on multiplying ourselves …

Cross posted from the the Association of Independent School Librarians, Independent Ideas blog.

This year we have launched a 1:1 computing, bring-your-own-laptop, initiative with our seventh graders here in our middle school.  We are a 7-12 school on two campuses so our “middle school” is home to 7th, 8th, and 9th graders.  Next year, the initiative will expand to the 8th and 9th grades so we will be a wholly 1:1 campus.  I love it so far! Undeniable, though, is the fact that the introduction of 1:1 computing changes the culture of a school and thus, the nature of the way that we deliver information services and information literacy instruction in our institutions.  Some would argue that putting a wifi connected laptop into students’ hands “un-tethers” information because students and teachers no longer have to come to the physical space known as a library to access much of the content they will use in their learning endeavors.  I would argue, however, that information is still very much tethered but the nature of those tethers change.  Believe me, I’m NO EXPERT, but off the top of my head, the tethers to information in a 1:1 laptop school world include (but are not limited to):

  • The ability to identify discipline appropriate keywords on which to search–Adolescent vs. teenager, for example.
  • The ability to navigate a search interface–Typing “What was the effect of air warfare on the outcome of WWI” into the first box on the World History: The Modern Era database search page isn’t going to return the Google-ly awesome results our young analog immigrants are used to.
  • The ability to even know what “scholarly journals,” “professional journals,” or “magazines” LOOK like when they see the PDF versions in Proquest–Have your students ever compared say print versions of the journal Nature, Scientific American, and Time magazine just to give them some visual touch stones for types of sources?

This list can go on and on, but I hope you get the gist of my point.  I know I do not have to make this point to this audience, but the point that needs to be made to the audiences that we serve in each of our own school communities is that: We should never assume that because 12-year old “digital natives” have Google on their machines and can find Justin Beiber’s mug shot does not mean that they are information literate.

The reality, though, is that because the information tethers no longer require classes to come to our spaces, we need to find ways to be a presence in the information instruction process either virtually (perhaps via Libguides or by other embedded electronic means) or by helping our teachers to teach or reinforce the information concepts and skills we champion and introduce whether they are coming in for a “library day” or not!

So how is a good school librarian supposed to make this happen?

I don’t know!

Here, though, is what we are going to try (and yes, I know that many of you have been doing this forever … I’m just slow … No other excuse …).

I’m hoping to pilot this with whichever willing teachers I can find.

We developed a project planning sheet (which sometimes might involve collaboration and sometimes not) to help our teachers work their way through the implementation of a project from beginning to end.

Project planning 1a

The full planning document is linked here but the most pertinent section to this post is our section on information literacy skills.  We are attempting to increase buy-in to our information literacy standards by our content-area faculty by not being so hung up with jargon and language as much as the underlying concepts.  Our hope is that over time, as teachers realize that the “standards” manifest themselves in things that they often already do in their classrooms, that the language of the standards will come along as well.

Because our teachers won’t read a set of “standards” … I’m just saying … They just won’t … We’ve come up with a list of activities that are indicative of the the kinds of things that are the manifestations or indicators of a standard in practice.

This is what a teacher will see and fill out first:

Planning 1a

After identifying the skills in which students will engage as they work through the project, teachers can unfold the page to see how the tasks align with a given “standard” and choose one or two that they want to focus on with their students on a given project.

Planning 1b

Our hope is not so much that we can hand this document out and have teachers plan without us as much as it can be a vehicle that we can use to start more conversations with teachers about information literacy.

Teacher: “What’s the Big6?”

Us: Glad you asked!

Ah … If only it worked out so neatly and cleanly in the real world, huh?

But a librarian can dream!  A librarian can always dream …


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