Finally the world is beginning to move beyond concept that the digital technologies are the answer to everything. Finally the dust is settling after the onslaught of new digital technologies & we are able to glimpse a new future. The digital revolution has most certainly been a revolution but not quite what we had envisaged in science fiction films and books. Certainly there were elements of truth but we are a long way from the worlds of “Back to the future” or the “Blade Runner” of 2019 (disappointing in some ways, I was really looking forward to the hover board). We only need to pick up a design website, an arts magazine, a science magazine or a picture book to see that the world is moving beyond digital toward a hybrid world. A post-digital world. A world where the analogue and digital coexist, neither one is replaced nor entirely fills the role of the other yet both are heavily influenced by each other through complex interactions. Neither one works entirely independent of the other. How often does it happen that you start reading a magazine, then jump to a website to find out more, then click on a link to go further, watch a video, then go back to purchase a book written by someone you have just discovered through their online presence, then return to that magazine to read another article? It is a hybrid connected experience. Similarly in the library we are finally able to envisage a world where digital resources coexist with print and more traditional analog resources such as the beanbag in a quiet dimly lit corner. Libraries that have gone entirely digital have pre-empted a world that does not exist, the digital has not replaced the analog but has transformed it, changed it and now it has evolved and will continue to evolve. Evidence for this can be found in looking at trends in book sales. Book sales on the whole, including digital and print, are going up. Digital sales particularly in areas like mass appeal paperback fiction are rapidly increasing – the book, the narrative text is still just as engaging as it ever was. While in the print world sales in children’s picture books are growing rapidly but so are other areas such as graphic novels. What we have are patterns of publication that are changing but nevertheless still growing. Print is showing no signs of disappearing – only changing. As a result our library has moved from attempting to be a deposit of all knowledge sufficient for an inquiring student, to providing a boutique collection of unique print titles that inspire a different response than a website or an e-book. We can now expand our resources into the electronic world particularly in reference resources through databases & e-books so that now I don’t need to stock those specialty titles in print for future reference, my students can now access resources electronically where-ever they are, when ever they need it. This means that when they come to the library they expect a different experience. And that is really what the library offers, an experience. That experience may include and often does include digital components however this all occurs in the context of beautifully bound books that inspire and create an atmosphere of creativity and exploration. So in the post-digital world, the post-digital library, we find a hybrid world where digital technology & analog technology mingle together. For this to continue the library environment needs to be nimble, flexible and adaptable yet open and carefully designed to maximise the benefits of both print and digital resources. The post-digital Library is a space and an idea that reflects the complex and connected world that we live in. This may change in the future but right now there is no indication that the near future will be any different. This is so exciting for me because I have been able to collect some of the most beautiful and inspiring books I have ever seen. I am not sure if this is reflective of the publishing industry producing more interesting texts or if I am just getting better at finding them. Which ever way, the library is filled with a never ending supply of unique, boutique creations. This is a great time to be in the world of library and information management.
We can always be assured that when we pick up a book by Professor Howard Gardner, we are holding some very carefully considered and powerful ideas in our hands. I am not familiar with the work of Professor Katie Davis however after reading this book, I will certainly following her research in the future.
Visit the book website [here] for a summary & video from the authors. Although not directly mentioned, his book approaches participatory culture and connectivist theory through the lens of “app-dependence” versus “app-enablement”. These ideas are expanded upon by considering three areas of adolescent life: identity, intimacy, and imagination.
From the outset, this book sets a high standard for academic writing. The scope of the subject is clearly defined & methodologies set out in detail. The appendices further expand the transparency of the research behind this work which leads me onto a first general observation. The research draws heavily on the American cultural context which places significant limitations on how far findings can be extrapolated to other cultural & geographical contexts. Don’t get me wrong, the questions asked within the theoretical constructs the authors use to frame their discussion are extremely important & certainly caused me to think deeply about the “App generation” in my context. Suffice it to say that the cultural backgrounds, historical & technological contexts that the students I see everyday at an international school in remote South East Asia could not be more different from the subjects of the studies based in Harvard. There are most definitely commonalities but the temptation to extrapolate the research presented in this book to students outside these studies must be vigorously resisted. For example, the technological history outlined on page 52 is distinctly western (if not American) & most certainly not paralleled by the vast majority of the world’s population particularly here in Asia. How the students I see each day have come to this technological space is so diverse that we must guard most ardently against assuming we understand their perspective. I would go even further in saying that we can draw little value from describing a “generation” in any way for fear of drawing conclusions based on stereotypes rather than the lived experience of each individual student we encounter. This may sound like I oppose the premise of this book but not so. Instead, we should apply the same inquiring mind that Gardner and Davis have applied in their context to challenge our own assumptions about the “App Generation” present in our classrooms. Their rigorous & deeply reflective approach that seeks to draw information from multiple sources to make sense of a notoriously enigmatic topic such as technology & youth is refreshing in a field such as education which is rife with myths, unchallenged assumptions & scant methodology.
This post will not be surprising coming from a librarian but still, it needs to be said. I call it Fast Food Literacy (#FastFoodLiteracy). I am talking about the prepackaged and heavily marketed reading programs produced by the big educational publishers. They are attractively packaged and so convenient that a school can purchase a large levelled reading set or online program at the push of a button. In contrast, to build a library collection of a similar size takes many hours of carefully reading reviews by trusted sources and researching authors to ensure the very best of what the world has to offer in literature is available to the students when they need it. A library collection built in this way is also tailored to suit the unique needs of that school community. How could a generic levelled one-size-fits-all reading package possibly meet the needs of every school community around the world?
The analogy with fast food seems so obvious when reading sets arrive in their brightly coloured cardboard prboxes with the easy access flip-lid.
This corporatisation of education is extremely concerning on many levels. The pleasure of reading is transformed into a literacy commodity purchased for consumption. Students are placed on a conveyer belt in production line of literacy education. The sell is that it is personalised or differentiated with the subtext that if you are really serious about literacy education, regardless of what you are doing now, you need the proprietary package. The branding instills a sense of security that is based on marketing strategies rather than a deeper concept of literacy. Schools earnestly striving to demonstrate that they take literacy seriously are drawn to this sense of security in a brand because it is a tangible but this security is shallow and false. For example, consider the “pedagogy of multiliteracies” that “immediately shifts us from the dominant written print text to acknowledge the many varied ways that literacy is practiced in the new millennium”. Further, the approach of Jim Cummins builds a far more sophisticated view of literacy and language that has relevance to a world wrestling with multiculturalism, plurilingualism and diverse semiotic codes. Among the most worrying concerns is that the corporately driven programs turn the focus from building student agency to a model where students are programmed. Student agency is replaced by response to stimuli (at best). Literacy is removed from the learning environment and diced up into fragmented chunks. There are so many unchallenged assumptions in this approach that it is hard to know where to start (or finish). I would also bundle textbooks in with these fast food curriculum resources but that is another discussion. In contrast, reading that is embedded in rich contexts of inquiry ensures that meaningful understandings are built and endure. “Learning happens best when learners construct their understanding through a process of constructing things to share with others.” (Jonan Donaldson). This is entirely absent in the fast food reading programs and textbook curricula.
In this short post I would like to pose a brief musing about the role of books in the learning environment. The idea stems from two other ideas, namely, the book as a physical artefact and the use of manipulatives in the classroom such as during investigations into mathematics concepts.
There are a plethora of math manipulatives designed to allow students to grasp a new mathematical concept by holding it in their hands, examining it from different angles in a hands-on experiential way. Books, as physical objects, can similarly be considered as “concept manipulatives“. Apart from the rich stories, informational texts & all that books represent, the physical artefact that is a book gives students the opportunity to hold ideas in their hands. This is not a print versus digital argument either. It is simply an appreciation for the physical act of grasping a book or a pile of books on a subject & organising them, categorising them, classifying them, sorting them and all the while discussing & engaging with various concepts that may relate to that subject area. Even the act of searching the library shelves for a book engages the whole body in the process of research.
Recently the concept of mulitiliteracies has regularly appeared in my reading and professional discussions and every time it does, I am challenged in a new way (Multiliteracies: “The term “Multiliteracies” immediately shifts us from the dominant written print text to acknowledge the many varied ways that literacy is practiced in the new millennium”). I have particularly connected with the work of Dr Jim Cummins who describes a multiliteracies pedagogy in strong terms emphasising that it is a mandate that speaks to the very identity of our students. Cummins goes on to argue that
recognising, valuing and investing in student identity is a necessary prerequisite for engaging students in learning. Language learning that does not build on the “cultural capital” of our students or connect to individual student identity is destined for a stagnant, linear and “authoritarian kind of pedagogy” (The New London Group). Another key component to a multiliteracies pedagogy described by Cummins is interdependence across languages where strong understandings in one language can transfer to another language. This is a capabilities based pedagogy that sees strengths in any language as a valuable basis for intellectual and creative linguistic development in other languages.
“Tuning in” to our students
- Demonstrate a deep understanding of the content they are presenting,
- Demonstrate the breadth of their research,
- Provide a transparency to the claims they are making,
- Argue for the credibility of their arguments,
- Demonstrate impact of the context on knowledge
- and allow an audience to connect with their sources.
Avoiding Plagiarism : the big idea
Plagiarism and the IB Learner Profile
- Students and teachers using Creative Commons licensing for their own artwork.
- Transdisciplinary understandings: students making connections to sources across all disciplines demonstrates a deep understanding of how sources of information connect to what we know.
- Students and teachers discussing the role of specific sources in how they came to the new understandings they achieved.
- Using social media as a virtual referencing system to connect an audience with the sources of their information (eg. Twitter hyperlinks).
- Displaying the books used during research at an exhibition (eg Personal Project, PYP Exhibition).
- Providing an audience with “if you would like to know more” links.
- Using the Process Journal during the Personal Project to record the frustrating sources of information that led no-where.
- Using fiction to illustrate new ideas and perspectives.
- Young students using picture books to help express their ideas.
- Academic citation methods applied consistently when writing the Extended Essay.
- Young students able to describe the Who, When and Where components of sources of their information.
- Students who are able to describe the significance of the Who, When and Where components of sources of their information.
- Students can identify when they need to stop an inquiry and describe research needs if that inquiry was restarted or taken on by someone else.
Some useful additional resources
International Association of Academic Integrity Conferences (IAAIC) is an alliance of key academic integrity and plagiarism conferences worldwide, formed to facilitate international conversations on educational issues ranging from cheating and plagiarism to pedagogy and best practices. The IAAIC currently has members from academic integrity bodies in the UK, US and Australia and supports research initiatives from practitioners and institutions throughout the global academic community.
Sometimes a day in the life of a librarian is like sitting in a swivel chair with everyone else deciding which way you turn. The day swings from tranquil moments to inundations of inspirations that need attention. I guess I am my own worst enemy since being interruptible has been a key focus of what I am about. The day to day running of library is always interruptible ensuring that our customers never feel unsure about if it is ok to come into the library spaces or to ask for assistance. The message is subtle and often unsaid but if the library has an open door that welcomes any inquirer at anytime, the library is much more likely to be seen as an extension of the classroom and a natural part of the workflow of students and teachers. This means that many times, important administrative tasks in the library are interrupted and postponed due to a need to attend to a student, teacher or parent inquiry. Most of these important administration tasks will never be seen or appreciated by library visitors and since there are no other librarians at my school, there is really no one else who understands what it takes to keep a library ticking along. Indeed, the better I do my job, the less people are actually aware of what I do because their access to the “good stuff” is seamless. Yet, this is actually how I like it but this brings me back to the title of this post. The perfect librarian: is it about focus?