Information literacy, Web 2.0 and graphic novels

The following six abstracts were written by the Curriculum Leadership Journal team and directly relate to issues of importance and interest to school libraries.

Engaging teachers, engaging students: Embedding information literacy into classrooms

ASLA Biennial Conference 2007 – Hearts on Fire: Sharing the Passion
Isobel Williams

Ogilvie High School in Hobart has embedded information literacy and ICT in classroom teaching while also adapting to major changes in the state curriculum. Ogilvie is the largest public high school in Tasmania and the only all-girls’ government school, serving over 1,100 Years 7–10 students, many disadvantaged. From the late 1990s to 2006, Tasmania’s Essential Learnings Framework was applied at Ogilvie within traditional subjects. The Essentials included Communication, containing the Key Element Being information literate, which included ICT skills. Several teacher librarians helped to develop the school’s curriculum materials for this area, commonly established information literacy skills, to be developed cumulatively over year levels.

The author was appointed to the school in late 2005 to implement this work. She sought to establish credibility with teachers as being competent and helpful by taking on IT technical help tasks. She attended meetings of the SOSE team responsible for the Being information literate area. Successful collaborations with teachers included a project involving digital photography of their local area, cooperation with students in another school and critical thinking work involving Science, SOSE and Health content. Other collaborations involved students researching historical archives to discover and write creatively about 1850s convict women. Teacher librarians have prepared lessons on information literacy topics such as hoaxes and scams. They have provided professional learning for teachers, including ways to move students beyond cutting and pasting from the Internet as well as the use of TLF Learning Objects.

The information literacy program has now been adapted in line with the revised state curriculum, which re-emphasises traditional learning areas. The curriculum also aims to embed ICT in each area and reflects the influence of MCEETYA’s Statements of Learning for ICT. Recent library initiatives at Ogilvie include the development of a digital portfolio for use by teachers in documenting and tracking individual student learning progress. Major hurdles included the lack of compulsory assessment on information literacy, and teachers’ resistance to collaboration and planning in this area. School librarians are urged to take on ‘the territory of information literacy in the ICT curriculum’.

Raising profiles: An investigation into teacher awareness of information literacy and strategies for increasing understanding of the concept and the role of the teacher librarian

ASLA Biennial Conference 2007 – Hearts on Fire: Sharing the Passion
Alison Pick, Helen Schutz

The authors are teacher librarians at two Sydney independent girls’ schools: Wenona School, North Sydney and Santa Sabina College, Strathfield. They surveyed teachers at both schools to identify their views on, and teaching approaches towards, information literacy. Most respondents described information literacy only in terms of students’ ability to find information. Respondents did, however, differentiate information literacy from ICT skills and agree that information literacy should be taught explicitly. In terms of their own teaching practice, a large majority of respondents said that they modelled brainstorming strategies and note-taking; however, fewer than half of the teachers regularly tested the information skills of their students at the beginning of each year.

The teacher librarians developed a number of strategies to advance teachers’ understanding of information literacy, improve student learning and raise the profile of their school libraries. Students are now tested on information literacy skills on entry to secondary school. Results of the tests so far indicate that new students are reasonably proficient at locating and presenting information but struggle to define information needs and organise material. These results provide evidence on students’ information literacy needs to present to teachers.

Guided inquiry projects have been developed in collaboration with some teachers. Unlike traditional, ‘ubiquitous’ library research tasks, these projects offer a choice of topic for students and present higher order questions to them. The projects call for monitoring of student progress and targeting to individual student needs. They are generally better suited to longer term projects and older students. The paper includes two case studies.

Library 2.0 library management software offers fresh ways to promote services to teachers and students and represents a move towards a ‘virtual library’. This software allows remote access to the catalogue and the creation of individual user profiles through Web or windows-based interfaces that can be customised for different sets of users, such as early primary or senior secondary students. These software systems also facilitate the selective dissemination of information and the integration of searches across databases. Teacher librarians should also promote the use of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, social bookmarking sites and RSS feeds.

Learning 2.0: All about play!

Full article published in: Synergy vol 5, no 2, November 2007, pp 29–31.
Helene Blowers

An online learning program called Learning 2.0 has been created to help library staff gain confidence in using Web 2.0 technologies. The program is self-paced and guides participants through 23 short discovery exercises over nine weeks. It is available under Creative Commons for any non-profit organisation to use and has so far been duplicated by over 100 libraries worldwide, including Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty Regional Library network. Participants in the program learn to create a blog and use it to record experiences with software such as Bloglines, PBwiki, Odeo, Flickr and YouTube.

According to its creator, Helene Blowers of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (PLCMC), North Carolina, USA, the program is designed to transform technology novices into experienced Web 2.0 tutors. It cultivates a sense of play and discovery and incorporates optional challenges for those with extra time or motivation. Weekly topics include Photos and Images; RSS and Newsreaders; Tagging and Folksonomies; Wikis; and Podcasts, Videos and Downloadable Audio. One month of extra exploration time is offered for ‘late bloomers’ and those under time pressure.

Organisations implementing the program are advised to have staff work together (‘the single reason for the high staff completion rate’) and to allow participants to blog anonymously. Small rewards offered on completion of the course, such as MP3 players, provide motivation and are far more cost effective than paying other organisations to train staff in the same skills. There is a focus on exposure and experimentation with the new tools, rather than pressure on participants to get things right.

Literature blogs

ASLA Biennial Conference 2007 – Hearts on Fire: Sharing the Passion
Pat Pledger

A blog is generally defined as any web page that has content organised by date. Blogs tend to be updated regularly and contain easily accessible archives of previous entries. If used thoughtfully, blogs may be of great use in school libraries for a number of purposes. Book review blogs, such as Readplus for recently published books and Chicklish for adolescent girls’ books, are useful resources for teacher librarians. There are also many blogs with up-to-date information on recent trends and important events in children’s and young adult literature. These include Read Alert from the State Library of Victoria and the American site Read Roger, the Horn Book editor’s rants and raves.

Reading the blogs of authors can give children insight into the process of writing and drafting. Examples of author blogs are those of Margo Lanagan and Scott Westerfield. The State Library of Victoria’s Inside a Dog site is a blog written by their Writer in Residence. Subscribing to blogs on a Rich Site Summary (RSS) feed allows readers to select a number of blogs and receive a daily single-page feed of all updated entries. This can be done through Bloglines. Setting up blogs can also be a worthwhile project for school libraries, motivating students and giving them access to up-to-date information, library resources and the opportunity to publish their own reviews on an open forum. Blogs can easily be created using software available at Blogger or Edublogs. Examples of school library sites are the 2007 Year 6 library blog hit4six and the ‘What Shall I Read Now?’ page from Delany Library.

Factors to consider when setting up a blog include its purpose, the intended audience, the amount of time available to dedicate to the blog, and privacy and safety issues. It may also be helpful to have more than one person in charge of updating the blog, since this ensures continuity when students and staff leave the school.

Graphic novels: Trash or treasure?

ASLA Biennial Conference 2007 – Hearts on Fire: Sharing the Passion
Di Laycock

Graphic novels have traditionally been seen as inferior to other forms of literature, to be used in schools only as a last resort for struggling, bored or unmotivated readers. This attitude may have been due to a widespread underestimation of the complexity of plotlines and content in these books. The images in graphic novels not only provide a scaffold for potentially difficult text, but also engage and stimulate more able readers. They often introduce advanced vocabulary and demanding concepts. Graphic novels cater to students who have strengths in linguistic, spatial and interpersonal intelligence and are often used to engage boys in reading.

The author is a teacher librarian at a boys’ college in New South Wales who has experimented with using a graphic version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in two English classes. One of the classes consisted of lower-achieving English students and the other of more able students. Both classes read the traditional version of Macbeth first. When they subsequently read a graphic version, students in both classes were more engaged and showed a greater understanding of the language, relationships between characters and the characters’ emotional states. The teacher of the lower-achieving class commented that the graphic text promoted high-order thinking skills in the students and ‘showed them something of how Shakespeare can be viewed in the modern world’.

Graphic novels need to be recognised as promoting both critical and visual literacy with their multi-layered and often highly intricate plots. Some care needs to be taken in selecting graphic texts, since they may contain violent or inappropriate content. Teachers who are considering introducing graphic novels into their classrooms should first familiarise themselves with the genre.

Engaging with graphic novels

ASLA Biennial Conference 2007 – Hearts on Fire: Sharing the Passion
Alle Goldsworthy, Peter Moore

Graphic novels are books that tell a story through a sequence of panels of artwork, usually with supplementary text. Also known by the Japanese term ‘manga’, this genre is one of the fastest-growing in the publishing world. Graphic novels offer a unique opportunity to engage students in reading and interpreting texts. The complexity and relevance of these stories is being increasingly recognised, with new works such as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese winning unprecedented critical acclaim.

These books are versatile when used in the classroom. They are especially good at engaging visual learners, reluctant readers and students for whom English is a second language. Graphic novels from Asian countries are also an engaging way to approach studies of Asia. Students often particularly appreciate the chance to create their own graphics-based work after critically studying the form, context and character voices in one or more examples.

South Australian public libraries have been quick to realise the value of graphic novels and have increased their collections to match the popular demand. Teachers and teacher librarians are also beginning to appreciate the value of these novels and introduce them into school libraries and classrooms.

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