Teaching for Sustainability in our School Library

We often don’t think about the things we implicitly teach. Recently, I completed a survey for The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) on our contribution to the United Nations Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

This is an example of how we can introduce the complexity of this to younger students:

What is Sustainable Development? from World’s Largest Lesson on Vimeo.

It is interesting to stop and think about what we might be modelling to our students beyond actual subject teaching – something the school library needs to consider on a regular basis.

These are the targets that I believe we are working towards:

These three are probably the most obvious.

SDGs 1

We are so lucky to belong to our College Community – with a long and proud tradition, a strong focus on health and well-being, dedicated and passionate teachers, and a well-established curriculum and pastoral care system based on Justice. We expose students to a number of world issues where these targets are far from being fully implemented and our opportunities to work towards these goals are provided through fund and consciousness raising.

Next, these two are related to each other:

SDGs 2

Last year we had a display based on LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex) Rights. The concept resulted from a member of staff attending a professional learning event at our local hospital. Up to date and relevant material was purchased, and a display space near the public phone, located in the Tower building, has been set up with relevant and medically approved brochures. We also focus displays at New Internationalist topics of note, and refer students regularly to issues relating to refuges and people fleeing war and or natural disasters.

Another set of connected goals which we model as well as teach can be seen in these three target areas:

SDGs 3

The subjects we teach that cover these areas include Geography, English  and Science.  The way in which we live these are as follows:

  • paper recycling bins
  • Papercut is now controlling our printing – which allows for jobs to be cancelled if they are no longer required, and prevents students printing to all the printers in the school but only collecting from one. This has had a massive impact on our paper and toner use.
  • OneNote notebooks which are now ubiquitous across the Senior Campus are also saving us from printing as many work sheets etc.
  • We also consider the environment when we turn on the air conditioners, and lights – and determine the timing, temperature and duration of use based on necessity rather than just having them running.

Can you think of other ways that we are meeting these goals? If so we would love to hear them.

The logos in this article have been used as laid down in the UN Guidelines for use.

Appraising calibre, authenticating content: (not AC/DC but AC/AC!)

We are living in an era where information is readily available, easily created, generally unedited or moderated, and widely shared. It is vital that readers have the capacity to appraise the calibre of content they encounter. Yet, it would appear that even students entering renowned universities cannot apply even the most basic of filters to images or documents presented to them (Weinberg, 2016).

Some simple starting points:

Based on Some Rules of Thumb – a guide to assessing online news and adapted to suit all types of information (Valenza, 2016).

Without applying a filter, or lens to what we read we run the risk of spreading misinformation, thereby perpetuating deliberately created and often specifically targeted fabrications which may be destabilising to governments or undermining to individuals. Far from choosing to be part of such a process, many are inadvertently passed on because people aren’t taking the time to evaluate sources (Tiffany, 2016).

Teacher-librarians such as Valenza promote their role as critical in educating more news literate and savvy information consumers. Tiffany states that this is more effective the earlier that students encounter such educators (Tiffany, 2016).

Coupled with the relatively recent rise in the spreading of “untruthiness”, is the concept held by many that free press equates to neutral information (Valenza, 2016). History teachers are adept at demonstrating that the underlying perspective of the creator, or interpretation of the historian affects the way in which the information s viewed. Much harder to teach, however, is the effect our own attitudes and biases affect the way in which we read and often lead us to ignore viewpoints that differ from our own (Valenza, 2016).

Teaching younger students about appraising calibre and authenticating content is made a little easier by using a resource such as the TED talk on “How to choose your own news” (Brown, 2014) – an engaging animation.

There is no doubt that there has been an exponential increase in the publication of extreme, untrue and misleading “fake news” since the rise of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, partly due to the fact that the number of clicks may equate to real income for the posters (Garun, 2016). This poses a real issue for the founders of such sites, such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who has expressed concern at the site being forced into becoming arbiters of truth (Liptak, 2016). The sites on which such “untruthiness” is spread have become known for fostering click bait (Zimdars, 2016).

There have also been allegations that social platforms influenced election results in several countries in 2016 (Garun, 2016). This of itself may not be all bad – but it does indicate the serious need for teaching readers how to negotiate the publications of our time by understanding the underlying purpose of the publications to which they are exposed, and to question the authenticity of what they read, in much the same way that commercial transactions advise that the buyer must be aware. It is critical that leading universities such as Stanford do not continue to find that their students are vulnerable to fake news (Weinberg, 2016).

It is crucial that Australian students are able to learn within their own context about the ways this can be an issue locally, as well as seeing information relating to the United States in particular.  We need to be developing Australian resources to support teaching the necessary skills.

As a teacher-librarian and History teacher I am up for the challenge – are you? Join the conversation at #truthinessEDU


Brown, D. (Writer), & Harris-Norico, A. (Director). (2014). How to Choose Your News [Motion Picture]. TedED. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-to-choose-your-news-damon-brown

Garun, N. (2016, November 14). How social platforms influenced the 2016 election. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/14/13626694/election-2016-trending-social-media-facebook-twitter-influence

Liptak, A. (2016, November 13). Mark Zuckerberg warns about Facebook ‘becoming arbiters of truth’. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/13/13613566/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-misinformation-hoax-media

Tiffany, K. (2016, November 16). In the war on fake news, school librarians have a huge role to play. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/16/13637294/school-libraries-information-literacy-fake-news-election-2016

Valenza, J. (2016, 26 November). Truth, truthiness, triangulation: A news literacy toolkit for a “post-truth” world. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from School Library Journal: http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/

Weinberg, S. (2016, November 26). Stanford Study Finds Most Students Vulnerable To Fake News. (K. McEvers, Interviewer) Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/11/22/503052574/stanford-study-finds-most-students-vulnerable-to-fake-news

Zimdars, M. (. (2016, November 15 ?). False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources. Retrieved December 3, 2016, from http://d279m997dpfwgl.cloudfront.net/wp/2016/11/Resource-False-Misleading-Clickbait-y-and-Satirical-%E2%80%9CNews%E2%80%9D-Sources-1.pdf



About me

About  this blog:

  • digital innovation,
  • education,
  • knowledge networking,
  • pedagogy,
  • professional learning,
  • teacher-librarianship,
  • and technology –

but only covering such aspects that interlink with others in this list!

I don’t claim to know it all, for, after all, there is too much to know! I don’t claim to cover it all  – unfortunately I’m only human! You can read more about me here.

You can read more of my opinions below. If you like what you can see, you can share with others – collaboration is so enriching.

If you disagree, we can have a discussion. Discussion and debate help refine and improve ideas.

I take these tenets into my classrooms and my library every day.

Now that my final assessment for my Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) through Charles Sturt University has been graded, my blog posts from the course have been imported to this blog – see below. Previously, you could read them here.

I will gradually move all the links across to interlink within this site, as I am assuming that I will lose access to my CSU Thinkspace by the end of the year.