Friday, October 31, 2008

What to do with the Extra Hour?

A Little Light Reading

For a little inspiration over what promises to be a wet weekend, why not check out Michele Farquharson's acceptance speech for the Diana Poole Award of Merit this year at the BCTLA Conference in Victoria. It is posted to the In Circulation BCTLA Blog of President Heather Daly from Coquitlam which you might like to read as well.

TL Studio

At the first of this series of workshops, 15 of us worked at "building our curriculum" for the next sessions. From simple lessons on using the S Drive to building wikis, using Moodle, accessing Curriculum Connections within Teachingbooks, building a personal landscape with iGoogle, using art tools like Scratch and Kerpoof, as well as book tools like Shelfari and LibraryThing and survey tools like the one Frances R-C is using to poll her staff on database use, there was no shortage of things for the months to follow. We all laboured intently to make Maryann a birthday card with plans to "bomb" her with them but then we couldn't figure out how to email them. We can only describe these artful creations and the fun we had thinking of her.

Cyberbullying and the School Library

What do school libraries have to do with hot topics such as Cyberbullying? On Tuesday evening, October 28, Danielle Law from UBC's Counselling Psych Department in the Faculty of Education spoke to a group of about 40 parents and educators at Hamber. The event was sponsored by Friends of the School Library, the BC Coalition for School Libraries, and Kidsbooks. My challenge was to follow up Danielle's presentation by making the connections -- how do we in school libraries approach the problems related to cyberbullying?

School libraries are safe places, often the place that the shy or awkward or vulnerable student will go to escape the hub-bub of the hallways. They are busy places where children come to "defuse" between classes, often choosing the computers to check email or do personal research. As TLs, we are aware of the place we have in the daily life of schools. In addition to the need to be warm and welcoming, we are always concerned with safety. Not one of us wants to be the locus of cyberbullying; the internet access we provide for students requires constant supervision for appropriate use. We know we are "covered" by school and district policies, by a school's code of conduct and parents' signatures on acceptable use agreements that set out clearly expectations that govern children's ethical and responsible behaviour. We are protected by filters and blocks at several levels. We do not provide access to the technology and the internet for students' entertainment or immediate and synchronous communications (chat), nor do we feel the need to respect students' privacy. What they do in our libraries is subject to the same rules as other places in schools and is governed by concerns for safety, security, and well-being. My adolescent population would become accustomed to hearing me say, "No games, no chat, no [inappropriate sites]!" There is certainly no good use for Ratemyteacher, too often a lightly disguised way for students anonymously to abuse the adults they face in schools.

Having heard Danielle's summary of her work and questions from concerned parents, I felt a need to identify the quandary we face. As teacher-librarians, we are also strong believers in the concept of "library" as a symbol of the rights and freedoms of our democratic society, freedom of speech and the rights to information, in particular. We stand more often on the side opposing censorship and the banning of books, blocking and filtering, favouring instead to teach our students the critical evaluation skills to sort out what information and "information behaviours" (reading for bias, checking for multiple perspectives, ensuring support for hypothesis, distinguishing fact from opinion, etc.) are focussed on discerning that which is credible, reliable, relevant, current, responsible, and ethical.

As teacher-librarians, we observe the learners of the 21st Century. We heard Marlene Asselin and Keith McPherson, in a previous evening such as this, describe our young learners as multi-tasking, multi-modal, and multi-resourcing; interactive and active; connected, in communities; tending to early adoption of new technologies and ideas and to creating their own personal learning and social landscapes; tolerant and engaging in social transformation. We know that our students are deeply connected and daily connecting in places beyond our care through Web 2.0 tools like Facebook.

As educators, we know that engaging our students means meeting them where they go and where they are, teaching them the skills to be reponsible, ethical, and indepedent learners. In their early years, we use picture books to teach them empathy. As they grow older, we use chapter books, non-fiction text, websites, databases, and other resources to expand the repertoire of skills. These students need to know about the ethics of using information, including images and other people's "intellectual property." When students' photos or video clips are posted to YouTube, as in several of the high-profile cases of cyberbullying, the same skills and understandings of media literacy apply to publication online as to print or database information sources. We teache about audience (who will see this? who do you intend will see this?), coverage (how deeply does the source "cover" the topic? how accurately?), authorship (how credible is the author? does he/she have the rights to the information?), or responsibility (under what conditions can this information be reproduced?). We teach them to critically examine information sources for relevance, currency, and perspective. We use resources such as those available from The Critical Thinking Challenges or the Media Awareness Network's Deconstructing Online Hate and Exploring Media and Race or Shari Graydon's books In Your Face and Made You Look. We incorporate mini-lessons using hoax sites such as
Save The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus or Mr Lee, the first Male Pregnancy. There are many of these and it's so much fun to see students discover the untruths.

In school libraries, we provide access to the professional materials I have mentioned and provide support for colleagues by connecting them to strategies that work with kids to arm them ... as independent learners, they would not engage in cyberbullying, stand by to see others bulllied, nor would they find themselves the helpless victim of cyberbullying. As schools districts build and model cultures of integrity as a dimension of the information literate educational community, as teachers model integrity and work with teacher-librarians to help students make responsible choices with the tools, resources, and technology they apply to their learning, we aim to create strong foundations for the ways these skills are translated to their social and adult lives.Have you got a copy of the VSB publication Responding to Cyberbullying (2007, Social Responsibility Team working with Danielle Law) in your school professional collection? Parents attending this evening were very interested in more information, including how to access the resource and attending classes to learn about social networking programs. Perhaps this is the stuff for us to consider presentations to PACs or to create night-school sessions?

Reading in Middle and High School
From NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English in US) Inbox

Teaching reading to middle and high school students is a balancing act. As "Balancing Act with Books" (Chicago Tribune, October 19, 2008) explains, teachers must share a range of different texts with students to engage them and prepare them for the reading they will do throughout their lives. NCTE supports educators who are striving to meet the needs of middle and secondary level readers. This includes acknowledging that adolescents are already reading in multiple ways and helping these readers grow their competence through engagement with various types of texts, encouraging wide reading for various purposes throughout life. For more information on adolescent literacy, see A Call to Action: What We Know about Adolescent Literacy and Ways to Support Teachers in Meeting Students' Needs.

Lots to read on Web-bits:

I can't recommend enough this wonderful local weekly digest of websites, articles, and other educational information that inform teaching and learning in a technology environment from Linda Hof at SFU. To subscribe, send an email message to:, then in the subject line put: subscribe web-bits. If you don't like getting it or you find it's not suited to the needs of your staff, it's really simple to unsubscribe by going to the same address and typing into the subject line, unsubscribe web-bits.

Have a great Hallowe'en weekend.

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