Recently a colleague and I were discussing attempts to improve presentations. Most schoolkind can share tales of endless screeds of plagiarised text read straight from the screen without any reference to the audience, enlivened only with stretched, pixelated images taken without thought from Google images. This defines too many presentations using Powerpoint or Keynote or similar software. She expressed her frustration:
I’m fed up with pupils using Powerpoint to write reports.
I thought that was an interesting way of phrasing it:
- Are pupils using Powerpoint to write reports?
- If they are, is it wrong to use Powerpoint in this way?
- Does it matter what software is being used?
- Why do so many pupils use Powerpoint all the time, for everything?
So I asked them : what do you use Powerpoint for?
The pupils all looked at me with that familiar, she’s-lost-it-again expression, and told me
It’s for making powerpoints.
And that I think is precisely the problem. Pupils are not considering whether they’re writing a report or a presentation or making notes – they’re making ‘a powerpoint’. It’s a stand alone piece of work which they often don’t connect to any particular purpose, because it’s a purpose in itself.
And to be honest, staff (including me) are equally guilty of telling pupils that they’re going to ‘do a powerpoint‘ as shorthand for ‘present your learning in an interesting way with the assistance of presentation software‘.
No surprise that pupils’ focus is on the slides, rather than their talk: they’re doing what we ask them to do.
Today in the Library pupils discovered:
- how to fend off attacks from polar bears;
- the true meaning of Christmas;
- that people are ‘meat’;
- Brian Blessed
Challenge X continues to adapt, mainly following on from pupils’ ideas and suggestions. Most recently it seemed that pupils weren’t looking beyond the first suggestion available to them so we’ve created a page to collate all of the websites we’re suggesting.
That caused an inundation of shark defence suggestions during which I suggested punching the shark on the nose (I know I read it somewhere). My puny efforts were mocked – how on Earth could you punch a shark? – when I remembered that Brian Blessed had punched a polar bear in his tent. So I told them that too.
Isn’t it lovely to hear children’s laughter? Hmm, time to get some work done methinks, so pupils are asked to check their log sheets, complete their last task and select another. Remember the purpose of this period was to expand their ideas? Congratulations, Jen, you’ve now got half the class researching sharks and most of the rest researching polar bears.
There are still one or two individuals. One girl called Natalie is looking for a short reading connected to her name. After drawing a blank on connected author (Natalie Babbit – Tuck Everlasting – is missing), I suggest a Christmas connection (since Natalie comes from Latin natale domini. She selects a book, reads for a while, then comes over,
Miss, did you know Christmas is Christ’s Mass? I can’t believe I didn’t see that before! Wow! That’s amazing!
See, finding things out for yourself is still one of the best feelings in the world 🙂
Meanwhile the shark hunters are getting on swimmingly (sorry) and want to know about sharks around the coast of the UK. So we look up basking sharks, and discover their size, their feeding habits and where they hang out. Pupils were keen to share locations they’ve swum on holiday, including the Black Sea, California and Greece. Are there sharks? Are they going to die? Will sharks attack beaches?
As head know-it-all, I am naturally assumed to have this information at my fingertips (!) but even though the point is to get them researching, I do suggest that while it’s rare, I have seen footage of sharks close to beaches and that maybe if a shark was hungry enough, it might not be able to resist a meal just waiting on the shore.
At this, one pupil drops her book, turns pale and asks in horror,
Miss, are we MEAT?
Now you don’t want to get into a conversation about cannibalism, but to be honest there aren’t many answers to that question.
At this point, the other wildlife squad appear to check ‘the name of that guy that attacked a polar bear’. They don’t believe me – how would he get a polar bear in his tent? – and want to confirm it for themselves, which is fabulous. So we find a biography of Brian Blessed, and I draw their attention to some of his adventures and they’re hooked. As they leave the Library, I can hear them quoting him.
Discoveries of all sorts, information checking and a new hero. One hour in the Library. Mission accomplished 🙂
Research is like a jigsaw but the pieces are hidden and you don’t know what the picture is until you’re finished
I tell the pupils a version of this all the time, usually when they’re frustrated at having to collect information from lots of different places. Most of them get the metaphor about jigsaw pieces, but the whole picture is a different problem.
Today a class was gathering information for their investigation when I started getting requests to help with their final reports. I’m confused. Surely they’ve only just started taking notes? But yes, they are attempting to write their report already, adding to it as they find a new bit of information. When the 10th kid asks for the same assistance, I call the entire group to a halt and we review the various stages involved in this piece of work.
- select specific task from list provided
- brainstorm possible ideas and keywords and existing knowledge
- locate the information required from available materials
- evaluate sources for reliablility
- decide whether to gather this information or not
- carefully gather information with proper note-taking (NOT copying)
- continue search for information
- ongoing review of information analysing what is still required and adapting search parameters accordingly
- synthesise data collected to create an overview – the whole picture
- write the report
Except that pupils are jumping from 1 to 3 to 6 (and copying verbatim, not making notes) to 10. Sorry, boys and girls, but that doesn’t work. You’re trying to write a report. A report that you can’t write yet because you don’t know what you’re going to write: you need the full picture first!
Unfortunately, investigations in the Library are heavily time restricted. Usually we have three periods – introduction and preparation, followed by two research periods, with the class writing their reports in their own time. Teaching staff are usually sympathetic to the research process, but also struggling to get through everything in the syllabus. And the Library often can’t accommodate more research time either, but it’s absolutey vital that the pupils understand how all these little pieces come together to make the whole picture, and why it’s necessary in the first place. So what can we do?
This was all at the back of my mind the other day when I saw the Sketchtoy website, which provides a space to draw online, and also allows drawings to be shared. I am no artist, at least not with a brush or pencil, and certainly not with a mouse. My mind cannot take an image, break it into its constituent parts, and arrange them back in the proper order. An imaginary picture is even worse. Where do you start? But watching in fascination as a Sketchtoy picture was recreated before me, I began to understand the process.
And that’s I wondered about sketching as a visual metaphor for the research process?
- Can you take this picture apart?
- Where would you start?
- What different parts can you identify?
And then show them the video of the picture creation process. Once they’ve got the idea, then try the same with a report, and finally guide them through the investigation stage by stage. It’s the same as learning how something works by taking it apart first.
I know some will get incredibly frustrated at the delay (staff and pupils) but I think it’s worth trying. We’ll see what happens with the next investigation.
We’ve been told about a potential merger with another school that I’m officially not allowed to comment on, but which has been on the minds of everyone involved since the news broke.
However, life goes on, work goes on.
At lunchtime, the PT English and I were invited to listen to and provide feedback for two pupils who were entering a public speaking competition on the topic of education. One spoke about how education should help pupils discover and follow their hidden talents, the other about being inspired and the role of teachers. They were both delivered with passion and eloquence, they were well argued, thought provoking, and not especially positive about the current form of education they are undergoing.
But more than anything else, it was a boost of energy back into two tired educators with a lot on their minds, and a reminder of why they chose to work in a school in the first place.
The Library is located almost at the end of a corridor with just one room beyond. This room is used for meetings, interviews and as an extra space when one is required. People tend to forget that the Library is right next door, perhaps because the Library entrance isn’t immediately adjacent.
Yesterday a harassed colleague rushed in to tell me that her class had been given permission to practice singing in the room that period. She was obviously concerned that this would impact on the peace and tranquility of the Library; it actually gave us the chance to enforce peace and tranquility for a change by telling the class that their voices would be picked up by the microphones 😈
This morning, I discovered that interviews were taking place in the room. Ideally I’d have just cancelled every class – the fewer distractions the better for interviewees – but that wasn’t possible. So 2nd year English working on Challenge X were encouraged to only use computers if absolutely necessary, the Tutor class registering for the Careers software were warned to remain in absolute silence while they worked, and the 1st year Reading Trailers remained in class and came along to swap their books in wee groups.
The only difficulty came with IDL. This was their last period and the intention had been to complete and print off all of their work. On a rather noisy colour printer. Right through the wall from where the interviews were happening. Er, no.
Alternative plan needed sharpish. Something to keep them away from the printer. Something to keep them away from the computers altogether. And that’s when I suddenly found myself saying to the class,
since we can’t print off today, we’d like you to work together to create a board game to tour around Lanarkshire using the resarch you’ve already gathered.
And the class, bless them, didn’t even blink at the change of plan, but rapidly got their paper and pens sorted and got to work. Ten minutes later, as we surveyed the happily blethering tables, adapting their work, checking leaflets for additional Lanarkshire locations, I turned to the teacher and muttered,
Don’t hate me, but this is much more fun than our original plan. I think we should swap to this for all the other classes too.
to which she fortunately replied,
Yes, I think so too!
They say necessity is the mother of invention. You never know what set of circumstances will cause your brain to provide a better solution to an existing challenge. I suppose the trick is being open to the opportunity.
I have the joy of working with a fabulous English Department. Together we have ensured that pupils have a variety of interesting investigations, are encouraged to read and to continue to gain confidence in finding, selecting and using information. And as often as possible, we make sure that pupils have the chance to follow their own interests. It can be challenging for yours truly, but soooo satisfying when you manage to provide resources for a whole class.
This term is a busy one for 2nd year and we didn’t want to squeeze in even more work for pupils and staff; on the other hand it’s important that Library visits continue, that research and reading continues, so we’ve decided to initiate Challenge X across the whole of S2.
Having already run a pilot last year, we decided to make some changes, for example, each class are coming once a fortnight so personal challenges have to be completed mostly at home between each visit. We also ask pupils to identify and read a book that has some sort of connection to their personal challenge – vague but imaginative connections are perfectly fine :-).
The first visits were all about introducing the idea but now we’re onto the second week and things are getting interesting. Classes are recognising this as a chance to follow their own interests, and natural curiosity is exploding all over the place. Some are taking on ideas from the original blog: learning to introduce themselves in British Sign Language, figuring out how to use Hero Machine, exploring countries, creating posters, leaflets and presentations. But what I love are the quirky ideas, pupils stretching their creative muscles rather than sticking with what us old guys come up with. So many new ideas in fact, that we’re adding to the original.
One pupil was hunting through world records and was tickled by the greatest number of bounces on a space hopper. For her Weird and Wonderful section she wanted to create her own hopper challenge, and she worked on a plan and rules for the event for the remainder of the period. I thought it was a wonderful idea; from the gleam in her eye, she did too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a space hopper handy, but it turned out that the English teacher had one under her desk – my reputation for being able to supply anything is now in tatters.
Different class, and another group of pupils is working on the Food Challenge. One of them told me that she wanted to make a model so we passed ideas back and forth until she told me that her uncle was a butcher and was forever telling her about which bits of which animal was on her plate. She’s now creating a model showing which bits of sheep go into a haggis 🙂 Lovely!
Others have the beginnings of an idea and just need a gentle wee shove to make something more compelling out of it. Two boys joked that they should eat large burgers for their Food Challenge. They were obviously expecting a negative reaction; instead I suggested they analysed the ingredients, and figured out whether it was good or bad for their bodies.
Yup, so long as I don’t have to pay for the burgers.
So one is creating an informative poster on the dietary impact and the other a pseudo-advert using the plain truth from his information.
There are so many benefits to this wee programme: learning how to develop and follow through ideas, practising lateral thinking, identifying and expanding on personal interests and existing knowledge, exploring the Library, experimenting with new software, working together, researching, and creating all kinds of excitement while learning.
And of course, more pupils are reading, and more pupils are being enthusiastic about what they’re reading. So far, so good. We’ll keep working on the rest.
A common question from pupils:
If you’re not allowed to use it, why is it online?
because they equate visibility with availability i.e. if they can see it, they can use it. And they’re not the only ones.
In his talk at the CILIPS Gathering 2013, Simon Finch pointed out that the digital world is existing within a legal framework put together with no concept of its future existence and that’s causing problems. Read more of Simon’s thoughts on copyright here.
So while the internet has provided a platform for hundreds of thousands of people to air their thoughts and share their creativity online, there are more who think it’s acceptable to use said work in whatever way they feel like. This is where the online scrapbook, micro-blogging or curating platforms come in, and where I get a bit uneasy. Firstly because because I’m not entirely sure about the legalities of embedding, secondly because I’m not sure where legality takes the place of decency, and last of all, because my own work has been taken without permission and it doesn’t feel good.
There’s some great stuff on Pinterest, Tumblr, Scoop It and their ilk, and I appreciate this visually attractive way of providing a collection of links to other websites. As a curation tool they are very appealing. But just because you like the look of someone else’s work, in no way does that entitle you to take it for yourself. If I walked into a shop and left with an armful of unpaid for books I would expect to be arrested. It’s not actually different because the image / sound / written piece is on the internet.
people are entitled to be credited for their work.
Now, these sites are not the only culprits, and they all have detailed instructions about not infringing copyright, but I’m still left wondering why questions can’t be built into a platform’s posting process – specifically an acknowledgement that the poster has permission to use the image / sound etc, or that it has a Creative Commons (CC) licence, or is Public Domain. Something that has to be ticked or filled in, just to remind people that they are actually taking someone else’s work. And especially something to remind them that it’s their responsibility because in the terms and conditions, they’ve already absolved the platform from any responsibility.
Meanwhile, I’ve lost count of how often I’ve discovered my work in other places – once it was even translated into French which was rather startling when I realised what it was!
So am I flattered or outraged? Depends according to who’s taken it, and what they’ve done with it, and that’s where Pinterest and Tumblr in particular wind me up, because they are specifically designed to share work around in the simplest way possible, by repinning, reblogging and encouraging users to play pass the parcel with whatever they see. So when my work first ended up on Tumblr it appeared on over 1000 different pages before I became aware of it (ironically, it was discovered when a kind person contacted me on Flickr to pass on their appreciation).
Am I just out-of-date in my thinking? Well, Hubspot recorded a blogger removed from Tumblr for five copyright infringements. The article itself is less instructive than the comments that follow, which suggest a growing number of creative people getting fed up with their work being used without permission or credit, with a much smaller number suggesting that said Tumblrer had been hard done by.
I also spotted an article called Pinterest and copyright: how to use Pinterest legally. Lots of good advice from author cocopreme, but also the following:
most people on the internet don’t mind you sharing their content
Well, who knows how many people mind if their work is shared? Be good to have data on how many people mind versus how many people are aware and mind.
In the meantime, the only way to prevent something being nicked is not to put it online in the first place, but I’ll also continue to teach the people around me, including pupils and teaching staff, to be aware of others’ rights and act accordingly.
Regarding my ambivalence about certain platforms, common sense seems best: if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
And if someone can point me to an absolutely-guaranteed-correct, plain English guide to the legalities of embedding in the UK and around the world, I’d be extremely grateful.
Last day of term, and the library isn’t exactly tidy. Not as bad as that bit in The Mummy though (looks a whole lot of fun – wonder how often they had to film it?)
I learned a long time ago not to think about work during the holidays, but there’s so much to look forward to next term. As usual, we have the S1 Reading Trail, investigations on nutrition, slavery, rainforests, medieval Scotland, the Cairngorms, the Kennedy assassination as well as more classes undertaking the Vikings and Scotland History/Mystery. Burns Week will run at the end of January, and 4th years will be needing access for a variety of Added Value Units.
Plus, we’re writing a new whodunnit investigation on Mary, Queen of Scots for Scottish Studies, launching Challenge X with S2 English, and piloting a new idea to promote reading with 3rd year 🙂
I was asked today if I don’t get bored being a Librarian. When would I get the chance? 😉
© Glasgow City Libraries, Information and Learning. Licensor http://www.scran.ac.uk.
Dalzell House from the rear. This view isn’t seen often because the area is now overgrown. Thumbnail images like these can now be embedded into a WordPress or Blogger blog from SCRAN. Clicking on the image links to the original record which can be seen in full if you log in.
Back in August I visited a local history fair where I blethered for a while with some lovely folks at the RCAHMS stand about CANMORE, Scotlands Places and SCRAN and how these resources were used in school.
SCRAN stands for Scottish Cultural Resources and Archive Network, a collection of material on anything connected with Scotland and beyond from a myriad of locations. Having so much archive material readily available in one place is quite phenomenal, especially when you consider that Scottish schools have automatic access (paid for by the Scottish Government).
As a result of this conversation I went along to RCAHMS today to be part of a focus group about SCRAN as an educational tool.
Decontaminating the park, Rutherglen, World War II
© South Lanarkshire Council. Licensor http://www.scran.ac.uk.
Much of the conversation covered how SCRAN was used day to day, but also what could be improved, who was using it and how often; we discussed keywording, lateral thinking, the pathfinders, images, copyright, online use and curation; we compared SCRAN with other online tools, and circumstances when you would use one and not another; and we explored SCRAN in the light of Glow and Curriculum for Excellence (flexibility, interdisciplinary studies etc).
Along the way, I mentioned (and demonstrated) our school website, our variety of investigations (including Added Value Units, blogging, textile mills and Scotland History/Mystery), information literacy and new courses, like Scottish Studies.
This sort of analysis is incredibly useful, although I’m aware that enthusiasm took over at times and I just blethered on. At the same time, I learned a great deal about how RCAHMS think SCRAN could and should be used, about new possibilities (like the embedding of images on blogs) and the possibilities for further training – I’ve already spoken to colleagues about having SCRAN staff come for a visit and a joint mission during the summer.
Priory Row, Blantyre in 1948.
A row of miners’ cottages backed by coal bings
© Newsquest (Herald & Times). Licensor http://www.scran.ac.uk.
And best of all, I got a brief guided tour of the archives, where I could happily have stayed all day – but that’s a different blog 🙂
Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting has been voted the Best Scottish Book of the Last 50 Years. Great discussion on Newsnight Scotland about reading in Scotland:
- do young people read less, or do they read differently?
- are fewer people reading but more people writing?
- does it matter what text they’re in front of?
- is there enough emphasis on fiction as entertainment, rather than work?
- were the right books on the list?
Marc Lambert says 9000 votes were cast from across the world. That doesn’t seem that many to me, considering how many people are involved in the literary world in Scotland alone, from librarians, to teachers, to authors, to booksellers, to publishers. It would be interesting to see the total number of people in those roles, how many of them knew about the vote and how many actually voted.
For the record, I voted for Iain M Banks’ Excession, even though I thought it was the wrong Banks book (I’d have preferred Player of Games).
Elsewhere in BWS, I have discovered my counterpart fictional character is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird on the fictional personality test, and this wee app is really making people discuss books. (Actually I’m closer to Hermione, but I’m happy with Scout).
I had planned a visit to a local library for an author talk tonight, but a husband’s meeting running late put an end to that idea 😦 (still going to borrow the book though).
My own professional Book Week Scotland has had to be postponed. This time of year is insanely busy in school – S3 pupils are busy with Enterprise activites across the school, Andrew House always has a fund-raising celebration for St Andrew’s Day, and our Christmas Fair is at the end of the week. Any attempt to shoehorn something else in would be disastrous and pointless!
Instead our plan was to move everything back a week, but still have a fun five days of fiction. Unfortunately, other events have taken precedence and all of the planning had to be put aside completely. No matter, rather than Book Week Scotland, I think we’ll try to run with BWS – The Advent Edition.
This world is currently growing on a paper in a school library. It’s a work in progress but I love all the little details we’ve added.
Amazing how the colour brings it to life, although every time we had to select a colour we all froze. Quite appropriate in an arctic-like landscape.
Our world is surrounded by mountains, although they’re out of shot. The purply bit is frozen loch. The orange fish/rockets are actually houses on stilts – the stilts are permanent, but the top will lift off. There’s a small hill covered in Pi-like shapes centre-left; those are platforms for the top half of the houses in times of flood. Top left you can just make out the shapes of trees – upside down naturally as the majority of the moisture comes from above rather than the frozen ground. The squiggles in the loch represent the sacred places of our settlement: the steam arising from an underground hot spring, and its associated ‘church’. The orange is a rice field. Yes, I know it’s frozen but there are channels bringing warmer water to this more marshy area, and besides it’s ‘grow-in-a-frozen-landscape-rice’. Obviously!
Tonight we added a waterfall which has a cave behind it. It might not be original, but some cliches exist because they’re just magical ideas.
Now we have to decide how our three existing stories fit together into one narrative, and begin to develop our characters. And by that time we might have functioning computers again and we can purchase the software!
Things that happened today:
- My lovely Apple Macs were taken away. All of the school’s computers are being upgraded and they didn’t meet the spec. As a result, any class needing computer access had to be rehoused or find something else to do. We managed to organise the research process for most classes to allow a natural break for writing, but one or two are still coming along, like the IDL class. Of course, despite numerous reminders in e-mail, daily bulletins and signs on the door, people are still asking to use my temporarily non-existent computers.
- Both printers have decided that they will not work until a nice admin (i.e. not me) puts in the correct password. Happens all the time with one or other but never had both refusing to cooperate simultaneously. And of course, all the technicians are busy with computer upgrading …
- IDL come along to complete their Mary Queen of Scots tweets. Everything was saved to the dropbox last week and all I had to do was retrieve and print them. Except, of course, the printers aren’t playing nice. We’ve just agreed a quick alternative plan when one of our lovely techies appears and fixes the problem, letting me quickly print off all the pupils’ work.
- Unfortunately, for some reason best known to themselves, the printers decide to catch up with previous instructions from last week- perfect timing!
- One of the boys has now managed to wedge his little finger into the metal tubing of the chair. This should be impossible, except of course, it obviously isn’t. The rest of the class are in fits of laughter as our hero desperately tries to free his pinkie. The class teacher is standing by with liquid soap when the First Aider appears, separates digit from furniture and carts him off for a check up.
- The class are gradually settling down, and we’re back on track with our plan for today – to age the twitter pages with tea and coffee stains. This is when I realise there’s no teabags left (argh!)
- Having retrieved teabags from elsewhere, I bring through water, only to be hauled back, ‘Er, Mrs Macfadyen. the water’s cold!’ OK, need brain needs a restart now!
- Pupils now decide to tell me that their pages have not printed, despite the fact that I’ve sent them to the printer twice already. Oh boy, it’s one of those classes. Can I do anything right this period?
- Eventually everything works out and the pupils make a good job of their aging process and even tidy up afterwards – mostly.
- For the last five minutes we put on one of the Mary Queen of Scots clips from Horrible Histories that I’d searched for and had unblocked. The teacher hasn’t seen this one before. It’s a great overview of Mary’s life, very funny and covers all the points we wanted them to be aware of.
Guess there was something I could do right this period after all.
We’re marking time.
The original plan was to purchase a copy of RPG Maker for our creative writers participating in the And Now This! Club.
Unfortunately, all of our computer systems are being transferred onto Windows 7, so we’re delaying the purchase of new software 😦
In the meantime, we’ve been working on our tiny game, pulling together the three strands of the pupils’ original short stories which gave us a magical didgeridoo broken into pieces that were discovered when someone sang or whistled nearby (AH), a goose stolen by a witch, turned into rock, and hidden in a cave from its rightful owner (SS), and a church determined to destroy the world with a strange lizard which must be saved by the world’s most terrifying harpist and their constantly smiling sibling (HS).
This is quite controlled for us 😀
Well, at this week’s meeting I suggested that we try to draw out the world, including as many aspects of the different stories as we could, on the understanding that everything was up for grabs and could be changed, unless they argued vociferously and logically to keep it.
It took us a while to draw out a grid, but by the end of the hour’s meeting, we had the beginnings of a decent landscape.
We didn’t just plonk stuff down anywhere, but considered why something would be where it would be. To ensure that the world stayed wee, we created a valley enclosed by mountains. Caves were added at the secondary compass points, although one is actually a cave through the mountain allowing us to expand later if need be.
We needed a village, a river and a church, which caused a fair amount of er, discussion, before I eventually grabbed a pencil, closed my eyes and drew a wonky line across the paper, much to the amazement of one person – that’s exactly it! – and the horror of another. Our landscape is frozen, and the lake is thick ice except for one area which is always steaming water. Naturally the church went beside it, and the village was built on the edge of the frozen lake, with buildings on poles through the ice.
Throughout this discussion we had been laughing that the inhabitants should all be geese; it tied in with the goose turned to rock in the cave, and explained how the inhabitants had found their way into a valley surrounded by mountains. However, this didn’t explain where the strange lizard came in until I remembered my photo of the Argentine Tegu. A colleague had seen it briefly and thought it was a bird – not that weird since birds are descended from reptiles. The club dubbed him The Forgetful Lizard Who Forgot to Evolve. His name is now Jeffrey in honour of that ornithophobic colleague, and our world has its first folktale!
Finally, our map needed a symbol for a church, so we decided on three wavy lines, like steam rising, with an added bonus when we noticed that it could be drawn by a webbed foot 😆
See, we’re staying tiny!
Our Mary, Queen of Scots Interdisciplinary Learning project continues, and I’m worried. Worried because they’re all getting on brilliantly and no-one’s asking for help. Something must be wrong somewhere … surely?
The class are engrossed in writing tweets in the persona of Mary herself – although some have asked to add in replies from other people, like John Knox, Elizabeth I, Lord Darnley and the Earl of Bothwell. And because it’s tweeting, we’ve allowed less formal language and encouraged hashtags, lots and lots of hashtags.
Rather a brilliant idea, if I do say so myself.
Our Mary, Queen of Scots IDL classes work in rotation over three subjects: Art, Modern Languages and Social Subjects. Each class has an introductory lesson, four periods with each class, with a trip to Stirling Castle early in the term and the chance to pull it all together into a collage at the end of term.
We split Mary’s life into ten time periods, split the class into ten groups, and asked each pair to focus their research into just that one time period. I’d already pulled together a load of load of video clips to along with the books – of which there aren’t that many actually – and added them onto the school website along with the other links.
The result is that they learn a fair bit about one short period of Mary’s life, but since they want to share all the tweets with each other, they’re actually peer teaching the rest of her life too. And in order to make the tweets make sense, they have to mention a particular event, and add Mary’s reaction, all in 140 characters. The character limit allows the class to accomplish a lot in a short space of time.
A couple of my favourites:
Once most of the tweets are complete I explain how to make their work look like a real Twitter page with images and text wrapping but with more of a 16th century feel using their choice of fonts.
And at this stage my services are required again. Nice to be needed 🙂
You know, I think too much sometimes. The topic on this occasion: what is the purpose of a School Library at lunchtime?
Obvious answer is of course, the same as the rest of the time: reading, learning, teaching, fun, homework, study, careers, events, or just talk to the librarian. However, mine is not a school where the pupils are always keen to work away at lunchtime, and there are plenty of other activities taking place in other departments so rather than sit in an empty library, I’ve introduced a variety of activities.
For the last few years, a colleague and I have run the Photography Club once a week. The pupils come along to the Library, eat their lunch, relax and get to know each other (and the staff), and then we’ll either take some pictures, analyse existing photographs, work on Photoshop or discuss entries for competitions. We’ve had 1st years to 6th years, some only there for the craic and companionship and some for genuine interest in photography.
Successful bids bought a handful of wee cameras to use in wanders through the local country park and for photography jobs to do in the school. We also took the group to Summerlee, an industrial museum in Coatbridge on the site of an old ironworks. They have a photography studio subsidised by the council to work with school groups where we headed for a session on lighting and portraits. A great opportunity for the group to work with some professional equipment (and professional photographers!)
This year we decided to do something slightly different. We still run the club at lunchtime, but this time my colleague suggested submitting the pupils for a qualification. We invited all previous members along for a discussion of the idea, but only serious photographers showed up, all of whom were enthusiastic about the idea and it’s been much . It’s been running well ever since.
Last year I ran a Stuff’n’Things Club which was basically a little bit of everything: games, puzzles, competitions, storytelling, reading, cool websites, crafts. It grew out of a Creative Writing Club which dissolved when nobody had time to write or wanted to share their writing, but the usual mix of enthusiasts and attention seekers didn’t really work. Stuff’n’Things worked well at keeping pupils’ attention, and it wasn’t a problem if some people didn’t show for a while. Meanwhile, discussions with the dedicated creative writers have led to another club (run after school) called And Now This! that I’ve written about elsewhere.
Well, libraries should be there for everybody, that goes without saying, so it is better to have a library that’s in greater use overall but off-limits to non-club members two days a week, or a generally open library that isn’t so busy? My inclination is to the former, but it doesn’t stop me wondering, especially after I’ve read something wonderful from another school librarian.
What I need to remember is that Every Library is Different and Every Librarian is Different, and to accept the unacceptable:
YOU CAN’T DO EVERYTHING!!!!
*whispers* still fancy a graphic novel club though
National Poetry Day always seems to fall on an awkward day for us – Thursdays are always a nightmare at this time of year – so we’ve shifted it forward a week.
Last year‘s event worked quite well, and we ended up with a rather lovely collection of decorated stars complete with strange associations, making beautiful displays around the school.
This year, the theme is water, and originally we had all sorts of fabulous ideas for jars of floating poetry and watery events, but October sneaked up on us again, and again I was out of school. A quick meeting in a corridor later, we simplified the entire process: just get the pupils to write a line of poetry on the shape of a water drop, and then decorate it again as last year. Poems would be available via links on the LRC website or (if especially requested), in e-mail. Plus, I sent a message to all teaching staff suggesting that they might want to get involved if any of their classes were studying anything remotely water themed. Facts about canals and watery words (or les mots d’eau?) in French and Spanish were now to be included. We looked forward to more eye-catching displays.
Well, of course it wasn’t. No problem adding links to suitable websites, except of course, not every poem is ‘suitable‘, say for 1st years, and I wasn’t expecting some of the options that popped up! (This is why you always check twice). Most importantly, picking a single line or two out of a poem to express a thought or a description isn’t especially easy. I know, I tried in advance. The Scottish Poetry Library examples were beautiful, but we didn’t want this to be a constant repeat of the same lines.
Then one of the English teachers told me she had got her class to brainstorm synonyms for water and consider words to go with them. Simple, easy, effective, guaranteed to mention water in some form.
And so, starting today, that’s what we’ve done, and it has been brilliant. In fact, we ran out of water drops, and I’ve had to order more photocopies. (Not sure what it says about me as a librarian that it took twenty minutes before I thought to bring over the water related books 😳 )
However, I reckon National Poetry Day is a perfect way to take the library outside. We have a beautiful country park filled with wonderful trees, buildings and downright weird stuff right beside us, and it’s just begging to be used for days like this. It’s going to take a whole pile of administration and organisation, but imagine the fun of poetry walks in the woods, gathering sensations as you go, maybe even borrowing the iPads for photos and notes as inspiration hits.
Bet it rains next year!
The Appin Murder mob approached on Friday and asked for a larger sheet of paper for their poster.
How big do you need?
Well, we’re going to lay out the information like in CSI.
Great idea. You giving yourselves CSI ranks too?
(They glance at each other) Could we? Aaaaaargh! Oh my God, that’s amazing!
Why not? If you’re re-enacting CSI, then why not add the details. What about badges?
OH MY GOD!!! BADGES! That’s amazing! Can we? Badges!
AAAAARGH! (CSI 1, 2 and 3 vanish towards a computer, then CSI 1 reappears)
Can we use the colour printer?
Sure. Who’s taking the pictures?
Pictures? PICTURES!!!!!! AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGHHHH! (hurls herself up the library) We can take PHOTOS!!!
I do believe that happy children will learn more easily and more effectively 🙂 I expect these chaps to know the details of the crime inside out!
Claire Griffiths was working at Keith Primary when the 1930s building was due to be replaced, and decided to collect memories of the place before it was demolished. The Keith Primary School Memory Blog was the result and a lovely site it is too, with the sound of the old school bell and images from both recent and deeper past.
This led to the Moray Heritage Memory Project, funded by the RVS, collecting memories from anyone over the age of 65 living in Moray. The beauty of the project is the way it brings younger and older people together, and provides loads of opportunities for additional research, photography, literacy, ICT and craft activities, and a gift to interdisciplinary learning. And it’s a great resource for any school, because the information comes from across Scotland: the latest memory is about working in the Lanarkshire steel industry! I recommend the site to anyone working in learning and teaching.
This was one of those seminars when the idea was just so blindingly obviously wonderful and pleasing to the brain just from the opening slide that my notes were full of a dozen ideas for how our school community could build something similar before the speaker finishing introducing herself.
However, a few years ago, I was at a training day with the (since retired) James Herring. At the end he asked us to write down which, if any, of the wonderful ideas we’d been discussing, were we intending to take on.
And then he asked us to write down which piece of work we were abandoning in order to have the time to take on something new? That stopped me in my tracks that day, and I’ve not forgotten it.
And while I would argue that it’s not always about abandonment, and that reorganisation can create a similar effect, nevertheless, there is only a certain amount of time available. So before I launch into yet another project, I’m hauling myself to a stop with a screech of the keyboard, and making sure I complete what I’ve already signed up for. The idea of a memory blog is still sitting there all snug and cosy, but it’ll just have to wait its turn.