Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

ETL501 Update August 31, 2009

Filed under: Ramblings,Teacher Librarianship,Technology,Website Evaluation — penszen @ 9:26 pm

I have been finding this subject, ETL501 The Information Environment, much more manageable and practical than the last. I actually feel up to date on the reading and on top of the assignment. What a treat! The forums are well organised, with groups of people being asked to contribute each week, so we are not inundated with posts. I expected a little more contribution on the forum from our subject co-ordinator James Herring but I’m now used to the idea that it really is a place for us to share our learning and I suppose he only needs to add something if we are really stuck or wrong. When it comes to the assignment, James is prompt to answer questions and provide guidance.

The assignment has been very useful. We need to evaluate two sets of website evaluation criteria and then use them to evaluate four websites on a topic of our choice. Even if I don’t do well in the assignment (and I am still lacking confidence after my disastrous first experience) I will have got so much out of it. I’ve read widely and looked at so many criteria that the key points are firmly in my head. I go with Alexander and Tate’s (1999) reliability elements: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, coverage and audience. Then I add some of Herring’s (2004) and Schrock‘s (1999) educational criteria: relevance, suitability, language level and overall appeal, as well as their suggestions for technical criteria: design, stability, navigation, speed of loading, graphics, level of advertising and need for plug-ins.

One of the sets of criteria I evaluated came from the American Library Association (2009) and it’s comprehensive and clear, but it’s possibly a little repetitive and there are a lot of points. I like a set of criteria which is a manageable size, even though it’s hard to cover everything, and somehow memorable. What I don’t like though, in something like Neutral Bay Public’s CCs, is that the natural grouping of criteria gets lost in the effort to make them fit a memorable concept. That’s why I didn’t love Schrock’s ABC, even though it’s so thorough, because it’s a bit scattered. So there’s a challenge for me, to create my own brilliant set!

The other thing that struck me in doing this assignment is that finding the right websites for a very specific purpose is actually very hard! I chose Minibeasts as my topic, and settled on a Year One level, as that’s a level I know well, and I thought it would be easy – there were so many relevant sites! Once I came to evaluate them though, I found that most were too difficult and some that were just right, content-wise, were horribly designed and didn’t work well on a technical level. Of course the easy thing to do would be to adjust my pretend task upwards to make it a year 3/4 task, but no, I’m taking this on as a challenge now.

I’m looking forward to the second assignment, where we design a pathfinder on our topic on a website or a wiki. I can’t wait to get into a school and actually do this stuff for people who will use it.


Travel news: Boston August 14, 2009

Filed under: Ramblings — penszen @ 2:10 pm
Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin

Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin

We were all getting a bit tired of new places by now but arriving into the north end of Boston was a thrill. It’s a humming little Italy lined with cafes, gelaterias and restaurants, interspersed with historic churches and cobbled lanes. Our charming one bedroom apartment was on the main street, Hanover St, opposite the fire station with two big shiny fire engines. The Old North Church where Paul Revere started his ride was a few steps away. The towering statue of Revere on his horse (cue Alice’s clip clop sound effect) was our landmark.

Forunately Mark only had a couple of appointments in Boston, a day trip to a conference and a talk to give at Harvard. The kids and I explored the neighbourhood on the first day, finding a good playground and an even better fountain which was controlled by buttons. Interactive water features were quite a big thing in both Seattle and Boston. I suppose they don’t have water restrictions to consider. Anyway, we made the most of it.

We also discovered the local library which was a godsend, especially when the weather turned grey and drizzly. It had a relief of Dante on the wall and a reflection pond in the centre. There was a small but cosy children’s area with puzzles and games as well as books. I was also able to get a “courtesy card” to use the internet. Aren’t libraries brilliant?

With Mark we took a Duck Tour of Boston, on a replica of a WWII amphibious vehicle. The driver and narrator was hugely informative and entertaining, though Felix got “tired of his voice” after half an hour. After driving around the city for the first 45 minutes, we drove down a ramp and splashed into the river, finishing the tour with a leisurely cruise. This was the part Felix had been waiting for and he even got to have a drive. It was top fun. Quack quack.

Renoir: Dance at Bougival

Renoir: Dance at Bougival

After our five day stay was over, we embarked on the long long journey home. We checked out and took all our luggage to the amazing Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which has a truly stunning collection.  The children were pretty much over art by this stage but Mark and I marvelled at all the Impressionist works, Greek, Roman and Egyptian artefacts, and the vast collection of musical instruments from around the world that deserves more attention than a restless 4 year old allows. It also has a very nice cafeteria and shop, I can assure you.

From there it was straight to the airport, a six hour flight to LA, a six hour wait and a fourteen hour flight to Sydney. I don’t want to remember the scene at LAX when both children started howling in the middle of the crowded terminal, fighting to be the one to cuddle mummy. Felix stayed awake till he was buckled in to his seat on the final flight, then fell asleep sitting up. He’d been awake for 21 hours. Fortunately they both crashed for a decent length of time and the flight home was actually quite bearable.

We were all happy to get home. Alice ran around crowing with delight to see all her familiar things. She put her gumboots on and they barely came off for the next week. Felix stayed up valiantly till 5pm on the first day and was never more happy about getting into his own bed.


Travel news: Seattle August 13, 2009

Filed under: Ramblings — penszen @ 10:18 pm

After three lovely relaxing weeks with Cath and family in the white, clipped, sedate suburbs of Carlsbad, California, the children and I followed Mark up to Seattle. We spent the first three nights in a motel (with a kitchen dating back to the 60s) in the heart of the university district. It was groovy man! Our first stop was a cafe called Sureshot, named after the vintage pinball machine in the back room. Thrashy music was playing, students were bent over books and laptops, original art was on the walls. Pity the coffee was no better than anywhere else in Seattle, the proud home of Starbucks.

Pacific Voices Exhibit

Pacific Voices Exhibit

Instead of checking out the funky shops, I got to spend time at the local playground and shop for “diapers” at the Safeway. Even in Seattle, mums get on with business. The kids did indulge me with a visit to the Burke Museum where we saw an excellent collection of, you guessed it, dinosaur fossils, amongst other things. But it was cool, they had a triceratops skeleton! I was impressed with how all the museums and galleries we visited catered for children in at least some ways. It made visits fun for all of us, especially if there was a nice cafe and shop for me at the end.

We were lucky to be looked after in Seattle by a couple of Mark’s colleagues and friends. They helped us plan our trip and suggested outings. We had a great visit to Woodland Zoo with Carl and his two kids. The zoo contrasted beautifully with the more arid feel of San Diego. They had a lovely green and wooded Northern Trail section featuring bears, eagles and otters with great opportunities to see the animals close up yet in natural-looking environments. (Check out the Bear Cam on the website.) Ben and Karen gave us pizza and picnics and introduced us to their dog, another big enthusiastic licker called (Wini)fred who bonded with Felix.

Mount Baker Guest House

Mount Baker Guest House

After a few days, we moved to our new home south of the city in Mount Baker. We were loath to leave the happening scene but it proved to be just perfect for a family holiday. We had the beautifully renovated bottom floor of a family house with a divine garden which had chickens, a fish pond, wild strawberries running rampant and masses of veges. Heaven. It was a 5 minute walk to a great playground (and the all important cafe) and ten minutes to a little swimming beach on Lake Washington. We hired a car for more flexibility but used the bus to get to town and the university now and then. Mark was working every day so I settled in to life as a suburban mom for a couple of weeks.

Making big touristy missions with the two kids was challenging but they were coped very well and I always packed plenty of snacks and didn’t plan for more than one thing each day. There weren’t any embarrassing public melt-downs, though Felix saved some big ones for bedtime. I think he found the travelling fun on a level but quite a strain. Alice coped fine with all the new beds and faces and maintained a sunny disposition throughout, though she pretty much stopped eating anything but yoghurt and icecream in the final week.

We made excursions to the Seattle Center, which houses many cultural attractions as well as the Space Needle, a fun fair and a super cool, enormous fountain which is designed to be played in. And we did! We also spent a lot of time visiting playgrounds and pretty natural spots, which weren’t hard to find in Seattle. Despite the reputation for rain, they love the outdoors and all the lakes and parks are just gorgeous for walking, biking and playing in. I was very taken with it all, the arty city and the green surrounds. What a combination! But I was reminded frequently that I was there in summer and it doesn’t have a rainy reputation for nothing!

Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth

On our final day we all went to the Seattle Art Museum, which had a great modern collection and a special exhibition by Andrew Wyeth, which I loved. He had a muse called Helga whose plaits he painted with incredible skill. He seemed to really like those plaits.

We dropped our car off the next day at the airport and got ready for another round of security (yes, tedious) as we headed for our last stop, Boston.


Travel news: San Diego

Filed under: Ramblings — penszen @ 1:17 pm

Mark wanted to start some collaborations with colleagues in Seattle and Boston so we decided to make a family trip of it, including a long-awaited visit to my sister Cath and family in Carlsbad, California. We left Sydney in mid-June, so we all had sniffles and coughs. Despite that, the flight was okay. Felix (4) loved his back-of-seat screen and fiddled with the remote control contentedly nearly the whole time. Alice (1), too little to have much time for TV, climbed around the seats, peeping and smiling, charming all our neighbours. There wasn’t too much crying and both kids finally got some sleep in the final hours.

It was so great to be met by Cath, Nick (18) and Liam (7) at LA and fall into the Odyssey for the two and a half hour drive back to Carlsbad. Everyone should be so lucky after a long haul flight. We even stopped for coffee and pizza at a seaside town. My first view of the Pacific from the other side!

We were pretty zonked for the first few days, getting over colds and jetlag, so it was nice to sleep in, potter around the house and take local trips to the park, library and lovely Moonlight Beach.


Pacific Women's Chorus

On our first weekend we had the pleasure of seeing Cath sing with her choir, the Pacific Women’s Chorus. I was very pleased that the children sat quietly through the whole first half  (with the help of sultanas) then Mark took them out to play while I enjoyed the second half with Nick and Max (15), the civilised “big boys”.

We had a big day out at Legoland with Cath and Liam. It wasn’t quite the  museum of Lego models I was expecting, rather a big exciting theme park with rides and dfferent ‘lands’ to explore. We took a magical fairytale boat ride where we saw all our favourite characters made out of Lego. Liam and Felix rode horses around a knights’ circuit and piloted emergency helicopters up, down and around. Miniland had famous  cities of the world in perfect replica made out of Lego. Apparently they have since added a tiny Michael Jackson scene as a tribute.

I joined Cath for a classic slice of Californian life – yoga with Tom, who greeted me with warm hugs and proceeded to take us through the class while sharing wisdom about the divine mother. Non stop. We finished with a relaxation during which Tom played on the harmonium and sang. It was pure new-age Californian magic.

Before Mark left for Seattle, we went to Balboa Park, a wonderland of art, culture and history. As well as visiting the Timken Art Museum and the Natural History Museum for some dinosaur excitement, I fell in love with the mobiles by Tom Ross in the artists’ village. He suspends all sorts of objects in the most beautiful arrangements, my favourites being the fans and the flutes.

There was a flurry of activity at various airports as we sent Max to Sydney for a school interview, saw Mark off to Seattle, Nick off to Paris for his first backpacking adventure and welcomed Simon home from a business trip, all in the space of five days! Talk about jetsetting. Sorry about the massive carbon footprints… Special mention should be made of Cath’s tireless and good-humoured taxiing. She was a champ!

Quail Botanic Gardens, Encinitas, California

Quail Botanic Gardens, Encinitas, California

Other highlights of the San Diego leg were a ferry ride to Coronado Island, taking the Coaster train down to San Diego, where the boys and Cath went on the “pirate ships” at the Maritime Museum, and an idyllic visit to  Quail Gardens, a glorious botanical collection with a new children’s garden. We loved the musical garden with all natural instruments like gourd drums and slate xylophones.

We had a great day at San Diego Zoo, which is as good as its reputation. I saw pandas for the first time and the enoooormous backside of a submerged hippo. All the apes were brilliantly close to the viewing areas. That rarely happens at Taronga – I wonder what the trick is?  We got tired walking around and then enjoyed the 40 minute double decker bus tour (top deck of course).

My favourite bit, though, was spending time with the family and their lovely dog Sayla, who initially overwhelmed my little ones with her licky affection but became a great pal. There is nothing like hanging out in the garden with a bucket of water and some paintbrushes, climbing trees and playing with the dog. That’s what the kids did, of course. I sat with a cup of tea and read the paper. Mmm, now that’s a holiday.


Katz (2002) August 11, 2009

Filed under: Role of TL,Teacher Librarianship,Technology — penszen @ 9:42 pm

Initially daunted by the 40 page reading, I was relieved to find that Katz has a readable and charming style. It’s lovely to read such enthusiasm for the profession in the What It Takes section (p. 13-14). It reassures me that I will make a great librarian (while not aiming to be specifically a reference librarian). I am a generalist and interested in just about everything, which means I’m enthusiastic about digging up information. I certainly am a people person and enjoy helping people with their queries. And I’m smart enough to master whatever skills I need to get the job done. I plan on being that wise old librarian, oh yes I do.

As a reference librarian, how many reference titles should you know? Katz says, “As a rule of thumb, the beginner should be familiar with the much-used titles, from bibliography and indexes to encyclopedias and almanacs, found in every library. This amounts to mastering between 100 to 300 reference works. Beyond that is the universe of 15,000-plus titles” (p. 6).

“The librarian must have a thorough knowledge of the electronic data-base, and must be able to quickly ascertain such things as period of coverage, type of materials considered, and frequency of updating. There are about a dozen widely used databases out of a possible choice of over 6,000. Public and academic reference librarians are more likely to search (in rough order of such use): Psychologzcal Abstracts, ERIC, ABI/Inform, M U (Modern Language Association), MEDLINE, Dissertation Abstracts Internatzonal, Sonal Sciences Citation Index, PAIS, Newspaper Abstracts and the GPO Monthly Catalog” (p. 11).

“Today the primary professional duty of any reference librarian is to sift through the masses of information available, on or off the Web, and indicate what is suitable for a particular question, a particular person” (p. 20).

“The path to success is a calm Zen-like attitude. This is based as much upon a good disposition as confidence in when to say, ever so politely “Let’s see what we can find.” “(p. 25).

Katz goes on to discuss evaluation, which is going to need another blog entry.

While reading Katz, I marvelled at all that detailed knowledge that most people never give thought to, even regular library users like myself. I have been struck again and again through this course by how complex and under-appreciated the role of librarian is. I feel like I’m being initiated into a new, esoteric world, and what a delightful journey it is!


Herring Chapter 1 August 7, 2009

Filed under: Teaching and learning strategies,Technology — penszen @ 9:25 pm

I love reading and thinking about teaching and learning. I tend to have a sieve-like mind, so I’m happy to revisit ideas and concepts and greet them as familiar yet still delightful friends, details about whom I’ve forgotten (for the moment anyway).

In James Herring’s book, The Internet and Information Skills (2004), he begins by discussing how important it is that the internet is used within a teaching and learning context, not just used because it is there, new and exciting (“technological determinism” p. 1).

I remember when computers were still new, when I was in high school in the 80s. We went to the computer lab and indeed it was entirely removed from the rest of the curriculum – we learnt basic programming and typing, made up quizzes and played Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? It was was great fun and in the end probably reasonably useful. Our educators knew that these would be the machines of the future and we had better get a head start. I think there is an argument for ‘teaching’ a technology for technology’s sake, though certainly we should be critical about its usefulness. It is essential to ask, What’s the point? in all educational pursuits.

Herring goes on to discuss behaviourist learning theories, cognitive theories like the evergreen Blooms Taxonomy and my old friend constructivism. I used to roll my eyes at university when the lecturers waxed lyrical about constructivism, not so much at the content as at the newly converted fervour that accompanied it. Actually, I have proven to be a teacher who naturally creates a constructivist learning environment. I’ve never been didactic and I’mnot comfortable standing up the front delivering information. I like to set up intrinsically interesting activities and let them go. I’m pleased that that seems to work 🙂

When it comes to using the internet and technology as learning and teaching tools, I am lucky to have worked at a school where this is pursued with skill and enthusiasm. I have looked on in awe as the year fives present their work in multimedia and the teachers carry their laptops instead of baskets of books and paper. I can definitely learn a lot there.

Now here is a dumb question. What is the difference between aims and objectives? and even learning outcomes?? I feel like a fraud, because clearly a real teacher knows this stuff. So perhaps someone can give me some examples. I may even look it up on the internet, seeing as that’s what I’m meant to be getting skilled at. Will report back!