It's the message not the medium that matters

Teacher librarian Lynette Barker recently returned from Budapest where she travelled as one of four Australian ‘Innovative Expert Educators’ selected to attend the Microsoft Global Educator Exchange.

At the E2 Global Exchange I was inspired by Anthony Salcito’s (Vice President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft) vision: “We need to empower every child on the planet to achieve more”.

Technology and libraries offer amazing opportunities to support this vision.

As a primary school teacher librarian I teach information processing skills to students from Kindergarten to Year 6.

Skills like critical thinking and information processing are required across all key learning areas, so I feel I’m fostering in students lifelong skills of great value.

I know what I’m doing is important so I love teaching it.

The digital world has a growing influence on our daily life, so I ensure that technology is a core component of library lessons, although I rarely plan a lesson around technology alone.

When designing a lesson, I start with a learning intention and then look for the best way to achieve that outcome. Most often it will involve a combination of tools and formats, and will always include a quality piece of literature.

For example, during a recent Year 4 lesson we discussed the removal of Newcastle rail line. We examined an 1856 newspaper report about Newcastle residents fighting not to have the railway line extended into the city centre. This was a print resource made accessible via technology. We compared it to current blogs arguing that we should not terminate the line in the suburbs – that we should ‘keep the line’ into the city centre.

We went on to read the picture book Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne, to further explore the concepts of author bias and differing perspectives. We also viewed a variety of emotive protest images, discussing how they may be used by authors to sway a reader’s opinion. Overall we examined a variety of information sources – all valuable.

Technology does open up an incredible array of learning opportunities and it is important that all teachers move towards developing skills and confidence in the use of technology to enhance learning.

I always advise teachers to be ‘gentle on themselves’ when beginning to explore technology use in the classroom – select one technology you find interesting and give yourself time to play with it. When you are ready to take that technology into your classroom be honest with students and ask for their support.

“It’s okay to fail, okay to experiment. Have the confidence to say to the class ‘we’re going to try this today and it may not go to plan’.”

When you master something – move on to a new challenge.

For me, it is the trend towards using game-based elements in learning to engage students that has captured my imagination. I have commenced a ‘Minecraft Mates’ project with the Teacher Librarian, Kerry Gittins, from the International School of Lausanne, to explore possibilities in this area.

In Budapest I formed great friendships with the other Australian and New Zealand Microsoft Innovative Educators – opening doors to some exciting Skype and collaborative tasks in the library.

Chat to your teacher librarian, explore the library space-you might be surprised at the exciting things taking place-and you will always find some beautiful literature to share with your students.