The seduction of censored material and other memories from the 60s

Today I noticed this book cover for the classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in the library.

It’s clever, isn’t it?

It reminded me of my childhood days at Russian Saturday School when the fear of communism in the Russian community was still a raw sore.  We used text books from the Soviet Union because they were the only ones we could get, and one woman decided we could not be permitted to lay eyes on certain words which were associated with Soviet Russia. After all, many of us had living relatives who had witnessed and experienced atrocities, including my own maternal grandfather who, at the age of fourteen,  had witnessed his father being shot dead, and whose wife (my grandmother), many years later, was tipped off secretly that he was to be shot the next day. Which is why I was born in Australia.

Anyway, back to the forbidden words in the Soviet Russian textbooks. This lady decided to black out words and phrases to protect us. She spent hours with a ruler and black textas blacking out sections of the book. If there were too many words/phrases to be eradicated, she would glue pages together. My sister caught onto this, opportunist that she was, and glued her own pages together when she didn’t want to do her homework. I wish I had thought of that.

As you can imagine, the blacked out sections of our books became so fascinating that we used to lift the pages up to the light in order to be able to read the words/phrases. I don’t know what we expected but I know I was disappointed when I managed to decipher ‘pioneers’ (Soviet Russian scouts) and ‘Russian Victory Day’ and other words I’ve now forgotten.

It’s funny remembering things that happened in your childhood which you can hardly believe happened.

Like memories of things so different to the way they are now that they seem surreal. I remember in primary school boys and girls played together until they got to grade 3 and then the playgrounds were segregated. Not the oval (strangely) but the playgrounds. If kids wanted to be mean to you, they’d try to push you into the forbidden playground. I remember that happening to me and it was traumatic. Even putting one toe into the wrong playground was unimaginable.

Punishments for boys in my primary school included getting the strap. That usually happened in class – and I think it sometimes involved the yard stick which sat on the blackboard ledge or near it – but if boys got into really bad trouble, they would get the strap at the principal’s office and the procedure would be transmitted to the rest of the school. Maybe once a week we would tune in to the P.A. system mounted high on the wall and listen to boys getting the strap. In retrospect it was a bit like being part of the audience when early Christians were thrown to the lions. There was some sadistic pleasure there. I remember each boy being named, then the dreadful sound of the hard slap, followed either by silence or sobbing.

Girls never got the strap at my school although I have heard others say that they did at theirs. I sometimes wished we could have because it would have been over and done with instead of writing lines. In grade 4 my teacher used to make me write ‘I am a Russian parrot’ many times over because I talked too much.

Now I can’t even believe I went to school in the 60s! And it’s funny what stays with you. I guess you don’t have that original memory but you’ve remembered your way through your life and your memory has never gone out. In this way I remember being called a communist by kids in kindergarten. I didn’t speak English then, maybe just basic things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ but I remember hearing the way they said ‘communist’ and thinking that I was disgusting, that people didn’t want to be near me. Later I would discover the irony in this.

Things have changed a lot since then, haven’t they? Schools have anti-bullying policies and educators are more conscious of the language being used by young people. Most of us are more politically correct than before.

I wonder how strong we are in upholding these basic human rights, and how strongly we would protest if this culture came under threat.

 

 

The outcomes of my life (today) – feverish thoughts

Southern Garden by Paul Klee

I’m sick at home and have been in two stages over 3 weeks. Unable to do anything cerebral,  I sit and take in the room and the view outside my windows.

There are things I appreciate:

The tea tree sways in the wind and sunlight re-enacts this movement in the shadows on a blanket at the end of the couch near the window.

Intermittent bird song and the sound of wind.

The feel of the breeze on my arms.

The sunlight illuminating the pink blossoms of an indoor plant.

The sensation of lemon and ginger tea soothing my throat.

The ‘silence’, as much as it can be.

These are outcomes for me based on external conditions: light, architecture, placement of objects, my position, my awareness, my appreciation.

I did not perceive these same things yesterday because:

I felt sicker.

The weather was different.

I wasn’t receptive to many things.

I wasn’t able to feel pleasure.

What I will not do is put these conditions in a spreadsheet and try to control future experiences. I will not create numerical data to ensure moments of pleasure for the next time I’m sick. I will not expect it to be the same next time. I will not assume these conditions will be experienced in the same way by others. I will not expect that everyone is privileged enough to be sick in similar conditions.

I will not write a policy for How to Feel Better During a Prolonged Virus.

Rethinking the value of technology in learning and teaching (and my own role as advocate)

Found on Pinterest – saved from Fiverr

It occurred to me last year, during a ‘lesson’ I was permitted to give to a year 9 English class, that I had marginalised myself as a ‘technology person’. ‘Permitted’ because TLs need to approach teachers for permission to interrupt their class if we want to buy time with students. To do this we need to have a sales pitch, to convince the teacher that what we are going to teach is valuable. Not just valuable, because why would you allow your class to be interrupted if it wasn’t for something that ‘better be worth it’.  And suddenly I realised that I was focusing on the sales pitch to justify my existence as a teacher, to justify the ‘teacher’ in my title ‘teacher librarian’. While pushing to be a relevant, valuable part of learning and teaching at school, somehow I’d become the person who pushed her way in to classes to feature a technology tool.

That lesson didn’t work so well because, although the tool (Thinglink) worked for me, it was blocked for the students – something I should have checked (because the same scenario had taken place so many times over the years, you’d think I’d remember to check). And although the teacher was patient and gave my tech tool the benefit of the doubt, it didn’t end up being the ‘enhanced learning tool’ that I had envisaged. She moved on, and I stayed to witness much more authentic learning and teaching which occurred in a traditional setting, without the aid of technology.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been forced to rethink the value of pushing technology tools but it was the first time I had realised that I didn’t want to be associated with ‘the person who always pushed technology’ or believed in technology as the saviour of 21st century learning and teaching . Rather, I wanted to be in an integral part of teaching and learning in the classroom, I wanted an organic partnership with the teacher, trusting in and respecting her teaching expertise and instincts, and coming in from behind to support and enhance the direction she was taking.

Just today I was tagged in a tweet by Geoffrey Gevalt to join Digiwrimo with my students – an event which is run by the Young Writers Project. This is an opportunity to connect with other writers and so is an example of technology enabling, connecting and enhancing:

We at YWP define digital writing as writing done in digital spaces — often with digital media — that is interconnected by social media and different external audiences.

Unfortunately for us in the southern hemisphere November is the time for end of year exams, and so we miss this opportunity. Neverthless I’ve shared this invitation with students in my Writing Interest Group (WIG), hoping that even one student might take the opportunity to connect to a global writing community.

This is not an instance of technology being an add-on, or even an instance of online learning  where traditional teaching and learning are transferred online just as they are. Digiwrimo connects writers globally and celebrates writing through a community of writers sharing and giving feedback . Although our exam- and VCE-focused curriculum makes it difficult to take up such opportunities, something like this might engage students in a way that writing for submission and marks would not. I believe so anyway.

What is digital writing? (from the Digiwrimo website):

The internet has changed writing. Today, there are more people writing every day — e-mails, text messages, blog posts — and more self-published authors than ever before. Written communication is popular in a way it hasn’t been in a century, and everyone’s doing it. But unlike when writing between two people was quiet and private, much of today’s writing is loud and public, connected through a web of hyperlinks to every other piece of writing out there. With the old masters like Shakespeare, Milton, Melville, Hemingway, and Shelley being translated into code and uploaded onto the web, your blog posts exist right alongside their greatest works.

The school I dream about will shift its focus from prescribed curriculum, outcomes, targets, exams and preparation for exams, but retain and intensify the wonderful teaching I see in classes at my school, with time for deep discussions. Students will have the time to share their writing/work with their colleagues, discuss and give/receive feedback, but also be able to connect to other learners/writers outside the classroom and beyond the school. Technology will be the enhancer/connector but never the forced add-on, never the one-size-fits-all LMS; it will be a connection even as the old-fashioned phone connects voices.

The internet allows us to communicate through our text in new ways; it frees us to join our words with others’, to innovate, and to let our words become our actions. We can live spontaneously through our words, or vicariously, or cooperatively. Our words can form communities, can take a stand, can create at the same time as we create them. (What is digital writing?)

Recently I shared a poem a student had posted in our WIG blog, Unicorn Express. I shared with people and groups I’m connected to on different social media platforms. The post was written by a past WIG member (co-captain). How wonderful that the year 12 student who is no longer part of this group (because of the pressures of year 12) is moved to share something he’s written (and how lovely that he’s found the time to write for himself amidst the final exam preparation).

I was moved by my online buddy, Kevin Hodgson, who not only took the time to read my student’s writing, but commented to encourage the student, and then pulled out words that spoke to him, created a ‘poster’ and then shared it online with me and his own network. This is the human element enhancing the solitary writing experience, this is one of the best examples of the potential of technology.

In conclusion, I’d like to finish with a tweet I just read from Maha Bali:

Saying that any digital tool teaches us digital literacies is like saying a pen or a keyboard teaches us writing. #DigPed #OpenEd16

Amen

Do learners need teachers? A reflection

Last year one of our teachers, at that time an assistant principal, surveyed some of our senior students about how they learn, who they learn from, and the role of their teachers in their learning.

His survey, in a nutshell, demonstrated that ‘they don’t need us’. They have their tutors and they come to class but do not participate in class discussion because they don’t want to admit they are tutored and in some cases far ahead.  Not all students, but a large number of them.

So I wonder why, after being accepted into the much-coveted selective Melbourne High School,  they continue to be tutored. Isn’t this a lack of confidence in their teachers? Where does most of their learning take place?

Our students are competitive; in many cases they choose their tutor – the one who apparently ‘will get them a 50′. There is no self-directed learning in this relationship – they believe tutors will somehow get them the final ranking they aspire to. There is an implied process that, if followed and supported by the experienced tutor, will result in a top mark. These students are tutor-focused; I see how often they talk to their tutor on their phones in the library during their study periods. I guess they would be chatting to them even more frequently after school hours.

While they are focusing on their tutored work – occasionally even asking their teachers to help them with work their tutors have set -something else happens – it is the absence of these students from class. Students are sometimes physically and/or mentally absent from class because they don’t value a particular subject as much as other subjects, or they are in the library studying for their most important subjects. From year 9 onwards, students sometimes have already decided which subjects they will select in VCE  and which are not part of that plan.

Teachers are frustrated by absences, students’ failure to do assignments and homework, or lack of engagement when this happens. And with good reason; they have prepared interesting, engaging lessons and have much to give to their students. Focusing on more than marks, teachers try to engage their students in the learning itself, and that kind of learning takes shape in passionate collaborative conversations, healthy debate, critical thinking and reflection, deep reading and a writing process which evolves after feedback and review.

We talk about lifelong learning. In my conversation with teachers at school, I guess that our teachers realise that our students need to drive their own learning so that they prepared for higher education and life. I’m not sure, though, if our school system is designed to prepare them for this. I’m also not sure that our boys’ parents understand how much more important this is than helping them achieve the highest ATAR. I probably fell into that category myself when my two sons were at school. I understood the value of lifelong learning but was more concerned that their final VCE ranking enabled them to get into their preferred courses.  I may have thought that learning habits would fall into place once they got into their preferred tertiary courses. Maybe the two don’t play well together  – working for the high ATAR and delving into deeper learning and developing literacies. After all, in our school at least, the quest for the gold ATAR begins when the students arrive in year 9.

Lifelong learning. Funny how these catch-phrases somehow become meaningless. We know what the term means but I wonder if we are tied up with abstract notions more than getting our hands dirty.

I was reading Audrey Watters’ article, ‘Roaming Autodidacts and Entrepreneurial (L)Earners: The stories we tell about lifelong learning.’

In general, Americans do believe that lifelong learning is important, so it’s not that surprising that hyperbolic narratives about the future of learning are appealing to us.

‘Hyperbolic narratives’  – yes, I’ve fallen for these. They are so uplifting – temporarily – but they don’t always fit into the everyday reality in schools/higher education. As we constantly rewrite curriculum, exchanging definitions over the years to come back full circle, do we really have the time to build a deep understanding of the terms in our curriculum mapping and policies? Is all the rewriting and re-defining as useful as it could be or should we just get on with the business of teaching? And if so, could teachers spend more time engaging  students in the learning that inspired them in the first place, the learning that was responsible for them becoming teachers – than preparing them for exams and marking all their work?

 

Visual Communication Design online resources – happy to share

(This has been reposted from Melbourne High School Library blog.)

Since I spend so many, many hours creating art and visual communication design resources online, it gives me great pleasure to share and know that people are using them.

I’ve recently added new resources in our Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design digital library – our Libguides.

On the Visual Communication Design page, look for the tabs at the top: Australian designers and design companies, Berlin designers/illustrators, European designers/illustrators, UK designers/illustrators, US designers/illustrators, and design agencies and organisations. All of these resources are new – I think you’ll love them because they are full of young, creative people and examples of the work, with links to how you can follow them on social media, eg Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter and other places. The beauty of the follow is that all the wonderful, new work comes to you in your feed and you’ll have daily inspiration to draw from. The diversity amongst the artists is amazing – in fact, you’ll be overwhelmed it (in a good way).

I’ll leave you with a few examples:

From the Berlin designers/illustrators page: Maria Bustamante (aka notflipper)

From the European designers/illustrators page: French artist Koralie. You can follow her onTumblrFacebook and on this website.

On the UK designers/illustrators pageJack Sachs is a London based 3D animator and illustrator.Read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Nicolas Menard is a French Canadian graphic artist working and living in London. He makes drawings, prints, animations, books and interactive. Follow him on Vimeo,on tumblr, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

On the US designers/illustrators page, so far we have Ari Weinkle and you can follow Ari on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Under Australian designers and design companiesKindred Studio is the multi-disciplinary studio of Sydney based Illustrator, Designer and Art Director Andrew Fairclough. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter and Skillshare.

Benja Harney is a paper engineer. Follow him on Instagram. Benja is based in Sydney, Australia.

Also new in the Visual Arts libguides are most of the resources under the tab ‘For teachers’. There’s a lot of text here and so it doesn’t look very exciting but, believe me, if you take the time to explore the links you will not be disappointed. For example, in the box ‘general resources for teachers‘, I would recommend having a good look at Deon Van Dorp’s website. I met Deon in the High School Art Teachers Facebook group – a private group so if you want to join, just ask and wait to be approved. Deon is one of many art teachers sharing their expertise and student work examples here. Have a good dig around on Deon’s website, under all the tabs. For example, under the ‘More’ tab at the top, you will find Deon sharing the processes he goes through with students and examples of student work. Deon includes detailed descriptions of tools, techniques and shows the progress of student work from start to finish.

Also under the ‘More’ tab are examples of student visual diaries. There is lots of student work organised by year level throughout the website.

Flickr is another amazing resource for examples of art work including student work. I have a selection of these in the Visual Arts libguide (for teachers) under ‘student art work on Flickr’, for example, Monks Dyke Tennyson College, Lincolnshire. Don’t forget to select ‘albums’ when on Flickr to see different projects. There are many examples of student sketchbooks/folios, such as this one. I can’t share any images here because the permissions are restricted but you can still look.

On the same libguides page under the tab ‘for teachers’ there is a big selection of art teacher websites with examples of work. Developing Nicely by Chris Francis, UK Art teacher and Senior Leader at St Peter’s Catholic School, Bournemouth, England. The blog contains thought-provoking articles that are illustrated with creative, contemporary student artwork.

Ms King’s AP Studio Art Class This blog contains activities cover perspective, line drawing, the depiction of glass and metal objects, working in monochrome, figure drawing and still life arrangements.

InThinking Visual Arts is a website for International Baccalaureate Art teachers written by Heather McReynolds, who has over 20 years of teaching and examining experience. Heather was previously Head of Art at the International School of Florence and now offers training and workshops for IB Art teachers, writes textbooks and shares knowledge via the InThinking Visual Arts website. Although this site is subscription based, there is enough free content to keep you busy for hours. For example, you can read an interesting article on attitudes to beauty.

Fortismere Art Department has lots of useful things under the tab ‘student area’ including ‘practical support’ (for photography, painting, film and more)  and ‘web tools’, such asphoto- and video-sharing, and also under the ‘student area’ tab, under ‘research support’ there is ‘research and analysis‘, ‘creative thinking’ and resources for photography genres eg portraiture.

Also helpful on this page is the box with tips from a high achieving art student.

I’ve also made a start on resources for students under the tab of the same name.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming navigating your way through our online resources so I hope it was useful for me to highlight a few of our newly created areas. Enjoy!

Back to #CLMOOC

It’s pretty obvious I haven’t been writing in this blog for so, so long and I guess it doesn’t matter because you go where you need to go, and I’ve been dipping into different communities and conversations online, mainly in groups on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I’ve learned not to feel guilty when I can’t settle on one thing – hence the lack of focus for writing in this blog.

So #CLMOOC is happening, and I’m happy to get involved – because I feel the need to ‘do stuff’ that’s devised for me in the company of others, because the people I love doing stuff with are there (some of them), and because it’s time to get to know new people, and the best way to do that is to make stuff with them. For me, it’s much more satisfying than just people on Twitter with no unifying agenda (apart from learning, of course). Conversations happen, ideas and creative things are exchanged, and my network is widened again, including people I wouldn’t otherwise meet, people from all walks of life. Nice.

I’m about to look seriously at Make Cycle #2 because up until now I’ve been the rebellious child, refusing to sit still, not willing to follow the rules (not that there are any actually, just guidelines), coming in to join conversations here and there, admiring the creativity and ideas of others. Still sharing, but randomly, things I find inspirational  – like the Gertrude Street Light Projection Festival which is magical.

Susan Watson put me onto the monsters in the PicsArt app (which I had been using in a limited way). I hid some amongst the birds in my rug. How many can you see?

I found an old high school sketch (and I mean OLD) and added a few.

All the while, saving things shared by people in Diigo and Pinterest.

What I love about CLMOOC is the philosophy and attitude of the group. For example, in the make cycle for week 2 you will read :

If you have just arrived … welcome. You are not late. You are right on time.

And also:

Finding ways to reciprocate generosity in our community is a key way for all of us to grow together even as we learn together.

This is a community I feel comfortable in, at home in, safe to play in.

And now, to get stuck into Make Cycle #2:

For Make Cycle 2, consider this idea of reaching out into conversation, of moving behind the “+1” or “like” or heart button into something deeper and richer, to be the very heartbeat of CLMOOC.

And this fantastic example of how powerful this idea can be:

In a recent blog post, Aaron Davis (whose blog ReadWriteRespond is a must-read) dives into the concept of his own writing life. Entitled “A Village Takes Many Things,” Aaron celebrated his own 300th blog post by reaching out to all of the people who have left comments at his blog site. He invited them through personal communication to write on the theme of the Village in a single blog post. And they did. Aaron’s project shows the ways in which connections ebb and flow, and he honored his readers as a reciprocal act of trust and connection.

I’m grateful that my options for this make cycle can be either to dip in,  swim in or dive in. I’ve been dipping here and there, and know better than to permit the guilt monster to make me feel bad about not diving in if I don’t have the time or ideas.  Reciprocating and connecting is something I think we learn to do over time, and keep learning. Reminding myself about the connected learning principles. I dwell on:

What would it mean to think of education as a responsibility of a distributed network of people and institutions, including schools, libraries, museums and online communities?

I fantasize about the school campus extending into other learning places – the museums, the art galleries, libraries, sustainable gardens, and the virtual spaces. (Hmm… but so much disruption to school routine). Virtual spaces are possible but how to go about this? In small ways, I think. Offering, modelling, enticing, leaping in when they’re ready to jump in.

 

The thinking behind the evolution of blogging – 4 case studies (ALIA seminar)

Last Saturday, with barely a whisper for a voice (laryngitis), I presented ‘Blogging: My story’ at an ALIA conference, along with Catherine Ryan (Westbourne Grammar), Karen Malbon (Penleigh and Essendon Grammar) and keynote speaker, Kelly Gardiner, Online Learning Manager, State Library Victoria. It was a privilege to join these people, and to hear what they had to say. Kelly, thank you for settling my nerves with your lovely, relaxed, conversational manner. It was a privilege and pleasure also to meet and chat to everyone who came – on a Saturday! And I have to  mention how beautifully organised the day was – with lovely pastries from a special place in (I think) Seddon. Thanks to ALIA people (Anne Girolami and Karen Marston – as well as Catherine Ryan; I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, and if so, sorry) and in particular to Anne who saved my voice by regrouping people so that I gave two instead of three workshops. I hope that Kelly’s talk will be available somewhere soon because I’d like to revisit it.

Here’s the visual presentation for my workshop. It doesn’t cover everything I spoke about but it gives you an idea. I wanted to focus on my own story in terms of 4 different school blogs I talked about, so it was more about reflection/evaluation and evolution of my use of blogging in four different contexts.

 

Re-designing thinking (on libraries) – Hamish Curry (notosh) #slav

Yesterday Marie and I attended a SLAV workshop facilitated by Hamish Curry (notosh) : Re-designing thinking on libraries.

I don’t have time for a well written post at the moment so I’m going to share my unedited notes and photos, including screenshots which will give you an insight into the process we went through during the workshop. A big thank you to Hamish Curry who ran a dynamic, engaging workshop with lots of depth and substance. I hope to share this with my library colleagues as well as other teachers in the school (and obviously here).  You can also look at Notosh’s ‘The Design Thinking School‘ online. I think it would be fantastic to have Hamish work with us at MHS, either as a whole school or in faculties.

I did feel a bit like I was going to explode while attempting to listen, participate, take notes, while sharing on Twitter and Instagram.

Great video demonstrating the importance of time given for creativity and problem solving.

A few screen shots. Please go full screen with the presentation.

More about Hexagonal Thinking on the notosh website.

If you want a more comprehensive, orderly set of notes, please look at Marie Buckland’s.

We are teacher librarians. We teach library lessons. #perception #librarymyths

“Oh, teacher librarian? So, what do you do? (Awkward silence) I guess you teach library lessons.”

Big sigh.

Even when you think that you and your colleagues have demonstrated to your school community what you actually do and are capable of doing, there will be the unexpected and totally surprising (not in a good way) comment which reminds me that we are partially stuck in people’s outdated perception of who we are and what we do. Is it because we all remain isolated in our silo-esque faculties in our schools, or that we are so busy trying to keep up with everything that we don’t have the time or headspace to even imagine what other educators are doing? And partially because, even as I sit at my computer researching and curating resources for teachers/students, a teacher will come in and ask me to photocopy something, and in his head, I am the person who assists him with menial chores – and cheerfully, because I love my job.

As a sort of creative therapy for my frustration, I made this very tongue-in-cheek slideshow. Hope you enjoy it.  Just a bit of fun; hope nobody is offended by it.


We are teacher librarians – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Drawn into remix #lesmauxdesmots

So the weeks and months go by and no sign of me here. Is it because I have nothing to say? Is it because I’m consumed by school? Obsessed by gorgeous art and photography? Delving into this and that online and offline? Yes and yes.

Some things still call out and I’m not going to pass up on the opportunity to play with Creatives whose work I follow daily and who feed my need for such things, nurture so many.

And so I spotted Simon’s poem on Twitter.  Simon is prolific in thought and deed. I would like to meet him one day.

 

Not well written but I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter. It’s written. Somehow I’ve stepped into Simon’s hashtag #lesmauxdesmots. I’m not sure what that is about because I haven’t been paying attention although I’ve noticed it.

And now Kevin comes in. Another Creative Prolific. Kevin and Simon never stop. Please don’t stop ever.

I hope that others will join in to remix. It’s one of the most satisfying kinds of online connection – next best thing to being with people face to face only it’s a play date so no small talk is necessary.

PS  Of course that wasn’t the end of it. Terry went on a creative rampage, leaving a trail of shimmering images and sounds of nature with a voiceover for technical tips. You really must see it all in his post. Really.

Simon asked how you attribute nature and Laura answered: by noticing and shared a Soundcloud recording of the sounds in her English country garden.

I guess we’ll just keep going for a while.

Button up, we’re out in the open

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