Risky Business

I remember hearing somewhere that we teach in the style we like to learn ourselves. I always thought I was a risk taker when it came to my own learning. I would also like to think I promote risk taking in my classes. I am confident in my opinions and knowledge and love to share my ideas. I really enjoy working collaboratively and learning from others but since beginning this course I have realized that learning online is a totally new and daunting experience. My reaction has surprised me as I have become a silent onlooker. I view the forums regularly but am wary of posting a comment for fear that my lack of experience in the field will be exposed. Also the written word is much harder to retract or clarify. You may not have ‘instant’ feedback. This immediacy is a concept we like to associate with the Internet but it may be several hours before there is a reply or worse still, no response. Expressions on the forum do not have facial and body language to enhance meaning.  It takes longer to form collegial relationships online. I look at the regular contributors and am in awe of their confidence and ease with this medium. I use to count myself I.T. savvy. I completed my JEB Teacher’s Diploma in Information Technology and worked at night teaching adults Microsoft Office software. With the onslaught of the Internet and e-how videos I never felt my job would become superfluous. Most participants were capable of teaching themselves but liked the interaction with the teacher and other participants. I absolutely love I.C.T. and I am always experimenting and playing with new software and exploring its potential use in the classroom. I usually self teach myself new software through the Help function and online manuals, yet now I am feeling a little isolated and overawed in cyberspace. I have become more confident in navigating the CSU Interact site and hopefully I will begin to participate regularly on the forums which are a fantastic way to share knowledge. This course is certainly a learning curve and has made me think that confidence is a huge factor in teaching information literacy. So as we debate a common working definition for Information Literacy whether it takes a wider perspective for lifelong learning or a narrow school based stance the key is confidence.

 It amazed me in Herring’s research that only one student out of 56 students said they were very confident about doing a good assignment, with over half saying they were unsure.  AASL (2007 p. 4) Standards for the 21st Century Learner recognises that a student ‘must demonstrate confidence and self direction by making independent choices in the selection of resources and information.’ But teachers also need to be confident in what they are teaching is useful and effective. Oberg (2002) says that ‘Teacher efficacy, the extent to which teachers believe they can influence student learning, appears to be positively correlated with student achievement.’

I remember learning about a study in University to improve reading levels. It had four groups, a control group which was given no intervention, a group that was given reading strategy remediation, a group that participated in self esteem and confidence building and a group that received half remediation and half self esteem classes. I thought the latter group would show the most improvement but it was the group that solely concentrated on raising the students self esteem. If you believe in yourself you’re halfway there!  It has stayed with me my whole teaching career, and I always try to build the learner’s confidence.

Finally one thing is clear; the whole school needs to dialogue with the concept of Information Literacy; it needs to be visibly stated in school policy, embedded in the curriculum as a process and made the responsibility of everyone, administrators, teachers, parents and students alike. Through consultation the school community can create a model that works for their context, so that all stakeholders are clear in its objective and the terminology used. This facilitates cross-over between subjects which has the domino effect of showing students the transferability of the skills between learning areas which may then lead to transfer of these skills into their own lives. Habits if pracitised repeatedly become dispositions. All students should be given the opportunity to experiment and mutate the standard agreed model according to their preferred learning style.

The way we handle information is changing, the amount of information is expanding. It is apparent that it is not solely the TL’s responsibility to teach Information Literacy, it is everyone’s. We must confidently and boldly go forth together in our exploration.

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