#YourEdustory – Why do I do what I do?

“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it” Simon Sinek – Why do you do what you do?

I’ve found this prompt a tricky one. It’s an easy one to be flippant about – “because they pay me” or “for the holidays” came to mind. I make no apologies for not being the teacher who does it “because I love kids” or some similar saccharine sentiment, I much prefer working with teachers. When I strip it all away I think it comes down to the fundamental role of a librarian – to connect people with information. For me that information might be a book, a resource, a tool, using technology to do something in a different way. I guess what is interesting is why I prefer to do this in the context of a school rather than anywhere else, and (sad as it may be) it’s because I love the routine and cycles of school.

I love the excitement and potential of a new school year. New children, new teachers, new possibilities, new ideas, habits, ways of doing. I love the way the school year is punctuated by annual (and biannual and quarterly) events. In 2013 I spent a year working outside of a school for the first time since I was a bus conductor in the 80’s (but that’s another story). It was an exciting year and a great experience working on a project about disaster resilience education but by the end I knew that I wanted to be back in a school. What was lacking in the “real world” of the office environment I was working in were those indicators that come around (almost too quickly) each year in schools and the sense that we were all in it together. In a large open-plan office including sections of the Emergency Management, Migration Support and International Law programs of Red Cross, people worked away on their own thing, sometimes together but often not. Perhaps I wasn’t there long enough to really understand (and perhaps my position as an externally funded project officer made it harder to see) but what I noticed missing was the sense that we were all there with a common purpose and goal. The end of the year was celebrated but then it was business as usual for most. There was nothing to match the “first day back” feeling.

So there you have it. I just like schools!



Heartbleed. Retrieved from http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/04/09/heartbleed-reveals-a-big-hole-in-australias-cybersecurity-strategy/

As I’ve sat here today trying to get into my scholarly book review my mind has been meandering over a few topics of interest (sadly, not all related to the task at hand)…

1. Why do I find it so difficult to sound even vaguely intelligent when I summarise the main points of my book? Why do I struggle to put into words what I’m thinking in my head? Trying desperately not to simply copy I find I’m using the same tired words over and over. I know that using lots of quotes is not encouraged for a task like this but I’m conflicted about the value of badly-worded summation compared to a well-selected quote.

2. Pondering on the way technology has altered the brain thus allowing us to create new technologies and ways of doing I’m reminded of John Elliott on The Agony of Modern Manners last week when in response to a question about using the internet he said it was “secretary’s work” so he didn’t use it! I wonder how it is possible that any modern (ok a bit of a stretch regarding Mr Elliott who also has never cleaned a bathroom because it is “menial work”) businessman could possibly be keeping up without some form of online engagement. It reminds me too of a conversation I had with a mature teacher a couple of weeks ago. She knows that our early years teachers will soon have a bank of iPads available to use and has been sent into a spin because someone has told her she’ll have to use them. She hasn’t the first idea about what is possible with an iPad, hasn’t even touched one before. She can’t understand why we’d want preps and grade ones to use iPads when they can’t even write yet. I try to explain that the possibilities offered by the iPad don’t depend on being able to write, that that is one of their virtues but it falls on deaf ears. She’s looking for an easy answer but seems unwilling to make any personal changes or commitment to do so. She even says something along the lines of “we went to teacher’s college to learn how to teach, not to use technology”. I’m gobsmacked that someone only a few years older than me seemingly gave up on learning in her 20’s and don’t really know how to help. I can see that she’s scared and almost want to tell her not to bother, she’ll be retiring soon… but I don’t. I know that working with the middle ground, with teachers who CAN see the possibilities but just need some support to get there will reap the most rewards. Perhaps some of their successes will inspire her to try. I hope so.

3. Reports of the Heartbleed security threat, which potentially affects anyone who has used the internet in the last two years, are a little worrying (hmmm, maybe John Elliott isn’t so silly). I’ve been considering doing something with my passwords for a while. Yes, they are mostly different – a couple of site-specific identifying letters added to the same memorable word in most cases – but they are all made up of real words with numbers which apparently isn’t good enough. Just last Saturday a software-engineer friend was telling us that even pass-phrases aren’t strong enough, that the best passwords are gibberish. So with today’s news I’ve made a start and changed my IFTTT (the only website I’ve actually been contacted by) Twitter and Google passwords to randomly generated ones from Lastpass but gee, if you have a few devices (two iPads, and iPhone and a desktop PC) it ain’t that quick or easy to do. Great time-waster when you’re supposed to be studying though!

Cross-posted from Learn, do, teach…


Four weeks in

photo (2)It’s hard to believe it’s only four weeks since I started at my new school. So much has happened! I’ve felt overwhelmed, positive, frustrated, proud, welcomed, incredulous, amazed, despairing, energised and exhausted, sometimes all in the same day or hour. The over-arching theme has been busy-ness with little opportunity to concentrate on one thing for more than a couple of minutes…but I feel I’ve made progress and I’m pretty sure I’ve made the right decision in coming here.

Some of the achievements include:

  • Establishing good working relationships with my two library technicians. I feel very fortunate to have two very capable people who each have their own different strengths and talents to offer to work alongside.
  • Establishing good working relationships with heads of campus, learning team coordinators, teachers and office staff. I have felt very welcomed and I think I’m doing OK at building positive relationships with the people I need to work closely with.
  • Establishing good working relationships with the IT support staff – so important!
  • Getting to know the children. It’s a big change for me going from mostly senior students to mostly P-8. So far they have all been lovely, not that that means there aren’t challenges, but the difference in dynamics between grade 4 girls and VCE students is remarkable.
  • Launched Bytes, another Global2 blog set up as a resource for teachers at my school. Each day I post a short item related to a learning area or  about teaching and learning or productivity  or an app or website onto staff news on our portal and on Bytes.
  • Set up a library monitor program. We often have only one person available to staff the library at lunchtime which makes managing supervision difficult, on top of running the circulation desk. Fifteen lovely children have put their hands up to be trained to run circulation as well as help out with shelving, tidying, monitoring the computer booking system (another new initiative), and displays. At the moment they are “trainees”. Those who demonstrate their commitment throughout the term will be rewarded with official library monitor badges at a morning tea at the end of term.
  • Presented my first PD session for staff about using iPads.
  • Learnt about volume purchasing and how to sync apps to multiple iPads using configurator. Quite a complex process, hopefully it will make more sense and become easier as I get more used to it. I’ve also been investigating options for transporting our set of 20 iPads to various classrooms (around our rabbit warren school) and how to manage multiple users for each device. I’ve ordered some baskets which will each hold five iPads and come in four different colours which I think will make management simpler…I will report more soon!
  • Still a work in progress but I am working on new signage in and out of the library. I want to re-frame all the negative messages (No food or drink in the library) to more positive ones (Please finish eating and drinking before you enter the library). The picture at the top of this post is a sign a created for the library entrance, made on my iPad using ComicBook.
  • I’ve chucked a lot of stuff out. Don’t ask me what because my theory has always been not to look too closely at what you throw away in order not to remember it (just in case someone comes looking!). I’m fairly sure that is a positive achievement!
  • I’ve enjoyed getting back into “proper” library work doing things like promoting books to class groups and sourcing resources for teachers.
  • Set up a demo account with Libguides, a minor “achievement” but something I’m very excited about none-the-less.

There are a number of frustrations too. Some are things that you mightn’t think that important and would take significant man-hours (that 2.8 staff working in three libraries simply don’t have) to fix, that none-the-less drive me crazy. Things like the way the books are organised in the junior library – horizontally along all the shelves instead of top to bottom in each bay, does my head in every time I try to find a book or put one away. The way that series fiction has been separated from the general fiction and other similar anomalies. The inconsistency of barcode placement on the books – everywhere from inside the back cover to anywhere on the back cover, including vertically as well as horizontally. The library management system – I don’t even know where to start about that one (hopefully this is something that can be changed). And there are many more.But I remind myself of the Reinhold Niebuhr quote

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

and concentrate on what I can do.

Reinhold Niebuhr. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved February 22, 2014, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/reinholdni100884.html


Here’s to new years and new beginnings

Almost exactly one year ago I started my so-called “gap year” with my first day at Australian Red Cross working on the Educating the Educators Disaster Resilience Education (DRE) project. It was an interesting time to start at Red Cross in the Emergency Services program because they had just been activated for the Tasmanian Bushfires and shortly after were again activated for the Queensland floods following Cyclone Oswald. In an activation normal duties cease and everyone’s attention is turned to supporting relief and recovery programs; people wear those coloured aprons (tabards apparently) to denote their role – logistics, planning, operations and so on; they work long hours and staff from outside the area step in to assist. However, as an externally funded project officer I wasn’t expected to be involved so in amongst all this my manager and I worked through my introduction to Red Cross and just what the project was about. I found myself suffering severe information overload leading to absolute exhaustion and the need for a lie-down as soon as I got home from work. My children speculated that it was the blood bank’s fault (even though the Red Cross Blood Service is an almost completely separate organisation). After 20 years at the same school I certainly knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore!

Twelve months down the track the project is almost complete with a range of achievements of which I am very proud. A report mapping existing disaster resilience education resources to the Australian curriculum has been published (with a revised edition to be available shortly); a video competition for secondary students was held, with an outstanding winner:

and we have a fascinating case study of how disaster resilience education was integrated in an inquiry based learning program:

I had the opportunity to attend and present at a range of conferences including travelling to every state and territory of Australia except Canberra and Tasmania. Articles I wrote were published in Connections and the ABC Splash website with another due to appear in Ethos, the journal of Social Education Victoria, shortly. I’ve curated DRE resources on Scoop.it, created an app using Yapp, developed a website and established a Diigo group. I’ve connected with a fabulous array of people working in emergency services and disaster risk reduction. True, I had a lot to learn from them but I’ve also been able to give back with ICT expertise and perspectives on education. I hope to be able to maintain some of those connections in the future.

This job was an unexpected opportunity that just happened to come my way – I’m so glad I was brave enough to go for it instead of sticking with the safe and comfortable environment of school.

Another new year…

Another new beginning!

Yes, I will shortly be starting a new role at a new school. Not only that but after 26 years I’m resigning from DEECD in order to do so. My new position is Library & Information Services Manager at The King David School in Armadale. A hurried application two days before heading overseas for a month lead to an interview via Skype (at 9.30pm in Lisbon, Portugal) and subsequent negotiations via email. I certainly never expected to come home from a holiday with a new job!

I’m very excited about this new opportunity for a host of reasons, not least is just how different it will be to what I’m used to. For starters it will be my first ever experience working in the private system, something I never anticipated doing. It’s a much smaller school than Mill Park SC (somewhere between a third and half the number of students overall) but includes children from pre-kindergarten to year 12. I’m very excited about working with upper primary students particularly after the very positive experience with Essendon North PS for the DRE project. KDS is currently housed over five sites but a re-building and consolidation program over the next 5 years will see that reduce to three, no doubt all sorts of adventures will be in store for the library, might even take me back to the early years of MPSC.

Heading back into the library is one of the most attractive things about this position. Over the last few years at MPSC my focus was primarily on ICT coaching and IT teaching. The past year gave me some distance and perspective and I came to the conclusion that it’s through running an excellent library service that my skills in ICT coaching can be best utilised and targeted. Part of the new role is overseeing the roll-out of a 1-1 iPad program in the junior and middle schools – I’m still to have a strong focus on ICT capacity development for staff which suits me just fine!

Now I just have to make sure I update everything to reflect my new role and make sure I can still access various accounts. Some years ago I actively started using my gmail account for anything personal, and recently, increasingly for professional activities, but for many sites that “edu” element of the email address is essential to access educator accounts. Changing your email address across multiple sites is time-consuming and not always straightforward; neither is transferring contacts to Gmail, but hopefully I’ll have it all done before being “cut-off” from Edumail on January 28. I’m very excited that KDS are a Google apps school – I can finally fully exploit the power of Google for integration and keeping organised.

As part of this new beginning I plan to return to blogging to reflect and share, hence this post. Your thoughts, advice and suggestions for making the most of my new role will be much appreciated!


New Gmail account

After the debacle of a couple of months ago I have finally gotten round to removing hotmail from my life completely. There was some mixed emotion when I noted that I had first signed up to hotmail in February 1998 – my relationship with hotmail is older than my eldest child; however sometimes you just have to move on.
So I’ve created a gmail account and this post is my first test of posting to the blog via gmail and posterous.
All my Google accounts are now accessed via my gmail address which at 19 characters is significantly shorter and simpler than my edumail address (which comes in at 35, including 18 after the @). I’m happy that I now have a web email address at a reliable and reputable site that I know will remain mine – having an edumail address is dependent on being employed in a Victorian school.
Good-bye Hotmail, I won’t be missing the extraordinary range of junk you brought me!

Posted via email from Heather’s posterous


Hotmail hacked

My apologies to anyone who received the previous (now deleted) post.

My rarely used Hotmail account was hacked and a message sent to all my contacts.  I only use Hotmail these days for two things:

  1. When I have to give an email address to a website or for a form where I’d really rather not
  2. To post to this blog using Posterous

Hotmail worked better than my work email for using with Posterous as the messages don’t come with various disclaimers automatically attached.  I’m looking into setting up a new email address just to use for Posterous.

The hacker also deleted all my contacts in Hotmail so I was unable to send a warning email about ignoring the first message.  My own dad didn’t look too closely at the message and automatically clicked the link…I’m hoping there aren’t any damaging repercussions, he has updated his virus software and run a scan.

Anyway, apologies again and a reminder that nothing is really secure.


Where have I been?

I can’t believe that it has been over two months since I posted here. I’ve had lots of good intentions but it has all come to nought! At the end of last term I jotted down some plans for term 3 and in my head I was going to blog about that list, if nothing else it would give me something tangible to work toward/abide by…but life of course got in the way.
About 3 weeks ago I started on a new journey with the Powerful Learning Practice Netbook Trial cohort. It’s a fabulous opportunity, not least because my school is not part of the official DEECD netbook trial (we’re doing our own, funded by our school/parents) – we are very lucky to be included! As part of that I’ve joined the ning and have been following conversations and trying to keep up with acitivities.  Last week Sheryl put out a challenge for members to post a forum discussion or write a blog post.  Last Sunday morning I woke ridiculously early and had a couple of pre-dawn hours to ponder (read panic!) all that I have on my plate at the moment and in particular the crazy week that was in front of me.  It seemed logical to post a discussion around that angst – here it is:

I’m sure I’m not the only person to be feeling overwhelmed at the moment. It’s not just to do with the PLP program – right now I’m:
• leading a Teacher Professional Leave team application process (due August 11)
• part of an AGQTP Professional Learning Leaders Program (presentation due September 11)
• preparing a 23 things type program for teachers on behalf of our curriculum focus group
• managing a year 12 study skills ning, running an uphill battle to get more teachers involved and active
• evaluating our teacher’s IWB use and preparing PD
• running a library for 900 senior students
• supporting our netbook trial teachers
• part of a network of local schools investigating elearning (another AGQTP funded project).

Last week I had meetings after school on four nights and ran a “Brekky bytes” pd session on Friday. There are meetings after school on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week; I have a 7.45am meeting on Tuesday and the first Elluminate session from 8pm that day. I’m at pd for the Professional Learning Leaders Program all day Thursday and Friday.
And of course there’s my family, including two primary aged daughters who need help with their homework, reading listened to, being read to, played with, driven to and from activities, clean clothes and healthy food on the table, and a husband who thinks I spend too much time on the computer.
I’m a “yes” person; I never say no automatically; I’m open to new ideas and I see possibilities not problems. People who say they don’t have time for technology frustrate me, I don’t understand how teachers have time to “not” engage with 21st century tools – they aren’t “more” work, they “are” our work.
But, I’m sure I’m not the only person to be feeling overwhelmed at the moment…
Does anyone have any magic recipes for feeling in control, or any secret weapons, or any advice at all?

So this kind of sums up where I am right now, and why I haven’t been writing here nearly as much as I would like.  I have had some lovely responses on the ning and it has been a lesson for me in trusting in the community – everyone wishes each other well and if you ask, you get good advice.

By the way, I got throught the week outlined above without too many scars.  The children are still happy and well-fed and they made it to their various activities.  The two days at the Professional Learning Leaders Program has left me more confident about our progress and writing this has given me a welcome break from writing the TPL application.  But I’m still very open to advice and suggestions and I’d particularly like a magic formula to give me 30 hours in a day and 8 days a week (5 days work, 3 day weekends) – what do you think?


What have I been doing?

I’ve really dropped off regularly writing for this blog but it hasn’t been deliberate, more the product of a busy life.

I’ve been keeping up (more or less) with Twitter. I go in fits and starts, having extended conversations with a few people over the course of an hour or so, then nothing for a few days. I check in at least a few times each day and am continuing to enjoy the banter – really love the connectedness, even when I’m just observing.

I’ve bought a couple of new toys – my very first iPod, a 16Gb nano and an FM transmitter/charger so I can use it in the car. I downloaded iTunes a couple of months ago, mostly for podcasts, and started loading my CD collection about a month ago. That was a bit erratic, I must say – many of my cd’s loaded without any dramas but more than a few (10-15 out of 120+) make iTunes completely freeze up and it won’t work again until I reboot the computer. Very frustrating, and even more so as no-one I’ve spoken to has ever had the same problem. At first I thought it was something to do with older cd’s but then one from only a couple of years ago did the same thing so who knows?

One of the joys of having the iPod and car kit has been listening to the audio files from the K12 online conference. They are mostly around 20 minutes long so are perfect for my drive to or from work. I know I’m missing out a bit by not having the visual component but I am getting a lot out of what I am hearing and lets face it, if I wasn’t listening while driving to work I wouldn’t get to hear/see them at all. I’m determined that next year I will make the effort to be listening/viewing during the conference period so I can get involved with the live events.

I’m thinking about buying a netbook for various reasons. I’ve used an ASUS eeepc briefly and thought it was pretty natty, but yesterday on twitter and today during the OZNZ Educators meeting the MSI Wind was highly recommended to me by Allison and Dean. I’ll do some further investigating, but it looks like this is a good choice. If the kids are going to have their DS’s I think I definitely need a netbook for our trip to Vietnam – wonder what the wireless availibility will be like?

I’ve been playing with lots of new toys and tools. I’ve installed Skype and had one conversation. I bought my own usb headphone/microphone and have now participated verbally (no camera yet) in the OZNZ Educators meeting. I’ve made a screencast for teachers at my school showing them how they can access our intranet from home and didn’t die of shame or embarrassment when I heard my recorded voice (thought it sounded ok actually). I used Microsoft Community Clips rather than Jing for a smaller file size and more common file type – the picture is not particularly clear but I think it does well enough to get the message across.

I’ve been keeping up with the many blogs I subscribe to through Google reader on my iGoogle page. It’s amazing how quickly the posts stack up. One moment I’m congratulating myself for getting the list to zero and the next thing there’s 20, 50, 100 new posts. I think it’s a big part of why I haven’t been posting myself, I’m too busy reading what all you clever other people have to say and figuring that you say it so much better than I would!

Mostly what I’ve been doing over the past few days (and particularly right now) is avoiding doing any preparation for the presentation I have to do next Friday on blogs and wikis. It’s for a curriculum day at my school so an audience of people I know which is nice…but doesn’t mean I shouldn’t prepare.

Before I finish I just have to play the proud mum and mention my gorgeous girls and the fabulous job they did as flowergirls yesterday. It was the first part of R & H’s wedding celebrations, which will continue in Vietnam in a month, and we’ll be there!