This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to another Friday of great reading from some of the group of Ontario Edubloggers. I hope that you find some inspiration and ideas from these posts I’ve read recently.

The value of the Exit Interview

You know, I’ve “exited” a number of jobs of various sorts but have never had an exit interview that I can remember. I think we all take a job and like to think we’re going to leave things better off than they were before we started. And, probably things were never finished and we had plans on how to improve and make things better for whoever follows us.

I guess maybe it doesn’t happen because it takes a courageous person to conduct the interview knowing that all of the comments might not be positive.

Ann Marie Luce is having a turnover of 20 teachers at her school and she is conducting exit interviews. Each is given 40 minutes for the interview so if you do the math, it’s a pretty big commitment.

In the post, she does describe her philosophy and reasons for doing this, as well as the questions used to frame the discussion.

I hope that the experience gives her much rich feedback to enable her to create an even better learning experience for her students.

The Open Learner Patchbook Went To The PressEd Conference

Sort of related to this is this post from Terry Greene at the PressEd Conference. Terry describes the open patchwork project and how it’s used to collect thoughts from post-secondary students as they handle their time at school.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my own post-secondary experience. It was anything but the environment of today’s student. We weren’t connected; we didn’t have open courses; we didn’t have instructors that were putting their learning online as they were teaching.

We were, I guess, what you would call pretty traditional. Our resources involved textbooks, professors, and teaching assistants. They certainly weren’t available 24/7 and just a click away. You had to make appointments for consults and it was for a specific time.

All of this was running through my mind as I enjoyed the curation of student content that Terry did for this. We’re anywhere but in Kansas anymore!

A highlight from this post was this great graphic by Samantha Pitcher.

A Day (or three) in the Life of this Grosvenor Teacher Fellow

With apologies to Peter Cameron, I expected a summary of life online for whatever the topic happened to be.


Peter, along with a number of other educators were rewarded for their work by National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions with a nature learning trip to Sitka, Alaska.

A lesser classroom would have had plans for an occasional teacher while their regular teacher was out on a Professional Learning activity. Not in Mr. Cameron’s.

Peter had the students doing research and plotted the entire adventure on a Google Tour Builder. He remained connected to the classroom via social media.

Peter’s adventure

Everyone sure seemed to get a great deal of bang for their educational buck.

It’s just too bad that, to get to Seattle from Thunder Bay, you have to go through Toronto.

H is for Happy

I keep checking in to Lynn Thomas’ blog as she’s working her way through the alphabet. Recently, she’s celebrating H.

Her take was that “H was for Happy”.

The whole premise was that happy students and happy environments make for the best learning environment. I think it’s difficulty to disagree, especially when you look at the opposite – what does unhappiness in the classroom or your life bring? Certainly not the desire to learn.

Turns out, it has far more to offer than a sunny disposition and feeling contented. Parents are right to want happiness in their children albeit it is unlikely they know the science of why.

Her approach goes way beyond scratching the surface and brings into play research into happiness. There are lots of links to lots of resources to make it worth your while – including lesson plans and resources for teaching happiness.

Sharing the LLC Space- An Advocate’s Infographic

There’s nothing quite like a look into someone’s library. Beth Lyons takes us inside hers. Take a peek.

By itself, a picture or two may not tell the whole story and advocating for her learning space is the major focus here. Beth shares a couple of custom infographics that she created to share with everyone the great learning and the great opportunities that are there inside Mrs. Lyon’s library.

I can’t help but think that those infographics should be posted in every classroom in the school to help students as they turn to assignments and projects and they’re wondering where they might begin.

There’s much to enjoy about this advocacy post. Obviously, the infographic, but the social media connection is right there. This library won’t get lost!

Shouldn’t everyone be doing this?

The Caterpillar Math Problem: Is it possible to be unbiased in our assessment?

I suspect that the quick and easy answer is “Of course, we are unbiased.” Read on with this long discussion from Debbie Donsky. Her school did more than skim the surface on this question.

It starts with caterpillar problems offered to different classes.

The series of questions shared with staff were:

K-1: A kindergarten class needs 2 leaves each day to feed 1 caterpillar. How many leaves would they need each day for 3 caterpillars?

Grades 2- 3: A third grade class needs four leaves each day to feed its two caterpillars. How many leaves would they need each day for 12 caterpillars?

Grades 4–6: A fifth grade class needs five leaves each day to feed its two caterpillars. How many leaves would they need each day for a) 12 caterpillars? b)15 caterpillars?

The questions were given and observations with discussions during a debriefing are shared in this post.

Debbie shares a deep analysis of the process and the discussion. It wouldn’t be fair for me to try and capture that here; you’ll have to click through and read it in all its original context on the post.

Web Intentions

Sheila Stewart starts with

I have been thinking about my experiences online and on social media in the past few years and what has impacted my experiences and participation.  There is a lot of pondering: “Is it just me, or is it the web?”; “Is it the world, or the web?”; “Have ‘things’ changed, or have I?” 

I guess I can take a bit of the credit for starting this thinking on a recent blog post but I was originally inspired by the writing of Bonnie Stewart. To answer Sheila’s questions, working and interacting on line have definitely changed.

And, I mean working and interacting in the most literal of meanings. When the sample who were online and connected was smaller, I think that people were more devoted and focussed about what they were doing – and were serious about it.

Today, there are more people than ever connected and they bring abilities and mindsets from all over the place. It’s easy to see a few (I was going to use the word “bad actors” but that’s maybe not fair) different actors use the technology and its abilities to do things far differently from what we did. As I said in my post, people seem to need to shock and scream loudly to get attention focused on them. Whatever happened to collaboration? Maybe that’s a topic for a Sunday.

I’ll bet that a read of Sheila’s post will have you scratching your head and coming up with your own theories.

I hope that you have time this Friday or through the weekend to take a few clicks and enjoy these posts in their original locations.

Then, follow these people on Twitter.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs is a recurring Friday morning post highlighting some of the great blogging happening in Ontario. Are you an Ontario blogger that I don’t know about? Let me know! I’d love to add you to this collection. There’s a form at the link above to add your details.

This post appeared originally at:

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s another Friday and a chance to take a look at some of the recent blogging entries from Ontario Edubloggers.

Exploring By The Seat of Your Pants

There are some amazing things that can happen when you share the best of ideas and opportunities. Brenda Sherry does this in this post.

She’s been well versed in the Exploring by the Seat of your Pants project in a number of professional learning events that she’s been a part of. Recently, she actually got to bring the power of connections to a classroom in her own school.

Junior students got to participate in an interaction with a Canadian marine biologist. Along with students from many other diverse places.

When you think about the traditional guest speaker, they drop in and talk and leave. The power in this model is that it’s recorded and shared via YouTube. In this way, you can revisit the event and also use it in other years. Heck, since it’s publically available, you’re not just limited to the one that your class used.

It sounds like a wonderful learning experience happened. The big takeaway for you, reader, is how to get involved in your own classroom by bringing an expert into there. Details are included in Brenda’s post.

The Gender Gap in Technology

You can’t argue with statistics. In this post on the Heart and Art blog, Michelle Fenn sets the stage.

According to a recent report* by ICTC (the Information and Technology Information Council) Canadian women represent about 50% of the overall workforce but represent only 25% of the technology industry workforce. 

We’ve known this forever, it seems, and yet the inequities still exist. Michelle offers some good suggestions to help change things in your own school.

I think it needs to go further though. If we know that this is a problem then there should be an educational way to fix it. But, until it becomes a compulsory part of the curriculum, we’re left with good people trying their best. That pales in comparison to what can happen if it’s done systemically and supported well with a common set of tools and pedagogy.

In addition to the suggestions in the post, check out the NCWIT website for updates on their activities and for free resources.

Until the situation is formally recognized though, students will still be subjected to hit and miss approaches and cutesy little standalone professional learning activities.

Privilege Masquerading as Superiority

A secondary school teacher who is doing something about this is Tim King. This post details his efforts and observations as he takes an all-female team to the Cybertitan competition.

Tim weaves an interesting story involving both observation and action.

Some of these observations are disturbing.

– where are all the girls?

– A number of people (oddly all male)  grumbled about the all-female wildcard spot

– taking an all-female crew to this event had me constantly seeing micro-aggressions I might have otherwise missed

– we were only there because we’re a girl’s team

– as she reached for the pen a boy from another team stepped in front of her like she wasn’t there

And there’s more. You need to set aside a significant amount of time to read this post where even creating the learning environment was not supported by the school district and the students had to build their own computers.

Just Stop Using “You Guys”

My apologies, in advance, to Sue Dunlop. When I saw the title of this post, I thought it read “Youse guys” and that it was going to be a fun little post about literacy.

Instead, it’s about the expression that is used to refer to a group of people.

yes, “guys’ is a male term, not a neutral one

From the post, it’s clear that Sue has either been in a group that was addressed this way or she saw it being used in that way. Either way, it inspired her to write about it.

She offers some alternatives to use in the post.

Most importantly, it’s a reminder that our choice of words is important. It serves as a reminder to me of the importance of an objective peer coach.

This applies to writing as well. I hope that I don’t use expressions that would offend; I would hope that readers feel comfortable enough to let me know when I do; and I would hope that I would take that as an opportunity to avoid doing it again.

Dear Jordan…

One of the powerful things about blogging is that, at least for now, your thoughts will be there forever. (or until you delete it or the service goes away or … well, you get my meaning)

One of the things that Patt Olivieri will have a chance to do with her son is share this post when he’s old enough to fully appreciate it.

In education, we know all about assessment, evaluation, and data points. Our system and our jobs thrive on it. It’s one of the things that separate education workers from other workers. It’s scientific, artistic, and humanist all at the same time.

It’s not as powerful as a mother’s love for her child.

You see, my love, there is no test for all of this, no grade, no level that can ever capture the everyday, ordinary stuff that accumulates to the only stuff that can ever be measured in immeasurable ways.


If you’re a parent, you’ll be moved by this post.

When Political Penny-Pinchers Pilfer Your PD

Alanna King didn’t post this to her personal blog (at least not yet) so I kind of stumbled onto it on the Canadian School Libraries site.

It was great to see a former colleague quoted in Alanna’s post. A bit of trivia – her office had a window, mine didn’t.

There are two major topics that Alanna addresses in this post.

  • Why should teacher-librarians self-direct their professional development?
  • How should teacher-librarians find sources of professional development?

It was good to see that the Bring IT, Together Conference and #ECOOcamp made her list. It goes much further than that and you’ll find yourself tired when you read about Alanna’s endeavours and recognized that they’re all tacked on top of her day job, including writing this post.

There was another area that I thought she could have addressed more completely and, perhaps it’s in a future post, but in addition to her involvement as a participant in things, she is also a highly sought after presenter.

If you’ve ever been a presenter yourself, and what teacher hasn’t in some form, you know that the research and preparation that goes into that can be some of the best professional learning that you’ll ever do. Unlike the professional that repeats the same session over and over again, changing your topics and focus regularly keeps you from going stale.


Now, here’s something completely different from James Skidmore. It falls from a reflection on student abilities from a course that he just taught. He notes that they’re good readers but …

What they can’t do, however, or at least not do very well, is identify passages or quotations from the novel that can be used as the cornerstone for a commentary on the larger text, and then build a commentary based on that passage.

I’d never really thought about this. Now that I have, I would like to think that that is part of what I’m trying to do with these regular Friday posts. I guess it’s a bit of a confession that I try to apply this technique to blog posts which are, by design, short and typically focus on one thing. How would I make out in a larger text? I’ve never thought about it and I wonder.

James has done some research and finds that there isn’t much that has been done already. What to do? He’s going to make it a project for eCampusOntario Extend mOOC . You can read about it and there’s a link to a collaborative document in his post.

I wonder if there are any other teachers of Language that would be interested.

And that’s a wrap.

Like always, some great thinking from Ontario Educators. Please take the time to honour their efforts by clicking through and reading the original.

Then, follow them on Twitter.

This post originally appeared on:

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not original.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s time for my weekly roundup and sharing of some of the reading I did this past week from great Ontario Edubloggers.

F is for Frankenstein, Focus & Future Ready

Lynn Thomas is on a personal project working her way through the alphabet and is up to the Fs. An F word that could have been used here as well would be failure!

Lynn takes a look at the original intent of Victor Frankenstein and how the plan actually failed badly. She ties it to the current plan to require four courses of eLearning for graduation in Ontario. You can easily see that it’s a “Make in Toronto” solution where connectivity isn’t a problem should you choose to afford it.

Supporting her cause are a couple of maps of the province showing where connections lie. This one, shared by Lynn, is from Connected North.

The discussion never actually gets around the appropriateness of students to work in that environment – it’s just getting that horse to water in the first place that will be the first challenge.

Maker. Space. Inquiry. Place. What might be the connection?

There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle that teacher-librarian Beth Lyons ties together in this post. The concept of a Maker Space shouldn’t be new to anyone these days.

There’s a twist here worthy of note.

First of all, there’s the connection to the Forest of Reading. That was an important twist for me and I’m sure will appeal to other teacher-librarians.

Then, there’s the analysis of what making actually means. Like so many schools, making in Beth’s world could easily involve booking the library and having a making period. Early models of computer implementation were done this way and we knew that there had to be a better way.

Beth follows along with making making (yes, I just said that) come to the students as opposed to students coming to the making. This is accomplished with her concept of Genius Carts.

It’s well thought through, she includes a link to a presentation she made about the topic and she’s also indicating that she’s collecting data to provide proof of concept.

As a followup to the original concept, Beth is looking at a podcasting bent to the next iteration. I like this approach.

It makes so much sense.

Moccasin Flowers: A Work-in-Progress

If you want the spoiler, go to the bottom of this post from Jessica Outram.

She’s already an author, although currently unpublished. The plan is to write another novel and publish it this time.

What strikes me as so unique in this is a personal analysis of her family, history, traditions, immigration and DNA research. It’s sort of a marriage of old and traditional with new and cutting edge.

I won’t spoil the result for you – click through to read her post for more.

Other than outlining her plans and I hope she gets published before someone rips off her idea, she does a wonderful job of personal storytelling that leads to her thinking about this project. There’s a wonderful retelling of parts of her history in the post.

I could see this being a very powerful novel and noteworthy for reading and studying in the classroom.

I hope that this actually happens; I’d buy the book.

We teach students not just content

A couple of Twitter messages was the inspiration for Lisa Cranston to write this post about going to school now and measuring time until the end of the school year.

The reality hit a little close to my memory of me as a first year teacher.

Obviously, it was my first time through the curriculum but I can recall returning from March Break and started to panic thinking that I might not get the curriculum covered before the end of the school year.

Oh no! What to do!

I suspect that people who are teaching in the EQAO years have the same level of discomfort.

Lisa offers a reality check for all and will make you think – just what is it that you’re in the profession to do?

A Positive Climate For A Culture Of Growth

How could you not like a blog post that has a Superman reference?

Frustration is the kryptonite to healthy culture

So, just get rid of the frustration and things are good, right?

Joel McLean argues that you need to go further.

Much has been written and discussed about creating a culture of growth. If that was all that was done here, it wouldn’t be all that exciting.

Joel goes further, though, and asks how to maintain things. That’s a whole different animal.

And, if you work your way through the list, you can see that it’s pretty much a full time job. That’s a good thing. That’s why we have leaders who do good things.

I’ll bet that it’s a piece of cake to visualize people in leadership that don’t do these things. It’s also to see just how little they lead and have the respect of those who they’re paid to lead.

When a Drawing is Not Just a Drawing

There’s a lot to be pulled from this post from Heather Theijsmeijer.

Her context is as a mathematics leader within a school district and a focus on mental mathematics.

A good annotation can also help uncover student misconceptions, and help them realize where they might have gone wrong. Or, it might lead to a completely different way of thinking about a problem. In either case, that visualization can be quite powerful.

I think we can all agree about the concept and the need and importance for visualization when attempting to solve mathematics problem. In the post, she goes through a great deal of sharing about how she thinks her way through what goes into the creation of a drawing to help with that visualization. There’s a lot of thought that goes into this.

If you think about the “good old days” when we learned mathematics, I’m sure that there was nowhere this amount of thought that went into the drawings that helped us visualize and understand.

TTalks for Impact 2019

Noa Daniel is always good for a new, inspirational approach to things. In this case, she describes the process of a TTalk.

There’s an amalgamation of TED-like talks and Genius hour strategies as students reached out in solution for real-world problems.

In her approach, she sees a big list of 21st Century skills.

  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • information literacy
  • media literacy
  • technology literacy
  • organization
  • self-regulation
  • responsibility 
  • initiative 

Her students did buy in and blogging was an integral way of getting their thoughts organized.

Student voice is highlighted with their reflections at the conclusion. Could you use such an approach?

Please take the time to click through and enjoy these posts in their entirety. I think you’ll enjoy them immensely.

And, make sure that you’re following these folks on Twitter.

This post originally appeared on:

An Interview with Carol Koechlin


Carol Koechlin describes herself as:

Supporting school library transformations to a Learning Commons approach of learning for the future, with a focus on collaborative knowledge building.”

Doug:  Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Carol.  Do you recall when our paths first crossed? Online or off – your choice or both.

Carol: Well Doug, I knew of your important work through participating in ECOO conferences over the years and of course through our mutual friend Anita Brooks Kirkland. The first time we really met though I believe was OLA SuperConference 2012 when we worked on a novel presentation initiative called the The Great Web 2.0 Face-Off! We had two teams facing off who had a few minutes to present a Web 2.0 tech tool they liked . You were captain of one of those teams. Really fun.

Doug:  That really was a great deal of fun, Carol.  I was flipping through that program just the other day.  Zoe Branigan-Pipe and I did a reprise at the ECOO Conference the year afterwards and a principal at my former board had us come and do the same thing for his staff.

I’ve long known you as a strong advocate for libraries and learning commons in the province.  Where and when did the notion of the change from library to Learning Commons get its roots?

Carol: As they say, it is a long story but I will keep it short and focus on Learning Commons in schools rather than the history and evolution of the term.  In 2007 my colleague Sandi Zwaan and I teamed up with Dr. David Loertscher a professor at San Jose University to study what we could do to help school libraries transition to address evolving shifts in learning and the role school libraries could play to advance and support new needs of both students and teachers. Both pedagogical shifts and advances in technologies were changing the way information was accessed and used in schools as well as the world in general. At that time many others were talking about the same question and everyone was coming to the same conclusion, school libraries could indeed help shape the new learning movements and needed to expand their focus. We looked to the way university libraries were moving in their efforts to become a common portal for information needs in their learning community. Some had already adopted the name ‘Learning Commons’. We were convinced that a name change was also critical for school libraries if they were to be accepted as more than a traditional library. The traditional role of a library was and is still very important but we envisioned the potential for so much more. Over time we consulted with teacher librarians who were doing exciting and courageous work already, explored innovative learning approaches and researched what was needed and where the gaps were. Eventually we met face to face here in Ontario to begin drafting our vision. As I said we knew that others around the world were working on transitioning of school libraries to learning spaces that kept pace with change so we felt confident that we were on the right track. The term Learning Commons (LC) was right for what we were aiming for – common spaces both physical and virtual designed to engage approaches to learning for today that best prepare learners for the future. Our first publication on this subject in 2008, The New Learning Commons: Where Learners Win started the ball rolling. Many more publications, workshops, articles, presentations, webinars and consultations later helping administrators, teacher-librarians and other school library professionals with the journey from library to learning commons has been most rewarding. The approach we envisioned has been widely accepted in many schools and districts and the best part is each school and district have put their own spin on it to create dynamic learning environments and innovative programs that best meet their needs .

In Canada, Ontario led the way provincially with the writing of Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons in 2010. The Ontario Ministry originally requested that the OSLA writing team develop a vision for schools for learning for the future. The vision of this document is widely accepted in Ontario and across the country. Soon after that Alberta announced a policy document for School Library Learning Commons, BCTLA the British Columbia Teacher-Librarians Association published a formative documentation of their teacher inquiry From School Library to Library Learning Commons: A Pro-Active Model for Educational Change and just a few weeks ago another provincial curriculum support document was released in Newfoundland and Labrador, Extending the Classroom: the Library Learning Commons. With the development of Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada now translated as L’apprentissage en tête: Principes relatifs à la transition de la bibliothèque scolaire vers le carrefour d’apprentissage au Canada, schools from coast to coast to coast have a support document to guide transitions and growth. We also have formed a national association (CSL) Canadian School Libraries with the mission “to assist schools in working toward excellence of school library learning commons teaching and learning approaches and facilities to prepare students in Canada with skills and opportunities for learning today and into the future.”

Screenshot 2019-03-03 at 13.54.37

Canadian School Libraries 2019

Doug:  Over your professional careers, you would have been in a number of library situations.  Can you describe for us, your very first one?

Carol:  My first experiences in a school library teaching position took place over a number of years supply teaching when my children were young. This is where I fell in love with the ‘idea’ of teacher-librarian however I did not act on it for some time because I couldn’t type and I rationalized that if I couldn’t create all those neat little cards so expertly filed in all those little drawers of the card catalogue then there was no way I could take on the role! (I hope we haven’t just lost half your readers now who have no idea what I am talking about.) I didn’t give up my dream though and as I was doing supply work I started to upgrade my skills and acquired additional qualifications in reading, next I took the very first computers in education course offered in Scarborough Board, dare I tell you that we learned to program on an application called, Turtle. That is probably even before your experiences Doug. Well I lost my fear of keyboards and gained another love, the potential of computers in education. Librarianship courses were next and when I was ready to go back to work permanently a half time library position became available in a large K – 8 school. The family of schools in this area were deeply immersed in both thinking skills and inquiry learning and I worked hard to support the work teachers were doing. It soon became apparent to the staff and administration that it was important for me to be working with them all day because in a school of 600 there just wasn’t enough time in half a day for me to support inquiry for all of them. So my position became full time and we were able to do some very exciting work together. About the same time “Partners in Action”, the Ontario Ministry of Ed document outlining collaborative programming for school libraries, was receiving attention. The Learning Resources department in Scarborough had word of the inquiry work we were doing at my school and we were selected as one of the schools to first implement Partners in Action. I was fortunate to work with amazing classroom teachers and administration to create some very cool learning experience for students. We were one of the first schools to have computers for student use and admin decided they should be in the library where everyone had access. We were also the first wave of libraries to be automated which really boosted my skills in a hurry. I was full time teacher-librarian in this school for over nine years thus I was able to see students grow over their entire elementary years. I can’t tell you how important that was in the formation of the design of learning approaches in the library. When I started to publish these approaches they were grounded in years of actual experiences and what one would now call teacher research. Over several summers I taught summer school in Secondary school libraries so that experience prepared me for working centrally to support school library programming in all schools in Scarborough and then after amalgamation TDSB. In my central role my professional learning skyrocketed, we were so fortunate in those years to be led by superintendents who believed in investing in support staff. I gave back all that knowledge and more by leading additional qualification courses for York and OISE UT for many years, sharing my ideas in numerous publications with my colleagues Sandi and David and leading professional learning for others nationally and internationally. Of course when you share you also get back so I kept pace with evolving ideas and approaches in education by surrounding myself with a great network. Happy to say that my appetite for learning and mentoring others has never left me.

Doug:  An integral part of any library or learning commons in 2019 is the connection to the digital resource world.  How important is it for the teacher-librarian to be fluent in the use of computers connected to the internet?

Carol: The expertise of teacher- librarians is needed more than ever today particularly because of the opportunities for learning that technology and the Internet bring as well as the challenges. Because they are teachers also, teacher-librarians can apply their specialized knowledge to curriculum and the design of best learning environments and teaching and learning experiences for all learners. Teacher-librarians must continually hone their digital fluency so they can successfully help lead their school(s) to working, researching, playing, creating, experimenting and communicating in a digital world. A few ways teacher-librarians make a difference:

  • Curators of best digital resources and this goes hand in hand with extension of the LC to a VLC open 24/7 for students and staff
  • Designing learning experiences to utilize best tech to do the job – databases,Google tools, social media, creation tools etc. and then coaching students and staff to use the tech effectively and in turn help each other – this is the culture of the LC
  • Teaching and leading information literacy (Internet in an era of misinformation and fake news elevates the need for this expertise).
  • Ensuring all learners know how to use information ethically and legally and taking a lead on digital citizenship.
  • Using best tech to make learning more collaborative and participatory – taking learning global
  • Encouraging experimentation – making –coding – STEM and STEAM – VR – Robotics

Doug:  The answer to that was probably very easy for you as an advocate.  But, how does someone get started in this area of literacy? How do they stay on top of the latest?

Carol: Teacher-librarians have always been keen adapters and promoters of information technology tools. I won’t take your readers way back to the days of filmstrips but every mode of information access and communication is important in the school library, the central place where all learners can work and learn with the best tools and resources. With regard to computers, automation of school libraries was the first driving force. School library professional had to become tech savvy very fast. Soon TLs found themselves with whole computer labs in the library space. Many took on the tech lead in schools, helping other teachers who had limited experience with technology especially when report cards also became automated. Today with the advent of wireless technologies and hand held devices you find that technologies in the learning commons are ubiquitous, just part of the learning environment. Teacher-librarian training programs today like most teacher training programs are virtual and infuse opportunities for teachers to utilize the best virtual resources and tools available so they may become excellent designers of learning experiences for their students. We are way beyond ‘using technology just because’ and now start with learning and find the best tech tool to achieve the desired results. Of course we all need to learn new tech tools and this is where the learning commons can again be a huge help in every school. Many teacher-librarians establish a club of sorts for students interested in trying out new apps and tools and then teaching applications to others. They often set up a ‘Help Station’ in the LC or send out students to classrooms sort of Geek Squad style. As for staying on top, school library professionals work in a world of fast paced information so they latch on to anything new pretty quickly and in Ontario we have ECOO right! 🙂

Doug:  Right, Absolutely!  A substantial number of attendees and presenters at the Bring IT, Together Conference are teacher-librarians.

In your work provincially, you will have seen and discussed various school districts implementations of the contemporary library.  Without naming names, what makes a school district rise to the top in your eyes? How?

Carol: As we have followed the growth of school libraries to learning commons in North America the districts that have been the most successful are those where there is excellent central support and leadership for school libraries and where very early on technology leaders formed partnerships with district school library consultant/coordinators to plan for transitions and training. Also at the highest levels there must be an understanding of the benefits of the learning commons to support many district and school goals and drive whole school improvement and of course there must be a commitment to reinvest in staffing, spaces and resources. Transition does not have to be a financial burden to the school or district because the early stages involve preparing flexible learning spaces in the library and building virtual spaces where students have access 24/7. The design of collaborative learning is easier after the spaces are deliberately prepared to support active participatory learning. I would like to link your readers to successful transition stories in process so they have a more concrete idea of the many ways districts can lead the way. This is a link to a section of Canadian School Libraries (CSL) website we have prepared to help school districts get started. Please check out Leading the Way with the Library Learning Commons  for a variety of starting approaches.

Screenshot 2019-03-03 at 13.53.20

Canadian School Libraries 2019

Doug:  Similarly, without naming names, you will be aware of school districts that are falling behind.  How does one know if they’re failing? How?

Carol: I am not a formal researcher but turning to those who are we can see that many schools in Ontario are disadvantaged because they have no teacher-librarian or other trained professional leading the school library program. See People for Education School Libraries 2017. This report reveals troubling regional disparities. Only 52 % of schools in Ontario have a full or part time TL – secondary are generally better staffed – 46 % of elementary school have library technicians. Volumes of Canadian and International research demonstrate the connection between school library programs and student success. See Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Classroom teachers all work very hard but without the support of specialist teachers like teacher-librarians to help them design and implement the high level inquiry and discovery learning experiences demanded in today’s curriculum it will be very tough. Without excellent library collections both physical and virtual curated by information experts, students will also be severely disadvantaged. We know that independent reading and enjoying reading is key to long term success for students and the research tells us that in schools with teacher-librarians more students report that they enjoy reading. We know that only access to computers and the Internet does not transfer into learning, quite the opposite sometimes. We know that students and teachers face all kinds of information problems like validating information, ‘fake news’, social media misuse, cyberbullying, copyright and plagiarism. School library professionals and especially teacher-librarians are more needed than ever today.

Doug:  How can a teacher-librarian and a school convince their parents that their students need to have all that a well equipped library has?

Carol: It is firstly important for the TL and admin to be seen as a team working together to help all students be the best they can be. As a team they next need to share knowledge of how and why school libraries are evolving to better address the needs and interests of today’s learners and what is possible in a well-equipped learning commons. Link the work of the LC to school goals. Don’t be afraid to share key findings in the research and quotes by leading education leaders like the one from inquiry learning expert Trevor MacKenzie today on Twitter

Parents need to be aware that investment in resources, technologies and furnishings as well as staffing in the LC benefits everyone as the space is accessible to all. Best of all though is showing parents learning in action in the LC continuously all year. When I was a practising TL we prepared newsletters we sent home for each new unit of instruction, informing families of the learning process and also inviting them to participate in any culminating sharing of student work. I took lots of photos and video of students during work in the library and on parent interview nights and open house I always had a TV set up outside the library door with a continuous feed of learning in action. This made folks stop not just pass up the library and usually they came in to see what else was going on. Many TLs today create a Twitter account for the LC and post frequent updates complete with photos and video. Today with the availability of so many cool communication tools there are many ways to bridge the gap between home and school. Indeed many refer to the school LC as third space for kids, neither home nor school exactly but a special learning space where they can learn and network with each other but also relax, play, and pursue their own interests.

Doug:  If you were brought in to advise on the construction of a brand new library / learning commons / makerspace, what sorts of things would you recommend?

Carol: Wouldn’t that be fun! I have helped lots of school libraries plan for transitions but always in an existing library, usually crammed to the ceiling with stuff that no one in the school knew what to do with so the first step was a demolition job . Guiding questions for early transition: If it doesn’t move, does it belong? If we aren’t using it, do we need it?

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Canadian School Libraries 2019

Whether the library in question is fifty years old or a brand new construction the first thing I would recommend is that we develop a Learning Commons Leadership Team with representation from all stakeholders – administration, school library professionals, other teachers and specialists, students and parents. This team needs to do their homework and research what a LC is and how it benefits teaching and learning. Visit existing LCs in person and virtually and ask lots of questions. Call in a district architect if possible, they know what can and can’t happen structurally. Establish a vision that supports district and school learning goals, make a plan and just get started. Every school will have a different vision based on what they are trying to accomplish so no two LCs would every look the same however I suggest attention to the following features.

Necessary elements in the physical LC include but are not limited to:

  • Located in a central area of the school with attention to access for all.
  • Wide open spaces with good natural lighting and sight lines.
  • As much of the shelving on the walls as possible and not too high.
  • Flexible furnishings that can be configured in many ways.
  • A teaching area with appropriate presentation and teaching technologies and moveable chairs and tables that can be configured easily to suit the need.
  • An inviting area with comfortable seating for pleasure reading and study.
  • Robust internet to support wireless mobile devices, charging stations of course.
  • Carts to store mobile devices to borrow (laptops, chrome books, I pads etc.)
  • A dedicated area, for making and storing maker materials and equipment (with a sink).
  • Areas to display and celebrate student work and local art.
  • Computers and desk located close to the entrance, dedicated to library catalogue searches and circulation (Number of computers depends on the size of the school).
  • A glassed off workroom /office area with cupboards for library materials, a sink and shelving for professional resources. This room should be large enough for teacher team meetings.

Would be nice and certainly should be aimed for in a new build:

  • A glassed off room for quiet study and group collaborations.
  • A media production center (green screen, cameras, lighting, microphones etc.)
  • A large seminar room set up with whiteboards and interactive conferencing technologies for presentations with authors and other guests that could double as a professional learning/collaboration center.

The Virtual Learning Commons (VLC) is also critical and goes hand in hand with all work in the physical LC and the rest of the school community. The VLC is more than a website; it is also a collaborative space to work, play and learn and must be a component of the design of the LC.

Doug:  We know that the process will never be complete.  Gaze in your crystal ball and tell us three things that will be appearing in the well equipped library in the next five years.

Carol: That’s right Doug, the learning commons will always be in Beta; there is no destination point as such. A good LC is always responsive to change in learners and their needs, changes in curriculum and pedagogy and of course the ever evolving world of information and technologies.

A learning commons is not so much about the name of the spaces, the furnishings or technologies. It’s all about results. No cookie cutter plan – If things aren’t working we continuously rethink, rework, redesign until we find what works for our particular learning community. Every school will have a different set of needs and approaches to the Learning Commons. Perhaps the ‘common’ element should be everyone working together to be the best they can be. Having explained the notion of continuous change and growth my response to your question will have to be a combination of things and happenings I guess.

  1. I expect in five years’ time the school LC both elementary and secondary will still source and house the best print learning materials possible with an emphasis on inclusion for all.
  2. The VLC will be in every student’s pocket and become even more critical to all aspects of learning and sharing understanding and collaborative knowledge building.
  3. Both physical and virtual learning environments will continue to offer best technologies and resources for teaching and learning. Discovery learning and experimentation (makerspace, coding, robotics etc.) will continue to expand providing opportunities for all interests to flourish.

My crystal ball hopes for the future require adequate funding and deliberate reinvestment in school libraries as learning commons by those in charge of educational decisions. The vision for whole school improvement though learning commons approaches is established and pretty well every school in Ontario/Canada has a school library either well along on the journey just waiting to be transformed to support the vision.  

Doug:  How important is it for today’s teacher-librarian to be connected to colleagues outside of their building?  To that end, if I asked you to create a short list of ten Twitter using teacher-librarians, who would be on that list?

Carol: Too many districts are lacking central support and professional learning time dedicated to the specialized needs of school library professionals; this is a huge disadvantage for growth. For all teacher-librarians isolation is a problem as their challenges are a little different from other classroom teachers and specialists in the school. I encourage all school library professionals to reach out and create a Twitter account. Go slow but do try to get online for 5 minutes every day or 2 – 3 minutes twice a day at first so you get a feel for the potential. It is such a good time investment with regard to your own professional learning. You will find lots of inspiration through work shared and links to more, even if it is not specific to your district. Begin to follow those who inspire you the most and build a learning network of supportive folks who are doing great things around the country and the world. Contribute your successes and challenges, ask questions, respond to others and you will soon feel the joys of being part of an active learning community. Follow professional groups too like CSL @CdnSchoolLibrar  and Leading Learning @CSL_Learning to discover more connections to learning commons program and free resources and guides – CSL recently put up a new project,  Culturally Relevant and Responsive School Library Learning Commons with many tools to help schools build more inclusive collections and learning spaces. With all humility I hope they also follow Anita @AnitaBK  and me @infosmarts too 🙂

  • Now to get to the task you asked for Doug it is very tough and the only reason I was able to narrow down to ten was my confidence in the knowledge that as soon as your readers started following these 10 active Ontario teacher-librarians they would soon be linked to hundreds more talented educators, authors and illustrators, poets, publishers and organizations in Canada and beyond.
  • @banana29
  • @ the_mulc
  • @ JennMacBrown
  • @ mrfusco
  • @mrslyonslibrary
  • @TL_Kate
  • @Tina_Surdivall
  • @MzMollyTL
  • @joelkrentz
  • @Freibauer

Doug:  What issues surrounding copyright are important for every graduate of an Ontario school to completely understand?

Carol: It has always been important for students to know that it is their responsibility to acknowledge the work of others in their own research and creations. They need to understand that intellectual property is a legal issue and includes artistic works like videos, music and photographs as well as print texts. We teach students from a very early age that they need to document their sources and then as they move up the grades how to do proper referencing and citations when sharing their work. In this age of experimentation and innovation students are encouraged to create new works to express their learning through videos, mashups and other multimedia pieces. It is just as important now in this digital age of “cut and paste” for kids to acknowledge where the original works came from in their final sharing product. Visuals are particularly tricky and most often used with total disregard of copyright or acknowledgement. I know I will get some kickback on this but even though our copyright laws give licence to the use of short pieces from the works of others for educational purposes, I have always championed the idea that ethically we all should give credit where credit is due and in fact this is stated in educational copyright laws. Unfortunately using information ethically and legally gets a little blurred when we move from print to other forms of media. Teacher-librarians continuously work on all aspects of copyright and provide learners with help and guidance. They post this kind of help on school library webpages along with several sites that students can use to find free images and music for their products. Teacher-librarians show students how to use filters and preform searches to find digital images that can be used freely and even adapted, still we teach students to give credit because that is being a responsible user of information.

Information ethics is a component of digital citizenship. An excellent reference for teachers was developed by TALCO, the Association of Library Consultants and Coordinators of Ontario

Recommended also for teachers are Copyright Matters and Fair Dealing Decision Tool and Guidelines.

Doug:  Can a school library learning commons be effective when it’s staffed by someone without teacher-librarian qualifications?

Carol: Back to the research, we know that when teacher-librarians collaborate on designing learning with classroom teachers good things happen. A learning commons is much more than a ‘place’, it is all about creating excellent teaching and learning experiences within this learning environment deliberately designed to ignite participatory learning. Consequently this approach is most effective when staffed by a full time teacher-librarian who has open time in the schedule to work collaboratively with classroom teachers to design, teach and assess best learning experiences that make use of the rich differentiated resources, spaces and technologies available in the LC. A library technician assigned to work collaboratively with the teacher-librarian would be even better, allowing even more time dedicated to teaching, but funding is never available for that scenario any more.

Many schools in Ontario/Canada are staffed by professional library technicians or professional librarians who have latched on to the learning commons approach and are doing an excellent job of designing open flexible spaces in the library and maintaining print and digital resources for learning. In these schools both teachers and students benefit greatly by the new learning environment. The design of the learning experiences and utilizing technologies and resources in teaching and learning rests with each classroom teacher in these schools.

The bottom line is a school LC needs to be open, staffed by professionals and ready for business at all times. A facility that is closed to students and teachers because of no staffing is a sad waste of resources and a real handicap to learning. The Leading Learning writing team wrestled with the variety of staffing realities that exist across the country and prepared a list of creative scenarios to help all schools start working towards a learning commons approach no matter what their current staffing realities are. The LC movement is about designing the best learning environments and experiences for students in every school. Every child deserves no less.

Doug:  What professional organizations do you recommend today’s teacher-librarian join immediately if they’re not already a member?

Carol: As well as their own teaching organizations, almost every province and territory in Canada has a professional School Library Organization so that is a must. I am not sure if other districts have computer organizations like ECOO but that is also a must for Ontario TLs. I also recommend the provincial chapters of ASCD to keep on the cutting edge of pedagogical thinking. Then there are many other educational organizations like Media Smarts that TLs should be following and supporting, the important thing is to keep informed and share what you learn. And for everyone please join CSL, there is no fee or formal membership, just subscribe to the CSL newsletter and you are in.

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Canadian School Libraries 2019.

Doug:  On a personal level, what are your own personal priorities these days?

Carol: Well Doug like you, I have been very fortunate to have been able to continue to contribute to education in meaningful ways post official retirement. The collaborative writing of standards for school library learning commons in Canada and establishing a national organization with Anita and the CSL Board of Directors have been highlights for me. I plan to continue with this ‘work’ as long as I can because I believe we are making a positive contribution to school improvement and learning for the future. I invest a fair bit of time in trying to build capacity in our school library community and ‘twisting arms’ of teacher-librarians to document their work in the LC and share their successes. Being able to accomplish this in the comfort of our home is still a miracle for me, technology is so empowering to learning and collective knowledge building. Unlike my seven beautiful and clever grandchildren who have grown up with the world in the palm of their hand and consider technology as a natural. Investing our love and joy in these talented kids is the real priority for my husband and I, our gifts to the future.

Doug:  Thank you so much for your thoughts, Carol.  I’m sure that readers will have enjoyed them and may have just forwarded the interview as part of their own advocacy efforts!

Follow Carol on Social Media


Learning Commons Resource:

Canadian School Libraries: @CdnSchoolLibrar  and Leading Learning  @CSL_Learning


This Week in Ontario Edublogs

It’s been a challenging week to stay on top of things for me. Much is self-inflicted because I seldom blog and then hit publish. I blog and then schedule the post to appear. It’s part of a personal commitment to myself to be regular.

But, last week, the #TWIOE show didn’t run on voicEd Radio because my partner was attending a conference. So, our show went live on Saturday as part of his anniversary marathon. That show would normally have been broadcast today, in fact, as I type this on Wednesday morning but I see that I’ve been bumped for some other show. I thought that the Saturday show might have been re-run. Anyway, this is the blog post that would have normally followed the Wednesday radio broadcast that was done last Saturday. I hope that I schedule it properly for Friday…

Snow Day Chaos – the Lament is over!

To celebrate the voicED anniversary, we had Ramona Meharg join us as a special guest for the show. It worked out well because this blog post was going to be on the show.

When I first saw the title, I thought “oh no, another blog about snow”. And, I suppose on the surface, it could be interpreted that way. Ramona showed the feeling of students in her class about not having their school year calendar shortened by snow and then finally getting their wish.

But it was right during exam week which dominoed into a number of other things…

  • rescheduled exams
  • cancellation of a bowling outing
  • issues surrounding a teacher retiring at the end of Semester 1 which is now extended
  • issues surrounding teachers changing schools at the end of the Semester
  • insights about how the students in her class have come to rely on their classroom routine and what happens when it’s disrupted

So, the post goes far beyond a decision to cancel buses. Perhaps that’s a reason why they so seldom are?

Online Pre-School

Anne Shillolo reflected on a story that she had read about how Utah was considering an online pre-school alternative for some of its remote students.

How remote can it be?

We once got lost in a huge expanse of desert for about an hour-and-a-half, while attempting to follow an incorrect map leading from a National Monument to the Interstate. It was so hot we couldn’t take the dog out of the truck to pee in the middle of the day because he would burn his feet. The only person we saw while lost was in a grader moving drifts of sand off the gravel road. 

It’s an interesting concept. If you do some research and some reading, you’ll see that there are recommendations about what a child should be able to do before starting school. If the child went to a traditional pre-school, they are typically addressed there. What if the child doesn’t go though?

Online learning doesn’t necessarily mean being stuck in front of a computer screen for hours. It’s also not correspondence education. My first reaction was that it was silly but if you take a look at how online courses have addressed that in Ontario, maybe there’s something in this proposal to help parents ensure success when the child does get to go to school.

Text to Speech and Translation Blocks in Scratch 3.0

I love it when others do the heavy lifting and we can learn from their leadership. This is the case in this post from Lisa Floyd. She shows us some of the new features in Scratch 3.0 and how to get your computer to speak to you, conversationally.

There are standard screen grabs and she’s also created a set of YouTube videos to demonstrate.

But it goes further. In her example, she does English to French translation in addition to just speaking. Don’t stop at French though – I took a look and the following languages are supported – Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish.

Doesn’t that open a lot of doors for possibilities? Thanks for learning and sharing, Lisa.

Working with Children in Makerspaces

If you’re anywhere near connected in Ontario Education, you know of Derek Tangredi. He’s been featured on this set of posts more than once. Most recently, he presented at the Bring IT, Together Conference – he was setting up in my room as I was doing my thing and he didn’t kick me too hard when I went over time…

Derek also delivered a fabulous keynote address at last year’s #ECOOcamp Owen Sound.

So, lots of people know about Derek. But, how about Immaculate Namukasa? She a professor at Western University and has quite an impressive teaching load and background experience. (I went down a rabbit hole and chased her back in her educational travels)

The two of them are offering an open house for teachers, parents, students, and anyone else who wants to drop into the London Public Library for an evening of hands on in a real-life Makerspace. What a wonderful community opportunity and check out all the partners in this venture.

Math Links for Week Ending Jan 25th, 2019

If you follow David Petro’s blog, you’ll know that he shares some of the more interesting off-the-wall mathematics links. This week was no different.

But, talk about timely.

The post went out just before the Superbowl and one of the stories that he features was about how National Football League kickers have got better over the years.

Now, I go back a long way and can remember the “straight on” kickers doing their thing at shorter distances. With the advent of the “soccer style” kicker, distances have changed and this is a fabulous read, complete with graphics showing improvement and distances over time.

Make your Feedback more Productive

I love how Deborah McCallum digs deeply into important educational issues. This time, she takes on feedback.

And, I’ll date myself. I go back to the days when I got a test back with the comment

you done good

By today’s standards, it was so wrong.

  • it actually told me nothing
  • I never got a second chance to learn from my error(s) and improve
  • the only ongoing feedback was checking homework every night

You’d never get by doing that in today’s classroom.

There are key understandings that need to be in place first to ensure that our feedback is meaningful and productive. I cannot promise that you will never make mistakes, but I can state with confidence that if you think about the following key ideas, you will become better at providing feedback.

Deborah provides some excellent insights and ideas in this post. It’s definitely worth reading, bookmarking, and sharing with colleagues. I’d also suggest review at a Faculty of Education and during a NTIP program.

The Heart and Art of Teaching and Learning Resource

After ten years of teaching, Arianna Lambert takes a look at some of the things that she has embraced as an educator. Of course, the word “some” is important – we know that we can’t take them all on with a single post.

She hits a lot of good things…

  • blogging
  • connecting with parents
  • blogging provincially to try and reach other teachers
  • the actual Heart and Art Teaching resource
  • mentorship
  • classroom setup

There’s a lot of good information there to make it worth your time to read. You may find parts confirming and you may find parts inspirational. But, you’ll find it all good!

Now, if I can only schedule this to come out Friday morning at 5am!

Please click through and read these excellent blog posts. You’ll be glad you did.

And, follow these bloggers on Twitter.

This part of a regular Friday morning series of posts. Check them all out at the link above.

This originally appeared at:

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not my original work, just a copy.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Welcome to the last Friday in August.  This summer, This Week in Ontario Edublogs had a guest for each show on voicEd Radio.  I’d like to thank the following and you can click any of these to enjoy their show.

It was a real hoot to have these people engage with some of the best from Ontario Edubloggers.  It only made sense to include a blog post from each of them. Of course, a special thanks to Stephen Hurley for allowing me to engage in this flight of fancy.

For your Friday, here are some wonderful posts from the past while.


I had previously shared this blog post from Kyle Pearce.  First thing on Wednesday morning, Aviva Dunsiger reminded me of that fact!

But, having a teacher-librarian like Diana Maliszewski on the radio show, there were a couple of questions that I wanted to ask her.

  1. We’re all aware of the move and talk about going “back to the basics”.  I wanted to hear Diana’s thoughts about why the same logic doesn’t apply to school libraries.  After all, if today’s mathematics classroom is different, most assuredly today’s school libraries have changed.  The answer?  Because EQAO gives measurable results.
  2. Since a teacher-librarian sees students in all grades, I was curious to hear her thoughts about when students develop the “I hate math” mentality.  Of course, it’s a very subjective question and Diana pointed me to the survey results from the EQAO testing of Grade 3 and Grade 6.

About a week ago, Kyle let me know of a project that he was developing with Jon Orr to help teachers with the instruction of mathematics.  Follow either of them for details.

A Love of Reading: Then and Now

I would never have guessed this.

Jennifer Casa-Todd shares a story of a little girl who comes to Canada, doesn’t speak English going to school, and grows up in a household that doesn’t value reading as something that should be pursued.  So discouraged from reading in fact, that any reading this little girl does has to be done on the sly.

Who would know that that little girl would write a book of her own and become a teacher-librarian where part of the craft is to encourage others to read?

It’s a wonderful story and I have even more respect for Jennifer.

Just wow.

Just wiped back a tear.

Thinking More Flexibly About Flexible Seating

Jennifer Aston is getting ready for Year 2 back in her own classroom, affectionately known as “home”.  Teaching “home”, of course.

Having served as a coach for a school district and now having a Grade 6 class, there probably was a little bit extra pressure to do well on the testing.  Jennifer tells a story about working with a pretty traditional setup to make sure that things went well.

It’s a new year and things are changing.  In her words, she’s “warming up”


And she’s not done.  The post also includes her wish list for the future.

I know that we all wish her the best for Year 2.

CC Certification – use and create

Until I read Helen DeWaard’s blog post, I didn’t know that you could take a course in Creative Commons.  I thought that the concept was something that you learned from looking through the website, looking at the various licenses, respecting the message behind them all, and perhaps licensing your own works.  I know that I have.

There’s much more.

Helen takes us through her work and thinking on the fourth unit.  It’s nicely done and I found it very interesting.

Of particular value, Helen shares some additional places to look for copyright friendly resources.  This is a definite bookmarking opportunity for you.

Work Environments

There are all kinds of places where you might go for a vacation.  You might think a trip to a coal mine is a little off the beaten path but I do recall visiting the mine at the Big Nickel and a family outing to a gold mine tour.

Diana Maliszewski’s description of her tour of a coal mine in Pittsburgh was very descriptive and visual and brought back my own memories and one word  – claustrophobia!

She shares some pictures and a highlight of the discussion with their tour guide to help you visualize.

Then, in an interesting turn, she creates a T-Chart comparing and contrasting the job of a miner and teacher!  She has a renewed perspective on what happens when thinks her library isn’t running at 100%.

Change Your Mind

I wasn’t going to include this post from Matthew Oldridge but then …


… if I hadn’t changed my mind, I’d have to confess to not being a critical thinker!

As I often do, I look at the opposite side of things.  What if you didn’t give yourself permission to change your mind?  I worked with such a person once.  It was a nightmare.

That only served to convince me that Matthew was absolutely correct in this post.

Dear Colleagues……….. You are Amazing!

Here’s your back to school inspiration in these days of challenges.

Jonathan So writes a post for all educators who will be headed back to school and opening welcoming classrooms next week.

I think it should serve as a message to all that you need to step back from the moment-to-moment gritty details which can take over at times.  Look at the big picture.

You are amazing.

When The Perfect Packer Of The Freezer Space Still Says, “I’m Bad At Math” …

You never know where your next moment of inspiration to write a blog post will come from.

In Aviva Dunsiger’s case, it was a back and forth with me early Wednesday morning when she wanted to remind me that I’d already talked about Kyle Pearce’s post.

Very early this morning — at a time when most of the population was still sleeping 🙂 — I was having a private conversation on Twitter with Doug Peterson about math. I happened to read Doug’s blog today about the posts that he would be discussing with Stephen Hurley and Diana Maliszewski on VoicEd Radio, and I noticed that the first post was one that he had discussed before. Doug mentioned that he wanted to hear Diana’s thoughts about when students start to “hate” math, and when they start to think that they are not “good” at math. In our discussion, I said, “It’s not in Kindergarten,” and while my initial intention was just to blog about why not, listening to the VoicEd radio recording, has me thinking beyond this.

This is an interesting story and only serves to highlight for me that

  • Mathematics is everywhere
  • Mathematics is more than numeracy
  • We ruin Mathematics when we make it so academic – you know with tests and homework and stuff
  • Practical examples where people succeed despite the underlying Mathematics concepts are awesome – how do we get students to understand and celebrate these?

On this last August Friday, there are yet again some terrific posts to read.  I hope that you can find a few moments to enjoy them.

There are some terrific people to follow on Twitter mentioned in this post.

Past editions of this regular Friday series can be checked out here.

An Interview with Martha Martin

Doug: Martha Martin and I have know each other for a long, long time in a number of contexts.  We’ll touch on a few of them below. She’s currently a Teacher-Librarian at LaSalle Public School in LaSalle, Ontario.  I was delighted when she agreed to talk about things for the blog.


Welcome, Martha.  Obviously, from the introduction above, this is more than the first time we’ve interacted.  But, can you remember when we first met?

Martha: Hm. I remember working with you at my first school, when email was just starting out, dot matrix printers were a thing, and  you had kindly offered to teach me how to use said technology to write to my brother who was currently living in India. I got to know you better once I had your elder daughter in my grade 7 class, though.

Doug:  Oh, yes.  That doesn’t date us too much.  

One of the things that people should know is that you were a teacher of all our children. They’re all fabulous readers and creators of media and attribute it to “Mrs. Martin”.  What’s your secret?

Martha: I’d love to take credit for that, but I think parents are most responsible for their children reading (or not reading). I will say I have been blessed to be able to offer kids great books — and the right book at the right time is sometimes all it takes!

Doug:  That’s a humble response!  Can we at least agree on being partners in literacy?  

I walk the dog by your old school daily!  One of the things that I often reflect on is the number of principals that have been there.  Do you see a regular change of principals as a good thing for a school and its community?

Martha: That’s a hard question. On average our administrators tend to stay for about five years in a school. A new principal can bring new life and a new direction to a school.

Doug:  What advice would you give to an incoming principal to a school?

Martha: Don’t walk in preparing to “fix” and “change” everything right away. Get to know the staff — both their strengths and their weaknesses. Get to know the students and their families. Really get to know them. Walk with kids on the yard, pop into classrooms, and be present. The relationships you build will either make you or break you, so get started on those relationships right away.

Doug:  Great advice.  Success in education is all about the relationships.

That school had one of the more unique library layouts.  In a mini-way, it looks like some of those pictures you see of “great libraries” from around the world.  Can you describe it for readers and let us know the pluses and minuses of such a layout?

Martha: The school library was essentially a three story space. The bottom floor was below ground level, and had room for perimeter shelving, two offices, and a number of round tables as well as the circulation desk. Around this lower level, but on the “ground” floor, was a half-circle walkway with more shelving on the external wall, and a half wall that looked down into that lowest level. The ceiling continued up past the shelving with high windows to let in light, and amounted to a third story, although it had no flooring in the main library part. There was access to a small third story area where more offices and storage were provided, but it was not through the library. I still dream about that library!


Doug:  Professionally, you were the school’s CIESC  (Computers in Education School Contact) and we would meet regularly as a result for scheduled bi-monthly sessions and also my school visits.  I miss those meetings – you people always pushed me to do something new. I’m sure it’s different now. How?

Martha: Those were great days. You always found us such neat stuff to explore, and left us excited to get back to school and share!

We have had a few versions of that role, but it has changed for good as of this past year. Our board apparently no longer has the funding whereby we were able to hold those meetings, so it was time to become creative. The role is now called the ILT (“Innovation Learning Teacher”) and it’s actually closer to what you envisioned and offered. In recent years the CIESC was the person who sent in repair requests and tried to fix issues — and there were many. Now, sponsored through a different Ministry Innovation grant, the ILTs will be more focused on teaching and supporting the Global Competencies with technology (, and less on keeping the technology going.

Doug:  In my mind, the goal should always be about effective teaching and learning with technology.  There are always adopters at different stages.

One of the things that I fondly remember is that so many of the CIESC group were teacher-librarians.  In fact, at my old secondary school, our teacher-librarian was always quick to move with technology. What is it about teacher-librarians that make them this way and such quick embracers of technology?

Martha: I think teacher librarians have to be willing to embrace everything, because a true teacher librarian’s role is being all things to all people. It is the ultimate multi-tasking job. You are fielding requests from a teacher, a student, and an administrator at the same time, while trying to fix the data projector and race to the bathroom! A good library program should teach students what they need to know right when they need to know it…and technology is what all of our kids need to know these days. That said, I personally don’t like the trend I see of teacher librarians only teaching technology, any more than I like the trend of them only doing Makerspaces, or only doing read alouds. A good librarian needs to teach a little of everything. And technology certainly helps us to do that.

Doug:  Now that I no longer hold those meetings, there must be alternative ways to communicate with schools.  Do you buy into the concept of making learning visible so that everyone can enjoy your initiatives?

Martha: I do! I have been a regular on our board’s various incarnations of communication tools, from First Class, to Yammer (I think I was the only one using that!), to Edsby in recent days. Still, those are only board resources, and so I’ve used Wikis and our school webpage to create a more accessible online repository of my resources.

Doug:  I remember your involvement and you were among the first to dive in with your personal website and wiki.  You do the same thing at your new school. Where do you see the value in this?

Martha: First of all, I have to laugh at you referencing my “new school.” I’ve been there seventeen years now! (Hard to believe, isn’t it?) I have taken my show on the road for chunks of four of those years, though, working in our board as an Instructional Coach or Consultant for Libraries. I tell them they will have to carry me out in a coffin, because after designing it and being there so long, it is my baby!

Now back to your question…

I love using Wikis to teach, and I’ve yet to find other platforms that work as well for me personally, though I’m trying Edsby (which, as I said, our board is using and promoting), and I maintain our school’s website using Sharepoint. As a teacher, a workshop facilitator and a writer, I need a place where I can keep my resources in the cloud and others can access them. Not all platforms are as intuitive as I’d like, but I live in hope Edsby will get there.

Doug:  17 years!  Wow! I was in LaSalle recently and did drive by the school.  From the outside, it still looks brand new, with a personality that you don’t see in more modern cookie-cutter buildings.

In your mind, what’s the difference between a Librarian and a Teacher-Librarian?

Martha: A huge difference! Because we have a Bachelor of Education degree on top of whatever our university undergraduate degree is, teacher librarians are teachers first and foremost. We can assess and evaluate student work. We know the curricula inside out (and if we don’t, we need to pull up our socks and get learning it! A pet peeve of mine!) I frequently say we are not just “shelvers of books and shushers of children.” The role requires the teacher librarian to be a curriculum leader, and an embedded coach in the school, supporting not just students but all our colleagues as well. Librarians are amazing people and when I retire, I might join their ranks, but they are not able to evaluate student work or teach students. We are specialist teachers, and we are funded as such from the Ministry of Education. We should therefore be staffed and funded according to the Ministry allotment. All boards receive the same library funding in Ontario per student, yet many boards like our co-terminus one have no libraries or librarians, teacher or otherwise. Where is that money going? (Now you have me on my soapbox!)

Doug:  Library, Library Commons, Makerspace, Resource Centre – what’s your preferred name for this area and why?

Martha: I prefer what the Canadian School Libraries group ( has chosen: “The School Library Learning Commons” (SLLC). A number of administrators in our board quickly got on the bandwagon to change “Library” to “Learning Commons” because they focused on the space itself. They put money into perimeter shelving and comfy chairs, but didn’t staff it or care about the non-technological resources like books. By putting “Library” back into the name, we are putting the books and teacher librarian back into the space.

Doug:  At one point in your career, you were a Teacher-Librarian coach.  What did that involve?

Martha: The role varied over the four years I did it, but in general it involved our board using a grant from the Ministry to second one or more of us to work with the 55 designated elementary teacher librarians in our board. The focus of the grant was to improve the teaching and learning happening in our elementary school libraries, and our superintendent Dr. Clara Howitt received the Administrator of the Year Award from the Ontario School Library Association for her creative way of using that grant. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, because the Ministry hasn’t demanded administrators staff the library according to the funding formula, few school boards have teacher librarians working to the staffing allotment they should be, or in their actual role. While my board does insist on designated teacher librarians, some administrators continue to find correctly staffing and scheduling the TL to be a challenge. This made coaching difficult, as I was often doing the TL’s job (e.g., weeding, inventory, selecting resources and collaborating) while the TL was teaching primary dance or drama, or working as the Vice Principal (with their teaching assignment being TL, but not actually being in the SLLC with students.) The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is lobbying the Ministry to put its money where its mouth is, but with Premier Ford, I’m less hopeful anything will change soon.

Doug:  If you were “Queen T-L for a day” and could advise the new Minister of Education, what one change would you make with respect to school libraries?

Martha: Absolutely make all school boards staff and fund school libraries according to the funding formula the Ministry itself put in place, and ensure no elementary school has less than a half time teacher librarian. That TL needs to see all students (not just primary) in the School Library Learning Commons or in classrooms through collaboration periods with classroom teachers.

Doug:  You’re a published author.  Congratulations! Tell us about “River Traffic” and “Mayan Murder”.


Martha: I’ve always loved to write, and really wanted to try my hand at writing fiction for reluctant readers. I have four nonfiction books out for the school market, and one of those (D-Day, Crabtree Chrome, 2012) was for reluctant readers. As I was recovering from spine surgery, my friend suggested I try to write a hi-lo (high interest, low vocabulary) novel for Orca Book Publishers. They are short…and as I needed to relearn how to use my right hand post-surgery, it seemed like a good project!

These hi-los appear as regular novels for older kids, but in fact tap out at a reading level from grades 2-4 usually. My SLLC has a large collection of them and they are popular with all students, not just struggling readers, because they are quick reads and have current, relevant plots, usually with lots of action.

Doug: What are the novels about, and where can we get them?

Martha: Both are contemporary “ripped from the headlines” mysteries that feature crime, action, history, and a bit of teen romance. River Traffic involves the Detroit River and is set in my hometown of LaSalle, Ontario, made famous for our rumrunning history. Mayan Murder launches in October, 2018 and is set in the Mayan Riviera, with the same protagonists as River Traffic holidaying on Spring Break when bullets start to fly. You can order them online from any bookstore, since most bookstores don’t carry many hi-los in stock on their shelves.

Doug:  We have a common friend in Diana Maliszewski.  Diana recently gave a presentation at the #ECOOCamp in Owen Sound.  Do you have a Martha and Diana story you can share?

Martha: I love that you added, “that you can share.” You know us well!


One of my favourite stories involves Di running around Superconference, the huge library convention in Toronto, wearing fluffy, pale blue boudoir slippers. She had a pedicure and wanted to show it off. Then there was the time she made herself an outfit in honour of Twilight that only Di could (or would) make. (If you ask her nicely, maybe she will share a photo of it!) In the meantime, I will share this one, where our friend Sharon Seslija, Diana, myself and others were having a Winterlicious moment. No idea now what made us so excited, but the expression on Di’s face shows why she’s so much fun!

Doug:  Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview, Martha. It’s really appreciated.

Make sure that you’re following Martha and enjoying her online resources.