For my last post of the unit I thought I would interview a teacher-librarian about her role as a teacher-librarian and the impact popular culture has on her role. Chris works in a small Catholic primary school on the east coast of Australia and the following is excerpts of this interesting and informative interview.
I would like to thank Chris for taking time out of her day to share her perspective with me on how popular culture plays a role in her practice as a teacher-librarian.
How long have you been a teacher-librarian?
Since 1975, my role has changed from one of a dual role of teacher of a class and teacher-librarian which I held for a number of years to one of being solely a teacher-librarian.
How has your role in terms of popular culture changed since you began your career?
There has been a huge change in the way the students are exposed to it. In 1975 there was TV and movies, we used a lot of film strips and videos and were able to involve a lot of media in teaching it is just that computers have brought in a whole new dimension into how you can do it and where. Popular culture has always had an influence and books have always been there in terms of what was popular at the time, over the years we have gone through the whole Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters and all those fad things that came in particularly in primary school that children were obsessed with and there were books about it and videos about it and then, as now, children are influenced by it in what they see and do in that space.
How does Popular culture influence your teaching?
It influences it in areas like a unit we did in which the children wrote their own novel and we made them into eBooks. This stemmed from a series of extreme adventure books by Justin D’Ath with the popular culture being the extreme sports. This was the basis of a whole lot of language work and reading development, the kids then wrote their novel and used their IPad to create a trailer for their book. They were very motivated to read the books because they were the extreme adventure theme and really out there and they (the kids) could be a part of creating something high speed like what they see on tv. So it comes into your teaching quite a bit to get kids started.
What do you see in the future in terms of technology?
In the area of technology and stuff available on the internet teacher-librarians are I think the linchpin in schools of developing programs with the teachers in that area because teacher-librarians sort of shift? start comes out of literature and information and information – Where is it now? It is online, so it puts teacher-librarians right in the forefront of working with technology in schools.
The whole information process is not just about locating information, but it is about analysing and organising information about evaluating websites, teaching children to know which is a good website to get my information from, and the presentation of information so it is necessary these days.
I think that the world and Popular culture has driven the need to present information in multimodal ways, not just write a paragraph about this, get a piece of cardboard and stick some pictures on it and do a poster. There are so many different ways now in the web 2.0 world to present your information a multiplicity of ways for children to discover those and use them for the presentation of their information. Because the popular culture has created a demand in kids for this action packed moving on make it different kind of need so for them to just do things in just a plain and traditional way is not motivating for them now.
So where do I see it going in the future? – bigger and better and more of all of that basically and getting into more than just even online stuff but designing and inventing things with their hands and the technologies as is coming out of all the strands coming out of the new technology curriculum which is approaching implementation in schools. And again teacher-librarians in that area are vital because the whole process is similar to the information process the problem solving, the designing the plans the construction the troubleshooting, the redesign and then you are starting to get into things like the 3D printing and all sorts of things for the future.
What forms of digital literacy do you see as lacking with students today? Do you have a main focus in the classes you teach in this area?
The big thing at the moment is cyber safety and living in an online world and because we have brought in the IPad in year 5, you now you have the world in your hands, part and parcel of that program is learning to use it appropriately and safely. We have just done a whole unit on online identity, how do you present yourself online, we have looked at case studies of people presenting themselves falsely – is that harmful or harmless? We have talked about all different situations of how that can be. Another unit we did was on digital footprint, to understand that what you put up there could stay for ever in terms of loading photos, what you say, how it can impact not just now but your future life. So I think that is the growth area and the most important teaching point we are taking on at the moment.
You have a Digital literacy blog you have put together is this related to what you have just spoken about?
The purpose of this blog is to give examples of how ICT can be embedded accross the curriculum in different areas, levels and subject types. The Digital literacy blog provides ideas for teachers in the school and for the world. I see the blog/online environment as a way to communicate your ideas and to prepare and present work. This allows children to work at their own pace, allows them to access it outside of school, a bit like the flipped classroom, if they have done certain things at home then back at school we can do the teaching about it. I am finding it the best thing that has ever happened in my teaching career.
Do you see something like Twitter being taken up by the school in the future for personal learning networks.
Not in the short term, I think we will go the blog track. If I was a secondary teacher I would look at that because Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are all brilliant teaching environments if you set them up and use them properly and what better way for kids and adolescents to learn how to live appropriately in those environments than actually using them. All those popular culture spaces like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, people live and use those now, our kid’s parents do that. Our school this year set up a school Facebook site which is I think brilliant, in terms of quick letting people know something, remind them that something is on tomorrow, people come to that spot to know that environment and to find information and so on and so that is really meeting the parent population where they are at because I think that most of the parents would be hooked up to that, so you are not only keeping the kids popular culture but the parents popular culture. As these things have come in, schools have responded to the technology that is there and started to use it to meet their community where the community is at.
Are there certain web based tools that are blocked by the school you see access to would benefit students? What are they? And how do you feel access to these would benefit students?
I have not found any that I want to use that are blocked, I do know that some schools block YouTube, I would never block YouTube because it is a wonderful resource, our policy is that we work by behaviour management rather than blocking, so with YouTube, we use that a lot the teachers use the resources frequently but we don’t have the children searching YouTube for a video, we would provide links and in fact we often embed them so that when the video finishes you don’t see all that other stuff that comes up.
If you could recommend one resource/app/website or other item which relates to popular culture to another teacher-librarian or teacher what would it be?
It would be Edublogs, Edublogs is what we base our whole blog environment on here, and I think it is the gateway to getting yourself online and living there, by living there as a teacher your planning is on there, your delivery is on there, for a child your portfolio is on there, your means of communication when that is appropriate is on there, so it sort of brings everything together.