Tag Archives: melbourne high school

Why not #twistedpair for professional exchange?

I’ve mentioned my idea of using Steve Wheeler’s #twistedpair to inspire writing for a professional exchange session at school. I figure teachers are always attending PD which teaches them how to teach or how to use new technology in their teaching. What about just doing something instead of learning how to teach it? Why not? Just an enjoyable session being challenged to write something creative. Steve’s #twistedpair seems perfect. So here’s the slideshow introducing the session. (I hope someone comes to my session. Please come. Yes, I realise it might be threatening.)

Thank you to people whose examples of #twistedpairs helped me explain the challenge in this slideshow.

We host a Teachmeet @MHS #tmmelb

Last Saturday we hosted a TeachMeet in the school library. A TeachMeet is an informal gathering of people working in the education sector coming together to share ideas and expertise. It’s a great way to hear about what educators are doing in the primary, secondary, tertiary and public (eg museums) sectors. TeachMeets happen all over the world and meetings are held wherever people are happy to host. The format is simple – you can turn up or you can volunteer to present for either 3 or 7 minutes. There is usually a break for refreshments halfway through and it’s also customary for the hosts to suggest a nearby venue for drinks or dinner after the Meet. And it’s free!

Using bots to teach kids coding (Steve Brophy)

You can see in the wiki that we had a decent number of people attending, from a range of educational backgrounds. I always find that, as a secondary school educator, I learn so much from the primary teachers, from e-learning leaders, from people who work in public libraries and museums. And since the sharing sessions are so short, there is time for what’s most important – the conversations. Many people are also on social media so it’s a good chance to keep in touch later on Twitter or through their blogs, for example.

Order of presentations (see TeachMeet link for shared presentations):

Steve Brophy @stevebrophy Ivanhoe Grammar School K-12: Paper and programming

Bernadette Mercieca @bernm9  Xavier College E-Learning coord/teacher: What are we doing to help early career teachers flourish?

Eleni Kyritsis @misskyritsis Firbank Grammar School: Student Inquiry

Jan Molloy @janpcim Immigration Museum P-tertiary:   #AskACurator Sept 16 Getting involved

Catherine Morton @gorokegirl Melbourne High School Teacher Librarian and Fiona Matthews Whitefriars College Lead Coach – Learning, Teaching and Technology : One Conversation at a Time: Peer Coaching

Kim Yeomans @kimyeo St Martin of Tours primary TL: Connecting with authors via Twitter.

Tania Sheko @taniatorikova Melbourne High School How to really get to know people online.

Mel Cashen @melcashen Princes Hill: My reflection from camp

Kristy Wood @Kristy_M_Wood Primary teacher K-6: Teacher wellbeing

If you are interested in learning more about the presentations – since you can’t really get much from the titles – I would encourage you to go to the wiki where some people have already shared links to their presentations next to their names in the program. I’m sure there will be more shared later so check in again.

When I wrote a blog post about my talk – how to really get to know people online – I shared it on Twitter with a few people whom I’d met in an online course (MOOC), Rhizo15. These were people I had mentioned in my post. The morning before the TeachMeet I noticed some feedback from these people (none of them in Australia) which I was able to quickly add to my slide presentation. It was a lovely example of how these relationships continue to evolve long after the course (MOOC) has finished. After the TeachMeet I noticed Kevin Hodgson had even created a comic for us – very special.

The best way to see some of the ideas and passion shared on this day is to look through the Storify below which captures some of the tweets and photos on Twitter.

View the interaction about this TeachMeet on Twitter (Storify).

Teaching a highly able (possibly gifted) cohort – Dr Toni Meath on differentiation and personalised learning

The final session I attended on our first day back to term 2 – a Select Entry Schools Professional Learning Day – was presented by Dr Toni Meath, principal of The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, on ‘differentiation and personalising learning for the unique cohort of academic select entry schools’.

Brief: This presentation will provide a perspective on understanding the needs of gifted learners. Meath will put forward that to meet the wellbeing, curriculum and pedagogical needs of gifted learners educators must reflect upon how they personalise and differentiate the learning within a culture of trust present in both the school and the classroom.

Two things jumped out for me in this brief – wellbeing and trust. A focus on wellbeing is obviously an important one  when we consider students and their learning holistically.  Trust is an essential component of a healthy and happy cohort. Both are necessary for academic success.

Dr Meath started by saying that we needed to first believe that there is such a thing as a gifted/highly able child. I’m not sure about the choice of word, ‘believe’, which sounds a bit like blind faith, but I agree that we need to do the research to understand and be convinced that gifted/highly able students exist and have specific learning needs just as, at the other end of the spectrum, students need appropriate support.  In my experience of giftedness an understanding of the affective development is also important.  Dr Meath explained that  our intervention as teachers is based on contemporary knowledge of the brain which proves that although giftedness is recognisable in very young children, it is not fixed from birth. It’s important we understand how our students learn best so that we can support and enhance their learning and allow them to develop their potential.

Creating a culture of trust in the classroom is the first step to supporting students’ learning, and I liked Dr Meath’s point that good teachers remove their ego in order to allow their students to fly. She reminded us that some of our students would no doubt surpass us in our knowledge and understanding of the subject content. It makes sense – and not just in a gifted school. In my opinion, there is no place for insecurity in teachers or an insistence on hierarchy which only results in a power struggle in the classroom. I’m not saying that I’ve achieved this but I continue to remind myself that respect is the preferred attitude to students; wielding power will make students defensive and resentful.

Fixed and growth mindset were discussed by Dr Meath as well as by keynote speaker, Dan Haesler.  Dr Meath identified Carol Dweck, psychologist and a pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, in terms of her work around growth mindset. I found the TED talk:

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet?

It’s an interesting idea to replace the fail or N with ‘not yet’, and I like Carol’s reasoning:

if you get a failing grade, you think, I’m nothing, I’m nowhere. But if you get the grade “Not Yet”you understand that you’re on a learning curve. It gives you a path into the future.

This is important information (from the transcript):

Scientists measured the electrical activity from the brain as students confronted an error. On the left, you see the fixed mindset students. There’s hardly any activity. They run from the error. They don’t engage with it. But on the right, you have the students with the growth mindset, the idea that abilities can be developed. They engage deeply. Their brain is on fire with yet. They engage deeply. They process the error. They learn from it and they correct it.

Just the words “yet” or “not yet,” we’re finding, give kids greater confidence, give them a path into the future that creates greater persistence. And we can actually change students’ mindsets. In one study, we taught them that every time they push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, the neurons in their brain can form new, stronger connections, and over time they can get smarter.

Dan Haesler spoke about this experiment with the 2 groups of students that Carol talks about here:

Look what happened: in this study, students who were not taught this growth mindset continued to show declining grades over this difficult school transition, but those who were taught this lesson showed a sharp rebound in their grades. We have shown this now, this kind of improvement, with thousands and thousands of kids, especially struggling students.

High achieving students deserve the same amount of support and encouragement to push out of their comfort zone as any other students. Sadly this doesn’t always happen in mixed ability schools because they might be perceived as already ‘being there’ with nowhere to go. How annoying it must be to be judged with a fixed mindset as being ‘smart’ and therefore not deserving of teaching or stretching. It’s also offensive not to recognise the effort put in by ‘smart’ students and instead to assume that everything they achieve is without effort.

Dr Meath asked ‘how often are students just marking time?’ I’m hoping that this happens much less in selective schools but who knows? I still remember how agonising it was for me in early primary school (and must have been equally for others) when I could already read, and had to sit silently and still while the teacher chose struggling readers to read aloud from our annual prescribed reader. Maybe it was easier for me to sit still and daydream the time away than others and of course I was determined to ‘be good’ but how boring it was! I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had read the whole reader within the first few days and had nowhere to go after that. This was in the 1960s and in my school at least we were not offered library books although I did go to the public library with my mother. Things have improved a great deal since then in terms of differentiation for early reading and let’s hope schools hold onto their libraries, teacher librarians and library staff.

Dr Meath also talked about Flow Theory (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) in relation to learning at school and emphasized the combination of high challenge, high support and high success . I’ve included the TED talk and a link to the transcript.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”

According to Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, being in the flow is the ultimate in focused intrinsic motivation.

Dr Meath gave a good overview of what teachers should look into more deeply when thinking about how best to teach a gifted and talented cohort. I enjoyed her positive approach and confidence in teaching success based on a good knowledge of educational theories. It was refreshing for me because her view was crystal clear and her faith in what could be done for our select student cohort was absolute. Her students and school are testament to her success in putting theories into practice.

Anyone who has read my posts knows that I have more questions than assured answers but I suppose that’s the way I work through things. I have criticised the VCE as a system that sometimes seems to churn out test-taking students with a focus is on the final ATAR if they want to succeed and move on to their chosen careers. That isn’t to say that I can’t see the wonderful learning environments created by teachers but I also see how teachers’ passion is dissipated by increasing numbers of professional requirements and data charts to prove they are teaching properly. In my work as teacher librarian I’m not fighting the system but in small ways I ‘rebel’ by quietly colouring outside the lines – by taking student writing out of the classroom through blogging, encouraging the development of personal voice in writing rather than focusing on grammar and spelling (and believe me, I am a big fan of grammar and spelling), even by trying to take students out of their comfort zone through exposure to articles or images that make them stop and think.

I came across an old post written by Sean Michael Morris entitled ‘Schools needn’t fail’ (2007) and he talks about how over time he changed the way he ‘ignored’ the system in order to teach honestly.

When I originally started this blog, I started with a pretty self-important diatribe against the systemization of education, especially in the form of standardized testing, rubrics, and the like. I find myself wanting to return to that discussion again.

On the other hand, I feel the urge to exactly ignore that discussion, because ultimately it leads to an us-against-the-administration discussion, or a persistent feeling of hopelessness, futility, and desperation. Because I did not get into teaching to feel desperate, nor to feel oppressed by or to battle the administration (hey, I am the administration), I hesitate to the point of intentional inertia to enter that discussion.

Spot on. What is the point of fighting the system if it makes us feel hopeless, oppressed, and if it leads to inertia?  Morris goes on to talk about ‘any centre of power’.

Regardless of a subject’s posture, though, the center is reaffirmed: slide toward it and you acknowledge its power, rebel against it and you do the same thing. Protesting the government reaffirms the power of the federal administration; leaving in frustration a teaching post does nothing to dismantle the school.

So how does one ignore the power of the school?

Morris provides an example of how one of his favourite teachers did this very thing:

One of my favorite high school teachers was a certain Mrs. Meyerle, who taught me the five-paragraph essay. She used a couple of class days to explain the reasoning behind the form, told us we’d rarely actually write in it, and then moved quickly on to helping us discover what it was we wanted to write about. She fulfilled the expectations of the curriculum in as little time as possible, trusting entirely in our ability to master it quickly, and then, almost without missing a beat, kept the actual learning happening.

Morris describes how he teaches English/Composition:

I refuse to give tests (and now, as chair of my program, have removed them from all our online templates), and deny fervently and repeatedly that there is a correct way to write. Instead, I lead students through a process of ideation, creation, and revision. I let them explore their own authorities (both over their ideas and their words), and give them lots and lots of room to make mistakes.

Of course, as Chair, Morris has more autonomy than the classroom teacher in a school but I have no doubt his teaching is very similar to that of many teachers whose focus is generating passion and engagement in their students which goes beyond ticking the boxes of what is required by the department.

And so, in highlighting the passion of the teacher in creating a stimulating learning environment, I’m back to trust which is surely one of the first, most important, things to be established between teacher and students as well as between the students themselves, so that students feel free to be themselves and challenge themselves at school. Morris quotes Jonathan Kozol:

“Establishing a chemistry of trust between the children and ourselves is a great deal more important than to charge into the next three chapters of the social studies text … Entrap them first in fascination. Entrap them in a sense of merriment and hopeful expectations” (from Letters to a Young Teacher, p. 15).

I know I’m over-quoting Morris but let me finish this long, rambling post with his words:

There is no standardization around merriment and hopeful expectations. There is no rubric for fascination. But these are human things, removed from the power struggle of “schooliness” (thank you, Clay), and they are more important than measurable skills to a life spent learning.


Our recent focus on giftedness and differentiation. So many unanswered questions.

This was retweeted by Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) by keesa v (@keesav) on Twitter.

At school we’ve been looking at giftedness and differentiation. Our leading teachers (Curriculum and Professional Development) have spoken about giftedness in a staff meeting and we have met in our faculty teams with the other inner city schools (‘City Edge’) – namely, Mac.Robertson Girls’, University High School, Melbourne Girls’, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School, Princes Hill Secondary College and Albert Park College – to discuss differentiation.

Being locked into differentiation within the library context has left me with a sense of dissatisfaction and many questions about the definition of giftedness and differentiation. I often feel that, coming from teaching to the library, I still think like a teacher and not so much like a librarian but I know also that there is no universal ‘teacher’ or ‘teacher librarian’ so I try to acknowledge my individual perspective as a positive thing.

The most basic question about giftedness – What is giftedness – remains a mystery to me. As Melbourne High School has been identified as a school with some experience of teaching the gifted – since we have a high achieving cohort – we are apparently somehow authoritative in this area of pedagogy. I find this problematic since we typically have what I would describe as hard working students (on the whole), certainly with many intelligent and talented amongst the cohort.  Are they gifted? Some present as gifted – which means we recognise giftedness in them without having tested them. Our school attracts students who want to achieve a high score in their final VCE year and typically work hard towards this before entering the school in year 9 and throughout years 9-12.  Does this mean we cast a wide net and catch the gifted kids amongst the hard working ones? Perhaps. Do we miss gifted kids for various reasons eg. they don’t do well in tests, they are not interested in perfecting their testing skills, they are not interested in going to a highly competitive school? Perhaps. Do traditional IQ tests miss giftedness in the Arts: visual art, music, performing; creativity across disciplines?

Many students are trained early to do well in selective entry examinations. As Alice Pung states in her article The secret life of them: What it takes to shift class in Australia,  

There are now hundreds of such colleges around Australia, dedicated to drilling students in the skills needed to win scholarships to private schools, to get into selective state schools like MacRobertson or North Sydney Boys High, or to gain admission to state schools’ SEAL programs. These coaching colleges do not require any form of certification from state educational departments and are free to set their own curricula.

When my sons were very young I taught in one of these coaching colleges so that I could work weekends. Like Tina of Pung’s article, I found it ‘soul-crushing’.

“The scholarship classes I took were soul-crushing,” says Tina. “A coaching college! Dude, there are five-year-olds walking around that place. What are you possibly coaching them?” Still, Tina muses: “I am yet to meet an Asian child who doesn’t do some form of consistent tutoring.”

Less about learning (curiosity, inquiry, experimentation, collaboration…) and more about cramming disconnected fragments of information, I admit doing it for the money only. I taught primary and secondary English and Maths according to a strict script and at a frantic pace. I still remember a gorgeous Indian girl in my grade 2 class, after an hour of maths work, asking me if it was time to go home yet. I had to tell her that it wasn’t even half time.

Of course we don’t teach like that at our school but we do have students (and parents) whose concept of education is narrowly shaped by the cramming model, and whose learning resides in practice, practice and more practice.  So if we are a school known for ‘producing’ high ATARs, if we are locked into the VCE system where the focus is not on the process of learning but the final numerical position of the student in comparison to the rest of the state, do we have the time or opportunity to evaluate our teaching programs and our pedagogy?

From the outside I see how much time teachers spend on marking and reporting, and how they struggle to fit what will be tested at the end into the term – especially when so many things disrupt classes. From my privileged position as a teacher librarian who is not responsible for classes’ assessment, I try to persuade teachers to do things differently, eg to create learning communities through shared blogging and to encourage students to take responsibility for their learning supported by their peers – but I fail so many times. I don’t blame the teachers but I’m frustrated by the system.

Student empowerment is surely our focus and not the transfer of information or even skills.  As Ann writes in her post:

As an educator my main aim is creating/maintaining a space for individual empowerment and more importantly giving participants in the learning space the confidence to find the skills, information, and tools they need to feel empowered in society. It is not about imparting one specific nugget of information, a date, a theory, it is about supporting and nurturing that confidence so they can approach society, issues, and questions critically.

I think that teachers need the opportunity to unlearn – stop and reflect on how they are teaching and ask the most basic questions about teaching and learning to evaluate their pedagogy. But stopping to think is not part of the timetable. I’m not sure that times set aside in staff meetings or curriculum days will provide the opportunity for each of us to honestly say what we think. The structured meetings and student-free days have possibly not managed to provide a safe environment or created trust amongst teacher cohorts where they feel they can say what they really think.  Our inner city curriculum day for library staff was enjoyable and a great opportunity to catch up with other school library staff but for me it was still firmly planted in traditional library concerns. Differentiation is a broad term. We shared ways in which the library provided differentiation but it was all about what we do. For me, the basic questions – what is giftedness? what is differentiation? – remain untouched. I think we explored what we already know, what we already do, but we didn’t unpack the concepts to explore further.

So back to assessment.  Some of these ‘theses that work to re-imagine moocs’ are questions we might like to consider in schools also:

  • A course is a conversation, not a static reservoir or receptacle for content. Dave Cormier argues that “curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process.” A course is a starting point, a space in which learners can experiment with their agency, discover the complexity of their oppression, and begin to work toward more liberated action.
  • Outcomes should give way to epiphanies -Outcomes tell learners what is important in advance, making the act of learning neat and tidy, while deterring the unexpected and unruly epiphanies that arise organically from within a learning environment. Invention arises from self-governance.
  • Learning should not be structured to conform to assessment mechanisms.

    In truth, learning is not a process that can be structured in advance without first hobbling it, like fitting a body to box by chopping off its limbs. Much goes missing when we remove learning from learners’ hands, and manicure it for ease of instruction. When we ask students to conform their learning to the mechanisms by which we measure it, we are not permitting students to learn, we are asking them to pull the right lever at the right time to the right effect — automatons.

    Assessment is too often the enemy of innovation. Our inability to quantitatively assess something is often in direct proportion to its pedagogical value. The best work confounds us. Because of the rampant culture of assessment that devalues students and their work, we’ve internalized grading as compulsory in education; however, grading is done in many more situations than it is actually demanded.

See the rest of the article here.

So, back to the subject of giftedness. If we confuse giftedness with high achievement, we are in trouble. It might be worth revising the characteristics of giftedness before we start guessing who is gifted and who isn’t. Einstein, Newton, Edison, Tolstoy, Pasteur, Lincoln – these are only some of the notable gifted people throughout history who were not high achievers in school.

Differentiation is an aspect of pedagogy. It’s not just providing extra work or more difficult work for advanced students. I think we should start our conversation about differentiation by looking at learning itself to remind us that our teaching should be built on our understanding of learning. Let’s bring the student to the focus, not the content, the outcome or even teaching itself.

Taking control of our digital lives

In a few weeks our team will be running sessions on digital citizenship with all the year 10 students. In an attempt to make sense of a very dense session I thought I’d throw it into a blog post.  I’m open to suggestions or advice if you’re kind enough to read the post. Thank you.

The leading question is:

In the digital age what are the most important skills we need to develop?

We will explore digital literacies and what it is to be a digital citizen in today’s information age. In particular, how can we take control of our digital lives?

In no set order, and depending on the dynamics of the class and their receptiveness to engage in discussion, we will look at:

  • attention (mindfulness) – thanks to the work of Howard Rheingold
  • online privacy
  • critical evaluation of information
  • your digital profile

With mobile devices and technology ubiquitous in our lives, is it possible that we are not in control of the balance in our lives?

To start discussion about whether we are online too much, I will show students this video.

I hope to talk a little on mindfulness. Mindfulness is something we can practice. It helps us have control over what we give our attention to.

We might do this one-minute meditation exercise or we might ask students to do this in their own time.

Mindfulness during study would be really appreciated by students; it’s so easy to get distracted especially with the ping of social media inviting us to take a ‘quick’ break. We will recommend to students the SelfControl app which allows them to lock themselves out of social media and email for any period of time. Sounds good to me. Students can download this app to their devices for free.

Next we’ll move on to the question: ‘Are we doing everything we can to secure our online privacy?

Then we’ll show students this video about nothing being free online and about how their online activity is stolen for the purpose of data collection.  Hopefully they’ll start to feel a little uncomfortable as they realise how little control they have over what is taken from what they do online . But will this lead to some good discussion?

At this point we’ll introduce our students to Duck Duck Go, an anonymous, encrypted search engine.  We’ll take a look at why Duck Duck Go is better for privacy than other search engines.  We’ll look more closely at how our search results are generally filtered and how we can escape our search engine’s filter bubble.

We’ll watch the following video to discover that our search results are far from objective and that the internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see.

Moving on to our digital identities, we might google each other and see what comes up. When I did this last year there wasn’t much which – as I said to the boys – is good and bad. It’s great if they don’t have inappropriate things on their public profile, but what if somebody wants to find out more about the, for example, when they apply for a job?

Here’s an revealing video about why our Facebook likes say more about us than we think, and why we should care.

At this point I’d like the students to take a look at what others see about them on Facebook by going to their public profile. Since Facebook changes privacy settings constantly and these are never simple, it should be an interesting exercise. Facebook allows a user to view their page as a person they haven’t ‘friended’ and also as a ‘friend’. Then I’ll ask the students to check out the Facebook Help Centre – I don’t think they will have looked at this in detail.

Although I’m not an advocate of the fear tactics used to scare young people off social media, I also want to make them aware of what can and does happen.  What happened to Alec Couros very recently is a sobering story. Alec Couros is Professor of educational technology & media at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina. Someone stole his online identity and created an internet relationship scam. Read about it here in his very open blog post where he explains how scammers stole his photos to lure women into online romantic relationships to get at their money. Alec lists a long list of things he recommends to fight internet scams. He says that ‘digital literacy is necessary for determining the validity of sources, including the integrity and authenticity of our relationships.’ He recommends that ‘this needs to be a topic in school as part of a required digital citizenship curriculum’. Yes, it does. And so, our one session is not enough, but we are squeezing in at least this one session.

Alec’s final words in this second blog post are:

Likely, what I’ve learned the most throughout this predicament is that we need better systems for identity verification. I don’t actually like proposing this because I’m a strong proponent for rights to anonymity on the web. But, there must be a way to allow for anonymity and to also build mechanisms in place for identity verification where necessary. Ideas, anyone? Maybe my life’s work is in this problem somewhere.

After this frightening real story we are actually going to go back to encouraging our students to cultivate a positive online profile. I know that many of them will ask why. Why do they need to go public online? Doesn’t this go against what we’ve just been discussing – all the negative stuff? While thinking about how I could possibly make this case convincingly with something our students could identify with, I was on Twitter and had asked a question about saving archived webpages from the Wayback Machine. A few seconds later I received an answer from Nick Patsianas (@nickpatsianas) – someone I followed a while ago. He is a year 11 student who lives on the Central Coast in NSW. Nick is an inspirational young man (as you will understand when you read his blog bio) and his blog is an outstanding example of how a student can create a positive digital footprint. I will introduce Nick to my students. Nick is part of an active network on Twitter, as you can see from his Twitter conversations if you follow him.  Nick is part of Oz Minecraft Educators. If I were an employer and were looking for evidence that Nick was an intelligent, literate, responsible, engaged and thoughtful young man, I would have everything I needed in the digital footprint he has created for himself.

To finish the session (if there is time remaining), I will take my cue from Alec Couros when he says

Detection of these scams requires critical thought, a healthy skepticism, and active digital literacy.

We’re going to look at photos and text posted online and try to evaluate their validity. Hopefully this will be a fun exercise, and we might do it together. We will ask our students if the following photos are real or fake, and if the accompanying information is real of fake. We will see how well they can uncover a hoax.

After discussion, I’ll ask the boys to find out here.

What about this?

Find out here.

What about this one?

Find out here.

What about “15-ton prehistoric shark captured off coast of Pakistan”?

Find out here.

And “New York artist creates ‘art’ that is invisible and collectors are paying millions.”

Find out here.

Next we’ll have a look at some fake news websites.

In Australia:

The Shovel

World Daily News Report

See a list of international fake news sites here. 

We’ll look at some of the information taken from the article by Paul S. Piper,Librarian, Western Washington University, Better read that again: web hoaxes and misinformation. These categorise web hoaxes and misinformation, for example, parody and spoof sites, malicious sites, counterfeit, fictitious, questionable and malicious websites, and finally product sites and subject-specific misinformation.

Finally we will ask the students which of the following websites are reputable and which are not? Of those which are not, they are to specify which are counterfeit, parodies, fictitious, questionable, malicious or product sites:

I’ll leave the students with the following sites which are dedicated to tracking internet hoaxes.

Don’t Spread That Hoax


Snopes (Rumour has it)

Vmyths (Rhode Island Soft Systems produces this site designed to counter myths and hoaxes about computer viruses.

The National Fraud Center is a consumer centre for fraud, including internet fraud.

I think that ending with this lengthy activity is a safe way to approach different classes which may delve deeply into a couple of things listed here, and not complete all activities, or they might be less willing to join a discussion, in which case we will whizz through these activities.

So this lesson will be about 45 minutes long. If you are reading, please leave a comment at the end of this post. I would really appreciate it, and there is still time to edit the lesson plan.



A year in the library – retrospective

I’ve just written the 2013 library report and thought I’d add it here as a summary and evaluation of this memorable year. Holidays now. The feeling is so good. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone. Here ’tis.

Just as Melbourne High School is about more than just marks, so is the library more than just books. The library is both physical and virtual – it is a space for events, as well as for ubiquitous information and 21st century skills training. It is an essential part of the mechanism which drives teaching and learning at Melbourne High School. It is a service and resource, both onsite and online; a treasury of literature; a space for private and collaborative study; a social meeting place; a hive of activity including meetings, games and puzzles.  The library provides a quiet nook for solitude, a space for spirited debate, for collegial help with homework, a table full of familiar friends, (and the opportunity to make new ones), and an ever-changing range of visual and conceptual displays to broaden reading choices and spark ideas. It holds the collective wisdom and experiences of extraordinary people long gone, and stories from every part of the world throughout history. The energy of the library is evident to all who visit.

This has been a year for change on many fronts. The library has developed a new silent study culture – for the first time, VCE students have been given the choice of going to the library for quiet study or the dining hall during their ‘free study’ periods. We have been pleased to witness a quick adaptation to these changes, and impressed to see how many students have preferred to come to a disciplined, silent space to study despite the alternative choice.

The refurbishment of the front of library is almost complete, and amidst temporary changes to entrance and spaces, it has been business as usual without serious interruption to essential services. We look forward to opening the newly refurbished part of the library on the first day of school 2014, with its larger entrance and increased, open space for reading and relaxation, 2 additional study rooms (and potential to open these up to one larger room using the operable wall).

Existing spaces have also been improved. In particular, the Global Learning Centre (GLC), has been modified to create a more effective use of space, with the Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) mounted on the wall and reconfigured to Apple TV for improved efficiency. We look forward to reclaiming our small discussion room (currently housing furniture) as well as the creation of another discussion room within the GLC. In all, we should be able to provide 4 study/discussion rooms for students and teachers next year.

In keeping with the developments of public libraries, the library strives to move with the times in all aspects of its service, and so we have encouraged students and staff to be independent library users by investing in a self-checkout unit (RFID). We are also in the process of moving to a new Library Management System (LMS) with improved efficiency and user-friendliness to encourage more students to use our catalogue more effectively in their search for resources and use of databases.

As always the library supports reading enrichment, and teacher librarians work with English teachers to broaden the scope and differentiated reading experiences of students. This year, in support of wider reading, we trialled a move from the Premier’s Reading Challenge to the social media platform, Goodreads, in order to connect students with each other and to the wider reading community. Goodreads provides options for online connection through private or shared class groups, and enables students to share their virtual bookshelves with each other and their teachers for increased engagement.  The importance of real world connections, and student-initiated discussions, combined with practice of appropriate ethical behaviour online, address the need for students to develop important 21st century skills.

Reading breadth and specialisation have been encouraged and applauded, and reading prizes have been awarded in a special Junior assembly to students who excelled in categories of ‘classics enthusiast’, ‘graphic novels gourmet’, ‘the eclectic reader’, ‘the richest online literary discussion’ and other genre related awards.

As always, teacher librarians have worked with teachers to develop programs and projects, to create resources, and teach collaboratively. The library has been flexible, experimenting with varied approaches, and adapting to the needs and preferences of teachers and students. This year teacher librarians have worked in a more focused way with faculties, following their areas of expertise in order to deepen relationships with staff and enrich their own knowledge base.

The 1:1 iPad program in years 9-11 has filled the library with mobile technology which provides students with anywhere/anytime learning. The library has continued to develop its ebooks collection, and so it is a common sight to see students tucked into corners and engrossed in reading on their ipads.

Learning and connecting are core needs for all our students and staff, and the library has responded to the digital environment by continuing to develop rich educational content, a revised library website, with an improved homepage for easier navigation, further developed subject- and skill-related resources, and blogs for specific audiences. Lifelong learning begins in a school whose library staff provide the tools and expertise in guiding students towards understanding the learning process, and in particular, in the management of information and research in preparation for tertiary studies and life.

The library team has successfully integrated the use of Google Drive and Docs into meetings in their team approach to ideas mining and problem solving. Google Drive is a collaborative, flexible and cloud-based suite of applications which allows live, multi-user sharing and editing of documents accessed via sign-in on any device. Google Drive has been the perfect tool for a democratic approach within the library team, an approach which has empowered individuals within the team and deepened collaborative relationships.

As many have remarked this year, there is always something happening in the library. The library continues to support interest groups, including Library Assistants, Cyber Book Club and Competition Writing. In Library and Information Week we ran a ‘Book spine poetry’ competition. In Book Week we ran a number of photography competitions including ‘Bookface’ and ‘Holding up books for no reason’. Our inaugural event, ‘Bookwiz’, a literary quiz which included 15 tables of student and teacher teams, was a sell-out event, and featured a talented student Jazz quartet for our listening pleasure. Also for the first time, the library organised ‘The Great Book Dominoes’ event (which was run and filmed by students) and ‘The Great Book Swap’, a fundraising initiative for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Of course, the traditional ‘Dress as your favourite literary character’ competition is a favourite event during Book Week, and this was definitely a year to applaud the English teachers’ efforts, as well as those of the students. In conjunction with the English faculty’s concurrent Literature Festival, Book Week has offered an impressive range of literary events.

This year the library hosted the launch of Laureate, our student literary magazine, after its 10 year hiatus.  This was organised by Mr Sam Bryant and featured special guest, renowned Australian poet, author and educator, Judith Rodriguez.

Students have been extremely fortunate to have talented, engaging authors visit the school, including Emilie Zoey Baker, Spoken Word Performer, and author and graphic novel artist and illustrator, Nicki Greenberg.

Students were also given the opportunity to be part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival where they attended a Q & A session with Ambelin Kwaymullina about her debut novel, The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, and enjoyed talks with Alison Croggon, author of Black Spring, Cassandra Golds, author of Pureheart, Justine Larbalestier, author of Team Human, and Myke Bartlett, author of Fire in the Sea. They also attended a session on “How to Make a Book,” featuring Melissa Keil, author of Life in Outer Space, and Tony Palmer, a cover artist who has collaborated with authors such as Morris Gleitzman and Sonya Hartnett. The session was hosted by Lachlan Carter, creator of “100 Story Building,” a social enterprise for young aspiring authors. A group of students also attended the Reading Matters conference organised by the State Library of Victoria. Stonnington Library’s Literature Alive festival, with guest presenter, author/illustrator, Kevin Burgemeestre, was a fantastic opportunity for year 9 Art students.

The library has been involved in Transition sessions for year 10 students. Teacher librarians have taught the essential skills of online research (in particular, databases), study skills and digital citizenship, to prepare students for the tertiary environment. Teacher librarians have also contributed to introductory sessions for the Year 9 Melbourne Project, helping students brainstorm ideas to prepare them for their city project. For the first time, students were instructed in the use of Google Drive for collaborative research. Year 10 students have also been supported by teacher librarians in their Civics and Citizenship research project and, for the first time, an essay which centred on their solution to a real-world problem of their choice.

As well as our library website (Libguides), our digital presence resides on the ‘Melbourne High School Library’ Facebook page which informs the school community (including alumni), as well as the broader community, of library events and literary news, and updates posts from the Melbourne High School blog. Teacher librarians have also led the way in experimenting with new digital platforms for curation of online resources, including Pinterest and Scoop.it, to mention only a few.

These are interesting and exciting times for school libraries everywhere. The digital revolution has challenged libraries to reconsider how they should remain relevant and engaging to the school community at a time when ubiquitous information requires even more explicit skills development for our students than ever before. Teacher librarians have been involved in continuous professional development in order to prepare students to be informed, critical users of information.

As head of library this year, I would like to thank the wonderful staff of Melbourne High School library who have worked hard to make tremendous contributions to the library and the school community. I would also like to acknowledge the support of the principal, Mr Jeremy Ludowyke, the assistant principals, teaching and support staff, casual relief teachers and parent volunteers, as well as book donors. We look forward to the leadership of Ms Pam Saunders as the new head of library in 2014.


Libguides, Pinterest and other online stuff

Well, I have to write a post mainly because the vibrating gif is driving me crazy and I feel the need to push it down. What’s happening that I don’t use the blog to reflect any more? Perhaps this is not my reflective phase. Yes, that’s it. I’ve been quite satisfied creating resources and getting to know staff members at my relatively new school. And I have to admit to an obsession – pictures! I can’t stop looking at and saving gorgeous pictures from Flickr and other parts of the web (my groaning Google Reader). Just this week I finally decided to give Pinterest a go. The account has been sitting there for a while – can’t remember exactly how long – and I suppose I’ve been frantically trying to keep up with other things, not least Scoop.it which has taken off in a big way. Also because so many Pinteresters are dominating the place with food and wedding photos. Lovely. But not for me at the moment thanks. Just to give it a go, I created a couple of boards and threw in my YA book trailers as well as some books covers. Yes, not bad, looks great and neatly organised at a glance without having to scroll down too much. Well, woah! Now I have too many boards and possibly Pinterest OCD. Please help me.

Libguides have still got me burning the candle at both ends. Some of my colleagues tell me a don’t have a life. Hmm… (I have a life *she says weakly*) Some of you may understand the obsessive finding/saving/sharing/creating cycle and I blame my PLN for giving me so much of the good stuff. I love my job (have I said that before?) I love finding the good stuff for teachers and students. It’s  like being a conjurer – pulling wonderful and unexpected things from a hat. Reader, if you’re a teacher librarian, please support me here. Don’t you feel the same way?

So, to finish off the post (so that I can keep playing with pictures – it’s a bit like swap cards from my youth), I will share the things I’ve been doing. Some of these you already know but, hang on, I’ve been adding…

Pinterest first:

Book trailers board 

Art Inspiration board (from my Art Does Matter blog)

There are more but I’ve only just started them. The illuminated manuscripts have got me salivating and I will be continuing my obsession until I have a full board.


Even though it’s called Competition Writing, this resource supports any kind of writing and so is useful to students and teachers of English.

I am responsible for the weekly weblink of interest for the school newsletter, and this week I shared the link to my Digital Citizenship pages (4) into which I added two excellent articles by well-known and respected Australian educators, Chris Betcher (Have you googled yourself lately?) and Jenny Luca (5 reasons why our students are writing blogs and creating e-portfolios). These are under ‘Your digital footprint’ tab which is my favourite section of the resource because it explains the importance of helping students create a positive and responsible digital identity. Don’t go on about the dangers of the internet without balancing this out with a clear and positive direction for digital citizenship. Teachers are still telling me they prefer the things of their time to what kids are using today. Not even kids, what about businesses. Mobile technologies and social media have been taken up by businesses but sadly schools are still pulling back. And I say, that’s all very well but it’s not about you. It’s not about me either, it’s about preparing our students for their future.

I’ve also added things to the Debating LibGuide. This is good for persuasive writing and orals. Take a look.

Of course it’s not secret that I have a particular interest in visual arts. Here’s the link to these guides and don’t forget to look for drop-down arrows.

The French language guides have been growing too.

At the moment we are all taking the wider reading classes for the year 9s. I developed a couple of guides for this. My aim is to help students find different ways of finding what to read by using libraries and social media such as Good Reads – to mention a couple. I threw a whole bunch of book trailers into this page; I hope you find it useful. Please let me know what’s missing.

Well, it’s getting late so I won’t go on. For a change.

How social networks empower teachers – slideshow presentation

I’ve created this slideshow to accompany a presentation I’m giving to staff on curriculum day about how social networks empower teachers. It’s a little text-heavy but I’m using the slides to structure my talk and hoping that the slideshow will be a resource for interested staff to refer to after the talk. I’ve probably spent much too long on the preamble, the ‘what’s it all about’ but the mindshift preceding any technical instruction is very important. It’s a good idea to view the full version of the slideshow because the embedded version has cut off the far right side.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”present/embed” query=”id=dcb397dn_375864rs8h7&size=m” width=”555″ height=”451″ /]

I have a lot to learn about public speaking and so I am a little nervous about the presentation itself. It’s going to be a challenge providing enough information about what to do with Twitter, Diigo, Vodpod and Scoop.it and how to do it, as well as leaving enough time for some hands on play. Hopefully it will all come together and I’m prepared to skip great chunks of the presentation after I get a feeling for the mood of the group attending. I’m still new to the school and I’m thinking that I should not focus entirely on cramming content but take the opportunity to get to know the teachers attending my session.

I’ll let you know how it goes!