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As MSLA president, last June I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Library Association’s 2010 National Conference. This conference attracted its greatest numbers in recent years when more than 900 delegates met from June 2-5 in Edmonton, Alberta. At this time, I was also able to join my provincial and national counterparts at the Canadian Association of School Library’s (CASL) Annual General Meeting . Two of our members, Vivianne Fogarty and John Tooth were presented with national awards, The Chancellor Grant and the Angela Thacker Award, respectively.

Due to a conflict with the Treasure Mountain Conference, I was only able to hear one of the two keynote speakers, Dr. Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair, Internet and E-commerce law at the University of Ottawa. Dr. Geist gave a timely presentation on Canadian copyright law with an overview of key points in the government’s latest copyright bill that had been released only days earlier.
The other keynote speaker was Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, who spoke about the power of the positive in the collaboration of the volunteer editors of Wikipedia.

The conference program offered delegates sixty-five sessions on a wide variety of topics over the three days, as well as pre-conference workshops and library tours throughout the city. The teacher-librarian sessions were held on one day with the most well-known presenters being David Loertscher and Carol Koechlin. These presenters challenged delegates to “flip their libraries” and transform them into a learning commons.

One of the highlights for me during the conference was the reception for the winners of the 2010 CLA Book Awards, celebrating authors and illustrators of works for children and young adults. It was wonderful to hear the authors accept their awards and afterward, everyone in attendance received one free book for the author to sign. Winning authors included Barbara Reid for Perfect Snow, Nancy Hartry for Watching Jimmy and Lesley Livingston for Wondrous Strange. As well, the University of Alberta Libraries and Edmonton Public Library hosted a splendid welcome reception at the new Art Gallery of Alberta which is quite the architectural wonder.

At the Annual General Meeting of CLA members, Keith Walker succeeded John Teskey as President of the association. President Walker noted that his term will be a challenging one, as members passed resolutions directing the CLA Executive Council to develop plans for changes to the association. Due to the financial challenges facing the CLA, CASL was not permitted to hold elections this year which was disconcerting to the CASL members.

The next Canadian Library Association conference will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia from May 25-28, 2011 at the World Trade Convention Centre. Hope to see you there!

For more information on CLA or CASL events and activities and membership benefits, to to: http://www.cla.ca

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It’s been a few years since I’ve attended a Manitoba Libraries Conference.  The first time I went as a newly qualified teacher-librarian, I found there was little for me in the way of professional development so I stopped attending.  Now, as president of the MSLA, I have learned that in the past few years, there has been a renewed effort in ensuring that the professional development needs of school library personnel are met at the conference.  This past year, one member of our MSLA board, Leanne Falconer, and our liaison officer from Manitoba Education, John Tooth, committed themselves to making sure that there were suitable sessions at the 2010 Manitoba Libraries Conference for both library technicians and teacher-librarians.

With this in mind, the library technician in my school, Edna Johnson, and I set off to participate in what was shaping up to be a professionally worthwhile activity.   I’m pleased to report that we weren’t disappointed.  As winner of the Manitoba Library Technician of the Year Award, Edna was fortunate enough to be able to attend all three days of the conference whereas I only attended two days. The pre-conference was especially meaningful to her as a school library technician since she was able to learn more about the new RDA cataloguing standard which replaces AACR2.  Other sessions that as a library technician Edna found valuable were:

 

  • What Factors Affect Health and Literacy? Lessons From the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy (Facilitator: Marni Brownell)
  • Designing Dazzling Displays: Tips and Tricks (Facilitators: Dawn Huck & Jennifer McSweeney)
  • Reaching out to Newcomers (Facilitators: Ricardo Blanco, Guy Prokopetz, Janis Pregnall, June Shymko & Kathleen Williams)
  • The Power of Project Teams in Libraries: The Success of the University of Winnipeg Library Website Redevelopment Project (Facilitator: Michael Hohner)
  • Making Reports Highlight Your Successes (Facilitator: Denise Weir)
  • It Ain’t Over Yet: Continuing Education Opportunities for Library Technicians (Facilitator: Karen Hildebrandt)
  • Gale Databases

As a teacher-librarian, there were five sessions at the conference that I found valuable.  These included John Tooth’s explanation of the new school tariff on Manitoba school libraries and copyright updates.  School library staffs are constantly faced with challenging copyright questions and this was my opportunity to “ask the expert.”  Next, I attended a session facilitated by Pat Cavill regarding library advocacy.  As president of the MSLA, advocacy encompasses a large part of what I do but as a teacher-librarian, I’m also aware that I must be prepared to advocate on behalf of my school library program on a daily basis.  Although Pat’s session was geared more toward public libraries, at the end of the session I was able to connect with her and she offered to send me a document prepared exclusively for school library advocacy.

The third session I attended was sponsored by the MSLA.  It was my pleasure to introduce author and retired teacher, Larry Verstraete, and Lisa Sykes, teacher-librarian at Westgrove School in Pembina Trails.  Their presentation, P is for Partnership: The Tale of Two Alphabet Books, chronicled the steps involved in publishing a book written by Larry, G is for Golden Boy: A Manitoba Alphabet, and a book published by the students and staff of Westgrove School, W is for Westgrove, that was modeled after Larry’s book.  If you’re considering writing and publishing a book at your school, I highly recommend connecting with these two knowledgeable educators and writers.

Next, I attended a session sponsored by Manitoba Education’s Instructional Resources unit.  Lynette Chartier from DREF demonstrated an exciting new online resource for French teachers, students and parents from TFO Education (http://www2.tfo.org/Education/).   Sam Davoodifar showed the latest offerings in English language streaming services (http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/iru/streaming/index.html).    Contact your school division for more information on these services or contact DREF directly at 945-4813 or Manitoba Education at 945-5371.

If you’ve ever considered using audio books in your library or classroom, you  first need to educate yourself as to what is legal and what is not.  Facilitator Chantal Fillion from Van Walleghem School in Pembina Trails took us on her frustrating journey spanning two years as she attempted to integrate audio books into her library and classrooms in a way that respects Canada’s copyright laws.  Perhaps the new copyright laws currently before Canada’s parliament will change the way schools can access audio books but from what I learned at Chantal’s presentation,  as it stands now, there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to using audio books legally in schools.

As you can see, both my school library technician and I found many worthwhile sessions at the 2010 Manitoba Libraries Conference.  Although geared more toward public libraries, we even found the keynote address by Gerry Meek, the chief executive Officer of the Calgary Public Library, to be highly inspirational.  At a time when budgets are tight Gerry discussed the need for ground-breaking partnerships between various libraries in our province and the need to learn from each other.   Certainly my attendance at the conference reinforced my feeling that as a teacher-librarian, I am vital part of the library community in Manitoba.   I hope you will consider taking in, or volunteering at, a Manitoba Libraries Conference in the future so that you can experience this partnership, as well.

 

 

 

As a teacher-librarian in a large junior high school, it’s a daunting task keeping the “cool” in I Love to Read Month. With such great teaching and activities happening in elementary schools, it’s difficult to keep things “fresh.” It’s also difficult to counter the often mistaken belief that many students and staff hold that I Love to Read celebrations are just for younger students. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Whereas it’s obviously vital to hook students into reading at a young age, it’s equally important to pump up the love for reading at the junior high level where reading for pleasure often takes a nose dive.

This year, my I Love to Read preparations took on a distinctly Web 2.0 flavour. I decided to take a fairly traditional activity that I had done a few years ago and infuse it with four Literacy with ICT activities that the students absolutely loved.

Working under the guise that students are far more apt to read books recommended by their peers, in the past, I had my students create an advertisement for other students about their favorite books. Their job was to “sell” their books so that other students would consider reading them. All the advertisements were then kept in two large binders in the library so that any student in the school could find out what other students were recommending.

Although this activity proved to be successful and the binders are still used by students two years later, getting them to create their advertisements took some encouragement. This year, by introducing four free Web 2.0 tools – Glogster, Animoto, Weebly and Skype – I had little trouble getting the students involved in recommending their favorite books to others and pumping up reading. (A sampling of all these tools and how my students used them to promote I Love to Read can be found on my library wiki)

Glogster is an online poster making tool that my grade 7 students just can’t get enough of. It is a tool that requires very little instruction but the possibilities are endless and so cool. In addition to text, students can download pictures and videos onto their pages, add animations and links to specific websites. Once the posters are created they can be embedded on websites, blogs or wikis or be printed. We used glogs to create posters of their favorite books. I managed all two hundred glogs created by my students by having individual classroom teachers create their own accounts who then requested accounts for their students. In doing so, the teachers were able to monitor all the glogs and comments and the students were able to view each other’s glogs and book suggestions.

Every one of my seven grade 8 classes created their own Animoto featuring their favorite books. As an educator, I signed up for an All Access Pass Animoto account.   This pass allows my students to create feature length animated slideshows that include text, pictures and videos. For their I Love to Read projects, students were asked to choose their favorite books to promote, download the covers onto a PowerPoint slide, add adjectives to describe them and then save the files as jpegs. Then I uploaded all their slides to Animoto, choose the type of music they wanted and Animoto did the rest with spectacular results. I then embedded the slideshows to my wiki for all to enjoy.

Weebly is an online tool that allows students to create simple websites. Again, I managed all eight grade 9 classes by having their teachers sign up for their own accounts.  Before the students arrived, I created a page for each of the students on the website that they could use to promote their favorite reading material. All 25 or so students were able to work on the website at the same time. To see what other students in their class were recommending, they simply had to click on their classmates’ pages. I then linked all the websites to my wiki for all students to see.

An added bonus of introducing these Web 2.0 tools to students and staff is that they can be used in any class in any subject. Every aspect of the LwICT Continuum can be reported on using these tools. In the Cognitive Domain, students can plan, gather and make sense, produce and communicate to show understanding and when using the commenting function, they can reflect on their own work and the work of others.

Since a social networking component is built into each tool, teachers are able to comment on the Affective Domain, as well. Using these tools, which can be kept private or made public, as desired, students have the opportunity to work collaboratively online with each other and thereby demonstrate their ability to use online tools ethically and responsibly. It’s also been my experience that the more students work with online applications such as these, the more their motivation and confidence to use technology in an educational setting increases.

As fun and educational using these tools was, by far the “coolest” Web 2.0 activity that I arranged for our students was to have a Skype video conference with an author from the West Coast of Canada (to protect her privacy, I’ve chosen not to share her name although I will say that she is an author nominated for the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award in 2010). Through the power of technology, my students were able to ask the author questions about being a writer and the process of writing. By coincidence, we interviewed her during the Olympics so the students were able to get a firsthand account of someone who was fortunate enough to attend a few Olympic events. Skype is a free download.  To see and hear who you are talking to, you need a web cam or a computer with a built in video recorder and microphone and a digital projector.

Contacting an author in a video conference was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had as a teacher-librarian and my students were equally impressed. Using video conferencing is something that I will definitely not be waiting for the next I Love to Read Month to come around again. This is one cool tool that I’m convinced will change the face of education in the library and in the classroom forever.

A fellow blogger, Saudixpat, asks an interesting question about whether the digital world can lead back to education in the more traditional sense. I wonder if we really need to go in what I see as a backward direction?

But is it going backwards? I know that there are obviously certain skills like reading and writing that students need to function in today’s society but can these be taught through a digital medium?

These would be interesting questions to discuss at the Web 2.0 Lit Forum panel that I’ve been asked to speak at in February. This opportunity has quickly led into another. Now I’ve been asked to be a presenter at our Manitoba Provincial Library Association’s annual conference in May. I think the organizers of the conference might have been wise to hear me speak at the first event before signing me up for their event. I’ve never done this before so it might be pretty brutal!

Jo-Anne

I can’t believe I am blogging so soon after this exhauting Web 2.0 course just ended but I’m excited to be moving forward so soon.  I still can’t think of a new catchy name for my blog but I’ll keep thinking about that over the welcomed holidays soon to be upon us. 

Two things happened today at my school that just goes to show that all my hard work in this course is already beginning to pay off.  First, I was invited to be one of four panelists on a provincial library forum (Manitoba School Library Association) focusing on using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.  Although I’m far from being an expert in the field and the thought terrifies me having to speak in front of so many knowledgeable teacher-librarians, I do feel that after this course and what’s been happening at my school with Web 2.0 that I will have something to offer.  A few short months ago I would have scoffed at this idea but things are really beginning to solidify in my brain about just how important Web 2.0 tools are for today’s educators and students so I’m happy to be asked to share my knowledge with others.  After all, that’s what Web 2.0 is all about  – building a community of learners.

This leads me to the second significant event that happened to me today at school.  One of the teachers on my staff who is relatively new to using technology in schools talked about how she’s beginning to understand that students today are different from those in the past.  This occurred within the context of  teachers discussing that the “clientele” of our school has changed significantly in the past 10 years.  Some see this change as students becoming more difficult to teach for a whole variety of reasons but it was the first time I’ve heard one of our teachers articulate that this “change” could be attributed to students having grown up in the digital age and thus they are “bored” with traditional teaching methods. 

What a breath of fresh air!  Yes, many of our students, often the toughest ones to teach, are disengaged because they are frustrated with the way education is being delivered.  I know of one lad who is difficult to work with at the best of times not having any trouble focusing on the digital story he was creating for Language Arts.  Give that same child instructions to write a short story in a more traditional sense and he’s not interested in the least bit and therefore chooses to misbehave.

I’d love to hear from any other teachers whether they’re seeing a change in attitude in other teachers in the value of infusing Web 2.0 tools in the classroom.  I think it’s time to start celebrating this shift in attitude and begin embracing  our students’ needs to be taught in a different way.

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Photo Credit: mini panic http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=serendipity&page=2

 

 

Serendipity…it’s a word I don’t often hear or use but it seems to keep popping up in several of the blogs that I’ve examined as I prepare to launch my own learning weblog.  Already I have had the good fortune to stumble upon some unexpected treasures as I have made my way through only a minute fraction of the collective stores of information and wisdom found on the pathway we both love and hate. 

 

 

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say “we” love and hate the Internet but I know as both a private consumer and teacher “I” certainly have a love/hate relationship with the World Wide Web and I think most others do, as well.  Read what writer and fellow blogger, Monika Mundell, has to say about information overload and what she tries to do to manage it. 

 

There’s just so much information out there and even though I love the unexpected discoveries and the “cool” things that can be accomplished in the digital world, the enormity of the medium and the speed at which technology changes simply frightens me.  How does one organize and keep track of themselves in a digital world?  I hope that this course will help me to discover at least some of the secrets to keeping myself organized electronically.

 

As a teacher-librarian responsible for imparting the information literacy skills my 600 or so junior high students will need to succeed in high school and into the future, I know I need to get a handle on the various Web 2.0 tools that quite frankly, many of my students are already using in their day-to-day lives, and begin to think about ways in which the technology tools of today and beyond can energize and improve the quality of education our students are currently receiving and help them to manage their digital lives.  When I watched the video on Joanne de Groot’s Web 2.0 Trailfire “A Vision of Students Today,” I realized just how much we as teachers need to do to prepare the students of tomorrow and how far many of us need to go.

 

It almost seems shameful in today’s world to admit that I am a linear thinker but a linear thinker I am – no doubt a product of both the time I was educated in the public school system and the way I was taught.  When I look at my own children (ages 13, 16 and 16) and the students at the Canadian school I teach at, I can see that despite our best efforts to teach them primarily in a linear fashion, they crave to learn in a new way.   Our children have grown up in the information age and seemingly have little trouble multi-tasking.  My sons can surf the web, talk to their friends on MSN, download video or music files, and prepare a multi-media project for school all seemingly at the same time.  It appears from what I’ve read on the web that my sons are far from unique.  Check out Tom Brigham’s thoughts on “How to Train Multitaskers.” Has your experience as a teacher or parent been any different?  I wholeheartedly agree with Doug Johnson, an educator dedicated to using technology effectively in the classroom, that it’s time for us teachers, at least, to acknowledge the uniqueness of today’s learners and instead of trying to change them, we should be putting our efforts into trying to change the way we are attempting to educate them.   

 

I can think of no better way to learn about the collaborative learning tools of Web 2.0 than to use one of those tools – a blog – to learn, collaborate, reflect and organize my thoughts about how they can be used in the classroom to improve student achievement and help me manage my information overload in the process.  I agree with Miguel Guhlin in his article “The CTO Challenge: Building Your Personal Learning Network,”  that we have two choices regarding technology: ignore it completely, which is as effective as “ignoring an oncoming truck,” or “seize the wheel and create our own learning network.”  From blogging, to photo sharing, video sharing, social bookmarking, podcasting, virtual libraries, wikis, multimedia sharing, social networking sites and RSS feeds, this course offered by the University of Alberta Teacher-Librarianship Distance Learning program is sure to be a valuable, first-hand learning experience (if not a tad bit anxiety provoking experience) which will surely help me to understand how these tools can help students learn and succeed in the classroom.

 

This blog is not the first I have constructed but it is the first blog that I will be an active participant in and that shift feels, at least initially, very different and exciting.  I can already see a transformation in my thinking from blogs as a passive storage of thoughts and information to a dynamic, creative, collaborative, critical thinking entity much like Bill Richardson discusses in his book, Blogs Wikis and Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (p. 20).

 

The first blog I set up was a collaborative effort between three teacher-librarians.  Our purpose in setting up a blog was to find a forum in which our students from different schools could discuss the books they were reading for the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards.  At first we tried www.blogger.com to set up our blog but we did not like the choices offered for moderating comments.  We wanted to be able to moderate our own students’ comments and our only option was to have the comments moderated by only one of the teacher-librarians via email and this didn’t seem fair to put this on just one teacher’s plate.  On a suggestion by another colleague, we then turned to November Learning Communities http://nlcommunities.com/ blog hosting site and although we had a little difficulty getting our password at first (we had to email them and wait a few days for a response), it was relatively easy to set up our blog and moderate the comments by logging into the blog as administrators.  This blog can be viewed at: http://nlcommunities.com/communities/myrca07/

 

The November Learning Community templates are limited, however, and attaching pictures is not as easy as I would like it to be so for my own learning blog, I decided to check out other blog hosting sites.  I highly recommend checking out at least some of the blogs found at the edublog awards site for numerous examples of how engaging blogs as learning tools can be.  As I examined the various blogs, I made a list of the features I wanted to have in my own blog so that when the time came to build my own blog, I would be ready.

 

Before making my decision on which blog hosting site to use, I also discussed blogging sites with the technology teacher at our school who uses blogs primarily as e-Portfolios in his grade 9 English class.  He really likes blogger.com because the students can sign in using nicknames which improves privacy and it’s easy for students to create blogs and download various media onto the blogs which they really like.  Check these examples out of two of his students’ work:  http://divyasportfolio.blogspot.com/2008/05/slap.html  http://www.amycraigportfolio.blogspot.com/  Aren’t they amazing!  I wish I was that creative!  One problem we have at our school which I’m sure many of you have is that many of the blogging sites are blocked.  I find it ironic that “the powers that be” who want us to be up on the latest teaching techniques are the very ones who are responsible for blocking the majority of the Web 2.0 tools want to use!  Last year I went to a school-based in-service on creating blogs using blogger.com and when I went back to my school to try it, the site was blocked.  How frustrating is that! Has that been your experience at your school, too? 

 

Since I was already familiar with blogger.com and judging from my technology teacher’s success with it, I decided to give blogger.com a try.  In a relatively short period of time I was able to create this blog However, I wasn’t entirely happy with the limited number of templates on blogger and I felt it important that with my blog I wanted to “catch the readers attention” and these templates just didn’t do this for me.  From what I had seen viewing other blogs, I also wanted to have a highly visible “search” button at the top of the sidebar and be able to “tag” comments to keep them organized. I thought I had seen these features on some of the sites listed in the edublog awards site I had viewed previously so I revisited the site to find out what hosting site they used. I also thought that since I already knew how to use blogger.com, maybe it was a good time to try something else and compare the suitability of various blogging sites for educational purposes.

 

It turns out that many of the award-winning sites I had seen such as  Extreme Biology Blog (nominated for Best Teacher Blog) and dy/dan’s blog (nominated for Best Individual Edublog) were hosted by http://wordpress.com.  When I went to check out making a blog using wordpress, I was immediately struck by the number of templates there was to choose from and it had the option of a visible search button. To be honest, however, I did find my anxiety level rising with the wordpress site since I was not as familiar with it as blogger.  Fortunately, I was able to use the “help” button to get me out of any jams I was having as I built my blog.  I think the level of help offered with any blogging site should be an important consideration for any first-time bloggers as should be the amount of file space provided by the hosting organization. 

 

In the end, I was surprised at how little time it took to set up a half-decent looking blog with a few apps to make the site fully functioning.  In terms of initial set-up, blogger is definitely easier but I’ll have to see whether the various features on wordpress will make using it in the classroom more attractive in the long run.  Is there anyone who has used both and has found one better than the other?  I would love to hear from you.

 

It is my goal in this class to learn more and help others learn more about the various Web 2.0 tools currently available and how they can best be used in the classroom to promote student learning. I hope that this blog will serve as a means of documenting my own learning.  If you, too, care about these things as an educator in today’s wired world, I invite you to come along on my Web 2.0 journey and learn with me.  Perhaps we can all learn to enjoy all those serendipitous moments in a way that our/my linear brain(s) can handle!