Canadian School Libraries Journal

This week editor Derrick Grose and his team of editors released their inaugural edition of the Canadian School Libraries Journal.  Derrick says: “This first issue of the Canadian School Library Journal reflects the exciting times in which we are working” and “the actual work being done in school libraries”.

For those of you who don’t know, Canadian School Libraries has gone through some redevelopment in the last couple of years.  Like a phoenix from the ashes, it is reborn and lead by the Canadian movers-and-shakers in school library.

Here’s my contribution:

A Book Club for the Ages: An OSLA and TVO Collaboration

What they don’t teach you in teacher’s college is how lonely teaching can be.  The professors don’t tell you that if you wanted to you could completely fly under the radar, inherit a dusty binder of outdated material and recycle it for the next thirty years of your career alone in your classroom. You may have a department office where you can bounce ideas off of each other, but if you’re like me, and there are only eleven of you in the whole district, then that opportunity doesn’t come around enough.

In 2009 I began to feel the power of developing my own professional development through online places as reaching out to internet-based PD suited my autonomous, asynchronous and rural lifestyle. I co-wrote an Ontario Ministry of Education English course for these new-fangled platforms called eLearning and I discovered the possibilities for distance education.  I joined Twitter, I started to blog and I found my tribes both through the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario (ECOO) and the Ontario School Library Association (OSLA). The commitment of these groups to hosting really great face-to-face professional development conferences is profound.  Through this new knowledge I emerged as a leader in educational technology in my school, district and beyond.  I did all of this simply by showing up and sharing.  It’s actually that simple.  About the same time, I became a teacher-librarian and my opportunities to promote global competencies [See Exhibit A] exploded.

Ontario 21st C competencies
Exhibit A: Towards Defining 21st Century Competencies for Ontario, p. 56

When I arrived at teacher-librarianship, I inherited a library that felt deeply confused…the books had become second-class citizens to the clunky desktop computer lab that pulled focus.  In 2012 we transformed our library into a learning commons.  I went through my first emotionally draining power weed going from 12,000 items to 9,000 in 6 months and the average publication date of my collection went from 1989 to 2003. Like a bad boyfriend, I washed that confused adolescent library out of my hair.  There is nothing like a renovation to rejuvenate…and then the really hard work began.  It wasn’t enough to buy new furniture.  I needed to shift the culture of learning in my school.  As an innovating early adopter of the learning commons model, I felt alone [See exhibit B].

Exhibit B (CC BY 2.5)
Exhibit B (CC BY 2.5)

I was in a trough of disillusionment [Exhibit C]. I often struggle with the cheerleading aspects of teacher-librarianship because I need to feel deeply committed to whatever I am advocating. That’s really easy to do about innovative ways to deepen critical thinking but less so about standardized testing.  Easy: Graphic novels and makerspaces. Difficult: having every student write in proper APA format. You get the picture.  So what does anyone in need of a professional pick-me-up do?  I started my M.Ed. in teacher-librarianship at the University of Alberta completely online.  I relished every moment of the four years I studied and I fell into a deep mourning period the moment it was over.

It's Complicated
Exhibit D: Alanna’s book review in Goodreads

That year at our ECOO conference, I was having post-workshop beverages with my tribe and we started talking about how to keep the good feelings growing.  We had just come from a marvellous session that was essentially a panel discussion about a riveting book [See Exhibit D].  We were talking books at an educational technology conference. We were moaning how one conference a year just isn’t enough when your professional development tribe is spread all over the world.  That was the eureka moment for a crazy journey of online partnerships.

The first year I promoted twenty books using just Twitter and Goodreads.  The second year we tried ten. I used my WordPress blog to go deeper in my reviews and questions.  I tried to get these introverted book nerds to meet up once a month in a Google Hangout  and once a year at the conference for breakfast. I interviewed people reading the books and I interviewed the authors.  I promoted our book club with publishers and most times I was able to secure a review copy and even a discount for our book club members.  Overall I had 94 people interact with the book club worldwide.  It was exhausting and rewarding all at the same time but the book club wasn’t yet running itself.

Through my volunteer work for the OSLA, I met Katina Papulkas who came to our quarterly meeting in November 2015 with an idea for a partnership.  I told her about my experiments to build community through online book clubs and she told me about TV Ontario’s (TVO) TeachOntario. So the OSLA volunteered to run two pilot book clubs and I rebirthed our discussion about danah boyd’s book.

Book Club Partnership
Book Club Partnership.

The trick about running online communities is that you really have to redefine the idea of “participation”. I have been greatly influenced by the participatory culture ideas of museum curator Nina Simon and of communications professor Henry Jenkins. Lurkers are people too.  I just appreciate it when I can measure their lurking.  In that first book club we had 24 people join, but there are some discussions that have had 994 views since then.  I’m not kidding!  In our current book club using Trevor Mackenzie’s Dive Into Inquiry, I have 140 page views on one discussion thread this week. Whether I would ever have been able to gain that kind of traction all on my own through Twitter or not is beside the point, because I am reaching a different audience through TeachOntario.  The audience inside TeachOntario is made up of public educators who are wary of their online presence and who have specifically asked for a walled garden approach to their PD, learning in this space so that they can be free to be themselves.  I am finally reaching the early majority, the late majority and maybe even some of the laggards.

For face-to-face time, we’ve tried breakfast at the ECOO conference, book giveaways to entice new readers to join us but our best yet has been to partner again with #PubPD.  The Edtech Team who create Google Summits came up with the idea to coordinate a date once a month North America-wide where like-minded people would come together at a common watering hole and talk about a specific PD topic.  The creator delivers five questions on the topic via Twitter, so it’s a Tweet Up Meet Up.  Last summer I was presenting at a different venue each month and I got to meet a lot of new people and sell them on the idea of joining us in TeachOntario.  In August, we broke a record with 39 people at once attending our #PubPD while at the Pedagogy B4 Technology conference in Markham, Ontario.

The biggest advantage of partnering with TeachOntario is that Katina’s team is filled with extraordinary people who design the online space, manage the technology, promote our activities, encourage us to do more and relentlessly pursue the authentic and cost-free sharing of professional development. If I say to the TeachOntario group, “I have an idea…” they run with it and make it happen in a polished, professional way.  They are flexible, adaptable and vigilant in their mandate to deliver quality professional development. They enable us, and they empower me to keep working hard to contribute to the growth of this community.

My goals for the future of these book clubs is that I hope that the book clubs will feel like they don’t have a start date and an end date.  I want to step away from being the fulcrum of the momentum.  I want it to take on a life of its own and for past participants to propose new readings for discussion and to lead.  I’d like the walled garden to include all educators in Canada if not beyond our borders to the globe.  My online professional development experiences are as rich, or richer, as the ones I have face-to-face. No, I take it back. They’re definitely richer because they are self-driven.


Alanna KingAlanna King is an agent of change in the Upper Grand District School Board. She works tirelessly to improve availability and access to resources in all media forms in her secondary school library learning commons. Alanna is proud to represent the Central West region with the Ontario School Library Association and can best be found on Twitter @banana29.

Why you should read The Jaguar’s Children right now


In 2015 award-winning author John Vaillant released his first novel “The Jaguar’s Children” saying that the issues of Mexico’s plight are just too complex to do justice in a non-fiction book.  The book cover shows a wall….the same wall that everyone is talking about in 2017.

jaguars-children-cover

It’s this wall that our main characters Hector and Cesar must overcome but the greater story is in the reasons that have pushed Hector and Cesar to make this choice. For one, their home region of Mexico, Oaxaca, has been overtaken by corporate farming and the heritage strain of Oaxaca’s indigenous corn is being bioengineered out of existence.  The corn is an underlying metaphor that pervades the novel as Hector’s own Zapotec heritage is threatened by modernisation and his decision to leave Mexico altogether.  Most of the novel takes place inside the water truck which conceals the boys’ identities but becomes their prison as it breaks down in the hot desert sun.  In dealing with this real conflict, Hector takes Cesar’s phone and tries to reach out for help.  Timely and gripping, The Jaguar’s Children will leave you with questions about our own responsibilities as global citizens and who gains most from economic policy.

Join me in TeachOntario for a great discussion beginning February 21, 2017. TeachOntario is an open space for educators and the public alike. This is our first fiction collaboration with the Ontario School Library Association and we’ve chosen The Jaguar’s Children because it is a) a wicked good book and b) because it was nominated for an Evergreen award by the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program.  The book club is inside the Explore section of TeachOntario as we are inviting the public to join in so please bring a friend.

To register for the book club, go here: https://www.teachontario.ca/community/explore/TO-OLA-book-club

Best BITs: Are you underwhelmed in online spaces?

In reading Participatory Culture in a Networked Era, I’m reflecting on how not much has really changed since the invention of forums in the 70s … not that I was lurking there, but really it goes like this: post discussion thread, reply to discussion thread, repeat. …Right?

FullSizeRender.jpg
Why am I underwhelmed in my online spaces

Henry Jenkins says:”… It is abundantly clear that not all forms of participation are equally meaningful or empowering.”  Can you recall a time when you felt underwhelmed by a participatory experience?  What were the circumstances and what went wrong?

Looking forward to your comments.

Journey to Canada: PD for librarians and Canada & World Studies teachers

Wherever I go, my PLN tells me that they wish we had more time to hang out together….well this is it!!

There’s still time left to register (by Thursday night please!) for the Ontario School Library Association council Summer Institute…virtually free to you in Ottawa this August 10-11-12.  Here’s our description:

Ontario School Library Association (OSLA)

Facilitators: Kate Johnson-McGregor & Alanna King
Aug 10-12, Ottawa  
Come learn and discover new technological tools and methodologies relating to the revised Social Studies, History & Geography curriculum. Whether this is your first year in the classroom or your twentieth year, there is something here for everyone!

Why not invite:

  • a couple of colleagues from the Canada & World Studies department
  • the 7/8 geography/history teachers from your feeder schools (or vice versa!)
  • your school library partner that you never get enough time with
The details involve:
  • all expenses paid accommodation and meals in Ottawa for 3 days
  • field trips to the Library and Archives of Canada AND the National Art Gallery to tour and tryout their great resources for learning
  • tons of great resources
  • time to reflect and work on your teaching practice

Presenting the #BIT16Reads Book Club

conference pic1

Why an online book club and why now?

  • I like to read things that inform my professional trajectory
  • I like to find people who like to read and engage in rich discussions about what we read
  • I want to build a tighter community of educators that cross subjects and grades

Last year we used the Goodreads platform to collate our ideas and we attracted 94 educators world wide from 5 countries…however we weren’t very social inside Goodreads. So with the help of TVO’s TeachOntario platform I aim to improve that this year! Of course, you can still use any kind of medium you like to communicate…I use Twitter, Google Hangouts and Goodreads but I’m open to the possibilities.  Please use #BIT16Reads so we can find each other! Bring IT Together, TeachOntario and of course, the Ontario School Library Association are all partners in bringing this book club together.

We’re going to read 5 books by November 2016:

Why these books?

  • They’re all recently published
  • They’re all related to education leadership
  • They’re all related to building school cultures that support the integration of technology

Here’s the reading schedule:

June 2016: Participatory Culture in a Networked Era

July 2016: The Innovator’s Mindset

August 2016: Creating Thinking Classrooms

September 2016: How We Learn

October 2016: Building School 2.0

Interested?

Please join us in any of the following ways:

  1. Register at TeachOntario: https://www.teachontario.ca/community/explore/BookClub
  2. Invite yourself to the Goodreads book club: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/170190-bit16reads
  3. Use social media with this hashtag: #BIT16Reads

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

What would Jian do?

I posted this blog entry this week in response to Chapter 2 of danah boyd’s book It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens I’m really enjoying my role as facilitator in the TVO TeachOntario book club collaboration with the Ontario School Library Association.  Our discussions are so rich.  It’s never too late to join.  Just register at www.teachontario.ca and click on the Share tab to find us.  I look forward to your response.

About the year 2012, I had the privilege to see CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi speak.  I mean the man was one of my idols…we are roughly the same age, I went to a lot of his concerts when he was fronting the band Moxy Fruvous and I got a bit giddy each time I was able to listen to his radio show “Q”.  

At the time, I had a chance to ask Ghomeshi a hard question about the nature of privacy and how as a librarian, I relished things like the national census that allowed us to collect demographics etc.  I asked him what his stance was on privacy, and he said “Privacy?  Well I think privacy is essentially dead…I mean isn’t it?  Can it really get any worse?”  Just before the news broke about being fired from the CBC, a former student of mine, now a TV journalist in Toronto, said aloud on Facebook “Where is Ghomeshi?”  And I defended him (not knowing anything, of course) saying, “Hey man, his Dad just died.  Let’s give him a break.”  I wonder how he would feel about that statement now….as his privacy (and I’m not condoning his behaviour at all) was ripped apart over not just an incident, but his entire career as a journalist, musician, even as a university student.

 

In 2016, I don’t think it’s ok for us to not take responsibility for our behaviour and then get mad about the fact that someone had a camera.  Yet I also understand the need for it.  boyd’s chapter on privacy is well-placed as I think we’ve all firmly established that adult online identities are groomed and polished.  If that’s true, then I will continue to fiercely protect the parts of me that I don’t want to share.  boyd says  “in practice, both privacy and publicity are blurred…Privacy doesn’t just depend on agency; being able to achieve privacy is an expression of agency” (p. 76). I like being public in many circumstances, but without the ability to retreat completely, I would sacrifice my publicity for privacy any day.  

#BIT16Reads: Branching out

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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).

The Learning Commons Model and Secondary School Library Redesign

Lately the idea of how to design for learning has become a focal point in setting up classrooms.  When it comes to a secondary school library, unique challenges face this space which is more mature than an elementary school library and more juvenile than a post-secondary library.  The secondary school library serves a role where the ambiance and activities need to serve the entire school community providing a communal area for learning that is unique compared to the classroom or the cafeteria.  Rather than looking fearfully at the future supposing that libraries are becoming rapidly irrelevant, the timely document of the Ontario School Library Association [OSLA] Together for Learning proposes that library spaces will become the “Learning Commons”: proactively envisioned as “the physical and virtual catalyst where inquiry, imagination, discovery, and creativity come alive and become central to growth — personal, academic, social and cultural” (2010, p. 3).  To meet the needs of the learning commons model, the secondary school library must become a school community showcase of equity, flexibility, innovation, collaboration and celebration.

Rationale

Johnston and Bishop (2011) assert that in order for a school library to be effective, it needs to meet the social, creative, exploration and security needs of its patrons; and create a sense of place where children can identify themselves culturally and physically (p. 3).   While the collection itself must reflect the diversity of its patrons, it is through interactions with the resources, whether in print or online, that users will develop a sense of place (Johnston and Bishop, 2011, p. 7) Therefore the accessibility and availability of a library’s resources must reflect the needs of the entire community of families that the school serves taking into account variables such as “race and ethnicity, income distribution, level of formal education, extent of parent involvement” (Johnston and Bishop, 2011, p.9).  In 2013, the role of the teacher-librarian is no longer to keep information but to provide access points to our students.

Until recently, libraries were repositories of information and programming was secondary but the onset of the internet has completely changed this raison d’etre.  In other words, the school library is required to meet the needs of each new generation of learners.  Don Tapscott (2009) calls the current generation of students in high school “The Net Generation” and describes them as valuing these eight norms: freedom, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, entertainment, speed and innovation (p. 74).  As such education is experiencing a massive paradigm shift and is moving towards inquiry-based learning, where students direct their own studies.  Tapscott (2009) describes school’s new dominant role as one to “encourage students to discover for themselves, and learn a process of discovery and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the teacher’s information” (p. 130).  School libraries need to morph to extend this role as well, creating flexible spaces where student innovation can happen.

The learning commons model calls for a redefinition of the library space in order to accommodate these demographic trends in our students and the new demands of teaching:

“Design components of 21st century learning spaces need to consider collaboration, comfort and community. Wherever possible, learning spaces should be colourful, inviting and playful. Learning is fluid and participatory… as a result, space should not place limits on learning.  Instead, space should encourage collegiality and intellectual development.” (OSLA, 2010, p. 9).

Equity

Defining equity for the learning commons model includes these three tenets: 1) optimal physical learning spaces for all; 2) availability of all library resources to all users in the school community; and 3) accessibility of all library resources to all users in the school.  The OSLA generalizes these goals for equity:

“The Learning Commons seeks to expand and integrate the real and virtual choices learners have to share their experiences. Safe, inclusive and welcoming environments throughout a school are imperative to meet the diverse abilities and learning styles of individuals, teams and groups. Virtual learning spaces increase this potential” (OSLA, 2010, p. 7).

More specifically and in alignment with the shift to inquiry-based learning, the Universal Education Organization (2010) says

“Universally designed curriculum overcomes limitations by incorporating three principles of flexibility into the design: multiple methods of presentation, multiple options for participation, and multiple means of expression.  This built-in flexibility provides a wider range of options for students to choose from — meaning the curriculum adapts to the student, rather than the other way around” (OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design, p. 200).

Providing this level of equity in one space is no small task.  Utah State University’s Centre for Persons with Disabilities in 2003 suggests that these “environments must be powerful enough to sustain the child’s interest and motivation without constant motivational and/or directional assistance from an adult” (OWP/P Architects et al., 2010, p. 204).  The learning commons model insists that true equity for each member of the school library community will include physical and virtual spaces that will appeal to the natural flow of learning and each learner.

An example of the complexity of these goals in equity might be found in the area of acoustics.  Since groups of teenagers can vary in their noise output, designing a static purpose in a static area of the library, such as creating an open computer lab, cannot work for the diversity of school library patrons.  OWP/P Architects et al. (2010) say “someone using English as a second language, or someone who suffers from an attention deficit disorder, is at a significant disadvantage in a noisy classroom (p. 42).  Ambient noise in the learning commons can affect all users:  “Research indicates that high levels of background noise, much of it from heating and cooling systems, adversely affects learning environments, particularly for young children, who require optimal conditions for hearing and comprehension (OWP/P Architects et al., p. 26).  Every choice made in design must consider the plethora of needs of the entire school community.

One way to begin achieving equity is to begin with the language of equity.  OWP/P Architects et al. (2010) insist “What you say influences what you think and what you do.  Use the term universal design, rather than accessible design, as a reminder of what it’s all about: creating an environment for all learners” (p. 201).   Achieving equity in the school library means accommodating diversity in all its resources, its programming and its virtual and physical environments.

Flexibility

In order to tackle the challenges of providing equity, each space within the learning commons needs to be improved for its fluidity in purpose and, where possible, accommodate these sensitivities to design.  Feinberg and Keller (2010) suggest that the school library needs to cater to a wide range of developmental programming needs to allow for these age and ability differences that make it an essential and unique part of every community (p. xi).  OWP/P Architects et al. (2010) proposes “Make classrooms agile. A learning space that can be reconfigured on a dime will engage different kinds of learners and teachers” (p. 89).  While these ideals are noble, implementation in schools at first seems quite difficult.  One of the main reasons that teachers bring their classes to the school library is to allow for, as OWP/P Architects et al. (2010) suggests:  “Change up the locations of regular activities so children can explore new surroundings with their bodies and their minds” (p. 49).  The stimulation of moving to a new environment of learning can signal a change in curriculum tempo.

Improving flexibility in the school library reiterates the need in our teaching to become more flexible as well.  Sir Ken Robinson (2010) says “if we’re looking for new pedagogical practices, we have to have facilities that will enable those to happen.  So you want flexible spaces where people can group and re-group, where you’re not stuck in one configuration with teachers at the front” (OWP/P Architects et al., p. 58).  This reconfiguration calls for spaces in the learning commons which do not have static purposes, and where equipment is mobile.  It not only improves the teacher’s ability to bring student-centred inquiry to the forefront of the curriculum, but it also allows for the equitable accommodation of multiple learning styles.   Feinberg and Keller (2010) say that in order to accommodate different learning styles in gender, that spaces in libraries need to be flexible enough to accommodate student preferences for the kinesthetic tendencies of boys, and the group-oriented tendencies of girl study groups. Feinberg and Keller (2010) emphasize  that “Teens frequent the library for a variety of reasons, and the more options provided the better the array of experience.  But somewhere in each library a core of students who see the library as a resource for study and quiet learning can probably be observed” (p. 75).  The learning commons isn’t only a place for stimulation, it needs to provide security for patrons who cannot find that in other school places.  Feinberg and Keller (2010) suggest that one way to provide this security is to honour the nature of adolescents in furniture choices which need to be comfortable to accommodate multiple sitting positions for the variety of tasks that might be completed by the full range of users in school library space:  “Curved work surfaces at two different heights can be accompanied by adjustable-height stools to accommodate varying heights of teenagers, either for standing or perching on stools halfway between sitting and standing (p. 42).  Once again, achieving equity in learning styles can be achieved by building in flexibility in task furniture.

Flexibility in learning design doesn’t just mean from moment to moment, but from season to season. Feinberg and Keller strongly suggest that “activities and needs are driving factors in how the space is used at any one time or for any one purpose” and that these needs can also change according to the time of day or the time of year (p. 112).  One way to maintain flexibility when implementing the infrastructure for technology, Feinberg and Keller (2010) suggest using flat wiring underneath carpet tiles so that moving anything requiring power only involves moving these tiles for access (p. 127).  Even in a static, traditional environment, flexibility in space and purpose can improve equity leading to greater opportunity for innovation.

Innovation

From an outsider point of view, it may appear that the library has no place in a digital future where information is at everyone’s fingertips.  Balas (2012) suggests that “the library is evolving from being a place that houses materials to a place where users can work (p. 33).  An emerging trend in public libraries is to create a ‘makerspace’ where learning happens through tinkering.  The makerspace, or area devoted to ingenuity in hands-on learning, can incorporate any sort of laboratory for experimentation from digital media to textiles.  The underlying concept of a lab space is to create a Da Vinci-esque space for exploration which transcends the curriculum.  Ken Robinson (2010) says that real innovation and creativity come at the intersections of disciplines — the way they merge and blend” (OWP/P Architects et al., p. 58).  With improved flexibility in how a space is used, occasionally teacher-librarians will need flexibility in separating zones for different purposes.  While the learning commons advocates for innovation, innovation cannot infringe on the other purposes of the learning commons.  Feinberg and Keller (2010) suggest that in order to maximize the potential for innovation and to “achieve full multifunctioning for these spaces, sliding doors can be used…the same design device can be applied to computer labs and small meeting rooms” (p. 51).  A teacher-librarian maximizing every corner can easily see how dividers can separate off areas for use as the seasons of purpose change.   Feinberg and Keller (2010) propose that the necessity of innovation is so great that any space that is single purpose needs to have a separate room built specially in order to alleviate scheduling demands on multipurpose areas (p. 51).  Tasks associated with specific and static areas of a library, like research and computing, will need to become possible in every facet of the learning commons.  The alternative is to create separate static areas which do not infringe on the flexibility and innovation happening in the learning commons model.

Collaboration

An age-old skill that has been reemphasized in the paradigm shift happening in education is the need for students to graduate with a firm grasp of collaboration on a global scale.  The learning commons model, incorporating new levels of flexibility and innovation, will naturally lead to cross-curricular collaboration.  The OSLA document Together for Learning describes the natural connections that will form in the new model:

“A Learning Commons is a vibrant, whole-school approach, presenting exciting opportunities for collaboration among teachers, teacher-librarians and students. Within a Learning Commons, new relationships are formed between learners, new technologies are realized and utilized, and both students and educators prepare for the future as they learn new ways to learn.  And best of all, as a space traditionally and naturally designed to facilitate people working together, a school’s library provides the natural dynamics for developing a Learning Commons” (p. 3).

A harmonious learning environment is one where socialization can naturally happen as Tapscott (2009) says “Students need to talk among themselves.  In fact, research has found collaborative learning to be more effective in increasing academic performance than individual or competitive learning” (p. 137).

In creating physical and virtual spaces for collaboration, the nature of working towards common goals will become permeated throughout the processes of creation and student work will reach a more authentic and diverse audience.  Tapscott (2009) advises teachers to “Encourage [students] to work with each other and show them how to access the world of subject-matter experts available on the Web” (p. 148).  There are many experiences that a learning commons can provide to stimulate discussion, relationships and deeper connections within the physical and virtual space.  OWP/P Architects et al. (2010) suggest that one way to support innovation is to “Emulate museums.  An environment rich in evocative objects…triggers active learning by letting students pick what to engage with (p. 67). Although this could of course be a solitary task, inquisitive discussion is a derivative of evocative objects.  Evocative objects provided can lead to the innovation and creation of new objects made by students themselves.  A natural extension of collaboration of this sort is the celebration of achievement in student work.

Celebration

The learning commons model enriches the traditional function of the library which is to serve its community.  There are few spaces in a school where student work can be shown to the entire community, and fewer still that will recognize the complete diversity of the community.  Once the learning commons model is achieved OWP/P Architects et al. (2010) suggests “Open the doors.  Give students places to exhibit their work as if it were in a public gallery, then invite the public to come and have a look” (p. 189).  Furthering the innovation of the traditional library space once more, the learning commons becomes an ideal place for the arts.  Feinberg and Keller (2010) suggest that “the creation of a performance space…used for small concerts by the teens, poetry readings, and other special events” can have a stage, curtain, lights and acoustics built in (p. 75). In order to create a sense of community and ownership of the learning commons by its users, student work must be honoured and celebrated in the physical and virtual spaces.

Libraries need to revisit their spaces to ensure that they are:

  • equitable, reaching every member of the school community;

  • flexible, allowing for learning processes to evolve naturally and adapting to the learner;

  • innovative, allowing for authentic cross-curricular creation;

  • collaborative, encouraging connections on a local and global scale; and

  • celebratory, recognizing the achievements of student work that embodies the aforementioned tenets of the learning commons model.

If these objectives are met, then the library becomes about the community within rather than the tasks associated with the space.  The traditional role of libraries is no longer pertinent when reading and research can happen anytime, anywhere.  Rather Feinberg and Keller (2010) maintain that the future success of high school libraries lies within our ability to create a space where teenagers perceive that they are “needed, respected and …belong” (p. 17).  Instead the mandate of accessible and available learning becomes embodied in a physical and virtual space known as The Learning Commons.

References

Balas, J. L. (2012). Do makerspaces add value to libraries? Computers in Libraries, 32(9), 33.

Feinberg, S., & Keller, J. R. (2010). Designing space for children and teens. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Johnston, M. P., & Bishop, B. W. (2011). The potential and possibilities for utilizing geographic information systems to inform school library as place. School Libraries Worldwide, 17(1), 1-12.

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

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can design to transform teaching & learning. New York, NY: Abrams.

Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown up digital: How the net generation is changing your world. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

 

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.