Collaborative learning.

Just watch this great TED talk with Sugata Mitra. Collaborative learning at its most powerful. Placing children at the heart of their learning. I think we can all learn a thing or two from him. I need to adopt his more open-ended approach and give the children the tools to find out. Do I need to get them to use the check list from last week or could I just ask them to look at the web-site and evaluate it? Would they use the check list? Would they find another set of criteria? Would it matter which criteria they used as long as they realised that the web-link I’ve given them is false? Only one way to find out…

Critical synthesis. Assignment 2 Part C ETL401

A critical synthesis of my reflection on how my view of the role of the teacher librarian may have changed during the subject.

Word count 823

Over the last 3 months my views concerning the role of the teacher librarian have changed markedly. For the past 23 years I have been a classroom teacher. However, despite having worked in international schools, I had never worked with a teacher librarian.

When I took on the role of  teacher librarian in August, before I had completed much work on ETL401, I did not have a concrete idea about what the job entailed. It seemed like a good move and something exciting. I wanted to learn new skills and enjoyed books and teaching children to read.  I had a limited view and although knew there was more to the role I wasn’t  sure what that was. I was also concerned with the feedback and views of others on my new role. Where I had expected congratulations I was faced with stereotyping. (Gilchrist, 2010. June 17) Through my readings, the forum postings and assignment one I realised that the role was considerably wider than I had first anticipated.

Whilst assignment  one  challenged me, it also helped synthesis my thinking and enabled me to grasp the idea of an information literate school community and the teacher librarian’s role within it. Particularly useful for someone new to teacher librarianship was Herring’s work. (2004) and I used this initially to help create a bigger picture. (Gilchrist, 2010. July 6) It was through this that I was able to identify 3 key roles; educator, information manager and expert advisor. Herring’s blog (2010) was also a useful resource when trying to understand the concept and I found I regularly read his postings.

On receiving feedback on my first assignment it was obvious that I had failed to realise that the teacher librarian also had a role in educating the principal. Barbara Braxton, my assignment marker, ( personal communication, September 2010) noted  that many principals’ have never heard of the concept of an information literate school community or even understand the role and it is therefore the role of the teacher librarian to educate them, an area that I had not considered.  In my eagerness to show that I knew about  the importance of leadership and collaboration  I underestimated the roles of information services manager and specialist. The comments and feedback on assignment one helped push my understanding and I now feel more confident expressing what the role is and how I can go some way to achieving it.

The readings by Lance et al, (2005) and  Todd and Kulhthau, (2003) helped to ensure that I understood the central role of collaboration and really reinforced the idea that teacher librarians are teachers first. Before assignment one I had not realised that collaboration was so important. This was reinforced by the readings for assignment two on the ASLA and ALIA (2004) standards. Collaboration had become important to me and this was noted in a number of  blog postings. (Gilchrist, 2010, August 2, 21, 31, September  1, 18) Previous to ETL401 I had no real understanding as to why my principal was insisting that I team teach in the library. I thought it was because she wanted to prevent the other staff having non-contact time and to keep me busy. This may actually be the reason, I still don’t know, however, it has worked to my advantage.Now I know I am attempting to  make a difference to the children’s learning by working collaboratively on units, being involved in planning and spending time talking about how we can improve learning. Making a difference to children’s learning outcomes is at the heart of the role and this term’s work for ETL401 has made me realise this.

Feedback on assignment one has highlighted what next steps I may need to take. My addressing of the obstacle in assignment 1 was just above satisfactory and so this is an area that needs further work. I need to ensure that I know how to use Web tools in innovative ways, need to find useful research that would relate directly to my school situation and know how to engage the principal as an ally. (Barbara Braxton, my assignment marker, personal communication, September 2010) I obviously have more reading to do in this area.

ET401 has played a pivotal role in my understanding of the role of a teacher librarian. I have gain an understanding of the multi-faceted role and what standards are in place to help guide me to be an excellent practitioner. The readings and modules helped structure my learning and through participation in the forums, and the use of my blog as a metacognitive tool,  my knowledge and understanding have been enhanced. It has been interesting to be part of an information literate community in which sharing of information has happened and this has led to the creation of knowledge. (Gilchrist forum posting, 2010) I now have aspirational goals and  some idea about how to take these forward. I look forward to learning more.


Australian School Library Association (ASLA) and Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), (2004). Library standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians.

Gilchrist, S. (2010, June 17). What’s with the image? Message posted to

Gilchrist, S. (2010, July 6). The role of the TL again… Message posted to

Gilchrist, S. (2010, August 2). The role of the TL in facilitating collaborative efforts. Message posted to

Gilchrist, S. (2010, August 4). Re: Is the school library media program the same as an ILSC? Message posted to ETL401 assignment 1 sub-forum.

Gilchrist, S. (2010, August 21) Feeling positive. Message posted to

Gilchrist, S. (2010, August 31) Collaboration. Message posted to

Gilchrist, S. (2010, September 1) Amazing. Message posted to

Gilchrist, S. (2010, September 18) Sharing. Message posted to

Herring, J. (2004) The internet and information skills: A guide for teachers and school librarians. London, Facet Publishing.

Herring, J. (2010) Jame’s Herring’s blog access from

Lance, K. Rodney, M. & Hamilton-Pennell, C. (2005) Powerful libraries make powerful learners: The Illinois study retrieved 13/8/10 from

Todd, R. and Kulhthau, C.(2003) Student learning through Ohio school libraries. Background methodology and report findings. Retrieved 13/8/10


Really enjoying the standards assignment and it is really making me think. Are they useful? What impact to they have? Obviously ASLA and ALIA want the standards to be aspirational goals for the Teacher Librarian to aim for. How and why they were developed is important but surely how they are interpreted and used by the teacher librarian and other members of the information literate school community is even more important. If a principal wants to use them for assessment and appraisal then the aspirational goals begin to melt away. The standards become more like sticks to beat the teacher librarian with. Also the TL needs to be careful that they see the standards as something to aim for over a long period of time. They are all encompassing goals that can not be achieved over night. Some of them required large shifts in thinking that require a a whole school overview.

Using them as goals to aim for and to inform my practice is what I intend to do but deciding which to start with and which are critical to student learning outcomes is more difficult. How to I measure the impact the IL lesson are having? Evidence based practice I hear you say but at this point I feel like I’m only just keeping my head above water and am not sure where to start. Off to Singapore again in November to hear Ross Todd speak. One of the workshops is based around evidence based practice so I hope that more light will be shed.


This week has involved meeting up with a group of other teacher librarians. I almost didn’t go, you know how it is…the kids have gone and there are still a million and one things to do and then you are supposed to get on the train to Kowloon Tong….  Anyway after thinking I’d much rather be in the library I realised that collaboration did not just happen within our school community and that it needed to happen beyond and off I went.

It was great to visit another school library and have a snoop around and stealing idea. It was great to chat to some of the others and realise we are all in a similar situation. Everyone  was keen to  share. Book Week was the main focus and there were some great ideas I am hoping to implement into ours.  Other stuff that was shared included Glogster and bibme which several schools are using successfully with their Year 5s and above. I’ve added Bibme to our Learning Centre page which I’ve now tried to organise around the NSW research cycle. (The ISP)

On another note my essay marks landed on my desk this week. Unfortunately the essay is coming snail mail so I won’t have time to use the feedback to improve/ start the next assignment. My next assignment focus is on professional standards. Obviously professional standards can be used as a tool for appraisal and also to make the features of an excellent teacher librarian explicit. They help to regulate the profession and extend its status, in some cases giving it more credibility. After doing some limited reading I surmise that standards are more valid and useful if they focus upon the processes, purpose and efforts of the teacher librarian rather than be driven by performance and accountability.  It is not the standards themselves that enhance the quality of librarianship and teaching but the way in which they are defined, used and who uses them that is important. It is only then can their value be ascertained. Most importantly they need to have a positive affect upon LEARNING which means using them as an aspirational  framework that provides goals for the teacher librarian, providing support for professional learning. Reynolds (1999)

ReynoldsM. (1999). Standards and professional practice: The TTA and initial teaching training. British Journal of Educational Studies, 47(3), 247-260.


This weekend was spent at an IBO conference in Singapore. The conference was not about Librarianship but The Exhibition. The Exhibition is an inquiry guided by the children that culminates in an exhibition of their work. It can include displays, art, drama etc but must include a reflective journal of their learning journey. I spent some time discussing what the TLs role would be in this and it seems to be quite extensive in terms of research skills, evaluation of web sites, cites and developing bibliographies etc etc

The most interesting part was the sharing of ideas and resources by some of the participants. Many of them had a very high understanding of the PYP and how it works. They were not afraid to question or engage in debate and offered many ideas. Pechua Kuchau was one that I particularly liked; basically a slide show of 20 slides and you have 20 seconds to talk about each slide. A great idea that could be used by students to explain their work.

SAM Animation was another tool that was demonstrated.  Excellent for EAL students who can demonstrate their learning visually and Scratch from MIT which enables students to make their own video games.

It was exciting to be a part of a group which contained 21st Century Learners. Teachers who are obviously working hard to enable their children to develop digitial skills in order to explore concepts and learning further and who are happy to collaborate with others.

On a more disappointing note I visited a library whilst there.  Although it looked very impressive I came away with a feeling that it was not being utilised to its full potential.  Teachers could book the TL to work with their classes which I thought was a good idea and helped develop a flexible timetable. However some staff took their children in for silent reading and did not develop any information literacy skills at all. The shelves although looking well organised had the feel of a museum and I got the impression that not many were taken out. The one book I did pick off a shelf had been published in 1999. I feel that had I visited the same library 6 months ago my impressions would have been very different. Would I have checked the publishing date? I very much doubt it. Would I have asked the librarian how the library  and her skills were used? No. Would I have been impressed with the tidiness and the furnishings? Yes, most definitely.  Would I have noticed the lack of children’s work or  that the most interesting area was kept for parents? No. My thinking is changing, I’m learning!

Making a difference

I am over the moon!  A teacher who had said that she thought I would be wasting my talents today told me she knew it was going to be different. In her last school the TL had got the older children to do all the jobs and then she had sat around and played online solitaire! And she openly admitted this in the staff-room.  I don’t even have time to check my e mails never mind play games. I am loving working with other members of staff and meeting all the children. I am learning huge amounts from other staff and love the buzz that is happening in the LC. 3 weeks in and I know I’ve made a positive move. Glad I’m doing the course, even though I’m struggling to fit it all in, because it has made me think about the role and how things should be in the ideal.


Sometimes it is just a pleasure to work with another teacher. Today was amazing. I had the pleasure of working with an energetic, enthusiastic teacher who is very knowledgeable. I learned so much and I’m sure the kids did. Working through the PYP and how the LC fits with the transdisciplinary themes and then the concepts. Writing questions that were concept linked. She was amazing. My task now is to try and replicate that lesson with the other 2 classes. The classes that have been taught collaboratively I felt have gone very well in general. The year 3 lesson today was very positive although I do feel that the working in groups part might have been more successful if it had been 1 class at a time. Trying it that way tomorrow and have had to collaborate by e mail. Hopefully it will work. I have to say this course has made me more of a risk taker than ever before and prepared to have a go at most things. I’m now trying to swat up on web-site evaluation before the year 5 lesson.