Thursday, 26 September 2013

Schooling for Innovation

The other night, my husband and I happened to randomly be watching The Agenda with Steve Paiken on TVO. We have never watched this show before - we are quite unfamiliar with channels here in Ottawa, only being here for 7 weeks. But here we were, channel surfing, and finding ourselves watching this show, whose focus for the evening was looking the challenges facing education at the moment.

The 2nd segment, was an interview of Tony Wagner.
Schooling For Innovation

I have not heard of Tony Wagner before. But his words, very early on in his interview grabbed me.

'Knowledge today is free. It's like air. It's like water. It's become a commodity. There is no competitive advantage today to knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn't care what you know. The world cares what you can DO with what you know.'

Which essentially is the basis for everything we have been looking at this semester. We no longer teach in an education system where the teacher is holder of the information and the students are our empty vessels. As teachers, we know that this shift has happened and we have been struggling to adapt our practices to meet this shift.  Much of the research and discussion that we have read about this semester, has been about:

  • how we can go about teaching our students that finding the information is important, 
  • but more important is how you use that information to problem solve, to learn, to create, to contribute, to present, to be a successful member of society beyond school.
  • how we educate in an information age within the current framework of industrial age education design.
Tony Wagner continues to discuss that because content knowledge is changing constantly, our job as educators is to teach the students the skill and the will (the motivation) to learn continuously. He talks about teaching our students from the perspective of a three legged stool.
1. the content knowledge
2. the skill to use that content knowledge and acquire new content knowledge
3. the will, the motivation to ask good questions, the curiosity, the persistence, the tenacity. It's important that our students today learn the right questions to ask.

So engaged with what Wagner had to say, I looked at his website : and looked at some of his articles that he has written and talks he has given such as this one:
Tony Wagner - Skillshare Presentation where he discusses how the culture of schooling is radically at odds with the culture of innovation and how we need to reinvent our schools to be places where:

  • innovation and problem solving are more important that individual achievement; 
  • we cross curriculum boundaries instead of focusing on a culture of specialization;
  • we celebrate failure - understanding that innovation and creation arise from taking risks and learning from failure; 
  • learning is about collaboration and creation
  • our students learn to me intrinsically motivated
  • we as educators have a different vision for education for the 21st century. 
Sadly though, there was little acknowledgement of the work educational academics are doing in looking at this issue - particularly the work that IS happening in so many schools across North America, Europe and Australia with inquiry based learning such as Guided Inquiry and the BIG6. Perhaps this is because Wagner is trying to educate the bureaucracy that our education systems should not be based on an industrial age model, where preparation for the world beyond school is based on standardised testing. 

What I did get from listening to Wagner, was a sense of purpose - that we teacher librarians have a very important role to play to educating not only our students, but our colleagues and school communities about how we can go about teaching our students to be innovative and creative and motivated persons for successful futures in our society.


Skillshare (Wagner, T.), (2012, April, 20). Tony Wagner: Creating Innovators (Video file) retrieved from:

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Information Literacy - looking beyond the skills

 For teacher librarians the skills of an information literate learner - the ability to access, process, organise, create and present information in a variety of ways for the construction of meaning and personal understanding are commonly agreed upon skills (ASLA/ALIA, 2009), (ALA, 2013). The development of these skills is inherent in inquiry based models such as Guided Inquiry (Kuhlthau), The Big6 (Eisenberg and Berkowitz 1990), The NSW DET model (NSW DET 2007), The Plus model (Herring 2004). Each model has processes and stages for the development of information skills. 

However, just as a person who is considered ‘literate’ possesses more attributes than just the skills of decoding text and chunking sounds, so too should an ‘information literate’ person possess more than just a set of information skills.
In its Statement on Information Literacy (ASLA, 2009) The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) defines information literate learners as being able to not only find and analyse information, but also evaluate and use information ethically, for a given purpose, in a variety of formats. The America Library Association (ALA) in its document 'Standards for the 21st century Learner', states that learners not only need to learn information literacy skills, but to then use those skills to make informed decisions, participate ethically and productively within a democratic society and pursue personal and aesthetic growth. (ALA, 2009).  The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL, 2000) states that ‘information literacy is a key component of, and contributor to, lifelong learning. Information literacy competency extends beyond formal classroom settings’. So, whilst there is no one key definition of information literacy, these statements indicate that more than just skill development is required to be an information literate person. 

What ‘more than’ is there beyond the ‘information skills’? 

Information skill processes that include reflection, assessment and evaluation as a key component of developing information literate learners, understand that it is about more that just the skills. Kuhlthau (2004) states that 'through reflection we seek connections between our actions and the results. In this way, we achieve a deep understanding that is transferable to a range of situations. Transference is the ultimate objective of education.' Herring & Tarter (2006), state that information literate learners not only know how to apply a range of information skills, but can also reflect on the way they apply those skills, thereby transferring those skills beyond the classroom. The Australian Curriculum states that reflecting on critical and creative thinking and processes involves 'students reflecting on actions and processes and transferring knowledge into new contexts to create alternatives or open up possibilities.' (ACARA, 2012)

From these statements, it could be reasoned that

  • being an information literate person, requires metacognition: knowing what is known and knowing how to use information skills or strategies for learning or problem solving.
  • being information literate is about the development of behaviours and attitudes towards seeking out information, that show an understanding of the need to be critical of the information gathered and creative with how the information is used and transferred to new situations.
  • being information literate means that not only has one been taught how to reflect, assess and evaluate, but the very act of reflection, assessment and evaluation is a natural and inherent aspect of how one accesses, analyses and uses information in a variety of situations.
  • being information literate should provide a springboard from which new skills, new strategies, new ways of knowing can be sought out, assessed and reflected on.

In a 21st century world, where information is abundant and accessible beyond measure, information literacy HAS to be about more than the development of a set of skills. It has to be about creating a platform for lifelong learning as engaged, thoughtful and active members of society.

ACARA (2012) The Australian Curriculum v5.1 Critical and creative thinking – Critical and creative thinking across the curriculum in The Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from (

ACRL (2000). Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. In Retrieved from
ALA (2009). Standards for the 21st Century Learner. In American Library Association. Retrieved from Document ID: d592b8fe-80c1-2f84-6564-7b2756cf52fb
ALIA, ASLA (2009) Statement on Information Literacy in Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from

Eisenberg, Berkowitz (1990). Information problem-solving: the Big Six Skills approach to library and information skills instruction. Norwood, New Jersey. Ablex Publishing Corp.

Herring (2004). The Plus Model. Retrieved from

Herring, Tarter (2006). Progress in developing information literacy in a secondary school using the PLUS model. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C. (2004). Learning as a process. In Seeking meaning : a process approach to library and information services (2nd ed.) (pp. 13-27). Westport, Connecticut : Libraries Unlimited.

Kuhlthau, C.C. (2010). Guided Inquiry: School libraries in the 21st Century. School Libraries Worldwide. 16(1), 17-28

NSW DET (2007). Information in schools in Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS). Retrieved from

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Consideration of Context - the Broad View

In viewing a slideshare presentation introducing the big6 (, I was struck by the slide that stated that the key to developing information literacy skills is the context. Unpinning everything that the teacher librarian, the classroom teacher, the school in general does, is the context of out current educational environment. So, what are some of the factors impacting on our current educational environment and how does this contribute to the development of information literacy skills in our schools?

The development and current implementation of the Australian Curriculum, has had a significant impact  on the context of school within the Australian Capital Territory, where I was working up until the end of July. The ACT is one of the states/territories that chose to adopt the Australian Curriculum from the start. Much professional development has been done on the English, Maths, History and Science curriculum areas in order for teachers to understand the core knowledge, skills and understandings and general capabilities for these areas. While using curriculum frameworks to inform and guide the development of lessons and units to achieve student outcomes is not new, becoming familiar with a new format, new content descriptors and elaborations takes time. Many classroom teachers feel overwhelmed by the changes, particularly in states such as the ACT, where only a few years prior, teachers had invested similar time and energy in becoming familiar with the new territory curriculum frameworks 'Every Chance to Learn'.

It is important, that with the context of learning a new curriculum document, teacher librarians are proactive in developing collaborative partnerships with their classroom colleagues.  Classroom teachers often see working collaboratively with teacher librarians as an added load on top of already very crowded curriculum expectations. Therefore, it is imperative that teacher librarians emphasise how developing inquiry based units together actually shares the load, and achieves student learning outcomes in a collaborative and successful way.

In looking at the context of implementing the Australian Curriculum, is understanding that thus far, the main focus of professional development has been specific to the curriculum areas, with few whole school professional development focuses on the general capabilities. This is not to say that school executive or head office do not appreciate the importance of looking at this area, just that priorities have been placed elsewhere. It is therefore important for the teacher librarian to take the approach of professional development leader in helping colleagues understand the Critical and Creative Thinking and the Information Communication Technology general capabilities.

Additionally, in the majority of schools that I have worked in over the past 3 years, as both a classroom teacher and casual supply teacher, the context of the teacher librarians role has been providing the Release from Face to Face teaching. In many situations, this has devalued the role of the teacher librarian, with the emphasis of library timetabling existing to fulfill the RFF requirements, rather than an integral aspect of the teaching and learning within the school. Developing a professional dialogue with school executive about the teaching role of the teacher librarian, inquiry learning and the context of the library as a learning hub within the school is an important step in addressing this situation and hopefully taking RFF out of the library context.

Rapid changes in technology and the provision of ICTs in classrooms adds another layer of complexity to the issue of context. With the need for the teacher librarian to be able to provide equitable access to both print and on-line resources, it is important that ICT resources are not isolated to classrooms, and that the library has continuous access banks of computers / iPads / laptops. There are also issues with ICTs in regards to maintains, updates and is responsible for the ICT resources within the school. How each school addresses these issues, impacts on the context within which the teacher librarian works and the role they have within the school learning environment.

The exact school environment that teacher librarians work in, is different in every school. Therefore the reality of the teaching role of the teacher librarian can only be fully understood and assessed based on the context within which each teacher librarian is working in. Evaluating what the current context is, what the ideal context should be, and working towards achieving the ideal, is an exciting challenge for teacher librarians in today's educational environment.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Teacher Librarian and Information Literacy

'In an education environment, where 'future literacy demands will encompass technologies yet to be invented', the role of the Teacher Librarian has never been so important and pivotal to the teaching and learning experiences within the school environment. It is necessary that Teacher Librarians embrace the use of 21st Century literacies and how they can use them to enrich the learning experiences of the 'digital natives', equipping them with the necessary skills for interacting critically, intelligently and ethically as information literate members of a digital society in the future.' 

According to the Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians published by the Australian School Library Association (ASLA), excellent teacher librarians are well-informed about information literacy theory and practice (Standard 1.1); are thoroughly familiar with the information literacy and information needs, skills and interests of learners (Standard 1.2); evaluate student progress in information literacy (Standard 2.4); and promote and nuture a ‘whole school focus’ on information literacy policy and implementation (Standard 3.3). (ASLA, 2004).

Having an understanding of what is meant by the term ‘information literacy’ is therefore crucial to the teaching role of the teacher librarian. In the past, a common definition of ‘information literacy’ may have been easier to articulate. In a world of rapid technological change, where the growth of information is exponential, (Langford, 1998) no one firm definition of information literacy exists, and much debate about the theory and practice of information literacy is available when researching the topic. Langford (1998), explores many of these different theories, all of which encompass aspects of information literacy depending on ones viewpoint.

It is important then, that teacher librarians assess the quality of research and information regarding information literacy in order to be well informed of current best practice theories and practices. The Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice (Bundy, A. (ed.), 2004) provides a comprehensive description of what it means to be an information literate person, encapsulating not only what it means to be information literate within the school setting, but as a lifelong learner, an information literate member of society.

ASLA (2009) describes Information literate learners as being ‘able to access, process, organise, create and present information in a range of ways that make meaning for them and all the construction of personal knowledge.’ ASLA goes on to add that ‘information skills must be embedded across the school curriculum and explicitly taught in the context of teaching and learning programs.’

This is the challenge for teacher librarians as leaders within the school community who must promote and nurture a whole school focus on information literacy. Langford (1998) discussed that ‘school communities are still grappling with the concept [of information literacy] often seeing it as an add-on and not a genuine part of the business of education.’ While this may still be true in some schools, especially those without a qualified teacher librarian, there is a now a lot of evidence to support the teaching of information literacy skills across the curriculum through collaborative integrated units of inquiry.

Kuhlthau’s (2103) decades of research into the Information Search Process has generated a solid foundation of evidence to show the success of the using the Inquiry model in developing information literacy skills. Eisenberg’s (2008) Big6 skills, is another successful inquiry approach used with success by teacher librarians for the development of information literacy.

While a common definition of information literacy may not yet have been achieved, what can be agreed upon, is that educating students to be information literate members of society is a critical role of teacher librarians, as is promoting and nurturing the development of these skills through an inquiry approach. The onus is on the teacher librarian to assess the different approaches to inquiry available, to find the approach that best fits the learning and teaching needs of the school community in order to achieve a whole school focus on information literacy and implementation.

ASLA. (2004) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians in Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from

ASLA. (2009) Statement on Information Literacy in Australian School Library Association. Retrieved from

Bundy, A. (ed.) (2004). Australian and New Zealand Information Literacy Framework: principles, standards and practice. 2nd ed. Adelaide: Australian and New Zealand Institute for Information Literacy (ANZIIL) and Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL).

Eisenberg, M. B. (2008). Information Literacy: Essential Skills for the Information Age. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 28(2), 39-47.

Kuhlthau, C.C. (2013). Information Search Process in retrieved from

Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: a clarification. School Libraries Worldwide 4 (1) p. 59-72.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Module 3 and a crisis of confidence.

I am feeling overwhelmed. Or perhaps I am in the dip that Kuhlthau refers to in the feelings associated with researching a task. There is so much going on in my head from everything I have read and I am not sure if I am swimming or drowning.

When I enrolled to be in this course, I had a preconception of what it meant for me to be a teacher librarian. I want to get out of the classroom, for a variety of reasons. I want to stay in education. I have always loved the library and I have worked with some amazing teacher librarians.

So much of what I have read has challenged me. I find myself asking: is this what I want? Is this the shift of focus I am looking for?

I was inspired and at the same time overwhelmed when I watched Joyce Valenza in her talk 'See Sally Research'.

I am daunted by her website 'Spartan Guides'. I have done a lot of work with ICT's over the past decade.

I have been involved in ICT 'Vision' projects, exploring the potential and possibilities for web2.0. I have been an ICT coordinator. But there is so so so much that I just don't know, am not familiar with. Can I teach, as a teacher librarian in a 21st century world? Can I be a fraction of what Valenza is, and the passion that she shows for the job? For if nothing else, I want to have a passion and a drive for my new career direction - else what is the point?

Judy O'Connell (2102) started her article 'So you think they can learn?' with 'teachers are passionate people, committed to providing students with rich learning experiences and diverse opportunities to help them rise to the challenges that our world provides.' That is exactly who I have been in the past - but feel I have lost some of that in the overwhelming nature of the curriculum and parental expectations in today's classroom. There just hasn't seemed to be time for good integrated inquiry units. If I haven't had experience with it in the past, do I really think I can do it in the future? 

Can I become familiar enough with emerging technologies to teach them?
Do I understand what it means to be a digital learner?
Can I identify and understand the information literacy needs of the 21st century learner?
What do I understand about the pedagogy of digital participation?
How much to understand about checking the authenticity of online information? 
(O'Connell, 2012)

And that is when I came to some sort of realisation. I have been involved in a number of action research, web2.0, ICT projects. I have written web quest units, and believe in integration of content, skills and experiences. For the past few years I have felt that I have not been achieving in the classroom setting, the powerful learning experiences that I know I can and should be providing for my students. I do, actually, have experience with project based learning, and inquiry units. I just didn't realise that's what it was, nor have all of the skills and understandings that come from researching and becoming immersed in the literature, research, theories and dialogue. I think back on the most powerful teaching experiences that I have had, and in examining all of them, a lot of them were integrated units of inquiry. Which means, I shouldn't feel so overwhelmed after all. I just didn't realise I was using inquiry learning.

Which then takes me to - yes, this is what I want and it is the shift I am looking for. I just need to take the time to learn, research and process what I am reading and how I can envision myself as a teacher librarian with a passion for project based /inquiry based learning.

O’Connell, J. (2012). So you think they can learn? Scan v. 31 p.5-11 retrived from
Valenza, J. (2011) See Sally Research. TEDxPhiladelphiaED  retrieved from
Valenza, J. (2103) New Tools. Springfield Township High School Virtual Library retrieved from