Monday, April 9, 2018

ECIS Librarians Conference 2018 - Chennai part 4

Evidence Based Practice in the School Library Context

The 4th day of this wonderful ECIS conference had me facilitating a workshop on " Evidence based practice". We had about 25 in the group and all wanting to learn more about how Evidence based practice can help them prove they make an impact to the learning in their school.

The day was split into the following focus areas.
  • What is evidence-based practice?
  • Planning for evidence based practice and action research 
  • Conducting action research
  • Evaluating the research and going forward
We examined and unpacked the three layers of evidence based practice which Ross Todd teased out in his  paper "The evidence based manifesto for school librarians." SLJ April 1 2008. 

1. Evidence For Practice, is where empirical research (big research) has found evidence that certain practices make a difference. The work of Keith Curry Lance in the Colorado studies, the retail research  that front facing books make a difference to sales / borrowing and that genrifying a collection can lead to higher borrowing and increased reading --- plus many other studies.

2. Evidence in Practice is where the practices that were studied in the external empirical research are adopted by the school librarian in their every day practice. It could be that they have a bank of front facing books, or have chosen to genrify the collection based on the research. They then reflect and modify where necessary, and transform the research into their own practice.

3. Evidence of practice is about the real, measured results of what you are actually doing with and for the students and if it is making an impact. It establishes what has changed for learners as a result of the inputs, interventions, activities, and processes of what the librarian does as an educator.

We looked at the reasons behind why evidence OF practice is so important which includes being able to articulate & demonstrate to others that what we do, does actually enhance student learning. 

We need to be measuring what impact we have on student learning. We need to know what they are learning from us, and how well they are learning. If we cannot do this, we need not be in schools. I may have even made a bold statement captured in this tweet ...

We considered how well we align with what is going on in the school, are we working in parallel or merging with the curriculum? Do we use the standards the teachers are using or do we cling to our own 'library' standards?? 

The participants brainstormed what they do in their role as a school librarian  ....

They had to identify what they thought actually made an impact on student learning and how.

They were asked ...

What are the real results of what you do, rather than what you think you do? 

Using the 7 elements of school librarianship identified by  Crumley and Koufogiannakis  the participants identified and sorted three things they do under each of these headings. ...

  • reference/inquiries
  • teaching and learning
  • collection development 
  • management and systems 
  • information access and retrieval 
  • programming 
  • marketing/promotion 
(Crumley and Koufogiannakis, 2001, Developing evidence-based librarianship: Practical steps for implementation. Health Information and Libraries journal, 19,61-70)

They had to identify one action / practice they currently do that they would like to find out if it does make an impact.

We discussed what diagnostics were and how important it was to determine what is already happening so that you know if anything has changed. Diagnostic tools were identified - TRAILS, bibliographies, student work, surveys, video, photographs etc. 

The next step was to learn how how to collect evidence and what type of evidence would be useful to find out what you needed to know, the following examples are from from Asselin, M. Evidence Based Practice (Literacy Links) Teacher Librarian. October 2002.

  • descriptive : describing a phenomena -
    What are the genre preferences of boys and girls at your school?
  • correlational : examining relationships between two or more variablesWhat is the relationship between the amount of voluntary reading and reading comprehension?
  • experimental : Test a new procedureWill boys voluntary reading increase if more non fiction books are more accessible? 
We looked at the various types of qualitative and quantitive research and then identified when it might be useful to conduct individual, collaborative and school wide research. We moved onto the types of evidence that could be used and how not all evidence is created equal.

The participants had the opportunity to plan for an action research they were motivated to undertake, bouncing ideas around with others. The following questions were posed to scaffold their thinking ...

  • What do you want to find out?
  • What do you currently do that you want to do better, bigger or prove that it has an impact?
  • Is there something you want to introduce, but need to find out more information before introducing it?
  • Why do you want to find this out?
  • What is your purpose for knowing? 
  • What do you hope it is going to change? 
We finished off the day by discussing the morphing of the School Libraries survey I facilitated earlier in the year and critically evaluating the tool and the explaining the process of collating and making sense of the data.  

To conclude these quotes were shown, be mindful of the context of the school librarian. We claim that school librarians make a difference, but we need to show evidence of this claim.

I want to conclude this blog entry by changing this quote below a little...

I don't want to just believe I make an impact on learning, I want to know.

If you are interested in this full day workshop, please contact me at 

Monday, March 12, 2018

ECIS Librarians Conference 2018 - Chennai part 3

Day three of ECIS Librarians conference in Chennai started with another wonderful opening to the day of learning.

We had another beautiful song from Jayashri Ramnath , a wonderful violin recital by a young student in year 2, Dancing Mums from AIS Chennai and a very fun song by Bill Harley "The Library song". (which can be downloaded at the link).

Then John Schu led us on a wild ride through getting kids excited about reading and how stories connect us. He fanboyed Kate diCamillo throughout (he did warn us he was going to do this) and highly recommended we all read "From Striving to thriving - How to grow capable confidant readers" by Stephanie Harvey & Annie Ward, especially the introduction by Dav Pilkey and consider what we and others do to dampen the love of reading without even thinking about it. (There is a 'not for distribution' draft of the book on this Scholastic website if you want to see it before you buy, I just found it randomly, really ....). John also reminded us why reading is important and how good authors (Like Kate di Camillo) use reading as a vehicle for learning - about words, the world, feelings, empathy and about the importance of story in our lives and cultures. He also championed the world of book smellers - be loud and proud! Apparently Amulet are the best smelling books - ever!

Then it was time to move into the learning sessions.

Session 1 I attended Tracie Landry's session "Teaching research as a conversation: How librarians can help teachers teach information literacy every day" along with many others in the room. This session was based on one of the six threshold concepts being the focus of much research in economics education and developed further by the ACRL.

The six threshold concepts are :

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual
Information Creation as a Process
Information Has Value
Research as Inquiry
Scholarship as Conversation
Searching as Strategic Exploration

Katie Day has done a great job of introducing them here and here. Philip Williams has unpacked them in his blog post here. There is a one page PDF summary of what these concepts are at this link. Andrea Khambalia wrote a neat outline of how she uses this in a high school setting. (Thanks to Katie Day for supplying these links for this post). 

A video I found that gives a good introduction to this concept, even for students is "Research as a Conversation" by University Libraries.

Tracie focused on "Scholarship as conversation".

To start with she posed the question "What do your students think research is?" and then led us into how reading and research are conversations. Teaching through this concept we connect the students or researchers to something familiar - conversations are familiar, research and associated terms are unfamiliar, we need to change the vocabulary to help the students make connections that matter.

To further the metaphor of research as conversation we discussed how conversations can occur on multi levels, it can occur in many languages and is interactive.

Conversations need to occur in context, as does research. Conversations are recursive as is research. We construct meaning from conversations, as we do from research. Conversations move across multiple social settings and disciplines, with different vocabulary and types of conversations happening in each of these settings - as does research. 

Considerations we need to be asking to improve our ability to converse: 

How do scholars converse?
Where do these conversations occur?
How to access this conversation?
What do you want from this conversation? - evidence, arguments, methodology.
What did you learn from this conversation? 
How does this learning change your thinking about what you know or believe??
Who are the influential conversationalists?
What impact did the conversation have on you?

Scientists have their own way of having a conversation that only scientists understand really well - how is this different to a historian? We need students to BE these researchers in their disciplines - not just read about them.

Striking up conversations with strangers - stranger danger - who is a friend or not (fake news, bias etc) when researching? 

Tracie then outlined some strategies to teach students to access Scholarly research.

Using search strategies
Search terms need to be nominalised where verbs are changed to nouns. 
Also use advanced search strings in any search engine to include 
"research guide"
site:edu (to access university research papers etc)
"libguide" OR "research guide" OR "pathfinder"
Thinking about where these conversations may occur a search string may be 
-intitle : conference 
use appropriate hashtags for searching
The use of technical terms changes the results - ie renal failure instead of kidney failure - vocabulary is key to finding the deeper & more specific conversation.

Research the conversationalist - (ie author)
Interrogate the source, be critical thinkers, what do I already know about this and how does this correlate? Does it make sense? What is being said and how convincingly?
Triangulate - go seek another opinion.
Who will be talking about this?
What will their bias and agenda be?
What are their intentions?

And then I had to leave the conversation!

The next session was my own on using Social Media in the school library setting. We explored what is currently being used, when and how often, and discovered that many who use Social media to promote their library actually do not have a plan for it nor do they evaluate it.  How do we know what value it is adding if we have no idea what we want from it, or if we evaluate it? 
Some key questions to consider to create a plan or policy ...

Who is your target audience?
What platform will be used?
What type of content will be posted?
Who will be posting the content and answering enquiries?
How often will you post?
How will people find out about it?
How will success be measured?

The next session I attended was Shannon McClintock Millers session Digital Tools to connect, create and collaborate. She highlighted the following platforms that could be useful for school librarians depending on their context and requirements. The link to her slides is here.

Smithsonian learning lab
DK findout
Class Hook
Photos for class
Adobe Spark
Google slides
Spreaker for podcasting
Story Bird
Storyboard that
Recite this
Comic Master
Spell with Flickr
Classroom screen

The last session I attended was with Jill van Niekerk "Under the influence: Collection development for a better world" all about developing empathy and humane education through the resources and education we can provide through our libraries.

Jill's session was based on the question of ethics of information - what is our responsibility to provide ethical and correct information for all library users - not just those who agree with us?

She identified a couple of texts:
 Library Ethics for non librarians by Doug Johnson,
The world becomes what we teach, by Zoe Weil (TEDx talk on this topic by Zoe Weil). 
The human economy  by 
Blackfish the movie

Places to find humane stories and books to add to our collections. Little Rebels award
Amnesty International Booklists
Red Rover humane reading list
Red Rover reading to build empathy

Jill stated something that resonated with me in a powerful way

No opinion equals no impact.

This statement needs a bit of thinking and unpacking - maybe a later post ...

Then we were onto the closing ceremony of the conference - so soon!

We were treated through a fun Haiku challenge with Michael Salinger leading the hilarity.

Credit: AIS Chennai photographer

Credit: AIS Chennai photographer

Then Jeremy Willette gave us a powerful and heart felt closing address on how an empathetic librarian changed his life, 

and then the official part of the conference was over and sadness at saying goodbye to learning and new connections was soon overtaken by another opportunity to shop ...  
Chennai will go down in the history of conferences as the Shopping Conference!

What a fabulous 3 days of learning and socialising so far ... but wait - there is more more day of post conference workshopping for a lucky few. Others went home, exploring or shopping!

Monday, March 5, 2018

James Henri - a lasting legacy.

James Henri 1952-2018

Yesterday we lost a giant in the Teacher Librarian field, a man who mentored and championed so many Teacher Librarians across the world. James Henri was a huge influence in my professional life and who opened so many doors and opportunities to and for me. This post will be about how James affected me.

I first met James as one of my teachers in the Distance Education Masters of Applied Science (TL) course I started in 1998 through Charles Sturt University. If my memory serves me correctly, he was the director of the course and was steering it in the direction to be a leader in the field. I was guided under his tutelage along with Lyn Hay, Linda Langford and others I cannot remember the names of.  I was based in Hong Kong at the time and it was early days of distance learning - the internet had not been widely rolled out yet, assignments had to be posted by snail mail and communication was tough. By the time I finished in 2002, the internet was running hot, email was the new norm, online platforms were being developed and MOOs were the new big thing and, the course reflected this.

He and I had numerous online discussions about course expectations and he dealt with my complaints and rants about too much work with grace and compassion, and was always open to feedback on how the course could be improved. I met him in person when he visited Hong Kong as a visiting consultant for Hong Kong University. I met him at South Island School where a librarian called Sheila worked. I was in awe, but as always, he was humble, graceful and always open to learning something new. We had lunch in a very local cafe and great conversation about his life and how he came to do what he was doing. He often visited Hong Kong after that and we caught up many times.

Dinner with James on one of the many times he passed through HK

About the same time of my graduation in 2002, James accepted a job at Hong Kong University to build a similar programme for teacher Librarians in Hong Kong, and he moved to the same country I was based in. He quickly reached out to connect to people he knew and we had a few lunches and dinners planning and plotting. James had had some influence with the HK Department of  Education,  and persuaded them that every school should have a teacher librarian, as a byproduct of this, he encouraged and offered me opportunities to work with the HK Education Department in facilitating short (3 hour) courses for training these new Teacher Librarians.

Over dinner in Lan Kwai Fong one evening in 2002 James brought up the topic of the IASL conference being held in Malaysia and asked if I had thought about presenting. I mentioned that I didn’t really think I had too much to offer as I had only just finished the Masters programme and really was just a beginner. He was very patient with me and suggested that I had much to offer, and we came up with “Short Cut cataloguing for Busy School Liibrarians”  It was an interesting experience as I had planned for the workshop to be interactive and online, however, I had made the assumption that the internet would be available for the participants at the conference in Malaysia. It was not. It was my first foray into presenting at conferences, and it was baptism by fire with having to think on my feet. It was also the first conference I had ever attended as a Teacher Librarian. I attended with my colleague Andrea Walker, we had both been funded by our school to attend and came back with so many ideas and after attending a session by Dr. Blanche Woolls on how to write proposals, we wrote one and it was accepted.   This conference was where I had first met Ross Todd, Lyn Hay, Suzette Boyd and Linda Langford in person and we went on a shopping trip to a mall in Kuala Lumpur. I remember James saying to me that even when you are at the top of your game, there is a responsibility to not rest on your laurels and to help to build others and  that conferences are not just about what you can get out of them, but what you can contribute. It was a life changing comment for me and a phrase he lived by.

The HK EDB short courses quickly developed into a post graduate full course with credentials through the Hong Kong University School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPACE), he needed staff and I was one he asked along with Betty Chu, Fanny Chan, Angel Leung, all HK Teacher Librarian superstars.  Others were invited into the fray over the years - Sandra Lee, Dana Dukic and Clare Palmer, all with specific skill sets he needed to build this course.

In 2003 the IASL conference was coming up, again James encouraged me to present, this time in   Durban, South Africa: "School Libraries: Breaking Down Barriers” My presentation was "Don't Buck it - bend it. Using your school system to increase your influence, to create the working environment you desire”. This conference was where I had met my now friend and colleague in IB crime, Gary Green.

In 2004 James was the drive behind ensuring Hong Kong was the host for the 2005 IASL Conference "Information Leadership in a Culture of Change”. He gathered a team together of those who were living and working in HK including Sue Garner, Carolyn Sinclair, Clare Palmer Livesy Luk, Betty Chu, Peter Warning and others I cannot remember now. It was a tough and long term role, but very rewarding working with these people. The conference was a much  different style to the regular IASL super extravaganzas as it was focused on the learning and minimising costs to the participants. It showed us that conferences could be modest affairs and still have learning and networking happen.

The IASL HK organising committee - not sure why James is not in this photo, maybe he got his own photo.

In 2007 James became president of IASL - this was a long time coming, and I am unsure of why it didn’t happen sooner. He was a bit of an outsider with making things happen and pushing people, so perhaps people were a little bit scared of what may happen if he held the Presidency.

In 2009 James focused on developing online conferences with Sandra Lee with Your School Library and again he invited me to be a part of this new way of learning. I did so using voice thread on how I developed a new library in 23 days. He was always pushing the edge of what was possible. Online learning was still in its infancy outside of education institutions. Sandra and James developed 6 of these online conferences over a few short years.

James left HK University and moved back to Hobart to be with his family, but would travel back and forth often on his way through to China, where he was working as a consultant through being the chairman of The Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation for building and developing school libraries in China. He loved working with the Chinese people, and they enjoyed his company, expertise, and wry sense of humour very much.  

It was good to see him fairly regularly after his departure from Hong Kong and hear about his family whom he cared deeply about.

He was also involved in organising the Int'l Education and Technology Conference of Web Symposium Consortium in HK in 2014 in connection with the HK Government and Charles Sturt University, and again he asked me to present. 

The last time I saw James in person was in 2014 when we were in negotiations about building a conference in partnership to be held in HK for Teacher Librarians, it didn’t happen due to a number of reasons, but it did lead to me to organise and facilitate a initial mini conference in Hong Kong (which has since been repeated in Beijing and Prague) and to start my own business to move into consulting, workshop development and conference organisation. Going way beyond what I thought was possible as a fresh graduate from CSU in 2002.

James Henri was a gifted man in the field of not only school librarianship, but in negotiation, persuasion, future vision and for not only taking bold and calculated risks, but also encouraging others to do so. He was an outlier according to Malcolm Gladwell's definition “of being a truly exceptional individual who, in his or her field of expertise, is so superior that he defines his own category of success”. James was never after the limelight, and seemed to take pride only in what he could get others to achieve. He thrived on working with others who needed him the most.

To continue with the Gladwell connections, James Henri was also a connector - he knew people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and made a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles so they could benefit from each others expertise and connections. (The tipping point, Gladwell)

He was a maven by being an information broker, sharing and trading what he knew about School librarianship, politics, people and anything he could connect with, and if he didn't know it he would find out through research. He was also a salesman, he was charismatic with powerful negotiation skills. It was hard to say no to James when he asked. He had an indefinable trait that goes beyond what he said, which made others want to agree with him and travel the path with him. I know James would protest about me using Gladwell's terms to describe him, but I think they are the best descriptors for what he did.

He was an integral part of my professional life for so many years, a friend, a mentor and confidant. I will miss him and miss seeing what he is up to next.

Vale James Henri, you are a remarkable man who has left a huge legacy behind.

Post Script:  Along with James enthusiasm for helping others, he was not always the best at asking or expecting payment for his services. His daughter has set up a page to help with funeral and left over medical expenses, if you would like to contribute to help his family at this time as a way of thanking them for his mentorship, I am sure they would appreciate it.  Donate here

Saturday, March 3, 2018

ECIS Librarians conference 2018 : Chennai Part 2.

Day 2 of the 8th ECIS Library Triennial had a lot to live up to after day one and it did so without hesitation. (All photos were taken by me unless otherwise captioned).

The day started with breakfast and making connections in the Unity courtyard with coffee, breakfast and an eagerness to see what the day held in store.

Participants were then led from the courtyard to the auditorium by an Indian musical troupe.

The Opening ceremony included a number of Indian artistic icons
Jeeva Raghunath led us through a traditional Indian story then we had a beautiful rendition of “Pi's Lullaby” by Academy Award nominated singer Jayashri Ramnath.

Credit: Official ECIS @aischennai photographer.

This was followed by an amazing performance of Haiku drumming from some dynamic students of AIS Chennai

6 of us were selected represent the 6 corners of the globe from which we travelled to the conference to conduct the ceremony of  Lighting the Dhiya.

Not sure who took this photo.

Andrew Hoover the Head of AIS Chennai welcomed us to the school and the conference.
Credit: official ECIS AISChennai Photographer

And then we heard from Shannon McClintock Miller about how powerful student voice is and how we can harness it in our practice.

Credit: official ECIS AISChennai Photographer

We were then given gifts of beautiful flower garlands as we exited the auditorium, the smell was beautiful and overpowering with so much jasmine.

Credit: official ECIS AISChennai Photographer

The conference day was divided into 4 sessions of presentations with a selection of 10 
presentations per time slot, and at times it was really hard to choose. The following is a synopsis of my day based on the sessions I chose to attend

Session 1:
Values and School Libraries :  presented by Dianne McKenzie
What are your values as a school librarian? How do they affect the way you do your job?The school librarian is a service where we interact with many different people on a daily basis, what we value will be evident in what we do, what we say and the priorities we have, and the values that others hold will affect us as well.

The session explored values that different cultures hold and how it affects interactions. This tweet from Mel Cooper refers to the brief commentary on how Indian city traffic is chaotic but why it seems to work with minimal road rage and accidents (where we were anyway).  It is essentially because Indians hold a value of responsibility to care for each other and to do no harm.

We moved onto identifying what we value in our personal lives and at work and how what we value, we will prioritise our time and money for. Next the group identified 10 specific roles of the school librarian they valued from a list of about 40 hats that are possible, they then identified what value their administrators might have from their actions and words.

We talked about conversations to be had to identify the values of others to help us in our job. The questions on this slide were adapted from the research by Mandy Lupton.

Session 2
Next session I attended was John Shu's Review of Books for you and your readers too!
I had been following John on Twitter for some time and had used his blog multiple times for collection development, and it was so great to meet him in person.
His session was highly entertaining with so much energy. He talked about books and gave many books away as he progressed through the session. He had everyone involved in telling a story using actions appropriate to the story and making it come alive. It was so much fun and excellent modelling on how to use read aloud time to really bring out the fun in reading.
His takeaway with information on the books he reviewed.

Session 3: Competency-Based learning is here to stay, how can librarians lead the way?
This session was led by Bonnie Lathram and Emily hamlin, both representatives from Global Online Academy which is a subscribed platform where students can take personalised online classes that are not in the regular curriculum for credit. The courses centre around 6 core competencies - see image below. 

My reflections are summed up in this tweet ...

The Global Online Academy seems to cater for schools who are following the American Curriculum, is accessible over multiple time zones and offers alternatives to the face to face courses that are available on campus.

Genre avoidance How does this affect free choice, read aloud and exposure?
Christina Dominque-Pierre from Shanghai led the group through a thought provoking session on how our own bias for specific genres prevents authentic collection development and stifles opportunities for students to access a wide range of reading. Loads of food for thought in what biases may affect our practices!

In the evening we headed to the Hotel for a fabulous gala at Taj Coromandel Hotel! Each table had been decorated with themes from Indian stories, the whole story themed evening was just beautiful, we also participated in lots of eating, drinking and dancing. 

It was a fabulous day of learning, connecting and fun!