Online vs Face-to-Face Learning Formats: A Personal Reflection

I got my first degrees in the United States more than twenty years ago, a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Japanese Studies from Wellesley College in 1993 and a Masters of Education in Elementary Education from Boston University in 1996. Some skills are transferable to my current studies but there are vast differences that will take getting used to.

Academic reading, research and writing skills are coming back to me, with a bit of help brushing up from the ALLaN team and other resources. The biggest changes to cope with are the differences borne of the online mode of study. In my former courses, I was a 100% faithful lecture, seminar and section attendee. I may not always have done all of the readings, but boy! did I participate in discussions and listen avidly and attentively to what my professors shared. That face-to-face interaction with course material was my primary learning environment. I am currently struggling with the digital replacements for that atmosphere and interaction.

I am lucky to have gathered together with a small band of classmates to form a study and support group via Facebook and Facebook Messenger. That has been a critical help when starting to nut out the requirements of assessment tasks or navigate the technicalities of blog setup and forum access. With a bit of luck and a small investment of time and transportation money, I should be able to meet one of the gang in Sydney later this week, score! While it does not quite replicate the camaraderie of late night dorm-room chats or trading war stories about ongoing teaching practica while trying to finish off readings before the professor entered the classroom – it is more than satisfactory and I feel real connections forming.

The area that I feel suffers the most by removal to the virtual plane is the classroom discussion. I appreciate the care that has gone into the crafting of the Discussion Forum platform, but I feel it is likely to stall discussion more than encourage it. In the classroom, when speaking, you can refer to readings without having to reference them. This lets you engage with the ideas in a more spontaneous and organic fashion. The synergy of bouncing ideas back and forth between discussants and seeing the idea develop and change before your eyes (or ears) falls flat when you need to pore over your APA Style Guide every time you want to incorporate something you have read. It turns a two minute response into a ten minute or more drafting exercise. Great practice for assessment writing, but rather antithetical to spontaneous exchange of thoughts. But here I am belly-aching as I survey the lay of the land from the vast experiential pinnacle of my second official day of classes. Perhaps the time spent drafting and crafting thoughts will refine them and hone my arguments in a way that ad-libbing off-the-cuff in class could not accomplish. Perhaps the practice of drafting discussion responses and blog posts with resource references will transform me into an APA 6th edition referencing wizard – whipping out accurately referenced sources faster than Homer Simpson can polish off a dozen of Springfield’s finest donuts. Only time will tell.

Technology giants, publishing companies and the library – why care?

Shatzkin (2016) discusses the change to the publishing industry brought about since the advent of Amazon in 1995 – the big tech companies have caused a paradigm shift in how people find out about, search for and acquire books. This is leading to a change in how publishers will work to market books. Shatzkin makes it clear why publishers need to be aware of the tech company trends and techniques, but why is it important for librarians?

Librarians need to know where to go to find out about new books and to assess the quality of books. In this transition time we need to know the new ways related to the tech giants but also the old ways that may still be used by publishers. To get the widest variety of choice we need to combine the traditional and how to make them serve our needs rather than dictate choices to us. We can either exploit technological methods or be exploited by them.

Additionally, Shatzkin’s premise (2016) that in order to readjust themselves to the current situation requires publishers to develop an understanding of how the tech giants actually work, especially the roles of Google and Facebook in marketing and readers’ ‘discovery’ of books has relevance to librarians. Just as the publishers need to understand the workings of search engine optimisation and social media promotion and how they interact with more traditional methods of book marketing to regain some amount of control in the fate of their products (Shatzkin, 2015), so librarians need to understand these topics to retain some level of control in the fate of their library collections. An understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques can help librarians locate materials they desire for their collections (Schiller, 2013). In addition, Rushton and Funke (2011) and Schiller (2013) describe how SEO can help librarians connect patrons to relevant material more easily. To remain relevant and valued in this digital age and avoid the risk of having bureaucrats make hasty decisions regarding libraries and technology that they then come to regret, as in the Canadian case of Windsor Catholic School District (CBC News, 2011) we must understand and ride this wave of change or risk getting wiped-out by it.

References Continue reading “Technology giants, publishing companies and the library – why care?”

Community perceptions of the role of teacher librarians (ETL401 Assessment 1 Part B)

My first official task as a student is to share what I think parents and other members of school communities perceive the role of a teacher librarian to be. I have a gut reaction to that question. I believe that the perception of the librarian’s role would vary among different categories of school community members, in a manner similar to the “What my friends think I do” genre of internet meme.

(Blue Mountains Library Staff Connections, 2017)

I would expect the most varied and nuanced ideas regarding the scope of this role to come from teacher librarians themselves. They realise their jobs encompass student welfare, technological coaching, curriculum development and collaboration with all members of staff in addition to teaching and collection management responsibilities. Principals and other executive staff would likely have a similar view of the scope of the role, but less awareness of the myriad different tasks involved. I believe teachers would mostly think of aspects of the role that affect their own daily jobs – like providing resources that align with the curriculum, collaborating on teaching units and providing technological assistance. Students would mostly consider book recommendations and direct teaching done in library lesson time, while parents, in my view, would have the narrowest view. They probably only think about the resource management and book recommendation facets of the role. Continue reading “Community perceptions of the role of teacher librarians (ETL401 Assessment 1 Part B)”

Opinions needed!

Welcome to my new blog.

I am currently canvassing opinions regarding the role of the teacher librarian to get information for my first proper post. If you would like to share your thoughts about what a teacher librarian is … or isn’t … please share them with me in the comments section.

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