A Barbarian in the Reading room

Welcome to my blog


Why this title? Well in my last school job I had a reading (as in reading a book) room and this was used on Open Days by the Learning Support Department. At one such event they put up a notice saying Leaning Support and I said "Oh I suppose this is the Reading (as in UK town to the west of London) Room now." They retorted by naming me the Barbarian and it has sort of stuck.


Sadly, this blog does not include much about Reading (as in the UK town to the west of London) or barbarians but will contain my thoughts on issues in the library and information world and also detail some of the events I have attended, places I have visited and courses I have run. Enjoy!

By sjpavey, Feb 12 2015 04:49PM

This month I seem to have concentrated more on the music side of my life with 8 Burns Nights in total as well as singing events. Nonetheless I have been able to squeeze in a few things on the information front too.

Attending the BETT show was a highlight on the calendar. I spent a few hours there and collected some interesting bits and pieces and found out about some new products too. Continuing my quest for lo-tech toys I stumbled across the Talking Products stand and bought myself a talking tile. These are large hexagon shaped push buttons about the size of a CD. You can insert a picture or writing into the top under the clear plastic and then you have 80secs of recording time. Brilliant for displays and interactivity and a great complement to my talking photo album and talking pen. I also spent time talking with Flashsticks who make interactive post-it type notes for teaching languages. They are interested in development and I was keen to try and see if they would consider moving into literacy with english language or information skills - I can see great potential here for labelling and signage in the library too. They would also be fantastic for revision in a whole range of subjects. Another stand I visited was Plotagon who have taken over rather from Xtranormal. Plotagon have now got an education arm and were offering free downloads. They also took on board requests for more up to date library scenarios and the need for a range of agegroups for students. It would be great if you could make your own characters too. I also stumbled across an alternative plagiarism checking software in UnPlag who are based in Ukraine and who seem to be challenging the Turnitin/Ephorus market. They say it is a system that has been designed by IT educationalists and it did look impressive - certainly one to consider if you are looking for plagiarism detection software. I was also impressed by Essay Writer which takes mind mapping that bit further to help students construct and develop their essays. It looked easy to use and although a capabel student migt be able to do similar on their own it did have some neat features such as automatic repositioning of text and references if you moved paragraphs around in the construction. The only drawback I could see is that it cannot handle footnotes referencing which is a pity. Finally the ExamPen WizCom stand caught my eye. This together with the Reading Pen (which has the addition of a dictionary/thesaurus and so cannot be used in the exam hall) can scan text and then read it to the listener. Headphones can be plugged in so that it does not disturb people nearby. I thought this was a neat solution for all types of student but particularly SEN and EAL. However my SENCO colleague has used them and said they take a bit of practise to work correctly. Maybe this is a move towards better use of technology in an exam situation.

This year BETT did seem to be focussing on 3D Printing, Apps that can replace a VLE and School Management System and robotics/coding. I did go and visit the Raspberry Pi stand in a vain hope that I could persuade them to let me into a PiCademy but alas it was not to be - no funding other than for teachers. BUT I did pick up lots of useful tips, sorted the new edition of Carrie Ann Philbin's book and have resolved to get to grips with my christmas present!

The other main focal point of January was progress on the second edition of the Innovative School Librarian and trying to get to grips with the chapter. Sally and I had a good chat through some of the issues in a pub meeting and prepared for the writing task ahead. It is interesting how our approach will differ in writing the new edition - it SHOULD be quicker but it is amazing how much has changed in the world of school libraries since 2009.

My other occupation this month was taking the reins of the Independent Thinking Twitter account for a week. This was heady responsibility indeed and I decided to foduc on providing a series of geeky slides to get people thinking about information. I managed to drum up a few more followers and gained some favourites and retweets for my efforts. It also sharpened up my tweeting skills and I have been making more use of my own account as a result.

February looks busier on the training front which is good and I'll be reporting back from Independent Thinking's Thinking Day in Nottingham as well as courses for Heaths and Creative Education.

By sjpavey, Jan 10 2015 09:55PM

I can't believe that I have not had time to update this blog since November and it has been an exciting time with varied work and opportunities.

November kicked off with a return visit to The Winston Churchill School to give some induction to the new temporary librarian and to help weed and sort the non-fiction stock and to identify gaps that would need to be filled. It was hard physical labour for 2 days between the two of us but I left it looking more user friendly and together we came up with a new arrangement for the library furniture to encourage use and exploration.

Heath's Bookshop ran a training session on Academic Honesty and we ended up with 10 delegates (including two internatiional schools) for a fun filled interactive day. The lego exercise proved a hit and everyone left with ideas for writing their academic honesty policy and with more of an idea about referemcing and academic style.

That same evening I met up with my new colleagues at Independent Thinking Ltd and we had a lively pre conference meal. Such a bunch of inspirational people and the conversation just flowed. I met a stand up comedian for children, experts in every field of information, people developing apps and brimming with ways to engage students and teachers in the educational process home and abroad. The following day was their Big Day Out at Glyn School in Epsom and my inaugeral Keynote speech. The morning session included the wonderful Christa an expert in Modern Languages whose finale consisted of us all writing what we could take away from her session on a coloured piece of paper and then making a paper dart and throwing it towards her. She advocates dressing up in her language classes so that students do not feel self conscious about speaking in a foreign tongue. At the exhibition I had a long chat with Jo Feast about Jigsaws (she works with a PHSE company of the same name) and we hoped we might incorporate my Create an Essay jigsaws into her company's product line. Then after lunch it was time for my talk on the importance of checking authenticity and only uploading verifiable information to the internet if we want to be able to rely on information in the future. I called it "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants". I had a good audience and it was received well with lots of questions - in fact so many we had to call a halt. I was followed by the amazing Jim Roberson who showed us just what our brains are capable of in true motivational style. It was a great day out and I'm looking forward to running a couple of workshops at the next one in Newcastle in March.

In December I ventured up north to Leeds to run a training course on supporting the EPQ for the Yorkshire and Humberside SLA Branch. We had a good day in the Leeds Art Gallery with very spectacular cafe facilities. Some delegates had already completed my online course for the SLA on this topic but managed to take more from the practical exercises. Everyone found something to help them progress with the qualification and I think it helped people decide to what extent they wished to be involved.

This trip was followed by a journey west for a training course on Mobile Learning in Gloucester organised by Gloucestershire Library Services for Education. The course required careful planning as there was only limited internet connection and no WiFi access at the venue. Still with a mixture of pre recorded video and using apps that did not require online connection we managed to obtain practical experience. I also took along a talking pen with sound dots and a talking photograph album so we could see how lo-tech could enhance mobile learning opportunities too. I organised the examples around Blooms Taxonomy for the non-fiction and then we also looked at how Apps and Web 2.0 products could be used for reader development. Again we all had a good day and I think everyone found something to try out for themselves in their own schools.

...and so to 2015. I am looking forward to running another course for Heath's entitled The Lost Library Years - engaging KS4 students with the school library and several Creative Education courses are on the horizon too. I've also just found out my paper for the LILAC conference "What does independent learning feel like" has been accepted so I'll be back to Newcastle in April.

By sjpavey, Nov 1 2014 02:45PM

There must be mysterious things afoot with Halloween etc as it seems my blog as of mid October has disappeared! So here follows a summary of events and thoughts since mid September.

Firstly an interesting visit back to Box Hill School as a consultant to talk through Extended Essays with the Upper Sixth for their International Baccalaureate. I was able to offer a follow up consultancy by email and a few took me up on this which kept me busy in the early part of October. It was great to work with them and to show them the skills of referencing and layout and they were quick to pick up on it which was very satisfying. It will be invaluable when they get to university.

I did some general library consultancy and training at Caterham School including a session on the Library Management System Access-It. In fact I am now offering freelance training on this system with the blessing of the Company and I'm really looking forward to promoting this again. it's a great system with so many features and all for the one price - no surprise bolt ons to worry about. It's also good to promote a family firm who do their own development work.

Creative Education kept me at the beginning of October with a couple of courses on The Effective School Librarian. One was in London and one in Manchester. I only had a couple of delegates on each but it was certainly interesting. In London one school was an inner city comprehensive and the other an independent girls school in an expensive area. I didn't think in a million years that the delegates would have so much in common - it just proves how wrong you can be. For example both had difficulty in establishing reading habits outside school - one because parents could not speak English or could not read and the other because although the parents were educated, they had an overseas nanny to look after the children who had similar issues. In Manchester my challenge was a delegate who was very experienced and knowledgable but wanted some formal training and a very quiet new recruit to the profession. Both had a great time and gave good feedback so I think I managed to get the balance right and give both an opportunity to express their views.

I have at last finished the Academic Honesty Course for the School Library Association - Yay! Hopefully this will now be up and running before too long. Time to think about the next one. Maybe cataloguing?

...and in between all the work on the Library front it's been a busy few weeks on the music front particularly with Morrigan, playing at Tenterden Folk Festival and more and also the filming of the Irish Music Session at the Kilkenny Tavern in Wimbledon.

So what's to come...well I'm doing some more development work at Winston Churchill School, sorting out some training with Osiris Educational, going to a couple of librarian meetings and then there is the Heath's Training Course on Academic Honesty followed by my inaugral appearance with Independent Thinking Limited at their Big Day Out Down South. Phew!

By sjpavey, Sep 12 2014 03:36PM

So the P45 arrived in the post yesterday heralding the final cut off from permanent employment at Box Hill School. It really is the start of a new adventure and reality is beginning to kick in ...but in a good way. Firstly sleep patterns are interesting. At first some consultancy work had me out of bed even earlier than before and I was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea but things have settled down with not every day being out and about. There has been time for writing and even better time for thinking and reflecting. I can however appreciate how some people lose track of what day of the week it is. Avoiding the challenge not to slob around in night attire for much of the day is also an aspect I hadn't envisaged!

So far I have been moving and sorting the Junior and Infant libraries for the Gordon Schools in Medway and advising their near neighbour school New Horizon's Children's Academy with the help of Jo Thornhill and the ever wonderful Heath Educational Books. It has been quite a physical task and it looks as if this will continue with my latest client Winston Churchill School near Woking.

I'm also engaged on doing some training this month for a couple of schools - one for library staff and one for the 6th form on extended essays. Then there are a couple of courses for Creative Education in London and Manchester too.

In between all this I am writing the SLA online course on Academic Honesty and looking at the updating of The Innovative School Librarian for the planned revised edition.

My work with Independent Thinking Ltd is really getting interesting. I am now delivering a keynote speech at their Big Day Out Down South which I've called "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants". It will look at how Academic Honesty is vital in this age of digital information and the implications for research and future legacy if we do not get students today to appreciate the need for these skills. I've also been invited to speak at another of their conferences in June next year.

One of the pieces of information which Ian Gilbert recently shared is an amazing film called Schooling the World - The White Man's Last Burden. It's been a while since I watched something so thought provoking as this. Basically it questions whether our imposition of Western Culture on Third World Countries has any long term benefit or whether we are destroying their culture and philosophy to the extent that it simply disappears. Particularly poignant I felt was the part where the German teacher who had raised money to build a school in the Himalayas was proudly explaining her charitable work and this was balanced against the effect it might have on the community. Another interesting part for me was the consideration that anthropologically these commumnities had existed for thousands of years and in comparison the industrial world and the technological world had only been around for a few hundred years and a few decades respectively - so whch society was most successful? It considered that Western Education had only given benefit to a few and the vast majority of young people were left between cultures - unable toget employment in the city and yet unfamiliar with customs and practices at home. It is a beautifully shot film and at another level could so easily be used to demonstrate how the media can manipulate our emotions and feelings. If you havn't seen it, take a look and be inspired.

Finally I was very lucky to take a bid on eBay and pick up an ipad mini for less than half price. OK so its not the latest model but I'm intending to load it up with Apps and arrange according to Bloom's Taxonomy so that I have got something independent for training purposes rather than using my personal device.

So the Barbarian has boldly stepped out alone but is far from lonely .....is this a bold step too far? Only time will tell!

By sjpavey, Aug 1 2014 11:35AM

I never imagined I would have such a busy and exciting month ...and officially I have not even left Box Hill School's employment yet.

I have just begun a new keep fit regime by helping out at a primary school in Kent. Following a visit at the beginning of the month and a consultancy report I offered to help out with the physical side of the job and spent two 8 hour days lifting, carrying and sorting in the summer heatwave to achieve the bulk of transforming one very neglected library into two inspiring places - one for infants and one for juniors. Seeing the project evolve made up for the fact that I was barely able to walk afterwards and hobbled around like a 90 year old! I have one more day to do at the end of August. It was so uplifting to be engaged by a forward thinking headmaster who realised the libraries could be the key to opening doors to the future for his young pupils.

Doors have been opening for me too and I may have the chance to pursue further my research interests into the impact of auditory learning through collaboration with GCSE Pod. There is so little research on comparisons between the use of audio alone vs video in retention of understanding and content. I have been thinking about the spate of articles on the distraction caused by overbusy wall displays in classrooms and think this could be linked into the same brain patterns in terms of pedagogy and resulting achievement of students. It would be brilliant to be able to investigate further. Does this also have implications for library displays I wonder? Could we use a form of audio tag as a virtual reality option rather like Aurasma has done with video?

Our action research group eLRARG has decided to look at revising our collaborative book The Innovative School Librarian and so we have all been given our homework for the Summer. Hopefully it will take us considerably less time to revise than the two years it took to write initially!

There have been so many things happening and I am writing a new online course on Academic Honesty for the School Library Association, my singing band Morrigan is really beginning to make progress and we have produced our CD and then there are the ceilidh gigs. I've also been keeping an eye on technology developments and following my bitter disappointment of the demise of Xtranormal and so pleased to see that Plotagon have taken up the banner complete with school scenarios (including a library) and characters. I never believed my freelance life would be so busy so soon.

However the best news of the month has to be my acceptance as an Associate with Independent Thinking. I never thought that my application would be considered and just being invited to interview was a great honour. The company say they seek out the inspirational geniuses from the nutters and so it was with trepidation and an X Factor like fear that I met them near Leicester. I spent a wonderful hour and a half with Dave, Nina and Hywel and at the end felt so excited and brimming with ideas. When two days later I discovered I had been welcomed into their family I was over the moon and am so looking forward to joining and working with such an amazing bunch of people.

So I have now trained my successor at Box Hill School, handed in my keys and the future beckons. Off for a holiday now!

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