Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back to Normalcy.

Kids are back at school today, and I was back to work yesterday. After school activities are back in action. It feels good; I like the sense of routine, and the rhythm of each day and each week.
I'm feeling relatively up to date with my uni work. Tomorrow I'll start nutting out ETL401 assessment 2 and see where I want to go with it. I'm glad I have completed all the "modules" of work. In theory I know everything I need to to begin the assignment (!).
I like the fact that this assignment is fairly "academic" and relies less on actual TL practice in a school. I find that a real stumbling block for this course, not myself being employed in a school currently (have I mentioned this before?!!!). To be honest, I'm in no rush to "get out there" and start putting what I'm learning into practice. Can't someone pay me to just keep studying?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Onward and upward!

Today Ashley posted some stats for the first assignment on the website, so I'm feeling a lot happier about my mark now. I still want my next one to be better though!
I feel like my biggest problem for this next assignment is the one I keep harping on; I'm not actually on the floor, in a library, day in day out. I have to get my information second hand, make sure I don't offend her with any of my comments or questions, and live with the fact that sometimes she simply doesn't quite answer my questions. It's like we have a bit of a communication blockage - she doesn't always hear what I really want to know. And I'm never quite as blunt as I probably should be, because I don't want to step on any toes! A difficult situation.
What I really need is data about the library collection. Just simple numbers would be ok; I'm sure I'm capable of using them to make an evaluation using a collection map or similar. If she has any previous collection evaluations, more the better. I guess I'm just worried that she doesn't have the information I need, or gives me what she thinks I want, but it isn't quite right. We'll see.
I also need to know how online resources fit in. I get the impression that she and the computer teacher do their own thing and never the twain shall meet. I don't remember seeing any computers in the library, I think they are all in the computer lab. (Technically within the library building, but a separate room and not accessible to library visitors.) That means I've got another person to get in touch with...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's only a day since I got my first assignment back (which happened to be the due date for my second assignment). Already I feel excited about getting stuck into my remaining two assignments (for this semester). Gee I bounce back quickly!
I think I have learnt a fair bit about how I best work now - it is all coming back to me after a long break from study. I hope I will be able to do a really good job of these next two. Unfortunately I seem to like to do one thing at a time, so I think it's inevitable that I will complete the 503 assignment before I do much on 401.
In other news...the kids are back from their little holiday at my parents' place, the renovation is going well, and I seem to be holding it all together OK.
I hope the TL at my local school doesn't get too sick of me too soon! I have sent off an email to her asking for some information and statistics on her collection. I feel I need to know this stuff to do my 503 assignment - writing a collection management policy that is applicable to the school context. I do, however, feel like I'm a bit annoying to her. The stuff I want to know, or think is important, isn't always the stuff that she wants to tell me, or thinks is important herself. She is resigned to "the way things are" and does a good job within the status quo. I can't help, though, looking for improvements - after all, it's my job to be a bit idealistic and be focusing on "best practice".
I'm probably going to rip her existing policy to shreds - not that I'd tell her that, of course! But the assignment specs do say to write an "exemplary" policy (hope I can do that!!!).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How good is good?

Today I got my first assignment back in the mail. I got 29/40, good, but not great. I'm happy with it, because it's a sound pass, which is a good effort for my first Masters level piece of writing, and my first piece of academic writing since 1993. But I am a little disappointed. I guess I thought I might be really fantastic at this and be at the "top of the class"! (We can all dream!)

I'd like some feedback on how the group as a whole did. I appreciated the feedback that was given to me, and I take on board the comments of my marker. She reminded me to be analytic rather than just descriptive when commenting on my chosen resources. Very helpful. But I can't help it, years as a maths teacher means I'm dying to know what the range of marks given was, the mean and the standard deviation. (I know, very sad isn't it!) It would just help me to know how I'm doing. I hate to admit it, but I can handle getting 29/40 better if I know that I was actually above average and that very few students did better than me! On the other hand, if 29/40 was only average, and half the cohort did better than me, I'd be very disappointed. This said by someone who doesn't see herself as at all competitive!!!

I hope anyone from uni that reads this doesn't think I'm horrible. I am, honestly, quite ok with my mark. But I really want to do better next time...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Have just checked EASTS and my first ETL503 assignment has been posted back today! I feel excited and ever so slightly sick!

Went to the shops today to run some errands and found myself in Borders (!). Bought birthday presents for 3 of my nieces and a book each for my children as a guilt offering for sending them away to their grandparents for a few days so I could do uni work. Of course I would have rather bought some books for myself too...

Am starting to get my head around my next assignment (no rest for the wicked) and am feeling the usual sense of enthusiasm. No I'm not joking, I actually do enjoy writing assignments! Yes, I might complain about deadlines or word limits or referencing conventions, but the actual reading and writing involved I find interesting and stimulating. For ETL503 I really do think the assignments are easier if you're working in a library, or at least a school. Having to continually contact the local school librarian with questions, and wanting to look at their policies etc so I can evaluate and rewrite them is a bit awkward! And no matter how lovely the librarian is, you never feel quite at home and able to browse at leisure.

Oh, well, better get back to the real work...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My assignment has been submitted, for better or worse. I still don't have my mark for my first assignment, so I have no feedback on my work to help me improve yet. Hopefully I'll have something back soon, so that I can use the marker's comments to inform my work. I really want to do well.
I am starting to form a mental picture of the TL's role. I feel it would be very important for me to be well organised if I were to have any hope at all of fulfilling the role. I think I would need written policies for Collection Development and Information Literacy, a clear set of short, medium and long term goals, and some sort of weekly/monthly timetable so I get everything done! I'm thinking back to Covey's 7 habits and I'm imagining setting out my goals and then timetabling things in that I can do each week to move forward on each of the goals.
For example: Monday - attend Stage 3 planning meeting, Tuesday - weed junior fiction A-B, Wednesday - write weekly Library update for school intranet, Thursday - you get the picture...
On another topic...Loving the new King of Leons' single - in fact am loving the whole album. Also still enjoying Britney's Circus and Pink.
Books I fancy re-reading: Gone with the Wind (it's been ages!) and Pride and Prejudice.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Let the editing begin!

My ETL401 assignment is written. Hooray! I've done my best and feel like I've done a pretty good job. If only I had my ETL503 assignment back so I could use the mark and feedback from that one to help me evaluate this one!
The only problem; my word count is 2339 words and the limit is 2000+10% i.e. 2200 words. So now I must carefully find the 139 words that are superfluous and cut them out! I might have a cup of tea and then re-read to see what gets the chop.
As for continuing my discussion of the role of the TL, something that bothers me a fair bit is the fact that as a TL, there is usually just one of you in a school. Which means that as a newly appointed TL, you really don't have anyone on site to show you the ropes. I would much prefer to start out in a junior role and work my way up. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to do a really good job of things, and I feel like as the only TL, I would be very hard on myself and might give myself a nervous breakdown.
Possible solutions I can see include getting a job in a public library to be under someone, and spending a lot of time at my kids' school getting hands on experience. Hmmm.
I'm having a really lousy morning. My 8 year old son cried his eyes out as he left with his sister and grandparents to go to the zoo because he wanted me to come with him. That's pretty bad.
I guess I am supposed to use this blog to organise my thoughts about the role of the teacher librarian. So far I haven't done much of that.
To be honest, before starting this course I thought of the TL job as quite peaceful. I imagined it as lovely to have my own domain and be able to potter away at relaxing tasks like reorganising bookshelves. I'm a little disappointed (to say the least) that the vision for a modern TL is so dynamic!
Having said that, though, I can't help myself from feeling a little bit excited about the possibilities for collaborative teaching and using innovative technology and methods in teaching. (Once an idealist, always an idealist.) In my teaching experience, I never had the opportunity to collaborate with others, share ideas, teaching materials and support one another. It was my biggest disappointment, and probably the main reason why I didn't last too long in the classroom. I had a lot to give, in terms of enthusiasm and ideas, and other teachers would have been lucky to have me to collaborate with. Their loss, but also mine, because I never felt happy as a teacher.
I also never taught in a context that allowed me to experiment with different methods and resources. It was just not done. The first priority was always keeping your classes under control. The second was getting them to pass tests. I used to be scared to even pass out compasses in geometry lessons for fear that the students would stab each other, and I could not be myself with students because they did not respect a smiling, young, female teacher.
Wow! It feels good to get this stuff off my chest. As a teacher, I never once even spoke to the teacher librarian or visited the library. (As a maths teacher that's possibly easier to understand than if I taught some other subjects.) I don't remember anything at all about the libraries from either of the two schools that I taught the longest at. I wouldn't have a clue what their collections were like, or what wonderful resources, help and support I passed up by not being involved with the TLs.
Might post again later today with more...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yesterday afternoon I felt a bit down. Worked hard all day on my assignment, then checked the TV program and realised there was nothing on. And I DIDN'T HAVE A BOOK TO READ!!! (Apart from texts and course readings.) Now I find reading a relaxing, yet stimulating experience. I read in bed, in the bath, at the table, at the park...anywhere! And for the last couple of months I have been on a forced diet of "serious" reading only. And I hadn't even been to the library to borrow any novels for weeks and weeks. (The local librarian will be wondering what happened to me.)
What was I to do????
Never fear, decided to re-read Breaking Dawn, the 4th book (and my favourite) in the Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer.
Re-reading a favourite is quite satisfying. You know what's coming, but when it does, you experience it all over again.
Now I'm going to read over my assignment, and see if I still like it!

Monday, April 13, 2009

I feel like my assignment is going well. I've only got a little more to write, then I can focus on editing. This time I'm not so stressed about the referencing issue. Firstly, the documents I'm referring to are mostly books or journal articles which have clear guidelines for "how to". Secondly, I'm using "cite while you write" with Endnote this time, and finding it really great. Each time you want to make a citation, you search your library and click on the correct document. Endnote adds the citation in correct APA form, and adds that document to your reference list. When you finish writing the paper, your reference list is already written! Bliss!
I now feel far enough "on top of things" to actually enjoy a few days of the school holidays with my kids. Was worried that when Chris went back to work tomorrow I would want to get rid of the kids due to having too much work to do. But now I see that I will be able to spend time with them without always feeling that I should be at the computer. I should have ample time to finish my work. Hooray!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Moving to a desert island.

Today I feel like running away from home. Woke up full of enthusiasm for the task of my uni assignment. Had decided to try using note cards to summarise inportant points from all the many and varied readings that I'm using as resources. So I felt happy that I was going to try a new method of organising my thoughts. I felt like it would really have a positive impact on the quality of my work.
Unfortunately, my home feels like a war zone today. Chris has decided that today is the day for the kids to tidy up their rooms. I'm all for that...but tidying their rooms is a really big job (currently looking like bomb sites or post earthquake ruins). They need support and encouragement. They need an adult to come alongside them, model tidying methods, check how they're doing and offer suggestions.
Problem: Chris isn't into alongside encouragement. He wants to get on with his building work and he wants them to get on with their job. Warm and fuzzy helping is my department. But I really want to work on my assignment! Now I am being interrupted every 5 seconds with questions like "where does this go?", I'm refereeing when Chris hears the whinging and blows up, and I'm jollying along as often as possible.
Sometimes I feel like I would really like to live alone, and only have to worry about myself.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I'm still struggling to get my thoughts organised on my ETL401 assignment. At the moment I'm reading through Topic 5, and most of what I'm reading is applicable to the assignment. So I'm trying to add these new thoughts to what I already have from topics 2, 3 and 4. It's getting out of control!
I'm having no trouble at all seeing the connections between all the different things I'm learning about. Creating an information literate school community is like growing an entire organism - there are many organs and systems that must work together. Just like a body cannot function without an essential organ (e.g. skin), or system (e.g. circulatory system), there are many aspects that are essential to an ILSC. The trouble I'm having is in concisely expressing what these different aspects are and putting together a logical argument.
So what is wrong with my information process? Am I lacking some higher order thinking skills? (I don't think so, but I might be having trouble using them effectively.) Am I lacking sufficient focus in my topic definition? Yes, I think this might be closer to the truth. I am reading so much that I feel is interesting and relevant, I'm loath to let go of any of it. I can see its merits, and how it fits together with everything else, so I am determined to make it all fit instead of limiting my discussion.
There's a lot to be said for journaling. It helps to think things through "aloud". I use the technique in my personal life too, writing things in a little book beside my bed that I would never publish here! Things somehow seem much clearer when they're put in black and white in front of you. Faulty logic is exposed, and silly fears disappear. I think I'm ready to jump back into it now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

From demolition to construction...

The concrete has been poured...the new framing is going up...it's actually happening!

My husband really is a marvel, he just gets stuck into it and it all comes together. The kids, especially Josh, are really interested in seeing both the process and the product. They came home from school yesterday eager to see what progress had been made during the day. Josh is showing a bit too much interest for my liking in the power tools!

Meanwhile, I've moved on to my second assignment. It's quite different to the first one, and I'm taking a different approach. Not sure so far if I'm really pleased with what I'm doing, not sure if I've improved on my process or not. Will just keep going and adjust as necessary.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I have not read a novel for ages. Boo hoo! I have been reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle in very little bits just before I go to sleep at night. I'm enjoying it, and it reminds me not to get too hung up on the ups and downs of life. It helps me to focus on my essential spiritual nature, rather than externals.

I really would like to read a novel again soon. Usually reading is a recreational activity for me, and it hasn't been for a while.

I think my time management skills could do with an update. I should be able to find time for recreational reading without feeling that I'm taking time away from essential work and family responsibilities. I think I will work on that this week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Just a quick post to suggest checking out http://www.andrewsproject.webs.com
This is the school project of a classmate's of my daughter.
I have noticed quite a few things about my children's school projects:
  • the teachers try to allow children to present their knowledge using a range of techniques and tools
  • children are rarely given information about what is expected from them
  • the children's products vary considerably, especially in standard
  • the children are not explicitly taught any skills or processes to use when working on their projects
  • my daughter doesn't enjoy research
  • my daughter likes everything to be quick, neat and easy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Becoming Conscious of my Study Process

Sounds like a very serious title, doesn't it! As I proceed on to my second assignment, I am simultaneously evaluating the success of my first one. My experiences then are informing my approach now. I'm coming to realise that I approach this whole study thing very intuitively. I have confidence in my intelligence and skills, and don't explicitly think about my process. I think I might find that thinking explicitly about my process improves my results.

I think it's good that I'm open to trying new ways of doing things. I think it's great that I'm not hung up on perfection, but see improvement and learning as way more important.

My daughter is completing a school project as we speak. It's interesting to watch her work. The whole experience of collecting information has been like pulling teeth. But now that she's putting together a presentation of what she has learned, her whole demeanor has changed. I talked to her about how she was feeling, and she told me that she really enjoyed the creativity of this aspect of the project. Interesting, isn't it, that we are all different and enjoy different aspects of learning.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ah-ha aaaaarrgh!

Had an "a-ha" moment yesterday, and not in a good way.
Was reading through the ETL503 Assessment 1 forum, and read someone's post. They were indicating that they had finally realised that the assignment wasn't really about the unit of work they had chosen, the teaching and learning activities within it, and the resources (good or bad) that were used and/or recommended. It was really about showing the processes of evaluating needs, and selection and acquisition of resources. The unit of work merely provided the necessary context for what was really being assessed.
Oh no! I now realise that my focus was too much on the actual unit of work. I got a bit carried away imagining myself in the school, doing my TL thing, interacting with the kids, collaborating with the teacher... I put too little focus on demonstrating my understanding of the processes involved in evaluating, selecting and acquiring. Oh well...you live and learn.
I'm really hoping that I will still do well on the assignment. I still believe that I have answered the questions and fulfilled the criteria to the best of my ability. But if I could do it all again, I'd approach it with a different mindset, and it might turn out quite differently.
I really have to remember that studying at uni is supposed to be a learning experience. If you knew everything before you started, and never made any mistakes, then what would be the point?

Techno Savvy

I am much more adventurous when on the computer these days. I used to like to know exactly how to do something before I started. I always wanted to know what was going to happen before I clicked on anything! I didn't want any surprises, or anything that might be hard to undo, or might in some way cause me more time and effort. I didn't like to "fiddle" or "muddle along" or "work it out as I went along".

Now I've realised that it's not too bad to just click and see what happens! You never make a mistake so bad that it can't be fixed, and it's not so scary. I've also used the "help" functions in programs a lot more, and found that most of the time they do help! So I think I'm making good progress. I don't seem to have those moments when I wish my computer could hear me yelling at it anymore!