Task C: A critical synthesis of your reflection on how your view of the role of the teacher librarian may have changed during the subject. This should include examples captured from your personal blog and from participation in the ETL401 forum (about 750 words).
I was certainly naive when I began this course. I knew I had much to learn but the enormity of the TL role or the expertise required was unimaginable. I need to take responsibility for this naivety; it certainly isn’t good enough. Maybe the interviewers saw my potential but I certainly hadn’t reflected on what was required. However I was open to learning. Through osmosis my students learn the hidden curriculum, the unstated culture of my thinking so it is important that conscious reflective practice becomes disposition. Sometimes we take routes by accident and end up in the right place.
It is imperative to have a clear vision of the role of a TL and this course has certainly made me have that. I was initially overawed by the multifaceted role of the TL. I undertook a time study as advocated by Purcell (2010). The results are captured in my blog post ‘Too much to do and so little time’. The exercise certainly provided me with a better understanding of how best to serve my patrons and identify barriers to success. I was spending too much time on administration but when I focused on teaching and learning ‘my attitude was positively rejuvenated’. Herring’s (2007) statement ‘reading for pleasure is a small part of school curriculum…given unnecessary prominence in library mission statements’ certainly proved divisive with course participant. The debate consolidated my opinion that information literacy is at the heart of the role as evidenced in my forum post.
By employing metacognition my own information literacy model I realised the power of this tool to consolidate skills and critically evaluate practices in order to explore transferability. It made me aware of the importance Lloyd (2005) places on social interaction for workplace information literacy. When teachers begin employment in a new school, they bring their understanding of pedagogy assimilated at University but they must then dialogue with this knowledge in the context of how the program is implemented in the school setting by interacting with colleagues.
I have become aware of the enormity of implementing and teaching information literacy. My initial thoughts recorded in ‘Let’s go fishing’ show my belief is in line with Purcell (2010) that it is both staff and students who need assistance. My mind map of the role of the TL captured in my ‘Collaborarian’ blog shows a limited understanding of information literacy as a standalone subject in comparison to my zoom recorded in ‘Concept Maps Work’ which explores the notion of higher order thinking, the benefits of information literacy models, the necessity for collaboration and the importance of creativity. Herring acknowledges the school website as a tool for collaboration. I have created a staff blog to share and document learning. Like Herring (2007) and Cibulka et al (2003) I have always believed in the reciprocality of learning and teaching technology. My students knew that I didn’t have all the answers. According to Prensky (2011) I had created a partnering culture. Throughout this course I have been reminded and validated about things I do and it is great to know that research advocates it.
‘A profession without reflective practitioners willing to learn about advances in research in the field is a blinkered profession, …disconnected from best practice and best thinking…’ (Todd). Harada’s study of action research has inspired me to implement my own research, analyzing the roles my colleagues and I assume as teaching partners in inquiry learning? Using Loertscher & Woolls (2003) recommendation for triangulation of data we hope to analyse the evidence and innovate a new way to teach inquiry learning more effectively. As an English leader ‘transitional leadership’ certainly makes sense. Inherent is ownership and trust, key factors for Montiel-Overall’s (2005) integrated instruction collaboration.
Kulhthau et al (2007) advocates designing authentic learning tasks and assessments and integrating these into the curriculum standards. The AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner provide a framework for this. Examining the standards was a valuable exercise. It led me to believe that they achieve their aim to provide a framework for inspiring quality teaching and promoting professional development but no more than anyone ever becomes truly information literate, one can never attain all requisites. It is the quest that is important. As explored in my blog ‘Risky business’ I reflected on the challenges of my online learning, a lack of confidence and trust in a new environment being key players in my ‘silent’ forum participation. There is always the potential to learn more, but I will consolidate what I know before assimilating more. I will certainly revisit the literature iteratively.
My search for the ‘right’ definition of Information Literacy has certainly taken me on a path of self discovery. It was a fool hardy quest to think I would find the perfect one, but still I proceeded through hoards of definitions, trawling through books and database journals and still that true definition eluded me. Confronted with this information deluge, reduced to tears of frustration, I was suddenly aware that I was drowning in a sea of information. How had I got here? I began to reflect. Did I formulate the right questions at the beginning? Did I forget to use a concept map to clarify my direction? Did I spend too much time locating and collection information and not enough time ‘consuming’ it? Loertscher (2001) cites this as a common mistake. On answering these pertinent questions I was forced to admit I had not approached this assignment as an information literate student. I had made all the mistakes that my students make. I needed to approach the question with creative problem solving strategies. I needed a coffee break!
Perkins (as cited in Claxton, 2006) says that to develop a disposition involves two kinds of learning in addition to mastering the skill. I certainly had displayed a disposition for information literacy. I had reached the ‘ready and willing’ stage. I was ready to transfer my knowledge of the information seeking process and to use it to tackle the present problem. I was willing to use it without support or encouragement.
I have reached out for a life buoy and suddenly do not feel as overwhelmed. I employed some critical thinking, self evaluation and reflection skills which are so imperative to information literacy. I have a low pain threshold which may never improve but maybe I should push the boat out on my tolerance for confusion. I am no longer on the quest for the right answer but enjoying the process of possibility.
My journey has forced me to rethink my guided inquiry unit. I have deliberated on the key question; I have kept a journal and made adjustments to my teaching based on my reflections. I have also asked the students to document a Timeline of Emotions. Kulhthau’s ISP model of incorporating thoughts, feelings and actions has appealed to me and I am interested to note the students’ journey in order to identify the zone of intervention. I have always tended to teach strategies in sequence disregarding whether students were at that stage or not. I just presumed when they got there they would remember the skill and use it appropriately. The just-enough-just-in-time is an exciting new way for me to approach my teaching.
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.
Results of Time Study:
I was putting in a lot of over time for very little reward so when I read Purcell’s article the idea of completing a Time Study appealed. I wasn’t enjoying my role as TL and thought that the expectations of fulfilling all the required duties insurmountable.
The first day I laid out my record table in slots of 30 minutes thinking I would never fill 15 minute slots but after one day I soon realized that I needed 15 minute blocks of time to accurately record the many different tasks I performed daily. As I progressed through the study I continually made changes to how I organised my day. I knew that I was not spending enough time researching my own lessons. I am timetabled to teach each of the thirteen classes in my school for one hour every week. I was barely managing one hour to research and plan for all classes. Hence my effectiveness as a TL was failing. I was feeling deflated and wasn’t enjoying teaching but with all the other demands on me I didn’t know where to rescue hours to put into effective planning. The more I read as a part of my studies the more I realised that ‘Teaching and Learning’ are central to a Teacher Librarian’s role. It became clear to me that I needed to reprioritise.
I also noticed that as an instructional partner I was giving only to my fellow teachers but not fulfilling the need as Purcell cites to ‘translate curricular needs into library media program goals and objectives’ for my own lessons. I realised that even though Purcell recommends as a part of being a Leader one should participate in professional organisations and contribute to listservs I do not have the expertise or the time to do this so at this point. I will start small by participating in school committees and Professional Learning Teams twice a week.
My biggest shift in thinking has happened in Program Administrator I couldn’t believe how much time I was spending on this. I examined this further to clarify why it was so time consuming. Students and teachers do not know how to use the catalogue and books were not replaced on the correct shelf due to poor signage and a confusing layout. I was spending needless time and energy locating ‘hidden’ resources. I was also noting discrepancies in how books were catalogued. The same book would be located in two different locations depending on who catalogued it. Some autobiographies were classified as fiction and others as nonfiction. Literature Circle books were not classified on the database with this tag including reading age appropriateness so teachers were continually coming to me for advice. The task of rectifying all these issues seemed onerous and I didn’t know where to begin! I have since prioritised the Literature Circles and have made a positive start to sorting this issue. However due to budget constraints on acquiring new shelving the task of sorting the fiction and nonfiction collections will have to wait a little longer. I hope to teach the teachers next week how to use the catalogue effectively. Here’s hoping!!
Information Specialist – As we have an IT person 2 days a week, there has been some conflict of interests and also lack of knowing what is expected in our respective roles. This will need to be addressed by a meeting with the principal sooner rather than later to improve effectiveness. I also found it difficult to analyse when I was being a true information specialist it was so entwined with who I was as a teacher. I was teaching information literacy but on reflection I wasn’t providing enough guidance in the use of technology but rather I was getting caught up with the ‘whizz bang’ effect of engaging the learners. I wasn’t being explicit about promoting critical thinking about its use. It is an area I feel the least confident. I need to further my understanding of this topic and role and increase its active time.
Repercussions of Change!
I changed the layout of the library. Almost immediately I began to enjoy my lessons, the students loved the new look. I moved the couches and new book carousel so they were the first thing you saw when you came into the library and placed the desks in front of the Smartboard to facilitate instruction. I noticed students spread out more easily during collaborative activities, some going to the computers and more students sitting at the couches reading books. I attended a Professional Development day and met other TLs. It was here I heard about book trailers so I got my Year 6 Library leaders to download the ones they liked and put them on for students to watch in the morning before school. I am also in the middle of implementing Prep – 6 Paired Reading program. My attitude is positively rejuvenated and this has been passed on to the students. We are all enjoying the library again. Now that I am finding a better balance I am determined to improve the quality of my teaching in Library classes, particularly in the areas of needs assessment and goal setting for Information Literacy.