Tags: exemplary teachers, school libraries, technology and education
from Jane Hunter
In her 3rd posting on our 21st Century Learning blog, UWS academic Jane Hunter examines the way a teacher and school librarian collaborated in using blogED, the blog tool for schools developed by the NSW Department of Education and Training. Jane reports that 800 schools now regularly engage their staff and students in blogging.
School libraries play a significant role in building capacity for student learning in the 21st century. In several articles over the past year Lyn Hay, Colleen Foley, Cath Keane and Ross J. Todd have written comprehensively in the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) journal Scan about the changing focus of the library, often called an ‘information or resource centre’ in NSW and US schools. In my third post I would like to describe the work of one teacher-librarian and an early career teacher who ‘teamed up’ in the trial period of blogED to deliver some challenging technology-based English lessons to students at a south-western Sydney secondary school.
“For years I have been blogging with multiple hands on every resource – now everything in my practice is synergising. I don’t actually find my core content has shifted that much, still lessons on information literacy (and bibliographic record retrieval and analysis), narrative structure (text type and genre analysis), and collaboration with KLA teachers to deliver the specific syllabus outcomes they seek. I’ve always asked the students to have a workbook, I use the NSW Board of Studies ‘All My Own Work’ module by blending digital delivery with hardcopy – this has been a big winner”, said Vaughan Debenham, teacher-librarian at Bagnall Girls’ High School.
Vaughan used his experience to work with teachers at his school who were keen to learn more about blogging. Lizzie Page is a novice blog user. She teaches English and observed Vaughan use blogs with students in the school library. She watched him upload material to the media library, map backwards from the syllabus outcomes, and insert pictures as well as links to other blogs. Vaughan continued, “Lizzie came to the library a few times with questions of a technical kind, for example, formatting and moderating. I told her to log on and be my pioneer as I didn’t know it all but was willing to learn with her”. The idea of learning alongside a colleague, or as a ‘digital pair’, features in education literature on the challenges new media poses for teacher learning (Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Ito & Horst, 2008).
Lizzie believed the topic of non-fiction and media in the Year 8 English syllabus was an ideal vehicle to ‘test’ her blog pedagogy. The blog was titled “Non Fiction and Media: Visualisation of Human Interrelatedness”, and content was based on the documentary film “Baraka”. She said, “I chose a non verbal film; it’s very influential in its meaning without being didactic. I used stimulus posts on the blog containing multiple media resources including links to DET documentary resources, the “Baraka” website, the U2 video “Cedars of Lebanon” from YouTube, a jpeg of a DVD cover”.
In email feedback to Vaughan about her ‘first’ blog steps Lizzie stated, “it was exciting and gratifying to see some of the creative work the students completed. Having the blog meant every member of the class was able to view and critique each post. In this way the students became their own leaders and could forge new paths for learning whilst at the same time being challenged to think creatively, being aware of the many avenues to learning, to making, to designing”.
From a pedagogical perspective Lizzie argued that the blog gave her a medium to communicate with all of her students at once. This action and the immediacy of post responses to each student enhanced their ability to gain different perspectives and more interaction. The students believed this assisted clarification of the film’s meaning. It is the collaborative nature of blogging, in a supportive environment, that enables deep learning, engagement and reflection to take place (Kist, 2010; Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Todd, 2009). Lizzie said, “the establishment of a collaborative learning community was the biggest benefit for me and I expect this will only be enhanced with further immersion in the technology”.
The latest edition of Scan published this coming week contains the full text of this case study in an article (this post has used pseudonyms for the teacher names and school) which includes three other teacher stories, two (Kate and Mitchell) are featured on the SoE blog. Refer Hunter, J. & Corish, S. (2010) ‘blogED in the Connected Classrooms Program is for pedagogy and student learning’, Scan 29(3), pp. 6–11, at: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/schoollibraries/scan/content/index.htm
Since blogED was provisioned by the NSW Department of Education and Training in March 2010 more than 800 schools have jumped onboard, with 7,500 blogs created by teachers, highlighting 17,000 posts by teachers and 19,000 posts by their students (source: CCP Bulletin No 34, 23 July). For more information about blogED see:
References: Ito, M. & Horst, H. (2008). Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Berkley Press: University of California. Kist, W. (2010). The Socially Networked Classroom. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press. Mishra, P. & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record 108 (6), 1017-1054 (on-line at http://punya.educ.msu.edu/publications/journal_articles/mishra-koehler-tcr2006.pdf). Todd, R.J. (2009). Research columns two, 2009: School libraries and continuous improvement. Scan 28(3), 16-17, 26-31.
Jane Hunter is an academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.