An international school library perspective

Balinese dancerThis week I am delighted to be immersed in international perspectives on school libraries and teacher librarianship as I participate in the 42nd annual conference of the International Association of School Librarianship. IASL conferences provide a gathering point for leaders and practitioners in the field of school libraries, and has allowed me to meet some amazing and inspirational people over the years. This year, the IASL conference “Enhancing Students’ Life Skills through the School Library”  is hosted in Bali, Indonesia by the Indonesia Association of School Library Workers, an independent organization facilitating school library workers to improve competencies and develop school librarianship in Indonesia.

After preparing the conference paper “Building a Vibrant Future for School Librarians through Online Conversations for Professional Development” I was fortunate to be able to present a lively presentation and discussion session (translated into Indonesian) about digital environments and the work of the School of Information Studies to support online conversations as part of the personal learning networks in this context.

Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age!



Great title don’t you think?  This very title is the name of a new subject – foundation subject no less – that is in the pipeline for 2014 for the new degree that I have been immersed in developing.  As mentioned in my post a while back, I have had my head down and tail up for the last six weeks working live a navvy on scoping this new and exciting degree for next year.

Still a big secret in terms of the whole course program and content of course, because the final approval isn’t through yet.  We still have the last hurdle to face, but fingers crossed, we’ll make the grade. As it happens, the framework, subjects, electives etc are pretty much sorted, as is the focus of each subject.

It’s been a mammoth undertaking in some ways, and not so much in others. Conceptually it’s easy to pinpoint what is needed to fill the gaps in postgraduate learning opportunities to meet our professional learning needs within our networked learning environments. While there are of course many opportunities for professional development in these areas, there is also a need for academic credentialed programs that leverage deep thinking and research, and provide teachers with evidence of their passion, commitment and reasons for choosing them for innovative and/or promotions positions!

The new Australian national curriculum demands a deep understanding of connected learning, particularly if we consider the digitally connected environments that our students are working in.

So the motivation was strong to develop a degree that captured the power of networked learning, knowledge and information environments, learning spaces design, gaming, e-literature and more, in a powerful combination drawing on the disciplines of education, information technology, and information science. We took it on board to examine the key features and influences of global connectedness, information organisation, communication and participatory cultures of learning, aiming to provide the opportunity to reflect on professional practice in just such a networked learning community, and engage in peer dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in a digital environments.

So overall, the intention is to allow questioning, review and reconstruction of understanding, with the new subjects framing the challenges of learning in digital environments and setting the context for innovation and change in professional practice.

Everything will be thought-provoking, and will build on the knowledge that teachers bring to the course, rather than being driven by fixed content. By pushing the boundaries, knowledge networking and digital innovation will be the inspiration for this post-graduate program.

So roll on 21 May…..and if all goes well,  I will share all the details of the new degree.  If we hit any hiccups – well, what can I say?  Back to the drawing boards!

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by jah~

School libraries in safe hands

School libraries are vital
Last week was magical – because I had the chance to meet some of the great people that continue to want to be teacher librarians, and who make the commitment to take up studying as an option in quality professional development in order to do the job well!

It doesn’t matter what anyone says – I KNOW that a good school library can only be run by a qualified teacher librarian. A good teacher and ICT leader can do a lot – but they are not versed in the discipline of library and information studies and there is just so much that they can’t know.  No fault of their own – they just haven’t ‘learned the trade’.

Don’t believe me?

Then ask the 60 wonderful people who attended the training days that I ran with my colleagues for the Department of Education and Community Services in NSW. Every one of them is a quality teacher.  But every one of them left the two days of workshop activities stunned by what they were now going to be learning as they study to become quality teacher librarians.

Here in NSW we are fortunate that a school library is an essential, and a qualified teacher librarian is also a required position in each school!

In this year’s cohort at the DECNSW we had teachers of all ages and experiences. We also had a few geeks, who will be able to help the group get up to speed with Web 2.0 environments and online tools.

In the last few weeks we have also been traveling to different capital cities, meeting our new students entering the Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) program at Charles Sturt University.  Our degree is delivered fully online, and can be studied at a pace to suit individual needs.  While many of our students are located in Australia, many more are located in city and country areas around the  world.

March will see the commencement of Session One for all these new students.

Welcome to you all!

If you missed enrolling for the start of 2013, it’s not too late to start your new career option later in the year. Visit our information pages at CSU.

Is school librarianship in crisis and should we be talking about it?

While teacher librarians and school library services continue to adapt to the needs of their students and school community in response to student learning needs, the future is not always rosy. We have been given comprehensive evidence that in Australia there is indeed a crisis in school librarianship, and that we need to be talking about it.

This was the topic of my short presentation for ALIA BIennial Sydney 2012, which only touched broadly on the actual content of the paper submitted.

If we recognise that there are many forces at play within schools that impact on provision of library and information services, then we have some idea as to why school libraries are caught up in that potential crisis of budgeting as schools continue to adapt to 21st century learning needs. It is when competing constraints are in operation that school librarianship inevitably comes under scrutiny, resulting in adaptations and changes that can have long-term implications.

6.6 It is indisputable that the value of teacher librarians’ work has been eroded over the years and undervalued by many in the community, be it by colleagues, principals, parents or those in the wider school community.

School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia

Perhaps one of the most disheartening conversations that have emerged in recent times has been in relation to the leadership and staffing of a school library. Many have noted the shift that can take place in a school where teacher librarianship is sufficiently undervalued, so that teaching staff are appointed to “run‟ a school library, with little or no qualifications in the field appropriate to the nature of the services that a school and its students deserves. Conversely, staff may be appointed who may have a library qualification, but who are not teachers.

6.7 The profession has unfortunately been subject to the many competing priorities that school principals find themselves contending with in an environment in which education budgets are ever stretched.
School Libraries and Teacher Librarians in 21st Century Australia

The Australian Government Inquiry into school libraries and teacher librarianship provided us with a substantial review that indicates the vital need to continue the conversation about what a teacher librarian is, does, and can do into the future. (Inquiry Report, 6.17). This conversation (i.e. research activities and professional development opportunities) will ensure that individuals, groups and organizations will be better placed to continue advocacy on behalf of the profession.

A good place to gain an overview of the influences in this conversation is in the Learning in a Changing World (2010) series, which addresses how the learning environment and the services to support it are evolving. The series presents the core areas for teacher librarians and school leaders to consider for 21st century learning: the digital world, virtual worlds, curriculum integration, resourcing, and the physical environment. This series highlights key themes that contribute to the ongoing conversation:

1. Successful learning for 21st century students is shaped by the digital environments within society and in our schools
a. Learning involves connecting, communicating and collaborating in multimodal environments
b. Rate of technology change is accelerating as it a teacher‟s responsibility to facilitating learning in current and emerging digital environments
c. Resources are being managed with better technology tools and refined digital integration
d. Curriculum innovation depends on integration with digital and multimodal approaches to learning
2. The scholarship of teaching is influenced and shaped by digital environments
a. Models of learning are being developed that accommodate multimodal learning environments
b. Mobile devices and virtual environments are essential components of learning
c. Learning theories are responding to creative, cognitive and meta-cognitive engagement with literacy and information needs that have emerged as a result of digital environments.
d. Curriculum innovation depends on adopting a teaching and learning approach that is flexible, student-centered, and incorporates a range of tools and devices for digital connectivity
3. School libraries need to respond to a 21st century information ecology
a. Literacy and research frameworks need to be developed to respond to the unique developments in digital environments
b. Action-based research needs to drive the decision-making cycle
c. Guided enquiry is an essential tool for curriculum integration
d. The school library is a virtual and physical learning commons for whole-school library services
4. The teacher librarian must be a curriculum leader with responsibility for supporting whole school learning frameworks that meet challenges that the digital context has created
a. The teacher librarian leads information provision in their schools, with an increasingly strong focus on digital resources and environments
b. The teacher librarian designs the learning environment of the library to respond to the pedagogic and technologic changes in learning and teaching taking place
c. School libraries are hubs of professional development and collaborative action
d. The teacher librarian leads the ethical and responsible use of resources underpinned by the mix-and-match environment of creativity, literacy and knowledge activities that digital environments have fostered.

Working the crisis!

Teacher librarians are already acknowledged as being creative and wholly competent in the traditional literacy and information literacy aspects of their role as well as in all dimensions of the technology/mobile enhanced learning environment. Despite this, the challenges facing schooling and schools today continues to promote or erode the “status‟ of the teacher librarian and the school library depending on a variety of critical circumstances.

The full paper presented at ALIA2012 Biennial Conference is available here.

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by robinsoncaruso

So you think they can learn?

Perhaps the answer to that question is obvious to you? Or perhaps you are wondering what exactly it is that you should wish your students  to learn?

I know that teachers are passionate people, who are committed to providing students with rich learning experiences and diverse opportunities to rise to the challenges that our world provides. But this passion needs to be nurtured, and is best nurtured by drawing on the quality experiences of our peer practitioners, and quality research that is being undertaken in schools.

In speaking to a group of new post graduate students this evening, I explained that one of the avenues for supporting your own ‘passion’ is to subscribe to a new online journal for educators called SCAN (which – for my money – has always been one of the best-value journals around in print form).

What does SCAN offer?

Scan is a leading refereed journal that focuses on the interaction between information in a digital age and effective student learning. Scan offers engaging professional support for all educators.

What’s in Scan?

Articles, school stories and resources about:

  • quality learning and connected curriculum
  • teaching ideas for digital age literacies
  • inquiry learning and evidence based practice
  • multimodal resources for exciting learning
  • research and emerging trends
  • extensive e-resource, website and other reviews
  • dynamic school libraries

The new online issue of SCAN carries the article  So you think they can learn? in which I urge SCAN readers to make learning visible by re-envisioning information literacy for today’s learners.

Do take the time to visit SCAN and experience the new interactive capabilities that will surely make this journal a continued leader in the field in the digital era.

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

The time for libraries is now!


Each new academic year brings me challenges, changes and excitement in ways that I often cannot anticipate. Once again our library shelves have been dusted, collections prepared, digital tools sharpened, and our motivation is running high. Yet the one point of predictability is that the learning landscape refuses to ‘be still’!  When it comes to literacy, information and life-long learning, the pulsing energy of change powers the curriculum of learning  throughout the year at breakneck speed.

Before the year had hardly got underway there were already several indicators that confirmed that education should  never be what it was when you were at school. For example YouTube told us:

Since the dawn of YouTube, we’ve been sharing the hours of video you upload every minute. In 2007 we started at six hours, then in 2010 we were at 24 hours, then 35, then 48, and now…60 hours of video every minute, an increase of more than 30 percent in the last eight months.

Never mind that the ‘dawn of YouTube’ was February 2005, which was just 10 short years after Larry Page and Sergey Brin first met at Stanford University, and before Google was a twinkle in their eye.

We saw the launch of iBooks for education, and iBooksAuthor which promised to challenge the textbook environment in schools by allowing teachers and students to create interactive content for iPads.  Following the unveiling of iBooks 2 Apple saw an incredible 350,000 textbook downloads in in the first three days after launch.

We also saw the new twist on Google+  which finally allowed both nicknames and full-fledged pseudonyms to be used. We got confirmation once again that game-based learning had more to offer than novelty interest. When online gamers topped scientists’ efforts to improve a model enzyme using the online game Foldit (University of Washington in Seattle) a milestone in crowd-sourced research was achieved.

While all schools are now involved in technology integration, laptop programs of some kind, and even iPads for 1:1 programs, it is astounding to think about the myriad ways the core tools and learning opportunities of the 21st century have indeed become extraordinary.

This is the socially connected era of mobile devices where interaction is key, and where mobile phone cameras are replacing point-and-shoot cameras to provide visual connection to the conversations. Audio and video media are more and more available online and always accessible in contrast to a disk or separate device designed for single purpose use. While some schools (or systems) lag in adopting the tools of today, students generally do not, making this is part of the overall challenge for information professionals.

Both librarians in your public or corporate library,  and your teacher librarians in your school library can have a vital role to play in today’s interactive knowledge environments as knowledge building, literacy and communication in action  takes many forms, shape-shifting before our eyes. This digital information ecology demands a new knowledge flow between content and digital connection in which expert professionals understand reading and information seeking in a connected world. In other words, the time for libraries is now!

For schools, all this sounds very much like an environment that is best understood and interpreted by teacher librarians who are passionate about their library’s role in the learning culture of their school. It sounds like the perfect space for teacher librarians who are up-to-date with social media, and who already understand the portable, personal web, focused on the individual, on life-stream, on consolidating content, that is powered by widgets, apps, drag-and-drop, and ‘mash-ups’ of user engagement.

Print materials are no longer at the core of the school library reference collection, the non-fiction collection, or the information search process. Students use technology to research online, anytime, anywhere. School libraries that adapt to the digital needs of their students not only continue to build a reading culture in the school, but provide the divergence and convergence in media needed to provide the materials for motivation, differentiation, collaboration and connections necessary for 21st century learning in the multiple and diverse ways of a true expert.

Put bluntly, the era of the  iPad and other mobile/hand-held devices have changed school libraries forever, but have made the role of the teacher-librarian within the whole school community the most important leadership role there is!

Lisa Oldham, Development specialist for school library futures at the National Library of New Zealand, discusses the future of school libraries in the knowledge economy.

Let’s make 2012 the best ever for our libraries!

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery