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My librarian workout

This video was introduced to me by one of my lecturers and I found it inspirational and confirming. I have included it here as a further reminder of the importance and scope of the role of the librarian.

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The invisibilty of Information Literacy

Having taught English in school contexts, literacy is front and centre in my advocacy as THE most important aspect of schooling. I argue vehemently that without literacy across the curriculum, then all other subjects are impossible. For instance, the study of mathematics would be impossible without an ability to read problems and comprehend what the task is asking of a student. If literacy is ignored in science, where there are quite specific understandings to be taught, then students are being let down in achieving to the best of their ability in science.  Beyond this, there is certainly a case for the argument that science literacy is quite specific to the science curriculum and it would be difficult for a teacher that is not science trained to be able to effectively teach these specific literacies. This reasoning naturally  extends to all specialist subject areas across schooling and it is this precise reasoning that justifies a whole school approach to literacy development and mastery. As a teacher of English, I feel strongly that literacy should be taught across the curriculum and take a whole school focus and not be assumed as the responsibility of English teachers alone.

However, information literacy was never on my radar as a teacher in schools. I have been aware of the process of research and resource based learning but the understanding of information literacy was always a bit hazy. Following is an excerpt from one my of my posts this week on my university forum with regard to these ideas;

As a teacher, I don’t think I ever paid too much attention to the information literacy ideas beyond a skill set. Yes, I tried to work with the ideas in my tasks set but not to the extent that I now realise I could have focused.
Like Langford (1998) points out with regards to information literacy and its lack of prominence in schools, information literacy was not on my radar. I had not even considered the term information literacy prior to this subject and if you asked me six months ago I probably would have related it to IT skills. ISP and other terminology that I had come across were somewhat disconnected and purely viewed as skillsets to introduce and pass on to students. Now I realise it was not effective enough. However, I considered the other literacy ideas such as visual, media, critical, social, cultural and other literacies. I was definitely concerned with literacy but the ideas were certainly disjointed.

At this point in my investigation, I ask myself why? I realise like most things I have already discovered, all things library have somehow been separated; or not integrated well enough into the whole school approach.

In terms of literacy, I now feel if you have literacy to do with information; that is how to define what you need to know, locate information, evaluate information, decide if it is relevant, and then make choices about relevance to your purpose, leading to what you will create and finally reflect on the process, then this literacy will help with all the other literacies.
Somehow it is still not clear enough and I am still working on my position, but if we are all (predominantly) relying on the super information highway for our information, then surely we all need to be educated in how to deal with this information and ensure that the information we are dealing with is the best information it could possibly be. Who better to provide this information or learning than the expert, that is the teacher librarian.

In my learning, I have discovered that this hazy understanding and application of information literacy is not too uncommon across the teaching profession. It appears to be one of the great challenges that need to be addressed along with the challenge of integrating information literacy across schooling.

In our information rich world, the cartoon below sums up experiences as teachers we may have come across.  It is a humorous presentation but adds the complexity of Web 2.0 challenges.

Langford, L. (1998), Information literacy: a clarification, accessed at http://www.fno.org/sept98/clarify.html

 

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Exploring New Literacies…

The ideas in exploring new literacies are as expansive as the information we have available. How do I navigate these ideas? How do I secure an understanding that is validated in an information world where potentially we are all contributors? What are the parameters that need to be applied to achieve my purpose and reach the point of clarity? How will I know when I achieve my aim?

My exploration in this area will take more than one post. In this post I would like to start with the following videos.

What do teachers think?

What is e-literate?

 

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Project Based Learning

I have just read the Boss & Krauss (2008) article and would like to share a classroom experience of mine a few years back when I first started teaching. Firstly, I have a Drama/Media/English teaching background and prior to teaching I worked in youth theatres and led workshops in film production and theatre with youth. The youth I worked with, both in my arts background and in teaching, have almost always been from what people term ‘disadvantaged’ (although, I am not so sure this is the term we continue to use today) backgrounds and often not engaged in learning.

When I started teaching media at a high school I introduced to my year 10 students a project alongside the curriculum already in place, therefore it did involve more work. This project was to create a documentary that would be part of a film festival for schools in the western metropolitan region. The whole class worked together as the producers/creators of this documentary. Shortly after we started, a terrible bullying incident happened at the school that shocked a great deal of the school community. This affected the ‘filmmakers’ in my class strongly enough to want to focus the documentary on the issue of bullying. The engagement in the process of creating this documentary was fantastic. There was some direct instruction in the film-making process, such as planning, research, filmic language, camera techniques, story-boarding, interviewing techniques, lighting and editing. In the scheme of the project this direct instruction seemed minimal compared to the actual process of working on the documentary. Students beyond the classroom were involved as extras, as students who were willing to share their stories in the documentary and as actors who reenacted scenes that students talked about.

The class learned about documentary as a form and were able to apply their learning as a result. Assessment was easy as it included various stages such as planning, process and final product as well as skills and attributes displayed by students. The assessment was certainly formative but achieving an end product also contributes to a summative assessment that is formed through a combination of the various tasks.

I know that this project was part of a media subject but I have also carried out a similar process in the English classroom through units focusing on radio plays or radio documentaries for example, and I have found it successful here also. I can certainly see how a class blog can work in writing a novel for instance, if that is what a teacher would like to explore with a group. Beyond this I managed to find a librarian blog recently (although, I can’t locate it right now) that had a wonderful feature for students to be able to contribute their stories to the library blog and this felt like such an exciting opportunity for student involvement in the library blog.

Even though I am comfortable with technology, and have studied film-making in the past, twenty years ago when I first was making films the technology was different and today that technology is not so relevant. Over time, I have had to adapt to new technologies, keep up, and maintain  the willingness to learn new things and, I suppose, accept that technology always changes. This last point has helped the most. No doubt, I am sure there are many who can share stories about not knowing how to use something and a student was able to show you how. I know this has happened to me many times.

As a summation of this post
1. Project based learning works for all from all backgrounds and can prove meaningful and most importantly remembered later in life. At the film festival, I know the students felt like ‘stars’ and were very proud of their efforts. The school now has this student-made documentary on ‘bullying’ that can be accessed and utilised as a starting point for further discussion. Further to this, the process although initiated by myself, had the overarching feeling of being student-led and this was important to the sense of achievement felt by the students.

2. technology is constantly changing and my ability to adapt and learn new things is more important than the technology itself. For example I, like many in my teacher librarian course, only learned to blog because of this subject. Yet, I am excited about the possibilities it can bring to the educational environment and even the creative possibilities that many may come up with as a result of learning to blog.

In considering how this applies to my role as the Teacher-librarian in any school setting, I suppose it links in closely with the idea of leading in curriculum and bringing these ideas to the school. Like the media class, it will involve some instruction but, the process should win out in the end and that is what ends up leading in the curriculum.

Another student in my course  mentioned ‘brekkie with a tekkie‘ (click on the link it is great). Maybe as the Teacher-librarian I may initiate ‘brekkie with the Teacher-Librarian’ as a way of sharing and demonstrating ideas. Working in a school will make me accessible for more collaboration hopefully.

The video following raises some of the issues confronted when thinking about education and transformation for the 21 century. It is within this context that Project based learning takes form.

Technology is not so relevant on its own and just adding technology to our repertoire of skills wont necessarily enhance teaching and learning. It is how we utilise technology as a tool to meet an end that makes a difference. Thinking deeply about the technological tools we have at our disposal and how they can contribute to meaningful learning and take education to the next level where creativity and problem solving is enhanced is the key.

Boss, S. & Krauss, J. (2008) Reinventing ProjectBased Learning: your field guide to real-world projects in the digital age. Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

 

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Where is the teacher librarian?

It is the tram #8 I boarded after I missed the tram #1. I walked around to the corner of St Kilda road, crossed at the lights just past the entry to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and waited at the tram stop in the middle of the road to catch a tram that would take me to my destination. I knew the tram #8  would take me to the same setdown so when it arrived I boarded. It was serendipity that on this tram, at the back in the last seat on the right, was a clown, I was drawn to her and, as most seats had someone next to them, it was fortunate that the seat opposite the clown’s aisle was empty. I made my way to this seat. There I sat opposite a clown holding a ukulele. She, strumming some chords, is softly singing a beautiful little acoustic piece quietly at the back of the tram. She stops and delves into her bag pulling out an iPod device. Switching it on to record she resumes her song, all the while at the front of the tram there is a little child wailing and this does not deter her. She finishes, I look at her and smile and ask if she always composes via improvisations ‘Yes’ she says and ‘this piece is a piece I have been working on for a while and I think I’ve got it right now so I had to record it to make sure I don’t forget it.’ She mentions that she always works this way making constant revisions of songs and using her iPod to record the developments. I inquire further about whether she notates any of her music and she elaborates that she doesn’t write it down at all. She will mention the chord progression at the opening of each recording to ensure she doesn’t forget and then will record the song in all its constant revisions. She is dressed as a clown.

I look out the back window to the rhythm of the tram and watch. As this is how I am facing, it is looking forwards for me, I notice another lady is running with all her might directly behind the tram as the tram slows to a halt. She makes it in time to board the tram.

The beautiful acoustic tune, the constant rhythmic sound of the tram and the clown have left me quite pensive. The thoughts of the week relating to my learning suddenly start to take shape in this space and I, as if from a different planet, pull out a notebook and pen and start to write.

This moment has brought to the surface much of what had been mulling around in my mind during the past week. Thinking about how we learn and moments of inspiration. This moment certainly encapsulated that. Opposite me I had someone creatively capturing ideas utilising technology while I pulled out a notebook and pen and started to capture my ideas this way. The nature of creating something from ideas, thoughts or other such inspirations and then utilising tools to reach an end product is education at its best. It is this constructivist approach to learning that much of my readings over the past couple of weeks have pointed to.

Herring (2007)[i] frames his ideas in the opening of his chapter with a focus on the shift to constructivist learning being one of the many instigators that necessitates a shift in our approaches to teaching. Kalantzis (2002)[ii] frames globalisation, convergence, increased diversity and subcultures necessitating a shift in how we define literacy and hence the need to rethink how we approach teaching as a result. Multiliteracies and the practical examples, provided by Kalantzis, focus on constructivist approaches.

Naude (1999)[iii] and Melisssas and Burgess (2004)[iv] both converge on the idea of providing scaffolds to develop information literacy and independent critical thinking as lifelong skills. These scaffolds as is evidenced in the creation of a CDROM of resources; outlined by Melissas and Burgess(2004), is a practical application that supports both students and teachers. The resource developed by two teacher librarians emphasises the importance of the teacher librarian and their role in collaborative and leadership practices in enhancing the overarching goals of schools in the development of information literacy as a life skill.

The importance of the teacher librarian as guide and facilitator in information literacy development  is further emphasised by O’Connell (1999)[v]. As students try to navigate what O’Connell terms the “Fuzzy future of hypertext and hypermedia”. O’Connell draws particular attention to confidence of use and navigation and if this is lacking in the teacher then this will be reflected in the students. Hence, the challenge for leadership in this area and the opportunity for the teacher librarian to collaborate as instructional partner in this relevant area of information literacy navigation and critical thinking. “fuzzy teaching” O’Connell purports leads to “Fuzzy learning” and hence a “Fuzzy future” for education. It is the expertise, in information literacy, of the teacher librarian that provides the link to transforming education and through collaboration the teacher librarian guides and provides the scaffolds for the process of teaching and learning.

Beyond this, my thoughts had been placed firmly on the role of the Principal and the support of the Principal for the role of the teacher librarian in the wider school community. Oberg (2006)[vi] clearly talks about the importance of the Principal in supporting and enhancing the role of the teacher librarian as leader and instructional partner pointing out “the principal is the key factor in the development of a collaborative school culture that is needed for a strong school library program”. This idea is echoed in Morris (2007)[vii] who then extends this to provide a list of what enhancements to the school program will be provided by such support.

The reality of the support and understanding of the importance of the teacher librarian is what has been stuck in my imagination all week. These thoughts and ideas lead me to a practical example. I do not want to mention the school in this blog, but I am currently volunteering in the library of a local primary school one day a week.  Mary (not her real name) is known as ‘the librarian’ at the school and works three days a week. She is not a teacher and her role does not include any teaching in the library. In fact it is the teachers who take the students to the library for one hour per week and lead the library session. The majority of the work carried out by Mary pertains to the collection management of the library resources and include selection, cataloguing, designing the library space and keeping it in order. Mary has no qualifications as a librarian and has learned everything ‘on the job’. She is quite a remarkable person and has worked at the education library of the University of Melbourne, set up a primary school library at Fitzroy, worked in public libraries in the inner city of Melbourne and is currently working at two primary school libraries within the same area. Mary has been working in libraries since the 1960’s.

Her knowledge is amazing and she willingly shares information and ideas with me; never tiring of my endless questions. She has informed me that she is planning to retire soon and when I talk to her about the course I am studying she lights up and launches into a speech about the importance of teacher librarians and how all schools need to have them to have an effective library program. She provides wonderful anecdotes about different teacher librarians she has worked with and much of what she describes clearly fit with much of what I am currently learning with regards to the role of the teacher librarian. Then why, I wonder quietly to myself, does this school not have a teacher librarian?

I have had a long association with this school and a brief context is warranted. The school is a state school and is situated in the inner city suburbs bordering the city. The demographics of this particular school are more than 80% in the higher socio-economic brackets. The overwhelming majority of parents are tertiary educated and, dare I say, quite successful in their respective fields. The culture of the school supports teachers in ongoing learning and there are numerous teachers currently undertaking either Masters or PhD programs to enhance their practice. The Principal has taught educators at tertiary level also. The students consistently outperform ‘similar’ schools in external testing and much of the teaching and learning at the school clearly fits in with constructivist approaches. Yet, the conundrum of no teacher librarian persists in my thoughts.

Mary does believe that a teacher librarian is necessary in a school program for the overall goals of the school to be successful and develop. She points to only a couple of teachers as providing a focus on developing information literacy when they come to the library with the overwhelming majority barely covering such concepts. This clearly reminds me of O’Connell’s “fuzzy teaching” leads to “Fuzzy Learning”.

I further learn that Mary shares the responsibility of weeding with Liz (not her real name), the leading literacy teacher at the school. Once a year they focus on one section and Liz, who happens to be a trained teacher librarian, carries out the bulk of the decision-making in this area.

In terms of technology, Mary does talk about the shift in the past ten years and says she is feeling the pressure but is not going to take on the new ideas as she is reaching the end of her career. The school does have a significant technology focus and has been developing the integration of technology throughout the curriculum for the last ten years. Many successful inroads have been made with examples including being part of the pilot program for smartboards, refurbishing the library and dedicating a significant part of the library space to what is called the “Mac Lab”. Classes have a “Mac Lab” lesson one hour a week and during this time students are engaged in creating and the ‘Mac Lab’ session is an extension of the classroom curriculum. In these sessions the students utilise filmmaking, podcasts, music composition and other creative tools. The instigator and responsibility for technology has been taken by the Music teacher at the school. Mary points out that she would not feel confident with such technology and certainly would not want to lead instruction in this area. It is the classroom teachers and the ICT leaders that have taken responsibility in this area.

From all that Mary has shared, I can certainly see the many examples of collaborative practices in place. However, I feel certain having a teacher librarian in the role could enhance these practices and contribute to less “fuzzy teaching” and “fuzzy learning” and clarify the future from one that is currently “fuzzy” to one that is crystal and empowered.

On that note I leave you with the following audio-visual sources and I hope they contribute to a less “Fuzzy” understanding of the ideas in this post.

All the while the rhythm of the tram continues in my mind as I hum the little tune the clown was playing… If only I asked her for an MP3 file that I could have added as the soundscape to this post… Oh well a missed opportunity in collaboration…


[i] Herring, J. (2007). Teacher Librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp 27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

[ii] Kalantzis, M., Cope, B. and Fehring, H. (2002). Multiliteracies: teaching and learning in the new communications environment. (PEN 133). Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teachers Association.

[iii] Naude, S. (1999). Maximising the benefits of information technology: one library’s attempt to ensure its students are on-task and information literate. In J. Henri & K. Bonanno (Eds.), The Information literate school community: best practice (pp. 285-290). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

[iv] Melissas, S., & Burgess, L. (2004) “Turning theory into practice in the classroom”, Synergy, vol. 2, no. 2, (pp. 39-43)

[v] O’Connell, J. 1999, Leadership’s challenge: the fuzzy future, In Henri J. The Information literate school community: best practice, (pp 173-182), Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

[vi] Oberg, D., ‘Developing the respect and support of school administrators” Teacher Librarian, Feb. 2006; 33,3; CBCA Complete.

[vii] Morris, B.J., “Pricipal Support for Collaboration”, School Libraries Worldwide, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 2007, (pp 23-24)

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2011 in 126 ~ The self

 

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The Digital Native Has Global Connections

How an individual likes to learn is a preoccupation of teaching and a great deal of thought and research focusses specifically on this area in our attempt as educators to engage students, present meaningful learning and work with strengths or develop strengths. Lessons are designed based on learning styles in an attempt to reach and engage a learner. This focus is about acknowledging the individual and catering to their needs in an attempt to maximise potential.

As an educator, my teaching has focussed on developing individual learning plans for each student and this can only happen with a learning needs assessment. One of my favourite theories specific to these thoughts is Multiple Intelligence (MI) Theory as proposed by Howard Gardner. Following is a link that will give a brief overview.

http://www.multipleintelligencetheory.co.uk/

One of my strengths is a visual learner, so I have included the following chart to make the ideas accessible visually.

In planning for teaching and learning, I often start by assessing the MI strengths of the individual student as a class activity. When class projects or tasks are set, working with a rubric to ensure the intelligences are covered proves successful for the various learners. furthermore, I make a point of not just working with an individuals strengths but challenging the student to work on their weaknesses. Thereby improving overall potential.

In teaching, the learner is the central focus and in considering how this is relevant to the Teacher Librarian (T/L) it quickly becomes apparent that the student is the centre.

With this in mind, as I love all things audio-visual, I discovered some thought-provoking video clips that relate to today’s learner. These clips focus on the climate of the digital world and the impact this has had in shaping today’s learner. The term Digital Native is often used to describe the people who were born during this era of the digital world. However, many are digital adopters.

This last clip is interesting in terms of its focus on the idea of interpersonal or social aspects of learning and how the internet has facilitated this to a certain degree. Even more importantly, the three clips are from three different continents, yet there appears to be a convergence evident and the idea of the global student being connected is certainly highlighted.

I would like to end with this clip that my lecturer has posted highlighting the change to information and accessing information. This clip made me think a great deal about understanding my work as a T/L in the world of information delivery, storage, categorising, relevancy and access.

 

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