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Reflections of a Teacher Librarian

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The future of children’s literature

Reflecting on the historical developments of children’s literature, I am still at odds with myself as to whether I should be lamenting the solidity of printed literature or excited by the prospect of the digital age of children’s literature.  In pondering this, I am reminded of the concern of society when oral storytelling made way for print. With every change there comes some uncertainty, some level of wistfulness for the familiar and fear of the unknown. However, the developments that we are now seeing in multimedia offerings in children’s literature are probably not easily understood by non-digital natives. As an early adopter of most technology, it is difficult for me to not be excited by the prospect of the ever increasing digitisation of children’s literature. As a Teacher Librarian with limited capacity in a small school library and the ever increasing need to make budgets stretch further, there is even more impetus to want to drive some of the change towards this type of content. So then, what is my vision for the future of children’s literature? I have a few concerns about the five trends raised by McLean (2013): 1) The rise of the empowered author; 2) The rise of the empowered consumer; 3) The rise of the empowered child; 4) New patterns of content emergence; and 5) Drivers of choice are stable but delivery is not), but I am also excited by some of these. Most of my concern relates to the quality of the literature being produced as a result of these five suggested trends. Empowered authors allows direct engagement with the children reading their stories. This is a very positive aspect of social media and its benefits. Children no longer have to wait for teachers/Teacher Librarians or parents to choose the authors that they engage with through author visits, signing or Writer’s Workshops. Children can follow their favourite author’s blogs, learn about the writing process, watch illustrators and learn how to create stories and images and become involved at the level that they wish. This truly is a worthy future development to facilitate and one that is consistent with my vision for the future. The rising empowerment of consumers and children and new patterns of content emergence is where most of my concerns lie. As the mother of a teen, I have seen first hand how the developing fan-fiction genre, easily accessible to children with an internet connection or using apps such as WattPad can affect the quality of children’s writing. This new pattern of content emergence is largely pushed to children through peers and social media, including YouTube personalities. Although I am not one for encouraging restrictions on literature, caution must be taken that students’ reading breadth is wide and varied to include Eragon, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and anything by Roald Dahl, along with the many and varied other reputable children and young adult authors. This is not a new dilemma however, and can be easily tempered by being aware of popular versus quality literature, as a parent and teacher, and balancing the two with nudges in the right direction. Which of course brings us to the question of the drivers of change. We are now seeing consumer demand (and publisher support?) leading to the development of ‘like’ minded stories, particularly when they translate well onto the big screen. Did ‘SickLit’ as a genre even exist before “The Fault in our Stars”? There is now a plethora of SickLit in every book shop and Library. I believe that this will continue to be the major drive for change. The same is true with children’s reading habits. Their familiarity with devices and ability to navigate what seems to older generations, quite complex actions to access the apps they want, will continue to drive change towards e-books. Their ease of accessibility, usually lower price point, portability, the list goes on… makes e-books the choice of the future for a generation of children that have grown up with a smart phone in their hand as babes in strollers. This is where teachers need to wedge themselves in both sides of the story camp and use their influence to guide students to good quality stories and texts in the format that is best for that story or text. User preference for format will always be varied. For me there is nothing like opening a box of new books, smelling their fresh pages, feeling the texture of the words on the page and exploring the images and how they interact with the words. On the other hand, the convenience of being able to carry around a whole library of text books for study, novels for pleasure, and fiction and information texts for my children’s education and entertainment, all in one device, is immeasurable. For the time being though, e-book versions of picture books are still very sub-standard and cannot compare to print. In preparation for an upcoming author visit, one recent purchase of an e-book that I made really highlighted how poorly picture books can transfer into e-versions. Although the print version of the picture book “Marlo can fly” by Robert Vescio is a heartfelt read and beautifully illustrated, the electronic version of the same book is clunky, limited to single page spreads and requires going back and forth between each page. Although this hasn’t put me off purchasing e-books for personal use, it is definitely a consideration when purchasing for classroom use and teaching. Where this format is beginning to excel is in the more unique, interactive elements that this format supsherlock_screen1plies. For example, “Sherlock: Interactive Adventure” (HAAB, 2015) is the next level of the choose your own adventure genre, requiring not only reading and comprehension of text but also decision-making and problem solving with a strong narrative throughout. Interestingly enough though, one of the latest developments in e-books is the ‘Bridging Book’BridgingBook (“Bridging Books”, 2014) which combines both a printed book and a device to display the full content of the story along with additional story features. Will they co-exist happily like the Bridging Book gimmick? Johnathon Gunston’s (2014) article ‘Will printed books disappear? Stephen King on the future of the traditional paperback’ highlights the depth of this debate. Tim Waterstone, Founder of UK bookstore chain ‘Waterstone’, claims that print will never be dead and e-books are a passing fad, but author Stephen King argues that print fiction is dead, mainly because of the lower price point for the same story delivered electronically. What is clear is that there is a place in the world for both formats. They stand alone according to personal preferences and situations but they can equally weave and intertwine to enhance the magic of stories in ways that we have only ever dreamed of before. As Krystina Madej (2003) points out, “Each medium – oral tradition, print, radio, the movies, television, video – has added its own sound to the orchestra of storytelling as it has evolved. Each is important in its own right. Each influences, is used by, and depends on, the others.” (pg. 2).


References

teachers'hub@harpercollins

The Fat and Juicy Place

Please join HarperCollins Publishers in congratulating renowned artist Bronwyn Bancroft who has been nominated for the 2016 Hans Christian Andersen award.

Bronwyn is an acclaimed Aboriginal artist and designer and a descendant of the Djanbun clan of the Bundjalung nation. Bronwyn’s artistic career has been expansive and diverse and ranges from fashion design to children’s book illustration.

Bronwyn has illustrated a number of children’s book for HarperCollins, including the award-winning The Fat and Juicy Place by Diana Kidd, Stradbroke Dreamtime by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and The Whalers, Minah and Dirrangan.

Bronwyn also illustrated Sun Mother Wakes the World: An Australian Creation Story by Diana Wolkstein, which was published by HarperCollins US in 2004 and named in the New York Public Library’s annual list for Children’s Book – 100 titles for Reading and Sharing.

In 1994 Bronwyn was the Australian candidate for the UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats International Award for Excellence…

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The cloak of invisibility (ETL 505)

Cloak of Invisibility
The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012 Image by Karen Roe. CC by 2.0

It seems apt to make a literary reference from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (Rowling, 1997) when discussing the future of the description and organisation of materials in school libraries. As users’ preferences for how they find, identify, select, obtain and navigate information, change, professional description, rather than becoming obsolete will transform under a cloak of invisibility.

The implications of the information age, as it has become widely touted (Castells, 2010), apply across disciplines and contexts. The resultant information overload means that information management- the organisation of information so that it is useful for users, but more importantly, so that users can access it effectively- has become even more important. Similarly, information quality is an important consideration. As Hider (2012) states, “…like air, some information resources may be better than others. Their content may be more accurate, more relevant, or more intelligible” (px1).

We are, of course, talking about metadata – the theme that runs throughout my most recent studies in ‘Describing Educational Resources’. Hider (2012) defines metadata as organising information by describing the process and the product and as I have stumbled through the basics of resource description tools, applying metadata, describing and classifying resources, I have gained an enormous appreciation for the work required by professional cataloguers. But we are now at a point in history where cost and scalability are increasingly impacting on the perceived value of professional description as a profession.

Professional description, using controlled vocabularies creates high quality resource description. It is highly effective but very costly. Compare this to computerised content-based (CB) retrieval and social metadata (SM) tools and it is clear that these latter two are considerably cheaper and highly scalable, plus, users, especially primary school students, are very familiar with them. However, they may seem attractive on the surface but the trade-off is in quality. If they do not produce quality resources for the information seeker, they are not effective. This is most important when considering the age and intellectual capacity school library users. If users are seeking conceptual information, especially in a non-text medium, CD and SM tools provide little assistance. If users have a general idea of the topic they need information about but do not know all of the terminology associated with it, CD and SM tools are not yet able to uncover the full range of associated information (Hider, 2012). However, professional description and its tools could meet the requirement of quality as well as effectiveness in retrieving the full range of information required by users. Through subject headings and cross-referencing, professional description tools offer users alternatives to narrow their search and they manage conceptual metadata concerning multi-modal mediums exceptionally well using controlled vocabularies. Rather than having to teach the skills of OPAC searching, internet searching and social curation separately, being able to teach one system that combines all three would produce the most effective results. As McCutcheon (2009) suggests, “the one with the most tools wins”, and whilst it would be unnecessary to explicitly teach students controlled vocabularies, this complementary approach could use a cloak of invisibility over controlled vocabularies connected seamlessly to user-preferred CB and SM tools, providing the necessary quality and effectiveness of information resources to meet our students’ needs.

References

Castells, M. (2010). The rise of the network society (2nd ed., Vol. 2). West Sussex (UK): Wiley and Blackwell.

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet.

McCutcheon, S. (2009). Keyword vs controlled vocabulary searching: the one with the most tools wins. Indexer, 27(2), 62-65.

Rowling, J. (1997). Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.

Getting others to join the adventure (ETL504)

As I start to get my head around planning my Programs for Term 4, and how I can lead my colleagues in embedding information literacy throughout the curriculum, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt so far in “Teacher Librarian as Leader”. Particularly Bill Ferriter’s article, “What does leadership on a professional learning team look like?” (Center for Teaching equality).  I believe that being a leader doesn’t mean that you have to hold a particular position in an organisation or school, but you have to have the skills to be able to identify the problem and harness the talents of those around you, those who you can influence and guide, to create significant change. In his blog post, Ferriter discusses the three essential elements of “moving teams forward”. He says that they are: 1) strong relationships, 2) clear vision and 3) translating vision into action.

From my own perspective I have developed strong relationships with some key teachers across the stages but I have more work to do here. Borrowing from Matt Church (“Sell the Problem not the Solution” at Library Lost and Found“), unless I can help my colleagues see that there is a problem with viewing information literacy as the exclusive realm of the Library Program, then I am going to have an uphill battle in my attempts to push information literacy into their classrooms. No one wants to be forced to change. We all like things to go on the way they are. It’s comfortable and easy and change is confronting and difficult, but, as Church argues, unless people can see the problem, they will be very unlikely to want to listen to a solution. They need to take ownership, they need to recognise that something isn’t right and they need to be able to entertain the idea that things could be done differently and it would make life easier.

Given the imperative of implementing the new Australian Curriculum, I can see an opportunity to bundle information literacy into some of the new elements and focus of the English curriculum (and further down the track, the Mathematics, History and Geography Curricular).  I am well-placed, as a member of the English Committee, to be able to influence the development of new practices in English Curriculum development so that information literacy can be embedded in our Quality Teaching and Learning Framework.

But relationship building/collaboration is only part of the planning for my new, great adventure. Elements 2 and 3, suggested by Ferriter, are significant elements. The Vision and it’s associated Strategic Plan for action are vital. If I can’t clearly articulate where I want the Library to go and how to do it, then I cannot expect my colleagues to pack their backpacks and come with me.

So off to develop that clearly articulated Vision and Strategic Plan to inspire my colleagues and provide a pathway for us to follow on our adventure further into the ever-changing digital environment.

ETL401: Assessing Information Literacy and Inquiry Learning

Current literature indicates that the opportunities for Teacher Librarians (TLs) to assess Information Literacy (ILit) and Inquiry Learning (IL) are wide and varied (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2007; Stripling, 2007; Brown 2008), irrespective of the process of ILit undertaken. Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007) advocate Guided Inquiry, Stripling (2007) has developed her own Stripling Inquiry Model consisting of 6 phases – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect; and Brown generalises across models of ILit and IL.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari (2007), when discussing Guided Inquiry, draw the distinction between assessment and evaluation – assessment advises what students have already learnt and what they need further assistance with during the unit, whereas evaluation advises what they have learnt and achieved throughout the whole unit (page 111). The Guided Inquiry process requires formative assessment to be undertaken throughout the unit and it is the results of formative assessment that indicate students’ zone of proximal development and therefore intervention required. They also assert that “..assessment should be part of the student’s own learning process”. Becoming self-aware and knowledgable, developing metacognition about how they learn and how to improve their ability to learn is often identified as part of the evaluation process of Guided Inquiry.

Similarly, Stripling (2007) suggests that assessment should be naturally included in the Inquiry process. She sees assessment as an examination of students’ information fluency, a term that she says replaces information literacy. Information fluency recognises that students are no longer required to just know the skills of IL but they must also be able to apply them fluently, in learning situations, whether at school or at home. (page 25).

Stripling’s (2007) Inquiry Model consists of 6 phases – Connect, Wonder, Investigate, Construct, Express and Reflect. She matches three types of assessment to these phases. Diagnostic assessment, such as the K part of Know, Wonder, Learn charts, or other pre-tests, lend themselves to the Connect phase, as students are required to make connections between the topic and their personal, past experiences. Formative assessment suits the Wonder, Investigate and Construct phases, where students’ actual research results, predictions, evaluations of evidence and conclusions can be assessed through forms, templates, conferences and portfolios. Summative assessments clearly match the Express and Reflect phases, where students’ construction of new knowledge and creation or use of it in a new way (information fluency) can be measured against their previous knowledge and reflected in their metacognition of the learning process. Stripling’s incorporation of assessment into the various phases of her model also incorporates the zone of proximal development approach. She says, “Formative assessment is the measurement of knowledge and skills during the process of learning (the Wonder, Investigate and Construct phases of inquiry) in order to inform the next steps” (page 27).

Brown’s (2008) approach to assessment is a little different. She suggests a rubric approach that can be used from early years learning all the way up to college. Brown says that the benefit in developing rubrics lies in their inherent value as an authentic method for assessment that allows us to clearly identify whether or not a research project has used information appropriately and if conclusions drawn are accurate and useful. Produced as part of the programming process, in collaboration with the classroom teacher, rubrics seem to be most effective as an evaluation, but they can also be used throughout the inquiry process.

Some important considerations must be made: Does the rubric limit us? Are we only looking at those elements pre-determined by the rubric, and if we provide them to students so that they can do ongoing self-assessment, are we limiting their expectations of what’s required? Would we get richer results if it was open-ended, both in our minds and on paper?

On the other hand, rubrics do create an opportunity for TLs to collaborate with teachers on a shared vision of what should be achieved and therefore create a physical and cognitive connection between evaluation and the school library program. They are also a significant element of student feedback – indicating a “0” for achievement level on a specific dimension makes it quite clear for the student that what they have produced is unacceptable. When conducted as a formative assessment, this provides the student with concrete information about where they can improve and therefore allows them the opportunity to reach the final intended outcome successfully.

Whatever approach is used in assessment and evaluation in Inquiry Learning, one thing is true – Librarians are in an excellent position to provide longitudinal assessment of learning over time as they typically see each student in a school throughout their school years. This makes our evidence powerful and creates a sense of urgency in ensuring that assessment and evaluation become embedded in our practice.

References

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2007). Assessment in guided inquiry. In Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century (pp. 111-131). Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.

Stripling, B. (2007). Assessing informative fluency: Gathering evidence of student learning. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(8), 25-29.

Brown, C.A. (2008). Building rubrics: A step-by-step process, Library Media Connection, January, 16-18. Available  http://www.linworth.com/pdf/lmc/reviews_and_articles/featured_articles/Brown_January2008.pdf

ETL401 – Exploring Information Process Models

After reviewing the plethora of information process models I am finding myself going through the same process as our students! The uncertainty that Kuhlthau asserts is necessary for the construction of personal knowledge is being evidenced first hand. Unfortunately I do not have a kindly teacher to be my soundboard, to make things clearer and guide my approach as I refine my practice.

Nevertheless, I have found that all of these models have merit and some make more sense than others in particular contexts. The Research Cycle, Focus on Reading, Guided Inquiry, Big6 and all the other variations have many similarities. The old cliche is true – the devil is in the detail. I think that there is great merit in the emphasis of metacognition in the information seeking process. This reflects the new Australian Curriculum’s focus on thinking about thinking and thinking about learning. It also marries well with my current Primary School’s Focus on Reading strategies; Comprehension, Reading and Vocabulary Enrichment (CRAVE) strategies and Mathematical Problem Solving Strategies.

For me, in my current context as a Teacher Librarian, attempting to implement collaborative programming where possible, where teachers are willing to collaborate on shared programs, the simplicity of the Big6 and the revised, Super3 appeals. Like most models, it has a sound metacognitive development framework and can easily incorporate more affective dimensions, similar to Guided Inquiry. Big6 and Super3 require the TL to explicitly instruct students at their zone of proximal development. It is also non-linear which means that specific steps in the process can become a focus if there is an identified need. This approach is also consistent with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training’s, Information Process Model.

The simplicity of Big6 and Super3 means that I may be able to extend collaborative programming beyond those few teachers who are willing to collaborate on research-based projects. I think that the principles are easy to promote to the Principal and other teachers and tracking transference of skills can be achieved. By showing teachers (through action research), the contributions that Big6 and Super3 can make in student writing, planning and organising throughout school learning, enough evidence should be gained to implement it inside AND outside of the library.

ETL401 Blog Task 1: The TL’s role in implementing a Guided Inquiry approach

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association’s  (ASLA) Statement on Teacher Librarian (TL) Qualifications (2009) highlights the dual role of the TL as an educator and an information manager. This dual purpose can be clearly demonstrated when examining the TL’s role in implementing a Guided Inquiry approach.

Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari (2007) define Guided Inquiry (GI) as, ‘an integrated unit of inquiry planned and guided by an instructional team of a school librarian and teachers, together allowing students to gain deeper understandings of subject area curriculum content and information literacy concepts….”  Quite clearly, GI requires school community support and close collaboration with teachers.

From my experience, this close collaboration between teacher and TL can be quite superficial. As a Relief from face to face TL I am certainly left with the impression that some teachers are disengaged from the ‘Library Program’ for whatever reason. This is not to say that they do not want to see student outcomes achieved but more that they do not understand, or cannot see the contribution that digital and information literacy skills can make for student achievement. This perception means that TL’s need to be cognisant of Principle 3 , ‘Professional Commitment’ and specifically,  ‘Leadership’ Standard, 3.3 of the Australian School Library and Information Association’s  ‘Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians’ (ASLA, 2004).

For GI to be successful, the TL must raise the profile of the Library, research, provide evidence and create a whole school approach to information literacy. They must establish and nurture collaboration with all key stakeholders, especially the Principal and teachers.

Recognising that these steps must be taken, how does the TL become the champion of information literacy? The answer to this question is intrinsic to the GI approach itself – provide the stakeholders with evidence of the improvements in student achievement, firstly in Library projects, then transferred to the classroom. For example, Kuhlthau et. al, (2007) reported that a follow-up survey of teachers and librarians who had implemented Guide Inquiry projects found that the resultant student learning was ‘richer and deeper and more personalised over time’ (p133).

The GI process clearly achieves the dual purpose of the TL’s role as both educator and information manager. The TL as educator role, or, “every subject expert” (Michigan School Library Initiative Group, 2009)  is evidenced in their curricular knowledge and is reflected by their collaboration with other teachers in the focus of the Guided Inquiry, whether students are investigating the immune system or the history of jazz. The TL as information manager reflects the TL’s capacity to integrate information literacy throughout the school, mentor teachers to ‘push’ technology into the classroom and ensure that traditional and digital resources meet the changing needs of the curriculum to best prepare students for high school and eventually employment. As Herring (2007) suggests, TL’s need to mentally and strategically move away from the notion of the library as just supporting the school, towards the vision of the library as a vital part of the school. As TL’s, we need to embrace our leadership role and be prepared with evidence of the improved student achievement to effectively implement Guided Inquiry in our schools.

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