I’ve worked with half a dozen or so student teachers throughout my teaching career. During the final week of their time with me, I always offered them the option of visiting other classes – as many as possible – to observe and “steal” best practises ideas about classroom management, bulletin board/art ideas, lesson delivery, etc. They had a chance to see both what they would and would not want to incorporate into their teaching platforms. The student teachers always appreciated what would likely be their only opportunity to go “shopping” for a pedagogical war chest in this manner; we more than once fantasized about a university class that would require you to roam from school to school, in city after town, harvesting ideas and cataloguing expertise. Of course, the cost of all this travel would be prohibitive……
….unless you were required to do this from the comfort of your own home, using your personal computer….for EDES 545! Exploring virtual school libraries and the qualities of great virtual school libraries is a nice obligation to undertake. It was kind of like a demonstration of Glazer and Page’s collaborative apprenticeship – without notifying the mentors!
I began compiling a list of great virtual library qualities by peeking into the virtual libraries listed on our EDES 545 Weblinks.
From the M.E.LaZerte High School Library, I liked:
Internet research links to resources
Online databases/ search tools and strategies
Citing sources advice
Links to the Public Library and the U of A – providing extensions for the present and planting seeds for the future
Diploma Exam/Learn Alberta links – good opportunities for extending learning and test preparation
I found the layout of the site unappealing and thought the “study skills” portion may not be too popular with the students, although I like the homework help I found in there. I liked the tutorial on word play and jotted down examples of chiasmus: parallel pieces of writing with word, letter or phrase reversal, like “It’s not the men in my life, it’s the life in my men” or “A magician pulls rabbits out of hats; an experimental psychologist pulls habits out of rats” or “Lust is what makes you want to keep wanting to do it even when you have no desire to be with each other. Love is what makes you want to be with each other even though you have no desire to do it.” But when I returned to the site to link the homework tutorials, I couldn’t find them…..frustrating.
From the Prince of Wales VL, I liked:
The updates – keeps the VL current, in agreement with Minkel’s “cat box” rule: changing some things regularly keeps them fresh
Subject categories – this could speed up searches for specific information
Young Canada Reader’s Choice Awards listed – celebrating our heritage is a good way to instill pride and citizenship; parents would appreciate it when gift shopping, too
New Fiction booklist – generates continued interest in the library
From the fabulous Springfield Township High School VL:
The tour option – made a good overview
Appealing graphics (I noticed the artist shared Valenza’s last name – it had to be her daughter)
Information about the staff, including a photo – this put a human touch on the VL
Upcoming wikis and their potential for collaboration
Information on copyright – a good reminder about ethical work
Online lessons – keeps parents, absent students, beginning teachers, etc. in the loop; cool platform/review for evaluations, encourages teacher sharing and collaboration
General information – hours of operation, contact info including email, fax, phone, physical address
Statement of library policies
From Latimer Road VL
The EDES 545 link! It was nice to see the collaboration extending across different school terms!
The silent reading pass idea – what a great way to add prestige to reading – by making it a special reward
Teacher friendly edublogs, including 10 ways to use blogs with your students – great!
Study skills – How to smarter than a fifth grader is a great title
From Birch Lane Elementary School VL
Student reviews – builds clientele “buy in” – for students and parents
Magazine rack – extends audience appeal, adds contemporary touch
From Belmont VL
Clear, concise, uncluttered format
Current events – great way for cross-curricular discussion, great application to the “real world”
Site Map – gave a great overview
From Highlands School VL
Parent page – good PR
School information page – including student handbooks: saving the environment and streamlining the delivery of information at the same time
Tips on writing and creating good presentations
From Catskill Elementary VL
From my own imagination, I’d add:
A wish list for the library
A celebrations section – showcasing support given to the library
FAQ’s with “help” features or an email avenue for questions
Of course, the VL must be tailored appropriately to suit the needs of its clientele, it must be organized in a clear manner and easy to navigate, it should be appealing visually and the quality of writing within it should be high.
Fusing all the bulleted ingredients together would make, in my opinion, a wonderful VL.
Using a virtual library has many advantages:
- the material that is “borrowed” virtually cannot be overdue
- materials cannot acquire torn pages or coffee stains or be transported through a dog’s intestinal tract
- it’s the poster child for portability – it can be taken anywhere a laptop can travel
- it can accommodate multiple users simultaneously
- it can increase access to material as it’s open 24/7
My VL investigation led me to digital libraries, which store materials in digital formats and showcased even more advantages of “hooked-up, tuned-in” on-line library connections. As a case in point, the World Digital Library afforded accessibility to rare collections – ones that you might never get to see otherwise. Examples? You can view original handwritten lyrics for the Beatles “Yesterday”, you can pour over old maps written in Latin, you can turn the pages of a book about ancient Egyptian treasures….. You can “interact” with books as well – rotate them, move them around, turn pages, magnify, translate text, listen and contribute to comments….incredible stuff. Advantages? In addition to universal accessibility of its collection, this library promotes international/inter-cultural awareness and understanding, provides resources to educators, expands the amount of non-English and non-Western material on the internet, and will do this all free of charge. Exact copies of materials can be made any number of times without loss of quality. Money is saved on storage space, book upkeep,and staff ,but the process of converting print to digital format and for the tech skills to maintain them and to maintain online access [for example, the material in a digital library must be “migrated” every few years to the latest digital media] can be pricey itself….. And, many who could – and should – benefit most from the global reach of the World Digital Library lack the infrastructure to access it – it’s hard to use such a wonderful resource if you don’t have a computer or a socket to plug it into.
Another great digital library I stumbled upon was the Perseus Project, which focuses on materials from ancient Greece. With the Olympics coming up, I’d use this site to springboard Olympic historical research, to create some “information gladiators”. There were some wonderful stories, including one about Milo, an Olympian who was so strong he reputedly challenged all comers to take away a pomegranate he held in his hand. Even though he held the pomegranate so tightly that no one could get it from him, the pomegranate was never damaged. (This would be a good segue to or from the story of Persephone and Demeter and how they- and pomegranate seeds - are connected to the seasons. I read the myth to my class every fall and we follow up with discussion, sampling pomegranates, and student-written retellings of the story.)
We also read and discuss a child’s version of Hercules, then follow up by writing the 12 labours of ___________(a modern day “hero”) – for example, the 12 labours of Ted the Baker. Project Perseus has great information both for Hercules’ biography and for his labours – wonderful resources for student research. A caution about the information on the site – because it has pictures from ancient Greece, some of the drawings of people are featured in full glory nudity. Some parents may object; some students may sensationalize it or become goofy. Teachers will have to use discretion and set an age-appropriate, educated tone for the class. Doug Johnson writes that he tries to remember and apply the Latin phrase “Ex abusu non arguitur in usum”, translated as “The abuse of a thing is no argument against its use.” Johnson advises anticipating the problem, then using the technology anyway. I concur.
I concur as well with Valenza’s statement that today’s libraries should have 2 front doors and that one of them should be virtual. The construction of great virtual libraries can facilitate great teaching…..and great learning opportunities.