The Classroom Divide – What does it look like and what can we do about it?

 

Pexels / Pixabay – Classroom divide – How is your classroom divided?

 

For a period of time, society was of the opinion that people who grew up with technology would naturally be comfortable and confident using it as it was their native ‘language’.   These technically savvy individuals would require minimal instruction on digital literacy because as a cohort, they would approach digital technologies with intuitiveness and instinct.  

 

But that assumption was WRONG!  

 

Not just kinda wrong ..

BUT

EPICALLY WRONG!

Think

BIGGER THAN

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

KIND OF WRONG.

 

But I digress… 

The myth of the digital native and digital immigrant has been thoroughly debunked (Kirschner & De Bruyckere, 2017).  They myth assumed that technology competence was inherent because of life long exposure to digital technologies (Frawley, 2020).  This bias is  based upon the common image of students permanently attached to their devices for social and personal practices, and does not translate to ICT proficiency in an educational setting (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  

 

Day (2012) suggests that the theorised cause of the previous digital divide was between those with computer access and those without.  But most teachers would disagree.  Many students have access to smartphones and tablets for personal use and they are still flummoxed at using technology in their schooling.  It appears there is a clear lack of translation from social use of devices and technology to educational practices.  This is observable in the way students are familiar with keyboards for gaming purposes, but very few are highly accomplished at touch typing (onlinetyping.org, 2020).  It amazes me how some students can deftly play online games and switch their screens in milliseconds to avoid detection, but are unable to create and save a document to find at a later date.  Others can create a TikTok video, but do not understand the mechanics of boolean operators to search databases.  I have students that can surf the web for hours but are unable to read an article online in depth and the list just goes on….  All these examples clearly show that any correlations of age should not be translated to an assumption of digital literacy.   Digital literacy, as I have expounded on before, are the psychomotor, cognitive and affective skills required to use digital technologies successfully (McMahon, 2014, p.525).  Students and their parents who are technology savvy are more adept at navigating the digital world (Day, 2012). 

 

How the divide manifests: 

Educational professionals around the world have realised the impact the digital divide has had on learning outcomes (Steele, 2018).  In Australia, the divide was previously acknowledged in educational circles but has been brought to the forefront with the recent Coronavirus pandemic and corresponding school closures.  The nation wide school closures identified numerous students and their families who lacked access to personal devices and high speed internet at home (Coughlan, 2020).  Some students and families did attempt to stream online learning through mobile phone data but this method proved to be unrealistic and very costly (Coughlan, 2020).   Whilst most Educational Directorates across Australia provided their disadvantaged students with laptops and internet dongles, the process was often time consuming and bogged by red tape (Duffy, 2020).  

Students with a digital disadvantage often have a very different schooling experience than students who could be considered digitally elite.  The digitally elite are able to study from the comfort of their couch or their bedroom, in pleasant and safe surroundings (Steele, 2018).  The level of work produced by these students is higher and of better quality as they are not worrying about library opening hours, or stressed or anxious about getting home late.  Whereas students who are disadvantaged may hand in poorly conducted assignments because they were unable to research under optimal conditions (Steele, 2018).  Many teenagers are too embarrassed to be seen doing school work in the library when their friends are playing games, and some students who lack NBN, broadband internet and a desktop or laptop at home, persist in doing their assignments on their mobile phones, which leads to increased fatigue and eye strain. Many disadvantaged students would rather cite lack of interest in learning, or pretend to be apathetic than admit they do not have appropriate facilities at home and just stop trying to learn.  When you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is clearly obvious that a student’s self actualisation is unlikely to occur if their personal safety and security is at risk (Hopper, 2020).   

Chiquo (2019) CC-BY-SA 4.0

 

Some critics would argue that personal devices such as smartphones are ubiquitous and allow anyone with a phone internet access.  Sung (2016) points out that whilst mobile phones do offer internet access, it is not conducive for conducting  research or in depth analysis of documents and as they tend to promote superficial features such as emails, social media and multimedia  (Sung, 2016).  

LoboStudioHamburg / Pixabay – Smartphones – Mostly social?

 

How to reduce the divide:  School based programs.

Education Magazine (2020) points out that the onus to reduce the divide are within the realm of federal and state government departments.  Currently, the most common method government bodies chose to address the digital gap is to supply students with a personal device such as a laptop or tablet (Jervis-Bardy, 2020).  But Steele (2018), Day (2012), and Boss (2016) all agree that bridging the divide goes beyond just supplying students with devices as simply handing each student a device does not build critical thinking and digital citizenship.  But the explicit teaching of digital literacy across all learning areas, would not only have a greater impact on bridging the gap, it would also empower students to gain further digital knowledge and understanding (Steele, 2018; Lori, 2012).  

Whilst teaching students digital literacy is an essential step, it is important to also involve their parents opportunities that build ICT competence and digital literacy (Wolohan, 2016; Hiefield, 2018).  Wolohan (2016) suggests that when schools and communities offer digital information sessions, it affords opportunities for parents who may also have low digital literacy a chance to broaden their knowledge and learning (Boss, 2016).  This then means that parents are able to assist their children with their learning at home, which improves technology integration, learning outcomes and bridges positive connections between school and home (Hiefield, 2018).  These sessions could also be used to inform families of any extra facilities and services that the school offers, such as extended library hours, homework help, as well as other local facilities such as public library and other community services (Wolohan, 2016). 

School libraries and teacher librarians are already involved with digital literacy pedagogical practices in numerous ways – as I have mentioned in this blog .  Another engaging and innovative way to boost digital literacy are digital or coding clubs.  Busteed & Sorenson (2015) suggest that lunchtime run digital clubs and programs are a fun and engaging way of teaching digital literacies and competencies at school. These clubs allow students to explore different computer programs and devices independently or in collaborative learning groups.  Lunch time clubs also open the door for many students, including digitally disadvantaged students,  a chance to explore emerging technologies that they may not normally get access to (Busteed & Sorenson, 2015).  As these clubs are predominantly social in nature, they do not have to conform to curriculum requirements, and this means students are able to explore their own interests instead of canon. Further school based options include ensuring a bank of spare devices for students who do not have access to their own, advocating for an extension of library opening hours outside school hours to allow students time to study, as well as explicitly teaching digital literacy skills as part of teaching and learning (Education Magazine, 2020). 

How to reduce the divide:  Classroom based learning.  

Teachers and educators should be encouraged to adapt their practices to reduce or minimise any unnecessary  ‘digital’ stress on their students.  Stress factors include take home assignments and feelings of overwhelm due to poor digital literacy skills.   Wolohan (2016) advises teachers to get to know their cohort and understand that whilst students may appear to be confident using their devices, it is not advisable to send large assignments home unless digital literacy and ICT facilities at home are assured.  Non submission of tasks could be due to lack of internet or even access to assistance from parents or caregivers, who may have low digital literacy skills and unable to assist their children with tasks (Wolohan, 2016). 

The other consideration classroom teachers and teacher librarians need to make is to acknowledge that each student’s ICT ability will vary and that our learning activities need to match their competencies.  This means that digital literacy needs to be differentiated the same manner as the rest of the curriculum (Wolohan, 2016).   One method is to identify students’ zone of proximal development, and create learning activities that are within that zone for optimal learning (Audley, 2018).  This method is far more efficient and beneficial than assuming capability or teaching at a fixed point.   

CONCLUSION

Steele (2018) feels like the greatest social ramification of the digital divide is that disadvantaged students will not get the same opportunities to be creative and inventive with digital technologies.  This means that the future scope of these students would be limited and possibly restricted in this new information paradigm to long term prospects of minimum wage.  Whereas students on the better half of the divide have unlimited access to information in the safety and comfort of their own home, the financial stability to access emerging technologies, increased opportunities to develop interest and skills in engaging and exploring these technologies.  Their long term prospects are far removed from their disadvantaged peers who often have to travel extensively to have the same access to technology and the internet.  This in itself is very limiting for many students and reduces their future educational and economic prospects.   As teachers and educators, we need to remember that schools are supposed to be the great equaliser, and to provide equal and equitable access to knowledge and learning.  Though in reality, we all know life and education is definitely not equal.  Government policies can often get influenced by political affiliations and can take time to come into effect.  But we as teachers have influence in our classrooms, and our actions and practice in the classroom can make a difference to improve the digital literacy of our students, improve student learning and reduce the width and depth of the digital divide. 

REFERENCES:

Audley, S. (2018). Partners as scaffolds. Teaching in the zone of proximal development. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education. 24. Retrieved from https://repository.brynmawr.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1186&context=tlthe

Boss, S. (2016). Engage parents as partners to close digital divide. Edutopia – Digital Divide [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/engage-parents-partners-close-digital-divide-suzie-boss

Brown, C., & Czerniewicz, L. (2010) Debunking the digital native beyond digital apartheid, towards digital democracy. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (26) 5. p357-369. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00369.x

Busteed, B., & Sorenson, S. (2015). Many students lack access to computer science learning. Gallup Education. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/education/243416/students-lack-access-computer-science-learning.aspx

Coughlan, S. (2020). Digital poverty in schools where few have laptops. BBC News – Family and Education. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/education-52399589

Day, L. (2013). Bridging the new digital divide. Edutopia – Technology Integration [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/bridging-the-new-digital-divide-lori-day

Duffy, C. (2020). Coronavirus opens up Australia’s digital divide with many school students left behind. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-12/coronavirus-covid19-remote-learning-students-digital-divide/12234454

Education Magazine. (2020). What is the digital divide and how is it impacting the education sector? The Education Magazine [blog]. Retrieved from https://www.theeducationmagazine.com/word-art/digital-divide-impacting-education-sector/

Frawley, J. (2017). The myth of the digital native. Teaching @ Sydney [blog]. University of Sydney. Retrieved from https://educational-innovation.sydney.edu.au/teaching@sydney/digital-native-myth/

Hiefield, M. (2018). Family tech nights can narrow the digital divide. E-School News. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2018/11/21/family-tech-nights-can-narrow-the-digital-divide/

Hopper, E. (2020). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4582571

Kirschner, P., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education 67, p.135-14

McMahon, M. (2014). Ensuring the development of digital literacy in higher education curricula. ECU Publications. Edith Cowan University. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1835&context=ecuworkspost2013

Online Typing.org. (2020). Average typing speed (WPM)[blog]. Retrieved from https://onlinetyping.org/blog/average-typing-speed.php

Sung, K. (2016). What’s lost when kids are under connected to the internet? KQED – Mindshift. Retrieved from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/43601/whats-lost-when-kids-are-under-connected-to-the-internet

Steele, C. (2018). 5 ways the digital divide effects education.  Digital Divide Council. Retrieved from http://www.digitaldividecouncil.com/digital-divide-effects-on-education/

Wolohan, S. (2016). How teachers can provide equal learning in a world of unequal access. EdSurge – Diversity and Equity. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-04-13-how-teachers-can-provide-equal-learning-in-a-world-of-unequal-access

 

Digital native or digital elite? What is the cause of the digital divide?

geralt / Pixabay – The 3rd Millennium

The third millennium has clearly delineated a strong demarcation between people who are confident using digital technologies and those that are not. 

Prensky (2001) attributed this confidence to the time frame in which people were born, and described that those that grew up with technology are designated ‘digital native’, and those who had to be introduced to technology as ‘digital immigrants’ (Prensky, 2001; Houston, 2011).  Prensky (2001) stated that the modern student is digitally savvy because of their lifetime exposure to personal devices, the internet, and therefore will be highly competent using digital technologies in their personal, social and educational domains.  He predicted that ‘digital natives’ would have increased intuitiveness and competence when using digital media, and teachers need to adapt their pedagogical practices to reflect this paradigm (Prensky, 2001; Houston, 2011). 

Unfortunately reality is very different.  Not all modern students are competent and adept with using digital technologies, and the use of the terms native and immigrant, as well as the assumption of proficiency, has led to frustration and a deep digital divide in the classroom and the greater community.  

The terms digital ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’ itself are polemical.

Brown & Czerniewicz (2010) point out that by using these titles, society is polarising itself and categorising the former is fully adept using technology and the latter, a completely maladroit luddite.  The terms can also be viewed to some people as offensive, as both the words natives and immigrants have negative connotations when considered in tandem with colonisation and immigration policies in the western world (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).   Instead it seems more sensible that ICT competency be based and assessed upon ability and capability rather than age (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  

The most pertinent factor that these generic terms fail to acknowledge is the impact of privilege on ICT acuity. 

The recent online learning experience clearly illustrated that it is the combination of these factors that affect ICT competence, not age or birth year (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011). 

From a personal viewpoint it appears that ICT ability and acuity is more comparable to a continuum rather than polar opposites.  Individual and collective ability will vary depending on exposure to various software programs, frequency of use, access to devices and high speed internet in the home (Houston, 2011).  It is simply ludicrous to assume familiarity with one program means virtuosity over all (Frawley, 2020).  

For example, I would call myself competent when I use Windows or android devices, but am a complete tech-tard when it comes to Apple and Mac products because I am unfamiliar with them.  I am fluent in Facebook, Instagram and Microsoft 365, but ignorant of TikTok, Snapchat and Minecraft.  I may know the intricacies of a few programs and basics of many more, I am often completely unaware of any enhanced functionalities of how these programs can be used for social or educational purposes (Kirschner & De Bruyckere, 2017, p.136).  By the same benchmark, I am comfortable with using many different forms of digital literature but would flounder if asked to create a hypertext digital narrative with embedded multimodal features.  By Prensky’s parameters I am classified as a digital native as I was born after the onset of the information revolution, but since I don’t know how to play minecraft, lack a TikTok account and still listen to the radio, my year 7 students think the dinosaurs were around at my birth (Prensky, 2001)…. See… continuum

This digital divide and inequality of access has proven to be a major issue for many families and households in Australia, as it is well known that teenagers who are not actively engaged in education, employment or training are most likely to be digitally disengaged (Helsper & Smirnova, 2019).  This is because most educational institutions offer their students unlimited internet access through onsite wifi. 

geralt / Pixabay – Schools and libraries provide equitable access to digital technologies.

 

The current Coronavirus pandemic and corresponding lock down restrictions have highlighted the disparity between that socio-economic status and residential postcodes and corresponding impact on a person’s ICT competency and educational success (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018).  The shutdown of schools, libraries and other educational institutions have shown that people who live in lower SES communities, or in rural and remote areas, recent immigrants and refugees, as well as First Nations peoples are significantly more disadvantaged when it comes to access and ICT competency (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018).  Reasons cited include insufficient funds to purchase personal devices and access to high speed internet, living in shared housing or remote areas, loss of employment and lack of a fixed address (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018).  

geralt / Pixabay – Coronavirus closures.

 

Community leaders and social organisations are very concerned with further disenfranchisement arising from the Coronavirus pandemic and the corresponding closures of schools, libraries, governments and social organisations shopfronts (Alam & Imran, 2015).  This means that socially disadvantaged individuals are even further inconvenienced by their lack of ICT knowledge and access (Alam & Imran, 2015).   For young people, these closures have extended ramifications as they are conscious of their lack of access and often end up feeling marginalised and excluded, due to their inability to have an active participation in a digital society (Helsper & Smirnova, 2019). (For more information on inequalities in digital interactions click here!)

The term digital native is now considered obsolete by most reputable educational professionals (Frawley, 2017).  Brown & Czerniewicz (2010) clearly indicate that age is not an indicator of ICT acuity but rather access to devices and the internet is what defines digital adroitness.  Instead of using the terms ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’, Brown & Czerniewicz (2010) advocate the terms ‘elite’ and ‘stranger’, as it seems financial security is a greater indicator of digital acuity than age . 

Digitally elite students have unlimited out of school access to ICT through personal devices, high speed internet, and electricity, whereas digital strangers have limited access to ICT and the internet once they are no longer on their educational or professional site (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  These digital strangers are often of lower socio-economic status, lack digital technology at home and rely on public services such as libraries to access the digital world (Alam & Imran, 2015; Baker, 2019).  This digital disadvantage can often be exacerbated by a lack of English as they are unable to participate in community run computer courses (Alam & Imran, 2015).  The combination of lack of access and an inability to communicate can increase social exclusion, inhibit full participation in society as well as lead to further marginalisation and division in society (Alam & Imran, 2015).  

In conclusion – the terms digital native and immigrant are no longer valid.  Digital acuity and competence is instead based upon a person’s access to digital technologies and high speed internet in their residence, which is directly correlated to financial stability and urban living.  By assuming someone’s digital ability based upon their age, teachers and educators are disadvantaging their students and reducing their learning potential.

Stay tuned for Round 2 – The Classroom Divide.

REFERENCES:

Alam, K. & Imran, S. (2015). The digital divide and social inclusion among refugee migrants; A case in regional Australia. Information Technology & People, 28(2), pp.344-365. Retrieved from https://eprints.usq.edu.au/27373/1/Alam_Imran_ITP_v28n2_AV.pdf

Baker, E. (2019). Digital access divide grows in disadvantaged communities. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-12/digital-access-divide-grows-among-disadvantaged-tasmanians/11402218

Coughlan, S. (2020). Digital poverty in schools where few have laptops. BBC News – Family and Education. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/education-52399589

De Bruyckere, P. (2019). Myth busting: children are digital natives. ResearchEd News. [Blog]. Retrieved from https://researched.org.uk/myth-busting-children-are-digital-natives/

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016/05/apo-nid66202-1210631.pdf

Duffy, C. (2020). Coronavirus opens up Australia’s digital divide with many school students left behind. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-12/coronavirus-covid19-remote-learning-students-digital-divide/12234454

Education Magazine. (2020). What is the digital divide and how is it impacting the education sector? The Education Magazine [blog]. Retrieved from https://www.theeducationmagazine.com/word-art/digital-divide-impacting-education-sector/

Frawley, J. (2017). The myth of the digital native. Teaching @ Sydney [blog]. University of Sydney. Retrieved from https://educational-innovation.sydney.edu.au/teaching@sydney/digital-native-myth/

Kang, C. (2016). Bridging the digital divide that leaves schoolchildren behind. New York Times – Technology. Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html?_r=0

Kirschner, P., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education 67, p.135-142

Helsper & Smirnova. (2020). Chapter 9. Youth inequalities in digital interactions and well being. Education 21st Century Children: Emotional Wellbeing in the Digital Age. OECD iLibrary. Retrieved from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/d0dd54a9-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/d0dd54a9-en

Holt, S. (2018). 6 Practical strategies for teaching across the digital divide.  NEO BLOG. Retrieved from https://blog.neolms.com/6-practical-strategies-teaching-across-digital-divide/

Houston, C. (2011). Digital Books for Digital Natives. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 9(3), 39–42.

McMahon, M. (2014). Ensuring the development of digital literacy in higher education curricula. ECU Publications. Edith Cowan University. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1835&context=ecuworkspost2013

Miller, H. (2017). The myth of the digital native generation. E-Learning Inside. Retrieved from https://news.elearninginside.com/myth-digital-native-generation/

Online Typing.org. (2020). Average typing speed (WPM)[blog]. Retrieved from https://onlinetyping.org/blog/average-typing-speed.php

Pontefract, D. (2017). The fallacy of digital natives. Pontefract Group [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.danpontefract.com/the-fallacy-of-digital-natives/

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Marckprensky.com. Retrieved from https://marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Steele, C. (2018). 5 ways the digital divide effects education.  Digital Divide Council. Retrieved from http://www.digitaldividecouncil.com/digital-divide-effects-on-education/

Thomas, J., Barraket, J., Wilson, C., Cook, K., Louie, Y., Holcombe-James, I., Ewing, S., and MacDonald, T. (2018). Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2018. RMIT University, Melbourne, DOI: https://doi.org/10.25916/5b594e4475a00

Augmented Reality – Part 7 – Contraindications, Limitations and Future Implications

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND LIMITATIONS OF AUGMENTED REALITY USE IN THE CLASSROOM 

There are a few issues with implementing innovative teaching practices such as AR into classrooms.  These reasons include misconceptions with using ICT in the classroom, teacher reluctance and insufficient access to technology and the internet.

  1. MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ICT IN THE CLASSROOM – There is a significant disinclination from some educators about the inclusion of digital technology into classroom practice.  This reluctance can stem from a belief that technology causes students to become passive in their learning and that encouraging the use of personal devices increases class distractions (Wu et al., 2013).  Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya (2015, p.1) disagree vehemently and argue that AR actually causes the learner to become more interactive with the learning content as it requires the student to think critically and be able to make meaning from their interactions.  Wu et al. (2017) suggests that the use of mobile phones promotes social interactivity and student collaboration when using through networked devices.  
  2. TEACHER RELUCTANCE – Many teachers are not comfortable with emerging technologies due to their own lack of knowledge with the medium (Pope, 2018a).  Wolz (2019, p.6) points out that teachers, like students, develop self efficacy from their own ability, observing others and verbal affirmation.  Self efficacy of teachers and educators is essential, as there is a strong correlation between teacher competence and inclusion of digital technologies in the classroom  (Wolz, 2019).  Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya (2015, p.1) argue that all teachers should be required to continuously keep abreast of new products as part of professional learning and development.   Unfortunately, requiring all teachers to be familiar and confident with emerging technologies is simply unfeasible.  Many teachers are already overworked and overwhelmed with their current workloads.  Therefore, it is more viable that each school has dedicated ICT teachers, or teacher librarians, that are tasked with embedding emerging technologies into classroom practice.  This method allows both classroom teachers and students to improve their digital literacy skills and develop ICT acuity concurrently.  For schools with a library, it makes sense to ensure the TL has self efficacy with AR/VR technology as most AR installations are sourced in their teaching and learning spaces.    
  3. DIGITAL DIVIDE – This is a significant hurdle to the implementation of digital technologies such as AR in Australian classrooms.  The high cost of technology has inhibited its diffusion across classrooms, but the recent rapid advancements and price has reduced this barrier significantly (Wolz, 2019, p.2).  It is not common for all students and schools to possess mobile devices and or have available data to have transactions with AR.  This issue is more common in rural areas and within lower socio-economic families and schools (DIIS, 2016).   The extent of the digital divide has been highlighted and under scrutiny by the recent COVID 19 school closures, where the lack of internet and device access caused many students to be unable to access home learning.  

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE

Oddone (2019) and Zak (2014) suggest that VR and AR will become mainstream technology soon and it behooves educators to equip students with the necessary skills to maintain their digital literacy.  Previously access to these technologies was extremely expensive and many schools were unable to gain access due to lack of funds. However,  rapid changes in technology have led to a significant price reduction, but even with the decreased costs, AR installations are still out of reach for many schools.  For schools and educational institutions that can afford these emerging technologies, there are educators that lack confidence in their ability to use AR, and there are others that find the available AR content is not suited to the needs of their students (Wu et al., 2013, p.46).  Whilst centralising emerging technologies into the library addresses the lack of self efficacy of teachers, it does not solve the issue of unsuitable AR content.   

Hannah et al., (2019) proposes that schools create their own 3D content objects that suit their students and align to the curriculum as needed.  As part of this approach, images are curated and integrated into the library management system that shares knowledge and collaboration.  This method allows all the images that are created in the school by both staff and students to be stored for future use whilst acknowledging the authorship and intellectual property ownership of the images.  This proposition is an extension of Zak (2014) idea of using AR in information seeking as mentioned previously.   Whilst collection management is part of a librarian’s repertoire, the curation of 3D images requires new vocabulary and ontology, and requires further exploration of the relevant literature.  Therefore, it makes logical sense that AR installations and its other forms of hardware and software are centralised in the library and the teacher librarian tasked with cataloging the 3D images, embedding AR and other emerging technologies across the curriculum.  

Augmented Reality in the classroom- Part 1

zedinteractive / Pixabay

The technology revolution, pervasive use of the internet and plethora of personal devices have changed the way society engages in employment, recreation, education and personal endeavours.

Educators need to keep abreast of emerging technologies so that they can ensure students possess the necessary digital skills and strategies to thrive in the 21st century  (Wolz, 2019).  Emanating software such as augmented and virtual reality are being trialed by many teachers seeking methods in which to improve engagement, bolster ICT acuity and meet the needs of the modern student.  This article seeks to define AR, identify its role in pedagogical practice, role in meeting curriculum outcomes, and inferences of future applications.  

WHAT IS AR 

Augmented reality (AR) is when a computer generated layer of information is placed over a person’s experience of the world (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017; Oddone, 2019).  Wu, Lee, Chang & Liang (2013) define AR as technology that uses accurate 3D visual representations to combine real with virtual worlds.  Generally viewed using mobile device applications or wearable computers, AR displays the augmented media in the form of images, sounds, videos, graphics or GPS data (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017; Wu et al. 2013). At this point, AR is already in use within military machinery, theatre, flight navigation, entertainment industry and various mobile applications, i.e. Pokemon Go (Pope, 2018a; Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  There are two forms of AR.  The first  form is when an interaction is stimulated between an image and a smart device, and the second is when the GPS triggers the digital information over the user’s location (Oddone, 2019, p.3).  Whereas virtual reality (VR) is when a user is completely immersed into an artificial world with the aid of technology (Oddone, 2019).  This technology has the ability to flood the senses and trick the mind into believing that the user is actually experiencing the event.  

AR resources are activated by an application that ‘reads’ a QR code, image or illustration so that the interactive content is released.   Levski (2018) points out that this added material could be as simple as a hidden photo or video, but could also be animated sequences or even an embedded game.  The addition of these interactive elements is based upon the gamification principle, which relies on positive feedback to keep students motivated.  By supporting interaction between the real and virtual world, AR allows the user to actively manipulate a tangible interface and thus increase the learner engagement and boost information retention (Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya, 2015; Wolz, 2019).  This interaction means that AR is self paced, promotes independent learning and allows students to progress at their own cognitive capabilities.  There is great potential for AR in educational practices, it can be embedded into print or digital resources, used across disciplines, and its multimodal nature gives diverse learners multiple entry points into the content (Levski, 2018).  

References:

Levski, Y. (2018). 10 Augmented Reality Books That Will Blow Your Kid’s Mind. AppReal- VR [Blog]. Retrieved from https://appreal-vr.com/blog/10-best-augmented-reality-books/

Oddone, K. (2019). Even better than the real thing? Virtual and augmented reality in the school library. SCIS Connections. (110). Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/media/1921/scis-connections-110.pdf

Pope, H. (2018a). Virtual and augmented reality in libraries. Library Technology Reports – American Library Association, (54)6.

Saidin, N. Abd Halim, N., & Yahaya, N. (2015). A review of research on augmented reality in education: Advantages and applications. International Education Studies, 8(13). Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.730.8456&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Townsdin, S., & Whitmer, W. (2017). Technology. Public Services Quarterly. 13. Pp190-199. DOI: 10.1080/15228959.2017.1338541

Wolz, K. (2019). Building faculty competence and self efficacy for using ZSpace virtual reality (VR) software in the classroom. All Regis University Theses. Retrieved from https://epublications.regis.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1930&context=theses

Wu, H., Lee, S., Chang, H., & Liang, J. (2013). Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented realiy in education. Computers & Education, 62. Pp41-49. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.024

The implications of using digital literature in a secondary schools

Read this! 

Change is inevitable and society has seen great changes to the way it functions.  The current technology revolution has changed the way people earn, communicate, work, live, study and recreate.  According to Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory, reading and learning work symbiotically together with strong influences from language and technology (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Therefore by this theory, changes in technology resonates how learning, language and literacy manifests in communities.  This is evident in the way the definition of literacy has expanded.  Previously the term ‘literate’ was used to describe individuals who were able to read and write.  But the current definition includes the skills and knowledge required to access, use, understand and express ideas, thoughts and feelings, across multiple modalities, and in all contexts of life (ACARA, 2014).  The broadening of the definition is directly related to the evolving nature of technology and its impact upon the way literature and books are read, comprehended and evaluated (Sargeant, 2015; Jabr, 2015). 

sik-life / Pixabay – The metamorphsis of the book

The concept of the book changes with every technology revolution and corresponding societal change.  From prehistoric stone tablets, to Ancient Egyptian papyrus and Roman vellum scrolls, to the innovative Gutenberg printing press, books have evolved with technology, and at each transformation, the reading paradigm changes (Mangen, Walgermo & Bronnick, 2013).  The modern definition of a book can include the traditional paper form, as well as electronic versions that can be read on devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops along with audiobooks, online books, and other digital products such as applications and websites (Springen, 2010).  This emergence of these new digital texts require additional skills and strategies in order for the reader to comprehend the narrative (Jabr, 2015; Mangen et al., 2013; Sekeres & Watson, 2011).  As part of evidence based practice, secondary school teachers are encouraged to adapt their pedagogical practices to address these technological and societal changes to ensure that their students possess the relevant skills and strategies to become active participants in society.  

geralt / Pixabay – A is for Apple, B is for Ball…

 

Reading has often been characterised as the product of an individual’s ability to decode and comprehend the text and is viewed as a fundamental human skill (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.4). Engagement in reading is linked to improved student learning and long term academic success (Moore & Cahill, 2016; Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018). Unfortunately many teenagers and young adults are reluctant to read and this reluctance can impact their education as well as their social capital and identity formation (Moore & Cahill, 2016).  Many education departments across the world have increased funding for technology in schools to boost literacy and reading rates in an effort to halt declining literacy (Keen, 2016).  In turn, educators seek to identify pedagogical practices that will increase student motivation for reading and in turn, improve overall literacy.    

Technology has been often cited for its ability to improve educational outcomes due to its engaging format.  Morris & Cahill (2016) has determined that technology has a stronger preference in secondary compared to primary aged students.  Since motivation to read and cognitive experiences when reading works via a positive feedback mechanism, it makes sense that digital literature should lead to increased reading rates and improved literacy (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Furthermore, Taylor (2018) suggests that the complex nature of digital storytelling is suitable for teenagers as they are familiar with using devices and are comfortable switching between screens and print.  

janeb13 / Pixabay – Portability of Ebooks

Technology in literature, also known as digital literature, encompasses ebooks, audiobooks, interactive media and mobile applications.  Each of these technologies, delivers narratives in their own individual way and requires a variety of skills and strategies for decoding and comprehension. Many teachers and teacher librarians are tasked with identifying technology based literature in an effort to increase engagement and improve educational outcomes.  

Sargeant (2015) defines an ebook as the static digitised version of a print text with its familiar features of virtual pages, book gutters and page turning animation.  Access to ebooks can occur both onsite and offsite as they can be retrieved and delivered digitally to mobile devices with embedded features (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Examples include Kindle application, where ebooks purchased from Amazon can be accessed through, or BorrowBox and Wheelers, that allow for borrowing of titles and are often affiliated with public and school libraries.  Some ebooks for older readers have various levels of interactivity, such as hyperlinks and in built media are commonly found in secondary expository or information texts such as text books (Sargeant, 2015).   Their increased popularity with older readers is due to portability and ability to retain text anonymity (Dickenson, 2014).  But ebooks that are designed for younger and less literate readers have lower levels of interactivity and contain more skeuomorphic features to reduce distraction from the main point (Sargeant, 2015) . 

Jeon (2012) promotes the use of ebooks in schools as they support academic instruction, are time efficient as well as provide a dynamic and cost effective way of managing a collection. Ebooks can also be integrated into library management systems and thus are available for to be borrowed by students at any time, including in times of pandemics and forced isolation (Jeon, 2012).  These apps are designed to assist readers in retaining anonymity in title choice, as well as allow access to a wide range of reading levels which encourages independent reading and promotes bibliotherapy (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  

DariuszSankowski / Pixabay – Bibliotherapy

 

Audiobooks are increasing in popularity with readers from all generations (Moore & Cahill, 2016).  The most prevalent use of audiobooks in schools are, students with low literacy and learning difficulties as well as second language learners (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.5).   Hiebert, as cited in Moore & Cahill (2016) argued that language and the fundamentals of narratives can be conveyed through auditory processes, as language-comprehension system in the brain permits text engagement and comprehension (p.3-4).  Other benefits to the implementation of audiobooks in teaching and learning processes include, improving vocabulary, promoting oral language, as well as strengthening links between oral and written literacies (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.4).  Audiobooks can be easily accessed on personal devices and offer the same level of anonymity as achieved by ebooks.  Anonymity is very important in secondary schools, particularly for students with low literacy who need to access ‘different’ texts (Dickenson, 2014). 

sindrehsoereide / Pixabay – Listening = Reading

Whilst there are many different reasons why students struggle to read, the most common reasons in secondary schools include, insufficient vocabulary, incorrect decoding and a lack of fluency (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.5).   Access to audiobooks allows students who struggle with the aforementioned inadequacies to engage with the text and develop their reading accuracy as well as potentially improving any behavioural management that arises from disengagement and disenfranchisement (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.6).  Audiobooks address these needs and therefore it is possible to surmise that this technology is able to provide the reader the same rich experience that is afforded by print text.  

472301 / Pixabay – Mobile applications

 

Interactive media (IM) has exploded in recent years and this is impacting teaching and learning (Cullen, 2015).  Some examples of interactive media include digital books, online books, book applications and websites.  Lamb & Johnson (2010) argue that IM causes readers to shift from being passive receivers to active participants.  This is because IM is able to engage students in the content via multiple entry points and therefore encourages learning through experience and experimentation (Lamb & Johnson, 2010; Cullen, 2015).  IM narratives are able to tell dual stories, as well as bring the images to life whilst providing a brilliant way to connect emerging technologies to the curriculum (Cullen, 2015; Taylor, 2018).  

One example of IM are book applications (apps).  Book apps are software programs that are designed to engage students by delivering high levels of interactive media rich content (Sargeant, 2015).   They integrate multiple modes of communication so that the text and visuals are fused to create a story that requires the reader to transform into a user by their interaction in the narrative with a touch screen (Sargeant, 2015).  This process of action and outcome is based upon gamification principles already present in the rewards based system currently practiced across most school systems.  Gamification uses extrinsic motivation  in learning and teaching practice.  But Briggs (2016) cautions the use of gamification in assessment.  The reason for this caution is that the motivation to succeed arises from the low personal stakes the reader has with the text, as well as the elusive but reachable goals. 

 IM has the capacity to cater to the needs of a varied classroom because of a student’s ability to work at an individual pace and the multiple entry points allows for differentiation.  There is also a possibility for educators to use IM to create scenarios, as a mechanism to introduce students to new units of work, or introduce assessment pieces in an engaging format (Lamb & Johnson, 2010).  Cullen (2015) believes that application led learning bolsters motivation and engagement in students, which is essential for improved learning experiences and positive outcomes.   

RobertCheaib / Pixabay – Device distractions.

 

There are valid contraindications to the use of technology in educational settings.  Studies have shown comprehension is lower in narratives and expository texts when a device is used (Jeon, 2012; Mangen et al., 2013).  Jeon (2012) believes that within some forms of technology, the complex nature and formatting of the text causes too great a cognitive load on students and thus it negatively affects comprehension.  Hashim & VongKulluksn (2018) concur and point out that students often become distracted in their attempt to multitask on devices, which leads to decreased metacognitive regulation and reduces text completion.  

The format of text is also important for comprehension.  Digital literature in all forms have lower comprehension rates in comparison to traditional texts (Jeon, 2012; Mangen et al., 2013).  One of the other main reasons for this unfavourable comparison is visual ergonomics.  Visual ergonomics, such as lowered spatial stability, leads to a negative mental representation of the text (Mangen et al., 2013, p.66).  Good readers have a high mental recall of information positioning in text.  Consequently, limited mental representation restricts recall and makes it harder for students to construct new banks of knowledge from individual pieces of information. One suggestion to combat this limitation and to promote a more equitable approach in classrooms is to limit digital reading to short extracts only, and it to be of low stakes value rather than summative assessment (Mangen et al., 2013, p.66).  

I obviously have not taken my own advice and have written an epic instead of a synopsis!

Hashim & VongKulluksn (2018) suggests that whilst e-readers provide context and analysis, it lacks the social factor that discussion groups and literature circles provide. There is also an implication that educators fail to treat e-readers like they treat print texts, and therefore provide less scaffolding to students leading to lower comprehension rates.  This failure could be due to a lack of personal knowledge to the functionality of e-readers, or simply that teachers are not physically able to see how much of the text the student has engaged with and thus forget to offer assistance (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Therefore, in the interests of equity, it is important that ebooks are scaffolded in the same way as a print books because, as students gain mastery in their reading, scaffolding can be adjusted to help their progress from a low to a higher mental function (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  

geralt / Pixabay – Pedagogy matters

 

There are other obstacles to using ebooks in educational settings.  Primarily, students are not motivated to use e-readers for learning.  This could be due to the fact that e-readers are no longer considered a novelty, that devices themselves are commonplace, and lastly, that traditional texts actually provide greater enjoyment than digital literature  (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Ebooks have also been known to cause eye irritation which in turn reduces surface legibility, and increases eye strain and mental fatigue (Jeon, 2012).  These physical demands lead to an increased error rate and reduces overall comprehension, which in turn leads  to a lower perception of ereaders and ebooks (Jeon, 2012).  Other than diminishing comprehension, ebooks can also be seen as tedious in comparison to other entertainment found on devices (Jeon, 2012). Though there is some suggestion that digital natives are resistant to these issues as they are more familiar with technology (Jeon, 2012). 

Some educators are reluctant to provide audiobooks to their students in lieu of print texts as they can be viewed as ‘cheating’.  But Dahl (2016) disagrees with and finds that audiobooks provide the same learning experience as reading after a certain level of literacy has been reached.  This is based upon the theory that the decoding specific to reading becomes instinctive after a certain point in literacy is achieved (Dahl, 2016).  The reasoning is that ‘reading comprehension’ is similar to ‘auditory comprehension’ and that echoic memory is comparable to the visual system of eye regression, though the concept of ‘flipping back’ is a bit more problematic in an audiobook (Dahl, 2016).  

The current predominate argument surrounding school is that digital media will engage reluctant readers and therefore improve learning outcomes (Springen, 2010; Cullen, 2015).  But some educators argue that these alternative texts lack equity as they are limited to students and schools with digital access and financial security (Sekeres & Watson, 2011).  Sekeres & Watson (2011) even go further to suggest that educators need to be aware that children are often targeted as consumers in their own right and therefore teachers need to be circumspect when they select digital literature that it actually leads to learning and not just entertainment. 

From a school collection perspective there are significant issues with ebooks and audiobooks, namely access and cost (O’Connell, Bates & Mitchell, 2015).  This is due to the fact that both ebooks and audiobooks require a personal device such as a mobile phone or tablet and many younger students do not have that level of access.  They also require a financial contribution and or a library membership, which again can be limiting for younger students to practice their digital literacy skills.  One suggestion to address the rising cost of digital literature is to promote public library memberships in schools.  Students who have library memberships at school, local and state libraries, have access to a wide range of texts in both print and digital formats.  Some larger institutions also offer electronic access to databases and periodicals which is very useful for secondary students.  This reduces the cost to the individual and school systems without limiting access to information.

Licencing and leasing are problematic when it comes to digital literature. Physical books are bought by the library, require no device to use, and are useful till the book gets lost, deselected or falls into disrepair.  Ebooks in comparison, are either downloaded (purchased), or borrowed and both require a device and the internet to be used.  These devices, such as iPods, ereaders, laptops and tablets can be quite expensive for school libraries and students to purchase and maintain (Gray, 2017).  Additionally, if a school library chooses to use a platform such as Borrowbox or Wheelers as their access point for ebooks and audiobooks, they are limited by that publisher’s collection as to what titles meet the developmental needs of the students and curriculum requirements (Gray, 2017).  Teacher librarians need to be cautious when selecting platforms for digital literature that they are not limiting their readers to resources based upon publishing contracts and nepotism.  Furthermore, the school may not own ‘loaned titles’ and may have to pay a leasing or access fee on a yearly basis.  So whilst there seems to be great flexibility, especially with regards to remote access, there can be some stringent financial restraints for schools when it comes to building a robust ebook and audiobook collection.  

O’Connell, Bates & Mitchell (2015) suggest that the goal of school libraries is to adapt to the digital needs of the student cohort, which means that the reading culture has to be addressed as well as ensuring a divergence of media is available.  Therefore, teacher librarians and school library collections are tasked with ensuring students are given ample access to the different forms of media for teaching and learning across the curriculum as well as for recreational purposes.  This means access to both traditional and digital forms of literature.  But promotion of wide reading programs and access to emerging literature trends needs to be buttressed by pedagogical practices that support reading and comprehension across the various domains.  

The question for teachers, teacher librarians and other educators is that will these new media forms benefit the teaching and learning practices in classrooms, and more specifically, secondary classrooms?  It is clearly evident that the information revolution has changed the way society is functioning.  Therefore it is important that students gain the skills and knowledge to succeed in this modern world.  From the evidence provided, secondary students are more receptive to digital literature because of its engaging format, portability and text anonymity.  But many lack the reading and comprehension skills to fully understand the nature of the text and therefore are at a literacy disadvantage.  Educators need to recall the importance of culture and tools in Vygotsky’s theory of learning and provide access to a range of literature across the various forms of media.  The reading paradigm has changed and teachers must change their teaching and learning to suit this new world.  

 

REFERENCES 

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2018). Literacy. In Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/literacy/introduction/introduction

Dahl, M. (2016, August 10). To your brain, listening to a book is pretty much the same as reading it. The Cut. Retrieved from https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/listening-to-a-book-instead-of-reading-isnt-cheating.html

Dickenson, D. (2014). Children and reading: Literature review. Australia Council 2014. Retrieved August 2016.

Gray, M. (2017). Ebooks: To subscribe or not to subscribe? Connections, 101. Retrieved from scis.data.com/connections/issue-101/ebooks-to-subscribe-or-not-to-subscribe 

Hashim, A & VongKulluskn, V. (2018). E reader apps and reading engagement: A descriptive case study. Computers and Education, 125, pp.358-375. Retrieved from https://www.journals.elsevier.com/computers-and-education/

Jabr, F. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American

Jeon, H. (2012). A comparison of the influence of electronic books and paper books on reading comprehension, eye fatigue, and perception. The Electronic Library, 30(3), 390-408. doi: 10.1108/02640471211241663 

Keen, N. (2016). Stopping the slide: improving reading rates in the middle school. Connections, 99. Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-99/stopping-the-slide-improving-reading-rates-in-the-middle-school/

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010). Divergent convergence part 2: Cross-genre, multi-platform, transmedia experiences in school libraries.Teacher Librarian, 38(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://teacherlibrarian.com/

Cullen, M. (2015, December 21). How is interactive media changing the way children learn. In EducationTechnology. Retrieved from https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2015/12/how-is-interactive-media-changing-the-way-children-learn/

Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R. & Bronnick, K.A. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61-68.doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2012.12.002 

Moore, J., & Cahill, M. (2016). Audiobooks; Legitimate ‘reading’ material for adolescents? Research Journal of the American Association of School Librarians. Retrieved from www.ala.org/aasl/slr/volume19/moore-cah

O’Connell, J., Bales, J., Mitchell, P. (2015). [R]Evolution in reading cultures: 2020 vision for school libraries. The Australian Library Journal, 63(3), 194-208. DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2015.1048043

Sargeant, B. (2015). What is an ebook? what is a book app? And why should we care? An analysis of contemporary picture books. Children’s Literature in education, 46, 454-466. doi: 10.1007/s10583-015-9243-5

Sekeres, D. c. & Watson, C. (2011). New literacies and multimediacy: The immersive universe of the 39 Clues. Children’s Literature in Education, 42, 256-273. Doi: 10.1007/s10583-011-9133-4

Springen, K. (2010, July 19). The digital revolution in children’s publishing. Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/43879-the-digital-revolution-in-children-s-publishing.html.

 

Who am I? What do I do? – When an identity crisis occurs.

What do I do all day?

 

Just chillin – Courtesy of Pixabay

 

To my mother, I read books all day and tell people to shush!

 

To my husband, well he is only concerned that I am happy (and I can still manage my children’s school drop offs and pick ups).  Oh and there is no need for vacation care. Winning!!

 

To my children, mummy goes to work in a library and reads books and then comes home with more books all the time…. Oh and mummy is home in the holidays.

 

To my colleagues, I am that Energiser bunny that nabs you in the corridor asking to come into the library to work on your next task; the idjit that goes to departmental meetings and ‘volunteers’ to help with planning. I am also that nutter that gets over enthusiastic during Book week, Roald Dahl day, Harry Potter day, Jane Austen day

What’s your skill? This is mine.

 

To me.  Well, I am a teacher of information.  I teach students (and their teachers) how to find, seek, use and create information.  I find resources that support the curriculum and wellbeing of my students. I teach students how evaluate their sources, protect themselves online, be aware of the legislation around copyright and academic integrity. I help students and teachers in their teaching and learning by co-creating units of work that promote critical thinking and reflection.  I create lesson plans and collate resources to commemorate special events such as Reconciliation week, Anzac Day, Eid, Diwali and Samhain.

Each teacher librarian will have different priorities depending on the school they are attached to and the personality they were born with.  Some TL are brilliant at curriculum planning and get heavily involved with the co-creation of units. Other TLs are great collaborators and involve themselves with the teaching and learning aspect.  Some TLs are fantastic at resource collection management and development. Their collections are constantly evolving with the community’s needs. Each TL’s practice will differ from the TL next to them, the one down the street, the next suburb, or interstate.  That’s the beauty within the practice of teaching. Each practice is unique as it is the individual’s interpretation and implementation of the teaching standards that leads to such distinctiveness.

Each teacher, in their own sphere has an impact on their students, peers and community.  Individually we cannot change the world, but we can change the experiences of the people around us.  We can change how our students learn about internet safety, about how to use online information ethically.  We can teach the skills to differentiate fake news from real news (and in an election week… OMG!). We can show them how to seek, identify, use and create information that is meaningful to them and others.

How we do it will vary… but the point is that teacher librarians are trained and equipped to teach others the skills to survive and thrive in an information society. 

We can show the next generation how to become active citizens in this digital world. 

Digital literacy and its impact on pedagogy and the role of a TL.

The world’s economy has evolved with the transfer from production lines to one structured upon the creation and dissemination of information.  This era has been revolutionised by the ubiquitous presence of the internet and the speed in which it is generated. Combined with rapidly evolving technology; access, use and production of information is easier.  The education sector has been particularly affected by this insurgence of documentation and the skill sets required to seek, harness and use information successfully. This essay will define digital literacy and its pivotal role in information seeking behaviour trend of adolescents, its impact on educational practices and the role of the teacher librarian in this knowledge society.

Literacy has evolved from simply being able to read and write in text form into something more dynamic.  ACARA (2016a) has expanded the definition to include; the ability to interact with, engage and use language across modalities for a variety of purposes and a diversity of contexts.  In this knowledge rich society, information is available in multiple formats and can be often simultaneously engaged with (Jacobson et al., 2018). Therefore, digital literacy (DL) is the ability to appreciate the need for; the expertise to access; the capacity to evaluate, use and integrate information within the school environment and in general society (Lofton, 2016).   Thomas et al. (2018) acknowledge, even though access is widespread, individuals are grappling with the ability to use the new technologies in all areas of life (p.12).

The modern student is heavily reliant upon the internet for both information seeking and retrieval due to the widespread availability of mobile devices (McGrew et al., 2018, Mussell & Croft, 2013, Lanning & Mallek, 2017 and Mills & Angnakoon, 2015).   Teachers are often frustrated at student’s poor information seeking behaviour (ISB) and vexed by their blind dedication to Google and Wikipedia, despite a lifetime exposure to technology (Saunders et al., 2017).  The exasperation tends to peak at the student’s inability to successfully identify relevant and reliable resources online.  Unlike a library, where the librarian acts like a gatekeeper, the internet and thus everything on there, including unsubstantiated and vitriolic materials, are freely accessible.  Search engines are the most common starting point as students are familiar with their visual design, their mechanism and are viewed as fast and reliable (Lanning & Mallek, 2017; Qayyum & Smith, 2018 and Mussell & Croft, 2013).  Adolescents often base their entire study upon the virtue of Wikipedia and Google (Ricautre, 2016 and Qayyum & Smith 2018).  Wikipedia, as Ricautre (2016) elaborates, is built upon the concept of crowd-sourcing, as the public is encouraged to contribute information.  Whilst understandably these parameters allow for open dialogue and the precept of an open learning environment, it brings validity and accuracy of information presented into disrepute.

Google is an omnipresent search engine in modern society. Its pervasive presence has led to ‘google it’ often replacing ‘search for it’ in modern jargon.   Regrettably, as McGrew et al., (2018) point out, students determine the usefulness of a website based upon superficial points, such as the hierarchy of results displayed by Google.  Students fail to comprehend that Google, a corporation, controls results based upon an algorithm determined by the user’s own personal digital history (Ricautre, 2016).  In this way, Google ensures that the search results match closely to the user’s state of mind, previous search parameters and thus is more likely to be accepted (Ricautre 2016).  Some students do not even open up the individual sources but rather just peruse the content on the main search page and accept the information as correct without understanding context (Russell & Callegaro, 2019).   Other students rarely venture away from the initial website due to insufficient DL skills, so they accept information without verifying authenticity and or bias (McGrew et al., 2018). This creates a moral dilemma as they are willingly restricting access to information simply because it is easier.

The problems with students’ ISB are numerous.  Firstly, their techniques used to seek information are based most often on predetermined algorithms, ineffective search terms and minimum effort expended.  In order to cope with the overload of information available, students covertly reduce their search techniques so as to minimize the amount they are presented with (Qayyum & Smith, 2018).  Russell & Callegaro, (2019) point out correctly, that students place the whole query into the search bar and expect a complete response instantly, as there is an unwillingness to construct a bank of knowledge (Mussell & Croft 2013).  Qayyum & Smith (2018) corroborate, by suggesting that the speed in which the internet produces results prevents reflection of content. The DL skills of skimming and scanning cannot keep up with the flow of information and sources are rejected if not exactly correct.

Kobayashi (2018) found that whilst students preferred engaging with technology, they are unwilling to use advanced software and hardware, as they are unable to troubleshoot.  This self-censorship is due to an inability to interpret multimodal sources with a rich media presence (Head et al., 2018, p.4, Jacobson et al 2018; Kobayashi, 2018). This is especially true for students, who already have low literacy, as they often get overwhelmed by embedded multimedia, slowing comprehension (Kobayashi, 2018).  Other students find the layering of sources distracting which also slows cognition down. The majority of adolescents are unable to use search terms properly and when faced with an overwhelming number of sources, they simply use the first few and disregard the rest, despite the possibility of their importance (Mussell & Croft, 2013).  Their ability to navigate the internet is hampered by a lack of literacy and critical thinking skills.

Once students have managed to find sources they understand, they are unable to determine veracity.  McGrew et al., (2018), in their study, concluded that the pattern in which students investigate the reliability of a website is mainly determined by the visual appeal and seemingly professional appearance, whilst often disregarding the bias and or dubious authorship.  Jacobson et al (2018) argued that students are receptive to emotive language and the presence of speculative data was used as evidence of reliability (McGrew et al 2018). Students will also accept the reliability of sources if they subconsciously agree with the information and disregard sources that they disagree with, due to the challenges this new data imposes upon them (Jacobson et al 2018 and Russell & Callegaro 2019).   Even when presented with alternate sources, like databases, many preferred search engines due to the visual appeal and navigation ease (Lanning & Mallek, 2017, and Mussell & Croft, 2013). Shenton (2018) attributes this literacy to, in that students with lower literacy are often unable to decode more complex text and use familiarity of structure to determine reliability and rationality. In terms of DL, this ISB highlights a lack of critical thinking skills, as accessibility is preferred over validity, which is a significant issue for education and beyond.

The presence of the internet has forever changed how public policy and societal issues are addressed, and it is imperative that students are proficient at ISB so that they can do the same hereafter (McGrew et al., 2018 and Thomas et al., 2018).  DL is a citizenship issue and true democratic societies require the voter to be able to find reliable information, evaluate multiple perspectives and communicate their ideas on current issues (McGrew et al., 2018; Jacobson et al., 2018). If students are incapable of DL at school when investigating tasks simple and direct, then their ability to navigate for information on more controversial topics is hampered (McGrew et al., 2018).  This is particularly evident in an election year when society is bombarded multi-modally in an effort to persuade the voter. If one is unable to filter, understand and evaluate the information effectively, then the scope of information is greatly narrowed. One only has to look at the media about the upcoming federal election to realise how important DL is within society.

Modern pedagogy is shifting to a digital interface and it’s important that the DL skills are taught so that students and their teachers engage successfully (Jacobson et al., 2018 and Qayyum and Smith, 2018, p257).  As each generation learns to use, transfer and create knowledge in schools, it is logical that in schools, effort should be placed in establishing digital literacy and efficacious use of technology (Ricautre, 2016, McGrew et al., 2018; Berg, 2018).   A liberal attitude to DL by educational authorities will lead to an ineffectuality for critical thinking and targets for scammers such as the Nigerian scam that has played havoc within numerous households across Australia (ACCC, n.d.). It is evident that digital literacy is important in ISB beyond the classroom.

The dramatic change in ISB and budgetary squeeze has added pressure onto teacher librarians (TL) to adapt their roles to ensure their viability in the school context (Lamb, 2011, p.27).  This adaptation has redefined the role of the TL from an archivist and curator of knowledge, into facilitators of knowledge or information specialists, curriculum leaders, information management leaders (CC, ALIA & ASLA, 2016).  This facilitation ranges from the acquisition of materials that build a school collection, text and digital, and the implicit and explicit teaching of life long skills. From their central position within the library, a TL is able to view the school as a whole and identify and analyze learning holistically (ACT Directorate, n.d.).  As the information specialist and curator of knowledge, a TL is able to assist in building positive ISB by embedding DL through the curriculum (McGrew et al., 2018; Berg, 2018). In the instructional partner role, a TL can instigate various pedagogical practices to support teaching and learning via implicit and explicit actions. Implicit methods could be characterised by the presence of maker spaces within the library, embedding of skills into curriculum units, the inclusion of carefully curated resources that support learning, and explicitly via direct instruction and assessment of skills in tasks.  

Educators need to realise that DL is not independently discovered during research tasks but rather they need to be explicitly taught and then assessed to evaluate understanding (McGrew et al., 2018).  Explicitly teaching DL in collaboration with other staff, TL can assist students in improving their ISB across the school (Shenton, 2018). As technology is an augmentation of learning, regular pedagogy on DL can increase the confidence of students in their ability to use media rich resources for example Google Docs, OneDrive and Endnote (Ricautre, 201; Berg, 2018).  This increase in digital self-efficacy will allow students to engage with more diverse sources and improve their ability to troubleshoot any potential challenges (Kobayashi, 2017).   Makerspaces are an alternative, as they encourage students to be creative, collaborate, problem solve, research and experiment and challenge the student into higher order thinking (Lofton, 2016, p.18; Berg, 2018).  A TL is an ideal person to facilitate these activities, as they are curriculum leaders, and the information expert in the school (CC, ALIA & ASLA, 2016). They can support all forms of inquiry learning and research, by either explicitly teaching correct ISB, and or implicitly, by assisting colleagues in creating coursework and assessments with supporting resources and technology.

Another method is to teach alternate methods of ISB, such as the use of the library catalogue and databases (El-Khayat, 2016).  Mussell & Croft, (2013) determined that many students were unaware of the presence of catalogue and often made it synonymous with a database search. Saunders et al., (2017) and Qayyum & Smith, (2018 p259) advocate that the explicit teaching of search terms, synonyms, and key words is the most fundamental skill, as it is the underpinning concept that illustrates critical thinking and evaluation.  Shenton (2018) interestingly noted that whilst students can often be persuaded to use databases for educational goals, this does not extend elsewhere. There appears to be a dichotomy when it comes to obtaining information. This bears thought of where do these adolescents go to access information for personal or professional reasons? Unfortunately, Google and Wikipedia continue to be the main tools of information seeking, which in itself is fraught with complications.  McGrew et al., (2018) and Lanning & Mallek (2018) both propose that DL be a course that is explicitly taught and formally assessed as a unit of work.   Lanning & Mallek (2017) counsels DL in standardised tests to monitor student progress and the recent move by NAPLAN to online testing could be a step in the right direction in assessing DL skills as DL is pivotal to academic success (ACARA 2016a; ACARA 2016b). Lanning & Mallek (2018) surmises that this is due to the student’s reluctance to learn skills unless there is an assessment attached,  which is just an unfortunate testament to the current education system’ assessment focused approach.

Occasionally, teachers do forget that students can be ignorant of digital practice such as search terms or database availability (Qayyum & Smith, 2018, p259; Miller, 2018).  This is very common in schools with a transient student population. Instead of exhibiting frustration, a TL can use this opportunity as a refresher activity, to explicitly teach that particular skill to the entire cohort in collaboration with colleagues (Qayyum & Smith 2018 p259).  Teaching suggestions include rewording search terms into keywords, keeping extra tabs open in order to read broadly , and realising that the perfect answer rarely comes up within the first few responses (Russell & Callegaro, 2019; Berg, 2018). Head et al., (2018) suggests that teachers and teacher librarians are trusted to provide access to reliable sources by students even if they may not be (p27).  Consequently, teachers themselves need to be digitally literate in order to assist their students in their learning, which is why the presence of a qualified TL is paramount.

Budgetary constraints and a lack of understanding of digital literacy have led to many schools dispensing with a qualified TL and or the library itself (Wood, 2017).  This poses a great problem for students and their ability to engage with the digital world (Berg et al., 2018). Some argue that digital resources and new seeking software is so instinctive that it compensates for student inadequacies and librarians are unnecessary (Saunders et al., 2017).  But it seems impractical to depend on an algorithm and its superficial limitation of results. This is just censorship under an alias. Others suggest the pervasive mobile device does not warrant the cost of outfitting hardware. This is a fallacy, as mobile only users, individuals with a disability and ethnic minorities are sub sections of society who are digitally disadvantaged (Thomas et al., 2018, p.16).  Mobile only users in particular are reluctant to engage in media rich practices as their device often does not have the speed and data allowance (Thomas et al., 2018 p.16). Considering the diversity within schools, the lack of a school library and TL is a clear affront to educational needs.

Students with low DL will have poor decision making skills due to an inability to filter, evaluate and critically analyse information (Berg 2018, Wood, 2017; Kachel, 2016).  This inefficacy with DL is further pronounced in lower socio-economic households where there are already hurdles due to lack of access, generational disadvantage and disability (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018). The removal of libraries and teacher librarians infringe upon the freedom and right to access information (OIAC, N.D; UN, 1948).  Libraries seek to provide equity of access to students, and teacher librarians seek to provide self-efficacy in digital literacy to both students and teachers, for the successful navigation in this current knowledge society. The irony is that under legislation, prisons must have a library and a qualified librarian, but not schools (Kechel 2015, ALIA 2015; Bevan, 1984).

Digital literacy is essential and plays a vital role in ISB as the behaviour practiced in school is repeated in adulthood.  There is a strong correlation between low DL and poor ISB, which impacts pedagogical practices. The role of the TL in this changing information landscape, is to ensure that all students have access to information and have the ability to seek, use and share that information in a variety of formats.   In a world where there is a constant barrage of information, fake news interspersed with real news, a digitally illiterate citizen will be isolated, vulnerable and unable to self-advocate. They will be unable to participate wholly with this new society as an economic contributant. Access to the digital world is a necessity in modern times, as is the ability to navigate this information age.

REFERENCES

ACARA (2016a) National literacy learning continuum. Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/resources/national-literacy-and-numeracy-learning-progressions/national-literacy-learning-progression/what-is-literacy/

ACARA (2016b) NAPLAN online. National Assessment Program. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu.au/online-assessment

ACCC (N.D) Nigerian Scams. Scamwatch. Retrieved from https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/unexpected-money/nigerian-scams

ACT Government (n.d.) School Libraries: The heart of 21st century learning. Education Directorate.   Retrieved from https://www.education.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/916301/School-Libraries-21st-Century.pdf

ALIA (2015) Australian Library and Information Association Minimum Standard Guidelines for Library Services to Prisoners

Retrieved from https://www.alia.org.au/about-alia/policies-and-guidelines/alia-policies/prison-guidelines

ALIA and ASLA (2016) Statement on Teacher Librarians in Australia. Retrieved from  https://asla.org.au/resources/Documents/Website%20Documents/Policies/policy_tls_in_australia.pdf

Berg, C., Malvey, D., and Donohue, M., (2018) Without foundations, we can’t build: Information literacy and the need for strong library programs. In the Library with the Lead pipe.  Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2018/strong-school-library-programs/

Bevan, C., (1984) Minimum standard guidelines for Australian prisons 1978 (Editor), Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from https://aic.gov.au/publications/archive/min-standard-guidelines-prisons

Curriculum Corporation, Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information Association (2001). Learning for the future : developing information services in schools (2nd ed). Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Vic. pp60-62

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016/05/apo-nid66202-1210631.pdf

El-Khayat, Y (2016) Librarians help high school students improve research skills. Journal of Medical Library Association. 104:3. DOI 10.3163/1536-5050.104.3.009

Head, A., Wihbey, J., Metaxas, P., MacMillan, M., and Cohen, D., (2018) How students engage with news. Five takeaways for educators, journalists and librarians.  Project Information Literacy Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.projectinfolit.org/uploads/2/7/5/4/27541717/newsreport.pdf

Jacobsen, R., Halvorsen, A., Frasier, A., Schmitt, A., Crocco, M., and Segall, A., (2018) Thinking deeply, thinking emotionally; how high school students make sense of evidence. Theory & Research in Social Education. I46:232-276. DOI 10.1080/00933104.2018.1425170

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

Lanning, S,. and Mallek, J., (2017) Factors influencing information literacy competency of college students. The Journal of Academic Librarianship. 43: 443-450.  DOI: 10.10.16/j.acalib.2017.07.005

Lofton, J., (2016) Students are makers! Building information literacy skills through makerspace programs. CSLA Journal. 40 (2). Retrieved from https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-4305515741/students-are-makers-building-information-literacy

Kachel, D., (2015) The calamity of the disappearing school libraries. {Blog Post} Theconversation.com. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/the-calamity-of-the-disappearing-school-libraries-44498

Kobayashi, M., (2017) Student’s media preferences in online learning. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education. 18:3. ISSN 1302-6488. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1147585

McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., Ortega, T., Smith, M., and Wineburg, S., (2018) Can students evaluate online sources? Learning from assessments of civic online reasoning. Theory & Research in Social Education. 46: 165-193. DOI 10.1080/00933104.2017.1416320

Miller, S., (2018) Diving dee; Reflective questions for identifying tacit disciplinary information literacy knowledge practices, dispositions and values through the ACRL framework for information literacy. The Journal of Academic Librarianship. 44: 412-418.  DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2018.02.014

 

Mills, L., and Angnakoon, P., (2015) How do high school students prefer to learn? CELDA 2015. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED562093.pdf

Mussell, J., and Croft, R., (2013) Discovery layers and the distance student: online search habits of students. Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning.  7:1-2, 18-39, DOI 10.1080/1533290X.2012.705561

Nickpour, F., (2017) Information Behaviour in design; a conceptual framework. Design, User Experience, and Usability: Theory, Methodology, and Management.  pp 152-162.   DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-88634-2_12

OÇonnell, J., (2017) School Libraries. In I.Abdullahi (Ed) Global library and information science: A textbook for students and educators. Berlin, Boston; De Gruyter Saur. Retrieved from https://heyjude.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/ifla-174_16_o-connell.pdf

Office of Australian Information Commissioner (N.D) Freedom of Information Act 1982. Retrieved from https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/foi-act

Qayyum, M., and Smith, David., (2018) Changing research behaviours of university students with progression through a course. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association. Vol 67: 3 pp256-277 DOI: 10.1080/24750158.2018.1502243

Ricaurte, P., (2016) Pedagogies for the open knowledge society. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education. 13:32 DOI: 10.1186/s41239-016-0033-y

Russell, D,. and Callegaro, M., (2019, March 26) How to be a better web searcher: secrets from Google scientists. Scientific American Retrieved from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-to-be-a-better-web-searcher-secrets-from-google-scientists/

Saunders, L., Severyn, J., and Caron, J., (2017) Don’t they teach that in high school? Examining the high school to college information literacy gap. Library & Information Science Research. 39: 276-283. DOI 10.1016/j.lisr.2017.11.006

Shenton, A., (2018) Reading in information behaviour and information literacy frameworks. Collection and Curation. 37:2. Pp6-64. DOI 10.1108/CC-04-2017-0013

Thomas, J., Barraket, J., Wilson, C., Cook, K., Louie, Y., Holcombe-James, I., Ewing, S., and MacDonald, T., (2018) Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2018. RMIT University, Melbourne, DOI: https://doi.org/10.25916/5b594e4475a00

United Nations (1948) Human Rights Charter. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

Wood, P., (2017) School libraries disappearing as as the digital age is over. ABC News.  Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-25/school-libraries-disappearing-as-the-digital-age-takes-over/8980464

Information Literacy – 21st Century skills

The fact we live in an information society will come to no surprise to anyone.  Our lives are constantly bombarded with information, some real, some fake, most of it tainted.  Active and informed citizens need to be literate in this information society in order to be able to differentiate between the facts and fallacies.  They need to be able to seek, identify, use, evaluate and create information in all formats; for economic, social, vocational and recreational purposes.  Governments and in turn education sectors, seek to ensure that the current and future generations of youth are equipped to deal with this information overload in the present and in the future (Kaplowitz, 2014; Kong, 2015).   Information literacy is the phrase used to describe this skill set.

Information literacy within education as described by Lloyd (2010) is often viewed as literacy in a digital format, with close association to searching, analysing and evaluation skill with information.  Kong (2015) describes it as a “mastery of necessary knowledge to identify a need for; seek, use, interpret and synthesise information” (p.2). But before we can progress too far, we need to clarify what information is?  Information is a separate entity and that it needs to be discoverable by an individual (Lloyd, 2010). Its format can vary from text, audio, oral and visual images; but the result is it is absorbed by the brain and converted to information.  These groupings of data, now identified as information, are available to be discovered and made sense of by an individual’s cognition power. The process in which information is identified, collated, synthesised and comprehended can be assessed using benchmarks as a guide.  These benchmarks are most commonly known as rubrics, which place results on a continuum of learning.

 

A information literate person would have competency due to their cognitive approach.  This approach ensures that competency is achieved in knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes; which correlate to literacy standards (Lloyd, 2010).  As competency is achieved through multiple applications, the assumption is that once students are unconsciously competent in information literacy, they are able to transfer those skills outside the classroom.  This need for literacy to be transferable to life outside school means that information literacy needs to be embedded across the curriculum and year levels. It cannot be the outcome of a single subject or taught in an ad hoc manner as this is a cumulative process.

 

The other important aspect of information literacy is that it is collaborative (Lloyd, 2010).  Many educators would agree that learning is a social construct, as the collaborative gain of ideas far outweigh a single person’s cognitive strength.  This need to collaborate means that students are learning interpersonal and communicative skills at the same time as they are investigating. This holistic style of learning seeks to fulfil the emotional affect and cognitive strength of an individual.  

 

Kaplowitz, J., (2014) Designing information literacy instruction: the teaching tripod approach. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN : 9780810885851. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csuau/reader.action?docID=1687304&ppg=6

Llyod, A., (2010) Chapter: 6 Landscapes of information literacy. Information literacy landscapes. Elseview.  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-1-84334-507-7.50006-9

A dying profession?

When I told my friends and family that I was starting my Masters in Teacher Librarianship, the most common answer was why?  After recently losing my previous career as a scientist to automation and downsizing, my family was worried that I had once again picked a career with a terminal illness.  

After all, it is a rather inauspicious time to become a teacher librarian.  A recent report by BBC News (2016) highlights the loss of 8000 librarian jobs just within the United kingdom.  Did I really need to go into debt to pay for a course that would be redundant in a few years time? What are my motives for even wanting to complete this course and becoming a teacher librarian?  What does a teacher librarian do that is so different from a classroom teacher? After all, we all went to university and obtained our teaching qualifications and registered with the appropriate governing bodies.  Why could I not do the role with just my education degree? Dewey isnt that hard and I do know my alphabet so … What’s the problem?

I posed a question on my Facebook wall to all my to ask them if their children attend a school with a library, the frequency of their attendance and if they knew their librarian was qualified.  Out of the thirty five responses, only five of my friends knew with authority that their children’s school librarian was qualified and two were not even sure if they were teachers. As a parent I was astounded, as a teacher I am outraged.

There is no way we would accept unqualified teachers teaching our children english, maths, science or music.  Then why are we as parents and voters accepting our children having a library not staffed with a qualified teacher librarian?

It then occurred to me that they did not know if the person their kids saw weekly was even qualified at their job.  Teacher librarians are  not on the forefront of the parent-school interaction and Bonanno (2015) corroborates that the profession is often invisible to the community.  Upon thinking further, I realised that this is so true. The work that many T/Ls do is often behind closed doors, in meetings, collaborating with staff after hours, working late at night working on curriculum mapping, organizing resources, embedding technology into teaching practice.  Quite often, even our own teaching colleagues are unaware of the work that is done behind the scenes. So teacher librarians and libraries need  marketing tools to showcase their importance to the school, community and society.

One way of definitely promoting the profession is data analysis. We live in a world of budgets, KPIs and performance markers.  School boards, P&C committees and the money holders are servants to data and data analysis and outputs are calculated carefully and measured against various markers. Teacher librarians need to make their contribution to the school and learning community tangible like actual data.  Not just that the kids read more and are happier, but specify that reading rates are up 40% and wellbeing up by 15%. Be definite with data. Use the school’s NAPLAN scores to elucidate how effective the programs are within the school, or the lack of programs causing lower results.    

Evidence based research is the most authoritative way on bolstering a library and a teacher librarian position within a school.  Consider using research from around the world to prove your point. Bonanno (2015) points out very specifically, the direct correlation between the number of qualified staff members within a library and learning outcomes.   Point out how literacy outcomes directly correlate to the library budget. Share educational articles and journals highlighting the importance of libraries to student wellbeing. Organize student surveys and evaluate the data.  Teacher librarians know that they are highly capable and confident professionals with an innate sense of leadership but need to seen as part of the school community rather than a separate entity (Bonanno 2011).

So the next time some buffoon suggests that teacher librarians are not integral to a school community, remind them that in the information age, digital literacy is an essential skill and teacher librarians are the experts in information literacy.  After all, who else will assist teachers in the planning and implementing of the curriculum, integrate multimodal resources into teaching and learning, as well as be the information expert of the school? We live in a complex digital environment, and a qualified teacher librarian is the gateway that connects curriculum to resources and classroom dynamics.  Don’t you want that gateway in your school?

 

References

 

BBC News (2016) Libraries: The Decline of a profession? England.  https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35724957

 

Bonanno, K,l (2011) A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. ASLA conference. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/31003940

 

Bonanno, K,. (2015) A profession at the tipping point (revisited). Access

http://kb.com.au/content/uploads/2015/03/profession-at-tipping-point2.pdf

 

Burton, S., (2017) Does the digital world need libraries.  [BLog] Internet Citizen. Retrieved from https://blog.mozilla.org/internetcitizen/2017/09/04/libraries/

 

The Guardian (2017) What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health

 

Stripling, Barbara K 2014, ‘The peril and promise of school libraries’, Advocating for School Librarians, American Libraries. from http://www. americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/ advocating-school-librarians

 

Endangered or Adaptable

Once upon a time, when the air was clear, there lived a family of moths with pretty white 

wings speckled with black spots.  This moth thrived in the woodland, blending in nicely with the fungus covered trees, living merrily among the birds, bees and butterflies of 18th century England.  Their cousins, the melanic moths, with their black wings were the poor cousins that hid in the shadows, hiding from the daylight hours that would highlight them against the drab grey green tree trunks.  

Courtesy of Flickr

But then, darkness descended upon them.  The Industrial age had arrived and with it, smog and soot filled the air and covered the trees.  The poor little speckled moths stood out with their white wings and soon became prey to all the predators around them.  They were dismayed and cried for help to their unfortunate cousins. Instead, the tides had turned. It was the time for the melanic moth to fly.  Their black wings blended in with the soot and coal dust covered trees and buildings. It was their time!! It was their day!! But, being the kind and caring moths, they shared their genetic material with their erstwhile peppery cousins and soon their little speckled moth cousins became black too and life was merry.  

Courtesy of Flickr

Adaptation.  The ability to adjust or change your behaviour, physiology or structure to become more suited to the environment (NAS 2019).  Those peppered moths defied extinction by adapting to the world around them.

 

This is exactly what libraries have done.  They have evolved from hallowed grounds, sanctified and silenced by volumes of knowledge,held in trust for the future generations; to hubs of energy and have completely embraced this fourth age, known as the digital age.  This digital age, Rouse (2005) elaborates is one in which information, its control, creation and conferment are the basis of the economy. Individuals who are not actively involved cannot call themselves digital citizens and the ramifications of this are immense.  But thats a whole other post – Read it now.

Back to libraries and teacher librarians.  Have they become an endangered species?

Arguably, everything in the modern world is at risk from extinction with the advent of automation and technology. An article from the Guardian (2017) finds  that in about 60% of occupations would face partial employment reduction due to aspects being phased out by technology. Combined with BBC News (2016) doomsday report about the slow extinction of libraries, one could extrapolate that teacher librarian role would soon become a figment of the past and unable to exist with the digital age.  

BUT THEY ARE WRONG!

Teacher librarians are another of these defiant species.  Like our moth mates, rather than lay stagnant and shrink away, teacher librarians, consummate professionals as always, have embraced the digital age and evolved with it.  Libraries are now filled with computers and other technology. Wifi is synonymous with public libraries and Burton (2017) found that almost a third of patrons visit a library just to access the internet.  For many, libraries are the bridge between them and rest of the world. Burton (2017) points out that libraries are becoming the information hubs of society by providing this crucial access to information

Courtesy of Flickr

The question though lies, whilst libraries have evolved into knowledge hubs, has society as a whole, sufficiently evolved to engage with this new age of information.  Is the world equipped to work with Google?

Besides providing access to technology, librarians more importantly provide programs that teach digital literacy.  Todd (2012) found that whilst there is an obvious trend in the proliferation of personal digital devices, and that this technology is the dominant platform for information access and use, he did query the ability of students to actually engage with the content and its medium.  

The question must be asked… are young people, who have used an ipad before a crayon actual able to navigate the digital world successfully? Are they able to use this technology for more than just games and social media? If not, then how are they going to become citizens of this digital world.  Herring (2007) theorized that students needed to be taught how to use search engines based upon the evaluation and understanding of the content rather than the simple act of seeking an answer. As you can plainly see, the demand is for digital citizenship education.

Digital education most commonly happens in schools and and theoretically are programmed into the curriculum by a qualified teacher librarian.  But these days of tightening budgets, schools are often forgoing the need for a qualified teacher librarian and replacing them by either a classroom teacher or an administrator, often under the false assumption that Google can solve everything.  

The problem with this is according to Bonnano (2015) is that the specialist skills that a TL brings is missing, such as understanding learner needs, comprehensive knowledge of the curriculum INCLUDING the general capabilities.  Todd (2012) goes on further to say that teacher librarians have “recognised multimodal nature of literacies that emerged from digital environments and its importance of addressing these literacies”. It is information expert component of a teacher librarian role that can ensure these literacies are addressed properly (ALIA & ASLA 2016a).  

Teacher librarians are tasked by ALIA/ASLA (2016b) to implement programs that embed information literacy within the curriculum so that students become adept at seeking and using relevant and authoritative information.  It is our profession duty, that we teach students to be able to analyse, create and disseminate information ethically in multiple formats. Teacher librarians are tasked with ensuring that students become active and informed digital citizens.   

The absence of a school library and or the absence of a qualified teacher librarian will only be detrimental to the educational outcomes of the learning community.  It is clear to me that the presence of a teacher librarian is essential for the educational outcomes of the students. Teacher librarians are certainly not endangered, rather I think the profession will soon become a necessity if society is to survive.  

References  

ALIA and ASLA (2016a) Statement on teacher librarians in Australia. Retrieved from

https://asla.org.au/resources/Documents/Website%20Documents/Policies/policy_tls_in_australia.pdf

 

ALIA and ASLA (2016b) Statement on information literacy. Retrieved from https://asla.org.au/resources/Documents/Website%20Documents/Policies/policy_Information_Literacy.pdf

BBC News (2016) Libraries: The Decline of a profession? England. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35724957

Bonanno, K,. (2015) A profession at the tipping point (revisited). Access. Retrieved from  http://kb.com.au/content/uploads/2015/03/profession-at-tipping-point2.pdf

 

Burton, S., (2017) Does the digital world need libraries.  [BLog] Internet Citizen. Retrieved from https://blog.mozilla.org/internetcitizen/2017/09/04/libraries/

 

The Guardian (2017) What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health

Herring, J., (2007) Libraries in the 21st Century. Chapter 2. Retrieved from https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/science/article/pii/B9781876938437500028

National Academy of Science (2019) Definitions of Evolutionary terms. National academies of Sciences, Engineering Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.nas.edu/evolution/Definitions.html

 

(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

 

Todd, Ross J. School libraries as pedagogical centres [online]. Scan: The Journal for Educators, Vol. 31, No. 3, Aug 2012: 27-36. Availability: <https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=585228491693277;res=IELHSS> ISSN: 2202-4557.