Making Practice Public

Teachers acknowledge that in the 21st century knowledge construction is a social process and factor this into their approach to teaching. It is often forgotten that teachers are learners too and that their knowledge construction and growth in teaching can also be greatly improved and developed through interaction with other teachers. Too often teachers are isolated from their peers as they focus solely on their own class to the exclusion of all others, they come together in the staffroom or for formal meetings but rarely have the opportunity to discuss practice. A wealth of knowledge and experience is left ‘untapped’ in teacher’s own schools.

Lieberman & Mace’s (2010), Making Practice Public: Teacher Learning in the 21st Century, outlines the positives of this approach to teacher education from a local as well as a global perspective. They describe making practice public as meaning making objects and events of practice (such as videos, work samples, photos, etc.) and reflections on practice available to educational audiences. Current technologies are the means to do this, they allow the practice to become not only local but global and open up a different conversation about teaching broadening the outlook on a particular topic or issue.

Learning from each other in a local setting can be best facilitated through professional learning communities. Working in communities to improve practice not only allows teachers to learn from each other but also helps build relationships which over time leads to increased commitment to each other and to further learning. The most effective form of professional development is that which is accessed as needed to address a particular practice or issue identified. Teachers working in communities can be the starting point for this professional development for each other in many cases as they access the professional knowledge of each teacher in the community. Sharing practices with others utilises the experiences of teaching and the learning gained from them and allows these experiences and expertise to be discussed, dissected and possibly applied to different situations. Further professional development can then be accessed in a way that is relevant to the context and needs of the learning community at a specific time.

Social networking is one way that the local can become global. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Pinterest are all social networking sites that allow for connections to be made between like-minded people and can therefore be opportunities for professional learning and development. Teacher librarians need to lead the way in making clear to teachers the benefits of social networking and lead by example in utilising social networking in their professional lives for the benefit of students and teachers.

Take a look at some examples of teaching practice being made public here: http://insidewritingworkshop.org/

Reference:

Lieberman, A., & Mace, D. P. (2010). Making Practice Public: Teacher Learning in the 21st Century. Journal of Teacher Education61(1-2), 77-88. Retrieved September 5, 2013, from http://jte.sagepub.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/content/61/1-2/77

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Problem Solving a real world situation in 7 steps

Using the 7 steps, outlined in the University of Pittsburgh’s, ‘Problem Solving’ comment on how you could solve the problem using the steps outlined.
Problem – Primary school. Relief from face to face teaching for classroom teachers is covered by the teacher librarian (TL). This means that it is difficult to plan any collaborative teaching opportunities with the teachers. You are also concerned that the students learning in the library may not be contextually relevant to their learning in the classroom. How could you approach this problem?

Step 1 Define and identify the problem

Opportunities to collaboratively teach with classroom teachers are difficult to arrange due to TL taking relief from face-to-face. Concerned about contextual relevance for students to their classroom learning.

Goal – try to create opportunities outside of relief from face-to-face time where collaborative teaching can occur. Create contextual relevance for students.

Step 2 Analyse the problem

Timetabling a big issue.

A lack of knowledge around the role of the TL and the purpose and benefits of their teaching in the Library exists.

Step 3-5 Identify, Select and Evaluate possible solutions

A staff meeting led by TL could occur where problem  is explained and brainstorming session happens to try to find solutions.

Step 6 Action Plan

Work with person responsible for timetabling to factor in opportunities for collaborative teaching.

Education program for principal, staff and parent community – an information meeting for staff and an information evening for parents and the wider community run by TL, a link on Library website with relevant information about the role of the TL and a flyer to go home to all parents.

Time factored into the school year (i.e. per term) for TL to plan with classroom teachers about context for learning.

Step 7 Implement the solution

Monitor feedback from all concerned in regards to the education program. A Possible survey could be developed to establish a growth in knowledge and areas requiring further address.

Monitor creation of opportunities for discussion, planning and collaborative teaching and collect evidence to support the benefits where successful collaborations occurred.

Resources:

Problem Solving. (n.d.). Home | University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved July 22, 2103 from http://web.archive.org/web/20130502065403/http://www.pitt.edu/~groups/probsolv.html

Critical reflection on leadership

I have been teaching for over 20 years now and in that time have experienced many different leaders both as principals and in other leadership roles within the school.  I have been in different leadership positions myself within the school and have had very little specific knowledge about leadership styles until this semester of my studies. I have however been able to observe within myself and others qualities that make for positive leadership and qualities (or lack of) that detract from leadership.

In ETL504 Teacher Librarian as Leader I have been able to delve deeply into different theories and styles of leadership and start to discern what it is that makes a good leader. Up to this point in my career I had been able to see the effects of good leadership and ineffective leadership but was not always able to pinpoint exactly what it was that made the person so effective or ineffective. I have learned that leadership is a complex and multifaceted role with many concepts and abilities that must operate together in order to be effective and positive and create a school culture that fosters happiness, satisfaction, commitment and motivation.

One of the leaders that I have worked with and most admire is a principal that I used to have (since retired) whom everybody loved. One of his greatest skills was in building relationships with others in all areas of the school community and recognising people for every little effort or achievement that they made. This man knew the name of every student, and their parents and often grandparents, in that school and called them all by name when he spoke with them. He made everyone feel special, empowered and acknowledged in a way that made them want to do the best they could for him and for themselves. Our staff was a team, we laughed, cried, celebrated and commiserated together and enjoyed coming to work every day. He is someone who I think of when considering how to handle a situation and someone who I will try to emulate when my turn comes to be in a leadership role again.

On the other hand I have worked with another principal who in the space of only three years was able to turn a happy, enthusiastic and social staff into a group of mostly isolated individuals who were not so happy to be at work, who felt dictated to rather than being part of a team and who rarely got together in the staffroom, let alone socially outside of work. This man, through the qualities he lacked, has taught me the importance of utilising the expertise and experience of others on staff as well as acknowledging the efforts of all, the benefits of shared leadership and collaboration and the essential ability of relationship building and social skills.

Being in a leadership position, as a teacher librarian is expected to be, is a daunting task but one that I feel more confident in approaching as my studies continue and my knowledge broadens. I hope that in the future I can be a leader that others describe as effective and that I can empower others to be leaders too.

Innovation and Change

Innovation. Until recently I thought it was something only incredibly smart people were capable of and was in the realm of inventors and entrepreneurs. After reading Red Thread Thinking’s (2013), Innovation takes practice more than talent at http://www.redthreadthinking.com/innovation-takes-practice-more-than-talent/  I was reminded of an old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention. Red Thread states, “innovation… requires an inquisitive mind intent on solving an existing problem”, and that struck me as the modern version of that old saying. When you read stories of famous inventions and the people behind them you often discover that the motivation behind the invention was in finding a solution to a perceived problem. Take the humble Hills Hoist clothesline for instance that was developed by Lance Hill in 1945 after his wife asked him to come up with something better than the clothes line with prop that she was using. He came up with an inexpensive rotary clothes line that could be raised and lowered via a winding mechanism. Problem solved.

Innovation is seeking to improve something either by adapting or changing something that already exists or by coming up with something new to address an issue and find a solution.  Innovation or change is something that occurs in education on a regular basis either as mandated by a governing body or from within a school itself. Change is the thing that keeps schools modern and up-to-date and can be both stimulating and/or incredibly frustrating to teachers depending on both the instigation of the change and the management of it.

Schifter (2008) draws on several change adoption theorists in his chapter on effecting change in the classroom to discuss the management of innovation or change in schools. He identifies various stages throughout the process of adopting a technological change and looks at factors that need to occur in order to positively effect change (p.261-262). I am going to address these theories by taking my own school situation into account whereby we had been mandated a change by our governing body. Our governing body had mandated the use of Google mail, Google drive and Google docs for the dissemination of information throughout our organisation. This is a progressive change as Google has many effective applications that can facilitate greater productivity and ease of communication however the change has not been managed in a progressive way or in a way that facilitates an effective change

Schifter (2008) notes the five stages of adoption of a change according to Rogers’ (2003) as: awareness of the change, interest in it, evaluation of it, trying it out and adoption or rejection of the change (p.261-262). In the case of my school none of these stages applied. Firstly, as staff we were made aware of this change only after it had been implemented with no time to try out or evaluate the innovation prior to its adoption. Therefore unless we already used Gmail and were familiar with Google drive and docs we were thrown in the deep end resulting in a fair amount of frustration, reluctance and anxiety on the part of some staff. Training sessions had to be quickly organised to inform all staff about the use of Gmail to start with. Ongoing training afternoons were facilitated by one of the staff already competent in the use of the applications. None of this training was instigated, organised or supported by the governing body and staff had no time to get familiar with any of the applications before they were in use within the school. There was no question of rejecting the change as we were not given a choice nor asked for any feedback.

The change turned out to be a positive one and staff moved quickly, by necessity, through Hord and colleagues (1987) Concerns based adoption model levels of use as noted in Schifter (2008) from learning how to use the innovation through to adapting the use of the innovation to meet specific needs in the school (p.262). However it is not thanks to the management of or leadership behind the change from the governing body but thanks mostly to the professional and forward thinking staff that we have in our school and I have learned a valuable lesson about leadership when effecting change.

References:

Innovation Takes Practice More Than Talent. (2013, January 30). . Retrieved July 30, 2013, from http://www.redthreadthinking.com/innovation-takes-practice-more-than-talent/

Schifter, C. (2008). Chapter 14. Effecting Change in the ClassroomThrough Professional Development.  Infusing technology into the classroom: continuous practice improvement (pp. 250 – 279). Hershey: Information Science Pub.

A critical reflection on how my view of the role of the teacher librarian has changed during this subject (ETL401)

In the first weeks of ETL401 Introduction to Teacher Librarianship we were asked to brainstorm and list what teachers do, what librarians do and what teacher librarians do. I had no difficulty after 21 years of teaching listing what a teacher does and the list was quite extensive however when it came to the teacher librarian I was a little bewildered. Beyond the obvious list of catalogue, shelve, resource and teach I had no real idea of what a teacher librarian (TL) did. Part of the reason for this is the fact that I have never been either a student or a teacher in a school that had a TL so my only experience has been of a librarian and the other part of the reason is that I have never really taken the time to find out what a TL actually does. I have been overwhelmed, intimidated, downright scared and excited as my study and readings have deepened my understanding of the role.

My own learning needs in relation to the knowledge required to fulfil the role of TL as media specialist have been daunting. I have always loved and been excited by information communication technologies and how they can enhance all areas of life but since having children I have not devoted the time I once did to keeping up with the latest developments and uses for technologies particularly in education. I posted on my blog, The Adventuring Librarian, about my excitement when learning how to access and use the Charles Sturt University’s (CSU) databases, “It has been an eye opening experience for me” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013a), and about library curation using Pinterest, “I can see the benefits of using a social media forum … as a curation tool” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013b). One of the challenges for me will be making the time not only to keep up with new technologies but to explore and learn them in order to explicitly teach the skills to others.

Beyond being a media specialist I have been intimidated by the incredibly large but essential role of TL as leader and advocate for the library in ensuring the continuation of the TL role through gaining the support of the principal and the use of evidence-based practice. Based on my own initial understandings of the role of a TL and further reading I can understand why many principals view the role of a TL as unimportant and easily expendable and I can see why TLs need to take the lead in making the principal an ally and helping them to see the importance of the role in the ‘big picture’ information literacy goals of the school. “They need to be strong, patient pioneers on a mission of meaningful change with their eyes firmly on the destination of a collaborative school environment” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013c). I can understand too why evidence-based practice is so vital and how it can be used in many ways not only to inform practice but “to educate and inform those in power in order to successfully advocate for the needs of the students and the school library” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013d).

Perhaps the component of the role of the TL that has excited and challenged me the most is that of the TL as developer of information literate students. Through my readings and research into information literacy (IL) I have come to realise the importance of these skills in a 21st century education and how they contribute to higher-order thinking  and develop life-long learning. In learning about the use of process models to assist in the instruction of IL skills I have reignited my passion for teaching and reaffirmed the reasons for incorporating these skills into the existing curriculum. “TLs are experts in embedding the skills of information literacy across the curriculum and teaching them explicitly through programs” (The Adventuring Librarian, 2013e). I certainly feel far from an expert at the moment but I am hopeful and excited about a future where I can work collaboratively with teachers to make a difference to the information literacy skills of the students in my school.

In 10 short weeks (which feel a lot longer) I can now add to my initial list: media specialist, curator, advocate, leader, evidence-based practitioner, developer of information literate students, collaborator and I hope life-long learner. I look forward to the continuing development of both this list and my knowledge and skills as I progress further in my studies.

References:

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013a, March 13). Library databases [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/library-databases/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013b, March 18). Library curation using Pinterest [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/library-curation-using-pinterest/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013c, March 25). The role of the teacher-librarian in practice with regard to principal support [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian-in-practice-with-regard-to-principal-support/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013d, April 28). The role of the teacher librarian with regard to evidence based practice [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian-with-regard-to-evidence-based-practice/

The Adventuring Librarian. (2013e, May 14). Information literacy is more than a set of skills [Blog post]. Retrieved from: https://lawlerlot.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/information-literacy-is-more-than-a-set-of-skills/

Reflection on writing a collection policy for the school library

I am not currently nor ever have been teaching in the library and therefore did not have a real understanding of what was involved in the role of a teacher librarian (TL). In completing the ETL503 modules and writing a collection policy for my current school my growth in learning has been exponential. I appreciated, for instance that most school librarians are very familiar with their catalogue and the resources they are responsible for and are able to locate those resources easily. What I didn’t realise is that evaluating and weeding that collection is one way to become very familiar with those resources and is an essential and ongoing task of a TL and one that can benefit in many ways. I found Bishop (2007) Evaluation of the collection an insightful read for the many techniques it outlines and describes.

I understood too that TLs chose, bought, catalogued and shelved materials but really had no idea of what actually went into the choosing of resources to meet the unique needs of a school community. I had not even really considered the full range of those ‘resources’, the formats in which they can be presented and the considerations involved in selecting, acquiring, making them accessible and managing them. Hughes-Hassell and Mancall (2005) Collection management for youth gave me a much deeper understanding of the criteria for selecting resources for a learner-centred collection. In fact the entire ETL503 Module 2: Developing collections to support teaching and learning (Mitchell, P. 2013) really increased my knowledge and understanding of the role of developing a collection and in particular that of physical as well as digital resources and the considerations for each.

I felt empowered when writing the section of the policy on challenges to resources and acknowledge the very informative podcast received from Roy Crotty (2013) on the topic. I recall a challenge I received once as a classroom teacher to Roald Dahl’s Witches that I was reading to the class at the time. A parent challenged the book on religious grounds and claimed that it didn’t fit with their beliefs (their son absolutely adored the book) and that they didn’t want me to read it. The school had no policy on challenged materials so I was put in a very difficult situation which ultimately had to be referred to the principal. How much easier would it have been if I could have followed procedures already in place? I am now very much prepared if this ever happens again.

I have gained so much from this assignment in many ways but perhaps the greatest benefit has been the fact that it can be put to use in such a practical way, particularly when a school such as mine does not currently have a collection policy. I can proudly present this to the staff knowing that it has been thoroughly researched, planned and developed in a way that is relevant to our school and the needs of the students.

References:

Bishop, K. (2007). Evaluation of the collection. In The collection program in schools:concepts, practices and information sources (4th ed.) (pp. 141-159). Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited.

Crotty, R. (2013, April 24). Assignment 2: Challenges to materials. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL503_201330_W_D/page/e3a7256e-4c1e-4ffc-0046-c479e17b9489

Hughes-Hassell, S. and Mancall, J. (2005). Collection management for youth : Responding to the needs of learners. Chapter 4: Selecting resources for learning. ALA Editions.

Mitchell, P. (2013). Module 2: Developing collections to support teaching and learning [ETL503 Module 2]. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/ETL503_201330_W_D/page/cc27bbe6-e6e0-4c57-0010-f556b9fde7d2

Moody, K. (2005). Covert censorship in libraries: A discussion paper. Australian Library Journal, 54(2), 138-147.

Information literacy is more than a set of skills

Bundy (2004, p.7) draws attention to the fact that in the 21st century information resources are abundant, diverse, available widely and in many forms but increasingly unfiltered. This however does not necessarily result in more informed students unless they are able to evaluate, understand and use the information ethically and effectively. Information literacy is a relatively broad term linked to the library and teachings of a teacher librarian (TL) and involves a set of skills that will aid in finding answers to particular questions through the searching, sorting and applying of information from various sources.

But information literacy is more than just a set of skills. It is described by Bundy (2004, p.8) as an intellectual framework for working with information and an attainment of abilities that develop lifelong learning; and by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009) as a basic survival skill for successful 21st century learners. It is through information literacy that independent learners are formed as they become confident seekers of information; and independent learners become lifelong learners as they apply these abilities throughout their lives in many different situations. Eisenberg (2008, p.39) states that information and technology literacy are not just for students but for all types of workers and that those who rise to executive levels are those who can effectively apply information literacy skills to real situations.

ALIA (2011), states that library professionals have a responsibility to assist the development of information literacy for all and therefore the role of TLs in the process of creating information literate learners is a vital one. TLs are experts in embedding the skills of information literacy across the curriculum and teaching them explicitly through programs. This embedding of skills can only be achieved if TLs and teachers work collaboratively to develop the programs appropriate to their students through which the skills and abilities of information literacy may be taught. Fullan (1999, p.38) describes collaborative organisations as ones where knowledge and expertise are utlilsed to develop best practices. TLs have that knowledge and expertise when it comes to information literacy and therefore are invaluable contributors to collaborative efforts.

Herring (2011) raises a very strong point when he states the need not only for the learning of the skills but for the transfer of the information literacy practices across the curriculum and that this is the responsibility not of students but of teachers and TLs. Schools need to create a culture of transfer in order to develop students as active practitioners of information literacy and therefore lifelong learners. Collaborative organisations can facilitate this transfer through a culture of team-building, communication and information sharing with a focus on priorities, planning and core outcomes (Fullan, 1999, p.37) and TLs as the ‘constant’ can ensure a consistency in the teaching of information literacy skills across the school and across the curriculum.

Information literacy skills are the basic skills set of the 21st century (Eisenberg, 2008, p.39) but are not just a set of skills to learn, they are practices for independent and lifelong learning which are vital for our students to understand, utilise and master during their schooling and into the future in order to successfully function in and navigate an information overloaded world.

References

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2009). Statement on information literacy. Retrieved from: http://www.asla.org.au/policy/information-literacy.aspx

Australian Library and Information Association (2011).  Statement on information literacy for all Australians. Retrieved from: http://www.alia.org.au/policies/information.literacy.html

Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).

Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age. Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.

Fullan, M. (1999). Chapter 3: The deep meaning of inside collaboration. In Change forces: The sequel, (pp.31-41). London, Falmer Press.

Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, information literacy and transfer in high schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3).