Papatoetoe East is a decile 3 school in South Auckland. In 2008 the school began building a new library, recognising that it could no longer just be a place for book exchange and acknowledging that the literacies needed for the 21st Century are now much wider than they once were, the new library has been developed into a vibrant centre for learning.
The development of our library probably started as a project four or five years ago. Like a lot schools we were placed in a prefab library which at some stage we hoped was going to be redeveloped, both because of the size of our school changing and also because we had become aware of new technologies. So we started on that journey of providing some of our senior staff and myself with the opportunity of looking out as to what was out in the schools.
We’ve always believed that as a primary school we, our role is to give children a taste; to do as much as we can to offer, both financially and educationally as our resources will give us; give children that opportunity to taste these different things. But at the same time, prepare them for what we know is their next steps at both intermediate and high school. And so all of those myriad of ingredients were going around in circles for a big deal of the time. We always had in the back of our mind, that if we were going to do that, and put all this money into this asset, we need to staff it in a totally different way than what we were doing in the past.
So I approached the board with the possibility of raising the stakes of the library putting my deputy principal really in charge of that whole area, using staffing in a more creative way where we could use our curriculum release time, finding a teacher who had the ability of not only working across the whole age group levels, but having someone who had that spark and that interest to start from scratch with inquiry based, ICT, literacy, you know, that whole new area. Then to see if they had the interest to develop themselves, and that’s where Rachel Clark came into the position.
I’ve been teaching here at Papatoetoe East off and on for 15 years or so and my back ground is kind of in literacy and then a couple of years ago I took a year off to go to university and while I was there I was a bit of a, what do they call , the word, digital immigrant, at the time. I didn’t really know that much about using the internet for teaching and learning and so I did a couple of courses at university which kind of just kicked off a bit of a spark and what I discovered while I was there with the reasearch that I did, which I came back and did here at school, was that although children these days seem to be very computer savvy and very knowledgeable about the internet and using computers, in fact there are huge gaps in their knowledge and their learning, because mostly, I believe, they haven’t actually been systematically taught the skills that they need. Another part of my role is promoting an enquiry process of learning throughout the school. We’ve just been starting to work on that over the last couple of years so we have developed our own process. It’s a five step process that we work though, and I bring children, groups of children into the library , that have been identified as gifted or have high reading levels and this is what we’re working on this year and I work through the inquiry process with them, teaching them the skills that they need to learn, things like: skimming and scanning and note taking and being able to evaluate resources. I am working with a group of year six students at the moment on an enquiry process, and we’ve been working on investigating tsunamis because that is our current topic at the moment. And we’ve come to a point in the process where they are gathering information and have used some non fiction books to do that and now we’re looking at using the internet to find information. From my observation, children are quite good at generating they key words or the key question that need and they’ll type that into a google search bar and the first hit ususally is wikipedia and from my observation that’s what they tend to rely on. And its not always highly reliable and its not always easy for them to understand as primary school students either, so we’ll be looking at comparing wikipedia with a web site such as Encyclopedia Britannica which is designed for children and is easier to read and easier to gather information from. And so we’ll look at both of them and we’re going to have a checklist that we’ll work through, and come to some conclusions about which website was the most useful for them when it comes to gathering information. For us here, the library is still the central hub of literacy in the old traditional role in some respects. But it also has to be a place where our children can acquire all the skills that they need for digital literacy. And that means, that for us, we have to make sure that as well as allowing children to be aware that they need knowledge and to access it, they also have to be able to retrieve and evaluate knowledge and they also have to be able to create it, and that is the area that I think that we are really focussing on to give the children the skills we feel they need for the 21st Century.
By committing to and providing the best that a well resourced library can offer, Papatoetoe East School is creating the vital opportunity for its students to develop into skilful, creative 21st Century Learners
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