed me greatly - is that membership and registration fees are aligned with your country of operation. If people want to have a representation from all over the world, it is important to make it financially possible to have people attend from all over the world. Countries are assigned a zone (A, B, or C) and their fees are based on their zone. So, for example IASL membership for a Zone A teacher-librarian is $100 USD, whereas in Zone C, it is $10 USD. Teacher-librarians in other countries may have different priorities than maintaining their own personal Twitter account.

Having said that, I encourage any delegates, even though the conference is over, to tweet about their IASL experiences. With time away to reflect on the messages from the conference, now may be ideal to share insights and spread the news about this great conference to others

Monday, August 15, 2011

IASL Conference 2011

Remember how it feels when you meet with other teacher-librarians from your neighborhood schools to talk? Ever been to a workshop with other teacher-librarians from your school board to discuss? Now imagine attending a conference, not just populated with teacher-librarians from your province (OLA) or your country (CLA), but with teacher-librarians from all over the world. That was my experience attending the International Association for School Libraries conference. This year was the 40th anniversary of the conference and the 2011 version was held in Kingston, Jamaica. I presented a professional paper based on my Masters of Education capping paper, on the factors that support the development of exemplary school library programs. The presentations were interesting but even more important was the chance to meet and network with teacher-librarians around the globe. I tweeted about each of the presentations I attended (and once I figure out how, I'll reproduce the tweets here on the blog). Here are some photos from the conference.

Here was the introductory sign greeting all the delegates. It's proof I was there!

Dr. Ross Todd from Rutgers Univesity (USA) gave one of the keynotes. He's a fantastic speaker and his ideas are thought-provoking.

Dr. Ray Doiron from the University of Prince Edward Island (Canada) spoke about "confronting the crisis of significance in 21st century school libraries".

Dr. Jami Jones from North Carolina (USA) spoke on "developing students' "mini-C" creativity through inquiry". We plan on working together on a journal article in the near future.

Dr. Carol Gordon, also from Rutgers (USA) addressed the crowd on "developing and supporting the 21st century reader".

Dr. Marcia Mardis of Florida (USA) encouraged us to contribute to school library research. I'm in! I'll talk about my research topic when it's further along.

Mark-Shane Scale from Jamaica made some good points on rethinking the role of the teacher-librarian in a post literate society.

The panelists spoke on facilitating multiple literacies (Patricia Roberts, Dr Jennifer Branch, Dr Charles Lambert, Dr. Barbara McNeil with moderator Dr Ray Doiron).

During the closing ceremonies, it is traditional for next year's host country to accept the IASL flag. The 2012 conference will be held in Qatar.

I'll write more about what I learned later on this week.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Comic Me

When you read this, I will be in Jamaica at the International Association of School Libraries conference. Next week, I hope to relay to you some of the information I will learn from meeting school library professionals from around the globe. In the meantime, I thought you might be interested in reading and seeing another comic version of me. This one is done by a professional comic artist as an illustration to an article from This Magazine. I wish I looked as glamorous and long-legged as the comic version of me! I originally gave this interview two years ago and the writer came to visit our school's graphic novel club. I was re-contacted this past June to ensure that some of the information I gave back then was up-to-date. I am both proud and slightly embarrassed that so much of the article referred back to my interview and the school visit. It's a long article and covers a lot of ground. It's well-written too, although some information was embellished or downplayed a bit for impact. For instance, I doubt that I'm one of the few schools in Canada to have a comic club; an even better one exists at Sir Robert L. Borden Business and Technical Institute in Toronto. I also indicated that I've never really had any problems with my parents or fellow teachers except for the "all manga is porn" comment from a teacher who retired and a couple of "I wish my child didn't just take out comics"; the exceptions were mentioned prominently. Despite those slight quibbles, all those opinions expressed are mine (and do not necessarily express those of my school board). Let's hope there's no negative feedback from it!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Working as a Learning Team - 3D Tour

Sometimes, I think I'm doing something neat in school and upon reflection, I realize that it's a good start that can go so much further. (My posts on the comic club meeting and on a student's comment are two good examples.) This example may be another one of those "tip of the iceberg" moments, but right now, in the middle of "summer brain mode", I'm pretty happy with it, and you'll see why.

I've been meaning to work on our school's website for a while but things kept getting in the way. It's not used often because it's not a very interactive site and not often updated regularly. I met with a parent who was interested in giving some advice on improving the website and together we spent a quarter of the school day planning, comparing, and sketching out ideas. I shared some of these ideas with a former student who often comes in to volunteer in our school library (AL). Around the same time, our school's Photography Club wanted some extra challenges and we thought we could spruce up the site with some more photos.

One of the members of the photo club (CW) came up with a cool method of showing the usually-boring shot of the exterior of the school. She worked with our high school volunteer (AL) to see about making this possible and in their trials and attempts, they found - a place where you can create 3D tours of a landmark or building. They convinced me that we should try to make a 3D tour of our school library.

So, there we were, members of the Photography Club, a school alumni, and me, on the last day of school until 5:00 p.m. taking photos at all sorts of angles and points of view. AL and CW took the photos and I was responsible for uploading them. AL and CW tried using Photo Synth at school but there were problems, so AL wrote me directions for creating the 3D tour at home. I followed his instructions and, lo and behold, it worked! I emailed AL to have him check it out and it was operational both as an email attachment and on the school website.

I was very happy with the process and the results and I really wish that learning at school could be like this on a regular basis. This is why it was an amazing experience:
  • the idea came from the community (parents and students)
  • it had a real-life purpose (not just for marks or "to cover curriculum")
  • we were all equals and all learners, supporting each other
  • we were all motivated, even staying late on the last day of school to work on it
  • we checked on each others' work, not to criticize it but to help make the final product better