Little Green Librarian

Blogging my way through a Masters in Teacher Librarianship at CSU!

Through a glass, darkly: A critical reflection on my changing understanding of the role of a teacher librarian

May24

Image of winter trees reflected in a pool of water.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12

(Bible Hub, 2012)

I have a confession to make. Before undertaking Introduction to Teacher Librarianship, I held a somewhat romantic view of the role of a teacher librarian (TL). That’s not to say that I thought the role was without complexity, but I certainly had no idea of its extent. I devoured the initial readings of the course, reflecting to myself that I was already undertaking many of the roles discussed in the literature, even without knowing it! I felt confident that I had made the right career choice.

By the time I came to write my first official blog post (Roach, 2014, March 23), the numerous roles of the TL that I was reading about were beginning to compete for space. In this post, I noted the following roles: curriculum leader, information specialist, information services officer, leader, program administrator, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, model of digital citizenship & IL, literature champion, manager, accountant, and curator (ASLA/ALIA, 2001; Hardy, 2010; Herring, 2007; Purcell, 2010). This vast, unruly assortment of ideas reflected the state of my mind – I was approaching a point of feeling utterly overwhelmed! I was finding it difficult to determine what was important (Warlick, 2007, p.21). Anyone familiar with Kuhlthau’s Information Search Process (ISP) (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2012, p.19) will recognise that I was firmly entrenched in the ‘exploration’ phase, feeling confused and frustrated.

A moment of clarity came when I began reading about the ISP and recognised where I was in the process. Understanding this helped me to refine my ideas and go deeper, which led to a more focused second blog post (Roach, 2014, April 22). In this post, I noted the following roles of a TL: evidence gatherer, researcher, teacher, instructional partner, and advocate (Kramer & Diekman, 2010; Kuhlthau, 2007; Todd, 2008). This narrower focus helped me to look more deeply at exactly what this aspect of the role entailed, rather than simply listing every possible aspect that I had read. I was beginning to synthesise what I was reading.

By the time I came to write my third blog post (Roach, 2014, May 12), I was far more confident in my ideas and felt a sense of purpose. Here I noted the following roles of a TL: leader, Guided Inquiry designer, learner, master of intervention, and advocate of life-long learning (Kuhlthau, Maniotes & Caspari, 2013; Maniotes, 2013). In discussing information literacy and Guided Inquiry on the forums, I began to express my opinions with conviction.

The final stages of the ISP are presentation and assessment. These phases are presently playing out as I complete my final assignment and this reflection blog post. I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I near the end of the semester, thus completing a cycle of the ISP process and opening myself up to ask yet more questions, which will begin new ISP cycles in future subjects and throughout my career.

As someone who seeks to be excellent at everything, it can be frustrating to realise that it will take time to be great at every aspect of the TL role. Looking back over the different aspects I have explored in my blog posts, a TL certainly can be all of the things I noted, but it is more prudent to take it one challenge at a time. I now see my career path as my own Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978, p.86). As a teacher, I would not expect a student to understand and accomplish everything at once, so why do I expect it of myself? Rather than exploring all of the aspects of a TL’s role in a shallow way in order to be seen to be doing it all, it is infinitely better to explore each aspect individually, at great depth.

I began this blog post with a biblical quote that serves as an apt metaphor for the growth I have experienced and will continue to experience throughout my life. My understanding of each aspect of the role of a TL begins vaguely, as though I am looking into a darkened mirror. As the picture becomes less murky, the boundaries are better defined. One day, I will see it all perfectly clearly, but that day is not today. However, with each new thing I learn, the image of what I want to be becomes clearer. I am a better TL today than I was yesterday, and tomorrow I will be even better. Knowing this frees me to explore and learn in the same way I want my students to explore and learn. Now, instead of being frustrated because I am not instantly perfect, I am enjoying the journey.

 

References

ASLA/ALIA (2001).  Learning for the future:  Developing information services in schools (2nd ed.).  Carlton South, Vic:  Curriculum Corporation.

Bible Hub. (2012). 1 Corinthians 13: King James Bible [web page]. Retrieved from: http://biblehub.com/kjv/1_corinthians/13.htm

Hardy, L. (2010). The Future of Libraries: What Roles are Your Media Center and Media Specialist Playing in Helping Your Students Navigate the Age of Information. American School Board Journal 197(1), 22-26.

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.

Kramer, P. K. & Diekman, L. (2010). Evidence = Assessment = Advocacy. Teacher Librarian, 37(3), pp.27-30.

Kuhlthau, C.C. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Libraries Unlimited. Westport, Conn.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K., & Caspari, A.K. (2012). Guided Inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2013) Guided Inquiry Design. http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/guided_inquiry_design.htm

Maniotes, L.K. (2013). Guided Inquiry Design Intro pt 2 Learning how to learn. Accessed May 12th, 2014 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7SoZYKBh6g

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

Roach, K. (2014, March 23). The role of the teacher librarian [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/littlegreenlibrarian/2014/03/23/the-role-of-the-teacher-librarian/

Roach, K. (2014, April 22). Evidence: Not such a dirty word [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/littlegreenlibrarian/2014/04/22/evidence-not-such-a-dirty-word/

Roach, K. (2014, May 12). Implementing a Guided Inquiry approach [blog post]. Retrieved from: http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/littlegreenlibrarian/2014/05/12/implementing-a-guided-inquiry-approach/

Todd, R. (2008). The evidence-based manifesto. School Library Journal, 54(4), pp.38-43.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Warlick, D. (2007). Literacy in the new information landscape. Library Media Connection, 26, pp.20-21

 

Image source: Reflection by Antranius. Retrieved from: http://pixabay.com/en/nature-source-fountain-water-254951/

Implementing a Guided Inquiry Approach

May12

Cartoon image of a person coming up with an idea.

Throughout my life, I have had a number of moments of clarity in which I have heard or read something that has helped me understand myself better. The most recent moment of clarity came a few weeks ago when I began reading and learning about Carol Kuhlthau’s body of work on Information Search Process (ISP) and the subsequent development of the Guided Inquiry (GI) approach to learning (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2013). Although there are many models of inquiry and scaffolds to help people research, process and present information, Kuhlthau’s ISP and GI approach are unique. In ISP, she outlines not only the actions that the researcher takes, but also how they feel at each stage of the process. Like knowing the roller coaster’s track before riding, understanding how the emotional roller coaster would play out as I researched was a significant discovery for me!

 Image of a roller coaster.

As learners, so often we approach preparation for an assignment assuming that the more information we learn about the subject, the more confident we will feel and the better our assignment will be. Kuhlthau’s extensive research paints a very different picture. Consistently, learners experience a significant dip in their confidence not too far into the research process. This dip is associated with information overload at the general level – in seeking to ‘get a grip’ on the topic at hand, we tend to read so much general information that we can’t work out what’s important and what’s not. This is why the ‘guided’ part of Guided Inquiry is so important. To the learner, the intervention of a wise guide at this moment of doubt and confusion can make the way forward much clearer. In fact, targeted support at each stage of the inquiry process can help students develop lifelong learning skills that have broad application throughout their lives. Read more about GI here and watch the video below for an overview of why this approach turns learners into lifelong learners.

So what is the best way for a Teacher Librarian to implement the Guided Inquiry approach? Ideally, a whole-school approach is called for. Consistency in the model and language used across the school will provide the best possible basis for a successful Guided Inquiry program, with the teacher librarian providing support to teachers and students alike. Teacher librarians can design GI units with teachers, as well as teaching students the different stages of ISP and providing targeted intervention and support throughout the process.

If a whole-school approach is not possible at this point in time, GI can still be implemented in individual classrooms or in smaller-scale projects. Often such projects can be a great time to collect local evidence of the success of GI, which can then be used to promote wider uptake in the future. The key is to give it a go and to build on your success over time.

Implementing Guided Inquiry may initially be a challenge, but it is certainly worth the effort. Syllabus content becomes more meaningful to students and they are more engaged in their own learning – and that’s what school should be all about!

References

Kuhlthau, C.C., Maniotes, L.K. & Caspari, A.K. (2013) Guided Inquiry Design. http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/~kuhlthau/guided_inquiry_design.htm

Maniotes, L.K. (2013). Guided Inquiry Design Intro pt 2 Learning how to learn. Accessed May 12th, 2014 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7SoZYKBh6g

 

Images 

Idea by OpenClips. Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/idea-invention-inventor-thinking-152213/

Roller Coaster by OpenClips. Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/roller-coaster-rollercoaster-156147/

Embrace the question mark!

April30

A hand points to a question mark in the sky

One of the YouTube videos I watched as part of my studies was a snippet of an interview with Michael Wesch, an American cultural anthropologist. In the video, he calls on teachers to encourage their students to “embrace the question mark,” a sentiment that struck me as being a most excellent phrase to use in the library! (If you’re short on time, start the video from the 1:30 mark)

Immediately I started thinking about library lessons in which I would use the question mark symbol as a starting point for discussions about what it means to be a digital citizen. I envisioned a display with a giant question mark in the middle and lots of questions written by students all around it. I remembered the National Geographic channel magnet on my fridge that says, “Live Curious,” and I thought about what a great motto for life it is.

I really love those moments when sparks go off in my head and I am inspired, even by a simple phrase. It is that electricity that helps us inspire our students.

So, thank you Mr Wesch. I’ll be borrowing your wonderful phrase and using it to help my students embrace the question mark in their lives.

 

References

1105Education. (2012). Michael Wesch on Knowledgeable vs Knowledge-able. Accessed April 30, 2014 from www.youtube.com/watch?v=z56SNAQNOqs

Image source: Question by geralt. Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/hand-index-finger-high-great-show-76738/

A fundamental shift

April22

Well, it has happened. Uni has officially altered my brain and patterns of behaviour. It all started while I was looking for some information a few weeks ago…

As I was preparing a forum task response, I found myself mining subscription databases like nobody’s business for gems of information that I could refer to in my forum post. Peer-reviewed articles, if you please. Once I was ready, I jumped onto the forum, posted and read through some other student comments. It was then that I realised I had done something incredibly different, or rather I had not done something. I hadn’t ‘googled it’.

Image of the Google logo with a magnifying glass hovering over it

And there it was. ‘Googling’ has been my go-to for so long, but it only took a few weeks of uni to change my thought patterns entirely. Where once I would have started my search for information with a quick Google or Wikipedia search, there I was having forgotten to do it altogether. My brain has changed forever!

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not against using Wikipedia as a starting point for an information search. And Google is super quick and easy to use when you’ve forgotten a web address. But we all know that the information Google gives us is heavily biased in favour of companies that pay them money for advertising, and that Wikipedia entries are not always 100% reliable. But one of the key roles of teacher librarians is that of information guide – we help students develop the skills they need to identify the need for information, work out the best place to find it, and successfully navigate their way through the flood of information they are faced with every day. Google and Wikipedia just don’t cut it when deep information is required.

This got me thinking: Are students as tech-savvy as we keep saying they are? According to Combes (2007, p.18), “The emerging body of research on the ’Net Generation largely debunks the myth of an intuitive user who is capable of using electronic resources to find information.” We’ve spent so long calling young people ‘tech-savvy’ and ‘digital natives’, that most of us have barely stopped to think whether or not our students truly are information literate. We must be careful not to confuse enthusiasm to use technology, and a willingness to have a go, with the ability to navigate it successfully. (Combes, 2007)

So, what does it take to break Google or Wikipedia addiction in students? As with many things in life, education is the key. If we teach our students exactly how Google works, it logically follows that they will be more cautious about how they use it and will be more equipped to make a better decision based on the context of what they are looking for. If we show students how to determine the value of a Wikipedia article by referring to the history of the document as well as keeping an eye out for flags, they are far more likely to use Wikipedia as a starting point rather than the ‘be all and end all’ of their information search. If our students learn how to be good digital citizens, they are far less likely to plagiarise what they view on the internet.

It also comes back to expectations. If we give clear expectations to our students at the outset of a task, such as minimum quantities of sources to reference and use of Creative Commons images, we are more likely to see our students producing work of a higher quality. If our expectations are low, results will inevitably vary wildly.

Technology and information access certainly affects the way we think and process information, but bad habits can be broken. The younger the better, I say!

 

References

Combes, B. (2007). Techno-savvy or Just Techno-oriented?: What Does the Research Tell Us about the Information-seeking Behaviour of the ‘Net Generation? Access, 21(2), pp.17-20.

 

Image source: Google Search by Simon. Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/google-search-engine-76522/

Evidence – not such a dirty word!

April22

Detective

Evidence. It’s not a particularly popular word in educational settings. Often it is equated with long hours of dotting i’s, crossing t’s and towering piles of paperwork. But in the current educational climate, can we do without it?

Most teacher librarians know that they have an impact on student achievement, a generally accepted fact that is supported by academic research. But is academic research conducted elsewhere enough to convince our colleagues and the wider community that a particular teacher librarian has a positive impact on particular students in a particular context? (Kramer & Diekman, 2010, p.27) Without this local evidence, our educational communities are guessing at our value as much as we are! It is this ambiguity that leaves room for budget and personnel cuts to be made and for levels of support to plummet. “It is therefore incumbent on teacher-librarians to measure at the local level their contributions to student learning and to communicate to their stakeholders.” (Kramer & Diekman, 2010, p.27)

But what kinds of evidence do we need to collect to convince others of our value? According to Ross Todd, “Evidence-based practice recognises multiple sources, types of evidence, and ways of gathering evidence.” (Todd, 2008, p.40) He lists the following examples of evidence we might collect:

  • Student interviews or portfolios
  • Reflection and process journals
  • Formative and summative assessment tasks
  • Standards-based scoring guides and rubrics
  • Surveys of students and teachers
  • Pre-test and post-test measures
  • Student-generated products
  • State-wide [or national] assessments
  • Skills measurements
  • Ongoing performance-based assessments
  • General student data
  • Systematically recorded observations

Looking through this list, many of these tasks are ones that might be set for students to complete during any given learning experience – it’s not such a stretch to utilise this same data for our own purposes! It all starts with intention. If we set out to gather evidence, it can easily be incorporated into our planning, collected during and after learning experiences, and collated into clearly articulated reports that can be given to stakeholders. The key is intention in our planning.

The richer the learning task, the more evidence that can potentially be gathered on the impact of the teacher librarian and library programs on student achievement. And, of course, the richer the task, the more likely that the impact will be positive and deep! Guided Inquiry is one approach that a teacher librarian and teacher team might take in developing a rich learning task. The bulk of the team’s work happens at the planning phase, which is where evidence-gathering can be factored in. “With thoughtful planning and a keen awareness of the students’ experience, the Guided Inquiry team can adopt assessment techniques that provide data on the different kinds of learning in an inquiry unit.” (Kuhlthau, 2007, p.113) Once planning is complete, the team are freed up during the actual learning experience to work closely with students and have a far-reaching effect on student progress. The real winners here are the students, which makes any ensuing paperwork worth the effort.

Evidence isn’t such a dirty word – it is straightforward to collect with good planning, learning becomes richer, and all stakeholders benefit. Oh, and you get to show just how important your role as teacher librarian is to student achievement, which might just save your bacon!

 

References

Kramer, P. K. & Diekman, L. (2010). Evidence = Assessment = Advocacy. Teacher Librarian, 37(3), pp.27-30.

Kuhlthau, C. (2007). Guided inquiry: Learning in the 21st century. Libraries Unlimited. Westport, Conn.

Todd, R. (2008). The evidence-based manifesto. School Library Journal, 54(4), pp.38-43.

 

Image source: Detective by Open Clips. Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/sherlock-holmes-detective-147255/

Quality Teaching with Inquiry Learning and Project-Based Learning

April20

Children investigating

There would be few teachers or teacher librarians who would be happy to say that their teaching was not of a high ‘quality’, but the term ‘Quality Teaching’ has come to mean more than the sum of its parts. In New South Wales, where I work, a Quality Teaching Framework (NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2006) has been implemented in an attempt to standardise the quality that a student can expect when they walk into a government school classroom. Of course, quality still varies, but that’s a discussion for another day!

In the last decade or so, two approaches to learning have come to the forefront: Inquiry Learning (IL) and Project-Based Learning (PBL). These two approaches can help teachers and teacher librarians achieve the status of a ‘Quality Teacher’, as their principles align beautifully with the Quality Teaching Framework.

IL begins with student curiosity and allows participants the opportunity to research and present their findings in meaningful contexts. In IL, “Students are involved simultaneously in learning about curriculum content, information literacy, the learning process, literacy ability, and social interaction (Kuhlthau, et. al., 2007, p112).”

PBL “integrates knowing and doing. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter (Markham, 2011, p38).” The video below explains what PBL is all about.

The Quality Teaching Framework lists three overarching concepts that help define what quality teaching looks like: intellectual quality, quality learning environment and significance. Intellectual quality is about deep learning, higher-order thinking and substantive communication. Quality learning environment is about building relationships and setting high, explicit expectations for students. Significance is about connecting learning to the world outside the classroom, both to the student’s personal experience and culture, and to meaningful, relevant experiences. (NSW Department of Education and Communities, 2006). These ideas fit very well with the concepts of IL and PBL. The idea of significance is particularly relevant, as students are able to participate in meaningful, connected tasks and present their acquired knowledge and deep understanding to real audiences.

So, where does the teacher librarian fit in? One of the hats that a teacher librarian can wear is that of “instructional partner”. Purcell (2010, p31) defines this role, in part, as being able to, “participate in curriculum design and assessment, [and] help teachers develop instructional activities”. In the context of IL and PBL, teacher librarians can participate in planning rich, deep inquiry tasks and projects with the teacher.

The benefits to the school of the active involvement of the teacher librarian in this kind of curriculum development are many. For example, the teacher librarian brings a rich understanding of the inquiry process as well as research skills and information literacy. Teacher librarians, with their dual qualification of both teacher and librarian, bring a dimension to the curriculum development process that would otherwise be absent. The benefits of including teacher librarians in the development of units of work and lessons are also bountiful. While principals do not always expect teachers to include the teacher librarian in planning, this is certainly a culture that should be encouraged. Our collective knowledge and skill-base is surely broader together! Schools that choose not to foster this process disadvantage their students. While the teacher librarian can certainly teach research and information literacy skills within library lessons, students benefit far more from integration of these skills into tasks across the curriculum.

Inquiry Learning and Project-Based Learning don’t have to be scary. Teachers working with teacher librarians have built-in support throughout the process and a sounding board for ideas. Planning units of work together shares the teacher’s burden,  gives the teacher librarian an authentic context within which to teach lifelong skills and allows students the opportunity to participate in engaging, memorable learning experiences. Everyone wins!

References

Buck Institute for Education. (2010). Project based learning: explained. Accessed April 17, 2014 from “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMCZvGesRz8

Kuhlthau, C. C., Caspari, A. K. & Maniotes, L. K. (2007). Guided inquiry: learning in the 21st century. Libraries Unlimited. Westport, Conn.

Markham, T. (2011). Project Based Learning. Teacher Librarian, 39(2), 38-42.

NSW Department of Education and Communities. (2006). Professional Learning and Leadership Development: Quality Teaching [website]. Accessed April 17, 2014 from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/areas/qt/

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), pp.30-33.

 

Image source: Children Investigate by patricialacolla. Public Domain.
http://pixabay.com/en/children-they-investigate-microscope-183007/

The Role of the Teacher Librarian

March23

girl reading

“I heart children’s literature.”

This phrase might as well be a bumper sticker on my car, not that anyone would need any written confirmation of the fact. My home office and bedroom are full of picture books and chapter books, which I procure on an almost weekly basis, not to mention the tubs of them in my Grandfather’s garage for safe keeping. Whenever I tell people I am studying to become a qualified teacher librarian, I am often met with encouraging nods and affirmations that it is exactly the right profession for me. After all, I do love books!

And I do. I really do. But the quaint librarian in the quiet library, looking adoringly at rows upon rows of books, as lovely as the image sounds, is not even close to the full picture.

The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) (2001) break the teacher librarian’s job description into three categories: curriculum leader, information specialist and information services manager. Others break these roles down further. Purcell (2010) sees teacher librarians as leaders, program administrators, instructional partners, information specialists and teachers. Others, such as Herring (2007), see the teacher librarian role as being so fluid it defies pinning down to a particular set of roles, choosing rather to suggest possible roles for the teacher librarian.

And our world is changing. Fast. The teacher librarian who refuses to engage with technology will be left behind, as will the students in his or her care. One of the most important emerging roles of teacher librarians is to teach children how to effectively, safely and ethically engage with the information they come across on the internet. According to Hardy (2010), “Students have more information at their disposal than ever before, but that doesn’t mean they are any better at evaluating it than their card-catalogue-bound predecessors.” Adults in general and teachers specifically often mistake children’s eagerness and tech-savvy tendencies for “digital literacy”, which is seldom the case. Students still require the coaching of a qualified information professional to help navigate through the murky waters of the internet.

The role of the teacher librarian is far more robust than many teachers realise. Yes, a teacher librarian will still read books with your Year 1 students, but is also able to partner with you to design units of work and assessment tasks that incorporate information literacy skills. He or she is likely to be a syllabus expert and will definitely be able to point you in the right direction to some brilliant resources that will help boost your lessons. Your teacher librarian is also working behind the scenes to manage the library collection as well as the library budget to ensure resources are acquired to meet the needs of all students and teachers across the school.

And in the last few moments of the day, after the students have gone home, your teacher librarian just might be taking in that delicious smell of books and looking adoringly at rows upon rows of books.

References

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.

Hardy, L. (2010). The Future of Libraries: What Roles are Your Media Center and Media Specialist Playing in Helping Your Students Navigate the Age of Information. American School Board Journal 197(1), 22-26.

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), pp30-33

 

Image source: Girl Reading by Open Clips. Public Domain. http://pixabay.com/en/girl-books-school-reading-learning-160172/


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