Fostering a love a literature

[ The following blog post was originally published as part of my university studies on, 07/10/2016 with the title ETL402 A Reflection ]

 

Prior to commencing this unit, I was stuck in a rut and looking for ways to motivate and engage readers as well as make staff aware of the benefit reading can bring to their curriculum. It turns out we were limiting ourselves by only focusing on the area of book talks, what I’ve learnt is that to have an impact we need to integrate literature into all aspects of the curriculum.

A concept I’ve been grappling with is how do we foster this love of literature? At the start of ETL 402, I couldn’t answer this question.  In my current job we battle with this scenario.  We want to have classes coming into the library and when they do we always do a book talk, promoting the latest books and some old favorites and although talking about books has been recognized as being a powerful motivator (Cremin, 2010, p.16) it is sometimes not enough, especially when it is usually only the English teachers who come in.

Now, at the end of the unit, I realise that we need to be aware of the 21st century needs and textual preferences of our students so that we can somehow foster a love of literature (Cremin, 2010, p.12).  We need to be aware that the concept of reading has changed, our students are savvy and have been exposed to the digital environment (Madej, 2003, p. 2), therefore we need to incorporate this into our quest for creating motivated readers.

Through ETL 402 I learnt that what we need to be focusing on is literary learning, we need to embed this into all areas of the curriculum, which also means effective collaboration between the teacher librarian and the subject teacher (Cooper & Bray, 2011, p. 48).   This can be achieved by including a literature based goal directed activity that encourages social interaction (Guthrie, Alverson & Poundstone, 1999 p. 9) The teacher librarian can simulate a curiosity for learning by collaborating with subject teachers to create literature based strategies that promote reading whilst also engaging with curriculum outcomes (Guthrie, Alverson & Poundstone, p. 13).  In doing so, the teacher librarian is exposing students to genres and texts they may not read and therefore, creating conditions for the students to develop new interests.

Combining technology and reading is an area that I will bring into work and experiment with. The literary learning program (assessment 2) was done in conjunction with our HASS department, which is a step in the right direction to working collaboratively and letting departments know what we in the library can offer.  I am hoping, once it has been marked and then modified with feedback in mind, to give this resource to the department to trial.  I intend to seek feedback from both staff and students to I can continue to work on fostering a love of literature across the curriculum.

References

Cooper, O.P. & Bray, M. (2011). School library media specialist-teacher collaboration: characteristics, challenges, opportunities. TechTrends, 55(4) 48- 55.

Cremin, T. (2010). Motivating children to read through literature. In J. Fletcher, F. Parkhill, & G. T. Gillon (Eds.), Motivating literacy learners in today’s world (pp. 11-21). Wellington, NZ : NZCER

Guthrie, J., Alverson, S. & Poundstone, C. (1999). Engaging students in reading. Knowledge Quest, 27(4), 8-16.

Madej, K. (2003). Towards digital narrative for children: From education to entertainment: A historical perspective. ACM Computers in Entertainment, 1(1), 1-17.

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Library Tour: a reflection

4 days. 11 librarians. 7 libraries.

pile of books

Pile of books at our State Library

Last week I was off gallivanting round the various libraries in my city.  This was done as part of my Masters course and was perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the entire course because I got the opportunity to learn about other libraries outside my bubble of the secondary school library. It was a very refreshing experience.

Where did we go? Whilst I won’t name the libraries, I will say we went to some public  law , government and, academic libraries.  What was interesting was realising that regardless of sector we must be visible, flexible, innovative and approachable.

Whilst all libraries were of value, I found the academic and public libraries the most interesting.  The academic library piqued my interest because it is an area I would consider moving to. I’m interested in the relationship the librarians have with the academic staff and the students as well as the different user education that occurs.  Just how similar is it to a secondary school library?

The public library illustrated the role it plays within the community, something I had not considered, despite being a member of my local library I tend to run in grab my book and run out . I’ve come to realise that the public library is the heart and soul of a community. We talk about libraries being a safe haven at schools, for students who feel isolated and I’ve come to realise that the public library fulfils a similar role. It’s a place to connect, relax and learn. Even if you cannot physically come into the library there is often a home delivery service run by volunteers.

In short this tour has simply affirmed my decision to move into libraries, an industry where I can make an impact.

 

Nuggets of brilliance

Search

Sometimes teaching can feel like an uphill struggle, but every now and then we are rewarded with a little nugget of brilliance. This came to me last week in the form of a Year 7 class.

Working as a TL, I am constantly trying to find new ways to promote the library and what we do.  In the age of Google, it can sometimes be rather frustrating when both staff and student alike say that they don’t our help because they can “Google it”. Usually when I hear that classes are researching I cringe, because it often means just googling it and using the first page that comes up Wikipedia.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s merit in both of these sites, but there is even more merit in learning how to research effectively.

Last Wednesday I had been asked to run a short session for a Year 7 debating class on researching, focussing mainly on where to find information.  I gave them a worksheet to help them create a list of search terms, and reminded them of the importance of a keyword search before moving on to talk about where we could find information. Here is a shortened version of the conversation/ nugget of brilliance that followed:

‘So,  you’re ready to begin searching what now?’

‘We see if there’s a LibGuide’ said one student

‘Fantastic!, I yelled, ‘ But, we haven’t set up a LibGuide’ I had barely finished when..

‘Well, we can go to the online resources and have a look at LinksPlus or Issues in Society’ said another student.

‘Yes!!’ At this stage, I was beside myself, because for the first time, since I started working at this school, I did not need to remind them of our fantastic resources.

I was so impressed with them, this is the first year group who have really grasped the importance of finding reliable information.

I should point out that I do teach my students to use Google, but because there can be a lot of white noise ( irrelevant, unreliable sources) I find that teaching them about our resources first is valuable and reinforces the need to critically evaluate the resources that they are using.

Speed Dating

Speed dating, the perfect, non-committal way to be introduced to someone/ thing new.  In my case, science fiction.

robot-2256814_1920.jpg

 

Photo credit: kellepics from http://bit.ly/2qihF95

 

Our year nine students are about to embark on studying the science fiction genre in their English classes.  So we thought, what better way to introduce them to the genre than by showing them the LibGuide we have created on the genre and exposing them to a variety of novels via speed dating with a book.

I decided to join in the fun, not being a fan of Sci-Fi I thought this was the perfect opportunity to see how successful this activity can be in introducing students to new books.  Below is a copy of my notes, the students were asked to create the three columns and complete with the relevant information.

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 3.53.10 PM

At the start of the activity, the majority of students are inevitably reluctant, they are being asked to step outside their comfort zone instead of nestling up to a familiar novel, author or genre. But, once we were underway silence descended and the students were eager to talk about their first impressions when the timer went off.

As for me, I enjoyed the activity and it seems the students did too. This activity can be developed further by possibly having each student borrow something new and possibly even create a report on it to share with the class – something to the think about for next time. But for now, I have two new books to add to my list so I better hurry up and finish my book!

 

Laptops: Friend or Foe [Revisited]

I recently attended a PD called Making Thinking Visible, it was fantastic. So often, we go to PD sessions and whilst they may be interesting, we leave feeling like we didn’t really gain anything new. This was different.  I left feeling inspired and excited about what I could do in my classroom (standby for a post on this soon). But, it also got me thinking about our use of technology in the classroom and I was reminded about a post I wrote for my Uni blog last year. It was in response to a news article I’d read and as we were in our first year of BYOD I found it thought provoking:

(Original blog posted on my Uni blog May 19, 2016.)

Recently, in the media there has been a lot of talk about the use of laptops within schools, this has promoted a healthy debate about the implementation of laptops in to the classroom and how this can impact both negatively and positively on the teaching and learning process.

The article that sparked the debate was published in The Australian on March 26, 2016- Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’: Sydney Grammar head.   This article offers a different view on technology, and whilst there are some valid points made I do think that it is still essential to consider the needs of the 21st C learner.  Dr. Vallance goes on to say that “one of the most powerful tools in education is conversation” and I couldn’t agree more. reflecting back on my years as an English teacher, some of the most educationally valuable lessons were those fuelled by conversation, debate and questioning we didn’t use a laptop for this.

As the world changes, so does the way we teach and the way we learn. Surely there is a need, like anything for balance, we just need to be aware of our digital diet.

We are now our second year of being a BYOD school, and many staff have made the transition from paper to online, myself included. Whilst there are a multitude of pros and cons in the argument for paper vs digital,  I think having laptops in the classroom does create a wealth of opportunity and is ultimately a good thing.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that students are becoming increasingly distracted by their device and they always want to Google the answer instead of thinking about it  first. Now, there is nothing wrong with Google. Google is great. Google can help us find answers to our questions, but Google (at times) is stopping my students from thinking for themselves.

In one of my lessons last week I introduced the See, Think Wonder routine, which I was introduced to at the PD.  Students were asked to look at a specific photo from history and do the following:

  1. See: List everything they could see in the photo
  2. Think: Make statements about what they think could be going on in the photo
  3. Wonder: Make a list of questions they have about the photo

To stop the students from using Google, the image was projected on to the screen I didn’t want them doing a reverse image search and finishing out information about the photo before they had a chance to think about it yet, still they wanted to look it up. They have become used to this so-called safety net that Google provides.  What was interesting, was watching the students adapt to the expectations of the activity, and whilst they were unsure to start with,  they were able to pose interesting and thoughtful questions about the photo.

It ended up being a refreshing lesson, for myself and for the students, who were engaged and contributing to the class discussion more than usual, and it just goes to show that whilst there is merit in using technology in the classroom, there is sometimes greater benefits in going back to pen and paper and being aware of our digital diet.

Part B: Reflective Critical Analysis

What is interesting is the role of the teacher librarian and the library within a school. Ideally, the teacher librarian will be an instructional leader and will work closely with the departments collaborating (Green, 2011, p. 23.) in curriculum planning and ensuring that digital literacies and research skills are embedded within the teaching and learning program (Oberg, 2011, p.2).  This is very much dependent upon the communication between the teachers and the teacher librarian, in an ideal setting this would not be an issue, however from personal experience communication between departments and the library is not always consistent and often last minute.  To be successful and promote future work skills (Wall & Bonanno, 2014, p. 25) the teacher librarian needs to work hard at influencing pedagogical changes. The reality is that this is very challenging and can be a slow process.

The teacher librarian has been described as a change agent.  To be an effective agent of change, the teacher librarian needs to have a secure understanding of the school’s culture (Oberg, 2011, p. 2) and even with that understanding there may be road blocks, such a lack of trust or lack of collaboration. To minimise these potential road blocks, the main focus should be on improving student outcomes and using this as a way of implementing change (Green, 2011, p.22).  Green, 2011, recommends that the teacher librarian select a few key staff to form relationships with and thus develop new positive habits of collaborating. This is certainly a way to bring about change and something that is occurring within my current school, however it does mean that it’s a slow process.

Selecting, for example, two departments to work closely with means that inquiry learning can be embedded within the curriculum and the the teacher librarian can ensure that digital literacies and the introduction to new technologies are being promoted through the teaching and learning process (Oberg, 2011, p.2).  Another way the teacher librarian can promote change is through providing and promoting professional learning for staff, ensuring they have the skills to not only use new technologies but implement them effectively within the teaching and learning program to maximize the learning opportunities and outcomes of the student.

Wall & Bonanno, 2014, have recognised that there is an increasing gap between the needs of the 21st Century learner and what the teacher can provide. It is simply not enough to focus on the learning of the student, now more than ever there needs to be a switch to focus on staff capacity and the lack of digital skills (Wall & Bonanno, 2014, p.25), the expectation that staff are all experts with technology is detrimental to the teaching and learning process (Cain, 2016).  This is a great opportunity for the teacher librarian to refocus the teaching staff and offer professional learning to better equip the teachers.

Whilst the teacher librarian is a leader, and a leader who can enable and promote change, the reality for many is that this change is slow. Whilst it is an exciting time to be in education and see the many opportunities for change in our 21st Century classrooms the key factor for success is no doubt life long learning and reminding all – staff and students- that this is where innovation can begin.

References

Cain, R. (2016, March 25). Task 1A staff capacity [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from https://interact2.csu.edu.au/webapps/discussionboard/do/message?action=list_messages&forum_id=_49720_1&nav=discussion_board_entry&conf_id=_18171_1&course_id=_11861_1&message_id=_641184_1#msg__641184_1Id

Green, G. (2011). Learning leadership through the school libraryAccess, 25(4), 22-26. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/publications/access.aspx

Oberg, D. (2011). Teacher librarians as cultural change agentsSCIS Connections. Retrieved from http://www2.curriculum.edu.au/scis/connections/issue_79_2011/feature_article/teacher_librarians_as_cultural_change_agents.html

Wall, J. & Bonanno, K. (2014). Learning and literacy for the futureScan 33(3), 20-28. Retrieved from http://eduwebinar.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/wall_and_bonanno_learning-literacy-future_Scan33.3.pdf

Teacher Librarian and the Future

Libraries are in a constant state of flux, some school libraries are closing down. Is a school without a library the future? Perhaps, a library in the traditional sense. A library filled with shelves of books and a librarian that walks around saying, “Shhh!.”

Created by Esteban Bravo. http://estebanbravo.tumblr.com

Image Credit: created by Esteban Bravo. http://estebanbravo.tumblr.com

Today’s library is one that is a place of activity. It’s an information centre, and hub of learning and discovery. That is the future of the school library.

In a recent assignment I spoke about the future of the TL, and stated that the main factor affecting the role of the TL is technology and it’s integration into the curriculum. Why is this a factor? Because it all comes down to how we, as a TL and leader respond to the changes and trends, how we ‘sell’ it to the teaching staff and how we justify changes to our administration.

There seems to be a phobia amongst teaching staff that technology takes away from the content of the curriculum. Despite this view we need to acknowledge that technology is shaping the expectations of the students and changing the way we interact with information (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2015).

As a curriculum leader, we need to coax the reluctant staff to see that information literacy is more than reading and writing, it’s about equipping students with the skills they need to communicate, share, collaborate. An interesting perspective on this is the video below, by Michael Wesch at TEDxKC: From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able.

To be effective in our role as a TL, we need to ensure that the teaching staff in our schools are preparing their students to be knowledge-able (TEDxKC, 2010) and we need to ensure that we are supporting them and providing them with the tools to do so.

References

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. Retrieved from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015-nmc-horizon-report-library-EN.pdf

TEDxKC,. (2010). Michael Wesch: From knowledgeable to knowledge-able. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8