Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Twelve Mile Coulee L.C. Maker space and more.

Twelve Mile Coulee Learning Commons - Middle School

Our Maker Station cabinet is complete! Students remove the self-contained maker bins, work on a project, challenge or activity and return the bin to the cabinet. They are loving it! The bins I created include: 
- paper crafts (airplanes, boats, weaving, origami);
- STEM building challenges (catapults, pulleys, towers, cardboard projects -- with straws, paper rolls, craft sticks, clothespins, recycled K-cups, etc.);
- zentangle/colouring sheets; 
- textile crafts (crochet, knitting, friendship string and patterns; 
- Lego (Shop Class is putting castors on an IKEA square table that will also have a Lego board glued to the surface); 
- stop-motion supplies, including small white boards and clay; 
- card play (houses, games, magic tricks)
- Adopt-a-Shelf promotional material bin (posters, bookmarks). We followed Nose Creek's example and are encouraging students to "adopt" an LC shelves on one of our pyramids where they display their favourite LC titles. Students sign up for one week beginning next week. We have ALL MONTHS filled with adoptions!

The Maker Station bins contain the supplies and instructions and/or books. I got the majority of the ideas from Pinterest! 

Using our school colours, I created signage to draw attention to the station.

We also created an eLibrary station on the LC counter where students can check on our inventory. This makes them even more aware of the Dewey system and where titles are in the LC. It is very well used, which frees up a lot of my time searching for titles and having a dedicated Chromebook for these searches frees up the iMac stations for other work.

I purchased magazine racks from Grand & Toy and using 3-M hooks, attached them to our pyramid towers to utilize the towers better and ensure floor space isn't used for periodical racks. I've organized them by subject. I also have a rack for Readers, which are organized by level.

Book of the Week: I am so surprised how well this initiative has taken off! I actually overheard a couple of students talking about it, saying, "I wonder what the book of the week is this week?", and they actually check them out! Most of the books I select are checked out by Tuesday. The poster has a brief description of the book, a quote from me as to why I enjoyed it and either a list of other titles by the other or a QR code directing students to a movie trailer or author website. (And, yes, I actually read the book!)

Next on our agenda: Listening stations, a used-book swap and beginner, intermediate and advanced instructional sessions on Adobe (Photoshop, Illustrator and maybe InDesign), which I am facilitating. (Teachers can sign up a max of five students per class for a one-period session during regular teaching hours at a time and the LC will be closed for everything other than collecting print jobs during that time.)

Karen Petkau, CBE Library Assistant, Twelve Mile Coulee, Calgary, AB.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

ABC Learning Commons

The New “ABC” Learning Commons at William Aberhart High School

It started with a vision of transforming a “traditional” library to a vibrant, collaborative and engaging Learning Commons. In addition to educating both staff and students (“Yes! You can talk in here now!”), part of the journey was the physical transformation and the new furniture required to make it an open and welcoming space. It is with great pleasure that we share with you the completion of Phase 1. There will be more changes to come (hello! New paint!) but we thought it would be inspiring to showcase the great work that has been done so far.

Monday, 21 March 2016

LC Reflection

“He who sees a need and waits to be asked for help is as unkind as if he had refused it.”
-Dante Alishieri

I’ve been working in the LC for years now, and it’s easy to see the mistakes I’ve made. At one point I thought about my role through an economic lens where those who need assistance (in planning, in executing, and in teaching) would naturally seek it out. My learning has developed towards a much more fluid and organic perspective. 

As the quote above describes, the LC leader has to be empathetic and helpful. They have to be observant and aware of the professional growth and professional learning of their peers. They must have the perspective to know the holes and gaps within classrooms and throughout the building. Yet, being aware isn’t enough... They have to actively help. Like water, they have to flow towards the deepest holes and help to raise the collective whole... They have to provide help before being asked...

I think. 


Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Reflaluating Design Thinking

It's an ugly word, but it's mine:
reflaluation - that process which both evaluates and allows for reflection on an experience.
It implies that we find the value in, and also find ways of curating the salient artifacts of the experience. To that end I hope to record the experience of my foray into leading Grade 8 students in Design Thinking.


Maker Kits
As with most things in teaching, one workshop is often enough to inspire activation of a new way of doing things but it does not make an expertan expert make. We (as teachers) are often required to wear the mask of "expert" in the face of the students while being continually aware that we might only understand the process from a distance. It is those who are willing to risk getting it wrong in public who welcome new process into their classrooms without intense study and mentoring. The irony being that so many professional development mandates demand that a teacher indicate how they will immediately apply the expense that has been made to bring in the experts.

I, as you may have read, have recently been exposed to Design Thinking. I am not a Design Thinking expert though I do find that it lends itself to my natural inclinations well and so, perhaps, I am more an expert than I realize. Having been exposed to the vernacular and handed the template it was only a matter of opportunity that would allow for immediate experimentation.

Alberta's Mechanical Systems unit for Grade 8 lends itself well to the #MakerEd movement, and is rich in room for students to thinker and ideate. (not my words)

Fruits of Tinkering
The project (still and always in refinement) was installed in partnership with the Grade 8 teachers who would normally be responsible for this Unit. They, in a sense, partnered with the Learning Commons to go deeper into the mechanics of Design Thinking as they scaffolded the physics of Mechanical Systems. It would be another blog post entirely that would properly address how an entire unit was captured by Design Thinking, what I want to reflaluate here is on one element of what happened that was unexpected: rich partnerships.


In design thinking methodology a student is made responsible for recording and empathizing with another student's ideas. They become active listeners and engagement experts hoping to draw out the best from the person they are listening to. That in itself could be enough but yesterday I noticed something deeper: Trust.

Making groups is common in a classroom, and Design Thinking makes group-work better. There is something that happens in the community though that has inspired me to share; students forge trust.

Under Pressure

Item 1: Students are often asked NOT to work with their friends as they are familiar, too common, and often sources of distraction. In Design Thinking it is possible for students to gravitate to their friends. Where this would normally be something that does not expand a student's experience in this case it is actually an excellent place to start. When you become responsible for your friend's work, and you are asked to represent your friend's work to others in the group there is a loyalty there that means a student who might normally "phone-in" the work is now directly responsible for the way that their friend looks in the eyes of others. Particularly for the boys, but I suspect for all of the students, this addition of risk draws out better work from two friends than you might expect to see, and it also solidifies a relationship between two students.

Item 2: Students might be put into a situation where they are working with someone they would not normally choose to experience learning with, much less speak to. They might be encountering this partner for the first time, and in that experience they are presented to the unfamiliar as being a responsive, engaged, active listener who will stand up and advocate on behalf of their partner who knows that they are not owed this grace given the social context of a middle-school classroom. The amount of trust that this builds between two unfamiliar people; the way that it sets up two strangers to demonstrate the capacity for reliability, loyalty, and friendship appears organically, is not contrived (as it so often is) and is allowed to happen naturally. The authenticity of the experience can bring out the best in the community (in this case the classroom) and creates yet more impetus for employing Design Thinking structure in any and all of the activities which involve collaboration in the classroom.

Written by Tom Currie - Westmount Charter School - Learning Commons