LIBE 477 – Reading Review Part A

It has been a number of years since I have tried to put so many aspects of technology together in a functional manner. In the classroom, I could try a Kahoot here, a backchannel discussion through TodaysMeet there, the occasional professional tweet, homework through RemindEdublogs (duh, English teacher), but my biggest experiment remains the implementation of Moodle. All met with various degrees of success and student buy in. Much of it was novelty I’m sure and, in a twist of technological irony, the easier technology and the more students accessed it, the less they seemed willing to participate in my experiments. The learning of and adapting lessons to incorporate technology became less rewarding and was not getting the results I was hoping for, so I used it less frequently.

Being off of the grid for a while was refreshing Continue reading

Well, I’m Back

In writing this I am in utter disbelief that it has been over five years since my last, true post. The shock was so much, in fact, that I pulled a couple of book reviews that I pasted up on another site that I was contributing to.

I am encouraged to turn a corner with this blog and incorporate more of my professional life into it. Well, through the schooling I’m doing, I am encouraged to bring my professional life into this blog. Currently, I am enrolled in UBC’s teacher-librarian diploma program and while our instructor has is desirous of use utilizing a blog to reflect upon and communicate our thoughts and learning of the material, it is probably about time that I admit what I have known for a while now; I love thinking, talking and writing about aspects about my profession. I feel as though I have lost myself in efforts to separate personal from professional in cyberspace by spreading the applications to thin and loosing focus between multiple forums, blogs, tweets and accounts in an attempt to facilitate my multifaceted personality. Continue reading

School Library Learning Commons as Venues for Social Justice

The following is the response to a discussion prompt from LLED 467 of the UBC Teacher-Librarian Diploma. The prompt was to provide examples of social justice from online content and if of how yo might integrate it into your program.

I am submitting two examples of online content that provides examples of social justice. The first was found a couple of years ago and left quite an impact on me. The second was accidental, surprising and quite timely.

The first is a video that was released in India a year after the gang-rape of a girl on a bus in New Delhi. This incident sparked a public outcry and official reaction toward the treatment of women in Indian culture. As the father of two daughters and as a human being interested in advocating for equality, this video raises both an immediate awareness and a piece to reflect upon.

The video shows men staring at women, then having their looks reflected back at them suddenly through various reflective surfaces. It also shows their surprise and guilty reactions as they have the opportunity to see their predatory expressions turned back at them. Continue reading

Knifing Through the Water

I picked up The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi because I loved his award winning 2009 novel, The Windup Girl. Both have to do with a dystopian future where resources are scarce and hoarded by the few.Image result for the water knife cover

In the case of The Water Knife, the south-western United States is going through an incredible and destructive water shortage. To make matters worse, water is being hoarded by corporations who claim water rights on rivers and lakes, thereby owning the water and making it difficult for the majority of the population to access unless they are willing to pay large sums of money for it. The novel focuses on three characters; Angel, a mercenary-type character who works for the corporation running Nevada’s water supply, Lucy, a journalist that takes on the plight of the people, and Maria, a poor woman who is looking to escape the Phoenix “thirst” she has grown up in.

While it had many elements that I enjoyed in reading The Windup Girl, I had difficulty in becoming as immersed in the world he was creating. I found the description of the setting minimal and, perhaps because I have never been to that area of the world, found understanding the geography that made water so hard to come by outside of my grasp. Continue reading

What Constitutes Reading?

The following was a scenario outlined in the LLED 462 course of the UBC Teacher-Librarianship Diploma. The prompts that directed the response were: As a teacher librarian, how would you handle this situation?

He came down a couple of times later, disinterested and disengaged, choosing a few novels this time and then promptly returning them in a time span that indicated he had not read them. When asked: “have you given up graphic novels”, he said his teacher said no more graphic novels, he had to take out novels to better his reading…

This situation should be approached on two fronts, the most important being the first and the more delicate being the second.

The student should be asked what it is about graphic novels that he enjoys. From the scenario, it would sound like there has been conversation around this topic to begin with. Graphic novels and comics are a world unto themselves with their own unique language and strategies to engage the audience. They also have their own battery of critics and graduate courses. If the student is interested in how graphic novels work on this level, then he may be interested in pursuing this form of literary exploration and expression. I would have to argue that it is the same reason that English teachers make their students read novels, mainly to engage in some level of literary analysis. Tough to argue that pace and tone can only happen with words, when a comic reader can find the same subtleties in the use of page layouts, panel sizes and gutter spacing.

What I’m suggesting is that becoming a better reader does not depend on an individual’s ability or desire to read novels. The argument made another way, what about poetry and drama? Should the reading of these be excluded in favour of novels as they follow a non-prose format? I am a fan of graphic novels and texts. If there is any doubt of their validity in the school library, I would invite someone in our lunch hour to count the number of teenage boys who have their nose in a graphic novel and, if the guest is still skeptical, ask what the boys may otherwise be doing if they didn’t have access to this reading material.

From the scenario, it would appear that the student is engaging with critical analysis that is appropriate to his grade level in conversations with the teacher librarian.  Has he spoken to his teacher about graphic novels in this way? There is still a stigma surrounding graphic novels and comics, regardless of what the box office audience draws show (I am still selective to whom I show my comic collection to). If he hasn’t broached the topic with his teacher and only tried to speak about novels that he is not really interested in, then his teacher may be misinformed at how strong the student’s reading actually is.

The more delicate second factor of this scenario is, of course, the teacher. While I’ve discovered that the information provided by Stephen Krashen, Neil Gaiman and others are of deep interested and become guiding principles in the practice of teacher-librarian wanna-bes, there is deeply held contrary notions held by enough teachers to make the introduction of this material, including the findings of research, difficult.

A lot depends on the relationship that you have with the teacher in question. There are teachers that I could think of that I would not hesitate in approaching with my thoughts from above, coupled with Gaiman’s speech and a copy of Leading Learning because I would anticipate a great conversation about reading, pedagogy and how we could create a program that would bridge the development of this student and the rest of the class.

Others would scoff, regardless of the information presented, because a strategy based on a variety of literacy doesn’t reflect what they deem as important, usually based in a classical definition of literature and how best to teach it. If I asked, perhaps they would let me in on their criteria for reading assessment and I could help out with this student, application, or unit by bringing the entire class to the library for a book talk, perhaps to include some graphic texts.

I am pretty confident in my ability to gauge relationship and how to appeal to many of my colleagues for change through the library learning commons, though some may not be familiar with that term. My question and dilemma is: As a teacher-librarian, how do I approach the staff who are hesitant or resistant to change their practice to include me and my expertise?

If the teacher is in the first camp, chances are that they already have spoken to me about the library and how that could help their teaching practice. Teachers in the second camp may or may not know that we exist, or what the library and teacher-librarian could do for them. I should like to sell it as Stephen Krashen sells SSR, that utilizing the library will make their teaching 5% easier.

I’m willing to take small steps and work on developing a change that definitely will not be expected to come overnight. I think that, unfortunately, while I would try my darndest to make the case for our graphic novel reader, it might take more than one whack to crack this nut and change the practice of a teacher rooted in traditional reading practices. I anticipate that changing their awareness and attitude will be my biggest challenge.


Works Cited:

Books and Articles by Stephen D Krashen. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2018, from http://www.sdkrashen.com/
Gaiman, N. (2013, October 15). Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming
Kirkland, A. B., & Koechlin, C. (2015). Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada. Teacher Librarian; Bowie, 42(5), 45–47.

Crossing Lines in the Age of Intolerance

I have to say that I could not think of a more timely book than The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah.

Set in Australia, Abdel-Fattah looks at the impact that the political opinions of adults have on the lives of teens. The narrative alternates between Michael and Mina, schoolmates at a prestigious high school. Any relationship between them is stressed due to the opinions of Michael’s family, who lead an organization that protests refugees and queue jumpers that come into Australia and “put strain on the system” and, as it happens, Mina, from Afghanistan, falls into the first category. Continue reading

Not the Type of Librarian You’ll Find Here

The Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen was, admittedly, my first step into young adult fiction in quite a while. I purposely picked something up from the comedy genre to see if I could relate to it in any way and due to my time as a librarian.

I have to admit, Knudsen does a very good job at taking the subjects of friendship, young romance and teen drama, setting them against the background of a demonic invasion, and maintaining a readability throughout the book. While some would descend into an over the top, campy story, Evil Librarian remains lighthearted and a page-turner, while celebrating the teenage years. Continue reading

A Sequel’s Death, The Jennifer Morgue (Laundry Files, #2)

This is the second of The Laundry Files series of Charles Stross’s I have read, as it is the second book and I am a bit of a stickler for reading series in order, which I am sure is some sort of residual effect of years of comic collecting. I enjoyed his first, The Atrocity Archives, so plunged into the second.

Stross introduced a great protagonist, Bob Howard, as someone who is able to battle the horrors of Lovecraftian inspired Elder Gods with brains and an understanding of technology. Bob proved to be a hero as understated as his name, giving the distinct impression that he was a man whom things happened to and not the guy who inspired things to happen. This is one of the the elements of Stross’ writing that I enjoyed most, the presentation of a less-than-super super-spy. Bob found himself in all kinds of horrific situations, saving the world due to his ability to keep his wits and genuinely surprised when it happened again. Continue reading

The Great-er Than I Ever Thought It Was Gatsby

I have managed to avoid The Great Gatsby since I was sixteen, even though it has been on the reading list at every high school I have ever taught at. It was also the only book that I only read once during my high school years, which brings the next statement as little surprise: I hated it sooooo much, as much as anything could be hated from the core of a 16-year-old’s being.

I think that I was a typical idealizing teen, anxious to label things and place them according to easily understood dichotomies. Having things agree to be right/wrong, white/black, night/day, bad/good, fascist/totalitarian brings comfort to most people, especially teens that have not had a chance to see or participate in all of the greys the world has to offer.

The one area that I could not or would not divide into two distinct camps applied to books and literature. I hesitated greatly to stomp on other people’s opinions and sentiments when applied to writing, whether it was their own or in what they read. Writing, I guess, has always been something that has not come easily to me and I appreciated anyone who could get published and read, even from my teen years. [The irony is that now, older and more willing to accept the greys (hair and otherwise) I am also more willing to call some books junk.] The best I could do was say that I did not understand something, or deferred judgment on what made literature good to someone else, more studied, more well-read, perhaps more refined.

Continue reading

Maybe not a King (of Thorns), But I Am Willing to Keep on Reading About The Broken Empire

I recently commented on the macho, mysoginistic writings of Lee Child in my foray into the world of Jack Reacher. I have been delaying on this post a bit because I have been trying to reason out what makes the protagonist of The Broken Empire series so different and why I find myself liking him, even though he is arrogant, power hungry, violent and woman using.

Continue reading