Term 4 1997
- Feature article
- Regular features
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Barramundi and Chips at Christo's
The venue was tropical Darwin and the occasion was the first joint national conference of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE), the Australian Literacy Educators' Association (ALEA) and the Australian School Library Association (ASLA). The theme of the conference was 'Unsettling Certainties: Language, Learning and Culture', with a four-day program focusing on society and culture, language, literature, technology and the future.
Although the number of teacher librarians and teacher librarianship papers may have been less than usual at national ASLA conferences, the joint arrangement meant there was a wealth and diversity of papers and workshops in areas such as literacy and children's literature, as well as the opportunity to discuss common concerns with English and literacy teachers. Examples of the range of sessions appreciated by many teacher librarians included:
The hand that wields the liquid paper: censor-ship and young adult fiction -Margo Lanagan.
SCIS Online via dialup and the Internet -Lance Deveson
Being sued for negligent teaching: an unsettling certainty for the 21st century -Dr Peter Williams
Girls read, boys play sport -Judy Thistleton-Martin
Nasties on the Net: media hype or major concern for schools -Ken Dillon
Ten years writing: a review of my books from 1987 (So much to tell you) to 1997 (Dear Miffy) -John Marsden
The good, the bad and the ugly: series fiction for primary readers -Dr John Foster
School libraries: supporting a learning culture - Shelda Debowski
EdNA: the prime Australian online resource - Linley Kemeny
Darwin did the conference proud with magnificent weather, outstanding locations for conference events and a strong organisational effort with great support from the NT Department of Education. One special feature of the conference was the number of children's authors in attendance including John Marsden, Paul Jennings and Morris Gleitzman. A very successful 'Litfest' was held on the third day which was enlivened by opening the conference to the general public (particularly children) for the afternoon. The trade display was of a high standard with a range of specialist and mainstream publishers and organisations present such as Curriculum Corporation, the National Library and ASLA.
'Unsettling Certainties' could not have been a more relevant theme. There is no doubt that today's educational reality is a scenario fraught with challenges where change is unavoidable. The information revolution, the world population explosion, increasing globalisation, economic upheaval and technological innovations are all impacting on societies and their education systems. Improvement is the only choice any of us have and teacher librarians, recognising the potential of school libraries to nurture a learning culture which provides opportunities for learners to develop cognitively, culturally, socially, affectively and technologically, are riding the crest of the wave. As professionals within our communities we have actively sought to restructure schools to form new teams so that needs can be diagnosed, options and opportunities can be explored, priorities can be set and targets can be achieved.
A dip into any of the sessions available at the conference on children's literature would have confirmed that teacher librarians need to redefine and extend their roles beyond the lingering T / L stereoptype. It was apparent that literary works with children as their primary audience offer ever greater variety and richness. Post modern children's literature asks questions such as 'What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there? What happens when different kinds of worlds are placed in confrontation, or when boundaries between worlds are violated?' There was a distinct call to incorporate more popular culture into the curriculum. Post modernism has provided the impetus and the recognition that children's literature carries the act of reading much further than the closing of the last page.
Hand in hand with the debate about popular culture was the acknowledgement that if education at school is not to become increasingly marginalised and irrelevant, it must embrace the shift from print culture to electronic culture. It has been recognised, and widely debated, that schools need to embrace a wider range of literacies, redefine their notion of text, and provide equal emphasis on current and future skills. Sessions by Shelda Debowski, Avril Llewellyn, Lance Deveson, Georgia Phillips, Ken Dillon, Ashley Freeman, Chris Skzeczynski, Judy Hunter, Connie Clement, Jenny Krassnig, Karen Bonanno all reiterated that the processes for gathering and managing information are a critical part of the educative process, and are now more important to successful participation in education than at any other time in history.