Interweaving stories and history: using the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples Resource

Written by By Dr Belle Alderman AM, Director, National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc

National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) logo and photo of Belle AldermanTHE PROJECT

The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) launched its Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples Resource on 22 July 2020, completing a 12-month project funded by the Australian Government, Department of Education, Skills and Employment. We aim to:

  • create a freely available, online database of children’s books by and about Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples;
  • encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to be engaged in their learning through increased cultural understanding;
  • provide a resource that supports incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures into learning environments;
  • map books against the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum;
  • offer teaching resources related to these books to support children’s learning;
  • enhance the quality of culturally appropriate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learning activities; and
  • support teachers to integrate contemporary and traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture into their work with children.

Our project coincides with the need and the right environment for this Resource. Movements around the world are highlighting the importance of #OwnVoices to create books. Publishers are ramping up their publishing programs of children’s books to reflect a wider diversity of voices. Grants, fellowships, mentorships and awards in this area have increased. At the same time, organisations are prompting individuals from wide-ranging backgrounds to participate in story making. Initiatives like the Spinifex Writing Camps, developed by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, are bringing together published children’s writers and illustrators to work with Aboriginal children in communities across Australia. Initiatives such as these encourage youthful voices to write and illustrate their own stories. The NCACL Resource reflects these changing times.

This project reflects expanding publications in this area. Recent publishers like Children’s Ground and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, along with the long-standing major publishers in this area, Magabala Books and Fremantle Press, are examples. Over 30 books in this area are in publishers’ programs for 2020. The new Resource highlights this growth.

After mapping out this project’s goals, activities and deadlines, 35 individuals across Australia, chosen for their broad expertise, joined a collective to comment on the books selected. Moderators guided these individuals and considered their commentary, while the Project Team and an external Reference Group monitored the project as a whole. An essential task included determining the functional requirements of the Resource, that is, what do we want the Resource to do? Our database designer, 372Digital, then considered these and created the database. At every development, NCACL’s Website Manager guided the database’s implementation.

The Resource has all the usual search filters for finding a specific author, title, publisher, publication date, audience and subject plus an annotation for each book. Added strengths include linking books to the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian Curriculum, free teaching resources presented as hyperlinks for each book, identification of a location, the cultural groups and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ language in the books, where these could be identified. The Resource also offers free text searching of annotations. This provides access to such topics as writing techniques and styles as well as artistic media and techniques. Any words featured in the annotation are searchable.

A special feature is the facility to share your search results by a once-off registration which appears at the top of every NCACL webpage — look for Login/Register. Thereafter, searchers can choose their book ‘favourites’ and share these with colleagues using a variety of social media such as email, Twitter, Facebook and Messenger. Favourites can also be printed out for personal use.

DEMONSTRATING THE RESOURCE

There are currently over 300 children’s books in the Resource. To provide an insight into strengths and potentials for teacher librarians and teachers, in particular, one Australian Curriculum level and subject area will be examined along with the books retrieved. The aim here is to demonstrate searching strategies, techniques for broadening and narrowing the selection, depth and scope of books retrieved. One example of a particular curriculum and year level will demonstrate the potential of the Resource.

The example chosen is Year 6 HASS — History. This curriculum area covers ‘experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, migrants, women and children’. The Australian Curriculum code for this area is ACHASSK135.

RETRIEVING BOOKS USING THE CURRICULUM CODE ACHASSK135

This particular Australian Curriculum Code retrieves 19 books with the audience level ranging from five years through 12 years of age. Each book will have its own audience range. The range reflects what we know about children and books — that a child’s chronological age does not always correspond with their reading and comprehension age.

Bruce Pascoe, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History
Bruce Pascoe, Young Dark Emu: A Truer
History

Publication dates for these books range from the earliest, The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia by Aboriginal Children to the latest, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History. The collection of 19 books includes Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal creators working together and/or independently. A variety of publishers are presented including small (One Day Hill) and large (Allen & Unwin), longstanding (Magabala), mainstream (Walker Books), specialist (Omnibus and Little Hare), community-based (Kadjina Community) and educational (Era Publications and Board of Studies NSW).

This set of books reflects a range of styles and genres, with a concentration on stories which enable young people to experience the lives of others. Autobiographies such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built and biographies such as Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, Old Tucker Man, Yinti, Desert Cowboy and Jandamarra enable young people to experience the lives and times of others.

Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History
Pamela Freeman and Sophie Beer, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History

IDENTIFYING LANGUAGE AND PLACE

Several of the books in this collection identify a specific location and/or language spoken by those living in the area. For example, the language identified in Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, is the Western Arrernte language (C8). The location for this story is (NT SF53-13). These alphanumeric codes are provided by AUSTLANG, developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). AUSTLANG uses alphanumeric codes to identify both language and place. These relate to a map available from AIATSIS either in hard copy or through their website’s online map. The title Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English identifies this story’s language as English, Walmajarri/Walmatjarri language (A66) (WA SE51-16) and its location as Western Australia (WA). Many of the 300-plus books in the Resource identify both location and language. To find other books relating to place and people, the subject filter includes these in an alphabetical list.

CHOOSING SUBJECTS

The Subjects search filter is a drop-down menu, which offers a simple way to find subjects of interest. Concentrating on the curriculum area studied in Year 6 HASS — History, several subjects are repeated in these 19 books, usually with different
emphases.

Below are just a few of the subjects included in this modest collection of 19 books: agriculture, aquaculture, biographies, children as artists, children as authors, colonisation, injustice, livestock, outlaws, Papunya (South Central NT), and Warlpiri people (C15) (NT SF52-04). Should a subject be of particular interest, other books with this same subject can be located through the Subject filter’s drop-down menu.

Sometimes the subjects are broad. For example, ‘Social life and customs’ is a broad subject listed for a few of the Year 6 HASS — History books.
Searching this subject throughout the entire Resource retrieves 28 books. This broader subject may retrieve a collection of books which a teacher or teacher librarian wishes to explore further.

Two other interesting subjects featuring in the Year 6 HASS — History curriculum books include: children as artists (31 books) and children as authors (30 books). These offer the possibility of retrieving books that feature children as creators. Considering Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, these books offer children as writers and illustrators along with their interpretations of history in such books as Papunya School Book of Country and History and The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia.

Anita Heiss with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, Kicking Goals with Goodsey and Magic
Anita Heiss with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, Kicking Goals with Goodsey and Magic

Young children are able to more easily understand history, time periods and adults’ life experiences by reading biographical works such as Kicking Goals with Goodsey and Magic and Pilawuk: When I Was Young. Autobiographical books serve a similar purpose with books such as Tucker and The Shack That Dad Built. Reading and studying these books enables young people to experience the lives of others in different times and places.

Invariably there are young people fascinated by the meaning of words, including those in different languages and details of specific environments. The HASS — History collection includes two examples. One is a dictionary of words and phrases, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and
Phrases and the second example is a picture book, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu that identifies the Aboriginal seasons, plants and animals in this particular location. Another book, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, is bilingual, with both Walmajarri and English featured along with 14 short stories about life in the Kadinina Community.

Elaine Russell, The Shack That Dad Built
Elaine Russell, The Shack That Dad Built

SEARCHING FOR HISTORICAL SUBJECTS

Rachel Bin Salleh, Alfred’s War
Rachel Bin Salleh, Alfred’s War

This particular Australian Curriculum code suggests historical events and documents will form the basis for some of the stories. These can be retrieved
through the Subjects drop-down menu. For example, words reflecting specific historical times and documents occur as subjects in this particular collection of books:

  • Aboriginal Australian soldiers Alfred’s War
  • Colonisation Old Tucker Man
  • Wik Judgement My Place
  • Stolen generation Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know) and Pilawuk: When I Was Young
Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins, My Place
Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins, My Place

SEARCHING BY FREE TEXT

At the top of the web page, there is a long search bar. The words inside say Search by Title and Annotation. Entering words in this search bar will pick up words located anywhere in the books’ annotations. For example, words about artistic style and media, writing styles, and genres may appear in the annotation but not in the subjects. Checking the annotations of several of these books featuring Year 6 HASS — History curriculum, the following words can be retrieved in the Search by Title and Annotation: naïve style, maps, photographs, song, rhyme and allegory. This is a small sample, but it is an indication of wide-ranging topics available in the Resource. Topics such as these may capture the child’s imagination as well as extend the curriculum being studied.

EXPLORING TEACHING AND OTHER RESOURCES

Each book includes a range of external hyperlinks that offer teaching and other resources, usually four or more, to explore each book. These are extraordinarily diverse. These links explore different aspects of each book, enhance understanding of the content and, most importantly, many are highly engaging and can be used in the classroom or at home. Sources vary widely and include newspaper and magazine articles, YouTube, oral history, animations, artworks, musical presentations, dance, educational activities and other enriching experiences intended to extend the books in multiple ways. These reach children with different interests and abilities. Some of these resources are aimed at adults to inform them or for the adult to interpret for the child.

Listed below are some of the types of resources available.

  • Interviews
  • Musical and play productions
  • Reviews
  • Readings and performances of the books
  • Biographical profiles
  • Exhibitions
  • Curriculum plans and activities
  • Extension activities featuring art, music, dance, writing and other creative activities
  • Films, videos and recordings
  • Information, visual and written, about place and communities
  • Historical documents

Take Bruce Pascoe’s Young Dark Emu as an example. The types of resources for this book include:

  • a Guardian newspaper article outlining ways to use this book with young people;
  • an ABC program featuring a digibook, with short clips prompting students to consider the relationship between Indigenous people and the land around them;
  • a question and answer session with Bruce Pascoe; and
  • a teachers’ guide featuring learning activities linked to the Australian Curriculum.

Resources such as these extend the book, inspire young people and encourage an inquiring mind.

SHARING RESOURCES

Teaching and learning is a collegial activity which involves sharing resources with friends and colleagues. The Resource is designed for sharing ‘favourites’. Located at the top right of each web page there is a Login/Register button. By completing the required details, you are then able to ‘choose’ books which are your ‘favourites’, compile these as a list and send them via a hyperlink to a friend or colleague who then can download these details. You can also share your favourites on the usual social media platforms. This sharing facility ensures that the Resource reaches people far and wide, easily and quickly.

CONCLUSION

Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.

The Resource is a database of children’s books aimed at young people from birth through 12 years of age. For this article, the curriculum area Year 6 HASS — History is used to demonstrate the rich potential of the Resource created by the NCACL. Exploring even this small collection of 19 books demonstrates that the Resource offers wide-ranging topics and stories, with the potential to reach children with various interests and abilities. There are innumerable types of stories, some told in Aboriginal languages, many located in specific communities, many written in different styles and illustrated with wide-ranging artistic media. The choice is wide. Most importantly, these books offer stories by and about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Interweaving stories and history: these deepen our respect and understanding of each other.

Aunty Joy Muir and Sue Lawson, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases
Aunty Joy Muir and Sue Lawson, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abdulla, Ian 2014, Tucker, Omnibus Books, Norwood, SA.

The Aboriginal Children’s History of Australia, 1977, Rigby in association with Island Heritage.

Austin, Debbie (as told to her by her uncle, Banjo Clarke), Old Tucker Man, One Day Hill, Camberwell East,
Vic.

Bin Salleh, Rachel 2018, Alfred’s War, illus Samantha Fry, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.

Brian, Janeen 1996, Pilawuk: When I Was Young, Era Publications, Flinders Park, SA.

Freeman, Pamela 2018, Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shaped History, illus Sophie Beer, Lothian Children’s Books, Hachette Australia.

Greenwood, Mark 2013, Jandamara, illus Terry Denton, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

Heiss, Anita, Goodes Adam & O’Loughlin Michael 2016, Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic, Piccolo Nero, Carlton, Vic.

Kamholtz, Damien 2006, Albert: Albert Namatjira and the Hermannsburg Watercolour Artists, illus by children, Openbook Australia, Adelaide, SA.

Laurel, Yangkana (Madeline) 1999, Wulungarra Stories in Walmajarri and English, Kadjina Community, Fitzroy Crossing, WA.

Lowe, Pat 2000, Yinti, Desert Cowboy, illus Jimmy Pike, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.

Lucas, Diane 2005, Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu, illus Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

Muir, Aunty Joy & Lawson Sue 2018, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases, Black Dog Books/Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.

Nawili, Rak & others, 1995, Rak Nawili, Board of Studies NSW, North Sydney, NSW.

Papunya School & Nadia Wheatley 2001, Papunya School Book of Country and History, illus Papunya School and Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

Pascoe, Bruce 2019, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Magabala Books, Broome, WA.

Randall, Bob & Hogan Melanie 2011, Nyuntu Ninti (What You Should Know), ABC Books, Sydney, NSW.

Russell, Elaine 2004, The Shack That Dad Built, Little Hare Books, Surry Hills, NSW.

Wheatley, Nadia 2018, My Place, illus Donna Rawlins, Walker Books Australia, Newtown, NSW.

This article was first published in ACCESS, Vol. 34, No. 4, November 2020. Reproduced here with permission. ACCESS is the professional journal of the Australian School Library Association Inc. (ASLA).

Landmark resource for schools: Our Land, Our Stories

The Australian Publishers Association’s Alex Christopher talks to Cengage publisher, Simone Calderwood, to learn more about the landmark series Our Land, Our Stories, how it was developed and its reception in the classroom.  

Perspectives from Australian Indigenous peoples on topics such as the Stolen Generations, the Frontier Wars and racial stereotyping are now available to be experienced in primary school classrooms across the country through a new resource — developed in partnership with Nelson Cengage and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The resource, titled Our Land, Our Stories, features contributions from leading Indigenous writers such as Bruce Pascoe and Lisa Fuller and incorporates stories written by children and their families from communities across Australia.

“Our Land, Our Stories is a whole-school, primary school series that explores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.  It includes rare and historically important photographs, artwork and audio-visual resources from AIATSIS’s vast collection. It comprises three sets of resources for lower, middle and upper primary. All components link explicitly to the Australian Curriculum and the Cross-Curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories and more specifically, to Country/Place, Culture and Peoples.

Components of the landmark resource package, Our Land, Our Stories
Components of the landmark resource package, Our Land, Our Stories

“The series components include: three teacher resource books, nine big books and 45 cards for each stage of lower, middle and upper primary. QR codes are included and these enable both students and educators to watch videos, see photographs and most importantly, hear language that further extends students’ understanding of a specific topic. Each teacher resource book also includes a copy of The Little Red Yellow Black book written by Bruce Pascoe and AIATSIS.

“Our Land, Our Stories was in development for about three and a half years and the idea for the series came about through AIATSIS reaching out to Nelson Cengage as they wanted to have a visible presence in the primary educational space. Nelson Cengage were thrilled to work in partnership with AIATSIS as we knew that this government organisation is the caretaker of an amazing database of significant photographs, artworks and audio visual materials that we could include in the series. We also knew that the partnership with AIATSIS would also lend authenticity to the series as they were involved in every element of its production, checking every work for accuracy and ensuring that the content was culturally appropriate and persons depicted were represented accurately.

“We wanted to create a resource that aligned with the Australian Curriculum but also enabled educators to see how the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures could be applied to every learning area in the Australian Curriculum, not just Humanities and Social Sciences. The intention of the series is to represent the voices of First Nations peoples from all across Australia, from remote, regional and urban areas, to celebrate contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and address prevailing misconceptions.

The resource is aimed at both Indigenous and non-indigenous students – for indigenous students, they can read these books and cards and see themselves reflected in the stories. For non-indigenous students, it is an opportunity for them to read about the importance of Country and cultures to First Nations peoples and to find out about the significant achievements and contributions of many Indigenous people. The teacher’s books empower educators to teach about First Nations peoples, cultures and histories with confidence and throughout the teacher’s books, the various protocols and discussion points are outlined and explored. And we haven’t shied away from those topics at the upper primary level that some educators may wish to explore with students but may not know how to do so – the books and cards look at our history from an Indigenous perspective and explore many sensitive topics.

“The writing process was an interesting one! As the publisher, I really wanted to ensure that we had a vast range of authors from all over Australia as traditionally many resources such as this have tended to focus on stories from peoples from the Northern Territory – but I wanted this series to be broader. For the lower primary big book stories, we commissioned three children and their families to write the stories and these three children come from very different places. Josie and her family are from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and myself and an AIATSIS photographer, spent a week with Josie and her family. We then travelled to a remote area in Western Australia to Yilka Country to hear Orlando’s story and finally we travelled to the Sunshine Coast and spent time with Shae and her community to hear her story.

“I also reached out to a number of different writers around the country and was thrilled that writers such as Bruce Pascoe, Professor Gary Foley, Shelley Ware, Lisa Fuller, Elder Carolyn Briggs, Professor John Maynard. Nayuka Gorrie and so many more were able to contribute to the series.

“Our Land, Our Stories has now been available for about a year and educators have embraced it wholeheartedly and often exclaim that there is nothing like it in the educational marketplace. It has been very successful as educators realise the many ways that it can be used in the classroom and the components can be used from lower to upper primary, even in secondary school classrooms.

“I feel immensely proud to have been part of this series as I truly believe it has the potential to change how people think about our history. It also enables students to understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are diverse, rich and multi-faceted. “The winning of the two EPAA awards was a wonderful acknowledgment of Our Land, Our Stories by the Australian Educational Publishing Industry!”

Organised by the Australian Publishers Association (APA), the prestigious annual Educational Publishing Awards reward excellence and innovation in the industry. The event offers colleagues and industry professionals the opportunity to network and celebrate achievements. Awards are judged by a panel of peers, and each year teachers and booksellers vote for the coveted Publisher of the Year award.

Digital content curation: How to do it right!

Written by Dr Kay Oddone 

COVID-19 has transformed daily life in a matter of weeks.

We are working from home, communicating online and wondering when everything will go back to normal.

One of the few positive aspects of this pandemic has been the almost overwhelming outpouring of online resources, strategies and tools that have been shared at an intense rate among educators in Facebook groups, via Twitter and through countless other digital networks.

Teachers the world over are scrambling to adjust to a new reality where face-to-face classrooms do not exist. Transitioning to online learning is challenging at any time, and for everyone, however many have been asked to adopt a whole new way of teaching over a period of days (and sometimes even hours).

As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school. Now, more than ever, content curation has become a focal point. Teacher librarians are trained to quickly and effectively critically analyse and evaluate learning materials in a way that teachers may not. That being the case, it is more vital than ever before to assist them to navigate the tsunami of information flooding every communication channel by creating curated content.

As teacher librarians, our job has always been to curate resources and to generate usable collections of credible and useful sites and tools to support the teachers at our school.

How do we curate content?

There are many tools available that enable us to quickly compile lists of digital resources. You can read about how to select the best tool for the job here: linkinglearning.com.au/choosing-a-curation-tool.

Using these tools effectively requires skills in ‘content curation’. Traditionally, the term ‘curator’ refers to someone who looks after objects in a museum exhibition. A popular definition of content curation is the act of selecting and collating digital content and organising it so that it may be better used to meet a particular need. Beth Kanter has an excellent primer on content curation, where she hastens to point out that curation is not simply an aggregation of links; it is a process of strategic collection, where what is left out is just as important as what is included. It is also an editorial process, where context-specific knowledge is added to each digital resource, and then delivered via a tool that best suits the needs of the identified audience.

This sounds more complex than it is. It simply means finding quality digital content, evaluating it for a particular purpose, adding extra information for those most likely to use this context for that particular purpose, and sharing it with those users via the most suitable platform.

 

How do we avoid the pitfalls?

One vital difference between curation in the past and dealing with digital content is the sheer amount of information, and the need to avoid filter bubbles and the temptation to simply collect everything. Joyce Seitzinger describes some of the traits to avoid when curating very succinctly, in her presentation, ‘When educators become curators’.

 

She describes these traits as follows:

The hoarder: One who collects everything indiscriminately, who doesn’t organise their content, and who doesn’t share — this is really closer to simple aggregation than curation.

The scrooge: One who similarly hoards their information — although they may organise their collection, they don’t share either — one of the key purposes of educational content curation!

The tabloid (or National Enquirer): One who indiscriminately collates everything together, and generously shares this aggregation, whether others want/need it or not!

The robot: One who uses tools to share automatically, with no context-related additions or value-adding — in this case, the curation is really no better than providing a list of Google search results.

Avoiding these pitfalls is what differentiates the effective content curator from those simply ‘collecting’ content.

What are the benefits?

Aside from creating a resource that will be gratefully received by an overwhelmed teacher, a curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.

A curated collection has many long-lasting benefits that far outweigh simply listing sites or gathering countless links.

Firstly, with so much content being generated daily on social media, resources not curated could easily never be found again. When content is officially published, details such as the title, author’s name, subject headings, ISBN etc (ie the metadata) are attached — either printed on the item or electronically attached. This makes it easy to find and re-find.

User-created content may not have this type of metadata and, if it does, it might not be meaningful for searching. It might be a photograph with no title, a recipe for chilli that someone has shared on Tumblr with the hashtags ‘#yummy’ and ‘#dinnernextmonday’, or a list of sites posted in a Facebook conversation. Curating these resources and adding meaningful annotations and tags will mean that they can be searched for time and time again.

Secondly, while effective searching will return a lot of content, Google will simply not find everything. You may be searching for an item that is sitting somewhere Google doesn’t access — not only lots of social media content but also sites that require a login, like a journal database or library catalogue. You may have seen it once — briefly appearing on your Twitter stream, perhaps when the author published it — but this is the only time you will see it unless you go directly back to that source. Curating useful items makes them discoverable by all of your library users! Even if you can’t link directly to the source within the database, linking to the paywall gives you enough information to access it again if you decide that you really need it.

Finally, digital curation allows you to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and to take advantage of the wonderful sharing that is happening by giving you the opportunity to create a resource that will continue to support teachers even after calm has been restored.

Digital content curation goes beyond a simple save and is far more than just collecting. It is when we strategically select an item to be added to a collection, which is being compiled for a specific purpose. Collecting is additive but, interestingly, curation is subtractive — what you leave out is almost more important than what you include. A great way to think about collection and curation is described by Frank Chimero in his post about sorting a mass.

Consider collection as a bowl of loose pearls and curation as a pearl necklace. Collection is like a bowl of pearls. The individual pearls may be of great value, but they are pretty useless just gathered together in the bowl. Curation is what happens when particular pearls are selected from the bowl, and strung into a beautiful necklace. The pearls now have a purpose — they have been carefully selected and added to the necklace in a particular order. The necklace, which has fewer pearls than the bowl, but which can be publicly admired and worn, is worth more than the sum of its parts.

When we curate content, we add an annotation to each item, to explain to others why this piece was chosen, and how it fits within the collection. This makes the individual items more meaningful for others and brings the collection together as a whole resource.

When you have a collection of random links, the individual items may be useful, but the list itself means nothing. A carefully curated collection is a resource that stands alone. It can be useful to you — when you go back to these resources, your annotation will remind you of why you saved it and how it will be useful — and it will be of value to others if they are seeking an overview/introduction/entry into a topic. Creating a curated collection also makes a group of resources easily shareable and useable — it will ‘travel’ with you as it will (more often than not) exist online, and be publicly accessible to you and others whenever you need it.

Applying curation principles also allows us to create a resource that a teacher can pick up and use with confidence, as they know that the links included have been carefully selected to suit their teaching context.

I’ve written a lot on curation over the years, and the reason is that I believe that as our collections morph into a digital-physical hybrid, curation will become just as, if not more important than collection development. It will allow us as teacher librarians to remix physical and digital resources to become accessible to our community in new ways. COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!

COVID-19 has transformed the world in so many ways, but for teacher librarians, it has offered us an amazing opportunity to show everyone not only what value we can add, but also that students (and teachers) need school libraries! Now more than ever!

A word about content curation and copyright

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) Flickr photo shared by Austin Kleon

Although curation is not ‘theft’, all of the tips that Austin Kleon shares in his book, Steal like an artist — itself a treatise on reusing online content ethically — apply to ethical content curation.

Always link directly back to the source when curating. This is automatically taken care of when you use a curation tool such as elink. However, I believe that it is good practice that if you find a site that references a great idea or image, rather than simply linking to that site, take the trouble to go back to the original creator’s publication of that idea, and link to there. An example:

A popular blog shares a post about a great resource they have discovered, which is created by a third party. Rather than linking to the blog post when curating the link about the great resource, take the time to go back to the third party’s original post and curate this link. Therefore, the creator gets correct attribution, rather than the blogger who wrote about it.

This is particularly important when curating from pages that include articles like ‘10 great tools for x’ — these are aggregations themselves of original work and not the original creation.

Copyright is all about protecting the income of the creator; therefore, ensure that nothing you publish in a curated list directs users away from the original, particularly if the original is a source of income for that creator. Always ensure that you attribute or reference where you sourced the original content from (again, something most content curation tools do automatically, but good to remember) and, wherever possible, ensure there is no way that users of your collections might mistake others’ work for your own.

Curating widely from various sources, rather than wholesale replication of others’ work on your own pages is also good practice, not only to avoid the risk of plagiarism but also to ensure you are providing a resource with a breadth of perspectives and information.

How are you curating resources that you discover? Let’s keep the discussion going!

Updated 6 April 2020.

Dr Kay Oddone is an educator who has spent over twenty years working in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary contexts. As Head of Libraries at Australian International School in Singapore, she leads the four school libraries on the campus, and is also the Secondary School Teacher Librarian, supporting over 1000 students and approximately 250 staff. She is passionate about digital literacies, critical digital pedagogies and open educational practices, and has published research on how teachers enhance their professional learning through online personal learning networks. 

Kay loves reading, nerding out online and travelling, and spends her free time walking her Jack Russell, Ruby, and discovering restaurants in her new neighbourhood. She can be found on Twitter @KayOddone and blogs at www.linkinglearning.com.au

Challenged resources

American Librairies Association Posters - IFLA WLIC 2014 CC

Challenged resources are those that may be considered controversial or offensive to members of the school community. It is important that schools have guidelines and procedures in place to deal with any challenges that may arise.

Guidelines and procedures regarding challenged resources should be developed within the school community. The Policy Statement – School Library Bill of Rights from the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) website is a useful starting point, as well as the school’s own Collection Development Guidelines.

Dealing with challenges

Dealing with challenges should be a systematic process involving:

  • referring the challenger to the school’s Collection Development Guidelines
  • completion of a Request for Consideration of School Resources by the challenger
  • a decision on whether to remove the item from the shelf immediately or after it has been reviewed
  • a review of the challenged resource by a committee comprising the principal, resource teacher, a P&C representative and the person making the challenge
  • the principal being responsible for the final decision to remove or retain the challenged item.

Donated resources

Resources donated to the school library should be added to the collection only if they:

  • are compatible with the Collection Development Guidelines
  • adhere to the selection criteria
  • fulfill a need or enhance the collection.

Donors should be informed that their donation undergoes the same selection process as any other resource under consideration for inclusion into the collection.

Originally published WA DET School Library Support: http://www.det.wa.edu.au/curriculumsupport/schoollibrarysupport/detcms/navigation/resourcing-the-curriculum/selecting-resources/#toc6. Used by permission of D. Bevan, Nov 2013

Enhanced content in SCIS catalogue

The SCIS Catalogue is a valuable starting point for school staff looking to identify books, digital resources and websites to support the curriculum, and subscribers are encouraged to use it as a selection aid for locating resources that are required for a particular purpose in a school. While providing catalogue records is core business, SCIS recognises the value of enhancing the catalogue record where possible with any information that may help school staff discover and review resources of interest.

In July 2011 SCIS added enhanced content services from Syndetics Solutions and LibraryThing for Libraries to the SCIS Catalogue, via a subscription with Thorpe-Bowker. The bibliographic records in SCIS OPAC are enhanced to display additional detail about resources, including plot summaries, author notes, awards and reviews. This content is delivered to SCIS by linked data based on ISBN.

Consider the subject headings and notes if using SCIS Catalogue as a selection tool
Figure 1: If using SCIS Catalogue as a selection tool, consider using the Subject Headings and notes

The SCIS Catalogue bibliographic record display provides a link to Google Books. The Google books link/s (if any) will appear at the bottom of the display.
There are three possible links:

  • Entire book is viewable
  • A portion of the book is viewable
  • “About This Book” information is available.

These links will enrich search results with lists of relevant books, journal articles, web page citations and links to related works and full text when available.

Google Books link in SCIS Catalogue record
Figure 2: Google Books link in SCIS Catalogue record

 

Social bookmarks links in SCIS Catalogue
Individual records from SCIS Catalogue can be saved directly to selected social media services as bookmarks. The persistent website address (URL) for these records will be in the format http://opac.scis.curriculum.edu.au/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=1411770 where the bibID is the SCIS number for that record.
Note that you will need a subscription to the social bookmarking service you wish to use, and anyone accessing these SCIS records from your bookmarking service will need to be a SCIS subscriber.
The social bookmarking services currently supported include delicious.com, diigo.com, facebook.com, google.com and StumbleUpon.com.

Social bookmarks links in SCIS Catalogue full record screen
Figure 3. Social bookmarks links in SCIS Catalogue full record screen

 

Images linked to Google Books are not available for download from SCIS. The book cover image from Thorpe Bowker located within the catalogue data (if available) can be downloaded into your library management system from our orders page or via your system’s z39.50 connection. Subscriber schools may also display the images on the school website including blogs, wikis, online newsletters and the school intranet.

Syndetics content in SCIS Catalogue
Through the subscription service Syndetics, SCIS offers additional descriptive and evaluative information where available including:

  • summaries and annotations
  • fiction and biography profiles
  • summaries and annotations
  • fiction and biography profiles
  • author notes
  • awards
  • books in a series

Syndetics reviews
Syndetics delivers edited reviews from authoritative reviewing sources including:

  • Bookseller & Publisher reviews
  • New York Times reviews
  • School Library Journal reviews
  • Publishers Weekly reviews
  • The Horn Book reviews
  • Kirkus reviews

SCIS and Campfire Film

The Campfire Film Foundation provides schools access to short films which promote understanding and discussion about meaningful issues including many curriculum areas.  SCIS provides bibliographic records for these films in the database.  Here is a quick guide to accessing a full list of Campfire Films on the SCIS catalogue.

Logo
Campfire Film Foundation

1. Subscribers wishing to bring up a full list of Campfire Films should use ‘Campfire Film Foundation’ as a search term

Use ‘Campfire Film Foundation’ as a search term
Use ‘Campfire Film Foundation’ as a search term

 

 

 

 

 

2. The search will bring up all the titles distributed through Campfire Film Foundation.

Titles distributed through Campfire Film Foundation
Titles distributed through Campfire Film Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Click on the title that you are interested in and the full bib record looks like this including summary.  Subscribers can use the SCIS number to order bib records using the SCISWeb Orders screen or Z39.50.

The full SCIS record
The full SCIS record