lauantai 15. elokuuta 2015

School library situation in South Africa, and 'Meanwhile in Finland'...

The IFLA school library section satellite was extremely interesting! After talking to several local librarians and educators and after my presentations to them, we all were able to conclude that we are experiencing similar difficulties in the field of school libraries. That is somewhat odd because of several reasons:

  • Finland is still among the top in PISA results and is widely recognized as a top education nation. South Africa on the other hand has unfortunately been found in the lowest top of education rankings of OECD
  • South Africa is still struggling with a whole range of different problems in schools than Finland: reading skills is still a fact that has to be promoted, lack of finances, a varied school system with a wide range of schools (from Private to poor township schools), technology is widely missing, in some areas girls are missing a week of school every month in lack of sanitary towels during menstruation, etc.
  • In townships the students are even being robbed on their way to schools. The news paper recently urged the certain year class not to wear their school jackets which indicate the certain school. This school got tablets and carrying technology with you can be very dangerous. It took only a few days and the school had been robbed of all smartboards and computers. Thieves get away schools tablets, Thieves targeting schools
  • Higher education costs money, at least 1000€ per year, This is leading to lot of young ones not being able to get educated, dropping out of studies because of tuitions. Youth unemployment is a severe problem, and not to mention criminality.
These are severe problems people in education are facing every day. I was amazed and blown away by the school librarians I met during the satellite meeting! In spite of all the above mentioned, they are engaged, brave, enthusiastic, extremely dedicated and a great example of activism in reading and literacy! After a short while I understood, that it is me who is learning here.

There were 5 panelists on Thursday, who were all presenting the situation of school libraries in South Africa. The issues can be collected to a clear list:
1. Management
There are 9 provinces in South Africa. Inside every province there are citied and inside different directorates involved in arranging local education. Provinces are quite autonomous. Every province has a school library person in charge, but they are retiring soon - will new ones be appointed? The management is sporadic and there is a lack of general management. The provinces has different situations and some provinces are a little better off. They obviously have things a little bit better. Some provinces has encouraged teacher training in reading, literacy and management of school libraries. School library of the year award is given to that library which has shown most progress. There are national guidelines.
Meanwhile in Finland, there are no guidelines, no one in charge in the government, and no legislation what so ever. Nothing to obligating to school library functions.
2. Financing
The school libraries here are lacking in financing. Some of the reasons are listed already above. The national guidelines suggest that 10% of the learning material costs should be put to library materials, but that doesn't always happen. Theresa said that the problem is that school libraries to acquire money but the results are not seen immediately. A lot of projects are going on as well. There are organizations, companies and NGO's that are financing for materials, spaces and furnishing.
Meanwhile in Finland, we do have similar problems. If there is a school library governed by a single school, it can be that a principal is giving the person responsible of the library some money when there is some to spare. The libraries taken care of by municipality libraries are usually better off. And if we are good at something too, it is projects. The sad business with projects is that it is always ending at some point. Then it is up to the organization to take over, also financially.
3. Space
Many schools in South Africa are downright crowded. If the school has not been built with school library in mind, it is hard to find the space. And many schools has been forced to turn the library room to a classroom, Computer room or similar.
Meanwhile in Finland, the problem is the same. The meaning of school library to teaching and learning is not widely acknowledged. New buildings may have a library room, if the management is acknowledging this issue. Usually the same faith of library rooms falls in Finland too.
4. Personnel
There are too few school librarians in South Africa. What is noteworthy is that researcher Albert Boekhorst summed up his research in school librarians. He was not able to find a things as a "typical school library". There just were too many models. BUT, one thing that he found to be the leading issue was, ta-daa, SCHOOL LIBRARIAN. This is what is needed for a proper school library.
Meanwhile in Finland, there are approximately some 20-30 full time librarians in Finland! The profession is very rare. We can start by asking does the public libraries give the attention to schools or do we need pedagogical librarians?
There are a lot of things going on in South Africa but there is a lot of work to be done. There people are dedicated and have a clear vision to aim for, much thanks to the national guidelines. Biggest problems are in staffing and lack of political will in implementing the national guidelines. There is still a lot of happening and the activism is making things happen!
Meanwhile in Finland, I argue that the meaning and the possibilities of school libraries to teaching and learning has not been fully acknowledged. Yes, libraries are mentioned in the core curriculum, but the library is still mainly considered to be a help for reading and literature. In engaging libraries to information literacy teaching, which is already happening here, is a big question in Finland.
I promised to keep the posts short when I started the blog. Sorry about the lengthy writing, but there was just much to be said! :-) I will be visiting 5 different school libraries next week, more to come!

perjantai 14. elokuuta 2015

Guided Inquiry Design and some issues about the Finnish core curriculum change

Thursday and Friday was spent in a much waited workshop in The House of Book, next to Company's Garden in Cape Town. The information literacy and school library sections of IFLA organized a Guided Inquiry Design workshop. There will be a separate blog post about the school libraries, but this is dedicated to Guided Inquiry Design (GID).

The method was already familiar to me but I wanted to get some indepth learning in this method. The GID was this time presented by researchers Ross Todd and Lyn Hay. I will not be going through the model here, but rather taking up issues relating to these two days and how does GID compare with the core curriculum renewal in Finland.

It all twirls around inquiry. This stands in the core of GID and it stands in the middle on teaching. Phenomenon based learning and similar are all going from looking at a phenomenon, posing relevant questions and inquiry based learning.

The present information society is setting more demands to us than the times before. We need to arrange and sort the world around us to understand it. Information is mostly digital. We have a whole generation of children, whose whole life is digitalized; playing, games, communication, enterntainment, and information, which is digitalized and spread across different networks. We can not change this, and therefore we need to work for giving the children and students the tools to manage the information.

This is becoming more and more vital in teaching. Students has this huge information cornucopia in their pockets. Understanding different information sources, comparing them, comparing the facts and making synthesis is the core of constructivist learning. Synthesis is not about listing facts from wikipedia to your presentation or homework.

Guided Inquiry Design is an impressive result of large number of studies done among school children and teenagers in order to help them manage the information and learn from it. It is addressing the information search process (ISP) and the well-known and natural pitfalls in the process. GID was designed to provide an information specialist, librarian/school librarian helping teachers in this path. With this model we can get away from the copy/paste process of making projects and other 'norms' and damaging behaviour we see in working with information.

Some examples: the minute you will guide the students that they need to make a powerpoint presentation about this they go to the computer, open up the program, gives a titel to presentation, and then already the educator has failed, says Ross Todd. This is happening too often. It is the thinking skills that the students are lacking in, not information searching skills. They do find various information, but working with it is not beeing directed or teached.

Of this same reason I have been telling the children stay away from the computer at first. Get your brain going, think! Circle around your subject, think what you do or don't know and start focussing. Mindmap the issue and think of KEYwords/SEARCHwords. Only after that you may enter the internet and search for material with the various search words and their combinations.

We should get away from product oriented thinking (presentation) and concentrate on the learning. What is the learning that has been reached if a primary school student enters the library with a question "I need to make a presentation about classical music." The student is just left on her own by the teacher. Is the techer expecting to get anything else as a reasult as plain simple fact list from the Wikipedia? What has the child really learned? Did she learn to find information?

The student is in a case like this going directly from finding information to so called 'learning'. Or did learning take place? In my research concerning the Finnish core curriculum I have used Christine Bruce's framework of information literacy conceptions. The discourse analysis suggests, that the current Finnish core curriculum has the information source conception and the knowledge creation discourse very visible. But where does the fact refine to knowledge? What happens in the middle? The process discource is poorly visible in the core curriculum of 2004.

GID is about learning to learn. It is a fundamental method of thinking, which can be implemented in which ever school subject. It is about deep learning happening along the process, which is leading to an outcome, learning (and possibly a presentation in some form). Learning to learn, lifelong learning, a fundamental method to be implemented to which ever subject.

We in Finland at least have during the last weeks seen a lot of VERY badly formulated web-discussion of people letting their feelings and prejudises take over. We would all need these skills, no matter what age, argumentation skills are the key to a constructive discussion instead of flashing out.

keskiviikko 12. elokuuta 2015

At the University of Western Cape

(Pictures added later on)

Third day in Cape Town and Tuesday was the first work day. In the morning I was taken to Cape flats, where University of Western Cape (UWC) is situated. There are three universities situated in Cape Town and UWC is the smallest. University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University are the biggest. TUAS has a NSS LIS Network program with UWC (among others) and this is why I was spending the day here, touring the library, giving a lecture to students and a public lecture. The university visit will continue on Wednesday in a satellite conference they are organizing.
UWC was established in 1959 to be the national university for the “coloured” people. The institution got a university status in 1970. The university has had a profile of unity and equity.  In 1982 the university formally resigned from apartheid thinking. At the moment the university is raising the research profile and the department of library and information science has 9 doctoral students.
The visit to the library was very homely! Hundreds of students working, a lot of working spaces, what we do not see in Finland in those numbers. The library is a hotspot of the campus! I was taken to a tour around and learned that because of the poorer financial conditions of the students (compared to the other two universities in the area), the library has done a lot to help out the students. They are for example giving out long time lending of course books to students for the whole year. They have been able to but a lot of material for this purpose because a large donation from Desmond Tutu. A lot of computer areas and printers are provided for the use of the students.
The student fees for a year go up to 1000 € per year. The library is also employing some 50 students do work in the lending desks and diminish in that way the payment of tuitions. Tuitions is one of the reasons for quite a number of people dropping out.  Still the tuitions are lowest here compared to other local universities. The university has also invested in giving more possibilities to disabled students and they at the moment have the best possibilities for disabled students to study.
The university library is also very active in implementing information literacy issues to teaching students. In collaboration with the library and information department, the library has this year adopted the renewed ACRL information literacy framework to the needs of the university library. The experiences until now have been really promising. A view of the framework will most likely be a subject of a blogpost later on. A discussion with the IL librarian Shehaamah Mohamed was very interesting and we will keep contact in the future.
I gave two lectures during this day. First was to the second year LIS students about my research in information literacy conceptions. There were about 15 students present, well done considering that this was not their normal day for lectures. The second was a public lecture presenting Turku University of Applied Sciences and what is the role of school libraries and public libraries in learning in Finland. The participants were from the university library, school library interest group, students and also public library librarians.
After a several discussions with Head of the Department Sandy Zinn and all the people I met that day, it is clear that we are facing similar issues. How is library seen as a space for learning? How must information literacy teaching be implemented and how to collaborate with schools?


tiistai 4. elokuuta 2015

Shaking the holiday off in the eve of IFLA conference

During the next few weeks the blog posts will be in English. I am soon heading to South Africa, to Cape Town to be precise. I will be a guest lecturer in the University of Western Cape and attending IFLA - World Library and Information Conference.
At the UWC I will be visiting the Department of Library and Information Science and giving two lectures: one concerning my own doctoral studies and one concerning the school libraries and information literacy from a Finnish perspective. I will also be meeting a fellow doctoral student.
The next week will consist of a presentation in IFLA School library session and school library visits. And the conference of course. I will be bloggin of different satellite meetings, sessions and speaches as well as of other notions and experiences during the trip. 
Expecting a very interesting, inspiring, and exiting visit!