...Needles & Threads... (Fancy pants metaphors for facing up to the challenges & opportunities ahead)
Why Wool, Chickens and Origami?
Ms Yarn presents scholarly theories behind all the fun..
..in her best fancy pants writing.
The pursuit and acquisition of lifelong learning, in all its forms and representations, underpins the fabric of any successful society. Within their school communities, the role of the Teacher Librarian is a complex and vital link in the development of engaged and innovative learners. Teacher Librarians act as the inspirational needles that thread their school communities together (Kelleher, 2013). This fine needlework is steeped in a tradition of Teacher Librarians influencing curriculum to meet the educational needs of all students, as represented through the emerging and constantly evolving youth cultures within their school communities. Furthermore, as access to information in the digital landscape continues to evolve, morph and threaten to overwhelm both the learner and the classroom teacher, Teacher Librarians are perfectly positioned to influentially weave individual and collaborative futures based fabrics, engaging youth as active participants in their learning.
Context: Untangling standardised knots A review of International, National and State wide standards suggest (TLs) manage a broad range of roles that encompass curriculum knowledge and understanding, management and development of collections, promoting a love of reading, teaching information literacy skills, using technology tools to enhance student outcomes, policy development and leadership. (ASLA, 2004. SLASA, 2015. IASL, 1993. IFLA, 2006. IFLA, 2015). In reviewing these standardised statements a (TL) may hope to garner key priorities upon which to proceed within their school. Tangles have formed from many individual threads that appear to prioritise the role of collaboration at policy level, yet place youth as passive participants in their own educational experience. A snip of scissors and the importance of (TLs) as central in creating opportunities for active youth engagement reveals itself: (TLs) are to “support and implement the vision of their school communities through advocating and building effective library and information services, programs and resources.” (ASLA, 2004, p.1) As a Librarian in the 21st Century, my role is to actively engage the entire school community within physical and online spaces, recognise and celebrate the importance of valuing individual threads of evolving youth and young adult identities, support unique learning and teaching styles, guide generational skill sets and strengthen divides, and maintain an ongoing connection with evolving technological platforms, cultural resources and physical spaces that engage youth.
Pedagogical Threads There are challenges, opportunities and future directions for TL’s to act as passionate advocates for youth culture within information literacy, critical thinking and general literacy. TLs must become dynamic leaders that are committed to enriching teaching and learning opportunities that embed relevant and current textual understandings as well as general literacy development across the entire school community. Bell (2010) warns that ‘Just Googling it’ will not suffice in the classrooms of the future as our solution for managing our lived experiences. A further challenge for TL’s is that of the promotion of literacy itself, whether it is required as a vital part of the process for the development of informational literacy or to foster a lifelong passion for wide reading. Indeed (TLs) are well positioned within their teaching roles as promotors of a whole school reading program to support the development of literacy (Wolpert 2010), particularly in resourcing texts that reflect and represent sub cultures within emerging youth identities, so as to engage student interest. An essential part of my role is to promote opportunities and provide resources for students to comprehend and critically relate to relevant information in digital and print forms. Participation in both off and online worlds is at risk if students fail to engage with resources purchased to support both curriculum and reading for pleasure. Texts selected by the (TL) must reflect youth experiences, as opposed to a practice of moral gatekeeping that limits access to youth experiences and viewpoints (Beckton, 2015). With their (TL) as the guide on the side, students learn how to comprehend and critically relate to relevant information in both digital and print forms, in order to avoid superficial, non-transferable, content based connections with information.
It is clear the way we process, share and relate to information is undergoing a phenomenal shift. Our understanding and comprehension of text and symbols has changed with the development of technology, as evidenced by the 2015 Oxford ‘Word of The Year’ which was controversially awarded to a pictograph (Oxford 2015). Ladbrook and Probent (2009), suggest a power imbalance sits at the heart of our current educational environment with ‘information literacy and the relevant technologies required to make personal connections often left untaught, as teachers lack strategies to cover it’. The time is now for (TLs) to guide their whole school community through the current informational landscape of ‘infowhelm’, (Price, 2010, August 11). It is a daily part of my role to guide students, teachers and my school to adapt and change to the demands of present and future information environments where information literacy, critical thinking and general literacy skills are valued and promoted as key to student engagement and knowledge development . This guidance must provide opportunities for students to recognise when information is needed, and to find, evaluate and apply it effectively using texts that are a part of their everyday culture and experiences.
Threads of Curriculum Design There are challenges, opportunities and future directions for TL’s as curriculum designers. According to Haycock (2007), ‘Collaboration is the single professional behaviour of a teacher librarian that most affects student achievement’. As curriculum designers, youth culture and experiences must be a key focus area for (TLs) with full participation in whole school curriculum planning, so as to collaborate with teachers to integrate appropriate and relevant information resources within student learning. (TLs) must have knowledge of all relevant and contemporary syllabi across their school, (including depth study areas, alternative pathways and programs taken by classroom teachers as they navigate the curriculum), in addition to the individual and collective backgrounds of youth as learners, current assessment theory and processes, as well as supporting stakeholders to access a professionally, appropriately managed and culturally resourced school library. This is a task not for the faint of heart. Resourcing the Australian Curriculum (ACARA, 2012) as it threads its cross curricular way throughout my school curriculum is a new opportunity that I actively embrace. Recent collaborative connections with classroom teachers and students framed within Project Based Learning is resulting in the creation, implementation and assessment of curriculum that encourages a holistic engagement with students, our community, new technologies, and resources that have re-placed students as active participants within relevant individual learning experiences.
Collaborative Threads Classroom teachers and (TLs) must operate as synergetic systems, stitching knowledge on two needles- one needle that provides the necessary curriculum of classroom teacher and the other that provides the embedded processes of inquiry that encourages reciprocal real life, real world connections for the student. The role of an effective TL incorporates well-honed communications skills, and the ability to cooperate and collaborate with people across generational divides (Lamb 2011), in addition to recognising a rising level of youth culture that seeks to establish relevance and agency within the teaching and learning design process. I have experienced many challenges at this level of collaboration: a lack of whole school inclusion in curriculum design; staff perceptions of the role of (TLs) as invisible entities; addressing time and opportunity constraints for collaboration to occur and seeing youth as passive participants (if at all) in the planning of curriculum. Oberg (2006) points out that principal advocacy for the (TLs) role is essential in establishing the expectation of a collaborative culture. Within my experience, this level of collaboration requires the single resource that educators often feel they do not have to spare: time. Despite developing positive perceptions of what a (TL) can offer, personal advocacy for my role in conjunction with my Principal’s support have been the key threads upon which recent collaborative learning projects have come to fruition. My vision for the future is a collaborative curriculum design that reflects a whole school engagement that is youth experience centred, in conjunction with the development of relevant and transferable information literacy skills necessary for life beyond the school gates.
Resource Specialist Threads There are challenges, opportunities and future directions for (TLs) as a vital element in resourcing a process based curriculum that will prepare students to use informational texts effectively. Morrison (2014) suggests the ‘Sage on the Stage’ will no longer suffice, as millennial learners require innovative multimodal resources to spark their attention. As a result of the exponential growth in information and communication technologies, platforms and media, staying abreast of the contemporary digital landscape with the multimodal resources required to navigate the integration of new and evolving curriculum offers a challenge for all. The era of teachers stockpiling decade’s old resources as a reflection of their self-proclaimed pedagogical prowess is over, with ‘digital natives’ demanding more interactive, relevant and real life learning experiences, Prensky (2001). These natives are already able to independently source information on their own, as consumers and producers of their online experiences. As an integrated part of the learning process, O’Connell (2011) suggests Web 2.0 platforms such as blogs, wikis, webpages, Moodle and e-books will both engage, and re-engage students. My involvement in a collaborative year seven project titled ‘Web Site Passion Projects’ reaffirms teacher and student desire to actively access, create, present and share quality information that reflects individual passions, allowing the students to celebrate interests at a public level, as contributors of their own cultural experiences and identities.
Phillips (2015) identifies a cause for concern that despite the digital revolution which has placed technology firmly in the hands and homes of an increasing number of students, students’ digital literacy standards are actually decreasing. This can clearly be attributed to a lack of teacher training, outdated skills that will be of no use to students in the future and issues pertaining to rapid developments in educational technology and changing curriculum. The learning curve is steep. While there is a certain level of moral panic that is attributed to youth electronic device use, Weaver (2010) argues that technological tools and infrastructure have come at the cost of a failure to investment in human capital. Is it possible that our failings as educators in the use of electronic media is a direct result of a generational reluctance to engage with the unknown? Perhaps the Great Technological Divide is a result of being shown up by overly confident Millenials zooming past as they navigate a range of devices as they travel on the Informational Highway, while some Boomers and Generation X’ers sit roadside, broken down, yet refusing to look at a manual? It is essential that I collaborate not only with classroom teachers to build confidence in using a range of print and digital resources and platforms to engage the 21st century learner, but also the Millennials themselves, who happily share their latest online discoveries and projects during lessons and lunch times. As a result of these experiences, I have come to view ‘sharing’ as an essential part of the Millenial student’s D.N.A.
While teachers struggle to adapt to the tools necessary as part of the Digital Revolution, in contrast, students display great confidence in managing their online experiences in the classroom. Coombes (2006) suggests student use is at a ‘superficial level’, a cause for concern given that technology is ‘a part of the social, economic and educational landscape of the 21st century teen’. Concerns abound over the lifelong implications for the Digital Generation in regard to consideration of copyright, protection, protocols, behaviours and ethical use (Hough, 2011, Smith 2010). (TLs) must actively promote and educate staff in regard to positive youth engagement with technology, or risk being drowned out by moral panics that place the device at the heart of darkness. The emphasis on maintaining a positive digital footprint must be placed on the role of the user. Clearly, the navigation of teaching and learning in the digital world has implications for (TLs) in terms of resourcing, student engagement and safety.
Future Threads School Libraries of the future will act as well resourced, inspirational, and creative community owned informational hubs that seek out the silenced voices of youth, promoting a whole school awareness of their desire for agency in the classroom. These hubs will act as points of physical contact within an established online relationship, blurring the hours of the school day as teaching and learning connections takes place beyond the school gates. Flexible, well-resourced and fluid spaces will promote youth involvement and collaboration, social connection and a passion for knowledge, valued over that of superficial information (Shenton, 2015). Collections in digital, print and human forms will adapt to reflect individual school community interests, issues and programs, including game based learning, mobile media and popular culture. The responsibility of knowing how to learn will be a challenge keenly accepted by digital natives, who in turn knowingly accept, self-monitor and manage the responsibilities inherent in fabricating their individual life-long digital footprints. Libraries of the future will be managed by TL visionaries, whom despite the daily challenges presented as the information landscape continues to evolve, will continually reflect upon, and embrace the challenge of the new youth cultures, identities, media and environments.
Tying all the Threads Together Collaboration continues to be the fulcrum for my TL role as a Visionary Teacher, Curriculum Designer and Resource Specialist. To be ‘visionary’ is to consider the future with wisdom and imagination. There has always been, and continues to be, a great wisdom in a role that oversees the attainment of knowledge, particularly of the young. (TLs) have developed, managed and integrated information for centuries. More recently, we have watched modern technological ‘tools’ morph from the celebrated to the obsolete, from floppy disk to 3D printer in a quarter of a lifetime.
The spaces, people, opportunities, ways of teaching and learning, individual communities, resources and tools that form my working week will continue to evolve and extend beyond the visible walls of the classroom and link into hyper connected digital societies. Millennials will expect nothing less. Information will be available everywhere. The success of my school community to engage our students will be dependent on my ability to encourage, support and promote the role youth culture and identity has to play in transforming educational institutions at policy level, through to curriculum, resourcing, assessment, teaching and learning platforms. It is a daunting and exciting time for the TL that decides the time is now to adapt and evolve in the way they relate to information in the digital age. The threads that will collaboratively stitch successes upon are already here. As a Teacher Librarian, I can’t wait to cast on the first stitch- the beginning of a magnificent tapestry of knowledge that firmly places youth experience and knowledge at its core.
REFERENCES ASLA. (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/policy/standards.aspx Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (2012). The Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/
Beckton, Denise (2015) Bestselling Young Adult fiction: trends, genres and readership. TEXT, v32. http://www.textjournal.com.au/speciss/issue32/Beckton.pdf
Bell, M (2010) What kids know (and don’t know) about technology. Connections 74, 4-5
Combes, B. (2006). Challenges for teacher librarians in the 21st century: Part 1. Connections, 66, 10
Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35
Hough (2011).Libraries as iCentres: helping schools ASLA pp. 5-9. Retrieved from http://www.asla.org.au/publications/access/acces-commentaries/icentres.aspx
IASL. (1993). IASL Policy Statement on School Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.iasl-online.org/about/organization/sl_policy.html
IFLA. (2006). School Libraries and Resource Centers Section. Retrieved from http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s11/pubs/manifest.htm
IFLA. (2015). IFLA School Library Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.ifla.org/files/assets/school-libraries-resource-centers/publications/ifla-school-library-guidelines.pdf
Kelleher, T.( 2013, May 30) The Library can inspire [Web log post] Retrieved from: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/may/30/school-library-digital-age
Ladbrook, J., & Probert, E. (2009). Information skills and critical literacy: Where are our digikids at with online searching and are their teachers helping? Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 27, (1),105-121
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with Potential: Mixing a Media Specialist’s Palette. TechTrends (pp.27-37).
Morrison, C (2014) From age on the stage to guide on the side: A Good Start, International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Vol. 8, No. 1, Article 4
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13
OConnell (2011)What is Web 3.0: the next generation semantic web: Part 1. Scan 30 3
Phillips,M (2015) ICT is failing in schools- here’s why Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/ict-is-failing-in-schools-heres-why-50890
Prensky, M 2001, Digital natives, digital immigrants, On the Horizon, 9, 15-18
Price (2010, August) InfoWhelm and information fluency. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWkQq5qmdmc
Samuel, J (2011, August 9) Infowhelm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fexrbgiNnJI
Shenton, H (2014, Dec 3) Collaboratories and bubbles of shush- How libraries are transforming Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHdlWQ28gE8
SLASA. (2015). The Role of the Teacher Librarian. In Teacher Librarian Role Statement. Retrieved from http://www.slasa.asn.au/Advocacy/rolestatement.html
Smith (2010) ‘Managing your Digital Footprint’ Connections, 73, 5-6
Weaver, A (2010) ‘Teacher Librarians: polymaths or dinosaurs? Access, 24, (1) 18-19
Wolpert (2010) Is technology producing a decline in critical thinking and analysis? Connections, 73, 11