Friday, October 1, 2010

Part C: Critical Synthesis

The statement by experienced teacher librarian (TL) Sue Spence published on a previous blog (Hogg, 2010, October 1) reflects much of the passion I feel as an apprentice TL along with my unwavering belief that dedicated and involved TLs have the ability to play a profound and positive role in 21st century schools.

I began my learning journey ironically daunted by the subject coordinator’s memorable opening advice – “before we begin ETL401 for this session – Don’t panic!!” (Fitzgerald, 2010, p. 5) and somewhat worried that I would find the lack of face to face contact involved in Distance Education challenging. At the same time, I was optimistic that I would enjoy my TL training and it is this optimism that remains with me today (Hogg, 2010, July 9).

As a teacher I have always been passionate about creating stimulating, inquiry based, student-centred units of work and about empowering students with the skills and tools to survive and thrive in the classroom and beyond (Hogg, 2010, September 9) and with each module I completed I was delighted to learn how readily compatible my approach to teaching was with the role of TL in the 21st century. Whilst I acknowledge that there are TLs who continue to work in isolation from classroom programs and who cling to out-dated, teacher-centred practices, they do so in contradiction to current trends in education and current Standards of professional excellence for TLs (ALIA / ASLA, 2004) and I believe wholeheartedly that such TLs and such practices are close to extinction.

As this course has highlighted a number of times, 21st century learners require more than content knowledge to function and succeed in an information saturated society such as ours and as such information literacy “must be a natural and inclusive part of the educational process of any curriculum, any unit of work, any discipline” (Langford, 1998). TLs are “uniquely qualified” (ALIA / ASLA, 2004) and through their regular contact with students, teaching and administrative staff, parents, community groups and professional organisations, they are uniquely positioned to engage collaboratively with all members of the learning community and to empower them with information literacy; the transferable skills necessary to support a lifetime of learning.

As a result of my learning in this subject my knowledge and confidence has grown along with the excitement I feel in regard to the enormous potential of the TLs role. I initially feared that by becoming a TL I was choosing a specialty that would be isolating – both in terms of the separate physical space that the TL often occupies in the library but also in terms of the apparent narrowness of my role. However, today I am reassured that this is far from likely. In the 21st century the role of TLs is varied and complex and arguably more powerful and dynamic than ever before. TLs are being elevated from positions of “occupational invisibility” (Oberg, 2006, p. 14) to play an essential role in teaching and learning, leadership, curriculum involvement, management, literature promotion and services by serving as “instructional partners” (Herring, 2007, p. 30), “professional development providers” (Spence, 2003, p. 4), information specialists (Haycock, 2003), proactive collaborators (Spence, 2003) and “change agents” (Haycock, 1999, p. 85). I am very much looking forward to one day performing these different roles as a working TL so that I can contribute to the culture of learning and collaboration in my school community in a more varied and comprehensive manner than was possible as a classroom teacher.

While I conclude this subject excited by the wonderfully varied nature of the TLs role, there have been times this session when I have felt daunted and overwhelmed by the complexity of my newly chosen role and whilst I am sure that I will experience such feelings again I now recognise that it is a natural part of any learning journey to get overloaded as the journey proceeds (Fitzgerald, 2010, July 18). Reassured by the feelings identified in Kuhlthau’s ISP model (Kuhlthau, 2009) and by the expressions of shared understanding regularly made by my peers on the ETL401 forums, I am also mindful of the fact that “Information literacy education is not possible without partnerships” (Bruce, 2004, p. 13). It is not up to me alone to create an ILSC (Spence, 2003) - effective collaborations are essential to realising the potential of the TL’s role. While such collaborations do not develop easily or at once (Haycock, 2007), as I noted in an earlier blog, the discourse created by the immediacy with which we can now access and use information invites collaboration (be it face to face or digital) and in this way it becomes readily possible to transform the school library into “a learning laboratory” (Haycock, 1991, p. 20) within the resource based learning culture of the whole school (Hogg, 2010, July 21).

My journey to becoming an effective TL and contributing to my own learning laboratory has only just begun. It’s a long journey (Fitzgerald, 2010, July 18) in which I will have to learn to balance the different roles inherent in the position of TL. It will require time and a commitment to and passion for lifelong learning however I believe wholeheartedly that for daring educators (Montiel-Overall, 2005; Todd, 2008) who make such a journey that it is very rewarding indeed.


Australian Library and Information Association / Australian School Library Association. (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Retrieved from

Bruce, C.S. (2004, June). Information literacy as a catalyst for educational change: A background paper. Paper presented at the 3rd International Lifelong Learning Conference, Yeppoon, Queensland. Retrieved from

Fitzgerald, L. (2010). ETL401 – Teacher librarianship [ETL401 201060 Subject Outline]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website:

Fitzgerald, L. (2010, July 18). Your responses to RBL so far [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from

Haycock, C. (1991, May). Resource-based learning: a shift in the roles of teacher, learner. NASSP Bulletin 75, 15-22.

Haycock, K. (1999). Fostering collaboration, leadership and information literacy: Common behaviors of uncommon principals and faculties. NASSP Bulletin 83, 82-87.

Haycock, K. (2003). The crisis in Canada’s school libraries: The case for reform and reinvestment. Toronto, ON: Association of Canadian Publishers.

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: Critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide, 13(1), 25-35.

Herring, J. E. (2007). Teacher librarians and the school library. In S. Ferguson (Ed.), Libraries in the twenty-first century: Charting new directions in information services (pp. 27-42). Wagga Wagga, N.S.W.: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University.

Hogg, K. (2010, July 9). Let the fun begin [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Hogg, K. (2010, July 21). Reflections on RBL [Web log message].Retrieved from

Hogg, K. (2010, September 9). Let me guide you – A look at information skills models [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Hogg, K. (2010, October 1). Looking back, moving forward with Sue Spence [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Langford, L. (1998). Information literacy: A clarification. From Now On: The Educational Technology Journal. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. (2009). Information search process. Retrieved from

Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). Toward a theory of collaboration for teachers and librarians. School Library Media Research, 8. Retrieved from:
Oberg, D. (2006). Developing the respect and support of school administrators. Teacher Librarian, 33(3), 13-18.

Spence, S. (2002, December). Survey highlights major problems with library staffing. AEU Journal Retrieved from

Spence, S. (2003). The teacher librarian toolkit for an information literate school community. Paper presented at the ASLA Conference, Hobart, Australia.

Todd R J. (2008). The dynamics of classroom teacher and teacher librarian instructional collaborations. Scan, 27 (2), 19-28.

Please note: It was not possible to format this Reference List in a hanging indent on this blog page. The correct formatting appears in the full Reference List included in the assignment.

Looking Back, Moving Forward with Sue Spence

"a (qualified) teacher librarian can contribute to the school community to a significant degree, particularly with ongoing curricular changes and ICT impacting on teacher workload. Teacher librarians ease that workload, not by re-shelving books but by using their expertise to collaborate with teachers; not by covering books but by providing valuable professional development in the use of ICT; not by checking books in and out but by joining committees to develop policies and practices that enhance student learning; not by chasing overdues but by working directly with students to develop their reading and information literacy skills." (Spence, 2002)

Sue Spence has been a source of inspiration for me throughout this course as well as a great provider of useful resources. I have found her insight invaluable - realistic and motivating. Her comments regarding the role of TLs resonate strongly with me as they reflect my personal beliefs regarding the potential of this role and all that I hope to be. Hopefully in the not to distant future I will have the opportunity to realise this potential.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Seven Most Critical Challenges

"Classroom instruction is and will remain the primary focus of education, and unless we have an impact on it, we will be seen as superfluous." (The seven most critical challenges facing our profession by Doug Johnson)

This article once again highlighted to me how vital and beneficial collaboration is for TLs. As a classroom teacher, I have enjoyed (and at times been frustrated by) years of collaboration, particularly with my grade partners. In recent years I have also been fortunate enough to collaborate with the TL. At all times, my collaborative efforts have proved fruitful - both for me as a professional seeking to stay informed and exposed to new ideas, resources and ways of doing things but also for my students who were able to participate in and learn from more integrated programs, frequently delivered in dynamic team-teaching style. Employed in the future as a TL I look forward to enjoying similar gains from new collaborations but I have come to see such
collaboration as a vital (rather than simply a preferred) workplace practice necessary to ensure my survival as a TL.

As Johnson's article highlights tying our library program goals to the larger goals of our educational system, demonstrating and publicising our effectiveness through accountability
and also remaining experts in helping others make meaning out of technology are imperatives for TLs in the 21st century. It seems good advice when he says: stay valuable by doing jobs no one else is willing or able to do!!!

To be honest, Johnson's advice is both daunting and exciting to me as an apprentice TL
. I am particularly eager to experience the new opportunities for collaboration and being a change agent this role will hopefully provide. I look foward to serving on department teams, acting as a PD provider, reporting back to the school commmunity on student IL skills and forging powerful and direct links between library and classroom programs.

At the same time I appreciate the importance of keeping my core values - something Johnson sees is another of the challenges facing us as TLs. From my experience, it is certainly a challenge I face everyday as a classroom teacher battling pressures of time and sometimes unrealistic expectations. With an already overloaded curriculum, it is a constant challenge to give my students the opportunity to see, hear and do as much as they can. New technologies often add to this challenge - by providing an endless treasure trove of possibilities. However, we can only do so much and as such I strive to take pleasure in all that I am able to achieve. Each day I leave happy knowing that the children in my class have learnt something new and enjoyed the experience.

In reviewing the last section of Johnson's article I am again inspired by his final words:

"A person recently commented to me that one must be mad to go into school librarianship. He's right, of course, on a number of levels. You have to be mad (passionate) for stories, computers, and especially work with kids. You have to be mad (angry) about how poorly our schools under-serve too many vulnerable children. And finally, you have to be mad (crazy) enough to believe that you as one little individual have the power to change your institution, your political systems and especially the lives of your students and teachers. Hopefully, everyone who reads this will get just a little bit madder."

I am MAD about teaching and I look forward to being a MAD TL!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All warm and FUZZY about Information Literacy

Last week I finished reading Linda Langford's article Information Literacy: A Clarification and I was delighted to see her recognise this label as FUZZY! Further adding to my pleasure was her statement that "Practitioners in professional dialogue on OZTL-NET have referred to information literacy as a philosophy, a phenomenon, and a mere frolic with semantics". It's reassuring to know that others have been struck by this concept's close relationship with research skills, library skills, computer skills, problem solving skills etc. Is this the term that promises to unite all those essential skills?

What I like about this term is its focus on the individual and upon empowering them to learn independently and interdependently.

Recognition of information literacy and of the fact that it is crucial for functioning in the today's world may be precisely the applied concept that re-energises both classroom and library teaching programs - ensuring that tasks are refashioned to have a grounding that is relevant and meaningful and to incorporate TRANSFERABLE thinking skills that will support the individual for a lifetime of learning.

As Langford reminds us, the term information literacy should not be synonymous with libraries but with schools and whole school communities.

Information literacy "must be a natural and inclusive part of the educational process of any curriculum, any unit of work, any discipline." (Langford, 1998)

And remember..."The needs of society at any time determine how a society interprets a concept" (Langford, 1998). We can't escape it even if we wanted to - I need to be information literate, and so do you!

Let Me Guide You - A Look at Information Skills Models

I have been doing LOTS of reading recently about different information skills models. Inspired to make a start on my second assignment for ETL401 I went to - this webpage is one of my favourite new discoveries - I could spend days there!

Looking at the variety of information skills models shown on this one site has reminded me of one the main reasons I began my teacher librarian training - I was and remain passionate about creating motivating and innovative, inquiry based, student-centred units of work and about empowering students with the skills and the tools to survive and THRIVE in the classroom and beyond. I delight in designing original tasks that foster critical thinking and ask students to think about and use information in new ways. As such I am looking forward to exposing my students to some of the different information skills models I have encountered as I believe that in doing so I will better cater for their different learning styles. I currently employ the NSW Information Process to good effect (I believe, I hope) in my teaching but I am excited about utilising 2 new models to help guide students on their information quests.

Firstly, Herring's PLUS model is one I found instantly appealing - and knew that my primary aged students would too - because of its user-friendly yet powerful acronym.

P = purpose / planning
L = location
U = use
S = self-evaluation

I was also excited by how flexible and adaptable this model seems to be. Not only is it easy to remember but it can be tailored (as Ripon Grammar’s modification shows) to suit personal needs and preferences. I look forward to applying it in its original form and learning from that experience how I might best modify this model (if indeed I really need to) to suit the needs of my students.

The second model I am impressed by is Kuhlthau’s ISP model as it is the only one to recognise the feelings experienced by the learner at each stage of the information process. Her attention to the Affective Domain makes her model instantly appealing to potential student users who will find reassurance from the fact that their feelings of uncertainty and confusion are both a normal and valuable part of the research process. Kuhlthau’s ISP model gives students the unique opportunity to gauge and monitor their progress along the inquiry process according to the feelings they experience and it invites them to see uncertainty as natural and essential for constructing personal knowledge. I think that this model with be a great tool for energizing students who are overwhelmed by, and consequentially stalled on, different stages of the information process – when they moan “I’m confused!”, “I can’t find it”, “I’m not sure” I’ll be able to instantly redirect them to Kuhlthau’s model, remind them that this is normal and indeed a sign of progress and focus their attention on the next step. I can’t wait!

Friday, August 6, 2010

A forgotten resource

I forgot how much there is here! Remember to take a look at the free lesson plans!
© 2009 Curriculum Corporation

A Favourite source of resources and inspiration!

Main rbl Inf Lit collaboration reading Literacy management technology

"Teacher-librarians play three critical roles
in the learning community: teacher,
information specialist and administrator.
In each of these roles they empower students and
teachers to meet higher standards."

-Ken Haycock

The Crisis in Canada's School Libraries (2003)

These modules explore components critical to the role of teacher-librarians as instructional leaders in Saskatchewan schools. Each module contains information, examples of best practices, resources, and learning opportunities. Together, they will assist in developing the skills required by teacher-librarians to support student learning.

2006 Recipient of The Angela Thacker Memorial Award
Canadian Association for School Libraries

Last Update: 07-Jun-2010 2:43 PM