Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

Mind mapping March 26, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,Role of TL — penszen @ 11:33 pm

I’ve just spent a delightful hour sorting out my thoughts about my ETL401 assignment in a mind map helpfully provided by, a natty little free site which believes in “providing the minimum features to get the job done. We think that having few features that are perfected and polished is better than having many features that are hard to use and remember.” ( Accessed 27/3/09).

rAmen to that. (Yes, I have joined the Pastafarians and in true evangelical style I recommend you check it out too.)

What makes an information literate school community?

What makes an information literate school community?

I found thanks to Judith Way from Preston Girls’ Secondary College via OZTL_NET. She had found it on Bright Ideas, a blog by the School Library Association of Victoria. I’m enjoying the OZTL_NET dialogues very much and look forward to engaging more actively whenever I have something to offer.


Flexible and fabulous March 15, 2009

Filed under: Role of TL,Teaching and learning strategies — penszen @ 2:52 am

I’ve read a couple of interesting articles this week that have tied in with my readings about teaching and learning.

Bending the Rules by Damon Young (in Sydney’s Child, March 2009) discusses the importance of flexibility in teaching. Young recounts how he felt stifled at school till a couple of more sensitive teachers were able to tap into his passions and allow him to participate and learn in more meaningful ways. They were not afraid to depart from the prescribed curriculum to inspire a bored and disruptive student. As well as emphasising the importance of flexibility, he notes that as teachers we have to “do more than transmit facts or information. We have to exemplify what we teach – that is, we ourselves have to possess the very qualities we’re trying to teach.”

An article in this weekend’s SMH (My Career, p.12, March 14-15,2009) looks at how subjects outside the mainstream can motivate students and teachers. Ian Gowan is the head teacher in computing at Gymea Technology High School. He is enthusiastic about working in such a cutting-edge area and acknowledges the need to be flexible when teaching in this area. “Students often bring considerable expertise and enthusiasm into the classroom – it’s not uncommon for them to display skills far in excess of what I’m capable of. As a result, you need to change the way you teach these students. You tend to become more of a facilitator, providing advice, direction and critical feedback.” Not only is Gowan demonstrably a flexible teacher, willing to teach responsively to his students’ needs, he is clearly also a good role model – committed and enthusiastic about his subject; a learner as much as a teacher.

As TLs, we need to be role models for students and other teachers alike. We need to be curious and engaged, keen to question and seek answers in the best places. We need to be bold about trying new technologies, willing to be novices again and stumble and fail. We need to know where to look for help and who to ask. We will not always be the experts, though we should be expert at skillfully persisting in our quest. We need to be readers and love the power of the printed word, to share our passion and awaken it in others by careful suggestion and guidance.


Evaluate, don’t regurgitate March 13, 2009

Filed under: Role of TL,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 2:30 am

I’m starting to think about the role of the TL as I see it. My head is a bit full of other people’s ideas, and extracting my own ideas has always been a challenge for me. I agree with Henri (2005) that perhaps some TLs themselves may lack the very information literacy they are meant to teach. I recognise that I have to work hard to critically evaluate information.

As a shy third sibling I tended to sit back and observe life rather than participate and it took effort as an adult to engage more actively with the world. Right through my schooling and first university degree I was a very passive learner. I did what was necessary and didn’t question much.

It is both an asset and a curse to see every side of an argument. My life’s wallpaper is in shades of grey, very rarely black or white. Being highly empathetic is something I like about myself but it does mean I’m sometimes unsure what I personally think about an issue. I tend to reflect instead of project.

This course is a good challenge for me. I am required to evaluate, not just regurgitate. So here goes.

At this stage, I believe the three key roles of the TL are:

1) to be a role model for information literacy and lifelong learning.

2) to work collaboratively with the principal and teachers to develop effective teaching and learning strategies.

3) to manage and share information from all available sources.

Justifications to come later.


Topic 1: The big picture comes into view March 8, 2009

Filed under: History of school libraries,RBL,Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 4:01 am

I feel like I’ve been studying teacher librarianship for months rather than just two weeks. The first topic has been a brilliant introduction to the course, filling my head with ideas, questions and challenges. I can’t wait to go and pick the brains of practising TLs to see how they actually work and why.

Lundin (1981) gave a clear overview of the history of school¬† libraries in Australia and what had been learned from experience. An overwhelming message that reappeared in all the literature was the necessity of a properly trained TL to maximise the potential of the library and to positively influence learning outcomes. I liked Lundin’s discussion of ‘readiness’ in relation to appropriate spending of grants.¬† The research showed that “in some schools the principal and teachers recognised the need for change, a library and increased collection of resources, and they had the knowledge, expertise and plans for spending the money; in other schools this was not the case.” (p.18) When I worked part time in a school library, prior to any training, I was extremely grateful that I was not required to make any budgetary decisions. Even then I recognised that I had no idea of the bigger picture and what to prioritise in spending. I probably would have bought lots of books. I would have rightly been classed as ‘unready’! It is slightly alarming to think of the number of school libraries that are staffed by unqualified people who are finding their way by trial and error. I’m sure a lot of money is being wasted in this way.

Resource based learning (RBL) is discussed by Hazell (1990) and wonderfully explicitly by Carol-Ann Haycock (1991). It is a concept that I’m familiar with from my uni days back in the 80s. We studied constructivism, especially in relation to learning maths, and we struggled to implement it in pracs with classes that were more used to direct teaching. I remember a particularly chaotic lesson where MAB ones were being hurled around the room while the 6 year olds ran wild. I’m glad those days are past. Teaching unfamiliar children with unfamiliar methods is challenging to say the least.

I have since implemented something probably closer to resource-based teaching (RBT) in my own classrooms. I believe that setting children up to work independently not only allows the students more freedom to learn in their own way but also gives the teacher time to work with individuals and small groups when they need more support. It does require a tolerance for a more noisy classroom but I believe that you can tell the difference between constructive noise and all out chaos.

Herring’s (2007) chapter is a comprehensive discussion of all things relevant to the TL. I wish I’d read it when I’d been working in the library to help me attain that elusive ‘big picture’. The only point I would take issue with is his query about the prominence given to reading for pleasure in school library mission statements. I strongly believe it should remain prominent. Reading is the key skill we need to come out of school with – it is the first step to literacy of any kind. Teaching children to read should not be something done early on and then finished with. It must be encouraged continually right through school and into adulthood to help create well-informed, empathetic, worldly individuals. If students discover the joy of reading and pursue it for its own intrinsic value, it makes all other learning through reading so much easier. It may be ‘old school’ but it’s a fine school!


But is it crap?

Filed under: Teacher Librarianship — penszen @ 2:05 am

Has it only been two weeks? The residential school at the State Library feels like months ago. It was fantastic to lay eyes on Lyn and Roy, to have faces and personalities to put to the names on the website. Even better to find they were warm, encouraging and approachable. It was also extremely reassuring to meet the other students who, like me, were struggling with feelings of both excitement and terror.

We were given an overview of some of the key themes of ETL401 and pointed in the direction of various professional bodies and websites. Perhaps too many? It seemed that there were so many places to go, things to read, concepts to consider, that there would never be time for any of them. It was a little overwhelming.

It had already begun to dawn on me that I was what they call ‘old school’. I thought that libraries were all about books. Ha. After watching the mind-blowing video Information R/evolution I had feelings akin to panic as I realised I was entering a domain I knew almost nothing about. I did manage to think, however, during the onslaught, that there might be a whole lotta information out there now, and it’s all available on the web, but isn’t the vast majority of it crap? Sure, it might have been a defensive thought, but it was still legitimate. It’s great that people have a place to get their ideas out and share with the world every thought and detail of their lives, but when we’re searching for useful information, it means there’s a lot to wade through. That aside, I do recognise that I need to accept the truth – the information world is changing and I need to get a handle on how to locate and use the information available on the web, as well as how to interact with it. This blog is a start, and of course I have been on myspace and facebook for a while. You go girl! Next stop, twitter!