Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
image by sjcockell
By Lisa Allcott
Recently I had the chance to participate in two online courses – one at work on e-facilitation and one for personal interest on art in picture books. Offered by the American Library Association, this focused on the books that had won the Caldecott medal for illustration.
Both used Moodle as the learning platform and both were pleasantly easy to navigate – no technical issues with getting to the discussion forums, or accessing the pdfs of provided readings from either work or home.
The design and requirements of the two courses were quite different:
In both cases the courses were fairly fast paced and needed a decent time commitment to get the most out of them - at least five hours a week for the e-facilitation course. The Moodle platform for both courses is left open for a period of time after the course finishes. This gives participants the opportunity to go over older material and continue posting if they wish.
I found the online experience very interesting and learned a lot, both in terms of content and also from the experience of trying virtual learning - a great way to do some further professional development without being tied to a specific place or a time. At the personal level, it was fascinating to work co-operatively with learners from all around the world – we had participants from Malawi, Nigeria and Jamaica. Our Jamaican colleagues even helped my son with one of his homework questions – why can Jamaicans run so fast?
If you are looking to expand your personal learning network, I’d thoroughly encourage you to try an online course – I’m already looking for my next online learning experience.
By Linda M
School librarians often become the school archivist by default. As the person in school who organises and looks after resources, regardless of origin or ultimate destination in school, the librarian becomes the de facto archivist. If you are inclined to explore this area of resource provision, and have the support you need (time and money) you may find this a very satisfying part of your job.
School archives are a great source of material which students relate to easily, since the materials are often about former students now grown and gone, doing the things that current students still do. There are pictures and articles of past rugby teams and the XV, or poems by previous students published in the school magazine. There are photos of long gone students taken at school balls, and in school drama productions from years gone by.
A teacher at a boys’ school, used his school’s archives as the basis for an NCEA unit with his students, researching ‘Old Boys who’d served in World War II’.
There was a lot of interest in using material from the school archives, but also the students began to search other primary sources: interviewing relatives; delving into old photos; scouring through local history archives; using Papers Past and local newspaper records. The students got some great learning mileage from it.
Learn more about using Primary source materials in you teaching at the Primary Sources section of the Services to Schools site. There’s a lot of help out there if you’re just getting started in archives. Your first port of call is the School Records Retention and Disposal Schedule, which lets you know what to keep and how long to keep it. You may even be required to keep some material, by Act of Parliament! School records are mostly public documents, after all. If you haven’t got a hard copy of this schedule it is downloadable from either the Ministry of Education website.
Have you successfully integrated your school archives into authentic learning experiences in your school? Please share your stories with us.
Children are born with an innate and magical spark of curiosity. They display a delightful sense of wonder as they investigate their world. Initially, this is through hands-on exploration. As they develop, their investigation expands from the physical into the intellectual realm.
This magical spark of curiosity, sadly, seems to diminish in some children as they progress through school. Reasons for this are varied, but possibly extrinsic measures and assessment is a contributing factor.
Libraries have an integral role in keeping the curiosity spark alive. The school librarian has a key role to encourage and foster children’s innate curiosity and their desire to discover and “find out”.
The provision of a carefully selected range of books, and on line resources is one important factor. But that is not enough. We need to consider how the library can pro-actively provide “curiosity stimulating” environments and experiences.
Traditionally, libraries have created displays around a theme. Themes are often chosen from external drivers such at curriculum topics (sea week, conservation week). While students’ interests may be piqued by these external factors, innate curiosity comes from inside the child itself. This is what we want to nurture.
Sherry Crow has published an interesting article called Fostering the Curiosity Spark in School Library Monthly. She reports on her research into students’ intrinsic motivation. She highlights the important part that adults play in fostering and encouraging children’s innate curiosity. The adult pays attention to the child’s intrinsic interests and provides the child with experiences to develop and grow that interest. This then, positively influences the child’s desire to pursue a topic as an “information seeking passion”. This is a role for the school librarian. Many school library vision statements mention curiosity as an outcome. What would we see happening, if curiosity outcomes were actively pursued?
Here are a few ideas:
What can you do/ are you doing in your library to actively ignite children’s curiosity spark and keep it alive? Share your ideas in the comments below!
By Rob F
What is the school experience like for Pasifika students in New Zealand schools?
Anne Siope’s article “The schooling experiences of Pasifika students”, in set 3, 2011, pp 10-16 (NZCER) illuminates some of the issues Pasifika students of her youth and the current generation face at school.
Autobiographical as well as research-based, this powerful article illustrates some themes common to many Pasifika students at school in New Zealand. An understanding of these can help library teams engage positively with Pasifika students and their worlds.
Pasifika children then and now are often caught between the obligation to parents who want them to succeed at school, and the fear of drawing unwelcome attention from classmates or teachers. Siope speaks of learning “the art of being invisible at school”, while trying to keep the family happy. The effect was “to train up our minds for learned helplessness.”
Library staff can take notice of these “invisible students” and engage them in reading using texts that are in their first language and culturally relevant, while exploring ways to link existing knowledge with new knowledge.
Pasifika students “can live in up to six or seven different worlds”- home, school, church, sports, other extracurricular activities, part-time employment, friends. Some try to keep their worlds as separate as possible, excluding their parents from their other lives. Siope writes that this “in many ways, sabotaged our futures by not allowing our parents to be a part of our siloed worlds.”
Engaging with students may help them build bridges between their different worlds.
“A responsive, readily available and reasonable adult” often enables success. For Siope that was a teacher who expected responsible behaviour and activities which avoided time-wasting. This tied in with Samoan traditions such as “restoring calm, righting wrongs and re-establishing filemu (peace, absence of contention)”.
Library staff can enable success by developing affirming relationships, which encourage maturity and responsibility.
While research shows that teachers are largely unaware of their beliefs, their perspectives about ethnicities and the cultural differences in their classrooms, students quickly sense teachers’ stereotypes of them. Educators need to be aware of how schools can become “white spaces” even when most students are not white. And where parents will assume the teacher is right, students “learn to ‘harden up’ our minds and thereby our hearts, because family is much more important than getting an education.”
There is a challenge for library staff to truly empathise with and understand the worlds of their students. Conversation, reading books and articles by Pasifika writers, viewing Tangata Pasifika, attending social and cultural events are all means to meet this challenge.
The world of church
For many Pasifika families, church provides a social network, community and aspirations. This has an impact on expectations for their children and limiting interaction with people outside the community. For school children church commitments occupy a lot of time.
Understanding these pressures and benefits of church related expectations will help library teams develop good relationships and support student learning. This includes providing accessible resources on faith, ethics and justice.
If you haven't seen it already, check out the AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner (PDF).
This concise, accessible document is structured around some common beliefs, and four key learning areas with expanded standards statements for each around skills, dispositions in action, responsibilities, and self-assessment strategies.
Learners use skills, resources, & tools to:
“Our digikids may have the ICT technical skills but they possess limited online information and critical evaluation skills and teachers don’t have strategies to teach these skills. “ These were the findings of a just published New Zealand study undertaken by Judine Ladbrook and Elizabeth Probert.
School librarians will find this research extremely relevant useful as the context of the research is the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum’s vision statement that young people will be, “confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners. Ludbrook and Probert describe the lifelong learner as “literate, critical thinkers who actively seek, use and create knowledge.” These are the attributes of an information literate person.
Their research involved three large Auckland secondary schools and began with 188 year 10 students and from those students 22 of the most active, experienced and skilled at using ICT and at seeking information on line were selected for the research.
The students undertook focus group discussions and surveys about how they used information from the internet and how the teachers helped them with the skills involved.
All 16 students used Google as their only search engine. The strategy for choosing a site was to enter the first listed site and they never went beyond the third listed site! Many students based their judgments of site trustworthiness on how the site looked. It was trustworthy if “it’s nicely presented, it’s not just white background, black writing” because that “shows a professionalism” and “it doesn’t have the adverts or pop ups.” Nearly all of the students felt that a internet site was accurate if it was well laid out and divided into chunks with sub-headings as this lent itself to accuracy and if it “sounded convincing it probably was true.”
The students’ strategy for using the information did not involve any synthesising but simple cutting and pasting. When they were asked to research using more than one source students 75% of the students used strategies such as putting in sites that they hadn’t used but which had come up on their initial Google search.
The students suggested that the prior knowledge work would enable them to judge information more accurately. The students did suggest that if teachers gave them several URLs, a couple of articles or chapters in books from which to choose information, and also built their prior knowledge, then they would be unable to plagiarise because teachers would know their information sources and also it would stop them from adding false references.
One of the key themes that emerged from the research was how little teachers helped students develop their research skills. Most of the students stated that little help had been given to them. There was often an assumption by their teachers that research skills had already been taught before students reached secondary school.
Some students got given a list of helpful sites but only a few were given some minimal help to research on the internet. None of them were given help to use books to research, apart from being taken to the library.
The authors suggest teachers conduct diagnostic work to see what students can do in the area of information literacy and in using online resources, and use this information to make pedagogical decisions for addressing the gaps.
With the advent of the new e-Learning Planning Framework in schools, enabling “students to be successful citizens in a digital world” the deliberate teaching of information literacy skills is even more crucial.
Ladbrook, J. & Probert, E. (2011), Information skills and critical literacy:
Where are our digikids at with online searching and are their teachers helping?
Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), 105-121.
2.5 billion photos are uploaded to Facebook every month. Staggering statistics from Treehugger and a fascinating article on the seven technology trends that will transform our social media world.
A comprehensive report from Scholastic Kids & Family Reading clearly illustrates how technology is transforming the world of reading, music, entertainment and information. While parents are debating whether electronic formats are desirable a third of the 1,000 kids in Scholastic's survey said they would read more books if they had access to e readers.
Julie Bosman discusses in The New York Times how a younger market's appetite for e readers is growing. At Harper Collins sales for e books have risen from 6% to 25% in one year. Kids will be curled up in bed not with their blankie but their Nook, Kindle or IPad. Uncomfortable but indisputable and the text it is a changin'.
Vertical files or Information files have been used in libraries to store current information in formats which is too small to put on shelves e.g. newspaper articles, pamphlets, photos. With the growth of the Internet many of these information sources are now available online which brings into question the viability of maintaining a vertical file. Here is an article from Canada which discusses the pros and cons of the vertical file.
A more recent concept is the Virtual Vertical File (VVF), which allows libraries to organise web links within subject groupings and provide access to them via library wikis and websites. Jamie McKenzie provides some insights into the possible role of the VVF.
Below are several examples of different approaches to organising a VVF.
by Lisa O
Planning for the year ahead through reflection on past practice.
As you start back at school, you will be setting goals for the year ahead.
To help with your planning, take some time this week to reflect on last year’s achievements. Make a list of what your students learned as a direct result of programmes/activities in the library or via the library. How do you know what they learned? Have you created ways of measuring your impact?
If not, take time this year to ensure you incorporate measurement and evidence gathering in all your programmes for the year. Time spent planning measuring, collecting and analysing the data is time well spent. This is not only evidence to inform your future practice, but also the tool for your advocacy work. Encourage your students to reflect on their learning throughout the year and create a place for them to write their reflections (digital or analogue).
Students’ reflections and your data collection over time, will serve you well, not only in your planning to be the most effective you can be, but also in your advocacy work with teachers, administration and the wider community. As you think about what evidence you will collect and incorporate into your practice over time, consider your school’s overall goals. If raising literacy rates is a key goal for your school, then you will want to ensure that you are measuring the ways that the library is contributing to the successful attainment of that goal.
The work we do in school libraries is important! Make sure that it counts by gathering and using the evidence of your practice. Your time is precious, make the most of it. Prioritise the tasks that most evidently contribute to student learning and literacy. As Ross Todd famously said: “Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what your priorities are”.
As you reflect on the many and varied tasks you perform each day/week/month in the library, consider which of these has a measurable impact on student achievement. Consider the proportion of your time spent on the different tasks. Is most of your time spent on those tasks that directly impact on achievement? If not, then perhaps this year is the year to make some changes. Maybe there are some tasks taking up a lot of your time, maybe they are enjoyable or comfortable, but if they are having a negligible positive effect on learning it might be time to leave them behind. Tasks we did in the past may be less important today. Once we had to spend time cataloguing, now we can quickly and easily get our MARC records from a variety of sources. Once we clipped and indexed articles from magazines and newspapers, now we create electronic pathfinders to digital source material.
The landscape of school libraries and learning is shifting continuously. Our role as always, is to help students and teachers navigate in that landscape. Keeping current with new developments and tools, we are better positioned serve our students in achieving their learning and literacy goals. Evaluate your programmes and your tasks against these goals regularly. Ensure that there is a strong correlation between time spent and impact on learning and achievement. Be sure that your hard work is achieving the results you want.
School libraries are tremendously important. They are a key element in student achievement.
There are great things happening in school libraries in New Zealand. Invest in the future of school libraries by spending your time on the work that matters most, documenting the evidence of your results and using that evidence to inform your future practice and to advocate for your library.
See Evidence & Learning Outcomes for more information
by Lisa O
Derek Wenmouth’s Challenges, changes and trends blog posting of 31 January is interesting and covers a lot of ground. It is well worth a read.
He has linked to the Australia New Zealand Horizon report (see our research page to read more about this report), and highlights some possibilities for education in NZ such as a National Education Network and local schools’ networks.
After looking through his slides, I went back to Derek’s initial questions:
I decided to seek some practical answers to these questions. A friend of mine has headed up several very large companies employing very large workforces. So I asked:
“Given that so many of the jobs of today didn’t exist when the people in them were at school, what are the most important skills that we as a society, should be ensuring our students have for a future which is unknowable today?”
His answers without hesitation were:
· Problem Solving
· Confidence - (to try new things)
· The freedom to try new things and to fail
· Open mindedness
· Outward looking
Are we facilitating our students to develop these skills? My friend said Creativity without hesitation. Sir Ken Robinson has been writing and speaking about the role that schools play in creating or stifling creativity. Take a look at his various Ted talks to learn more.
Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised) puts Create at the top of the pyramid. What are we doing to ensure that our students leave school with the skill of Creativity? How about problem solving? Confidence? The Freedom to try new things without fear of failure? Outward looking? Open Minded?
In supporting teaching and learning in schools, the library and the librarian have an important role to play in fostering the development of these skills. There are a variety of ways that school libraries can play a part.
One way is through collaborative teaching using inquiry in the library. This encourages students to be creative and to engage in problem solving.
Pursuing their research to satisfactory conclusions while guided through the inquiry process will build confidence and, will allow the freedom to try different approaches including changing course after failure; learning along the way.
Students who learn through guided inquiry and resource based learning are encouraged to think laterally and to be open-minded.
Another way librarians can contribute to the development of these attributes is through the work we do with literacy. Great school librarians encourage readers. The more children read, the more they love to read. The more children love to read, the more they read. Good readers experience more success at school. Success breeds confidence across the curriculum.
Reading widely across genre and format means students will be exposed to many ideas, familiar and new. This exposure helps to develop open-minded attitudes, encouraging students to think laterally, try new things, and seek creative solutions to problems.
Of course one way that all educators including librarians can encourage these skills is through modelling them; showing our students what open- minded, creative, confident, outward looking, and comfort with failure look like.
There will be many other ways that librarians along with other educators are facilitating the development of these important skills. It would be great to have some responses to this post of things that you are doing out in schools to encourage the development of these important future focussed skills.
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