PD Reading Challenge: Connect to Enchant

Photo courtesy: Martin Deutsch from Flickr cc

The 2nd chapter in Kawasaki’s Enchantment focuses on achieving likability. Basically, be nice! Everything works better when people are nice and try to get along. He lists likability as the foundation to success, I agree. The steps towards likability are easy:

  • get close
  • make contact
  • get connected

As I read through his list I’m mentally ticking them off. So far I’m going OK with all of those points. The last one however is one I want to work on in 2012.

Build relationships/Connect

TLs often get stuck in the library with supervisory duties at lunch and recess so we miss out on the social aspect of the school staffroom. I plan to change that while I still focus on the many teachers that come into the library; they are my target audience to start with. They already come to us but I want to delight them so much they become the type of customers that help spread the word. So creating relationships with them is my first goal. I’m going to start with the simplest of things to get connected with other staff:

  1.  I’m going to change the way I enter the school. Starting on day one, I’m going via the main entrance rather than the back carpark. In this way I will walk by the general office and the staffroom every morning and evening. I’m bound to run into people – could it be as simple as that? Well a good start I believe.
  2.  I’m going to learn all the staff’s names – no easy feat, there are over 100 but I’ve been there a whole year now and still only know about 30 (and some of those are shaky). I’ve got a staff photo somewhere and I’m going to study.

I like the quote attributed to the Brafman brothers (authors of another book about making business connections):
“… the single most important factor in determining whether or not you connect with another person is neither personality nor mutual interests – it is simple proximity.”

My PD Reading Challenge

Infograph courtesy: Social Media Max on Flickr cc

One of my NY resolutions was to take time to read the PD books I’ve purchased over the past couple of years. I started on my Professional Reading Challenge during the summer holidays. I have six books lined up.

Guy Kawasaki’s book, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions” is essentially a business motivational book but even from the blurb I could see the practical applications for the school library service. (The above link will take you to a video speech he made about “Enchantment”).
The inside jacket blurb starts:

Enchantment, as defined by bestselling business guru, Guy Kawasaki, is not about manipulating people. It transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers and the undecided into the loyal.

Now I’m not worried about people feeling hostile towards our school library, I’m concerned with something much more insidious – apathy and ignorance to what we do and how we can help the school to become a much better learning community. I’m passionate about what I do; I work hard to build trust and offer a stellar service but I really want to go the next step towards empowering others and so I’m looking for some guidance. I hope there is much to reflect on and put into practice here.
I’m also looking for practices to take my leadership skills to the next level. This book promises to help one bring about change in other people and I am particularly interested in effecting change when it comes to assisting teachers to use ICT and feel comfortable in changing the way they teach.

Diving into Digital Fiction: The Year 8’s Try it On

As stated previously, thank goodness for school breaks, what would educational bloggers do without them?

Photo courtesy: t-dot-s-dot Flickr cc

After all my digital fiction groundwork, a couple of meetings with the collaborating teacher (Leanne) and a few emails, we introduced her Year 8 English students to digital fiction midway through Term 4. We decided to approach it from an exploration perspective rather than an in-depth assignment. I was especially glad we had when the intro session discussion revealed that almost none of them were even aware digital fiction existed (we thought this might be the case).  Two of the students read manga online and one student had heard of fan fiction. None of them had used an e-reader although many were aware of Kindles (none had seen one). They all knew you could ‘read books on an iPad’ but none had tried this.  I should also mention the level of interest in reading was average or below average for this group; this was one of the reasons the teacher initially approached me.

After a brief discussion about what they already knew, I showed them several examples on the IWB (interactive white board) and talked briefly about the differences and about the idea of linear and non-linear stories. The teacher allowed them to explore the different types of online fiction and the stories on offer for the rest of the session. During the second session they were to decide on one to read and review. Because the students would have only two weeks to do this, if a longer piece of fiction was chosen the student was only required to review the equivalent of one chapter (to be negotiated with the teacher).

The literature review questions posed to the students covered:

  • their thoughts on what digital fiction is and how it differs from traditional novels
  • title, brief summary and the other titles they looked at before settling on the one they reviewed
  • discussion of the digital/interactive techniques used by the author, why they may have been chosen and the effect on the story (eg. distraction, add-on, enhancement, essential).
  • students overall opinion of their chosen type of digital/interactive/online fiction and some discussion on their preference between it and traditional novels.
Results were interesting. The teacher reported that interest and engagement were high. Students’ responses confirmed  our perception of increased level of engagement; Leane thought the written opinions were more detailed than usual. Most students chose to review Inanimate Alice and Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Was this perhaps because they were the most familiar forms? We should include a question next time about why they chose the stories they did. We should also include some exploration questions about the author to help students better understand their motives for using certain devices and techniques in their works. The biggest surprise? Many of the students expressed a preference for the traditional delivery of a story via a book over the the digital method.
The good news was that word spread amongst the teachers about using the digital fiction. I also collaborated  to introduce this with one of the Year 9 classes. We modified some of the questions and the teacher reported high levels of engagement for this class too. I did not get to debrief with the teacher but she was keen to do this again next year. I look forward to further developing this look at new forms of fiction in 2012.

Professionally Engaged

Photo courtesy: ganesha.isis on Flickr cc

I love being part of the TL professional community; knowing there are hundreds of TLs out there sharing, watching each others backs, advising and growing better together – it is such a buzz! I also enjoy writing so am pleased when I can combine the two. Writing opportunities have been coming in at a comfortably steady pace this year.

This term I’ve had three writing tasks on the bubble.

1/ Finding out and experimenting with digital fiction has been a focus for me this entire year. I’ve been blogging about it as I go (more to come in next post) and Pat Pledger of Pledger Consulting contacted me about the possibility of contributing to an upcoming publication. The book is a collection of practical ideas for TLs – things they can apply now to their services and programs. I’ve contributed a chapter explaining about Digital and Online Fiction, how to use it, why try it and many links to examples suitable for high school classes.

2/ FYI is a magazine published by SLAV (School Library Association of Victoria). They approached me about contributing to the next issue (Term 1, 2012). The theme for the upcoming issue is: Learning Communities so I wrote an article about the PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) I’ve been developing for the Year 9’s at the high school. We are about to launch this with them in a couple of weeks. Very exciting, more to come in a post and of course the article.

3/ I am also a freelance writer of teaching notes for HarperCollins Publishing. My latest assignment – writing teaching notes for an upcoming picture book entitled “Fearless in Love” — a story about one very lovable dog. Writing for picture books allow me to revel in all the fun I used to have with my students in a past primary school library job. Fun! You can find some of the other Teaching Notes I’ve written by clicking on the Teaching Notes tab at the top of this blog.

Diving into Digital Fiction: Book Camp pt. 2

Is there such a word as ‘backblog’? If there is I have a serious case of it. If there isn’t such a word, I claim it as my own.

This photo courtesy: kodomut via Flickr cc licence

Last post I started to unpack the many discussions that took place at BookCamp during the Melbourne Writers Festival. I was eager to attend BookCamp to hear Kate Pullinger talk about her journey as an author with digital (in particular, transmedia) fiction. I was not disappointed!

The topic under discussion for the session she led was:

Why do we read? What do the new technologies offer to stories?

We first tackled the question of why we read fiction.

  • to escape, to relax, for enjoyment
  • to discover (empathy, other ways of thinking)
  • to inform

Included in this was discussion on what we want as a reader from the experience.

  • good writing
  • a good story
  • experience of being taken away – a connection to the writing

We then turned to the big question. What does that mean in terms of digital transformation? We identified books as a form of content management/delivery. Their advantage is one of minimal technology – no computer, no electricity, no downloading etc.. One still has to learn how to use them.

What happens when you take the content beyond the book? How do you retain that ideal reading experience?

Kate gave us a walk-through of a chapter of her transmedia fiction, “Inanimate Alice“. She spoke of how the work took on a life of its own (unanticipated) in terms of pedagogy/education. Schools were using it as a gateway into digital literacy and multimedia. Fanfiction popped up then started flooding in. We watched an example of some authored by year 5’s at a local school.  Kate spoke of some of the decisions she made while writing IA that addressed the ‘why we read’ issues.

  • the story is told in first person narrative – for engagement purposes
  • no representation of faces in the illustration side of the work – they trialled that and the reader response was not as good. Readers wanted to imagine Alice for themselves.

We moved to discussing the evolution of story-telling. Stories in the 19th Century depended heavily on detail. Kate had a quote (must find out whose!) about literature from that time containing “a continual rain of detail’. With the advent of cinema there was a move toward economy of detail and a stronger emphasis on action/plot. Digital fiction removes the detail further by supplying the visual in a fashion not disimilar to picture books. Text and visual still need to work together. Visual literacy is necessary to understand the story.

We went on to explore the relationship between interactive/digital fiction and gaming. What gaming can bring to story-telling is the notion of play. Kate’s research found there is a divide between those who want to be told/given a story and those who want to have control and make choices over the story. Kate spoke of how they(creative team) worked hard on the design of Inanimate Alice so movem nt into more interactivity occurred pleasantly and inobrusively. They were aware of the importance of enhancement but not at the expense of the story.

The dicussion turned to the question of whether some genres or types of stories leant themselves to digitial/interactive story-telling better than others. The biggest barrier at this point it was agreed was the screen experience. As screen technology improves more people will be willing to experience stories from them.