Resourcing 21st century online Australian Curriculum: The role of school libraries

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1 Resourcing 21st century online Australian Curriculum: The role of school libraries By Pru Mitchell This article considers the implementation of the Australian Curriculum in the context of school libraries. It reviews key roles of school library staff as outlined in Learning for the Future: developing information services for Australian schools 2nd ed (2001), and considers what priorities face teacher-librarians and school leadership teams in ensuring the school library successfully supports learners and teachers in selecting, organising and facilitating access to curriculum resources at the school level. Introduction In December 2010 Australia s education ministers agreed to the publication of The Shape of the Australian Curriculum v. 2.0 (2010) which provides the key policy background for the implementation of the first phase of curriculum development. This article has been informed by a reading of this document, of a number of other ACARA publications and of third party commentaries with a school library lens. It picks up on three key adjectives used to describe this curriculum that are of particular interest to those involved in resourcing this curriculum. As the title of the article implies, we have as our resourcing challenge today an Australian 21st century online curriculum. The purpose of this article is to look at the implementation of The Australian Curriculum v 1.2 (2011) from the perspective of Australian school library staff. Issues are reviewed against the key roles of school library staff as outlined in the current policy document for school libraries entitled Learning for the Future: developing information services for Australian schools 2nd edition (2001). It concludes that the role of the school library continues to focus on working with learners and teachers, selecting resources to support the curriculum, organising curriculum resources and facilitating access to these resources at the school level. How is resourcing a curriculum different in the 21st century? Now that the canon of at least the first part of the curriculum is published, States and schools are turning their attention to implementation, and teachers and teacher-librarians are looking at what teaching and learning resources they will need to deliver this curriculum. What resources will we need to teach content description ACELY1713 or to develop a crosscurriculum perspective of ethical behaviour? It is interesting to revisit Learning for the Future (2001, p. 25) in the light of resourcing the Australian Curriculum. It states that the curriculum is resourced through: a collection of learning resources and equipment organised, accessed and circulated through a whole of school resource management system that includes all information services; provision of access to human and material resources 10 FYI

2 and information in the wider community, e.g. State Library, public libraries, community information agencies and electronic resources. How does this statement hold up in the current context a decade later? Two key questions arise: 1. What defines a collection? and 2. Can a school resource management system hope to include all information services? In terms of this second question, the intention behind this statement was clearly that the school resource management system should include all information services selected as part of that school s collection, i.e. purchased by or located in that school. Schools make significant investment in learning resources of many types and a system that makes these resources searchable and manageable maximises learning outcomes and protects the school s investment. The first statement above about collections singles out resources within the school, while the second deals with resources in the wider community. Note that electronic resources have been designated as an external source. Although a broader term for what we would typically now refer to as online resources, this distinction between local resources and electronic resources is illustrative of one of the major issues for school libraries in resourcing the Australian Curriculum. The description and definition of the Australian Curriculum as online seems to have become translated in some quarters by a kind of false logic into a belief that the Australian Curriculum can or should therefore only be resourced by online content. There is no rationale in this argument, which seems to be a gross distortion in the face of research such as Jewitt (2008) into the importance of multimodal learning resources. It also contradicts the evidence of engagement and rich learning experience enjoyed through interaction with the physical world, and with the community beyond the school including the cultural sector that are given such weight in the second of the statements above from Learning for the Future. A key role for school libraries is to be an agency for a broadening of this understanding, to challenge those delivering the curriculum to be more inclusive, and to incorporate resources that are both high touch and high tech to maximise student engagement and learning. According to Downes (2003) the definition of what constitutes a learning resource is nothing more than the fact that somebody, at some time, considers it to be a resource. The Australian Curriculum provides an opportunity to rethink the way things have been done. Most curriculum planners and implementers would agree with Polos (1964) that with a new 21st century curriculum there is no justification for maintaining 20th century models of resourcing the curriculum, which particularly in secondary schooling, have centred on expensive, highly sanitised, regularly outdated textbooks that serve up curriculum in ready-made, one-size-fits-all chunks ready to serve for teacher as well as student. There is, however, a danger now that in our efforts to achieve national consistency, realise economies of scale and deliver curriculum resources in extremely tight timelines, we may end up simply dishing up a replacement to the ready-to-serve textbook, but in an online format. Resourcing the Australian Curriculum is much more complex than an either/or debate about p-books versus e-books, about libraries versus digital content portals or about national versus school-based resources. This should not be a dichotomous, or indeed a one size fits all argument. Resourcing a 21st century online Australian Curriculum requires curriculum resources that are fit for purpose that purpose being supporting all young Australians to become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens (Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians 2008, p. 13). Priorities for school library action So how does this complexity translate into action at the school level? Presented below are several areas which school library staff could consider as priorities as their schools face the challenge of implementing the Australian Curriculum. Know your learning community Jurisdictions, systems and schools will be able to implement the Australian Curriculum in ways that value teachers professional knowledge, reflect local contexts and take into account individual students AUTUMN

3 family, cultural and community backgrounds. Schools and teachers determine pedagogical and other delivery considerations (The Shape of the Australian Curriculum 2.0, 2010, p. 10). The top priority for your school library is ensuring that your school community is well served by a locally relevant collection of resources, selected specifically for them from the limitless pool of resources that could be used to support the Australian Curriculum, as well as the wider learning goals of individuals and the school. In partnership with school leadership, teachers and students, you are best placed to know what is fit for purpose for your school community. The History curriculum provides an ideal starting place for school libraries auditing their collections and identifying areas where local and community resources need building up. From early years onwards the History curriculum could present a challenge for schools given the value placed on implementation within a localised context. Another area identified as a concern in the consultation on the draft Australian Curriculum (Draft K-10 Curriculum Consultation Report v4, p.12) was how the curriculum will cater for students with diverse and special needs. Not surprisingly, a single document for a nation of learners as diverse as Australia cannot address the specifics of each learner s abilities, experience and interests. Curriculum plans and resources at the school level will need to address the specific needs of their learners, and the school library has a major role to play in identifying, acquiring, managing and promoting resources to increase opportunities for independent and personalised learning. Part of supporting local curriculum needs involves valuing and managing local content and resources. It is timely to revisit the school s collection policies to consider what content your teachers and students create and how your school might collect and organise this content which is written specifically for your context and your community? Make the most of existing resources Working nationally makes it possible to harness collective expertise and effort in the pursuit of this common goal. It also offers the potential of economies of scale and a substantial reduction in the duplication of time, effort and resources. (The Shape of the Australian Curriculum 2.0, 2010, p. 6) Capitalise on existing investment and don t reinvent the wheel are catch cries that seem to go unheeded in many schools and jurisdictions. Other than the time teachers spend in direct contact with students, the major cost areas for education lie in curriculum planning and resourcing. When will we adequately recognise the cost of time and investment in selection, organisation and access to information both digital and physical resources? Sharing and re-using teacher-created curriculum material is an obvious strategy for reducing duplication of effort and the cost of resourcing a new curriculum. However, the evidence is that this kind of local sharing has so far been limited, with teachers producing most of the content they use themselves supplemented by a small amount of commercial externally produced material. It will be interesting to note whether the take-up of state-wide initiatives such as Ultranet and FUSE have any impact on the culture of sharing amongst teachers. Facilitate access to all curriculum resources Helping the school community find resources is strongly linked to the goal above about making the best use of existing resources before expending human or financial effort on identifying and acquiring additional material. All the resources in the world are no use if teachers and students don t know they exist, aren t alerted to their availability, or can t readily locate them whether due to inadequate systems or inadequate skills. The library s role is to make it easy for teachers and students to find stuff. According to the Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2005, p. 2) this requires teacher-librarians who have: a rich professional knowledge of national standards for library and information management; and a comprehensive understanding of national standards for information retrieval (defined for schools as the current edition of SCIS standards for cataloguing and data entry (2010)). Managing local resources is undeniably the role of 12 FYI

4 the school library. The search engines your teachers and students use do not currently return the resources that you have in your school collection, so some kind of school-based search is required to facilitate access to school-selected resources. For most schools this crucial functionality is provided by the library management system search module (aka OPAC) which if it is to support a 21st century curriculum should be online 24/7, accessible from anywhere on any mobile device and needs to use national educational cataloguing standards that facilitate automated linking of your local resources to Australian Curriculum. Downloading catalogue records from the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) service ensures that your school library catalogue is serving up standardsbased metadata specifically tailored for learning resources, including using terms from the Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT) which is the thesaurus used in the metadata driving the machine-readable Australian Curriculum and the Australian Curriculum Connect service. Most importantly, the role of the school library is to educate teachers and students to become independent searchers and discerning users of resources. The real challenge of 21st century curriculum is put beautifully using Postman s (1992) phrase information on the loose. With information now wildly and extensively on the loose via the Internet and other digital resources, a major role of schools is still the same as Postman suggested to teach students to sort through the information available, understand it and process it (Fryer 2005, p. 26). The Australian Curriculum references digital literacies to some extent and within the four learning areas released thus far teacher-librarians will be able to identify plenty of opportunities to work with teachers to integrate digital literacies across learning areas. Get into the helicopter An Australian Curriculum in the 21st century needs to acknowledge the changing ways in which young people will learn and the challenges that will continue to shape their learning in the future. (Shape of Australian Curriculum 2.0 p. 6). The fact is that although we have part of an agreed curriculum published in 2011, we are in reality resourcing a curriculum that will change, and it is our role to keep an ever-watchful eye on what s on the horizon and where we might be heading in the future. Teacher-librarians are in a unique position to see the big picture of the curriculum, and by making the most of this helicopter view can help identify silos and make connections on the ground. Being well aware of issues related to maintaining currency of resource collections, of emerging sciences and new technologies, and in keeping up with new issues, teacher-librarians can link these back to curriculum in relevant places. Our role as gap filler will also continue and involve developing strategies to ensure teachers and students have the resources to quickly pick up and explore contemporary issues, whether they be a natural disaster in a neighbouring country that happened overnight, or a political debate currently before a local council. The teacher-librarian role has an interdisciplinary perspective and this is a natural place to start in curriculum mapping and resource needs analysis for the new curriculum. Implementing new curriculum by necessity involves schools in new work, usually with minimal downtime from normal operations. While classroom teachers and subject specialists are focused on core learning areas, there is a role for cross-curriculum specialists such as teacher-librarians to start working on the cross-curriculum perspectives and general capabilities, and providing links for their teachers. A big gap likely to be evident in many schools is that of teacher professional learning around curriculum implementation. Hill (2010) predicts that at a local level, we can expect extensive use of local and sitebased professional learning, supported by targeted online professional development. As both curriculum and technology leaders, teacher-librarians will be seen as part of this site-based provision. It would be timely to link this to requirements in the National Professional Standards for Teachers (2011), in particular Standard 3: Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning, and Standard 6: Engage with professional learning. Model exemplary skills and lead colleagues in selecting, creating and evaluating resources, including ICT, for AUTUMN

5 application by teachers within or beyond the school (Standard 3.4, p. 14). As teacher-librarians we should be sharing our expertise in this area, by making explicit meta information about how we search for curriculum resources, how we find resources and why we select a particular resource. Provoke engagement and conversation Important as curriculum content and learning resources may be, we know that simply resourcing the curriculum does not ensure learning, or as a colleague so eloquently says it s not what we feed students but what they do with it that counts. Curriculum must engage the mind and attention of the learner to become knowledge and requires interactivity on the part of the learner, not just on the part of the learning resource. As we get caught up in the challenges of resourcing the Australian Curriculum, it is worth keeping in mind Cory Doctorow s (2006) viewpoint on what s important. Content isn t king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you d choose your friends if you chose the movies, we d call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about. If conversation is what it s all about, then part of the role of the school library is to help people find curriculum-related communities in which to engage in conversation. Conversations can happen through discussion lists, shared blogging platforms and other social media. So, where are these curriculum communities? They are available through professional associations like SLAV and ASLA. They are well-established on list services such as OZTL_Net and ozteachers, and are emerging through conversation streams on services such as me.edu.au, Twitter and diigo. Opportunities to meet and talk in real time are invaluable and teacherlibrarians can help teachers and learners engage in conversation through events like those available through the Victorian Virtual Conference Centre or Learn Central. But, more important, if knowledge emerges from conversations, then just about all our educational focus ought to be on learning how to be good conversationalists: how to listen, how to kindle a conversation, how to evaluate claims, how to speak in a voice worth hearing and, most of all, how to share a world in which knowledge is plural, for that s what conversation and knowledge is about (Weinberger 2005, p. 21). References The Australian Curriculum v , Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority, The Australian Curriculum v1.2 - Machine readable representations of the curriculum 2011, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Doctorow, C 2006, Disney exec: Piracy is just a business model, Boing Boing, October , boingboing.net/2006/10/10/disney-exec-piracy-i.html. Downes, S 2003, Resource profiles, Stephen s Web, Draft K-10 Consultation Report v. 4 June 2010, Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Sydney, _resources/draft_k-10_consultation_report_v4.0.pdf. Fryer, W 2005, The Digital face of 21st century curriculum: how digital content is changing teaching and learning, i.e. magazine, Autumn 2005, pp , pdf/ieautumn05.pdf. Hill, P 2010, An Australian curriculum to promote 21st century learning, EQ Australia Summer stcentury.html. Jewitt, C 2008, Multimodality and literacy in school classrooms, Review of Research in Education, vol. 32, no , 32/1/241.full.pdf. Learning for the future: developing information services in Australian schools 2nd edition 2001, Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South, Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians 2008, Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, Melbourne, melbourne_declaration,25979.html. 14 FYI

6 National Professional Standards for Teachers 2011, Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, pdf. Polos, N 1964, Textbooks. What s wrong with them? The Clearing House, Vol. 38, No. 8, jstor.org.proxy.library.adelaide.edu.au/stable/ Postman, N 1992, Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology, Vintage Books, New York. SCIS Standards for cataloguing and data entry 2010, Education Services Australia, edu.au/verve/_resources/sciscatstandards.pdf. The Shape of the Australian Curriculum Version , Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, _resources/shape_of_the_australian_curriculum.pdf. Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians 2005, Australian School Library Association and Australian Library and Information Association, Weinberger D 2005, Knowledge in transition: How access is changing the very nature of technology, i.e. magazine, Autumn 2005, pp , smarttech.com/media/education/pdf/ieautumn05.pdf. Pru Mitchell is Vice-President, School Library Association of South Australia. More about library design and learning spaces! The School Library Association of Victoria is considering the publication of a multimedia resource to discuss and illustrate school library and learning space design. We will build on the quality content and acknowledged authoritative contribution of SLAV s previous publications in this area, namely Effective Learning Spaces and Rethink! Ideas for inspiring school library design. It is anticipated that this digital publication will be very visual with videos, images, walk-throughs and plans to make your building and renovation decisions easier. We need your help! Have you recently renovated, re-built and are you in the process of planning a new library? This is an opportunity to showcase your work. Contributions big and small and in all formats are welcome from an article outlining the pros and cons of your planning processes, a video of the highlights of your library, or just a few images to inspire others. We would love to hear from you. To find out more about the project or to be involved, please contact Susan La Marca at Mary Manning at or the SLAV Office. AUTUMN

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