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the scope-and-sequence hat

 

 

 

 

 

Not so long ago, certainly in my teaching lifetime, there used to be a “curriculum” commonly known as “library skills”.

The classroom teacher (occasionally a teacher librarian) would take their class to the library and teach them things like the layout of the library, the difference between fiction and non fiction, alphabetical order and Dewey classifications, the various types of reference books and how to use them, and other  similar skills so that the students could be ‘independent’ users of the facility, able to do their own ‘research’ and perhaps cite the source from which they had copied their information. Workbooks and worksheets abounded and the evidence of learning was based on their successful completion.

 

Then in the mid-90s as the phenomenon known as the Internet started to gain traction and access to it became more reliable, affordable and widespread, the walls of the traditional brick-and-mortar library began to break and patrons were able to source a wider range of information from a greater variety of sources beyond those immediately available on the library’s shelves.  With this came a realisation that there needed to be a scaffold to support learners in their selection, evaluation and interpretation of all that was now accessible to them and so models of developing information literacy were created and we became familiar with such devices as

and a host of others including my own expanded version of the NSW model.

The core of the NSW Information Search Process model

The core of the NSW Information Search Process model

Regardless of the model chosen or mandated, each one followed a similar pattern of skill development…

  1. A problem to be solved or a question to be answered generated a need for information.
  2. Locating the resources that would satisfy that information need
  3. Choosing the most appropriate information through analysis of its relation to the information need
  4. Sorting and organising the information from a variety of sources so it can be used effectively
  5. Using the information either personally or sharing it with others
  6. Considering the where-to-from-here either as a result of the new learning or as an information seeker

Whichever model was used, the development of information literacy became the specialist subject of the teacher librarian and was viewed as the focus of teaching in the library.

However, with the explosion of information as the development of Web 2.0 enabled Internet users to become creators and curators of information rather than just consumers, and the emergence of a plethora of devices which enabled anywhere, anytime access to what was online it became clear that the traditional once-a-week lesson would not be enough to ensure that students were information literate.

Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information

ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, 1989

Going right back to Piaget’s notion of assimilation and accommodation of new experiences being at the core of learning and with the burgeoning understanding of how humans learn based on work by those such as Marion Diamond, Bob Sylwester, Eric Jensen  and Geoffrey and Renate Caine , it was clear that developing the concepts and skills necessary to undertake research and investigations was clearly something that needed to be embedded across the curriculum and taught by all teachers within the context of their discipline.  The one-off, isolated lesson was not going to result in the sort of internalisation of skills and understanding that could readily be transferred to new situations. So what had been a set of discrete skills with the tag “library skills” and taught by the teacher librarian, often in isolation from anything happening in the students’ classroom, became the responsibility of all with the release of the Australian Curriculum documents and the Common Core Standards in the USA.

While this makes sound developmental, educational and pedagogical sense, many teacher librarians found it to be a very threatening situation – with no set curriculum, what would be their role in this emerging Information Age; how could they to remain relevant when “everything is on the Internet” and a growing, if fallacious perception that the more a school “went digital” the more modern and efficient it would appear to be.  Having a set curriculum like other faculties appeared to be the anchor on which many relied to demonstrate their contribution to the teaching and learning of the school, their raison d’être, even holding onto their job.

Yay or Nay

In a recent informal survey of TLs across a number of international forums, all but a few of the respondents said that they would prefer a scope and sequence chart directly related to their teaching in the library. The most common reason for having such a document was that it would guide their teaching “so nothing is missed” but other reasons included

  • ensuring instruction is systematic and cohesive across grades, departments and buildings
  • ensuring instruction is uniform across grades, departments and buildings
  • ensuring assessment is uniform across grades, departments and buildings
  • ensuring that students emerged from a grade/year level with a common body of skills so standards are maintained and that there is a defined starting point for the next academic year
  • providing a big-picture overview of the curriculum and what was required
  • providing “ticker boxes” for skills and outcomes, particularly those in the English curriculum
  • providing a framework for planning and a scaffold for teaching
  • providing a guideline for skills development across and through grades and year levels particularly for new TLs as well as those more experienced
  • providing a common language between the TL and the classroom-based teachers
  • providing cohesion for students particularly those who move schools frequently
  • providing an advocacy tool to demonstrate that there is a set curriculum and therefore there is a legitimate role for the TL within the school
  • assisting the development of rubrics for assessment
  • demonstrating to classroom-based teachers that TLs have skills to offer them to assist their teaching and give credibility to the TL’s suggestions
  • demonstrating to classroom-based teachers, executive and principals that the role of the TL has changed
  • demonstrating to parents that the TL has something to offer their students beyond the “right book”
  • providing a document for successors so there is consistency across time
  • providing a visual guide to what should be taught when
  • helping to satisfy the need for documentation of lesson planning and data collection from assessment strategies imposed by school and district administrations
  • holding students accountable for demonstrating previous learning when submitting assignments across all curriculum areas
  • identifying areas of professional learning that need attention
  • comparing what other schools and districts are doing
  • providing documentation for personal and school accreditation
  • supporting the TL’s teaching role by demonstrating it is based on a common document not a personal agenda

Those who did not view a scope and sequence chart as an essential document were primarily concerned with it

  • isolating, or at best, marginalising, the TL’s knowledge and skills to discrete lessons that do not reflect or relate to what is happening in the classroom
  • promoting a belief by both staff and students that information literacy is “bizniz bilong library” taught only by the ‘expert’ TL  rather than something that should be an across-curriculum perspective that can be taught by all
  • sidelining the TL from the teaching roles in the schools, putting them back into the role of the resource provider
  • becoming a tick-a-box document that is inflexible and which has little relevance to student needs, interests and abilities
  • suggesting that the development of concepts and skills and the use of scaffolds is linear rather than recursive
  • becoming more important than the students’ learning so differentiation becomes minimal
  • limiting the integration of information literacy into the curriculum as a whole so students do not build their own scaffolds for learning something new
  • limiting the opportunities for students to grow their own understanding at their own rate because of a lock-step approach that might not allow Kindergarten students to use a digital camera, for example
  • suggesting that information literacy is a skills-based continuum that can be measured and reported on rather than a spiral curriculum that leads to a greater ability to assess, interpret and use information as an adult
  • becoming prescriptive, restrictive and conclusive rather than needs-based, responsive and flexible
  • becoming a set-in-concrete document that is a blueprint for a significant period
  • promoting a one-size-fits-all approach with all schools and all students having the same profile and needs
  • promoting the perception that information literacy is a discrete set of skills that can be taught and learned in isolation
  • limiting the conversations and collaboration between TL and classroom-based teachers as the latter consider the TL has a syllabus to teach and should just get on with it
  • preventing the opportunities for serendipitous learning or going off on student-directed tangents because of the need to “follow the curriculum”

The scope

Before the issue of yay or nay can be decided, it is necessary to consider what such a document might contain.  The fundamental element of a scope and sequence document is its scope and fundamental to that is its focus.  Being a fan of Stephen Covey’s habit of “Begin with  the end in mind” and Simon Sinek‘s “Start with why”, identifying the purpose of the document is essential in order to not only determine its focus but also to make sure that all that is done (and the workload is substantial) is aligned to the vision so it is on target, relevant and meaningful. So what would be the purpose of the document – a flexible guide for planning teaching or a tick-a-box assessment of learning? Being a fan of Stephen Covey’s habit of “Begin with  the end in mind” and Simon Sinek‘s “Start with why”, identifying the purpose of the document is essential  What would be its key focus? What should be the overarching driving force?

  • Information Literacy?
  • Critical Thinking?
  • Creative Thinking?
  • Digital technologies proficiency?
  • Digital Citizenship?
  • Media Literacy?
  • Inquiry skills?
  • Inquiry pedagogy?
  • Visual Literacy?
  • Cyber safety and security?
  • Cultural and social understanding?
  • Knowledge Building?

In a presentation to local teacher librarians in February 2017, Dr Mandy Lupton demonstrated that all of these, and many more, were elements of a wide range of models that could be associated with information literacy and be considered the realm of the TL.

Using Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that states

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers

UNESCO has been developing a Media and Information Literacy program to provide “access to an international, multimedia and multi-language media and information literacy (MIL) teaching resources tool for educators, researchers and individuals….[to facilitate] intercultural/interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding through MIL.”

Media and Information Literacy recognizes the primary role of information and media in our everyday lives. It lies at the core of freedom of expression and information – since it empowers citizens to understand the functions of media and other information providers, to critically evaluate their content, and to make informed decisions as users and producer of information and media content.

This covers the elements in this diagram.

 
UNESCO Media & Information Literacy

UNESCO Media & Information Literacy

One has to wonder if it would be useful, let alone feasible to produce a document that covered all these elements let alone any other add-ons such as the General Capabilities of the current Australian Curriculum.

Having decided on a definition and the parameters, there are still questions to ask and decisions to be made.

  • Will the document be one that describes outcomes, skills or standards?
  • Given that some aspects of information literacy are the same for Kindergarten as they are for year 12, just at a different degree of sophistication, will the document be driven by big-picture ideas for lifelong learning such as “Students will learn to use ideas, information and images ethically” or will it be more piecemeal such as “Students will learn to cite sources using title and author”? 
  • Will it be enough to troll the key curriculum document looking for appropriate outcomes and indicators or should other ancillary documents such as the ISTE Standards be incorporated?
  • How will the “21st century skills” be incorporated and addressed?

  • How will differing needs and circumstances be addressed such as access to reliable, robust and affordable Internet access?
  • In her analysis of the current Australian curriculum, Mandy Lupton found that even within what is supposed to be a national document, those writing each subject strand did not use the same language for the same concept so how will this be addressed so there is common language and understanding?

The sequence

Perhaps is would seem easier to identify the sequence of skills to be learned. But again, there are many aspects that need to be considered…

  • In Inquiry Skills in the Australian Curriculum Lupton found that there was not consistency across the subject strands as to when a particular concept was introduced.  What might come in Year 3 in one area did not appear till Year 9 in another.  There seemed to have been few or no common conversations about what should come when and at what level of sophistication.
  • In the case of the Australian Curriculum, it is always changing (Lupton’s matrix of 2012 is now out of date) and states have adapted it or overlaid their own requirements on top so it becomes more ‘personalised’. Thus the purpose of establishing a common body of knowledge is blemished.
  • While all schools are expected to follow the Australian Curriculum, different approaches to addressing it are taken, including the International Baccalaureate  so delivery and expectations are shaped by these.
  • Many schools see the library and the teacher librarian as part of the English faculty yet, in the Australian Curriculum, there are few English strand outcomes that directly focus on the development of information literacy
  • The role of the TL within the school is unique to that school – some provide cover for teacher preparation and planning; others co-operate with teachers to run a parallel program; some collaborate in both planning and teaching; some are directed by teachers or executive to provide specific instruction of discrete units of work; some are so micro-managed that they can only read aloud to students for fun every second week; some are autonomous in their programming; some see students daily, some once a week, some for a term or semester a year, some only when the teacher or student comes to the library with a specific purpose – so adherence to and completion of a set document would be problematic
  • The development of information literacy and inquiry skills are not linear – it is a recursive practice as information seekers go back and forth according to purpose and need – yet a traditional matrix would not reflect this. While an experienced TL might be able to factor this in, it might be confusing for a new TL or a principal expecting to see boxes ticked as taught.
  • Learning is a spiral that is unique to the individual learner so how would the concepts of “introduction, consolidation, mastery” (or similar terms) be addressed and depicted?
  • Mastery of a concept is demonstrated when its associated skills are transferred to new, unrelated situations and the learner can explain what they have done and teach others but this might not ever be apparent if the TL is working in isolation and it may not ever occur within the students’ time in formal education. There is not necessarily an endpoint to becoming information literate.
  • While the original intention may be different, many scope-and-sequence documents become a tick-a-box checklist particularly in the current climate of testing, testing, testing and data collection so what happens to those for whom learning is not easy or very easy and who have the right to have their needs met?
  • In a time of differentiation, does imposing a lock-step curriculum take us back to the outdated, fallacious notion that one size fits all?

Maybe UNESCO has provided the beginning of the answer.  They  have attempted to bring together the fields of information literacy and media literacy into a combined set of knowledge, skills and attitudes required for living and working in the 21st century by identifying the Five Laws of Information and Media Literacy.   

Returning to the big-picture view perspectives of Covey and Sinek, even McTighe and Williams’ Understanding by Design which place the end result at the beginning, these laws could be a sound foundation for any scope-and-sequence document.  If we believe Law 5 which begins “Media and information literacy is not acquired at once. It is a lived and dynamic experience and process” then it may be possible to take the other four laws and ask what each might look like at each year level; what knowledge, understandings, skills, attitudes and values are appropriate for this law at this level for these students so that any document that is produced has a common direction and cohesion using the curriculum outcomes you are obliged to address while acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all as the tick-a-box testers would like. 

Creating a scope-and-sequence document is easier to say than do.  There are many arguments, both conceptual and practical, for and against its creation and its use.  Conversations with colleagues and social media messages suggest that there is a desire for such a document to provide direction and clarification but I suspect that this post has created more questions than answers!

 

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the technology hat

hat_technologyWhile it may seem like it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it is only 20 years since computers, LANs and Internet access started to be widespread in schools. At the time the teacher librarian was seen as the guru of all things ICT, their position and purpose in the school valued and unquestioned and the leadership hat fitted snugly.  Even though our duties seemed to be more about troubleshooting printer errors because of loose cables or empty cartridges, and our teaching was based on just-in-case skills rather than just-in-time learning, nevertheless ICT in those days was seen as the prerogative and priority of the teacher librarian.

 

But times have changed and the world has caught up with us. Storing files on floppy disks, CDs and USB sticks has almost gone; “Google” meaning “to search the Internet” has become part of the population’s  everyday vocabulary, and wifi has eliminated many of the cable issues.  Even the students have computers in their pockets these days; kindergarten students come to school well able to use their fingers to control a screen; and people ask “Why do you have a teacher librarian if you have the Internet?”  (We know the answer but are they ready to hear it?)

fire_hydrant

Perhaps it is time to reposition ourselves.

Many have but from messages to the networks to which I belong, it seems their role has become being the go-to person when someone wants a new app to accomplish something within their teaching or learning or they are the person who presents a range of must-use apps to staff who then find that the technology is driving their teaching rather than the other way round. Others have become the guardians of students’ digital footprints focusing on students’ online safety and well-being. Many are the suppliers and emergency chargers of devices as well as troubleshooting issues with them or the library is the place to print off that last-minute assignment. 

In worst-case scenarios, some schools have by-passed the TL leaving them to their perceived preference for print and hired ICT coaches and instructors who teach typing skills and how to format Word documents and so on, completely ignoring what Jamie McKenzie has been saying for 25 years about just-in-time rather than just-in-case.

All of these roles have a place in the school, but is it the most effective and efficient way of using our professional knowledge, understanding and skills?

google_mug

The teacher librarian of 2016 has to be so much more than this. If we are to wear the technology hat well, we need to put the teacher part of teacher librarian to the fore.

It is our role to help our students enter, safely navigate and use the digital world both as information consumers and creators.  Little of what is online is offered for free (even if it appears so on the surface); is suitable for access and use by children (hence COPPA which restricts much to over-13s); or is without bias. Therefore we need to help them understand what it is they are looking for, be able to analyse, interpret and evaluate what they find to determine if it meets their needs at the time; manage what they gather so it is easily accessible and then use and communicate it efficiently and ethically.

We need to put on our curriculum leader’s hat and burrow down into school, state and national documents of syllabus and standards to identify where the use of technology will enrich and enhance the curriculum rather than drive it.  We have a critical role in both the design and the delivery of the curriculum.

Our designer role can be broad-based or specific.

If there is a formal Digital Technologies curriculum such as that released by ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) or a formal learning continuum of ICT capabilties  we need to know the knowledge and performance expectations of it and match those markers to other curricula so skills are taught in context and thus have meaning and value.

For example, under the Australian curriculum, students in Foundation – Year 2 begin “to learn about common digital systems and patterns that exist within data they collect. Students organise, manipulate and present this data, including numerical, categorical, text, image, audio and video data, in creative ways to create meaning.” This requires them to develop a range of understandings and skills including

  • recognising and exploring patterns in data and representing data as pictures, symbols and diagrams
  • collecting, exploring and sorting data, and using digital systems to present the data creatively
  • following, describing and representing a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve simple problems
  • creating and organising ideas and information using information systems independently and with others, and sharing these with known people in safe online environments

Digital Technologies Curriculum, V.8.1, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2016

Knowing this, we then need to know how these outcomes could be achieved through units of work identified in the English, History, Geography, Science and even Mathematics curricula through an inquiry-learning approach scaffolded by both the information literacy process and the outcomes of the ICT Capabilities Continuum.

Continuing with the Australian example. under the Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum, Foundation students explore the two key questions…

  • Who am I, where do I live and who came before me?
  • Why are some places and events special and how do we know?

They explore both historical and geographical concepts by

  • posing questions about past and present objects, people, places and events
  • collecting  data and information from observations and identify information and data from sources provided
  • sorting and recording information and data, including location, in tables and on plans and labelled maps
  • sequencing familiar objects and events
  • exploring  a point of view
  • comparing objects from the past with those from the present and considering how places have changed over time
  • interpreting data and information displayed in pictures and texts and on maps
  • drawing simple conclusions based on discussions, observations and information displayed in pictures and texts and on maps
  • reflecting on learning to propose how to care for places and sites that are important or significant
  • presenting narratives, information and findings in oral, graphic and written forms using simple terms to denote the passing of time and to describe direction and location

Humanities and Social Sciences Curriculum,  V.8.1, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2016 

By knowing how and which digital technologies can be used in both the consumption and creation of information to achieve these outcomes , we can add real value to the teaching and learning as well as demonstrating how outcomes from other curriculum documents can be covered at the same time.  In this example, there are clear correlations with the information literacy process,  the mathematics curriculum  and the English curriculum enabling integrated, meaningful delivery of the curriculum as well as killing more than one paperwork bird with the same stone.

two_birds

Armed with this in-depth curriculum knowledge the teacher librarian can then collaborate with the classroom teacher to work out which responsibilities each will take on and then how the needs of the Digital Technologies curriculum can be met at the same time.  For example, it may be that while the classroom teacher teaches the students how to collect data, the TL might be responsible for showing them how to present it using an app such as MaxCount from Max’s Toolbox (an early childhood interface for Office) aka Scholastic Keys. Even if the classroom teacher does not teach alongside you and you run a parallel program, you can have the children collect different but unit-related data and use the software to present it.  This approach not only consolidates their understanding and skills but also enables them to transfer their knowledge to new situations – a true sign of mastery of the learning. At the same time, we are helping students to develop that deeper understanding of what it is to be a citizen of the digital world and demonstrating that we have a valuable teaching role in students’ learning rather than just being the resource provider.

If the teacher librarian’s role remains one that is more in isolation than collaboration and is more focused on the concept of “library skills”  then it is essential that we examine the information literacy process thoroughly and identify those aspects that are more likely to be done digitally now such as locating resources, highlighting keywords, making and organising notes, creating bibliographies, presenting products and so forth and develop our teaching around those. In essence we need to translate those skills that were once applied only to print into the digital environment. Show the students that using tools and apps can help them work smarter rather than harder but all the while pushing the message of cybersafety and protecting their digital footprint.

More broadly we need to know and promote the SAMR model. so the technology is deeply embedded into the teaching and learning, guiding teachers to set assignments that have rigour and relevance.

SAMR and Blooms Taxonomy

SAMR and Blooms Taxonomy

In this article  Alan November challenges us to consider whether we are technology rich but innovation poor by posing six questions about how technology is used in student assignments.Is it used as just a substitute for a writing tool or does it open up new worlds to explore by providing access to people, information and so forth that were not available in a wall-bound classroom?

Teaching the teachers is also a critical element of the TL’s role.  Alan November has written an article about what students don’t know about searching Google (their go-to source regardless of any alternatives we put before them) so as well as teaching the students, teach the teachers by offering to lead professional learning sessions on whatever aspects of information literacy in the digital world they need. However, there is nothing worse than sitting through stuff you already know so conduct a needs and skills audit.  Discover what teachers want to know and what they are capable of sharing and set up a mentoring model so specific needs are met.  Introduce new tools or apps that you know have immediate relevance and share examples of how they can be used so teachers can use the ideas as springboards.  Require they show and share what they have done as a result of their learning. Remember just in time is much more effective than just in case.  

Apart from giving them skills that they can pass on, it reinforces the importance of the TL in navigating the digital landscape.

Because the support of literacy and literature is also our core business, look for ways to use ICT to support students’ free voluntary reading (or even that which is mandatory) by 

  • providing books in a range of formats to support students’ needs and preferences understanding that the print-reading brain is different from the digital-reading one (which is elaborated here.)
  • sharing and creating (or getting them to create)  book trailers to encapsulate the essence of a book whether it be
    • a contender for an award,
    • popular reads and recommendations
    • for an author study so different titles can be compared and contrasted
    • to demonstrate the reader’s understanding of the story
    • any other reason
  • displaying QR codes that lead to reviews of the title, related resources or further information
  • creating a blog where students can share their reviews
  • creating an online book club that allows students to connect with others from other places 
  • promoting recommendations through an app like Padlet Backpack
  • providing links to authors’ and series’ websites where there are often extra activities and information
  • using Skype, Google Hangouts and similar software to connect with authors or students in other schools
  • using an online service such  Biblionasium, Goodreads or Shelfari for students to track and reflect on their reading
  • exploring how the International Children’s Digital Library could become part of what you offer particularly for providing reading resources for those for whom English is not their first language

We need to be operating in the same environment as our students and helping them to maximise the benefits of that environment, even if it does mean helping them to use Wikipedia effectively.  We cannot be resource snobs.

We also need to acknowledge the students’ preferences for learning and provide resources in a variety of different formats as well as the information and means to access these. However the provision of the collection must not be an either/or situation – apart from the growing body of research that clearly demonstrates students need to build a foundation of traditional literacy skills based on print, we need to ask ourselves which is the most effective and efficient way to access and disseminate the information within the resource.  

As well as being a leader in the design of the curriculum, the teacher librarian can also have a leadership role in its delivery.

If your school, district or education authority is implementing a blanket suite of tools such as Google Apps for Education undertake the professional learning so you become the go-to person to help other teachers learn how to use the tools and embed them in their teaching effectively. By demonstrating to individuals how the tool they are learning has immediate application in their teaching,  new skills are more likely to be applied and consolidated. Being known as a leader in the suite may also give you access to an individual teacher’s Google Classroom or blog or wiki where you can further support student learning 24/7 with resource suggestions, pertinent instructional videos such as the creation of a bibliography and so forth.

Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education

Similarly, you could co-ordinate Parent Participation programs so parents can also learn what their children are using so they can assist them out of school hours when necessary. Reaching out to the community in this way goes a long way to overcoming the perception that the library is only about print. 

Making slideshows or videos that support student learning beyond the walls and hours of the library is an essential service.  My go-to model is always The Library Minute from Arizona State University. Even those these are for university students they encapsulate the idea of providing information and teaching support 24/7. If you’re short of time to make them yourself, ask the students what it is they most want/need to know so you can prioritise and then have them research, script and film the video or create the slideshow.

With new apps being released every day it is not feasible to suggest a list of what does what best but consider using the following formats to support students learning…

  • YouTube channel 
  • podcast
  • wiki
  • library website
  • pathfinders 
  • slideshows
  • blogs
  • QR codes
  • social networking 
  • mobile technology

As the information service manager we need to provide efficient access to resources that will support learning and the criteria for this should be incorporated in the Collection Policy including critical elements such as copyright compliance and acceptable terms and conditions of use which do not contravene Australian Privacy laws.  (In the Sample Collection Policy there is a list of 25 questions to consider as well as specific selection criteria in Appendix A.) As well as satisfying the overall criteria for accuracy, authority, currency, objectivity and relevance, the following chart could serve as a ready reference tool for selection.

S Suitability 

Does the information meet students’  needs?

Is it in language they  can understand?

Are there images to help their understanding?

M Manageability

Is it easy to navigate?

Is the information in chunks that I can manage?

Is the layout appealing?

A Accessibility

Can it be accessed on a mobile device?

Does it load quickly?

Do links take the user offsite to ‘dangerous waters”?

Are there bells and whistles and advertisements that might distract the user?

R Reliability

Does it meet the AACOR criteria of accuracy, authority, currency, objectivity, and relevance?

Are the publication details such as who is taking responsibility for the information readily apparent?

Is the platform stable so I can access it easily 24/7?

T Trustworthy

 Is the purpose of the website clearly apparent?

What information about me is being collected and what is done with that information?

Is there a third-party presence that I should be concerned about?

 

We can also supply print resources which support the upsurge in interest in coding as well as other other popular online apps such as gaming like Minecraft

Many primary and secondary school libraries are creating room for a makerspace where students learn to pose questions and solve problems through the the manipulation and creation of material objects which may include digital technologies. But that is another broad field for another post. 

As identified in the seer’s hat, the skills of the future will focus on problem posing and solving and digital technologies offer opportunities to do this way beyond what we can imagine.  Remember it is less than 10 years since Apple released its first iphone opening up a world that many can not live without.  Even though the technology hat is a large one with a very broad brim it is one we need to put on, adjust to fit and take ourselves, our colleagues and our students deep into the 21st century.

 

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the seer’s hat

hat_seer

 

 

 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a seer as one who “predicts events or developments” and while I can’t lay claim to having that extraordinary insight that sets such visionaries above the rest of us, in the past few weeks I have had the opportunity and privilege to see what might be in the world of libraries.

While no one can accurately predict the future, nevertheless there are those who examine what has been, what is and can make a very good forecast of what will be. They undertake the research, read the reports, study the trends and draw conclusions that the astute amongst us will consider and act on so that what we are offering remains relevant and required.

In a keynote address at the recent SLANZA conference in Christchurch, Mark Osborne identified three distinct phases in the evolution of education.

education1Education 1.0
This is the period prior to the Industrial Revolution when education was based on immediate, localised relationships.  It was limited to those with whom one interacted within the village or farm. It was based on the master and apprentice model where the skills needed to function within the community were handed down from generation to generation.The library consisted of the knowledge and stories in the heads of the village elders which were passed on orally to younger members as they required it.
 education2Education 2.0
This period was predicated on the factory model where items (students) moved along a conveyor belt having pre-determined bits added to them as they progressed in a lock-step fashion until they reached the end where they were tested for quality control. Uniformity of appearance and outcome reigned.  This one-size-fits-all model was seen as an efficient way to achieve a finished product and even the buildings which were single-cell classrooms off long corridors reinforced the notion.   The teacher at the front of the classroom was the sage on the stage, students were passive “empty vessels to be filled” and learning was measured through written products which demonstrated the level of  content and skills acquired. Curriculum was prescribed and delivered in a just-in-case fashion. Learning was confined to the boundaries of the school and the hidden curriculum of obedience, politeness, punctuality, neatness and respect for authority dominated.  (Bowles & Gintis, 1976) The library was often a converted classroom, although later purpose-built structures emerged, and their main function was to be the storehouse of all the resources that staff and students needed. These were predominantly print and presided over by a person who was seen as the gatekeeper and who gave rise to the stereotypical image of a librarian today.
 education3Education 3.0
This phase of education has emerged particularly with the development of and access to technology as well as the research into how the brain functions and how humans learn.
 It is based on the belief that knowledge is a commodity, free to all rather than being the exclusive domain of the privileged few and that progress is based on not what you know but what you can do with what you know.  Students are considered information creators as well as information consumers and so the teacher is now the guide on the side facilitating personal and collaborative knowledge creation based on the needs, abilities and interests of the individual. Learning is based on the notion that it takes a village to raise a child and thus is 365/24/7 with ubiquitous access to and use of technology to go beyond the walls of the school to wherever it leads.Students have a strong sense of ownership of their own education, are involved in the co-creation of both knowledge and resources and have active choice in their learning. While the library continues to be a storehouse of resources because not everything is available online and there is a growing body of research supporting the young learner’s need to build a solid foundation of traditional skills based on print if they are to be an effective and efficient user of the digital environment, the collection is much smaller and the space more flexible.  It is geared to encouraging collaboration as students pose problems and seek solutions to them configuring the space to meet the needs of their activity.

 

If we consider that a simple Google search today embraces all the technology that was employed in the Apollo program to land a man on the moon less than 50 years ago, and our students carry that power in their pockets but have done for only seven years since the release of the first smart phone, how can schools and their libraries change to meet the demands of Education 4.0 which is already on the horizon? The phrase “21st century skills” is bandied around in educational circles to the extent that it is now part of the lexicon of modern education. But what are those skills, what are they based on and what is their implication for the school library of the future and the teacher librarian who steers it?

Gratton (2011) has identified that the forces of technology, globalisation, society, energy resources, demography and longevity will be the major influences on work into the future and these are going to have a significant impact on the relevance of the current education system. The World Economic Forum has also identified 16 skills students need stating, “The gap between the skills people learn and the skills people need is becoming more obvious, as traditional learning falls short of equipping students with the knowledge they need to thrive”.  Students need to be able to collaborate, communicate and solve problems and these are developed through social and emotional learning.

Skills required in the 21st century

Skills required in the 21st century

How to teach all the skills

How to teach all the skills

Other research from a variety of sources indicates that those jobs most likely to disappear to the efficiency of automation are those that are routine cognitive tasks and non-routine manual tasks while those that require human interaction and social intelligence or have a heuristic element that requires novel recombinations and interpretations of existing information to develop new ideas and artefacts are more resistant. Jobs that involve problem solving, teamwork, interpersonal skills rather than academic, and entrepreneurship will be the focus of the future while those that can be easily-structured into a rules-based process will disappear as computers follow rules very well. This is illustrated by computers being able to play chess at the masters level yet they cannot play a simple game of tic-tac-toe.

The New Work Order Report

The New Work Order Report

future_meme

The workforce  landscape that our current kindergarten students will face will be significantly different from that of our current school leavers.  While there are many infographics offering guidance about the nature of what those “21st century skills” are, the common core comprises

  • curiosity
  • critical thinking
  • creativity
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • connectivity
  • cross-cultural understanding
  • confidence
  • computer competence
  • commitment
  • citizenship

 21st_century

 

Much has also been written about how these concepts can and must be embedded in the design and delivery of the curriculum in the classroom, but how do they shape the school library, its position and potential?

At the SLJ Leadership Summit we have been urged to “teach more and librarian less” and certainly that makes sense if we take on board the evidence that those tasks which are routine, manually-based and do not involve critical human intervention are more likely to be outsourced or automated. Why should a principal pay a teaching salary for a job a volunteer can do?  But what does this look like in a practical sense?  Perhaps it is worthwhile to return to those three key roles of the teacher librarian – curriculum leader, information services manager and information specialist – and examine what they might entail in the immediate future.

curriculum leader

Because the teacher librarian is still likely to be the person within the school with the broadest view of the curriculum as a whole, the role of curriculum leader remains essential, even moreso when we consider how far its boundaries now reach. The core concepts of 21st century pedagogy are also the core of our teaching skillset. 

If the child’s innate curiosity is to be fostered so they can ask and answer their own questions then an inquiry-based approach which builds on what they already know and what they want to find out is essential.  Sitting comfortably within that approach as a scaffold is the information literacy process, a cross-curriculum perspective that encourages critical and creative thinking, the melding of what is known with what is learned to develop new perspectives and the communication of these new ideas with confidence through a variety of channels. Its foundation question of “What do I want to know?” encourages problem solving and solution seeking either by the individual or a group.

However, we can’t lead every inquiry and investigation so our role has to shift from teaching the students to also teaching the teachers so that the language and practice  of inquiry-based learning and information literacy are embedded into all curriculum design and delivery.  It is much easier to have a long-term impact on 30 teachers than 900 students. Rather than being just the teacher of “library skills”, an extension of the English department or value-adding to what  is done within the classroom, we have a specialist teaching role in the development of the reading and research skills, digital citizenship and communications that are at the heart of learning.  At the SLJ Leadership Summit, panellist Tara Jones said she was now her school’s ‘research technology specialist’ as she “collaborates with classroom teachers and co-teaches lessons in the classroom” and is “responsible for embedding technology and research skills within problem-based learning experiences”. Sounds very much what many Australian TLs do already, although the emphasis is on co-teaching rather than just collaborating!

As well as the visible direct instructor’s role that we assume, we must also lead a less visible, more subtle but equally important thrust.  We need to create opportunities that encourage children to question, to explore, to investigate, to collaborate, to persevere, to mentor, to explain, to listen, to discuss, to debate, to decide, to be confident, to have a can-do attitude, to manage their time, to take risks, to cope with pressure, failure and adversity, to be flexible, to be resilient, to be committed, to take responsibility, to be independent- in short, to develop those attributes and interpersonal skills that are going to be the key to their futures. We can do this by

  • developing displays that lead them to new worlds to discover
  • creating challenges which encourage them to solve problems
  • allowing them to wonder and experiment, to follow along paths and down rabbit holes
  • letting them lead their own learning
  • using a variety of groupings that take them out of their immediate friendship circle
  • allowing them a leadership role in the management and running of the library
  • challenging existing ideas by playing devil’s advocate
  • asking questions and setting tasks that are open-ended so there can be a variety of solutions
  • encouraging them to pursue a passion and then enabling them to share it with a live audience
  • encouraging them to teach and mentor each other as well as us
  • flipping the curriculum by using online tools to support 365/24/7 learning
  • creating an online classroom that can be a “ready reference” for students such as The Library Minute
  • providing the ‘river’ but not necessarily the ‘bridge’ which says “cross here”
  • providing flexible spaces for learning that can be arranged and changed to meet the needs of the users and the task including
    • 1:many for direct instruction
    • co-teaching
    • peer tutoring so small groups can work together
    • informal places for relaxation, play and experimentation
    • private spaces where personal learning choices and means can be explored
    • collaborative opportunities
    • outdoor learning
    • reflection
  • providing opportunities for learning to be shared through social networking apps

Similarly, we can be a less-visible support for our teaching colleagues as we share relevant research with them; alert them to opportunities for professional learning; suggest new reads and new resources that fit what they are doing in class right now; go the extra mile to track down that elusive key resource…

With no more powerful advocates for the school library than the parents of its students, we must also be reaching and teaching them, inviting them to be active participants in their child’s learning as the boundaries between home and school, teaching and learning blur and merge into a seamless whole. By reaching out through parent participation programs and social media we can inform parents of what is happening and why as well as forming long-lasting partnerships that can only enhance what the library offers.

And while we are focused on teaching others, we must not forget to keep teaching ourselves through our professional networks, professional reading and action research. We must know that what we do is based on current best-practice and be able to defend and demonstrate this through reference to theory, research and evidence. We need to be the window to the future, not the mirror of the past.

It is the teaching role that we assume in the school that will be the purple cow that Seth Godin encourages us to find -that one remarkable thing that makes us stand out from the herd.

purple_cow

 

information services manager

While some might argue that the provision of resources could be easily outsourced, it is the curriculum leader’s hat that makes that of the information services manager fit more snugly. The responsibility to “develop and implement strategies for evaluating the collection and for determining curriculum and student needs within the context of identified school priorities” is just as critical now as it ever was particularly with the plethora of resources in so many formats available.

The collection, regardless of its format, must still meet the needs. interests and abilities of its users.  It still needs to be regularly evaluated and assessed, added to or subtracted from as necessary. But it now needs to support information creation as well as information consumption and be available 365/24/7 as learning is no longer confined by walls and clocks.  Collection Development policies need to be updated to reflect the needs of now and the next three years so that decisions are informed by evidence. 

In the past couple of weeks I have personally been contacted by three teacher librarians who have been directed to dispose of their non fiction collections by principals who believe that such collections no longer have a place and that the space could be put to better use. The belief that “everything is available on the internet” is alive and well in the minds of many. As the information services manager we have a responsibility to dispel this myth that everything, everywhere has been digitised and that what is available is authoritative, accurate, current, objective, relevant and intellectually accessible to our students. We need to ensure that the Powers That Be are kept abreast of the research that shows that if students are to be effective and efficient users of digital content they need a foundation of traditional skills built on print; that not everything is available online, not even behind subscriber-based firewalls; that what is online does not necessairly meet the needs of students, particularly younger ones; and that we must acknowledge the different learning styles, needs and preferences of our clients and cater for these.

Collection development should not be an either/or decision.

information specialist

The library may no longer be the vast book repository it once was but the need for an information specialist  – the provider of “access to information resources through efficient and well-guided systems for organising, retrieving and circulating resources”-  can be summed up in these three memes which regularly do the rounds of social networking media.

internet_library fire_hydrant

trained_librarian

 

Providing easy access to appropriate and relevant information is more important now than ever before as the library’s walls are breached and the amount of information grows exponentially each year. Even with tools like Google Advanced Search, students can still spend whole sessions searching for the perfect online resource and then be totally overwhelmed by the choices available.

Where once a working knowledge of the Dewey system and the arrangement of the library was sufficient, today and tomorrow a whole new set of skills are needed. Students expect to be able to access what they want, where they want and from whatever device they are using at the time.  So the curation of resources using tools like LibGuides, Only2Clicks, ScoopIt  Pinterest and Pearltrees and the selection and promotion of databases are essential.

We need to teach both staff and students how to use Wikipedia and Google efficiently because we know these are the go-to tools when an information need becomes apparent, and, at the same time, we need to teach them to be mindful of their digital footprint and protecting their privacy. The ethical use of ideas, information and images is also critical in this copy-and-paste society adding yet another layer of complexity to the role.

And because information management is about creation as well as consumption we must also know the right app for the job so we also have to have things like the padogogy wheel and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy on hand. If anything, the need for an information specialist who knows pedagogy, the curriculum, how teachers teach and students learn is more important than ever. 

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

The Padagogy Wheel by Allan Carrington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://tinyurl.com/bloomsblog.

blooms_digital

 

the learning space

Key to the library meeting the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students is the ability for the space itself to be able to adapt to particular needs at a particular time.  While it will still have a storehouse role as well as that of being a sanctuary, they need to become “awesome incubators” (Osborne) and a ‘temporary autonomous zone’ where users can create the type of space that fits their needs at the time.  The physical space needs to reflect the rapidly changing nature of the intellectual architecture so they add to what is happening within and beyond the school.  Users need to be able to create the space they need for the activity they are going to do.  So as well as mobile technology and moveable furniture they need to have areas that cater for noisy and quiet activities, individual, and collaborative work, formal and informal instruction, vertical and horizontal groupings, showcase and feedback… While there is currently a focus on the library as a makerspace this needs to be interpreted as the creation of new ideas and information as well as objects.  But most critically, because of our innate need for contact with others of our species, we must teach our students to thrive in the digital world and survive in an analog one.

An internet search for ‘library makeover’ will yield many stories and images that can be adapted but Extreme Makeover tracks the changes in the library of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and includes planning and pitfalls and lots of other tips. Diana Rendina identifies six active learning spaces your library should have if it is to meet the needs of its users. Much of this post hs been inspired by the keynote address by Mark Osborne at From the Ground Up, SLANZA 2015 and there is more of his writing in Collected  and the basis for his assertions in an Ed-Talk video.  For me, anyone who starts with the premise that “the first step to considering modern learning environments is to start with learning” is on solid ground.

Contrary to a common belief that libraries will be obsolete by 2025, this glimpse into what can be demonstrates that their place in society is secure.  As the school becomes the centre of the child’s global village, so the library must become the village green -a service centre offering opportunities to teach and learn; the buffer between home and work where schools and their communities can come together; a blended space where tradition meets the future.

“A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert.”

Andrew Carnegie

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the tricky topics hat

 

hat_tricky_topics

 

 

 

In a recent edition of the School Library Journal there was an article entitled,  King & King – and teacher who read it -under fire in North Carolina in which a teacher read a book to his class and now finds his job in jeopardy. 

The book in question is from 2003 and is about a prince who marries another prince and was read to a Year 2 class in response to an issue where a child of same-sex parents was being bullied.It also fit into a unit of work being undertaken focusing on fractured fairytales. The outcome has been outrage and now all books that are not in the library’s collection which are going to be read to a class by any teacher need to be submitted to the principal and parents for prior consent.  

King & King - Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland

King & King – Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland

 

The final page

The final page

 

If you are unfamiliar with the story, there is a (biased) synopsis including pictures here.  It’s not the first time it has caused controversy.

Curious about how Australian parents, principals and peers would respond to the issue of such tricky topics being included in the collection and shared in the classroom, I posed the question on Facebook to both personal and professional forums. I asked parents how they would respond to their young children being ‘exposed’ to stories about non-traditional families, specifically same-sex and whether they would require advance notice; principals about whether they would require to know in advance  if such a story were going to be shared; and teacher librarians about their inclusion and handling of such resources in their collection. 

The results were very interesting.

  • Parents were almost unanimous in their responses that they would have no problem with such a focus because they had had such discussions in their families already, their children knew and mixed with such families and that they are just part of the fabric of society.  One parent would like a heads-up so that she was prepared for any questions her child might have, but being in a non-traditional solo parent structure herself, she saw the value of celebrating such diversity.
  • The principal who responded also want a heads-up so she could field any parental response but would definitely support the sharing of such literature because she trusts the TL’s professionalism and knowledge.
  • Teacher librarians were divided – some felt that to read it without prior approval from parents would be “outrageous and create uproar”; another said we were not censors and if a story was worth sharing it should be shared; and others said such family structures and other issues are part of life and to not share them marginalises those who are “different” even further  and questioned whether studies of families and communities without acknowledging all structures would be valid.  Given the hot topic of marriage equality in Australia, there were those who felt TLs had a duty to help older students be informed about the issues and that literature was a non-personal way of doing this.

Inspired by the diversity of opinions among the teacher librarian fraternity, I then posed the similar questions to three TL online networks, one state, one national and one international.  

Should we be required, as teacher librarians developing the collection and as teachers sharing stories with students, to inform our principals and parent body in advance that we are intending to do share stories that may be controversial?

While we are happy to share stories about children with physical disabilities, mental health issues, particular illnesses and different cultural, social and religious backgrounds as we try to promote the message that these things should not define the person or their worth, why are we so divided about stories which feature different family structures, sexual orientation or assisted reproduction? 

Without even going into the specifics of the opinions, the results were interesting.  There were three responses from the state list, three from the national list and a volume from the international list. This pretty much reflected my expectations based on experience of asking similar “deep questions” – for whatever reasons, local TLs do not respond to challenging issues that are put before them so that there can be discussion and debate and corporate growth of knowledge.  However, if someone asks a relatively simple question that can be answered with a search of Google there will be a flood of responses, as there will be if someone is flamed or the profession is threatened, so “lack of time” cannot be the reason more meaty issues are left hanging. 

The responses from the local list focused on the need for a Collection Policy and a Challenged Material policy and the statistics relating to the prevalence of LGBTI issues in our community – “1 in 2,000 births in Australia have  “sex disorder” or are intersex – (unsure due to non reporting) and about 11% of Australian gay men and 33% of lesbians have children and around 10% of Australian population identifies as gay and lesbian.” The other three who responded supported the “mirrors and windows” view of the collection – resources should mirror the lives of the students and give them windows into new and diverse worlds, and that such titles supported inclusivity of students. However there was concern about the age of the children involved because they don’t ‘understand’ the issues while another argued they don’t need to ‘understand’, that young children do not see things through the adult lenses that we apply and all they are seeing and hearing is a story about families with which they are already familiar.

The discussion on the international list was very robust and a range of issues was raised. Here are some quotes taken from responses that formed the core of the person’s argument  …

  • “Kids are living this way. Just as kids deal with child abuse, parents getting killed by the other parent, rape, incest, drugs and such- these days kids deal with transgenders and gay parents. People, teachers, principals and librarians need to be on board.”
  • “However, I also recognize that some people do have an issue with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and that makes it a controversial topic. But shouldn’t this be a part of education? Learning about things that are different than what we experience? Making us think about our values and behavior, in order to develop critical thinking skills and, hopefully, kindness towards all? “
  • “[Such] are all particularly controversial because they question some of every society’s most deeply-held convictions about some of the most fundamental questions we can ask: about bodies and their constituent parts; how people relate in and to their and other bodies; how people are attracted to other people, and to whom they are attracted; etc”
  • “The teachers are not the parents.  I, as the parent, may want handle it differently than a teacher would and I would like to know how the topic is being introduced to my child.” “Addressing sexual preferences with young students is felt by many (and I include myself here) as usurping parental, religious and cultural roles”  (Usurping the parent’s role was a common thread.)
  • “I have worked with enough feminist and pro-LGBTQI teachers who, on these two topics, trended toward calling all those who disagreed with them as mysogonistic [sic} and ironically bigoted…continuing to expose students to these concerns may seem to desensitize them so that they begin to sympathize with protagonists, identify with certain foci, but what it actually does is offend if it’s not aligned with the student’s personal lifestyle choices.”  (Teachers pushing personal agendas rather than using texts in relation to the curriculum was also suggested several times as was the marginalisation of students who did not share the teacher’s viewpoint)
  • “Normalizing behaviors does not make it right. Religion does not give room for changing views as needed based on society’s expectations.” (The religious element was raised and debated back and forth.)
  • “This was a teachable moment, and he seized the moment appropriately.” (Another common thread.)
  • “When we talk of Mummy and Daddy, are we also talking about their bedroom habits? No, so why do we seem to focus on this whenever the issue of same sex parents is raised? Sex, is the underlying issue that causes people to question books such as King and King, but the book itself has no sexual content.”
  •  “I will read civil rights and anti-racist and feminist and anti-ableism books with gusto, but I have to be more cautious than my straight colleagues about queer matters [for fear of losing my job]”.
  • “I feel that to purposefully shield students (especially if they’re middle- or high-schoolers), to close them off from any resources from which they can learn about it, is to do them a disservice.”
  • “… I must also be sensitive to the needs of my student community, many of whom are LBGT, even if this hasn’t become part of their verbal identity yet at age six and seven. Many more have parents who are LBGT. Even more than that know people in their lives who are LBGT. It can be a very scary thing to live in a community in which the books and media around you show no mirrors or windows. We really do owe it to our children to show them that life is different in different places.”
  • “Refusing to have materials on specific topics in the library collection and/or purposefully choosing not to read aloud those materials is, itself, teaching. It is teaching children that these are not acceptable topics to discuss. It is teaching children that these are topics that must be kept hidden away. It teaches that the viewpoint of the materials offered and read aloud are the truth and the only acceptable opinions. I think it is a huge disservice to ourselves, our students, and our communities when we assume that not directly teaching these topics means that we are not teaching them. We are teaching by omission.”
  • “Straight romantic relationships are seen constantly in children’s literature, not to mention other forms of media. Stories of families coping with divorce, death, and abuse are also part of kids lit and aren’t censored. Stories with single parents, grandparents raising children, adoptive families, etc.; all of these scenarios fall outside of the so-called “traditional” family unit and should be represented in our libraries and our classrooms. A story showing a same-sex relationship is no different. It is representation of the world today.”
  • “Remember, LGBT students can and do come from “traditional” families where they are the only ones in their family (immediate and often extended family too) who are LGBT. This is not the case for most other minority students. Most African American students, for example, grow up in African American families where their family members know exactly what it is like to be African American and the types of challenges they uniquely face. For LGBT students whose family are straight, cisgendered folks, their family does not know and understand what the LGBT student faces. In worst case scenarios, that family might even abuse them or disown them for being LGBT. It is therefore up to us to be a safe place for these students. To create that safe place in our libraries and our schools and to provide representation and understanding that they may not receive at home.”
  • “How can change be effected if we do not present students with alternatives to the status quo?  How much of the acceptance and integration and celebration of minorities would have been achieved if “brave” teachers had not introduced the writings of ground-breaking authors to students? “

Clearly this is a divisive and tricky subject within our profession so then I posed the question about how such resources were treated within the collection so that there was acknowledgement of and sensitivity towards all the stakeholders.  Many teachers get students to select the books for the class library and the children do not discriminate; even within a section such as ‘Junior Fiction’ there is a diverse range of age and maturity so how to cater for this; if a child self-selects a book that a parent reads to them without prior knowledge of its content, so should there be some sort of warning label (which then makes them more than they are, gives them a mystique they should not have, suggests that the topic is taboo, and may marginalise those who choose to borrow them perhaps even making them a target.) Or should they just be placed in the collection and we hope for the best? Is it better to beg forgiveness later than ask permission first?  Do we need permission?  Should we need to ask for forgiveness?

The only response has been that this should be covered in the Collection Policy that has been ratified by the school executive, but how should it be worded if the Collection Policy is being written or reviewed? If the school executive is to approve the policy then it needs to be in alignment with the school’s policy (and many schools may not even have such a document) and offer guidance that they are comfortable with.  

The Australian School Library Association’s Bill of Rights mandates

To place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of materials of the highest quality in order to assure a comprehensive collection appropriate to the users of the library.

Collection development cannot be driven by the personal prejudices rather than professional practice whether those prejudices are more liberal or more conservative than the school’s ethos. Therefore I have asked my school executive to discuss how they wish to proceed so they are comfortable with supporting the library’s policy and procedures and are willing to defend them if necessary. I’ve drafted the wording of this section of the collection policy as a starting point for them and I’ve also shared this Pinterest board of resources so they are familiar with the sorts of titles that would be included in the library’s collection because currently there are none. I’ve offered to take it to a staff meeting for discussion and suggested that there may need to be input from the Student Representative Council.  

Censorship is not part of the teacher librarian’s toolkit but sensitivity should be.  Despite the range of opinions about this subject, there is agreement that it cannot dwell in the too-hard basket.  What would you do?

In May 2016 United States president Barack Obama officially proclaimed June 2016 as Gay Pride Month.  If the provision of resources that support our right to our own gender identity and sexuality and explain it to others is all that we can do to support those so continually discriminated against, then that must be better than putting our heads in the sand.  A Mighty Girl has released an annotated list of  their favorite books featuring lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) characters. It should provide a start to a collection that promotes inclusion while celebrating diversity.

This article from School Library Journal is worth reading and considering in light of your circumstances and professional practice. Unnatural Selection: More Librarians Are Self-Censoring

You might also like to consider the issues raised in The Censor’s Hat.

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the professional learning hat

hat_prof_lrng

 

At the core of our mandate as teacher librarians is enabling our students to become lifelong learners.

Through teaching them about the information literacy process we give them a scaffold they can use in any area that allows them to know how to find out what they want or need to know whether it’s solving a complex mathematical problem or learning how to start a motor mower. As teacher librarians, we pride ourselves on being lifelong learners – but are we?

 

How many of us walk across the stage at graduation, accept that piece of paper that states we are now qualified to teach in this specialist area, and think, “That’s it.  No more study for me”? Or believe that the only way to grow our learning is through TL-specific courses and conferences? Or look at the requirements for progressing our careers and think that they are all focused on the sphere of the classroom-based teacher and therefore irrelevant?  From the messages I read on the various TL networks I belong to, it would seem that all too often this is the case.

Over the last few years, education in Australia  has changed significantly with the establishment of AITSL – Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership – and all teachers are now required to be formally accredited and to log a minimum of 20 hours professional learning each year (100 hours over five years in NSW).  This is because AITSL believes that a great education system is based on its teachers, that the best educators are the best learners and

the best systems make sure that teachers and school leaders can become great as they progress through their profession because people naturally want to grow, develop, and be successful

And for this to be achieved there need to be opportunities and commitment for learning with diverse forms of support that meet the needs, abilities and preferences of the teachers.  In other words, we do for ourselves that which we do for our students. 

 

 

Most education jurisdictions now require the annual logging and formal evaluation of professional learning based on a formal professional learning plan that has stated personal and corporate goals that identify the why, when, where and how of achievement.

For some reason, this seems to pose problems for many TLs who can’t seem to move themselves beyond TL-focused professional learning and nebulous statements such as having children loving reading (which cannot be measured) or improving circulation stats (which prove nothing beyond the number of times a resource is checked out).  Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely – and the best way to formulate is to consult any formal documentation you can such as the professional standards and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and identify the areas where you personally need to improve your knowledge, practice and/or commitment.  For Australian TLs, ALIA Schools Group have mapped the AITSL standards to TL professional practice in Teacher Librarian Practice for the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers

Examine your library’s vision statement, mission statement and strategic plan to identify what you want the library to be like in three years and from that identify what professional learning you need to be able to get it there.   If it is not readily available then approach your professional network to see if there is a demand for it and whether they can supply it.  Don’t limit yourself to face-to-face delivery at conferences and meetings but look for webinars and other online opportunities, reading books and articles and so forth.

Even if you have been in the position for many years there is always something new to learn but it may be worthwhile to stop, draw breath, and reflect on what you believe and value and develop manifestos to encapsulate this to help you draw together all you have learned and achieved already and provide a benchmark from which to go forward.  Such an exercise will ensure your plans are true to your beliefs, will help you take them to a higher level and ensure you are invested in the outcomes.  Your plan will be more than a tick-a-box-for-authority document.

If a plan is to be achieved successfully it cannot be overwhelming so three goals relating to the domains of professional knowledge, professional practice and professional commitment should be sufficient but carefully chosen. Ask yourself…

  • How will achieving this goal contribute to
    • my personal professional growth?
    • the design and delivery of the curriculum for teachers and students?
    • the achievement of the library’s vision and mission statements and strategic plan?
    • the school’s plan for progress?
    • the perception of the role of the TL within this learning community?

Explicitly identify the elements for each goal so success is even more likely.  So a PLP could look like 

PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement
Identify each strategy to be undertaken to achieve the goal  What you need to do to satisfy the strategy  Short.medium.long term human, financial, physical, time 

Performance indicators

Include milestones for long term goals  

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement
PROFESSIONAL COMMITMENT
GOAL PURPOSE STANDARDS ADDRESSED RELATIONSHIP TO SCHOOL PRIORITIES
Strategy Actions Timeframe Resources Evidence of Achievement

 

By explicitly articulating the goal, the reason you are focusing on it, and the professional standard it is addressing you are demonstrating your understanding of your need for professional growth and your commitment to it. You are showing that you are taking the process seriously and professionally and not only does this underline the TL’s role in the teaching and learning process but it is more likely to get you the resources – human, financial, physical and time – you need to achieve it. Even if you are required to use a common pro forma, knowing why you have chosen a particular goal and so forth can be added as an extra and addressed in your formal conversation with your line manager. 

In her presentation Revisioning the School Library Program Anne Weaver states, “Teacher librarians must provide cutting edge library programs, using evidence based practice, that focus on goals directly connected to school leadership priorities…” She argues that if we do not do deliver programs that keep the school leadership satisfied that their investment in our salaries is justified then we put our positions at risk. 

In its publication Global trends in professional learning and performance & development AITSL examined the features of innovative professional learning and performance & development…

Features of innovative professional learning and performance & development

Features of innovative
professional learning
and performance &
development

From: Global trends in professional learning and performance & development

 

Their analysis showed that while there is a trend for individuals undertaking professional learning that is based online, collaborative, self-directed and informal and that this has value for the individual participant, it is not the best way for the organisation to leverage the results and grow as a whole.  The most effective combinations for both the individual and the organisation were opportunities that were

  • individual – participants take part alone
  • self-directed – participants choose the focus, pace and outcomes…and monitor and evaluate their own progress and achievement
  • personalised – learning focuses on the needs of the participant
  • situated – learning is within and geared to the goals of the organisation
  • offered – opportunities are made available to the participants
  • incentivised – learning is highly valued by the organisation and participants are given incentives to take part

If one of the purposes of the professional learning is to build the knowledge capital within the school, then specialist teachers like TLs need to be part of the big picture. Sometimes it is difficult to see how matches can be made between the specialist role and the school generally.  How do school goals about a greater focus on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fit with the TL role that is traditionally associated with English and possibly History?

Such an apparent ‘mis-match’ just needs some new thinking, the putting on of a new hat and some homework using that information literacy scaffold.  

  • Ask yourself…
    • How can I view this goal with a TL lens? What leadership and/or support can I give teachers and students? What resources are required?
    • What do I already know, do, and have that can provide that support or offer leadership?
    • What do I, as an individual need to learn or do so I can provide what is required to the school as a whole?
    • How can I shape that learning into a personal goal using both the professional standards and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians?
    • Where can I get the learning/training that I need to achieve that goal and deliver what is expected? What resources will I need to access it?
    • How can I demonstrate my learning as an individual and its contribution to the school’s growth?
    • How can I build on what I have learned to strengthen the school’s position in this area and to take it even further forward?
  • Develop a detailed plan to share with your school’s executive which not only demonstrates how your professional learning is in alignment with theirs but will also show that the TL’s role is integral to their success.
  • Put the plan into practice, document it, seek evidence that it is having an impact and share this as part of your formal PL discussions with your executive.

While the focus of the professional learning in a school can be driven from the top-down and for many, remains a passive process of attendance, listening and note-taking, by taking the opportunity to make it a personal action plan that we are committed to, it can have meaning and momentum that really contributes to the big picture.  

If we are to encourage and enable lifelong learning, then we must be lifelong learners ourselves. Putting on our professional learning hat and ensuring it is a snug fit is one way of doing that.

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the game-player’s hat

hat_gameplayer

 

 

 

As the cooler days of Australia’s winter encroach, more and more students make their way to the library as a warm haven during recess and lunch breaks. But to expect them all to want to curl up and read for that time may be a bit ambitious so this is a perfect opportunity to introduce them to some of the “old-fashioned” board and card games of yesteryear.

Those of us of a certain vintage may well remember the family nights where televisionwas turned off (if there were a television) and games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Squatter would be set up or a lively game of cards would ensue.  As well as being entertained, we absorbed the social niceties of taking turns, sharing, patience and how to lose gracefully while learning to think strategically, plan ahead, and know enough maths to keep the scorer/banker honest. Like traditional fairytales, the best games always had something to teach us.

While today’s students seem to be entranced with screen-based games, the library can become the place where more traditional formats are introduced and so much learning can take place. Games enable students to

  • collaborate with their peers to set goals, rules, deadlines and make collegial decisions through negotiation
  • develop an understanding of “fair play” and the need for rules to ensure this happens
  • reinforce the concepts of taking turns, sharing and being gracious in success or defeat
  • develop resilience and perseverance as there is an expectation they will play through to the end rather than giving up because they are not winning
  • have a common topic of conversation in which all can be included
  • assume roles that place them in unfamiliar situations and having to make decisions based on different perspectives which may challenge their existing ideas
  • think strategically and plan ahead, posing and answering questions, considering cause and effect both immediate and longer-term
  • think creatively to reach a solution or conclusion
  • deal with a variety of information, often in a diverse range of formats and from a diverse range of sources, and synthesise this to solve problems, make informed decisions and consider how their actions will impinge on another’s as well as how another player’s actions determines theirs  

Many games feed directly into specific curriculum outcomes and priorities justifying their existence in both the library and the classroom as yet another way of meeting the diverse learning styles of our students. Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games by Brian Mayer and Christopher Harris explores the role of games in education in depth offering sound pedagogical evidence for their inclusion in the classroom and library programs.  Even though the curriculum links are US-based, it’s a small jump to the Australian Curriculum.

Games were a popular part of my library’s resources and one of the most popular pastimes that continually drew participants was the jigsaw table. Edged with strips of dowel glued down to minimise the chance of pieces landing on the floor, there was always a jigsaw waiting for a passer-by to stop and add a piece or two. Even the principal couldn’t resist.  The difficulty of the puzzles varied, but given their importance in the development of visual acuity and spatial awareness, eventually I had two tables – one for the K-2 brigade and the other for those older (including adults.) Initially I bought the puzzles new to ensure they were complete, but I also got donations from puzzlers who had completed a puzzle and didn’t want the challenge of doing it again.

Board games were also popular, especially those that could be completed in a short session like Chinese Checkers, Trouble, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders and Junior Scrabble but there was also the opportunity for students to continue a longer game like Monopoly over a couple of days because I had the luxury of space to keep it set up near the circulation desk. It amazed me how well students respected their friends’ games and did not touch them during the day. To ensure fairness, students could sign on to play the next round which would include the winner of the previous game.  Chess was also popular and we had many chess sets donated after a local club introduced the students to the game at the instigation of a teacher with a passion for it. Two students who had often been seen as trouble-makers in the playground organised a Round Robin competition and one lunchtime a week, all the library tables were set up for this. Suddenly the boys had a purpose and a responsibility and not only did their attitudes changes, but the attitudes of students and teacherstowards them also shifted. They were popular rather than pariahs.  Students were encouraged to bring in their own games too and often the popularity of one of these determined the library’s next purchase. However, parents were also very generous and donated games too, often instead of a book for the Birthday Book Club.

Some of our Asian students also introduced their friends to the mysteries of Mah Jong which soon became as popular as chess and brought community members in as teachers and mentors, strengthening the ties between home and school and amongst the community, which had a broad ethnic base.

Card games also proved popular with Uno an enduring favourite while many learned to play gin rummy, euchre, whist, 500 and Hearts from their peers and teachers who also dropped in to be challenged.  (I have always taught Vingt-et-Un as a way to get students proficient in rapidly counting to 21.) 

As well as the actual games there was a significant collection of books in the Pick-a-Puzzle section that was always popular as students pored over pages to find Wally or travel through mazes or solve clues to progress through an adventure. This lead to the creation of  our own version of Where’s Wally as students created clues about where in Australia he might be for their friends to unravel, as well as The Quizzard of Oz, still going strong as Backpack Bear.

The Pick-a-Puzzle collection was always popular.

The Pick-a-Puzzle collection was always popular.

Some of the enduring memories for me of these games sessions are the camaraderie between the players, the gentleness and patience that experienced students showed as they taught younger or inexperienced children how to play, the willingness to abide by the rules and the acceptance that it is OK to lose, because, after all, it is only a game, even though it might be instilling life lessons.

Computer games were beginning to make an appearance although hand-held devices like Donkey Kong were discouraged at school and mobile phones were not what they are today.  However, there is a growing body of literature that is exploring how popular games can have significant value in the learning process both in the library and in the classroom.  MindShift examines Beyond Grades: Do Games Have a Future As Assessment Tools? and How game-based learning teaches problem solving in context while Russ Pitts examines how video games can change the world, one child at a time.  and Dean Groom asks What’s holding schools back from using games in class? In the Winter 2013 edition of YALSA (Young Adult LibraryServices)– Vol. 11, Number 2, entitled Minecraft Programs in the Library: If you build it they will come by Erica Gauquier and Jessica Schneider, and there have been a number of discussions in the Scootle Community about its use in the school context.  Judy O’Connell has also blogged about it in her Hey Jude blog post Building the (Minecraft) lost city of Babylon In fact there is new literature being published almost daily demonstrating that this is a hot topic that the teacher librarian not only needs to know about but also should be taking the lead in sharing the literature and starting the conversations.

If, like me, you feel you don’t know enough about the online gaming learning environment, then Games MOOC offers an open course designed for educators who want to learn more about games, simulations and game-like environments for education. It is designed for all levels of participation and a new course will start in July 2014.  You can look at what has been offered previously to determine whether this would be of benefit.

In the meantime, Blake J Harris has traced the development of the videogame and he has identified 10 Video Games that Book Lovers will enjoy Some of them go way back to console systems like Atari so might not be easy to access, but if you read the comments at the bottome there are other suggestions to explore too. There is also the NMC On the Horison video to view, while the School Library Association New South Wales is holding a gamification conference in August 2014 but if you can’t get to , the page offers some names of people to follow in this field.

Putting on the game-player’s hat offers the TL a number of opportunities…

  • It enables students to see that the library is about more than the circulation of books and it might offer something of interest for them
  • Creating a display of resources that include instructions for playing popular games, the history of games and even unusual, historic or rare games may encourage a shift from player to reader
  • Students may well take their knowledge and enthusiasm for a particular game home to their families, opening up new conversations and entertainment options
  • Providing students with opportunities to play games not only gives them social and gaming skills they can take beyond the school walls, but also provides experience to create their own game, a common end-product of a classroom-based study
  • Providing teachers with professional articles about the relevance of games within the curriculum not only expands their professional knowledge, but also offers them another tool with which to connect to students, as well as demonstrating the TL’s leadership and being at the cutting edge of new initiatives
  • Providing the powers-that-be with professional articles may influence their thinking about the use of mobile devices within the school and loosen some of the tight restrictions that have been imposed
  • Drawing families into the library for a Family Games Night like the more traditional Family Reading Night offers another avenue to promote the library and its services to parents, including those who share their child’s perspective that a library has nothing to offer them.

Because Games and Gamification has been identified as one of the 18 top trends in the 2014 NMC Horizon Report K-12 edition,  the game-player’s hat might become a game-changing one!

 

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the planner’s hat

hat_planner

 

A vision statement is just the beginning.

If it is to come to fruition then it needs to be teased out in and supported with a formal strategic plan which becomes the road map to the destination of your vision. Such a plan shows the pathway forward, guides decisions, helps negotiate obstacles and avoid detours, has markers and milestones which prove your progress and ensures that your steps are leading in the right direction.

 

It includes identifying

  • purpose
  • priorities
  • goals
  • timeframes
  • performance indicators
  • stakeholders
  • roles and responsibilities
  • financial, human, time and physical resources
  • external support
  • documentation
  • review periods

It needs to answer these sorts of questions…

  • What have we already got?
  • Is this still valid, valued and valuable?
  • What more do we need to have?
  • What more would we like to have?
  • How can we make the tasks manageable?
  • What will be the roles and responsibilities of each person?
  • How should the map to our destination  be constructed?
  • What are the priorities along the way?
  • What resources are needed so we arrive at the destination safely?
  • How will we know we are making progress?     
  • How will we know that our destination  has been reached?
  • Is the destination as far as we can travel or is there somewhere beyond the rainbow’s end?

Purpose

All that is done within the library, whether it is wearing your teacher’s hat or your librarian’s hat must contribute positively to the teaching and learning in the school. Whether overt or covert, it needs to support the staff and students in some way.  Therefore, any changes need to be underpinned by an articulation of how they do this. Making changes based on sound pedagogical practice which is supported by evidence of its efficacy and efficiency demonstrates why we are teacher librarians with dual qualifications.

For a list of the questions which need to be considered to demonstrate that your changes are based on best practice,  read The Information Specialist’s Hat

All that is done also needs to meet the needs of the library’s users, both staff and students, and these cannot be assumed. Undertaking an Information Needs Audit will provide you with insight into those services which staff and students believe to be the most useful for them. It can also serve as an advocacy tool to alert them to the range of services you provide. Clicking on information_needs_audit will take you to a pdf version.

 

Priorities

Not everything needs to be done at once.  In fact, it cannot be as one thing is often the foundation for the next. Establishing priorities  not only identifies the sequence of the plan but also provides a defence if your professional practice is challenged.

Areas of priority to be considered include

  • the development of an information literate school community
  • curriculum development, design and delivery
  • collaborative planning and teaching
  • recreational reading programs
  • collection development, management and appraisal
  • simple circulation systems of resources for all users
  • an understanding of intellectual property and copyright issues
  • the introduction and integration of digital technologies
  • the development, design and delivery of online services
  • the establishment of an attractive and supportive library environment
  • management of archives and school memorabilia
  • the development of clear, identified, safe and fair workflow and work practices
  • an understanding of the services and support a qualified teacher librarian can offer
  • the professional learning for yourself and your colleagues
  • other areas of responsibility specific to your situation

While all areas are important, priorities should be established based on

  • your professional knowledge of the needs of the staff and students
  • identified in-school priorities so the library’s goals are aligned to those of  the school
  • external factors such as the implementation of new strands of the Australian Curriculum
  • practical concerns such as available or proposed infrastructure

 

Goals

Goals are  concise, specific statements of what will be achieved within a certain time period.  They should be SMART.

 

SMART Goals
S specific significant stretching sustainable succinct
M measurable meaningful motivational manageable
A achievable agreed acceptable action-oriented authoritative
R relevant realistic responsible rewarding results-oriented
T timely tangible trackable

To ensure that the goals are achieved, it is necessary to

  • allow key stakeholders to have input and ownership
  • display them prominently
  • identify the starting point, strengths, and weaknesses of each
  • identify the obstacles and opportunities that exist
  • identify the cost, time and sacrifices or trade-offs that each demands
  • develop a plan for achieving each one so the task is manageable

Timeframes

The usual timeframe for a strategic plan is three years as that enables time to identify, implement, expand and review.  However, within the overall timeframe, specific smaller periods need to be identified so that the overall plan remains on track.  These are based on the identified priorities of what is, what should be and what could be.

Ensure that the timetable for action is published and readily available and establish a communication mechanism so team members are aware of dates and deadlines.

Also create an at-a-glance management plan so progress can be easily seen.

At-a-glance management plan

At-a-glance management plan

Performance Indicators

Performance indicators are the markers and milestones which demonstrate achievement and ensure that the goals are being met in a timely fashion over the course of the plan. They identify

  • how a goal will be measured, either in increments or overall
  • what has been achieved
  • what needs to be done
  • how what has been achieved can be built on

Where possible, identify the benchmark or starting point, and, like the goals, make the performance indicators SMART. While keeping priorities in mind, capitalise on initial enthusiasm and have a cluster at the start of the plan so initial success is achieved quickly, is clearly visible and the foundations for future development are laid.

Set up a public document that clearly shows the progress that is being made so that success can be seen and annotate it to identify the contribution to teaching and learning.

Stakeholders

Because the library belongs to the whole school community and everyone has a part to play, this raises many questions …

  • Who should lead the expedition towards achieving the vision?
  • Who else should be on the journey?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are their vested interests?
  • What will they need to know to enable the destination to be reached?

Building your vision with a team offers many advantages including…

  1. It makes the whole task much more manageable
  2. It enables a broad range of stakeholders to be involved thus giving them ownership and a greater commitment to ensuring the success of the plan
  3. It brings a greater range of expertise, experience and viewpoints to the table so best practice is more likely to be achieved
  4. It enables a greater understanding of what is on offer through the library’s services and why things are done the way they are
  5. It puts the library at the educational centre of the school for staff, students and parents
  6. It is a great advocacy tool

Roles and responsibilities

In an address to a conference in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2003, leadership expert Tom Sergiovanni suggested that each team member makes five promises that will help the whole group work together to achieve the vision.

As the teacher librarian, what promises should you make?

Become familiar with the research about the impact of a well-funded, well-resourced school library program under the guidance of a qualified teacher librarian so you know there is well-founded evidence to support your beliefs about your role.  Summarise the research into a list of key findings to distribute to team members.

Use the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians  to examine your professional knowledge, practice and commitment to identify the areas for personal improvement in relation to achieving the goals of your plan.

Use the descriptions from  Learning for the Future, review those roles you have as

    • curriculum leader
    • information specialist
    • information services manager

Identify not only what you do when you wear each hat, but how much time you spend on each.

    • Is there a balance or a predominance of one over another?
    • What is your key role?
    • What are the unique areas of knowledge and expertise that you provide the staff and students as a result of your training that a librarian or administration officer can not?
    • What should your priorities be?
    • What can you delegate?

Compare the answers to the goals of your plan and identify the priorities that you need to focus on so it can be achieved.

Use what you have learned to develop a personal professional pathway which includes five promises which will enable the achievement of the vision. Use a format such as this…

 
Promise What do I intend to do?
Purpose Why am I doing this?How will it contribute to the achievement of the vision?
Strategies What are the steps that will help me achieve it?
Timeframe When do I plan to start and finish?
Support What do I need – time, people, resources, finance, learning – to achieve this promise?
Success  How will I measure and share my success?

 Have each member of the team

  • read the research summary
  • consider the vision statement and the contribution they can make towards its achievement
  • identify the five promises they will make on behalf of the group they represent and how these might be achieved.
  • complete a similar document based on their experience, expertise and commitment to the vision.

Publish and display these promises so that everyone in the team in whatever capacity is continually reminded that they are part of a connected community and have a responsibility to it.

Resources

It is essential to identify the resources that will be needed so these can be planned for.

Human – As well as the experience and expertise of the team members, there may be others whose expertise can be co-opted for a particular project.  Their availablitiy may influence the priorities of your plan. Human resources may also include obtaining or providing essential professional learning so a target can be achieved successfully.

Finance Many of the components may require financing either within or beyond the library’s normal budget so clear and complete costings are an essential part of the plan so these can be budgeted for by the prinicpal, the teacher librarian or external sources.

Time As the plan’s co-ordinator, the teacher librarian may well need extra time beyond their normal allocated administrative time so this needs to be negotiated with the timeclock holders within the school. Regular team meetings will also need to be held and appropriate times for these need to be negotiated.

Physical Achievement of the vision may require the provision of physical resources such as the reconfiguration of a space or the provision of ICT infrastructure, so these also need to be identified and costed, and their provision worked into the priorities.

External support

Identify the sort of external support that will be required, such as tradesmen to upgrade the ICT infrastructure; experts who can provide appropriate professional learning; collaboration with other staffmembers; or outside funding and integrate these into both the priorities and the budget. 

Documentation

Often with a new vision,  there is a new focus and direction which brings with it changes or updates of policies and procedures. It is essential that these are done so that the plan can continue regardless of who is sitting in the teacher librarian’s chair. 

It is also important for the strategic plan to be formally constructed, published and displayed so that all stakeholders and those in the school community can see that there is purpose supported by identified prioriites and so forth.  It also enables progress to be mapped.

As parts of the plan are achieved, document these for future reference, including the pitfalls so there is a clear account of and accounting for all the time and effort that has been expended.  Share progress and success with the school community so they are kept informed of the changes and how these are impacting on the teaching and the learning within the school.

Review

A vision and a strategic plan can only ever be guides, not set in concrete.  Circumstances change over three years and so there always has to be the flexibility of reviewing the priorities and programs, and changing direction as necessary.

As well, as things are put into place, new opportunities and possibilities open up.  But instead of following these detours, perhaps at the expense of your ultimate destination, write them down so they can be new pathways to be explored in your next vision statement. Ensure your steps continue to lead you towards that destination.

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the visionary’s hat

hat_visionary

Libraries have been part of society’s culture since man first began to convey information by etching images on the walls of caves. School libraries have been part of the Australian education system since well-meaning people in London sent religious texts to recently-established Sydney so the children of the convicts would learn to read the scriptures, learn from them and become better people than their parents. But libraries, like society, change so they can meet the needs of their users and remain relevant in the context in which they sit. Digital technoliges have replaced markings on cave walls, and school libraries have evolved to be much more than a repository of religious readings.

These changes have not happened because Tinkerbell sprinkled fairy dust.  They’ve been inspired by visionaries in the profession – those who have the ability to see around corners and over hills; who see obstacles as opportunites; who aspire and inspire and lead change which others are compelled to emulate.

With the introduction and implementation of a national curriculum in Australian schools, and the rollout of the Common Core Standards in US schools, and other significant changes being made as the developments in technology roll inexorably on, this is a time for great change and great opportunities in school libraries – change that can be directly linked to mandated requirements and supported by evidence that makes its acceptance and resourcing more likely.

But for change to be successful and sustainable, it needs to be planned and supported. In my very first post on this blog I explained my adherence to Covey’s mantra of “Begin with the end in mind”, and this is essential to the change process. 

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you are going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction … how different our lives are when we really know what is important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.

Covey, S. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Melbourne: Information Australia

To have a vision of the destination so your journey continually leads towards that is essential. Encapsulating the dream in a precise and succinct statement provides the focus and foundation on which to develop a strategic plan  incorporating goals, policies, strategies, performance indicators, and a timeframe that will lead to its achievement.

the vision statement

Creating a vision statement is a complex task.

Firstly, you need to know what you want to achieve so you need to know

  • What does a best-practice library look like?
  • What does a best-practice teacher librarian do?

There are many models on which you can base your ideas – my favourite is the Springfield Township High School Library developed under the guidance of Joyce Valenza – and the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians statement developed by ASLA is an essential guide to the sort of professional knowledge, practice and commitment a top-shelf TL has.

Regardless of the model (or combinations of models) you use, your vision must be in alignment with your own beliefs or it will never sit well or be a good fit.  Go back to The Teacher’s Hat  and revisit your beliefs about being both a teacher and a teacher librarian and create a new manifesto based on what you believe a top-shelf library should look like including the elements which drive your

  • literacy and literature programs and collections
  • research and information literacy programs and collections
  • services you offer your clients
  • environment in which you and they work

Articulating your beliefs in such a way takes them out of the world of the airy-fairy and into a tangible document that can be used to shape goals and defend decisions.

However, you need to keep in mind the practicalities of your particular situation. Consideration must be given to any requirements, restrictions or expectations put on your vision by your school and only you can decide if these are important enough to embrace as an enhancement of your beliefs, adapt so they fit with your beliefs or try to change through evidence of better practice   To set impossible goals based on someone else’s ideality rather than your reality only leads to despair and despondency as it looks like failure.  

The first step is to craft a mission statement so the purpose of the library and its place within the school’s philosophy, ethos and educational programs are explicit.  It is based on those beliefs, values and principles that are at your inner core, be they personal or corporate.  It needs to be clear and concise and should answer the questions

  • What is this library about?
  • What does it stand for?
  • How do we demonstrate these?

It is  the basis for all decisions made regarding policy, procedures and practice and sets the guidelines and parameters for the services you offer

A sample mission statement can be found here

However, it is essential to understand the difference between a mission statement and a vision statement – the former defines your purpose, your reason for being; whereas a vision statement identifies your future direction.

The second step involves several key elements

  • reading and research identifying what is, what needs to be and what could be for the three key hats that the teacher librarian wears – curriculum specialist, information specialist and information services manager
  • identifying specific areas of focus to develop policies, programs, procedures, practices and priorities
  • drawing on the perceptions and needs of the stakeholders so that the vision is shared and they feel they have ownership of it and can make a contribution towards its success.

identifying what is

Establishing the current state of the library’s programs, services and environment is essential because it identifies its strengths and its needs, as well as establishing a benchmark against which future progress can be measured. It identifies whether what is currently on offer is valid, valued and valuable.

There are several ways that this can be done – the most common being a SWOT analysis. Rather than trying to assess everything in one analysis, it may be more practical to identify the key factors that make up what you offer and on both the educational and resourcing sides of the coin and analyse them individually, then combining them into a summary.

SWOT Analysis diagram

SWOT Analysis

A STEEP analysis is another option or you might consider purchasing Strategic Planning for Nonprofit Organizations: A Practical Guide and Workbook, 2nd Edition which has a whole section on assessing the current situation including

  • preparing a history and descriptive profile of operations
  • articulating previous and current strategies
  • gathering information from internal and external stakeholders
  • gathering information from documents and other sources
  • summarising the information into a situational assessment

identifying what needs to be

School library programs and services and the environment in which they sit are subject to outside influences such as mandated curriculum, identified school priorities and the needs, interests and abilities of their clientele so establishing and articulating what these are and how they shape what is delivered is essential.  As well as pinpointing what the essential elements are, they also provide evidence to support any proposed changes enhancing the likelihood of the vision being accepted and resourced.

identifying what could be

Start by examining the Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians and identifying some personal professional goals that will guide your professional learning and practice and may lead to innovation and initiatives that have not been considered.

Identify leaders in the field such as Joyce Valenza, Buffy Hamilton, Judy O’Connell, Doug Johnson and Lyn Hay and follow their blogs and other social media communications to see what’s happening at the leading edges and how you might be able to adapt it to your situation.  Look for Facebook groups such as iCentre and Evidence-based Practice for School Libraries and for Pinterest boards and so forth which share photos and links that can provide inspiration.

Standing on the shoulders of giants is a great way to become a giant yourself and instead of following the pack, you become a leader of it.

Create surveys for your clients that give them input into what they would like the library to provide and go out of your way to find out the needs of the long tail -those whose needs and interests are not met by the common, the popular or the overtly-on-offer and who do not use the library’s services becasue of this.

 

Writing the vision statement

The final step in this process is writing the vision statement. Visions statements need to be precise and concise stating what the library and its services (educational, resourcing and environemntal) will be like at the end of the time period (usually three years or in line with the school’s development plan.) They are aspirational using superlative language that inspires others to want to be part of the process. 

The vision statement for my current school library is

An excellent 21st century library which supports the teaching and learning at xxxx Primary School.

 

Having identified where you are going and where you want to be it is time to put on your leader’s hat but that is another post for another day.

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the information service manager’s hat

hat_ismFitting as snugly as the first two, the third hat is that of the information services manager, perhaps the most complex of the three because it is the one that combines both the T and side of Teacher Librarian and is the one that most clearly demonstrates why we have those post-grad qualifications. Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001) describes this hat as the one which requires the TL to 

develop and implement strategies for evaluating the collection and for determining curriculum and student needs within the context of identified school priorities

 

The TL needs to put on a teacher’s hat and know

  • the learning needs, styles, interests and abilities of the students who will access the collection, including any special needs relating to cultural, ethnic, social, religious, and language issues as well as specific requirements relating to individual children
  • the teaching needs of the staff so they have access to the resources that will support the design and delivery of the curriculum
  • the philosophy and ethos of the school and the expectations of the parents who send their children there so that, on the whole, the collection is aligned to this
  • the philosophies, pedagogies and programs on which the curriculum is built and delivered so that challenges can be met and decisions defended
  • the breadth of the curriculum across all key learning areas and across-curriculum perspectives, as well as new initiatives including national requirements such as the Australian National Curriculum or the US Common Core Standards,  as well as those areas that the school has identified as areas for development

Then the librarian’s hat needs to be worn so the TL can

  • identify and negotiate priorities for collection development so that this is fair, equitable and meets needs, and decisions and expenditure are defensible
  • prepare, submit and disburse a budget that enables the collection to move forward 
  • locate potential resources
  • evaluate them according to the selection criteria identified in the Collection Policy, juggling general and specific criteria and making an informed judgement about their suitability and likely use
  • acquire them according to the school’s policies and procedures
  • put in motion the process that will get them from the delivery van or online source to the hands and eyes of the users now and in the future, a series of steps that can be complex and time-consuming
  • account for the disbursement of monies and resources through formal process such as stocktake and an annual report

Finally, both hats have to be worn at the same time as the newly-acquired resources are promoted and displayed so that their existence is widely known and they are used.

In the past, this wasn’t such a complex task because the format focus of the collection was print, with some audio-visual resources to add variety.  But with technological developments, there are a multitude of other formats and factors to consider and what we provide access to is as important as what we acquire.  So the TL also has to know

  • the access to ICT devices and delivery that staff and students have both within and beyond the school so that if online resources are acquired, they can be easily used
  • the individual preferences for a particular format and whether this is the best for the teaching purpose
  • the research underpinning current pedagogy and how this impacts on format selection, such as that relating to onscreen reading and the need for a foundation of skills built on print
  • how to map and evaluate the collection so that it meets the needs of all its users and ensure that it remains relevant and current
  • how to create and maintain a library landscape that is inviting and appealing to users as well as showcasing their learning

On top of all that, the TL also has to be able to write the  policies and procedures that encapsulate the decisions and the thinking that underpins and justifies them so that collection development remains constant and consistent regardless of who is at the helm.

 

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the curriculum leader’s hat

hat_curric_ldr

Every now and then there is a challenge to encapsulate the role of the TL into six or seven words, and I always respond with

curriculum leader

information specialist

 information services manager

 

I learned way these terms back when from Learning for the Future (2nd edition) (ASLA & ALIA, 2001) and they still hold true today.

I believe that that sums up what we do so succinctly and is timeless. Regardless of any changes such as a name change of the space, the new horizons opened by technology, new curricula or in-vogue pedagogy, those three roles remain our core business. 

For me, the hat that fits most snugly is that of curriculum leader for that is the one that puts the teacher in teacher librarian. I’ve been working with a colleague developing a new Library Development Plan, in particular aligning it to the school’s development plan, and almost every proposal came back to putting on the curriculum leader’s hat.

The nature of the role means it is the TL who has the best overview of the entire curriculum being designed and delivered in the school, sees how it all interweaves and locks together and through collaborative planning and teaching, can embed the information literacy process into it so there is connected, meaningful learning for the students. 

The rollout of the strands of the Australian National Curriculum across the country is an exciting time for TLs because not only does it give them the perfect opportunity to shine but they are the ones with the birds-eye view who can pull together the old and the new so the transition is smooth; identify the connects and disconnects so learning is cohesive and coherent; and support staff and students through the provision of the most relevant resources.

In a school I once had the privilege to teach at, the curriculum only had two strands – investigation and communication.  Everything fell under one umbrella or the other – we were either learning about something or we were sharing what we had learned.  As the TL, I held the ends of both strands.

Investigation is based on research.  Regardless of the depth required to solve the information need, the skills of research are an essential and those skills are based on information literacy -the ability to identify an information need, locate appropriate resources to solve it, then reading, evaluating and interpreting what is found to create a satisfactory solution.

If, as Mike Eisenberg says, information literacy is “the most basics of basics”, then who better than the teacher who has information literacy as their specialist subject to lead its embedding as an across-curriculum perspective? To teach the teachers as well as the students? To lay the foundations of a scaffold that will support that platform  of lifelong learning that is the stated outcome of Australian education for K-12?

Communication is based on talking, listening, reading, writing, viewing and performing so who better than the teacher who has the whole curriculum as their specialty to support the development of the essential skills? To provide leadership in curriculum planning so these are to the fore? To collaboratively plan and teach with teachers so opportunities are explored and exploited.? To provide a range of resources to make the design, delivery and assessment of the curriculum seamless?  

ICT stands for information communication technologies so who better than the information and communication specialist to be the leader in the introduction and implementation of new ways to do old things? To encourage teachers to pose problems that cannot be answered through copy-and-paste and a few mouse clicks?  To ensure that ideas, information and images are used ethically? To understand the potholes and pitfalls that exist in the online world and help staff and students navigate them safely, managing their digital footprints responsibly? 

The TL is also the person who sees every student in the school, often at least once a week, so who better to tap into that long tail of students who don’t see the library as meeting their needs and addressing their concerns? Who, with a reasonable budget, a knowledge of the collection, and the ability to search effectively and efficiently, can better respond to students needs at the point of need?

If we are to ‘future-proof’ our positions, then it is essential that we promote the teacher part of teacher librarian.

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