Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

A Luddite no more April 26, 2009

Filed under: Teacher Librarianship,Technology — penszen @ 6:12 pm

Well I’ve had a bit of a hiatus on the blog. After working like a demon on the scholarly paper, where for the first time in my life I was over the word limit (very exciting for the girl whose teachers always said, “Good ideas, but write more!!” Let’s hope the ideas are still good…), I had the feeling that I deserved a holiday. Unfortunately with the second assignment around the corner, there’s no such joy, but I did take one full day off and pootled through the week without much focus.

Then I got serious about catching up on readings that I should have done before, and ouch, there was so much good stuff there I could have used in my paper! But then again, I would have just had more to cull. Never mind.

So, a few words about the readings. First of all, the windows to the 21st century that were Warlick (2007) and Lorenzo (2007). These two readings were an eye-opener for me, a slow technology uptake person. Wow. Here’s what Warlick says:

“Being able to write a coherent paragraph is not longer enough to be a communicator. Students must learn to also communicate with images, with sound, with video. Students must learn to express their ideas compellingly” (p. 21).

That is very challenging for me, who is a lover of words and who wants words to be enough. But I do appreciate the “expanded notion” (p. 21) of literacy. I hope once I am back at work, out of the comfort of my bookish home, I will embrace with open arms all versions of communication. And I admit, I’m playing up my luddite status a bit. I do use a mobile phone, for talking and texting, and I love my digital camera, and Facebook (especially when I’m trying to do an assignment). Oh, and there’s my blog, of course. Maybe I’m on my way after all.

David Warlick has a great website as an offshoot of his Landmark Project, offering teaching tools and links as well as commentary on the changing nature of the education environment.


Kuhlthau the guru April 12, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,ISPs,Teaching and learning strategies — penszen @ 2:19 am

I finally got around to reading Carol Kuhlthau and yes, she is a guru. Having looked at a few of the other information search processes (ISPs) like the Big 6, the NSW DET process and Herring’s PLUS model, I really appreciate the more holistic approach Kuhlthau takes which incorporates the feeling side of the learning process as well as the thinking and acting aspects.

Her chapter titled Learning as a Process, in Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services (2004) is a fascinatng read. Revisiting some learning theory after nearly twenty years was invigorating. Is it because I’m older now, with more life experience, more insight into teaching and learning, that Dewey seems so brilliant? I don’t remember appreciating him as an undergraduate. But to say in 1944 that a democratic society “must see that its members are educated for personal initiative and adaptability” (in Kuhlthau, 2004, p.15) is so progressive. For decades after he wrote, schools were still places where children had to sit quietly and rote learn facts without questioning the teacher. In some classes I fear that’s still the case.

George Kelly is a new name to me, though I have heard of personal constructs and subscribe wholeheartedly to the concept. I am a great believer in the “endless opportunity for change” (p.17) that Kuhlthau describes, though sadly many people seem to find threats to their personal constructs too overwhelming and simply reject the possibility of change. Attitudes about homosexuality seem deeply ingrained, as well as beliefs about gender roles. From an educational perspective, I have seen young learners firmly holding on to personal constructs of themselves as ‘stupid’ or ‘slow’, not to mention the ‘naughty’ kids who find it hard to reimagine themselves as anything different. It takes a patient and persistant teacher or carer, who can repeatedly find opportunities for that ‘naughty’ child to do the right thing and feel the positive consequences that come from it, for that construct to change.

Jerome Bruner builds on the work of earlier constructivists. He describes construction of knowledge as a complex, confusing process. He stresses that thought, feeling and action do not each stand alone, but “constitute a unified whole” (in Kuhlthau, 2004, p.23). Too much new information arouses anxiety but too much redundant information induces boredom. As educators providing a learning experience, we must find a balance that will stimulate the learner without provoking so much anxiety that the learner will switch off.

Kuhlthau summarizes thus: “The process of construction incorporates a cycle of acting and reflecting, feeling and formulating, predicting and choosing, and interpreting and creating” (p.26).

In our second Kuhlthau reading, The Process of Learning from Information (1995), these theories are put into practice. Kuhlthau explains how important a process is to cope with the information overload we are faced with in modern society (p.2). Without a process to follow, we are aimlessly grabbing at bits and pieces of information, with no coherent strategy, easily becoming overwhelmed.

Kuhlthau’s model works through the steps of initiation, selection, exploration, formulation, collection and presentation, but it also describes the feelings that a learner may experience throughout the process. When a learner knows what to expect, they are better able to cope with the feelings of confusion and anxiety that arise during the challenging phases of the process. The emotions are normalised and when equipped with strategies to move forward, the learner need not remain paralysed by confusion and indecision.

I particularly liked the discussion about what is ‘enough’ (p.10), as I am currently flailing a little in my own assignment, still reading and seeking and wondering if I should include this, or that, perhaps the other. I suspect I haven’t quite formulated my own perspective, which Kuhlthau explains is necessary to determine what is enough. Her ISP “treats the concept of enough as what is enough to make sense for oneself” (p.10). I recognise that I am still cycling through stages two to five… selecting, exploring, formulating and collecting, wondering if I’ve selected an appropriate obstacle, exploring some more, reformulating, collecting some more…

Which reminds me, I have an assignment to write.


Quality teaching April 2, 2009

Filed under: Information literacy,RBL,Teaching and learning strategies — penszen @ 8:41 am

I’ve moved through a few responses to the discussion paper about quality teaching from the NSW Department of Education and Training.

On first skim, I rolled my eyes at the jargony quality of it. I have a real aversion to jargon – I believe it is a great way to maintain and increase social division. While obviously some fields will have terms not familiar to the layman, using big words and long sentences where smaller and shorter ones will do serves only to alienate a large number of readers. (Did I just do that? Oh dear.) The target audience for the DET paper is educated to at least tertiary level but too much jargon will still send a lot of teachers running. If the way I react is anything to go by, others too may feel defensive and negative about what they are reading and quickly switch off.

However, once I settled in to reading it more closely (fortunately my course required it!), I thought it was a thoughtful and positive document. It definitely promotes a move to an RBL style pedagogy with a focus on student direction, self-regulation and engagement. Information literacy is addressed, though not completely, in the “higher order thinking” section where it describes students being “regularly engaged in thinking that requires them to organise, reorganise, apply, analyse, synthesise and evaluate knowledge and information” (p.11).

There is some nod to collaborative teaching and learning in the “social support” section, which states: “There is strong positive support for learning and mutual respect among teachers and students and others assisting students’ learning” (p.13).

Finally I got a little bit excited about it. I especially liked the concept of “problematic knowledge” where “students are encouraged to address multiple perspectives and/or solutions and to recognise that knowledge has been constructed and therefore is open to question” (p.11). That feels positively subversive! Are teachers out there ready to be challenged? I hope so.