CanConnectEd2015: Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian

This week I’ve been attending the Connect conference in Niagara Falls for the first time and as a representative of the Ontario School Library Association Council.  It also gives me a chance to speak about my M.Ed. capping paper on how teacher-librarians are in the ideal position to facilitate transliteracy. I mean, we really do have a very unique perspective….and we are generally non-threatening (unless I’m tired and hungry).  If you don’t have a teacher-librarian in your school, I hope you have someone who is working tirelessly to integrate pedagogy with cross-curricular happenings.

In many ways I need to percolate ideas, and since I wrote that paper I’ve been trying to walk the walk.  So, in my humble opinion, the best of the presentation is in the last few slides where I get to talk about pushing the boundaries of literacy in multiple modes with a) the help of some awesome governing documents by Canadian school library experts and b) some strategies I’ve tried and had some success with this year.  The entire logic thread though is built on the premise that we (as educators in the year 2015) are redefining text and reading.  If you can get your mind around that switch, then you’re ready for more! (insert trumpet flourish)

Here is the presentation in full:

It is set to flip through the slides every 5 seconds so you might not get the opportunity to see the full Miwa Matrayek video at the beginning.  Here is the link to that video in full:

Revisiting Treasure Mountain 2014

I need to start off this blog post by once again speaking to the imbalance I experience in blogging itself.  Try as I might, I sometimes take years to process an experience or a reading and I find it really challenging to write regularly.  Today is no exception and I’d like to revisit an experience I had in May 2014 called Treasure Mountain Canada.  Treasure Mountain is a research retreat of school libraries and I’ve attended 2 of them…one in Connecticut in November 2013, and one in Victoria, BC where I presented my M.Ed. capping paper on Transliteracy.

Today we are trying to recreate the experience for the participants at the annual Ontario Library Association conference in Toronto.  To give you some background, there is no better place to start than with Anita Brooks-Kirkland’s blog of the Treasure Mountain experience last May.  The audience at Treasure Mountain is small but extremely diverse … there are major stakeholders in school libraries present.

In the week leading up to today, the revisiting of Treasure Mountain, I have really enjoyed going over my own thought process from January 2014 to May 2014, and I’m glad I was so visible in my thinking about it.  One of my favourite elements to revisit was a Google Hangout experiment where, as part of the capping paper requirements, I needed to present my ideas to a public audience.  I knew Treasure Mountain was coming up in May but wanted to make the experience as authentic as possible.  So….in true transliteracy fashion, I arranged via social media to make a Google Hangout to present my 20 slides and ask my authentic audience of educators some seriously deep questions about implementing transliteracy.  I considered editing this down to something manageable, but at the risk of appearing self-indulgent, here is the whole messy experience.  For at least 3 of the participants, it was their first Google hangout.

Joining me in this video are Kimberley Flood, Kevin Greenshields, Robin Feick, Kathy Inglis, Tim King, Peter McAsh, Daniel Beylerian and Heather Leatham.

As most of you are well aware from your own experiences, I learn a lot each time I present new material, and this time was no different.  Looking back at that experience, I realize now that sometimes I need a big push to try these things.  Reflecting on that idea alone, isn’t that what I ask the staff and students at my school to do every day?  One of my drama students a few years ago said, as she was fearfully preparing to take the stage, “I just need to put my big girl pants on and do it.”  Everytime I feel fearful of risk-taking, or worn out by being a change agent, I say to myself, “Just put your big girl pants on and do it.”  There are times during this presentation where I’m just giddy with happiness of the sharing and comraderie I experienced as I struggled through it.  Treasure Mountain itself, is just like that….a bunch of experienced and knowledgeable people coming together to share and loving the sharing.  I always feel energized and motivated by experiences like this.  This is the reason I’m addicted to supporting my own professional development.

Change Agent rant

WARNING: the following response could be seen as a rant.  It probably is.

I read the Cochran-Smith & Lytle article with some trepidation.  One of the hard things about being a teacher-librarian in 2013 is that I expect any day now that some policymaker is going to make me redundant.  Ouch.  So when I read this quote about the latest developments in Core Curriculum making and standardized testing, I actually felt reassured:

Part of what these developments have in common is a set of underlying assumptions about school change that de-emphasizes differences in local contexts, de-emphasizes the construction of local knowledge in and by school communities, and de-emphasizes the role of the teacher as decision maker and change agent. (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1999, p.  22).

That paragraph could have been written yesterday and still had as much impact!  Here we are 14 years later still battling to be treated as professionals or at least to be taken seriously…losing the battle to locally develop solutions for our students.  I know I’m atypical, but people ask me all the time why I’m doing my M.Ed. now….there’s no financial advantage, I don’t dream of being a principal or superintendent…I love learning.  I research because I want to know more about how to solve systemic problems that are preventing students from achieving better results.  I read this paragraph out loud to my husband this morning saying that I feel sometimes that being a teacher-librarian and an agent of change is like painting a big target on my back and I do sometimes feel like retreating back into an autonomous classroom.  But now that the veil has been lifted, and I can see clearly the larger perspective of how many compromises we’re making in public education at the expense of our students, I can’t go back.  I can’t stop trying to be heard.  I only hope that through research and my own discovery that my voice will somehow become more valid in the eyes of policymakers.

References

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1999). The teacher research movement: A decade later. Educational researcher28(7), 15-25.