Christopher Lister

Open educator working in British Columbia, Canada. Looking to connect with educators, share my knowledge, learn from others, and improve my practice.

LIBE 477 Final Project Considerations

For the next three weeks, my posts will be dedicated to my final project for my course, LIBE 477 Special Topics in Teacher Librarianship.  

I have several ideas floating around in my mind for a final project.

Connections-based learning

I’ve discussed connections-based learning many times before.  It is an area of great interest to me because of its potential to motivate and inspire students.  I could produce a presentation to share with staff on the topic as well as collate resources that would help people connect with experts outside the walls of their schools.   

YouTube Channel – read alouds

I like the idea of extending beyond the walls of the school.  It’s a theme… Having the ability to record short read alouds for students and storing them in a place that can be accessed at a user’s convenience promotes a love of reading and is appealing to me.  I could even introduce a green screen to liven things up. The resource would be the channel where the clips are stored and I could put together a user manual of how I set everything up.  

YouTube Channel – book reviews

I’m always looking for reviews on great books and so, I imagine, are students and teachers.  Creating a repository of book reviews would allow me to reach a larger audience and could potentially lead to students trying different genres than they are used to.  Once I have a few reviews on the site I could open it up to other TLs in my district who could then add additional reviews of their own.  

Revisiting the Living Library Project

The Living Library Project was developed by my wife, Suzanne Bartel, and I when I first started teaching.  We were both inspired by people’s stories after attending our first WE Day.  This quote by Craig and Marc Kielburger at the event resonated with both of us.

“In all corners of the globe, storytelling is a longstanding tradition with significance that’s lost on no one.  It’s vital to preserving culture. It speaks of moments of pride. It speaks of moments of injustice. It offers an opportunity to learn.  Most importantly, it inspires us to create change for the future” (Craig and Marc Kielburger.)

We came back to our school in the hopes of helping students find their own stories and to have those stories inspire others.  The Living Library needs a refresh and a new approach so my final project could somehow centre around giving the site a refresh and a new direction.  Perhaps in my new role as teacher-librarian, I can open it up to include more students in my school. 

Collating information literacy resources – content creation app

In a time when we are inundated with information, providing a resource for students and teachers to help navigate the flood of data may be helpful to both parties.  I could use a content creation app such as Scoop. It! or Paper.li to collate and share resources, articles, and content on the topic of information literacy, media literacy, and digital literacy.  I could also help to define some of these terms and provide visuals that explain each of their components.   

References

Bartel, S., & Lister, C. (2017, January 20). The Living Library Project. Retrieved November 4, 2019, from https://livinglibraryproject.ca/.

Collect great content. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2019, from https://paper.li/.

Content Curation Tool. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2019, from https://www.scoop.it/.

Empowering Students and Teachers at WE Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2019, from https://www.we.org/en-CA/our-work/we-schools/.


LIBE 477 Professional Development: A Personal Summary

This week’s post represents a summary of learning around PLN’s, Information Literacy, Learning Commons, 21st Century Learning, and Professional Development related to my teacher-librarianship diploma course LIBE 477.

What are your key takeaways, learning and direction after all this exploration?

I have several takeaways from this series of blog postings both from my own personal reflections and also from the ideas and experiences of my peers in this course.  These last few weeks have reinforced my existing thoughts on professional development – A connected educator is a stronger educator. Through the use of digital technologies, it is now easier than ever to find and connect with like-minded people. I have found that technology continues to play an interesting and exciting part of the role of teachers and teacher-librarians. For example, I am interested in and fascinated by the potential of virtual and augmented reality in schools. These new educational tools allow students to experience learning in ways that didn’t exist before.  Imagine walking among dinosaurs to get an idea of how large they were. Amy’s post on Developing ICT Skills and Pedagogy: Hands-On Learning & Networking introduced me to Microsoft’s CoSpaces for Education.     

For those who are not connected, there is no need to panic, as it appears that many of the school districts in British Columbia are providing inquiry learning opportunities for their staff in the form of after school learning groups.  Schools are getting better at providing and funding opportunities for staff to develop their craft.  

What are the new avenues for development in your personal and professional practice?

There are so many areas of my practice that I’m interested in and would like to develop.  Currently, I am inquisitive about the #storystudio and #looseparts storytelling story writing movement.  I think that the library is the perfect place for the loose parts materials and could be used across the grades in my k-5 school.  It would connect well with the kindergarten and grade 2 prep classes that I teach and it aligns well with my philosophy on play. I don’t know much about it right now, but the TLs in my district are looking to set up a workshop to better understand how it fits within a library learning commons.

I found this article from the UBC journal of Transformative Educational Leadership on the topic of Story Studios very helpful.

A quick Twitter search for #storystudio and #looseparts also provided useful information on what it can look like in the classroom.

What are you going to take with you, moving forward from your own explorations and also from the explorations of others in this class?

Moving forward, I would like to continue to deepen my understanding and application of connections-based learning.  I recently joined a Voxer group on the topic and I am enjoying the voice conversations we are having.  I would love to set up an unofficial Voxer community for those in the Teacher-Librarianship diploma, certificate and Masters program at UBC. I would find the dialogue to be especially powerful. 

Connections-based learning fits nicely into a library learning commons because libraries tend to be the technological hub of many schools. As most students use the library, funding requests are seen as a benefit to the school rather than an individual ‘techie’ classroom teacher. 

Connections-based learning can create opportunities for students to reach outside of the four walls of the school and connect with experts, which can be used to motivate and inspire our youth. Connections-based learning is not without its challenges. Technology can occasionally fail and if one is seeking live, synchronous communication, then time zones can be problematic. Asynchronous opportunities also exist using platforms like Flipgrid, Padlet, Cloud-based productivity tools like G Suite for Education and Office 365, as well as platforms such as Belouga.  Connections-based learning can create meaningful and authentic learning experiences in a connected world by connected students. 

I have just set up a spreadsheet that I plan to leave open for myself and others to add contact information for excellent connection-based-learning activities and experts.

When I think about what I am going to take away from the advice shared by my peers in this course, it has to be the act of continuing to build relationships with educators locally and globally.  So many of the posts I read over the last four weeks expressed how critically important it is to build with, and on, the ideas of others. Teaching can be a lonely and isolating profession, especially if one is not social outgoing or confident in their practice.  Collaboration involves being vulnerable and being vulnerable can be difficult for countless reasons. I am not particularly outgoing and often find it difficult to collaborate, so I first try to find one person to collaborate with. I then focus on developing a positive collaborative experience, which will then hopefully spread to others in my school.  

If you could pick just one topic from Phase 2 that resonated with you, which is it and why?

One exploration that touched my heart over the last four weeks and one that aligns with my passion for social justice was the brief inquiry we conducted on libraries in developing nations.  We acknowledge that in developed nations libraries are important in the development of critical literacy skills but in developing nations libraries save people’s lives (Borgonovi et al., 2018). Libraries may be the only way information is disseminated in a village or a community.  In developing nations, libraries are creating tools and resources targeted to help vulnerable sections of the population. They are beacons of hope, inclusivity, and community spirit!

References:

Borgonovi, F., Centurelli, R., Dernis, H., Grundke, R., Horvát, P., Jamet, S., … Squicciarini, M. (2018). Bridging the Digital Gender Divide. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/internet/bridging-the-digital-gender-divide.pdf

D’Aoust, C. (2018). Story Studios. Transformative Educational Leadership Journal, (November 2018). Retrieved from https://teljournal.educ.ubc.ca/2018/11/story-studios/

Loudon, A. (2019, October 11). Retrieved from https://mylearninglibrarian.blogspot.com/2019/10/v-behaviorurldefaultvmlo_11.html

Mobile Devices In Developing Nations

This week’s post explores how library projects in developing nations are creating new literacy opportunities for their users, expanding access to the internet and information databases, and how they support the needs of their communities.

After a brief internet search for library projects in developing countries, I found several worthwhile endeavours. 

The first project of interest I found is called Global Libraries and is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The goal of the project is “to improve the lives of information-poor people while positioning the world’s public libraries as critical community assets for learning, creativity, and community development” (Global Libraries, n.d.).  The project provided hardware and infrastructure to ensure local libraries receive free internet, as well as training for staff in the area of information technology.

The next project I found focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) from the United Nations and discusses how libraries play an important, yet indirect role, in developing the health and welfare outcomes of those who access its services.  It is supported by The International Federation of Library Associations who claim that “Increasing access to information and knowledge across society, assisted by the availability of information and communications technologies (ICTs), supports sustainable development and improves people’s lives” (Ifla, 2016).  In Mongolia, for example, the Ulaanbaatar Public Library built two recording studios to create talking books, which hugely increased the amount of accessible material for many of the countries 15,000 blind and visually impaired people.

Libraries Without Borders, on the other hand, reimagine the purpose and design of libraries.  They provide tools, resources and facilitators to collaborate with local communities and assist some of the world’s most vulnerable people.  The KoomBook, for example, is one of the tools they have developed to help those in need. If a community suffers a natural disaster or is suffering the effects of war, the KoomBook can be used as an offline digital library.  It is a device that can stream digital content including images, documents, and digital courses to nearby mobile devices during a crisis. Thus, alleviating some of the communications challenges that occur in dangerous times.  

KoomBook

The Development of Mobile Devices in Developing Countries

ICT, mobile devices and the networks they connect to, provide access to important areas of knowledge and information such as science, technology and innovation.  Directly and indirectly, they allow cooperation and knowledge-sharing worldwide and should be regarded as an essential service. Living in North America, most of us are privileged to have access to the infrastructure, networks, and the latest digital technologies.  The same cannot be said for parts of the developing world. According to the United Nations assessment of ICT in the developing world many regions of Latin America, the Caribbean, Southern Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa have limited or no access to networks and mobile devices so many of their citizens remain in the digital wilderness (United Nations, n.d.).  The gap between the digital haves and the digital have-nots is vast and while we remain this digital economy that divide affects people in profound ways. A recent report carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that increased mobile phone usage in developing countries improved women’s health outcomes and made them feel safer, more autonomous and self-confident.  In Tanzania, mobile phones were used to facilitate birth registrations and promote education around important public services (Borgonovi et al., 2018).

Cell Phones Keep Shelves Stocked In Health Clinics In Developing Countries

Summary

Access to information should be a basic human right and mobile devices provide a simple and relatively cheap way for citizens in developing regions to enter the digital world.  All too often though, that entry point does not have the same privilege as it does in the western world due to poor network infrastructure and communication/information censorship.  Libraries play an important role in connecting their users to essential digital services. In some developing countries, especially rural areas, connectivity is so poor that libraries are the only entry point to the digital world.  They offer users access to the services they need, allow citizens to have their voices heard, and create opportunities for civic engagement (United Nations Development Program, 2012). Ultimately, it brings me a sense of comfort to think that libraries can play a small part in helping those around the world gain access to the information they need when they need it.

References

Borgonovi, F., Centurelli, R., Dernis, H., Grundke, R., Horvát, P., Jamet, S., … Squicciarini, M. (2018). Bridging the Digital Gender Divide. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/internet/bridging-the-digital-gender-divide.pdf

Global Libraries. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.gatesfoundation.org/what-we-do/global-development/global-libraries.

Ifla. (2016). ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL: How libraries contribute to the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Retrieved from https://www.ifla.org/files/assets/hq/topics/libraries-development/documents/access-and-opportunity-for-all.pdf

Libraries Without Borders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2019, from https://www.librarieswithoutborders.org/.

United Nations Development Program (2012). Mobile Technologies and Empowerment : Enhancing human development through participation and development. 1–58. Retrieved from http://www.undpegov.org/mgov-primer.html

United Nations. (n.d.). ICT offers great potential for development, but also risks. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://sdgpulse.unctad.org/ict-and-digital-gap/




Supporting Teachers’ ICT Curriculum and Pedagogy: A Personal Reflection

This week’s post discusses ways teacher-librarians can support teachers in developing ICT curriculum and pedagogy and includes creative ways I have tried to meet the ICT needs within my school. 

Before jumping into the specifics, I always like to find a model or theoretical framework to reference and connect my learning to, so when I think of ICT pedagogy two models come to mind, the TPACK and SAMR models of technology integration. 

TPACK 

TPACK stands for Technological and Pedagogical And Content Knowledge and is a framework for one to gauge how effectively one is integrating technology.  Basically, it is a theory to explain the knowledge that teachers need to teach their students a subject, teach effectively, and use technology. It is a new framework to me and quite complex but I am trying to develop a stronger instructional practice around technology usage so I am starting to explore it.   

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

SAMR

I am more familiar with the SAMR model and as I start to develop more confidence in my teacher-librarianship practice, I can foresee a time when I reference these two models during workshops or presentations I host.  Like TPACK, SAMR helps users avoid using technology as a gimmicky add on, and instead use it to enhance their instructional practice in ways that would otherwise be impossible without technology.

“Explanation of the SAMR Model” by Lefflerd is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

SAMR/TPACK Playlist

Office 365 sessions

A colleague and I have been discussing our school’s use of Office 365.  We’ve noticed that not many staff members are utilizing this cloud-based productivity tool.  Most staff are saving their work locally on their machine or local on the network in the building, which means they cannot always access the information they need when they need it.  My school district has provided the full suite of tools to all students and staff, so my colleague and I are discussing ways to share some of the tools and workflows that we think will increase productivity and encourage easier collaboration.  One crude yet unobtrusive way I’ve been increasing awareness of Office 365 is though wearing a name tag with the statement, “Interested in using One Drive?” It sounds a bit weird but I often wear these kinds of name tags around the school for different purposes.  In fact, I’m upping my game and moving into the digital name tag realm. A more personal way I came up with is to host a series of mini-sessions after school around One Drive basics and an introduction to instant messaging app Yammer for interested staff.

Staff meetings

Once a month I’m given the opportunity to give updates on the library.  It is possible, although I haven’t tried it yet as it is only my second staff meeting, to share tidbits of information relating to ICT and information literacy.  I have a captive audience, so to speak, so it may be an ideal time. I would need to be succinct and to the point, with any information, I share as most staff wouldn’t appreciate going over time on a regular basis.

Memo Share

I have also been thinking about releasing some kind of weekly/monthly bulletin that I could also keep on the library website.  It could list things like app of the week, book reviews, book talks, productivity tools/websites, upcoming pro-d, tips on information literacy, and other important library news.  I don’t want it to be onerous for me or staff, so I’m still mulling over my options.

Summary

The act of sharing professional development ideas with other members of staff can sometimes be tricky.  Some people are very open with their practice while others are fairly private. In my experience there is no absolute right way to create learning experiences for students, so one person’s approach may differ from anothers’.  I’ve found that the best way to share professional development opportunities/ideas with fellow educators is to do so in a casual non judgemental way. I have found it most helpful to work at building relationships and developing trust with my peers and making sure above all that I value their time and honour their commitment.    

Developing One’s ICT Skills and Pedagogy

This week’s inquiry post associated with my teacher-librarianship diploma explores pedagogy, ICT, and professional development as an elementary school educator.  I’ll also discuss some of the strategies, tools, resources and networks I use to deepen my understanding and knowledge of my new as a teacher-librarian.

Power of Mentorship
I am lucky because teacher-librarians in my school district have a long-established culture of collaboration. As teacher librarians, we meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues and share our successes. Each meeting is held in a different library in the district so it also presents a unique opportunity to check out someone else’s library for inspiration. In addition, my district also offers mentor/mentee opportunities for anyone who is looking for support. I have just taken advantage of this service and I look forward to spending time with my vastly experienced TL mentor. One of the first things I plan to do is invite him into my library to critically evaluate the collection and suggest where I should be focusing my energy, as I look to improve the collection.

Professional Development
I believe that professional development is a personal endeavour and can be a frustrating experience if you leave it up to someone else to plan, organize, and direct. It has never been easier to tailor professional development to suits one’s needs. I’m excited to attend my first British Columbia Teacher-Librarians’ Association (BCTLA) conference later this month. I am looking forward to the two sessions I signed up for, a discussion group on the topic of media and digital literacy, and a session in the afternoon title, Starting Strong – Strategies and Support for New Teacher-Librarians.

The Power of Social Networks
Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been influential in my development as an educator, and as I am a bit of an introvert these platforms have enabled me to make connections with people I wouldn’t normally have connected with.

A recent example of the power of social networking that comes to mind occurred at the end of the last school year. In the closing months of the 2018-2019 school year, I secured my first teacher-librarian position. I knew that I would have to negotiate a very steep learning curve, so in preparation, I tried to anticipate some of the questions I would need answering and started to write them down. I then compiled them into a Google Form and shared it with the rest of my colleagues in my district. They were more than happy to offer insight, but I felt like I needed to hear from more people, so I shared the form on some of my preferred social networks using hashtags such as #teacherlibrarian #teacherlibrarianlife

I use social media as a tool to deepen my understanding of my role, strengthen my instructional practice, share my learning, and reach out for help. Primarily, I use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I am most comfortable with Twitter because I have been using it for quite some time and understand it more than the others mentioned, but I’ve shifted to Instagram lately, especially when checking out other people’s book reviews. I have bought plenty of books of my own based on Instagram book reviews and I’m sure I’ll use it just as much when I order books for my library. I follow many libraries and librarians, as well as those directly and loosely connected to education. Some of my favourites include:

https://www.instagram.com/kidsbookcentre

ICT

There are many digital tools I access that help me be more efficient in my job.  Both at work and at home I use cloud-based productivity tools like GSuite for Education and Office 365.  I prefer the Google product, as I find it simpler to use but at work, I have to use Office 365.  If and when I stumble across something online that I want to use at a later date I use the social bookmarking app, Pocket.  I like that I can save, categorizing and curate my links.  When I’m sharing links I like URL shorteners especially when I’m working with students as they are easier to remember.  I usually use bit.ly for shortening my URLs but there so many to choose from.     

One area of ICT I’d like to utilize more is that of Connections Based Learning and virtual field trips. 

We now have the digital tools to take advantage of these opportunities to connect students to their passions outside the walls of the school and beyond geographical boundaries.  My goal this year is to encourage my admin to invest in the hardware to make connections based learning a powerful tool.  

Summary

We live in a time when educators can take full control of their professional development.  Educators need no longer wait for their school districts to offer something that aligns their needs and pedagogy.  Instead, they can harness the power of ICT by using tools like Twitter, MOOCs, and Open learning platforms such as Coursera and OpenEdx. Ultimately, maintaining a practice of self-reflection is critical in order to determine one’s needs before thinking about professional development.

Fostering A Reading Culture In School: a quick peek around.

The next few posts on my blog are going to be dedicated to discussing a few broad topics that pertain to Librarianship, as well as uses of new media and technology to assist in developing programs, pedagogy and ICT in a school library context.

Before I share my learning this week, I wanted to take a moment to discuss one of the amazing ways my school and the school library foster a culture of reading.  One of the highlights of the year occurs in January when we launch our One-School-One-Book program. Before rolling out One-School-One-Book each year, we sit down as a staff to select an appropriate book that is suitable for the whole school to read.  We use the Read To Them website to help select books.  Each family in the school receives a free copy of the book to take home and complete assigned readings and weekly activities.  A movie adaptation is often shown in the gym as a culminating activity if one is available.

While thinking about fostering a reading culture in my school, I found several interesting resources.  One of them is called Storyline Online.  Storyline Online is a website that uses SAG-AFTRA Foundation members and well-known actors, voiceover artists, broadcasters, and dancers to read books aloud in a video format.  These videos are available on their website or on YouTube. Many of the primary teachers in my school would love this resource. More suited to the older grades in elementary school, Here Comes The Garbage Barge by written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio and read by Justin Theroux is one of my favourites.  I think it would be good hook when discussion waste reduction.

“Here Comes the Garbage Barge read by Justin Theroux” by Storyline Online is licensed under Standard YouTube license

I also came across an article from the Australian Journal of Education titled, Building a school reading culture: Teacher librarians’ perceptions of enabling and constraining factors.  I was initially attracted to it because it was published this year, but as I processed it I found it quite interesting.  The article, which tries to determine whether Australian schools actively foster reading cultures that are supportive of reading for pleasure was determined by interviewing 30 teacher-librarians from Western Australian schools.  As I read the introduction the following statements made me wonder about my own practice and development as a new teacher-librarian:

  • “professionally trained librarians and information experts can provide children and young people with the transferable skills required to achieve throughout life and develop a lifelong love of reading” (The Scottish Government, 2018, p. 7)
  • At a classroom level, recent research suggests that children in upper primary school may not view their teachers as avid readers (Merga, 2016)
  • Regular reading may also be associated with mental wellbeing (Clark & Teravainen-Goff, 2018)

The conclusion that researchers came to after interviewing the librarians was that:

  1. School administrations play a vital role in developing and maintaining a school’s reading culture
  2. Adequately funded and resourced school libraries support a reading culture
  3. If the administration at the school are readers themselves, then the library is likely to be better funded and resourced
  4. Staff who are active and engaged readers act as role models for students.
  5. There is a need for increased parental support in fostering powerful reading habits.  A reading culture is stronger when there are reading partnerships between the school and home.

References:

StorylineOnline. (2017, November 6). Retrieved September 28, 2019, from      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xb3bXKAkeek

Merga, M. K., & Mason, S. (2019). Building a school reading culture: Teacher librarians’ perceptions of enabling and constraining factors. Australian Journal of Education, 63(2), 173–189. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004944119844544

LIBE 477 Reading Review Part B – Keyword Identification

As a new teacher-librarian, I would like to strengthen my understanding of information literacy and all is subsequent parts. Below is a list of resources that I have found useful.

Some of the keywords I used included:

  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Digital literacy 
  • 21st-century literacy
  • School library

Before searching for relevant information on the topic, I first need to be able to better define the term information literacy.  The Austrialian School Library Association has a very clear definition of this term, which I found helpful: 

“The ability to locate, manage and use information to create information products using a variety of inquiry methods is an essential component of any information Literacy program.”   

Link – https://www.asla.org.au/information-literacy

After some additional research, I found that the term information literacy is the overarching word used to describe important skills such as media and digital literacy.  MediaSmarts has some useful content that helps to define information literacy and also produces teaching materials for educators seeking to deepen their students’ understanding of media and digital literacy.

Link – http://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/general-information/digital-media-literacy-fundamentals

A brief YouTube search for ‘information literacy’ returned an extensive playlist from US media awareness organization, Common Sense Media. There are lots of useful short videos that can be used as hooks to lessons on topics such as media and digital literacy.

Link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbbuLFUSd0A&list=PL8TjVyuBdsCm06G_g1wA1oCsZaPgYMz2U

The Virtual Learning Commons offers a broader definition of information literacy by breaking the term up into categories such as visual literacy, library instruction, cultural literacy, and computer literacy.  It acts as a repository for all things information literacy related. 

Link – https://vlc.ucdsb.ca/c.php?g=101195&p=656334

Lastly, a UBC library search covering the last 5 years returned two interesting hits.  The first was an article written about how different schools around the world utilize their libraries to improve literacy, and the second was a book written by Denise E. Agosto titled, Information Literacy and Libraries in the Age of Fake News.  In Agosto’s book, she covers topics ranging from fake news and information literacy in society to combating cultural misinformation on the internet.

Links: 

  1. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=f5176dce-0c1f-48ee-b483-f30a80306ece%40sdc-v-sessmgr02
  2. https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ubc/detail.action?docID=5518324

LIBE 477 Reading Review Part A – Topic Identification

During the next several weeks, I will be posting about my learning from my LIBE 477 course as part of my teacher-librarianship diploma.

In this particular post, I’d like to share some of the areas of education and learning I’m most passionate about. When I think about professional development concerning my new position as a teacher-librarian in a k-5 school I get excited about the endless possibilities. There are so many exciting and interesting areas of education that fit well within the parameters of a library learning commons.

I am interested in deepening my understanding of information literacy and all its intricate components. We are surrounded, often bombard, with a constant flow of information in our digital lives. Being able to make sense of that information, evaluate it, and extract meaning is an important skill and one we should be sharing with students in schools from an early age. We have to acquire the skills to question the mass of information we are exposed to more than ever to ensure we don’t contribute to the spread of misinformation.

In addition to information literacy, I am fascinated by the idea of connections-based learning. I would like to continue to explore the power of the latest digital technologies to reach outside of the walls of our schools and make meaningful connections with our local and global communities. Projects such as Exploring By The Seat Of Your Pants and Microsoft’s virtual field trips can help students experience events that would otherwise not be feasible.

Student-led learning is also important to me. I’ve witnessed the incredible achievements of students who have been allowed to direct their learning. I am always looking for better ways to scaffold this process for students by helping them narrow down a topic of interest, collect appropriate resources, and capture their learning more efficiently and effectively. Over the years, I have developed my own framework for this that I call C.H.O.I.C.E – Children Have Ownership In Choice Education. It’s a work in progress that needs developing and refining.

Lastly, as a new teacher-librarian, I have a desire to transform my school library into a library learning commons that represents a place of inclusion, innovation, compassion, and creativity. A library learning commons has no specific standard that defines it but I would like to take the time to see what others are doing in their libraries. Ideas that are at the back of mind including moving away from Dewey into the bookstore model, researching the necessary hardware and software to enable quality virtual field trip experiences, creating a makerspace, and finding creative ways to engage our most at-risk readers in the joy of reading.

Morning Classroom Routines

My students and I start our day by sitting in a circle with the specific purpose designed to connect, learn from other, and develop a sense of community.  Sometimes, we meet in ‘circle’ for close to an hour and I think it’s where the most powerful learning happens.  The inspiration for my morning routines is firmly fixed in the mindset of restorative practices. For many years now I have been an admirer of restorative practices in schools. In fact, I’ve tried to implement restorative practices in every school and classroom I have worked in because I believe they honour the building, maintaining, and rebuilding of relationships, and in schools relationships are the currency in which we all prosper.  Each morning, I try to include a different activity.  This year I’ve been working on refining the activities detailed below, and I wanted to share them with you.  Please feel free to let me know what you think, or if you’d like more information on a particular activity.    

 

Day 1

Daily Wonder

Image courtesy of Apple iTunes Store 

Developing strong oral language skills is an important part of improving students’ social-emotional skills.  The Daily Wonder app, is an affirmation app that provides a precept (quote) for each day of the year celebrating goodness and strength.  It’s based on the book 365 Days of Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  I have a split class so one week I ask my grade 5’s to tell me what the quote means to them.  By using the language ‘means to them’ it takes away any pressure that there is one correct answer.  The next time we display a quote in the circle the grade 6 students have an opportunity to share. At the end of each sharing session, I open it up to anyone that is keen to share.  Some of the thinking and connections students have made to the quote has been deep-thinking indeed.

 

Day 2

Eyes On Math

Image courtesy of Amazon Canada 

We often get caught in the cycle of computation in math, but there should be so much more to our math curriculum; math is visual, math is about noticing and identifying patterns, and finding reasons and rules to patterns.  One way I have tried to open up my math curriculum is to start the day looking at @marian_small’s book, Eyes on Math. This is a great way to stimulate mathematical teaching conversations around key K–8 concepts. Each picture comes with recommended guided questions.  This activity is also graet for building mathematical thinking and vocabulary.

 

Day 3

Daily Picture

Image courtesy of The Learning Network by The New York Times

We use the New York Times’ What’s Going On resources, which involves a series of intriguing weekly Times images stripped of their captions.  We invite students to look at the picture for one minute without discussing with a partner, then give them another minute to discuss the following questions with an elbow partner.  What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you think this way? What more can you find? The last step involves sharing with the rest of the group. This resource fosters an environment for critical and creative thinking, and provides an opportunity to develop students’ curiosity about news, current events, and cultures around the world.  Each Monday, a new image is released without the explanation and every Thursday the details of what actually happening in the picture are shared.

 

Day 4

Classroom Debates

“The Power of Debates” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Holding small casual debates in class helps to develop powerful listening and speaking skills.  They also develop empathy, understanding, and introduce students to a variety of worldviews. Perhaps the most powerful part of class debates has been the way in which students have developed the ability to maintain different ideas/opinions without feeling judged or personally attacked.  

 

Day 5

Fun!

“Students in Circle” by Christopher Lister is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Circle time, especially at the beginning of the school year, needs to be fun and lighthearted.  Students who don’t feel safe taking risks or being vulnerable with their learning tend to go through the motions in the circle.  It’s like they are viewing the events of the circle through a window but don’t have the social-emotional skills to step through and activity participate.  One way to combat this is to make students feel safe. I do this in a variety of ways including dance, sharing of jokes, practicing rhythms, stimulating students’ imaginations, and playing games.  

 

These links may be useful:

Circle games we play – http://bit.ly/circle-games   

Dance playlist – http://bit.ly/dance-videos

Circle questions – http://bit.ly/circle-questions

Rhythm games – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sibO2k0JVxI

 

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