Monday, February 27, 2012

Be Brave, Be 11, Share Your Passions!

Doug Peterson, a.k.a. @dougpete on Twitter, is a pretty inspirational guy. He reads a lot, thinks a lot, and shares a lot. I follow his blog and recently he wrote this post about an eleven-year old who was sharing his passion for cartooning via his blog. Doug cited Royan Lee (@royanlee on Twitter) and his post on mind mapping as a comparable example to the pre-teen. Doug challenged his readers to act in a similar fashion.
Just like the eleven year old, this was a passion that they both have.  Both are sharing tips and successes that would be so helpful to others.  They’ll not get rich from it.  Other than this blog post, they may not even get recognition for their efforts.  But, they’re sharing what works for them.  It could serve as inspiration or motivation for other classrooms.  Why not?
Imagine the thousands of teachers who are teaching thousand of lessons right now as you read this post.  Imagine the shear sum of the passion and the effort that has gone into the development of those lessons.  What is it about our profession that we’re not all sharing our work via website, blog, wiki, Diigo, Delicious, Facebook, or pick your own sharing site?  What would happen if everyone took the time to share just one lesson that really worked this week?
I decided to accept Doug's challenge and I notified him I was taking up the gauntlet via Twitter.

I had always intended on sharing my lesson plans on my general wiki ( ) but I had never gotten around to it. Part of it involves self-doubt - which lessons would people actually want? Are any of these lessons any good? What if the lesson worked well for one class and bombed for another; should I still share it? Are some of these lessons out-of-date? Is it worth the time and effort? In the end, I chose to put up several complete units, lessons I compiled for my "Media Lit Lesson Kit" (because I find teachers struggle with teaching media literacy in the primary grades), lessons that incorporate video games, and some recent creations on the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading / Blue Spruce nominees for 2012.
Doug, in his fantastic, supportive way, immediately provided me with feedback via another blog post about my wikis. What will be interesting is if I get any feedback or interaction. I never write my blogs or wikis expecting to attract a large readership - although I am surprised to learn who does and doesn't read my blog (including people from the Ministry of Education). Will people just download the files and steal away in the night? Or will they comment ("that lesson was terrible!" or "that lesson was great - do you have one on X?") or discuss?
So what are my passions? They change, depending on what I'm teaching or reading or thinking about. This year, thanks to my wonderful Gaming PLC (Liam O'Donnell - @liamodonnell - and Denise Colby - @Niecsa) I've been quite immersed in gaming and education. Media literacy, comics, student choice for reading, web 2.0 tools/social media, these are also interests of mine. However, you never know when a "plain ol' lesson" shared inspires something exciting and passionate in someone else - so please, let me know via the comments section of this blog what sort of lessons you'd like to see, what lessons look neat and which look scary - and let's share our passions! You can take a further step by joining Liam, Denise and me at our upcoming webinar called "Wanna Play? Gaming @ Your Library" on March 5 beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST at to learn more about one of my passions. Join us. Let's talk!

Monday, February 20, 2012

God in my Library

Yesterday this story came up in my news feed about a teacher who omitted a line that referenced God in a song. It was a timely piece because God's been making appearances in my school library lately, and I don't mean in the form of miracles or visions.

Before I start today's post, let me state a few things up front.
1) I work in a public school.
2) I am a practicing Roman Catholic (although I joke that I'm practicing because I need to work at it).

I don't evangelize at work. That's not my job. However, I do realize that my religion impacts my conduct and views. I think that sometimes in public schools, educators are afraid to mention God or religion for fear of offending people. The article cited above is a perfect example. I think if we pretend that religion doesn't exist or treat it in a completely detached manner (e.g. as part of a study of Ancient Civilizations, apart from our current lives and reality) that we ignore a way to dialogue with our students in a deep, meaningful manner.

I teach media literacy to all the kindergarten students in my school. The definition of media that I use is:
Media is made by people and for people. You can see it, hear it, feel it, wear it, or experience it. All media has a message.
We started to explore examples and non-examples of media and used the definition as our criteria. A book is an example of media; it's made by authors and illustrators and publishers for readers. The students were eager to offer up other ideas to see if it met the requirements. What about people? One vocal little person said that God made people. Another said that the mommy made the baby in her tummy. Both were legitimate answers. Was this like a company or factory or group making something? No. Therefore, is a person an example of media? No. I could have steered the conversation in a different direction (natural vs created/manufactured) but this would ignore the experience they bring. If certain topics are taboo, we silence discussion.

Older children are not exempt from such talk either.When discussing some of the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading books with my students, so they can earn signatures in their Silver Birch or Red Maple passports, we discuss some heavy issues that appear in the books. Religion is no exception. One of the students told me about the content of his religion class as it related to one of the novels. Another talked about religious fanaticism as presented in the plot of another book. If we are upfront about our own beliefs and open to discussing alternate views, learning can happen for all.

I'm slowly working through weeding my non-fiction collection and it will be interesting to see what materials I have in the 200s section.

Before you express concern about my agnostic or atheist students, or about any subjects you may suspect that I deal with unfairly due to my religious affiliation, fear not. I try to make a point of mentioning that not everyone believes in God and I am not the person that usually initiates religious discussion - it's my students. I purchase and provide books that meet with my school board's Equity policies, even titles that some members of my religious community might be less-than-pleased with. I am not an evil Papist plotting to convert my unaware students; I just know that my religion is important to my life as it is to many of my students. If I get a chance to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday this week, I'll explain the black mark on my forehead to anyone who asks. I may work at a public school but God is still allowed in my library.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Power of a Kind Word

There were a few days at school last week that were absolutely delightful.The lessons I planned went well, the book chats I had with students were engaging, and I felt like I made a positive difference. One of the key elements that contributed to that "good day" feeling was some genuine compliments I received from my fellow teachers. I don't repeat these comments to bring glory to myself; I share them to demonstrate how simple but attentive and meaningful they were to me. (These are paraphrases but the sentiment remains the same.)

"I turned to LD and I said 'I could just listen to Diana read all day' and she agreed. I love hearing you read aloud." 
- DH
(after a PLC meeting when I read a poem we were considering for use as a reading pre-assessment tool)

"What perfect timing! That's a great lesson. We're studying comics as part of media and some of our kids are having trouble saying no to each other when they need to. This is just what we need."
- JC
(during a collaborative ICT lesson where we used Photo Booth and Comic Life to do a follow-up activity based on the picture book "Noni Says No")

These comments were from the heart and not generic (a.k.a. "good job"). It reminded me to "pay it forward" and give those kind words thoughtfully and frequently. They can truly make someone's day. They certainly did to me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

OLA 2012 Photos - Friday

More photos from the Ontario Library Association Superconference. I'm missing some from my own session because my friend had my camera from noon until 4:00 p.m.

Getting autographs from Neil Pasricha, author of "The Book of Even More Awesome"

My friend Alanna King examines the Twitter feed during her presentation.

(L-R) Diana, Elizabeth and Alanna in 1970s attire for the disco!

Dr. Alec Couros, OSLA spotlight speaker, gets close to Max the skinny pig

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

OLA 2012 Photos - Thursday

Here are some of the photos I took on Thursday. I can put the students' photos online because of the media release forms for their interviews, which will go on the OLA ReForestation website.

Interviewing Janet Wilson
Student interviewers with author Vicki Grant  
Kevin Sylvester gives an impromptu drawing lesson!
Some of the award recipients at the OSLA ceremony.
Ontario Minister of Education Lauren Broten
OSLA 2012 President Elizabeth Gordon, Minister Broten, James Saunders & OSLA 2011 President Roger Nevin
Elizabeth, James, Helen Fisher (2012 Administrator of the Year) & Gianna Dassios
James Saunders & Bernard Dowling, OSLA Teacher-Librarian of the Year

Monday, February 6, 2012

OLA Superconference 2012

February 1-4, 2012 was the Superbowl of provincial library conferences, the Ontario Library Association Superconference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Be prepared for a few days of posts on the topic. Here's my reflections.

Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2012

Innovation: Imagine. Innovate. Impact
Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 7:45 a.m.
Session #200: Forest of Reading ® Breakfast
Summary = “Winning authors and illustrators from the 2011 Forest of Reading ® Program will join the members of the 2012 Selection and Steering committees in this celebratory breakfast.” Students from Agnes Macphail P.S. (my school), Chine Drive P.S. and Adam Beck P.S. were invited as interviewers. This was the first time that children were admitted to the breakfast and I was told that their presence ramped up the energy and excitement in the room 100%. Parents escorted the eager teams via TTC and car pools. The room was packed but there was food enough for all.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 9:05 a.m.
Session #301: Forest of Reading ® Winners Showcase
Session #316: Let’s Talk Security in the Digital Age by Marsha & Michelle Bissessarsingh
Summary = I was unable to attend either of these sessions because I needed to coordinate the interview process for our students. Coats needed to be stored, quiet places for videotaping needed to be found and photos of the action needed to be snapped. I also had the chance to have some good conversations in the Speakers’ Lounge.
3 Key Points
  • ·         Melissa Murray from the York Region District School Board is delighted with the steps her board has been taking with regards to inquiry. Although it’s exhausting, she loves her increased amount of time in schools videotaping inquiry learning. On how to convince people to permit their teaching to be taped, she says that once word gets out, people volunteer others and it’s a joyful escalation.
  • ·         Roger Nevin, Elizabeth Gordon, Isabelle Hobbs, and I did some planning for the AGM. It’s important to have a streamlined but yet still useful meeting, especially because of our special guest.
  • ·         Authentic learning experiences in real-world situations like these student interviews are incredible. After their interview, Kevin Sylvester sat down on the floor of the Convention Centre with a half-dozen of our students and conducted a drawing lesson. That’s an experience they won’t soon forget.
So What? Now What? = I think I need to schedule in “flexible time” and not feel guilty if I have to skip a session. There was just as much learning happening in these out-of-workshop discussions as there might have been had I attended my regular workshop. Flexibility is really important when my students are involved. They wanted time to explore the Expo Hall, with and without me. They all left a little later than I had originally intended but they had a fantastic time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 10:40 a.m.
Session #427: Greening the Learning Commons by Mary Hickey and Mona Sahu
Summary = Library staff at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Peel DSB explained the various steps they took to become an Eco-School. The school library took the lead in many of these initiatives.
3 Key Points
  • Choose something each year to work on (e.g. for Cawthra Park, 2010 = filter your air project with plants in the classroom / 2011 = local food with growing own vegetables)
  • Use technology to help (e.g. buy a printer that does duplexing, use Captivate to make instructional videos for staff and students on how to do “2-up” printing to save paper & $)
  • Get everyone on board (e.g. custodians for extra work involving plants, other students for spaces during lunch in the library for videos and debates)
So What? Now What? = Although this was focused on high school practices, there were several ideas that could be modified for our school. Using the website would be ideal for an upcoming partner unit with the kindergarten class on recycling. Mary and Mona also reminded the group that it takes frequent reminders and instruction to get people in the habit of doing things like print previews but with perseverance, you can see a difference.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 12:00 p.m.
TDSB TL Luncheon
Summary = Every year, OSLA Toronto councillor Lisa Dempster arranges a lunch for all TDSB teacher-librarians at Joe Badali’s. This year I brought three non-TDSB personnel to the function: Alannah King from Upper Grand DSB and Dr. Jennifer Branch and Dr. Joanne DeGroot from the University of Alberta. We are all linked via the Teacher-Librarianship via Distance Learning M.Ed program. We talked a lot about how our children influence our work, the process of gaining tenure, and our opinions on the conference so far.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 2:10 p.m.
Session # 500: All-Conference Plenary by Jonah Lehrer
Summary = Dr. Lehrer talked about creativity, aha moments (insight) and “grit”, with many references to neuro-scientific studies.
3 Key Points
·        Insights do not just happen in fairy tales. They can be studied using Compound Remote Associate Problems and you can even tell by the way a certain part of the brain lights up on a ECG that someone is about to have an insight; these happen when a person in relaxed daydreaming, in the shower, or having a long walk.
·        Society is obsessed with maximal tests (e.g. a 1982 task to determine the fastest cashier) but they are useless! (maximal-typical contradiction); people who possess “grit” (single-mindedness towards goals, appropriate response to frustration) will succeed, especially if it’s the right goal for the person > their goal needs to pass “the underwear test” (it’s a pursuit that will keep us motivated for years, inspire passion to continue working/learning/improving)
·        Collaboration is key to creativity nowadays (i.e. in the past papers that were the most cited/influential were written by one person but post 1970s it’s ones made by teams); even with our technology making it easy to “connect” from far away, people need to be brought together in common spaces for the mixing and “human friction” that leads to creativity
So What? Now What? = This was a great rationale for allowing me to attend conferences! (Lehrer states that despite the introduction of Skype, attendance at conventions has risen because people need face-to-face contact). Since “grit” creativity involves practice and dedication, whereas “insight” creativity involves relaxation (he called it the “red room” and “blue room” for one study reference), then I must make sure that both environments are nurtured depending on the type of creativity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 3:45 p.m.
Session #626: Lit Circles Go Graphic and Wiki-dly Wonderful by Martha Martin
Summary = Martha talked about three things combined together > literature circles, graphic novels and class wikis.
3 Key Points
·        Martha taught the tool using the tool > her workshop was made on a wiki and can be found at
·        Reading aloud as part of literature circles is controversial; Martha likes doing it especially when graphic novels are the selected literature because you can alter voices, you must read at a slower pace to examine the illustrations thoroughly, and you read for meaning instead of decoding.
·        Parents can request to be added to the literature circle wikis and even be allowed to contribute to the discussion
So What? Now What? = This workshop was more of a reaffirmation that the things I am doing with graphic novels and wikis are good, rather than an avalanche of new things I learned that I didn’t know before. Martha is a dynamic presenter and a good friend of mine so it was wonderful to watch her in action.

Thursday, February 2, 2012 – 5:15 p.m.
Session #702: Ontario School Library Association Annual General Meeting and Award Presentation / Reception
Summary = A brief report encapsulated the past year, the incoming president introduced our new council, and 4 groups/individuals received awards. The big excitement of the evening was when the Minister of Education, the Honourable Laurel Broten, came to make a short speech and pose for photos.
3 key points
  • ·         The winner of the Teacher-Librarian of the Year Award was Bernard Dowling from the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic DSB and the winner of the Administrator of the Year Award was Helen Fisher from the Toronto DSB.
  • ·         The winner of the OLA Technical Services Award was Bonnie Starr from the Halton DSB.
  • ·         The winner of the Award for Special Achievement was People for Education.
So What? Now What? = We have many new people on OSLA Council this year; as one of the senior members, I need to support them by keeping communication frequent and open. I ended up being the official photographer of the short meet-and-greet with the Minister. I will be sending copies of the photos to her administrative assistant. After the meeting, I had a fantastic conversation with Lori, Carm, Karrie, Lesley, Lindsay, and Alannah. Lori and Carm told us about the experience of presenting to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic DSB directors and superintendents. Lesley described what it was like in California for school librarians to be interrogated by lawyers. Five of us continued the conversation until late at night at East Side Mario’s. I need people to write down some of these great stories for use in The Teaching Librarian magazine!

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 9:05 a.m.
Session #1000: Why Social Networks Matter for Education by Alec Couros
Summary = Dr. Couros from the University of Regina discussed open education, networked learning, social media and critical literacy.
3 key points
  • ·         Use free web 2.0 tools and work towards open doctrines and open education (world knowledge for the public good, i.e. Creative Commons, the Directory of Open Access Journals); this will re-imagine what scholars do and is controversial in some circles where the knowledge industry is still for profit
  • ·         81% of North American children have a digital identity by age 2; the digital divide is not by age but by access and opportunity (the digital native is a myth) so allow kids to consume, produce, remix and share using tools like blogs, wikis, Tumblr, posterus, Twitter, Yammer, Edmodo, Diigo,, drop-box, mednely, Google docs, Evernote, Instagram, YouTube, Pearltree, scoop, Storify, etc. > schools should have a hand in creating positive digital identities with their students
  • ·         Understand network literacies (how networks work) and digital fluency; preserve your reputation, make human connections, contribute to group projects (see the virtual choir, Johnny Cash project or learning documentation project) > everything is about relationships and we must understand the tools as well as the people behind the tools
So What? Now What? = Am I giving enough away for free? Am I making things accessible enough? A quote during the talk (paraphrased) was that it is no longer enough to do powerful work if no one sees it. I have to share it wider, expand my Twitter PLN, and educate myself on things like the Creative Commons more. Even just sharing how my LiveScribe pen works with Jeanne and Glenna right after the session was a good first step. 

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 10:40 a.m.
Session #1100: All Conference Plenary by Neil Pasricha
Summary = The author of The Book of Awesome and famous blog shared the origin of the book, 4 ways to help awesomeness, and an important closing thought.
3 key points
  • ·         Pasricha had a rough 2008-2009 and to help deal with it, he started his blog and it ended up earning a Webbie award.
  • ·         The 4 As that will help you with an awesome life > attitude, awareness, alignment, authenticity (be positive & empathetic / embrace your inner 3 year old / have everything you do match your principles / be yourself and be cool with it)
  • ·         Life is short so make the most of it, appreciate those moments because they won’t last, and you’ll live a rich and happy life
So What? Now What? = I won a free book because at the beginning of his talk, Neil asked the audience of 3000 if anyone would be willing to stand and share something awesome that happened to them in the past couple of days. I did (“having great conversations with delightful people”) and I won a book for my bravery. Pasricha also suggested that to make an awesome library, you need 3 Ss: the social, the structure, and the stimulation (always learning). I’m going to make sure my life continues to be awesome by refining the right attitude, maybe even defining my alignment principles!

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 12:00 noon
Access OLA Editorial Board Meeting
Summary = AccessOLA is the magazine of the Ontario Library Association and I am the OSLA liaison editor. Mike Ridley is our new editor-in-chief. We discussed the name of the periodical, electronic and print formats, surveying the readers, and themed issues. Good lunch too!

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 2:10 p.m.
Session #1230: Pets as Possibilities @ Your Library
Summary = Annie Slater and I enumerated the benefits of pet ownership for libraries and the procedures one must undertake and considerations one must make before obtaining a pet. Reptilia also came to do a presentation on the services they offer.
3 key points
  • ·         Everyone benefits from having animals in the library (shy students, special education students, young people, old people, staff, visitors, etc.) and research has been conducted to prove it
  • ·         Know the policy of your workplace and investigate the type of animal you wish to introduce (e.g. TDSB does not allow birds or turtles and arrangements have to be made for care during holidays).
  • ·         There are many options, such as the butterfly program (only a 5 week commitment) to Reptilia’s school year loaning program.
So What? Now What? = I cannot evaluate the success of this talk too objectively since I was part of it. I was surprised to see so many public librarians in the room. Annie did a great job; it’s hard to believe it was her first conference. Blair from Reptilia delighted and amazed us all with the creatures he brought > tortoises and pythons as well as other reptiles. I want to research getting a tortoise for myself (but I promise to do intensive research first!)

Friday, February 3, 2012 – 3:45 p.m.
Session #1326: Survival with your staff: Adventures in Technology Teacher Training by Alanna King
Summary = Alanna discussed the philosophy as well as the practicality of helping your staff with digital literacy and technology.
3 key points
  • ·         Don’t just keep to intranets like Bitstrips > let them feel what it’s like “out there in the real world” because it’s about the kids, not us and not the tools > in fact, why not throw out the SMART Board and have a “differentiated technology tool cart” with a variety of gadgets like a LiveScribe pen or tablet that students can select based on their need?
  • ·         Prioritize your tool use because platforms will come and go and we need transferable skills rather than tips and tricks instruction > declare that you will not teach something unless it can be tied to metacognition, critical thinking, and/or problem based learning > whole school tech focus should be on communication, collaboration, creation and curation
  • ·         Find support as a TL by building your community, getting comfortable with asking for help and making time to give help and creating as much as you are consuming. Some of Alanna’s favourite tools are Prezi, blogs, Google, Evernote, Diigo and Nings and some of her favourite means of support are Twitter, the OLA/OTF PD sessions, ECOO, Unplugd and the Teacher-Librarian Ning.
So What? Now What? = I loved how adventurous Alanna was by using multiple screens and offering a Google doc “geek IQ” test ( for people to take using their cell phones. Can my students tweet using a hashtag? I will revisit her presentation on and look into reading two books she mentioned: The Socially Networked Classroom and Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age. I also need to check out Sweetsearch (a search engine vetted by school librarians) and re-visit (the Critical Thinking Consortium).

Friday, February 3, 2011 – 5:15 p.m.
Summary = The 1400 sessions were meetings for other sub-organizations of OLA (such as the public library). I rested a bit with Alanna King in the Speakers Lounge but hunger drove us to the Intercontinental Toronto Centre lounge for a bite to eat (while wearing our 1970s outfits for the upcoming soirĂ©e)! We had a nice dinner conversation about being avant-garde and our patient and wonderful spouses. We spoke briefly with Scott and Maria from Tinlids; in a “6-Degrees-of-Separation” moment, we learned that Scott’s daughter was Alanna’s student in grade 9 & 12.

Friday, February 3, 2011 – 6:15 p.m.
Session #1500: All Conference Networking Event – Friday Night Fever
Summary = The theme of this year’s party was 1970s disco. Alanna and I garnered a lot of attention in our vibrant outfits. We danced our grooviest moves and even started a conga line (which is harder than you’d think!) We had nice conversations with Amanda and June and posed for many pictures with other attendees. When the party ended, June, Alanna, and I met with Dr. Alec Couros for more engaging conversation. We discussed Saskatchewan, cities, children, games and post-secondary education, among other things. Alec had a chance to cuddle with Max, my skinny pig who was with me because of my earlier workshop. Maybe a new pet is in Alec’s future? I didn’t attend the final day of the conference but it was still an educational and enriching two days.