Tag Archives: research

Using Thinglink to curate aspects of evil #heartsofdarkness

Some of our year 10 English students are pondering on the theme of evil. They are unpacking ‘Hearts of Darkness’.

I’m going to show them how to use Thinglink to create an interactive image which contains links to different places on the web which they’ve chosen to portray their picture of evil or darkness.

Thinglink has so many possibilities. After you sign up there really are no limits with what you can do with it. You can even collaborate on one which is a cool idea for small group activities in class.

Kevin Hodgson is a hero of mine who has shared many examples of his prolific creativity online. His collection of Thinglink examples is a good start when thinking about possibilities.

For example, something as simple as an annotated Book Shelfie, as Kevin has done here:

When I thought about helping the year 10 students create a Thinglink for their curated collection of online resources around the theme of evil, it occurred to me that they  might want to start their research in a Google Doc which has very recently added the ability to research within the document. After you open the Google Doc you click on Tools and then select Research. A side-bar will open up on the right and from here you are able to research from the Web, or select images, dictionary definitions, Google Scholar, quotes, tables and anything from your own Google Drive. There is even an option to filter results by usage rights which is exactly what we should be teaching students – ethical use of online material. What’s brilliant is that everything you add is automatically cited in a footnote. You even get 3 options for citation format!

 Here’s my example for what the doc might look like for ‘evil’.  What do you think of these two applications? I think there’s a lot of room for imaginative uses, don’t you?

I’ve been collecting online resources for ‘Hearts of Darkness (humanity’s capacity for evil’) in a Pinterest board. Of course, you now need a Pinterest account to view this collection.

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Are we teaching our students the skills they need for their future?

Do we know what these are and if we do, are we aligning these to our curriculum? Are we making the shift necessary for this to happen?

Dr. Tony Wagner, co-director of Harvard’s Change Leadership Group has identified what he calls a “global achievement gap,” which is the leap between what even our best schools are teaching, and the must-have skills of the future: * Critical thinking and problem-solving * Collaboration across networks and leading by influence * Agility and adaptability * Initiative and entrepreneurialism * Effective oral and written communication * Accessing and analyzing information * Curiosity and imagination


Here are the 10 future work skills identified by The Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute.

  1. Sense Making
  2. Novel and Adaptive Thinking
  3. Transdisciplinary
  4. Social Intelligence
  5. New Media Literacy
  6. Computational Thinking
  7. Cognitive Load Management
  8. Design Management
  9. Cross Cultural Competence
  10. Virtual Collaboration

For teacher librarians, these skills clearly identify our areas of expertise at a time when some principals are making decisions to reduce staffing in school libraries, or replace teacher librarians with librarians or technicians, indicating their loss of faith that teacher librarians are an essential part of the teaching staff. Our strength lies in working with teachers to embed these skills in student learning, to encourage collaborative platforms and relational learning through the connections made possible by social media platforms, to embed critical, digital and information literacies into student learning.

Read more about the skills our students must have for their future here and here. Please share more if you have them.

Welcome to your library – teachers

Welcome to your library teachers


On Tuesday I’ve been asked to give a very short talk about the library at the staff meeting. It will be my first talk to staff since I’ve been acting head of library at MHS. I’m very nervous about speaking to the staff at my own school, more so than if I were speaking to a group of people outside the school, but I need to get over it.

Basically, I want to let teachers know about the change of culture for VCE private study. Previously the library was home to an enormous number of students who had no other space, and the noise was often out of control. Even though I was initially unsure about insisting on a silent library, favouring discussion and collaborative study, I had to respect the principal’s directive, and believe him when he said that students were complaining they couldn’t study in the noisy spaces. This year students have a choice between the silent library and the ‘dining hall’ (sounds much more posh than it is) where they can work collaboratively or just relax. We’ve all been flabbergasted that most of the students still choose the library despite our strict rules for silent study. Who knew? Of course, carpet and air conditioning have something to do with this, but we are seeing so many students knuckling down to serious study.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on a presentation which is just a visual prompt for my brief talk. I hope teachers will look at the slides instead of me! Our main focus this year is to work more closely with teachers to create rich resources, create curriculum/assignments and teach collaboratively. We hope to forge relationships and become a vital part of teaching and learning at the school. We’ve divided faculties amongst the teacher librarians, and I hope that the TLs take ownership of their areas of expertise, and that they enjoy their new roles.

I hope you can make sense of the visual prompts in the presentation. My talk will be brief and I plan to speak very plainly; I’ve consciously avoided educational jargon. Today I read an article by Daniel Pink, “My challenge to you: only speak like a human at work” which confirmed what I’ve believed – that if you can’t say it simply and sincerely, you’ll lose your audience, or at least you won’t have much of an impact.

Sorry I wasn’t able to embed the presentation, so you’ll have to download it via the link at the top of the post. Not sure why I can’t – maybe it’s Chrome?

TLs, expand your field of vision

Everything has changed since information became available to all on the internet. Not so much changed as exploded. When something explodes, it shatters into countless pieces which means the whole we used to know needs to be re-examined.  Why are we still looking at the old ways of teaching, the old focus of our instruction, fellow teacher librarians? Yes, more than ever, our job is to help students learn how to manage this information explosion. Hence, information literacy is still a major focus for our instruction. But let’s expand our vision, let’s analyse that newly reconstructed whole to see what other literacies we need to teach – we need to learn in order to be able to teach. Digital literacy, network literacy.


I found this video on the Fair use and info ethics page on the NECC Library Learning Tools BYOL Smackdown wiki set up by Joyce ValenzaCathy Jo NelsonKaren KliegmanWendy Stephens, and Keisa Williams at the National Educational Computer Conference in Washington, D.C. 2009.

There is a wide range of skills covered in this wiki for teacher librarians, including the traditional information literacy/fluency as well as Digital Citizenship. In a way, digital citizenship is an extension of information literacy. If information literacy is about learning to navigate the whole information package online, then digital citizenship is learning how to behave online, how to responsibly work with and create from what is available online. All educators are responsible for teaching digital citizenship but teacher librarians are certainly well placed since they are already experts in the management of information.

Why stop at research skills when you can equip students to behave responsibly and ethically as they use digital content to view, create and remix?

I recommend you browse the many and varied aspects of this wiki. Fellow teacher librarians, isn’t it exciting to have such a broad and challenging role!

The new citation

Photo courtesy of kharied on Flickr

As we continue to teach students how to seamlessly embed quotations into their writing, it occurs to me that we have developed a new way to cite our sources, namely online and using hyperlinks.

The hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

Here’s an example from a  blog post I was reading this morning:

(Brian Lamb is writing about the notion of curation as a model for teaching)

Yet again, I’m reminded of my favorite band of mad, bad content curators at WFMU (this year’s fundraising marathon is over, but they’ll still take your money), and how its Free Music Archive places curation at the centre of its mission. There’s an interesting interview on 3 Quarks Daily with WFMU station manager (and killer OpenEd 2009 keynoter) Ken Freedman that cuts to the intersection between freeform weirdness and careful curation.

Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it’s also a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the sources and reading for understanding.

Footnotes? Why have these at the foot of the page when you can embed them directly?

I’m thinking that this hyperlinked writing should be the way of student resources at school and universities. How much richer and more efficient would online resources be which embedded background knowledge and served as a model for referencing sources?

What I like best about hyperlinked citation is that it leads me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. It’s an exciting way to learn – not didactic, not limiting, but opening up options for independent learning.

Shouldn’t we start to teach students this new way of reading and writing?

The research process is full of twists and turns


Photo courtesy of Hulalulatallulahoo p

My younger son, currently in Year 9, is taking part in an interesting research project outside of the school. His school has made a smart decision to run several programs which take the students out of the classroom and textbooks. This makes a lot of sense at a time when disengagement with normal classroom routine is possibly at its peak. Putting young people in a different learning environment, giving them a bigger-picture problem to solve, and a choice about how they are to present their findings, is a smart move. In his case, my son’s school has joined with La Trobe University and some of its lecturers, tutors and student teachers, in order to support a two-week research project.

What interests me as an educator and teacher librarian, is the affective aspect of the research process. After a week, my son is feeling overwhelmed and insecure; he feels he’s a failure because he hasn’t come very far. As I talk with him about how he’s feeling, I wish that a discussion of these feelings were part of the support given to the students.

It was a relief to me when I read Carol Kuhlthau’s research into the affective stages of research. I’ve written about this in a previous post. I discovered it was normal to feel confused and overwhelmed at the start of your research because you hadn’t defined what the question was. It was normal to feel the same way before you had found relevant information to support your research. It was normal to feel happier and more confident having found those resources, but also to plummet again when you faced the task of synthesizing this information into some sort of argument or presentation. And so, as each new stage of the process is faced, it would be so good to acknowledge that the way you’re feeling is to be expected.

Reflection is a good thing, and leads to self-awareness. The more you understand how you’re feeling, the less frustrated you’ll feel. Instead, you’ll be able to navigate these different stages of information seeking and synthesis, or any other learning process.

I wonder how we deal with this as educators. How can we identify how students feel and empathise with them, or provide context, if we don’t understand our own internal processes? I’m not sure that teachers’ busy schedules, with the ongoing face-to-face teaching of classes, interspersed with constant correction and preparation, allow them the time to stop and reflect. And that’s a great shame.

Blogs are an excellent way to routinely reflect on teaching practices, and document highs and lows, problems and celebrations. On the one hand, blogging has been embraced by so many people that there seems to be a hundred blogs for every topic imaginable. Blog writing is often made fun of, in the same way as superficial twittering. On the other hand, there are few educators in my school who blog, who see the point of blogging, or who regularly read blogs.

Recently, as I’ve mentioned before, I started a blog to record the progress of my collaborative teaching of a year 7 English class with Maria. It’s called English@wfc and it’s a space for me to write down what we do in class, how the students responded, how Maria and I felt, what worked and what didn’t, and what we learned from this. For me, this is a valuable exercise; it doesn’t take long, but it’s useful both for me and, I hope, for teachers if they would read it.

This blog also has a list of links to English-related blogs – all fantastic. Some of them are

As a teacher, I’m so much more comfortable and happier to function as a learner, continuing my own education and understanding, learning as I go, learning from others, with students – instead of just being the provider of information or the so-called expert. I appreciate looking into others’ teaching experiences, just as I enjoy writing out my own.

I hope that, as a parent, I’m able to support my son in his research agony through discussion, broadening his understanding and developing self-awareness. I hope that, as a teacher, I can provide the empathy and wisdom to go with the provision of information.



Process, process, process


 Kuhlthau, 2004.

The Year 8 immersive big picture project has come to an end. After an intense and productive week, students presented their perspective on what makes the human race worth saving with creativity and technical flair. Though the bell sounded the end of the week, the learning process, I imagine, will continue visibly and invisibly beyond the project itself. 

I’ve always been more interested in the unseen learning, the mental moments and shifts in between the visible structure.  Supported by a 7 day continuum, uninterrupted by regular classes, if learning moments were audible or contained in comic speech bubbles, we would have heard ‘ping!’ and ‘zap!’ and ‘kaboom!’ If learning was a visible chemical reaction, we would have seen from discussion and interaction marvellous blended colours and awesome explosions.

 Watching and assessing the presentations (mainly film or photostory), a  spectrum of topics and creative approaches was noticeable, as well as depth of thought and synthesis.  Some of the presentations were obviously stronger, and others weaker, but sitting next to the teacher who knew the class well, I was able to glean valuable insights such as whether the student had come a long way, pushed boundaries or surprised with hidden talents. Choice and big picture questions had allowed students to connect with topics of interest, and some had run with this. If the idea behind this project (or one of them) was to engender passion-based learning, then this was successful in a good number of final products, but the architecture of learning and teaching is multi-layered, and in the aftermath, there is much to be reflected upon and pulled apart.

These are some of my thoughts throughout the week as I roamed from room to room:

  • the confusion and mess at the start is normal, and should be a warning  point to students and teachers
  • Carol Kuhlthau’s graph of ups and downs in the affective domain during the research process may be useful to provide an insight into what can initially be a frightening undertaking
  • teachers are just as much learners in this situation, and a forum throughout the process would be great support as well as make transparent the learning journey if recorded
  • there was a noticeable difference between some classes in terms of concepts grasped and degree of synthesis, so teacher support in unpacking questions, leading discussion and debriefing at different stages of the process cannot be underestimated
  • time needs to be taken by teachers to equip themselves for this journey
  • assessment encompasses the whole process through recording in One Note and is more valuable than the assessment of just the final product
  • a celebration involving the entire project cohort is an important part of the journey, and although this was done by some teachers to some degree, there was insufficient time to do this properly
  • the learning process will continue silently after the last day, and we should not lose this but provide opportunities for discussion and reflection, and record these.

I’m looking forward to a recorded presentation of this journey, especially comments from students and teachers about how they felt at different stages, and what they learned along the way.

Creativity, a sense of purpose and belonging

In his latest post (6 May), Will Richardson asks this question:

So when I read Jay Cross’s latest piece in CLO magazine, I wondered how many schools could point to someone, anyone, who is in charge of learning. By that I mean someone who manages the culture of the school by focusing not on outcomes as much as how learning is writ large in the system.

Learning is occurring at my school this week. Learning with a capital L. We are coming to the end of a pilot project where the entire Year 8 cohort, along with its teachers, has been involved in researching a big picture question culminating in a multimedia presentation of their choice.  Normal classes have been suspended, and each teacher has stepped into the continuum at different points, providing the support needed at that time. Teachers have been in a unique situation, supporting not content, but skills; and this often meant that they were learning alongside the students, at times from the students. The process seems to have taken on a life of its own, and teachers have reported being surprised that students’ projects are taking shape, and that they are on task and engaged, even excited.  Trust in the students’ abilities and creativity has been growing.

This is the part of the project that gets me going – the learning process of both students and teachers. This is what I hope we can record, make transparent, discuss collaboratively, reflect upon, project into the future with. I’ve been enjoying discussions with teachers at different stages of the project: the initial feeling of not knowing how to begin, being overwhelmed by the enormity of something new and big, the joy and relief with the first successful day, the surprise when students took the task and ran with it, in all different directions, in a variety of ways, the excitement upon seeing things take shape, and the anticipation of the final presentation.

I’d like to record all of this. I think that this discussion is the guts of the learning. It’s exciting to see shared discussion in a shared project, and I wish it would happen more often. For a change, the teachers are not in charge, they are facilitators, they are not in control, but are taking one step at a time, and trusting in the students, they are not keepers of the content, but observers of the process.

This is learning. I hope we can capture this for reflection and evaluation. We can base next year’s project on what we have observed, what we’ve learned. I hope we can come together for discussion, reflection and evaluation, modifying the assessment rubric from experience of what the process has involved. Teachers have been talking excitedly not of perfect products or best products, but of the learning leaps for individual students.

I read Will Richardson’s latest post (6 May) and he says

I wonder how many of us can look at our colleagues and answer the question “How does that person learn?” And think of the leaders in our schools in that light as well.

This week, Year 8 teachers have seen with new eyes how their students learn. I think they’ve had an insight into their own learning process. Learning has been shared by teachers and students alike.What does Will Richardson say about teachers’ learning? In discussing Jay Cross’s latest piece in CLO magazine, Will wonders if any schools have one person

 ‘who is in charge of learning. By that I mean someone who manages the culture of the school by focusing not on outcomes as much as how learning is writ large in the system. Someone who also understands the ways in which social Web technologies accentuate the need for the learning skills we’ve desired all along: creativity, critical thinking, independent thought, collaboration, etc…

And it really is about a culture that supports, celebrates and shares learning.

The Year 8 immersive project has given those involved a taste of the learning culture which supports, celebrates and shares learning.

In the article about Chief Learning Officers in companies, Jay recommends looking at the workplace through different lenses: from the point of view of the anthropologist, the Web 2.0 specialist, the informal learner.

Some of the questions posed through these lenses are:

From the anthropologist:

Are people sharing the information or are they just hoarding?

Are people taking time for reflection, or are they so busy they only live in the moment?

Are they experimenting and taking risks, or are they doggedly following the rules?

Are people working collaboratively or are they in isolation?

Through the Web 2.0 lens:

Are people using instant messaging, social networks, search engines and multimedia resources that are as good as or superior to those they are accustomed to in their homes?

Are discoveries recorded and shared with one another and documented for future use?

Do workers have blogs or other means to express themselves?

The informal learning lens:

Are there comfortable places for people to talk?

Are workers intrinsically motivated to learn and increase their professionalism, or are they waiting for their next class?

Is informal collaboration encouraged?

Are people learning from observing others… and reflecting on experience?

These are questions I’ve chosen which are most pertinent to the school situation. As Will says, do we or should we have a CLO in our schools,

 … people to lead that work, …  who understand deeply the passion-based, self-directed potentials for learning in a connected world, and the importance of a vision for true learner-centered classrooms and curricula for everyone in the building.

Do you have such leaders in your school?

(Now, I’m not sure about this, but it seems that the Chief Learning Officer is like our Training (or Learning) and Development Manager in Australia).

Learning through discovery at the Melbourne Museum

The Discovery Centre within Museum Victoria makes research interesting and hands-on. A young person can wander in and spend a few hours without realising that it’s been a learning experience. Let’s say you came in and browsed some of the 2,000 plus natural or cultural objects available – not just on display in cabinets and drawers, but also available to touch and examine – then you’d be able to delve into a little research in a number of ways; you could:

have a close look at these objects under magnifiers or video microscopes;
use the reference library of books, journals, education kits, DVDs or videos;
browse through the extensive collection of online resources on public computers;
and you could always ask a staff member for help.

When I visited the Discovery Centre as a student of teacher librarianship, the staff were eager to help, but not eager to supply a quick and easy answer – they encouraged students to find information and answers for themselves, pointing out resources available and suggesting ways of searching. The research process becomes a challenging discovery task, well supported by the excellent variety of materials and resources. It’s great to find research modelled in such an enjoyable way.

The Discovery Centre’s website is user-friendly, and offers an ‘Ask the experts’ section. If you have something you want identified, or you need help with a research project, you can email the museum’s information experts, either with a general request, or an identification request. Every week, there is a ‘question of the week’ published on the website.

I think this is a valuable resource for primary and middle years students. It’s great to take research out of the classroom, and into such a dynamic and resource-rich environment.