Monday, 9 January 2017

Teachers - digital literacy and school librarians. Innovation at it's best!

I am very excited about the opportunities digital literacy is creating for every school librarian. At last we are able to demonstrate how we can work alongside teachers with our skill set being used to it’s best advantage. Together we can create independent learners who can find great resources and improving academic attainment. 

When I think about digital literacy I can’t think of it in isolation without the overarching skill of information literacy. Schools and teachers, however, seem to have decided that digital literacy is the overarching skill for all subjects so where does information literacy fit into this?Does it matter whether we call it information literacy or digital literacy? Let's find out how they differ. 

As good librarians do,  I went looking for a definition for digital literacy 

“Digital Literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.”

Then the definiton for information literacy 

“Information literacy is a crucial skill in the pursuit of knowledge. It involves recognizing when information is needed and being able to efficiently locate, accurately evaluate, effectively use, and clearly communicate information in various formats.”

Interestingly there are many similarities between the two, if teachers feel more comfortable with the term digital literacy than information literacy, I am beginning to realise that the terminology is not as important as the skills it ensures the students learn. As long as find, evaluate and use information is in there and teachers understand the need for research skills it works for me. Both literacies demonstrate the essential role a librarian is required to play.  

School librarians supporting digital literacy

I have recently been asked to support schools trying to increase their use of digital across the school curriculum. Just this week I was sent a document from Northern Ireland that schools are using as a guide for this. It is an old document as it gives examples of CD ROMS but the overview is fairly good so it just needs new examples fitted in. I am being given permission and the opportunity to demonstrate how library professionals can enhance teaching of research and wanted to share how schools and teachers can use the expertise of the school librarian to support digital literacy.

Digital literacy is not

  • ·      Being able to type a question into Google and get an answer.
  • ·      Being able to cut and paste into your homework
  • ·      Steal information and pass it off as your own
A colleague I was talking to recently put it perfectly when he said ‘none of this is about how good they are at using tech. It’s about selecting good quality resources. Yet within education the importance is being put on the tech and not on the resources found.  

Going back to the Northern Ireland document level 5 is high end year 6 = 11 year olds the overarching skill was to:-

Research, select, edit, use and evaluate assets from a range of digital sources

The suggestion attached was the following.

    Research internet sites of their own choice to find and select information, images, movie and audio files to support the production of a short film about their local area.

How does this explain to the teacher how to teach this? It is making an assumption that these skills have already been taught but if teachers are not confident of these skills themselves how can they be really taught and assessed. I would like to challenge many of the teachers I know, to find and use their school library catalogue within a lesson to find good resources. I would bet that many of them would struggle at finding the library catalogue in the first place. 

Collaboration essential.

At Schools’ Library Service we have spent the last couple of years creating lessons that demonstrate progression to this stage. Our lesson and session cover all lessons from year 1 to year 13. Here is a case study for the type of lessons that we would cover for a year 6 group. It includes selecting good quality information from the library and online, note taking and referencing. The teacher was so pleased with these set of lessons that I have been asked to repeat it again this year. This only worked because the teacher gave me some time to plan this with her. 

Why are school librarians so important to digital literacy?

School librarians are constantly sharing and keeping up to date with new resources something that teachers don't have time to do themselves. My own PLN (Personal Learning Network) is constantly sharing good practice and resources. A perfect example of this recently is I found out about Infotopia which was recommended by my network, which is a search engine that I was not aware of for children. It is created by librarians and finds websites at the appropriate level. This is a brilliant resource on two levels. One, it is now something that I will teach in a class where I am being asked to teach website evaluation and it is also something I will use myself when I am searching for appropriate websites to add to our school library catalogues.

At every level I am able to collate good resources for my teachers, I am able to teach in the classroom to show how to access our online resources and I can also teach referencing and plagiarism. Along with all of the basic research skills I am also making connections around the world to ensure that I include innovative ideas within my teaching too. 

Interestingly, I recently came across a blog post that talks about innovative teaching which I feel links nicely with what I am trying to say. “Innovation is NOT synonymous with the word technology, but how we create and use technology can lead to innovative practices in many elements.” For example after a lesson on creating a good question I invited an expert into the classroom via Skype and the students were able to ask their questions directly. This lesson had such an amazing impact on the students who could see the impact of a good question that it inspired them to change their questions to better ones. The technology enabled the lesson to happen but it wasn’t the lesson itself.

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