Teacher librarians are important

Web 2.0 revolutionized the means at our disposal to filter and share information. Whether by managing information by social bookmarking or RSS reads and feeds, or communicating with our school community via blogs, wikis, podcasts, YouTube, or Facebook, students, teachers and school librarians have entered into digital conversations. Widgets, portals, Apps, Feeds and Aggregators and more now provide us with our ‘tools of trade’ for information curation.

The importance of the teacher librarian is intrinsically linked to effective and responsive information curation and dissemination in distributed environments within and beyond the school. Use of Web 2.0 tools has become embedded in good practice, and information curation has extended beyond the library catalogue to library and school information management systems for bibliographic and media resources, and various organizational tools that reside beyond the school in web environments, such as Libguides, Diigo, Live Binders, wiki, Delicious, Google tools, RSS, media tools, netvibes, iGoogle, and many more.

But when a technology focus subverts students’ conversation and development of critical thinking skills (and their ability to evaluate and analyze the information at hand), the mental processes that change knowledge from information to concept are not learned (Bomar, 2010). With the maturation of Web 2.0 tools the importance of nurturing information literacy skills and strategies has shifted to become a meta-literate approach to engagement with information.

This is exactly why teacher librarians are re-thinking what ‘collection’ of information means, thereby supporting personalized and collaborative information seeking and knowledge conversations. The new core information research tools available for students, teachers and school librarians adopting information literacy in a networked environment includes:

  • Microblogging tools for information sharing by teachers, students, classes and the school community in primary and secondary schools.e.g. Edmodo, yammer, Google+, or Twitter
  • Social Bookmarking and tagged collections e.g. Diigo, Delicious, PearlTrees, Flickr, Vodpod
  • Collaborative writing, editing, mindmapping and presentation tools e.g. Google docs, Exploratree, Voicethread, Mindmeister, Wikispaces
  • Research tools for online information management, writing and collaboration e.g. Zotero, Endnote, EasyBib, Bibme, Mendeley, Refworks,
  • Information capture in multiple platforms and on multiple devices .e.g. Evernote, Scrible
  • Library catalogues, databases, and open-access repositories – all used for information collection, RSS topic and journal alerts, and compatible with research organization tools
  • Aggregators, news readers, and start pages e.g. iGoogle, Netvibes, Symbaloo, Feedly
  • Online storage, file sharing and content management, across multiple platforms and computers e.g. Dropbox, Box.net, Skydrive

These tools have allowed us to re-frame information collection as highly flexible and collaborative information and knowledge conversations, while also facilitating information organization.

Technology and online integration can facilitate critical thinking and knowledgeable actions, rather than merely permitting the access and transformation of information as part of the information literacy skills set. The point is to engage our students in multiple conversations and research pathways that reflect the changing nature of scholarship in multimodal environments. As Lankes (2011) explains, at last we have a departure from information, access and artifacts as the focus.

In the lens of conversation, artifacts and digital access are only useful in that they are used to build knowledge through active learning.

Content exploration and learning demands a mix-and-match approach:

  • Search strategies
  • Evaluation strategies
  • Critical thinking & problem solving
  • Networked conversation & collaboration
  • Cloud computing environments
  • Ethical use and production of information
  • Information curation of personal and distributed knowledge.

Be sure you are understand online learning environments and the extra-ordinary potential of the social-media mind. Be sure you are involved with and present new ways and new information strategies to your teachers when  working within the curriculum and the full knowledge dimension of learning. Be sure you bring with you a full understanding of information literacy and information fluency as the underpinning of all that you do.

Bomar, S. (2010). A School-Wide Instructional Framework for Evaluating Sources.Knowledge Quest, 38(3), 72-75.
Lankes, D.R. (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photoshared by mikefisher821

The Googlization of everything

The internet has changed the way with think of information. The web as we know it is significantly changing our literacy and information encounters.Participative  media tools have altered the shape and experience of learning, and provided teacher and librarians in this changing learning environment with the need to embrace new skills, new tools and new ways of working with literacy, information literacy and digital fluency. If there is any doubt about the scope and impact of the new technology environment, the Horizon Report K-12 edition (2011) issued annually since 2009 has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools.

For some the 21st century school library seems to be trapped on a treadmill of technological progress, while for others the mystique of new technology provides the only impetus needed to go further, faster, and in more directions at once. The best course, as always, is somewhere in the middle, and depends on an understanding of the emerging capacities of the internet that is now hardwired into our student’s lives.  Think of the web  as being portable,  focused on the individual, on a lifestream, on consolidating content, and which is powered by widgets, drag & drop, and mashups of user engagement.  This socially powered web is exploding, and is the new baseline for all our internet and technology empowered interactions.

Underpinning our knowledge transactions is the power of search or information connections between disparate sources and data pools.We are constantly looking for new ways to create, massage, analyze, and share information – at least I hope so! In our global info-maze, are school libraries at risk of becoming irrelevant, or is the librarian’s expertise more critical than ever?

To answer this question (in the context of the web) you need only turn to one thing to realize how vital – indeed critical – is the role of a quality information professional in our schools. The implications for education are profound because they will impact on our information literacy strategies and knowledge construction processes. While I do not for a moment underestimate the contribution of other geek, net savvy teachers to the learning environment in a school, I do wish they spent more time understanding the possibilities of information search and information curation.

So here follows a reflection about Google  – read it if you will, share it if you can, embrace the challenge if you dare!

1. Google is a problem. It’s not just because it’s embedded in the psyche of teachers and kids, but because it is not understood. Google is not a benevolent search engine. It has a commercially inspired ever-changing focus. Search Engine Optimization skews the results. Out personal login (if you are logged into gmail or iGoogle) changes the results. Google is a blessing and a scourge as a result – and it’s up to educators to point all of this out.

Do yourself a favour and get your school library to buy a copy of The Googlization of Everything by  Siva Vaidhyananthan professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, then share it around and talk about the ideas. It’s less than $10 for a Kindle version – no excuses.

It’s not that I’m shooting Google  – I just really want teachers to get some wisdom around this whole ‘searching the net’ for answers that we expect of our students.I want librarians to be information evangelists via better Google usage. Take a short cut, and listen to a 4 minute podcast from Siva with Minnesota Radio. Or listen to Siva Vaidhyanathan talk about  The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) in a longer interview where Siva explores how so much of the world has embraced Google and our  need to look critically at that embrace.

2. Google should not be the first or last place to search. This is something we can spend a whole hour or day experimenting and learning more about. Take the time to look at Knowledge 2.0. This is a workshop session that can work really well in a hands-on setting. If you discover just one new approach to information management then it’s a win-win for your students.

3. Google has lots of neat tricks. Any Google Certified teacher will tell you about the advanced search options in Google. If you don’t have one of these on hand, then be sure to at least expore every single bit of the left-hand menu – and click on “more options” to find the hidden treasures. But when it comes to Google search, without a doubt, the best trick of all is Google Scholar and how to  set up your preferences to link directly with the databases that your school or institution has access to (including public libraries etc). Here’s an example from my library at CSU that shows tertiary students how to set this up. There’s a nice short video that explains it in more detail. Have you done this?

4. Google represents a renaissance. School librarians are involved with and responding to an information renaissance that is rewriting the world as we know it. Google epitomizes this renaissance by the very fact that it is there – always there, on any device 24/7.  Our students in primary and secondary schools need to be nurtured in ways to learn how to learn from a multiplicity of resources at their disposal, using   the best information organization and critical thinking strategies that that we can show them.  We need to build a culture of enquiry at the heart of each of our schools. It’s not just tools and skills.

Thinking about and organizing information  in a digital world has heralded a totally new approach to information curation. Emerging devices, tools, media, and virtual environments offer opportunities for creating new types of learning communities for students and teachers. Searching for content requires wise information literacy strategies (embedded in the curriculum learning processes) to avoid being lost in the information labyrinth.  Learn to understand this. Learn how to do this. Learn.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Sheila Ryan