OPUS a new information and learning model

OPUS model

 

OPUS is my new model for learning and information that integrates both of those important parts of school life. Although both learning and finding information are two of the most vital areas in school there is no model that links the two together even though there are so many aspects that run through both. To find information is to learn and to learn is to do so through the finding of information.

Maybe it’s because no one has ever viewed bothy of these in the same light together or those that view learning don’t think/know about information literacy and vice versa. In fact this may just be the case and you’ll agree if you work as a school librarian where on a day to day basis you see the ignorance of information literacy and the important role it plays!

However, this model is a potential catalyst for more discussion around both these areas being integrated so they can both work collaboratively and cohesively as they should.

The OPUS model is hopefully a way to be able to not only do this but to also provide libraries and school librarians with a system they can implement that can be used across the school and be fully embedded within the curriculum. This is where information literacy should be and where it can have the biggest impact. Teachers set students work on an hourly basis yet do they do so making sure that the students are aware of what they are looking for, where they might find it how they can best access the correct information? The answer is most likely no. A model like this is therefore what librarians have been crying out for as it encourages this type of learning to take place making sure that the responsibility of information skills is delegated through the whole school and taught in every single lesson.

The model itself represents the four main areas of learning and searching in a progressive order. In each stage there is also a further sub division that highlights the main areas of learning within. These subdivisions are real ‘stuff’ the bits that make the learning happen and the bits that explain how each section is possible. For instance in the Objective stage, the first stage, the sub divisions include the definition of need, the eliciting of prior knowledge and definition of gaps. What this looks like in real terms is an understanding of what is being asked, what prior knowledge exists to answer or complete the query and then a definition of what information is still needed.

The practical application of this in the classroom will be when the teacher is setting work maybe as homework, specific research work or even classwork. Things should be made explicit to the students and this could form a series of questions or a class discussion. For instance the teacher sets the main question thats needs answering and a discussion is had with the class to clearly define what is actually being asked of them.

What information do they need to answer this question. This, fundamentally is the ultimate goal. For a teacher this discussion also means that each student is able to leave the classroom or begin answering the question knowing exactly what it is that is being asked of them. A bonus for any teacher is that this will undoubtedly increase the quality of the work the student produces and the so also the difficulty of the work that teacher sets can get progressively harder over time due to students’ understanding of this methodology.

There is also some give from the teaching in a model like this. They need to be active in the learning as well as the student. Firstly the work they set must be meaningful not a series of treasure hunts, i.e. find ten facts about… The question set has to lead to a thirst for further knowledge and sometimes these are best achieved as challenges. The teacher also needs to be active in eliciting any prior knowledge of students. Helping them to see the links between this piece and any other work they have previously undertaken or even any knowledge the already have for a diffferent reason. This, coupled with guidance on formulating and defining the knowledge gaps leads to the completion of the first stage Objective, or defining the problem.

The next stage Plan, goes hand in hand with Objective as it is again a part of the classroom environment. This is where the teacher will spend time talking about important information literacy aspects such as keywording during internet searching and reliability of sources whilst also modelling what this process looks like. This is both familiar in terms of information literacy but also in terms of learning in an outstanding classroom. The process of modelling is important in allowing the students to see what it is they are to achieve and how they are to go about it. It forms an integral part of both of these aspects.

In the first stage we see the learner trying to gain a better understanding of how they are going to learn. This I have called the learning to learn stage. However in the Plan stage this is about the teaching enabling the learner to continue their journey. They are giving them the skills and knowledge that is going to help them undertake whatever task it might be.

The OPUS model , although not linear in the fact that a learner may move back and forward as they reassess the learning, does also follow a progressive path an ‘end’ stage. This end stage is a combination of the final two sections of the model, the Understanding and Synthesis sections.

The Understanding section involves the discovery of learning or information and it is the part where the learner finds themselves applying their skills, practicing their information searching or learning and assessing their success as the go along. This discovery stage is where the student, having been enabled can undertake the task armed with the correct tools to succeed. This the the meat of the learning and an important part of the whole.

This is also the point where the learner may find themselves referring back to Objective stage as they confirm whether the information, or learning they have completed is correct.

It is also the point that makes the final ‘end point’ possible. Moving seemlessly to the final stage of Synthesis sees the learner applying what they have learnt, found in a practical application. This can take the form of creating something or communicating an understanding or it could be about elaborating on and furthering the knowledge and understanding gained from the discovery stage. As mentioned before, OPUS is not linear so can allow, as learning does, the student to move back.

This model has already proved to be a success in school where we continue to use it as both a teaching/learning model and an information literacy model. In future posts I will cover its practical application with examples of how this can look in a classroom as we already have collected many successful examples of this.

However, it is exciting to see how a model which has information literacy at its heart can link so strongly to that of a teaching and learning model and which can be embedded into the ethos of learning in a school and be fundamental to a clasroom.

So watch this space for more information!

The murder of knowledge and the importance of school libraries

Knowledge, over the years, seemed to have lost its original meaning or has at least been lost in translation, especially since the dawning of the internet and the world wide web. Although in the 12 century one of the earliest meanings was to do with sexual intercourse the more familiar explanation given is that of  facts, information and skills acquired through education. That, for me, has to be the main point. ‘Gained through education.’ The implication is that one cannot just be granted knowledge but that there must be a certain amount of work and graft in a formalised setting. It is this that seems to have be lost since the invention of the internet.

Knowledge is now touted as the thing that is easily and readily accessible at the end of one’s fingertips and via a whole host of devices such as phones, tablets and computers. Knowledge is there for the taking. However we must not get confused with the differences between the idea of knowledge and with information. Information comes at us from all sorts of places and the internet is just one of those. There are endless reams of information that enter our lives on daily, hourly basis but this does not result in knowledge.

Information exists in abundance but knowledge is the ability to synthesise, understand and use that knowledge in a useful way. Knowledge is the higher order outcome that exists when we take information and are able to synthesise, understand and use it in a useful, successful way. It is the learned process of taking information and becoming it’s master, using it to your own ends and needs. Knowledge requires you do something with the information and not just take it in via osmosis. The belief that we can become more knowledgeable due to the ease of access of information is an interesting one and certainly not wrong. What is wrong though is the belief that this information can be directly turned into knowledge without a process occurring to assimilate this information into knowledge. This assimilation is the key and the area that worries me most about information in schools.

The kinds of information that schools are looking for is specific. In the bigger picture of information what schools require is just a drop in the ocean and this is the problem. If there is so much information and a student just requires a miniscule amount of that information how are they able to reach it succinctly and successful? The answer is of course with the aid of a guide and filter. Someone who is able to arm the student with the relevant skills to enable them but also someone to help filter out a lot of information that just isn’t needed. Then there needs to be a curriculum and level of teaching in the school where this information, once accessed, can be turned into knowledge where the user is ‘taught’ the understanding. Realistically what we are describing here is a library. A library where the librarian is one of curriculum leader; guiding the school and learning to make this outcome possible and where they are filtering the glut of information into manageable, usable and relevant information that can be transformed into knowledge. Importantly it also requires a library where there is a range of ways to access to information outside of digitally and if that is books then even better.

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The over reliance upon the internet is only perpetuating and further blurring the difference between information and knowledge. Having spoken to a number of highly qualified and leading curriculum experts there is very little of the curriculum that requires the internet. What the internet provides education and the curriculum is the enhancement factor. Collaboration is key for teachers, to share best practice and to access resources to enhance the learning in the classroom through technologies. However there is very little, to nothing in the curriculum that requires the internet. It may make finding information quicker and easier (though without the relevant skills I would argue against this) but you can still do this without the internet. Ultimately the curriculum is by no means dependent on the internet and neither is learning. So why do schools and educators believe it to be so?

It is because we have become conditioned to believe that the answer to everything is on the internet; that because the internet contains lots of information we are able to readily use it to find out whatever we need. But having and finding the information is very different from knowing and understanding it.

If we think back to our original thoughts about the internet when it first started to take over our lives we believed it to be the connection to the world; that it opened up possibilities for us to be closer as a species and that communication would become easier. However, what we seen over the past decade is instead something very different. We have seen a dramatic shift in the way information flows across the world. Sites such as Google and social media representations are filtering the information we receive to personalise the what and when of our lives. We are becoming part of a filter bubble where we only see what an algorithm thinks we want to see.

A perfect example of this is my smart phone. The Google app on it tells me in the morning how quick it is to work and what the traffic is like. It also tells me that on a Wednesday I take a different route as I drop my son off. Brilliant, you may think. But, I have never told it this information or created a setting to tell it do so. It does it because of the algorithm. Big brother is indeed watching us.

Even when we are not logged on Google uses 57 signals to personally tailor the information we receive based on those different factors. There is no longer a standard Google anymore where we all receive the same results based upon our enquiries. What we receive is information that places us in a bubble by not only showing us what it thinks we want to see but also eliminating everything else we don’t. The worrying fact is that as these corporations become more targeted in this way our students in our schools may be receiving a quantity of information from any one search but they might not be receiving the right types of information or only information targeted towards what they algorithm thinks they want. This could be disastrous and potentially harmful in the learning process.

So how do we overcome this? How do we stop this from happening and make sure that students get the information they need without the over reliance on internet where they are only receiving biased, tainted facts?

The answer is obvious. Libraries and librarians. We need to trust the skills and knowledge of the librarians and we need to make sure these skills are utilised when analysing curriculum needs and looking at resourcing subjects. They need to be part of design of schools and the fabric of learning just as the classroom teacher and senior leadership are.

The curriculum does not need the internet but with some taming and an understanding of where and how it can be used to enhance learning and improve processes the internet can be a useful tool for all of us. So let’s use the people that can already do this in schools, the school librarian.

Activating the Reading Brain

The reading brain

So, in my previous post about mapping the reading brain (here) I talked about some of the research I had undertaken in determining what it takes in an individual for them be a successful reader. Similar to my idea of a hierarchy of reading (here) but instead of being about what we can do to make reading fully integrated it is about what must be happening within an individual child for them to become a successful reader.

 

Since publishing this post I had a number of schools approach me looking at how this might be something they could use and implement in their schools. I have had some really good, positive conversations with SLTs and literacy coordinators and SENCos  on the things that they might be able to do in their schools to help every child become a successful reader. It’s also sobering to see that it is both primary and secondary schools that feel this model can be used to further the amount and quality of reading of their students.

In looking at how a model such as this might be able to be used within a school we’ve taken each of the areas and looked at the types of things that might need to occur for that section to be activated within the student.  This could be an activity or something else that is the spur for this section. In working with these schools we’ve also discovered that there are some things that they are already doing and thinking about but that these aren’t as explicit as they should be.

 

There is no particular place to start with a model like this as all the elements are just as important as each other however I’m going to begin with the knowledge section as I believe this to be about the bedrock of creating successful readers.

knowledge

 

When talking about Knowledge the part this plays in creating successful readers can be seen in the choices our weaker readers make. Prior knowledge of a subject gives an understanding and comprehension that cannot be underestimated. It is this velcro, this stuff that we as readers use to turn the ideas of text into an understanding of what those ideas are. The full intentions of the author, with this understanding which we can only infer, become ‘laid bare’ in the text for us. This is true of pretty much all fiction where the author doesn’t make everything explicit, it is a vehicle, and a needed one in fiction otherwise all stories would be extremely tedious. Weaker readers, when they do select books, and this is also true for reluctant readers, choose books that they have an understanding and knowledge of. So for instance the sport mad weak reading boys pick football books. OK a bit of a generalisation however you can see the truth in that reading to those students is something that is hard anyway so they might as well read a book that they get, that they understand the terminology and can infer meaning from.

This knowledge though can only come from having a life. From having experiences as we grow up, from coming across as many different things as possible. You can see where this is heading as I’m sure you know from your own school where a student has clearly lacked this (for whatever reason) and the impact it has on their reading. So what can be do, how can we activate this in a student and help them maintain to this to become a successful reader?

To start with we need to get an understanding of our students as individuals. What do they like, what are their interests? We need to build profiles of them as readers linking together the soft, non cognitive areas of attitudes (my gold dust in reading improvement) and also their abilities within reading such as reading ages etc. We need to make sure that we are providing a range of resources for students to be able to access. Not just different types of books but also different ways of accessing reading. We need to help students create and have new experiences, to build upon their velcro and to give them more of that ‘stuff’ that’s going to help them make connections.

Curiosity

After Knowledge comes Curiosity. For a student to be successful in reading they need to have in them the want to read. This is really the fundamental of the non-cognitive skills with the leading light being that of attitude. If a student does not want to read, no matter how proficient they are, they will not do it. This attitude leads to a curiosity to find out more, to know more, to read more. It is with questioning and wonder that a student will become successful in achieving this but how can we achieve this in our schools? How can we foster this with our students? The first thing is to truly understand a student’s weakness is and the reason why their attitude is as it is. Is there something that is holding them back or something that has led to them having a negative attitude. By analysing and assessing these soft skills, or fundamentally the non-cognitive skills we can begin to put things into place to make an improvement. Whether this knowledge needs to specific interventions or an ability for us to promote different things in different ways to the individual depends on many things: how we work, our contexts in our schools, the time we have to work with students etc but the knowledge that we gain from doing this tracking leads us to what we can do.

Another important thing is to make sure that the school is promoting and disseminating a love of reading for pleasure. Now, in my opinion this is best done through a library and librarian where all types of reading is allowed and celebrated, where reading is promoted across the school and in every classroom and a culture is built where reading is not only celebrated but is also accepted as the norm. This article doesn’t aim to say whether a library is the best place for this to happen: there are schools where a library and librarian is in place and this doesn’t happen and also schools where a library and librarian aren’t present where it does happen. For me, a library is the most obvious and visible place (the thing with reading is that it needs to be visible) however I do not wish to ascribe to schools the method which they should use (maybe another article at another time).

 

Cognition

The next step on our way to activating the reading brain in our individuals in schools is all about cognition. We have talked already about the importance of non-cognitive skills and especially that of attitude. But alongside this, if we are to truly activate an individual into reading, we need to give them the skills to be able to physically read. For so many students this is the backbone to comments that start ‘I don’t like reading’. What is behind this is the fundamental ‘I don’t like the process of reading I have been through’ or ‘I don’t like what I associate reading to be’. What is the student at a reading crossroads and what can you do about it knowing what the barriers are?

Is reading given a chance in the curriculum across all subjects or is it only ever associated with English. Are opportunities given to promote the benefits of reading and the enjoyment that reading can give as well as giving a positive interpretation of what reading actually is?

This is where the ‘literacy’ element of reading comes into play. This is where the school needs to promote the links between literacy and good teaching and learning across the whole school. In a classroom where a teacher not only understands the weaknesses some of our students face concerning literacy but has strategies in place to help them, differentiate etc and allow them access to the learning the promotion of reading skills is explicit. Knowing that some students need reading chunked as they process words slowly, or that they have trouble decoding so bullet pointing reading can be of real benefit, is extremely useful for both the teacher and the student. This is what literacy skills across the curriculum really entails and what ultimately makes a difference.

To make this happen though we need to track the students to know this and to be able to share this information. We also need to think about how we can use our knowledge of our students’ weaknesses to be able to help them in different ways. Do we think this is going to be via 121 intervention. What is the benefit of this? Are we taking students out of lessons they enjoy/are capable of, just to give them more of what they know they cannot do? Or, are we trying to improve the quality of teaching in our school so instead of having an intervention for 1 hour a week extra they are receiving help and guidance in all their lessons so 25+ hours a week?

 

Grit

 

Finally, the last piece of the jigsaw that is activating the reading brain is that of grit. How we can have young people sustain reading? How can we keep them on the reading curve and make sure that when they fall off they get straight back on? Young people need to have this resilience built into them around reading if they are to be successful but what things can we do to help make this happen? This is where we need to think back again to perception to those ‘soft’ non-cognitive skills, to young people’s perception around reading. We need to continually praise and challenge students with their reading and there needs to be someone in school is invested solely in the students’ reading outcomes. Do you have someone like this in your school? Do you have someone that is committed to engaging young people into reading and wants them to continually improve. More importantly do they this under the guise of allowing students the ability to see that they can read and that they can enjoy reading?

 

In activating the reading brain in our young people we need to have all these things going on all the time. As a school we need to realise exactly what it is that is stopping from young people from reading in the first place and then put things in place to break down the barriers that exist. We are all capable of being successful at reading though some need more support than others. Fundamentally, these are the things that make a difference. These are the points that when encouraged, nurtured and grown will have an impact and will create readers.

To all the information literacy specialists

Dear Information Literacy Specialist,

Are you an information literacy specialist in your school? Do you teach information literacy skills to your students? Do you consider this to be your role?

Have you ever thought that your insistence on doing this or being this is actually having a negative and detrimental effect on the teaching of information literacy across your school?

Let’s look at the facts and numbers. Surely a model that all schools should be looking for with the teaching of any kind of skills is that it is in every classroom. On the whole students are lazy so for them to gain a understanding of certain skills they need to access them on a regular basis. If we want them to use these skills without thinking when they come across situations in which they are needed we need to make sure that they become second nature to students.
I think most sensible people would find this hard to disbute.

So, if you teach information literacy skills are your students getting a diet of this on a daily basis, because surely it must have to happen on a daily basis for these skills to become natural? And by this I of course mean all students not just that you are teaching the skills regularly but one student will only have have this type of teaching once a month or so. I also mean that it needs to happen to all students all the time not just intensively with one year group , like yr7 or yr12. Even if you work with some classes and ‘teach’these skills ad hoc that’s all it ever is.

Surely the only answer to these questions can be no. If you’re the specialist and you’re ‘teaching’ it there is no way you can do this. If you have 8 form groups in each year 7-13 and 5 periods in a day that’s 280 classes each day, so are you in all these classes embedding these skills? Clearly not.

So the question then becomes is your insistence on you being the information literacy specialist in school having a negative effect on the teaching of information literacy? Is your precious nature of this being part of your role giving off a negative view of what information literacy is? When you drill even further are you actually the best person to be teaching information literacy skills? This answer I would have to say is a big no. For if you ‘teach’ it then students will only ever view it as a skill that is separate from everything else just because your teaching it, this is regardless of how much you can actually do and how many classes you can be in.

The best model is that every teacher is an information literacy specialist. That every teacher, in their lessons is teaching these skills on a lesson by lesson basis. Then all students not only get a fantastic diet of these skills on a regular basis but they see how these skills fit together in all their subjects. This cannot be achieved any other way.

So are you the person that is stopping information literacy skills being an integral part of the classroom? Is it your precious nature that only you can ‘teach’ these skills that is stopping students from having access to them and them becoming ingrained in their learning? Are you making these skills so far removed from the classroom with the view that only you are the specialist?

Why not alllow all teachers to be information literacy specialists and allow them to do the things they are good at, teaching, while you enable them to do so by leading them. Why not let others, especially the students see that they can be specialists and that it isn’t something only one person in the school can be?

Are you the person stopping this from happening or are you enabling it to grow?

Why school libraries are killing school libraries

I’m actually going to start this potentially controversial post by expanding on the title and adding in that it is also school librarians that are part of the reason why school libraries are a dying breed.

There have been so many discussions recently about the fact that school libraries should be statutory, that Ofsted should and must visit a school library as part of their inspection and that the reason why school libraries are dying is because there is not enough support from senior leaders in education and schools.

(Before I begin the entirety of this post I want to mention that I feel this kind of outcome isn’t necessarily what we should be aiming for. What we should require in schools is for there to be some part of it that is dedicated to all the things that a library can/should achieve but not necessarily  dictate to schools what that is. Let’s be honest a school that has a great librarian and a library doesn’t always equate to one that has an impact. But let’s not dictate to a school, ala M.Gove exactly what that should look like especially when we’re not so clear ourselves what this looks like… )

Well, I’m going to take a slightly different tact on this and suggest that maybe the reason why there seems to be so little support for school libraries outside of school libraries is that there is a mass of uncertainty as to what a school library actually is. This apparent opaqueness, in my opinion, is perpetuated by those that run libraries. For instance how many schools actually have a space that is called a school library? Ok, they might have a space that runs as a school library but is it actually known as that or has it been given some other name in an attempt to redefine it as something else such as an LRC or the many other, numerous, ‘rebrands’ that go on in schools?

For me, and remember this is my opinion, the reason people rebrand their school libraries is to change people’s perception about what a school library is. The belief is that the term library has so many connotations and so, by renaming the space, we can change the perception. In actual fact this is probably the worst thing that you can do. What you should be doing, to change the perception, is change the ethos and behaviour of what goes on in the library. You can change the name but if the behaviours persist then you’ve just destroyed people’s perception of that name as well as that of library. What you should be doing is changing those behaviours to make sure that the perception itself changes. The change of behaviour results in the change of perception not the other way around.

A case in point is that of the ‘learning commons’ a name that is starting to become ‘on-trend’ and synonymous with supposed forward thinking academies. Unfortunately their interpretation of the model (which in itself is full of contradictions) is basic in the slightest. In fact by even calling something a learning commons you are defeating the purpose of what it really is. Having spend many hours researching and attending conferences etc that have covered the premise of a learning commons I feel confidently able to point out that a learning commons comes about when a library adapts itself to the 21st Century and most importantly to it’s users. Stemming from the 1990’s and the digital commons, where spaces were available for customers to use this new technology (that wasn’t readily available in the home) a learning commons is more about an ethos behind how you run your service and what you offer your users, depending on their needs. It most certainly isn’t about giving something the name of a learning commons and expecting everyone to accept your space as the learning commons model. Remember you need to change the behaviours first.

When ‘drilling’ down to what a learning commons is and how it can be used in schools you see that a school isn’t necessarily the best place. Larger universities and colleges are more suited to the more formal model of a learning commons as they (the learners) are going to more likely be undertaking self organised learning where they require the space to be adaptable to them. In a school however the majority of the time students are undertaking  directed learning in a dedicated space, i.e. the classroom. They are only ever going to need a ‘learning commons’ space for self organised learning during break/lunch and after school. However, if you were to take the learning commons ethos, which it appears differs from the formal model, then it isn’t just about one space in a education environment. All students need this ethos perpetuated throughout their learning lives and embedded and interwoven in their classrooms.

It appears, in the numerous articles available on learning commons, that to achieve a learning commons a library needs to be responsive and adapted to it’s user needs. To be reflective on how they might need to use the space and to allow this to happen. A common in these terms is similar to that of the local village green, a place to congregate. Really what they are saying is that a learning commons is achieved when a library evolves and stops being a static model that just holds and organises books and information. This is a really jarring point for me. It relies on the belief that a school library doesn’t do this already. That it doesn’t respond to it’s users needs, that it doesn’t adapt, evolve and change as technology and needs do. This, for me, then begs the question who is giving people this impression, for someone must be otherwise there wouldn’t need to be a ‘model’ renamed as something else telling us how to evolve our school libraries. The only people that this can be are the librarians themselves, surely?

So, not only do I have an issue with the learning commons in itself I also have an issue as to why anyone felt that they needed to point this out. A learning commons is what you get when you have the foresight to adapt your school library to it’s users. It is not a separate entity to a library and so in calling something a learning commons you continue to perpetuate the myth and belief that a library cannot do this on its own. It is the same when you rename your library an LRC or research centre, or discovery base. All you are doing is saying that a school library can’t be this, instead of changing the perception of a school library so people can see that this is exactly what it can be, and so much more.

If we want school libraries to be in all schools, if we want them to be valued then we need to start with our own perceptions as to what a school library is. We need to be clear in our own profession about this before we can begin to expect anyone outside of the profession to understand what we do and what we can achieve. It is down to us to define what a school library should be and look like and I don’t mean a tick list I mean a fundamental vision of adaptability to needs and requirements and behaviours. We need to stop trying to rebrand ourselves by giving ourselves different titles and stick to one name for us and one name for our space and be clear on what that means. If we can’t do this then we can never expect anyone else to get it.

So my question is; who are you, what do you do? What is your space called and are you adding to the destruction of school libraries or are you helping to build a positive perception about them and what they do by challenging the behaviours associated with school libraries and making sure your ethos is one of adaptability and credibility?

Integrating information literacy into the curriculum a journey #2

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A recap – around 3 years ago we set off on our journey to make information literacy a integrated part of learning in our school and part of teacher pedagogy. Although the journey probably started more like 6 years ago it was really in the last 3 that in roads were made.
After a successful meeting with SLT and my proposal for placing independent learning (info lit) at the heart of research, or any work set I met with our assistant head who was in charge of teaching and learning.
He was just about to undertake a review of homework in the school to make it more successful. Non compliance of homework counted for around 75% of our detentions. The quality of homework received was poor as was the setting of it and there was no or very little impact from it, in general.
I decided to put my case across that part of any information search required preparation before it could be undertaken. An analysis of what was being asked needed to be undertaken, prior knowledge needed to be accessed and therefore gaps in the knowledge could be highlighted to direct searches. Homework also needed to have a direct impact on learning. If a student was being sent away to find 10 facts about the Romans how do they know what 10 facts are going to be of any use whatever. Therefore there also needs to be a thought process happening around what is being set and why.
Being a fan of the flipped learning idea, but wanting to make it more sustainable with a lot more substance to it we started to work on the idea of students doing research that was going to directly impact on their next lesson. The more we thought about it the more the finer points seemed to slip into place. If students were going to come to the lesson prepared it meant teachers had to think about the work they were setting, how it was going to lead into lesson. It also meant that they needed to help guide students: explain better what they wanted, teach searching skills, key wording, skimming, scanning etc etc. It also meant that if students were coming to the lesson with prior knowledge and a grounding in the area that was being covered the teacher could then spend the rest of the lesson compounding the knowledge. Thus in reality giving the teacher an extra 40 minutes of teaching in each lesson.
It was perfect. It relied on both the teaching and learning element and the information literacy element working hand in hand, complimenting each other. Without info lit and the explicit teaching of its skills it was worthless and without the teaching element it was just research.
What we in fact found was the Mecca of information literacy in an education establishment.
The next step though was to role it out and get everyone on board…

Integrating information literacy into the curriculum a journey #1

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So, as alluded to in a previous post, we are in the position in our school where we no longer teach information literacy through the library, at all, period.. Well at least not in the sense that the majority of schools do.
In most schools, if information literacy is taught at all, it tends to be through the school librarian running a couple of sessions in the year 7 induction, maybe some for Yr10 students and if they’re lucky some at KS5.
My argument for this though is that info lit skills are basic skills. They are not the bedrock of info searching but also for learning. You need to learn something you assess what your gaps are you think about where you might find the knowledge you gain it and then use it. Pretty much the same process as an information search. Yes along the lines there are bits and pieces that differ, nuances etc but the general principles are there.
So, if a librarian is ‘teaching’ these skills they are only ever, in the scheme of things, drops in the ocean of a students learning. And if we know anything about learning information has to consistent and persistent if it is to be taken in. Therefore in reality information literacy taught in most schools is worthless.
These were and are my beliefs and being someone that likes to keep busy innovating, creating and improving I don’t like spending time on things that are worthless.
So, after spending years trying (and failing) to get the school to understand the purpose, nature and benefit of info lit I decided that what I needed to do was change my understanding of teaching.
If I could show a way of convincing staff and senior leaders that info lit could enhance teaching then I had more of a chance to integrate info lit into our school.
After a lot of pitching ideas I managed to get a slot on an SLT meeting where I proposed a simple model for accessing information (I called it independent learning – before the phrase became a buzz word!) and showed how you could use a consistent way of setting work where students would be able to produce a higher quality output and teachers would gains kills to improve their teaching.
SLT liked it and agreed to give it a trial to see how it fared. Luckily at the same time our Assistant Head in charge of teaching and learning was looking at our homework policy to see if we could do something different which would improve the quality of it and stop the 80% of detentions which were made up from students not doing it.
This, I knew, was the opportunity to make info lit / independent learning fully integrated into the school. If we could somehow tie the two together then not only would I not need to teach worthless info lit lessons but we could have info lit skills being used in every classroom across the school.