Thursday, 29 January 2015

most exciting thing since sliced bread ...

My discussions with Katie Day always lead to interesting stuff.  One such moment was reference to "threshold concepts" which she discovered during last year's ALA conference.  It was buried in her long post about the whole conference, and I'd like to dig it up and put it in the spot-lights it deserves here.  I think this is going to be "the" topic of the coming age.

Because I'm still delaying and procrastinating on my assignment on IL, I'm going to refer you to the excellent handout of Brunetti, Hofer, Lu & Townsend  which summarises it all beautifully.  I'd also encourage you to read the more extended article if you have a chance:

Hofer, A. R., Townsend, L., & Brunetti, K. (2012). Troublesome Concepts and Information Literacy: Investigating Threshold Concepts for IL Instruction. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(4), 387–405. doi:10.1353/pla.2012.0039

Would love comments and ideas and musings about how and where and if this would be relevant at school level.

Brunetti, K., Hofer, A. R., Lu, S., & Townsend, L. (n.d.). Threshold concepts & Information literacy - Overview & Assessment. Retrieved from

It was also a "hot topic" in the 2014 European Conference on  Information Literacy in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  Next thing on my list is to go through the conference proceedings.

Stilling and stimulating the mind ...

I'm busy writing my report for the final assessment - on Information Literacy (IL). Talk about how to eat an elephant.  Or rather I feel like when my kids were overdue for birth - you knew it had to come but they were taking their own sweet time.  Same with the ideas about IL.  It's a huge topic, confounded by so many variables. I had to grapple with how I felt and thought about it before I could put anything coherent on paper. I just about reached that stage yesterday.  I'll blog about it some time once this assignment is in.

In the mean time, to cool and still my mind, or keep it otherwise occupied while in the background the IL thoughts are humming I've been reading and listening to some great podcasts - this one was by Salman Akhtar on the "Trauma of geographical dislocation" it's from a psychoanalytic point of view, so you need to get over the first few minutes and may want to skip the last few if Freud isn't your thing - but the bits inbetween are pure poetry.

On my bedside table at the moment is "Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman" - I'm just loving the old fashioned writing and casual way he speaks about learning and education - so much is about curiosity and forging one's own path.  I wonder in the hyper-competitive environment of now if it would even be possible for students to meander so much in their learning and thought, taking out time to dabble in other subjects while pursuing their main degree?  In fact I'm really thinking a lot about why we have degrees and subjects and curriculums.  I know when I was studying business and accounting in the misapprehension that I wished to become an accountant (how can one become? surely you "are" something and then you just need to develop further?), I pursued a parallel existence studying languages and psychology on the side. Then in an alignment of thought, BBC world had a fascinating interview with Dr. Margaret Boden world specialist in artificial intelligence - why? Because she combined philosophy, psychology, neuroscience and a curiosity and passion for learning.  Serious dabblers shall inherit the earth in my world view.

If ever asked what I'd like my children to be (like) when they grow up or even now, I'd say just roll those polyglots together and I'd be happy.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Teacher Librarian and multi-lingual environments - an opportunity

One trend in education that has received limited attention in teacher librarian (TL) literature is the demographic shift in schools to more students with cultural and linguistic diversity. Statistics from the USA, Canada and Australia indicate around one in five students do not speak English - the language of school instruction at home (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013; “Canadian Demographics at a Glance: Some facts about the demographic and ethnocultural composition of the population,” n.d.; Center for Public Education, 2012). Data from Sydney University indicates that a national average of 21% disguises local figures at some (particularly state) schools with a range of 50-90% (Ho, 2011). International schools catering to an expatriate population are particularly diverse environments.

Practitioner literature generally concerns itself with cultural diversity in materials and the building of a world literature collection in response to student diversity or as part of a language / humanities curriculum (Garrison, Forest, & Kimmel, 2014). Some international or bilingual schools, build a “Languages other than English” (LOTE) collection.  Schools may try to recruit bilingual or minority TLs, or provide training in competencies in multicultural education (Colbert-Lewis & Colbert-Lewis, 2013; Everhart, Mardis, & Johnston, 2010; Mestre, 2009).

Within a school, the main educational and social issues are to ensure students acquire the language of instruction (English) as quickly as possible and adapt to the new learning environment without loss of educational momentum, while maintaining and developing their mother tongue (Kim & Mizuishi, 2014). Even though there is evidence that support and maintenance of mother tongue is the most effective way of scaffolding such students, schools place most of their effort and resources on English acquisition (Carder, 2007; Cummins, 2001, 2003).

TLs in their own professional development are familiar with the use of geographically dispersed personal learning networks (PLNs) in order to create a personal learning environment (PLE) using a variety technological tools (McElvaney & Berge, 2009; O’Connell, 2014). They also have extensive networks both locally and internationally that can be tapped into. This provides TLs with an ideal opportunity of working with a group of students and teachers in creating their own PLE with a variety of resources, networks and personal web technologies (PWT) both in their mother tongue and the language of instruction.  

Figure 1: PLE of an IB self-taught language student

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program allows mother tongue students the option of guided self-study if the school doesn’t offer the language.  Tapping into the experiences and communities of practise (COP) of distance education, massive open online courses (MOOCs), PLNs and PLEs could ameliorate the logistical, resourcing, teaching and learning difficulties of this option unbound by time and geography. A successful pilot scheme with one language group could be rolled out to other groups. Not only will this enhance the reputation of the TL in the school but will also contribute to the schools goals of equity in teaching and resources and ensure support and involvement by the whole school community.


Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2013). Australian Social Trends, April 2013. Retrieved December
         14, 2014, from

Canadian Demographics at a Glance: Some facts about the demographic and ethnocultural
         composition of the population. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2014, from

Carder, M. (2007). Bilingualism in international schools: a model for enriching language education.
         Clevedon; Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.

Center for Public Education. (2012, May). The United States of education: The changing
         demographics of the United States and their schools. Retrieved December 14, 2014, from

Colbert-Lewis, D., & Colbert-Lewis, S. (2013). The Role of Teacher-Librarians in Encouraging
         Library Use by Multicultural Patrons. In C. Smallwood & K. Becnel (Eds.), Library services for
         multicultural patrons: strategies to encourage library use
(pp. 73–81). Lanham: The Scarecrow
         Press, Inc.

Cummins, J. (2001). Bilingual Children’s Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?
        Retrieved May 27, 2014, from

Cummins, J. (2003). Putting Language Proficiency in Its Place: Responding to Critiques of the
        Conversational - Academic Language Distinction. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from

Everhart, N., Mardis, M. A., & Johnston, M. P. (2010). Diversity Challenge Resilience: School
        Libraries in Action. In Proceedings of the 12th Biennial School Library Association of
. Brisbane, Australia: IASL.

Garrison, K. L., Forest, D. E., & Kimmel, S. C. (2014). Curation in Translation: Promoting Global
       Citizenship through Literature. School Libraries Worldwide, 20(1), 70–96. 

Ho, C. (2011). “My School” and others: Segregation and white flight. Australian Review of Public
, 10(1). Retrieved from

Kim, M., & Mizuishi, K. (2014, December 10). Language and Cultural Differences and Barriers in
       an International School Setting - Personal Experiences and Reflections

McElvaney, J., & Berge, Z. (2009). Weaving a Personal Web: Using online technologies to create
       customized, connected, and dynamic learning environments. Canadian Journal of Learning and
, 35(2). Retrieved from

Mestre, L. (2009). Culturally responsive instruction for teacher-librarians. Teacher Librarian, 36(3),

O’Connell, J. (2014). Researcher’s Perspective: Is Teacher Librarianship in Crisis in Digital
       Environments? An Australian Perspective. School Libraries Worldwide, 20(1), 1–19.