Pen’s TL Blog

Journey to the Centre of Teacher Librarianship

Ready to launch again February 18, 2011

It’s time to reinvigorate my blog as I embark on a new subject in my masters degree, ETL503, Resourcing the Curriculum. This subject is all about the management of library collections: the selection, organisation and deselection of library materials and how best to meet the needs of the library users. The area I’m most curious about is digital collection management – how do you store, catalogue and provide access to digital materials such as websites, especially when they are such rapidly evolving things?

I have mixed feelings about resuming the course, after a semester off. I’m curious and enthusiastic, on the one hand, definitely refreshed by the break. I’m also nervous and fearful, having found the subjects thus far extremely challenging. I’ve received marks in the 50s. Ouch. As I’ve pursued this course, I’ve had to accept the fact that I’m not being very good at, well, hard work! That gives the wrong impression, but I don’t know how else to put it. I was always a bright child to whom things came easily, and I’ve been reading recently how such children are at risk of not developing a habit of persisting with challenges. Tamara Fisher (2008), gifted education specialist, puts it like this: “A lot of gifted students get used to getting everything “right” the first or second, sometimes third time that they try it. Many of them, frankly, skate through school. They develop a myth in their own minds that they should always be able to do anything the first or second, sometimes third time that they try it. Yet we as adults know that Life has a different plan for them in that regard. At some point (hopefully sooner rather than later), learning will get more difficult.” For me, the skating has continued till this masters degree, and now, with a hideous crrrraaaack, I’ve fallen through the ice and the water is COLD. I have been repeatedly tempted to quit, but fortunately my stubborn nature and pride are an even match for my fear of failure, so here I am, ready to launch again.


Fisher, T. (2008). Chase the challenge in Unwrapping the gifted. Retrieved February 18, 2011 from


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!


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.


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.