Lessons from uLearn16: Keynote 3

Michael Fullan: Early lessons from implementing New Pedagogies for Deep Learning


Michael Fullan continued the theme, common among the keynote speakers, of student-centred education. And in particular, the idea of transforming pedagogies to tap into the incredible reservoir of children’s creativity.

Michael talked about how humans are innately wired to: connect, create and help humanity. This was tied in with the idea of millennials gravitating towards good. And they do this not because they’re altruistic, but because that is what it is to be human. It was nice to hear of this positive aspect of millennials, as they generally get a bit of bashing (particularly, it must be said, from baby boomers). And made me think back to John Couch’s keynote and the fact that we don’t use student-power to solve community problems.

Perhaps most excitingly, NPDL helps those most disaffected with current education systems. It does this because it: connects with the real world by providing relevance, is congruent with native values, has a culture of high expectation, builds relationships on trust, increases efficacy and optimism, and provides support for students who don’t have much. Like the other keynote messages, this doesn’t seem like rocket science to me. Coming from the primary sector, I feel like there is a lot of this going on already in their classrooms, and it saddens and frustrates me that there seems to be little or no educational innovation happening in my environment. We seem to be bound by NCEA, becoming slaves to it, rather than making it work for our students.


Because we don’t need better leaders. Leaders are not the solution, better citizens are.

One of the things that made this keynote more interesting is that Minister Parata was sitting in the front row as it was delivered. And she was watching on Twitter as those listening reacted to messages that seemed incongruent with current education policy. Points such as: bad strategies for whole system change are accountability and standards (and evidence proves this!), and focus on long-term success rather than units of work (which is not was NCEA encourages).

Again I left a keynote address thinking that we need some brave leadership in more secondary schools so that we can do our best by all our students. The “tail” of NZ education tells us that the current system is not working for 20% of our kids, and in particular our Māori and Pasifika students. Something needs to change so that these young people can reach their full potential.

The session did end on a hopeful note. Michael encouraged leadership from the middle. That is, to exploit policy from the top but add to it to make it work for you. This, in turn, leads the top to learn from the middle. Let’s get exploiting!

So what, now what?

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

  • I’m not sure yet…need to keep thinking

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:


Write That Essay: professional development day


Image: “Power of Words” by Antonio Litterio, shared on Wikimedia Commons with a Creative Commons licence

Today was a teacher only day at my school. Dr Ian Hunter was running a school-wide essay writing workshop, held in the library. Given that “teacher only” actually means “all staff” and the workshop was held in my work space and it was literacy-focused I thought I should attend. Because, duh, I couldn’t do anything noisy (like covering books), the library is all about student literacy and, well, some people actually like learning.

Here are some of the notes I took.

We need to model better writing.

Five types of sentences:

  1. Very short sentences (five words or less)
    • use in the middle of paragraphs – gets attention, OR
    • use at the end of a paragraph – emphatic
    • don’t overuse it!
  2. W-start: with, while, when / where as / where, who, what (progression of Ws)
    • they are the foundation sentence of analytical writing
    • holds attention to tell more significant thing
  3. Adverb (-ly words)
    • importantly, significantly etc
    • however, yet, now, often, moreover
    • adverb, comma, rest of sentence
    • introduces interest and intrigue
  4. Em-dash (long hyphen)
    • drop in phrase completely separate from the rest of the sentence for impact
  5. Explore the subject of sentence

Teach sentences in RHYTHM and STYLE – not parts of speech



Who’s the most important person on the page? The reader.


  • clarity means the reader follows every word and gets it.
  • author examples: Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, C S Lewis, Hemingway
  • see The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis (available at Napier Libraries)

Barriers to exam essay writing:

  • writing speed / output (successful Level 3 and scholarship students are writing 160 words every 10 minutes – students need to know this, and they need to practise writing fast)
    • Level 2 = 140 words / 10 minutes
    • Level 1 = 100-120 words / 10 minutes
  • essay planning
    • mind maps are great for generative thinking – not for creating logical judgement and structure
    • list ideas in one or two words
    • choose your best three ideas
    • decide a logical order to present your ideas – start with your best idea ⇒ what logically comes next?
  • how students are taught to manage time
    • 10 minutes planning / 45 minutes writing / 10 minutes reading – this is not enough time writing!
    • instead: 2 minutes planning / 55 minutes writing / 2 minutes rest
  • legibility
    • while this may not be such as issue at NCEA level, at tertiary level if your handwriting cannot be read it will not be marked
    • help students now to write fast and legibly – practise, practise, practise


(Boys like rules, it is a structure imposed upon them, removes not knowing and increases confidence)

  • no essay longer than 1000 words. Ever.
  • no report longer than 1500 words
  • make six paragraph essays mandatory (where the fifth paragraph is a discussion paragraph → most important idea and why)
  • no conclusions shorter than 100 words


(not to repeat what you’ve already said!)

  1. RESTATE the argument.
  2. Tell how you PROVED it.
    • most significant point and why
    • new insight (not new evidence)
    • personal reflection
    • two things we learn from this
    • two things to bear in mind for the future
  4. POWER sentence – 12 words or less.


  • avoid three things approach (ie, Firstly, secondly, thirdly etc)
  • avoid detective approach (ie, suggests a big reveal, doesn’t reveal position)
  • if you ask a question in your introduction – answer it straight away

An introduction in four sentences:

  1. A neutral sentence.
  2. Write a context sentence.
  3. State your argument.
  4. Sum up.

ESSAY = the defense of a thesis statement (ie, what you say in your introduction!)

In order for students to demonstrate UNDERSTANDING and ANALYSIS, the questions you ask must FORCE A CHOICE.

Dr Hunter was a charismatic presenter. He kept 70+ staff (of varying degrees of receptiveness) engaged throughout most of the day. He came across as confident and knowledgeable, and was able to answer any questions that challenged what he said. However, he did say a couple of controversial things. And that’s all good if they’re true. But I don’t know whether they are or not as they were not offered with any evidence. Dr Hunter may have data that we are unaware of, this was not shared with us. Instead what was offered was anecdotal evidence and that just didn’t sit right with me. So I will investigate the controversial things.

Overall, this was an interesting and informative day. And I learned some stuff I wish I knew in high school!

Close reading II: The reader-friendly library service

Open book

Image shared on Pixabay with a Creative Commons public domain licence

Chapter two: Finding out what readers want

This chapter outlines how public libraries can gather statistics and information about and from their users. Again, school libraries have a bit of an advantage as we can gather a lot of information from our Learning Management Systems and the age range of our users is quite specific. However, I think it is important to remember not to make assumptions about our students’ preferences and how they use the library. We can still gather information that will help us improve programmes, stock, and library organisation.

The image of the library is as much a barrier as the reality.

There is so much truth in this statement (page 54). One of my biggest frustrations is how our library is perceived by some students and staff. Throw away comments about libraries as quiet spaces, being only about books, and perhaps not being required in our changing educational landscape reveal to me that many people do not see the library as it is now. Or worse, lack the imagination to see how the library can contribute to teaching and learning. This is not only my biggest frustration but also my biggest challenge.

Another common discovery is that people are very prejudiced about what they will not read but not so definite about what interests them.

This (page 74) is certainly true of my experience helping teenage boys select reading material! I like the suggestion that staff don’t have to take the expert role and can encourage users to recommend books. I know I have found this helpful when a student has asked for a recommendation and a classmate overhears and suggests books they’ve enjoyed. The students almost always take what their classmates suggest over what I offer them. I need to encourage more of this peer discussion around reading.

I like the authors’ suggestion to tempt users to overcome their prejudices rather than preach to them. Instead of making a “worthy” display about diversity in literature include diverse books in displays with other themes, such as “Books we love” or “Bite sized books”. This way reading choices are being opened up and barriers are being broken down. Someone who might swear they would never read chick-lit / fantasy / gay fiction could quite happily pick up a brief one of these if they were displayed with other short books (aka Bite sized).

How do you choose what to read next?

This is a simple question (page 75) that can provide library staff with a great deal of information. The answers to this question reveal barriers and provide a greater awareness of issues such as displays, stock arrangement, signage and library organisation.

Actions arising from this chapter:

  • Change the way the library is perceived
  • Encourage peer discussion about books and reading
  • Survey students about how they choose what to read next: include regular library users as well as non-users, keen readers and reluctant readers


Riel, R. V., Fowler, O., & Downes, A. (2008). The reader-friendly library service. Newcastle upon Tyne: Society of Chief Librarians.

School libraries supporting literacy

Boy reading

Image shared on Pixabay with a Creative Commons public domain licence

In these times of rapidly changing technology, with increasing amounts of information (which can vary drastically in quality), and trying to keep up with new trends in school librarianship, it is sometimes handy to be reminded that the core business of a school library is literacy. This is exactly what happened at the National Library of New Zealand facilitated School Library Network meeting held in Hawke’s Bay this March.

Participants at the network meeting were asked to share an activity or strategy they have used in their schools to promote literacy. This exercise enabled us to be exposed to a number of new ideas, with the challenge to implement at least one of them before we meet again next term.

Here are some of the strategies that were discussed:

  • Book of the week – highlighting a favourite book can be done using the library management system (particularly if using the search facilities is a learning focus), or can make a quick and easy-to-change display. (Gail)
  • Creating a reading environment – this could be as simple as changing shelving to create more face-out display or more eye-catching arrangements; or this could involve making an investment in more suitable furniture to create fun reading spaces for students. (Kareanne)
  • Booktalks – talk to classes about new books, favourite books, books on a theme; 5-6 books per session probably works best, and these books are almost always issued. (Sandi)
  • Know your book stock and know your students – it is much easier to match students to appropriate or appealing books if you have a good understanding of both; this is not a quick fix strategy – but it is one of the most rewarding! (Bev)
  • Use that giant TV for book trailers – or even better create videos of teachers or students talking about good books they’ve read, this will help create a reading community in your school and students will understand that teachers are readers too. (Debbie)
  • Summer reading programmes – many school libraries insist all books are returned at the end of the year and then they lock them up for the six week summer break. Why? Let the students borrow books over the holidays. They’ll love you for it. (Sandi)
  • Buy what students recommend – and ask them to make recommendations, especially reluctant readers. This helps give students ownership of the library and makes you feel good too! (Raewyn)
  • Themed library nights – the example we heard was a school had a “boys’ night” and a “girls’ night” when students brought their parents along and participated in activities in the library. Everyone else seemed to think this was a wonderful idea, but I felt a bit uncomfortable with the gender stereotyping involved (the boys got to enter the library by crawling under a cargo net – cool!; the girls got to eat cupcakes – meh.) so I would probably use genre themes, like Action and Fantasy, to avoid that. (Debbie)
  • Shelf reviews – bookshops have some great ideas to promote titles and we should definitely adopt some more of their strategies.  Shelf reviews is one of these, they don’t have to be long and they’re put right beside the book so it’s easy to find. (Tamsin)
  • Reading tree – one primary school commissioned a Year 13 student from a local high school to design and build them a wooden tree, paper leaves are then hung from the tree when students have finished a book. Not only has this been a great display and a way to promote reading and books, the students also like to sit under it and read – just like a real tree! (Steph L)
  • Face out book displays – another bookshop strategy that is so simple and works wonders. If you don’t have enough space for face out displays – WEED! Nothing is more daunting (or boring!) to reluctant readers than rows and rows of spines. (Steph L)
  • Book quizzes – but call it something cool, like BATTLE OF THE BOOKS. Lots of kids love competition, so why not make reading a competitive sport? (Sue)
  • Books in windows – one school has whole-school read aloud time after interval every day. Teachers put the book they are going to read that day in their classroom window, students are then able to “shop” around for which book they would like to hear. This would be a great idea for book week if you want to sample it on a smaller scale. Students get to hear different teachers read, and teachers will soon get a gauge on whether they are picking the “right” books or whether their read aloud skills are up to scratch! (Debbie R)
  • Reading wall – this is an idea I adapted from The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller.
    Reading Wall

    Image created by me using Comic Life

    Instead of using a classroom door to show what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and what I’m going to read, I use the back of the issues computer. The idea is that it promotes discussion with students and they get to see that I’m a reader too. I’ve particularly noticed that our students like to tell me what book I should read next!

  • Reading challenges – every year I set myself a reading challenge. I don’t like to set myself a number target so instead try to be a bit more creative. I then display my challenge in the foyer so it is the first thing our community sees when they enter the library. Again this starts lots of conversations (with teachers joining in suggestions on this one) and reminds students that even “good” readers can be challenged. So far I only have a 50% success rate with my challenges, but I think it’s good for students to see that adults can fail at things too.

The strategy that I’m going to work on for the next term is our environment. I’ve got some new seating ordered and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that will work in creating some reading corners. I’d also like to give some more bookshop-like promotion a try.

What happens in your school library to help promote literacy? I’d love to hear some more ideas!

Interesting reading this week:


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

7 books for a new kind of library school. – By their very nature formal education programmes are playing catch up with the latest research and trends.  Sally suggests that instead of learning about “the job” library school should teach about learning, leading, and problem solving.  A great suggestion with some recommended reading for this new curriculum. (Shared by School of Information Studies at CSU’s facebook page.)

Yes, you can still teach kids to love books. – I often despair of how we put young people off reading by they way we teach English and literacy in schools.  Sometimes I need to feel a little bit of hope.  This article did that.  I need to share it with our English department. (Shared by NPR on Tumblr.)

Why do our best ideas come to us in the shower.  – In the weekend Alison, Michelle, and I had a conversation on Twitter about the best blog posts we never wrote and where we were when inspiration struck.  Michelle then shared the science behind these inspirational moments.  I love random Twitter conversations! (Shared by Michelle on Twitter.)


Interesting reading this week:


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

OER and you. The curation mandate. – Open Education Resources are coming and school libraries (librarians) need to be in the game.  They should be helping to curate resources, making resources discoverable, and working with teachers to use resources ethically and legally.  A call to be ready when the platforms and your teachers are ready! (Shared by Carole on the schoollib listserv.)

The ancient productivity tool that will boost your brain power. – How paper and pen can make you more creative and productive.  Technology is good but sometimes old school can be better. (Shared by Buffy Hamilton on Twitter.)

How this school library increased student use by 1000 percent.  – Love this idea of moving beyond makerspaces, of having library use connected to classroom learning, and of this change being led by the school principal.  There is much that will be referred to here for March’s #EdBlogNZ challenge. (Shared by Desna on SLANZA’s facebook page.)

Thanks to Stephanie at Teaching the Teacher for this idea and format.

Why blog?


Image by Sophie Janotta, shared under a Creative Commons Zero license on Wikimedia Commons

It’s been 421 days since my last blog post.  So why start up again?  Haven’t I heard that blogging is dead?

The rumours of blogging’s demise has been going around since at least 2012.  This post sums up many of the reasons behind the rumours:

  • the move to collections and curations;
  • the rise of mobile tools;
  • the increasing “nowness” of the web;
  • and the growing appeal of visual text over written.

These are all salient points, but they are far more relevant to the media companies and brand managers the post was aimed at rather than the world of education and librarianship that I inhabit.

This post offers a well-thought out rebuttal to those 15 million rumours of the blog’s death.  The counter-arguments that particularly stood out are:

  • these types of headlines are designed to get click-bait attention;
  • that blogging is evolving, not dying;
  • and that blogging is an iteration of writing and writing never dies.

So far the reading I’ve done has convinced me that blogging as a platform isn’t dead – but my blog sure is on life support.  Why should I resuscitate it?

Forbes can give me reasons to blog for my business, Becoming Minimalist can tell me how it will improve my life, and Michelle can convince me it’s for the greater good of the New Zealand school library community.  But how did I talk myself into it?  These are the things I’m telling myself.

Allows time to reflect and plan:

Most of the time as a sole-charge school librarian I am busy living in the now.  Focused only on the task that is currently on hand and the next thing that needs to be done.  Keeping a regular blog requires sitting still and thinking deeply.  It will make me stop and think about my practice and professional development in a more beneficial manner.  What works?  What doesn’t work?  What did I learn?  What should I change?  How shall I implement these changes?  These are all questions that require time and attention to answer.  Devoting time to maintain this blog will help that.

Keeps a record of learning:

Currently I do not undergo a formal appraisal process, however, this could change in the future.  If it does a record of my continuous professional development will be easily accessible to my appraiser.  In the future I may decide to apply for LIANZA professional registration.  Their registration journal commitments will be a lot easier to complete if a record has already been kept current and up to date.  Also, as a professional (and I am a big believer in school librarianship being viewed and valued as a profession), I feel I should be keeping a record of my learning regardless of requirements from others.  The time and money spent on gathering new knowledge should be recognised and appreciated.  This blog will allow space to do that.

It’s good to share:

I love that so much of what I have learned about being a school librarian was given away freely by sharing and caring librarians who are more experienced, knowledgeable or creative than me.  I love how our profession is so supportive and collaborative.  I want to contribute to that.  And maybe even get the chance to pay it forward to some new librarian who may be feeling lost in the wilderness alone like I did.

Advocacy for school libraries:

By being public in our practice and our learning we are helping to advocate for all school libraries and their staff.  We are showing the value of libraries to their school communities and the huge impact that librarians can have on their students.  We are advocating for school libraries at large but also, at an individual level, we are showing our leadership teams, staff, students and families what we are doing for them.  My inspiring colleague, Michelle, has managed to gather her principal as a follower on her blog.  You can’t get more direct advocacy than that!

Develop my Personal Learning Network:


Created using easel.ly

Some would say that my Personal Learning Network doesn’t need much development.  I already use lots of different platforms to connect with and learn from school librarians and other information professionals around New Zealand and the rest of the world.  Unfortunately I have an (admittedly self-diagnosed) addiction to learning.  I love learning and am always interested in hearing what other people are doing to help their school communities.  This post talks about how PLN’s can use blogs as a place to connect, communicate, collaborate and create with colleagues.  Yes, please!

Have conversations:

A side effect of being a sole-charge school librarian is there is often no one else on site to have library conversations with.  The listserv occasionally offers potential for this, but during a busy day it is often not possible to make the most of these rare opportunities.  Twitter is a great place to share short nuggets of information, but even with an extended character limit it is hard to see it becoming a place for deep conversations.  Blogs offer the opportunity for considered, well-constructed thoughts to be shared and responded to in kind.  They offer the chance to see contradictory opinions, other people’s points of view, and change mindsets.

These are the reasons I’m giving myself to resuscitate my blog.  Why do you blog? Can you give me more reasons to keep me going?