In this blog post, I reflect on finishing my latest teacher-librarianship course, LIBE 467 Information Services. Finishing this course has not been without challenges, most notably the COVID19 virus that has quickly spread around the world affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Finding the motivation to sit down and complete the last few requirements of the course was difficult since I felt like my time would be best utilized supporting my family, friends, and community during this difficult time. If that wasn’t already enough, I have been navigating my own health challenges over Spring Break and coping with the anxiety of not knowing what my job will look like when I return next week, so I’m pleased to be writing this final post. Before I start my reflection though, I’d like to take a moment to thank all healthcare professionals and essential service personnel for their outstanding commitment and bravery during these unprecedented times.
In spite of all these challenges, I decided to reflect on some of the main themes of the course and discuss how they have impacted my current practice, as well as my plans for the future.
The Foundation of Reference Services
This section of the course started with understanding what constitutes as a ‘reference’ item followed by a review of basic student information literacy skills and discussions on how reference collections and services can support the development of these skills. I now understand that reference materials are divided into two main sections:
- “Compilations that furnish information directly (encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, handbooks, yearbooks, biographical sources, directories, atlases)” (Riedling, 2013)
- “Compilations that refer to other sources containing information, merely indicating places in which information can be found (bibliographies and indexes)” (Riedling, 2013)
If one of the primary goals of the teacher-librarian is to assist students in the use of the library and its collections, then I look forward to refining the way I interact with students using the Reference Interview process. I understand that the process is really a conversation that identifies and supports students’ research needs. I feel the more I experience I have, the quicker and more effective my answers and suggestions will be.
Managing and Evaluating Reference Services
This section of the course discussed the skills, processes, and strategies required to effectively select, evaluate and manage a reference collection. I enjoyed this section the most because it afforded me the opportunity to assess my school library’s reference section and make some concrete plans for the future. As a new teacher-librarian, my introduction to the role has been a series of steep learning curves, so up until recently, I had not had the chance to take an objective look at every reference item in both print and digital form. After I did find the time, I determined which print reference items to replace and discovered many under-utilized items in our digital reference collection. In order to evaluate my library’s collection, I used Riedling’s framework as a guide.
The Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada document 2014 also proved helpful in determining where my current practice lies and where I would like it to go. I believe my school library is in the Exploring phase. There are several members of staff, myself included, and administration who feel like we should be in the Emerging phase, but for now are making progress in the right direction.
Standards like the ones found in (Riedling, 2013) and (Canadian School Libraries, 2018) offer suggestions for types of reference material that should be included in a school library. It’s helpful because I’m new to my role, but the standards are also extremely high and out of the reach of most schools in British Columbia. Riedling suggests keeping an adequately stocked print reference section, one that is refreshed every five years or so, but this is unrealistic. Consortiums like BCERAC, however, make digital materials a cost-effective alternative. With access to a wide variety of encyclopedias, atlases, biographies and databases included in BC Digital Classroom they meet the reference needs of most students at an affordable price point.
Canadian Library Association (CLA). 2014. Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada. Available: http://llsop.canadianschoollibraries.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/llsop.pdf
Riedling, A. M., Shake, L., & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips.
XL 103 Calgary. (2020, March 24). Let’s start the day with some gratitude! – Heather and Buzz [Graphic]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/xl103/posts/3084715111559604
My next several blog postings take the form of personal reflections on the topic of information services, which is the next course in my teacher-librarianship diploma.
“It is human nature to be curious. Throughout our lives, we seek answers to all kinds of questions. Having a healthy curiosity and a willingness to seek answers is a prerequisite for lifelong learning” (Riedling, 2013).
As curriculum moves into more open-ended, question-driven inquiry learning the more important it is to have a framework to guide students through this challenging process. Having time to evaluate some models that can help in the inquiry/research process was very helpful. I was drawn to the BCTLA Points of Inquiry model because of its simplicity. As much as I love the inquiry process though, I think many models fail to consider the self-regulated learning (SRL) skills required for students to perform well in these situations. The image below is a model that integrates both SRL with the information inquiry process.
As we moved away from the information inquiry process into the area of evaluating a reference collection I learned some valuable skills, which I am already putting to good use. I have to be honest though, when I say that the reference section of my library had, up until the start of this calendar year, been largely forgotten. I knew that the reference section of my library was weak and I was unmoved by the problem because I assumed that all reference work is best when it’s completed online anyway. How wrong I was! It’s clear that from the readings that school libraries should have access to both print and electronic reference materials. If the rule of thumb is that a good reference source is one that saves to answer a question, then crowdsourced reference materials like Wikipedia (the first port of call for many students) may not be the answer, and instead, a quality print reference may suffice.
Much like the frameworks for weeding I learned in LIBE 461 (MUSTI and CREW), evaluating a reference section is important for the overall health, condition, and usability of the library. I found having a different framework for evaluating different reference items a little overwhelming. It would be beneficial for me to merge the methods we learned in Chapter 2 of Riedling into a framework that would work for most of the items in the reference collection. Reidling (2009) says, “In order to create and maintain a school reference collection that meets the informational needs of students, effective selection and evaluation of resources by the school librarian is essential” (p. 25). With this in mind, it is important to consider areas such as content, accuracy, bias, authority, diversity, and accessibility when evaluating one’s reference collection.
Lister, C. A. P. (2015). A Framework for Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved January 30, 2020, from https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/handle/1828/6950
Riedling, A. M., Shake, L., & Houston, C. (2013). Reference skills for the school librarian: tools and tips.
This final post for my LIBE 477 Special Topics in Teacher Librarianship course contains two artifacts of learning that represent my final project. Both are on the topic of Connections-based Learning (CBL) which was developed by British Columbia educator, Sean Robinson.
Both resources are targeted towards educators who are considering engaging their students in CBL related activities. It is not meant to be a thorough dissection of this pedagogical approach to teaching but merely a resource that provides an introduction to the topic and includes an accompanying resource for educators interested in this type of work.
I plan to share the presentation part of the project with staff at my school with the goal of working more collaboratively with them in the future.
The second artifact is an open collaborative document designed to be circulated within my personal learning networks in the hope of identifying and documenting a wide variety of connections that can be used when engaging in CBL.
The spreadsheet can be accessed and edited by anyone with the link and is broken down into three distinct categories:
- Organizations Who Connect Educators to CBL Opportunities
- Organizations that find experts for educators to interact with
- Individual Contacts Known To Offer CBL Opportunities
- Individuals who volunteers their time to connect and share their knowledge
- Organizations That Directly Offer CBL Opportunities
- Organizations that offer one type of classroom connection such as Mystery Skype
My goal for the spreadsheet is that others will use it and add to it if and when they have positive CBL experiences, thus growing the network and establishing connections in more areas of society.
I experienced several challenges narrowing down my final topic and then building a digital artifact to share. The biggest challenge was feeling like I needed to know more about Connections-based Learning in order to speak to it. In the end, I decided that my project was merely and an introduction to the topic as the pedagogical framework is complex.
Also, I’m not sure how successful the spreadsheet will be. I haven’t had too much success in the past when sharing a ‘live’ document and inviting others to contribute to it.
Knowing that CBL has it roots in constructivism was comforting. As I continue to construct my own knowledge around learning I like to attach my beliefs to a legitimate learning theory. It also happens to complement some other areas of interest such as inquiry-based learning and play-based learning.
I think the library can become the hub of CBL in my school. It has the hardware, software, and physical space required to facilitate such learning. It also provides an opportunity for me to work directly with classroom teachers and students on some of the more interesting local and global issues of our time.
Arnold, E. K., & Santoso, C. (2017). A boy called Bat.
Digital Citizenship School Program. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2019, from https://globaldigitalcitizen.org/digital-citizenship-school-program.
Harasim, L. 2012, Learning theory and online technologies, Routledge, New York.
Paterson, C. 2016, ‘Leading a school to be global. Case Study 2.4’, The global educator: Leveraging technology for collaborative learning & teaching, International Society for Technology in Education, Eugene, Oregon/Arlington, VA.
Robinson, Sean. (2019, April 15). Connections based Learning. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGrkUq0YtYk
Robinson, S. (n.d.). Connections-based Learning. Retrieved November 23, 2019, from https://connectionsbasedlearning.com/.
This week’s post represents a summary of learning around PLN’s, Information Literacy, Learning Commons, 21st Century Learning, and Professional Development related to my teacher-librarianship diploma course LIBE 477.
What are your key takeaways, learning and direction after all this exploration?
I have several takeaways from this series of blog postings both from my own personal reflections and also from the ideas and experiences of my peers in this course. These last few weeks have reinforced my existing thoughts on professional development – A connected educator is a stronger educator. Through the use of digital technologies, it is now easier than ever to find and connect with like-minded people. I have found that technology continues to play an interesting and exciting part of the role of teachers and teacher-librarians. For example, I am interested in and fascinated by the potential of virtual and augmented reality in schools. These new educational tools allow students to experience learning in ways that didn’t exist before. Imagine walking among dinosaurs to get an idea of how large they were. Amy’s post on Developing ICT Skills and Pedagogy: Hands-On Learning & Networking introduced me to Microsoft’s CoSpaces for Education.
For those who are not connected, there is no need to panic, as it appears that many of the school districts in British Columbia are providing inquiry learning opportunities for their staff in the form of after school learning groups. Schools are getting better at providing and funding opportunities for staff to develop their craft.
What are the new avenues for development in your personal and professional practice?
There are so many areas of my practice that I’m interested in and would like to develop. Currently, I am inquisitive about the #storystudio and #looseparts storytelling story writing movement. I think that the library is the perfect place for the loose parts materials and could be used across the grades in my k-5 school. It would connect well with the kindergarten and grade 2 prep classes that I teach and it aligns well with my philosophy on play. I don’t know much about it right now, but the TLs in my district are looking to set up a workshop to better understand how it fits within a library learning commons.
I found this article from the UBC journal of Transformative Educational Leadership on the topic of Story Studios very helpful.
A quick Twitter search for #storystudio and #looseparts also provided useful information on what it can look like in the classroom.
What are you going to take with you, moving forward from your own explorations and also from the explorations of others in this class?
Moving forward, I would like to continue to deepen my understanding and application of connections-based learning. I recently joined a Voxer group on the topic and I am enjoying the voice conversations we are having. I would love to set up an unofficial Voxer community for those in the Teacher-Librarianship diploma, certificate and Masters program at UBC. I would find the dialogue to be especially powerful.
Connections-based learning fits nicely into a library learning commons because libraries tend to be the technological hub of many schools. As most students use the library, funding requests are seen as a benefit to the school rather than an individual ‘techie’ classroom teacher.
Connections-based learning can create opportunities for students to reach outside of the four walls of the school and connect with experts, which can be used to motivate and inspire our youth. Connections-based learning is not without its challenges. Technology can occasionally fail and if one is seeking live, synchronous communication, then time zones can be problematic. Asynchronous opportunities also exist using platforms like Flipgrid, Padlet, Cloud-based productivity tools like G Suite for Education and Office 365, as well as platforms such as Belouga. Connections-based learning can create meaningful and authentic learning experiences in a connected world by connected students.
I have just set up a spreadsheet that I plan to leave open for myself and others to add contact information for excellent connection-based-learning activities and experts.
When I think about what I am going to take away from the advice shared by my peers in this course, it has to be the act of continuing to build relationships with educators locally and globally. So many of the posts I read over the last four weeks expressed how critically important it is to build with, and on, the ideas of others. Teaching can be a lonely and isolating profession, especially if one is not social outgoing or confident in their practice. Collaboration involves being vulnerable and being vulnerable can be difficult for countless reasons. I am not particularly outgoing and often find it difficult to collaborate, so I first try to find one person to collaborate with. I then focus on developing a positive collaborative experience, which will then hopefully spread to others in my school.
If you could pick just one topic from Phase 2 that resonated with you, which is it and why?
One exploration that touched my heart over the last four weeks and one that aligns with my passion for social justice was the brief inquiry we conducted on libraries in developing nations. We acknowledge that in developed nations libraries are important in the development of critical literacy skills but in developing nations libraries save people’s lives (Borgonovi et al., 2018). Libraries may be the only way information is disseminated in a village or a community. In developing nations, libraries are creating tools and resources targeted to help vulnerable sections of the population. They are beacons of hope, inclusivity, and community spirit!
Borgonovi, F., Centurelli, R., Dernis, H., Grundke, R., Horvát, P., Jamet, S., … Squicciarini, M. (2018). Bridging the Digital Gender Divide. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/internet/bridging-the-digital-gender-divide.pdf
D’Aoust, C. (2018). Story Studios. Transformative Educational Leadership Journal, (November 2018). Retrieved from https://teljournal.educ.ubc.ca/2018/11/story-studios/
Loudon, A. (2019, October 11). Retrieved from https://mylearninglibrarian.blogspot.com/2019/10/v-behaviorurldefaultvmlo_11.html