A Barbarian in the Reading room

Welcome to my blog

 

Why this title? Well in my last school job I had a reading (as in reading a book) room and this was used on Open Days by the Learning Support Department. At one such event they put up a notice saying Leaning Support and I said "Oh I suppose this is the Reading (as in UK town to the west of London) Room now." They retorted by naming me the Barbarian and it has sort of stuck.

 

Sadly, this blog does not include much about Reading (as in the UK town to the west of London) or barbarians but will contain my thoughts on issues in the library and information world and also detail some of the events I have attended, places I have visited and courses I have run. Enjoy!

By sjpavey, May 18 2014 11:39AM

This month I have run a couple of interesting training courses both looking at the delivery of information skills.


Firstly for Creative Education, the day long course concentrated on the need for information literacy inclusion in the secondary school curriculum and ways in which this could be embedded. Part of the difficulty of course for librarians is the non statutory status in England and this is reflected in the lack of direct inclusion in the National Curriculum. So this course looked at opportunities to work with teachers in delivery and considered why some teachers were reluctant to embrace the library and the services of the librarian. What made this particularly interesting was that there were two qualified teachers on the course and so they were able to make insightful comments. Both had experience of school librarians and one was temporarily managing /caretaking the library until a librarian was appointed. Both agreed that they were unaware of the extent the librarian could be involved in teaching and learning and so hopefully this course achieved something in spreading the word. The course was very based on libraries and geared towards librarians and so it also covered learning styles and classroom management. It got me thinking about whether there is room for a course about the delivery of research skills for teachers.


The second course saw me back again at the wonderful Heath's Educational Books Showroom and we had a lively day dealing with research and writing up skills for 6th formers embarking on extended projects be it EPQ, IB Diploma Extended Essay or Cambridge Pre U. The delegates had a chance to put their own research skills into action by exploring the showroom for resources using a real essay title. We also looked at sources of information, evaluation and synthesis and touched briefly on academic honesty (although the latter will be run as a more in depth course in the autumn).


So next month I am returning to sessions with 6th formers and Year 10s in schools and leave the adults behind for a bit! .....and looking forward to the book being launched by the SLA.

By sjpavey, Apr 6 2014 12:04PM

I have just returned from 24 hours at the School Librarians' Group of CILIP conference this year held at The Derbyshire Hotel in...yes Derbyshire where I was invited to speak at one of the seminars. A colleague was then unable to attend so I ended up delivering two seminars.


I set off very early on Friday morning expecting the first day of the majority of schools' holidays to result in a nightmare on the roads and picked up a friend en route at an equally riddiculous hour only to find the M25 and M1 fairly deserted in comparison to normal. So we had a leisurely stop off for coffee at the infamous Watford Gap (producing passports and visas for the North) and arrived in good time for the opening Key Note speech by Nick Dennis, Deputy Head at Berkhamsted School.


Nick was as inspiring as ever delving into a wide range of debates about the relationship of education with information handling, teaching students information literacy and engagement with reading, and of course the medium through which such information can be delivered. Nick made reference to the research area of Digital Humanities first coined by Roberto Busa in the 1940s. This is all about the curation of digital material and data sets in order to make sense of our world from a humanistic viewpoint. There have been criticisms that such research has a race bias simply due to the data available and the methodology of collection in the past. Overall however I agree with Nick's viewpoint that this will make retrieval and access to information easier in the future. Nick recommended again Hans Jurgen Massaquoi's autobiography Destined to Witness ISBN 978-0060959616 as an example of how powerfully we can be influenced by our surroundings both from the inside looking out and looking back reflecting with historical insight. Such stories can be used as a trigger to engage students in learning. Nick also drew attention to Mick Water's tome Thinking Allowed ISBN 978-1781350560 which considers the state of education in the maintained sector and how restrictive the rules and regulations and changes of policy at whim make the process of teaching and learning. Nick outlined the progress or perhaps the circular nature of the fads and styles of education by drawing on historical examples and blending this with the technology we use today. He mentioned the growth of MOOCs and Berkhamsted School's plan to produce an GCSE/A Levvel MOOC for physics which will be on open access to all.


Nick then took part in a panel debate (Question Time style) chaired by John Hess with fellow panellists Alan Gibbons, Seni Glaister, Barbara Band, Claire Fox and two students from Heanor Gate Science College. Having Claire on the panel produced an atmosphere ripe for controversy and the discussion centered on various topics relating to librarianship, education and reading did not disappoint. It was interesting and surprising that the panel were largely unaware that librarians often taught in their schools and Claire suggested that we should be rooted in our libraries - controversy indeed and I took the opportunity afterwards to explain how part of my taught element can be statistically proven to raise grades.


There followed another panel debate chaired by Barry Cunningham of Chicken House and readings from fellow panellists Melvin Burgess and Lucy Christopher. I was interested in their views on the need for controversy in young adult and teen fiction and in particular the way they felt it had to be portrayed from the teenager's viewpoint not an adult's reflection back to a mispent youth.


I'll return to the evening later but want to include here the final talk I attended by Aidan Chambers. Despite the early hour (for me, not him as he assures us that as an ex monk he gets up at 5.30am for 3 hours of meditation) he gave a thought provoking speech about how we engage with story. He emphasised how being exposed to literature can change our lives no matter how seemingly bleak the prospects.


What intrigued me about all these sessions was the emphasis on power of speech in conveying information. Having conducted some small scale VARK research on my own students I am aware that the proportion of Auditory learners today is high - even in students you might have expected to be Visual learners. A recent visit to a series of lectures for the gifted and talented in London underpinned this as the students we took were most engaged by the lecturer who spoke for an hour on the relevance of James Bond in society today minus any props, gimmicks or slide show - he merely leaned against the balcony and talked. Has the time come when we will revert back to the spoken word? Will technology allow us to record this for posterity via digital audio, voice to text and simultaneous translation? I would dearly love to research this idea further.


The evening's entertainment consisted of a very nice dinner and a quiz by Barbara Band. Fiendishly difficult at times. I chose an appropriate table to sit at only to be dismayed by people leaving for an early bed rendering us one of the smallest teams. This withstanding we did have the students from Heanor Gate thus ensuring we knew the answers to questions such as the meaning of YOLO. We came a credible second and I won't make too much reference to the winning team having twice our number and undertaking some dodgy mobile thumbing which they insist was Twitter. Nuff said ! All forgiven we retreated to the bar with the left over wine for further librarian issue debates until the midnight hour.


Following Aidan's speech I delivered the first of two seminars on collaboration with the Surrey Libraries service and shared with a small but select group many of whom also attended my second seminar after the coffee break. I stepped in for Helen Cleaves of Kingston Grammar School who was unable to deliver her talk on using modern technology to engage readers. She had used Skype (and I was lucky that two delegates she mentioned collaborating with using Skype in their schools for a link up attended the session). She also used Fakebook which I had been unaware of before but which I will now definitely use to encourage empathy and discussion between characters in a book or even characters from different books. The final application was Aurasma which I have also used a lot in my school but Helen had used t far more professionally by involving her media studies and IT departments to make videos of students acting out their favourite scenes from fiction reads. To judge by tweets and general comments this was a popular session.


I was disappointed not to be able to attend some of the other fabulous talks on offer but following lunch I had to head home for a band gig. It was a great event and the committee of SLG worked hard to make this such a successful and inspiring conference....and when I arrived home my euphoria was enhanced further as the final draft of my book for the SLA School Libraries and Mobile Technology was waiting on the mat - guess what my next job is?



By sjpavey, Mar 23 2014 01:47PM

This month has been full of exciting training opportunities that have kept me very busy in a variety of areas in the library world.


Just before the beginning of the month I gave a talk to Heads of Departments at Westminster School in London about Academic Honesty and in particular how we have been using the software Turnitin at Box Hill School as a teaching and educational tool rather than a catch out method for suspected plagiarism. This talk was expanded for another session I conducted with the Eton Group of librarians who met at Marlborough College mid March where the topic was Academic Honesty. This is such a priority at Universities as where the risks of plagiarism can have a devastating effect upon the authenticity of research and thus have far reaching implications and consequences. It is so important to ensure our school leavers understand the importance of referencing their work correctly and highlighting and claiming their own contributions and discoveries. This is one of the reasons why I am such a fan of the IB Diploma programme in particular which personally I feel does much to encourage such practice.


I also ran a course for Heaths Educational Books in Sutton about engaging KS4 students in the Library. At ages 14 -16 in the UK there is a noticeable drop off in Library use and I believe much of this is due to exam pressure and the social impact of growing up. I was encouraged that the recent DEMOS report on Generation Citizen also looked at self image and social networking as impact factors in the lives of current teenagers. The course looked at how controlled assessments could be used as a hook for library use in KS4 and also considered how remote use of resources could encourage engagement without teenagers losing their street cred in terms of self image and being seen in the library. The DEMOS report also suggested the skills that would be needed in 2020 - only 6 years away and all of them relate to the work we are so competent in as librarians and information professionals.....oh and I did mention about fiction too!!!


Another course was for Creative Education on the Effective School Librarian. This was attended by a mixture of private and state school librarians but what made it an unusual mix was that all bar one delegate worked in a school that began with Year 9 (13 year olds). This made the focus of the library very much KS4 and KS5 and presented challenges in that there was not much non examined work (as associated with KS3). The discussion was lively and I was able to bring in some of the Heaths Course material into the day.


To wrap up March I will be attending a meeting for Librarians from independent schools next week where there will be much discussion of the school library world and of course the forthcoming School Libraries Group of CILIP conference at the beginning of April. I must start writing those presentations!

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