Saturday, November 17, 2007

How delicious... is one of those tools I couldn't live without.

In my main (personal/professional) account -- TheLibrarianEdge -- I have over 1800 bookmarks to date, while in the account I recently set up for school -- UWCSEA -- I'm only at a couple of hundred.

I use the school one to collect links for both students and teachers. For instance, on my Grade 3 wiki, there's a page for the current unit of study, Blue Planet, which is about water -- where I have a link to my collection of bookmarks. The distinction between links for students and links for teachers/parents is based on the tags I've assigned. When I find a relevant website, I make "water" one of the tags and if it's particularly good for the students, I make "blueplanet" a tag. That way I can show the kids the "blueplanet" links and the teachers the more complete list tagged "water".

Tag clouds shows the concentration of subjects -- and I've got two bundles of tags on my TheLibrarianEdge account: Social Software and GreenWorld.

Definitely bother to install the buttons to make saving a link just a click away.

How it gets social is via the network feature. In my network, you can see that I watch 19 people's bookmarks. You can also see that I have 40 "fans" -- or people who have added me to their network. Some of the relationships are mutual. And every now and then I check out my fans' bookmarks because I discover new people worth watching.

My network page is, in effect, an inbox of everything that my network has bookmarked recently. So I can watch their activity. This is a wonderful way to spend hours on the internet...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sharing the wealth of information

Our TeachIT workshop today on Social Software in School and Life is not so much HOW to use these Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, online catalogs, photo sharing, etc.), but what you might do with them. The power of the social comes from seeing how others make use of tools. So we're hoping our chart will get filled in with examples from our participants.

What is the best way to share information?

SHARING LISTS OF BOOKS: Example 1: PYP Resources

PYP teacher-librarians are always being asked to provide a book that exemplifies the IB Learner Profile. And paper lists of relevant books are always being passed around. My solution to this was LibraryThing, an online cataloguing program.

My catalog -- UWC_PYP (see description) started out as a means of consolidating lists of books that relate to the IB Learner Profile (examples of how we can be Inquirers, Thinkers, Communicators, Risk-takers, Knowledgeable, Principled, Caring, Open-minded, Balanced, and Reflective), however, it's now all-purpose.

For example, my children's literature discussion group recently focused on books featuring contemporary cultures. So I took the various recommendations and information collected them under the tag "contemporary cultures" in my UWC_PYP catalog. Voila! -- an instant "contemporary cultures" reading list.

As the school librarian, I also have been frustrated with finding out (and keeping track) of the sets of novels available (but not easily accessible) in all the grade levels' reading cupboards. I run an after-school book club so always need new sets of novels. Once I got the teachers to give me their paper lists, I quickly entered them in a LibraryThing catalog: UWC_novelsets. Note how the tags tell me where the books are and how many are available (where '?' indicates I'm still not sure!).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Building A Reading Community

Had the chance to hear Helen Reynolds, Teacher-Librarian of the Year 2007 in Australia, speak at the Australian school here in Singapore the other day. Though on the The Southport School library webpage her job title is listed as Senior Librarian, she says she was hired ten years ago as Director of Information Services. Instead, Director of Literacy might be appropriate.

Her talk was titled: Maintaining Momentum: Keeping boys reading in the middle school years, and she gave us an overview of her philosophy and practices behind the creation of an active reading community in a day/boarding boys' school with an enrolment of approximately 1400 preschool to year 12.

She swears by Stephen Krashen's The Power of Reading, Aidan Chambers's The Reading Environment, Young Australians Reading, and Knowing Readers by Susan LaMarca and Pam MacIntyre.

The key is getting the whole community involved -- a giant partnership -- which means not just the library and the English department, but all staff (even the cleaners) and the parents. The goal is an environment which legitimizes wide and comprehensive reading.

Some elements of her successful program:
  • * All students keep Reading Records -- lists of the books they've read in and out of school -- that follow them throughout their time at the school (so any teacher can see any student's reading history);
  • * Book reports are 40-second oral events, done at the end of term -- no long boring writing about what you've read;
  • * Book chat time -- lots of it -- in classrooms, in the library, in the hallways;
  • * Author visits -- as many as possible;
  • * Regular silent reading times throughout the school, e.g., every English class starts with 10 minutes of silent reading, and Grades 8-10 English classes come to the library every fortnight for a session of book talk and reading;
  • * Monthly book club (and newsletter), where students get the pick of new library books to read and review; she also takes club members out to literary festivals and any events related to books;
  • * Ongoing collection of data -- such as surveys to find out what the kids are reading and how they think reading helps them; this data is shared with teachers, admin, and parents;
  • * Tons of book displays, e.g., the first display of the year is of books which the students voted as their favorites the year before;
  • * 7-week parent program at the beginning of each year -- in which she teaches parents the same information literacy skills the kids learn;
  • * Big book collection, catering for all reading levels and a wide variety of interests; she said she buys for everyone (including parents); I like her attitude that she's about choice, not censorship -- she says it's not her job to censor what a child reads -- parents can do that by submitting a form;
  • * Supporting teachers as readers and getting them to advertise their reading to students, e.g., before every holiday break, she takes a stack of books into the staff room and passes them out, and teachers in all subject areas are encouraged to produce bookmarks of their recent reads and have them available in their classrooms for students to take;
  • * Reader's Cup (an annual competition in Australia) -- she always get a team to enter;
  • * Writing competitions -- she encourages students to enter any online writing competition and says some students have won money from them.
Three websites she recommends:
Given my current situation, I was particularly pleased to hear her say, of course, she lets parents borrow. And her response to my query about borrowing limits was, unlimited! (She did admit there are borrowing limits printed in some library policy document, but they are not enforced.) Letters about overdue books are sent to parents after two months and any financial reckoning about lost books is only done at the end of term. So reasonable...

I also noted her comment that circular tables in the library encourage social booktalking. Made me decide I must get to IKEA to replace a few of my dreary institutional rectangles with round colorful ones.