Social networking – what is it anyway?

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social-networks

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/belle-beth-cooper/10-surprising-social-medi_b_4325088.html

Social networking. Social media. What are they? I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles sometimes to put into words a concept that is so inherently a part of your life, so I will admit to struggling to find the right words to adequately explain what social networking is to me! So, here goes. I believe that social networking is an inherent part of the way that people interact today – it certainly is for me, and research shows that I’m not the only one! Recent statistics show that 71% of US adults use facebook, and the amount of internet users who use multiple social media platforms rose from 42% in 2013 to 52% in 2014 (Duggan et al, 2015) Using social media tools such as facebook, twitter, google plus, and whatever else comes along in the months and years ahead, social networking is about connecting, communicating, and collaborating. Rather than being a solitary activity, involving just yourself and your computer, social networking creates enormously powerful opportunities to interact with people who share similar ideas, interests and involvements, and allows you to contribute and collaborate to projects and conversations that would not normally be possible. It is, at its heart, about connections – as Grossman says, when discussing my Time Person of the Year award, “it is a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter.” (2006)

I use social networking a lot. And, according to Huffpost, I’m not alone – in 2013, social networking overtook porn as the number one activity on the web. Bizarre I know – as is the statistic that the fastest growing demographic on twitter is the 55-64 age bracket. (Cooper, 2013) It’s strange what you can find out when you google “social media” huh?

Anyway, in all seriousness, my social networking is both personal and professional, and there are often tenuous barriers between these two aspects of my social media life. I use facebook on a daily basis, and I manage a couple of groups – one for fellow CSU students as a place to connect and commiserate as we study for our Masters, and one for my Library Warriors (students who have volunteered to be a part of our library team!) I also act as a second staff member on a number of our school facebook groups which have been set up by teachers to support a number of senior classes at our school. I also manage our school facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/EvansHighSchool), and have as of yesterday started in an admin role on the SLANSW facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/School-Library-Association-of-New-South-Wales/791343294233335).

I also use twitter (@tamararodgers74): I initially had a separate personal account, and kept this one for purely professional interactions, however this is my primary twitter account now. I also manage our school’s twitter account (@evanshigh), although this mostly involves a direct feed from our facebook page. Instagram is my guilty pleasure, with my personal stream being joined by one for our school (@evanshigh) and one for our library (@evanslibrary), and pinterest takes up far more of my life at 12am than is possibly healthy – with a personal page (http://www.pinterest.com/princesstamara/) and a school one (http://www.pinterest.com/evanshighschool/) which is a new addition to our social media profile, and a work in progress. I use goodreads as a way of tracking my reading and book collections, and have recently started stalking people on there … ahem, I mean, connecting with other users to discuss books and authors. I have dabbled in using sites like diigo and google plus, but they haven’t featured heavily in my regular social media profile, and I’ve used google docs, Second Life, edmodo and moodle as collaborative tools in a variety of professional contexts with a similar level of expertise (ie I’m still wearing floaties in most of these!)

Personally, social networking allows me to keep in contact with what’s going on in the equally busy lives of my family and friends. Professionally, it allows me to collaborate with colleagues, share ideas and resources, crowd source solutions to problems, and, possibly most importantly for me, communicate the powerful and important contributions that my school community is making to the lives of our students. As a result of my ongoing work with our school social media profile, I have contributed a “Social Media Tips” page which is used by NSWDEC Corporate Communications to provide guidance to schools who are looking at setting up their own social media presences. I will also be collaborating with the Communications and Engagement Team as they work on formulating the social media strategy for the Department, with a focus on consolidating and growing online community engagement based on best practice, which apparently Evans demonstrates! (That was a seriously cool email to receive, fyi … It’s nice to know that our hard work has been recognised!)

What am I hoping to get out of this subject? To be honest, I’ve already got some of it … significant modelling of best practice in how to use social media as an instructional tool. I’m loving the facebook page as a connection and discussion point. I’m highly excited by assignment one, and can’t wait to put into practice some of what I’ve been thinking about with regards to our use of facebook, goodreads and pinterest as collaborative elements in our library communications. I’m hoping for some more grounding in ways to use other social networks as curation tools, as my expertise in these is really limited to pinterest, and I’d like to have some more tools in my arsenal.

And, after reading all that, I’ve realised why I don’t spend much time sleeping – I’m online too much! 🙂

 

References:

Cooper, B (2013) Ten social media statistics that might make you rethink your social strategy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/belle-beth-cooper/10-surprising-social-medi_b_4325088.html Accessed March 14 2015.

Duggan, M, Ellison, N, Lampe, C, Lenhart, A, and Madden, M. (2015) Social Media Update 2014. http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/social-media-update-2014/ Accessed March 14 2015.

Grossman, L (2006) Time’s Person of the Year: You. Time, Dec. 13, 2006. Cited in Sharing, Privacy and Trust in our Networked Worldhttp://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/reports/pdfs/sharing.pdf. Accessed March 14 2015.

 

Literature and History – a love story

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I love literature. I love stories, and am endlessly enthralled with the multiplicity of ways those stories can communicate, and can connect people, places and ideas. I also love history, and one of the reasons I have always enjoyed teaching it is the ability to connect ideas about our history with individual’s experiences. So, what has been most interesting to me through this subject is how eye-opening the idea of using literature in non-traditional subject areas has been! When I think about it now, it makes perfect sense, but as a HSIE teacher previously, I had never even contemplated using fiction to support my teaching.

For me, completing ETL402 – Literature Across the Curriculum, as part of my study towards the M.Ed Teacher Librarianship, has broadened my ideas about the role of fiction in my work as a TL. In my capacity as a TL in a public high school in Western Sydney, I’m passionate about expanding our collection of quality fiction, and ensuring that we provide a comprehensive range of texts which support and extend the literary needs of our diverse student body. I have, however, considered this as somewhat separate to my role of supporting teaching and learning within the school. I must admit to only really considering literature as a resource for the English faculty, and steered directly to non-fiction when thinking about ways that I could provide support for other faculty areas – my beloved history included! In discussions last year with our Society and Culture class about their PIPs, not once did Simon and the Homosapien Agenda pop into my head when directing the student whose research was looking at the barriers gay students face in coming out to their peers.

So, what does this mean for my professional practice then? I’m now more actively engaged in exploring a wider range of texts and strategies to support learning, no matter what the subject area. We are implementing a tagging system in our catalogue to highlight fiction texts that are suitable for a variety of subjects, and in my regular faculty liaison meetings, I will now be promoting fiction options to support their subjects. Science and Maths don’t just live in the non-fiction section! The possibilities for integrating literature in science, and encouraging teachers to consider creative options to achieve their outcomes, are exciting. I found Pennington’s (2010) discussion on using science fiction in the Science classroom particularly interesting, and was surprised at my own surprise at the thought of using creative writing as a learning strategy in a Science lesson!

Apart from these revelations for me about the role of fiction in subjects other than English though, this subject has helped consolidate for me the importance of what we do in the library. We have unrivalled opportunities to impact student learning, both inside and outside the classroom. Providing literature which encompasses and represents the diversity of human experience is a huge responsibility, and the impact of this for our students in extraordinary. Students who see their own experiences reflected on the shelves gain a stronger sense of the value of their own stories (Hinton, 2007). Conversely, students who see other people’s lives and experiences in the pages of a novel or picture book develop a stronger world view, and develop a sense of empathy and acceptance for the differences around them (Smolen, 2010). Providing a multiplicity of experiences in a wide range of children’s literature has significant benefits for students (Bothelo 2009), and I’m excited about the possibilities of expanding the impact of our burgeoning literature collection – reading for pleasure is wonderful, and one of my core goals in the library, so being able to read for pleasure to support teaching and learning? Win win!!

References:

Bothelo, K, and Rudman, M. (2009) Critical multicultural analysis of children’s literature. Taylor and Francis.

Hinton, K, and Dickinson, G (2007) Integrating Multicultural Literature in Libraries and Classrooms in Secondary Schools. ABC-CLIO

Pennington, L (2010). Intergalactic Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Our place in the universe. New Horizons, Spring 2010. Accessed from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Journals/spring2010/intergalacticinterdisciplinarycurriculum/

Smolen, L, and Oswald, R (2010) Multicultural Literature and Response: Affirming Diverse Voices. ABC-CLIO

 

One Semester In: What does a TL do again?

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ETL401 Assignment 2 Part B Critical Reflection

One Semester In: What does a Teacher Librarian do?

So, I’ve finished my first semester of study in the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship). I’ve blogged, I’ve posted on forums, I’ve read (LOTS!!!), I’ve chatted with fellow sufferers … ahem, students … in our collaborative facebook group, and I’m ready to answer the big question now. What exactly does a TL do?

I hope I’m not letting the side down here when I say I still find this question challenging to respond to. But I’m certainly coming to grips a bit more with how to deal with those people who tell me, oftentimes well-meaningly, that it must be lovely to spend my days surrounded by books. It is, really. Totally lovely. But what I’d give for five minutes to actually open one and read it beyond the blurb on the back, or the SCIS record! So, being a TL is about far more than curating books, as I reflected in an earlier blog post (Rodgers, 2014a)

I don’t actually feel like my view of the role of the TL has changed much due to my studies in this subject. Not that my perceptions are the same as they were six months ago – far from it. But “changed” feels like the wrong way to describe it. It has been, for me, more of a process of clarification, of being able to put critical concepts to ideas that were floating around in my head. Applying theories to the practices that I was attempting to undertake within the wonderful walls of my library without consciously realising why I was doing it, apart from that it just kind of felt like the right thing to do.

So, now I have might on my side. The might of Karen Bonanno, who tells me that it’s vital that I advocate for the importance of my role in the school, and that I fight with all my mighty fingers to ensure that my colleagues recognise my worth, both intrinsically, and in what I can give to them and their teaching practice (Bonanno, 2011) The might of Annette Lamb, who believes that my strength as a TL lies in my ability to partner with teachers, and to ensure that my role description clearly identifies the profound impact that I as TL can have on the curricular goals of the school, and on student achievement (2011). The might of Carol Kuhlthau, who advocates for the importance of the teacher librarian as the primary agent for 21st century learners to call upon, and who recognises the key role that a TL plays in creating a school which prepares its students for the complexities of a 21st century information and learning landscape (Kuhlthau, 2010, p17). And who, just quietly, was so on the money about the feelings of frustration, doubt and confusion in the exploration phase of her ISP model – I felt like she was monologuing my life at points in my journey through this subject!

The many and varied discussions about the ways in which libraries can meet the ever-changing needs of a 21st century learning have been fascinating, and have informed my own thoughts about the future of resourcing in such a transforming information landscape. The contrasts between reading onscreen vs paper was a topic in both the forums and our collegial facebook group that generated much discussion, both in our roles as 21st century learners and our roles as Teacher Librarians in Training (Rodgers, 2014b).

Similarly fascinating has been the ongoing discussion about the importance of collaboration, and tied into this the need for principal support of the role of TL. Farmer’s discussion of the principal as the “chief catalyst for collaboration” (2007, p56) really resonated with my own experiences of working with a dynamic and engaging school leader who strongly supports the role of the library in the learning framework of the school. Comments in both the forums and to my recent blog post about support have indicated that this is not a common thing, however (Rodgers, 2014c), which makes me mourn for those TL’s who aren’t experiencing that essential support from their leadership. It also reflects on the critical importance in our profession of advocacy – the need for us all to ensure that our influence is not only felt, but visible, and that the wider teaching profession are aware of the vital role a connected and engaged TL can play in establishing and steering the learning culture of the school in profound ways (Oberg, 2007)

I’m equally as enamoured with my chosen profession now as I was when I started paddling this canoe upstream, and I’m glad for a rest in the rapids before next semester starts. I wonder what additional enlightenments might come about the wonderful world of Teacher Librarianship in my next subject? I can’t wait to see!!

References

Bonanno, K. (2011). A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. http://vimeo.com/31003940

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.

Kuhlthau, C. (2010) Guided Inquiry: School Libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide January 2010, Volume 16, Number 1, 17-28. Accessed from http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/docs/GI-School-Librarians-in-the-21-Century.pdf

Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends: Linking Research & Practice To Improve Learning, 55(4), 27-36.

Oberg, D. (2007). Taking the Library Out of the Library into the School. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(2), i-ii

Rodgers, T. (2014a)  Library Girls! And Boys. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/11/librarygirlsandboys/

Rodgers, T. (2014b) Online vs IRL reading. Blog post 1. 03-Aug-14

Rodgers, T. (2014c) The Teacher Librarian and the Principal: A Modern Fairytale. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/10/16/the-teacher-librarian-and-the-principal-a-modern-fairy-tale/

 

The Teacher Librarian and the Principal – A Modern Fairy Tale

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ETL401 OLJ Blog Task 3

In the castle of books there lived a teacher librarian. She battled dangers unknown, and hardships unnumbered. Surrounded by foes of information and enemies of enlightenment, she endeavoured to impact the village around her with her wonder of words and her love of learning, but she couldn’t battle the hordes alone. She needed a fairy godmother.

Sounds dramatic huh? But really, it’s a challenge that teacher librarians face every day. The TL role can be isolating, and often we operate in a vacuum, surrounded by colleagues with little understanding of the role that we perform (Oberg, 2006, 14). It is in this context, then, that support from above becomes vital if the TL is to be empowered to exert influence on the learning culture of school.

Many studies have shown how important principal support is in facilitating the effectiveness of the TL and, as such, the library.  Farmer describes the principal as the “chief catalyst for collaboration”, responsible for establishing the vision of the school, and facilitating the curriculum that is offered (2007, p56). With the principal playing such a vital role in the learning culture of the school, then, it is imperative that the role of the library and the TL in this learning culture are both recognised as important by the principal, and thus afforded the support that will allow them to flourish.

Hartzell argues that the quality school library program relies on a librarian, and that no great library can be run without a passionate teacher librarian who brings their own stamp into the space (2009). Whilst this may be true, without a school leader who supports the TL, who collaborates with them on their vision for the space, who encourages them to dream big, and who supports both through their words and actions the professionalism and importance of the TL in the life of the school.

It is unfortunate, then, that literature shows that many principals don’t fully understand the role of the media specialist. Morris and Packard discuss the lack of recognition of principals for the importance of the TL in supporting the instructional process and contributing to student learning (2007, p36). By recognising the positive impacts that the TL and library can have on student achievement, and by modelling an atmosphere of recognition of the powerful role of the TL in the learning environment of the school, the engaged principal can facilitate an atmosphere of collaboration and communication between teaching staff and the TL which is vital to ensure that the full potential of the library as a centre for learning is realised (Morris, 2007, p23).

My experience in this fairy tale has been profoundly influenced by my own experiences with a supportive and empowering principal. With a bias towards yes, and a philosophy which encourages innovation and collaboration, my principal has inspired me to think big in my vision for what our library could look like, and how it, and indeed I, can influence the learning culture of the school. It’s a wonderful working relationship to be a part of, which contributes positively to the culture of our engaging library, and models for other staff the importance of the library in the narrative of our school.

References

Farmer, L. (2007). Principals: Catalysts for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 56-65.

Hartzell, G. (2009). Librarian-proof libraries? Guest rant by Gary Hartzell. http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2009/8/25/librarian-proof-libraries-guest-rant-by-gary-hartzell.html

Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224879111?accountid=10344

Morris, B. J., & Packard, A. (2007). The Principal’s Support of Classroom Teacher-Media Specialist Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide,13(1), 36-55.

Morris, B. J. (2007). Principal Support for Collaboration. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 23-24.

Information Literacy: More than just a set of skills

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ETL401 OLJ Blog Task 2

Literacy has increasingly become a buzzword in the rhetoric around education. We often hear in the media the need for a focus on literacy, and people commentators frequently bemoan the need to get “back to basics” in literacy education.

What is missing from these discussions, though, is a clear understanding of what “literacy” is. In education today, literacy is about more than just phonics and grammar. The literacy spectrum that we are dealing with in education covers a wide spectrum of literacies, embracing myriad skills and requiring multiple levels of understanding and application of knowledge. Schools deal with often competing demands to teach multiple literacies, and students are required to negotiate these complex skills across a wide range of subject areas. It’s not just about conjunctions!

Information literacy is really, as I see it, one of the core competencies that all students need to be fluent in, and all teachers should be addressing in their teaching and learning. It’s also one of the primary responsibilities of the TL, as we lead our schools into the brave new world of the 21st century information landscape. So what is information literacy then?

Information literacy is a broad concept. Fundamentally, it is about the ability of an individual to access information from a wide range of sources, analyse and synthesise what they find, and then use and present that information in ways that are appropriate to their purpose. This covers a wide range of individual literacies, from visual literacy to traditional grammatical literacy to computer literacy and more. ASLA defines information literacy as “an information process where students can access, use, organise, create, present and evaluate information” (2009). This is a core skill required by all students in all stages of education, and is really, in my opinion, the “basics” that we should be getting back to – or, more accurately, moving forward to!

Information literacy is not just about the ability to succeed at school, however. Its impact is far broader than that. As we face a rapidly changing technological and information landscape, the skills that people need in everyday life are also changing, and the ability to critically evaluate and engage with new forms of information is a vital skills for all learners (Eisenberg, 2008, p.43). Bundy cites ALIA in referring to information literacy as an essential skill for lifelong learning, with impacts on social inclusion, knowledge creation, participative citizenship and empowerment on personal, corporate and organizational levels (2004, p4).

The role of the teacher librarian in ensuring that our students are information literate is paramount. In our positions in the information heart of the school, we have the ability to influence the learning culture that our students are immersed in by providing rich and meaningful information literacy experiences. Working collaboratively with classroom teachers to support the implementation of curriculum in meaningful ways allows us the opportunity to ensure that information literacy is an embedded way of thinking, not simply something that is learned for the exam and is then forgotten. This requires, in some cases, significant change in the learning culture of a school, as staff all need to support the idea that information literacy and curriculum are inextricably linked (Herring, 2011, p34). By ensuring that learning is meaningful and related to real world contexts, we ensure that our students become thoughtful participants in their world, able to engage and interact with the complex information processes that will surround them. What an exciting role to play!

References

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)/Australian School Library Association (ASLA). (2009)

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. DESIDOC Journal of Library and Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.

Herring, J. (2011). Assumptions, information literacy and transfer in high schools. Teacher Librarian, 38(3), 32-36.

 

The Library and Me – Leadership Reflections

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ETL504 Assignment 2 Part B

This semester has been challenging for me. Whilst grappling with the demands of postgraduate study (why did I think this would be easy again???) I’ve been dealing with challenges at work, as we have been negotiating some of the competing and conflicting priorities around budgeting and resource allocation, and ever-present personal political agendas. My study has also given me many opportunities to reflect on the role I play in the learning culture of my school, and the way in which my leadership impacts on those around me. It’s an eye-opening experience!

It has been challenging for me to examine the way people have been discussing the library this year since I have taken it over, and the resistance I have found from some colleagues has been surprising (Rodgers, 2014a) I have always considered the library a special place (Rodgers, 2014b) so it has been somewhat surprising for me to recognise that other educational leaders in my school don’t see it that way. It’s also been interesting to see people’s changing perceptions of my role within the school. Over the past 8 years I have developed a reputation as a hard-working enthusiastic team member, and have led a number of key initiatives that have contributed positively to the learning culture of our school. Over the first semester of 2014, many staff members appeared to stop seeing me as an educational leader in our school, and instead viewed me as their photocopy assistant, air conditioning controller, and keeper of the computer lab keys, as these were their primary interactions with our previous TL.

Creating a new paradigm for leadership in the library, then, is my continuing challenge. To boldly go where no TL has gone before – in my school, at least. My readings around leadership this semester have really helped me consolidate my views on my own leadership style (Rodgers, 2014c) as servant leadership, which I believe fits nicely in the library landscape. As Bonanno (2011) discusses, it’s vitally important as teacher librarians that we create a sense of our own value and worth, and facilitate an environment where our colleagues recognise this, and see us as professionals with something to offer them, particularly with the advent of the new curriculum and it’s general capabilities which fit so nicely into the library framework (ACARA, 2013).

It has been encouraging throughout this course to recognise that what I do instinctively as past of my leadership style (although I’d never have called myself a leader before!) actually fits some of the recommendations for effective leadership in the literature. For example, Belisle’s (2005) discussion on effective school leadership as requiring “collegiality, cooperation, partnership, respect for all, and mutual support” resonates strongly with my collaborative and supportive approach to leadership. The importance of deep communication through collaboration is something that I strive to do in my everyday interactions, and I reflected on in an earlier blog post (Rodgers, 2014d). The ability of individuals to make a difference no matter what their title is a principle that I model daily, both to staff and to students, encouraging those around me to recognise the potential of their visions, and their ability to contribute positively to a situation, whether it be a lunchtime minecraft building session or a planning meeting to organise a schoolwide program. This is reflected as an important principal of teacher leadership by Collay (2011), who recognises the valuable role of teachers at all levels of the school hierarchy in leading change.

 

Whilst my role as self proclaimed library lover has meant that I have always been an advocate of the importance of a well resourced library in schools, I must confess that I previously viewed the primary role of librarian as the custodian of books, in the same way that many others might see it (Purcell, 2010). The complexities of the leadership role that faces the TL cover not only areas of adolescent literature, but also collegial responsibilities for curriculum and pedagogy, the changing face of information, and the challenges posed by a dynamic and ever-changing technological landscape (Herring, 2007). The teacher librarian is concerned far more with people than pages, and this realisation has been perhaps my biggest mind-shift since taking over this role, and over the course of my study this semester.

So, where to from here? I’m sure that there are many more realisations I will encounter during my studies. But what I’ve learned so far is that the library is a living organism, which feeds the learning soul of the school. One respondent to the recent 21st Library Futures report referred to the school as an ecosystem, and wondered what would happen when you removed the giant tree that lived in the centre of the field – how would this impact life that depends on it? (NSWDET, 2010, p4). I love this idea – the interconnectedness of teaching and learning, focused around the library as an ecological necessity. Without it, providing shelter and food to the wildlife, holding the soil together, creating the life-giving oxygen that the inhabitants need, the entire ecosystem would crumble. Such is the power of an effective school library, and the responsibility of the teacher librarian to ensure through their leadership that the library continues to live and breath its essential purpose. What an exciting responsibility to have!

References

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2013, January). F-10 Overview. Retrieved October 2, 2014, from The Australian Curriculum:www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Curriculum/Overview

Belisle, C. (2005). The teacher as leader: Transformational leadership and the professional teacher or teacher-librarian. School Libraries in Canada Online, 24(3), 73 – 78. http://www.clatoolbox.ca/casl/slic/SLICVol24issue3.pdf

Bonanno, K (2011) A profession at the tipping point: time to change the game plan. http://vimeo.com/31003940

Collay, M. (2011). Teaching is leading. Everyday teacher leadership: Taking action where you are (pp. 75-108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher Librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp.27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), 30-33.

Rodgers, T (2014a) A STEEP learning curve – the Library landscape. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/10/07/steeplearningcurve/

Rodgers, T (2014b) Library Girls!! And Boys. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/11/librarygirlsandboys/

Rodgers, T (2014c) Forum post 1.

Rodgers, t (2014d) Leading from the library. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2014/08/20/leadingfromthelibrary/

 

 

A STEEP learning curve – the Library Landscape

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I’ve found the varied discussions of others’ school library contexts interesting – it’s like peering through the Playschool windows into other worlds! It has also helped me focus my attention on the strengths of my own context at Evans High School, and allowed me to take stock of what our opportunities are for development in the future.

So, my STEEP analysis of the library@Evans!

Social: in previous years, the library was massively under-utilised, with students only coming in to use a power point if their phones needed charging, or escape from the rain or heat. There were many behaviour referrals as a result of negative incidents taking place in the library during break times, and seniors rarely used the space during free or study periods.
When I took over at the start of 2014, we implemented many changes to the space. As a result, the library is now used very differently. Students gather during break times to play games, read, sit quietly in one of the soft comfortable spaces around the building, or hang out with their friends. There is a lot of positive interaction going on, as students collaborate on building worlds in minecraft or clash of clans, play card games or chess, watch movies, or chat. There is a committed group of students who are running a “library warriors” group, organising library displays and activities, and contributing ideas about future directions of the library.
Our school library caters to the mainstream high school (coed 7-12), an intensive English centre with a fluctuating population of a wide range of cultures and backgrounds, and an autism unit. One of the key strengths of the library socially is that it provides a nurturing safe space for this diverse community to interact with each other, and build some positive connections.
Staff are also more actively involved in the library, with CAPA staff working with classes to create works that can be featured in our gallery spaces. Other staff frequently visit to help students with study or research both in break times and senior study periods, and engage with students by playing cards or chatting about what’s happening. It’s a vibrant, lovely, wonderful space to spend my days!

Technological: our previous principal was focused on making our library a technology centre, and created three computer labs in the building which take up a huge amount of the floor space. We have three labs which each have 24 computers and a data projector, and DER wifi throughout the building.
We are about to add mobile devices to our technology arsenal, with 10 laptops and 20 iPads being available for student use, as well as a trial of a number of different ereader and tablet devices.
Our BYOD/BYOT policy is about to be implemented, which will mean that students will be able to bring their own devices in and connect to the school wifi. As we have just lost our DER TSO position, much of the management of this program will be done in the library, and by me as both TL and technology team member.
The recent departure of our DER TSO position has meant that there have been changes in the way that school-supplied technology is supported in our school. (All students from Yr10-12 have a DER laptop, with IEC students able to borrow one from the school pool of laptops during their enrolment). As this position was previously located in the library, there is a natural inclination amongst students to continue to see the library as their support hub for technology issues.

Economic: In recent years, the library budget has been minimal. As my position in the library is a trial, it was also supported with an increase in budget from both the high school and IEC, and support for additional technology purchases for the library from the Technology Team based on my support of ongoing ICT initiatives in the school. There has also been allowance made for additional funds across the school for beautification projects, which has led to a pool of money being made available for painting and new library supplies.

Environmental: Our school has a strong focus on recycling, and the library has a number of paper recycling bins around. Our SRC runs an aluminium can recycling program, and the library is a central focus of that, with dedicated can recycling bins at the front door. We are developing a “freecycling” policy, which encourages students to think about ways to be environmentally friendly in their disposal of unwanted items – is there some way it could be reused or repurposed, or rehomed to someone who may be able to make use of it? We are also holding an art competition in Term 4 where artworks and sculptures will be only able to be produced with books that have been weeded from our library collection, and will be included as part of a gallery wall which is going to feature a shelf unit constructed from old encyclopaedias. Much of the soft furnishing which has recently been added to the library (couches, cushions, etc) has been sourced from donations from our school community, both saving it from landfill and creating an awareness of the benefits of giving things new homes, rather than purchasing new.

Political: This for me is the really interesting one. There are a number of office spaces in the library which are being used by individuals, and the space is then not available for the wider community. Changes in the library are being resisted, because of personal politics, and personal agendas about maintaining space which is seen as “theirs”. There is some resistance to change from the supervising library Head Teacher as well, who was responsible for overseeing the previous librarian, and perhaps feels that the change in position reflects poorly on her management of the library in previous years. It’s a minefield, but there is also a lot of support from the senior exec, as well as from teachers who have seen the changes that have happened so far, and are excited for what might come in the future.

Leading from the Library

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Action figure librarian, by Jan Eliot (http://librarycartoons.wordpress.com)

Leading From The Library (ETL504 Assignment 1, Part 2)

The teacher librarian is uniquely positioned within the complex school context to be able to demonstrate leadership in many areas. What I love about the teacher librarian as leader is the interconnectedness inherent in their role. Not stuck at the top of the tree developing vertigo, or stuck at ground level drowning in dirt and fertiliser, the teacher librarian is afforded the opportunity to branch out into multiple and diverse facets of the school, influencing and impacting teaching and learning, welfare, and school culture in many ways.

One leadership concept which resonated with me from our study of management and leadership in schools was the idea of leader as editor (Fishburne). The notion of the teacher librarian as one who synthesises the ideas and input from individuals into a cohesive story, which shapes the direction of the organisation as a whole sits well with the way that the library I am working in now is beginning to function. It’s a challenging one to achieve though, and whilst there are enormous possibilities in working with such a diverse range of groups and individuals, there are also great challenges. Overcoming preconceived ideas about the role of the TL has certainly been a hurdle I have faced this year. Many staff have considered my key role is the provision of photocopier assistance, and their personal heat adjustment specialist (ie controlling the aircon). However, there have been some cultural shifts in the library which have led to exciting opportunities for collaboration.

The success of this change will be the success with which new traditions are formed in the library space, both for the students and the teachers who form an integral part of the library community. Kotter refers to this change as being a shift in traditions which requires strong positive support from the majority of the organisation. The challenge for the teacher librarian, then, in leading this change, is to examine the ways in which the majority (if not all) of the staff in the school can be encouraged to embrace change, and to participate in the growth of the library as a centre for learning.

Leadership in the library, then, is primarily an endeavour which is reliant on connection – a central element in developing and sustaining effective teams (Aguilar). Developing positive and productive lines of communication with staff from different faculties and teams is often a challenging one, especially when faced with competing agendas and priorities. Leadership which is servant focused is something that I believe is important in this context then (Marzano, p17). By creating a culture in which staff see me as someone who is supportive of their personal goals and needs, and fostering positive relationships, I believe that I as teacher librarian leader have great agency in developing positive growth for the school in general, and the library in particular. Like Tapscott’s starling murmuration, working together we are able to achieve a school culture in which success is intrinsically link to everyone’s achievement, not simply the goals of an individual. The possibilities for leadership as part of the whole for the teacher librarian are exciting, don’t you think?

References:

Aguilar, E. (n.d.). Effective teams: The key to transforming schools? K-12 Education & Learning Innovations with Proven Strategies that Work | Edutopia. Retrieved May 29, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-teams-transform-schools-elena-aguilar

Fishburne, T. (n.d.) 8 types of leader. http://tomfishburne.com/2011/10/8-types-of-leader.html

Kotter, J. (n.d.). The 8-step process for leading change. Kotter International – Innovative Strategy Implementation Professionals. Retrieved May 29, 2013, from http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/changesteps/changesteps

Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). Some theories and theorists on leadership. School leadership that works: From research to results (pp. 13-27). Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved May 29, 2014 from www.csuau.eblib.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/patron/Read.aspx.

Tapscott, D. (n.d.) Four principles for the open world. http://embed.ted.com/talks/don_tapscott_four_principles_for_the_open_world_1.html

 

Library Girls!! And Boys. :-)

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Otherwise known as, “The Role of the Teacher Librarian”. OLJ Blog Post 1

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Just Call Me Library Girl! image created by Jennifer LaGarde (2011)

As I reflect on my understanding of the role of the Teacher Librarian in schools, I’m struck by how formative my own experiences with Teacher Librarians have been in my understanding of what they SHOULD be like. I had a librarian in primary school who made me hate the place, as the one time this shy little girl ventured to tell him about why I loved the book I’d just returned (the newly released George’s Marvellous Medicine, if you’re interested) he pointed to the “Silence in the Library” sign and turned away. I’m sure, looking back, he’d probably had a bad day with the Year 6 class he’d taken before lunch, and hadn’t had time to use the bathroom or finish the coffee he’d made himself upon arriving at school that morning. The sign probably didn’t say “Silence in the Library” either, that’s most likely an effect of my Doctor Who obsession. But the episode still stands as one that impacted me deeply, and led to my close relationship with my municipal librarian. It also meant that one of the most prolific readers at Wallerawang Public School rarely ventured into her school library again.

I had two librarians in high school, however, who redeemed the profession for me. The first, Mrs Compton, was an angel who created a safe space in her walls, and introduced me to Atticus Finch. She never paid attention to how many books were currently listed on my borrowing card as being loaned, and studiously ignored the “TWO BOOKS AT A TIME” rule above her counter. The second, whose name for the life of me I don’t recall, created an academically challenging environment for his senior students. He paid attention to what we were doing in our classes, and provided us with brain teasers around the concepts we were looking at in 3UMaths, or provided us with journal articles about the legal cases we were analysing. And he’d wander through the study area quoting my favourite TS Eliot poem, varying expression and tone, and challenging us to think about exactly what Prufrock was trying to say.

It’s in that vein that I think about my own role in this wonderful profession. There’s a lot to negotiate. Competing priorities to colleagues, executive, students, and community in so many different areas. When I was asked towards the end of last year if I’d like to take on our school library for a year, I jumped at the chance, but in my head, I had a particular idea about what that meant. I thought I was aware of all the requirements of the job, but mentally I was focused (quite delightfully, I must admit) on the fact that I’d be getting paid to spend my days in a building full of books. The enormity of what faced me took a little time to hit, like an avalanche of, well, books from an overstacked to-be-read pile. (I’m not alone in having one of them, right?)

So, what do we Library Girls and Boys face? It’s way more than just buying pretty new books (although that is fun!) The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001) see the Teacher Librarian’s role as covering three key areas: curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager. Purcell (2010) breaks these roles down further, and refers to teacher librarians as leaders, program administrators, information specialists and instructional partners. Given the complexities of the tasks that a Teacher Librarian might find themselves faced with in a school, I tend to agree with Herring’s (2007) inclination to provide a wide range of possible role descriptors for the Teacher Librarian, which allow for diversity and differentiation depending on their individual context, rather than tying the TL down to a specific job criteria. Lamb (2011) emphasises the importance of negotiating a balance between the often competing demands of the career, and not placing emphasis on one element (eg teaching and learning) over another (eg collegial collaboration). It’s far more complex than just making sure there are books on the shelves!

In many respects, the role of the TL is hugely dependent on their school context, and the needs and expectations of the community that they are serving. This is a departure from the standards that a traditional classroom teacher is used to dealing with, as outlined in the AITSL National Teaching Standards, because of the many and varied requirements of the Teacher Librarian. ASLA’s recent work on tying the professional standards to the role of the Teacher Librarian will hopefully lead towards a stronger recognition of the professional skills of the TL, in the areas of professional knowledge, professional commitment and professional practice.

I think about the librarians in my past, and wonder how they’d negotiate the changes in their career if they were facing a 21st century library. If, as well as negotiating paper book literacy, they were dealing with ICT literacy, the widening responsibilities of social and cultural awareness that faces teachers today, the conflicts of BYOD, global education, ever-increasing complexity in curriculum requirements, and the myriad other expectations that are heaped on their cape-wearing-shoulders. Maybe they did deal with some of that, and little girl curled up with Scout Finch and Margaret Simon after the lunch bell rang didn’t notice. That’s probably an indication that they were doing their job well. But I’m very grateful to them for their services. And I hope I can be the kind of teacher librarian who will do them, and that little girl, proud.

 

References:

Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx

Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001).  Learning for the future:  Developing information services in schools (2nd ed.).  Carlton South, Vic:  Curriculum Corporation.

Herring, J. (2007). Teacher Librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (ed.) Libraries in the twenty-first century: charting new directions in information (pp.27-42). Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Lamb, A Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette, TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning. Jul2011, Vol. 55 Issue 4, p27-36. 10p

Purcell, M. (2010). All librarians do is check out books right? A look at the roles of the school library media specialist. Library Media Connection 29(3), pp30-33

Welcome to the inside …

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Hi there! Welcome to my Thinkspace blog, set up to support my study of the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship).

I’m a High School English teacher thrust (very willingly!) into the world of teacher librarianship this year. I was completely unprepared for the steepness of the learning curve, and caught off guard by how quickly I would be infected by this wonderful new career path. I work at a wonderful public school in Western Sydney. I have a husband who has put up with me for almost 20 years now, a 20 year old military history nut son, a 14 year old fangirl and book nerd, and an 11 year old dancer who has just discovered her first literary crush. I’m so proud. I also have a 1 year old grand daughter, an obsession with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, an unhealthy disrespect for my own sleep needs, and a somewhat related coffee addiction. Oh, and I like books. A lot.

I blog somewhat sporadically about my work at www.tamararodgers.edublogs.org, and tweet about a whole bunch of things, some of them even educational!! @tamararodgers74. I’m a Regional Coordinator for the Global Education Project in my spare time, and am passionate about a whole raft of things educational … social media, engagement, literacy, community involvement, welfare, ICT, and books. Did I mention I like the books? I did? Ok.

So, that’s my late night intro to me. I’m assuming if you are reading this you are either (a) studying with me, or (b) assessing me, so (a) commiserations to you, I’m sure we’ll get through it, and (b) you are looking quite lovely tonight. Hi. 🙂