We recently took part in a Superheroes Challenge Day for all new Year 7 students to our school. The aim was to ensure the students talked with children joining Kingswood from other schools. Throughout the day they worked on team challenges which enabled them to “gel” together as a Year Group.
>In the Library we opted for a critical thinking challenge. Students had to create their own superheroes outlining their strengths and weaknesses, their safe and dangerous habitats, their outfits and their gadgets. Each team’s Superhero then faced their rivals in a series of Scenarios we had created for them.
I used the Trading Card Creator on the Readwritethink website. We had 5 categories for the scenarios – who, what, where, when and why. The challenges ranged from alien attacks to zoo animal escapes. Sadly Ice Slasher met his demise in the Volcano challenge even though he had a heatproof shield!
It was interesting to see the strategies used to compensate for each superheroes fatal flaw. Some teams gave their heroes very specific flaws (e.g being allergic to pineapples) which they hoped would not come up in any of the challenges. At the other extreme heroes had special powers that were so all-embracing they could face up to anything e.g Shapeshifting. A lot of the teams didn’t prepare for their hero to time travel though which left them kicking their heels rather than visiting the Egyptian pyramids with Howard Carter in 1922.
Our favourite Superhero was Lobsterman. His back story was that he became a superhero when his parents got cooked in Paella! His special power was the ability to squirt corrosive wee and his dangerous territory was, naturally enough, Spanish food restaurants His body armour i.e. his lobster shell had teleporting powers and his gadget allowed him to talk to animals to persuade them not to harm him. That pretty much covers every scenario I think!
Although we had to close the library to other students for a whole day we got to know the new students meeting all 90 of them and it was a great way to start. We have since followed on with more formal induction through their English lessons.
I have just returned from Lighting the Future conference #LTF12 for school and children’s librarians and the session which most inspired me was the one about Reading and Technology. I was particularly interested to hear Jonathan Douglas (@JDLiteracyTrust) from the National Literacy Trust explain that their annual survey about reading had revealed the fact that children’s reading of text was declining whatever the format -even e-text reading had declined by 10% since 2005. Jonathan very bravely went on to describe how young people were still accessing narrative and story but using visual formats like Youtube and that we all needed to take a look at the other “literacies” like visual, digital, information literacy as they were becoming so important for children.
For my own workshops sessions, where I looked at digital publishing and the future of libraries, I talked about how we are all publishers now and that many of the tools we can use allow us to access text in a very visual way e.g with story in Pixton a cartooning tool and displaying statistics or trends with Visual.ly or Wordle. Here’s the Prezi I made to share at the workshops:
We’re beginning to think about our topic of Superheroes for Year 7 Challenge Day and I had great fun creating Superlibrarian on the Marvel Comic Site Create Your Own Super hero . I happened to post a link on Twitter and was interested, then dismayed, to discover from @lordfolland that Marvel comics already featured a library mutant called Annika
Her Superpower was as a Living Respository of Human Knowledge but oh noes she was DEPOWERED on M-Day.
Is this telling me something I didn’t know I wonder? Is this why my job is to help students navigate the Information Tsunami for themselves? Swimming not drowning!
I feel the Carnegie Award has become a follower and no longer a leader in the magical realm (or rather unreal world) that is children’s books publishing. Back in 1995 Philip Pullman won with Northern Lights, Part 1 of his magnificent Dark Materials trilogy while Patrick Ness had to wait till Monsters of Men Part 3 of his Chaos Walking series to be similarly acknowledged last year. What has happened?
And how about those “sorry we think we missed the boat” titles that have won in the last few years – like Just in Case by Meg Rosoff (2007) because the library community failed to find How I live Now (the Guardian Children’s Prize winner 2004) or Siobhan Dowd who won for Bog Child in 2009 when A Swift Pure Cry (awarded the Branford Boase in 2007) was the one that got away? Or Philip Reeve who was rewarded for Here Lies Arthur(2008) when he clearly should have got it for Mortal Engines (Smarties Prize winner 2002)?
The press release for this years shortlist makes much of the fact there are four first novels on the list – the subtext is clearly that we’ve wised up to the fact we’re no longer cutting edge and are trying to be different. However, on digging a little deeper, it becomes obvious that these titles are hardly “newly discovered” gems but, dare I say it, have been manoeuvred into position by their publishers – three of the four were published first in hardback (a luxury which surely means they were packaged for adult buyers and aimed at the award market). Nina Douglas from Orion has just been shortlisted in the Publicity Campaign of the Year category of The Bookseller Awards for Annabel Pitcher’s My sister lives on the Mantlepiece which is revealing (it costs money to conduct a publicity campaign and few first novelists get that kind of help without an ulterior motive). I am also not surprised to find two of the other authors are high profile in the media (Lissa Evans is A BAFTA award winning TV producer and author of 3 previous adult novels and Ruta Sepetys has her own marketing company). Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying these books aren’t good but I’m pondering whether there might be better titles out there.
So how can CILIP members go about really finding the best book of the year? And whose best book is it anyway?
Surely we need to restructure the way the titles are discovered for the shortlist. Getting young people themselves involved in choosing the longlist might help. And how about making the “shadowing” site the real thing – let children choose the winner!
But in the meantime ..Andy Mulligan who has already hit the media headlines with Trash (which was withdrawn from the Blue Peter Book Awards for containing seriously “bad language”) and, most helpfully, won the the Guardian Children’s Prize last year for another title Return to Ripplestrop is waiting in the wings.
Over 1m views during March 2012 on US e-book library catalogues
On Tuesday morning, at a breakfast meeting in London, I had the opportunity to hear Overdrive’s CEO Steve Potash talk about future developments for Library Partners in the UK. I have to report it was exciting stuff – and no I’m not getting paid by the company to write this post! There were 2 main things which I learnt that I found particularly encouraging.
Overdrive are in the process of streamlining the customer experience
Soon customers will be able to log which e-reader they regularly use and, when loaning an e-book, they will automatically receive the compatible format without first having to choose epub or pdf or kindle formats .
Using new software, developed by Overdrive, customers will be able to read e-books on a desktop browser as well as their mobile device. This will mean they can use library computers to read digital texts. (I’m thinking that although I signed up to enhance our students leisure reading this will be good for independent research in the school library and might have implications for managing e-textbooks too)
Overdrive are using newly collected data for advocacy work with publishers
I was reminded when Steve started talking about “data” how until I was “enlightened” by @briankelly I used to pronounce this word the American way! But, however you say it (like the song says tomato, tomato-potato, potato), data is the key to getting publishers involved in e-book lending. During March 2012 the company surveyed its US library websites to discover that 146 million pages had been viewed by 5 million unique visitors from over 200 countries around the world. On average customers spent 9.5 minutes browsing with the most popular time being 9pm in the evening. There were also 2.6 million reservations made for books that were already on loan! This kind of exposure of book cover images to people who are readers (and potential buyers of e-books) makes a very compelling reason for publishers to participate in Overdrive’s Library Channel. Steve explained that this message was being used in over 150 meetings with publishers during the London Book Fair this week.
I’ve enjoyed dipping into this book. It suggests that “digital natives” (anyone born since 1983) are adapting new technologies created by older generations and using them differently from the way their creators thought they would! We need to understand this and accept the fact that “once our ideas are in their hands, this generation will make of them what they choose”. The development of new technology is a partnership and we can’t control it. The various contributers to the book then go on to discuss how we can best support innovation in the areas of business, marketing, entertainment and education.
Mary Ann Bell contributes the chapter headed “Native Knowledge:knowing what they know-and learning how to teach them the rest”. She suggests young people need guidance in the areas of -respect for intellectual property, internet searching skills, evaluation of internet information and online safety skills.
However I take issue with her survey of what students currently do as she reports the views of teacher-librarians rather than the students themselves. How do we know the anecdotal evidence of the librarians is robust?. She makes the sweeping statement that, when searching the Internet, students “bounce” from one site to another without close examination or reflection of any site. she says that 90% of teacher-librarians taking her survey “agree” this is the case. I have to say I’ve observed much more sophisticated searching and great peer collaboration in enquiry based learning. I think we need to survey students directly to find out more and I intend to do so. I’ll report my findings later in the year!
Despite disagreeing with the title (suggesting we are in an adversorial role “fighting” technology) I had an enjoyable afternoon at the networking meeting of the South West Region of the School Library Association. Everyone was very friendly!
I’d been asked to share Kingswood School’s experience of developing a library e-collection through Overdrive which I did and the lively discussion that followed was really informative. The were two main questions that we considered:
Should we loan e-book readers?
There were about 20 school librarians present and I discovered 3 of them had bought multiple Kindles which they were loaning out to students using the ability to archive one title on 6 Kindles. I am personally unsure about the legality of this see Buffy Hamilton’s post from last July : Why we won’t purchase more Kindles at the Unquiet Library Also research into young peoples mobile reading habits suggests they choose to use their own multifunctional devices (ipads, ipads, android phones ) rather than a dedicated e-reader.
Should we be managing digital textbooks?
Some of the librarians asked me about information titles/textbooks available through Overdrive. I have discovered Raintree KS3 titles but these are available in pdf format only which I believe is more suitable for desktop PC viewing rather than on a mobile device. There are also a number of academic publishers like Elsevier (with 11,000 titles available) but these are more suitable for third level organisations.
From the discussion it seemed to me that some librarians are trying to validate their existence by attempting to take on the role of managing digital textbooks for their school. Although someone needs to co-ordinate textbook provision I personally would be wary of pursuing this direction. I think school libraries should be there to support the curriculum, provide resources that enable students to go “off piste” and pursue their independent passsions and most important of all encourage reading for pleasure. These activities have been shown to raise attainment levels in education and we don’t need to justify our existence by venturing into the world of textbooks.
Please feel free to agree or disagree with my strong opinions by adding your comments to this post!