Tag Archives: literacy

Final Reflection on My Library Learning

This TEDx talk sums up what people need to know; a library is more than just a collection of books.  It is the distribution of ideas and information that is important, not the medium (Bennett, 2014).  In the beginning, when I told people that I had decided to study to become a teacher-librarian, they were surprised to find out I would have to take 10 courses to receive my Diploma.  As I admitted in my first blog post, that was my reaction too.  I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know.  A teacher-librarian does much more than build and maintain a collection of resources, and on this journey I have learned that it is important for a teacher-librarian to:

  • be a leader in the school community
  • advocate for the library program
  • create a space, both physical and virtual, that meets the needs of all its users
  • teach a wide range of literacies including information literacy, digital literacy, visual literacy, literacies across the content areas as well as reading and writing strategies
  • facilitate collaboration among the staff to provide more learning opportunities that will ensure student success

A library website can encompass all these ideals.  So, in reflecting on the creation of my final vision, I can’t help but reflect on the entire process of working toward my Diploma, as so much of what I put into my website I learned from other courses.  This course has allowed me to create a platform using digital technology to share that learning, as well as create something I can use professionally.  Even though I have made a “fake” website, I did visualize a real school when creating it; the one where I realized I had found my niche, and that started me on this new journey.  So, depending on what school I end up at, some information contained in my website will have to change, but much of what I have created I will be able to use anywhere.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 8.17.18 PMThe challenges I faced were frustrating, but overcome as I took advantage of the expertise available online.  Of course my website will continue to be a work in progress.  Most pages are incomplete, but they do provide an idea of what I want to accomplish.  By providing professional development opportunities on the Teacher page for my staff, I can help develop my role as leader within the school community.  Using my website to showcase resources and services that are essential to the success of students will help me advocate for my library program.  By creating a blog that highlights school community events, as well as pages for students, teachers and parents, I can ensure that my library can meet the needs of all its users.  By providing lessons for both students (Research Tools page) and teachers (Teacher page), I can help improve multi-literacy competency for all learners.  Having a space for teachers on the Teacher page to highlight their library projects will help me facilitate collaboration.

Though it is a difficult time for teacher-librarians, it is also an exciting one as we reinvent ourselves for the digital generation.  Though our core values remain the same, and I am certainly not ready to give up books just yet, digital technology allows us to engage learners outside the physical space of the library.  It lets us share our ideas, knowledge, creativity and imagination with those outside our local community as well as receive others’ ideas and knowledge for use by us; helping us to create life-long learners within ourselves, our colleagues and our students.  So though I don’t think there is anything that will replace the joy I feel of turning the pages of a good book, I am ready to embrace this new medium as an added dimension to my role as teacher-librarian.

pinned by Barbara Schmid



 Works Consulted

Bennett, C. (2014). The library is not a collection of books: Charlie Bennett at TEDx Telfair street.  Retrieved at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFGCB51xb6U

Image Citation:

Bradley, P. (2014). Flickr. Pinned by Ashley Louden at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155233518380680576/



Filed under LIBE 477

Libraries: A Global Perspective

“Should libraries in developing nations rely on donations and weeded books from developed nations?”  This statement in this week’s module reminded me of a discussion in another course about what to do with weeded books.  I am sure many teacher-librarians are like me and don’t like throwing anything out, but I think it is demeaning to expect that developing countries should be grateful for or rely upon our out-of-date, old, discarded books.  This discussion also reminded me of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author who grew up reading American and British children’s books.  Her views question whether or not it is appropriate for developed countries to simply provide new books to developing nations.

“At about the age of seven … I wrote exactly the kinds of stories I was reading: All my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather: how lovely it was that the sun had come out. This despite the fact that I lived in Nigeria; we didn’t have snow, we ate mangoes, and we never talked about the weather, because there was no need to.”

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story, TEDGlobal 2009.

The first 3 minutes of her TED Talk brings up the fact that though she enjoyed the foreign stories she read, the “unintended consequence” was that growing up she did not know that people like her could be in a story.  (Though the rest of her talk is not related to our discussion, I highly recommend watching it if you have the time.)


Consequently, my online search focussed on how organizations support libraries and literacy in developing nations.  Is it mostly through donations of books and materials from developed countries?  Or do they work closely with countries to make sure their cultures are well represented in their own libraries?

The first organization I looked at was Room to Read.  Room to Read was started by John Wood, ex-Microsoft executive, in  1998.  The organization soon realized that “one of the greatest challenges to early adoption of the habit of reading in developing countries is a lack of high-quality, age-appropriate children’s books in the local language.”  So in 2003 it started publishing books in the countries where it works.  Of course, publishing takes longer than simply buying and donating, and to date, though about 14.5 million books have been distributed ,  just over 1000 have been published.  A low ratio, but I think they are on the right track.

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Room to Read statistics, 2013. (screenshot from http://www.roomtoread.org/OurPrograms)


Another organization I found was Librarians Without Borders, working in Ghana and Guatemala.  I was intrigued by this organization because I hadn’t heard of it before.  It was started in 2005 by a group of librarians who wanted to do something about “the vast information resource inequity existing between different regions of the world.”   Though its website has no statistics about their work, the values of LWB state that they “do not draw cultural or linguistic boundaries – diversity is embraced; we will work with our partners in their own cultural context and in their own languages.”   Membership is free in Canada and gives individuals the opportunity to partner with community organizations to help in areas of need.  I would like to look at this organization in more detail.  I think it would be a great way to showcase in my own library how librarians are supporting literacy on a global scale, giving a way for my school community to support others.

Though digital technology has become an essential part of libraries in Canada, I couldn’t find information that these two organizations help provide it as part of their donations.  Room to Read did not mention technology at all on their website (ironic from an ex-Microsoft executive?) and though LWB does provide access to digital content, it is unclear if donations help support the purchase of associated technology.  I assume it does as technology is such an important part of library services.  In reference to mobile technology, it makes sense that some areas in developing nations are bypassing traditional computers and opting for going mobile.  It would be cheaper to install, allowing people in poorer areas without infrastructure in place, access to information, broadening their knowledge base, as well as providing them a voice on the global stage.

Group of Human Arms Raised with Speech Bubble



With my studies I have been mostly concerned with how I, as a teacher-librarian, can work with and be involved in my school community.  Thinking about how I can contribute to others on a global scale had not become part of my dialogue yet.  However, I appreciate the opportunity to broaden my perspective and find out how literacies are being supported around the world.


Works Consulted

 Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (2009). The Danger of a Single Story. TEDTalks. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Librarians Without Borders (n.d.) About Us. Retrieved from http://lwb-online.org/about-us/

Room to Read (2013). Quality reading materials: A life-long love of reading starts with great children’s books.  Retrieved from http://www.roomtoread.org/page.aspx?pid=463


Image citation:

Librarians Without Borders (n.d.) Events. Retrieved from http://lwb-online.org/category/events/


Filed under LIBE 477

Reading Review: Conclusions

The purpose of my reading review was to find digital technologies to help teach visual literacy.  I was able to find some good resources and I enjoyed looking into them in more detail this week.  There are a few I will definitely bookmark to use to help me teach visual literacy.  Reviewing my results, I found the most useful sites to be Learn NC and Edutopia.

Finley’s blog post on the Edutopia website, Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies, was helpful and has some good ideas on teaching visual literacy.  He offers strategies that teachers may be familiar with for reading text, and gives insight on how they could be used for reading images.  Searching the Learn NC site from the University of North Carolina yields pages of links for ideas and lessons for teaching visual literacy in the classroom.  They range in grades from K-12 across a variety of subjects.  Though many lessons are specific to the North Carolina area, there are still a lot of general ones for teaching visual literacy.  For example, one link, Resources For Teaching With Photographs lists websites and activities to use in the classroom.  These include an activity on optical illusions to help explain how our brains often misread the images we see, as well as a collection of photographs where students are prompted to spot which are real or fake.  The activities are interesting and there are pages of other resources and lessons that I am looking forward to checking out.


I was a little disappointed with the blog by Gary Abud, Digital Activities For Visual Literacy.  At first glance it lists a number of apps along with ideas about how to use them to support visual literacy.  However, like Marqueed, most of the apps are not educationally based, but for professionals to use for collaboration.  Though they seem to have educational value, I would prefer to use something designed for students in mind.  I did like Write About This, “an app for emerging writers that prompts the student to write about what they notice in a picture.”   I also liked Visual DNA, which is an image-based personality test.  It is a great way to think about your feelings and emotions in terms of images rather than words.

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Visual DNA: one of the questions in the personality test.


The ColorMatters site is different from the others I looked at. It does have a global colour survey students can take, but I was hoping to find more online activities on the site.   Instead, it mostly gives information about colour theory and how it relates to media images and branding.   Therefore, I think it has some excellent  information that could be used for a combined lesson on visual literacy and media literacy.

According to the literature, the term visual literacy has been around for awhile (I found articles from the 1990s) so even though I have only become familiar with it in the last couple of years, it shouldn’t be considered a “new” literacy.  I think what is new, is that with the rise of digital technologies, teaching visual literacy has become essential, not just as a way to engage visual learners, but as a necessary competency for all students.  Though I found numerous articles discussing the importance of visual literacy, I was a little surprised that I didn’t find more strategies for teaching it using digital technology.  Some of what I did find seems very useful, utilizing online activities and photo collections to develop lessons.  However, other suggestions focus on trying to use available apps that are designed for purposes other than teaching visual literacy.  Though there is value in using these apps, I would prefer using something that is intended to help students become visually literate.

Now that I have some resources to teach my students visual literacy, my challenge, as a teacher-librarian, will be to design lessons and collaborate with classroom teachers to teach visually literacy to our students; especially challenging in the content-driven curriculum of high school.

Works Consulted

Abud, G. (2013, August 16). Digital Activities For Visual Literacy. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://abud.me/digital-activities-for-visual-literacy/

Finley, T. (2014, February 19). Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies. Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ccia-10-visual-literacy-strategies-todd-finley

Marqueed Collect and Discuss Images. (2014). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from https://www.marqueed.com

Thibault, M. (n.d.). Resources for teaching with photographs. Learn NC. University of North Carolina. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/678?ref=search

Welcome to Color Matters. (2015). Retrieved January 31, 2015, from http://www.colormatters.com


Filed under LIBE 477

Writing Across the Curriculum

This post is my response to the Module Writing Across the Curriculum in my Literacy in the Content Areas course.

Besides teaching students how to write lab reports, I am not used to thinking about how writing differs between disciplines.  The ability to write in a variety of situations is becoming increasingly important and the YouTube video by Koppelman illustrated this fact very clearly.  Students need to understand how to write emails, brochures, blogs, reports, business letters etc. (Koppelman, 2011).  It established the fact that students need to understand how to write more than the 5-paragraph essay usually taught in English classes.

Math in the Margins: Writing Across Curricula into Community Heritage was an inspiring article.  It illustrated how writing can be brought into a math class in an interesting and meaningful way for students. It was great to see the students’ progression in the letters to their pen pals and how they incorporated math into their correspondence.  Using circle graphs to plot and compare their daily activities allowed students to connect with their peers (Sunstein et al., 2012).  Students were also encouraged to think about how they use math in their daily lives and communicate it with others.  Some examples of student writing from the article are:

  • “When I’m in my uni-loader at work I spin the diameter of a circle to dump the food into the cattle banks.”
  • “I sleep at least 8 hours (118 degrees), 33% of a day, the same amount of time I’m in school. I only have 14% of a day free, give or take a few, to do whatever. How about you?”

(Sunstein et al., 2012)

I think math is one subject that students feel most disconnected from as having little relevance to their lives.  Yet math is essential in understanding how our world works and necessary for almost any career a student may pursue.  One of the author’s experiences attests to this fact.  She states that “the culture of school math had turned me off” (Sunstein et al., 2012) but her decision to become an English teacher did not completely isolate herself from having to do math.   Within her teaching practice, the author had to learn how to analyze test scores and interpret graphs as well as solve other complex problems (Sunstein et al., 2012).    By providing students with occasions to talk and write about math in contexts other than “math class”, teachers can create authentic learning opportunities for their students.

The reading I spent the most time on for this module was the e-book, Guidebook for Teaching Writing.  Writing is an important part of literacy education.  Reading instruction is often emphasized over writing, but the two are interconnected (Urquhart & McIver, 2005).  The authors state that studies show students have better recall of text they read if writing is involved (Urquhart & McIver, 2005).  In this world of copy and paste, and fill-in-the-blank lesson notes, students have gotten out of the habit of writing what they are learning.

The book emphasized the importance of including the teaching of the writing process across subject areas if we want to help our students improve as writers.  This e-book was truly a “guidebook” with lots of examples, activities and strategies teachers could use to teach writing.  As a teacher who has not taught writing, I really appreciated all the ideas and hope to use many in my teaching practice.  Though I have not read all the strategies in detail yet, there are a few so far I would like to use.

I liked a couple of the Prewriting strategies as I think students often overlook this step in the writing process.  The Prewriting Think Sheet would be a good way for students to clarify their purpose in writing about a specific topic, and the Focusing Your Thoughts mind map would allow them to represent their ideas visually and help them focus on what is important to include in their writing.  I also appreciated the discussion about Blooming Sentences.  It is important for students to understand that sometimes less is more.  When loading sentences with unnecessary words, the writing may seem more refined, but the message may be lost (Urquhart & McIver, 2005).  This is especially important in science and math where writing needs to be clear and concise.

I love the idea of incorporating technology by having students complete e-journals/logs/portfolios.  However, I would go a step further than what is in the book and give the students the ability to share their writing with people other than their teacher.  I think students would take more care in their writing if they knew their peers (or even their parents or other adults) would be reading it.  It would also create opportunities for students to learn how to write comments of others’ work or ideas, a form of writing that is prevalent on the Internet.

Writing instruction is one area of literacy I want to continue to learn about and develop.  Though the articles in this module have convinced me of its importance in all subject areas I don’t know if the argument “time set aside for the writing process is time well spent” (Urquhart & McIver, 2005) is enough to convince discipline area teachers, especially in high school, to include writing instruction as part of their teaching practice.  Therefore I see my role as a teacher-librarian to try and convince classroom teachers of writing’s importance and/or collaborate with them to take over some of its teaching myself.

Works Cited

Koppelman, Z. (2011). An introduction to Writing Across the Curriculum. Purdue OWL. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXyxLRSQsoI

Sunstein, B.S.; Liu, R.Z.; Hunsicker, A.W.; Baker, D.F. (2012). Math in the margins: writing across the curricula into community heritage. English Journal, 102, 2, 16-26. Retrieved from


Urquhart, V. & McIver, M. (2005). Teaching writing in the content areas. Taylor Francis. ebook. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/lib/ubc/docDetail.action?docID=10083781

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