I have just moved to Australia to return to the motherland in the last few months. I have been living overseas for over 22 years and I really do not know too many people here now except family, so it was a great opportunity to attend a conference to meet new people and find out what the Teacher Librarianship scene is like in my new region.
The conference was MANTLE 2017, an annual conference for Teacher Librarians in the Hunter Valley region in NSW. The attendees came from many miles away further than the Hunter Valley, and were from Public, Private and Catholic schools and all with stories of different degrees of support for the school library.
The day started off with a short talk from Jenny Moody the Director of NSW Public Schools, Newcastle. I don't think I listened very well to her talk as I cannot remember what she said!
Next up was the Australian Children's Laureate - Leigh Hobbs. He is such a down to earth, authentic, relaxed speaker, with a very entertaining style of presenting - limited technology, just him talking about why he writes, draws and what happens when he does so. Some of the points I gleaned from his talk:
Not everything needs to be explained, with the combination of words and pictures, children just get it.
When he writes he knows he has only 2 pages where a child will decide if they will accept the world he creates, which means he needs to make it work fast.
He is concerned with what a child sees and feels after reading his books. He wants children to feel safe, that the voice is sincere and they are willing to go along for the ride, meaning he responsibility not to let them down or frighten them.
The way he writes - the text is in the adult voice, the illustrations are in the child's voice and tell more about what is going on. These elements join together to develop visual literacy.
His books are very much his story - his mother recognised the furniture he draws!
His stories and characters are about relationships.
He loves architecture and including it in his books he hopes to inspire children to explore the world to find and experience what he has drawn.
It was lovely to hear how he places the child at the centre of what he does in his writing. That it is not just about writing for his sake, but to enrich children's lives. At the end of his session he took us through a little activity on drawing Old Tom ... with his message that each one of our drawings will be different, because we are different people. My attempt is below, on the right.
Next up on my agenda was Discovery : Senior English with Lara O'Donaghue, a Teacher Librarian who works with senior students. This session was how she supports the NSW English Curriculum theme of 'Discovery' through the library. She outlined the changes to the HSC curriculum (slight differences to a few things), and then showed us some of the ways she collects, curates and promotes the literature required for reading in this syllabus.
She curates using Pinterest, and has developed a number of boards. It is really a comprehensive collection of 'Discovery' on many levels. As her presentation progressed my to be read list grew much longer ... Jasper Jones, Five bells, In between days, All I ever wanted , A long way home, My family and other animals, Genesis, The hen who dreamed she could fly, The Pearl, Winter, The Hate Race, and to watch a short film - The light and the little girl. I think that list will keep me going for a while.
Lara also introduced us to the Pinstamatic App (linked with other similar apps) which can make quotes look really professional. Postermaker was another one she used to make bookmarks, with Canva getting a mention as well.
I also attended Liz Annelli's session on Mapping through Illustration. Liz is an illustrator who works on many projects, including illustrating children's books. Her passion is including maps into her work wherever she can. She feels a very good story can be told through maps, they help to set a scene whether it is fiction or non fiction (I do love a book with a map in it somewhere) and covers history, geography and social aspects of life. Her view is that maps are illustrations of relationships between elements, that could be anything, real or imagined. We then had a short activity where as a group we developed a map of a new world we created - with moats, castles, gallows and all things grim.
Liz has only lived in her new town for 5 years, and to get to know her new home better, she set about creating a map, which has since been embraced by the local community, made into a mural and is given out to tourists to help them explore this city. Check out some other maps she has created of different places.
|Liz Annelli's map of Newcastle, NSW|
Liz was engaging, her work is fabulous and she would make for an excellent illustrator visit to your school.
Makerspaces was next with Michelle Jensen, who is a TL in Sydney with a passion for ensuring young and old apply technological innovation to and in education. This was a completely hands on workshop. We were given instructions and some materials to make an LED light name tag to experience 'making'.
|Success! The light illuminated!|
The next task was to connect the wires (tubes) to create a kit robot that could be controlled by an app on an android phone. There were four in our group with only one robot to make, so one person built it, second person checked it and assisted, third and fourth persons watched and gave input when required. 3 and 4 also went to other tables to find out information/ take photos to learn from.
The robot was built, the appropriate lights flashed and we were excited! The app was downloaded by third person and it was then a time for trial and error, ensuring we bluetooth paired with the correct robot. All of sudden the robot was moving and raced right off the table - before video evidence could be collected!
Due to the sudden leap off the table it had been caught and tubes (wired) had been loosened, it then took a few more minutes to trouble shoot by the whole group to get it going - but perseverance paid off!
You can see our success in the video below.
After lunch we broke into primary & secondary groups, with a panel for each that were going to discuss different questions. I was in the secondary group and the following questions and topics were discussed. I was not able to record much of the discussion as I was listening too hard.
|The panel for the Secondary discussion|
|The panel for the Primary discussion.|
How to get students to move from their comfort zone and progress in their reading?
E-Books - what is happening in schools?
Genrification - does it really make a difference and is it worth the extra work?
How are people effectively using Oliver as their library management system? (This LMS is new to many public schools in NSW).
I met author James Phelan - who I had never heard of before, but now his books join my 'to be read list'.
It was also lovely to unexpectantly re-meet a TL friend from HK who is now working in the region.
From the goody bag, I now have a pair of VR goggles ...
Overall it was a very stimulating day, with loads of learning and networking. Congratulations to the conference committee for pulling it all together so everything seemed seamless. A tough job to do well.