Part C: Reflective Practice

Over the last few months, my understanding of information literacy has evolved immensely. Currently, definitions of information literacy usually refer to a process that can be taught, internalised and followed whenever an individual needs to access information. Within an education context, it can be used as a useful tool to empower students to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their social, emotional, mental and academic goals. Although there has been debate around whether it is a concept or a process, it is worth noting that it is not fixed, but will continue to be refined as the information landscape continues to evolve. Educators, especially teacher librarians, should be familiar with and be able to teach the characteristics needed to engage effectively within the digital environment. Some of these include search strategies, organising information in ways facilitated by technology, especially social media, finding patterns and connections between texts, using organisational skills and developing the skills of deep thinking and understanding the ethics of information use (O’Connell, 2012). In the current climate, information literacy can be viewed as a basic human right in a digital world and can also be powerful in promoting social inclusion.

In the complex information landscape, the word ‘literacy’ is often used as a descriptor. In this context, literacy may be seen as being synonymous with the word ‘competency.’ While some may see the term as being diluted, it may also be seen as adding layers of intricate meaning. Information literacy refers to a range of complex skills/competencies, ideas and understanding. The term is contentious in the sense that there is no single definition, rather, its meaning is dependent on context and purpose. Students need to be functionally literate, in the sense that they must be able to read, write, listen, speak, view and understand or derive meaning what they have consumed, before they can access, adequately engage with and interpret information literacy. This forces them to move beyond fundamental literacy skills to be able to understand and gather information from multiple formats and delivery modes. A challenge that this poses to the TL is that measuring how well a student understands something is more difficult than assessing a skill. Demonstrating understanding is a higher order thinking skill as a student must be able to apply what they have learnt (knowledge as a processed form of information) in order to problem solve. This often concerns a real-world problem and is hence, often linked with lifelong learning. While some may think that new formats and delivery modes or multimodal resources require students to have different literacy skills to generate meaning, I think that it is an extension from the traditional literacy definition. Once students have these essential skills, they should be able to access these new formats and multimodal resources, provided that they have had exposure to them as a ‘normal’ pathway for accessing information.

As the information literacy landscape continues to evolve, in a constantly changing digital environment, discussions about information literacy and inquiry learning frameworks have intensified, especially with the implementation of the new Australian Curriculum.  This curriculum has an emphasis on inquiry learning but does not provide scaffolding to support it. This is where information literacy models are useful. There are a range of information literacy models that are used in schools including Herring’s PLUS model (Purpose, Location, Use, Self-Evaluation), Neuman’s iLearn model, the Big6 and Information Search Process (ISP), which is now aligned with the Guided Inquiry Design model (GID). After researching each model, I tend to prefer the GIDP model as it aligns with the steps taken by researchers (ISP) and the design and implementation of inquiry units (GID) and has a firm theoretical and practical basis that is supported by Kuhlthau’s extensive research spanning more than 30 years (Kuhlthau, 2004). It provides teachers and teacher librarians with an accessible and effective tool to assist in the creation of units of work (FitzGerald, 2015) and uses easy verbs that are highly accessible to assist with student understanding. The process of researching in itself fosters engagement and encourages higher order thinking and active learning. GIDP as an instructional framework supports students’ information to knowledge journey.

One of the roles of teacher librarians is to be familiar with the range of inquiry models and to work in conjunction with teachers to design, resource and deliver specific curriculum-based inquiry units. This promotes deep knowledge and deep understanding of a specific topic and information literacy concepts as well as cultivating independent learning (CISSL, 2005). An issue TL’s face is that they are often called on to teach information skills out of context, hence, these stand-alone lessons are not as effective as they could be as students cannot necessarily make the connections between these lessons to the information needs that arise for them when completing research tasks. In order to be fully effective:

“Information skills must be embedded across the school curriculum and explicitly taught in the context of teaching and learning programs. Effective teacher librarians are expert in collaboratively developing and implementing such an approach.” (ASLA, 2016)

 

Reference List

Center for the International Scholarship in School Libraries. (2005). Guided Inquiry. Retrieved from https://cissl.rutgers.edu/research/guided-inquiry

FitzGerald, L. (2015) Guided Inquiry in practice, Scan, 334(4) 16-17

Kuhlthau, C.C. (2004). Learning as a process. pp.13-27. In Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services, Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited. Available CSU Library.

O’Connell, J 2012, ‘So you think they can learn?, Scan 31.2, pp. 5-11.

An Ode to Goodreads

When reading about the changing nature of the information landscape, I reflected on one of my favourite apps, Goodreads. I may have deleted all of my social media apps a few years ago now (partly to free up some more time to read) but Goodreads survived my great phone expunge.

The same presenter who introduced me to the concept of textual linage returned at the beginning of the school year. She shared her holiday reading with us and encouraged us to do the same with our students (she also listed podcasts on her list which I found interesting). I think the Goodreads app is a perfect way to do this and here’s why:

  1. Teachers and students can record all of the books that they read
  2. They can connect with ‘friends’ and the wider community to see what books they are reading
  3. When searching for a particular book, the app provides a book description and rating as well as community reviews to assist people when selecting a book to read
  4. In this section, it also lists other books by the same author and books that readers of this book also enjoyed
  5. The ‘Reading Challenge’ function: allows readers to make a reading goal (a certain number of books per year) and tracks their progress, encouraging them to work towards their goal.

My only criticism is that the app doesn’t allow you to record books that you re-read as it only allows each book to be listed once. As a fairly easy app to navigate, this could be another interesting way to continue the dialogue around reading as the year progresses especially as the new term fast approaches.

 

P.S. My Holiday Reading:

-The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

-East the Sky, Drink the Ocean by Kirsty Murray (Editor), Payal Dhar (Editor), Anita Roy (Editor), et al.

-Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

-The Boat by Nam Le

The Information Hierarchy and Different Types of Knowledge

Having read about the information hierarchy, it is interesting to me that many students use the term ‘knowledge’ as a synonym for the word ‘information,’ when information implies a collection of facts whereas knowledge implies knowing and understanding these facts so that they can be recalled and used in the future. Maybe this is a distinction that the students will benefit from partaking in a discussion about?

When reading about the different types of knowledge, which includes societal knowledge or information, I wonder, in our current age of information overload, how this is affecting the information that is valued by society as a whole? What are the implications for future generations? As future teacher librarians, we will be instrumental in educating students, teachers and the wider school community in how they should navigate a constantly changing digital environment where they will have greater access to more information than ever before. We will also have to address and equip them will the skills to navigate reliable information from trustworthy sources as search engines, such as Google, become personalised to a greater degree.

Textual Linage

As I was curating my holidays reading list, I was transported back to a P.D that I attended at the end of last year where the presenter introduced me to the notion of ‘textual linage.’ This includes the texts that have had the greatest impact on an individual during the various stages of their life and have been significant in shaping their identities. Below is my textual linage:

 

Early Primary School:

-Billy the Punk by Jessica Carroll

-The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

-The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

 

Middle to Late Primary School:

-The Tintin series by Herge

-The Asterix and Obelix series by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

-The Adventurous Four series by Enid Blyton

-The Un Collection by Paul Jennings

-The Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda

-The Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda

-The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

 

Secondary School:

-The Hobbit by J.R. R. Tolkien

-The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

-To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

-Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

 

As a Young Adult:

-Othello by William Shakespeare

-V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

-Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

-The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

-Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

-The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

-Just Kids by Patti Smith

-Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

-Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

-Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

-The Crucible by Arthur Miller

-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

-1Q84 (and anything else by Haruki Murakami)

-The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

-The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

-His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

 

In the Last Few Years:

-The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan (and everything by Shaun Tan)

-The Island by Armin Greder

-Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

-Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

-The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

-All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld

-Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany

-Maus by Art Spiegelman

-Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy

-The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

-The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

 

I was amazed to see how much joy this activity brought to everyone in the room as we relived some of our fondest memories and how much conversation this activity sparked. Everyone was genuinely engaged and interested in hearing other peoples’ experiences. It also reminded me just how instrumental books can be in shaping an individual. The presenter then asked us how many of us had shared these with our students. Besides giving recommendations to students, I had never done so and reflected that this idea of textual linage has the potential to be such a meaningful way to start a dialogue around reading with our classes.

Benefits of Reading

At my current school, the Year 7 timetable allows for one extra period of English a week. This lesson takes place in the library and is usually dedicated to silent reading. This exposes students to different forms of literature, allows them to borrow, re-borrow and return books and give them a chance to see what other people are reading. I also begin each lesson with 10 minutes of silent reading, which, as well as despite being an amazing classroom management technique, allows students to see that I prioritise reading and hold it in high regard.

Because I dedicate so much time to encouraging students to read and to help them build a habit of reading, I think it is essential that the reason for this is strongly communicated with them.  A strong ‘why’ helps to build motivation as it emphasises why this skill and habit is so important and relevant to them and their lives (and prevents the question from being asked multiple times throughout the year).

Below is the list that my Year 7’s and I came up with as a class at the beginning of the year:

  • Develops your verbal communication skills
  • Improves your writing: expands your vocabulary, improves spelling, grammar and punctuation exposes you to complex sentence structures, ideas/knowledge and concepts, improves fluency etc.
  • Improves focus and concentration
  • Provides escapism, entertainment and helps pass time
  • Improves your imagination and creativity
  • Can be a conversation starter
  • Reduces stress; mindfulness
  • Helps us to be better people; teaches us values, for example courage and empathy
  • Exposes us to different experiences
  • Instills a moral code
  • To discover and create yourself

I thought that this was interesting enough to include as it not only reflects a lot of what I have been reading for the first few weeks of my first subject (An Introduction to Teacher Librarianship) but was also the first question that our teacher librarianship asked my class during their first library lesson. Her question was met with a flurry of hands shooting up towards the sky as it was something that was in the forefront of their minds. It also made me beam with pride.

Digital Detox

Having just returned from a much-needed technology free getaway (or digital detox as it is more commonly known in the post-hashtag world), I will be typing up and posting several blogs over the next few days that were originally written with the old-fashioned pen and paper. But before I do so, I think it is worth mentioning that because our professions seem to revolve more and more around screens, sometimes we need to make the fully intentional decision to place ourselves in an environment that allows us to figuratively and literally ‘switch off.’ And is this something that we should be discussing explicitly with our students?

The damaging effects of too much screen time, especially on our emotional and mental health, is becoming more widely-known. The aim of a digital detox includes lowering stress levels, enhancing mental positivity, improving social interactions and realigning our lives with our values whilst re-assessing what is truly important to us. Two common ways to do this is to fully immerse yourself in nature and to delve head-first into a book (or to do both simultaneously if you’re that way inclined – my preferred method).

I made a point of giving most of my classes the same bit of holiday ‘homework;’ enjoy a book or two (or three) and was stoked when several students left the library with a pile of books in their arms and huge grins plastered across their faces. I must admit that so did I.

My Understanding of the Role of the Teacher Librarian in Schools

Libraries have always been a safe haven for me; first, as a primary, secondary and tertiary student and then, as a teacher. Traditionally, they were a place to discover stories to satiate my longing for escapism, a place to find shelter from the unforgiving elements and a place to gather endless resources to assist with my learning.

When I first transitioned from university life into the workplace, it seemed natural for me to amble into the library not only to find my own personal reading material and to gather my thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of a busy school environment but because I knew that they were homes to a plethora of resources that could improve both my teaching and the learning of my students. After flirting with the idea of a career change earlier in life than initially anticipated, as a way of amalgamating my various passions, I have been closely inspecting and broadening my understanding of the many roles of teacher-librarians in their natural habitats; dynamic, collaborative and innovative learning hubs.

According to AILA and ASLA, teacher librarians “support and implement the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library and information services and programs.” The key roles of teacher librarians in schools are diverse and include teaching and learning, management, leadership and collaboration and community engagement.

-Teaching and Learning:

Teacher librarians promote literature and encourage reading across all school levels, compelled by the many known benefits associated with reading. They work in collaboration with their colleagues to improve literacy levels as well as improving the skills and knowledge around digital and information literacy. They assist with the development of inquiry-based learning and the use of information and communication technology to further student and teacher learning. Additionally, they assist teachers and schools with integrating and resourcing the curriculum.

-Management:

They provide access to information and ideas. They maintain library facilities, providing resources, programs and services in both the physical and digital spheres. Moreover, they are responsible for a school’s physical and digital learning space and the promulgation of ideas fundamental to teaching and learning: reading, inquiry, research, thinking, curiosity, imagination and creativity.

-Leadership and Collaboration:

They work collaboratively with various members of their diverse and inclusive school community to provide services and programs to assist with the professional development of staff. They keep up-to date with emerging trends to prepare students, across all curriculum areas and learning stages, with skills and capabilities needed to flourish in a rapidly changing and interconnected world.

-Community Engagement:

They promote student wellbeing by being inclusive of diversity, welcoming minority groups and other fringe members of society and fostering a sense of identity and belonging. They do this by connecting students with their interests, with one other and with their community through a variety of means, including programs. They open dialogues and engage with parents and families in the education of their children, promoting the importance of the intergenerational learning. Furthermore, they connect with and work together with other libraries in the wider community.

Twenty-first century libraries are inclusive and dynamic learning spaces that are constantly adapting to reflect the changing nature of education, technology and communication. Ultimately, the role of teacher librarians is to ensure that students are critical thinkers who are fully literate and able to navigate and succeed in the globalised and contemporary world.

References:

Australian Library and Information Association. (2019). ALIA-ASLA statement on teacher librarians in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.alia.org.au/about-alia/policies-standards-and-guidelines/alia-asla-statement-teacher-librarians-australia