Monday, November 17, 2014

This Year's Yummy Media Project

I teach Media to the primary division students at my school as prep delivery for some teachers, and every year, the students and I design a large project to complete. Last year, it was making our own superhero costumes. In the previous year, we created media tie-in products after seeing Wreck It Ralph at the movies. Prior to that, we produced our own films on YouTube defining media. Despite my legendarily poor memory, I remember these assignments because they were so much fun to do and so much learning emerged from the process. This year promises to be just as thrilling.

There have been several early indications that this year's project will be enthusiastically received. I introduced it to a Grade 2 class during a lesson last week and I could barely get a word in because they were bubbling with ideas and suggestions. I dismissed the class for recess and before lunch that day, I had students in the Grade 3 class approaching me to say they heard we'd be doing X and Y. One of the students in that Grade 2 class confessed that in the period after media class that day, all he could think about in response to any of his classroom teacher's questions was this one word describing our project. The final clincher was when I started to explain to my principal about my plans and he replied, "Oh, I already know. F [one of the girls in Grade 2] told me everything."

What's got them so pumped? What's the word that has them so distracted?


Initially, we will brainstorm as many restaurants as we can think of, and consider what the target audiences could be. We will investigate all the jobs associated with running a restaurant. Then, the plan is to walk to a couple of local restaurants and visit them as part of a field trip. We'll take a critical look at many aspects of the establishments, from colour schemes to seating arrangements to menu options. (We will probably do some eating there as well!) After examining some real-life models, we are going to create and open, for one-day only, our own in-school restaurants (one per class, on different days). We are going to serve real food, and charge real money, and any profit that we might make will go to charity. 

I'm excited about this project but I'm also a little nervous. These are some of the questions that concern me a bit.
  • Adult Assistance - How am I going to organize this with the students if I am the only grownup? Who can I get to help us with all the various chores that need adult assistance, like cooking and collecting money?
  • Finances - How are we going to pay for all the items we'll need prior to our "grand opening"? How will we determine prices for our menu options in a way that is affordable and still helps us make back the money we spend beforehand?
  • Assessment - How am I going to evaluate this project, especially considering that students are going to be involved in different tasks? How will I communicate the learning to parents and via the inevitable report card mark?
Thankfully, some of these questions have started to develop answers. The classroom teachers have already indicated that they would accompany me on a restaurant field trip. I've asked Neil Andersen, media teacher extraordinaire, for his suggestions on assessment and evaluation. I can ask parents for help in the kitchen. This project will probably take several months to plan and complete, but the results look like they might be delicious!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ECOO 2014 Photos & Personal Development

I really like how Melissa Jensen used photos and Brian Smith used videos to document their learning at the annual ECOO conference in Niagara Falls. I wanted to share my own photos here as well as a different angle to my reflections. Yesterday was a snapshot of my professional development at the conference. Today, after the photos, I'll share my personal development.

David Hann & Brian Smith - thoughtful guys!

Ray Mercer at his talk about FDK e-portfolios
Denise, Liam, & me at our session (thanks Jen for taking the picture)
Andy at the Minecraft Party

The Survival Land subway
Scott and Dustin play
Liam, Diana, David, Michelle, Jacqui, Denise, Chris, Andrew
Jen (2nd from right) & members of her board
With Saman, the talent behind the ExplodingTNT YouTube channel

Personal Development at #BIT14

Some of these conversations were private, but I wanted to credit some special individuals for making me think and grow as a person.

Jen Apgar (@JenApgar on Twitter)

It's hard to believe I just met Jen last year at ECOO. She has become an important member of the GamingEdus group and is absolutely wonderful to talk to. Not only did she challenge me to articulate my professional thoughts (e.g. gamification vs games based learning is analogous to sewn on top vs embedded/woven within) but she got me to examine my own preconceived notions. We were talking about reluctant teachers at about 1:00 in the morning, and I muttered "don't water the rocks".
"Would you say that about your students?" she replied.
"No, of course not" I answered.
"So why is it okay to say or think this about a teacher but not a student?"
Busted. Caught in my fixed mindset, I vowed to try and change my attitude. Thanks Jen.

David Hann (@TeacherHann on Twitter)

It was David that convinced me to attend the Toronto MakerFaire instead of the TDSB Google Camp. (Sorry Andrew and Julie!) David had some words of wisdom for me about typecasting, "being known", and keeping energy alive.

Lisa Noble (@nobleknits2 on Twitter)

I was so delighted to meet Lisa face to face for the first time at #bit14. We "met" on Twitter, collaborated on a Tumblr inquiry, and referred to each other in blog posts. Lisa and I talked at length during the Minecraft Party about career choices, religion, vocations, and identity. I need to see this person again and not just to get her tasty cookies.

Alanna King (@banana29 on Twitter)

The connection I have with Alanna is evident by the way we interact. We are constantly hugging, patting shoulders, and grasping hands. I was so grateful to squeeze some time in with Alanna on Friday. We talked about our children, and taking on roles and accepting our limits.

Denise Colby (@Niecsa on Twitter)

If this was the Wizard of Oz, this would be the part where Dorothy addresses the Scarecrow. Denise and I have known each other a long time. We drove to Niagara and back together. We roomed together. We presented together. And we talked. Boy, did we talk! From the insights on gender while enjoying the circuit in the sauna and hot tub at the hotel, to topics of forgiveness, inclusion, and kindness, talking with Denise makes me a better person.

Monday, November 10, 2014

ECOO 2014 Reflections

Educational Computing Organization of Ontario
2014 Conference Reflections by Diana Maliszewski

Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:30 a.m.

The Power of Technology to Prepare Students for the Future by Richard Byrne

Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Richard Byrne is a former high school social studies teacher best known for developing the award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers. He has been invited to speak at events all over North America, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Richard’s work is focused on sharing free web-based resources that educators can use to enhance their students’ learning experiences.

 I missed the keynote because I had to eat breakfast and pay for my registration.

Thursday, November 6, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Inquiry Based Learning and E-Portfolios in FDK by Ray Mercer and Cindy van Wonderen

Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) As part of a TLLP project we have started to explore Inquiry Based Learning with Full Day Kindergarten students, teachers and ECE's through the multiple lenses of The FDK curriculum, The Library Learning Commons and Collaborative Teacher Inquiry. To document the learning of all the learnings we are using a combination of Android Tablets, Chromebooks and Google Sites to develop our E Portfolios. This session will explore the ins and outs of these technologies in a network environment with emerging readers as we all try and document our learning.
3 Key Points:
1.       Many students and educators don’t know how to document and share their own learning. By putting evidence in an e-portfolio, we can show students at their best and demonstrate many things at the same time. Using digital technology means that it’s easier to capture what you see and hear them doing.
2.       If emergent readers can document and share their learning, anyone can. The tools they used (with help from the teachers/teacher-librarians/adults) included Pebble Go, Pixie3, Google Drive, Chromebooks, Samsung Galaxy Tab devices and more.
3.        Collaborative inquiry is exciting but also lengthy. It starts with a problem of practice (and is freeing to be able to say “I don’t know how to do this”) and honours the adult learners needs and speed. The deliverables for the TLLP are due in June but Ray sees this as taking 2-3 years.
So What? Now What? = My school’s PLC TLCP is focused on integrating technology and inquiry. I’m going to share my notes with the FDK team. (I can’t attend their meetings because I’m doing release coverage so they can gather together.) I also hope to speak more with Ray about the highs and lows of his TLLP journey, to see how they compare with mine.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 11:00 a.m.
Why Disney Princesses grow up to be Miley Cyrus: Teaching gender issues to 21st Century media studies students by Denise Yamashita
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Teaching Media Studies in today's world is challenging. The landscape has changed and teens no longer consume or engage with media the way past generations have. But the themes around gender stereotyping such as body image, traditional gender roles and sexualization remain important topics, particularly for young women. This session will demonstrate how teachers of Media Studies can find teachable moments that create authentic learning and discussion by utilizing real-time media examples, student interest, and a variety of technology such blogging, collaboration station discussion, Edmodo and a variety of online multimedia resources and creation tools to delve deeply into these issues.
3 Key Points
1.       Youth today do not necessarily share a baseline commonality of media experiences (e.g. in the past, everyone used to watch the same Saturday morning cartoons) so it can be challenging to use references everyone understands.
2.       Sometimes educators need to mention their personal life to interest and engage students so a personal bond is forged. The speaker didn’t like to discuss her family, but  talking about how her 4-year-old loved pink was an entry point for the teens to talk (because teens don’t see themselves as influenced by the media but can willingly accept younger kids as swayed by media).
3.       By using examples the teens were interested in (e.g. Miley Cyrus, as noted from their blog posts) as well as film circles (like literature circles) based on Disney films, the students became more aware that media stereotypes still exist.
So What? Now What? = Although this was for a high school class, I can see how I can use some of the ideas (e.g. Disney film clips, study those younger than the students themselves) for my own media classes. I liked how Yamashita said it was helpful to have a teacher-librarian assist her with tasks.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 11:00 a.m.
The “Maker Movement”: It’s about “Making Up Your Own Mind” by Peter Skillen
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) What is the maker movement? Is it only about ‘making with electronics’ and ‘coding’? No. I don’t believe it should be. ‘Making’ should focus on taking charge of, and building, your mind and your learning. Making objects and artifacts is a means to that end! ‘Making’ is at the heart of ‘constructionism’, tinkering and ‘inquiry’. In this session, let’s explore how we can use Information & Communications Technologies across the curriculum and grades to make ‘thinking visible’, to support inquiry, to construct collaboratively, and to engage students in project-based learning. Building poems, art, music, mathematical solutions and so on are all part of the ‘maker movement’ in my mind.
3 Key Points:
1.       The “3rd teacher” is the class culture and we need to ask ourselves if thinking is a highly valued activity in our class culture. By renaming our classrooms and learning spaces, we bring a new approach to the area and highlight the kind of thinking that will occur there (because the words “classroom” or “lab” come with its own baggage).
2.       There are many techniques and strategies you can use to make thinking visible, like “coding tricks” such as a question mark or light bulb you can use to annotate your thinking, use bulletin boards as process not as end product so learners can add to them with sticky notes, encourage journaling/blogging so kids can “tiptoe back through their thinking”, try Padlet or Google Draw or One Note, or use Brenda Sherry’s idea to post the SIP with QR codes attached so you can see the multimedia artefacts attached to the work.
3.       Check out the visible thinking website or Peter’s blog ( / for great resources.
So What? Now What? = I sneaked (snuck?) out of Denise’s workshop early because I wanted to hear Peter talk. Peter has really stretched my thinking about the corporate influence on education (and it needs more stretching) and I always learn a lot listening to him. He confirmed a lot of things for me (like the good idea to denote “zones” in my summer school classroom, or the way Denise Colby and her students use sticky notes a lot on their walls) and reminded me not to abandon them. I must make my bulletin boards live data walls showing the process of thinking, not just the product. I also learned that trying to attend two sessions during one period is the maximum I can do – I attempted to attend the “Be A YouTube Ninja” session but by the time I got there, it was over.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 12:00 noon
Coding for Kids: Skills in the Programming Age by Anthony Chuter
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Digital tinkering and playing are vital 21st century skills. This seminar will benefit educators keen to create "flipped", differentiated lessons, resources and discussions to help students succeed and learn through play. I will showcase the strategies I implement for a student-centered approach to programming and provide resources for educators to utilize Scratch 2.0 and other "coding" tools like Tynker to junior to senior students and across the curriculum. Finally, I will offer resources and activities for the Hour of Code and Computer Science week in December of each week.
I ended up skipping this session so I could go back to our hotel to collect equipment and conduct a walk-about of the Exhibition Hall floor (which served double-duty as a promotion of our ECOO session because I wore my Minecraft Villager costume and had a sign on my back advertising our talk).
Thursday, November 6, 2014 1:00 p.m.
Level Up! Games Based Learning in the Junior Classroom by Adele Stanfield and Derek Walker
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) We've all heard about game-based learning, but how does it really work? What does it look like in a classroom? How can an educator incorporate games into the instructional day and still ensure that students are learning? What are the benefits and drawbacks? If you've asked these burning questions then this session is for you! We will show you what games we use in our grade 5 classroom, how they are connected to the curriculum and the successes (and failures) we had during our year-long journey. Come join us while we explore the joy of games!
3 Key Points:
1.       Thank goodness for links! This is their presentation:
2.       This is their blog:
So What? Now What? = I didn’t have time to change out of my Minecraft Villager costume, so I attended the session in character (which threw off the speakers when I first entered the room – sorry Adele!) I couldn’t take notes, so the links helped a lot. I noticed that they used the words Gamification and Games Based Learning interchangeably, and this concerned me. My son already uses Prodigy, one of the games they recommended. I want to try Human Body, New World Colony, and Electrocity with my students.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Using Technology to See the Forest AND the Trees by Marie Swift and Deborah McCallum
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) We will share different entry points for using technology with current Canadian Literature as it relates to the SAMR model. The aim of this workshop is to help you to set up a framework and give you practical ideas for integrating traditional and digital literacies. Virtual collaboration to share responses to reading could include Twitter, Blogging, iMovie, book trailers and other tech platforms and social media. Imagine your students being able to interact with authors, illustrators, publishers and other students and teachers from across the province and country!
3 Key Points:
2.       There are many tools you can use, such as Twitter, Google Drive, Adobe Voice, Do Ink (green screen), Google Hangout, Teaching Kids News, and more to connect to the Ontario Library Association Forest of Reading titles.
3.       Don’t underestimate the impact these tasks can have. One student connected with her favourite author over Twitter about the book and may have influenced a sequel.
So What? Now What? = I love seeing presentations where they practice what they preach. Marie surveyed the audience with Google Form (unfortunately my iPad didn’t want to cooperate with that) just like she would with a group of students, but shared in a respectful way. I saw Marie in action at the Simcoe County District School Board Teacher Librarian conference and it was nice to see her again. (Simcoe County DSB has some exciting things happening there. It’s good to hear from other boards.) I need to get that Do Ink green screen app for my school!
Thursday, November 6, 2014 2:00 p.m.
Assessment FOR, AS, and OF Learning by Neil Andersen and Carol Arcus
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) How might assessment and evaluation be used to promote learning? Using authentic student exemplars (including PSAs, comics, cooking shows, sports shows, tweets), we will explore strategies to help learners from Primary/Junior to Secondary levels develop their media literacy and language skills through effective assessment, feedback and evaluation. A variety of media forms, expectation statements and learning contexts will be presented. Participants are invited to bring samples of student work.
3 Key Points:
1.       With an emphasis on assessment vs the final project, it encourages deeper meaning, more mindfulness, and makes you slow down.
2.       Producing media texts is the best way to understand media because the students touch on all aspects of media (purpose, audience, form, conventions, techniques) and the choice of project can be theirs or yours but will depend on the time and energy commitment you want to give to a project (e.g. a documentary will be longer than a greeting card).
3.       Ensure that students switch their roles and responsibilities within media production so that they get practice in all areas, not just their strengths.
So What? Now What? = I admire Neil a lot and read the #K12media Twitter chat whenever I can. It was so nice to actually have practice in assessing student media texts (because they had us provide feedback on a project during the session) and they reminded us to always watch it at least twice to absorb everything. I want to consult with Neil about a large-scale media project I have planned with my students (where we will be creating a restaurant) and how I can effectively assess it.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 3:00 p.m.
Bridging the Divide: Pushing the Classroom Outside of Its Four Walls by Aviva Dunsiger and Jonathan So
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) During this presentation Aviva and Jonathan will share how they have opened up their classrooms through the use of social media (Twitter, Storify) and blogging. Attendees will learn about social media and blogging platforms that have allowed them to reach out to their students, parents, and other professionals: allowing the learning to continue outside of their classroom walls. Furthermore, participants will see how these two educators have entered each others classrooms, learned from each other and pushed each other to be better professionals -- even though they are in two different cities and Boards. Participants will walk away with practical advice on how learning is a community event and how learning from each other can only assist the learning in your own classroom.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 3:00 p.m.
How do we teach it if we’re not doing it? A discussion around curation, collaboration, and creation by Lisa Noble
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) The "C words" are often thrown around as the 21st century equivalent of the classic 3 R's, and they're important ideas. But there are so many questions - which curation tool? How often should you purge? Social bookmarking or not? Blogging, Tumblring, Twittering or all of the above? Which collaborative tool should you introduce your students to? How do you encourage collaboration and idea sharing in your own building, and your own classroom? How do we deepen our own skill set, encourage our colleagues to expand theirs, and model that for our students? I'll bring ideas that are working for me, and hope others will do the same. Let's do some demystifying together.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend either of these phenomenal sessions, as I spent extra-long in Neil’s session (turns out it was a two-hour workshop) and I had to prepare for my own talk.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 4:00 p.m.
Managing Minecraft: Misunderstandings and Murky Messes by Liam O’Donnell, Denise Colby, and Diana Maliszewski
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Minecraft is a great way to engage your students. It’s also a great way to cause chaos and unexpected disasters in your classroom. Bullying, griefing and a host of other issues can all happen in a single Minecraft session. How can teachers deal with these challenges? Where are the opportunities for learning? How can teachers strike a balance between chaotic (but rich) learning and controlled (but often dry) curriculum teaching? Participants will leave with a thorough understanding of the potential pitfalls of using Minecraft in the classroom and strategies to keep the learning happening when things get messy.
3 Key Points:
2.       Conflicts happen when wants and needs don’t align. If you use restorative practices and level-headed discussions instead of punitive actions (and establish norms in advance), less problems will occur. Despite it all, there will always be issues but the benefits outweigh the challenges.
3.       Messes can sometimes be good things (e.g. hacking is probing the boundaries).
So What? Now What? = At first, I thought our talk was about Minecraft but it turned into something more – autonomy, perception, and culture. I really appreciated the comments from the audience, especially Jen Apgar and Neil Andersen. I’ll try to keep in mind that messes can be good and bad and to look for the silver lining in all of them.
Thursday, November 6, 2014 8:00 p.m.
#BIT14 Minecraft Party by Andrew Forgrave, Liam O’Donnell, Denise Colby, and Diana Maliszewski
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Do zombies and creepers quiver at the sight of your skin? Are your Minecraft builds epic? Do you partake of group expeditions into the wilds of the Survival and Nether worlds? Or maybe you are just intrigued and looking to get started with Minecraft? Join Prax, Gumby, and others from the friendly GamingEDUs community for a fun and exciting F2F LAN Party. Join us in the SCCN in Room 201!
We changed locations to be beside the BIT14 Jam Session and it was a good decision. People popped over from the singing next door to check things out. Zoe Branigan-Pipe saved the day by providing laptops for participants to play Minecraft on. It was nice to see Michelle Korda, Jacqui Thompson, and Chris Solsea from last year. I had some super conversations with Jen Apgar, David Hann, and Lisa Noble that deserve their own separate reflection. Denise Colby lost her voice and we didn’t go to sleep until 1:30 a.m.!
Friday, November 7, 2014 8:30 a.m.
Keynote by Ron Canuel
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) Ron Canuel has been President and CEO of the Canadian Education Association (CEA) since 2010, and has over 36 years of experience in the public education sector. As the former Director General of the Eastern Townships School Board in Quebec, Ron was the principal architect of one of the first Canadian district-wide wireless laptop computer program for students and teachers, and has received numerous awards in recognition of this ongoing initiative. He has been a frequent presenter, panelist, and lecturer at national and international conferences on CEA’s What did you do in school today? and Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach research and action initiatives, as well as on change management, innovation in education, leadership, and technology in the classroom.
8:30 a.m. after a 1:30 a.m. ending the night before is just not possible! Sleep, a solid breakfast, and checking out of the hotel room took precedence.
Friday, November 7, 2014 10:00 a.m.
Youth on YouTube by Royan Lee, Saman Rajabian and Katya Katsnelson
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) There may not be a site in the world that generates as much web traffic as YouTube. We all know that it’s commonplace to see youth as consumers of the content, but how much do we know about our young people who are the producers and leaders of it? Come to this session to meet two of @royanlee’s former students who have autonomously garnered large global followings by creating unique video content. Hear their stories, discover how they are generating (in some cases) significant incomes, ask them questions, and learn how to start your own YouTube channel from two of the savviest young leaders around.
3 Key Points:
1.       Both YouTube stars watched YouTube and thought that they could do it, so they started. Both individuals became bored and dissatisfied with their early videos and this prompted them to change focus.
2.       Katya’s tips for success are to be confident, strong, unique, and enjoy what you do. Saman’s tips for success are do what you like, stay consistent, don’t let low views or jealousy get in your way, and don’t do it for money or fame.
3.       These high school students say that Mr. Lee was the teacher that used the most technology with them and that their current teachers do not know about their popular YouTube channels (with the exception of Saman’s principal, who arranged to let him get a work experience credit in high school for his YouTube work). They don’t use their YouTube skills often in class, although one made a Romeo & Juliet video.
So What? Now What? = I was really excited and inspired by these teens. My son watches ExplodingTNT, Saman’s channel, and it was neat to meet the creator in person. Katya started her channel when she was my son’s age, so it is possible. We teachers need to find out about the “secret” worlds our students inhabit and let them use their talent and skills in school. This workshop was actually a double-period, so I stayed from 11:00 – 11:50 to continue to hear them speak.
Friday, November 7, 2014 12:00 noon
QR Code and the Library by Brian Smith
Summary = (taken from Lanyrd) As the role of library and librarian changes, our physical spaces can transform from walls to gateways. This workshop will give real world examples of how QR codes can be used to make the library a portal to research, an extension of the classroom and a place where mobile devices can be used to their fullest potential.
I couldn’t stay for the entire session, as I had to travel back to Toronto to attend my daughter’s high school art show. Thankfully, Brian made his presentation available with a QR code. I took the photo via iPad and I will explore it in depth later on. I sat next to the lovely Alanna King and we were able to connect again for some “personal development”.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Story Continues with Prajeeth and Aaron

Last year, I wrote an article for ETFO Voice magazine, the periodical of the provincial public elementary teacher union, about how our school is involved with the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program. The article (which you can read here) began with a story and ended with a quote from two boys at my school: Prajeeth and Aaron. The dynamic duo are now in Grade 7 and their passion for the Forest of Reading has not dimmed. Their enthusiasm has hit new heights this year.

Like the year before, the pair had reserved all the titles they could from the public library so they could read them in advance. They returned to school to offer titles from their stash to other teachers so that they could get ahead and be ready to chat on the books when the program officially starts at our school - in January 2015.

This year, the boys took the initiative to begin their chats ahead of time ... three months ahead of time. The passports have not yet been prepared but they are using their school agendas and other tools to keep track of their talks. Their class teacher from last year is an especially voracious reader and they have already discussed two of the books from the list of nominees and collected her signature. They sat with me after school to chat about another book they lent me that I finished reading (My Name Is Blessing by Eric Walters) and they revealed one of their other tools: they printed off the charts with the nominated titles from the OLA website and were tracking which books they had received, read, and completed conversations about. I hadn't even realized that these charts were already available! I was so impressed that I dragged them into the principal's office to make a "good tattle". The administration needed to hear a good news story about our highly motivated and organized readers.

The boys obviously love all the routines and rewards associated with the program. I didn't even include all these details in the article, like:

  • how Prajeeth insisted on going to BOTH the Silver Birch AND Red Maple Festival of Trees events at Harbourfront and paid for both trips with money he had saved in his bank account
  • Aaron and Prajeeth were active members of the school's Silver Birch Quiz Bowl Team and stepped in when someone could not make it on the day of the local competition. Their knowledge of the books led our school to its highest results in our history of participation (runner up in the Non-Fiction category)
  • for the first time Grade 6 students were involved in the Red Maple Marketing Campaign - and the intermediate students accepted them in without question
  • how Aaron, in 2012, attended the Ontario Library Association Superconference and interviewed some of the winning authors from the year before for a podcast
I've offered a new opportunity for these incredible boys that they are excited about and is a natural fit. A neighbouring school with a new teacher-librarian would like to get involved with the Forest of Reading, but their staff is not as interested as mine in reading these books and communicating with the students about them. Aaron and Prajeeth will be acting as Skype consultants, talking with the students about the books they read and then giving their "verdict" on whether or not the student read and understood the book enough to earn a signature in their passports. That ETFO article was a great snapshot, but I'm so happy to report that the story doesn't end with the article - I'm so proud of them and I hope their love of reading (especially with the Forest of Reading) carries on into high school and beyond. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ideal Library

October is Canadian Library Month. There's a website devoted to it. Every year, when I remember, I try to mark it in some way. I shared my idea for this year via Twitter and my library mentor, the amazing Carol Koechlin, suggested I submit it.

 When Carol asks, I don't hesitate, so here's my story, complete with illustrations, and the requisite title with snappy one-line description.


The Ideal Library by Diana Maliszewski

When I asked my students to draw the perfect library, the results surprised me.


I posted the chart paper with the challenge on the blackboard in my school library. When my junior division classes came in for their weekly library period, they began reading, discussing, and planning even before I clarified the directions. The task was relatively simple: in groups of 2, 3, or 4, think about what would make an ideal library. Draw it. The design voted the best submission will have the chance to build this library in Minecraft.

The students and I co-created the success criteria and then it was time to plan. The teams of 9-11 year old students got to work right away and even continued the task through their beloved book exchange and free reading time. The next day, they began hounding me in the hall - which project was the best? Had a winner been chosen? I knew the students were keen to work on Minecraft, especially in a way that allowed for student choice, creativity, and leadership like this assignment did. I was busy, but a few days later, I finally sat down to examine the entries.

As I flipped through the drawings, many of which were multi-paged portfolios filled with labels, I was struck by a common thread. Many of the drawings resembled our current school library, even down to the interactive white board, play area, and large comic collection. At first, I worried that the students weren't being creative enough, but I know our students and they are imaginative. My second theory startled me: for them, at this time, their school library IS the ideal library. They love their school library. Even the plans that were innovative contained elements of our current library - the video game room recommendation by Joyce echoes our twice weekly Minecraft Club meetings, and the crafting area mirrors the Build Zone area and last year's Hacker Club activities. I'm always looking for ways to improve my program, place, and practices, but I need to realize that for many of my students, they get to experience the ideal every time they enter the doors. As Jeremy told a recent visiting principal from Denmark, "the one thing you should know about our school library is that it's awesome".

(Below are a few of the "ideal library" drawings done by some of the students.)