Saturday, 18 January 2014

Unsworth and Cool Tools for schools

There are richly inspiring online resources for extending children’s literary experience... (Unsworth 2005, p.12)
With the burgeoning of such sites, educators are able to access expertise provided by authors, publishers, commercial providers, professional organisations, their peers and students worldwide, to provide easy to implement and inexpensive resources for developing broad and diverse understandings about literature and literacy (Unsworth, 2005).

Unsworth’s statement from 2005, regarding the burgeoning of rich, online reosurces, is more relevant in 2014, than ever before. And the challenges facing educators in accessing and integrating them into successful classroom practice are just as relevant.

There are many resources listed by cooltoolsforschools and also on the sites by Bertland, Castek Coiro and McMullan, that could be useful in providing links for teachers to use in the development of their literacy programs, especially when programming for the Literature strand of the Australian Curriculum. There are links on each of these sites that could be readily used for exploring literature and context, responding to literature, examining literature and creating literature. There also links which could fit well into the other English strands: language and literacy. 

I think it could be said, that on the whole the majority of classroom teachers have now willingly taken on board the use of online resources, particularly as a tool for planning curriuculum units, for use with interactive whiteboards and group work activities. For the majority of these classroom teachers, the current challenges with using these online resources within their teaching are to do with time and accessibility.

Having sites like these available, provide a portal through which teachers can access a list of sites already gathered by other people. While this cuts down, the time invested by teachers, there is still a need for teachers to spend time investigating each site for relevance, content, interactivity, possibility for differentiation, usefulness for whole class or small group teaching.

There then is the issue of accessibility to online resources. Many schools have invested significant funds to provide banks of laptops, ipads and desktop computers. Yet, having the hardware is only halfway to providing access. Issues surrounding  storage, security, equitable access for uses, internet access, internet speed, wifi capabilities, backup systems, data storage, school intranets and firewalls have all contributed to accessibility issues.

So where then does the teacher librarian figure into this? This is not easy to answer. In many schools, there is still a need to shift the focus of the role of the teacher librarian as simply a holder of a repository of books and RFF babysitter, to that of a ‘teacher, leader, advocate for reading, inquiry and learning; partner with classroom teachers,  who can design and implement curriculum and instruct learners in thinking, inquiry, problem solving and ethical behavior.’ (Lamb, 2011)

In many schools that I have worked in, the teacher Librarian and the ICT coordinator, are not usually the same person, nor has there usually been a visible working relationship between the two parties in regards to the issue of resourcing. It is becoming clear, that as we move further in the information age, with digital literacy, e-books, hyperlink texts etc, there is a need for a working relationship between these two roles. For the schools resources to be available, update and accessible, Teacher librarians need to not only be a part of the conversation, they need to be leading the conversation. School staff ideally, should view the library as the hub through which of the resources of the school flow – both offline AND online resources.

In order to change the mindset of classroom teachers and school executive, teacher librarians need to be:
proactive in developing collaborative relationships with classroom teachers,  through collaborative planning and resources of their programs,
develop online databases of online resource links that can accessed through the school intranet both at school and at home,
be proactive in sharing and communicating these resources and the other resources available in the library and online
demonstrate knowledge of the curriculum and how these resources can support and enhance the teaching and learning experiences.
Actively research, observe and evaluate the student learning, programs and resources
Actively involved in professional networking and professional development
Willing to lead, teach and nuture the learning journeys of the school staff to bring them along this amazing journey into 21st century literacy, well resourced and confident.

Then websites like cooltoolsforschools will not be just another website highlighted in a staff meeting, or a random link on a school website page. They will be accessible, available, talked about and shared, utilised and earmarked for the wide variety of learning experiences that are found within our classrooms.

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends 55(4) 27-36

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Leonardo - Beautiful Dreamer

Browsing a number of non-fiction picture books borrowed from my local library, I came across an interesting book 'Leonardo - Beautiful Dreamer' by Robert Byrd.

This non-fiction picture book details the life and works of Leonardo Da Vinci.

The front cover of the book is rich in detail. It has an illustrated portrait of Leonardo at the top of the cover, with an elegant 'Leonardo' beneath it. In a different font beneath the name are the words beautiful dreamer. Around the edges of the cover are a variety of thumbnail illustrations.

The end papers of the book, written in a different font again, are the quotes or statements attributed to Leonardo throughout his life, although this is never made clear to the reader at anytime in the book.

Byrd begins the text with an introduction, drawing in readers by asking them to consider their own personal experience in regards to understanding and learning about how complicated things work. He then uses this personal experience, to lay the foundation for the kind of person Leonardo was - a curious man who conducted numerous investigations to understand the laws of nature and use those understanding to design unimagined marvels. Facing the introduction is another illustration portrait of Leonardo, sitting within a picture frame, surrounded by more thumbnail illustrations.

Byrd lays out each consecutive double page spread page using a combination of elements. Each double page spread has it's own title located at the top of the left hand page (apart from the introduction and first double page spread where it is located on the top right hand page. The most prominently sized text on each page contains a recount of the stages of Leonardo's life, beginning with his birth, through his career and life until his death. Each page continues a main illustration that is reflective of what is recounted of Leonardo's life on that page. Additional facts that elaborate further on the recount are located around the page in a different font much smaller in size. These facts are accompanied by smaller illustrations, that either reflect the additional information, or provide further information themselves such as maps or diagrams. The illustrations are very detailed, yet reliant on the text for meaning to be made from them.

At the end of the book, Byrd has included an Author's Note that attempts to explain how we come to have information regarding Leonardo  and acknowledges personages who have had something to do with the research into his life. Following the Author's note is a very detailed time line beginning from Leonardo's birth through the 1880's and the publications of Leonardo's notebooks.

The final page contains an extensive bibliography that includes helpful references for the illustrations, World Wide Web resources and resources specifically for children and young adults.

This books requires time to read, as it is quite in depth. The author  does not treat his audience with condescension and does not make the illustrations cutesy or inconsistent with the text. Rather this text is geared towards upper primary and high school students, containing more complicated vocabulary and text explanations. This books is very visually appealing and goes to great length to portray an in depth and accurate recount of the life and works of Leonardo for children and young teens. It would be a great book to use to introduce a science unit on design and innovation.

Byrd, R. (2003). Leonardo - Beautiful Dreamer. New York: Penguin Putnam

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Golden age of the Graphic Novel

I think one of the greatest pieces of learning that I will take away from this unit, will be my exploration into Graphic literature.

I have been blown away by this medium. I started with reading Tetzner's novel 'The Black Brothers', with it's striking scratchwork black and white drawings. This story based on the boy chimneysweeps of Italy, is a graphic adaption of Tetzner's 1940 novel. I then moved to a graphic adaption of 'The City of Embers' (DuPrau, 2012) which I loved and am looking forward to reading the original version, and seeing the movie. Deutsch's Hereville: How Mirka got her sword (2010), was an enjoyable read, based around a Jewish heroine, set in a Jewish village. Remarkably, (to me at least) was the Author's note at the end of the book, explaining that he drew Hereville on his computer using Photoshop and a Cintiq tablet. How fabulous to know how the author created the work and how possible it is for any of us to do the same (my ICT knowledge is growing - and who knows - maybe I'll be photoshopping soon too!).

I have an amazing book in my hands right now. 'The Graphic Canon: Volume 1'  edited by Russ Kick.

It is a graphic anthology of the world's greatest literature as comics and visuals. Kick begins his introduction stating 'We're living in a golden age of the graphic novel' where talented artists, using every tool at their disposal are 'creating amazing, gorgeous, entertaining and groundbreaking material'. This volume, contains 55 graphic literature works from early literature works through to the 1700'. Graphic adaptions of The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Book of Revalation, Beowulf, The Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales, King Lear, Gulliver's Travels, Dangerous Liaisons. Kick asked the artists to stay true to the source material - no setting in the future, no creating new adventures. Excerpts or abridgements for longer materials were allowed. And within that framework, Kick describes the results as a

 'vast, rich, kaleidoscope of art and literature. A rainbow of visual approaches applied to the world's trasure trove of great writings, and something wondrously new has taken shape.'

While I found a number of the renditions a bit too graphic for my liking (especially the sexually graphic aspect of some them), I absolutely love the idea that is behind this, and can think of a number of students that I have taught over the years, with a phenomenal amount of artistic talent, who could have benefited from using their talent in such a way.

 Kick hopes that the Canon is an educational tool, that it leads people to read the original works. It could be an amazing resource to use with students in both upper, middle and high school although, with the very graphic elements in some of the stories, it is definitely NOT an appropriate book for shelving in the collection. It is a book though that I would I would say it is definitely worth a look at, even if just to broaden your knowledge of the variety of graphic artistry being produced and challenge you as to how you could use this concept in the classroom/ library. There are some really lovely, and suitable renditions, one such for primary students would be the absolutely gorgeous version of 'Coyote and the Pebbles' (story be Dayton Edmonds, Art by Micah Farritor).

Looking forward to reading Volumes 2 and 3.
Kick, R (ed.). (2012). The Graphic Canon. New York: Seven Stories Press.