Work and learning

Effective working now requires an employee to recognize what information is required, to know how to seek out that information, evaluate it’s relevance and reliability, and to be able to translate that information into learning and actionable tasks. And this evaluation needs to be done constantly and consistently throughout an individuals career. Employers now have to accept that learning is an essential part of being able to get the job done – learning IS work.

Oh – at last! It’s worth reading perspectives from beyond the hallowed halls of education – after all, that’s where  our students are all heading in some way or another.

The rest of the post also has further gems in it.

via NoddleSoft.

Hybrid synergy – the future of school libraries

The Resources Centre

School has been busy – and so have I. Not many blog posts – but nevertheless  I’ve been busy mulling over the future of school libraries and how they should best be integrated into the education setting that we call “schools”.

Those of us who have been in ‘schools’ for many years remember when schools had no libraries!  Now it seems that some forward thinking people prefer to return to elements of schooling that were regarded as outmoded.  Get rid of libraries? Forget the role of libraries and teacher librarians? We don’t try and go backwards in other areas of education – so what’s the deal with this myopic view?

I have been busy watching the twitter stream #iwbnet10 where three of my colleagues are listening to some of Australia’s brightest talk about schools, schooling and the digital revolution at the Seventh National Interactive Teaching and Learning Conference.

By all accounts the conference has been brim full of ideas. But what strikes me about this and other conferences, such as ISTE2010 (that I very much enjoyed in Denver earlier this year) is the decided lack of discussion of what I see as an urgent need for a ‘new’ hybrid synergy between learning and libraries.  According to Designing for the Future of Learning

the school library remains one of them most symbolic, protected, and expensive ’spaces’ on any campus. But will future designers of school libraries be recreating sacred book spaces of the past or will technology and the ‘consumer’ inspire new design strategies for the future? For many, the library is the literal information bridge to the future.

It is very discouraging indeed to have conference attendees excited by one-eyed presentations of future learning needs.  Focussing on the digital revolution and ignoring the pivotal role that a good school library can play is to achieve only a percentage of what is possible – regardless of how good it seems , it’s just not good enough!

When I focus on my role as a teacher librarian, I ask myself a few leading questions:

Should we be immersed in new media and technology in our hyperlinked library?  Definitely.

Should we be working tirelessly to identify what is needed to think in ‘future tense’ and embrace the challenge of keeping ahead?  Most certainly.

Should we be leading the  conversation about social networking and digital identities? And how!

Should we be discussing the assessment problem in these media environments?  But of course!

I have the joy (and tears) of managing a school library that is open each week day from 8 am – 10 pm.

It’s a central hub for collaboration, technology, reading and writing.  It’s a place for change and about change. But with all that, it still has a long way to go  to achieve a hybrid synergy in our school. No different from most – we are evolving and responding to change!

This is important because  in an era of fast facts and short cuts kids have to become VERY literate in multimodal forms.

There are NO short cuts to literacy, and there is no replacement for the love of reading! No amount of gaming, movie making, sport, social networking etc can replace the cognitive gains to be made by allowing our students to become deep readers and deep researchers.  Technology has so much to offer in this thirst for deep knowledge and engagement with the ebook [r]evolution! However, technology is not a replacement for reading, researching, and the value that school libraries and school librarians can bring to our multimodal digital century.

Can you read this?

So while you get excited about technology rich schools, and while you focus on immersive and multimodal technology, don’t forget to focus on reading, literacy, information fluency and deep understanding.  What we need is a hybrid synergy between teaching, learning, technology, pedagogy, and the services of a school library/information services centre of learning and innovation.

Everything is a matter of degree. We do need to redesign our learning environments to address, leverage and harness the new media technology environment of our schools. We need to start redesigning our school libraries and the work of teacher librarians for these learning environments. We need to adopt learner centred e-teaching. We need to share, co-operate and collaborate because we now have an information ecology that can be open, self-managed, fostered and conducive to knowledge flow between content and connections.

As Michael Wesch explains,

Students need to move from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able

Please look for ways to create a hybrid synergy in your school or academic institution. In terms of modern information and media skills, our practice demonstrates small, uneven pockets of best practice. We have no textbook for what 21st-century school library practice looks like.

Today I found a school that has grasped the need for hybrid synergy!  Not only do they have a school library that is the centre of learning and innovation – they will have in 2011 the perfect vehicle for synergy in 21st century learning by formalising the lead structures within their school.

Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services, supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who will teach a subject, work with a faculty, as well as support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

Oh, but we can’t afford that at our school!

Maybe not – but you cannot afford to do without a library, nor can you afford not to adopt a hybrid synergy that will allow your teacher librarian to take charge of the digital revolution -  that is in danger of disenfranchising our students.

Let your students become ‘knowledge-able’ through literacy, reading and information fluency driven by teacher librarian experts embedded in your multimodal learning environments.

Body in the library – a murder mystery of our own!

Last term the Library Team at Joeys excelled themselves in launching an amazing “Body in the Library” investigative program in collaboration with the Science and English faculties. I promised to share this after talking about it at EduBloggerCon 2010 in Denver.  So here are some more of the details!

Boy’s body found in the Resource Centre! Year 8 suspected!

The focus of the project was to facilitate deeper learning in our students by creating an ‘authentic learning’ experience to strengthen writing and literacy skills across the curriculum. In English, students learned about the literary conventions of forensic fiction in their crime novel, Framed,  and how to use them to solve a crime.  In Science, students learned about how use a variety of scientific methods including analysing dental records, fragments and fibres, fingerprinting, shoeprinting and DNA samples in order to solve a crime.

These skills were then put to the test when boys were asked to solve a ‘body in the library’ type crime which the library team spent weeks preparing!

To solve the crime, students viewed the crime scene, looked at photographic evidence, read various ‘official’ forensic and crime  reports, watched video-taped evidence of the crime in action; watched interviews of the suspects; read  testimonies of different suspects; and analysed many forms of written and physical evidence!  Students employed deductive thinking skills, analysed all available evidence and established motives for the suspects in an attempt to determine who committed the crime. Lastly, each student submitted their own police report on the crime and its investigation.

This collaborative activity raised an astounding level of interest from all 150 boys – as well as raising a lot of  interest from boys from many other years.

Here’s  a brief overview of the scenario::

A body is found in the library at the end of Period 4 on Tuesday. It is a Year 9 boy who has been hit on the head with a blunt instrument.  The body is discovered by Mrs O’Connell in the Fiction area. A coroner’s report puts time of death at recess/Period 3.

The murderer is Mrs Smith. In a fit of rage, she has killed the student for not returning an overdue book.  There are two other prime suspects: Mr Smith, the Yr 9 Co-ordinator, who is annoyed by the behaviour of the student, and Jack, the boy’s friend, who had a fight with the victim.

Each boy received a forensic workbook – containing a range of materials for examination such as crime reports, witness statements and a coroners report. In addition the ‘crime scene’ was taped off, with key evidence on display e.g. fingerprints, the location of the body, and places where DNA was found.  Photographic evidence included the injury reports (fake bruising and blood on the victim), video footage of the scene of the crime (staged by students and teachers) and also hard hitting interviews.  The students were able to go into our two discussion rooms (which have a plasma screen for collaborative work) and view the footage and interviews, and take notes about what they saw and heard.

All this analysis led to some fierce competition to solve the crime, and find the murder weapon – which was hidden amongst the library shelves.  You guessed it – a steel bookend (decorated with some fake blood).

If you want to prepare a scenario of your own, here is our  YEAR_8_FORENSIC_SCIENCE framework that set up the string of evidence and clues for our project.

A copy of the coronor’s report below will give you an idea of the level of detailed evidence provided for the students to analyse.

The rest you’ll have to create for yourself! Did I mention I have the best Library Team on the planet?  This was just such a fantastic experience!

Infowhelm

The 21st Century Fluency Project provides educators with an innovative resource designed to cultivate 21st century fluencies, while fostering engagement and adventure in the learning experience.

Here you’ll find useful guides and other resources. To assist us in cultivating these new skills in our students, they have built an interactive online lesson and unit planning tool and have a team of dedicated educators developing hundreds of lesson plans. I’m looking forward to the public beta.

Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy their video about INFOWHELM:

We live in a 24/7 InfoWhelm world. We have access to more information than we will ever need. This video will tell you just how much information there is out there. It requires a different set of skills than the ones we leave school with today.

Digital literacy across the curriculum

Digital Literacy across the Curriculum (pdf), from FutureLab, UK, is a 63-page handbook aimed at educational practitioners and school leaders in both primary and secondary schools who are interested in creative and critical uses of technology in the classroom. The handbook is supported by case studies (pdf) of digital literacy in practice and video case studies.

The handbook aims to introduce educational practitioners to the concepts and contexts of digital literacy and to support them in developing their own practice aimed at fostering the components of digital literacy in classroom subject teaching and in real school settings.

Developing digital literacy is important  because it supports young people to be confident and competent in their use of technology in a way that will enable them to develop their subject knowledge by encouraging their curiosity, supporting their creativity, giving them a critical framing for their emerging understandings and allowing them to make discerning use of the increasing number of digital resources available to them. p.10

Developing digital literacy in the classroom can allow students to apply their existing knowledge of creating with digital technology to learning in school and in the process be supported to think more critically and creatively about what it is they are doing. p.24

Fostering creativity in the classroom involves applying elements of creativity to subject knowledge. This can be done in all subjects across the school curriculum. p.25

This is an outstanding document that can be used as an information primer for helping schools develop a whole-school approach – particularly relevant in the current 1:1 laptop scenario in Australia.

The future of digital diversity

Think digital – it’s  a ‘doing’ technology.  Trends from PewInternet Research Centre indicate that teens are digital denizens.

While the research is not Australia, it points the way to the behaviours or our own teens, and signals a need for some major shifts in thinking about learning and teaching contexts.   The interactivity of the web allows students to move very quickly from one application to another – remixing, remaking and montaging ‘content’.  Learning is promoted most effectively when students are making, creating, building, simulating, hypothesizing – all desirable higher-order thinking activities.

So, give these figures some thought!

Search deymystified ~ with a little steam punk

Finding and evaluating information is a critical digital/information literacy skill~ perhaps more important than ever in 2010.

But researching is a learned skill, not something you’re born with. And while some people might be predisposed to learn things more easily than others, it’s generally not enough to make a measurable difference. By learning how to research, you can quickly and fairly easily become knowledgeable about just about anything.

Admirable sentiments from  How to Find Anything Online: Become an Internet Research Expert. Actually the article has some interesting links to pursue – but misses a critical point altogether that was picked up so cleverly in Too Fantastique to be True:  Story of what looks like a wonderful ‘steam punk’ musical instrument.

The claim is that the musical instrument is built mainly from John Deere machine parts and took over 13,000 hours to build, tune and perfect. The email, however, which most people simply forward, contains great clues for investigative searching:

Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory
Sharon Wick School of Engineering
Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall
University of Iowa

Fact Check: copy and paste any of the first three into a search query. Your students may find this an interesting challenge. The video is one of many similar animations first produced, not as a hoax, by Animusic.

Helping students to learn to search effectively includes demystifying the search and evaluation process. No, it’s not a good idea to start with Wikipedia then move to Google without having some quality mental filters in place at the start of that journey!

Information Literacy to the rescue!

The 21st Century Information Fluency team provide 50 learning games that teach how to locate and evaluate digital information.

There are literally truckloads of resources to support information literacy, including Resource Kits, Articles, Podcasts, Videos, Assessment Articles, Tutorial Games, Curriculum Connections, Annotated Web Resources.

Our Australian students should be introduced to lots of good resources to trawl for information beyond those mentioned if they are genuinely going to be internet search experts.

A good place to start is the  National Library of Australia search portal. Welcome to Trove!