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Posts Tagged ‘Teacher Librarians’

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College, Brisbane’s first new school in 50 years, has just opened its doors for the 2020 academic year.

You may have heard about it or read the publicity surrounding it’s grand opening at the start of this year.  On hand for the opening was Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, who informed the waiting press that the $100,000,000 school would be an exciting place of learning for the 140 new Year 7 students who were to start school that day.

Designed by COX Architecture in collaboration with ThomsonAdsett, a leading Australian International architecture and design firm and built by Hutchinson Builders, the Fortitude Valley State Secondary School also has the honour of being the first vertical school in Brisbane.  Clearly proud of this new landmark, these three companies have feature articles on their webpages: COX: A First in Fifty Years: The New Fortitude Valley State Secondary College Opens, ThomsonAdsett: Vertical schools on the rise – Fortitude Valley State Secondary College and Hutchinson Builders: Fortitude Valley State Secondary College.

It is in the ThomsonAdsett article however, that an incidental fact about the process is gleaned from the article which is included in the news section of their website:

We closely collaborated with the Principal (who was appointed after the design phase) to adapt the original design to better suit the management and operations of the school.

Having worked in schools for so many years where I have witnessed the creation of a great many new purpose built buildings, I have always been amazed at the logic of employing a school head, in this case the Principal, or the Head of Department after design plans have been created.

An Arts Centre at one Independent School I worked at, involved the faculty staff and their Head of Department only at the end stage after construction was completed.  Three of the school libraries I have worked in over the years have been designed and built by ‘experts’ that excluded both the Head of Library or the Library Staff.   At another Independent School at which I have worked, the professional insights, experience and opinions of the library staff were neither sought nor considered in plans to revamp the existing school library space.  Instead, a wide cross section of school staff were appointed as the reference group to guide, advise and determine features that should be incorporated.  There is no intention to appoint a Head of Library until after designs are set in place.

If anyone is able to elucidate the logic behind the notion of excluding library staff from having input into the design and construction of its new school library, I would be very pleased to listen ….. and learn.

Apologies though.  I have digressed, venting perhaps a little too much …..

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College does indeed appear to be a wonderful new facility, BUT some, OK, quite a number, have taken to Twitter to express their horror, dismay and disbelief that this new facility designed to operate as a 21st Century school, is to be completely paperless and will not have a library.

Lessons have begun at Queensland’s only highrise school where learning will be paperless. There’ll be no textbooks and no libraries at the state-of-the-art Fortitude Valley facility.

7NEWS Brisbane

Take a couple of minutes to view the video shot at the opening and then have a read of the many Tweets, which so aptly and succinctly sum up the feelings of the many of us who work in school libraries who understand only too well just what  a school library equipped with qualified and experienced library staff can offer to students, school staff and indeed the entire school community!

It’s hard to fathom the thinking behind making schools paperless.  It’s even harder to understand the logic behind getting rid of the school library.

Sadly, Fortitude Valley State Secondary School is not the only school taking up this trend.  Other schools, such as Siena College in Melbourne has replaced the school library with a “learning centre” where students can discuss ideas and learn technology, such as 3D printers and robotics.  Librarians have been replaced with ‘change adopters’. (The Age: Schools that excel: No detentions, no libraries, no problems for this girls’ school March 25, 2019) And in New South Wales, the new $225 million Arthur Phillip High School in Parramatta, has 17 floors but no library.   As reported:

Rather than dedicating a room to the school’s books and research resources in the form of a traditional library, the new Arthur Phillip High School in Parramatta, which opened this week, will have so-called iHubs for each year level on different floors.

Each iHub will have digital resources and some hard copy books, while “students can access other parts of the school’s collection through the librarian,” said a spokesman for the NSW Department of Education.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney’s new $225 million school has 17 floors, but no library January 31, 2020

It’s great to see that a movement to promote the value of school libraries is gaining traction in educational circles and among parents.  Students Need School Libraries has become the voice for those of us working in school libraries, promoting not just the value of school libraries and all that they offer students, teachers and the extended school community, but the importance of staffing school libraries with qualified and experienced teacher librarians.

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Such simple advice.  Profound, simple and very accurate!

For those of us working in school libraries, we don’t need to be told the amazing power inherent in books.  We know it.  We feel it when our library patrons – staff and students alike – express

  • the anticipation of borrowing a good read from a vast collection
  • the excitement when a book of choice is finally found
  • their thoughts about a book read when returning it

Building upon the wisdom shared by the Simpsons, we must recognize that books also have an amazing power to:

  • allow us to learn about other people, cultures, religions
  • let us explore the world and the universe
  • explore the geographical wonders of countries
  • enable us to learn facts about life as it was in history
  • delve into the life of others, learn about relationships, develop empathy
  • expand vocabulary & language skills: the basis for improved writing
  • let us slip into a fantasy world where imagination can roam free
  • develop critical thinking and analytical skills
  • provide relaxation and reduce stress
  • entertain us: make us laugh, feel happy, feel sad …..
  • improve self confidence as we discover others living in similar circumstances
  • expand our knowledge on an infinite range of topics
  • allow us to teach ourselves new skills
  • promote improved concentration
  • engage in a great, inexpensive hobby

The OECD’s 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results were announced a few days ago.   The results for Australia are not good.

Australian 15-year-old reading scores are way below those of their peers in ten countries – including Singapore, Estonia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Korea and Poland.

And around 41% of Australian 15 year olds have failed to meet the minimum national standards in reading – up from 31% in 2000.

Since PISA first assessed reading literacy in 2000, Australia’s mean score has declined by the equivalent of around three-quarters of a year of schooling …..

The Conversation (December 3, 2019)

Tackling the cause of lower reading standards is imperative.  Let’s discuss what is not working, what is working and how we can do it better.  Let us all join forces – school administrators, teachers, those of us working in the field of school librarianship, students and parents – and tackle this issue together.

There is a perception in schools that school libraries are simply a repository of books and information.  No – it is not true!  So much more goes on inside the school library.

My many years working in school libraries has taught me much.

Teacher Librarians do not differ at all from Maths Teachers, Science Teachers or History Teachers.   All of us constantly, express and share with students our passion, our excitement and our awe of the subject matter that is the focus of our teaching.  Teaching is not just a job that involves imparting information.  To be a successful teacher, it is essential to engage our students and to engender a love of the subject matter we are teaching.

Read a book ….. learn about the world”

has forever been the mantra I’ve shared with students I’ve worked with in both the classroom and in the world of school libraries.  It has been a deeply rewarding time in which I have been able to indulge in my passion of connecting students with the wonderful world of literature.

It is incredibly important and powerful to establish a “connection” with students as they come into our school libraries.  Chatting about books being selected, books being borrowed and demonstrating a familiarity with the library collection is essential.  Those of us working in school libraries engage daily with students:

  • showing an interest in what they are reading
  • letting them know we are very familiar with children’s and Young Adult (YA) literature
  • helping students find books that interest them
  • ensuring that books are in their appropriate reading range
  • chatting about the book they’ve chosen as they borrow
  • sharing titbits about the book, the series or the author a student is borrowing
  • providing a safe and comfortable haven for those who need a quiet place ‘to be’
  • assisting struggling readers and those who come to English as a second language

As I  collect my bits and pieces, pack my bag and close the door on this chapter of my working life, I leave knowing that I have managed to engage with students and share with them my passion and love of reading.  I look back with fond memories of some of the standout events I have initiated and held in the cause of promoting a love of reading and the warm buzz emanating from those who attended.

The warm memories of achievement, knowing that I’ve been able to make a difference will be my inspiration as I move onto my next challenge.

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It’s hard to believe, but text messaging reached a milestone last week!

25 years ago – December 3rd 1992 to be exact – the first text message was sent by Engineer Neil Papworth when he wrote “Merry Christmas” on a computer and sent it to Richard Jarvis, the then director of Vodaphone.  It was an event which changed technology forever and along with it, set in motion a colossal shift in social norms.

While it’s debatable whether SMS today is being overtaken by social media platforms, the impact of texting on our lives has been profound.   Twenty five years is a very long time!  A generation of young people know no other way to communicate, a fact which raises a whole range of issues including whether or not the art of interacting face to face is being lost.  Have a listen to this discussion to gain a greater understanding:

I’ve been in teaching long enough to remember the days when fears for students’ ability to spell beyond texting shorthand was a serious concern.

Educational concerns however are constantly evolving.  As reflected in a presentation by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman at a conference earlier this year and repeated regularly since, he advocates the need to teach all children how to talk to each other on the internet and how to understand fact from fiction:

Believing in the importance of starting to educate children from a young age, the DQ Institute has developed a 15 hour free online curriculum aiming to teach digital citizenship covering a range of key skills:

Underlining the importance of school students learning digital civics, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will, from next year, assess ‘global competencies’:

From next year PISA will test not only maths, science and reading skills, but “global competencies”, which its education head, Andreas Schleicher, described as young people’s attitudes to global issues and different cultures, analytical and critical skills and abilities to interact with others. The first results will report in 2019.  (“Don’t teach your kids coding, teach them how to live online” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 25 2017)

How appropriate it would be to see teacher librarians take the lead to ensure the introduction of digital civics lessons during library sessions!

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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. Highlight the ‘teacher’ in teacher librarian:  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. Run assignment ‘help’ sessions:  Be proactive: volunteer to run an ‘introductory’ session for a new topic or assignment which may include where to start an assignment, how 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. Collaborate with teachers:  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 library skills workshops:  Run imaginative and fun workshops for students outside of class time on basics such as using the library website, where to find information, how to use databases, the dangers of plagiarism and note taking.  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. Promote library resources:  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. Be heard in staff or faculty meetings:  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. Hold workshops for teachers:  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. Create ‘foot soldiers’:  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. Promote reading culture in the library:  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. Create a visible presence for the library and its staff:  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 underutilized and undervalued.

UPDATE:  This post has subsequently been edited and re-published in Connections: Issue #99 2016 under the title: It’s time: Let’s improve schools’ perceptions of teacher librarians (13th October, 2016)

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Much has been written about the role of Teacher Librarians in our schools.   Sadly though, much of it is lamentations about the decreasing numbers of Teacher Librarians manning our school libraries.  Every so often though, I come across inspiring words that do much to remind us of the incredible skill and value held by this professional group.

Just recently in a blog post Why can’t kids search? 10 tips to develop better search skills I mentioned Clive Thompson’s acclamation in an article for Wired about the value of Teacher Librarians, suggesting that as a profession we actively garner the support of such vocal writers.   Not long after, I happened to spot a tweet which mentioned a blog post: 5 inspirational words of wisdom to librarians, a potpourri of comments on the blog posts of others put together by Aron Tay of the National University of Singapore.

Then, just recently, a colleague,  pointed me to the ASCD journal Educational Leadership which in its October 2011 (Vol. 69 No.2) edition has an excellent article by Carl A Harvey The Coach in the Library.

Harvey has done well to highlight to our teaching colleagues and school leaders that Teacher Librarians have been guiding, mentoring and educating staff and students in schools for a very long time.  The very nature of our role is one of providing guidance and support to library patrons, to help staff and students not only locate resources but to guide them on how resources can be incorporated into their lessons or projects.  Like many reading this post, I have worked in school libraries long enough, to experience the evolving nature of our professional role.   Teacher Librarians regularly take a leading role demonstrating to their school communities how technology can be embedded into the curriculum.  As noted by Harvey, successful education and training of our teaching colleagues comes when working “at the point of need” when teachers are “focused on the task or project at hand, and reflects something the instructor wants to do with students…..”   Making learning meaningful is a key to ensuring that learning occurs.

I concur totally with Harvey when he suggests that the best professional learning occurs in small focused groups.   En mass instruction in staff meetings, those ones that all staff are required to attend, is not the way to go.   Like the students we teach, we are individuals, who each has their own ‘readiness to learn level’.  The beginning spot, the interest level, the need level and the time available to learn something new, varies tremendously from teacher to teacher.   It is not possible to bundle all our school staff into the one room at the one time and teach them something new.

I feel passionately about the need for teachers to embrace digital technology and make it their own.   I feel just as passionately though, that a new process of teacher education must be introduced into our school structure.   With so much to learn and so much to assimilate it is unreasonable to expect teachers to engage and learn in their spare time or at the start or end of a busy day or at a conference of just one or two days duration.   Working to improve the quality of our schools and opportunities available to our students must begin with looking squarely at how we can bring our teaching staff on board.

An expectation that teachers engage in professional learning programs is now well cemented into our schools.  Time and space must be set aside within the busy school week for teachers to learn, play, experiment and most of all think how newly acquired skills can be embedded into their day-to-day teaching.  The experience, know-how and skill among the many talented Teacher Librarians in our schools can easily be harnessed by school administrations to help develop new approaches to professional learning programs.  These programs could incorporate any or all of the following features:

  1. Focused group learning:  Bite sized chunks of knowledge are easier to digest than extensive lengthy programs.  Designing learning sessions based on the interests and/or needs of teachers that have simple, clearly articulated aims and goals should be made available.
  2. Cluster learning:  Providing opportunities for teachers with similar interests and/or needs seems to be most logical.  Being able to brainstorm together, experiment and learn from each other, will not only increase learning opportunities, but will increase bonding and sharing.
  3. Hands on learning:  Being given time to practise new skills under the guidance of a mentor strengthens learning.  Having the opportunity to play with new technology not only ensures new skills are learned, but enhances self-confidence.
  4. Open ended learning:  Being able to learn new skills without constraints of structure and deadlines can be liberating.  Given the freedom to learn as much or as little, as slowly or as quickly as one likes means teachers are able to take responsibility for their own learning.
  5. Non demanding learning: Removing competitive elements from the discovery and development of new skills means that teachers can learn at their own pace without the risk of being compared to their peers.   Not feeling intimidated, not feeling pressured to achieve, but rather being encouraged to learn just for the sake of learning is a learning environment we try to create for our students.  Why not for our teachers as well?
  6. Meaningful learning:   Seeing the immediate relevancy and value of a new skill or a new technology tool can be inspirational.   Presenting instruction about a solution or approach which reflects a teacher’s on the spot need leads to powerful learning.  Capitalizing on ‘on the spot need’ can be most powerful!
  7. Lifelong learning: Learning how to learn is something we are constantly striving to instil in our students.   Should we not be trying to achieve this ourselves?  Should teachers not lead by example demonstrating to their students that learning is not only a joy but is a lifelong process in which all people can, should and do engage?
  8. Reflective learning:  Part of learning new skills requires time to think and assimilate the new with the old.  Having the time and the means to reflect on new skills is an extremely important part of the learning process.   Incorporating opportunities for reflective learning is essential.
  9. Self-paced learning:  With decisions left in the hands of the learner, that oft repeated phrase ‘if only I had time’ can be tackled head on.  Enticed by desire and encouraged by determination, teachers are able to independently determine what, when, how and where they learn and develop new skills and hence take full control and ownership of their own learning.
  10. Online learning:  Unlike ever before, teachers today are able to explore a wide range of learning programs which can be tailored to meet their individual needs and interests.  Online learning programs provide a supportive and safe learning environment for a range of learners from the beginner to the highly experienced.  Exploring all aspects of education, including targeted skills and a range of Web 2.0 tools through both the Blogosphere and/or the Twittersphere can be exhilarating, invigorating and highly stimulating.  Introducing online learning opportunities within a school is both realistic and extremely feasible.

Developing exciting, stimulating and meaningful professional learning programs for teachers within our schools is essential.   Ensuring that the content is grounded, relevant and well thought out is a must.  Designing programs that are at the one time short enough to be pursued regularly, yet long enough to enable learning to be absorbed and consolidated is a key to their success.   Incorporating the experience, the knowledge and the skills of Teacher Librarians could move schools to new levels of achievement not previously considered.

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Just recently, in a post here on NovaNews: 10 skills every student should learn,  I blogged about the importance of students being taught Information Literacy skills:

Being able to fluently use technology is different to knowing how to manipulate the technology to locate information sought.  In other words, using Google as a search engine is common practice.  But understanding and learning how to use Google as a search tool needs to be taught in our schools.  Being able to evaluate hits returned, to weigh up both their relevancy and reliability, require critical thinking skills that also must be taught.   As I mentioned in a previous post on NovaNews, Google can’t replace learning.  Assuming that our Digital Natives know it all, is incorrect.  Just recently the website Boing Boing blogged on this very topic: “Digital Natives” need help understanding search.

So when a friend – thanks Nikki – sent me a post by Clive Thompson writing in a recent online issue of Wired – Why kids can’t search – I was not in the least surprised to read his take on this important, basic issue.

Commenting that the question has shifted from ‘Why Johnny can’t read?” to “Why Johnny can’t search?” supports much of what is happening today in our schools.  Just watch a group of students tackling a research topic.  Unless directed otherwise, they go straight to Google and usually focus only on the first half a dozen or so hits.  Tech savvy or not, it is clear that these digital natives are not evaluting either the source or the content of webpages returned by Google.  They instead naively ‘assume’ these hits to be authentic simply because Google lists them.

I’m sure that Thompson’s words brought a smile to many a face of a Librarian and Teacher Librarian when he said:

Librarians are our national leaders in this fight; they’re the main ones trying to teach search skills to kids today.”

Oh how refreshing it is to have someone like this advocate for us.  If we can’t do it ourselves, Teacher Librarians, as a professional group, need to gather more academics like Thompson to be in the cheer squad that advocates loud and clear our skills set and our Raison d’être.

So what is it that our students need to conquer to be able and capable searchers?  I suspect that these ten points are just the tip of the iceberg:

  1. Awareness: Google is only one of many different search engines that can be used to locate information.
  2. Brainstorm: Thinking about what it is you want to find in an online search before starting to search is a key to a successful search.
  3. Learn: Selecting good keywords and/or wording a query well is half the battle of getting a good search result.  Boolean logic is powerful.
  4. Sift: Sort through facts to be sure returned hits really respond to the search query.
  5. Consider: Look critially at the content and tone of a webpage.  Is it biased?  Cross reference information found.  Can it be backed up by other sources?
  6. Question: Don’t believe everything you read.  Seek out other sources and opinions.
  7. Check: Authenticate the authorship of a webpage.  Don’t assume that the name of a person or organization listed on a webpage is legit.
  8. Acknoweldge: Fact filled websites should cite sources and/or include a bibliography for further reference.
  9. Understand: The structure of a URL is important in judgng the validity and authenticity of a website.  Learn the meaning of tags such as org and edu.
  10. Determine: The currency of a website is a key to knowing whether its information is reliable.  Locate the date of its latest update.

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Harnessing the power and versatility of Web 2.0 tools is a path that Penguin Australia have taken with a vengeance to ensure that information about their publications are seen and read by the widest possible audience.

While I’ve blogged in depth about these publications on BevsBookBlog – my other blog – I can’t help sharing here how very impressed I am with the efforts of Penguin’s marketing and publicity team.  While obviously demonstrating a great deal of talent, the real winners of their efforts are their readership: teachers, teacher librarians, librarians and of course the kids for whom they publish great literature.

Similarly the State Library of Victoria’s blog Inside a Dog aims to engage and capture the imagination of our teenagers. With the basis of their blog being input by young readers, the message for educators is clear.  Engage students.  Empower them to be active users of the web in their day to day schooling.  Embed opportunities for students to actively use the amazing range of tools that are available.

To be able to comfortably empower our students though, educators themselves must feel comfortable with new technology.  Somehow though, I feel that educators are always on the back foot, always scrambling to keep up, always trying to squeeze more hours into the day to pick up new skills so that they can stay one step ahead of their students.

The pressures on teachers are great but the needs of their students are greater.  School administrations regularly grapple with how best to provide their staff with increased knowledge and know how. Various models can be seen in place across our country’s schools.  But harking back to a phrase I recently picked up from Joyce Valenza, I’m convinced that teacher librarians, a group of educators who have constantly battled to have their profession valued and recognized, must now cease the moment and ‘lead from the centre‘.

Days slip by so quickly.  The myriad of tasks that need attention in our libraries must somehow be re-sorted and re-prioritized so that we can lead by example, step in and assist, direct, encourage and guide both our teachers and our students to a playing field in which they can all become lifelong learners.

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