As a changing profession, we should be ensuring that we, as current or future Teacher Librarians are not only a “good fit”, but an “essential fit” for our schools.
As Lamb (2011) suggests, TLs must make a transformation from ‘managing physical resources toward facilitating information and technology’.
Similarly Purcell (2010) proposes that the school library become the ‘hub of the learning community’, and that it is the role of the TL to ‘make a difference in the way ‘teachers teach, and in the way students learn.’
How we do this is through continual growth in ourselves and the profession, learning new pedagogies, developing innovative teaching strategies and resources as part of a collaborative effort with classroom teachers.
This blog entry discusses my professional learning journey, covering three specific themes: the future focussed library, learning through projects and visible literacy, as I progress from ‘a bit of an idea on how things work’ to … a sound understanding from which I can embark into a new profession.
Of importance to note, I am not a practising Teacher Librarian, and have only two experiences upon which to draw from. Firstly, I was placed in the school library temporarily for 1 term, to support the TL due to an increase in allocation due to increased enrolment. I utilised this opportunity to its fullest with the implementation of a trial inquiry-learning module.
My next and only other experience was the 10 professional placement.
The future focused library
At the beginning of the M Ed TL course I had an “underwhelming” idea of what future focussed learning was. Nor was I fully aware of the kinds of Web 2.0 technology, that would be, or could be, applied to the school library.
The Melbourne declaration (MCEETYA 2008) identified opportunities for critical thinking, problem solving and the development of digital technology skills as key priorities for the educational and career futures of 21st century learners (STEM advisory team, Learning and Teaching Directorate, NSW DoE, 2016). Since then, there has been much focus and on what pedagogies are needed to meet this objective.
However, for me, “four” learning opportunities have added to the growth in my understanding of what a future focussed library would look like.
Firstly, during the subject INF506 I had the chance to dabble with wiki’s and blogs, and curation sites for the first time. This was when I first began to contemplate the opportunities of the TL to provide future focussed explicit instruction and implicit learning opportunities for the 21st century learner.
As the Teaching Standards apply to everyone I was already aware, that the role of the TL, like any teacher, is to educate students to be digitally aware students that are conscious of their own digital footprint.
However, INF506 provided new opportunities to learn how to use the unique “inter-operability” of Web 2.0 technologies as collaborative online learning spaces where learners have the ability to interact with other sites and platforms. I was specifically interested in having a working knowledge of the key criteria for effective library website design.
As a baseline to use as a guide of what I could aim for, I discovered, and was blown away by the bottomless pit of the ASU library’s website and online services. It is one thing learning the theory and value of harnessing the 4 C’s of Web 2.0, collaboration, conversation, community and content creation, but the value of seeing it put into action by ASU library, using new 2.0 technologies to connect with their students, was invaluable.
What an eye opener to what we can achieve for a 21st century library. Their use of digitization and portability of information is a leading example of what is needed for a library to not just survive, but thrive (O’Connell 2008, p. 52). An opportunity for the future awaits, I hope.
My second learning opportunity came while on my professional placement.
I recall my earlier observation is that the role of the TL is becoming more concerned with preparing students to become “Digital Citizens” and “life-long learners” ready for the 21st Century, than the traditional keeper of books.
The refurbishment of the school library provided another opportunity to learn how to “create” a future focussed library. Interestingly, an evidence-based study on the most influential physical factors that affect student learning found that most are connected to the natural elements such as air quality and temperature and natural light. Other than these natural elements, the study found that two main factors of importance are “flexibility”, being breakout spaces connected to the main spaces, and “complexity”, being a variety of learning spaces for learners to choose from (Barret et. al. 2015).
Hence school library spaces are being transformed. Filippi (2016) points out that students today need to be empowered with the skills to effectively use and interpret the huge increase in data found online in today’s learning environment. For this to occur, two changes in pedagogy are required. A focus on “Inquiry” learning models and new innovative learning spaces designed for collaborative and flexible learning. I am really excited that TLs have the opportunity to take a leading role in providing this new learning environment (Filippi 2016). Lindsay (2017) similarly points to the changes in pedagogy needed, so that learners have the necessary transferable skills, for global learning that occurs beyond the classroom. The report into School Libraries of the 21 century commissioned by the Literacy Unit of the NSW Department of Education (Education Matters), identified 3 major factors driving changes in the roles for educators such as Teacher Librarians, being an increase in:
• Online resources and social networks for learning
• Ubiquitous nature of mobile devices
• Need for digital media literacy
My third and most significant learning opportunity came via a Teacher Librarian network meeting. I had the opportunity to meet Sunny South, TL at Sydney Secondary School, Leichardt Campus who is transforming the school library with flexible spaces, a variety of learning tools, and activities that offer opportunities for innovative thinking. South (2017) writes, ‘With dynamic learning spaces and a range of learning tools, the school library easily becomes the most sort after learning environment in the school’. Hence, at the school where I did my professional experience placement, there was a focus on more collaborative, flexible learning spaces that can easily transform from explicit teaching to group work, with access to online digital technology at ones’ fingertips anywhere in the library space. To make way for this transformation, the non-fiction section was reduced dramatically to account for the increase in use of the internet for more up-to-date access to data, that books can no longer provide.
This third learning opportunity came in the form of professional learning. I had the opportunity to join a TL network group in Sydney for one day.
Just as the Learning and Teaching Directorate (2016) team suggests, an integrated STEM framework for implementation in all schools K-12, I was pleased to find the opportunity to learn a number of strategies to incorporate STEM and STEAM projects in the library, both Primary and Secondary. Some libraries are using Beebots and coding to assist in improving literacy skills, by targeting a chosen story/book and developing prediction tasks, literacy sequencing activities and “recount” tasks.
Littlebits are being used by some libraries to offer “maker-space” programs in order to promote innovation and creative thinking (little bits Educators guide) with forums and resource sharing ideas on the Littlebits’ .cc/browse-lessons website.
Then lastly, a fourth learning opportunity came in the form of a professional learning day facilitated by the NSW DET. I learned about choosing appropriate IT technology according to the “learning modes” using the DET’s Learning Tool Selector.
The principles derived from the Victorian DET study identify that pedagogical activities require specific spatial qualities to be effective. Each principle requires specific pedagogical approaches to support that principle, and these pedagogies are applied through the five core activities or modes. These modes have direct implications for learning settings and design (Fisher 2005).
Just as Parkes (2010) writes, Web 2.0 is transforming the school library. Not just by increasing the number of e-books and journals as readers turn to digital texts. But rather, it is because learners now use the internet to search, discover and find answers.
After some reflective reading, I now realise, that the TL of the 21st Century library is sooooo much more.
Project style learning in the school library
My second theme to explore for the professional learning reflective portfolio is the varied forms of learning which can be completed in the library through projects.
I purposefully avoid the terms Project-based learning or PBL as these can refer to a specific style of study, as opposed to other research styles such as Inquiry-based learning, or makerspaces, or blended learning styles, and others.
Schell’s (2006) investigation also included a combination of using blended learning styles utilising online collaboration and learning forums with PBL research tasks. That is to say, the library can be a vessel for many different types of project-style learning, combining traditional methods with 21st century digital learning tools.
I begin with my early experiences with projects conducted in the library, by remembering my previous school, where many faculties, including the HSIE faculty, suffered from TRS (Traditional Research Syndrome) a pedagogy that runs counter to the learning experienced through ISP (Maniotes 2014, p. 9). As Fitzgerald (2011, p. 27) points out, traditional methods of ‘go find out about’ research fail to link “First space” [the students world] and “Second space” [the school curriculum]. If student fail to connect these two spaces, then they can’t move onto “Third space” which is where they transform knowledge into deep understanding and make sense of the world.
Unfortunately, there was no digital media, no information literacy skills, no guided inquiry.
Just kids gathering information, “cut and paste” style and gluing them onto a poster along with pretty pictures, some of which had nothing to do with the topic. There was no deep learning or understanding….but they were pretty!
Full of enthusiasm and ideas gained from my study and wide reading in ETL401, I set about to initiate an Inquiry-based learning project, not only held in the school library but led by myself and the fulltime Teacher Librarian. With the support of the Principal, I set out to initiate the collaboration of two faculties, HSIE and Science, based on the fact that the Australian Curriculum specifically identifies these KLAs should be teaching inquiry-based learning. Along with the new inquiry-method of learning, we would implement some Information Literacy lessons that would be directly connected to assignments that students have been asked to complete. Students were taught how to identify a valid website that provides quality information useful for education versus commercial “.com” sites that might contain unverified data and or bias information. They were shown how to bookmark websites, make notes in their own words and include source citations at the same time before they forgot the source completely.
Barrett (2014) promotes the use of digital learning portfolios to support the principles of Assessment for Learning, as they help the learner tell their own story about their own learning. For our project, we chose to use “exit cards”.
Exit cards as well as journals/portfolios can be completed on paper as traditional methods dictate, or they could be in digital form which then adds to the level of digital literacy needed to access and use specific online learning tools. We chose digital form to improve students IT skills, which was a huge learning curve for some students, hence the decision was made to use exit cards at the end of each lesson, as a simpler task, rather than a reflective journal.
The inquiry project I initiated was very much related to the curriculum for each discipline.
However, the recent opportunity to attend a TL network meeting provided other insights into the types of projects being conducted at schools in and around Sydney.
However, the recent opportunity to attend a TL network meeting provided other insights into the types of projects being conducted at schools in and around Sydney.
As mentioned earlier, Sunny South is implementing STEM and STEAM projects in the school library at Sydney Secondary College, Leichardt campus, to promote problem-solving skills and creative and innovative thinking using VR technology, BeeBots, and Littlebits.
Tempe High School has just implemented PBL recently. The strategy is to pose a “driving question” for student to investigate and answer using a visual and written presentation. Common themes for this have been the cross-curricular priorities from the Australian Curriculum, of Sustainability, Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia, and Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Histories and Culture.
As PBL has been in place now long enough for there to be an analysis and evaluation, some recommendations have been made with regard to equity of student input and the identification of explicit group roles and allocated tasks. The use of a jigsaw puzzle to randomise the allocation of group roles, which also explicitly teach the expectation of each role within the group teaches collaboration skills, which are central to PBL, as well as student self-directed learning and decision making and problem-solving skills (Schell 2006).
Schell (2006) also points out the use of digital technology platforms within the blended learning models used in 2st century PBL, increased the learners retention of new knowledge due to the increase in visual, audio and authentic learning environments.
In my investigation of the “true” interpretation of visual literacy, I was first drawn to Michelson’s (2017) paper that alerts us to the Rochester school of thinking that children learn to interpret visual cues, including body language, before they begin to read and interpret words. Interestingly, the school of thought included the study of cultural anthropology and art history, in the development of the 2011 ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, which includes the ability to interpret the meanings of images and evaluate, analyse and use images effectively for communication.
While on a recent trip to South America, while visiting the Pre-colombia museum of anthropology I was reminded that visual literacy had been around for thousands of years, with the many forms of visual representations and story-telling found on pottery, weavings, knot-tying and other art forms.
Similarly, Barrett (2014) quotes Frank Smith, ‘The best teachers are story tellers. We learn in the form of stories.’ A basic interpretation of visual literacy is the ability construct meaning from visual images (Giorgis et. Al. 2008). For generations well-crafted illustrations, using various techniques from ‘use of line’, ‘use of texture’, ‘use of composition and design’, ‘use of colour’, ‘use of perspective’ have been overly utilised in children’s books to provide an opportunity to stimulate critical thinking (Giorgis et. al., 2008). This is a not a new concept within library pedagogy, nor a new avenue for teaching within the school library. Illustrations on their own have just as much of a story to tell than the words on the page, and repeated opportunities to explore visual elements provide a richer understanding of the story it tells (Giorgis et. al., 2008).
While on my professional placement I grew to love the graphic novels and appreciate that they were “genrefied” just as is the common trend in many school libraries and city libraries, located front and centre near the library entrance, as a kind of “gateway” (Cornwall 2018) to popular reading. The graphic non-fiction is a great way to offer both aesthetic and efferent reading in one (Travers 2008). I noticed that there is a marked number of titles that offer insights into the lives, experiences and struggles of refugees, either before and or after they come to a new country. this is a trend that was also identified by Short (2018). As Brannan (2013) points out there is a growing blur between realistic fiction and historical fiction. Many issues that are currently being studied in a number of subject areas such as “coming of age” “bullying” “race and religion” or “class and gender” can be studied through realistic graphic fiction.
Moving forward into the 21st century, the increase in digitally enhanced images surrounding us in our personal, work and educational spheres has led to the emergency of the study of Digital Visual Literacy.
As Spalter and van Dam (2008) point out, the World Wide Web has given the concept of “freedom of the press” a whole new meaning, with limited censorship for age appropriate viewing. With the media saturation of digital images, and he ubiquitous nature of computer graphics and special effect, means that photos can be stored using 1s and 0s, and the emergence of fauxtography where images are easily altered, means that learners must now be more critical interpreters of visual information, including active images, than ever before. In the knowledge economy of the 21st century, today’s learners need to more appreciative and critical of visual material than ever before (Spalter and van Dam 2008).
Simply put, visual communication is the process of sending and receiving messages using images. Cheung and Jhavari have gone a step further to identify visual literacy as the ability to understand, produce and use culturally significant images, objects and visual actions. In this sense it would also include the ability to understanding anthropological tribal dances or new-age interpretive performing arts/dance. Though visual representation and communication through story-telling has been around since before the Inca Empire, the age of the internet and 21st century technology has re-ignited the focus on visual literacy to include 3 of Debes’s concepts of importance:
• That an importance be placed on analysis of images
• That pedagogy needs to adapt new approaches in accordance with the new information technologies that are affecting childhood development and learning
• That the information revolution requires students’ to take a larger part in their own learning processes (Michelson 2017)
From an investigation into visual literacy, led to an investigation of Visible Thinking, and its context within the school library.
As Cheung and Jhaveri (2016) point out the crucial role of developing learner’s critical and creative thinking skills through visual literacy. difference in teaching using visual aids, versus the actual teaching of visual literacy. One team in the Sydney TL network have created a number of projects for the TL to implement, for both EL Primary to Secondary, using the strategies of visible thinking as a framework for enriching learning and intellectual development.
By following strategies known as Thinking Routines, the practice of Visible Thinking has two goals: to cultivate students’ thinking skills and dispositions, and, to deepen content learning, with four underpinning ideals: Understanding; Truth; Fairness; and Creativity (www.visiblethinkingpz.org). The concept behind it is that visible thinking is utilising all the senses, not just what you see with your eyes. Further to this, to make a learner’s thinking visible not just to themselves but also their peers and the teacher, encourages improved engagement and deeper learning. Within the context of the new Australian Curriculum, the Thinking Routines support the development of the following general capabilities:
• Critical and creative thinking
• Ethical understanding
• Intercultural understanding
• Personal and social capability
The amount of resources available to support the implementation of visible thinking strategies and projects was vast and too much to list here, hence the number of hyperlinks and images included. However, I have a good base on which to draw from for future learning strategies in a school library space.
Allington, R. L. and Gabriel, R. E., (2012, March). Every Child, Every Day. Educational Leadership.
Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Davies, F., and Barrett, L., (2015). Clever Classrooms. University of Salford, Manchester.
Barrett, H. (2014). Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning. retrieved at electronicportfolios.org
Cheung, C. and Jhaveri, A. D., (2016) Developing student’s critical thinking skills through visual literacy in the New Secondary School Curriculum in Hong Kong. Asia Pacific Journal of Education. 36:3 p. 379-389
Education Matters Magazine. (2018). School libraries supporting 21st century learning.
Ferguson, S., Hider, P., Lloyd, A., (2008, February). Are librarians the ultimate knowledge managers? A study of knowledge, skills, practice and mindset. The Australian Library Journal.
Fillipi, M. (2016). Future focussed learning – step forward and lead by example. Scan. Vol. 35, issue 4
Fisher, K. (2005, March) Linking pedagogy and space. Department of Education and Training (Victoria). retrieved at: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/school/teachers/teachingresources/interdisciplinary/ict/pedagspace.pdf
Fitzgerald, L. (2011). The twin purposes of Guided Inquiry: Guiding student inquiry and evidence based practice. Scan, 30(1), 26-41.
Gaiman, N. (2013, October 16). Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. The Guardian.
Giorgis, C., Johnson, N. J., Bonomo, A., Conner, C., Kauffman, G., and Kulesza, D., (1999, October) Children’s Books: Visual Literacy. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 53, No. 2, p. 146-153
Hutchinson, A., Beschorner, B. and Schmidt-Crawford, D. (2012). The Reading Teacher. Vol. 66, issue 1
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette
Lindsay, J. (2017). Connecting beyond the Classroom – Move from local to global learning modes, Scan. Vol. 36 issue 2
Maniotes, L.K., Kuhlthau, C. (2014) Making the shift. Knowledge Quest. 43(3) 8-17
McLean, N. (2002). Information futures – professional issues. ALIA biennial conference, Powering the Future, paper
Michelson, A. (2017, April). A short history of visual literacy: the first five decades, ALJ.
Purcell, M. (2010). All Librarians Do is Check Out Books, Right? A Look at the Roles of a School Library Media Specialist
Schell, R. (2006). Piloting an online narrative-driven case study for problem-based learning, Simon Fraser University, Thesis
South, S. (2017). School libraries as incubators – where good ideas hatch! Scan. Vol. 38, Issue 1
Spalter, A. M., and van Dam, A. (2008). Digital Visual Literacy. Theory into Practice. 47:2, p. 93-101
STEM education advisory team. (2016). STEM education: the story so far. NSW Department of Education, Learning and Teaching Directorate, Scan, Vol. 35, issue 2