Inspiration, Innovation & Information for school libraries and learning.
Professor Carol Kuhlthau shared the story of her journey from school library practitioner to founding director of the Center for international Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL). This included, importantly, her Doctoral Dissertation and 30+ years of development, research and writing about the “Information Search Process” or ISP, which is the model for Guided Inquiry used around the world.
“I have an idea” said Carol one evening. She had been reflecting on what was missing in her practice as a school librarian. She understood the “power of the practitioner to impact on learning outcomes and to create change in the learning environment.” She had identified the following:
Carol also understood some of the important skills of the school librarian that were important in supporting educational achievement:
From these reflections came the idea that has transformed education and the library’s role in supporting learning; the information search process and Guided Inquiry. Through action research with students, a lifetime’s study, collaboration and writing about the process from the learner’s perspective, and by focussing on how educators can design and implement inquiry, Carol is the global authority in the discipline.
School library teams in great learning environments are ideal collaborators and leaders for guiding students through the stages of inquiry from initiation of the process through to the presentation and assessment of new knowledge.
“I have an idea” Carol told her family one evening. That idea has become her life’s work.
Throughout the symposium, many of the other researchers and practitioners shared their work: “I had an idea” was at the heart of all of them.
I had the privilege of attending the 3rd International Research Symposium at the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL) in the US at the end of April.
The inimitable Dr. Ross Todd led the two day symposium. He kicked us off early on Friday with the challenge to “Be! Do! Become!” This refrain throughout the symposium encouraged us to apply these terms to ourselves and to also create environments for students that allow them to “Be, Do, Become”; environments that encourage and enable students to take an active, participatory role in their own learning.
Piaget wrote: “The principle goal of education …should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” Ross used this quote to create a frame for our discussions of Guided Inquiry and the future school library.
The Focus question for the two days was: “How can schools prepare to deliver a 21st century education for digital youth?”
Researchers and practitioners from around the world responsed through fantastic presentations and a series of focused discussions. All participants also engaged with the idea of: “the changing face of the information landscape in schools, the creation of innovative information-for-learning environments, and the imagining of school libraries”. We all contributed to the development of ideas and discussions that will feed into the creation of a white paper on this topic.
Participating in this symposium and learning from researchers and especially practitioners around the dual themes of Guided Inquiry, and Digital youth and creative technologies for learning was incredibly stimulating and exciting.
The work happening in libraries in Australia, the US and Sweden using the Information Search Process in evidence based practice is incredible. Teams of librarians and teachers, many using the SLIM toolkit (pdf) to guide their practice, assess learning outcomes and gather evidence, presented marvellous case studies of student learning supported by video reflections of students.
Look out for more posts in this blog about the symposium content.
A primary purpose of having a school library is to strengthen student learning. While many school libraries provide excellent services and a variety of programmes to support the education of students, how well does the staff in your school library fare when it comes to broadening their own professional knowledge and experience?
These days, one’s PLN or personal learning network can take the form of face-to-face, print and online connections. School library staff are well-placed to be very adept at sourcing information and support to meet their own professional learning needs.
The idea of “buddying-up” with another school library or forming a network of libraries based on geographical location, type of school or particular interest for the purposes of acquiring professional learning and experience is not new. Much can be learned through observation, listening and discussion.
How many school library staff, however, have considered actually trading places with staff from another local school library to acquire some real, ‘hands-on’ learning?
Rosalba Finnerty, who for many years was the librarian at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Wellington, now works as a relieving librarian. She has found working in other school libraries, even for a short time, gives her the opportunity to experience different ways of doing daily tasks. Trading places can lead to new initiatives and fresh ideas for your own library as well as for the “exchange” library.
“Observing is one thing but working in a new environment is totally different. Seeing how another school library works gives you an opportunity to see how you may be able to make changes in your own environment. For example, in one library I worked at there is a strong focus on student librarians. The library staff are proactive in keeping the students occupied (and helpful); their success is measured and rewards are received. The student /staff rapport is positive. In another library the staff have their desks out in the main library space not in an office so they are always available, always welcoming, always monitoring. Prioritising is different and seeing what we can do easily in one library, may not be so easy in another. Collegiality and helping each other in the profession becomes much easier when one actually experiences such issues.”
So what might be the benefits from trading places with a colleague?
Let’s hear some of your feedback on this idea! What other benefits could you see arising from an exchange?
How long would you suggest trading places for? A day/a week? What issues might you face?
Has anyone out there already tried this? Would you be willing to discuss the possibility of conducting an exchange with your Principal and staff?
By Glynis S
What are the learner qualities that allow low achieving students identified at age 8 to succeed in gaining Level 2 or 3 NCEA awards in their teenage years?
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Rosemary Hipkins and Edith Hodgen from NZCER have written a fascinating paper identifying the learner qualities that contributed to the difference between a group of 8 year old low achieving students, who were later successful in gaining NCEA awards and other early low achievers who continued to be low achievers.
Information on the student learning foundations for the successful students comes from data collected in the longitudinal, NZCER Competent Learners study, which thas been tracking a sample of 500 New Zealand students from preschool, through primary and secondary school into tertiary study or work. The students in the study are now aged 20.
Cognitive competency-related factors associated with a more successful learning trajectory since age 8 include:
Attitudinal competency-related factors for more successful students include “perseverance” at aged 8, which continues to be noted, encouraged and supported by teachers. Conversely, those who left school with no qualifications or a Level 1 NCEA award were more likely to:
The clear implication is that working with lower achieving students in their final years of primary school before they get to secondary school, really does matter.
The obvious message for school library teams is that leisure reading should be very much encouraged in the later primary school years with it’s potential to improve reading, writing, vocabulary and attitudes to learning at a critical time for low performing students.
Have you got a programme or iniative for supporting low achieving students in your primary school? Please share your success and evidence with us all!
For more information read the following reports:
By Peter Murgatroyd
School librarians shape lives. As cradles of curiosity and imagination, school libraries are a community taonga where our children are inspired to dream, to question, to reflect and to aspire to live extraordinary and unique lives.
Libraries are more than the nexus of books, technology and services. Great school libraries are a school’s heart. Pam Sendlian Smith, Director of Anythink Libraries describes libraries as learning spaces that influence lives and create communities. She says that libraries are about helping people to live their most abundant lives and describes librarians as architects of dreams.
In communicating her passion and vision for libraries, Pam focuses on the Why of libraries. We do not win hearts and minds by telling stories of the What and the How.
During the term 1 school holidays I had the opportunity to participate in Ignition 2013, an ‘unconference’ for emerging school leaders. The theme of Ignition is an “incubator for awesomeness”. Ideas were shared and innovations explored. Ignition 2013 is all about the Why. It is all about learner outcomes. It is all about passion.
I recently watched LIANZA President-elect Laurinda Thomas being interviewed on TV One’s Breakfast programme about the future of community libraries. It was important she communicated the Why; communicated the passion. And that she spoke to the values and beliefs that would resonate with those watching. She did: A deep commitment to social justice, equity and participation, and a heartfelt desire to make a difference in our communities.
Simon Senek, author and well known TED speaker, describes authentic leadership as more about passion and emotion than rationality. Martin Luther King, Senek notes, did not have a twelve point plan. He had a dream.
When you have the opportunity to reach people; to shift their perceptions of your library, its role and its value, focus on the Why. Share your passion. Share your dream.
Architects of Dreams: Anythink’s Pam Sandlian Smith on the Power of Children’s Librarians
Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action [Ted talk]
Laurinda Thomas. Libraries are important community hubs .
Andrew Churches: What is the role of the librarian Educational Origami blog
CC image by Texast
In the past, many homes would have contained a large print dictionary whose purpose was to assist with homework and settle the inevitable arguments that accompanied family games of Scrabble. Not so any longer!
Today dictionaries are ubiquitous, available to us 24/7, standard on our laptops, available when we send a text or email, embedded in our digital devices, a definition is now no more than a simple Google search away.
Digital dictionaries are responsive, they adapt more quickly to current usage as well as to changes in technology, science and culture. With fewer space constraints, entries contain more usage guidelines and examples. Entries now include sounds as well as meanings of words. Sites like Vocabulary.com include quizzes and language learning games. Issuing regular updates makes it easy to include new words and revisions of existing terminology.
The digital environment not only puts a wealth of information in the hands of dictionary users, it delivers information back to the dictionary makers as well – our dictionaries are reading us! In the past lexicographers would have relied on field research to collect examples of words and usages – we would now call this crowd sourcing. This practice of gathering information can be continued and expanded online. For example most online dictionaries invite readers to nominate new words. Dictionaries now respond to patterns of usage that are triggered by current events. For example in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 people looked up words associated with the nature of the event: “rubble” and “triage”. Subsequently, as people tried to make sense of what had happened more abstract terms such as “surreal” were searched. Dictionary makers also monitor unsuccessful “look-ups” to identify searches that don’t produce satisfactory results, and identify words that haven’t made it into the dictionary yet or whose definition needs to be up-dated.
From the user’s point of view differences between dictionaries are harder to see when you are searching for a definition online. The definition that is most easily found may not be the most robust or up-to-date, and it can be difficult to tell how reliable a source is. Who has developed the definition that turns up after a quick Google search, or is embedded in your digital device? As educators it is therefore vital we equip students with the skills to distinguish a reliable source from a poor one.
Do you want to promote use of digital dictionaries amongst your students? Remember that Oxford English Dictionary Online is available through EPIC . If you are thinking about the criteria that could be used to assess online dictionaries refer to the Reference resources guide.
While it’s still difficult to recreate the pleasure of browsing through a print dictionary and finding something you didn’t know you were looking for, and your digital dictionary will never be able to prop open the door, this format is here to stay and we need to embrace and understand the gains that are available to all users.
By Gail C
cc image by joe Shlabotnik
Our local café is a bustling place at lunchtimes with shoppers having coffee, a bite to eat and lingering on to read the latest magazines or the daily newspaper – leisure reading on the trot.
Imagine taking a selection of school library resources outdoors for a spin on your book trolley to the lunchtime playground, to encourage leisure reading on-the-spot picnic-style! Plop yourself down in a shady area with a picture book or humorous poetry and read aloud to students while they have their lunch. Have your principal / teachers / students / community members join you with guest spots during the week, eg ‘Fridays with Fred’. Students can then select lunchtime reading from the trolley, which could be staffed by your student librarians.
Check out these success stories:
Literacy Lunch Club: Parents join their children at school once a month to enjoy lunch outdoors and to read together. The librarian wheels out a trolley of literature, including bilingual titles, which can be read in a short space of time. Parents are also given a ‘tip card’, which has a new reading strategy for that month.
Power lunches is a school-community reading partnership programme, which pairs students with volunteers from nearby businesses once a week for read-aloud sessions during lunch time.
More ideas on strategies for creating readers, including developing home-school- community partnerships, reading aloud ideas and sharing poetry, can be found at:
Search Institute is a nonprofit organisation with a mission to: “provide catalytic leadership, breakthrough knowledge, and innovative resources to advance the health of children, youth, families and communities”
To achieve this, they work with educators, parents, librarians, youth-serving organisations, and librarians using the construct of Developmental Assets. Search Institute has identified through research in child and adolescent development, sets of building blocks for healthy development – the 40 Developmental Assets.
The Framework of assets “represent a common wisdom about the kinds of positive experiences and characteristics that young people need and deserve….that are powerful influences on adolescent behaviour….that both promote positive behaviours and help protect young people from problem behaviours” Their research has shown that adolescents with more of these assets are more likely to value diversity and exhibit leadership while being less likely to engage in violence or to use illicit drugs.
There is a wealth of information relating to both children and adolescents on the Search Institute’s website including a table of Developmental Assets and library connections for both school and public librarians. These library connections focus on support, empowerment, expectations, commitment to learning, positive identity and more.
Along with with information on their website, Search Institute regularly launches new programmes, products and services including a recent programme on teaching financial literacy.
By Dylan O
In February 1899 under the heading A Terrible Death, the Press Association reported a gum digger skeleton had been found high up in a kauri tree, entombed in kauri gum!
So what connects this macabre newspaper report to the Treaty of Waitangi, to your last email or the photograph you just took? Well, they’re all primarysources.
Primary sources are clues people leave about their lives and they come in many forms.They exist because when people experience events, they often record first hand what they saw, heard and felt. Examples include letters, photographs, posters and yes in this digital era emails and tweets.
In fact, the digitisation of primary sources over the last two decades has seen institutions like the National Library of New Zealand place thousands of its primary sources freely online.
One excellent and well-used example is the Service to Schools Primary Source section here.
This not only provides a growing treasure of topic-based New Zealand primary sources galleries.
but it also includes resource activity guides and provides information on how to use and find them.
The site offers a unique opportunity for students to discover New Zealand primary sources and develop their analytical skills while exploring past lives and events in very real and personal way.
One pertinent example (with ANZAC day coming up) is this student posted question on Many Answers
Our ANZAC gallery provides a perfect resource for this. The fourth item is digitised Gallipoli war diary, by Alfred Cameron.
What better way and poignant way to explore writing a war diary than reading the real thing?
by Lisa O
Recruiting for the school library
I read every job description / recruitment ad for school library staff in New Zealand that I see. I am passionate about the future of library services for our students. In particular how we can contribute to the evolution of these services so that future students will enjoy a more equitable provision of and an ever increasing quality of services
Just as a playing field doesn’t make an athlete, nor does a library make a learner or a reader. It takes an agent, a person who supports and enables students through resources, skills development and coaching. Connecting learners to the people, resources and skills they need is a service – performed by a person or team.
In the ecology of the library learning environment there are a variety of different roles and people who fill them. In reading job descriptions from schools around New Zealand, there are skills and qualifications that are often sought, and there is often a “person spec” or list of qualities as well. These skills, qualities and qualifications with various emphases are somewhat standard.
A set of dispositions or attributes is also important and that any one working with students and teachers in a library learning environment must be in possession of these non-negotiable traits.
Here are some that would top my list:
This is not a comprehensive list but I think it is a start. Anyone can learn a library system, or other software, but great school librarians share a love of students, and a passion for empowering learning and literacy.
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