Stepping into school librarianship…



Back to base in Wagga Wagga, and the beginning of another academic year for me! While here at Charles Sturt University we have three sessions, rather than two semesters, and students may be starting off a graduate or post-graduate course at any one of these three sessions, there is still something ‘magical’ about starting a new program of study with a new year!

So for a whole bunch of students, around about now things are starting to get exciting. In my case, my subject outlines have gone ‘live’ – but the really juicy stuff is yet to come. Meanwhile, we have been spending a lot of time working on learning materials and beginning a process of renewal in assessment strategies. The scene above was taken from the balcony of the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre at CSU which was the venue for our ‘thinktank’. We had no wine (unfortunately!), but we did have a fabulous view for breaks…not to mention loads of fresh air (which I really notice each time I come from Sydney to visit the Wagga campus).

I’m looking forward to ‘meeting’ my newest group of students, who come from Australia and around the world. Those starting the MEdTL for the first time will find themselves engaged in a range of activities, some of which may well be new to their scholarly toolkit. But the very first thing is THE BLOG! When they start blogging they’ll discover that it’s as easy as ‘one, two, three’ once they’ve mastered the basics. It’s also an opportunity to be part of the global conversation, with other teacher librarians – and that is, perhaps, the most powerful thing of all!

I’ve been writing this blog since 2006, and along the way have learnt as much as I have shared. Our new students will ‘meet’ many excellent TL bloggers along the way, and will also discover how to develop or expand their own personal learning network.

A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of people you count on to:

  • guide you in your learning
  • be your source of advice and resources
  • make you aware of learning opportunities
  • share their best practices
  • point you to answers and support

Blogging friend, Darcy Moore, explains why teacher librarians need to build a great personal learning network. Great words of advice from this innovative Deputy Principal!

Professional people must be the change that they want to see in others and model behaviour that assists students and colleagues to become powerfully multiliterate and critical thinkers!

Teacher-librarians have the important role of assisting students to become culturally literate citizens. They need to be digitally savvy and enthusiastic about the widest possible world around them…

Developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is essential for teacher-librarians to be engaged with professional learning and continually updating knowledge and skills.

Blogging is a great place to start. How else can you learn from your colleagues across the country and around the globe?

Information abyss – in the era of global education

The more I look the more certain I am that I stand at the edge of an information abyss, rather than at the dawn of a  golden age of information and life-long learning powered by the digital environments.

Perhaps there are two sides to this:

The good side encompasses savoring the growth of creative knowledge and nurturing the  understanding for students engaged in the topic of discussion. In this way students can sometimes surprise and delight us with insights and even lead us in new directions taking the teacher mentor along with them.

The bad side encompasses that information abyss that exists, but which is misunderstood,  largely unmentioned, and yet which is creating a new form of the digital divide – content and conversation ignorance in an era of mass information.

Knowledge and creative/scientific  understanding is always at the heart of the educational endeavour. Teachers gnawing at the syllabus bones of their subject may find juicy marrow, but it’s still the same pile of bones.    The officially mandated parameters of accreditation organizations (think departments of school education or higher education) means that content and process may run parrallel to the natural learning needs of students.

Designing any long-term educational action these days (especially in the face of 1:1 computing and mobile devices) involves creating scenarios for acquiring and developing competencies and knowledge in subject domains that are enabled by personalization. Competences are the main element of the learning process and personalization in virtual learning scenarios involve designing and executing learning paths, learning activities within a subject and some kind of analysis that ‘tags’ the success of the particular lifelong learning elements involved.  That’s education, but is that learning?

Ah – here it is again, that information abyss.

Educators were never information experts, but in the era of ‘industrial schooling’ this did not matter.   Information was organized and made available in structured ways, quietly providing access to tacit and explicit knowledge at point of need.

Then technology transformed the information landscape, pushing changes into education. Unfortunately education experts forgot that they were not information experts, and in the age of web-enabled information some educators and educational   leaders, in their enthusiasm and  ‘debunking’ of industrial schooling,  have also advertised their ignorance in how to work with the most precious of all commodities – information!   Did they toss the baby out with the bathwater!  Nope, they actually never did know what information organization was all about, what metadata means, when digital preservation is important, how information access can be facilitated, how information is organized, and what strategies are needed to find, analyze and synthesize information.  Pre the web era , this didn’t matter. There were librarians around to fill the breach and provide the knowledge gap.  Now things are different.

Information (and the knowledge it contains) is the underpinning of society, learning, and future developments. Information is what lead to the creation of the web, and which leads to developments in all forms of our web engagement.  Social networks are enabling information sharing. We need to be able to read, and read well, to access information. We need to know how to find and make available to others the information that matters.

But while educators “toot” the use of web tools, and play with virtual environments, they seem to remain more ignorant than ever about the impacts of web organization on information access and information retrieval.   Only a fool closes a school library down because information is on the web, and fiction books are sitting in a box in the classroom.

How should we ensure we refresh the mental browser of pre-digital thinking to suit the evolution of the web?

What school leaders need to do is to go out and find the best information and library experts they can find to re-vitalize their school library.  What school leaders need to do is to go and empower an information expert within their school to lead in curriculum design, and ensure that it incorporates the required fluency with information access, use, manipulation, remix, and dissemination.  What school leaders need to recognize is that all the reshaping of classroom spaces, and use of tech tools and mobile devices for   curriculum innovation is nothing more than a hollow shiny bauble  (which may well be crushed in the next iteration of the web)  and really useless .

Kids aren’t learning how to be adaptive in complex information environments.



Someone HAS to help the teachers of our 21st century kids understand reading, literacy and information seeking in a connected world.  The information abyss is right there at their fingertips, and each day teachers are doing a great job of throwing kids down into that abyss!  (Test your knowledge of the abyss by perusing Knowledge 2)

Our students now need help in navigating diverse information pathways within their personal and creative learning environments. They need a range of literature and information options, delivered to them via a variety of physical and virtual means, from books to all manner of media and digital objects, via a plethora of digital devices. They need to know how to juxtapose text, sound, media and social connections in real time, and how to filter, then mix and match what they see, hear and experience in order to build personal knowledge and understandings of the curriculum.

Where once the bibliographic paradigm created text-book learning and school libraries, learning today requires that teachers and school librarians understand reading and information-seeking in a connected world.

Deal with the information abyss.  In the name of education, get a new school library!  This is what I’ve already debated in the post  Why Teacher Librarians are Important. 

Essentially though, in this new library we find that the literature, magazines, information, technology, learning and teaching activities are designed to support the needs of the networked learning community, creating a partnership between teachers, students, school, home and the global community.  Moving to a Networked School Community is essential, and is the only way to ensure that a school is dealing with the information abyss.

Images:
1. cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Ka Rasmuson
2. cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

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.

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.

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.


A Decade of Databases: Where to from here?

On Friday the 7th August I was proud to participate in the annual UQL Cyberschool Seminar in Brisbane, Queensland: A Decade of Databases: Where to from here?   How lovely to escape cold weather, and to meet new faces in the Teacher Librarian profession. It was the 10th anniversay of the Cyberschool – a service to all schools in Queensland, and to other States in Australia, providing a wealth of information resources and online databases.

The Program of the day included Tanya Ziebell, UQ Library, Patricia Carmichael, a fabulously energetic TL from Concordia Lutheran College, Dan Walker, an inspirational Principal from Brisbane State High School, Dr Mandy Lupton, Lecturer in Teacher-Librarianship, QUT, Lea Giles-Peters, OLD State Librarian, Keith Webster, Director of Learning Services, Professor Phil Long, Centre for Educational Innovation, and of course – myself!

What a fabulous group of people to listen to before my turn came. It was great to have Phil Long talk in detail about the Horizon Project and together with Keith Webster, engage the audience with some interactive online trials using iTouch units on loan from Apple. Keith showed us his masterful way of presenting using CoolIris – loads of fun!

Here are the slides for my presentation. As always, the story is in the telling!  I hope I encouraged some people to think ‘out of the box’, be connected, be comfortable with social networking, and hopefully find ways suitable to their own context to transform school library learning services.