Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ready Player One - YA Audiobook Review

Well, I'm not off to a great start with this challenge.  I couldn't even make it through Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (15 hours, 46 minutes).  I love audiobooks of all kinds: nonfiction, biography, science, science fiction, fiction for young, middle, and old.  I tried and tried, but finally had to admit defeat.  There wasn't anything to hold my interest here.  The characters are shallow, the landscape is shallow, and the 80's references were giving me seriously bad flashbacks.

Wil Wheaton does a fine job of narrating, but it just wasn't enough for me.  I kept thinking, "Wait a minute, aren't you the twit I kept trying to get away from in the lunchroom in Grade 9?"  And I was a total geek, then and now: the theme to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is my ringtone for gosh sake!  Now THERE is a good book and radio play, come to think of it...

Sorry, I guess I'm just not the right demographic for this one.

Digital Storytelling

I am having way too much fun taking the free online course:
Digital Storytelling 4 Kids

Great resources, great support.  Look out Hollywood, here I come!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Starting over

I've promised myself I'm going to blog regularly in 2013. Haven't been a responsible blogger so far. Lots of excuses. I've decided that even if no one reads it, I need to write for my own professional growth. Hope my VPN holds up!

YA Audiobook Challenge

Joined this today:

YA Audiobook Challenge

Love audiobooks!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Not-as-scary-as-you-think inquiry

For the past several weeks, I've been working with Grade 4 to assist them in running their first all-out attempt at an integrated unit of inquiry: How the World Works - Energy.  This is a fantastic group of open-minded teachers, so it has been a real pleasure to collaborate with them, come into their classrooms, and watch their students start to develop some really interesting questions.

Integrating language seems to have been a fairly easy task for this unit, since between the library materials and the grade level resources, the teachers have lots of non-fiction resources on energy to allow the students to explore and further their learning.  Math is still being supported by some stand-alone lessons, but measurement and graphing, for example, have fit in very nicely.

Many of our teachers have not had the chance to work with their students on a fully-integrated unit of inquiry, myself included.  Luckily, one of the teachers new to the school this year, Selai, has had lots of experience with them, so we have relied heavily on her knowledge and level of comfort with guided inquiry.

Hilary, the Grade Level Coordinator, and I talked for a long time about what it might look like to run a unit like this, and eventually agreed to give Selai and I the chance to map it all out.  We presented our plan to the other G4 teachers, and they readily agreed.

It turned out that very little of the unit planner from last year needed to be changed.  Many of the learning engagements and resources were still of use.  It was mostly a matter of tweaking things so that student inquiry took priority.  It was almost like giving permission to these great teachers to do what they always felt was right: focus on the interests of their students.

I have to admit, that as the teacher-librarian, it is a little frustrating that all I can do is get things started and step in when I can.  I can't be there in all the classes to see how everything goes.  I check in when we have our collaborative meetings, and it seems all is going smoothly without me.  Letting go may be an issue for me!

My greatest involvement in this unit has been in developing the overall plan with Selai, and in assisting some classes with developing initial questions during a tuning-in activity.  I don't know why, but I am always surprised by the number of questions students have.  Working with two of our G4 classes was no different.  After viewing a number of photos of different types of energy and their impact on the environment, they kept me busy recording questions. Some didn't have a lot of depth, but that will come with time and guidance.  Below is the result of about 20 minutes of question brainstorming.  I did this on my iPad using Idea Sketch. The kids were suitably impressed!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"It came from outer space!" or Developing questions with Grade 4

I feel a little like the child who cried, "The emperor has no clothes!"  Really, there isn't too much to this whole inquiry thing.  I know I'm oversimplifying, but it seems to me that time and time again, all I need to do is listen to students, take them seriously, ask them questions to help them further develop their own interests, and off they go!

I don't mean to say that it's easy, it just isn't so highly specialized that we can't all be doing it with our students.  Their brains are teaming with questions.  Some are relevant to what we are currently studying and some aren't.  I'm sure many more than we think are relevant, but our "old" brains can't see the relevance.  That may not be worked out until long after we are gone. Just try not to cut off their interests; maybe just gently redirect them.

After we discussed and moved on from their curiosity about aliens (questions like "How many people have seen aliens?" just weren't getting us anywhere), the students in the Grade 4 class I worked with today had some really interesting things to think about.  One group of girls realized that what they really wondered about wasn't if aliens live on Neptune, but could human beings live on Neptune.

Also, we did get side-tracked by a group of boys obsessed with "Planet X", but when I took the time to sit with them to talk about their interest it turned out what they really wondered about was the impact of solar flares on Earth.  Don't ask how we moved from Planet X to solar flares, but it all happened through taking the time to listen to them and take their interests seriously.

Taking this time to develop questions with this class has allowed us to guide questions towards the Trans-disciplinary theme of Where We are in Place & Time and the concept of Connection.

I've been invited back by their homeroom teacher to continue to develop their questions tomorrow.  I'm really looking forward to helping them through this stage and on to the next: research.

They need space (and time) to study Space!

The past and Pangnirtung

I won't say much in this post because I realize even after all these years I seethe with frustration when I think about it.  The day after I wrote my last post about Cambodia and compared it to my experiences in Canada's Arctic, I came across an article in The Globe and Mail about just how bad things have become in Nunavut in the last 12 years since it became a territory.

I'm not a social worker, a politician, or anyone important enough to be listened to by the Canadian Government, but WAKE UP!  These problems have been there all along.  Why could I see it when I lived there 10 years ago?  You're the experts!  Get it right.  Don't stand by doing the politically correct thing while an ancient and beautiful culture and people self-destruct.

Shame on the Government of Canada. Shame on the Government of Nunavut.