Saturday, July 30, 2011

Criteria for Website Evaluation - Johnson and Lamb

Criteria for Evaluation by Larry Johnson and Annette Lamb

Students need to learn to evaluate the quality of information they find on the web as well as other information resources such as books, magazines, CD-ROM, and television. Ask students to be skeptical of everything they find. Encourage them to compare and contrast different information resources. Consider the following ideas:

Who says? Know the author.

■Who created this information and why?
■Do you recognize this author or their work?
■What knowledge or skills do they have in the area?
■Is he or she stating fact or opinion?
■What else has this author written?
■Does the author acknowledge other viewpoints and theories?

Is the information biased? Think about perspective.

■Is the information objective or subjective?
■Is it full of fact or opinion?
■Does it reflect bias? How?
■How does the sponsorship impact the perspective of the information?
■Are a balance of perspectives represented?
■Could the information be meant as humorous, a parody, or satire?

Is the information authentic? Know the source.

■Where does the information originate?
■Is the information from an established organization?
■Has the information been reviewed by others to insure accuracy?
■Is this a primary source or secondary source of information?
■Are original sources clear and documented?
■Is a bibliography provided citing the sources used?

Is this information accurate? Consider the origin of the information.

■Are the sources truth worthy? How do you know?
■Who is sponsoring this publication?
■Does the information come from a school, business, or company site?
■What's the purpose of the information resource: to inform, instruct, persuade, sell? Does this matter?
■What's their motive?

Is the information current? Consider the currency and timeliness of the information.

■Does the page provide information about timeliness such as specific dates of information?
■Does currency of information matter with your particular topic?
■How current are the sources or links?

Is the information helpful? Think about whether you need this information.

■Does the information contain the breadth and depth needed?
■Is the information written in a form that is useable (i.e. reading level, technical level)?
■Is the information in a form that is useful such as words, pictures, charts, sounds, or video?
■Do the facts contribute something new or add to your knowledge of the subject?
■Will this information be useful to your project?

Is this information worth the effort? Think about the organization and speed of information access.

■Is the information well-organized including a table of contents, index, menu, and other easy-to-follow tools for navigation?
■Is the information presented in a way that is easy to use (i.e., fonts, graphics, headings)?
■Is the information quick to access?


The Wikipedia debate


It is very interesting that the debate surrounding Wikipedia in educational circles is such a hot one. As the Colbert Report "reporting" on the concept of Wikiality. This is the next edition.

So the information on-line is fragile and susceptible to manipulation but is getting rid of WIkipedia the answer when it is the "go to" source for so many of our students? Peter Macinnis has made an interesting contribution to the debate and his answer to the calls from many to "get rid of Wikipedia" in which he says

" I think the answer has more to do with training people to accept that all sources can be wrong, faulty or biased, and need checking. Further, these large-scale information systems need a straightforward mechanism to allow moderators to be alerted to blunders. And there needs to be some way of ensuring that corrections flow to downstream sites. "Peter Macinnis from

Students are often going to use Google and Wikipedia as their first port of call - the starting point on their information searches. As teacher librarians it is imperative that we equip our students with the skills to use these sites in the most powerful and effective ways. Which includes skilling them with the ability to CRITICALLY evaluate the content of so many websites - including Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be powerful in giving students an extended vocabulary to take with them on further searches. The lower part of entries have links to many other sources - often other websites.

Wikipedia Front Page

So whilst students will click away to their hearts content - and if the information in front of them doesn't grab them within 10 to 15 seconds they have moved on, as teacher librarians we needs to give them the critical lenses to view all the online information they encounter so they can utilise the BEST ones for the purposes.

Howard Rheingold's Infotention - How to filter information for your needs

Kathy Schrock and the ABCs of Website Evaluation

Walled garden


As it apparently to anyone living in the 21st century grappling with the breakneck speed of technology, that the on-line world is becoming increasingly important. As an educator you cannot discount the on-line world, students will regard you as a dinosaur who refused to learn - so how can you be taken seriously as an educator if you aren't interested in learning.

With that premise as the foundation stone - Kathy Schrock's 2002 article "Teaching Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet - The ABC'S of Website Evaluation" is a good starting point in my investigation of what to consider when gathering the relevant website for the teaching and learning needs for those in my school.

As Schrock points out "students and teachers need to be able to critically evaluate Web pages for authenticity, applicability, authorship, bias and usability."

Both Brown (2oo2) and Schrock point out that there is no editing or publishing process for information on-line in order to weed out the "substandard information".

The acquisition of digital literacy skills is dependent upon the student's ability to find information, determine its usefulness and accuracy, and utilize it effectively.
Following is the 24(!) criteria :

  1. AUTHORITY - is the author a well-regarded name you recognise? Does the online document contain an biography and an email address? Are you led to additional information about the author?

  2. BIAS - is it clear what organization is sponsoring the page? Is there a link to the sponsoring organisation's website? Is the page actually an ad disguised as information?

  3. CITATIONS - Is there a bibliography which students can consult? Are the citations in full?

  4. DATES - does the site have the date when it was created and when it was last updated? Does it provide a date when the data was collected? (currency)

  5. EFFICIENCY - does the site take a long time to load? Will this create problems if a whole class is trying to access the site? Can it be used at all times with the same efficiency?

  6. FALLACY - Be sure that the students can see the "top" of the website- read the author's purpose and rationale for providing the information so it is not read out of context

  7. GRAPHICS - Do the graphics AID the students' understanding of the content? Do the graphics serve a clear purpose or are they just irrelevant additions?

  8. HANDICAPPED ACCESS - is it possible for visually impaired users to access the information on this site? Especially to "read" the graphics software?

  9. INFORMATION AVAILABILITY - do you have to pay for the information? Students should be aware of the costs involved in keeping information up-to-date.

  10. JERRY - BUILT - Is the site poorly built? Is unprofessional in that it contains spelling and grammatical errors?

  11. KNOWLEDGE - Schrock advises that students should have a working knowledge of the topics that they are browsing

  12. LINKS - Is the site's purpose to be comprehensive or a sampler, starting point or an overview? Are the links appropriate for the intended audience's purposes and needs? What does this site provide that no other site provides?

  13. MISINFORMATION - Can the content of the website be altered by anyone? Does the site contain mainly opinion or fact? Students need to be aware that there are many pranks and jokes on the Internet.

  14. NAVIGABILITY - Is the site easy to navigate? Are the links easy to identify? Are the links grouped logically? Is the content well organised? Does the site have a keyword search function?

  15. ONLINE RESEARCH MODELS -Does the site have models of how to research - does it help the student in the formation of their research question, search strategies and gathering of information?

  16. PERTINENT Is the information pertinent to the students' needs? - Students should also be able to learn how to evaluate whether the information they find is pertinent to their purpose.

  17. QUALITY OF INFORMATION - Students need to be aware of the sites that they use in the searches on topics - visit them regularly and see if the information is updated regularly.

  18. REQUIREMENTS - Does the site ask for students to be registered users? Does the site require it to be accessed through a specific Internet browser? Caution should be exercised if Yes is the answer to either question.

  19. SCHOLASTIC REVIEWS - Is the website reviewed by a professional periodical like SCAN? Has the site been given an award? Do other sites dealing with the topic provide links to this site? If answer is YES then it is more than likely a website of quality and useful for students' needs.

  20. THEORISTS - For example, Eisenberg and Bekowitz'sBig 6 - provides sound educational framework for research and seraching for information - get students to use a theory in helping them to assess the usefulness of the information they are finding.

  21. UNIQUENESS - the great advantage of websites is its ability to blend many different formats to aid students' learning

  22. VERIFIABLE -Can the information on the site be verified with a reputable print source? Does the site contain citations?

  23. THE FIVE Ws -Schrock has her five Ws for students to simply evaluate a web site (see below)

  24. LACK OF ORGANISATION - it is important to keep in mind that the Net is not run by one company, it lack organization and you cannot consistently navigate it - not can you search everything that is on the Net all at once.

Much of what Schrock has listed in her article is more things to consider rather than a clearly articulated set of criteria. She has obviously distilled these ideas into her FIVE Ws which is much more useful than the rambling above list!

WHO - Who wrote the pages and are they an expert? Is a biography of the author included? How can I find out more about the author?

WHAT - What does the author say is the purpose of the site? What else might the author have in mind for the site? What makes the site easy to use? What information is included and does the information differ from other sites?

WHEN- when was the site created? When was it last updated?

WHERE - Where does the information come from? Where can I look to find out more about the sponsor of the site?

WHY - Why is this information useful for my purpose? Why should I use this information? Why is this page better than another?


Brown, J. (2002). Why Evaluate Web Information.

Schrock, K. (2002)Teaching Media Literacy in the Age of the Internet - The ABCS of Website Evaluation

Science Fiction - what to read?

Science Fiction League..March 1958 ....The Real You .. (July 6, 2011 / 4 Tammuz 5771) ....

by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

I was sent a really interesting link from the Digital Citizenship group via about good Science Fiction reading suggestions - not really my preferred cup of earl grey but I need to keep in mind that fantasy and science fiction is a very much loved genre for my many reading students and I shouldn't discount it because it isn't what I normally turn to for a lovely reading indulgence.

Critical Evaluation of Print and e-Resources

Google search

Website evaluation is now part of the TL skill set; described by James Herring as a key activity or one of the core competencies for a TL - and that it is increasingly important that teachers and TLs become EXPERTS IN WEBSITE EVALUATION.

And as collaboration is such a fundamental part of the TL role this is an area in which sharing and working with colleagues is going to become more and more vital in order to positively influence the teaching and learning that occurs within the school setting.

Some things need to be kept in mind:

  • what are the learning needs of the students and what are the desired learning outcomes?

  • SPECIFICITY is key when it comes to the task of website evaluation

  • Website evaluation is highly dependent upon the given CONTEXT

  • TL need to focus on matching the learning needs of the students to what the websites can offer


James Herring in his books Improving Students' Web Use and Information Literacy - A guide for teachers and teacher librarians (2011) Facet Publishing : London. outlines THREE important areas for website criteria and it is important to remember that when looking at websites you need to look at ALL THREE AREAS - that a judgement needs to be base don the BALANCE of criteria in relation to a particular website.

  1. educational criteria - this is really the MOST IMPORTANT of all the criteria for the TL. Think about what is the purpose of the website? Is it for a student or a teacher resource? Within the class what is the range of reading levels? and comprehension levels? Does the site allow activities for student engagement and allow for differentiation? Can this site challenge students to extend themselves?

  2. reliability criteria - this is quite complex but is asking Is this site reliable? Do I trust this site? The needs of the students and teachers need to be kept in mind and what the key question is based on bias? Who is the author? Do I trust the author(s)? Is the content opinion based?

  3. technical criteria - this deals with how well designed the sites are? Many evaluation criteria stress the importance of technical aspects but it needs to be balanced in terms of the educational needs of the students - Are my students going to get lost in this site? Does the technical aspects of the site meet the education needs of some or all of the students?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why life-long learning is important.

Came across this on youtube today - a great message.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Encyclopedias in the Web 2.0 World

Despite the redundancy of the term ‘reference work’, there are some categories of material, both in digital and print form, which retain their nomenclature on the web and which can be used by students and staff in schools. Encyclopedias fall into this category. Many school libraries will still have printed versions of encyclopedias such as World Book Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Britannica, but the availability of online versions of these works means that it is increasingly unlikely that a TL will buy a set of encyclopedia volumes for the school library.

Online encyclopedias include a number of free encyclopaedias on the web including Encarta ( and there is a good list of free encyclopaedias at:
The newest free encyclopedia is Wikipedia ( but this is a controversial development as Wikipedia can be edited and updated by anyone. There are differing views on the value and, particularly, the accuracy of some of Wikipedia’s content. Wikipedia states that:

Wikipedia has been both praised and criticized for being open to editing by anyone. Critics claim that non-expert editing undermines quality, and that the project lacks authority … Rather than relying on the personal authority of credentialed experts, Wikipedia’s policies state that assertions should be supported by reliable, published sources – ideally, by anonymously peer reviewed publications.[5] Founder Jimmy Wales stresses that encyclopedias of any type are not usually appropriate as primary sources, and should not be relied upon as authoritative.(

On a recent blog, one commentator argued that:

What Wikipedia is, is an unimaginably broad repository of community-edited documents that is generally accurate on most matters. What it is not is the final word on a subject that bears the reputation of well-known editors or publishers behind it. Sure it would be nice if Wikipedia could also have the latter characteristics but it does not; if a reader assumes that it does, the fault likes with the reader, not with Wikipedia.(
ETL501 Module

What is your opinion of Wikipedia? Should TLs encourage students to use it with care or should they advise students against using Wikipedia? What is your experience of using Wikipedia in terms of its reliability and accuracy?

Wikipedia as Joyce Valenza says "shouldn't be demonised". It needs to be used as a learning tool - along with everything else on the web - so that students become web learners - rather than web users (as Herring states in his book - the textbook for this subject) Students and Internet browsers in general will find themselves in the "ubiquitous" domains of google and wikipedia. I read a very interesting article about how wikipedia searches are actually used.
Essentially it states that wikipedia is excellent for social and cultural references - which is what it is mainly used for by the majority of users.

So much of the discussion that takes place about the evils or otherwise of wikipedia amongst colleagues and acquaintances is in the realm of anecdotes - I suppose we have to wait for more research to catch up with practice.

When I taught "Wikipedia" to student in Year 12 Standard English for the HSC Module C - Global Village, we talked about the radical philosophy which underpins the site - which is very 21c - collaborative, dynamic, fluid AND certainly unsettling to digital immigrants. It is often criticised by those who have their hegemony challenged.

That being said, I did stress to students, as I was encouraged as a student pre-digital web 2.0 - to question everything. The temptation to just "accept as true" what appears on the screen is passive and dangerous. Students, in fact everyone, need to be critical. Ask if the opposite could be true - and if it can't then maybe it has veracity? But wikipedia CANNOT be the one stop shop that so many people use it as; ultimately the user needs to take responsibility of how they use the information they access. The user needs to verify from "other sources" in ensure that it is "definitely fact" or "definitely fiction". As many people find - it is a great place to start the learning journey - a good start for some background information to then move onto to other sources information. It can be utilised as a learning tool, as long as users are aware of its accuracy and reliability may not be as "stable" as other sources.


Reference Material

The world of school libraries and publishing has moved away from such concepts and, in terms of material on the web, the term ‘reference work’ is now as redundant as is the idea of ‘borrowing’.

James Herring contends that reference work is a now as redundant as is the idea of of "borrowing". On the surface this seems a somewhat provocative statement. I had students ask for the encyclopedias the other day. I must admit that I was surprised that they weren't using on-line sources to find the information. I had dismantled the stack that used to contain all the reference books and shifted the majority of them so that they were "inter-shelved". Atlases, dictionaries and a couple of sets of encyclopedias all got their own trolley. I felt somewhat vindicated when the students wheeled the encyclopedias over to the desks they were working at. I had the idea of taking "the mountain to Mohamed" and it actually worked. Yay for me!

should we abandon the idea of ‘reference material’ altogether? Or should the term be kept only for non-borrowable print resources in the library?

I suppose I am conservative by nature, and I do struggle with the concept of abandoning the idea of "reference material" altogether. If we had a black out - the students could still find information with the print resources. And for some inexplicable reason, these students wanted the print version. That being said, I am reluctant to spend the precious and limited library budget on replacing the ever 'out-dated' reference books. One particularly pushy World Book seller would love to see me fork out nearly nearly half of my budget on the "latest" versions of these American-centric publications. Don't get me wrong, they have their place, but I think it might now be becoming a place in the basket of "diminishing returns".

So the term non-borrowable print resources does seem to be more specific and relevant to what is the purpose of the these materials. However, the concept of referring to something - using a reference book - is an important concept which could somehow get lost if you more to what feels like a more politically correct term. Even though it isn't really politically correct - it is just trying to be more clear and descriptive of the practice in the library. So again, I am seem to be erring on the side of keeping the term "reference material". Or should I get with the program?

Now if you take the idea that a reference material should one in which the information should be found quickly - often the beauty of these books before the Internet- a good one stop shop, alphabetised source which could give you clear, succinct information on a topic.
According to wikipedia A reference work is a compendium of information, usually of a specific type, compiled for ease of reference. That is, the information is intended to be quickly found when needed.

And that is EXACTLY what looking up wikipedia does - in a nanosecond - compared to hauling a book off the shelf, turning pages, working out the alphabetical system and finding correct page. There is no hyperlinks to related articles which take you STRAIGHT THERE. Instead you might have to haul another heavy tome off the shelf and go through the same "laborious" process. I know which method the students prefer. And I would too if I was time poor or stressed out by so many assignments. But calling these materials the "non-borrowable print resources" may make the concept of citing, attributing and "referencing sources" that little bit harder. I think that the 21c learner can cope with the "old" and the "new" quite easily. I understand that the accepted practice is so entirely different from that of last centuries, but I don't think the art of look up reference books should be lost.

Students should be aware that before wikipedia - this is what an encyclopedia looked like. And the differences - print was inflexible, finite, out of date as soon as it was printed, authoritative writers usually academics and peer reviewed in some cases. In comparison the on-line 21c web 2.0 iteration of the encyclopedia is flexible, infinite, collaborative, constantly updating, everyone contributes their expertise - but can be vandalised and at times not as authoritative.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Model for Managing an excellent school

Beare, H., Caldwell, B. J., & Millikan, R. H. (1989). A model for managing an excellent school. In Creating an excellent school : some new management techniques. (pp. 125-150). London : Routledge.

This article is over twenty years old, and establishes itself with the purpose of creating a model of Managing an excellent school. A worthy intent. It outlines that leadership is required, policies need to be formulated, priorities set, plans made, resources allocated along with "systematic appraisal of the programme". p 125. All fundamental requirements which seem very hard to argue against. So if twenty years ago Beare et. al. were earnestly writing about school improvement and excellence - why is that this still isn't being achieved in every school?

Perhaps the previous reading by Bennett (2001) suggests that there are essential aspects of the paradigm which are being overlooked - structures, culture and power.

21c educators would agree that any organisation or learning community needs to be founded upon the sharing of the same values or mission. This why school formulate values statements and policies are crucial to establishing and articulating the clear purpose and values that each member of the organisation holds in order to achieve the purpose the organisation was created to do. In schools' case - that is to educate the students in the care.

The aim of collaborative decision making is a noble and worthy one - which in reality gets hi-jacked by external factors of legislation and being in a sector which is impacted upon by so many government decisions and electoral cycles. The pace of change for those working in educator is increasing and the lack of funding is almost now a given, with the accountability of each role with the sector ratcheting up daily - or least that is what it feels like. As much as everyone working within a learning community would love to partake in collaborative decision making - it very rarely becomes a reality. Schools function in a manner which runs counter to the giving of individual teachers the "responsibility and authority in determining the exact means by which the address the problem of increasing academic performance." (p. 126) This does not and cannot happen because of the multitude of structures and cultures in place which prevent it. If teacher says I would like to spend a whole term focusing on blah - the curriculum and external examination intervene, the over crowded curriculum and the time poor practitioners are going to say - it can't be done.

Grant Beare et. al suggest that for the five factors they have identified for managing an excellent school

  1. purposing

  2. values

  3. school-site management and collaborative decision-making

  4. leadership density

  5. institutionalising the vision

then MANAGEMENT OF CHANGE will need to occur. DERRRR! So how do you ensure that they change that you want to institute is going to be successful??? These are generally described as "school improvement", "school effectiveness" or "teacher effectiveness".

Four preconditions are written in red, the rest are factors

  1. leadership

  2. school autonomy

  3. staff cohesiveness

  4. good programme / fit

  5. power-sharing - tend occur after major decisions about programmes but critical for success

  6. rewards for staff - empowerment of staff was important

  7. visions

  8. control over staffing

  9. control over resources

  10. staff willingness/initiative

  11. evolutionary programme development - or "a strong bias towards steady adaptation"

  12. external networks - both internal and external networks meant needs of the school could be met, sustained working towards success.

  13. coping - with problems 'was important if implementation was to be successful"

  14. 'good implementation'

  15. institutionalisation

  16. organisational change

Beare recommend the Collaborative School Management Cycle of Caldwell and Spinks (1988). The cycle has six phases (see pp 133 - 135)

  • goal-setting and needs identification

  • policy-making, with policies consisting of statements of purpose and broad guidelines

  • planning of programmes

  • preparation and approval of programme budgets

  • implementing

  • evaluating
In the Collaborative School Management Cycle the policy group looks after

  • goal-setting and needs identification

  • Policy-making - purpose and broad guidelines

  • approval of budgets

  • evaluating (shared with programme teams)

the programme teams looks after

  • planning of programmes

  • preparation of budgets

  • implementing of programmes

  • evaluating (shared with policy group)

Beare feel that a "feature of the model which provides for power-sharing with a "critical mass" of actively engaged people and "leadership density". ... The model thus affords a framework wherein a school can exercise control over the allocation of resources, subject to the limits of school autonomy." p 135.

It was found through studies conducted in Tasmania and South Australia that "highly effective schools ... had adopted approaches to resource allocation which involved a clearly identifiable and systematic approach to matching resources to educational goals and students needs, with opportunities for staff and often community involvement in the process." p. 136

Beare et. al. place heavy emphasis upon the need for "vision for excellence" within the examples of excellent school and that this vision rests in the principal in most cases. That the principal can be solely responsible for the excellence of a school is probably true in some cases, and the importance of leadership cannot be understated in this cases. But to diminish the contributions of everyone else within the learning community is somewhat harsh. And it would lead to what Bennett would describe as "alienative compliance" in the worst cases (those particularly resistant and resentful) or instrumental compliance (those who are only doing it because they have to, they might agree that it is correct!) where as the leadership should be aiming for cognitive compliance which rises out of commitment to the changes that are being implemented. "Accomplishing ...change of attitude is the essence of transforming leadership and the hallmark of excellence" p. 137 Which according to Beare et. al. can be achieved through 'use of rewards, choice of language and careful attention to design of activities such as school ceremonies" Whilst all this is built upon an commonly held philosophy. In my experience, the commonly held philosophy is tacitly agreed upon but very rarely debated and enunciated to the point where everyone agrees. Possibly this is where school run into difficulty of creating the change to achieve the vision - everyone's idea of the the vision and how to achieve is different - meaning that people are rarely pulling together in the same direction.

Beare et. al. posit that goals need to reflect the vision and philosophy of the learning community AND everyone is the committed to these goals. An important aspect is identification of needs - this is where there is a shortfall in desired outcomes or resources to achieve those desired outcomes. "The discrepancy between what is and what ought to be." p 139. Once those needs have been identified then this feeds into setting of priorities.

Once the need has been identified then policy-making can be instituted where the policy acts as a statement of purpose or can be guidelines on how the purpose can be achieved. p 139

Simple policy documentation can take place when the non-contentious issue (there exists general satisfaction with current practice) with an agreed format - normally no longer than one A4 page - describing the guideline, free of jargon.

More complex policy documentation takes place when contentious issues need to have clear guidelines and agreed upon practices implemented. This should be developed through the working party (a representative body of those stakeholders and those with expertise in the area). The desired outcome is consensus on a policy which is both desirable and feasible. p. 140

Once policies are in place, priorities set, then PLANNING can start (corporate, strategic, programme, curriculum, instructional etc) - which is a continuous process which links goal-setting, policy-making, short and long term planning, budgeting and evaluation. p 140

  • corporate planning - often for three years, whole school in nature, strategies for achieving the desired outcomes and priority to be assigned to each initiative

  • strategic planning - an aspect of corporate planning - involves assessment of needs, identification of desired outcomes and assignment of priorities

  • programme and curriculum and instructional - specialised planning involved often with external factors which dictate changes to be incorporated - for example, the implementation of the national curriculum and its impact on the classroom programme and curriculum offered at the school

  • programme planning - how a programme is to be implemented

  • curriculum planning - detailed specification of intended learning experiences

  • instructional planning - how the individual classroom teacher will carry out the programme and curriculum requirements.

Beare points out that planning present many opportunities for empowerment of staff and "leadership density". p. 144

Budgeting is of course an important part of the model for managing an excellent school but it does often feel that for the individual working at the coal face - from the principal down ,there is little influence that can be made in terms of the budget. Increasing educational needs of students have to be met with seemingly ever-decreasing pots of money - or pots of money which have strings attached. This obviously only increases the importance of planning the use of the monies in a school to best meet the identified needs and ensure that each student receives the best bang for the educational buck that is allocated to them by external parties - IE the government if you are in a state school.

Evaluation is not a discrete activity carried out in isolation from other phases of management. p 148. Evaluation can be done regularly, annually or in three - five year cycles - but an appropriate time-framed cycle for the type of evaluating being undertaken needs to be instituted. Depending on the extent of the evaluation - a unit of work - a single to couple of teachers, to major evaluation - needs to be have representative group associated with the process including members of the policy group.

All very straightfoward, very noble and worthy and all happening in schools to a large extent - but models are fine in theory. What happens when you try to put them into practice - you come up against individuals who can wield their personal power to either help or hinder the process of managing change to achieve the goal of an excellent school. What this article and model doesn't really take into account is what Bennett discusses in his article -and there is too much reliance on the leadership from the mangagement of the school being able to garner the support and commitment from the rest of the school staff to achieve the changes needed. Too much of a wing and prayer for my liking. Beare et. al. say that the model should be consistent with "outstanding leadership" - what happens if the "outstanding leadership" isn't there. And yet power-sharing is a key component of the model they put forward - it seems counter-intutitive to place so much importance on the leadership of the principal yet want to have the horizontal organizational power-sharing structure to achieve the goals.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bennett (2001) Organisational Theory - Part II


Bennett outlines four main structural aspects in an organization:

  1. physical structures

  2. work structures

  3. task structures

  4. impact of external factors on structures

PHYSICAL STRUCTURES - are "deliberately constructed to organise what work is done and how it is done" p 104 - Libraries maybe open planned and therefore the structuring of the work carried in them will be impacted by the physical building.

WORK STRUCTURES - "... influence the way that organizational members do their work and the colleagues with whom they have to interact on a formal, work-related, non-social basis." p. 104 In schools this applies to students and staff alike. Roll Call or pastoral care system maybe organized horizontally or vertically, dictating what year groups or cohort interact, when and how.

TASK STRUCTURES - "... relates to the responsibilities that individuals discharge and the tasks they carry out." Job descriptions are a good example of how tasks are structured within an organization. JOB DESCRIPTIONS define responsibilities and tasks and managerial accountability, organizational charts demonstrates the inter-relationship of the jobs and tasks within an organization. Job descriptions can be proscriptive - strict procedures, rules and protocols outlines within them - which can kill off dynamism and become inflexible or rigid. Inherent value of the particular task/job is outline with the monetary reward for the job within the organization. (VALUE) - Bennett then flirts with the debate over performance-based pay for teachers - again something that I am not a fan of - it didn't in the cases I saw in England - philosophical sound, very hard to make practicable.


Legal, (OH&S, Child Protection) for example provide formal constraints with which organizations such as school need to comply.

Legislative - Teaching awards - pay scales, accreditation etc NAPLAN, HSC and SC external examinations etc.

"Organizational structures only start to have any meaning when they relate to individual actions." p. 106 ... the significance of organizational structure for organizational members lies in the ways in which they define their relations with colleagues and the arenas within which they are able to make decisions"

"Structures, then, both create and are created by power relationship. They are dynamic: simultaneously static and fluid, fixed and changing." (p. 107)

The concept of POWER. Bennett takes it to be dependent on two things:

  1. how central the individual is to the issue under consideration and the decision that has to be taken

  2. the extent to which the structure allow the freedom to decide how to act in response (discretion)

What do individuals bring to the situation?

  • cognitive knowledge - possible actions which could be taken

  • an affective valuation of the situation - judgement

  • 'cathectic sense of how we ourselves related to the situation - our role

  • directive sense of being required to make a decision - what to do?

Young (1981) calls this our "assumptive world" - an active and continuous process - which is yet just another dynamic piece of the organizational puzzle.


What is organizational culture? "the way we do things around here", "shared values and norms", "the way an organization solves problems and achieves goals and maintains itself".

Schein (1992) includes within an organization's culture what members believe their work involves and requires and the consequent organizational decisions that result both structural and physical.

All this is quite pertinent to the role of the TL. How the TL perceives their role within the learning community will of course impact on the physical structuring of the library and the manner in which work and task structures are responded to under or within the constraints of the external factors.

Culture as distinctive rather than integrative - Bennett believes that the culture of an organization CAN be the distinguishing factor, as it is unique. Its advantages is that it can give more room for variation and allows members of the organization to "buffer" themselves against influences which they they disapprove - in education, especially the public system, this is more often than not external factors. (page 108)


The norms and rules which dictate those who work within the education sector are partly derived from, according to Bennett, "the concept of the work in which the organization is engaged." So to many within and without the learning community - the core business is clear - to improve the students' educational achievements. This understandings begins in the outside community - is often scrutinised quite closely and definitely held accountable by the various stakeholders, parents, public and politicians. Culture of any organization is therefore a CONSTRUCT, made by internal and external factors. Structures and cultures for any organization can deliver FREEDOM or CONSTRAINTS. Structures create the paradigm of Freedom or Constraint - the individual with react to those freedoms or constraints THEREBY creating the CULTURE.

WHERE DO THE EXPECTATIONS THAT DEFINE LEGITIMATE ACTION COME FROM AND HOW DO THEY BECOME APART OF THE ASSUMPTIVE WORLDS OF EACH ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBER? These need to be answered in order for any real progress to be made in the area of school effectiveness research or school improvement. Bennett contends that it isn't happening as the fundamental premise of the research being undertaken.


Hegemony (Gramsci 1971 and Lukes 1974) as a concept rests on the idea that domination and control rest simultaneously on both coercion and consent. Or "the active consent of dominated groups" (Clegg 1989) which needs to be "generated and sustained." p. 109 Organizations which are significant in "generating this active consent" are the Church, schools, trade unions and mass media. p. 109.

Disciplinary power (Foucault 1977) "emphasizes the way in which state apparatuses are at work to control not just how individuals act but how they think" p. 110 which has been developed through "techniques of surveillance" where the power is "derived ... in the potential to observe, and thence, to discipline and punish misbehaviour." Clegg (1989) uses religious rules and systems to illustrate the ways in which norms and rituals become part and parcel of the manner in which "disciplinary power is exercised". Importantly, Foucault's view of power is that "it does not see power as negative", relating power to view of self-discipline, where structures and cultures can be empowering for an individual, in order for them to be productive.

Burrell (1998) says that "power resides in a network of interconnected relationships." So for Bennett "It is through the day-to-day working out of these 'minute and diffuse power relations' that our organizational members' assumptive worlds are formed and influenced." p. 111 To continue Bennett's rather glass half full analysis of Foucault and discipline - personal power can be perceived as something that a member of an organization can wield in every aspect of their day-to-day job. It is obviously dependent on many factors but to see oneself as having power to exert influence, no matter how small must feel much more positive then feeling like a beast of burden being exploited by THE MAN on a daily basis.


Bennett sees structures operating through relationships and if relationally, within any organization "minute and diffuse power relations exist" then power connects to organizational cultural as a given. Or logically. There does, however, need to be an explanation of the establishing and maintenance of the values and norms of the organization. Schein (1992) the values and norms are initially derived from the founder. As Bennett points out "these views of culture creation and maintenance as a deliberate activity invest particular individuals with a great deal of power to direct the actions and behaviours of others."p. 111

Bennett (2001) Organisational Theory

Bennett, N. (2001). Power, structure and culture : an organizational view of school effectiveness and school improvement. In Harris & N. Bennett (Eds.), School effectiveness and school improvement : alternative perspectives (pp.98-112). London : Continuum.

Bennett's basic premise for this chapter is that organizational theory can provide insights for schools and the ways in which to improve themselves, but this is often overlooked. The process of school improvement is often seen in terms of change of culture and then the problems will be fixed. Whereas the fundamental aspect - that schools are by the very nature organisations is overlooked and the academic fields writing on school improvementand organisational theory very rarely coincide and tend to be separate fields of endeavour. Bennett suggests that there needs to be a sharper focus on seeing connections between the two fields.

Just as with the attempt to nail down a definition of information literacy, it seems that the academics have "no clearly agreed view of what an organization is, nor how it should be analyzed". p.99. Given this claim, is it any wonder that the school improvement camp haven't really want to get into bed with the organizational theory mob!

Scott (1987) has three basic organizational systems identified:

  1. Rational systems - characterized by "highly formalised social structure"

  2. Natural systems - characterized by the "sharing of a common goal'

  3. Open systems - characterized by being "strongly influence by their environment", negotiated goals and/or coalition or interdependence with inputs - process - outputs model

According to Bennett "the school effectiveness movement rests on a rational open systems model". p 99

Bennett posits that "this makes it easy to see the process of educational activity as one of "adding value" to the "raw material" of the input". Possibly statements like these are the very reason why the two branches of research rarely intersect - for those with the effectiveness of educational organizations at the core of their vocation - this is an odious goal. Working in England during the early 2000s has given me a healthy aversion to the educational application of statements such valuing adding. Having students in your class AND the pay bonuses your receive at the end of the academic year dependent upon statistical analysis (solely upon this in the case of the pay bonus) was anathema to why I become a teacher. And yes Bennett wrote this in 2001 and talks about the debate over the "fairness of government league tables". The Daily Telegraph readers in the UK might think that league tables for schools is a good thing - try working in a school that is under OFSTED special measures or in a school that has an OFSTED report which suggests that if you value your child's life and education you want NEVER contemplate sending them to that school. As a teacher working under those perceptions it makes the primary focus of improvement the educational outcomes of your students nigh on impossible some days. My three years working the UK state school system was an eye opener and it is sad to see that Australia hasn't learnt from the mistakes of the Blair/Gordon government.

Removing emotion from the examination of schools as organizations - you can see why the RATIONAL OPEN SYSTEM is the model that the school effectiveness movement have hit open. The basic attributes of schools are:

  • schools' raw material - the students they receive each academic year

  • possesses a formalized social structure - for both staff and students this can be quite rigid

  • emphasis on a limited set of measurable outputs - NAPLAN, School Certificate and HSC results - school reports feed into this as well

  • lack of emphasis on process-related issues

Bennett outlines that with the OPEN SYSTEMS view of schools and colleges - analysis of the learning community to ascertain where improvement can be made may need to

  • stress a process as much as a product (TEACHING AND LEARNING)

  • stress the interdependence of different parts of the organization (structure) which can be fluid and dynamic (FLEXIBILITY, COLLABORATION)

  • stress the interdependence of organizations (WORKING WITHIN BROADER SYSTEMS AND CONTEXT)

  • stress the need to keep the organization in a "reasonably stable condition" (HARD UNDER CERTAIN POLITICAL CLIMATES???!!!)

  • stress the importance of each part of the organization is kept informed of what is going on elsewhere that might affect its work (COMMUNICATION)

  • see that organizations should be seen as STATIC forms but as DYNAMIC PROCESSES.

  • see the organization as being possessed of members rather than tasks - more organic in which members see the organization as having the capacity to adapt and grow in relation to its environment

Bennett demonstrate that if writers focus upon RATIONAL/TECHNICIST view of organizations emphasis the following:

  • detailed task specification

  • routinized work

  • uniform procedures and consistency

  • see management as oversight - ensuring that routines are correctly adhere to and procedures (not processes) are followed

  • quality control rather than quality assurance

  • see the organization as being possessed of tasks rather than members - in which members of the organization see change being instituted by management decisions (an activity rather than a collaborative process)

Bennett suggests that despite which view of organizational theory you follow there are "certain basic propositions about organizations that would probably gain widespread acceptance " p 101 Organizations:

  • have members;

  • have a purpose, which gives rise to both the core tasks of the organization and the technology or technologies through which it is carried out;

  • have to acquire and retain resources;

  • required some sort of structure through which to ensure that the tasks are carried out and the purpose met.

  • are both identifiably similar and different - something makes one distinguishable from another.


Fundamentally - members ARE the organization.

School could be classified as "total organizations" (those which key members had not choice over membership or right to leave). Certainly in the climate of the raised school leaving age - with the "captured" students who are trapped at school until they are 17 - would certainly argue that schools are "total organisations".

Membership to the organization can often be enunciated through rules and regulations to which the members have to adhere. In schools these are articulated in very tangible ways for both students and staff - code of conduct is oft cited in New South Wales Department of Education school and just watch for the eye rolling when you bring up the subject of school rules - classroom, playground, uniform or otherwise with students.

Rules and regs can take the form of:

  1. informal norms

  2. informal expectations

  3. officially sanctioned norms and expectations

  4. whole organization (universal)

  5. limited to specific tasks or areas of work


"Schein (1992) points out that organizations are artefact's: human creations, not naturally occurring phenomena" p 102 "In addition, organization purposes, tasks and technologies may be influenced, if not indeed defined, by agencies external to the organization itself."p.102 Anyone working in modern educational systems would resonate with that statement. Education is a political hot button issue which invariably becomes a foundational plank in any political party's mandate to be elected. Policy initiatives are then required to be undertaken by school, which often rarely gets a say in the agenda setting process.

Also - "schools are widely recognizable within and indeed across societies and those that do not conform to those wider institutional norms come under enormous pressure to do so." p. 102 - being a political football is another side issue!


"... often understood as either financial resources or as "raw material" to be processed. ...range of expertise that can be purchased within the financial resources that are obtained. .... include members ..." p.102

Looking are resources from a dispassionate angle, they can be costly or cheap (depending on availability), skills, knowledge and expertise are all resources which can be financially acquired, used effectively and efficiently OR NOT depending on the output of the organisation.


tasks = fulfilling the purposes of the organization

structure = created to exploit its resources so as to deliver the activities involved in fulfilling its purposes

"Structures imply that tasks and responsibilities are allocated and that resources reach the right place at the right time" p. 103

Structures all mean members are influenced or directed, and ACCOUNTABILITY.

"Mechanistic views of organizations see structures as fixed, static entities that only change as a result of specific decisions by those who control them" p. 103

"Organic views see structures as capable of developing in an almost living way." p. 103

Bennett remind us that "structures only function because of the actions of the organizational members who work they shape. Membership can change and with it the ways in which the structure operate. Purposes can change, as can what is externally defined as legitimate, and these can affect the structuring of the core task. Technologies available to members in discharging those core tasks can also develop, placing structures under pressure."

So how does this relate to being a TL in a school. A TL can be central to the teaching and learning context if the structures within the school allow it be so, the members of the school (students and teaching staff) see as a place in which teaching and learning can take place. If membership changes - new year group needs to be enculturated into the ways of the library, and new staff need to see that the library and TL are important and helpful in their core purpose. Purpose can change - the principal may determine new roles for the TL or cut the library program altogether (it happened in LA!) and of course, the ever-changing technologies all impact on the organization structure of schools and libraries - as TLs we need to adapt the structures to the new technologies - easier said than done. As Bennett contends "Structures, then, should be seen as dynamic entities, even when there is no change apparently taking place." p 103.

Monday, July 11, 2011

ETL504 - TL as Leader

Donham, J. (2005). Leadership. In Enhancing teaching and learning : a leadership guide for
school library media specialists (2nd ed.) (pp. 295-305). New York : Neal-Schuman

First reading

Donham's chapter deals with the concept of leadership for TLs.

Bennis (1999) outlines a set of traits for successful leaders in business:
  1. technical competence
  2. conceptual skill
  3. people skills
  4. judgement
  5. character

Covey (1990) talks about leadership involving the "circle of influence defining around those things that a person can control". "Leaders act from an internal locus of control" page 296 In a lot of ways it is the perspective and attitude brought to the role of TL which can see an individual fulfil the leadership potential of the role in any school or not. As Gandhi would suggest - be the change you want to see. The concept of being one who has a external or internal locus

Hartzell (2000) discusses the importance of being proactive. "Hartzell suggests that proactive people look for change opportunities, they anticipate and prevent problems, they take action and tend to persevere (page 297)" A positive attitude, looking within to see what the individual can bring to the external factors in order to make the change for the better the leader wishes to see.

Collins (2000) - Good to Great - has two bits of advice which Donham thinks are important:

  1. understand what you can and cannot be best at.
  2. pursue what you are deeply passionate about.

"A library media specialist (TL) who intends to take a leadership role must exhibit a set of critical skills and understandings that being with a vision" (page 298)

What is needed for VISION?

Fullan (1996) suggests three attributes for a sound vision:

  1. "sharedness" - the degree to which it is shared
  2. "concreteness" - the degree to which people have some concrete image of what it will look like
  3. "clarity" - the degree to what people are skilled in carrying it out.

Which then require people skills

  • collaborative skills
  • effective communication skills
  • listen actively
  • negotiate
  • earn the professional confidence of colleagues

And technical skills

  • ability to organise information sources effectively
  • to use information efficiently

Donham makes the important point that 'having influence requires establishing one's expertise, working collegially with others, articulating one's ideas clearly, maintaining a good "say-do" ration (one does what one says one will do) and establishing processes for continuous reflection and assessment. (page 300)."

The pertinent factors in gaining influence necessary for leadership require separating out.

1. EXPERTISE - with the ever-changing nature of the TL's role and the context within which TLs are working it is necessary to undertake continuous professional development - to have the finger on the educational and information technical pulse - or as Covey describes it "sharpening the saw" - If as TL you aspire to being a leader then you should be "always looking for learning opportunities to expand and update (your) expertise" p. 300

2. WORKING COLLEGIALLY - these people skills are at the heart of the leadership function of a good TL - it is so easy to remain cossetted in a wonderfully rarefied world of the library - living like a dragon in your cave, protecting the books and devouring small children who annoy you -but this does not ensure that the library is a place when knowledge is created and teaching/learning is the core function of its existence. If as TL you aspire to being a leader then you should be "modelling best practice with technology or initiating conversations about new resources, .... to bring (your) special expertise to bear on curriculum and instruction." page 300


4. "SAY-DO" RATIO NEEDS TO BE HIGH - follow through and be accountable

5. REFLECTION AND SELF-ASSESSMENT - undertake systematic reviews and continually seek to improve, value feedback.

Donham describes this as leading from the middle. TLs as in the unique position in many schools to be able to work with all teachers and students and can offer a holistic appraisal


  1. anticipating what needs to happen (VISION AND PROACTIVE - easily perceived vision and clearly communicated)
  2. devising a plan to set the course of action (ACTION PLANNING)
  3. organising resources to carry out the plan for success.
  4. assessing progress (BENCHMARKS AND OUTCOMES)
  5. readiness to seize opportunities as they arise (OPPORTUNISM - able to define and utilise a critical moment - or STRATEGIC MINDSET)

Reeves (2002) defines strategic leadership as the simultaneous act of executing, evaluating, and reformulating strategies, and focusing organizational energy and resources on the most effective strategies.

Part of leadership - is the communication of the common purpose and the role the TL and the library plays within this - needs to be articulated. The importance of policy documents and mission statements cannot be underestimated. "the mission statement will provide a focus for developing the goals and objectives of the program. Again, these goals must then align with the school's mission and goals in order to connect the library program with its constituency." (page 302)

And what about the call for the strategic mindset - IF AS A TL YOU ASPIRE TO BE A LEADER THEN YOU SHOULD

  • be active in committees,
  • be active in task forces
  • be active in brainstorming sessions
  • be active in leadership teams
  • be active in whatever forms idea-generating groups take within the school.


This should not be overlooked and should be considered fundamental to professional practice. Effective leaders reflect periodically on progress made and goals yet to be met." page 303.

Three questions to ask

  • what will I do differently from what I did last year/time?
  • what will I stop doing that I did last year/time?
  • how and when will I know that I am making progress?

Donham recommends journal ling - on-line blog such as this - to help in the all important reflection. Along journalling he also suggest mentoring as a good way to show and develop leadership within the profession.


  • Identify you special expertise
  • Develop your skills in other areas as required
  • Increase the visibility of the library program with a homepage
  • Have a vision and mission statement on the homepage
  • Ensure a link from the school's home page to the library's homepage
  • Volunteer on committees

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Information Age and its ecology

When you consider the context of the modern information age the startling facet of this era is the rapidity within which information and news can be transacted. Ever changing landscapes and factors have always something societies have dealt with, yet it is the pace of the change which seems to be at warped speed. What does this mean for those who are trying manage libraries!!
Winzenried writes of the context as being 'a world that has taken change as a constant and embraced a series of technologies that are forever minimising the distances between people otherwise separated by thousands of kilometres and across all manner of cultural divides.' p 6 (Visionary leaders for information. Welcome to the global village.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE FOR A MANAGER IN A MODERN LIBRARY TO 'ORGANISE' MATERIALS IN A WAY THAT IS SUITABLE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE CONSTANTLY OPERATING INDEPENDENTLY? This requires a complete rethink of librarians as managers - their scope and function. How do you organise the movable feast? And in a world in which resources are limited "each and every meeting, decision, agreement that is made demands a cost'. Do libraries have a future, if an individual can many of the functions that a library and librarian carries out (with a great deal of expense) independently and at a fraction of the cost!!????
What is the core business of libraries? Winzenried would argue that is "knowledge creation" but in the economic rationalist era where accountability reigns, you need to demonstrate this knowledge creation with actual KPIs or some other form of evidence. Just to say that a person is learning is not enough - nor should it be. But does a librarian apply a business model to their role as manager??? It seems somewhat counter to the core business of what a library and other educational institutions do - As Winzenried points out "Education in all its aspects has the intangible product of changing minds of humans- of making a difference, of growing knowledge' And while that might leave you with a nice warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that you are pursuing a noble profession - it does not ensure that the budgets aren't going to be cut - that you might be seen as an unaffordable luxury in an age of limited resources and infinite access to information - cut out the middle man and let the individual create their own knowledge.
Moral purpose - you can have the moral high ground to underpin your argument but there needs to be more than this to support the argument. Any business does need to clearly understand and articulate what the core values they operate upon. For those managing information it is simple and clear - whilst information and knowledge creation might be intangible - it is an essential daily activity.
The current context of the information age - described by some as digital anarchy (which seems to be somewhat melodramatic) is often seen as the solution to the problem of what to do with libraries and librarians - the information age with all its technological wizardry will be able to provide all the information for knowledge creation - making libraries and librarians obsolete - which is convenient because they are resource intensive.
"Information provision needs to be firmly based around a defined purpose and it needs to consider the individual in a special way." p 8
George W. Bush would agree that you might have the moral imperative but you need a road map - so whilst the information might be out there for all to use - a CLEAR PLAN in the manner in which it is to be used is ESSENTIAL. And with this clear plan it needs to be RESPONSIVE to the needs of the clients - so in a high school, the changing needs of the students whether it be the introduction of the national curriculum or the latest new social networking craze or web 2.0 tool to help them engage, share, create and understand - and this is predicated on RELATIONSHIPS. "If information management is to be truly client responsive then there needs to be a close relationship between manager and client.' Which is supported by much of the pedagogical writings of the past ten years which stress that at the core of all good teaching and learning is the relationship. Relational aspects of knowledge creation is highly valued by the current generation and should be valued by the managers of information provision now.
And the last part of the equation is PRODUCT FOCUS - ensuring that your customers are happy and satisfied with the service they are getting "making that data so useful to the client that they can use the material in a way that makes a difference to their lives' page 9
  1. moral purpose
  2. clear plan
  3. responsive to client needs
  4. built on relationships
  5. clear focus on product delivery

So ultimately "there does need to be a personal dimension and the library remains the most well-positioned vehicle for this." page 10

What this means for the high school setting is that the TL needs to firmly establish relationships with all students, and not just the frequent fliers who come into the library on a daily basis. The playground refugees are grateful for a place to be themselves, but the TL needs to be actively seeking to have all teachers and students accessing the library both during school hours and at the point of need - at home (more than likely at ten o'clock the night before the assignment's due). The five cornerstones that Winzenried points out are the conditions in which the ecology of the information age can thrive so that librarians get to manage the information delivered to their clients and knowledge creation continues unabated. The best win:win possible.

Arthur Winzenried - Visionary Leaders for Information


Winzenried begins his chapter to his book- Visonary Leaders for Information - outlining the historical perspective of libraries.

There are many examples of libraries or archives that have been managed throughout history. They are often housed in glorious buildings and some of which travellers are lucky enought to visit even today. His main point in beginning with the history of libraries to give sense of what has been before and how the modern context is something that is different from the "traditional" idea and to large extent, function of a library and therefore, librarians.

"These early libraries or archives maintained a collection of physical records in some degree of ordliness for the use of government bureaucracies and selected scholars. With restrictions on materials, writing skills and the other factors of the times, those collections were necessarily finite and thus "mangaeable".' page 1

One of the many challenges that faces the 21c librarian is to not have the population still view the function and scope of the librarians in the same manner - that they manage finist resources - mainly physical resources such as books and that the scope and function of a librarian and libraries is contained with the four walls of a building during the open hours of that institution. As Winzenried points out that they the previous idea and function of libraries had a formula which "was simple and widely understood' and these preconceieved notions may be very hard to change.

In terms of the management model that was used within libraries by librarians, after the Industrial Age "allowed an increasinly fixed and predictable management model that was AUTOCRATIC AND METHODICAL'. page 2 This may be somewhat comforting to many as it is inherently predictable and as Winzenried points out it even had the "assembly line" thinking behind many of the processes that occured in the library - the stacking, ordering, processing of items could have individuals assigned to that task and never overlap - and of course, achieving the aim of being "highly organised and efficient' p. 3 which all good libraries should be!

With the growth of materials that libraries were housing, there was a call for an effective categorising system which would streamline the storage and retrieval of items and along come Melvil Dewey (1876) and his influential system which is now commonplace in many libraries across the globe. Yet as with the previous centuries, libraries collections still reamined "physical and finite' p 3 And in the twentieth century this did not really change - only the advent of "new technologies alllowed more convenient means of locating items in these larger collections and users came from a greater variety of classes, places and societies. Larger libraries and card catalogues were an almost universal expectation for the first half of the twentieth century" p 3.

Shifts in the latter half of the twentieth century, especially with the rise of the "personal computer" has impacted on libraries and management functions of librarians. PCs meant that accessing of library materials through computer searches could be done in a matter of seconds rather than a drawn out process. Data entry of all the catalogued information for the millions upn millions of items became an additional function for librarians.

Digital developments meant that much of the data entry could now be achieved through scanning of the information - reducing errors and rapidly speeding up the process. "All of thse technologically driven changes took place over a rather limited time, becoming part of a new climate of change that was set to challenge traditional management tools" p.4 And coupled with that is that this rapid change has NOT seen that rapid change in the core understanding of what a librarian does. Lee and Winzenried state that with all the technology often used every effectively within libraries, the library person often is seen by many as something of a computer guru - yet within schools this is often not the case. Colleagues and students limiting the scope and function of the librarian as someone who just stacks books on the shelves and can recommend a good book or help with an assignment. And this comes from the fact that libraries "generally fulfilled the same functions in the same way' p 4 with very few changes - so why would the average library user view the library or those who work in them any differently than they have been.

The development of the internet or the web has seen probably the most profound impact on libraries and the management of these for librarians. 'The ease with which information can be circulated and the extent to which it can be circulated is the major "new" feature of the present information landscape. ... For the information manager, managing something that is self-perpetuating is in itself something of a 'new' and different concept' p. 5 So libraries now have a large part of them which is no long physical or finite - and this has enormous ramifications of those who need to manage the information and resources of these institutions.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Herring's Chapter One

Chapter One:
The Big Picture: learning and teaching in today's schools

Herring, James E. (2011) Improving Students' Web Use and Information Literacy - A Guide for Teachers and Teacher Librarians. London : Facet Publishing.

Herring contends in his introduction that "most students do not use the web effectively, and are unlikely to transfer what they are taught about web use across the subject which they are studying." (p. xiii) Transference is a thorny issue for all educators. In particular, the high school setting is codified and delivers subjects in discrete units. This does not encourage students to view their learning within the one learning community as connected and therefore there is little if any transference of learning from one subject area to another. Whilst on one hand Herring's statement does not surprise, the fundamental skills of using ICT, which is a mandatory requirement in every KLA, would seem to be the one thing that students could READILY transfer. So the question remains why they don't? Perhaps it comes from the manner in which students view the tasks they are completing and not viewing the skills required to navigate and use the web effectively as part of the "pencil case" that they take with them to every class. "It is very important to have a common terminology when teaching information literacy and web use to students" p. 13

The enthusiastic, passionate, time-rich dreamer part of me see the role of the TL as fundamental to showing students and teachers that these skills are required in all subjects and perhaps if a common metalanguage was used and an agreed set of skills through the various stages explicitly taught and consolidated, then there would be much greater chance of transference of the invaluable skills all learners need to successfully navigate the information rich waters of the web.
As Herring writes - " the aim is to change staff and students in schools from web users to critical web learners" (p. xiii)

The modern teaching and learning context is one in which many educators find themselves dealing with the political initiatives of governments. As the perennial election platform along with law and order, health and transport - education gets all the clever and new ideas in a cyclical fashion. This means that the state of play for teachers and students in constantly changing and the pace of change will not lessen with the addition of technology into the mix. As Australian educators have found - thanks to Kevin Rudd - DER laptops are now in schools and something that educators have to deal with. Now whilst some educators shudder at the thought of having their role dictated by trends and political conveniences, the technology must be seen as a tool to be harnessed and not just used because it is the latest and greatest. The use of any technology NEEDS to have a pedagogical foundations - otherwise it is as a lecturers once crudely put it to me, "a bit like a dog licking its balls - it does it because it can".

Herring points out that "the use of ICT in schools is now often viewed as a sine qua non for learning and teaching." (page 2) But often the technology is not being utilised to its full capacity and that means that expensive bits of kit being under-utilised, students are bored quite often, and teachers generally resistant and frustrated.

As Herring stated in his introduction with regards to the issue of students not transferring their web use knowledge and skills between subject, he makes the related point that "there is often no systematic approach to teaching web use." Which in the context of web 2.0 and the emphasis in most schools to create innovative, life long learners who can contribute to the 21 century context they find themselves in - seems like a breathtaking oversight.

Just as literacy and numeracy was finally accepted from the mid 1990s onwards, as a whole school, cross-KLA responsibility, so too does the teaching of information literacy skills and the effective use of the web. These skills are too important, too fundamental and deemed MANDATORY in every subject, so they too need to be given a whole school approach and not the sporadic and piece-meal approach which is currently commonplace in so many schools.

"Web use and information literacy skills should be part of each student's learning and the focus in school should be on how students can use information literacy skills to enhance their learning. Learning from e-resources is the key educational factor here, not the students' increased use of the web. Teachers and teacher librarians who reflect on how effectively their students learn, and not just on what the students learn, and who also reflect on their teaching, will be making a great contribution to the overall aim of the school: to educate students." p.2

The purposes of education and schools.

Whilst the purpose of educating a population of citizens can have a wonderfully positive outcome which has been valued and pursued for millennium - peace, freedom, social justice and general advancement of society and civilisation. The purpose of schools, whilst falling under the rubric of education, has a narrow focus or purpose than that of "EDUCATION" which is life-long and on-going. Ryan and Cooper, according to Herring have identified FOUR KEY PURPOSES

  1. INTELLECTUAL - academically challenging work
  2. POLITICAL AND CIVIC - developing active citizens
  3. ECONOMIC - provide a skilled workforce to increase society's overall wealth
  4. SOCIAL - development of socially acceptable habits.

How does this apply to the role of the TL???

"...developing student who effective users of information literacy skills ...

  • improve students' academic work
  • extend their knowledge of active citizenship
  • prepare them for the workplace (effective information practices a desirable skill)
  • encourage good social habits (sharing websites or social networking etiquette)

Identifying how information literacy skills, including web sue, fit into the overall purposes of the school can enable teachers and teacher librarians to meet wider aims, for example, encouraging students to apply their information literacy skills to all subjects (TRANSFERENCE) and from school to work." page 4

Pritchard's definitions of learning:

  • a change in behaviour as a result of experience or practice
  • knowledge gained through study
  • gaining knowledge of, or skill in, something through study, teaching, instruction or experience
  • the individual process of constructing understanding based on experience from a wide range of sources.

Learning theories such as behaviourism (rote learning, chunking information to be learnt, scaffolding) and constructivism (two broad groups) have been commonplace in schools. The major difference between the two learning theories is that constructivism views learners are NOT merely receptacles of knowledge passed on by a teacher - students are CONSCIOUS CONSTRUCTORS OF KNOWLEDGE - that learning is an active not passive activity. And of course, behaviourism is an outdated approach.

Herring encourages the current learning theory of choice - constructivism as the basis for teaching students who to use the web effectively. Pritchard's summary of the key aspects of constructivist learning :

  • prior learning is a key factor as students construct new knowledge from what they already know
  • students will (if encouraged) make connections between ares of knowledge and will reflect upon them
  • the social context of students' learning is important in influencing how students learn
  • learning is very personal and students who are effective learners will be able to reflect on their own learning

Teachers and Teacher librarians should be reflective practitioners as much as their students need to be reflective learners.

"Learning theories, in the context of the development of information literacy skills in schools, should be seen as abstract concepts, but as the basis on which teachers and teacher librarians design and develop opportunities for students to learn to be effective learners." p.6

How to put theory into practice?

A TL or a teacher needs to be very clear about what they want the students' to learn, describe it in terms that their students can understand, select appropriate information that will aid in the students' learning, encourage students to link their prior learning to the new concepts and skills and finally relate this to other areas of learning. SIMPLE!

All this learning needs to take place in a suitable environment - creating an atmosphere which help students to engage. And then give the students opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding either through application or presentation.

LESSON PLANNING - an essential requirement which needs to be done collaboratively with the classroom teacher if you are TL. And as Herring points out "incorporating information literacy skills into curriculum is a very effective and meaningful way of introducing students to these skills" p. 8

Incorporating the web into teaching

  1. the web as a source of resources for personal staff development - so teachers can extend their subject knowledge by finding websites or articles on the web (p. 9)
  2. the web can be a resource for teachers to plan activities for students in the classroom (p 11)
  3. the web can be used a resource which provides students with mediated sites, which have been vetted by the teacher and, in many cases the TL in a particular school

Students will need to develop the skills to evaluate website - but in order to complete a specific task it might be more pertinent to streamline the "search" and have the students focus on engaging with the concepts and material which has been expertly selected for them rather than aimlessly wandering around the Internet trying to find appropriate information - which for some topics is hard to find. It can also be very demotivating for students if they cannot readily find the information required to complete the task.

Having the "sites" and "sources" pre-prepared means that the activity can be an in-class one, providing equal access to information and eliminating the "digital gap" which exists for some students. Students can also be active learners in the professionally selected information - Killen suggests that this is an essential step in what good teachers do so that they can help their students gain the understanding which is outlined in the learning outcomes.

Effective teachers and teacher librarians set appropriate challenges for students using the web, according to the abilities and learning styles of the students. p 13

Herring is an advocate of "inquiry based teaching" and "to be successful practitioners of inquiry based teaching, teachers and teacher librarians need to collaborate to ensure that their students have the requisite information literacy skills, abilities and techniques to use web resources effectively." p.13