Monday, June 17, 2013

What's in a name? That which we call a library by any other name would smell as sweet.

Source: http://21k12blog.net/2011/08/23/21st-century-library-word-cloud/

Forsooth, once more I am plagued by an internal argument of a circular nature.

Is 'library' still the right name for a library?

Consider this definition.

li·brar·y
/ˈlīˌbrerē/


Noun
A building or room containing collections of books, periodicals, and sometimes films and recorded music for people to read, borrow, or...
A collection of books and periodicals held in such a building or room.


Synonyms
bookcase - athenaeum


Is that still correct?

What actually comes to mind when you hear the word 'Library'? Is it a place of innovation, a place for making, a place for playing, a place for inquiring, reading, talking, eating? Is it a place that leads Digital Citizenship development, a learning common, a social place a space for wrestling with knowledge and technology? If this isn't what comes to mind, then what does? A silent space, a place for study and silent reading. A place where books go to die...if so, is that a problem? Me thinks, yes.

One of my areas of responsibility is leading the development of our library space at HPSS. No question, I am passionate about libraries. Historically I think my passion derived from my love of literature and my love of librarians - they were my literary pushers, providing a steady supply of material feeding my book addiction. As an English teacher and HOD English I was at home amongst the books, I even bagsied library duty so I could indulge in a little lunchtime book huffing whilst pretending to care that some student smuggled a water bottle into the library, or dared to make a sound. However, in more recent years I have seen libraries in a new light, I have seen them not only as a source of literature, but also as the heart of inquiry, a place for developing literacies in every sense of the word. The library is the MLE already realised, a cross-curricular learning common that welcomes all curriculum areas. They are becoming as much about producing media as much as they are about consuming it. They are the home of 21st century pedagogy without even trying. They are also the natural home for digital citizenship, in it broadest sense.

Now more than ever, the library is the heart, or possibly even the brain of a school. So what then is my actual dilemma? I guess it is about the term 'library'. Is it the right name for our modern learning environment library vision or should it be renamed? I-centre, zone, learning common are all terms I have heard, used I am guessing, to rebrand the space. But what are we actually trying to achieve In doing this? As the saying goes, "You put a lipstick on a pig? It is still a pig." If we simply rename a library are we kidding ourselves? I suspect we might be.

For several weeks now I have argued with myself and anyone even slightly library-related that crossed my past - should we call it a library? I was nearly convinced that the answer was no, particularly if we wanted it to sound as modern and exciting as we see it. That was until I raised the topic with the National Library lovelies Lisa, Paula and Elizabeth at a recent MLE PLG (that's a modern learning environment professional learning group) who each challenged my thinking in different ways. Elizabeth with her passionate tale of how the National Library revisioned their Auckland space, talking about visions, principles and values informing design....never considering a name change was needed and also Lisa and Paula who called me on my thinking, asking me what we hoping to achieve by renaming the space when what actually what we wanted to do was redefine the space.

So library it is, but not a library as you might know it. This is a a library, redefined.

li·brar·y
/ˈlīˌbrerē/


Noun
  1. A space containing collections of books, periodicals, films, music for people to read, borrow, and....
  2. A space containing a range of computers, tablets, cameras and other technology for people to create with, and....
  3. An online space that provides ubiquitous access to digital resources, and....
  4. A space for making, breaking, playing and developing digital citizenship skills, and...
  5. A collection of books and technology held in such a building or room.

Synonyms
bookcase - athenaeum
i-centre
zone
learning common

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Creating a school - Moving forward whilst going around in ever decreasing circles

I always knew being part of a team creating a school was going to being awesome. I also knew that being part of a team creating a new school was going to be challenging. What I didn't know was what exactly about the process was going to be the source of either that pleasure or pain. And let's be honest I wont actually fully appreciate anything until I have the clarity that only hindsight can provide.

Luckily I have never been one to let ignorance or a blurry in-the-moment perspective stand in the way of my sharing my thoughts. What follows is a kind of mid-year reflection of what I have learnt so far from being lucky enough to be one of team of four (plus various other board folk and builders) entrusted with the task of setting up a brand new secondary school. 

My reflections focus on both the experience as a whole and some discoveries made about myself and in the areas of my responsibility (which at present include e-learning across the curriculum, library and teacher development) and our shared responsibility of curriculum design.

There is no manual for creating a new school...or if there is we ain't got it. The job of creating a school from scratch is an amorphous task. At the tip of the iceberg there is the vision, values, curriculum design and timetable - each presenting a challenge and an opportunity to do something fresh, to do something different. We have been given a clean slate, a fresh start. It would be irresponsible just to do the same same, conversely, it would be equally irresponsible to do something different for the sake of it. Change for changes sake doesn't necessarily a better school make. So not only is there the challenge of actually ensuring we have considered and covered all our bases, there is also the challenge of how we actually conceive and shape those bases as well. On one hand we have the benefit of being one of several MLEs opened in recent years. This means we do have a kind of vicarious hindsight. We can and must put recently opened schools under a microscope - what has worked and more importantly what has not. It would seems there are some real areas of success - impact projects and learning advisories come to mind. However, there have been some challenges - retreatng into traditional practice, students not achieving as well as the might in some areas, community perception is also an ongoing challenge for many. We also need to be honest about what it is we are trying to achieve - I would argue the education model in most of the schools in our area isn't actually broken...so what is it we propose to fix? 

I guess it is less about fixing and more about realising this education vision we refer to as 21st century pedagogy (already out-moded considering we are 13 years in!). No question, a clean slate definitely makes it more doable. But there is no denyng, this awesome opportunity also comes with an awesome responsibility. This is exactly why it takes so much time to nut out our specific curriculum design. I love this diagram by Teach Thought, it highlights nicely the complexity of what we are dealing with. There is a lot to realise ina single curriculum model.


Source: http://www.teachthought.com/technology/a-diagram-of-21st-century-pedagogy/

So clearly, we absolutely need time to sort this stuff out (as do all educators). Interestingly time itself presents yet another challenge. Yes, we need it. Yes, we appreciate it. However there is no denying that at times, time is paralysing. Teachers are excellent at achieving a phenomenal amount in a very busy school day. We are, by and large, spectacular multi-taskers. In fact I have often said I am my most productive and creative when I am actually time poor. Here in lies the dichotomy - time which is in a sense necessary is also debilitating. I have a renewed appreciation of a) just how busy schools are, and b) how much I need a timetable and a pressured timeline to really feel like I am bringing my 'A' game. I don't expect much in the way of sympathy from my overworked teaching colleagues and I expect you might think I am a little crazy when I declare - I want my busy back!

Another challenge is that of collaborative leadership. This is my first year as a DP and my first time I have not been safely ensconced in a clear hierarchical structure. I have to admit I miss the clarity and security provided by a very clearly defined structure. Oddly it is actually easier to feel autonomous when there is someone "above" clearly stating expectations and providing boundaries and timelines. Interestingly, I can also take up the position of leader easily - it is the leadership limbo that is just plain frustrating. That said, I understand that there is is something to be gained from flatter, collective, collaborative approach...I guess it's a matter of learning how to change my way of dealing with a different leadership model. It's true what they say, change is not easy.

Don't worry, my final reflection is a positive one. This job is definitely awesome. Whilst at times it does feel like we are going in circles, however, already it is clear that these circles are getting smaller and in a sense, more refined. The vision, the values and the curriculum design is beginning to take real shape, we have appointed an excellent team of middle leaders, we have travelled, the ICT infrastructure is evolving nicely and there is no question, I have learned a lot - both about education and about myself. 

In summary it is as I thought it would be - awesome and challenging. Yes we are going in circles, but we are definitely moving forward...fast.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

To LMS or not to LMS...that is the question

Interestingly, when I started out at HPSS I was completely convinced that we would not need a formal LMS (Learning Management System). I believed the time of Moodle, KnowledgeNet and UltraNet was behind us. I believed that students should manage themselves and teachers and students should have free choice. I believed that providing one LMS as our main online space was simply no longer needed. Then, as time passed, I reconsidered, I started to look back on Moodle with increasingly rose tinted glasses. I remembered the structure, the untapped potential of all those activities, all those plugins. Before I knew it I was making a steady u-turn. I began thinking, yes, we do need a LMS, we need that Moodle - even if only as a front door, a front door that allowed us to mash up Google Apps, Gmail, KAMAR student portal, MyPortfolio and links to eTV and our Library Management System. Moodle, Google and MyPortfolio supported by SSO (single sign-on) became the vision once more. 

With this thinking fresh in my mind, I started to craft our ICT and eLearning strategic plan, lovingly aligning decisions with our values and visions (see my last post), got in touch with Catalyst and Norrcom discussed hosting and SSO - I thought I had cracked it!

Then came a couple of great comments on my blog, politely challenging my thinking around having an LMS....haven't we moved beyond that? Then boom, it hit me. Maybe I was doing exactly what I was afraid I would do - I tweaked my thinking and then I retreated to what I knew from the past, potentially missing an opportunity for doing something new, something fresh and innovative. 

So where does this leave me, back where I began, pondering the future and the necessity of having a formal LMS. 

In the time before my "tweak and retreat" thinking, I had been considering simply providing a Google Site as a front door and a means for providing a simple architecture. This would still work as a SSO page and could include links to Gmail, Google Drive, MyPortfolio, eTV and the library. I know Ormiston do this, and I would be keen to hear from others doing similar. It does however raise the question around KAMAR student portal, could still you embed it somehow? Could you embed individual Gmail account views? I understand how we could embed a school Google Calendar and any number of hyperlinks...but I want more than that. And I still can't get away from the things I like about Moodle...I like the courses that students can self-enrol into, I like the way that it is individualised and dynamically so, in a way a simple website isn't....or am I wrong about this? Or am I missing the point altogether. Do students not even need this anymore?

Darn it. It would seem that I have got myself stuck at a philosophical ICT planning crossroads. If we go with a formal LMS am I retreating back into a comfort zone? If we go the Google Site way are we doing so at the expense of student online experience? 

LMS or not to LMS? 

What you think? 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

ICT and eLearning at HPSS Vision and Strategic Planning



In the spirit of openness and sharing, here is my first draft (of many I am sure) of our ICT and e-learning strategic plan which is born out of school values and vision.

Our Vision, Values and ICTs

Our Vision

To create a stimulating, inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world

Our Mission

Innovate, Engage, Inspire

Our Goal

Innovate through personalising learning. Engage through powerful partnerships. Inspire learners to be empowered.

Our Values

Empowered Learners who are resilient, responsive, resourceful
Personalised learning which develops curiosity, passion, excellence
Powerful Partnerships which enables learners to connect, collaborate and contribute

Our Values, ICTs and eLearning

We inspire to develop empowered learners who are:




This means:




What this looks like:
Resilient
persistence, determination,
self-motivation, positive thinking, flexible, manawanui, spirited, pono, managing distractions, ‘can-do’ attitude
Open internet access that encourages learners to develop strategies for managing self online. Giving learners choice around tools and platforms for illustrating their learning.
Responsive
responsive, flexible, open-minded, seize opportunities, actively engaged with others, with opportunities, respectful relationships, caring, empathy, honest, fair, integrity, ethical, responsibility, awhinatanga, manaakitanga, whakapiringatanga
Learners develop digital citizenship skills and strategies so as develop respectful and ethical behaviours online. Platforms and tools are flexible and learners have choice to ensure they can be responsive to needs. Learners will have easy access to a range of technology, will be encouraged to bring their own device, to ensure access as and when needed.
Resourceful
enterprising, able to access and use resources around them, problem solving, critical thinking, ingenious, independent, imaginative, creative, capable, purposeful, rauhanga
Being able to locate, critically assess and use resources online according to need. Being proactive and persistent in their use of technology.
Being ready, willing and able to learn how to use ICTs in different ways - independently or with others. Using online and offline resources usefully.
We innovate through personalised learning to develop:




This means:




What this looks like:
Curiosity

questioning, playfulness, inquiry, questioning, discovering, exploring, seek, investigation, thirst for knowledge, reflective, thinking
Thinking critically, creatively, reflectively about their use of ICTs. A stimulating culture of inquiry teaching and challenging inquiry based learning. Using evidence to inform choice of ICT tools and platforms to support teaching and learning.
Passion
enthusiastic, excitement, positive, interested, engaged, inspire and be inspired, hunger for learning, absorption, dedication
Learners develop, use and share ICT tools and platforms of their choice.
Teachers sharing their passions and encouraging learners to do the same. Learning without boundaries or limits of time and place enabled by effective use of online environments.
Excellence
innovation, risk taking, high expectations, mastery, rigour, challenging , authentic, quality, leadership, pai, agency, metacognition, mana motuhake
We all set high standards for ourselves and expectations of others. We establish a model of high-trust and clear consequences around managing self online. Learners demonstrate mastery in the use of ICT tools and platforms with a clear understanding of best fit for specific learning outcomes.
We engage through
powerful partnerships which allow us to:


This means:


This looks like:
Connect
build trust, develop relationships, communicate effectively, whanaungatanga, making links
We develop caring, trusting productive relationships off and online. We communicate effectively. We use ICT tools and platforms effectively to make links in our learning, between people and to the community and wider world.
Collaborate
co-constructing, teamwork, sharing, cooperation, negotiation, planning, kotahitanga
We are ready, willing and able to use a range of ICT tools and platforms to listen to, work with and learn from others. We all add to and draw from the strengths of each other. Working online and offline with others on a local, national and global scale.
Contribute
participate, actively engage with, give back, service (community projects, academic, sporting, cultural, entrepreneurial, co-curricular) koha
We contribute to our own growth and learning, to our community, environment and wider world as responsible digital citizens. We share our learning with others online, through collaborative online platforms such as Google, Moodle and the VLN.
Using a range of ICT tools and platforms to participate in and share community projects, academic, sporting, cultural, entrepreneurial and/or co-curricular activities.

Strategic Planning

Infrastructure

As a PPP school much of the infrastructure is set up for us by Hawkins Construction. Torque IP have also been engaged to take on the role of advice and guidance to support with the planning and procurement of any additional ICT infrastructure and services such as copiers, printing and telephony.

Wireless/Internet Access

We would like universal internet access available to all teachers and students on site at Hobsonville Point Schools. We would preferably like a “hot spot” style of internet connection that allowed connection via a webpage requiring username and password.

Security

As we are a secondary school, we feel it is appropriated to have as open internet with as little filtering as possible. Whilst it would be useful to have low level internet filtering and the ability to monitor internet use, it will be important that for the most part learners are trusted to manage themselves appropriately online. Clear parameters around “appropriate use” will need to be established, supported by a “high trust, swift consequences” approach to managing use of the Internet and related resources.

Hardware

As we are planning to be a BYOD school we will be moving away from the traditional computer labs. Specialised learning areas will be equipped with desktops according to need, e.g. Macs for graphic design, Music, Media etc. A number of desktops will be available to students in each learning area. A number of laptops, tablets, digital cameras and accessories will be available for students (and staff) through the library issuing system.

Staff laptops (and tablets)

Staff will be issued with a base model TELA laptop of their choice. Staff are invited to bring their own tablet to use at school. If they do not own a tablet and would like access one, they may choose to use a school tablet in school or if if they wish to purchase one HPSS will broker a hire purchase agreement with Cyclone Computers which would allow for staff to own a tablet for a small weekly payment.

BYOD

HPSS will be a ‘bring your own device’ school, which means students will be invited to bring their own device(s) for learning. Recommended specifications will be provided for students and parents. Equity devices (Most likely netbooks) will be available on loan through the library system to those students that need them. HPSS will also establish a hire purchase agreement with Cyclone Computers on the parents behalf, which would allow learners to own a device for a small weekly payment. A number of desktop computers will also be available to all students in the learning commons and classrooms around the school.

LMSs

One of our challenges will be maintaining the balance between learners having choice and the need to provide a single “front door” for learners, family and whanau. I would like to suggest that an integrated platform using Moodle as the first point of contact will meet this need. I would like to suggest the integration of the following online platforms:
  • Moodle
  • Google Apps (Can we have Google+ open for the secondary school and closed for the primary?)
  • MyPortfolio
  • eTV (this may be available for the secondary only, due to access to mature content?)
  • plus our library system (Oliver, Koha, AccessIT?)

Decisions will need to made as to how many of these platforms will run across both schools.
Teachers and learners will be encouraged to use Moodle as the first point of access and information for all Specialised Learning Modules. They will also be free to integrate any other tools and platforms that meet the specific needs and demands of learning outcomes.

SMS

Kamar has already been installed as the Hobsonville Point Primary School student management system. It would be useful to maintain a single SMS across the two schools. This may however present issues in terms of how we would each like to use it and/or have it structured. It would also be useful to have the Kamar parent and student portal available via the Moodle front door.

Student Email

All students will be required to have a Google (gmail) account set up for them on enrollment. This should be within the same domain as the primary school and school staff so as to allow ease of communication and sharing within the Google Apps for Educators environment.

Single Sign-On

Single sign on will be needed across the LMS and SMS platforms to enable seamless integration and to allow students to access all school platforms with a single long in. It would be preferable if this was integrated with wireless hotspot login as well.

Provisioning

It would be useful if all students were provisioned into the outlined LMSs on enrollment. Provision and organisation into class groups will need to determined. Alternatively it may useful to run Moodle in self-enrolment mode to enable learners to enrol into courses and groups as needed.

Digital Citizenship

As HPSS will be operating a high trust model approach to e-learning and ICT use it will be paramount that all learners complete course of study that addresses positive Digital Citizenship in its broadest sense. Netsafe provides the following definition.

A digital citizen:
• is a confident and capable user of ICT
• uses technologies to participate in educational, cultural, and economic activities
• uses and develops critical thinking skills in cyberspace
• is literate in the language, symbols, and texts of digital technologies
• is aware of ICT challenges and can manage them effectively
• uses ICT to relate to others in positive, meaningful ways
• demonstrates honesty and integrity and ethical behaviour in their use of ICT
• respects the concepts of privacy and freedom of speech in a digital world
• contributes and actively promotes the values of digital citizenship

An online resources has been developed to support staff here:

Creative Commons

A creative commons policy has been established as part of our wider school policies. The Creative Commons will become the default copyright status of all documentation produced in school, unless specified otherwise.

HarbourNet/FarNet

As a new school, it will be difficult to provide a full range of subjects that meet the needs of all learners. One way that we would like to address this is through establishing a formal relationship with HabourNet and FarNet as a a way of providing distance learning for subjects we are able to offer in house. This will require a dedicated space with Video Conferencing set up. It will also cost the equivalent of 0.2 of one teacher and the establishment of an e-Dean.

ICT support

Norrcom have been engaged to provide implementation and management of ICT services at Hobsonville Point Schools. At present their support is primarily remote with part-time onsite support. This may be an appropriate level of support for the short term, but will need to be reconsidered long term. Particularly as the secondary school with a BYOD school.

Thinking about strategic planning for ICTs

Here is a piece I originally wrote for Interface magazine which serves as a preface for my next post which looks at some of our thinking around ICTs and e-learning at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.


Wondering where to start with strategic planning for ICTs? Here are a few thoughts to get you started.
Start with the end in mind
Before you even worry about anything technical, you need to think about THE most important factor - the student. Begin by clarifying your school's vision around what you actually want for your students and their learning. What does their learning like now? What would you like it to look like in 2-3 years time? How will you ensure you don’t limit that vision to your own level of confidence, comfort and expertise around ICTs? This vision, more than anything else, will guide your strategic planning.
So how might you do this? It might be useful to ask a few questions to clarify thinking, such as:
  • What does your student want and/or need? How do you know this?
  • To what degree do you want your students to be able lead their own learning?
  • How do you want your students to share and/or publish their learning?
  • Do you want to enable your students to collaborate and work together?
Basically, you need to start with the student. What would you (or even better, what would they) like their learning to look like?
Make a plan
Once you have a clear vision for your student’s learning, this can be translated into a plan for ICT development or redevelopment. Again, you will need to few questions, such as:
  • Do you want students to bring their own device? Why? Why not?
  • Do you want your students to have open “hotspot” style access to the Internet or something more closed and filtered? Why? Why not?
  • Do you want to control the tools and strategies that your students use by imposing a single LMS or mandated platforms? Why? Why not?
Depending on the answers, the amount of time and resources spent on each of the strategic planning areas will then vary. For example, if you want to introduce a genuinely student-led learning experience and therefore would like a BYOD policy with a lot freedom and choice for your students, this will involve investment in; a robust and reliable wireless infrastructure, in-depth and ongoing professional development for shifting teacher pedagogy from a more teacher-centred to a more student-centred approach and a lot of time and resources invested in developing the digital citizenship skills of your staff and students.
Lay the foundations
A robust and reliable ICT infrastructure can be the make or break of any teaching and learning experience that involves technology. To ensure your infrastructure is meeting the needs of the student you need to be guided by how the student will use it. Depending on the needs of the student, this will most likely include: a fast and reliable internet connection, a robust internal school network, a wireless network and some provision of ongoing technical support. As schools move to more cloud-based services for their Student and/or Learning Management Systems the need for physical infrastructures beyond the wireless one is evolving quickly. Schools can seek support in this area from the Network for Learning from whom schools and kura will be able to access affordable, safe and rapid broadband. N4L will also bring internet based services for engaging learners. Additionally N4L will provide services to help streamline school administration.
Help your teachers evolve
Often teachers believe that to make the most of ICTs in the classroom, they themselves need to be experts. Whilst a level of skill and confidence can be useful, the most important thing a teacher needs to learn is how to be open to change and how to be confident enough to let their students take charge of leading their own learning. This may be as simple as stepping aside and letting your students find and trial ICT tools and strategies of their choice. An effective way for teachers to begin this evolution is through engaging in the Teaching as Inquiry process, where by the teacher identifies the learning needs of their students and undertakes a teaching inquiry around which ICT tools or strategies may support this learning to take place, tools and strategies are trialled, then the effectiveness of the tools and strategies in relation to the meeting the needs of the learner.
Probably the single most powerful resource to help you with this is the Ministry of Education developed e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF) which is set of resources that schools and teachers with:
  • A self-review tool for schools to gather evidence about practice
  • A 'roadmap' for building e-learning capability
  • A tool to evaluate the effectiveness of e-learning programmes
  • Resources and services to support schools as they build capability
(Source: http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/e-Learning-Planning-Framework2)
The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) is another great source of information and support. The VLN is a network of school clusters and educational institutions collaborating to provide online access to a broad range of curriculum learning opportunities for students.
Develop digital citizens
However it is not just your teachers who will need to evolve, students can often appear confident, this does not necessarily mean that their use of ICTs is either particularly safe or successful. Developing digital citizenship skills is something that needs to taught AND needs to be modelled by teachers. You will need to consider how this will be developed across the school. Will it be taught explicitly? Will it be somehow integrated into curriculum areas? In terms of finding out more about Digital Citizenship, NetSafe (www.netsafe.org.nz/) provide excellent support and guidance for teachers, students and parents. You may also like to check out the Digital Citizenship Project on wikieducator (http://wikieducator.org/Digital_Citizenship), which is a NZ based crowd-sourced set of teaching resources for Digital Citizenship from Years 1-13.
In summary, you need to define what you see strategic planning for ICTs including, develop a clear vision for learning, consider how that might impact on your planning, and then seek out the information and advice. Just as we need to tailor our teaching to meet the needs of our learners, so to will you need to tailor your strategic planning for ICTs to the needs of your school, and more importantly – to the needs of your students.