Research? Purpose? Practice? Blog Task 3 – INF530

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Whilst reading through the many reflections of my partners in learning in INF530 – Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age I am humbled and overwhelmed by the knowledge that exists and the generosity in sharing of knowledge.

After completing my Scholarly Book Review, I was made aware of how easy it can be to get swept up in the writings of others.  Then after reading the blog post, “Says Who?” I realised that those two words have really made me put the brakes on.  I totally agree when Michele Walters speaks of the need of authoritative research and that it is very easy to go to any conference or PD opportunity and get caught up with the how can I use this and make learning more engaging in my learning space?

There are a lot of passionate and well meaning educators trying to bridge the gap between research and practice but it is necessary for teachers to realise that they must be aware of the research.  The research guides the vision (or purpose) for learning and the vision guides the achievement of learning through best practice.  Vaughn & Faircloth (2013) write about their experience of visioning and conclude by saying, “A recommendation for teachers is to think critically about their instructional vision and to articulate it clearly so that it will ultimately develop their students’ skills”(p.10).  The only implication that I would put to this recommendation is that if each individual teacher comes up with their own vision with no consideration to the collective vision of firstly the school, then the system they work within, then doesn’t that just mean adopting an ‘anything goes’ approach?

Whilst they were not referring to the integration of digital technologies or participation within the various online communities, they make a point, at the end of the day, it is the teacher who knows the particular context of learning – the students, the parents, the resources available.

I was then reminded of the AITSL Standards for Teacher Librarian Practice  and realised that within this document Professional Knowledge was to be based on research.  The research though is one aspect, putting it into practice is another and that involves creating a vision (or a purpose) for the learning.  All of these standards are related to 3 words – research (theory), purpose (vision), practice.

I welcomed my learning partner, Michele Walters commentary as it is exactly where I was ‘stuck’.  What is it that is frustrating me with all this talk of ‘new skills’, ‘new pedagogy’ and I believe the obstacle is not the dealing with digital technologies.  Teachers and teacher librarians are well aware that our practice of learning has changed and are using these tools to the best of their ability.  It is not the how.  Teachers and teacher librarians are well aware of the multitude of tools.  Perhaps it is the why that connects the theory with the practice?  Why is this research important to the students in my care? Why should we incorporate this tool into our students’ learning?

Is it that we (educators) are more aware of these ‘new skills’ required in the 21st Century because the certainty or uncertainty of the future requires learning how to learn rather than learning to know.  In his book, Why Do I Need A Teacher When I’ve Got Google? Ian Gilbert states that we still need teachers to ‘democratise learning’  (p.24) so that students can get to where they need to  be in this landscape of digital tools and Infowhelm.

So insofar as concepts and practices for a digital age, I would suggest that research, purpose and practice are interrelated and that we need to focus on not only the students but all involved in our learning communities so that our practices are informed and align to a vision that is related to research. We need to create educational settings that practice what we preach.  We need to realise that the passion for learning needs to be instilled in our teachers and teacher librarians before we can authentically promote passion for learning in our students.

References:

ALIA Schools AITSL Standards for Teacher Librarian Practice.  Retrieved from: https://www.alia.org.au/sites/default/files/AITSL%20Standards%20for%20teacher%20librarian%20practice%202014.pdf

Gilbert, Ian (2010). Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve got Google? : The Essential Guide to the Big Issues for Every 21st Century Teacher. Retrieved from http://www.eblib.co

Vaughn, M., & Faircloth, B. (2013). Teaching With a Purpose in Mind: Cultivating a Vision. Professional Educator, 37(2), 1-12.


To be or not to be?

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The one thing I am learning at the moment is to read about technology and its impact on learning environments and the need for pedagogy to change is one thing, it is quite another to be part of the learning environment and to be at the frontline trying to refine pedagogy.  I began as a teacher and now I am a teacher librarian.  I am exactly where I want to be and where I feel I belong in the educational landscape.  I am one of the youngest teacher librarians and I am slowly watching as schools make teacher librarians redundant with the idea that we have technology now so why do we need teacher librarians? The role of teacher librarian is so misunderstood and underutilised and still I live in hope that the full circle effect will come into play.

I have read and listened to many articles thus far about the ‘new literacies’ (Partnership for 21st Century Learning), ‘new skills'(Conole, 2012, pp. 56-57), ‘new competencies’(Haste, 2009) or ‘new fluencies’ (Crockett, Jukes, Churches, 2011) are that are needed by our students in the 21st Century. I believe in my role I am giving these ‘new’ concepts a good go in my learning space and in my passion to try and remain cutting edge but I keep reading how they are not being used.  My understanding in a nutshell is what I believe a teacher librarian’s role within any school is – to connect the ‘content’ learned by assisting students learn how to learn.

After all this reading, all I can see is more of the same.  The conversation seems stuck and as a result I feel stuck. My reflections here then are what are my observances at present in the educational landscape as a teacher librarian at the frontline?

Firstly, let me say I am privileged in my role as teacher librarian as I really do get a ‘big picture’ view of what is happening.  I am almost like that ‘fly on the wall’ as I wander around and ‘listen in’ to what our 550+ students discuss.  I see the various teachers wander in trying to keep abreast of the various demands made of them from curriculum, organisational, parental and community.  My role is to work within the ‘literacy’ or ‘new literacies’ embedded within the ‘new curriculum’ – creative and critical thinking, digital literacy, information literacy, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills – the General Capabilities.  I hear the teachers tell me their woes of how much is expected from them and yet when I offer the various support that my training and role encompasses, very few wish to collaborate and so I guess, I guess what their students need in this rapidly changing and expansive digital society. At the end of the day, I leave and reflect – what have I achieved today?  Usually, I feel overwhelmed and a sense of loss.  A loss of time, a loss of clarity and a loss of purpose.  What is the purpose of my role?  What is the purpose of learning?

If we truly are to recognise that collaborative, critical thinking, creativity and communication are the big 4C’s of education then surely as educators we need to begin to model these in our practices.

Secondly, I will never claim to be an ‘expert’ in this current age of education but I will never get to feel confident and comfortable as a teacher librarian in this digital age if it is expected I will learn the necessary skills by osmosis.  I find it baffling that in private industry, the ‘tools’  and ‘knowledge’ needed to be successful and participatory are provided and yet in teaching we still have to pay for our own professional development that is not offered ‘in house.’  It has me thinking, why were the laptops and IPads given to students a few years ago? Yet these devices were not given to teachers to become familiar with them and very little professional development was given as to how these devices could affect the learning achievements by students.

I do not speak as an academic here.  I do not speak as an expert but I speak from a place where many teachers speak from: the heart.  Yes that is why many teachers entered this profession of teaching – a passion for making the world a better place, one student at a time.  I read this blog post this morning and I wondered how many other teachers are too scared to participate openly for fear of dismissal, judgement of being unprofessional.  It would seem that the researchers feel that these new technologies and the new literacies are not being taken up because teachers can’t be bothered or schools can’t be bothered.  Let’s consider that if we are to continually recognise our educational system as not good enough with its top down approach, perhaps we need to look further up the chain at the governments and the governing bodies of our schools who make it – those on top rather than blaming those of us at the bottom.

To be or not to be?  This is a decision that each individual teacher needs to make.  For me, I fight to be.  Despite feeling ‘stuck’ at the moment, despite feeling overwhelmed by the literature I read, I will continue to be the best I can and improving the with what I have.  I will not let the frustrations beat me.