There are richly inspiring online resources for extending children’s literary experience... (Unsworth 2005, p.12)
With the burgeoning of such sites, educators are able to access expertise provided by authors, publishers, commercial providers, professional organisations, their peers and students worldwide, to provide easy to implement and inexpensive resources for developing broad and diverse understandings about literature and literacy (Unsworth, 2005).
Unsworth’s statement from 2005, regarding the burgeoning of rich, online reosurces, is more relevant in 2014, than ever before. And the challenges facing educators in accessing and integrating them into successful classroom practice are just as relevant.
There are many resources listed by cooltoolsforschools and also on the sites by Bertland, Castek Coiro and McMullan, that could be useful in providing links for teachers to use in the development of their literacy programs, especially when programming for the Literature strand of the Australian Curriculum. There are links on each of these sites that could be readily used for exploring literature and context, responding to literature, examining literature and creating literature. There also links which could fit well into the other English strands: language and literacy.
I think it could be said, that on the whole the majority of classroom teachers have now willingly taken on board the use of online resources, particularly as a tool for planning curriuculum units, for use with interactive whiteboards and group work activities. For the majority of these classroom teachers, the current challenges with using these online resources within their teaching are to do with time and accessibility.
Having sites like these available, provide a portal through which teachers can access a list of sites already gathered by other people. While this cuts down, the time invested by teachers, there is still a need for teachers to spend time investigating each site for relevance, content, interactivity, possibility for differentiation, usefulness for whole class or small group teaching.
There then is the issue of accessibility to online resources. Many schools have invested significant funds to provide banks of laptops, ipads and desktop computers. Yet, having the hardware is only halfway to providing access. Issues surrounding storage, security, equitable access for uses, internet access, internet speed, wifi capabilities, backup systems, data storage, school intranets and firewalls have all contributed to accessibility issues.
So where then does the teacher librarian figure into this? This is not easy to answer. In many schools, there is still a need to shift the focus of the role of the teacher librarian as simply a holder of a repository of books and RFF babysitter, to that of a ‘teacher, leader, advocate for reading, inquiry and learning; partner with classroom teachers, who can design and implement curriculum and instruct learners in thinking, inquiry, problem solving and ethical behavior.’ (Lamb, 2011)
In many schools that I have worked in, the teacher Librarian and the ICT coordinator, are not usually the same person, nor has there usually been a visible working relationship between the two parties in regards to the issue of resourcing. It is becoming clear, that as we move further in the information age, with digital literacy, e-books, hyperlink texts etc, there is a need for a working relationship between these two roles. For the schools resources to be available, update and accessible, Teacher librarians need to not only be a part of the conversation, they need to be leading the conversation. School staff ideally, should view the library as the hub through which of the resources of the school flow – both offline AND online resources.
In order to change the mindset of classroom teachers and school executive, teacher librarians need to be:
proactive in developing collaborative relationships with classroom teachers, through collaborative planning and resources of their programs,
develop online databases of online resource links that can accessed through the school intranet both at school and at home,
be proactive in sharing and communicating these resources and the other resources available in the library and online
demonstrate knowledge of the curriculum and how these resources can support and enhance the teaching and learning experiences.
Actively research, observe and evaluate the student learning, programs and resources
Actively involved in professional networking and professional development
Willing to lead, teach and nuture the learning journeys of the school staff to bring them along this amazing journey into 21st century literacy, well resourced and confident.
Then websites like cooltoolsforschools will not be just another website highlighted in a staff meeting, or a random link on a school website page. They will be accessible, available, talked about and shared, utilised and earmarked for the wide variety of learning experiences that are found within our classrooms.
Lamb, A. (2011). Bursting with potential: Mixing a media specialist’s palette. Techtrends 55(4) 27-36