Learning without frontiers – social media and beyond

I am really enjoying participating in the ASLA National Conference in Sydney. We have had the most amazing presentations and workshops, which together show the way forward for teacher librarians keen to participate in 21st century learning and library services.

The keynote presentations will be available as a video as well as slideshare presentations, and I will post about these when they have been completed.

Today I started the day off for the crowd with some ideas and provocative thoughts to set the scene for the second full day at the conference. I really want school librarians to embrace social media, and become  builders of knowledge in new media environments by drawing on their passion and their love of culture and learning.

Ultimately we should be Learning without Frontiers!

It isn’t about learning how to use a particular digital tool.
It isn’t about social media.
It isn’t about new media, augmented reality, immersive story-telling.
It is about our ability to understand when and how we move across the everexpanding
meta-literacy environments.

The Googlization of everything



The internet has changed the way with think of information. The web as we know it is significantly changing our literacy and information encounters.Participative  media tools have altered the shape and experience of learning, and provided teacher and librarians in this changing learning environment with the need to embrace new skills, new tools and new ways of working with literacy, information literacy and digital fluency. If there is any doubt about the scope and impact of the new technology environment, the Horizon Report K-12 edition (2011) issued annually since 2009 has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools.

For some the 21st century school library seems to be trapped on a treadmill of technological progress, while for others the mystique of new technology provides the only impetus needed to go further, faster, and in more directions at once. The best course, as always, is somewhere in the middle, and depends on an understanding of the emerging capacities of the internet that is now hardwired into our student’s lives.  Think of the web  as being portable,  focused on the individual, on a lifestream, on consolidating content, and which is powered by widgets, drag & drop, and mashups of user engagement.  This socially powered web is exploding, and is the new baseline for all our internet and technology empowered interactions.

Underpinning our knowledge transactions is the power of search or information connections between disparate sources and data pools.We are constantly looking for new ways to create, massage, analyze, and share information – at least I hope so! In our global info-maze, are school libraries at risk of becoming irrelevant, or is the librarian’s expertise more critical than ever?

To answer this question (in the context of the web) you need only turn to one thing to realize how vital – indeed critical – is the role of a quality information professional in our schools. The implications for education are profound because they will impact on our information literacy strategies and knowledge construction processes. While I do not for a moment underestimate the contribution of other geek, net savvy teachers to the learning environment in a school, I do wish they spent more time understanding the possibilities of information search and information curation.

So here follows a reflection about Google  – read it if you will, share it if you can, embrace the challenge if you dare!

1. Google is a problem. It’s not just because it’s embedded in the psyche of teachers and kids, but because it is not understood. Google is not a benevolent search engine. It has a commercially inspired ever-changing focus. Search Engine Optimization skews the results. Out personal login (if you are logged into gmail or iGoogle) changes the results. Google is a blessing and a scourge as a result – and it’s up to educators to point all of this out.

Do yourself a favour and get your school library to buy a copy of The Googlization of Everything by  Siva Vaidhyananthan professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, then share it around and talk about the ideas. It’s less than $10 for a Kindle version – no excuses.

It’s not that I’m shooting Google  – I just really want teachers to get some wisdom around this whole ‘searching the net’ for answers that we expect of our students.I want librarians to be information evangelists via better Google usage. Take a short cut, and listen to a 4 minute podcast from Siva with Minnesota Radio. Or listen to Siva Vaidhyanathan talk about  The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) in a longer interview where Siva explores how so much of the world has embraced Google and our  need to look critically at that embrace.

2. Google should not be the first or last place to search. This is something we can spend a whole hour or day experimenting and learning more about. Take the time to look at Knowledge 2.0. This is a workshop session that can work really well in a hands-on setting. If you discover just one new approach to information management then it’s a win-win for your students.

3. Google has lots of neat tricks. Any Google Certified teacher will tell you about the advanced search options in Google. If you don’t have one of these on hand, then be sure to at least expore every single bit of the left-hand menu – and click on “more options” to find the hidden treasures. But when it comes to Google search, without a doubt, the best trick of all is Google Scholar and how to  set up your preferences to link directly with the databases that your school or institution has access to (including public libraries etc). Here’s an example from my library at CSU that shows tertiary students how to set this up. There’s a nice short video that explains it in more detail. Have you done this?

4. Google represents a renaissance. School librarians are involved with and responding to an information renaissance that is rewriting the world as we know it. Google epitomizes this renaissance by the very fact that it is there – always there, on any device 24/7.  Our students in primary and secondary schools need to be nurtured in ways to learn how to learn from a multiplicity of resources at their disposal, using   the best information organization and critical thinking strategies that that we can show them.  We need to build a culture of enquiry at the heart of each of our schools. It’s not just tools and skills.

Thinking about and organizing information  in a digital world has heralded a totally new approach to information curation. Emerging devices, tools, media, and virtual environments offer opportunities for creating new types of learning communities for students and teachers. Searching for content requires wise information literacy strategies (embedded in the curriculum learning processes) to avoid being lost in the information labyrinth.  Learn to understand this. Learn how to do this. Learn.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Sheila Ryan

Uplifting school libraries


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by visualpanic

This week I picked up an interesting post from Doug Johnson ~ Not your mother’s school library. If your mother’s school library captured your passion, then it served a great purpose for the times  – but that’s a whole different story. My interest was piqued because of the (expensive) Workshops for School Library Teachers  being offered by Simmon’s graduate school. That title stumped me a little as it seems particularly out-of-date (school library teacher?), but the professional development courses seem to be quite current.  Interestingly, they are exactly the sort of courses that we offer free or at low cost via our professional associations here in Australia.We also learn a lot from our personal learning networks, with twitter and local lists always busy sharing the sort of information we need to keep our libraries current and vibrant places of 21st century literacy and learning.

Perhaps we are lucky! The Australian library scene is a vibrant one, as evidenced by the report tabled in the Federal Parliament that highlights the importance of teacher librarians and school libraries in education. The purpose of the Inquiry that led to the release of the report  was to look into and report on the role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools.  So we are being noticed.

I like to think that we are also working hard to promote quality education for those who aspire to be a teacher librarian, as well as those who want to undertake further postgraduate study. It’s great to know that our CSU Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) aims to remain current.  We introduce teachers to the world of teacher librarianship, and we use the most current technologies as part of the course. Think blogs, wikis and social bookmarking, and you’re at the starting line. I’m pleased with the extension opportunities that we offer as well, and next session I am keen to get stuck into some new subjects.

For those ‘in the know’ I’ll be teaching ETL501 Information Environment which is supported by the work of international leader James Herring who keenly promotes improved web use as an element of 21st century information literacy.

I’m also looking forward to INF443 Creating and Preserving Digital Content, and INF206 Social Networking for Information Professionals.

Throughout our courses at School Library courses at CSU  we explore foundational and ground-breaking issues and technologies for school libraries and teacher librarians. I will be using Facebook, blogs, wikis, Diigo, Flickr, Slideshare, Zipcasts etc – in fact, a swag of online tools that helps makes learning relevant and vibrant for those in the courses – allowing them to learn about them and then integrate them into their own school and personal learning needs.

Our students have to be involved in their own architecture of participation if they are to help their schools and school libraries embrace the challenges  to create a renewal of pedagogy and technology work practices.

So I think that we are certainly addressing the passion that our our mother’s school library inspired, and the focus and vibrant 21st century literacy and learning that our grand-children’s school library will need!

Don’t believe me? Here’s what a few students said at the end of my first session of teaching at CSU.

Thank you for a most stimulating, informative and challenging course. I have already adopted some new ways of thinking and learning into my classroom practice and I know that there is a long list that I look forward to reflecting upon and enacting as time allows.

What a pleasure it was to do this subject with you at the helm. What it has taught me is invaluable.

Thank you so much for all the wonderful resources and support throughout the course. You’ve taken me from someone who really had no idea what she was doing to someone who has some idea with a thirst for more. It’s very transformational, challenging and definitely lifelong learning.

Paint your own horizons


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by Werner Kunz

What will you do in your school library this year?

While we are always looking for opportunities to encourage growth and development in our school library services, and new ways to promote what we do, there are some ‘tried and trustworthy’ options for advocacy and promotion that should not be missed. The Horizon Report 2011 K-12 edition  points out how important it is for school library professionals  to keep technology in the forefront of our thinking.  The National Australian Library Associations ALIA and ASLA have provided a site to help us tell our community What a Difference a School Library Makes.

I really want to share with you Buffy Hamilton’s Annual Report.  She shows us three key things:

  • what you can and should be aiming for in your school library each year (even if you start small)
  • strategies for promotion beyond the school through media promotion
  • how to ‘package’ a professional annual report (even if you start small)

Congratulation to the Creekview High School library  team for another great year. Thanks for the inspiration :-)

Report on school libraries and teacher librarians


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Enokson

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment  released a report on school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia’s public and private schools. The report released on Monday 23 2011  investigates the issues of role, adequacy and resourcing of school libraries and teacher librarians in Australia.  The full report is available at http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/ee/schoollibraries/report.htm

The report focuses on the impact of government policies and investments on school libraries, the potential of school libraries and teacher librarians to contribute to improved educational outcomes, and the recruitment and development of teacher librarians. The 163-page report also looks at partnering and supporting school libraries and teacher librarians with other libraries. It is a positive report in that it is clearly supportive of school libraries and the role of the teacher librarian.

When it comes to school libraries and teacher librarians, we are in a much better position than some countries at the moment!  Our school librarians and our teacher librarians are considered worthy of  national discussion!  Nevertheless, while there are many instances of great school libraries staff with excellent teacher librarians, and adequate levels of professional support staffing, there are also many cases where this is not the case.  This report may go some way to helping to redress the imbalance, and also ensure that continuation of a strong teacher librarian academic programs in Australia.

The report was tabled to coincide with Library and Information Week 2011.

List of 11 recommendations in the report.

Impact of recent Commonwealth Government policies and investments on school libraries

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government partner with all education authorities to fund the provision of a core set
of online database resources, which are made available to all Australian schools.

Recommendation 2
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government work with the states and territories to develop a discrete national policy statement that defines the importance of digital and information literacy for learning in the 21st century, which can be used as a guide by teachers and principals.

Potential of school libraries and librarians to contribute to improved educational and community outcomes

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority include statistical information about the breakdown of all specialist teachers, including teacher librarians, on the My School website.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government support additional initiatives to promote reading, such as a National Year of Reading. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations should collaborate with the Australian School Library Association, Australian Libraries and Information Association and other education stakeholders in developing these initiatives.

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government initiate an Australian-based longitudinal study into the links between library programs, literacy (including digital literacy) and student achievement, including their impact on improving outcomes for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government support promotional activities undertaken by ASLA and ALIA that demonstrate to the school community the valuable work that teacher librarians are doing in respect of e-learning in their schools, including those that highlight their leadership capacity.

Recruitment and development of teacher librarians

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that the rollout of the new national curriculum, which is to be made available online, include a component of training for teacher librarians.

Recommendation 8

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government commission a thorough workforce gap analysis of teacher librarians across Australian schools.

Recommendation 9

The Committee recommends that the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, through the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs, establish a national dialogue, including with tertiary providers, on the role of teacher librarians today in schools and into the future. The dialogue should include an examination of the adequacy of the pathways into the profession and ongoing training requirements.

Partnering and supporting school libraries and teacher librarians

Recommendation 10

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government, through the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood and Youth Affairs, discuss ways to enhance partnerships with state and
territory and local levels of government to support school libraries and teacher librarians.

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government partner with ASLA and ALIA to produce a document that showcases some of the successful partnerships and programs between school libraries and other libraries, and joint-use libraries. The document should be made available to government and non-government education authorities and school principals.

The Committee hopes that this report goes some way toward highlighting teacher librarians’ concerns; showcases their valuable contributions to educational outcomes in Australian schools; and starts to examine their evolving role and place in Australia’s education system.


Learning in a changing world series is out!

It’s been rather slow in the making, but finally the new series commissioned by ALIA and ASLA is available to order from the ACER shop online.

The Learning in a Changing World series addresses how the process of learning is evolving – including the array of resources available in the digital age, changing curriculum, and the different teaching strategies needed in order to use new media and technologies.

The Learning in a Changing World 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. All are essential elements to enable and empower our students to be lifelong learners and active participants in our society.

I was lucky to work on the first two books in the series with my good friend Dean Groom.  Books like the two we worked on can never stay completely current – but then they are not ‘how to’ guides so much as ‘why you should’  and ‘why you can’ guides. There is enough thought provoking information for readers to leverage and  help innovation and change in their own schools.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate

Our students are involved in an ‘architecture of participation’ – creating, adapting and sharing content. While for them this learning is a comfortable multimodal conversation, for us this change is revolutionary. Schools and school libraries have many challenges to address to create a renewal of pedagogy and technology work practices. As we begin to understand the importance of these seismic shifts, we come to the realisation that we are being challenged to un-learn and re-learn in order to grant students access to 21st century learning.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate is written to provide the knowledge, inspiration and motivation to get you started.

Many thanks go to  Michael Stephens for generously  contributing the Forward to this work.

Virtual Worlds

Each year there are more and more avatars in rich virtual environments. These immersive worlds – where the world within the screen becomes both the object and the site of interaction – are on the increase, matching the promise of technology with the creative minds of our students. Educators, keen to incorporate the evolving literacy and information needs of 21st century learners, will want to understand the opportunities provided by MUVEs, MMORPGs and 3D immersive worlds, so as to be able to create more interactive library, educational and cultural projects. The challenge is to accept that these interactive environments are here to stay and that schools can, and should, embrace learning in virtual worlds.

Virtual worlds will provide the knowledge, inspiration and motivation to get you started.

Many thanks to Peggy Sheehy for generously contributing the Forward to this work.

Join us in the Second Classroom: Educators Learning in Virtual Worlds and share your virtual learning journey!

Others in the series

Other volumes in the series include Curriculum Integration , Resourcing for Curriculum Innovation, and Designing the Learning Environment.

Enjoy!

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.