Librarians are Gold!

Let the Learning Begin…..

ETL507: REFLECTIVE PORTFOLIO

Studying my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) over the past 2 years has cemented my knowledge and understanding of the important role Teacher Librarians (TLs) play in schools. I have enjoyed taking part in 8 challenging subjects and exploring the many facets of the critical role the TL plays in 21st century schools. I am now inspired to be a leader and am equipped with the skills and confidence to be a change agent in a dynamic school library. I have the vision to be an optimistic and proactive TL, who is adaptive and stays ahead of the game (Watt, 2011). I now know that effective leadership by a TL requires collaboration to implement innovative engaging lessons in an ever-changing digital world.

THE 21st CENTURY TEACHER LIBRARIAN

In ETL401 I learnt just how essential TLs are in the school learning community due to the important role they play in supporting student learning. The role of the 21st century TL is diverse, however, many savvy school administrators have realised that ‘the school librarian and the library program can be the hidden silver bullet for boosting literacy and academic achievement’ and hence learning from a TL is a vital part of the education of all students (Kachel, 2012, p. 33). The twelve standards to which all Australian TLs should aspire have provided inspiration for me to assess where I am currently at with being a TL, and areas that I need to develop further as I look for a TL position (ALIA & ASLA, 2004).

I have learnt how TLs can support students learning outcomes by extending what has been taught in the classroom by teaching students to develop information skills and then integrate the skills taught with classroom teaching. I agree that the TLs role is to encourage collaboration ‘with students and other staff members of the learning community to analyse learning and information needs, to locate and use resources that will meet those needs, and then understand and communicate the information the resources provide’ (Herring, 2007, p. 31).

I found the following video clip by Moreillon and Starrett (2014) prominent in emphasising the fact that TLs are the heart of the school. This video clip is a reminder of the multifaceted role excellent TLs display in 21st century libraries: curriculum writer, co-teacher, information agent, information specialists, assists with decision making, assessment designer, supports student achievement, teaches teachers how to evaluate sites and how to be better at their craft (Moreillon & Starrett, 2014).

THE CHANGING ROLE OF AN EFFECTIVE TEACHER LIBRARIAN

I agree with Todd (2008, p. 23) who states that the role of the TL ‘must change to take on instructional dimensions, ensuring that student learning is based on discovery, curiosity, inquiry, critical and reflective thinking so that students can construct deep knowledge’. Through reflection and readings undertaken in this course, I now have the knowledge and understanding that excellent TLs are part of collaborative teams who design learning tasks, rubrics, scaffolds and information literacy skills to create lifelong learners. During ETL401 I learnt that Guided Inquiry is much more than a personal interest project (I have observed classroom teachers confuse the two many times in their classrooms). However, I now have a clearer distinction that Guided Inquiry ‘is the way to meet the many requirements of the curriculum through engaging, motivating and challenging learning’ (Kuhlthau, 2010, p. 19).

Throughout my readings I discovered many innovative and motivating Web 2.0 tools that can be used to assist students research needs when implementing a Guided Inquiry approach. Some of these strategies are Pathfinders, wikis, blogs, word clouds, google docs. Scheffers (2008) also suggests class blogs and web quests as useful teaching strategies to engage students throughout their GI unit. At my current school I have observed Pathfinders in infants classes successfully being used as a tool for assisting students who lack content knowledge of a specific topic.

The Guided Inquiry approach differs greatly from the old fashioned teaching method of searching for information to fill in the blanks on a photocopied sheet. Whilst reading Robins (2005), I enjoyed reminiscing back to the days of my first teaching practicum 18 years ago, when the style of teaching mentioned in the “Bird Unit” was the norm. Being an educator today in a Guided Inquiry context allows for a continuum of learning directed by student curiosity, interest and inquisitiveness to take place.

THE TEACHER LIBRARIAN AS A LEADER

When I reflect back on my initial thoughts at the beginning of studying my Masters, I feel that I began this degree with limited knowledge about the TLs role as a leader. However, after extensive readings, discussions, blog entries and assignments, I now know that an essential part of the TLs role is being a teacher AND an information specialist who inspires others and leads from the middle (Haycock, 2010).

I found it fascinating to reflection on and evaluate the variety of leadership styles I have encountered during my 18 years as an educator. I considered which styles have been the most effective when striving to lead and influence a team of educators and agree with Marzano et al. (2005, p.18), that no one leadership style is sufficient – a combination of styles ideally should be used. It is exciting to learn that TLs are in a position to change present teacher work habits and challenge the status quo in schools. TLs can really make an impact and be a ‘change agent’ in their school by stepping up to perform beyond what is required of them and hence emerge as a middle leader (Couros, 2013).

When I finally commence a TL position, I plan to share my expertise with colleagues by attending collaborative planning meetings and sharing innovative teaching strategies for 5 minutes at the beginning of staff meetings. These are just two ways that I would recommend for a TL to actively utilise their role as a teacher who leads and is an advocate for change.

I now understand just how crucial it is for TLs to demonstrate leadership in their role by sharing their curriculum development knowledge, especially with newly qualified teachers and when catering for curriculum changes. TLs operating as a leader and sharing their curriculum knowledge will allow the library to be seen at the centre of curriculum change.

I agree with Purcell (2010) stating the role of the TL is to ‘collaborate with teachers, students and other members of the learning community to develop policies that guide the school’ to create lifelong learners. At my previous school, TLs supported and encouraged teachers to integrate relevant transliteracy skills into units of work to enrich students’ 21st century learning skills. The TLs saw an opportunity to lead and rose to the occasion, this was an ideal opportunity for them to showcase their knowledge and expertise, especially at a time when teachers and students are attempting to navigate in a complex media landscape (Jenkins, 2012).

ETL504 instilled in me that TLs who nurture strong relationships with colleagues in schools, result in higher levels of collaboration and teamwork. ‘Members of a good team trust each other. If a team is effective, then people learn from each other. They will inspire and challenge each other’ (Aguilar, 2012). I agree with Ferriter (2103) that successful leadership is more than just a shared vision, ‘without strong relationships, a clear vision for an ideal tomorrow, and an ability to translate vision into practical action, learning teams simply WON’T succeed’.

By reflecting, then making comparisons with my prior and current teaching experience in schools, I learnt that innovation, leading change and collaboration are essential attributes when striving to be an effective leader in a school library. I agree with Hudson (2014) that ‘leaders of the future have to be innovative’. Innovation in school libraries is a critical component of meeting the needs of a rapidly changing educational environment.

I found it fascinating to learn about the many complex leadership theories, especially the distinction ‘between management and leadership’ (Kotter, n.d.). I have reflected on the many TLs that I have worked with in schools, and applied these theories to their leadership styles. At my previous school, I have been inspired by many innovative TLs who emerged as leaders, simply because they were influencing colleagues way beyond the power that had been appointed to them in their current role description. These TLs emerged spontaneously into a leadership role because they willingly put their hands up and volunteered for additional projects, such as being on the ‘K-12 Professional Learning Committee’ and the school wide ‘eLearning Committee’. This demonstrates that these TLs are middle leaders, they are modelling best practice by sharing their expertise about technology with colleagues, as well as suggesting strategies for teachers to be innovative and creative in their teaching.

Effective TLs who are leaders in a school library believe that ‘collaboration is essential to leadership success’ (Collay, 2011). I can see this in practice at my previous school, where The Head of Library demonstrates outstanding leadership skills. She is a dynamic and effervescent, ‘”mover and shaker” who thrives on working collaboratively with teachers across the globe. Since exploring the many complex leadership theories, I am now able to formally label her leadership style as being both instructional and transformational. Prior to this subject, I would have simply labelled her as a leading librarian with energy.

ICT USE AND THE LIBRARY

Excellent TLs ‘teach the appropriate and relevant use of ICTs and information resources’ (ALIA & ASLA, 2004). Therefore TLs must shift their thinking from managing physical resources toward facilitating information and technology access (Lamb, 2007, p. 32). Purcell’s (2010, p. 33) research suggests many teachers do not have the knowledge or confidence to teach information and communications technology (ICT) skills. It is the responsibility of excellent TLs to instruct teachers on the best strategies for teaching students how to use ICT. in the classroom. Once teachers and students can use ICT and information resources appropriately and relevantly student-learning outcomes will be achieved.

In ETL411 and INF506, I learnt how TLs can play an important role in using their expertise in finding, evaluating and using ICTs and digital resources for learning. Excellent TLs use their expertise in finding, evaluating and using information for learning. They play an integral role in teaching the appropriate and relevant use of ICTs and information resources. Excellent TLs lead the way in showing parents and teachers new technologies and this in turn supports student-learning outcomes.

Use of Web2.0 tools

Upon reflection, I discovered that when ICTs are utilised and implemented correctly, technology can be an amazingly powerful and successful tool used to enhance teaching and learning outcomes. Staff who are able to collaborate with others and draw on others’ expertise and skills within and outside the school are able to increase their opportunity of applying ICT successfully in their teaching (Shaw, 2010). Unfortunately though I have often seen these teachers as ‘fix-it’ people in the school, being called on to help others fix technology, particularly from the technical point of view.

There is widespread recognition of the need for ongoing professional support for teachers to be able to embed Web2.0 tools effectively into curriculum programs (Wood et al., 2005). Hence, many schools are utilising the expertise of the TL as an information specialist to assist staff to implement Web2.0 tools in their classrooms by modelling and / or demonstrating these tools (Bharti, 2014). With the newly arrived Australian National Curriculum, it is a perfect opportunity to rise to the occasion and be an innovative, dynamic leader in our schools who drives change! It is up to TLs to step up and take the initiative to be a “change-agents”.

I found the underlying message in ETL411 to be: Use technology to enhance the learning. ETL411 was about the thinking and learning that will be enhanced when using Web2.0 tools. I am a firm believer that it is not about the technological devices or the tools, which are here today, gone tomorrow and replaced with something new, it is about how technology is used to further engage and motivate learners to achieve curriculum outcomes in an exciting and innovative way.

Social Learning for Educators and Information Professionals 

INF506 was designed to ‘provide a broad understanding of the concept, theory and practice of social networking technologies within the context of libraries and information agencies and the work of information professionals’ (Hay et. al, 2013). Valenza (2009) states a ‘TL position in the networked world is more of a moderator or coach, the person who can effectively interact with information and leverage it to create and share and make a difference in the community and beyond’. INF506 has encouraged and emphasised the critical importance for informational professionals to educate themselves and become active participants in a changing Web 2.0 world. Cohen (2006) suggests the following advice for TLs to ‘recognize change and become an active participant in moving forward by working with colleagues to expedite our responsiveness to change’.

I believe the 21st century is an exciting time for technological change, it is allowing for a new breed of librarians who will be able to embrace change and extend their state of mind beyond the traditional library skills of cataloguing into ‘experimenting and trying to find new ways to employ new tools in our libraries’ (Harvey, 2009). A key point made by Schrier (2011) suggests ‘when done properly, a social networking program provides a way for digital librarians to develop rapport with users, extend general awareness of the digital collection’. This will establish the TL as a knowledgeable, helpful, and easily accessible source of authoritative information.

INF506 course participants were ‘encouraged to explore what it takes to become a social networking producer, rather than just a consumer’ (Hay et al., 2013). According to James (2012), social media has become an essential part of most people’s everyday lives and ‘social Networks are now visited more often that personal email is read’ (Chapman, 2009). Therefore it is imperative, that we as information professionals educate students about how to create a positive digital footprint and teach them the skills necessary to succeed when using social media for both professional and personal use in a Web2.0 world.

The subject content investigated and the learning journey undertaken throughout INF506 has enabled me to think deeply and reflect upon my thoughts and ideas about social media. As suggested by Harvey (2009) a teacher ‘should be a person who is experimenting with new technologies as they come along.’ After researching, exploring and evaluating many new forms of social media I have furthered my knowledge and understanding of the educational benefits to people of all ages who immerse themselves in social networking environments.

I enjoyed the practical nature of this subject where I was able to trial and evaluate many different social media tools. I am now an active member of Goodreads, Linkedin, Facebook, delicious, flickr and investigated many other tools such as Second Life and RSS. I found this subject very useful to assist me in carrying out further research into social media tools that I could implement in the classroom when I begin a TL position. Hanson (2013) states, ‘integrating social media into
 your work develops digital literacy, builds relationships, helps you meet teens where they are, and helps to provide access to information’. I agree with Hanson and can now see many educational benefits from using social media in the classroom.

I agree that in a Web2.0 world, ‘networking (or one’s ability to network) is an extremely important part of a Librarian2.0’s professional toolkit’ (Hay et al., 2013). I now feel as though I have become better prepared with the experience of Web2.0 technologies to implement as an ‘information professional’.

DESCRIBING AND ANALYSING EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

ETL505 furthered my understanding that TLs do more than just restock shelves and loan books out to students. Throughout the readings, course booklet exercises and forum posts I have progressively gained a greater understanding of the role of a TL. ETL505 was all about ‘Describing and Analysing Educational Resources’. It was definitely a very challenging subject. The tasks allowed us to investigate, describe and analyse catalogue resources of all media types.

The principles and processes acquired in ETL505 were very technical in nature and often involved concepts and ideas that were foreign to me. Terminology such as metadata, indexing, bibliographic control and subject analysis were all part of a new language that I needed to master (Lodge & Pymm, 2007). I enjoyed learning these new concepts and expanding my vocabulary with the advanced and ever changing terminology that a TL is required to know. I found it difficult to get my head around the new international cataloguing Resource Description and Access (RDA) toolkit and the many ways it produces well-formed, interconnected metadata for the digital environment (Tillett, 2011). At the completion of Assignment 1, I understood the important role RDA has as a foundation or “building block in the creation of better catalogues and resource discovery systems” (Kiorgaard, 2008).

This slideshare presentation made a difference to my learning when describing educational resources because it clearly explains in simple language what the Dewey Decimal Classification system is:

COLLECTION DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT

Before completing ETL503 I had very minimal knowledge of the selection and acquisition process involved when acquiring new resources in a school library. The readings in this subject demonstrated why the collection policy is such a critical document and how it helps both library and teaching staff to be informed about the current library practices.

I learnt the importance of weeding the collection in a manner to avoid criticism and controversy. I had no idea that “less is more” and “the object of weeding must be to support the school collection policy and to develop a school library collection which is current, relevant and attractive” (Beilharz, 2007). I found Beilharz’s (2007) practical approach of weeding explained by using the acronym MUSTIE very clear and easy to adopt in any school library. I will remember this acronym when I commence my first TL position.

CONCLUSION

I realise that I am in a unique position in the Korean International Schooling network with both a Bachelor of Education (Primary) and a Master of Education (TL) from Australian Universities. Along with my extensive teaching experience in London, Sydney and Seoul, I am able to combine curriculum knowledge, pedagogy and classroom management skills with information skills in a potential role as a teacher librarian. My professional learning does not stop here…… I am investigating other university courses with an educational focus to partake in. This is in addition to my daily fix of interesting articles and information from my worldwide professional learning network on twitter.

At the end of this 2 year learning journey, at the forefront of my mind is the absolute critical importance of innovation and change in school. In particular, the way a school library adapts to the digital learning needs of teachers and students. Successful 21st century school libraries not only continue to build a reading culture in the school, but become a learning and resource centre which accommodates 21st century learning and ensures students are better equipped to meet syllabus outcomes. The following video clip is important because it successfully summarises Teacher Librarians as being at the heart of student learning in schools:

References

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Wood, E., Mueller, J., Willoughby, T., Specht, J. & Deyoung, T. (2005). Teachers’ perceptions: Barriers and supports to using technology in the classroom. Education, Communication & Information, 5(2), 183-206. doi:10.1080/14636310500186214


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