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I admit to doing a double take when I read a recent article in EducationHQ Australia: Graduate teachers’ skills on the improve.

Aspiring teachers have shown improved performance in a national literacy and numeracy test designed to weed out those unsuitable for the classroom.”

Perhaps I’ve lost touch with reality over the years because I have always assumed that the kind of rigorous checking that I went through well before I graduated with a teaching degree, was still in place.

From this statement though, it appears that my assumption was totally off base!

While I have gone on to get a few additional qualifications over the years, my initial training was as a Primary Teacher.  Well before – and I’m talking here about a year into a three year course – all of us had to sit a basic English skills test, which included a check of our spelling, writing and reading skills, along with tests that checked our competence in a range of mathematical processes.  Successful graduation hinged on scoring very highly on these tests.

In addition to achieving these determined levels in English and maths, each of us had to demonstrate an ability to read sheet music – yes we had to play an instrument from a piece of unseen music – as well as to demonstrate basic swimming proficiency – swimming a minimum of 50m in all four strokes – which provided us with a swimming certificate stating our achieved level of competency.

For those of us who didn’t reach a satisfactory level in any four of these mandatory skills, we were required to enroll in ‘remedial’ classes for that category.  Once a set period of remedial tuition had been completed we were  invited to re-sit the assessment to demonstrate our competence.

While I can imagine training institutions balking at the idea of teaching their trainee student teachers to read music and swim (even though I personally feel that this requirement ensured we graduated with a set of valuable skills that some of us didn’t have when we entered teacher training programs) to imagine that a check of basic literacy and numeracy levels have not been part of teacher training programs seems nothing short of farcical.

One can’t help wondering if the lack of these requirements over the years has contributed to the stagnant NAPLAN results which flooded the news so recently.

Couple this thought with thoughts I wrote very early this year which highlight the continually lowering entry requirements for candidates into the teaching profession, and we are left wondering what exactly has and is going on in teacher education programs.

The losers in all this are of course the students in our schools.

I noticed last week that a work colleague posted a link to a fabulous article written by Sally Dring “Don’t overlook your school librarian, they’re the unsung heroes of literacy”.

When I read this article a couple of years ago, I was delighted to read Sally’s reply to my RT: “it needs saying!”.

Dring’s post highlighted the many valuable attributes and skills that teacher librarians bring to schools:

  1. With dual qualifications in both teaching and library management, teacher librarians are skilled in being able to see the big picture from the perspective of both students and teachers across a range of subjects and year levels.
  2. An expertise of teacher librarians is teaching ‘information literacy’.  Learning how best to locate information online and then learning how to judge its value and relevance to the topic at hand is a skill that can best be taught by teacher librarians.
  3. Teacher librarians are able to support teachers across the school by providing valuable links to resources relevant to curriculum being taught. Teaming with teachers to locate new resources when curriculum content changes as well as providing resource lists for students and teachers is a valuable skill held by teacher librarians.
  4. By encouraging students to shun plagiarism and instead demonstrate learned note taking skills, teacher librarians assist students to become independent researchers.
  5. By utilizing and valuing the skills teacher librarians have at their finger tips – how to approach and start a research assignment and how to locate and assess relevant digital and hard copy resources – school teachers can act as role models to the students in their classes on how to best use the skills of teacher librarians.
  6. The core ‘business’ of teacher librarians is reading and literacy.  Locating the right book at the right time for an individual child or teacher is a skill which should be highly valued and utilized by all members of the school community.

Dring concludes her well stated thoughts by imploring school communities to make the most of a valuable asset so often overlooked:

But many school librarians are seen purely as minders of a spare IT suite or as date label stampers. They are enormously, depressingly, frustratingly underused.

So don’t forget to seek out your school librarian. You will be amazed at how much support they can give you and how much time they can save you. And they really do want to be taken notice of.

It strikes me as sad that nearly two years after first reading Dring’s article in The Guardian, the same issues are still being discussed in the literature.

Just recently, I read another great article, this time by Aussie writer, Kay Oddone, who in her take on The importance of school libraries in the Google Age notes the positive attributes of teacher librarians and implores readers to user her arguments as a “catalyst for discussion” to bring about change.

As I consider the arguments presented by these two writers and being cognizant of the two year gap between their publication, I’m left wondering whether anything much has changed in the intervening years.  And if nothing much has changed in the intervening years, perhaps the question that needs to be asked is ‘Why?’

Why is the role of teacher librarians still not valued in our school communities?

It is one thing for teacher librarians to bemoan the fact that they are not valued by their school community or its administration.  To ask why though is, quite frankly, confronting!  After all, no one wants to admit failure.  Yet, to bring about change, we need to be able to objectively assess what it is we are doing, look at it from all sides and angels and figure out a different path.

I can already hear the wail coming from a large body of teacher librarians reading this!

  • It’s not easy!
  • We’ve tried before!
  • There’s not enough time!
  • It’s impossible to change school culture!

What we need to be able to do is to brainstorm different ways to approach issues of concern.  By looking at just some of the statements mentioned by Dring in her article, ideas tumble to mind.

  1. Don’t assume that teaching staff and students know that you have dual qualifications in teaching and librarianship.  Repeatedly and excessively refer to yourself and those on your team as teacher librarians highlighting what you can do to assist them.  If the school community doesn’t know about our skill set, how can we expect them to utilize our skills?!
  2. Be proactive: volunteer to run an ‘introductory’ session for a new topic or assignment which may include where to start an assignment, where to find resources or how to best organize information located .  Don’t fall into the trap of volunteering to run such sessions for the one subject or the one teacher or the just the one year level as that leads to the possibility of ‘routine’ overshadowing the wide range of skills that can be offered by teacher librarians.  By ‘sprinkling’ the volunteering offer among different subjects, teachers and year levels a ‘buzz’ can be created and a ‘need’ for the skills on offer can be generated.  When demand can’t be met, other voices may well take their request to admin for you!
  3. By asking teachers to assist in the location and evaluation of new resources, a ‘team effort’ between teachers and teacher librarians will be initiated while increasing awareness of all the valuable resources available, so invite teachers to help locate new resources: new hard copy books, new eBooks and new online resources.  Creating joint ‘ownership’ of resources is an important and valuable way to increase their use!
  4. Run imaginative and fun workshops for students outside of class time on basics such as the dangers of plagiarism, note taking, how to use databases, where to find information, using the library website.  Creating a presence for the library in the eyes of the student body will underline that teacher librarians are able to do lots more than just fix the photocopier!
  5. Share and publicize lists of resources available through the school library.  Make access to these resources easy to find and easy to use. Share these with both staff and students.
  6. Teachers are busy and struggle to find time to do everything, so reach out to them.  Request a short time allocation at full staff meetings or ask faculty heads for 10 minutes of a faculty meeting and share skills that can be offered as well as how/where resources can be located on the school intranet or library webpage. Don’t try to share ‘everything’ at once.  Aim for a series of show and tell sessions or a few sessions a term/semester.
  7. Help new and old staff overcome their hesitation to utilize library staff and resources by running orientation sessions sharing the location of resources in both the library and on the library website.  Hold these at the start of the year or during the year over a recess or lunch break.  Food and coffee/hot chocolate are valuable enticements!
  8. Always have at the back of your mind the aim to create ‘foot soldiers’ to further the library cause.  Once teachers know how much assistance teacher librarians can provide in the delivery and support of curriculum content, the more they will act as role models on how best students in their classes can use both library resources and the skills of teacher librarians.  And if, as I suspect some of you are saying – ‘tried this and it didn’t change anything’ – try again by targeting different more influential teachers in the school.  Remember to always target those teachers who are most likely to tell others on staff what a fantastic support you have been to them!!
  9. Never forget that all library staff are the school’s resident experts on reading and literacy.  Promote this regularly in every possible way with all teaching staff and all year levels: hold book events, create challenges, flyers, posters, websites, competitions and circulate reading lists online and in hard copy.  Being innovative, staying fresh and keeping the library collection vibrant are as important as never giving up – even when programs laboured over don’t succeed the way it had been hoped!
  10. And finally ….. create a visible and ongoing presence for the library and all library staff.  Publicity is a key to success. Once a program has been initiated and put in place, be sure to ‘sell it’ by telling the whole school community what was initiated, who was involved and what was achieved.  Publicity should come in every form imaginable: newsletters, library and school blog posts, social media, wall displays and student presentations.  No amount of publicity is too much!

Sticking with a negative attitude is most certainly not going to change anything.  Taking a step back to look at a situation with fresh eyes is demanding, exhausting and very time consuming.  Could the effort be worth it?  Is an improved role for teacher librarians and school libraries guaranteed by the effort expended? Quite simply – no it’s not.  But if we don’t try to turn the situation around in our schools, yet another two years may go by in which teacher librarians continue to be under utilized and under valued.

 

Click Against Hate

Reading an article recently about a program which aims to combat racism, discrimination and cyberbullying,  I jumped online to check it out.

Developed by the Anti-Defamation Commission, Click Against Hate (CAH) is a relatively recent addition to the many programs already operating in our schools which aim to tackle, head on, frightening statistics such as those highlighted in one ABC News report:

From YouTube vid - Click against hate

Through interactive, hands on sessions, facilitators of the program encourage students to assertively stand up to all forms of bullying, hate and discrimination.  Fostering confidence to report all forms of abuse, racism and bullying, students are empowered to be proactive, responsible users of the Internet while learning the mindset of those who perpetrate such hate.

This educational program focuses on the development of an inclusive culture and respectful school climate by addressing issues of bias, bullying and prejudice reduction at its roots and provides the tools to deal with this ugly phenomenon.  The program also focuses on diversity in schools and social cohesion among students.  CAH has been designed as an interactive and innovative program giving students current information that empowers them to deal with these situations showing them what the power of words can do.  (Anti-Defamation Commission)

In addition to the more lengthy video produced and posted on the website of the Anti-Defamation Commission, my online research located two short news broadcasts about the program which are well worth a look.  The first was published August 13, 2015 on ABC News while the second was aired on SBS World News more recently on May 18, 2016.

 

Hooked on Pokemon?

With more than 30 million players worldwide traveling around catching cartoon characters using phone GPS and cameras, it certainly seems that phenomenal records have been hit.Pokemon

I have to admit though, I did a double take yesterday afternoon when driving down Dandenong Road, a major arterial road here in Melbourne,  to see a road sign hung up over the busy road warning drivers to not play Pokemon while driving!

Photographed by someone at night and uploaded onto the Internet, this is the wording of more than 40 signs that popped up mid-way through last week on our roads.

News reports tell the story!

Hard on the heels of news reports are all kinds of warnings, such as this one from the

I’ve also spotted stranger danger videos posted on Facebook warning of the dangers of following others in the trail of playing Pokemon.

Having just returned from holidays where the camera and iPhone were constant companions, I have to admit that my mind constantly flipped between the need to capture all those memorable moments for posterity versus just enjoying the moment.

Ah ….. heavy philosophical thoughts …..  Perhaps I’ll leave them for another time!

While we’ve never had a selfie stick, my husband’s arm has proven to be long enough to ensure that selfies we’ve taken look pretty good.

But, as many are now saying, it was inevitable that a flying selfie stick would be developed.   How exciting it is that  Australian company IoT Group has just released a video demonstrating the power and use of the ROAM-e FLying Selfie Camera.  Learn more about ROAM-e here or have a read of this press release which describes some background to both the development, its inventors and their company as well as the huge deal which has just been signed which is bound to ensure mass delivery of this innovative technology globally!

Combining facial recognition software with a drone that flies, ROAM-e is predicted to take the market by storm.  Check it out:

Common Sense MediaI recently came across the Common Sense Media website and discovered all kinds of valuable info which can easily be slotted into lessons or displayed in a library on a loop to promote cyber awareness.

While there’s a wealth of valuable information to explore on this site, these two short and sharp videos speak volumes.  There quick and colourful format will ensure that their message is absorbed by young students.

I love art, especially the creativity that lies behind it.

Nearly 6 million people found this beautiful video before me.  I’m glad I found it though!  Such talent to create something from no more than nails and string is very, very impressive.

It is a portrait of Justin Timberlake.

After watching the video below, I did an image search for Timberlake and came up with this one which could well have been the model for this artist’s creation.

Justin Timberlake

To create the portrait, Zenyk Palagniuk used 24 kilometers of thread and 13 thousand nails.  It took him 200 hours to create the finished product.

Outstanding!

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