Australian Curriculum and the General Capabilities – the role of the Teacher Librarian

I delivered this presentation at Marist College in Canberra on Tuesday. You can see it embedded in my wiki, or click this link to view. (Once again, I’m frustrated that it can’t be embedded in this blog) It’s not an earth shaking presentation, but it does condense some information from the following ACARA documents:

The Shape of the Australian Curriculum Version 3

General Capabilities and the Australian Curriculum

I’ve tried to identify where a Teacher Librarian can make an impact with the integration of the General Capabilities into the learning areas. Hopefully, the presentation is useful. Feel free to use it in your schools to help people come to an understanding of what is expected with the Australian Curriculum.

Thanks to Geraldine McNulty for arranging for me to visit Marist College to talk to Teacher-Librarians from Canberra. A quick visit, but a good one!

Moving to a Networked School Community using ISTE Standards, Australian Curriculum and an Edublogs platform.

It’s been a busy year. Really busy. Not only have we opened a new library, and dealt with moving and fitting out new learning spaces, but we have been leading change in our school around information fluency understandings and enabling our students’ growth as digital citizens.

What’s become apparent to my staff and I, is the pressing need for our students to become information fluent for the age they are living in. This means addressing all of the traditional information literacy understandings we have always concentrated on, but also helping our students have an understanding of new technologies and how to use them effectively, understanding the ethical use of digital resources, and knowledge of the importance of creating and maintaining a positive digital footprint. It’s not only the students who need this knowledge base; our teachers need to be well versed too.

So, what are we doing about this?

At the end of last year, with the support of our Head of Learning, we presented what we called an Information Fluency Initiative to our Heads of Faculties and proposed we begin the introduction of this for 2011. First up, we introduced to staff the idea of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge – the TPACK model, developed by Koehler & Mishra.

Source: http://tpack.org/

When using this with staff, I see a lot of nodding heads. They understand the need to integrate technology to support their content knowledge and pedagogical practice. They don’t always know how to do this using new technology tools that support meaningful learning, and aren’t just gimmicky add-ons. As Teacher-Librarians, we work hard at staying on top of new ideas in this arena. We have committed to work closely with our staff, both in the library and in classrooms, to help staff and students come to grips with new ideas using technology to support their learning.

When looking at existing and new ideas for curriculum offerings, we are encouraging our staff to use the SAMR model to inform their planning. I first saw this last year at the AIS Conference, where Martin Levins was leading a sandpit group talking about how to use it to modify learning tasks.

Again, when explaining this model, I see heads nodding in agreement.  Teachers ‘get it’ when you use models like this, and they pay attention to models that have a research base. SAMR was developed by Ruben Puentedura, and from my perspective, it, along with TPACK, should be the basis of any discussion in schools about the use of technology in the development of learning tasks.

The next layer of our Information Fluency initiative was the development of Information Fluency certificates for Year 7, 8 and 9. These have been created using the ISTE NETS for Students as the basis. Key understandings and skills they introduce as critical for today’s students are the following:

  • Demonstrate creativity and innovation
  • Communicate and collaborate
  • Conduct research and use information
  • Think critically, solve problems, and make decisions
  • Use technology effectively and productively

We have used ISTE’s NETS.S curriculum planning tool to help us identify skills we think students should have acquired by the end of  each year.  We were looking to develop an identifiable skill set that we could measure in terms of acquisition. I’m not a strict proponent of a ‘tick the box’ measuring scale by any stretch of the imagination, but I did want something concrete that we could use with our students and staff.  We recognise the need to address the upcoming Australian Curriculum and looked to ACARA to see what was being developed there. What is contained within the General Capabilities underpins meaningful teaching and learning, and is really quite closely aligned with the ISTE NETS for Students. What we have done is to tag each skill within our Information Fluency Certificates with the appropriate General Capability it addresses.  As our staff plan curriculum, we feel these certificates will help them to identify how they can embed new technologies and practice into their delivery of curriculum, knowing that they are addressing aspects of the General Capabilities that ACARA have identified as necessary.

What has taken up considerable time this year, has been the introduction of an Edublogs platform to enable all students from Years 7 – 10 to have an ePortfolio as a means of documenting and demonstrating their learning. In the early stages of planning this Information Fluency initiative, I could see we were going to need some means of sharing the learning that was happening in classrooms. We investigated a WordPress Multi user setup, but felt that the management of this would fall on individuals already tied up with full loads, and our under the pump IT team who already work tirelessly to maintain a robust network. An Edublogs platform that costs, but allows for blogs to be set up with our school’s domain name and comes with support, was decided to be a more workable option. The initial creation and linking of blogs to home page class blogs took some time at the start of the year, as did the work that took place in classrooms teaching students how they managed their blogs/ePortfolios. We have allowed students to select their own themes and customise sidebars with widgets. One of the critical elements of the set up was having students create categories within their blogs/ePortfolios. We recommended they set up a category for every subject they were studying, and other categories that reflected key school directions and co-curricular involvement. Students were taught how to write their posts and add a category or multiple categories to each post. This has made it easy for subject teachers to check into student blogs and click on their subject category, seeing all of the posts written by that student for their subject area.

We have encouraged our teachers to use these these blogs/eportfolios for formative assessment, and students have been encouraged to use them on their own initiative to write about what they have been doing in their classrooms and in co-curricular activities. Over the course of the year we have seen some wonderful ePortfolios created, supported by teachers who can see the positive benefits for our students as they create their own digital footprint. When you see a student’s blog as Google’s top result for a search for Yr 7 Unit of Inquiry, it’s pretty impressive. (One of our staff members was conducting just such a search, and sent me an email excitedly relaying what she’d found!) Students have embedded Clustrmaps in their sidebars, and have seen the reach they have by writing in public spaces. We’ve even recently had the author Susanne Gervay leave a comment on a student’s post that was discussing her novel, ‘Butterflies’. Not every student ePortfolio is brilliant, and some year levels are working much better than others, but we are in our infancy still. It’s accepted that this is part and parcel of the pedagogy now, and we will continue to develop the platform in 2012 and onwards. What these blogs do is provide terrific feedback for students, something that has been a key focus area for our staff as we explore elements of John Hattie’s research. It’s also really encouraging to see students providing feedback to one another  – they are remarkably supportive of one another. We’ve also seen parents and grandparents leave comments. It’s this critical school/home nexus that is seeing our school move closer to a Networked School Community, the type proposed by Associate Professor Glenn Finger and Mal Lee.

Our Edublogs platform has seen many of our students develop skills identified on the Information Fluency Certificates we created. We do recognise the need for the certificates to be fluid documents responding to new technologies as they arise and present our students with new opportunities and challenges. 2011 has been a year of development, and 2012 will be a year of  implementation. We need to map our curriculum to ensure all faculty areas take on board the skill set and understandings we have identified as being critical for the development of effective citizens in our world today. This is not easy work, particularly as it often means teachers need to accept the idea of working in a co-teaching capacity when they themselves don’t have the necessary skill set.

Something I would like to look closely at next year is the AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) National Professional Standards for Teachers and see how the work we are doing aligns with these standards. Helping teachers see the connectedness between school initiatives and their professional development is an important part of this process.

As a Teacher-Librarian, this is critical work. We are working as change agents in our school, and in the process, doing the best kind of advocacy we can for our profession. This is the work of a Teacher-Librarian today, if you are prepared to stay abreast of change and develop the skill set that can move your school and student population where they need to be.

Talking plagiarism with students

Today I spent some time with students discussing the issue of plagiarism. It’s an important issue to discuss, and one that I would prefer to cover at the start of the year rather than nearer the end of it, but I take heart from the fact that we are having these important discussions with our student population. I thought I’d share some of the resources I used to put my presentation together. First up, I think it’s important to note that one of the General capabilities that need to be addressed in the upcoming Australian Curriculum is Ethical behaviour. Here’s the information pertinent to this from the Australian Curriculum site.

In the Australian Curriculum students develop ethical behaviour as they learn to understand and act in accordance with ethical principles. This includes understanding the role of ethical principles, values and virtues in human life; acting with moral integrity; acting with regard for others; and having a desire and capacity to work for the common good. As they develop ethical behaviour students learn to:

  • recognise that everyday life involves consideration of competing values, rights, interests and social norms
  • identify and investigate moral dimensions in issues
  • develop an increasingly complex understanding of ethical concepts, the status of moral knowledge and accepted values and ethical principles
  • explore questions such as:
    • What is the meaning of right and wrong and can I be sure that I am right?
    • Why should I act morally?
    • Is it ever morally justifiable to lie?
    • What role should intuition, reason, emotion, duty or self-interest have in ethical decision making?

Understanding the need to behave with academic honesty certainly is an ethical understanding our students need to have.

The definition of plagiarism I used came from the Smartcopying website, an excellent source of information about copyright for Australian schools and TAFE institutions.

“Plagiarism occurs where a student uses someone else’s ideas or words in their work and pretends they are their own. If the student has used a lot of someone else’s words without that person’s permission, copyright infringement may also occur.”

A conversation like this can be a bit dry, so I used some recent controversy surrounding Beyonce  and accusations of plagiarism of choreography to spark the student’s interest. Watch for yourself to see what you think.

Interestingly, I’ve just seen a post where Beyonce has admitted that the Belgian choreographer’s work was an influence on her latest video. I’ll keep watching this story as it’s bound to have some good fodder for future discussions with students.

We explored our school’s plagiarism policy and discussed actions the students could take to avoid falling into the plagiarism trap. We discussed effective notetaking, and techniques such as making dot points under information they might have cut and pasted from the internet to ensure they synthesise the information and write in their own words. The importance of proper attribution of resources they have used in a bibliography was explored, and I reminded them of the SLASA  online referencing generator we have subscribed to, and mentioned EasyBib, as we are just starting the process of subscribing to this and think it is going to be incredibly useful for our student population. (We need to use APA style here in Australia, hence the need to purchase a site license rather than use the free version).

I wanted our students to understanding the view Universities take on incidents of plagiarism, so we took a look at the University of Melbourne’s page about Academic honesty and plagiarism. 

 

I really liked the quote they use on their page, and made a point of discussing it in detail.

The most important attribute that the University of Melbourne would like to see in its graduates is a profound respect for truth, and for the ethics of scholarship. The reason why this is so important is that we want our graduates to be capable of independent thought, to be able to do their own work, and to know how to acknowledge the work of others.
Professor Peter McPhee (Provost 2007-9)

We had noted that the University of Melbourne uses Turnitin to check for incidents of plagiarism, something we do not have at our school. I showed the students Plagiarism Checker and explained how we are able to insert text and receive a list of Google links that may provide the source of where they have obtained information, if they have indeed plagiarised.

I then thought it wise to show the students a site they could use to help them check their work for incidents of plagiarism. We have to always remember we are dealing with young people, and even though they may have been part of a discussion like this, there’s no guarantee what they have heard has stuck. Sometimes, their issues with plagiarism are not because they have deliberately intended to cheat, but more because they have not understood that cutting and pasting people’s ideas is the wrong thing to do. I showed them PaperRater, and there was a fair bit of interest in this site.

I’ve only just discovered this site thanks to a tweet in recent days, so I haven’t had time to check its effectiveness. Another similar site is Grammarly, and I discovered this when I saw my son using it recently. He was using it to check the quality of the grammar in his writing, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed that he was the least bit interested!

I need to learn more about these sites, who is behind them, and how they work. If anyone is armed with more knowledge that will help us all out in understanding them more, I’d appreciate you leaving some feedback as a comment.

I’m pretty sure today’s discussion went somewhere towards hitting the mark with these students. This is the kind of discussion we need to continually revisit in our schools, even when kids tell us they’ve heard it all before!