Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 2

John Couch: New dimensions in learning


John’s keynote was built upon Simon Sinek’s golden circle concept: the WHY of things. This resonated quite strongly with me, not least because I am always questioning my own practice in an effort to get rid of unnecessary tasks. But also because both education and technology can be quickly consumed by the latest fad, without much thinking about whether it will improve teaching and learning or not.

John talked about having a clear vision as this is what drives mission. However, he was quick to point out that visions should be aspirational, while missions are measurable. Throwing creativity at a problem, rather than money, appealed to the number 8 wire mentality. But I think this also has bigger implications in an educational context. Why are we not harnessing student creativity to solve community or school problems?



Joi Ito’s ‘learning over education’ was referenced. If we think about this in terms of our students we have to cede some of our power and control. If students are engaged they will learn, so it is up to us to put them at the centre of things – otherwise why do we exist? If schools aren’t about the students what are they about? Students’ curiosity-fueled exploration creates knowledge – where do we see this? Especially in a traditional secondary context?

John made the point that education will not change from the top down (despite the Minister’s best attempts) and as technology becomes more freely available, it will become a disrupter and help change come from the bottom. While we may see technology as a tool (and I am guilty of saying this all the time), to our students it is an environment. Are we recognising this and meeting them where they are at?

Lastly, John talked about educators providing access to content. If this is all they are doing they will become obsolete, it is essential that educators are providing context for the content. This will need to see teachers change their role to become co-learners, and this is okay – in the age of the internet, no student expects an adult to be the font of all knowledge. Instead we need to see a symbiotic relationship in learning between teacher, student and community.

So what, now what?

What does this keynote mean to me and my practice? What impact does this have on the school library?

  • in terms of my role on our ICT steering committee, I need to be asking WHY
  • the school library policy manual still needs to be updated – what is our vision? what do we aspire to?

Some links and follow ups:


Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 1

This was my first uLearn and I suspect I’ll be processing the experience for many weeks. However, I thought I’d get a few thoughts down before things get lost in the daily minutiae when school starts back again tomorrow!

Larry Rosenstock: It’s time to change the subject


A saying that is suitable for life – not just carpentry!

Larry spoke about his school, High Tech High, and the project-based learning approach that they use.

It’s funny (and not in a humorous way) that despite the rapid change that is going on in the rest of society, schools continue to operate in the same way they have for centuries. And this is true of secondary schools in particular.

The school day is still segmented into random times, learning is divided into subjects, and these subjects are given a hierarchical importance. Value continues to be placed most highly on English, mathematics, and science, despite the fact that our students are heading out into a vastly different labour force to the one that schools were originally designed to cater for.

Add to this New Zealand’s NCEA requirements, where learning is separated down even further into artificial and discrete units, and it’s no wonder students may have difficulty applying what they know across curriculum areas and into different contexts.

A key point I got from Larry is that we create false dichotomies in education: projects don’t have to be maths or art, they can be maths and art. Similarly, it doesn’t have to be a student-driven curriculum versus exam based, it can be both. We will need some brave school leadership (and this may have to be prompted from below) that can see learning that puts the student at the centre can still produce the required* NCEA results.

*required by students, parents, schools and the Ministry.


John Dewey – still making sense after all this time

So what, now what?

What does this keynote mean to me and my practice? What impact does this have on the school library?

  • I will definitely stop talking to students about when they are out in “the real world” – they’re already in it!
  • I will look for ways for teachers to collaborate and get cross-curricular links happening – the English and Earth & Space Science information literacy standards seem ripe for this
  • I will champion those subjects deemed lower down in the education hierarchy

Some links and follow ups:


Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos,shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

We Are Terrible At Data Literacy. And this is now having a terrifying impact on world politics! Once again, education is touted as being the answer to this problem. But this is a slow way to deal with something that is happening now. I don’t know what a more direct solution is (but surely journalism should hold some accountability too) so I’m going to hide my head in the sand. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

New report on family engagement in public libraries. A project that investigated the ways in which public libraries engage with libraries. Some interesting implications for school libraries and the ways in which we engage with our communities. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Reading in 2016 – digital vs print, the ultimate smackdown! Yes! To all this, yes! Please let’s not have the either / or debate anymore. It should always be “and”; as Kay rightly says, with purpose, pedagogy and learning objectives driving choices. Thanks, Kay, for articulating so well what many of us in Libraryland think! (Shared by Helen Stower on Twitter.)

Research: Yes, Being Helpful Is Tiring. Possibly explains why I finished Term 3 so exhausted! I like that it has tips for those that ask for help, as well as those who are helpers. Now, I’m off for a restorative nap. (Shared by Tim Kong on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

Online life is real life, aleph-nought in a series. A good reminder that this whole online vs real life is an artificial construct. There is just life. Some of it you will spend online. Some of it you will not. And goes towards the point I tried to make at an ICT steering committee meeting – we need to teach our guys about being “good men” in all contexts, and not just inside the school gates. (Shared by John Scalzi on Twitter.)

Why are we still ignoring @SirKenRobinson? Because New Zealand government policy demands us too? Or because our educational leaders are not brave enough to run their schools in ways that meet policy demand but are not driven by them? Either way, it’s pretty much why I left classroom teaching. (Shared by Richard Wells on Twitter.)

No benefit to single-sex education, Australian Psychological Congress to be told. Aargh! As a feminist, I have such angst at working at a boys’ school. This did not help! But I found it a really interesting read as this is the main thrust of the marketing our school runs. Should I put the cat among the pigeons and share it with our SMT? (Shared by Stuart Kelly on Twitter.)

Genre readers have less empathy? I’m not feeling that. A few weeks ago I shared a post about how literary fiction makes us better humans, so it seemed only fair to share Val McDermid’s response. And what a response! Pithy, funny, and throws some shade. Read what you like, people! (Shared by Rachel van Riel on Twitter.)

That moment when you realise…


Recently I have been weeding our fiction section. And I have been quite brutal.

I began by carefully removing the books that had not been read for a while according to neatly printed borrowing statistics. Then I moved on to throwing out the items that looked like they were about to fall apart. Getting caught up in a weeding frenzy, I next began to remove the books that still had handwritten spine labels (because these began to be printed at least eight years ago). These were soon followed by books that just did not look that great anymore.

Soon I had a table covered in stacks of books and that is when it hit me. I am part of the problem.

While I can blame the large number of books sitting on that table that had never been read on the purchasing choices of previous librarians; after six years, I can no longer pretend that the choices that I make do not matter. Next year, some of the books that come off the shelves will be books I have bought. Tax payer dollars that I have spent, trying  to encourage the students at my school to read. So why is this a problem?

Recently, two Year 10 boys, who had been sent over to find something to read, made the comment that there are too many books in our library. I found this an interesting comment and one I could not ignore. Now these two boys have only been at our school for about 18 months, so they do not know that when I started there were actually about 4,000 more books in our collection – roughly a third bigger than it is now. Yet, in their eyes, it is still “too big”. There is too much choice for them and it makes it difficult for them to find the titles or authors that they are looking for.

While I have worked hard to reduce the number of physical items on our shelves, I am still part of the problem because I am responsible for what is being brought in. Part of why I chose to become a school librarian is that I love books. And the opportunity to buy them with someone else’s money? Well, that was just too good to ignore!

Unfortunately, I get a little too excited when faced with boxes of new titles. When our local bookseller comes to see me with a load of new books, I get carried away in the moment and don’t always make the best buying decisions. I am better with the national book reps I see, I am able to make cold, rational decisions about what will actually be used by the students. But when it is our local seller, we both get caught up in the excitement of talking books and soon I find myself cataloguing books, shaking my head, with thoughts of “What was I thinking?”. So, yeah, I am part of the problem.

To remedy this I have created a flow chart to help clarify what I should be bringing in to our fiction collection. I want to make sure that I am buying the books that will be read, enjoyed or found useful. I want to make sure that I am using the money I am given wisely. And I want to make sure that, in five years time, the books that are being weeded have at least been read once and do not represent money down the drain. I want it to be hard to see these books leave the collection – just as it was hard for them to get in.


Now, let me at the non-fiction collection!

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

You are not a digital native: Privacy in the age of the internet.  A really interesting post about how companies are getting away with invading privacy by saying “but the kids are digital natives so they know what they’re signing up for”. I love Doctorow’s definition of privacy, ‘[it] doesn’t mean that no one in the world knows about your business. It means that you get to choose who knows about your business.’ (Shared by Cory Doctorow on Tumblr.)

How to be mediocre and be happy with yourself. In praise of being average! Who knew that this was even a field of study?! The message here is learn to embrace your mediocrity. I’m entirely comfortable with mine! (Shared by a teacher, FF, at school and leading to another post by Mark Manson.)

4 creative PowerPoint uses you probably haven’t tried. Don’t hate on PowerPoint – use it more effectively! (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Using PowerPoint as a design tool. And this post from Ned Potter shares some more PowerPoint goodness. Am now feeling the need to redo every slideshow I’ve ever made…(Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

Why ‘medalling’ and ‘summering’ are so annoying. An interesting and entertaining look at the “verbing of nouns” in the English language. Made me snort and nod my head. But not simultaneously, that would just be weird. (Shared by an English teacher, FF, at school.)

Privacy – important even if you have nothing to hide. A great post on digital citizenship, discussing how we might not have that much privacy even if we think we are doing all the right things. Lots of interesting links are shared. Will definitely be spending more time with this post. (Shared by Carole Gardiner on Twitter.)

The privacy problem. Speaking of privacy…an interesting discussion was had on the NZ schoollib listserv recently about our duty to protect student privacy. Many of us break this privacy (without even thinking about it) when we deal with overdue books and borrowing statistics. A good reminder to have some policies in place dealing with this issue! (Shared by Karen Clarke on the schoollib listserv.)

On white fragility.  If you’re not aware of the whole #WeNeedDiverseBooks thing you should probably get out more. This is an excellent post on why white people hate talking about race and a thoughtful reflection on why this author has decided she will no longer write books with a PoC main character. If you only ever click on one link that I share, make it this one. (Shared by Justine Larbalestier on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

Screw digital natives: Behaviour not age, is what matters. As an educator, I hate the term “digital natives” and this post pretty much sums up why. Lots of our students think they are really awesome online, but actually their skills are pretty limited or limiting. And maybe so are some of the tasks we set. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Millenials as digital natives: Myths and realities. Another interesting read on the “digital native” myth that appeared on my timeline. I particularly love the last two paragraphs in the section titled “How Being a Digital Native Does Influence Behavior” – which is certainly the behaviour that I observe at school! (Shared by Trish Webster, I can’t remember where!)

Literary fiction helps us ‘read’ others. Just in case you know someone who needs convincing that reading is good for us. Or who perhaps needs encouragement to read a “literary” novel in between all the crime fiction. It’s not being a book snob, it’s encouraging being a better human! (Shared by Rachel van Riel on Twitter.)

5 tips for helping a student find the right book. Some good reminders here about how we can help our students find “the” book. Time to find a book is one of my favourite strategies – and something I need to remind our busy teachers about! (Shared by Rebeca Zuniga on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

How I made my advertisement in keynote. Some good tricks in here for how to use presentation software to make more than simple slideshows. This post focuses on Apple’s Keynote, but you can probably find similar tools in the software that you use. Oh to have time to play! (Shared by Richard Wells on his blog.)

Always click the first Google result? You might want to stop doing that. As Alison Hewett pointed out when she shared this on Twitter, this is nothing new to librarians! However, this could be the thing to share in case your students or teachers need convincing about moving deeper into their search results and that the filter bubble is really a thing! (Shared by Alison Hewett on Twitter.)

What business are libraries in? I don’t have an elevator pitch. I know I need one, but I find it almost impossible to explain what I do and why it’s important. I agree that it is important to separate out the personnel from the building – but what are my eight words? (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

4 reasons gifted programs are irrelevant. I have quite a few problems with “gifted” programmes. One of the main ones is that generally “gifted” is used to mean smart. Certainly at the school I work at their is no programme for students who are gifted in areas such as the arts or physical education. Another big problem I have with it is that (again, generally speaking) it’s not about the students – it’s about the parents or for school marketing purposes. Why shouldn’t all students be given the care and attention that the “gifted” receive? (Shared by Mark Barnes on Twitter.)

Interesting reading this week:


Interesting Reading by Gyula Kardos, shared on Wikimedia Commons as a public domain work of art

I can’t even with librarians that don’t read diversely. This. So much this. This to all those school librarians who say they don’t need to buy Pasifika books because there are no Pasifika students in their schools. This to all those school librarians who don’t even read. I. Just. Can’t. (Shared by Book Riot on Twitter.)

John  Dewey hate your digital citizenship curriculum. I’m part of my school’s ICT steering committee and we have been talking about how we don’t teach our students anything about digital citizenship. I think this post is full of important messages and questions we should be asking ourselves before we develop any sort of programme. I’m a big believer in just teaching our guys to be good citizens no matter what space they are in. But I love this idea of COMMUNITY as well. I’ll be sharing this with the rest of the committee. (Shared by Sally Pewhairangi on Twitter.)

Daniel Pennac, The Rights of the Reader. I love the way Austin Kleon writes about the books he’s read. I was a late discoverer of this book. And I’ll admit to having bought a copy that I haven’t yet read. This post has moved the book up to the top of my TBR pile. And I have no doubt that I will refer to it often as I think about devising a long-term literacy strategy for my school. (Shared by Austin Kleon on Tumblr.)

Libraries matter: 18 fantastic library infographics. Some great facts and figures here to help advocate for libraries. And while it’s heavily American-based, there’s also some really good dos and don’ts of design to be seen in the various infographs.  (Shared by Bridget Schaumann.)