Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash
In Barbara Combes’ article (2009) ‘Generation Y: Are they really digital natives of more like digital refugees?’, she discusses the societal perception that all Generation Y and upwards are efficient users of technology.
She highlights findings from a study by Pew Internet & American Life Project which suggest that while teenagers feel comfortable using the Internet to locate information, they typically have limited knowledge or ability to use search engines to find information. I thought this was an interesting point and one that I could certainly relate to. Until recently, I had no idea about Boolean and proximity operators, or how truncation and wildcard operators worked. It also took me some time to figure out that each search engine has its own unique set of rules. It took me until I was at university to learn about these search strategies, and only then, it was out of necessity. The point that I make here, and also the point that Combes (2009) makes in her article is that just because someone hails from Generation Y does not mean that they are competent users of technology.
In her article, Combes’ (2009, p. 36) refers to the work of Scanlon (2009) who suggests that the so-called digital natives may actually be becoming digital refugees as they struggle to independently learn how to use modern technology. I have certainly felt frustration about being inept at using technology, however my knowledge of the inquiry process, combined with a genuine need to learn has helped me to persist at becoming a much more proficient user, and learner for that matter. This is also reflected in Combes’ article when she points out that one of the common characteristics of Generation Y technology users is that they pick and choose technologies to suit their need at the time (Combes, 2009, p 38).
Finally, Combes (2009, p 38) stresses the need for Generation Y to become proficient users of technology and suggests that if they cannot master the skills required to do this, they along with future generations, run the risk of becoming digital refuges like all generations before them.
Combes, B. (2009). Generation Y: Are they really digital natives or more like digital refugees? Synergy, 7(1), 31-40.
Scanlon, C. (2009) ‘The Natives Aren’t Quite so Restless’ in The Australian Higher Education Supplement. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/the-natives-arent-quite-so-restless/news-story/a9f5d801fabb29f1673deb696a49e724
Karen Bonanno’s speech at ASLA, 2011 conference
In Karen Bonanno’s speech at the ASLA conference in 2011, she responds to a claim made by Scholastic that teacher librarians are considered ‘an endangered species’. Bonanno argues that the teacher librarian profession is considered invisible by some, because people are not aware of what teacher librarians actually do and their contribution to academic excellence in schools. She highlights the fact that there was no visible evidence to show the impact of the school librarian and stresses the need for this.
Bonanno argues that we do indeed still need librarians but they need to make themselves more visible, and suggests that teachers must demonstrate the following qualities to demonstrate their worth and increase their visibility:
- Strength of character – Bonanno stresses the importance of having a presence within your school eg. having an online presence such as a blog. Essentially this means marketing yourself and building strong networks with others in the profession.
- Focus – Follow. One. Course. Until. Successful. Know your outcome and apply strategies until you reach your outcome.
- Brand – Bonanno says the TL needs to identify where they sit within the standards and have a strong sense of who they are and what they stand for.
- Relations – Bonanno suggests TLs need to focus on working with the people who will work with them rather than focusing their attention on those who don’t want to and probably never will.
- Little things count – what you do in your school that others don’t. Bonanno suggests being the person in the school who will assist staff and students in ways that others don’t.
A common theme throughout Bonanno’s speech is the importance of teacher librarians continually up-skilling to keep current in their knowledge, particularly in the area of ICT. She also suggests that TLs should focus their attention on the general capabilities within the Australian Curriculum because these allow the TL to bring in inquiry learning and critical and information literacy, and also support their colleagues in this area. While Bonanno believes that teacher librarians are still greatly needed in schools, she maintains that it is up to TLs to advocate for the profession by applying the above strategies to make themselves visible and prove their value and relevancy in the 21st century.
Australian School Library Association (ASLA) (2011). A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. Keynote presentation, Karen Bonanno . Retrieved from https :// vimeo .com/31003940
This week, the penny dropped. Life slowed down a little and I had the opportunity to spend time exploring some of the websites associated with the acronyms that regularly pop up in my class notes. As a classroom teacher, I am familiar with a few of these but there are also a lot of library associations that I know little about. Since I am a visual learner, I found it useful to list all of these down and visit them one after the other in order to gain an understanding about what each organisation does.
I’m learning that Australian teacher librarians love using acronyms but for us newbies to the profession, they can take time to commit to memory. For my own personal reference, and anyone else who is just starting out, here are a few associations with accompanying acronyms to get you started. Most of these links will take you to the role statements of the respective association.
ALIA – Australian Library and Information Association
ASLA – Australian School Library Association
AITSL – Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership
IASL – International Association of School Librarianship
IFLA – International Federation of Library Association
Hopefully these acronyms will be rolling off my tongue in no time but for now, this is a point of reference for me. I have no doubt I will be adding to this list in the near future.
The World Wide Web, paired with devices which allow us to easily locate information, mean that we can find the answer to almost anything we want to know within seconds. When I was younger, I thought this was exciting, and in some ways, I still do. However, now that I am juggling life as an employee, a student, and a parent, I’m somewhat less impressed with the ability to be ‘connected’ all the time. In many ways, it actually feels like a burden.
When asked to consider some of the ramifications of having access to information at all times and to think about how this affects my ability as a student, I was quickly able to identify both positive and negative effects.
- Immediate access – I really appreciate that if I come across a term that I am unfamiliar with in my studies, a quick internet search will usually enable me to locate several definitions of the term. If I need to do further reading, I am often able to locate more detailed information through academic journal articles online. This leads me to my next point.
- Convenient – I need not ever leave the comfort of my study in order to locate the information that I need. When I studied my first degree back in the early 2000’s, I didn’t have internet access in my home and I certainly didn’t have a smart phone. I walked to the university library and in most cases, looked for a physical copy of the book or journal that I needed. If I didn’t have the information I needed before the library closed, I’d have to wait until the next time it was open to find what I needed. Talk about inconvenient!
- Current – I enjoy how easily I am able to find both current and relevant academic journals and books online when studying.
- Switching off – I mentioned previously that I enjoyed being able to access information around the clock rather than having to wait for the library to open. Unfortunately, this also means that because I know I can access this at any time, I find it difficult to ‘switch off’ during times when I should be focusing on other things. I think this is true for many people in general, and a definite negative affect of being constantly ‘connected’.
- Distraction – It’s a wonderful thing to have an inquiring mind and be able to search for, and locate information. Unfortunately, this also means that one must be very good at focusing on one task rather than becoming distracted and going on a different tangent…which I am guilty of on more than one occasion.
Ultimately, I enjoy having such ready access to information of all types, presented in various formats and delivery modes. The key for me is learning how to strike a balance between information searching/consumption and simply being without the constant need to ‘find the answer’.
I have always had a deep love of quality children’s literature and have been an avid reader since I was a child. I attended a rural school in country Victoria and one of my fondest memories was visiting the mobile library to borrow books each month. My love of books continued as I became a classroom teacher and I never missed an opportunity to incorporate literature into my lessons to support my teaching. I truly believe that whatever the subject, there is always a text to be found which will enhance my teaching and the student’s learning.
When I first decided that I wanted to make the transition from classroom teacher to teacher librarian, I imagined myself reading stories to the students, helping them learn how to select appropriate reading material and inspiring the students to become active and avid readers and information seekers. I dreamt about creating magical nooks within the library for students to settle into with their favourite books where they could travel to far away places or learn about something new that makes their world the incredible place that it is. In my role as a classroom teacher, I have had very little to do with the teacher librarian, in any school, so I was somewhat surprised to learn what a teacher librarian’s role entailed.
The role of the teacher librarian in the 21st century
In a rapidly changing world where there is an app for every imaginable task, where one can access reading material 24/7 and where anyone can publish their own thoughts and ideas for the world to see, the role of the teacher librarian is a complex one, and vastly different to what it used to be.
“Teacher librarians support and implement the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library and information services and programs that contribute to the development of lifelong learners”.
(Australian School Library Association, 2014, p. 1).
The Australian School Library Association (2014, p. 1) identifies three major roles of the teacher librarian which include:
- being a leader within the school
- being a highly skilled information specialist
- being an information service manager
A 21st century librarian is an information expert and use their expertise to ‘enhance digital and information literacy, resource the curriculum and help students become critical, creative and collaborative thinkers’ (ACT Government Education Directorate, 2012, p. 3). They are curriculum experts who work with teachers to help them effectively embed ICT skills into their lessons, whilst at the same time teaching the students to be discerning information gatherers and users.
My initial understanding of the role of the teacher librarian has already shifted fundamentally in the past few weeks. The role of the teacher librarian is not a simple one, but rather, a multi-faceted and highly significant one. The teacher librarian in an expert in curriculum, leadership, pedagogy, collection management and digital literacy, among other things. The mere fact that I had little idea what our school librarian does tells me that there is much work to be done, at least in my own workplace, around the promotion of the amazing work that teacher librarians do and the invaluable resource that they are to our school communities.
ACT Government Education Directorate. (2012). School Libraries: The heart of 21st century learning. Retrieved from: https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/916301/School-Libraries-21st-Century.pdf
Australian School Library Association (2014) What is a teacher librarian? Retrieved from