The Bear by Claire Cameron

The BearThe Bear by Claire Cameron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The UGDSB has just chosen this book as our board-wide novel for secondary students and author Ms. Cameron will be visiting schools in May 2015. After reading this terrifying novel, I am nervous about the problematic areas in Cameron’s choices. As a parent, I can only describe the first 2/3 of the books as horrific, as main character Anna, 5 years old, attempts to care for her 2 year old brother in the wilderness of Algonquin Park after a trauma happens to Anna’s parents and the two children are left on their own. Nothing could be scarier except…trying to find food, and exposure to the elements, and the confusion of being suddenly alone. Every minute of Anna’s narration is heartbreaking. As a secondary school librarian, I hope the teens who pick up The Bear won’t be turned off by the narrative voice, and won’t be scared to ever go camping again. There are many issues to explore about wilderness, survival, bears and PTSD so I’m hoping the book will open avenues to inquiry. There is nothing explicitly horrific that I fear censorship on, only that the power of the imagination leads the reader to a dangerous place of what could be around the next corner for Anna with every turn of the page. Having said that I devoured it in 48 hours of my busy life, so I’m hoping teens will have the same reaction.

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Launching a book club with a riddle

My White Pine book club is growing stale. The same few students join every year (which is awesome) but I’m not reaching as far as I’d like to in my secondary school of 1200 students. So I’m trying an additional book club this year in a different format. The book I’ve chosen is “This Dark Endeavour” by Kenneth Oppel and if you haven’t read it you should!

So each week we’ll run a seminar on an interesting topic within the book in hopes of engaging new students!  I hope it will also promote inquiry-based thinking and lead to new possibilities.

This week’s seminar will be lead by Adam Wallace, and he’s going to talk all about Switzerland and cover many of the places the characters visit in the book.  Here’s our promo:

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted GirlsThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Recent winner of the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen fiction for 2014, Cathy Marie Buchanan transported me to another place and time with this story of sisters surviving all the odds against them in 1880s Paris. I love it when a book prompts me to do more research and I’ve spent the week since finishing it searching out Degas, Zola and even maps of Paris. As a secondary school teacher-librarian, I will recommend this book to my mature readers. There is one scene where Antoinette performs sexual acts that are too adult for my intermediate readers, but the rest of the book is magnificently constructed. The plot and setting are steeped in art, history and most importantly, the sacrifices that sisters make for each other. In trying to escape their circumstances, the sisters come to realize the importance of staying true to each other. Buchanan has filled her website with Degas’ studies for his ballet paintings and sculptures and includes her memoirs of her own research trip to Paris for this book. I can’t wait until she writes another book and I sincerely hope it is similar in proposing a fictionalized story behind works of art.

The main character, Marie, models for this Degas sculpture.

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The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinleyThe Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first read of the 2014-15 Ontario Library Association’s White Pine picks for this year and based on this book alone, I’m very hopeful. Like last year’s Old Man by David A. Poulsen, our main character Kyle McGinley has a very unusual relationship with his estranged father. Here the similarities end though, as Kyle’s father was neglectful and abusive before abandoning his son when he was only 8. Having moved around the foster system ever since, Kyle finally lands with Jill and Scott in a rural location which allows him the peace and quiet he needs to begin healing. Kyle takes his need for silence to a whole new level by refusing to speak with his new wards. However, the threat of his father’s return catapults him once again into turmoil. This book is a fast read of only 198 pages but it is rich in symbolism as Kyle wrestles with noise and silence, hope and despair. Andrews’ characters are very believable and her unique style of creating Kyle’s inner voices allows for some very creative interpretations of his emotional story. I would highly recommend this book to any student but I will urge reluctant male readers to pick it up the most.

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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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It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens by danah boyd

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout danah boyd’s “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens”, I’m very satisfied with the level of sophistication of boyd’s research and unbiased point of view in her writing.  Her tone is academic, professional and at the same time, approachable.  The three areas that most concerned me during my reading are boyd’s research on the digital divide, online teen behaviour of sexual exploration and her plea for the redefinition of crimes associated with online bullying.

I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Marc Prensky’s phrase “digital natives” (2005/06) and I am reassured by boyd’s acknowledgement of her own awareness and skepticism of this blanket term.  boyd (2014) talks of social networking as a type of literacy and warns that “It is dangerous to assume that youth are automatically informed.  It is also naive to assume that so-called digital immigrants have nothing to offer.” (p. 177).  boyd also goes on to say that since teens are in many cases left to fend for themselves in networked environments, that their exposure to becoming fully literate depends on many factors.  She references Henry Jenkins and his thoughts on the subject:

Yet, talk of “digital natives” may also mask the different degrees access to and comfort with emerging technologies experienced by different youth. Talk of digital natives may make it harder for us to pay attention to the digital divide in terms of who has access to different technical platforms and the participation gap in terms of who has access to certain skills and competencies or for that matter, certain cultural experiences and social identities” (2007).

This paragraph amplifies my own worries that this simple term has excused the education system’s lack of action in lessening the digital divide.  I’m certain that we still promote the use of technology in the classroom as a tool of engagement, rather than seeing becoming proficient with technology as a fundamental requirement for graduation.

In the Ontario curriculum, at least, there is no single mandatory place where students are given a number of digital strategies for studying success, although we know there are consistent issues in any student’s level of preparedness.  Again, in Ontario, technology is not a mandatory part of the elementary curriculum and so students come to secondary with an almost insurmountable range of disparities in their digital backgrounds based on the interest and abilities of their elementary teachers and their home environments with varying degrees of hardware support and exposure.  Along the same lines of boyd’s concerns, Jenkins (2007) goes on to say:

Talking about digital natives also tends to make these changes all about digital media rather than encouraging us to think about the full range of media platforms which shape the world around us or for that matter, the complex set of relationships between old and new media that characterize convergence culture.

This sentence has been the basis of my learning in the TLDL program at the U of A, where I now understand that the crux of my position is to raise the bar for transliteracy for both staff and students. (King, 2014)

A large part of the digital divide that I know teachers are having trouble improving is the use of networked communities to help students.  In many ways administration fears of privacy and legalities have closed the networks for their possible misuses, meanwhile eliminating all possible positive ones.  Although I have concerns for all of our students, I have a particular worry about the LGBTQ population that are getting their information from unreliable sources when they desperately need support as they renegotiate social spaces.  The anecdotes from boyd’s research reassured me that LGBTQ teens are finding each other online and developing supportive communities.  However, boyd warns that “They are grappling with battles that adults face, but they are doing so while under constant surveillance and without a firm grasp of who they are.  In short, they’re navigating one heck of a cultural labyrinth” (p. 53).  I wish that the education system could find or create places, possibly in tandem with social support structures, where teens could create networks to reliable information.  I wish there was a way we could better support this.  I’m not sure what the answer is.

One of boyd’s research topics that particularly affected me is cyberbullying and the complexities in these cases.  Within boyd’s Chapter 5 on Bullying, she references the journalistic research work of Emily Bazelon who covered the case of Phoebe Prince, a teen victim of suicide and reportedly, cyber-bullying.  After linking to Bazelon’s extensive reporting on this case, I found that the law is responding with a variety of consequences to cyber-bullying and that because of the after-school, non-geographic locale of this bullying, that school boards have very little to offer to victims and bullies.  One of her final reports on the case revealed that in the case of Phoebe Prince, none of her aggressors were met with serious consequences.  Bazelon (2011) says:

After more than a year of covering this case, it’s hard for me to square that duty with the way these cases unfolded. “If you bully someone to death, that’s murder,” explained Joseph Kennedy, a criminal law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when I called him earlier this week. “But if you bully someone, and then they kill themselves, and that’s not something you anticipated, that’s not a crime.”

The digital divide is not just between economic classes and about developing transliteracy skills.  Boyd has revealed that the digital divide also includes how living and working as educators in this era of social networking we are not prepared for the consequences of these networks; and we are currently unable to model how to use social networks effectively.

References

Bazelon, E. (2011, May 25). It’s Over: None of the six teens charged in connection with the suicide of Phoebe Prince will go to jail. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/bulle/2011/05/its_over.html

boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, MA: Yale University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2007, December 5). Reconsidering digital immigrants… [Blog post]. Retrieved from Confessions of an Aca-Fan website: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/12/reconsidering_digital_immigran.html

King, A. (2014, April 13). Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian [Blog post]. Retrieved from Threadbare Beauty website: https://threadbarebeauty.com/2014/04/13/transliteracy-and-the-teacher-librarian/

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4).

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Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Through Black SpruceThrough Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boyden allowed me to feel that I had been to Moose Factory and felt the complicated nuances of self-government and survival that happen there. And yet it’s a wonderful modern mystery as we try to understand what has happened to Suzanne and we hope that her uncle Will’s story is going to end well. The complicated intertwining of these two narratives takes us over much of Northern Ontario and New York State. It crosses all sorts of social boundaries but feels rich in detail and authentic. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I would highly recommend it to mature young adults and adults.

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The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

When Nicholas Carr wrote the infamous article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (2008), he made waves in the education community who had bought into the Marc Prensky vision of today’s students as “digital natives” (2005).  While making impetuous decisions about technology integration in schools, Carr halted everyone into thinking maybe we should be a bit more skeptical about technology’s long term effects on the brain.  Essentially, Carr asks if our depth of thinking has been doomed to ‘the shallows’ with the advancement of digital technology.  He cautions that society has lots of breadth in the sources we have available to us to skim and scan, but that we are losing our ability to read deeply.  Using himself as a research subject, he argues that his behaviour in reading digital material appeals to his need for instant gratification, but has caused to become more easily distracted and more susceptible to the control of information corporations.

I really appreciate how Carr maps out in history how the very nature of reading has changed with advances in technology.  Carr (2011) says: “it is our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think. They are our most intimate tools, the ones we use for self-expression, for shaping personal and public identity, and for cultivating relationship with others” (p. 45). The argument of the publication’s power has existed since the invention of the printing press … what are we going to publish and with whose voice?  Who is being left out of publishing and at what cost to society?  It’s possible to question this same problem of equity if we admit that “reading and writing are unnatural acts” (Carr, 2011, p. 51) and are shaped by parents, environments and school.  My concern is that in public education in a G8 country, that we need to try to level that playing field so that every student has an equal opportunity to learn.

I read a lot of news and magazine articles from my iPad which I control the flow of information using an app called Zite.  It allows me to turn on or turn off subjects of my interest and filters in my favourite writers, and filters out writers who I deem unworthy of my attention.  I love that every time I connect that there is a magazine filled with articles just for me.  Yet I’m turning into one of those people at parties who can’t talk about anything other than books, school libraries, chiweenies and the humble kitchen garden.  I read a lot but what I read doesn’t represent my renaissance upbringing.  It represents what Amazon has recommended for me based on my past choices, or what my filters have chosen for me in Zite.  However I don’t think that I’m reading any less deeply. I’m able to make big leaps in my intellectual logic, because I’m able to make room in my brain for bigger ideas than the quick facts that I can Google.

In contrast to Carr’s premise, Jim Collins (2013), Department Chair at the University of Iowa, argues that in order to get past “the debate between the defenders of traditional literary experience and the celebrants of digital culture…we need to distinguish between a delivery system and a medium.”  I’m still choosing to read a breadth of material on deep topics, but my reading has definitely changed in that I’m able to now metatag and share my reading with others in a way that I never have before. Collins (2013) also argues that “Reading literary fiction on an e-reader is not a gateway drug that leads to the hard stuff of digital culture — become psychologically dependent on that e-reader, and you’ll find yourself in an alley somewhere with a cell-phone novel written by promiscuous Japanese teenagers sticking out of your arm.”  Although I may be juggling a lot of new information (Carr, 2011, p. 139), I’m also making connections in new and interesting ways. Instead of tapping into a culture of fear about the internet’s potential for corruption, we should be using it to further our culture of reading into something more participatory.

Although Carr wrote The Shallows in 2011, his vision of libraries (p. 98) doesn’t represent my reality in 2014.  In 1994, the main floor of my library was converted to an open computer lab that could accommodate two classes at once and the books were relegated to a new lower level.  We’ve just made a major overhaul in moving the desktops out, the books back upstairs and doubling our computers by using cheaper, lighter mobile devices.  The emphasis isn’t on computers or books…it’s on learning.  Which makes me question once again Carr’s opinions on how schools should scaffold the use of technology?  I am more concerned that students in my community are missing out on technological advances, than if they’re indulging in technology for self-gratification.  Where is Carr’s research on the digital divide?  Does Carr believe as the United Nations does that access to the internet is now a fundamental human right? (Jackson, 2011).

While Carr has some valid arguments, especially those steeped in the rich history of language that he outlines in detail, I don’t want to believe him.  I want to believe that we are in a cultural infancy and that while we may be sacrificing some skills, that new ones will emerge.  Someday I believe that society will use the power of the global internet to solve the world’s problems rather than spending it playing Candy Crush Saga…unless each candy crushed will somehow eliminate poverty and hunger.

 

References

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

Carr, N. (2013, April 20). The death of deep reading [Blog post]. Retrieved from big think website: http://bigthink.com/in-their-own-words/the-death-of-deep-reading

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

Collins, J. (2013). Reading, in a digital archive of one’s own. Publications of the Modern Language Association, 128(1).

Jackson, N. (2011, June 3). United Nations declares internet access a basic human right. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/06/united-nations-declares-internet-access-a-basic-human-right/239911/

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4).

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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 

Achterman, D. (2010). Literacy leadership and the school library. In S. Coatney (Ed.), The many faces of school library leadership (pp. 67-84). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

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

Collins, J. (2013). Reading, in a digital archive of one’s own. Publications of the Modern Language Association, 128(1).

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

Dede, C. (2010). Comparing frameworks for 21st Century Skills. In J. Bellanca & R. Brandt (Eds.), 21st century skills: Rethinking how students learn (pp. 51-75). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Dobler, E. (2007). Reading the web: The merging of literacy and technology. In S. Hughes-Hassell & V. Harada (Eds.), School reform and the school library media specialist (pp. 93-110). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

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

Hales, S. (2010). ‘It’s incumbent upon librarians to give us something more’: An interview with Nicholas Carr. Information Outlook, 14(3), 28-30.

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.

International Society for Technology in Education (Ed.). (2007). Digital age learning. Retrieved January 27, 2014, from International Society for Technology in Education website: http://www.iste.org/standards/standards-for-students

King, A. (2013). Redefining reading and the role of the teacher-librarian in the age of online text. Journal of the Literacy Special Interest Group of ISTE, 1(1), 23-29.

Koehler, M. J. (2014). TPACK 101. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from Dr. Matthew J. Koehler website: http://www.matt-koehler.com/tpack-101/ 

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).

Comics in prison libraries? Huh.

In this article Martha Cornog, longtime reviewer for Library Journal, interviews Graterford Corrections librarian, Philip Ephraim, about the inclusion of comics in his prison library.  Ephraim talks about the circulation statistics of comics noting that they are a small portion of the collection but well-used by patrons.    As a result, Ephraim has observed an increase in patrons choosing more serious reading materials and becoming interested in the art of comics. Some of the appeal to the library patrons includes using them as reference or springboards for artwork and this has lead to the development of how-to draw books in the collection. Likewise, the drawing leads to the need to articulate dialogue in the creation of comics and so the study of writing has also increased in library patrons.  Most importantly, comics are signed out for entertainment which has a significant effect on the stress levels of the inmates, which in turn translates to pacifying the atmosphere of the correction facility itself.   Ephraim leaves the reader with a series of questions about the relationship between his inmate patrons and comics that he advocates should be researched. He wonders if there is a relationship between intelligence or reading levels and comics and how it can be measured. He is also curious about if the prisoners admire the characters they read about and wish to emulate them by performing good deeds.  Ephraim is trying to gather more data to persuade others that comics should be included in every prison library.

The interview with Ephraim about his prison library collection of comics and prisoners’ reactions left two lasting impressions of the dynamic in my mind: the increase in the pursuit of art-making and the questions of morality in comic book themes.  I can only assume that one of the factors that contributes to incarceration is illiteracy.  Certainly any kind of reading material that the inmates choose increases their exposure to text and the likelihood of reading activity.    While Ephraim agrees with current research that shows that reading comics can lead to higher literacy rates, his inclusion of comics seems to validate the reading decisions of his unique patrons.  Perhaps this is why they choose the creative act of art-making, rather than the destructive behaviour they’ve shown in the past.  This creation in itself empowers the same library users to ask for materials that they are interested in.  Having Ephraim purchase more texts that users request demonstrates that their interests have sway as the library collection is adapting to the users, rather than the users adapting to the available collection.

Furthermore Ephraim indicates his own interest in the grey areas of morality that are often emphasized in graphic novels.  As Ephraim does, I wonder if there is a measurable effect of the consistent good vs. evil themes in comics on the prisoners.  It seems obvious that this population would be interested in crime and the justice system.  I‘m just reading Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986) and in it the character Nite Owl says:

Some of us did it out of a sense of childish excitement and some of us, I think, did it for a kind of excitement that was altogether more adult if perhaps less healthy.  They’ve called us fascists and they’ve called us perverts and while there’s an element of truth in both those accusations, neither of them are big enough to take in the whole picture” (p. 8).

While Nite Owl was describing these heroes who dressed in costume to stop crime, he could easily be describing criminals. Especially in post-modern comics, we seem to see the duality of villains and heroes and how close to the edge of justice and injustice they both live.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these consistent themes are what appeals to the patrons of Ephraim’s library where they wrestle with the same moral questions about themselves.

References

Cornog, M. (2012, July 3). Q&A: Prison librarian Philip Ephraim on the positive

    effects of comics [Blog post]. Retrieved from Library Journal Reviews

    website: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/

Moore, A., & Gibbons, D. (1986). Watchmen. New York, NY: DC Comics.

 

Redefining reading and the role of the teacher-librarian in the age of online text

Here’s the inaugural issue of the new ISTE SIG LIT Journal, Literacy Special Interest JOURNAL and a reprint of my original paper.

http://issuu.com/literacyspecialinterest/docs/literacy_special_interest_journal_v

Using gaming and graphics to grab students

So many of the changes in our library, representing the new Ontario School Library Association’s document Together for Learning, are fundamentally shifting how we see popular culture’s role in education. The document recognizes the need for social networking and meeting the students where they are whether interested in graphic novels, anime or gaming.

I allow gaming before school, during lunch and after school but I haven’t done anything formal.  I tried to coordinate my committed players of Magic the Gathering together to organize cross-school tournaments, to recruit members and even go on field trips, but they were happiest playing Magic in their own social group.  I just attended a session at a conference where three elementary teachers had organized Minecraft clubs which included blogging about their experiences.  Most importantly they emphasized that gaming is another opportunity for teachers to nurture social activity in students who not otherwise have a place in a sport or other club.

Similarly in my library, graphic novels seem to reach an audience that I haven’t been able to reach otherwise.  Jonathan Seyfried (2008) had it right when he says “Students who had dutifully read only required books in the past, continued to return to the school library well after the elective was finished…” (p.45).  Their motivation to seek out reading material on their own proves the effectiveness of graphic novels.  Like Krashen,  I agree that “popular culture selections may serve as conduits…” (p. 25).  The body of struggling readers in my school are certainly attracted to the visual, but the most sophisticated readers in my library are also drawn to the nuance that text and visual graphics bring together in this unique genre.  We have a collection of at least 200 graphic novels.  An emerging subgenre in my library is non-fiction graphic novels.  A couple popular titles this year include: Two Generals and Cuba: My Revolution.  Both of these titles involve war and include some traumatic events, but the graphic artist is able to capture the violence in the visuals but emphasizes the horrors of war through the text.  History is often a topic that singularly captures the attention of teens but eludes their experiences. With this new found interest in historical graphic novels, I have recently purchased a graphic novel series called “Defining Moments in Canada“, which I believe has 8 titles so far.  Struggling readers or not, this series highlights Canadian history in a visual context that helps students understand the major players in these events.

One of the components to creating a true learning commons shift in school libraries is to design reading experiences “so that students will:

  • Pursue academic and personal reading and writing interests
  • Examine ideas, information and interpretations critically and creatively
  • Engage meaningfully with multiple kinds and levels of texts and multimedia in a resource rich environment (Together for Learning, 2010)

Both gaming and graphic novels help to motivate, connect and support readers of all types.

Open-closed-exit-stop

I remember distinctly my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Phillips, standing over me saying “Are you reading?” I was reading, of course.  Things are fuzzy now but I know the book involved some kind of abbreviated fairy tale with a well and wishes.  Then we had the principal, Mr. Henderson come down and I read a few books to him.  Then I was cutting out circles, and spelling and suddenly my parents made the decision to move me from kindergarten to grade 1 with Mrs. Halliday just two weeks into September.  I was overjoyed, of course, because my best friend Marni was in the grade 1 class.  Yet I can also remember the feeling of being on the fringe of normal for the first, but not last, time in my life.  I can remember looking back at the kindergarten kids watching them watching me and then finding a spot in the grade 1 room.  That was 1977 and it was a crazy year.  Not only did I skip kindergarten, but later that year I got mononucleosis, followed by tonsilitis and a tonsilectomy (when they still did that) and I missed a ton of school.  The decision to move me ahead a full year also meant that I was always trying to catch up on math, and I was permanently outside of social circles.

Now at first glance that might not all seem to have to do with my ability to read at an early age, but the same event impacted my life 30 years later when my own son, Max, began to read before he could even walk.  We would travel around our little town and he would say ‘open’ ‘closed’ ‘exit’ ‘stop’ and I assumed, that he was like me.  What I didn’t know is that Max has an attachment to letters called hyperlexia and it is just one of many indicators that lead us to just recently discover that he is on the autism spectrum.  In our home school board, I registered Max in the French Immersion programme thinking he was gifted in his ability to comprehend language.  After just 7 months in the program I agreed with his teacher that he was actually regressing in his academic abilities and moved him to the regular English program.  The very next year, Max entered kindergarten, and had the same teacher Mrs. Halliday, that I had in 1977.  I had the opportunity to ask her if she remembered me and the decision to skip me ahead.  She remembered me very well and said that she always wondered how I was for the rest of her career.  Unfortunately we were now out of the attendance zone for that school, so we needed to move.

Two years ago in grade 1, we started to realize the severity of Max’s quirks when his teacher couldn’t get him to express his comprehension of stories they were reading.  He could read them out loud, even spell many of the words on his own, but he couldn’t express his ideas.  Max, a kid with hyperlexia and son of a librarian, came home in June and said “I hate reading!”  After cleaning up my broken heart, I vowed to make reading happen in our home anyway I could, but always in a way that didn’t pressure Max.

Tonight at my department head’s meeting we discussed the failures of last year and the commonalities of these struggling students. I suggested that maybe the same students who are disinclined to engage in their studies are the same ones who are failing the literacy test.  Like them, reading is such an emotional journey.  I think sometimes we forget how reading can be a huge part of our identities.