I completed my Master’s degree through the quality online program offered through Charles Sturt University, Australia. Every aspect of my learning journey was clearly outlined, well developed and supported through their online learning platform. They had been offering this type of program for many years and so by the time I arrived in classes, it was running very smoothly. Many Universities have suddenly switched face to face classes to online classes, forcing teachers to suddenly adapt not only the method of instruction but also the content and the assessment (Hodges et al.). It is important to acknowledge there is a huge difference between carefully crafted online learning experiences and our hasty move to remote education and that applies to all sectors, tertiary, secondary and primary.
With all of its challenges and difficulties, this time of emergency remote teaching (ERT – yes it already has its own acronym) offers all educators opportunities to develop new skills and methods that may well become a regular part of education delivery. We have what is now called Pandemic Pedagogy and Natalie Milman, writing for Education Weekly goes as far as to outline 10 essential aspects teachers should consider as they proceed with classes online. We should be evaluating the successes and quality of our ERT programs so that we can prepare for future disruptions (Hodges et al.).
The challenge for Teacher Librarians is that similar to IT coaches and support staff in that what we do to support learners and teachers while involving technology, is also best achieved one to one or with small groups, real-time and face to face. I have been reading many blogs and tweets and other posts trying hard to see what my peers are doing. I think as A J Juliani rightly states – there is no manual for this and so no one right way to go about being a Teacher Librarian working ERT. This is actually very liberating and the truth of the matter there never was one right way.
So here are a few things our library team has tried over the last four weeks driven by the desire to add value rather than stress or busywork.
- We have emphasized reading for fun. No strings attached. Just read for enjoyment. To do that we removed limits on borrowing before school went to ERT. We had one and a half days but many students took us up on the offer and walked out the door with many books. We made sure our students and parents new about our online reading resources. We explored all the “free” online access offers and only took up the ones that we rated and were actually free and without strings.
- We post once a week to all primary students and again the post is simply – read. Enjoy what you are reading. We have offered a few activities that were entirely optional and again away from screens.
- We have run an online parent afternoon tea for primary parents showing our online resources. We had a limit to the numbers who could attend. It was very much appreciated by the pare\nts who came who like us have been thrust into this strange world of ERT.
- We set up a padlet for grades 6 and above and staff to show what they are reading right now. In our school we usually have that posted at the doors of our classrooms. It is now online and I am thrilled at how densely populated it is and with many wonderful comments from the people who are posting.
- We have endeavored to keep BOB alive (BOB is Battle of the Books and we hold two of these Quizzes each school year, one for grades 5 & 6 in December and one for grades 3 & 4 in May). Our students have really engaged by offering questions for practice quizzes run through Google forms. So we are working on existing commitments to make them actually happen.
- We are working with whole classes in the online meetings, small groups and one to one to support research through guest spots, reference interviews and again filtering through all the “free” offers of resources and finding the ones that \are the best fit for us.
The things we have struggled with to date is the sudden pressure to do more to be “visible”. I am resisting that as much as possible for a few reasons. We don’t want to clutter up people’s inboxes with extra unnecessary work (see the pint about adding value). When we do try to do the extra things they can turn out to be overly complicated – I am finding that keeping it simple is so important for my own sanity but also to be able to communicate clearly.
What doesn’t change are the underlying values of why we do what we do. In resource selection I found myself going through the same criteria we would use when evaluating any online resource to add to our collection – and fortunately we have that clearly outlined in our Collection Development policy. We support personalized learning and my best ERT experiences have been working with students one to one on their particular needs and questions. We want to empower our students and teachers to be confident users of information. We celebrate reading and invite everyone to be part of our reading community.
We are about to go to Spring Break and everyone in our school community will be having a staycation this year. We sent out a Spring Break online reading resource to all staff and students, just in case they were near the end of their print book piles. I am planning to go offline for a few days at a time. As I said in my last blog post – I am not great at this ERT librarianship – yet.
Hodges, Charles, et al. “The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning.” EDUCAUSEReview, 20 Mar. 2020. EDUCAUSEReview, er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
Juliani, A. J. “This is not online or distance learning.” A J Juliani, ajjuliani.com/this-is-not-online-or-distance-learning/. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
Milman, Natalie B. “This is emergency remote teaching, not just online teaching.” Education Week, 30 Mar. 2020, www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/30/this-is-emergency-remote-teaching-not-just.html. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.