With the advent of new media technologies, teachers are no longer seen as the sole authorities on knowledge in the classroom (Davies & Merchant, 2009, p.108). Just as a lighthouse helps to guide sailors to safe waters, today’s teacher librarians need to consider their role in terms of a guide and facilitator for staff and students when it comes to finding, selecting, evaluating and using the vast array of information and tools now on offer – TLs need to direct learners towards safer waters, and suggest useful routes to follow. This is opposed to the more traditional idea of the teacher being the central focus, like the sun, trying to burn facts into students’ brains. While all teachers need to develop pedagogies which incorporate new information and communication technology into their teaching and learning programs, it is important to keep in mind that just because children are familiar with new technology, it does not mean that they know how to use it effectively and safely, so it is also the teacher’s responsibility to help students ‘navigate’ the online world (Davies & Merchant, 2009, p.108) and develop responsible habits.
ALIA/ASLA states that the teacher librarian is “a leader within the educational community” (ASLA/ALIA, 2009). As such, these professionals are ideally positioned to lead the way at their schools, in terms of the development of innovative teaching and learning pedagogies and practices relating to new technology. TLs are (ideally) in a position where they are able to collaborate with other teachers to plan and implement teaching and learning programs, and work with teachers and administration to develop and formulate new school policies and direction. This involvement of the TL at both planning and practical levels should help to ensure a uniform approach to new media technology across a whole school, and this needs to start happening now, before the knowledge delivery which takes place at school becomes completely out of sync with the way young people learn outside the classroom (Williamson, 2009, p.18).
Referring to the common reality that schools are sluggish and unwilling to adapt to the new, digitised, connected and social ways in which young people learn, Williamson refers to some confronting but accurate assertions from other writers. Barham argues that, “Kids are certainly not too stupid for school…Perhaps school is too stupid for them” (as cited in Williamson, 2009, p.18). Veen and Vrakking (as cited in Williamson, 2009) propose the term ‘homo zappiens’ to refer to digital natives, and offer my favourite insight: “Homo zappiens are digital, and school is analogue” (p.18). There is a distinctive mismatch between types of texts used, and how they are used, in school and out of school (Beach & O’Brien, 2008, p.779), meaning learning at school is becoming less relevant to the everyday experiences of young people. Outside school, children and teenagers access information, pursue social connections, and interact with popular culture texts anywhere, anytime. They use mobile devices to access and contribute to social networking sites, blogs, YouTube, games, and other participatory media, yet most of these are often blocked by schools, let alone incorporated into the curriculum. While, in Australia, most schools encourage the use of internet resources, alongside print ones, the 1:1 laptop trend is increasing, and iPads are used more and more, there remains a reluctance to harness the potential of participatory technologies afforded by Web 2.0 in the classroom, and devices which utilise them, such as mobile phones. This is despite the fact that, “Knowledge, power, advantage, companionship, and influence lie with those who know how to participate, rather than those who just passively consume culture” (Rheingold, 2012, p.249).
George Siemen’s (2005) educational theory of ‘connectivism’ underpins how TLs and other teachers need to start thinking about participatory and new media technologies in the classroom. His theory focuses on the importance of making connections between information sources, and nurturing and maintaining these connections. Another important aspect of this theory lies with the notion that the “capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known” (Siemens, 2005), and that the digital tools used for learning are not as important as the connections made by them. Farkas (2012), emphasises that learning today is “open, networked and always happening” (p.82), and, as such, points out the importance of the development of network-building and critical thinking skills in this connectivist approach. If students are going to be able to develop personal learning networks through shared and created connections, and if this is, indeed, the way in which students are naturally learning, informally, outside school, then teachers and teacher librarians need to help them to develop these skills and networks at school, as an element of new media literacy. A brief video explaining how connectivism works can be found by here: The Networked Student.
Today’s students are accustomed to multitasking in the digital world. So much so, that scientific evidence has emerged, showing that children’s brains are actually being re-wired to allow for easier multitasking of multimedia, which can be referred to as ‘multimediating’ (Beach & O’Brien, 2008, p.778). This may not come as naturally to teachers, who are mostly digital immigrants, rather than natives, but teachers need to plan with this in mind. Beach and O’Brien (2008) discuss how one result of this multimediating culture is that texts become extensions of each other, rather than independent artefacts (p.795), and also that students are constantly constructing new popular culture texts in their shared responses to existing texts (p.787). This presents some exciting new challenges for teacher librarians when exploring, promoting and sharing literature, as many students have already embraced the phenomenon of social reading. Sites like Good Reads enable readers to review and comment on books they have have read, then comment on other people’s comments. Many readers today are also starting up their own book blogs – here, students present their virtual identities and own voices in engaging and interesting ways (O’Sullivan, 2012, p.208), and, in so doing, are developing their digital and new media critical literacy skills. Another emerging multimodal response is ‘fan fiction,’ whereby new texts are created based on existing elements and/or characters of existing popular culture texts (Beach & O’Brien, 2008, p.789). Responses to literature have gone far beyond making bookmarks and designing new book covers with textas and coloured pencils!
“The use of new technological tools can support learning in different ways and provide opportunities to extend pedagogical models” (O’Sullivan, 2012, p.206). Teacher librarians need to take advantage of these opportunities in their own teaching practice, as well as providing leadership to other staff members. At the same time, teachers should avoid feeling like they have to use every technological innovation ever invented, but need to use their expertise to select what tools are most appropriate and enriching for student’s learning on any given occasion. Teacher librarians can act like a beacon to help teachers and students get their bearings and set a steady course in the oceans of information at our fingertips.
Reproduced from “Introduction to the Study of Language” by P. Hurley, 2012. Copy Right Statement: The fair use, according the 1996 Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia, of materials presented on this Web site is permitted for noncommercial and classroom purposes.
ASLA/ALIA (2001). Learning for the future: Developing information services in schools (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation.
Beach, R., & O’Brien, D. (2008). Chapter 27: Teaching popular-culture texts in the classroom. In Coiro, J. et al., Handbook of research on new literacies (pp. 775-804). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Davies, J., & Merchant, G. (2009). Chapter 9: Responses and responsibilities. In Web 2.0 for schools: learning and participation (pp. 103-113). New York: Peter Lang.
Farkas, M. (2012). Participatory technologies, pedagogy 2.0 and information literacy. Library Hi Tech, 30(1), 82-94.
Hurley, P. K. (2012). Ling 102/WI Introduction to the Study of Language. University of Hawai’i – Leeward Community College. Retrieved October 21, 2012, from http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/hurley/Ling102web/mod3_speaking/3mod3.7_suprasegmentals.htm
O’Sullivan , K. (2012). Chapter 12: Books and blogs: Promoting reading achievement in digital contexts. In Teenagers and reading: literary heritages, cultural contexts and contemporary reading practices (pp. 191-209).
Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. elearnspace. Retrieved October 19, 2012, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Williamson, B. (2009). Computer games, schools and young people: a report for educators on using games for learning. Futurelab UK. Retrieved from http://archive.futurelab.org.uk/projects/games-and-learning.