Best BITs: My brag book of student voice

Each year I apply and receive a Speak Up grant which allows a mighty group of student editors to create a magazine of student creative work…usually art and creative writing. We’ve just finished our final editing of the year and I think it looks marvelous: https://odsspaperandink.com/

ODSS Paper & Ink is featured in the Canadian Library Association’s Standards for School Library Practice visionary document called Leading Learning.

Our humble project is described as leading the way for others as an example of the “LLC [Library Learning Commons] is an active participatory learning centre modelling and celebrating collaborative knowledge building, play, innovation and creativity.”

Now I’m not the one who came up with the idea…that happened 8 years ago. But when I joined the team of staff supervisors, I suggested we save money and take it online. I would love for it to be fluid and dynamic, which it is somewhat…..but it’s not the holodeck on Star Trek, you know? I try not to interfere too much with the decisions that students make but it hasn’t yet taken on a life of it’s own. It still exists because I hound students to edit and submit and submit and edit. Meanwhile Mizuko Ito works for the MacArthur Foundation of Chicago who attract young voices like this one:

In our Book Club: “Participatory Culture in a Networked Era” Mimi Ito takes the idea of student voice to a whole new level and she argues that we need to allow students to design these online places themselves, from the ground up. We need to allow them to fail as a natural consequence for creative risk-taking…and I really get that. But is the world of education as we see it ready for that? I don’t think that it is. I’m not sure my students would want that. To some degree I think they like that I badger them and push them to step outside of their comfort zones, and that I always give them recognition when they achieve something. It’s the carrot and stick approach again…so is it really student voice? Well is it?

Looking forward to your comments.

 

 

#BIT16Reads: Whose mindset is the right one?

I’ve just finished reading George Couros‘ “The Innovator’s Mindset” and I think it’s time that we addressed the elephant in the room.  The word “mindset” is so five minutes ago.  There I said it.  What I mean is that putting the words innovator and mindset together in the same phrase is oxymoronic…it’s a contradiction in terms, like jumbo shrimp, military intelligence (ouch).  Doesn’t the very word mindset imply that the mind is formed and finished?  George does acknowledge that the precursor to his book was influenced by Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset” which anyone who is anyone knows has rocked the business and education worlds leading to great new conversations about grit and resilience.  George leaps from here and says that (spoiler alert) the innovator’s mindset relies on the iterative process of finding problems, networking ideas, observing, creating, being resilient when faced with challenges, and being reflective in order to deepen the process.  But I can’t help but think about Chris Hadfield, whose ideas I support when he says that we need to Prepare for Failure:

I like the idea of having a calm confidence and being ready to be flexible.  The best time for my learning is when I’ve created flow, and Hadfield acknowledges this in his book “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth”.  But when the flow is really flowing, and a problem arises, I smile at the challenge…like a good question in a crossword puzzle…and my creativity kicks in and I work through it happily.  That flow is the culture I aim to create in my library learning commons every day….the messy, random happiness of flow.  The only time that I ‘discipline’ other students is when they interrupt another person’s flow and I say out loud: “You’re interrupting my learning” and ask them to stop.  One of the keys to my daily success is being prepared for anything to happen and I think being ready to happily go with the flow is one of my strengths.  It takes a lot of work though…often in the quiet moments outside of the school day, to be this ready for anything.  More than optimism or innovation, I think the future of my son’s success will be his ability to adapt to new situations.  This adaptability may require optimism and innovation but those might not be on his path.  It takes more than a mindset and more research is being written on this topic:

a) Canadian author Paul Tough has written this article as precursor to his latest book: Helping Children Succeed http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/how-kids-really-succeed/480744/ in which he questions the teachability of resilience and instead suggests we aim to reduce the effect of socio-economic status on learning.

b) #BIT15Reads author Jose Vilson lead me to see how systemic racism is a major factor in the outcome of students.  An emerging voice of educators see this quest for teaching grit as an enormous example of cultural bias: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2015/01/is_grit_racist.html

The best part of Couros’ book is when he nails the conditions for a culture of innovation in schools and these 5 points could sustain me for the rest of my teaching career:

  1. Focusing on strengths-based leadership

I could do this every single day with anyone of my relationships…focus on peoples’ strengths.

2.  Allow learners’ needs to drive our decisions

I need to acknowledge that learners are all of us, adults and students, that are working within their own process and my daily goal is to enable that process in any way that I can.

3.  Narrowing our focus and engaging in deep learning

I need to reiterate the why and the how as much more than the what in my teaching.  The what is often Google-able and I want to learn and teach more deeply than that.  I’ve seen leadership try to make this what so vague and inconsequential that the why and how can be suited to any sort of learning target within this umbrella what that is called a learning target or big idea….I’m not convinced that this is the right answer.  If we truly believe in the content of our curriculum, then we need to see the big goal as a continuum (as Chris Hadfield said) and see each one of our content concepts as a direct stepping stone to that idea.

4.  Embracing an open culture

Who am I to dictate how someone else should learn?  I think what George is getting at is the messiness of trying to implement and measure a truly inquiry-based project that is based on student voice and choice.  We need to be open to and confident about capturing and measuring student learning in a variety of modes and mediums. This means that I also have to be really confident about what I want to measure in order to recognize it when I see it in a new form.

5.  Create learning experiences for educators that we would love to see in the classroom

Would I like to take my own course?  Would I like to be in this atmosphere?  Every day the answer needs to be yes.

I added The Innovator’s Mindset to the #BIT16Reads book club list as a way to add a leadership voice to the question:  How do we create a culture in schools to best integerate technology? and I think this book does so very well.  Moving education forward isn’t an elephant that we can eat all at once.  It’s a very complex beast.  Creating conditions for innovation, which may or may not include technology, is best for learning.

Sidenote:  As a librarian, as a researcher, I would really like an index in George Couros’ book.  I’d like it to refer to every outside reference George uses all in 1 place, and every big idea that is mentioned.  It’s one of the first things on my list when I buy non-fiction for my library….if there aren’t embedded tools for useability, it could be more useful.

Making face time

Just before I presented at my staff meeting this week, a colleague turned to me and said “Don’t you ever get nervous?”  Well, of course I do but I have just coached myself to move past those nerves as fast as possible and to take those creative risks. The nerves are still there but I’ve developed….coping mechanisms.

One of my all-time favourite movies is Baz Luhrman’s first movie “Strictly Ballroom”.  Here’s a clip from it:

The moral of the story becomes “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.”

This month I’ve been learning with/from Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen‘s online course inside TVO’s TeachOntario called Mindful Facilitation: Leading in Online Spaces and once again I am in awe of how deep an impact my online learning has on me.  I really liked the module about Appreciative Inquiry & Coaching.  Peter coached us to help participants in online spaces to dig deeper through questions that clarified or asked for detail or showed that we were listening.  I’m trying very hard to let the participants in my eLearning English course and in the #BIT16Reads book club to take the direction where they want it to go.  Sometimes there may be uncomfortable silences but this is my perception of discomfort.  I’m also trying to be much more present and human in my interactions. My Dad, who embarrassed me and enjoyed it at every turn, used to tell me to just imagine my audience naked.  It never worked but I did learn to have a good laugh at myself when needed.  Whenever I feel nervous now about taking a creative risk, I try to imagine what the other people are feeling … suspicious, timid, awkward, and then I just try to take the next step in lessening those feelings…often with a laugh. Here’s a little video of what being vulnerable and authentic mean to my teaching:

The pillars of my teaching are shifting

I’ve only read Chapters 1 and 2 (and 10) in Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case’s Creating Thinking Classrooms, but I can feel the foundation of my beliefs, the pillars of my teaching and the roof of my practice shifting.  I’m looking through two of my school roles as I read this book.  Firstly, I have to look at the whole school and especially how our teaching with technology is (or is not) changing. Secondly, I am both librarian and e-learning teacher and I want to make sure that my library goals align with the thinking goals of my online classroom self.  There are some practices that have definitely affected the way that I teach (backwards design) but there are lots of other practices that are muddy.

So in Chapter 1 when the authors describe the number of initiatives that are happening in any one school building I naturally asked “Which of the operational components is most accurate in regards to the purpose of schooling?”  My Directions Team spent an entire afternoon trying to align our core values or Finding our Why (Simon Sinek).  It’s so difficult!  When we brought our work to the next group of department heads, they tore it down to the beginning again.  Yet I know that it’s a worthwhile exercise because, as the authors say on page 16, we can’t rush to the practical.

I fear that the digital technologies that we have rushed to put into the hands of students and teachers are just sustaining existing principles rather than transforming them.  I see all the time that Inquiry tasks performed about Google-able answers are minimally impactful on student learning.  For the first time in 3 years, we are suddenly having a scarcity issue of devices again but I’m not convinced that a) our wireless infrastructure can handle more devices and b) that we want them.  We are convincing our students through our repetitive actions that they can rely on the school’s tech rather than to begin exploring their own.  I’m especially thinking of our graduating students who need to get comfy with making their own decisions about which tech tools to use for which purpose.

I never questioned before if student-centred learning had any disadvantages but of course the two things I see everyday as a librarian are clear disadvantages!  They are that the curriculum is often underrepresented or not represented at all in student-centred learning; and that students choose safe/known topics.  One of the frustrating reasons that inquiry continues to be less impactful though is because or our grading system which I know I constantly use as a stick to beat our students into motivation!  After reading Implications for personalized learning I am left with the question How can we separate grades for measurement from grades as reward?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if students found that the learning was the reward instead of the number on their report card?

In my elearning environment, I’m currently playing with the new badges tool where I can recognize students’ behaviour and achievement with a badge.  I know this isn’t a strong motivator at the grade 12 level that I’m teaching, but I want to recognize when a student achieves a technology skill; a foundational skill and a social skill that will serve them well in the environment.  My ultimate plan is to tie more badges into the competencies that are outlined in the curriculum to see where my teaching weaknesses are and also to make sure that my students have a solid foundation when they finish the course.  As a librarian, I think my career goal could be “Sense-making must be grounded in rigorous investigation.”   I like the examples given of inquiry on pages 38 and 39 but I’m hoping there will be more of these in less content-based circumstances as we go through the book.  Although these models gave me a clear point of view when we’re teaching a concept, this format doesn’t always apply to English or the Arts which are often based on skills-based learning.

#BIT15Reads: The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

The Innovators: How a Group of  Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital RevolutionThe Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants or needs to understand the evolution of the digital revolution. At times the computer science went over my head but for the most part Walter Isaacson‘s style was very accessible. It is jam-packed with information about each collaboration and often sidesteps culture and historical continuity in order to show you how innovations were happening in multiple locations at the same time in history. I really appreciated the timeline at the beginning of the book which I referred to often. What can I say? I learned a lot.

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Reading in a Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins and Wyn Kelley

Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom

Jenkins and Kelley offer an optimistic alternative to Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains which is filled, as Jenkins claims, with “contemporary anxieties” (p. 10).  The book offers instead this explanation: “As a society, we are still sorting through the long-term implications of these [media] changes.  But one thing is clear: These shifts point us toward a more participatory culture, one in which everyday citizens have an expanded capacity to communicate and circulate their ideas, one in which networked communities can help shake our collective agendas.” (p. 7) I would like my library learning commons to reflect this ideal where there are always activities happening for staff and students and each of our school community members feel that they have a voice. The Canadian Library Association’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons (2014) insists that one of the key steps for implementation is to “foster a collaborative school culture of inquiry and participatory learning in both physical and virtual environments” (p. 23).   That’s a tall order in a secondary school where departments act as silos preventing cross-curricular collaboration from happening.

 

My favourite English department assignment at my school is a novel study where students explore contexts of the author, protagonist, setting and date of release.  In building in student choice, each one is able to research a context (or two) that relates both to themselves and to their chosen novel. The notion of exploring contexts in literature is similar to the chapter by Kolos and Nierenberg on negotiating cultural spaces (pp. 153-157) where Aurora high school students learned how to effectively protest to their local government.  This cultural negotiation, fitting into spaces where you haven’t fit in before, seems to be a requisite to developing a participatory culture and is highlighted in the Flows of Reading digital accompaniment to the book.  It particularly stands out in the video clip  

http://videos.criticalcommons.org/transc oded/http/www.criticalcommons.org/Member s/ebreilly/clips/rockabillies-in-tokyo/v ideo_file/mp4-high/rockabillies-in-tokyo -mp4-mp4.mp4

where Japanese rockabilly fans are dancing in Yoyogi park in Tokyo.  Having lived and worked in Japan for 3 years, I was often hit with cultural negotiation experiences where I had to fit in to the dominant culture and after a while I was allowed to sit cross-legged during tea ceremonies and the sushi would stop arriving at the table still breathing for the sake of my comfort.  Having to work through the awkward feelings of feeling out of place is a life lesson that everyone should experience.

One of my biggest epiphanies from this book is the idea that students are learning to negotiate cultural spaces between home and school in their discourse.  “While the Discourse of formal schooling is fairly well aligned with the home discourses of middle-and upper-class kids who want to achieve academic success will need to learn to “code switch”, to cross communities and alter speech, behavior, style of dress, and so on” (p. 161).  Of course, I understood the complexities of how public education’s expectations don’t match those at home, but I’ve never read the dilemma put so eloquently before.  It speaks to the same surprise I had when during the “Reading and Negotiation” chapter when a cosmetology class read two different novels. That would never happen in my school!  In my school, novels are for English classes and for pleasure reading.  Perhaps I need to negotiate reading into these foreign places.

A few years ago Dufferin County, where I grew up and where I teach, was threatened by a Megaquarry taking away some prized farmland.  A few teachers and I organized a debate where the stakeholders were allowed to come and talk to our students for 30 minutes each on their perspective.  We had five speakers in total including representatives from First Nations, Gravel Watch, a professor of Environmental Science, the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Task Force, and of course, the company that had purchased the land for mining.  We had to prep our students on the issues and how to ask succinct questions that used appropriate language for the presenters and audience as did the students in Aurora High School (p. 163).  The debate outside our school went on for months and after an environmental impact report was released, the company withdrew their mining application and the megaquarry was defeated.  I can’t say that our school’s debate had a direct effect on this decision, but the youth participation in this issue was extraordinary. In a twisted way, I wish I could recreate this excitement over a local issue every year in order to see the students become so invested in a topic that affects environment, economy, food, politics and culture.  The true learning was that these students mattered, and this small rural community mattered on a provincial, if not national, scale.  Truthfully, other than for communication and public relations, we didn’t need technology to reach our goal.  We needed a forum for negotiation and that was in my library learning commons.

There are moments in this book that remind me why I became a teacher…pre-library, pre-technology, I wanted to be a teacher so that I could have enlightening conversations with students. Jenkins and Kelley are asking educators to simply harness the teachable moments that come with honouring student voice, give it an authentic forum for expression,  and give students choices that reflect their own expression, and that in doing so any common text can be relevant to current generations of students.

References

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons.

Jenkins, H., & Kelley, W. (Eds.). (2013). Reading in a participatory culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Reilly, E., Mehta, R., & Jenkins, H. (2013, February 19). Thinking about subcultures. Retrieved from http://scalar.usc.edu/anvc/flowsofreading/3_6_thinking-about-subcultures?path=3-negotiating-cultural-spaces

 

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Is it possible to be proactive when technology and the use of social media sites changes so quickly?

A colleague of mine asked me this question today.  Here’s my reply:

I think it is possible to be proactive with technology and social media, because I think the growth of social networking is plateauing.  In preparation for our group assignment on games, I have come across this business researcher, Seth Priebatsch, who says:

For those of you still trying to wrap your head around the meteoric rise of social networking over the past decade, this post might hurt a little bit. Because just as you and most of the world were getting a handle on it, the decade of social abruptly ended.

I don’t mean that we will stop using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to share with our friends, colleagues and families. In fact, quite the opposite is true, our combined usage of these social networks will continue to increase. Rather, the decade of constructing the social layer is complete. The frameworks that we’ll use to share socially are built, defined and controlled. Construction on the social layer ended with the launch of Facebook’s Open Graph protocols over the last several months. All the interesting social stuff that will occur over the next decade (and there’ll be lots, I’m sure), will exist within this predefined framework built and controlled by Facebook. In short, the decade of social is over.

What’s taking its place? The decade of games.

I really believe that we are at the end of a cultural infancy with the onset of social networks and that this is as bad as it’s going to get.  Anyone anywhere can take a picture of anything with a miniscule camera and have it on the internet in nanoseconds.  “Privacy is dead.  How can it possibly get any worse?”  I heard CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi say those exact words at our library conference a couple of years ago.  Here’s one of his podcasts on the topic: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2012/04/27/is-facebook-watching-you/

Now is our time as parents and educators to take a stand against inappropriate behaviour and to demand that the privacy of each person remains with that person.  If I ask you not to take a picture, you stop. (In my case, I don’t allow any pictures of my double-chin or with a drink in my hand to be posted.)  If I ask you to remove a picture, you stop.  At the same time, we know that this instant fame is also affecting behaviour in a positive way.  Remember the Vancouver riots and the consequences for these young people?

http://youtu.be/4VzOUKODdZ4

With the plateauing of social networks, our school boards, our unions, and the law need to  negotiate some very strict cultural and legal guidelines to protect us. To not take this crucial step, leaves us, as I said earlier, unprepared for the consequences of social networking.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

I don’t think of myself as a gamer.  I have been known to play lots of those Flash-based Facebook games with my Candy Crush Saga friends, and occasionally a great puzzle-based novella will come along like Gabriel Knight 2,  Syberia or Ripper that I devour, but generally I didn’t think they were a big part of my life.  After reading just part 1, Why Games Make Us Happy, of McGonigal’s book, I started feeling that I could admit that I play Plants vs. Zombies and Game of Thrones Ascent almost every day!  Now that I’ve read McGonigal’s book completely, I know that it’s cool to be a gamer and I really want to believe that a game designer will win a Nobel Prize someday.

 

In Part II Reinventing Reality, McGonigal really opens up on the topic of how games can change our education system for the better.  I’m really intrigued with the idea of the game-based education being offered by Quest to Learn (p. 128). A very real challenge of my current position is to develop my staff’s comfort and skills with 21st century learning which largely focuses on digital fluency.  However, there are constantly battles between our current system and the growing desire from staff to collaborate and teach creatively.  The idea of redesigning the system from the ground up, the way that Quest to Learn has, is very appealing.  In hindsight, I know that the mindset of the administration and the staff has often been what held back change for the better design of our school and I wonder what kind of experiential learning the staff needs to help them grow in this direction.  We have a local company called Eagles Flight which worked with our department heads for one morning last January during exams, and essentially we played a quest game where we needed to get from one side of a desert to the other maximizing our resources, within a time limit and never having all the information we needed to play.  It was really fun!  Was it transformational?  No but it helped us to bond and gave us lots of fuel for good discussion for the rest of the day.

 

Having spent 5 years as a teacher-librarian now, one of the aspects of my job that I like best is how it gives me space to see the school as a whole system, and I can see the problem of the department silos.  At the risk of overglorifying the situation, I’m omniscient in a way that even the administration isn’t.  I’ve always enjoyed this role in my gaming experience as well, and was a big fan of many of the games McGonigal mentions in Part III, Chapter 14: Saving the Real World Together.  Besides Will Wright’s Sim City and The Sims, I was fascinated with the idea of Peter Molyneux’s game Black & White in which you need to make decisions for villagers based on moral quandaries. After reading McGonigal’s praise of the game, I dug out our old copy of Will Wright’s Spore and played through 4 levels with new appreciation for its design and trying to imagine what it would be really like to drop into the Ukraine, for example, and try to sort things out a bit. Maybe that’s the reason why I still like reality tv shows.  There’s a new one coming out this week called The Audience where 50 people make a life-changing decision for someone.  This experimentation in McGonigal’s “Saving the Real World Together” of taking a long view, practicing ecosystems thinking, and pilot experimentation (p. 297-98) are exactly the tools that I think we need our graduates to have exposure to.  One of the first computer games I remember loving is Lemonade Stand, where I simulated making a lemonade stand profitable based on fluctuating weather predictions and costs of lemon and sugar.  If I could remake school today, I’d start by making every single assignment follow McGonigal’s Saving the Real World criteria.  I might not be able to reconstruct my school into a Quest to Learn environment, but I can advocate for these 3 aspects in teaching design and that gives me hope that my influence will help save the world.  I suppose I need to see this through for the epic win.

Overall, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World is a game-changer (excuse the pun).  I’ve started a Twitter List called Epic Winners that includes all sorts of people who are using games for positive change and deeper meaning inside schools and beyond.  It even lead me to find a library game that I’d like to try out called (what else?) Librarygame.   This isn’t the first time I’ve thought “I wish I could give a little surprise to a student who signs out the same book twice, or has signed out 10 books this year, or returns everything on time”.  Even if it was just a virtual badge to add to their student e-portfolio, I think they would appreciate it.  I know I would.

References

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

 

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Storify: Treasure Mountain Canada 2014

What a fabulous day!  Even though I grumbled yesterday about our early 8 a.m. start, my jet lag had me up at 5 a.m.  I found a great coffee shop with an early start and energized.  There were so many new faces, familiar faces and people from my online PLN, that very soon we felt like family.  Here are the tweets from our day today:

Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian

I submitted this paper today in fulfillment of the requirements for my M.Ed.

INTRODUCTION

From curious to competitive 

I always felt most comfortable working with students in portfolio courses where students knew what they needed to accomplish and had ample opportunity to do and re-do their assignments until they were satisfied.  I came into being a full-time teacher-librarian after being perfectly autonomous in my isolated department silo of English, drama, or media arts.  Teaching in the arts subject areas naturally leaned towards project-based learning as I had open level classes; ones that weren’t streamed.  The portfolios and the projects were about achieving a personal best.  The class atmosphere was comfortable and collaborative, not competitive.  Sometimes we wore hats, or listened to music, and often students did their brainstorming sprawled on the floor.  Learning was always happening as we travelled together through the creative process.  When the opportunity came for me to move into the library I was nervous, but I knew that the diversity of roles that I would play there would engage me forever.  I thought the library was a utopia for freedom of thought and resources to stimulate and encourage curiosity and imagination.  

I was surprised to find that the library culture was territorial and competitive.   Access to resources was controlled, availability of technology and librarian support were limited and equity was a constant struggle. Teachers strategized against each other for space, computers and my time and expertise in areas in which I did not yet feel confident.  Students felt split between their opportunity to study and the distractions around them.  It has taken me 5 years to get the library space and culture to a place where there is no need for ‘shushing’.  We still experience the feelings of scarcity with resources, but generally the new learning commons is a place where learning happens and we celebrate student success.  In many ways this paper on transliteracy is about my journey in understanding the complexities of technology integration in schools and my battles to keep these ideas foremost apparent in my learning commons: access, availability, and equity.  

Noticing disparities

One day I noticed a student using my old-fashioned lab, facing a wall and elbow-to-elbow with strangers on either side, waiting for his group members to begin collaborative work on his computer.  He pulled out his iPad to read his notes from, and his phone to text his classmates asking them when they would arrive.  To be doubly sure they were on their way, he opened up Facebook on his screen and messaged all of them inside their group space.  His substitute teacher came over and told him to stop playing with his phone and using Facebook and to get to work.  The substitute teacher believed that the student was being unproductive.

Within a week, a science teacher asked for help with his struggling Grade 10 students who were researching elements of the periodic table for their properties and how the elements are used in everyday life.  I had them sit with me and discuss what they already knew about their elements, and to reiterate the assignment.  We went to our science database and I showed them how to read and navigate the page and the students began their hunt.  Their teacher was amazed that they were so cooperative and enthusiastic about doing online research.  I feel that their teacher actually believed that these students weren’t up to the challenge.

A contemporary vision of transliteracy, originally defined by Thomas, Joseph, Laccetti, Mason, Mills, Perril and Pullinger (2007) as: “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks,” (para. 2)  demands individualization.  Technology allows every teacher to provide students with equal opportunities to learn.  Just like the librarian who keeps all the books under lock and key, practices that don’t engage students with their own curiosities are becoming increasingly antiquated.  Although the amount of time and assistance may differ between students, every teacher in every school should provide the same opportunity to learn to each student.   In my experience, the best way to support transliteracy is to provide equal opportunities for everyone to learn and to level the playing field so that we can progress together.  

Urgent and impulsive

There is a race happening to keep up with the latest trends in educational technology.  As I watched my school computer committee decide our implementation for the next 3 years, I feared that they would side with whatever was easier to manage.  I hoped they would listen to the individual requests of each department for devices that would best suit their subject area.  I insisted that the new learning commons model the diversity of learning styles that exist in our student population.  My arguments were ignored.  The committee chose to invest in 270 Samsung Chromebooks.  Their choice to spend our allotment on the same device reinforces the message that all students learn the same.  This doesn’t reflect a teacher or student’s individuality in choosing the right tool for the right job.  This choice doesn’t put pedagogy or learning first. There are pitfalls in this urgent approach to integration including only exposing our students to a surface level of technological exposure which won’t allow them to fully understand the social, economic and environmental implications of our impulses.  

Finding the right term

I have struggled to feel comfortable with the nomenclature of this elusive skill set for students and in the last 5 years I have moved from calling them literacy skills to digital fluency to 21st Century learning and am finally resting on transliteracy.  It seems that even now in the year 2014, when teachers are very familiar with the term 21st century learning, that we rely on traditional models of teaching and management which ask students to fit the same mold.  I believe that this model of standardized teaching continues to benefit the same students who have always done well.  Teachers are having a hard time wrestling with the new complexities of user/reader, software/hardware (King, 2012) and have too long been under the impression that students now are inherently more capable on computers since these students were born in the age of the internet.  It seems that teachers are struggling to change their teaching and be comfortable with ongoing change.  Meanwhile students appear to be challenged to engage deeply with material and persist when faced with problems they can’t quickly solve.  The education system itself seems uncertain with how to proceed.  Using the term transliteracy sets the goal in education to aim towards having literacy skills transfer across modes and mediums, and that these skills will adapt with every new change in software or hardware, mode and medium.  I hope that the skills of creation, collaboration, communication and curation will be strong no matter what changes come.  

Supporting pedagogy in educational technology

There are some who see technology as a new set of skills to be developed separately from curriculum content, and others who see it as integrated into every classroom.  Certainly the education system could do more to support professional development during this renaissance.  In my own experience, the best professional development offered to me outside of my school district continues to be self-driven.  I am receiving increasingly enticing offers to become a Google Certified Teacher or to become a Mac Educator.  At the same time there are hidden pitfalls to allowing Google and Apple to fill holes in professional development that aren’t being offered elsewhere.  Allowing professional development to be steered by corporations, ensures that a business model emphasizing the product will be implemented rather than a pedagogical approach which benefits learning.

A model of technology integration in my board that has potential to support pedagogy is the BYOD program .  The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program offers face-to-face and online workshops for teachers to join over the course of 6 weeks.  Teachers who commit to the program receive a Google Chromebook and time with coaches to feel more comfortable.  The program teaches skills while coaches model a philosophy of embracing a diversity of devices in the classroom.   

The Ontario School Library Association (OSLA) has recognized and responded to the changes required to meet the transliteracy needs of staff and students in their new Together for Learning document (Ontario School Library Association, 2010).  The document introduces Ontario teacher-librarians to The Learning Commons model which emphasizes the development of physical and virtual spaces where learning can happen 24/7 in multiple modes.  Together for Learning reinforces the necessity of Learning Commons spaces to be staffed by professional teacher-librarians who can best support staff as they redefine curriculum to encompass transliteracy.  The Learning Commons puts emphasis on the pedagogy of educational technology.

I want to develop a clear model of pedagogy to support the development of transliteracy in staff and students.  Ideally, this model would be sustainable, like a pyramid, with one level learning from the next and continually paying forward their learning.  As an agent of change in my position, I have seen the pyramid have a lasting effect on our school’s adoption of technology integration.  The desire to integrate technology equitably and sustainably pushes me to ask:  How can teacher-librarians support students and staff in developing essential transliteracy skills?

In order to fully develop answers to this question, I will research and review literature pertaining to the following guiding questions:

  • What are transliteracy skills?
  • What is their value or importance?
  • What strategies or practices or programs have been found to be supportive of transliteracy skills
  • What is the role of role of teacher-librarians in supporting students and staff in developing essential transliteracy skills?

In Part 3: Reflection and Sharing, I will: 

a) provide a concise summary of the findings of the literature review; and 

b) discuss the implications of these findings on the development of transliteracy skills for students and staff

LITERATURE REVIEW

How can teacher-librarians support students and staff in developing essential transliteracy skills?

What are transliteracy skills?

The term transliteracy has evolved from recognizing that the same offline skill set does not necessarily apply to online communication.  Coiro (2012), a researcher in adolescent online reading comprehension development, points out that “some of these additional, or new, reading strategies include generating digital queries, scrutinizing search engine results and negotiating multiple representations of text” (p. 551).  The term transliteracy has evolved from multiple attempts by researchers to consolidate the skill set that learners require to work fully in multiple modes.  

One of the precursors to transliteracy is the idea of 21st century skills.  Three major contributors to the development of the description of 21st century skills include the International Society for Technology in Education, the Educational Testing Service and Henry Jenkins, an American media scholar.   Here is a brief comparison of these three major contributors:

ISTE (2007) NETS/Standards focus on 6 proficiencies: 1) Creativity and innovation; 2) Communication and collaboration; 3) Research and information fluency; 4) Critical thinking, problem solving and decision making; 5) Digital citizenship; 6) Technology operations and concepts

Educational Testing Service ICT Digital Literacy Framework (Dede, 2010) emphasizes 3 proficiencies: 1) Cognitive proficiency; 2) Technical proficiency and 3) ICT proficiency (includes 5 levels of access, manage, integrate, evaluate, and create)

Henry Jenkins digital literacies (Dede, 2010) include: play, performance, simulation, appropriation, multitasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgement, transmedia navigation, networking and negotiation

Transliteracy encompasses the skills of information literacy but also involves the idea of self-curation.  Rather than using traditional models of teaching information literacy, research from Collins (2013), a scholar of English, argues that digital citizenship needs to be incorporated through the curation of the user’s own interests.  Collins says:  

The contention that the curatorship of digital archives has become a vital form of identity formation depends on the conversion of intellectual property into electronic files, a process that horrifies readers who cling to the belief that the uniqueness of traditional-book-reading experience is the last line of defense against cultural decline. (p. 209)

Transliteracy then becomes a skill set that also utilizes metacognitive understanding of one’s own learning patterns, allowing the user/reader to adapt to changing texts and platforms.

What is value or importance of transliteracy skills?

The transliteracy skill set is important for all learners as we move into an uncertain future.  As platforms and devices come and go, transliteracy skills will allow users to adapt to new modes and mediums of communication.  While we can’t assume that the internet will always be the mode of delivery, we can use current research to illustrate the complexities of how the internet has changed the way we read.  As Doug Achterman (2010) summarized about new literacy research, there are 4 factors that the internet presents that have changed the nature of literacy:

  1. The ubiquity of the internet
  2. The nature of the internet itself allows for the continuous change of literacy technologies themselves
  3. Such technologies change the form and functions of earlier literacies
  4. The way we make and create meaning with text is in constant evolution.  (p. 79)

In public education it is essential that we give each student the same exposure and opportunity to interact with new modes of learning.  Livingstone (2012) warns while exposure to online reading generally improves school achievement, that the “already high-achieving children get more from gaining internet access than do low-achieving children” (p. 15).  In order to bridge this gap caused by detrimental factors external to a teacher’s influence, Dobler (2007) suggests “Teaching students how to learn, rather than what to learn, gives them the flexibility to adapt to changes in both text and technology” (p. 95.)  Focusing on transliteracy should allow students to meet future challenges with confidence, no matter the mode or medium of delivery.

Transliteracy endeavours for the future of our students

Many researchers allude to the necessity of  teaching attitudes and skills in information literacy and lifelong learning to our students as they become leaders in the global community (Bruce et al, 2012; Crockett, Jukes & Churches, 2011).  Crockett, Jukes and Churches (2011) agree that “we need to shift our instructional approach to a 21st-century learning environment that will provide our students with the most in-demand skills: those that can’t be easily outsourced, automated or turned into software” (p. 11).  Specifically, researchers group these skills into improving capacity for transdisciplinary communication, collaboration, and knowledge and information practices (Bruce et al, 2012; Crockett, Jukes & Churches, 2011).  

Recovering student deep reading engagement skills

With all of the active links, sidebars and flash animations on more web pages, it has lead many researchers to question how deeply readers are engaging with texts.  Carr (2008), popular technology and culture writer, says that reading online has changed our behaviour: “Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” (para. 8).  However, others are questioning if this is not a cultural change that will improve with experience. Collins (2013) questions the idea that technology is influencing reading negatively: “Carr and Shirky define[s] literary reading solely in technological terms, and neither demonstrates much interest in how reading technologies are embedded in cultural formations” (p. 210). Collins maintains that since reading technologies, regardless of their mode and medium of delivery, are products of culture, therefore the culture will adapt to new technologies.  If Collins is correct, then educators have a hope of making reading engagement possible as long as we keep culturally redefining the idea of text and reading through the development of transliteracy skills.

Citizenship

As with the redefinition of texts and reading with the advance of digital formats, so too is the redefinition of the idea of community. Community has not devalued with the integration of technology, but it is changing as communities are built online.  Bruce et al. (2012) argue that citizenship now encompasses online communities built on the user’s interaction with education, fantasy, information, relationships and transactions (p. 532).  In being a good citizen, many of these online communities have offline impact on art, heritage, archives, and education (pp. 533-544).  As libraries shift their definition of information literacy to include digital citizenship, they may play a key role in developing communities online as well as offline.  

What strategies or practices or programs have been found to be supportive of transliteracy skills?

Researchers have been asking this same question about best practice in technology integration for some time.  Bruce et al. (2012) wonders what does transliteracy “look like across contexts, national borders, complex organizations and community subcultures, including the innovative cultures emerging in digital landscapes” (p. 524).  Indeed the task of trying to isolate the transliteracy skills and concepts that have such universal application is challenging.  Fullan (2013) insists that there are “four criteria for integrating technology and pedagogy to produce exciting, innovative learning experiences for all students…these new developments must be i) irresistibly engaging (for students and teachers); ii) elegantly efficient and easy to use; iii) technologically ubiquitous 24/7; and iv) steeped in real-life problem solving” (p. 4).  These goals are high and yet we know in order for transliteracy to take hold that we must have grounded suggestions for success in schools.

TPACK   

One entry point into easing technology into more traditional classroom structures would be to incorporate the TPACK framework.  The term TPACK was outlined by Thompson and Mishra (as cited in Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013) (2006) to include “seven different types of knowledge required for technological integration to occur” (p. 104):

  • content knowledge (CK)
  • pedagogical knowledge (PK)
  • technological knowledge (TK)
  • pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)
  • technological content knowledge (TCK)
  • technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK)
  • technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)

Thompson and Mishra argue that “a conceptually based theoretical framework about the relationship between technology and teaching can transform the conceptualization and the practice of teacher education, teacher training, and teachers’ professional development” (p. 1019).  The TPACK model is illustrated here in Figure 1: 

Screenshot 2014-04-05 16.34.52

Figure 1: The TPACK model of technology integration (Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org)

The sweet spot of teaching would be the centre where Technology, Pedagogy, Content and Knowledge align as Brantley, Dias and Ertmer (2013) suggest here::

TP[A]CK is the basis of good teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones.  (pp. 1028-1029)  

As Thompson and Mishra have outlined here, incorporating a model of pedagogy like TPACK, would lead to a deeper understanding of  transliteracy skills and concepts.

Focus on pedagogy

Because of the variables that digital technology integration brings to teaching, teaching with digital technology can be much more complex than teaching with traditional technologies. Michael Fullan (2013) says: “[Technology] is being grossly underutilized pedagogically” (p. 40).  In order to allow the technology to be integrated with pedagogy, it helps to incorporate the broadest scope of technology’s reach into learning structures that a) individualize learning and b) emphasize the process of learning.  It seems that inquiry-based learning structures do this as students work through recognizing a problem or question for further exploration, visualizing a solution, researching the best strategies, and then presenting solutions.  Reflection is also a stage that is essential to many different phases of this process.   At the very least, TPACK seems to allow all the stakeholders in education to have a common vocabulary as they aim to achieve high standards both in technology integration and pedagogy (Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013).  One of the model’s strengths is that it is not specific to a particular discipline, so it allows whole systems of education to develop goals (Brantley-Dias & Ertmer, 2013, p. 119).  However, TPACK has been criticized for its simplicity and lack of best practice strategies for implementation.  It may describe the ‘why’ we need a continuum, but it doesn’t suggest the ‘how’.  

SAMR

The SAMR model of technology integration (Figure 2), developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura (2006), may offer more pedagogical strategies.  There is a growing movement away from using the phrase technology integration as it seems to emphasize technology for its own sake.  Instead, some researchers are arguing that the phrase technology-enabled learning would help put the focus back on the student (Brantley-Dias & Erner, 2013, p. 120).  The SAMR model asks teachers to move from using technology to enhance teaching, to using technology to transform teaching.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 2.54.01 AM

Figure 2: The SAMR model of technology integration (Adapted from R. Puentedura, Hippasus.com, 2014.)

Continuum of skills and knowledge (a curriculum)

In developing a series of concepts and skills that each learner should become familiar with, and explicitly teaching towards their mastery, teacher-librarians can begin to see progress in transliteracy.  Bruce et al. (2012) have developed some of these concepts in information literacy that would fit nicely into a continuum of transliteracy.  Their “experiences of informed learning” (p. 527) include: information awareness, sources, process, control, knowledge construction, knowledge extension and wisdom.   In fact, these activities also align well with the SAMR model.  Bruce and her colleagues (2012) focus on the three concepts of awareness, process and control through learning activities and assessment design.  Bruce et al. (2012) use these experiences to define these concepts:

  • Awareness: Information scanning, exploring and sharing, within formal education and research environments, through using innovative technologies and traditional strategies.
  • Process: Engaging with information processes to learn through, for example, inquiry, problem, or resource-based learning and research.
  • Control: Organizing information, making and managing connections between information and learning needs, for all types of assignments and research projects, both independent and collaborative.

While this begins to help define a continuum of transliteracy, it barely scratches the surface.  It will be essential to maximize student exposure to the highest levels of transliteracy, which are defined by Bruce et al. here:

  • Knowledge Construction: Developing personal understandings of knowledge domains through critical and creative thinking processes.
  • Knowledge Extension: Creating and communicating new knowledge within and between discipline(s), innovating and creating new insights and new solutions to problems as outcomes of learning activities, including assessment and research projects.
  • Wisdom: Using information wisely and ethically on behalf of others, applying knowledge developed through learning and assessment activities or research projects to further social, economic, and educational well-being.

With the right support, it may be possible to reach every student and to maximize their learning potential in every classroom activity.  This will allow every student to have exposure and potential mastery of transliteracy skills and concepts.

Sustainable support structures for schools

In order for transliteracy to become pervasive “it is essential to provide present and potential participants with a supportive environment, built upon understanding and enhancing information and learning processes; and to introduce opportunities for the uptake and adoption of new practices [which] include [making use of] library administrators” (Bruce et al., 2012, p. 534)  Depending on the context of the learning, adding additional support may mean changing the physical or virtual spaces; increasing access and availability to learning; and increasing opportunities for teachers to build their own transliteracy skills.  Michael Fullan (2013), professor of education at the University of Toronto, states that “Innovative teaching practices were more likely to be seen in schools where teachers collaborate in a focused way on the particular instructional practices linked explicitly to 21st century learning skills” (p. 43).  Furthermore, Fullan argues that the best kind of professional development is one where teachers are actively engaged in research of their own creation and management (p. 43).  In order for teachers to raise the stakes on the significance of transliteracy, they must be allowed to engage with assessing and improving their own teaching of transliteracy.

What is the role of teacher-librarians in supporting students and staff in developing essential transliteracy skills?

The critical link in the community

Within many school communities, libraries and librarians are a centre of information. With the advent of transliteracy needs, their roles are even more vital.  Berger (2007) an educational technology/library consultant, suggests that teacher-librarians are responsible for creating “a shared vision for learning in the twenty-first century with students, faculty, administrators, and parents” (p. 125).  When asked about the changing role of librarians, Carr (as cited in Hales, 2010) writes: 

What I think librarians can help us do is broaden out beyond the types of results that search engines provide and take us off the beaten track a little bit — not just conform to popular expectations on a particular subject, but cover more perspectives and offer more intellectually rigorous takes on a particular subject…training their clients or patrons that there is more to the world of the intellect than can be found through Google.  (p. 30)  

A traditional role of librarians might be to provide accessibility and usability to their patrons.  As lines have blurred between modes and mediums of literacy, so too are the lines blurring between libraries and other civic centres like museums and galleries (Bruce et al., 2012, p. 535).    Bruce and co-authors (2012) argue that learning activities in school libraries need to focus on four types of learning: 1) reflective learning which promotes inquiry, reflection and problem solving; 2) management of information resources; 3) self-directed learning individually and collaboratively; and 4) research-based learning (p.  536).  Adapting to these learning activities may require a significant redesign of program and space in school libraries.  As transliteracy becomes a vital expectation of schools, so too will the role of teacher-librarian as a community link to providing resources, facilities and programming to support transliteracy.

Recognizing barriers to sustainability

In serving a role as the hub of any learning community, a teacher-librarian must prioritize recognizing and overcoming any barriers to the sustainability of the library’s mandates.  These barriers often prevent transliteracy from being mastered. Fullan’s research in Ontario (2013) describes the problem as “The organizational support for the use of technology in schools is badly underdeveloped (availability of digital media, shared vision, school culture, technical support, leadership and the school, district and state levels, assessment systems, and so on)” (p. 37).  In addition, one of the common programs of school-libraries has been information literacy instruction “while not always extending attention to helping students engage with content through their information use processes; and insufficient attention has been given to understanding and supporting the experience of engaging with information in workplace or community contexts” (Bruce et al., 2012, p. 523).  The teacher-librarian’s role in supporting transliteracy includes recognizing barriers to support, engagement and consistency and pressing for greater access and availability of resources.  

Advocating for equity in access and availability

Above all, teacher-librarians in public schools struggle with the equity issues of their diverse students in two major areas: the support they receive outside of school and the reliability of the technology in their home environments (Livingstone, 2012, p. 15).  Fullan (2013) reminds teachers: 

The unsustainable environment we are creating is socio-economic as much as environmental.  The trend is not purposeful.  It is a function of the better off helping themselves: of taking advantage of opportunities because they can, because they have greater access to the combined power of education and technology than the rest of the population. (p.74)

Although the learner community may be extremely diverse, the teacher-librarian needs to develop resources and programs to support the context of the school community.  Bruce et al. (2012) advocates that “the real life experiences of the population to be served should inform planning decisions; what using information to learn (being information literate) means to them, in the present situation, must become the starting point for the conversation.  If it becomes clear that changing (or enhancing) peoples’ ways of being information literate requires new educational, training or change management processes, this must occur through inclusive participative planning processes” (p. 535).  Once these needs are identified, programs and resources to support the development of transliteracy can be obtained with the knowledge that the teacher-librarian is best serving the community.  

Remediation for staff and students

In some circumstances, the teacher-librarian may discover that the school community’s resources are scarce and that transliteracy has been undersupported to the detriment of transliteracy development.  In such cases, the teacher-librarian needs to remediate the adults and managers of the community that are lacking transliteracy skills, such as parents, teachers and administrators.   Coiro (2012) has much to say on the topic of beginning remediation “of meeting teachers where they are” (p. 553). As many teachers are new users of transliteracy themselves, in order to be able to teach these skills they will require the scope of support available to meet teachers where they are comfortable.  “Classroom teachers bring a range of abilities, assumption, and comfort zones with them into any professional development situation, and they need time to express their ideas and concerns in a way that explicitly shapes the direction and pace of their learning” (Coiro, 2012, p. 553).  Henderson (2013), an Ontario technology integration teacher, says “It’s okay to be where you are, it’s just not okay to stay there.” Coiro suggests that short sessions of technology exploration that are job-embedded and risk-free are a great place to encourage developing professional networks (p. 553).  Eventually these interactions can progress to global connections and the creation of new communities.  In experiencing first-hand the power of digital connections “teachers also learn how to become mediators, supporting students’ self-reflection and self-regulation in ways that enable adolescents to gain greater control over their own literacy practices with networked information technologies” (Coiro, 2012, p. 553).  Embracing some transliteracy first as learners allows teachers to confidently tackle teaching transliteracy skills themselves and moving forward with their students. 

REFLECTIONS AND SHARING

When I was first introduced to using technology in my classroom it was in the form of developing a classroom website and using an interactive whiteboard.  I quickly learned that my students needed to be explicitly taught technology strategies through my class content in order for the students to find it meaningful.  Likewise, transliteracy models challenge every learning experience to be authentic and to be a true measure of deep understanding of concepts.  For too long, the education system has underthought the pedagogy of implementing technology in education. Dynamic developments in technology should be revolutionizing teaching, but have instead only maintained our factory model standards of achievement. As a result, we have serious deficits in transliteracy that need to be addressed.    I have had the benefit of using my position as teacher-librarian to influence the entire school community in developing a mindset that is more encompassing of multiple literacy modes and mediums.  My next step after this research is to help the staff and students to develop transliteracy skills in relation to the curriculum.  

The TPACK model is taking hold of my teaching and I am able to model it in collaboration with my staff.  A common lesson I’ve been using is in our Grade 10 Careers classes during their job shadow assignment.  Typically the students have taken a day to shadow someone’s job and then used a presentation software to report about it to the class.  Inserting the TPACK model my goal is to bring the pedagogy and technology closer to enhancing the knowledge of that experience.  I show them cloud-based computing software, like Prezi or Google presentations, and we use the tool for planning before the job shadow experience.  I incorporate elements of design, photography, and encourage the classes to find visual ways to describe their experiences.  Although many of them can rely on internet images and videos to embed, I also encourage them to use their phones or cameras to capture real pictures and videos of their day.  Having the opportunity to use the class content, finesse the assignment and use the technology more fully to its potential of all stages of this individualized experience, makes the job shadow experience and the sharing more impactful.  

The SAMR model is more challenging to incorporate as a teacher-librarian as it requires true collaboration as I help the teachers tweak their assignments to maximize the potential of the learning experience with technology integration.  An example of this is when I suggested using social media to build community for the student attendees of our annual mental health conference.  Traditionally, we invited speakers to come and answer questions with our students.  Once I created a Twitter hashtag for the event, students and the greater community became connected in a meaningful way by using the hashtag to crowdsource questions and ideas in response to the messages of the day.  To further enhance the power of the social media, we used a second screen to project the feed from the Twitter hashtag which allowed everyone in the room to be included in the conversation not just those with phones.  In this way, we moved to actually redefine the learning experience of the day by using social media to create community, before, during and well after the event itself.  It was simple for the organizers to archive the day and learn from the Twitter stream in their planning for future events.  

As you can see from the previous examples, integrating transliteracy into our education system is not so much a complete redesign as a need to appeal to students’ passions as a vehicle for experimentation in other modes and mediums.  Fullan (2013) reinforces this idea when he says that: 

the students in question talk of doing things that are meaningful in the world, projects that focus on solving a problem, engaging in teamwork, and operating under conditions that encourage risk-taking.  The new pedagogy involves helping students find purpose, passion, and experimental doing in a domain that stokes their desire to learn and keep on learning.  (p. 24)

Teacher-librarians are in ideal positions to be the agents of change in schools in full integration of transliteracy models.  They can use their unique perspectives to see opportunities for building cross-curricular collaboration for problem-solving.  Teacher-librarians can model teamwork and risk-taking to the entire school community as they facilitate experimentation that suits the passions of individual student needs.  As such, teacher-librarians become the top of the transliteracy integration pyramid (Figure 3).  Through their work and example, integration will flow downwards to impact the entire school community.  Likewise, the entire school community will flow upwards to drive the purpose of the teacher-librarian position.

Pyramid of technology integration - New Page

 Figure 3: The role of the teacher-librarian in transliteracy integration (Created by A. King, 2014.)

Born out of my own frustrations and anxiety about obvious disparities in my school in terms of technology integration, I began this paper asking the question: How can teacher-librarians support students and staff in developing essential transliteracy skills?  With the help of the masters before me who advocate for a curriculum where students develop a skill set of tools for perceiving and creating texts in multiple modes and mediums, I am prepared to move forward in my own role as a teacher-librarian.  

REFERENCES 

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Berger, P. (2007). Literacy and learning in a digital world. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 111-127). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Brantley-Dias, L., & Ertmer, P. A. (2013-14). Goldilocks and TPACK: Is the construct “just right?” Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(2), 103-128.

Bruce, C., Hughes, H., & Somerville, M. M. (2012). Supporting informed learners in the twenty-first century. Library Trends, (Winter).

Carr, N. (2008, July 1). Is Google making us stupid? The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/

Carr, N. G. (2010). The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Coiro, J., & Moore, D. W. (2012). New literacies and adolescent learners: An interview with Julie Coiro. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(6), 551-553. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/JAAL.00065

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Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough: 21st-century fluencies for the digital age. 21st Century Fluency Project.

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Fullan, M. (2013). Stratosphere: Integrating technology, pedagogy and change knowledge. Toronto, Canada: Pearson.

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Henderson, L. (2013, October).  It’s ok to be where you are, it’s just not ok to stay there. Poster session presented at Educational Computing Organization of Ontario, Niagara Falls, Canada.

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Livingstone, S. (2012). Critical reflections on the benefits of ICT in education. Oxford Review of Education, 38(1), 9-24.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Ontario School Library Association. (2010). Together for learning: School libraries and the emergence of the learning commons [Pamphlet]. Ontario Library Association.

Puentedura, R. R. (2014). Ongoing thoughts on education and technology. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from Ruben R. Puentedura’s Weblog: http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/ 

Puentedura, R. (2006, August).  Transformation, technology and education. Paper presented at Strengthening Your District Through Technology.

Thomas, S. (Ed.). (2013, April 12). Original definition of transliteracy. Retrieved from Transliteracy research group archive website: http://transliteracyresearch.wordpress.com/original-definition-of-transliteracy/

Thomas, S., Joseph, C., Laccetti, J., Mason, B., Mills, S., Perril, S., & Pullinger, K. (2007). Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday, 12(12).

Research methods and methodologies in education by Larry V. Hedges

Research Methods and Methodologies in EducationResearch Methods and Methodologies in Education by Larry V. Hedges

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A qualitatively comprehensive guide to research methods in education. I guess education by nature is a social science so my only disappointment with this book is that it didn’t make me any better at math. I was hoping to really walk away with a better understanding of statistics…but that was one of my first big learnings about educational research….that it’s highly subjective.

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IGNITE presentation: Arts-based research

For those of you who haven’t found out about the Pecha Kucha style of presentation, there’s already another kid on the block.  It’s even faster than Pecha Kucha with 20 slides at 15 seconds each. I found it really difficult to do asynchronously but that’s what my professor wanted so I tried.

First she had us do a warm-up a week ahead, putting just a few slides together to show that we had mastered the technology.  Here’s that attempt:

Then we put the whole thing together:

What I really liked about the method of making this IGNITE presentation was how scaffolded the difficulty was. Here are the steps again:

  1. Make a mini-presentation with just a few slides and a clear topic for each slide.
  2. Make a full IGNITE presentation on your upcoming essay topic.
  3. Write a 3000 word essay.

I’m still working on the essay but I knew a week ago how I would organize it based on the work I needed to do for the IGNITE presentation.  I can think of a whole bunch of ways that I can adapt the same scaffolded strategies to levelling up in digital literacy, building content knowledge and writing/research skills.

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.

Karen Martin says “Research is a tool of colonialism”

Martin’s research is so refreshing!  I can’t seem to find the link to the actual chapter online but here are a couple of the places you can find her work:

http://www.isrn.qut.edu.au/pdf/members/researchers/Martin.member.pdf

http://www.e-contentmanagement.com/books/283/please-knock-before-you-enter-aboriginal

“Research can help understand problems, or it can perpetuate problems. This is particularly evident in research that involves Aboriginal people because the power dynamics exist in multiple ways and almost always benefit the researcher more than the researched…therefore, research is a tool of colonialism” (Martin, 2010, p. 86). She grabbed my attention right away at this statement and the flow of the rest of the chapter really lead  me to new understanding about the appropriation of voice.  The article reminded me of all sorts of things and I could go on forever but here is a smattering of the tangents I thought about:

  • Why are aboriginals in the Western parts of Canada treated with more respect and equity than the Eastern parts?  Is it because Colonialism started from the East?

  • Martin later says “Decolonisation is crucial to the achievement of Aboriginal sovereignty” (p. 95).  While I believe this is true, does it mean that Canadian aboriginals will have to leave the dominion of Canada in order to ever feel that they have sovereignty?

  • I’ve often thought that Australia and New Zealand are at least 10 years ahead of Canada in terms of how they have made reparations for past treatment and moving towards a collaborative relationship with aboriginal people.  Is Canada able to make the same headway?  Can research methods help pave the way?

References:
Martin, K. (2010).  Indigenous research.  In G. Naughton, S. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory & practice (pp. 85 – 100).  Bershire, UK: McGraw-Hill.

I’m an amateur researcher

I have been a teacher since 1994, spending 3 years teaching English in Japan, and the rest in Ontario teaching drama, English, and media arts in the classroom and online.  I became a teacher-librarian full-time in 2009.  Currently working ⅚ a teacher-librarian in a large secondary school.  My other ⅙ has me back in the classroom (by choice!) and I’m loving it.  This past semester I taught grade 12 media arts face-to-face and next semester I’ll be teaching grade 12 English online. I’ve really missed having my own students and dealing with the day-to-day tasks of teaching keeps me grounded as a school leader.  I am also part of my school’s Directions Team and we are constantly analyzing our school’s data.  2 favourite methods are: 1) the survey of staff and students and 2) looking at trends in student achievement.  I’m frustrated by how narrow these methods are and how little impact I see them having on how we move forward in our team.

Educational research has never meant more to me than it does now in my position in the library. As a classroom teacher I used to rely on the findings of the experts.  This July I’m taking my 7th course with the U of A TLDL M.Ed. program and I find now that I have more questions than answers.  My exposure to the rich resources available in the University of Alberta library have been a great influence on the integrity I seek in finding educational data.  I have spent the entire school year working on three projects which are strongly rooted in educational research.

1)  Inquiry question: What will the role of school libraries be in 20 years and how should I modify my physical library to embrace these changes?

Research description: based on theoretical research I am now applying interventions

I’ve been working towards improving the physical library and suddenly found out that the work orders to fix my unsafe shelving, ancient carpet and water damaged ceiling were going to be combined with money to build an accessible elevator and entrance and a big project ensued.  Then my principal became ill, replaced with an acting principal, and I’ve had to justify every idea in the last 8 weeks in order to make the renovations happen.

2) Inquiry question:  How can I better determine the needs in reading of my students?  Is there a cause and effect relationship between reading ability and success in grade 9?

Research description: gathering empirical data to better describe our student needs; began by correlating data on each student

We have developed a significant special education focus at our school in the last 4 years.  Our Transitions classes (students with developmental delays) have increased to 5 full classes and in total we have 450 identified students in the building.  I question our ability to accommodate these students without more research being done.  With money from our board’s Student Success department, I put in about 60 hours of work studying students’ reading abilities in grade 9 in order to find a consistent tool for identifying reading level.  The Student Success group wanted to relate the reading research to success in grade 9.  I ‘hired’ (i.e. coerced, cajoled and got release time for) one of our special education specialists to use the literacy portions of the Woodcock-Johnson test to test 31 grade 9 students.

2) inquiry question: How can I better emphasize the creative process to my students?  How can I use a digital portfolio to help them make their process thinking visible?

Research description: action research applying interventions and then gathering feedback

Together with 5 other secondary teachers from our board, we were able to get 4 release days to try to answer these questions above.  We each used various online tools to encourage and monitor our students as they learned to make their thinking visible.  We presented our findings to teachers across the province.

As an aside, I’m also the mom of an 8 year old, Max, who was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum in 2012.  We’ve volunteered to be part of two studies so far.  The first was to see how children transition from the daycare setting to the public education system.  The second is to track the genome of autism through families on a global scale.  Both studies, through the Offord Centre for Child Studies, are fascinating in their complexity and educational profiles were done of Max to an extent that is very insightful as a parent.

In trying to define my research position, I’m trying to think of it as a Myers-Briggs personality test or a Kinsey quadrant.  I’m strongly constructivist leaning towards interpretivism.  I tend to butt heads with my administration when they ask me for hard calculable data so I’m pretty sure that I’m an Internal-idealist, although I can see both sides to the epistemological assumptions.  Although my goals are to show definitive conclusions in my research thus far, I tend to find deeper meaning through interpretation.

In this course I hope that I’ll move away from being an “amateur researcher” (Rolfe et al., 2010, p.6) because I am guilty of “quasi-scientific conclusions” (p. 7).  I’d like to make my research  more valid in order to:

a) advocate for library resources

b) advocate for further research support including release time

c) maintain and increase the importance of the role of a teacher-librarian at our school and in our board

References

Rolfe, S.  & Naughton, G.  (2010).  Research as a tool.  In G. Naughton, S. Rolfe, & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice (pp. 3 – 12).  Bershire, UK: McGraw-Hill.