Archive | January 2013

the shape of the head

I called this blog 500 Hats because as TLs, that’s at least the number of hats we wear – sometimes all in one day! And this post was going to be about identifying some of those hats. But for a hat to be a good fit, it must match the shape of the head so perhaps it would be better to examine the head first. In other words, examine the purpose and role of the school library, and the one we work in, in particular.

Imagine you were asked to encapsulate your role as a TL in just six or seven words. What would you put? Here are some responses from a recent challenge posed on LM_NET…

  • Inspiring students to read and learn
  • Service Information  Reliability Convenience  Vision Strength
  • Share literature and information seeking skills
  • Reading builds success.  We build readers.
  • 21st century transliteracy impacts academic achievement

The late Dr Laurel Anne Clyde wrote her thesis on the history of school libraries and there is a broad summary of the Australian situation available from The Hub. Even the most cursory glance at either of these will show that the purpose and role of the school library is continually changing to meet the needs and interests of its users. For most, the days of it being the vehicle for getting religious and didactic stories into the hands of the ‘unwashed masses’ so they could learn to live more wholesome lives have gone and if we still wore that sort of hat, if would be an uncomfortable fit for many.

If we don’t define what the purpose of our school library is and how it fits within the overall ethos and philosophy of our school then the hats we wear won’t fit well or be very flattering. Similarly, if we don’t have a vision for how the library will grow and change under out stewardship, it won’t be long before the current hat is tight and uncomfortable.

In 2009, some US librarians put together The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians which identified the purpose and role of the library and the role of the librarian. Their beliefs were…

the purpose of the library

  • The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.
  • The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change.
  • The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence.
  • Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.
  • Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will.
  • A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library.

the role of the library

The Library:

  • Provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment.
  • Encourages the love of learning.
  • Empowers people to fulfill their civic duty.
  • Facilitates human connections.
  • Preserves and provides materials.
  • Expands capacity for creative expression.
  • Inspires and perpetuates hope.

the role of librarians

Librarians:

  • Are stewards of the Library.
  • Connect people with accurate information.
  • Assist people in the creation of their human and information networks.
  • Select, organize and facilitate creation of content.
  • Protect access to content and preserve freedom of information and expression.
  • Anticipate, identify and meet the needs of the Library’s community.

These statements have also been encapsulated in a graphic by Stacey Taylor.

The Darien Statements

 

the core values of librarianship

The American Library Association has identified the core values that define, inform and guide the prfessional knowledge, practice and commitment of librarianship as being

  • access
  • confidentiality and privacy
  • democracy
  • diversity
  • education and lifelong learning
  • intellectual freedom
  • preservation
  • the public good
  • professionalism
  • service
  • social responsibility
The Core Values of Librarianship (Image from Ashley Chasse)

The Core Values of Librarianship (Image from Ashley Chasse)

How do these compare with your beliefs about the purpose and role of your library in your school? Why not prepare your own Statement of Beliefs for presentation at a staff meeting? I believe that if the school library is to have its rightful place at the hub of the school, then its purpose and role has to be determined by the school community. There needs to be consensus about what we want our students to know do, understand, appreciate and value as a result of their school experience and the library’s role in supporting that.

Similarly, we need to share a vision for the future of the library. While in the past, deep educational and pedagogical change has taken years, perhaps a generation, the speed of technological developments has initiated significant societal changes and schools and must respond to those much faster than before.The library, with its technological-savvy TL is often the leader of that.

The concept of Library 2.0 is rapidly becoming reality as the prevalence and use of social media tools become the norm rather than the rare. No longer is the library confined to a physical building or its collection to print resources lined up on shelves. Rather than the transfer of information it presumed users wanted, the emphasis is now on the creation of information that users have indicated they need. Similarly, as well as catering for the needs, interests and abilities of those who use the services and resources, we must also consider the “long tail” – those whose needs and interests are not met by the common, the popular or the overtly-on-offer.

The role of the TL is shaped by the role of the library. Perhaps, as we in Australia head into a new school year, it is a great time to start forming and articulating the shape of the head on which we will hang our hat.

the teacher’s hat

hat_tchrThe first and foremost role of the teacher librarian is that of teacher, so having understood the learners and answered the questions, it is essential to consider what that means for me as a teacher.  

Explicitly examining and articulating what shapes my knowledge, understanding, attitudes and values allows me to reflect on my beliefs and use these to build a solid platform on which to build my future teaching. It enables me to know that what I offer and do is built on firm foundations of best-practice pedagogy and practice and it can be offered with authority and competence. This is my educational philosophy…

 

As a teacher I believe..
Our brains grow and change from conception to death
Intelligence is not fixed so we can all learn new things
Learning is easy when-
we want to learn
we need to learn
it is connected to our lives
it starts from a place we know
it’s real
it helps me understand the world around me
Learners need
a purpose for learning
demonstrations
immersion and practice
feedback
to have ownership of their learning
It is my responsibility to make sure I make learning easy for students by
accepting each student for who they are and where they are at
providing a safe and secure environment so students can learn in peace and in confidence
identifying what I want students to know, do, understand, appreciate and value as a result of my teaching
connecting what they already know to what they are about to learn
determining their level of achievement so I can offer appropriate feedback
enabling each student to have ownership of their learning
demonstrating the purpose and relevance of their learning to their world
encouraging each student to take responsibility for their learning
creating opportunities for each student to reach their potential
 

     

From this I have developed a manifesto which explicitly states who I am as a teacher librarian and ensures that all the philosophies, pedagogies, programs and practices I adopt are in alignment with both my beliefs and my goals. 

As a teacher librarian I will
know understand and value the needs of teachers in designing, developing  and delivering the curriculum
know, understand and value the needs, interests and abilities of the students and design, develop and deliver information and resources in a variety of formats to meet those needs
support teaching and learning by providing access to ideas, information and resources which enrich and enhance the curriculum
support lifelong learning by providing intellectual, physical and digital access to ideas, information and resources
recognise and understand that the information landscape is changing and provides ideas, information and resources in a format that users want need and expect
understand and use the power of Web 2.0 technologies to support teaching and learning  
enable staff and students to understand and use the power of Web 2.0 technologies to enrich and enhance their teaching and learning
understand and use user’s suggestions and feedback to continuously evaluate what is offered and make changes based on their needs and my professional knowledge
understand and provide access to the ideas, information and resources that are valuable to and valued by this community
seek opportunities to consult and collaborate with staff, students and colleagues to ensure services and resources are user-centred and user-driven
understand that today’s users are information creators as well as information consumers and support their endeavours to do this
embed inquiry learning, information literacy and digital technologies across the curriculum
create and contribute to a community of learners based on conversation, consultation, collaboration and co-operation
seek new, effective and efficient ways of delivering information, resources and services and embrace evidence-based changes to established practices
advocate and validate the role of the teacher librarian through my attitudes, attributes and actions
create connections between the library’s users and the people and things they want. need and expect to know
change the concept of the library from bricks-and-mortar to brick-and-click by embedding the digital world into the collection
embrace and demonstrate the teacher librarian’s joint roles of curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager 
strive to demonstrate and uphold the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and the School Library Bill of Rights 

Beginning with the end in mind by focusing on my beliefs and goals is essential for it means  no matter how attractive the hat, if it is a poor fit and doesn’t suit my style I won’t wear it and it will languish in my wardrobe.

the learner’s hat

hat_learner

 

The best parties are those where the guests mix and mingle, the conversation flows and ideas and information are shared, considered, discussed, perhaps even debated.

And so it has been at my party for over 40 years – I’ve had on my best party hat, circulated and participated, listened and learned, contemplated and celebrated.  Now, I think I know enough to host a party with confidence and competence because this is what I know about the hat that the learner wears…

  • The brain constantly grows and changes from conception to death.
  • The brain develops over three decades with the sensory sectors being the most active in the first ten years, and those enabling deep and independent thinking developing over the second decade.
  • Different ages have different needs and conditions for learning.
  • We build new concepts on old understandings, and new information must be connected to a prior experience for it to make sense.
  • Intelligence is not fixed – it is a combination of nature and nurture.
  • An enriched environment with appropriate multi-sensory challenges and opportunities to explore it has a significant impact on learning.
  • Boredom and threat diminish the brain as much as challenge enhances it.
  • Learning is unique and is dependent on many factors, many of them internal and intrinsic to the individual.
  • There are many ways to learn the same thing and we each have our own preferences and predilections to ensure success.
  • There are two types of learning
    • Experience-expectant which are the basic survival skills, including speech, which will occur in a well-described order and in a well-defined timeframe provided the child has the opportunities to learn them
    • Experience-dependent learning of non-essential skills, including reading, which require explicit instruction, repetition, motivation and mental effort and which develop at different times and different rates for each individual.

So, I put on my teacher’s hat and I ask…

  • How does this knowledge impact on what I know and believe about child development?
  • How does this knowledge impact on what I know and believe about learning?
  • How does this knowledge impact on what I know and believe about teaching?
  • What is the driving force behind my current teaching programs and practices?
  • How does that align with what I know and believe about learning?
  • How does what I currently do and how I do it impact on the learning of my students?
  • What sorts of teaching programs and practices are the most appropriate for what and how I want my students to learn at this time?
  • What do my students need to know and be able to do five years from now as a result of my current programs and practices?
  • What do I need to develop, change or abandon to provide my students with what they need, not what I think they should have?
  • What sorts of environments should I be providing for my students?
  • What can I do to guide my students along the path of lifelong learning?

Ken and Yetta Goodman say that learning is easy when

    • it is real and natural
    • it is whole
    • it is sensible
    • it is interesting
    • it is relevant
    • it is part of a real event
    • it belongs to the learner
    • it has social utility
    • it has purpose for the learner
    • the learner chooses to use it
    • the learner has the power to use it

 

1.1_learning_is_easy

Adapted from ‘What’s Whole in Whole Language”, K.S. Goodman (1986, 2005)

 

So I have to consider…

  • What knowledge, understandings, skills, attitudes, beliefs and values do I want my students to learn as a result of undertaking this task?
  • How can I connect what I want them to know with what they already know?
  • How can I demonstrate the purpose and relevance of this learning to their world?
  • How can I determine that they have achieved what I intended?

 

Cambourne developed this model of learning…

How do I learn?

Cambourne contends that successful learning is dependent on the learner…

  • having a need to learn
  • being physically and mentally capable of doing so
  • being immersed in or surrounded by examples of what is to be learned
  • receiving many demonstrations of what is to be learned and how it can be used
  • expecting to succeed and knowing those around him expect success
  • taking responsibility for what is learned, when and how it is learned
  • having time and opportunities to practise and use their new skills in real-life situations
  • being free to make mistakes and learn from these
  • receiving relevant, timely, and non-threatening feedback from those who already know

Cambourne contends that the learner’s attitude to learning is critical and the most effective learning happens when the learner can make an emotional connection to what is being learned, and this is confirmed by Renate and Geoffrey Caine .

What we learn is influenced and organized by emotions and mindsets involving expectancy, personal biases and prejudices, self-esteem and the need for social interaction Emotions and thoughts literally shape each other and cannot be separated. Emotions color meaning … Moreover, the emotional impact of any lesson or life experience may continue to reverberate long after the specific event that triggers it. Hence an appropriate emotional climate is indispensable to sound education.

Caine R. and Caine G. 1994. Making connections: Teaching and the human brain.

Menlo Park,CA: Addison-Wesley

In a nutshell, I believe that it is essential that the learner perceives that the learning is necessary to make sense of the world and therefore has real purpose and meaning and is worth the effort and time involved. 

Adapted from "The Whole Story: natural learning and the acquisition of literacy in the classroom"  Cambourne, B. (1988)

Adapted from “The Whole Story: natural learning and the acquisition of literacy in the classroom” Cambourne, B. (1988)

 

So I ask …

  • Do my students come to school each day in anticipation, not anxiety?
  • Is their learning over before it starts because they have already shut down, telling themselves there is no purpose and denying themselves any chance of success?
  • Do I unconsciously confirm those beliefs through my own attitudes and actions towards them?
  • What can I do to promote more positive attitudes for both learner and teacher?
  • What is the role of the library in providing a safe and satisfying learning environment?
  • What is happening in the rest of the school that means the library is the only safe haven for some students?
  • What sorts of options and opportunities can we offer to encourage, excite and extend student learning?

 

 

the party hat

Although I may have been born to teach, every time I do, like Bilbo Baggins, I have an unexpected (but not unknown) party of guests who influence the design, development and delivery of all that I do.

Guests such as

  • Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, David Krech, Mark Rosenzweig and Edward Bennett, Marion Diamond and Karl Fischer, Jesse Conel and Peter Huttenlocher, and Arnold Scheibel, Bob Sylwester, Robin Fogarty, John Joseph and Edward de Bono who have taught me so much about how children learn and think.
  • Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Marie Clay, Brian Cambourne, Don Holdaway, Ken and Yetta Goodman, and John Holt who have taught me so much about the acquisition of language skills;
  • William Glasser and Bill Rogers who showed me how to have a calm, settled class of learners,
  • Wiggins and McTighe who gave me a way to plan that would engage them and satisfy the results-collectors;
  • Berkowitz, Eisenberg, Kuhlthau and those who developed and documented the information literacy process,
  • all those lecturers, now friends, at Charles Sturt University who introduced me to them and continue to teach me and inspire me to keep learning
  • the lecturers at Christchurch Teachers College of the 70s who introduced me to the inquiry approach way back then (and insisted we use it for every aspect of the curriculum)
  • the handful of visionary and valued principals I’ve worked with over 40 years who have shown me what CAN be not what can’t – those who greeted my zany ideas with “How can I help you do that?; who helped turn obstacles into opportunities
  • and all those teachers with whom I’ve worked over the years, who have shown me new ways and new ideas, taken my hand and led me through new philosophies and pedagogies, concepts and curricula 

And, of course you cannot teach without learners and every one of the thousands of kids I’ve taught have taught me through every challenge they have ever presented.

The guests at my party are many; they are diverse and different; but they are welcome because without them, there would be no party.

500 Hats – the teacher librarian in the 21st century

Why?

Why another blog from a teacher librarian in a world filled with blogs by teacher librarians?

“She began with the end in mind,” will be my epitaph. As Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People if we begin with the end in mind all our steps will be in the right direction, so identifying the purpose of this blog is critical to its focus.

2012 wrapped up the end of my 40th year in education and over that time I’ve learned a few things, theoretical, practical and pragmatic that other TLs may find useful so this is an effort to give back to the profession and the professionals who have given me so much.

Who?

Who is this TL who presumes to know enough about the profession to write a blog that others may find useful?

I could boast and bore with a list of qualifications, publications and awards but more importantly…

I was born to learn I was one of those people called ‘swots’ or ‘nerds’ who enjoyed school and couldn’t get enough of learning. Teachers College in Christchurch,New Zealand and uni seemed my natural pathway. A colleague recently endorsed something official with “She has a habit of collecting masters degrees,” because in 2011 I walked across yet another stage, doffed my cap and collected my third masters degree – this one focusing on Children’s Services in public libraries because it was the perfect accompaniment to those I have in teacher librarianship.

I was born to teach – Teaching was my destiny and many of my earliest memories are of covering my plaster-rendered bedroom walls with chalk exercises for my dolls to complete and getting into strife because I didn’t them wiped clean before my mother came home from work. (Worse was being seduced by the rich dark green walls of the lounge room and discovering, too late, that the chalk scratched glossy paint and left indelible, undeniable evidence.)

I was born to write – I remember writing some inane story about a lost cat, the plot of which escapes me after so long, but the praise from my teacher for starting a sentence with “Now…” has not. Neither has the memory of a tough, scary Year 6 teacher who understood my need to write a ‘biography’ of Robert Falcon Scott and indulged it by letting me write and write and write throughout the day, without insisting I interfere with the process by doing the formal grammar, spelling, maths and history lessons that the other students were subjected to. Strong foundations which led to having the covers of nine education books displayed on my wall and numerous articles and columns stashed in a folder in the filing cabinet.

I was born to have an opinion – As the child of two newspaper journalists I had no choice. I just had to learn when, where and how to express it and to whom, tactfully and respectfully – I’m still working on that, as well as learning to listen and value the opinions of others. “That’s b/s**t”, does not always endear me to my colleagues, even though it seemed to work for my dad.

What?

What will this blog have that might encourage the reader to return?

I believe that the TL has a vital role in the school particularly in supporting teachers to design, develop and deliver the curriculum in a way that will engage students so they are eager to learn. But I know that there are many of our peers, principals, parents and politicians whose perception of the TL is based on what they remember of their school experience; who still see us as the ‘keeper of the books’ and who have yet to experience all that a top-shelf TL can offer.

So this blog will offer ideas, information and insight that can be used by others to enrich and enhance teaching and learning in the school. Underpinning what is offered will be a solid basis of knowing how learners learn and the pedagogy that supports this.

As well as being a reflection of what I’ve come to know, understand, do, believe and value over 40 years, hopefully it will also give the reader cause to reflect on their practice and the philosophy, policies, programs and processes which underpin it. Some say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” but I believe we must always be looking for stress fractures and cracks and seeking to improve the model. Perhaps some of the posts of 500 Hats will encourage others to do the same.

When?

Will this become a daily dose of professional development?

Probably not – my need to write is still being satisfied in other ways, but it is my intention to post regularly enough for people to use the blog as a regular source of PD, particularly those who, like me, live in a rural situation and who don’t have regular, easy access to face-to-face learning opportunities.

So stay tuned and join me on this journey. Make comments, agree and disagree, share your successes and suggestions, and we will all learn from each other.